In honor of Women’s Herstory Month, I wanted to write about Zenobia, one of my favorite warrior queens in history. Zenobia was born Around 240 CE in the Palmyrene Empire, which was known as Roman Syria. She was thought to be of Arab descent and claimed to be related to Queen Cleopatra and Queen Dido of Carthage. She became wife to Septimius, the King of Palmyra, in 258 CE. Septimius had a son from his first wife when he married Zenobia, and then he and her had a son of their own, Vaballathus. This name is said to have come from an Aramaic term meaning “The Gift of the Goddess”. The city of Palmyra was built around an oasis in the desert situated in the middle of the Roman and Persian Empires. It was a city filled with trade and culture from the Greeks, Romans, and Mesopotamians.
Septimius, Zenobia’s husband, and his son end up being mysteriously murdered and Zenobia assumed the throne, with an infant son. She gave herself the title Augusta and her son the title Augustus. Zenobia was known to be a real Warrior Queen to her people. She would ride out to battle, in the lead, and fight alongside her fellow warriors. Around 270 C.E. Zenobia conquered Egypt which at the time was under Roman rule. When her forces approached Egypt, the Roman Prefect, Probus, and his men tried to fight off the army of Zenobia, but she conquered them, captured Probus, and beheaded them. She then claimed Egypt for her own and Alexandria as being “her ancestral city”.
Zenobia continued matching with her army, conquering other lands such as, areas of Anatolia, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon. She was successfuly creating her own empire and domain outside the rule of the Roman Empire and openly declared her empire independent to that of Rome. Queen Zenobia’s strength and warrior power reminds me of Queen Boudicca; ready to fight with her army, and ready to revolt against those who restrained her and her culture. It takes true courage and complete confidence to try and take over those who currently rule your country. Zenobia was also known to be very beautiful with long dark black hair, beautiful dark eyes, as well perfect skin and a “harmonious” voice much like her claimed ancestress, Cleopatra.
It was around 273 C.E that the Roman Emperor Aurelian, after fighting the Gauls, decided that it was time to take back his empire from Zenobia. He and his large army met Zenobia with her warriors at Antioch, an area of modern day Turkey, to fight. Zenobia was there with her army, proud and confident and ready for war. Unfortunately, the Romans end up defeating the Palmyrenes and Zenobia with the rest of her remaining warriors fled to Emesa. Aurelian and his army chased after them and captured the soldiers by force. It is said that Zenobia fled from her army back to Palmyra, where Aurelian eventually caught, and captured her. She and her son Vaballathus were then taken as hostages of Rome. On the journey back to Rome, Zenobia’s son died and, to add insult to injury, Zenobia was shackled with golden chains for the military victory parade through the streets of Rome.
After this, her life becomes somewhat of a mystery. Some say she committed suicide, to emulate her favorite declared ancestress, Cleopatra. Others say, that she was married off to a Roman Senator, lived with him in Tivoli, and even had children. There may be evidence of this story from an inscription found in Rome, naming a descendant of hers.
It’s great learning about stories of warrior women and warrior Queens in history. Women certainly had their place in history, and it’s nice to learn their stories and gain some encouragement and confidence from them. A woman like Zenobia was not afraid to fight for what she believed in, and she did so victoriously.
I hope you liked learning about this famous Warrior Queen!