The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Zenobia

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ZENOBIA, zĕ-nō'bi-a, queen of Palmyra (q.v.). Her native name was Septimia Bathzabbai, and she was instructed in the sciences by the celebrated Longinus, and made such progress that besides her native tongue she spoke the Latin, Greek, Coptic and Syrian languages. She also patronized learned men, and herself formed an epitome of Egyptian history. She was married to Odenathus, king of Palmyra, accompanied him both in the war and the chase, and the success of his military expedition against the Persians is, in a great degree, attributed to her prudence and courage. Gallienus, in return for services which tended to preserve the East to the Romans after the capture of Valerian by Sapor, king of Persia, acknowledged Odenathus as emperor, and on his death, 267 A.D., Zenobia assumed the sovereignty, under the title of Queen of the East She preserved the provinces which had been ruled by Odenathus, and was preparing to make other conquests, when the succession of Aurelian to the purple led to a remarkable change of fortune. That martial prince, disgusted at the usurpation of the richest provinces of the East by a female, determined to make war upon her; and having gained two battles, Antioch and Emesa, beseiged her in Palmyra, where she defended herself with great bravery. At length, finding that the city would be obliged to surrender, she quitted it privately; but the emperor, having notice of her escape, caused her to be pursued with such diligence that she was overtaken just as she got into a boat to cross the Euphrates, in 272. Aurelian spared her life, but made her serve to grace his triumph. The Roman soldiers demanded her life, and according to Zosimus she purchased her safety by sacrificing her ministers, among whom was the distinguished scholar, Longinus. She was allowed to pass the remainder of her life as a Roman matron, and her daughters were married by Aurelian into families of distinction. Her only surviving son retired into Armenia, where the emperor bestowed on him a small principality. Consult Gibbon, ‘Decline and Fall’ (ed. Bury, 1896-1900); ‘Life of Aurelian’ by Vopiscus in ‘Augustae Historiae Scriptores’ (Eng. trans., Bernard 1740); Ware, ‘Zenobia, or The Fall of Palmyra’ (1837).