Palmyra Liberated: A Win For Civilization – Part I

Dear Readers:

Thoughout the history of the human race, there are many times when it seems like Team Barbarian is scoring all the goals, and that life is hopeless.  But then, sometimes at the darkest hour, Team Civilization rallies, comes from behind, shoots to score, and wins the game, in a thrilling squeaker.  Yesterday was such a moment.  The entire civilized world rejoiced at the news that the vile head-chopping barbarians of ISIS/Daesh have been driven out of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

Statues seem to be saying, “Bye bye, Daesh, don’t come back!”

And I noticed right away, as I was putting this post together, just how many of my favorite  “categories” this story fit into:

  • Art Criticism – because we are talking about antiquities, works of art, and irreplaceable treasures.
  • Breaking News – because the liberation of Palmyra just broke over the weekend, and is a huge event.
  • Friendship of Peoples – because this victory was made possible by the friendship and cooperation of various ancient peoples, including Arabs, Russians and Persians.  Because friendship means that sometimes you have to fight for your friend.  Especially when he is being targeted unfairly by a bully.
  • Human Dignity – because the right to enjoy art and celebrate one’s national heritage, is a human right.  And nobody has the right to blow up ancient monuments that were built by somebody else’s forefathers.  Especially when these works are internationally recognized cultural treasures.
  • The Great Game – because Syria’s ordeal, and the suffering of millions of people at the hands of vicious barbarians, is simply an amusing “game of thrones” to certain individuals.  I am talking about the 1% (aka our “Lords and Masters” of the Deep State) who,  in their endless quest for wealth and power, carelessly and cynically play with the lives of the masses.
  • True Crime – because the looting of Palmyra was a criminal act and war crime.

Weep for the loss…. and then rebuild – that’s the ancient way.

In my post, which I plan to do in 2 parts (possibly 3) I want to focus, not so much on the military victory, of which the courageous Syrian soldiers can be rightfully proud.  But rather on the issue of the priceless arts and antiquities which were put at risk.  Much has been destroyed by the raping-looting headchoppers.  But not all is lost.  Soon the process of restoration will begin, but it is going to take a lot of time and work, not to mention money, to set things right again.  (Hint: if there are wealthy philanthropists out there who care about art, this is something they could help with, because the governments involved do not possess the tremendous resources that are going to be needed to fix this mess.)

Destruction of Priceless Antiquities

I begin with this account from the Russian newspaper VZGLIAD.  After the Syrian army liberated Palmyra from the headchoppers, Syrian President Assad expressed his gratitude and recognition to the Russians, saying the victory would not have been possible without their assistance.  In addition to Russians, Iranian officers and Hezbollah also deserve a lot of credit for this success.  And no thanks whatsoever go to the USA, whose spokesperson, Mark Toner, could not even bring himself to say, that he longed for ISIS defeat.

Syrian soldiers accomplished enormous feat.

Immediately upon retaking Palmyra, the Syrian army set about the difficult task of de-mining the streets and other areas.  Some streets were littered with the bodies of dead terrorists wearing suicide vests – their job was to slow down the approach of the victorious army.  Some of the terrorists, realizing that the game was up, blew themselves up in such a way as to damage as many historic sites and antiquities as they were able to.  Their orgy of senseless destruction continued to the very end.

In ancient times, Palmyra was one of the wealthiest cities in the world.  Located in an oasis in the desert between Damascus and the Euphrates, Palmyra was known as “The Bride of the Desert”.  All the world’s major trade routes passed through Palmyra.  The ruins of the ancient city were listed by UNESCO as one of the 6 major cultural objects within Syria.

In May 2015 the city was taken by the ISIS headchoppers.  Before retreating, the Syrians had some time to evacuate, along with most of the civilian population, also the most valuable exhibits of the central antiquities museum.  Unfortunately they could not evacuate the standing exhibits – the ancient ruins, cathedrals and other outdoor museums.  The best known and most beloved antiquities exhibits had to be left behind — as target practice for the headchoppers.

Headchoppers blew up Phoenician temple.

And the headchoppers did not disappoint:  Their very first act was to blow up the temple of the Phoenician god Baal-Shamin from Roman times.  Following this, the barbarians acquired a bulldozer, with which they bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, from the 8th century B.C. !  And then after this, came the turn of the ancient city of Hatra  (3rd century B.C.).

And the list of destroyed objects went on and on, with the terrorists bragging about each “accomplishment”:  the burial tower of Elakh-Baal (103 A.D.); then the famous Triumphal Arc built by Roman Emperor Septimius Severus.  Palmyra as a whole was built in the Roman style, and showed much Roman influence, especially in the architecture.  Perhaps the most notable crime committed by these modern-day vandals occurred in October of last year.  Not only did they blow up the historic columns of the city, but they also tied people to the columns – people whom the terrorists had captured and decided to punish in this creative manner.

And the terrorists didn’t limit themselves to pagan objects.  No, they also blew up Muslim works of art, as was pointed out by Russian antiquities expert, Alexei Lebedev.  According to Lebedev, “Syria used to be a normal country.  There were museums, there were antiquities specialists.  To be sure, they didn’t have enough money for massive restoration projects.  But they did preserve what they had, and kept good records of inventory, that was all in place.  The climate helps.  It is dry, it never snows, there is no ice.  All these objects would have continued to stand for centuries to come.”

[to be continued]

This entry was posted in Art Criticism, Breaking News, Friendship of Peoples, Human Dignity, The Great Game, True Crime and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Palmyra Liberated: A Win For Civilization – Part I

  1. Cortes says:

    Excellent introduction to the subject, Yalensis. Thanks once again.

    Robert Byron’s “The Road to Oxiana” has a passage (23 November 1933) on the demolition of the minarets of Herat in 1885 which ought to give pause for thought to smug Brits

    “I suspect this particular order was on British inspiration; though proof must wait till the archives of Delhi and the War Office give up their dead. In any case the most glorious productions of Mohammadan architecture in the fifteenth century, having survived the barbarism of four centuries, were now razed to the ground under the eyes, and with the approval, of the English Commissioners.”


    • yalensis says:

      The English have a very bad reputation, as colonists, for wantonly neglecting, looting, or even destroying ancient artifacts.
      The French were much more civilized, especially under Napoleon. During his expeditions to Egypt, Bonaparte embedded antiquities specialists and linguists, and other scholars, in his army. They did a lot of good things in this area, from what I understand, including salvaging and studying the Rosetta Stone.


  2. Jen says:

    That Septimius Severus, builder of the Triumphal Arch, sure got around a lot in those days when very few people ever got to travel outside their birthplaces at all.

    Of mixed Punic-Roman ancestry (and therefore partly Semitic), he was born in Leptis Magna, one of the largest cities in the Roman empire and the largest in Roman North Africa. Hopefully what remains of it is still there (it’s in Libya).

    Some time during his reign, he destroyed the original Byzantium for supporting his rival against him in 194 CE. He promptly rebuilt the city and built the famous Hippodrome, right in front of a new palace so Septimius Severus could just get up late in the morning after the usual all-nighter and stroll out to his special box in time to watch and bet on the races. The Hippodrome was the place where in 532 CE, the Nika riots broke out, originally as a clash between supporters of rival chariot-racing teams, and led to an uprising that destroyed half the city, including the Hagia Sophia (version 2.0; the current Hagia Sophia is version 3.0), and killed 30,000 people.

    Septimius Severus spent the last few years of his life campaigning in Britain and trying to invade and claim Caledonia (Scotland) for the empire. He died in Eboracum (the modern York, in northern England).

    His son and successor Caracalla was responsible for building the famous heated Baths of Caracalla in Rome.


    • Cortes says:

      The Nika riots have a couple of renditions:

      Graves’s novel on Belisarius and


      Sea como fuere as we used to say

      Justinian and Theodora were the Clintons of the day.


    • yalensis says:

      According to wiki, Severus left the throne jointly to his 2 sons, Caracalla and Geta.
      But Caracalla had his brother Geta brutally murdered.

      It is said that Geta wanted to build a complex of heated showers.
      Caracalla preferred a bath to a shower, and this was apparently the source of the dispute.


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