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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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a city built by Solomon, 1 Kings 9:18 , afterward called Palmyra; situated in a wilderness of Syria, upon the borders of Arabia Deserta, inclining toward the Euphrates. Josephus places it two days' journey from the Euphrates, and six days' journey from Babylon. He says there is no water any where else in the wilderness, but in this place. At the present day there are to be seen vast ruins of this city. There was nothing more magnificent in the whole east. There are still found a great number of inscriptions, the most of which are Greek, and the other in the Palmyrenian character. Nothing relating to the Jews is seen in the Greek inscriptions; and the Palmyrenian inscriptions are entirely unknown, as well as the language and the character of that country. The city of Tadmor preserved this name to the time of the conquest by Alexander the Great: then it had the name of Palmyra given to it, which it preserved for several ages. About the middle of the third century, it became famous, because Odenatus and Zenobia, his queen, made it the seat of their empire. When the Saracens became masters of the east, they restored its ancient name of Tadmor to it again, which it has always preserved since. It is surrounded by sandy deserts on all sides. It is not known when, nor by whom, it was reduced to the ruinous condition in which it is now found. It may be said to consist at present of a forest of Corinthian pillars, erect and fallen. So numerous are these, consisting of many thousands, that the spectator is at a loss to connect or arrange them in any order or symmetry, or to conceive what purpose or design they could have answered. "In the space covered by these ruins," says Volney, "we sometimes, find a palace of which nothing remains but the court and walls; sometimes a temple, whose peristyle is half thrown down; and now a portico, a gallery, or triumphal arch. Here stand groups of columns, whose symmetry is destroyed by the fall of many of them; there we see them ranged in rows, of such length, that, similar to rows of trees, they deceive the sight, and assume the appearance of continued walls. If from this striking scene we cast our eyes upon the ground, another almost as varied presents itself. On all sides we behold nothing but subverted shafts, some whole, others shattered to pieces or dislocated in their joints; and on which side soever we look, the earth is strewed with vast stones half buried, with broken entablatures, mutilated friezes, disfigured reliefs, effaced sculptures, violated tombs, and altars defiled by dust."

It is probable, says Mansford, that, although Tadmor is said to have been built by Solomon, or, in other words, to have been erected by him into a city, it was a watering station between Syria and Mesopotamia before; with perhaps accommodations suited to the mode of travelling in those times, as we read of palm trees being found there, which are not trees that come by chance in these desert regions. The mere circumstance of wholesome water being afforded by any spot in such a country was sufficient to give it importance, and to draw toward it the stream of communication, for whatever purpose. This was probably the condition of Tadmor long before it received its name and its honours from Solomon. But, after all, what motive could there be to induce a peaceable king, like Solomon, to undertake a work so distant, difficult, and dangerous? There is but one which at all accords with his character, or the history of the times,— commercial enterprise. Solomon was at great pains to secure himself in the possession of the ports of Elath and Ezion-Geber on the Red Sea, and to establish a navy for his Indian commerce, or trade to Ophir,—in all ages the great source of wealth. The riches of India, thus brought into Judea, were from thence disseminated over those countries of the north and west at that time inhabited or known; while the same country, Judea, became, for a season, like Tyre, the point of return and exchange of the money and the commodities of those countries, the centre of communication between the east and the west.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Tadmor'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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