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The Story of the Romans by  H. A. Guerber

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ZENOBIA, QUEEN OF PALMYRA

GALLIENUS became sole ruler after Valerian's defeat; but he made no attempt to rescue or avenge his father, and thought of nothing but his pleasures. He was soon roused, however, by the news that the Franks had crossed the Rhine, and had settled in Gaul, which from them received its present name of France. Soon after, Gallienus heard that the Goths, sailing down the Danube, had come to the Black Sea, and were robbing all the cities on its coasts.

As Gallienus made no attempt to defend his people against the barbarians, the provinces fell into the hands of men who governed them without consulting the emperor at Rome. These men called themselves emperors, but they are known in history as the "Thirty Tyrants." One of them was Odenathus, Prince of Palmyra, in Syria, and he became very powerful indeed.

Another of these generals who had taken the title of emperor was intrenched in Milan. The real emperor, who was not a coward, fought bravely to capture this city; but he was killed here, and was succeeded by Claudius II., one of his generals.

The new Roman emperor was both brave and good. He [265] began his reign by defeating the Goths, but before he could do much more for the good of his people, he fell ill and died, leaving the throne to Aurelian.

In the mean while, the kingdom of Palmyra had been gaining in power and extent. Odenathus was dead, but Zenobia, his wife, governed in the name of her young son. This queen was a beautiful and very able woman. She wished to rival Cleopatra in magnificence of attire and pomp, as well as in beauty.

After taking the title of Empress of the East, Zenobia tried to drive the Romans out of Asia. In full armor, she led her troops into battle, and conquered Egypt; and she entered into an alliance with the Persians.

Aurelian, having subdued the Goths, now led his legions against Zenobia. The Queen of Palmyra was defeated and her capital taken; and, though she attempted to flee, she fell into the hands of the Romans. Many of Zenobia's most faithful supporters were killed; and among them was her secretary, the celebrated writer, Longinus.

Palmyra itself was at first spared, but the inhabitants revolted soon after the Romans had left. Aurelian therefore retraced his steps, took the city for the second time, and, after killing nearly all the people, razed both houses and walls. To-day there is nothing but a few ruins to show where the proud city of Palmyra once stood; yet its wealth had been so great that even the Romans were dazzled by the amount of gold which they saw in Aurelian's triumph.

They also stared in wonder at Zenobia, the proud eastern queen, who was forced to walk in front of Aurelian's car. The unhappy woman could scarcely carry the weight [266] of the priceless jewels with which she was decked for this occasion.

When the triumph was over, Zenobia was allowed to lived in peace and great comfort in a palace near Tibur; and here she brought up her children as if she had been only a Roman mother. Her daughters married Roman nobles, and one of her sons was given a small kingdom by the generous Aurelian.

About a year after the triumph in which Zenobia had figured, Aurelian was murdered; and for a short time no once dared accept the throne, for fear of dying a violent death. At last the senate chose a relative of the great Roman historian Tacitus; but he died of fever six months after his election, while he was on his way to fight the Persians.


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