Palmyra, the Lost City

In the news recently: IS blew up the ancient temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria. Of course you don’t expect to be confronted with news headlines in a book blog, but I’ve got a book.

The book is the Lost Cities of the Ancient World by Joel Levy. It’s not a particularly memorable book. The history of the lost cities doesn’t go beyond the level of general knowledge but it has some pleasing photos – and that’s about it. I never bothered to read it from cover to cover; I dip into it sometimes when I have nothing better to do.

Or when something prompts me. The last time was when I was reading an eye-witness account of Tenochtitlan (more than one blog entry is waiting to be written about that book!). Today I found myself looking at the pictures of Palmyra: a forest of columns with a hilltop Arab fort for backdrop, a Roman amphitheatre, a warm honey-coloured temple standing clearly defined against an azure sky. I read about Queen Zenobia, famous for her beauty and her brains both… Guess if she came to a bad end.

Should have been a perfectly pleasant half an hour on a Saturday afternoon but for the profoundly depressing occasion that prompted it.


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