[UCP Books]: Palmyra: An Irreplaceable Treasure by Paul Veyne

“Veyne, the most eminent living historian of Rome, has written an elegiac lament on the meaning for world history of this looted city.”

Times Literary Supplement, on the French Edition



An Irreplaceable Treasure
Paul Veyne

Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan
US Publication: May 10, 2017 / International Publication: June 21, 2017

Cloth / $22.50 / £17.00


Today, Palmyra is a stark and scarred battleground, a violent site of contention between Syrian and ISIS fighters. But once, this ancient city located northeast of Damascus, had the aura of myth. According to the Bible, the city was built by Solomon. And according to all accounts, it was an influential city, serving for centuries as a caravan stop for those crossing the Syrian Desert. It became a Roman province under Tiberius and served as the most powerful commercial center in the Middle East between the first and the third centuries CE. But when the citizens of Palmyra tried to break away from Rome, they were defeated, marking the end of the city’s prosperity. The magnificent monuments from that earlier era of wealth, a resplendent blend of Greco-Roman architecture and local influences, stretched for miles and were among the most significant buildings of the ancient world—until the arrival of ISIS. In 2015, ISIS fought to gain control of the area because it was home to a prison where many members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood had been held, and ISIS went on to systematically destroy the city and murder many of its inhabitants, including the archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad, the antiquities director of Palymra.

In this concise and elegiac book, Paul Veyne, one of Palymra’s most important experts, offers a beautiful and moving look at the history of this significant lost city and why it was—and still is—important.


Paul Veyne is a French archaeologist and historian and an honorary professor at the Collège de France. Teresa Lavender Fagan is a freelance translator living in Chicago.


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