|Palmyra, the “city of palms”, was founded towards the end of the third millennium BC in an oasis between the Orontes and the Euphrates rivers in the heart of the Syrian desert. It was the capital of Palmyrene, an ally of Rome at the beginning of the Roman empire in the late first century BC. It enjoyed a golden age during the reign of Queen Zenobia in the third century AD, until it was sacked by the Roman emperor Aurelian in 273.In the following centuries it recovered some of its importance, but never again played its former role. Its ruins, however, are among the most important of late antiquity. One original feature of Palmyra is funerary sculpture whose hieratic images and spiritual intensity transcend Greek, Roman and Persian influences and foreshadow Byzantine art.
Palmyra was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1980. UNESCO minted a commemorative medal 15 years later. The obverse bears the inscription Palmyre in French and Arabic, and offers a view of the Grand Colonnade. On the site’s main thoroughfare, it is lined with porticoes and nine-metre-high Corinthian columns. The reverse bears the UNESCO logo.
Available in gold, silver and bronze
Photo © UNESCO/N. Burke