Sonia Halliday Photographs

And deepen on Palmyra’s street / The wheel rut in the ruined stone. A lush, palm-tree-lined oasis in the middle of the Syrian desert, Palmyra was an important way station on the ancient caravan road from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. After the Roman invasion of Syria in 100 B.C., it became a prosperous Roman colony and a critical commercial center for the eastern empire. Under Roman rule, Palmyra’s great houses and broad paved roads were crowded with soldiers, silk traders and spice and perfume merchants from all over the ancient East. (The ruins of the city’s second-century A.D. Grand Colonnade, built by the Romans, are shown here.) Palmyra fell on hard times, however, after the Syrian Queen Zenobia staged an unsuccessful revolt against the Roman Empire in 270 A.D. In retaliation, the Romans occupied the city, looted many of its riches and transformed Palmyra into a drab military garrison.