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Empress Zenobia: Palmyra's Rebel Queen [Hardcover]

Pat Southern
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Jan 2009
This book offers a fascinating insight into this key historical figure and her fight against the Romans. The ancient sources for the life and times of Zenobia are sparse. The surviving literary works that do exist are biased towards the Roman point of view, as are the sources for two other famous women who challenged Rome, Cleopatra and Boudica. Zenobia was acknowledged in her lifetime as beautiful and clever, gathering writers and poets, artists and philosophers around her at the Palmyrene court. It was said that Zenobia claimed descent from Cleopatra, which cannot be true but is indicative of how she saw herself and how she intended to be seen by others at home and abroad.This lively narrative explores the legendary queen and charts the progression of her unequivocal declaration, not only of independence of Rome, but of supremacy. Initially Zenobia acknowledged the suzerainty of the Roman Emperors but finally began to call herself Augusta and her son Vaballathus Augustus. There could be no clearer challenge to the authority of Rome in the east, drawing the Emperor Aurelian to the final battles and the submission of Palmyra in AD272.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Hambledon Continuum (15 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847250343
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847250346
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 830,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Verdict: Southern's biography is an accessible and vital addition to Roman historical knowledge. Exhaustive research and extensive footnotes make this an excellent aid to undergraduate or graduate research. Recommended for academic libraries. Background: Southern (The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine; The Roman Army) examines the life and times of Zenobia, who ruled Palmyra as regent to her son, Vaballathus, in the late third century C.E. The author skillfully presents the turbulent world of the late Roman Empire and Zenobia's rise to power. Using historical records and archaeological evidence, Southern portrays Zenobia as less of a rebel or power-hungry ruler than a leader who had the interest of her people and the security of her realm at heart; she also carefully considers other theories and opinions that have arisen over the centuries." - Melinda Gottesman, Library Journal (Xpress Reviews), February 15, 2009

About the Author

Pat Southern is an expert on Classical History and is the author of many authoritative books in this area including The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, The Late Roman Army and biographies of Augustus and Domitian (all published by Routledge).

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pat Southern's Best Book Yet! 3 April 2011
Format:Hardcover
The Empress Zenobia is the most famous woman of antiquity after Cleopatra. She was the queen of Palmyra who attempted to become Empress of Rome as the Empire seemed poised to fall apart. This is probably Pat Southern's greatest book. I have read several of her other ones (Mark Antony, Cleopatra) and I tend to find them to be like reading an encyclopedia. This one is rather more involved than her other ones. Perhaps because there is less written about Zenobia than any of her other subjects she feels it necessary to tell more about the times themselves. This fills her book out and gives it a soul. I think that the biggest problem with her earlier books is that she focuses on the events of the lives rather than the feel of them. Either that or she has just grown as a writer. At any rate this book is well written and presents the period quite well. Zenobia herself is rather a mystery, but there is no further information to be gleamed from the sources. Still, Southern presents a plausible interpretation of her motives that fits with the data. I'd recommend that this book be read in conjunction with a book on Aurelian like Aurelian and the Third Century or Restorer of the World: The Emperor Aurelian. That would give a better understanding of the wider issues.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly researched - but rather dry 26 Sep 2014
By sally tarbox TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
Difficult to review as it depends on your requirements: for the serious student of Ancient Rome, this is a *5 work, meticulously researched and with a large bibliography. However, I would take issue with the cover blurb that calls it a 'lively account' and an 'engaging read'. As a casual reader, I found it quite a struggle to keep my concentration focussed.
Very little is known about Zenobia, and the author has to work with Roman writings (some contradictory, some of dubious veracity) and archaeological finds. Thus much is necessarily supposition, and we can never 'know' Zenobia, or definitively what her motivations were, for taking over large parts of Roman territory in 270 AD.
Nonetheless I've learned a great deal - but was glad to come to the end!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romes worst nightmare 3 July 2009
Format:Hardcover
I really enjoyed this insight to a Rome problem that would not go away.Superbly written that it can only show what desire and passion one person can cause to a higher nation.
A must read for all the Roman historians.
Really enjoyed this book and highly recommended.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well researched history 14 Jun 2011
By JANEITE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Meticulous researched history by this author. I bought the book as it was recommended reading by Harry Sidebottom. However, in order for the period to really come alive, it is to the Harry Sidebottom books we must turn. Glad to have it in my library.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pat Southern's Best Book Yet 26 Aug 2009
By Arch Stanton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Empress Zenobia is the most famous woman of antiquity after Cleopatra. She was the queen of Palmyra who attempted to become Empress of Rome as the Empire seemed poised to fall apart. This is probably Pat Southern's greatest book. I have read several of her other ones (Mark Antony, Cleopatra) and I tend to find them to be like reading an encyclopedia. This one is rather more involved than her other ones. Perhaps because there is less written about Zenobia than any of her other subjects she feels it necessary to tell more about the times themselves. This fills her book out and gives it a soul. I think that the biggest problem with her earlier books is that she focuses on the events of the lives rather than the feel of them. Either that or she has just grown as a writer. At any rate this book is well written and presents the period quite well. Zenobia herself is rather a mystery, but there is no further information to be gleamed from the sources. Still, Southern presents a plausible interpretation of her motives that fits with the data. I'd recommend that this book be read in conjunction with a book on Aurelian like Aurelian and the Third Century or Restorer of the World: The Emperor Aurelian. That would give a better understanding of the wider issues.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Much tedium for little reward 23 Nov 2010
By Lois Chaney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've visited Palmyra, & have read much Syrian history including Richard Stoneman's far more readable Palmyra and Its Empire: Zenobia's Revolt against Rome, 1994. I bought the Pat Southern book in the hope of knowing more about Palmyra. I got more of nothing than I bargained for!

To be fair, Southern is upfront at the outset on the absence of source material, conflicting scholarly theories & opinions, and, as a result, her work can largely be summarized as "virtually nothing is beyond doubt." She covers, in painful detail, the Roman Empire in Syria & Parthia (Persia), noting every single emperor, general & endless possible translations of extant inscriptions. I wanted to read about Zenobia, but she makes no appearance until halfway through the book, and again, most of the text is dedicated to "not beyond doubt" background. Zenobia's husband Septimus Odenathus comes across as a fairly well-developed achiever, but the arguments over his various titles seemed superfluous. Probably the title of Southern's book is misleading--Empress Zenobia: Palmyra's Rebel Queen. The book really focuses on the decline of the Roman Empire over three centuries. Omitting period scholars, anyone interested in Palmyra & Queen Zenobia will find Stoneman much more rewarding.
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly researched - but rather dry 26 Sep 2014
By sally tarbox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Difficult to review as it depends on your requirements: for the serious student of Ancient Rome, this is a *5 work, meticulously researched and with a large bibliography. However, I would take issue with the cover blurb that calls it a 'lively account' and an 'engaging read'. As a casual reader, I found it quite a struggle to keep my concentration focussed.
Very little is known about Zenobia, and the author has to work with Roman writings (some contradictory, some of dubious veracity) and archaeological finds. Thus much is necessarily supposition, and we can never 'know' Zenobia, or definitively what her motivations were, for taking over large parts of Roman territory in 270 AD.
Nonetheless I've learned a great deal - but was glad to come to the end!
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 22 Oct 2014
By Stephen Ricks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Impressive!
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