Mysterious Deity of Ancient Palmyra Finally Identified


| LAST UPDATE 07/12/2022

By Stanley Wickens
Palmyra deity mystery solved
Nick Brundle Photography via Getty Images

There is a lot we're still uncertain about when it comes to ancient history. And where there are mysteries, there are answers waiting to be found. One long-standing question that's recently been solved originates in a millennia-old city called Palmyra, which flourished nearly 2,000 years ago.

Palmyra served as a center of trade during the Roman Empire, which connected with trade routes in Asia, such as the Silk Road. Excavations in the area have been ongoing, with scientists discovering a new fact about the region's ancient history every day. Historians have long been confused about the identity of one anonymous deity mentioned in several Aramaic inscriptions, which were discovered in the ancient city that lies in what is today Syria. The mysterious god is often described as "he whose name is blessed forever," "lord of the universe," and "merciful," according to the news site Science in Poland. Thanks to the hard work of one researcher, we were finally able to figure it out.

Aramaic inscription ancient mystery
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In her research, Aleksandra Kubiak-Schneider, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wrocław in Poland, drew a comparison between inscriptions from Palmyra to 2,000-year-old inscriptions found throughout Mesopotamia. What she found was astonishing: the gods that the Mesopotamians worshipped were described using very similar notions as the anonymous god in Palmyra. One deity named "Bel-Marduk" – the supreme god of Babylon – was also referred to as "merciful." A sky god named Baalshamin, on the other hand, was referred to using the phrase "lord of the world" – a title similar to "lord of the universe." 

Kubiak-Schneider concluded that the anonymous god from Palmyra, who has baffled scientists for so long, turned out to be not one - but several deities. "There was no one anonymous god, every god who listened and showed favor to requests deserved an eternal praise," Kubiak-Schneider said. The researcher explained that, in that era, people would not mention the names of the gods as a sign of respect. She added that when people wrote the inscriptions addressing the divine, they would not speak to one specific god, but left their message open to any god who would accept their prayers. And although that's one more mystery of the ancient world we've solved, we can be sure there's a lot more waiting to be discovered. Stay tuned!

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