Why did Zenobia revolt?

Mar 2019
Zenobia, the queen of Palmyra. She was married to Odaenathus, the leader of Palmyra and consularis of the eastern Roman provinces. In 267 Odaenathus was killed and his son, Waballat, inherited his father's titles (which were probably consularis, dux and king of kings). However, he was only around 10 years old at the time and therefore his mother, Zenobia, ruled as his regent. In 270 she began to expand towards Arabia, Anatolia and Egypt, which can be seen as a revolt against Rome. But why did she revolt, while Odaenathus remained loyal to Rome? Did she have a personal ambitious agenda? Was her plan to be Empress of the Roman Empire or carve out an independent state?
We don't really have enough information to say, but there are several possibilities:

1. She became too ambitious, and was opportunistic, sensing weakness among the Romans, who were themselves divided and dealing with barbarian incursions. The Romans had also failed to successfully defend the eastern frontier, thus why Odaenathus had taken control in the first place

2. A woman supporting her child as defacto ruler of the East in place of the prestigious and militarily accomplished Odaenathus, perhaps allegiance to her and her son was less widespread than under Odaenathus, and so her response was to force her authority through military campaigns.

3. She was acting defensively. Either Gallienus or Claudius appears to have sent the praetorian prefect Heraclianus to take charge in the East, and he appears to have been defeated by Zenobia. Some sources also claim that Gallienus was responsible for the assassination of Odaenathus. For the Romans' part, they had probably never agreed to Vaballathus inheriting his father's power, which, officially, had existed by the grace of Gallienus.

In any case, it's notable that her mints at Antioch and Alexandria, and papyri in Egypt, did not cease to recognize the nominal authority of Gallienus and Claudius, nor did they cease to recognize the nominal authority and seniority of Aurelian until the months leading up to Aurelian's invasion.

The fact that Vaballathus used the title Augustus, and Zenobia Augusta, is also notable, since they were therefore representing their power in Roman terms.
Last edited:
Likes: Melisende

Similar History Discussions