Iulia Aurelia Zenobia of Palmyra or Bat-Zabbai in Aramaic, was a 3rd century queen of Palmyra (in modern Syria) -- an oasis city halfway between the Mediterranean and Euphrates, who claimed Cleopatra and Dido of Carthage as ancestors, defied the Romans, and rode into battle against them, but was eventually defeated and probably taken prisoner.
Zenobia became queen when her husband Septimius Odaenathus and his son were assassinated in 267. Zenobia's son Vaballanthus was heir, but just an infant, so Zenobia ruled, instead (as regent). A "warrior queen" Zenobia conquered Egypt in 269, part of Asia Minor, taking Cappadocia and Bithynia, and ruled a large empire until she was captured in 274. Although Zenobia was defeated by the competent Roman Emperor Aurelian (r. A.D. 270-275), near Antioch, Syria, and rode in a triumphal parade for Aurelian, she was allowed to live out her life in luxury in Rome. Maybe. She may have been executed. Some think she may have committed suicide.
Ancient literary sources on Zenobia include Zosimus, the Historia Augusta, and Paul of Samosata (whose patron was Zenobia), according to BBC's In Our Time - Queen Zenobia.
- Map of Ancient Asia Minor including Syria
- Augustan History
- Zenobia of Palmyra
- Gibbon on Zenobia of Palmyra
- Ancient Syria
- About.com's Women's History Guide on Zenobia