Of Camels and Men Palmyra’s local elite in the 2nd century AD
While research publications on Palmyra have become more and more numerous in recent decades, the question of how to characterise Palmyra’s local elite is still controversial. Ernest Will argued that the local elite were a group of «grand patrons» with their habitus reflecting a habitus «de cheikhs selon le terme arabe». Whereas Yon draws a different picture, labelling the local elite an «aristocratie marchande» and implicitly identifying the ruling class of Palmyra as a regime of notables; hence, resembling other local elites in the Roman Near East. Recently, Sommer emphasised that Palmyrene elite members also provided military service. Thus, he questioned the understanding of Palmyra’s elite as a leisure class of notables.
This paper focuses on the great men of Palmyra’s local elite in the 2nd century AD. Based on epigraphic and archaeological sources, it analyses their position and function in Palmyrene society, the legitimation mechanisms of their social position and their habitual representation. It will be shown that in the 2nd century AD some local elite members were in possession of military power and thus gained informal positions of power. Consequently, some of these men represented themselves as strong military leaders who could be understood as frontier warriors in the sense of Beck and Wittek. The concept of notables, hence, does not match their identities. As sons of Palmyra these men acted against the background of local traditions and local social norms. Therefore, their socio-political role can only be understood in this specific Palmyrene context.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Ann-Christine Sander, "Of Camels and Men Palmyra’s local elite in the 2nd century AD" in: "West&East, 6 (2021)", Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2020, pp. 45-58
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