Today came the confirmation that ISIS forces have leveled the temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria. This is just the latest in a series of attacks on ancient relics by the terrorist group, who see any pre-Islamic artifacts as heretical abominations. They’ve even announced that they hope to eventually destroy the pryamids in Egypt.
About two weeks ago ISIS killed an 82-year-old archaeologist who refused to divulge the location of hidden artifacts. The fact that someone would sacrifice their life when the only thing at stake is museum pieces might seem strange to most westerners, but it shouldn’t. The brave archaeologists and historians who are working tirelessly to frantically smuggle and hide piece of ancient history realize the importance of what they’re doing.
The area of Iraq and Syria under threat from ISIS is the same region where some of the oldest civilizations in the world made their home. Relics from this region date back millenia, to the Romans, Persians, Babylonians — ancient empires and people groups who all helped to write the history of the world we know today.
Palmyra itself was a crucial city for the Roman Empire, a stop along the way for caravans coming from the Far East. The city itself was a showcase for the merger of Syrian and Roman architecture. Priceless artifacts that future generations won’t be able to learn from.
Some quick facts about this particular city:
- First recorded mention of Palmyria was roughly 2000 B.C.
- Part of the Roman Empire
- A wealthy caravan center in the ancient world
- Filled with pagan, muslim and Christian relics
- Briefly became the seat of a small empire under a powerful female ruler around 270 A.D.
Even if it’s hard for most people in the free world to see the importance of historical artifacts, ISIS understands. They know that it’s not enough to kill the people of the free world, they have to destroy the entire basis upon which civilization stands. If ISIS goes unchecked, so will the destruction of our history.