The Islamic State terror group (ISIS) appears to be preparing to destroy one of humanity’s greatest treasures: the ancient city of Palmyra. The Islamic extremists want to destroy any Western or non-Islamic forms of architecture or art or culture in their total devotion to the Koran. We have written about the past destruction of cities like Nimrod and Hatra that have left the civilized world in shock. Now, the group appears to have it sights on Palmyra, one of the most extensive and beautiful of the ancient cities left in Syria.
Ironically, Palmyra represents precisely what ISIS is not: an educated and diverse ancient people. With some Neolithic parts, the city is referenced in the Hebrew bible and such records go back to the early second millennium BC as a caravan stop. By the third century AD Palmyra was a prosperous center with a large economy and successful army. Its population was a mix of Arameans, Amorites, Arabs, and a Jewish minority. People spoke Palmyrene (a dialect of Aramaic) and Greek.
All of that history is viewed as offensive to the Islamic movement because it predates Muhammad and the Koran. While some artifacts were removed as ISIS approaches, the large structures remain and human rights groups report that the militants are wiring the whole city to explode.
I recently ran pictures of Assyrian art pieces from the British Museum from Mosul from London. These pieces are magnificent and much like those destroyed with sledgehammers in museums by ISIS. It is unimaginable to think of even religious fanatics justifying such destruction but ISIS appears to relish such acts of destruction. Indeed, while fighting a coalition in intense battles, it is willing to commit men and ordinance to the task of wiping out historical artifacts and buildings.
Here may be one last look at Palmya: