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Palmyra, the Roman Empire, and the Third-Century Crisis: Zooming in and Scaling up from the Evidence


Professor Rubina Raja (Aarhus University) and Professor Eivind Heldaas Seland (University of Bergen)

Dates: 7-8 March 2024

Time: 8:00-17:30

Venue: The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, H.C. Andersens Boulevard 35, DK-1553 Copenhagen


The so-called Third Century Crisis has been a pivotal theme around which many discussions and much research have revolved over the past decades. While some of the points have been called into question in recent scholarship, the third century, and particularly the five decades after 235 CE, has traditionally been seen as a period of deep crisis for the Roman Empire. The period, however, also represents the peak of Palmyrene prosperity and urban development. It spans the time of Palmyrene drift towards monarchy and political hegemony in the Near East, as well as the city’s bid for imperial power and its brutal downfall in the years 270–273, followed by the transformation from semi-autonomous regional power to a Roman garrison town on the eastern frontier of the Empire. As more than a decade of research under the auspices of the Palmyra Portrait Project and the later Circular Economy Project draws to a close, we would like to highlight this critical period in Palmyrene and Roman history in a conference, which will be organised around sessions of two papers whereof one focuses on the evidence from Palmyra and the other on the broader evidence from the Roman Empire and beyond in order to, among other things, to hold the state of the evidence up against each other and to create a forum in which we can zoom in and out depending on the parallels or lack thereof in the evidence, and push for a more critical and detailed engagement with processes, local and regional situations as well as bring a more nuanced picture to the table.

The conference will gather specialists on Palmyra as well as on the Roman world and neighbouring regions in the third century. While one paper asks what happens in the Syrian Desert City, the other presents recent perspectives on the situation in the Roman Empire in the third century. Topics include urban, religious, political, military, environmental, and economic developments. We hope that the juxtaposition of case studies from a city that long seemed to benefit from the changing geopolitical situation with the archaeology and history of an empire in transformation will shed light not only on the destiny of Palmyra but also on the nature of the changes that took place in the Roman Empire in the same period.


  • Andrade, Nathanael (University of Binghamton) - organiser
  • Baird, Jen (Birkbeck College, University of London)
  • Bobou, Olympia (Aarhus University) - moderator
  • Briquel-Chatonnet, Françoise (Centre national de la recherche scientifique)
  • Canepa, Matthew (University of California, Irvine)
  • Dirven, Lucinda (Radboud University Nijmegen)
  • Hallett, Christopher (UC Berkeley) - Discussant
  • Høisæter, Tomas (Western Norway University of Applied Sciences)
  • Intagliata, Emanuele E. (Università degli Studi di Milano)
  • Raja, Rubina (Aarhus University) - Organiser
  • Seland, Eivind Heldaas (University of Bergen) - Organiser
  • Spickermann, Wolfgang (Universität Graz)
  • Wilson, Andrew (University of Oxford)
  • Yon, Jean-Baptiste (Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée – Jean Pouilloux)

Practical information for speakers


Please book your own travel to Copenhagen, and we will reimburse you after your stay. Please note that we can only reimburse economy-class tickets booked directly through an airline and not via a search engine.

As soon as you have organised your travel, please forward your itinerary to Christina Levisen (levisen@cas.au.dk), so that the hotel booking can be confirmed.

After the event, you will receive a link to AU’s online travel reimbursement form. It is important that you keep your receipts, as you will need to provide documentation for expenses. 

Please complete the expense claim before 31 March 2024.


Comfort Hotel Vesterbro
Vesterbrogade 23/29
1620 Copenhagen
Phone: +45 33 78 80 00

Dinner and diet

A speakers’ dinner will be held on 7 March, and we will of course cater for you during the event. The speakers' dinner will take place at:

Les Trois Cochons
Værnedamsvej 10
1619 Copenhagen

If you have any dietary restrictions (incl. allergies), please let Christina Levisen (levisen@cas.au.dk) know no later than 16 February, so that the restaurant/caterers can be notified.