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Palmyra and the East


Kenneth Lapatin (J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA) 
Rubina Raja (Aarhus University, Denmark)


DateApril 18—19, 2019
LocationThe J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272, USA


Inaugurating the Getty Villa’s “Classical World in Context” exhibition series, Palmyra: Loss & Remembrance brings to Los Angeles audiences some of the finest surviving sculpture from the fabled ancient Syrian caravan city. Located at an oasis in the Syrian desert, the ancient caravan city of Palmyra, a significant point of contact between the Roman and Parthian empires, has long been the focus of studies of cross-cultural encounters, for it was a locus of the movement of goods, peoples, and ideas between the Mediterranean and the Near East, India, and even China. Most work on the site, however, has focused either on the distinctive cultural mix of Palmyran art, architecture, religion, and society or the city’s relations with Rome and the West. Palmyra’s links to the East have hitherto been less fully explored.

This symposium, co-funded by the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Carlsberg Foundation, seeks to address that lacuna. Over 1 ½ days, experts from diverse disciplines will explore the Palmyran links with the East as expressed through the art, architecture, and the social and religious life of the city across the three centuries when it flourished, before the sack by the troops of the Roman emperor Aurelian after Zenobia had successfully conquered large parts of the territory surrounding the city towards the north, south, east, and west. The papers of the symposium will focus on evidence from the city and will do so in the light of new knowledge about these objects and sources and how they may inform us about the dynamic relationship of Palmyra with its eastern neighbours – a relationship that was as intense and tense as the one the city had with Rome, one difference being that Parthia was much closer than Rome was.

While Palmyra has often been described as a melting pot, which simply adopted and adapted what it could from other cultures, it has become clear over the past decades that Palmyran culture was distinct, and that the society of the city indeed positioned itself to a much larger degree than hitherto thought.

The intention of this symposium is to begin to explore such developments and trends in more detail, addressing a variety of topics, ranging from Palmyra’s position on the silk roads, its languages and inscriptions, politics and religion, to its distinctive funerary art, which is the subject of Palmyra: Loss & Remembrance, the inaugural exhibition in the Getty Villa’s “Classical World in Context” series. On display until May 27, 2019.

Confirmed speakers

  • Albertson, Fred C. (University of Memphis, USA)
  • Andrade, Nathanael (University of Binghamtom, USA)
  • Aruz, Joan (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA) - moderator
  • Blömer, Michael (Aarhus University, Denmark)
  • Bonesho, Cate (UCLA, USA)
  • Brody, Lisa (Yale University, USA)
  • Daryaee, Touraj (University of California - Irvine, USA)
  • Heyn, Maura (University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA)
  • Intagliata, Emanuele E. (Aarhus University, Denmark)
  • Kaizer, Ted (Durham University, UK)
  • Lapatin, Kenneth (J. Paul Getty Museum, USA) - organizer and moderator
  • Raja, Rubina (Aarhus University, Denmark) - organizer
  • Rezakhani, Khodadad (Princeton University, USA)
  • Schörle, Katia (Brown University, USA)
  • Shayegan, M. Rahim (UCLA, USA) - moderator
  • Yon, Jean-Baptiste (Laboratoire HiSoMa, France)