A TRIBUTE TO PALMYRA. LOST ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURES
Temple of Jerusalem: first time destroyed in 587 BC by Nebuchadnezzar , king of Babylon. Later rebuilt and destroyed once again during the Roman siege led by the emperor Titus in 70 AD. Demolished a third time by the emperor Hadrian in 135 AD, when this destroyed Judea and exterminated the Jews.
Serapeum of Alexandria: temple dedicated to the deity Serapis, built in the 3rd century BC. Respected for its importance, and preserved by some of the Roman emperors (Hadrian rebuilt it after its destruction during wars). It was later destroyed again around 391 AD by Christian Patriarch Theophilos (according to one of the possible versions of the events).
Pantheon, Rome: Pope Boniface IV turns it into a Christian church in 609 AD; this saved it from destruction, but not from being raided of its bronze and of its external decorations (bronze was melted and reused in the 17th century by Pope Urban VIII Barberini to produce cannons to defend Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, and for San Peter’s Baldachin by the artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini; in the same way the pope reused the stones of the Colosseum to build the Barberini Palace).
Parthenon, Athens: 1687, during the war between Christians and Turks, the Venetian troops of Francesco Morosini blew up the Parthenon to show the Turks (who had been in control of the city for two centuries) that Venice was stronger; so they destroyed the city’s most precious symbol.
Palmyra: 2015. During the civil war in Syria, ISIS destroys the historical monuments of the archeological site of Palmyra, to eliminate every single trace of paganism, beheading also the guardian and head of antiquities of the site.
These are just a few of the upsetting examples of human action. As humans, we consider ourselves the most excellent and perfect among animals; we are the only ones to own the power of speech; we are the most intelligent creatures. Well, history shows rather the opposite.. after millenniums we prove to have learned absolutely nothing, and we keep on committing the same fanatical acts. We can be Christians, Jewish, Buddhists, Islamic, or atheists, but we are all ignorant fanatics the moment we destroy a symbol of the past. Since ancient times, blind ignorance and rage have been leading man to attempt to cancel other communities with other religions, not only by exterminating their inhabitants, but also by destroying all the buildings related to their worship. And we say “attempt” because reality is, there is no way to make man change his worship, not even by destroying his city (it rather seems that this way leads to the opposite result).
All people and all religions share a bond and a common history, and destroying a symbol of the past means destroying a part of ourselves, of our present and of our future. What is being done today by certain groups, was also done in the past, at all time periods, every time to defend their own faith. We don’t want to dwell too much on these considerations; we just want to remind that what is happening today, has already happened in the past, and will happen in the future; there is no good and bad; there is no right or wrong religion. All religions have committed mistakes throughout their history, and have caused irreparable harm; but they are still doing it, and it seems there is no way for us humans to learn from our mistakes.
Since last Monday, March 27, with the occasion of the first G7 Meeting of Culture, a reproduction of Palmyra Monumental Arch, destroyed by ISIS in May 2015, has been displayed in Piazza della Signoria in Florence. The copy was realized by Torart, a company of Carrara (Italy), and has already been displayed in London, Dubai and New York. It has now reached Florence, where it will stay until April 27. The original Arch was probably built during the reign of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus (2°-3° century AD), when Palmyra was at its height: it was part of the Roman province of Syria, and a key point for trade between the Mediterranean area and the Eastern countries.
Palmyra (Tadmor in Arabic) is an archeological site of great importance and value, and it is an example of Greek, Roman and Persian cultures. It was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980. Along with the Arch, other monuments were destroyed in the same terrorist attack: for example the Temple of Baalshamin, and the Temple of Bel, both built between the 1° and the 2° centuries AD.