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Lila Knight

Member of the Department of Classics and Ancient History


I hold a BA (Hons) and MA from the University of Otago (New Zealand). My research at Otago focused on Roman imperial numismatics, and in particular, examined the silver content of antoniniani from several imperial mints, the Gallic Empire mints, and the 'Palmyrene mints' between 260-275 CE. From this, I developed an interest in the study of Palmyra, and especially how and from where Odenathus gathered an army after the capture of Valerian in 260 CE. In my doctoral research, for which I have received a Durham Doctoral Studentship, I have moved away from numismatics into researching Palmyra and the Palmyrene 'military'. This research will be conducted under the supervision of Professor Ted Kaizer, Dr Alberto Rigolio, and Professor Ian Haynes (Newcastle).

My research interests broadly lie in the Roman Near East, the Roman army, the so-called 'third century crisis', and Roman imperial numismatics.

Research Project: Drafting an Empire: Palmyrene Manpower and Military Identity

My doctoral thesis will examine where the Palmyrene 'troops' under Odenathus and Zenobia came from and how they identified themselves. As Odenathus and Zenobia were so successful in their pursuits in at first securing the Near East from Sasanian threats, and then taking it over for themselves, it is clear that Odenathus, and later Zenobia, had troops at their disposal. Accordingly, this study will examine whether these troops were the remnants of Roman legions left behind in the East after the capture of Valerian (as suggested by Zosimus), or rusticani Syriae (as suggested by Orosius).

For an investigation into Odenathus' troops to be successful, evidence of earlier Palmyrene forces and military figures from across the Roman Empire must be taken into account. This thesis will therefore utilise both the epigraphic and archaeological evidence which mention Palmyrene military figures, such as the cohors XX Palmyrenorum, the Palmyrene archers serving under Trajan, and those who protected Palmyra's famous long-distance caravan trade route. Such a reliance on material evidence, necessitated by the lack of mention of Palmyra in ancient literary sources, ensures that this study will differ from previous surveys of the Roman army which often look at the issue from the top down.

By providing a comprehensive examination of Palmyrene military figures from their first mention in the epigraphic record to the fall of Palmyra under Zenobia, this study will attempt to fill a gap in scholarship and contribute to our understanding of Palmyra and its swift rise to (and fall from) power.