Requiem for a Marvel

Extract from my diary, Palmyra, February 10, 2002.

The ruins were charming last night, illuminated by the distant street lamps, but this morning they were beyond compare. I left at seven thirty, it was already broad daylight, and there I saw one of the most beautiful sights in my entire life. The columns of the temples, the sand, the funeral towers on the hillsides, still further the Arab fortress embedded in the peak, everything colored in a pale ochre, almost white, and so light it was almost imperceptible.


I was completely alone, all was still, silent, the sky itself was pale. I walked for about an hour, admiring and immersing myself in these remarkable sites, meditating, reflecting, learning. I stopped at the ends of the long avenue of columns of the funeral temple, I sat upon a capital, I listened.


Later, we visited the formidable temple of Baal, we were practically alone. This is a colossal Roman structure, baroque, almost European, with decorative motifs that were found up until the style of Louis XVI. The weather was beautiful, soft, we surveyed the famous cella, the inner chamber of the temple, and its ornamented facades. We made our way around the temple, the most imposing, the most sacred in all of Palmyra, something truly extraordinary, a bit Egyptian in its pharaonic splendor, its baroque austerity is reminiscent of Spanish palaces, above its walls a forest of gigantic columns surges towards the heavens.


I went to inspect the ruins of the Roman houses and then walked down the grand avenue of columns. I came across the theatre and sat upon a bench, alone I examined the base of the stage, the elaborate décor of columns and alcoves. I walked along the grand courtyards of these majestic buildings, of the Agora, in the last rays of daylight. More than the architecture I appreciated the silence, the solitude in the grayness that gives a strange color to the rose stones, the beauty of this place, the desert so near, the exuberance and vigor of the palm grove, the absence of tourists.

by  Prince Michael of Greece