Fleeting Wonders: The Destruction of Palmyra's Arch of Triumph - Atlas Obscura
Free iron-on Atlas Obscura badge when you preorder our new kids’ book. Shop now.

Fleeting Wonders: The Destruction of Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph

The Arch of Triumph in Palmyra, which was destroyed by ISIL. (Photo: Jerzy Strzelecki on Wikipedia)

In the latest blow from the Islamic State’s extremist campaign of iconoclasm, the 2,000-year-old Arch of Triumph, the gateway to the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, has been destroyed by ISIL forces.

As USA Today reports, ISIL blew up the monumental sandstone construction, which consisted of three arches, by using explosives placed on it weeks earlier. The main curve of the arch was obliterated, but the tall columns still stand.

Since May 2015, Palmyra has been under siege after terrorist group ISIL took control of the ancient city. As part of the group’s war on what they consider offenses to the Islamic State, ISIL has destroyed some of the greatest ancient temples in the city, including the Temple of Baal, a shrine devoted to a Mesopotamian god, and the Lion of al-Lāt, a stone beast that adorned the temple of the same name.

For the most part ISIL has focused on destroying monuments it considers sacrilegious, but the group is now also targeting non-religious monuments. The destruction of the Arch of Triumph signals a shift in ISIL’s pattern of terror, away from the religious sites at Palmyra, and onto the obliteration of the city itself. 

Palmyra has existed since around 7500 BCE, growing into a bustling crossroads of culture and civilization. Sitting smack in the middle of the Syrian desert, the city, which had its own natural spring, was known as an oasis where travelers and traders could share arts and skills. In the modern day it has come to be known for its sprawling wealth of archeological and architectural treasures, representing myriad influences ranging from Greco-Roman columns to temples devoted to pagan gods.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it: cara@atlasobscura.com.