Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sartre and Sartre, Palmyre

Annie Sartre, Maurice Sartre, Palmyre. Vérités et légendes. Paris: Perrin, 2016. Pp. 259. ISBN 9782262066154. €14.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Rubina Raja, Aarhus University (


Palmyra has become a renewed focus of research in recent years due to interest in subjects outside the core regions of Rome and the Roman Empire; the massive destruction of Syria’s rich cultural heritage has also spurred a renewed interest in the site. Palmyra has also been in the spotlight due to the use of the site in Syrian state propaganda, and because it was a stronghold of the rebels and ISIS from May 2015 until spring 2016, when the city was recaptured by the Syrian state forces. The public beheading of the Director of Antiquities in Palmyra, Khaled al-As’ad, shook the world and the colleagues, who had known and worked with him for several decades. In the wake of this event several conferences and publications were dedicated to his memory and the book by Annie and Maurice Sartre is also to be seen as a product of the growing public and political attention given to the site. Much attention has been given to discussions about the potential reconstruction of the damaged and looted monuments. Since Palmyra is a World Heritage site, UNESCO has taken a particular interest in developing plans for the restoration of the unique oasis city, and scholars have begun to discuss the future of the site should the situation in Syria at some point allow for further work at the site.

Annie and Maurice Sartre's Palmyre is one of these studies, which on the one hand aims at giving the general public an insight and understanding of this unique site and on the other hand presents the potential pitfalls of massive reconstruction without detailed planning and involvement of the scholarly community. ...
Background on Palmyra is here (immediately preceding post) and links. Cross-file under Palmyra Watch.