Bagdad, Persia/Iraq

For miles across the desert we find the wreckage of Palmyra—as it was left in the year 275 by the vengeful Romans. After Zenobia’s capture, the Romans left a small garrison to guard the town. This garrison the people of Palmyra slaughtered. Wrathful, the Roman general returned, once more fell upon the city, and this time showed no mercy. The entire population was killed. The palaces, temples, walls, and rows of columns along the avenues were overturned. When the Romans departed a second time, Palmyra, one of the loveliest cities on earth, was a smoking waste. (CC BY-SA 3.0 ©2010 Bernard Gagnon)


A thousand feet below our airplane we see the ruins of the ancient city of Samarra. (They are in the background, behind the stone gated mosque with the ziggurat.) The ridges of sand that were once walls and houses make a vast checkerboard across the desert. In the center of the ruins is a small modern town. In the foreground rise the crumbling walls of a once-great mosque. Beside these walls we notice a curious tower spiralling upward. It’s built in the same form as the Tower of Babel. The trenches zigzagging across the picture were dug in 1917 by the Turkish army trying to defend Samarra against the English invasion. (CC BY 2.0, uploaded 2012, Jennifer Mei) (low resolution image)


Today the city reaches the walls of the spiralling minaret. (CC BY 2.0 @2007 Jim Gordon) (image with poor clarity)