Relief depicting Ishtar and Tyche (The Tyche Of Palmyra)


The base relief here is showing Allat, the local fertility goddess seated on a throne, with Tyche, (Greek: ΤύχηTúkhē, Roman equivalent: Fortuna) the presiding tutelary deity who governed the fortune and prosperity of a city. A man is shown under Ishtar’s feet in a gesture of defeat, while an eagle (The God Bel) is depicted to her upper right holding an olive branch in his beak. A dog is seated on her right in a rare gesture with a piece of cloth in his mouth.

Palmyra had an outward appearance that was conventionally Hellenised, but many aspects of social and religious life were influenced by a number of different cultures, and both Greek and local Aramaic coexisted. The pice in here is a good example of how deities of both eastern and western origin intertwined in the city. Tyche is shown standing with her crown, shaped like the city walls, pointing to Ishtar with an olive branch in her hand.

The iconography of Allat follows two different traditions. She is either seated between two lions, looking very much the same as Atargatis of Hierapolis, widely known as Dea Syria, or stands in arms with traits of the Greek Athena. In Palmyra, she can appear in either aspect, and some inscriptions translate the name of Allat into Greek as “Athena the ancestral goddess”, though in one early bilingual rendering the name is Artemis.

The Palmyrene inscription in the bottom frame reads;

First line: This is a dedication from Pol son (… son) AilmiSecond line: And Taima son of Zabad (Pol?) son … Ishtra the good goddess (*)

Discussion about the item (Tyche of Palmyra);

It should be noted the widespread of the cult of Tyche during the Hellenistic and Roman period throwout the cities of the Levant. The goddess will be found depicted In various art pieces in rather local artistic traditions surrounded with similar symbols of power to her local pears.

On this occasion, a reference should be made to a similar Tyche sculpture of the 3ed century that came from Antioch; The so-called Tyche of Antioch or Tyche and the Orontes where Tyche is depicted seated, she’d wearing the crown-shaped like the city walls and is stepping (Or riding) over a struggling male figure, traditionally identified as the Orontes River.  The Orontes is a symbol of the Near East, as the Tiber was of Rome. The river flowed south to north for 250 miles in Syria, irrigating farmland and sweeping notably through the Seleucid capital of Antioch

That’s said, we should not exclude the possibility that the woman in the center of the Palmyra relief is actually Tyche, who is in control of the Afqa the spring which is the source of the city’s prosperity and the reason behind its very existence.

Tyche of Antioch or Tayche and the Orontes – 3ed century. Work of Eutychus, pupil of Lysippos – Vatican museum (Photo source from Wikipedia)

  • Material: Limestone

  • Date: Second century CE

  • Item Dimensions: 68 cm (W)  x 80 cm (H)

  • Excavated from: Palmyra- Nebo Temple

  • Archaeological Mission: Syrian archaeological mission- Adnan Al Bunni 1965

  • Archaeological Museum Of Palmyra – 2011

Excavation Site Location

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Text reading and translation: ( * ) Ali Saqer Ahmad – The old Palmyrian inscriptions (Book)

BOUNNI A., 1965 : p. 87. pl. 1. TEIXIDOR X., 1979: p. 97. pl. XVIIL BOUNNI A., al AS’AD K, 1982:p.

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