DAESH Islamic State militants advanced on Thursday to the outskirts of the Syrian town of Palmyra, a once glorious city which Antinous and Hadrian visited in its heyday 1,900 years ago.
Experts fear that the ancient city of Palmyra, with its complex of columns, tombs and ancient temples dating to the Hadrian era, could be looted or destroyed.
DAESH militants (also known as ISIS or ISIL) have already destroyed large parts of ancient sites at Nimrud, Hatra and Nineveh in Iraq.
The radical Islamic militants denounce pre-Islamic art and architecture as idolatrous even as they sell smaller, more portable artifacts to finance their violent rampage through the region.
The fighting on Thursday took place little more than a mile from the city’s grand 2,000-year-old ruins, which stand as the crossroad of Greek, Roman, Persian and Islamic cultures.
People in Palmyra described a state of anxiety and chaos, with residents trying to flee the northern neighborhoods. Shelling could be heard in the background as they spoke over Skype.
According to residents and one government soldier, fighting elsewhere, scores of soldiers and pro-government militiamen fighting in the east and north of the town had been killed by Islamic State fighters since Monday.
In March of 130 AD, the inner circle of Hadrian's court, with a light escort, VISITED PALMYRA in what is now war-torn Eastern Syria.
Antinous was initiated into the Mysteries of Mithras, writes Marguerite Yourcenar in her historical novel "Mémoires d'Hadrien" (Hadrian's Memoirs).
In the 3rd Century AD, Palmyra was so prosperous, that its queen Zenobia launched a revolt against Rome. She conquered Egypt before being defeated and taken as a hostage to Rome by Emperor Aurelian.