During the Syrian Civil War in 2015, Palmyra came under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and subsequently changed hands several times between the militant group and the Syrian Army who retook the city on 2 March 2017.
ISIL sabotaged many artifacts and destroyed a number of buildings, considerably damaging the ancient site.
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However, excavation supports the theory that the tell was originally located on the southern bank, and the wadi was diverted south of the tell to incorporate the temple into Palmyra's late first and early second century urban organization on the north bank.
The soldiers of the sheikh Zabdibel, who aided the Seleucids in the battle of Raphia (217 BC), were described as Arabs; Zabdibel and his men were not actually identified as Palmyrenes in the texts, but the name "Zabdibel" is a Palmyrene name leading to the conclusion that the sheikh hailed from Palmyra.
Palmyra changed hands on a number of occasions between different empires before becoming a subject of the Roman Empire in the first century AD.
The city grew wealthy from trade caravans; the Palmyrenes were renowned merchants who established colonies along the Silk Road and operated throughout the Roman Empire.
In July 2017, the discoverer of Ebla, Paolo Matthiae, speaking in the "Faces of Palmyra" ("I Volti de Palmyra") exhibition in Aquileia, said that: "The archaeological site of Palmyra is a vast field of ruins and only 20-30% of it is seriously damaged.
Unfortunately these included important parts, such as the Temple of Bel, while the Arc of Triumph can be rebuilt." He added: "In any case, by using both traditional methods and advanced technologies, it might be possible to restore 98% of the site".
The city's social structure was tribal, and its inhabitants spoke Palmyrene (a dialect of Aramaic); Greek was used for commercial and diplomatic purposes.
The culture of Palmyra was influenced by Greco-Roman culture and produced distinctive art and architecture that combined eastern and western traditions.
Occasionally and rarely, members of the Palmyrene families took Greek names while ethnic Greeks were few; the majority of people with Greek names, who did not belong to one of the city's families, were freed slaves.
Even the four tribes ceased to be important by the third century as only one inscription mentions a tribe after the year 212; instead, aristocrats played the decisive role in the city's social organization.
Palmyra's wealth enabled the construction of monumental projects, such as the Great Colonnade, the Temple of Bel, and the distinctive tower tombs.