Monday, January 25, 2016

The Rise and Fall of a Warrior Queen!

At an early age, Zenobia was placed in charge of her family's sheep. Somehow this translated into giving her the experience of ruling over men, at least according to legend. She could ride like the wind, out-drink most men, hunt, and march long distances with little effort! An ancestor of Cleopatra, Zenobia had a genius mind, able to outwit and outsmart most men of her time. After winning several military battles, her husband was made governor, but was later assassinated. That's when Zenobia stopped being the woman behind the successful man and took the rains of power for herself. The historian Richard Stoneman described this period of her life:

"During the five years after the death Odaenthus in 267 CE, Zenobia had established herself in the minds of her people as mistress of the East. Housed in a palace that was just one of the many splendors of one of the most magnificent cities of the East, surrounded by a court of philosophers and writers, waited on by aged eunuchs, and clad in the finest silk brocades that Antioch or Damascus could supply, she inherited also both the reputation of Odaenthus' military successes and the reality of the highly effective Bedouin soldiers. With both might and influence on her side, she embarked on one of the most remarkable challenges to the sovereignty of Rome that had been seen even in that turbulent century. Rome, afflicted now by invasion from the barbarian north, had no strong man in the East to protect it...Syria was temporarily out of mind."

Very impressive for a pampered wealthy woman! However, in the end, she faced terrible defeat. There are many different accounts of her final days. Some state she was paraded through the streets of Rome as a bejewelled trophy for Aueralian's triumph parade, while others have her drowning with her son while being transported to Rome. Others say she escaped, or she poisoned herself, or was executed. Regardless, the story of her incredible life has fired the imaginations of countless historians throughout the centuries.

Author Libbie Hawker has gathered up a great deal of research and written a compelling recreation of Zenobia's life story in a novel entitled, DAUGHTER OF SAND AND STONE. 
Book Synopsis:  Zenobia, the proud daughter of a Syrian sheikh, refuses to marry against her will. She won’t submit to a lifetime of subservience. When her father dies, she sets out on her own, pursuing the power she believes to be her birthright, dreaming of the Roman Empire’s downfall and her ascendance to the throne. Defying her family, Zenobia arranges her own marriage to the most influential man in the city of Palmyra. But their union is anything but peaceful—his other wife begrudges the marriage and the birth of Zenobia’s son, and Zenobia finds herself ever more drawn to her guardsman, Zabdas. As war breaks out, she’s faced with terrible choices. From the decadent halls of Rome to the golden sands of Egypt, Zenobia fights for power, for love, and for her son. But will her hubris draw the wrath of the gods? Will she learn a “woman’s place,” or can she finally stake her claim as Empress of the East?


Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker is a novel about Zenobia, the famous warrior queen of Palmyra. She lived in the 3rd century, and it cannot be easy to successfully re-imagine her life, but Libby Hawker has done just that, and who doesn't love a story about a strong woman thrust into a man's world who must fight not only for her survival, but also for her throne and kingdom. 

Zenobia's tale is a tad rags to riches, a tad coming of age, and a whole bunch of cunning! She not only conquered Egypt, she also posed a serious threat to great Roman army. Sadly, Zenobia's tale can also be considered tragic, and I think that's why this novel is an engrossing read. It offers a vivid portrayal of the realities of life and love, of hearth and home, of power and ambition in a most credible way. The author's level of research is evident in the vivid pictures she paints, her thought-provoking scenes, and the joy of reading the elegant prose.

This is a wonderful historical biographical novel--one that I highly recommend.

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