Ozymandias in the Near East

Where ‘Ruins Have
Been Ruined’ by ISIS

A Times photographer traveled to Palmyra, Syria,to see what remained of its archaeological
treasures after almost a year of Islamic State control
The Lion of al-Lat, a 2,000-year-old statue of a lion holding a gazelle in its mouth, had been felled by an Islamic State demolition team. The lion’s broken nose had been placed in front of a pile of ancient rubble, its two large nostrils pointing upward.
Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
Explosions leveled the stone walls and most of the Roman columns supporting the arches of the city’s gate. One of the Syrian militiamen fighting with Hezbollah remarked that the “ruins have been ruined.

The Hezbollah militiamen with whom I traveled were eager to show that their group had helped rescue Palmyra, a site important to world heritage. Russia, which provided air support; the Syrian Army; and other allied militias that helped fight the Islamic State are all claiming part of the credit for driving its forces out of the city.

During their occupation, Islamic State fighters toppled the gates along the ancient Roman promenade, the Decumanus Maximus. Newly broken columns with stained exteriors revealed their white-stone cores and lay on piles of rubble alongside columns that had fallen centuries earlier.
“Our enemies are so stupid,” Mohammad Salem, an Islamic State official, said from the outskirts of Palmyra, which lies beside the modern city of Tadmur. “We captured a whole town and houses from them, and they recaptured sand and destruction.”