The Palmyrian Tariff

Created: Palmyra. 137


The “Palmyrian Tariff” is a document from the time of Emperor Hadrian (137 AD) which specified the size of tariffs imposed on imports and exports of certain types of goods. Situated at the intersection of trade routes which connected the Mediterranean countries with India, Arabia and Iran, Palmyra depended heavily on international trade. It was through Palmyra that cloths, spices and jewellery were transported. The text of the tariff on the stele in Greek and Aramaic was carved out of porous limestone. The so called Palmyra script is known to be a variety of the Aramaic alphabet. In 1881, the “Palmyrian Tariff” was discovered by Prince S.S. Abamelek-Lazarev, the Russian traveler and amateur archaeologist, during his journey through Syria. He cleared the sandy surface of the limestone slab bearing the inscription, and made its copy. The first publication of the inscription appeared in his book entitled “Palmyra. Archaeological Studies” (St. Petersburg, 1884). S.S. Abamelek-Lazarev initiated the negotiations between the representatives of the Russian Embassy in Jerusalem and the Government of Turkey (at that time Syria was a province of the Ottoman Empire) over the transfer of the inscribed stele to the Imperial Hermitage for further study. The Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876–1909) gave his consent to the transfer of the stele as a diplomatic gift from the Ottoman Empire for the Russian Emperor. The transportation of the stele was made possible in 1901. The Oriental Department of the State Hermitage keeps the journal of the expedition of Khuri Yakov, a freelance interpreter of the Russian Embassy in Jerusalem, who was entrusted with this assignment. There are also several dozens of photographs, which have recorded the very process of packaging, loading and shipment of the stones of the stele. In order to get loaded into the wagons, the stele had to be sawn very carefully into four parts along the columns of the inscription. The stele was safely delivered in the wagons to Damascus, thence by rail to Beirut, and then by sea to Odessa. In Odessa the stele was held up for two years at Customs for non-payment of import duty. The “Palmyrian Tariff” was installed in the Imperial Hermitage in 1903. Literature: С. Абамелек-Лазарев. Пальмира. Археологическое исследование. Санкт-Петербург, 1884; Пальмирский пошлинный тариф. Пер. И. Ш. Шифмана. — М.: Наука, 1980.


The Palmyrian Tariff






640х200 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1901; a gift from the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II

Inventory Number:




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