Limestone relief of the god Shadrafa
From Palmyra, Syria, AD 55
An image of a god dedicated in a temple
This relief is one of the earliest dated monuments found at Palmyra. The Aramaic inscription can be translated as: 'In the month of Iyar [May] in the year 366 [AD 55] this stela was erected by Atenatan, son of Zabd'ateh, descendant of Toshabeb, to Shadrafa, the good god, in order that he may become patron in his sanctuary for him and the members of his house, all of them.'
The gods of Palmyra were largely Semitic. Shadrafa seems to have been a Canaanite deity. His usual symbols were the snake and the scorpion and he sometimes wears a cylindrical headdress. It is not clear what his role was. The military style of his outfit became the normal dress for gods from the early first century AD. Reliefs like this one were placed against the walls of temples and sanctuaries.
Shadrafa is often depicted on little terracotta tokens (tesserae) which were issued to people privileged to attend ritual banquets and distributions of foodstuffs following certain sacrifices in the temple.
From the first century BC Palmyra grew rich from the caravan trade which linked the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. It was incorporated into the Roman Empire by the end of the first century AD.