The Palmyrene pantheon sheds light on the many different forces at play in the oasis.

Local gods

The supreme god was Bel, probably originally named Bol. Topical god of the oasis, he was surrounded by acolytes such as Yarhibol, the sun god of the Efqa spring, and Aglibol, the moon god, and Malakbel ("the angel of Bel”), and Bolastor. Other local gods continued to be worshipped, such as Arsu, a military god identified with the Greek god Ares.

Divinities with diverse origins

The Palmyreans also adopted deities from neighbouring countries. Some came from Mesopotamia like Nabu, the divine scribe, Shamash, the sun god, and Nergal. Sedentary Syria lent the city its major gods, including Baalshamin, the “sky god”, who brought rain and fertility, and Atargatis, great goddess of northern Syria, mistress of the animals. They also worshipped Arab gods, the gods of the nomads, such as Allat, the warrior goddess, and Shai al-Qaum, the god "who does not drink wine".

Other gods arrived from further afield, such as the Phoenician Shadrafa, the Egyptian Baal Hammon, and the occasional Greek god adopted as they were, like Heracles, Nemesis, and Tyche. Assimilation is reflected both in their names - Bel and Baalshamin were called Zeus in Greek texts - and in their iconography, such as the statue of Athena in the sanctuary of Allat.

Religious cults

The most important sanctuaries housed not only the supreme god, but also a host of secondary deities who did not necessarily have their own temple. The rites remain obscure but involved processions and principally banquets. The discovery of thousands of clay or metal tokens - or tesserae - showing the image of the god or their symbols, suggests entry was by invitation.