Ancient texts, including the story of Queen Zenobia as told in theHistoria Augusta, kept the name of Palmyra alive. However, European travellers only began to visit the site in the 17thcentury, when travel to the Near East became increasingly popular. Although the first European travellers at the beginning of the century did not pass through Palmyra, the Jesuit Manuel Godinho got close enough in 1663 to remark its impressive architecture "which resembles the temple of Solomon" - probably the Temple of Bel.

Travellers in the 17th and 18th centuries

It was only at the end of the century, in 1691, that English merchants from Aleppo accompanied by Reverend William Halifax reached the site. The description and drawings published by Halifax immediately aroused enormous interest in Palmyra.

Others then decided to make the journey, heedless of its difficulties and dangers. In 1706, two French travellers, Giraud and Sautet, copied its inscriptions and produced a panoramic view of the site. In 1751, James Dawkins and Robert Wood, accompanied by the Italian painter Giovanni Battista Borra, stayed on the site for two weeks. They published their work under the title The Ruins of Palmyra which included a complete ground plan, surveys of the monuments, views and inscriptions.

The records of the inscriptions were used to decipher the Palmyrene alphabet a year later, concomitantly by the Frenchman Jean-Jacques Barthélémy and the Englishman John Swinton.

Discoveries in the 19th century

Groups of travellers visited the site throughout the 19th century. In 1881, the Russian-Armenian prince Semyon Semyonovitch Abamelik-Lazarev, an archaeologist and geologist, discovered the  Palmyrene Tariff today conserved in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. It is a monument with an inscription in Greek and Palmyrene detailing the custom duties on imports and exports.