As Islamic State militants have taken control of cities throughout the Middle East, they've demolished countless priceless artifacts from ancient civilizations. Now, the group has taken the city of Palmyra in Syria, one of the most beautiful and significant historic sites in the world, with startlingly intact ruins dating back to the Roman times — and there are very real worries they'll destroy it.
Palmyra was an important oasis controlled by the Roman Empire during the first and second century, and a trade hub for many civilizations. Before the civil war in Syria began four years ago, it was a bustling city and major tourist attraction. Now, the beautiful columns from the ancient promenade, temples, amphitheaters, and a number of statues and artifacts could be smashed into bits, either by ISIS or as a result of Syrian airstrikes.
ISIS hasn't announced plans to destroy anything, but the Islamic extremist group bulldozed the ancient city of Nimrud in March and took sledgehammers to artifacts in a museum in Mosul, Iraq. According to the BBC, international concern might actually make it more likely that ISIS will raze the ruins. The BBC also reported that residents of the city are angry that the ruins are receiving so much attention when there are thousands of people trapped and in danger. They have reason to be afraid; according to a New York Times report, ISIS has already begun public executions.