Zenobia - regent, empress, thorn in the side of Rome.
BASIC BIO: (c.240 - 274 AD) Zenobia was an incredibly powerful woman from Palmyra, in modern-day Syria. Raised in nobility, Zenobia married the ruler of Palmyra, and after he was killed, she served as regent for their son. She was responsible for a Palmyrene military effort which increased the borders of the empire from Turkey to southern Egypt. In 272, Zenobia made the decision to secede from Rome, and named herself empress. The Roman reaction was swift and brutal; after heavy fighting, the new empress was defeated. Her exact fate is unknown - she was almost certainly exiled to Rome, but from there the accounts diverge.
HER IMPACT: Zenobia remains a folk hero in Syria, and admired for the intellectual and tolerant environment she fostered in her court. Her ability to govern an empire as diverse as the Palmyrene certainly is a testament to her capabilities, and it is no surprise that she has remained a muse for writers and artists alike.