A book has been written about a beautiful and unusually gifted queen who waged war against the Roman Empire (circa 2060) for control of the East. Queen Zenobia and her husband ruled over Palmyra until he and one of their sons were assassinated. Some sources indicate that Zenobia may have been an accomplice in this, while others suggest that Zenobia's efforts to turn Palmyra into a ""city of freedom,"" and to enlist her eastern neighbors, were motivated by her wish to install a remaining son as a monarch when he came of age. Still others claim that Zenobia was ""an ambitious woman."" Because these and too many other auxiliary questions are still in the air, Professor Vaughan may have assigned herself too hard a task. It seems at times as if her sources will give way before Zenobia's story may be told. What begins, and for the most part remains, as an arid and sometimes uneven geographical, historical sketch, gains some momentum ultimately as a portrait of a part of the world of the third century. The book is least attractive when Professor Vaughan is trying to assess the emotions of chronologically and temperamentally elusive characters, implemented with unnecessary dramatizations and unfair allusions to a romance between two enemies which do not support historical enlightenment. One is reminded that Zonobia is the leading brand of pistachio nuts, bone white to begin with, now painted red to add to their value.