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The Nabataeans, also Nabateans ( // ; Arabic : ٱلْأَنْبَاطal-ʾAnbāṭ , compare Ancient Greek : Ναβαταῖος; Latin : Nabataeus), were an ancient Arab people who inhabited northern Arabia and the southern Levant. Their settlements—most prominently the assumed capital city of Raqmu (present-day Petra, Jordan) —gave the name Nabatene to the Arabian borderland that stretched from the Euphrates to the Red Sea.
The Nabataeans were one of several nomadic Bedouin tribes that roamed the Arabian Desert in search of pasture and water for their herds.They emerged as a distinct civilization and political entity between the 4th and 2nd centuries BCE, with their kingdom centered around a loosely controlled trading network that brought considerable wealth and influence across the ancient world.
Described as fiercely independent by contemporary Greco-Roman accounts, the Nabataeans were annexed into the Roman Empire by Emperor Trajan in 106 CE. Nabataeans' individual culture, easily identified by their characteristic finely potted painted ceramics, was adopted into the larger Greco-Roman culture. They were later converted to Christianity during the Later Roman Era. Jane Taylor describes them as "one of the most gifted peoples of the ancient world".
The Nabataeans were one among several nomadic tribes who roamed the Arabian Desert, moving with their herds to wherever they could find pasture and water. These nomads became familiar with their area as seasons passed, and they struggled to survive during bad years when seasonal rainfall diminished.Although the Nabataeans were initially embedded in Aramaic culture, modern scholars reject theories about their having Aramean roots. Instead, historical, religious and linguistic evidence identifies them as a northern Arabian tribe.
The precise origin of this specific tribe of Arab nomads remains uncertain. One hypothesis locates their original homeland in today's Yemen, in the south-west of the Arabian peninsula; however, their deities, language and script share nothing with those of southern Arabia. Another hypothesis argues that they came from the eastern coast of the Peninsula.The suggestion that they came from Hejaz area is considered by Michele Murray to be more convincing, as they share many deities with the ancient people there, and nbtw, the root consonant of the tribe's name, is found in the early Semitic languages of Hejaz.
Similarities between late Nabataean Arabic dialect and the ones found in Mesopotamia during the Neo-Assyrian period, and the fact that the Assyrians listed a group with the name of "Nabatu" as one of several rebellious Arab tribes in the region, suggests a connection between the two.
The Arabic language scholar Ahmad al-Jallad concludes that evidence suggest that Arabic was part of the linguistic milieu of the Levant and Mesopotamia as early as the Iron Age. [ citation needed ]As such the Nabataeans, along other notable Arab tribes in the region, the Tanukhids, Banu al-Samayda, Banu Amilah and Ghassanids, would have been a part of a milieu that was native to the Levant and Mesopotamia.
Nabataeans have been associated with other groups of people. A people called the "Nabaiti" who were defeated by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal and described[ by whom? ] as living "in a far off desert where there are no wild animals and not even the birds build their nests", were associated by some[ by whom? ] with the Nabataeans due to their similar names and images. They have been identified with the Nebaioth of the Hebrew Bible, the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham's son;
Herodotus mentioned an Arabian king, most likely the Nabatean king, who was an ally of the Persians and gave them a safe passage to Egypt.According to the same source, all people of West Asia were subjects to the Persians except the Arabians who never submitted to the Persian yoke.
Unlike the rest of the Arabian tribes, the Nabataeans later emerged as vital players in the region[ which? ] during their times of prosperity. However, they later faded and were forgotten. The brief Babylonian captivity of the Hebrews that began in 586 BCE opened a minor power vacuum in Judah (prior to the Judaeans' return under the Persian King, Cyrus the Great, who reigned 559–530 BCE). As Edomites moved into open Judaean grazing lands, Nabataean inscriptions began to appear in Edomite territory. The first definite appearance dates from 312/311 BCE, when they were attacked at Sela or perhaps at Petra without success by Antigonus I's officer Athenaeus in the course of the Third War of the Diadochi; at that time Hieronymus of Cardia, a Seleucid officer, mentioned the Nabataeans in a battle report. About 50 BCE, the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus cited Hieronymus in his report,[ clarification needed ] and added the following: "Just as the Seleucids had tried to subdue them, so the Romans made several attempts to get their hands on that lucrative trade."[ citation needed ]
The Nabataeans had already some trace of Aramaic culture when they first appear in history. They wrote a letter to Antigonus in Syriac letters, and Aramaic continued as the language of their coins and inscriptions when the tribe grew into a kingdom and profited by the decay of the Seleucids to extend its borders northward over the more fertile country east of the Jordan river. They occupied Hauran, and in about 85 BCE their king Aretas III became lord of Damascus and Coele-Syria. Proper names on their inscriptions suggest that they were ethnically Arabs who had come under Aramaic influence. Starcky identifies the Nabatu of southern Arabia (Pre-Khalan migration) as their ancestors.[ citation needed ] However, different groups amongst the Nabataeans wrote their names in slightly different ways; consequently archaeologists are reluctant to say that they all belonged to the same tribe, or that any one group represents the original Nabataeans.[ citation needed ]
Historians such as Irfan Shahîd,Warwick Ball, Robert G. Hoyland, Michael C. A. Macdonald, and others believe Nabataeans spoke Arabic as their native language. John F. Healy states that "Nabataeans normally spoke a form of Arabic, while, like the Persians etc., they used Aramaic for formal purposes and especially for inscriptions."
Many examples of graffiti and inscriptions—largely of names and greetings—document the area of Nabataean culture, which extended as far north as the north end of the Dead Sea, and testify to widespread literacy; but except for a few lettersno Nabataean literature has survived, nor was any noted in antiquity. Onomastic analysis has suggested that Nabataean culture may have had multiple influences. Classical references to the Nabataeans begin with Diodorus Siculus; they suggest that the Nabataeans' trade routes and the origins of their goods were regarded as trade secrets, and disguised in tales that should have strained outsiders' credulity. Diodorus Siculus (book II) described them as a strong tribe of some 10,000 warriors, preeminent among the nomads of Arabia, eschewing agriculture, fixed houses, and the use of wine, but adding to pastoral pursuits a profitable trade with the seaports in frankincense, myrrh and spices from Arabia Felix (today's Yemen), as well as a trade with Egypt in bitumen from the Dead Sea. Their arid country was their best safeguard, for the bottle-shaped cisterns for rain-water which they excavated in the rocky or clay-rich soil were carefully concealed from invaders.
Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's Kitab al-Tabikh, the eariliest known Arabic cookbook, contains a recipe for fermented Nabatean water bread (khubz al-ma al-nabati). The yeast-leavened bread is made with a high quality wheat flour called samidh that is finely milled and free of bran and is baked in a tandoor.
The extent of Nabataean trade resulted in cross-cultural influences that reached as far as the Red Sea coast of southern Arabia. The gods worshiped at Petra were notably Dushara and Al-‘Uzzá. Dushara was the supreme deity of the Nabataean Arabs, and was the official god of the Nabataean Kingdom who enjoyed special royal patronage.His official position is reflected in multiple inscriptions that render him as "The god of our lord" (The King). The name Dushara is from the Arabic "Dhu ash-Shara": which simply means "the one of Shara", a mountain south-east of Petra. Therefore, from a Nabataean perspective, Dhushara was probably associated with the heavens. However, one theory which connects Dhushara with the forest gives a different idea of the god. The eagle was one of the symbols of Dushara. It was widely used in Hegra as a source of protection for the tombs against thievery.
Nabataean inscriptions from Hegra suggest that Dushara was linked with the sun, or with Mercury, which another Arabian god, called Ruda, was identified with."His throne" was frequently mentioned in inscriptions, certain interpretations of the text consider it as a reference for Dhushara's wife, goddess Harisha. She was probably a solar deity.
However, when the Romans annexed the Nabataean Kingdom, Dushara still had an important role despite losing his former royal privilege. The greatest testimony to the status of the god after the fall of the Nabataean Kingdom was during the 1000th anniversary of the founding of Rome where Dushara was celebrated in Bostra by striking coins in his name, Actia Dusaria (linking the god with Augustus victory at Actium). He was venerated in his Arabian name with a Greek fashion and in a reign of an Arabian emperor.
Sacrifices of animals were common and Porphyry’s De Abstenentia reports that, in Dumat Al-Jandal, a boy was sacrificed annually and was buried underneath an altar. Some scholars have extrapolated this practice to the rest of the Nabataeans.
The Nabataeans used to represent their gods as featureless pillars or blocks. Their most common monuments to the gods, commonly known as "god blocks", involved cutting away the whole top of a hill or cliff face so as to leave only a block behind. However, over time the Nabataeans were influenced by Greece and Rome and their Gods became anthropomorphic and were represented with human features.
The Nabataeans spoke an Arabic dialect but for their inscriptions they used a form of Aramaic heavily influenced by Arabic forms and words.When communicating with other Middle Eastern peoples, they, like their neighbors, used Aramaic, the region's lingua franca. Therefore, Aramaic was used for commercial and official purposes across the Nabataean political sphere. The Nabataean alphabet itself also developed out of the Aramaic alphabet, although it used a distinctive cursive script from which the Arabic alphabet emerged. There are different opinions concerning the development of the Arabic script. J. Starcky considers the Lakhmids' Syriac form script as a probable candidate. However John F. Healey states that: "The Nabataean origin of the Arabic script is now almost universally accepted".
While the principal inscriptional language of the Nabataeans was Aramaic, the lingua franca of the time, the Nabataeans were, however, Arabic speakers.In surviving Nabataean documents, Aramaic legal terms are followed by their equivalents in Arabic. This could suggest that the Nabataeans used Arabic in their legal proceedings, but recorded them in Aramaic.
Although not as dry as at present, the area occupied by the Nabataeans was still a desert and required special techniques for agriculture. One was to contour an area of land into a shallow funnel and to plant a single fruit tree in the middle. Before the 'rainy season', which could easily consist of only one or two rain events, the area around the tree was broken up. When the rain came, all the water that collected in the funnel would flow down toward the fruit tree and sink into the ground. The ground, which was largely loess, would seal up when it got wet and retain the water.
In the mid-1950s, a research team headed by Michael Evenari set up a research station near Avdat (Evenari, Shenan and Tadmor 1971). He focused on the relevance of runoff rainwater management in explaining the mechanism of the ancient agricultural features, such as terraced wadis, channels for collecting runoff rainwater, and the enigmatic phenomenon of "Tuleilat el-Anab". Evenari showed that the runoff rainwater collection systems concentrate water from an area that is five times larger than the area in which the water actually drains.
Another study was conducted by Y. Kedar[ who? ] in 1957, which also focused on the mechanism[ vague ] of the agriculture systems, but he studied soil management, and claimed that the ancient agriculture systems were intended to increase the accumulation of loess in wadis and create an infrastructure for agricultural activity. This theory has also been explored by E. Mazor,[ who? ] of the Weizmann Institute of Science.[ citation needed ]
Petra was rapidly built in the 1st century BC, and developed a population estimated at 20,000.
The Nabataeans were allies of the first Hasmoneans in their struggles against the Seleucid monarchs. They then became rivals of the Judaean dynasty, and a chief element in the disorders that invited Pompey's intervention in Judea. According to historian Paul Johnson, many Nabataeans were forcefully converted to Judaism by Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus.It was this king who, after putting down a local rebellion, invaded and occupied the Nabataean towns of Moab and Gilead and imposed a tribute of an unknown amount. Obodas I knew that Alexander would attack, so was able to ambush Alexander's forces near Gaulane destroying the Judean army (90 BC).
The Roman military was not very successful in their campaigns against the Nabataeans. In 62 BCE, Marcus Aemilius Scaurus accepted a bribe of 300 talents to lift the siege of Petra, partly because of the difficult terrain and the fact that he had run out of supplies. Hyrcanus II, who was a friend of Aretas, was despatched by Scaurus to the King to buy peace. In so obtaining peace, King Aretas retained all his possessions, including Damascus, and became a Roman vassal.
In 32 BCE, during King Malichus II's reign, Herod the Great, with the support of Cleopatra, started a war against Nabataea. The war began with Herod plundering Nabataea with a large cavalry force, and occupying Dium. After this defeat, the Nabataean forces amassed near Canatha in Syria, but were attacked and routed. Cleopatra's general, Athenion, sent Canathans to the aid of the Nabataeans, and this force crushed Herod's army, which then fled to Ormiza. One year later, Herod's army overran Nabataea.
After an earthquake in Judaea, the Nabateans rebelled and invaded Israel, but Herod at once crossed the Jordan river to Philadelphia (modern Amman) and both sides set up camp. The Nabataeans under Elthemus refused to give battle, so Herod forced the issue when he attacked their camp. A confused mass of Nabataeans gave battle but were defeated. Once they had retreated to their defences, Herod laid siege to the camp and over time some of the defenders surrendered. The remaining Nabataean forces offered 500 talents for peace, but this was rejected. Lacking water, the Nabataeans were forced out of their camp for battle, but were defeated in this last battle.
An ally of the Roman Empire, the Nabataean kingdom flourished throughout the 1st century. Its power extended far into Arabia along the Red Sea to Yemen, and Petra was a cosmopolitan marketplace, though its commerce was diminished by the rise of the Eastern trade-route from Myos Hormos to Coptos on the Nile. Under the Pax Romana , the Nabataeans lost their warlike and nomadic habits and became a sober, acquisitive, orderly people, wholly intent on trade and agriculture. The kingdom was a bulwark between Rome and the wild hordes of the desert except in the time of Trajan, who reduced Petra and converted the Nabataean client state into the Roman province of Arabia Petraea. [ citation needed ]By the 3rd century, the Nabataeans had stopped writing in Aramaic and begun writing in Greek instead, and by the 5th century they had converted to Christianity. The new Arab invaders, who soon pressed forward into their seats, found the remnants of the Nabataeans transformed into peasants. Their lands were divided between the new Qahtanite Arab tribal kingdoms of the Byzantine vassals, the Ghassanid Arabs, and the Himyarite vassals, the Kindah Arab Kingdom in North Arabia. The city of Petra was brought to the attention of Westerners by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.
According to biblical tradition and oral tradition, the Nabateans were named Nabateans because they descended from Nābit (Arabic for: Nebaioth, son of Ishmael). According to DNA testing, religious texts, foreign assumptions, and local Arabian oral tradition, the Arabian Azd tribe can be traced back to Nabataeans. Their ancestry is traced back to Azd bin Al Ghoath bin Nābit (Nebaioth, son of Ishmael) and they originate from the Northwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula. Following the fall of their Nabatean Kingdom, they migrated to the lands of modern day Yemen which was indigenously inhabited by Himyarites (modern day Yemeni people). They built a dam and settled there until the lands were irrigated by the Ma'rib Dam, which is thought by some to have been one of the engineering wonders of the ancient world because of its size. When the dam collapsed for the third time in the 1st century CE, Al-Azd remigrated and new conquers took place in the Middle East. Which includes the Tanukhids, and Ghassanids who are also genetically indigenous to Northwestern Arabia and Levant as well as the rest of the tribe and their Nabatean ancestors.
The Nabataean Arabs, one of the most gifted peoples of the ancient world, are today known only for their hauntingly beautiful rock-carved capital — Petra.
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Petra, originally known to its inhabitants in as Raqmu or Raqēmō (𐢚𐢛𐢓𐢈), is a historic and archaeological city in southern Jordan. Petra lies around Jabal Al-Madbah in a basin surrounded by mountains which form the eastern flank of the Arabah valley that runs from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. The area around Petra has been inhabited from as early as 7000 BC, and the Nabataeans might have settled in what would become the capital city of their kingdom, as early as the 4th century BC. However, archaeological work has only discovered evidence of Nabataean presence dating back to the second century BC, by which time Petra had become their capital. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra's proximity to the trade routes by establishing it as a major regional trading hub.
Levantine Arabic is a sprachbund of modern spoken Arabic in the Levant.
Arabia Petraea or Petrea, also known as Rome's Arabian Province or simply Arabia, was a frontier province of the Roman Empire beginning in the 2nd century. It consisted of the former Nabataean Kingdom in Jordan, southern Levant, the Sinai Peninsula and northwestern Arabian Peninsula. Its capital was Petra. It was bordered on the north by Syria, on the west by Iudaea and Aegyptus, and on the south and east by the rest of Arabia, known as Arabia Deserta and Arabia Felix.
Avdat, also known as Abdah and Ovdat and Obodat, is a site of a ruined Nabataean city in the Negev desert in southern Israel. It was the most important city on the Incense Route after Petra, between the 1st century BCE and the 7th century CE. It was founded in the 3rd century BCE, and inhabited by Nabataeans, Romans, and Byzantines. Avdat was a seasonal camping ground for Nabataean caravans travelling along the early Petra–Gaza road in the 3rd – late 2nd century BCE. The city's original name was changed to Avdat in honor of Nabataean King Obodas I, who, according to tradition, was revered as a deity and was buried there.
Dushara, also transliterated as Dusares, is a pre-Islamic Arabian god worshipped by the Nabataeans at Petra and Madain Saleh. Safaitic inscriptions imply he was the son of Al-Lat, and that he assembled in the heavens with other gods. He is called "Dushara from Petra" in one inscription. Dushara was expected to bring justice if called by the correct ritual.
The history of the Arabic alphabet concerns the origins and the evolution of the Arabic script. It is thought that the Arabic alphabet is a derivative of the Nabataean variation of the Aramaic alphabet, which descended from the Phoenician alphabet which among others, gave rise to the Hebrew alphabet and the Greek alphabet.
Aretas IV Philopatris was the King of the Nabataeans from roughly 9 BC to AD 40.
Pre-Islamic Arabia is the Arabian Peninsula prior to the emergence of Islam in 610 CE.
Nabataean Aramaic was the Western Aramaic variety used in inscriptions by the Nabataeans of the Negev, the east bank of the Jordan River and the Sinai Peninsula.
Hegra, also known as Mada’in Salih, or Al-Ḥijr (ٱلْحِجْر) is an archaeological site located in the area of Al-'Ula within Al Madinah Region in the Hejaz, Saudi Arabia. A majority of the remains date from the Nabatean kingdom. The site constitutes the kingdom's southernmost and largest settlement after Petra, its capital. Traces of Lihyanite and Roman occupation before and after the Nabatean rule, respectively, can also be found.
Aretas III was king of the Nabataean kingdom from 87 to 62 BCE. Aretas ascended to the throne upon the death of his brother, Obodas I, in 87 BCE. During his reign, he extended his kingdom to cover what now forms the northern area of Jordan, the south of Syria, and part of Saudi Arabia. Probably the greatest of Aretas' conquests was that of Damascus, which secured his country's place as a serious political power of its time. Nabataea reached its greatest territorial extent under Aretas' leadership.
The Nabataean Kingdom, also named Nabatea, was a political state of the Arab Nabataeans during classical antiquity.
Obodas I was king of the Nabataeans from 96 BC to 85 BC. After his death, Obodas was worshiped as a deity.
The Qedarite Kingdom, or Qedar, was a largely nomadic, ancient Arab tribal confederation. Described as "the most organized of the Northern Arabian tribes", at the peak of its power in the 6th century BCE it had a kingdom and controlled a vast region in Arabia.
Palaestina Salutaris or Palaestina Tertia was a Byzantine province, which covered the area of the Negev, Sinai and south-west of Transjordan, south of the Dead Sea. The province, a part of the Diocese of the East, was split from Arabia Petraea during the reforms of Diocletian in c.300 CE, and existed until the Muslim Arab conquests of the 7th century.
Nabataean art is the art of the Nabataeans of North Arabia. They are known for finely-potted painted ceramics, which became dispersed among Greco-Roman world, as well as contributions to sculpture and Nabataean architecture. Nabataean art is most well known for the archaeological sites in Petra, specifically monuments such as Al Khazneh and Ad Deir.
Old Arabic is a term for pre-Islamic Arabic dialects and languages of the Southern Levant and North Arabia which were written in many ancient writing scripts such as Safaitic, Hismaic, Nabatean, Dadanitic, and Greek.
The Nabataean religion has encompassed both Christendom and an earlier form of Arab polytheism practiced in Nabataea, an ancient Arab nation which was well settled by the third century BCE and lasted until the Roman annexation in 106 CE. The Nabateans were polytheistic and worshipped a wide variety of local gods as well as Baalshamin, Isis, and Greco-Roman gods such as Tyche and Dionysus. They worshipped their gods at temples, high places, and betyls. They were mostly aniconic and preferred to decorate their sacred places with geometric designs. Much knowledge of the Nabataeans’ grave goods has been lost due to extensive looting throughout history. They made sacrifices to their gods, performed other rituals and believed in an afterlife.
The Battle of Cana was fought between Greek Seleucid under king Antiochus XII Dionysus of Syria, and the Arab Nabataean Kingdom. Cana is an unknown village; scholars place it somewhere south or southwest the Dead Sea.
Laïla Nehmé is a Lebanese-French archaeologist. She is a specialist in the archaeology and epigraphy of the Ancient Near East, known for her research on Nabatean writings, the evolution of the Nabatean script into the Arabic, and archaeological excavations at Petra and Mada'in Saleh.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Nabataeans .|