The Nabataeans, also Nabateans (/ˌnæbəˈtiːənz/; Arabic: ٱلْأَنْبَاطal-ʾAnbāṭ , compare Ancient Greek: Ναβαταῖος, Latin: Nabataeus), were an Arab[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] people who inhabited northern Arabia and the Southern Levant in antiquity. Their settlements, most prominently the assumed capital city of Raqmu (present-day Petra, Jordan),[1] gave the name of Nabatene to the borderland between Arabia and Syria, from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. Their loosely controlled trading network, which centered on strings of oases that they controlled, where agriculture was intensively practiced in limited areas, and on the routes that linked them, had no securely defined boundaries in the surrounding desert. They maintained territorial independence from their emergence in the 4th century BC until Nabataea was conquered by Trajan in 106 AD, annexing it to the Roman Empire. 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 Byzantine Era. Jane Taylor, a writer, describes them as "one of the most gifted peoples of the ancient world".[8]

Roman Empire 125
Map of the Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled CE 117–138), showing the location of the Arabes Nabataei in the desert regions around the Roman province of Arabia Petraea
Related ethnic groups
other Arabs


The Monastery, Petra, Jordan8
Ad Deir in Petra

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[8] The suggestion that they came from Hejaz area is considered by Michele Murray[10] 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.[8]

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.[8] The Nabataeans might have originated from there and migrated west between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE into northwestern Arabia and much of what is now Jordan.[8]

Nabataeans have been falsely associated with other groups of people. A people called the "Nabaiti" who were defeated by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal and described 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 with the Nabataeans due to the temptation to link their similar names and images. One claim by Jane Taylor alleges a misconception in their identification with the Nebaioth of the Hebrew Bible, the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham's son.[8]

Unlike the rest of the Arabian tribes, the Nabataeans later emerged as vital players in the region during their times of prosperity. However, they later faded and were forgotten.[8] 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, 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."

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. 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.


Nabataean trade routes

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 letters[11] no Nabataean literature has survived, nor was any noted in antiquity.[12][13][14] Onomastic analysis has suggested[15] 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, pre-eminent 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.[16]


Madain Saleh (6724692639)
Eagle on the tomb facade that represent the guardianship of Dushara against intruders at Mada'in Saleh, Hejaz, Saudi Arabia

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.[17] His official position is reflected in multiple inscriptions that render him as "The god of our lord" (The King).[18] The name Dushara is from the Arabic "Dhu ash-Shara": which simply means the one of Shara, Mountain south-east of Petra.[17] Therefore, from Nabataean perspective, Dhushara was probably associated with the heavens. However one theory connect Dhushara with the forests that give different idea of the god.[19] The eagle was one of the symbols of Dushara.[20] It was widely used in Hegra as a source of protection for the tombs against thievery.[21]

Nabataean inscription from Hegra, give us an understanding of the cosmic function of Dushara: "He who separates night and day" suggest that he was linked with the sun, or with Mercury, which another Arabian god, called Ruda, was identified with.[18] "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.[19]

Although when the Romans annexed the Nabataean Kingdom, Dushara still acquired important role despite losing his former royal privilege. The greatest testimony to the status of the god after the fall of the Nabataean Kingdom is in the 1000th anniversary of Rome where Dushara was celebrated in Bostra by striking coins in his name that was called 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.[18]

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, the Nabataeans became so influenced by other cultures such as those of Greece and Rome that their gods eventually became anthropomorphic and were represented with human features.[22]


Qasr al Farid
Qasr al-Farid, the largest tomb at Mada'in Saleh

The Nabataeans spoke a form of Arabic. For their inscriptions, however, they used the Aramaic under heavy influence from Arabic forms and words demonstrated in numerous Nabataean inscriptions, which reflect the local tongue of the Nabataeans.[23] For medium and mutually comprehensive communication with Middle Eastern ethnic groups the Nabataeans, like their neighbours, had to rely on Aramaic as a bridge between the different polities of the region.[18] Therefore, Aramaic was used for commercial and official purposes across the Nabataean political sphere.[24] 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.[25] However John F. Healey states that: "The Nabataean origin of the Arabic script is now almost universally accepted".[25]

While the principal inscriptional language of the Nabataeans was Aramaic, the lingua franca of the time, the Nabataeans were, however, Arabic speakers.[26] 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.[27]


Nabataean-style farming, capturing 50 acres run-off for one acre crops, near Avdat Research Station, Israel (August 1970)
Nabataean farming, capturing 50 acres of run-off water for one acre of crops
Nabatean Well Negev 031812
Remains of a Nabataean cistern north of Makhtesh Ramon, southern Israel

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 in 1957, which also focused on the mechanism 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, of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Nabataean Kingdom

Arabia Petraea
The Roman province of Arabia Petraea, created from the Nabataean kingdom

Petra was rapidly built in the 1st century BC, and developed a population estimated at 20,000.[28]

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.[29] 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).[30]

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.[31]

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.[32]

Nabatean Pillars Bosra
Colossal Nabataean columns stand in Bosra, Syria

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.[33]

Roman period

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. 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.[34] 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.

Archeological sites

  • Petra and Little Petra in Jordan
  • Bosra in Syria
  • Mada'in Saleh[35] in northwest Saudi Arabia.
  • Shivta in the Negev Desert of Israel; disputed as a Nabataean precursor to a Byzantine colony.
  • Avdat in the Negev Desert of Israel
  • Mamshit in the Negev Desert of Israel
  • Haluza in the Negev Desert of Israel
  • Dahab in South Sinai, Egypt; an excavated Nabataean trading port.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Nabataeans". Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  2. ^ "Herod | Biography & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  3. ^ "Solving the Enigma of Petra and the Nabataeans - Biblical Archaeology Society". Biblical Archaeology Society. 6 April 2017.
  4. ^ Bowersock, Glen Warren (1994). Roman Arabia. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674777569.
  5. ^ Catherwood, Christopher (2011). A Brief History of the Middle East. Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 9781849018074.
  6. ^ Incorporated, Facts On File (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9781438126760.
  7. ^ Hornblower, Simon; Spawforth, Antony; Eidinow, Esther (2012). The Oxford Classical Dictionary. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780199545568.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Taylor, Jane (2001). Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans. London, United Kingdom: I.B.Tauris. pp. centerfold, 14. ISBN 978-1-86064-508-2. 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.
  9. ^ Maalouf, Tony (2003). Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God's Prophetic Plan for Ishmael's Line. Kregel Academic. ISBN 978-0-8254-9363-8.
  10. ^ Religion and the Nomadic Lifestyle: The Nabateans p. 217.
  11. ^ "The Dead Sea Scrolls - Browse Manuscripts". The Dead Sea Scrolls - Browse Manuscripts.
  12. ^ The carbonized Petra papyri, mostly economic documents in Greek, date to the 6th century: Glen L. Peterman, "Discovery of Papyri in Petra", The Biblical Archaeologist 57 1 (March 1994), pp. 55–57
  13. ^ P. M. Bikai (1997) "The Petra Papyri", Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan
  14. ^ Marjo Lehtinen (December 2002) "Petra Papyri", Near Eastern Archaeology Vol.65 No.4 pp. 277–278.
  15. ^ Macdonald, M. C. A. (1999). "Personal names in the Nabataean realm: a review article". Journal of Semitic Studies. XLIV (2): 251–289. doi:10.1093/jss/xliv.2.251. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  16. ^ J. W. Eadie, J. P. Oleson (1986) "The Water-Supply Systems of Nabatean and Roman Ḥumayma", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
  17. ^ a b Javier Teixidor (8 March 2015). The Pagan God: Popular Religion in the Greco-Roman Near East. Princeton University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-4008-7139-1.
  18. ^ a b c d Jane Taylor (2001). Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans. I.B.Tauris. pp. 124–151. ISBN 978-1-86064-508-2.
  19. ^ a b Francisco del Río Sánchez (4 December 2015). Nabatu. The Nabataeans through their inscriptions. Edicions Universitat Barcelona. p. 118. ISBN 978-84-475-3748-8.
  20. ^ Rough Guides (1 November 2016). The Rough Guide to Jordan. Apa Publications. p. 395. ISBN 978-0-241-29849-7.
  21. ^ Mahdi al-Zoubi: Nabataean Practices for Tombs Protection - p. 3
  22. ^ "Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2016, page 20".
  23. ^ John F. Healey (1990). The Early Alphabet. University of California Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-520-07309-8.
  24. ^ Tony Maalouf. Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God's Prophetic Plan for Ishmael's Line. Kregel Academic. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-8254-9363-8.
  25. ^ a b Nabataean to Arabic: Calligraphy and script development among the pre-Islamic Arabs by John F. Healey p.44
  26. ^ Roger D. Woodard (10 April 2008). The Ancient Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia. Cambridge University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-1-139-46934-0.
  27. ^ Arabic in Context: Celebrating 400 years of Arabic at Leiden University. BRILL. 21 June 2017. p. 79. ISBN 978-90-04-34304-7.
  28. ^ "A City Carved in Stone". Petra: Lost City of Stone. Canadian Museum of Civilization. 7 April 2006. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  29. ^ Johnson, Paul (1987). A History of the Jews. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-79091-4.
  30. ^ Josephus, Flavius (1981). The Jewish War. 1:87. Trans. G. A. Williamson 1959. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-14-044420-9.
  31. ^ Josephus 1:61, p. 48.
  32. ^ Josephus 1:363–377, pp. 75–77.
  33. ^ Josephus 1:377–391, pp. 78–79.
  34. ^ Rimon, Ofra. "The Nabateans in the Negev". Hecht Museum. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  35. ^ "Nabataea: Medain Saleh".


  • Graf, David F. (1997). Rome and the Arabian Frontier: From the Nabataeans to the Saracens. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-86078-658-0.
  • Healey, John F., The Religion of the Nabataeans: A Conspectus (Leiden, Brill, 2001) (Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 136).
  • Krasnov, Boris R.; Mazor, Emanuel (2001). The Makhteshim Country: A Laboratory of Nature: Geological and Ecological Studies in the Desert Region of Israel. Sofia: Pensoft. ISBN 978-954-642-135-7.
  • "Nabat", Encyclopedia of Islam, Volume VII.
  • Negev, Avraham (1986). Nabatean Archaeology Today. Hagop Kevorkian Series on Near Eastern Art and Civilization. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-5760-4.
  • Schmid, Stephan G. (2001). "The Nabataeans: Travellers between Lifestyles". In MacDonald, Burton; Adams, Russell; Bienkowski, Piotr (eds.). The Archaeology of Jordan. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press. pp. 367–426. ISBN 978-1-84127-136-1.

External links


Al-Kutba' (Arabic: الكتبي‎) was a Nabataean god. The name means, roughly, "the scribe"; it comes from the Semitic root K-T-B which means 'to write.' A carving at the foot of Jebal Rumm in Jordan, discovered in 1959 by J. Strugell, is dedicated to al-Kutbay. Another inscription in Wadi Es Siyyagh, on the way to the main spring of Petra contains the phrase "in front of Kutbay, this very god." Other sites around Arabia contain inscriptions dedicated to him.

Kutba' is represented as a betyl in Wadi Rum alongside al-'Uzza. The gender of this god is disputed. Because of the god's name originating from the root word K-T-B or "to write", it is considered that Kutba' was a god of intellect including writing.Nabataeans and other mercantile Arab tribes brought the worship of al-Kutbay from Petra in Jordan to Egypt. A temple to the god has been discovered at Qasr Gheit, built in characteristic Egyptian style. An altar-base in this temple, is inscribed with the Nabataean dedication: "from Hawyru son of Geram to al-Kutbay."

In the Hellenistic era, al-Kutbay was associated with Hermes and Mercury.


Al-Lat (Arabic: اللات‎, romanized: Al-Lāt, pronounced [al(i)ˈlaːt(u)]), also spelled Allat, Allatu and Alilat, is a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess worshipped under various associations throughout the entire peninsula, including Mecca where she was worshipped alongside Manat and al-'Uzza. The word Allat or Elat has been used to refer to various goddesses in the ancient Near East, including the goddess Asherah-Athirat.

Al-Lat was attested in south Arabian inscriptions as Lat and Latan, but she had more prominence in north Arabia and the Hejaz, and her cult reached as far as Syria. The writers of the Safaitic script frequently invoked al-Lat in their inscriptions. She was also worshipped by the Nabataeans and she was associated with al-'Uzza. The presence of her cult was attested in both Palmyra and Hatra. Under Greco-Roman influence, her iconography began to show the attributes of Athena, the Greek goddess of war, as well as her Roman equivalent Minerva.

According to Islamic sources, the tribe of Banu Thaqif in Ta'if especially held reverence to her. In Islamic tradition, her worship ended when her temple in Ta'if was demolished on the orders of Muhammad.

Antigonid–Nabataean confrontations

The Antigonid–Nabataean confrontations were three confrontations initiated by Greek general Antigonus I against the Arab Nabataeans in 312 BC. Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, his empire was disputed between his generals, including Antigonus, who for a time controlled the Levant.Reaching Edom, just north of Petra, Antigonus became aware of the wealth of the Nabataeans, generated from the spice trade caravans. The three raids against the Nabateans either came to nothing or ended in disaster for the Greeks.

Antiochus XII Dionysus

Antiochus XII Dionysus Epiphanes Philopator Callinicus (Ancient Greek: Ἀντίοχος Διόνυσος Ἐπιφανής Φιλοπάτωρ Καλλίνικος; between 124 and 109 BC – 82 BC) was a Hellenistic Seleucid monarch who reigned as King of Syria between 87 and 82 BC. The youngest son of Antiochus VIII and, most likely, his Egyptian wife Tryphaena, Antiochus XII lived during a period of civil war between his father and his uncle Antiochus IX, which ended with the assassination of Antiochus VIII in 96 BC. Antiochus XII's four brothers laid claim to the throne, eliminated Antiochus IX as a claimant, and waged war against his heir Antiochus X.

By 87 BC, only two claimants remained, both brothers of Antiochus XII: Demetrius III and Philip I. The realm of Demetrius III was initially centered in Damascus but later extended over most of Syria. Demetrius III was defeated by Philip I and went into exile in Parthia, allowing Antiochus XII to gain control of Damascus while Philip I remained in the Syrian capital Antioch. Antiochus XII consolidated his territory within inner Syria and did not seek to expand into the territories of Philip I, who attempted to annex Damascus but was repulsed. Antiochus XII focused his attention on Syria's southern reaches into which the Judaeans and Nabataeans sought to expand.

Antiochus XII reinforced his southern frontier and warred with his neighbors, conducting two campaigns against Nabataea that included engagements with Judea. After several victories in his first campaign, Antiochus XII was killed towards the end of his second campaign against the Nabateans at the Battle of Cana in 82 BC. Damascus was captured by the forces of the Nabatean King Aretas III, and the Syrian throne was claimed by Antiochus X's widow Cleopatra Selene and her son Antiochus XIII.

Aretas IV Philopatris

Aretas IV Philopatris (Arabic: حارثة الرابع‎ Ḥāritat in Nabataean Aramaic) was the King of the Nabataeans from roughly 9 BC to AD 40.

His daughter was married to, and divorced from, Herod Antipas. Herod then married his brother's wife, Herodias. It was opposition to this marriage that led to the beheading of John the Baptist.

After he received news of the divorce, Aretas invaded the territory of Herod Antipas and defeated his army.

Aretas ruled Damascus at the time of the conversion of the Apostle Paul.


Atarsamain (also Attar-shamayin and Attarshamayin; "morning star of heaven") (Arabic: عثتر سمين‎) was an astral deity of uncertain gender, worshipped in the pre-Islamic northern and central Arabian Peninsula. Worshipped widely by Arab tribes, Atarsamain is known from around 800 BC and is identified in letters of the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal. Atarsamain may be identical with Allāt, whose cult was centred on Palmyra.

According to Dierk Lange, Atarsamain was the main deity in a trinity of gods worshipped by what he calls the Yumu'il Confederation, which he describes as a northern Arab tribal confederation of Ishmaelite ancestry headed by the "clan of Kedar" (i.e. the Qedarites). Lange identifies Nuha as the solar deity, Ruda as the lunar deity, and Atarsamin as the main deity associated with Venus. A similar trinity of gods representing the sun, moon and Venus is found among the peoples of the South Arabian kingdoms of Awsan, Ma'in, Qataban and Hadhramawt between the 9th and 4th centuries BC. There, the deity associated with Venus was Astarte, the sun deity was Yam, and moon deity was variously called Wadd, Amm and Sin.Atarsamain is twice mentioned in the annals of Ashurbanipal, king of the Neo-Assyrian empire in the 7th century BC. The reference is to a?lu (sā) a-tar-sa-ma-a-a-in ("the people of Attar of Heaven") who are said to have been defeated together with the Nebayot (Nebaioth/Nabataeans) and the Qedarites led by Yauta ben Birdadda, who was also known as "king of the Arabs".

Battle of Cana

The Battle of Cana was fought between Greek Seleucid king Antiochus XII Dionysus and the Arab Nabataean Kingdom. Cana is an unknown village; scholars place it somewhere south or southwest the Dead Sea.After the Nabataeans ambushed the Judaean Hasmoneans in a steep valley, they gained new territories, and the Greek Seleucids stationed in Damascus felt threatened by the rising power of the Nabataeans to their south.Antiochus was slain during the combat and the battle became a decisive Nabataean victory. Antiochus's demoralized army fled and perished from starvation in the desert afterwards.


According to the early Christian bishop Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 315–403), Chaabou or Kaabu was a goddess in the Nabataean pantheon—a virgin who gave birth to the god Dusares. However, Epiphanus likely mistook the word ka'abu ("cube", etymologically related to the name of the Kaaba), referring to the stone blocks used by the Nabateans to represent Dusares and possibly other deities, for the proper name of a goddess. His report that Chaabou was a virgin was likely influenced by his desire to find a parallel to the Christian belief in the virgin birth of Jesus, and by the similarity of the words ka'bah and ka'ibah ("virgin") in Arabic, the native tongue of the Nabataeans.


Dushara, also transliterated as Dusares, is a pre-Islamic Arabian god worshipped by the Nabataeans at Petra and Madain Saleh (of which city he was the patron).

Hyrcanus II

John Hyrcanus II (, Hebrew: יוחנן הורקנוס Yohanan Hurqanos), a member of the Hasmonean dynasty, was for a long time the Jewish High Priest in the 1st century BCE. He was also briefly King of Judea 67–66 BCE and then the ethnarch (ruler) of Judea probably 47–40 BCE.


Lihyan (Arabic: لحيان‎) (Greek: Lechienoi) or Dadan or Dedan was a powerful and highly organized ancient Arabian kingdom that played a vital cultural and economic role in the north-western region of the Arabian Peninsula and used Dadanitic language. The Lihyanites ruled over large domain from Yathrib in the south and parts of the Levant in the north. In antiquity, Gulf of Aqaba used to be called Gulf of Lihyan. A testimony to the extensive influence that Lihyan acquired. Dedanite is used for the older phase of the history of this kingdom since their capital name was Dedan (see Biblical Dedan), which is now called Al-`Ula oasis located in northwestern Arabia, some 110 km southwest of Teima.

The Lihyanites later became the enemies of the Nabataeans. The Romans invaded the Nabataeans and destroyed their kingdom in 106 AD. This encouraged the Lihyanites to establish an independent kingdom to manage their country. This was headed by the King Han'as, one of the former royal family, which governed Al-Hijr before the Nabataean invasion.

The Arab genealogies consider the Banu Lihyan to be descended from the Ishmaelite Arabs from Ishmael. The descendants of Lihyan founded the Arab kingdom of Lihyan, and presently live in the desert between Mecca and Jeddah.

List of Nabataean kings

The Rulers of Nabataea, reigned over the Nabataean kingdom (also rendered as Nabataea, Nabatea, or Nabathea), inhabited by the Nabateans, located in present-day Jordan, southern Syria, southern Israel and north-western Saudi Arabia.

Nabataean Arabic

Nabataean Arabic was the dialect of Arabic spoken by the Nabataeans in antiquity. In the 1st century AD, the Nabataeans wrote their inscriptions, such as the legal texts carved on the façades of the monumental tombs at Mada'in Saleh, ancient Ḥegrā, in the Aramaic language. It is probable, however, that some or all of them, possibly in varying proportion depending on the region of the Nabataean Kingdom where they lived, spoke Arabic.

Nabataean Kingdom

The Nabataean Kingdom (Arabic: المملكة النبطية‎, romanized: al-Mamlakah an-Nabaṭiyyah), also named Nabatea (), was a political state of the Arab Nabataeans during classical antiquity.

The Nabataean Kingdom controlled much of the trade routes of the region, amassing large wealth and drawing the envy of its neighbors. It stretched south along the Red Sea coast into the Hejaz, up as far north as Damascus, which it controlled for a short period (85–71) BC.

Nabataea remained independent from the 4th century BC until it was annexed by the Roman Empire in AD 106, which renamed it Arabia Petraea.

Nabataean alphabet

The Nabataean alphabet is an abjad (consonantal alphabet) that was used by the Nabataeans in the second century BC. Important inscriptions are found in Petra (now in Jordan), the Sinai Peninsula (now part of Egypt), and other archaeological sites including Avdat (now in Israel) and Mada'in Saleh in Saudi Arabia.

Obodas I

Obodas I (Arabic: عبيدة‎ ʿUbaydah) was king of the Nabataeans from 96 BC to 85 BC. After his death, Obodas was worshiped as a deity.


According to the 5th century BCE Greek historian Herodotus, Orotalt was a god of Pre-Islamic Arabia whom he identified with the Greek god Dionysus:They believe in no other gods except Dionysus and the Heavenly Aphrodite; and they say that they wear their hair as Dionysus does his, cutting it round the head and shaving the temples. They call Dionysus, Orotalt; and Aphrodite, Alilat.

Also known as Đū Shará or Dusares (which means "Possessor of the (Mountain) Shara"), Orotalt was worshipped by the Nabataeans, Arabs who inhabited southern Jordan, Canaan and the northern part of Arabia.


Petra (Arabic: ٱلْبَتْرَاء‎, romanized: Al-Batrāʾ; Ancient Greek: Πέτρα, "Stone"), originally known to its inhabitants as Raqmu, is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan. Petra lies on the slope of Jabal Al-Madbah in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of the Arabah valley that runs from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra is believed to have been settled as early as 9,000 BC, and it was possibly established in the 4th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra's proximity to the trade routes by establishing it as a major regional trading hub.The trading business gained the Nabataeans considerable revenue and Petra became the focus of their wealth. The earliest historical reference to Petra was an unsuccessful attack on the city ordered by Antigonus I in 312 BC and recorded by various Greek historians. The Nabataeans were, unlike their enemies, accustomed to living in the barren deserts, and were able to repel attacks by taking advantage of the area's mountainous terrain. They were particularly skillful in harvesting rainwater, agriculture and stone carving. Petra flourished in the 1st century AD, when its famous Khazneh structure – believed to be the mausoleum of Nabataean king Aretas IV – was constructed, and its population peaked at an estimated 20,000 inhabitants.Although the Nabataean kingdom became a client state of the Roman Empire in the first century BC, it was only in 106 AD that it lost its independence. Petra fell to the Romans, who annexed Nabataea and renamed it as Arabia Petraea. Petra's importance declined as sea trade routes emerged, and after an earthquake in 363 destroyed many structures. In the Byzantine era several Christian churches were built, but the city continued to decline, and by the early Islamic era it was abandoned except for a handful of nomads. It remained unknown to the world until it was rediscovered in 1812 by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.The city is accessed through a 1.2-kilometre-long (0.75 mi) gorge called the Siq, which leads directly to the Khazneh. Famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system, Petra is also called the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage". In 2007, Al-Khazneh was voted as one of the New7Wonders of the World. Petra is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan's most-visited tourist attraction. Tourist numbers peaked at 1 million in 2010; but there followed a slump due to the political instability generated by the Arab Spring affecting countries surrounding Jordan. However, tourist numbers increased subsequently. About 800,000 tourists visited the site in 2018.


Shaqilath (Nabataean: 𐢝𐢚𐢍𐢐𐢞, Transliteration: ŠQYLT) (also spelled Shaqilat, Shaqeela, Shaqeelah, Šagīlat) was a queen of the Nabataeans.

She was the second wife and co-ruler of Aretas IV of the Nabataeans.She married King Aretas IV in 15 AD and delivered him Hagru or Hajir, Malik, Jameelah and Shaqilath II.

Her role as queen and her proximity to the king is emphasized by her title "the Sister of the King".

During the reign of King Aretas IV and Shaqilat, the trades expanded to distant areas in the ancient world and industry, commerce and civilization of the Nabataeans flourished.

Copper and silver coins where she is depicted with her husband have been recovered and they offer expressive examples and models of the Nabataean civilization in terms of the culture of clothing.

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