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Kingdom of Nabataea
𐩱𐩡𐩣𐩣𐩡𐩫𐩱 𐩱𐩡𐩬𐩨𐩷𐩺𐩱
c. 4th Century – 323 B.C.
320 B.C. - 110 A.D.
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg
Map of Arabia, 100-1 BC (Guardians).png
Nabataea's territorial extent. Brown refers to the core realm of the kingdom, purple is land lost after Nabataea became a Roman client state, and blue is land gained afterwards.
Capital Petra
Languages Nabataean
Religion Arabian Polytheism
Government Monarchy
King
 •  96 - 86 B.C. Obodas I
 • 86 - 62 B.C. Aretas III
Historical Era Classical Era
 •  Formation c. 4th Century B.C.
 •  Disestablished 110 A.D.

The Kingdom of Nabataea was an Arab trading state that emerged following the collapse of the Persian and Macedonian empires. Nabataea was the primary trading state of the northern Arabian Peninsula, with the more powerful Sabaea fulfilling the same role in the south. In part because of its wealth and powerful monarchs, Nabataea succeeded in remaining independent until the onset of the Roman Republic and its successor state the Roman Empire, which ultimately vassalized and later annexed Nabataea.

History

Emergence

Northern Arab tribes began to coalesce into firm polities in the aftermath of the disintegration of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. The strongest of these new states was Nabataea, which soon united the region under its banner for a few years as trade routes from southern Arabia became tied with the north, sending spices and other goods from India and Puntland into Asia and Europe. Nabataea was quickly pacified by Alexander the Great, but broke free upon his death as none of his successors considered Nabataea a priority. Because of its status on the periphery of the Hellenic world, Nabataea grew very wealthy over the centuries that followed.

Greeks and Romans

The constant squabbling between the Ptolemies and Argeads for supreme dominion over the remnants of Alexander's empire had left them weakened and unable to launch many campaigns against anyone, including Nabataea. The Arabs fought all of their neighbors from the Jews to Greeks to other Arabs. In 85 B.C., the Nabataeans under King Aretas III moved north, taking the city of Damascus from the Ptolemiac Kingdom. Other states saw this as well, taking advantage of the chaos to take land for themselves. Tigranes II of Armenia destroyed the rest of the Ptolemies, taking all of Syria and Phoenicia as his own. Not long after, Aretas III pushed south past the city of Hegra, strengthening his position over northern Arabia's trade routes.

Later, the arrival of the Roman Republic in the region with the defeat of Armenia in the Second Cappadocian War changed the geopolitic situation, even as Nabataea gained a new trading partner. Rome's presence effectively ended much conflict beyond the occasional raid by southern Arabian tribes. Judea and Nabataea soon became client states of the Republic, enjoying protection and trade rights.

Society

Economy

The Nabataean economy was dominated by trade, as it was a central trade node between southern Arabia and India with Egypt and Europe. Spices, incense, and other luxury goods were the primary goods transported, and Nabataea was very wealthy as a result. Other aspects of the local economy included hunting and farms for a small domestic agriculture.

Religion

The religion of the Nabataeans was similar to the rest of the Arabian tribes. The Nabataeans had their own pantheon of gods, with the primary god being Dushara. Originally, the gods were represented as large blocks of stone, but as Greco-Roman cultural elements grew in the region the Nabataeans began to represent them with anthropomorphic statues instead.