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Nabataei, Nabăthae

Ναβαταῖοι, Ναβάται). An Arabian race said to have descended from Ishmael. They originally dwelt in the northwestern part of Arabia, east of the Moabites; but later occupied the Sinaitic peninsula. Their capital in Roman times was Petra (q.v.). At first they were a roving pastoral people; but, as their position gave them the command of the trade between Arabia and the west, they prosecuted that trade with great energy, establishing regular caravans between Leucé Comé, a port of the Red Sea, and the port of Rhinocolura (El-Arish) on the Mediterranean, upon the frontiers of Palestine and Egypt. Sustained by this traffic, a powerful monarchy grew up, which resisted all the attacks of the Greek kings of Syria, and which, sometimes at least, extended its power as far north as Syria. Thus, in the reign of Caligula, even after the Nabathaeans had nominally submitted to Rome, we find even Damascus in possession of an ethnarch of “Aretas the king,” i. e. of the Nabathaean Arabs: the usual names of these kings were Aretas and Obodas. Under Augustus the Nabathaeans are found, as nominal subjects of the Roman Empire, assisting Aelius Gallus in his expedition into Arabia Felix, through which, and through the journey of Athenodorus to Petra, Strabo derived important information. Under Trajan the Nabathaeans were conquered by A. Cornelius Palma, and Arabia Petraea became a Roman province, A.D. 105-107. In the fourth century it was considered a part of Palestine, and formed the diocese of a metropolitan, whose see was at Petra. The Mohammedan conquest finally overthrew the power of the Nabathaeans. See C. Doughty, Documents Épigraphiques Recueillis dans le Nord de l'Arabie (1884).

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