). The name of several cities built on rocks, or
in rocky places, of which the most celebrated was in Arabia Petraea, the capital, first of the
Idumaeans, and afterwards of the Nabathaeans. It lies in the midst of the mountains of Seir,
just half way between the Dead Sea and the head of the Aelanitic Gulf of the Red Sea, in a
valley or, rather, ravine, surrounded by almost inaccessible precipices, which is entered by a
narrow gorge on the east, the rocky walls of which approach so closely as in some places
hardly to permit two horsemen to ride abreast. On the banks of the river which runs through
this ravine stood the city itself, and some fine ruins of its public buildings still remain.
These ruins are chiefly of the Roman period, when Petra had become an important city as a
centre of the caravan traffic of the Nabathaeans. It maintained its independence under the
Romans till the time of Trajan, by whom it was taken. It was the chief city of Arabia Petraea;
and under the later Empire the capital of Palaestina Tertia. The rocks about it were
honeycombed with tombs.
Other cities of the name were situated in Sicily (Verr.
iii. 39), Elis
(Pausan. vi. 24, 5), Macedonia (Livy , xlv. 41), and Illyricum (B. C.