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 The late expedition1 of the Romans against the Arabians, under the command of Ælius Gallus, has made us acquainted with many peculiarities of the country. Augustus Cæsar despatched this general to explore the nature of these places and their inhabitants, as well as those of Ethiopia; for he observed that Troglodytica, which is contiguous to Egypt, bordered upon Ethiopia; and that the Arabian Gulf was extremely narrow, where it separates the Arabians from the Troglodytæ. It was his intention either to conciliate or subdue the Arabians. He was also influenced by the report, which had prevailed from all time, that this people were very wealthy, and exchanged their aromatics and precious stones for silver and gold, but never expended with foreigners any part of what they received in exchange. He hoped to acquire either opulent friends, or to overcome opulent enemies. He was moreover encouraged to undertake this enterprise by the expectation of assistance from the Nabatæans, who promised to co-operate with him in everything.
1 Cardinal Noris places these facts in the year of Rome 730, and quotes, besides Strabo, the historian Josephus. In following the last author, the Cardinal places the death of Obodas in the prefecture of C. Sentius Saturninus, about the year of Rome 740. After the death of Obodas, Æneas, afterwards called Aretas, took possession of the kingdom of the Nabatæans. Upon this Syllæus, the late king's minister, went to Rome, and declared before Augustus that Æneas, or Aretas, had no right to the kingdom. How this corrupt minister was punished by Augustus may be seen in Nicolas of Damascus and in Josephus. This Aretas must have reigned for a long time, to at least the last years of Tiberius. Du Theil. ‘The interest attaching to this expedition, which promises so much for the elucidation of the classical geography of Arabia, has hitherto served only still further to perplex it.’ The author of the article Marsyabæ in Smith's Dict. of Greek and Roman Geography, where the subject is discussed at some length.
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