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Arabia Petraea

Arabia Petraea

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Arabia Petraea, also called Provincia Arabia or simply Arabia, was a frontier province
Roman province
In Ancient Rome, a province was the basic, and, until the Tetrarchy , largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside of Italy...

 of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 beginning in the 2nd century; it consisted of the former Nabataean kingdom
Nabataean kingdom
The Nabataean kingdom, also named Nabatea , was a political state of the Nabataeans which existed during Classical antiquity and was annexed by the Roman Empire in AD 106.-Geography:...

 in modern Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, southern modern Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, the Sinai Peninsula
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

 and northwestern Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

. Its capital was Petra
Petra
Petra is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited...

. It was bordered on the north by Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

, on the west by Iudaea
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

 and Aegyptus
Aegyptus (Roman province)
The Roman province of Egypt was established in 30 BC after Octavian defeated his rival Mark Antony, deposed his lover Queen Cleopatra VII and annexed the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt to the Roman Empire. The province encompassed most of modern-day Egypt except for the Sinai Peninsula...

.

It was annexed by Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

, like many other eastern frontier provinces of the Roman Empire, but held onto, unlike Armenia
History of Armenia
Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat. The original Armenian name for the country was Hayk, later Hayastan , translated as the land of Haik, and consisting of the name Haik and the suffix '-stan' ....

, Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 and Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

, well after Trajan's rule – its desert frontier being called the Limes Arabicus
Limes Arabicus
The Limes Arabicus was a desert frontier of the Roman Empire, in the province of Arabia Petraea. It ran -at its biggest extension- for about 1,500 km, from Northern Syria to Southern Palestine and northern Arabia, forming part of the wider Roman limes system...

. It produced no usurpers and no emperors (Philippus
Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab , also known as Philip or Philippus Arabs, was Roman Emperor from 244 to 249. He came from Syria, and rose to become a major figure in the Roman Empire. He achieved power after the death of Gordian III, quickly negotiating peace with the Sassanid Empire...

, though Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

, was from Shahbā
Shahba
Shahba , known in Late Antiquity as Philippopolis, is a city located 87 km south of Damascus in the Jabal el Druze in As-Suwayda Governorate of Syria, but formerly in the Roman province of Arabia Petraea.-Roman history:...

, a Syrian city added to the province of Arabia at a point between 193 and 225—Philippus was born around 204). As a frontier province, it included a desert populated by the nomadic Saracen
Saracen
Saracen was a term used by the ancient Romans to refer to a people who lived in desert areas in and around the Roman province of Arabia, and who were distinguished from Arabs. In Europe during the Middle Ages the term was expanded to include Arabs, and then all who professed the religion of Islam...

i, and bordering the Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

n hinterland.

Though subject to eventual attack and deprivation by the Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

ns and Palmyrenes
Palmyra
Palmyra was an ancient city in Syria. In the age of antiquity, it was an important city of central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus and 180 km southwest of the Euphrates at Deir ez-Zor. It had long been a vital caravan city for travellers crossing the Syrian desert...

, it had nothing like the constant incursions faced in other areas on the Roman frontier, such as Germany and North Africa, nor the entrenched cultural presence that defined the other, more Hellenized, eastern provinces.

Geography



The geographic makeup of Arabia has some variation. It includes the comparatively fertile Moab
Moab
Moab is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in Jordan. The land lies alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The existence of the Kingdom of Moab is attested to by numerous archeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over...

 plateau, which received 200mm of annual rainfall, at the southernmost tip of which lays Petra
Petra
Petra is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited...

 which, along with Bostra (or Busra), are the political foci of the province. Inhospitability is the norm, though, and along with the desert proper that is the Sinai, the arid Negev
Negev
The Negev is a desert and semidesert region of southern Israel. The Arabs, including the native Bedouin population of the region, refer to the desert as al-Naqab. The origin of the word Neghebh is from the Hebrew root denoting 'dry'...

, which extends north of the Sinai, is practically such. Along with this are the coastal areas around the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

; the badlands known as Hismā that develop to the north of that coast; and the ever-present rocky butt.

Major cities



Most of Arabia was sparsely populated, and its cities can be found concentrated to the north, toward the Jordan. The only major port is Aqaba
Aqaba
Aqaba is a coastal city in the far south of Jordan, the capital of Aqaba Governorate at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. Aqaba is strategically important to Jordan as it is the country's only seaport. Aqaba is best known today as a diving and beach resort, but industrial activity remains important...

, which can be found at the tip of a wide gulf from the Red Sea bearing the same name. There is some disagreement as to what was the capital of the province, with claims that Bostra, near the border of the province of Syria, as the sole capital and other claims that both Petra and Bostra served that purpose. Petra served as the base for Legio III Cyrenaica
Legio III Cyrenaica
Legio tertia Cyrenaica was a Roman legion probably levied by Mark Antony around 36 BC, when he was governor of Cyrenaica. There are still records of the legion in Syria in the beginning of the 5th century. The legion symbol is unknown.- History :Legion III Cyrenaica is one of the longest living...

, and the governor of the province would spend time in both cities, issuing edicts from both. Upon annexation of the province, Bostra gained the appellative “Traiane” when Trajan declared it the capital while Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

 performed the same ceremonial act for Petra when he became emperor.

Conquest


Before Roman control, the area was ruled by Rabbel II, last king of the Nabataeans until 106 AD. When Rabbel II, who had ruled since 70, died, the Third Cyrenaica moved north from Egypt into Petra while the Sixth Ferrata, a Syrian garrison unit, moved south to occupy Bostra. The conquest of Nabataea can be best described as casual, an act by Trajan to consolidate control of the area before acting on his designs for territory across the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 and eventually into Mesopotamia proper. There’s no evidence of any pretext for the annexation—Rabbel II had an heir by the name of Obodas—and though there was little fighting and gloria (attested to by the fact that Trajan did not adopt the appellation Arabicus, as he did Dacius when he conquered Dacia
Dacia
In ancient geography, especially in Roman sources, Dacia was the land inhabited by the Dacians or Getae as they were known by the Greeks—the branch of the Thracians north of the Haemus range...

), there does seem to have been enough of a defeat to cause some humiliation on the part of the Nabataeans. The two cohorts that eventually found themselves in Arabia had been sailed from Egypt to Syria in preparation for the action, which despite some resistance among the Nabataean royal guard, seemed to be not entirely resisted by the Nabataeans, suggested by the fact that the Nabataean troops served as auxiliary troops supporting Roman legions soon after conquest.

The conquest of Arabia was not officially celebrated until completion of the Via Nova Traiana. This road extended down the center of the province from Bostra to Aqaba. It isn’t until the project is finished that coins, featuring Trajan’s bust on the obverse and a camel on the reverse, appear commemorating the acquisition of Arabia. These coins are minted until 115, at which time the Roman imperial focus was turning farther eastward. The road links not only Bostra and Aqaba, which other than being a port doesn’t seem to hold much significance in the eyes of the imperial government, but also Petra, which sits at the center of the province, between the road’s two termini. Though Trajan declared Bostra to be the capital of the province, he also awarded Petra the status of metropolis
Metropolis
A metropolis is a very large city or urban area which is a significant economic, political and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections and communications...

, as a sign that he agreed in the matter of its importance with his successor, Hadrian, who considered it to be more dignified and historic.

Recently evidence has been discovered that Roman legions occupied Madain Salih in the Hijaz mountain area of northeastern Arabia, increasing the extension of the "Arabia Petraea" province.

Romanization


With Roman conquest came the imposition of Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 in official discourse. This was standard for a province in Eastern Rome, but Arabia had far less of the history of Hellenization than its neighbors, and the language was little used before its introduction by the Romans. After the conquest, though, Greek was adopted popularly, as well as officially, practically supplanting Nabataean and Aramaic, as evidenced by inscriptions at Umm al Quttain. The occurrence of Latin in the province is rare and limited to such cases as the tomb inscription of T. Aninius Sextius Florentinus, governor in 127, and, somewhat paradoxically, in personal names.
Millar makes a case for a Graeco-Roman Hellenization
Hellenization
Hellenization is a term used to describe the spread of ancient Greek culture, and, to a lesser extent, language. It is mainly used to describe the spread of Hellenistic civilization during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great of Macedon...

 in Arabia. It is an area, after all, that was not significantly hellenized during the rule of Alexander, and the locals originally spoke Aramaic and Nabataean, not Greek. So with the introduction of Roman rule, along with many aspects of classic Roman socialization, such as public works and glorification of the military, came an introduction of Greek cultural and social values. Arabia acclimates to the new culture so fully that it seems the original linguistic groups faded away. There were scattered Nabataean inscriptions during the period of imperial Roman rule.

Influence


When Avidius Cassius
Avidius Cassius
Gaius Avidius Cassius was a Roman general and usurper who briefly ruled Egypt and Syria in 175.-Origins:He was the son of Gaius Avidius Heliodorus, a noted orator who was Prefect of Egypt from 137 to 142 under Hadrian, and wife Junia Cassia Alexandra...

 rebelled against what he believed was a deceased Marcus Aurelius, he received no support from Arabia, overlooked by some historians due likely to the fact that Arabia hadn’t the wealth or political might of Syria. Arabia responded similarly when the governor of Syria, Pescennius Niger
Pescennius Niger
Pescennius Niger was a Roman usurper from 193 to 194 during the Year of the Five Emperors. He claimed the imperial throne in response to the murder of Pertinax and the elevation of Didius Julianus, but was defeated by a rival claimant, Septimius Severus and killed while attempting to flee from...

, proclaimed himself emperor in 193.

When Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

 came into power and stripped the Syrian city of Antioch of its status as Metropolis for its part in the rebellion and meted out punishment to any others who were unlucky enough to choose the wrong side, the Third Cyrenaica received the honorific “Severiana”. In addition, the governor of Arabia, P. Aelius Severianus Maximus, was allowed to continue in his post in reward for his loyalty. Syria was split into two and Arabia was expanded to include the Leja’ and Jebel Drūz, rough terrain south of Damascus, and also the birthplace of M. Julius Phillipus—Phillip the Arab.

Severus had enlarged a province that was already huge. He then proceeded to enlarge the empire, through the conquest of Mesopotamia. The transfer of the Leja’ and Jebel Drūz seemed to have been part of a shrewd series of political acts on the emperor’s part to consolidate control of the area before this conquest. Arabia became the ideological power base for Septemius Severus in the Roman Near East. The obvious need to mitigate and tame the power of the province of Syria, which had shown itself over and over to be a hotbed of rebellion, was then accomplished in three parts: The aforementioned reorganization of Syria into two political units, the reduction of its territory in favor of Arabia, and the marriage of the emperor to the shrewd Julia Domna
Julia Domna
Julia Domna was a member of the Severan dynasty of the Roman Empire. Empress and wife of Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus and mother of Emperors Geta and Caracalla, Julia was among the most important women ever to exercise power behind the throne in the Roman Empire.- Family background...

.

Arabia became such a symbol of loyalty to Severus and the empire, according to Bowersock, that during his war against Clodius Albinus
Clodius Albinus
Clodius Albinus was a Roman usurper proclaimed emperor by the legions in Britain and Hispania upon the murder of Pertinax in 193.-Life:...

, in Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, Syrian opponents propagated a rumour that the Third Cyrenaica had defected. That it would matter to an issue in France that a single legion in a backwater province on the other side of the empire would rebel indicates the political sway that Arabia had amassed. Not a land of significant population, or resources or even strategic position, it had become a bedrock of Roman culture. That it was an Eastern Roman culture didn't seem to dilute its effectiveness in matters in the west. It is precisely because Arabia had so little that it was able to define itself as Roman and that spurred its loyalty to an Imperial Rome that may never have existed.

With Emperor Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

's restructuring of the empire
Tetrarchy
The term Tetrarchy describes any system of government where power is divided among four individuals, but usually refers to the tetrarchy instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293, marking the end of the Crisis of the Third Century and the recovery of the Roman Empire...

 in 284
284
Year 284 was a leap year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Carinus and Numerianus...

305
305
Year 305 was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Constantius and Valerius...

, Arabia province was enlarged to include parts of modern-day Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. Arabia after Diocletian was a part of the Diocese of Oriens ("the East"), which was part of the Prefecture of Oriens
Praetorian prefecture of the East
The praetorian prefecture of the East or of Oriens was one of four large praetorian prefectures into which the Late Roman Empire was divided...

.