Aramaeans

Aramaeans

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The Aramaeans, also Arameans , were a Northwest Semitic
Northwest Semitic languages
The Northwest Semitic languages form a medium-level division of the Semitic language family. The languages of this group are spoken by approximately eight million people today. The group is generally divided into three branches: Ugaritic , Canaanite and Aramaic...

 semi-nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic and pastoralist
Pastoralism
Pastoralism or pastoral farming is the branch of agriculture concerned with the raising of livestock. It is animal husbandry: the care, tending and use of animals such as camels, goats, cattle, yaks, llamas, and sheep. It may have a mobile aspect, moving the herds in search of fresh pasture and...

 people who originated in what is now 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....

 (Biblical Aram
Aram (Biblical region)
Aram is the name of a region mentioned in the Bible located in central Syria, including where the city of Aleppo now stands.-Etymology:The etymology is uncertain. One standard explanation is an original meaning of "highlands"...

) during the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

. Large groups migrated to 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...

 where they intermingled with the native Akkadian (Assyrian
Assyrian people
The Assyrian people are a distinct ethnic group whose origins lie in ancient Mesopotamia...

 and Babylonian) population.

The Aramaeans never had a unified nation; they were divided into small independent kingdoms across parts of the Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

, particularly in what is now 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....

. After the Bronze Age collapse
Bronze Age collapse
The Bronze Age collapse is a transition in southwestern Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age that some historians believe was violent, sudden and culturally disruptive...

, their political influence was confined to a number of Syro-Hittite states
Syro-Hittite states
The states that are called Neo-Hittite, or more recently Syro-Hittite, were Luwian, Aramaic and Phoenician-speaking political entities of the Iron Age northern Syria and southern Anatolia that arose following the collapse of the Hittite Empire around 1180 BC and lasted until roughly 700 BC...

, which were entirely absorbed into the Neo-Assyrian Empire by the 8th century BC.

By contrast, the Aramaic language came to be the lingua franca of the entire Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

, by Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 developing into the literary languages such as Syriac
Syriac language
Syriac is a dialect of Middle Aramaic that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. Having first appeared as a script in the 1st century AD after being spoken as an unwritten language for five centuries, Classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from...

 and Mandaic
Mandaic language
The Mandaic language is the language of the Mandaean religion. Classical Mandaic is used by a section of the Mandaean community in liturgical rites....

. Scholars even have used the term "Aramaization" for the process by which the Akkadian/Assyro-Babylonian peoples became Aramaic-speaking during the later Iron Age.

Origins



The origin of the Aramaeans is still uncertain, arising from the limited amount of evidence regarding the mention of Aramaeans in Mesopotamian inscriptions.

The toponym A-ra-mu appears in an inscription at Ebla
Ebla
Ebla Idlib Governorate, Syria) was an ancient city about southwest of Aleppo. It was an important city-state in two periods, first in the late third millennium BC, then again between 1800 and 1650 BC....

 listing geographical names, and the term Armi, which is the Eblaite
Eblaite language
Eblaite is an extinct Semitic language, which was spoken in the 3rd millennium BC in the ancient city of Ebla, at Tell Mardikh , between Aleppo and Hama, in western modern Syria....

 term for nearby Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

, occurs frequently in the Ebla tablets
Ebla tablets
The Ebla tablets are a collection of as many as 1800 complete clay tablets, 4700 fragments and many thousand minor chips found in the palace archives of the ancient city of Ebla, Syria. The tablets were discovered by Italian archaeologist Paolo Matthiae and his team in 1974–75 during their...

 (ca. 2300 BC). One of the annals of Naram-Sin of Akkad (c. 2250 BC) mentions that he captured "Dubul, the ensi
ENSI
ENSI is a Sumerian title designating the ruler or prince of a city state...

 of A-ra-me" (Arame is seemingly a genitive form), in the course of a campaign against Simurrum in the northern mountains. Other early references to a place or people of "Aram" have appeared at the archives of Mari
Mari, Syria
Mari was an ancient Sumerian and Amorite city, located 11 kilometers north-west of the modern town of Abu Kamal on the western bank of Euphrates river, some 120 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor, Syria...

 (c. 1900 BC) and at Ugarit
Ugarit
Ugarit was an ancient port city in the eastern Mediterranean at the Ras Shamra headland near Latakia, Syria. It is located near Minet el-Beida in northern Syria. It is some seven miles north of Laodicea ad Mare and approximately fifty miles east of Cyprus...

 (c. 1300 BC). There is little agreement concerning what, if any, relationship there was between these places, or if the Aramu were actually Aramaeans; the earliest undisputed mention of Aramaeans as a people is in the inscriptions of Tiglath Pileser I (c. 1100 BC).

A city of Aram (or Iram) is also mentioned in the Qur'an, as Aram of the Pillars
Iram of the Pillars
Iram of the Pillars , also called Aram, Iram, Irum, Irem, Erum, Wabar, Ubar, or the City of a Thousand Pillars, is a lost city on the Arabian Peninsula.-Introduction:Ubar, a name of a region or a name of a people, was mentioned in ancient records, and was spoken of in folk...

, home to the A'ad people in Alahqaf region الأحقاف (The Rub' al Khali).

Nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic pastoralists
Pastoralism
Pastoralism or pastoral farming is the branch of agriculture concerned with the raising of livestock. It is animal husbandry: the care, tending and use of animals such as camels, goats, cattle, yaks, llamas, and sheep. It may have a mobile aspect, moving the herds in search of fresh pasture and...

 have always been a feature of the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, but their numbers seem to vary according to climatic conditions and the force of neighbouring states inducing permanent settlement. The period of the Late Bronze Age seems to have been one of increasing aridity, weakening neighbouring states, and inducing transhumance
Transhumance
Transhumance is the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. In montane regions it implies movement between higher pastures in summer and to lower valleys in winter. Herders have a permanent home, typically in valleys. Only the herds travel, with...

 pastoralists to spend longer and longer periods with their flocks. Urban settlements diminished in size, until eventually fully nomadic pastoralist lifestyles came to dominate the region. These highly mobile, competitive tribesmen with their sudden raids were a continued threat to long distance trade and interfered with the collection of taxes and tribute. In the early 14th century BC, much of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 was under Aramaean rule for eight years according to the Biblical Book of Judges
Book of Judges
The Book of Judges is the seventh book of the Hebrew bible and the Christian Old Testament. Its title describes its contents: it contains the history of Biblical judges, divinely inspired prophets whose direct knowledge of Yahweh allows them to act as decision-makers for the Israelites, as...

, until Othniel
Othniel
Othniel is the first of the Biblical Judges.-Family:Othniel was related to Caleb, as his father Kenaz was either Caleb's brother or Caleb's father; both are plausible interpretations of Joshua 15:17. The Talmud argues that Othniel was Caleb's brother...

 defeated the forces led by Chushan-Rishathaim
Chushan-Rishathaim
Chushan-Rishathaim was king of Aram Naharaim or Northwest Mesopotamia. In the book of Judges God delivers the Israelites into his hand for eight years . However, they are delivered from him by Othniel, son of Kenaz .Rishathaim means double-wickedness....

, the King of Aram-Naharaim
Aram-Naharaim
Aram-Naharaim is a region that is mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible. It is commonly identified with Nahrima mentioned in three tablets of the Amarna correspondence as a geographical description of the kingdom of Mitanni...

. Other entities mentioned in the Hebrew Bible include Aram Damascus
Aram Damascus
Aram Damascus was an Aramaean state around Damascus in Syria, from the late 12th century BCE to 734 BCE.Sources for this state come from texts that can be divided into three categories: Assyrian annals, Aramaean texts, and the Hebrew Bible....

 and Aram Rehob
Aram Rehob
Aram Rehob was an early Aramaean kingdom, of which the chief city was Rehob or Beth-Rehob, associated with Aram-Zobah as hostile to King David. Num. xiii.21 and Judges xviii.28 place a Beth-Rehob in the Lebanon region near Tel Dan. Moore conjecturally identifies it with Paneas....

.

The Ahlamû (= wanderers) are first mentioned in the el-Amarna letters
Amarna letters
The Amarna letters are an archive of correspondence on clay tablets, mostly diplomatic, between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom...

 alluding to the king of Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

; the presence of the Ahlamû are also attested in 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...

, Nippur
Nippur
Nippur was one of the most ancient of all the Sumerian cities. It was the special seat of the worship of the Sumerian god Enlil, the "Lord Wind," ruler of the cosmos subject to An alone...

 and even at Dilmun
Dilmun
Dilmun or Telmun is a land mentioned by Mesopotamian civilizations as a trade partner, a source of the metal copper, and an entrepôt of the Mesopotamia-to-Indus Valley Civilization trade route...

 (Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

); Shalmaneser I
Shalmaneser I
Shalmaneser I was a king of Assyria.Son of Adad-nirari I, he succeeded his father as king in 1265 BC....

 (1274-1245 BC) defeated the Shattuara
Shattuara
Shattuara, also spelled Šattuara, was a king of the Hurrian kingdom of Hanigalbat in the thirteenth century BC.Shattuara was a vassal of the Assyrian king Adad-nirari I...

, King of Mitanni
Mitanni
Mitanni or Hanigalbat was a loosely organized Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and south-east Anatolia from ca. 1500 BC–1300 BC...

 and his Hittite
Hittites
The Hittites were a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia c. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height c...

 and Ahlamû mercenaries are mentioned in the Jazirah. The term appears equivalent to the Egyptian term Shasu
Shasu
Shasu is an Egyptian word for pastoral nomads who appeared in the Levant and Arabia from the fifteenth century BCE all the way to the Third Intermediate Period. The name evolved from a transliteration of the Egyptian word š3sw, meaning "those who move on foot", into the term for Bedouin-type...

 (Shsw = wanderer), who replaced the outlaw 'Apiru (cuneiform SA.GAZ) as the major source of instability in the Egyptian Levantine empire from the reign of Tutankhamun
Tutankhamun
Tutankhamun , Egyptian , ; approx. 1341 BC – 1323 BC) was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty , during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom...

 onwards. In the following century, the Ahlamû cut the road from Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

 to Hattusas, and Tukulti-Ninurta I
Tukulti-Ninurta I
Tukulti-Ninurta I was a king of Assyria.He succeeded Shalmaneser I, his father, as king and won a major victory against the Hittites at the Battle of Nihriya in the first half of his reign...

 (1244-1208 BC) claims that he conquered Mari
Mari, Syria
Mari was an ancient Sumerian and Amorite city, located 11 kilometers north-west of the modern town of Abu Kamal on the western bank of Euphrates river, some 120 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor, Syria...

, Hana
Hana
Hana as a given name may have several origins. It is a variant transliteration of Hannah, meaning Grace in Hebrew associated with God feminine which is the Jewish and Christian form, as well as an Arabic female name meaning happiness , a Persian female name meaning a type of flower , and a Kurdish...

and Rapiqum on the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 and "the mountain of the Ahlamû", apparently the region of Jebel Bishri.

Bronze Age collapse


For the first time, an inscription of Tiglath-Pileser I
Tiglath-Pileser I
Tiglath-Pileser I was a king of Assyria during the Middle Assyrian period . According to Georges Roux, Tiglath-Pileser was "one of the two or three great Assyrian monarchs since the days of Shamshi-Adad I"...

 (1115-1077 BC) refers to the "Ahlamû-Aramaeans" (Ahlame Armaia) and shortly after, the Ahlamû rapidly disappear from 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...

n annals, to be replaced by the Aramaeans (Aramu, Arimi). "Ahlamû-Aramaeans" would consider the Aramaeans as an important and in time dominant faction of the Ahlamû tribes, however it is possible that the two peoples had nothing in common, but operated in the same area. It is conceivable that the name "Aramaeans" was a more accurate form of the earlier ethnonym Martu (Amorites, westerners) in the Assyrian tablets.

The Aramaeans were, in the 11th century BC, established in 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 Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 tells us that Saul
Saul
-People:Saul is a given/first name in English, the Anglicized form of the Hebrew name Shaul from the Hebrew Bible:* Saul , including people with this given namein the Bible:* Saul , a king of Edom...

, David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 and Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

 (late 11th to 10th centuries) fought against the Aramaeans kingdoms across the northern frontier of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

: Aram-Sôvah in the Beq’a, Aram-Bêt-Rehob
Rehov
Rehov , meaning "broad", "wide place", was an important Bronze and Iron Age city located at Tel Rehov , an archaeological site in the Jordan Valley, Israel, approximately 5 km south of Beit She'an and 3 km west of the Jordan River...

 and Aram-Ma’akah around Mount Hermon
Mount Hermon
Mount Hermon is a mountain cluster in the Anti-Lebanon mountain range. Its summit straddles the border between Syria and Lebanon and, at 2,814 m above sea level, is the highest point in Syria. On the top there is “Hermon Hotel”, in the buffer zone between Syria and Israeli-occupied...

, Geshur
Geshur
Geshur was a territory in the northern part of Bashan, in ancient Levant, adjoining the province of Argob and the kingdom of Aram or Syria. It was allotted to the half-tribe of Manasseh, which settled east of the Jordan river; but its inhabitants, the Geshurites, could not be expelled...

 in the Hauran
Hauran
Hauran, , also spelled Hawran or Houran, is a volcanic plateau, a geographic area and a people located in southwestern Syria and extending into the northwestern corner of Jordan. It gets its name from the Aramaic Hawran, meaning "cave land." In geographic and geomorphic terms, its boundaries...

, and Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. An Aramaean king's account dating at least two centuries later, the Tel Dan Stele
Tel Dan Stele
The Tel Dan Stele is a stele discovered in 1993/94 during excavations at Tel Dan in northern Israel. Its author was a king of Damascus, Hazael or one of his sons, and it contains an Aramaic inscription commemorating victories over local ancient peoples including "Israel" and the "House of...

, was discovered in northern Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, and is famous for being perhaps the earliest non-Israelite extra-biblical historical reference to the Israelite royal dynasty, the House of David
Davidic line
The Davidic line refers to the tracing of lineage to the King David referred to in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the New Testament...

. Farther north, the Aramaeans were in possession of Hamath on the Orontes and were soon to become strong enough to dissociate with the Neo-Hittite
Neo-Hittite
The states that are called Neo-Hittite, or more recently Syro-Hittite, were Luwian, Aramaic and Phoenician-speaking political entities of the Iron Age northern Syria and southern Anatolia that arose following the collapse of the Hittite Empire around 1180 BC and lasted until roughly 700 BC...

 block.

Neo-Assyrian Empire


The Aramaeans conquered, during the 11th and the 10th centuries, Sam’al (Zenjirli), also known as Yaudi, the region from Arpad
Arpad (Syria)
Arpad was an ancient Aramaean city located in north-western Syria, north of Aleppo. In 743 BC, the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III led a military expedition to Syria, defeating there the Uraratian army. But the city of Arpad, which had formed an alliance with Urartu, did not surrender easily...

 to Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

 which they renamed Bît-Agushi, and Til Barsip
Til Barsip
Til Barsip or Til Barsib is an ancient site situated by the Euphrates river about 20 kilometers south of ancient Carchemish.-History:...

, which became the chief town of Bît-Adini, also known as Beth Eden
Beth Eden
Bit Adini, A city or region of Syria, called sometimes Bit Adini in Assyrian sources, was an Aramaean state that existed as an independent kingdom during the 10th and 9th Centuries BC, with its capital at Til Barsib . In 856 BC, the kingdom was conquered and absorbed into the Assyrian Empire during...

. At the same time, Aramaeans moved to the east of the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

, where they settled in such numbers that the whole region became known as Aram-Naharaim or "Aram of the two rivers". One of their earliest kingdoms in 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...

 was Bît-bahiâni (Tell Halaf
Tell Halaf
Tell Halaf is an archaeological site in the Al Hasakah governorate of northeastern Syria, near the Turkish border, just opposite Ceylanpınar. It was the first find of a Neolithic culture, subsequently dubbed the Halaf culture, characterized by glazed pottery painted with geometric and animal designs...

). North of Sam'al was the Aramaean state of Bit-Gabari, sandwiched between the Neo-Hittite
Neo-Hittite
The states that are called Neo-Hittite, or more recently Syro-Hittite, were Luwian, Aramaic and Phoenician-speaking political entities of the Iron Age northern Syria and southern Anatolia that arose following the collapse of the Hittite Empire around 1180 BC and lasted until roughly 700 BC...

 states of Carchemish
Carchemish
Carchemish or Kargamış was an important ancient city of the Mitanni, Hittite and Neo Assyrian Empires, now on the frontier between Turkey and Syria. It was the location of an important battle between the Babylonians and Egyptians, mentioned in the Bible...

, Gurgum, Tabal, Khattina and Unqi. Whilst these later states maintained a Neo-Hittite hieroglyphic for official communication, it would seem that the population of these small states was progressively Aramaeanised.

Aramaean kingdoms, like much of the near east, were subjugated by the Neo Assyrian Empire, beginning with the reign of Adad-nirari II
Adad-nirari II
Adad-nirari II is generally considered to be the first King of Assyria in the Neo-Assyrian period. He firmly subjugated the areas previously under only nominal Assyrian vassalage, conquering and deporting troublesome Aramean, Neo-Hittite and Hurrian populations in the north to far-off places...

 in 911 BC. This process was continued by Ashurnasirpal II, and his son Shalmaneser III
Shalmaneser III
Shalmaneser III was king of Assyria , and son of the previous ruler, Ashurnasirpal II....

, who destroyed many of the small tribes, and gave control of Aramea (modern Syria) and local trade and natural resources to the Assyrians
Assyrian people
The Assyrian people are a distinct ethnic group whose origins lie in ancient Mesopotamia...

. The portion of the Aramaean population that had migrated to or were deported to Assyria and Babylonia intermixed ethnically with the indigenous Akkadians of Assyria and Babylonia. This process, and the adaptation of Assyro-Babylonian culture, religion, customs and identity, led to the absorption and disappearance of Aramean ethnic identity in Mesopotamia and its immediate surrounding regions. Conversely, the eastern Aramaic language was adopted as the lingua franca of the Neo Assyrian Empire, and the Neo Babylonian and Achaemenid empires that succeeded it, leading to the Assyro-Babylonian population eventually speaking an Akkadian influenced dialect of Aramaic.

Aramaeans in later antiquity


Aramaeans continued to be the majority population in their homeland, which is in effect most of 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....

 and part of south central Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 until well after the Arab Islamic conquest of the 7th century AD. A number of Aramaean kingdoms sprang up in the region, the most important being Palmyra
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...

. There was some synthesis with 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...

 peoples (and possibly Greeks
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 and Phoenicians also), and the Nabatean civilisation of what is today 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...

 and southern 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....

 had an essentially a mixed Aramaean-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...

 identity. From the 2nd Century AD they began to adopt Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 in increasing numbers, and by the 4th Century AD the population was largely Christian.
After the Arab Islamic conquest of the region in the 7th Century AD, Aramaeans gradually became a minority in their homelands, the language was gradually replaced by Arabic, as ever increasing numbers of Arabs, (together with Turkic and Iranic peoples) began to move into the region. Those indigenous peoples who converted to Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 rapidly lost their Aramaean identity, intermixed with the Arab rulers and essentially became Arabs. However, a proportion of the population resisted the process of Arabization and Islamification, retaining Western Aramaic language and Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 faith.

Language


Aramaeans are mostly defined by their use of the West Semitic Old Aramaic language
Old Aramaic language
The term “Old Aramaic” seems to be used by some writers to refer to the same phenomenon which is called “Ancient Aramaic” by others. This gives rise to considerable confusion...

 (1100 BC–AD 200), first written using the Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

, over time modified to a specifically Aramaic alphabet
Aramaic alphabet
The Aramaic alphabet is adapted from the Phoenician alphabet and became distinctive from it by the 8th century BC. The letters all represent consonants, some of which are matres lectionis, which also indicate long vowels....

.

As early as the 8th century BC, the Aramaic language competed with the East Semitic Akkadian language
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 and script in 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...

 and Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

, and thereafter it spread throughout the Near East
Near East
The Near East is a geographical term that covers different countries for geographers, archeologists, and historians, on the one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other...

 in various dialects. By around 800 BC, Aramaic had become the lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

of the Neo Assyrian Empire.
Although marginalized by Greek in the Hellenistic period
Hellenistic period
The Hellenistic period or Hellenistic era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was so named by the historian J. G. Droysen. During this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its zenith in Europe and Asia...

, Aramaic in its varying dialects remained unchallenged as the common language of all Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 peoples of the region until the 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...

 Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia in the 7th century AD after which it was gradually superseded by Arabic.

The late Old Aramaic language of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Neo-Babylonian Empire
Neo-Babylonian Empire
The Neo-Babylonian Empire or Second Babylonian Empire was a period of Mesopotamian history which began in 626 BC and ended in 539 BC. During the preceding three centuries, Babylonia had been ruled by their fellow Akkadian speakers and northern neighbours, Assyria. Throughout that time Babylonia...

 and Achaemenid Persian Empire developed into the Middle Aramaic Syriac language
Syriac language
Syriac is a dialect of Middle Aramaic that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. Having first appeared as a script in the 1st century AD after being spoken as an unwritten language for five centuries, Classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from...

 of Persian 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...

 which would become the liturgical language of Syriac Christianity
Syriac Christianity
Syriac or Syrian Christianity , the Syriac-speaking Christians of Mesopotamia, comprises multiple Christian traditions of Eastern Christianity. With a history going back to the 1st Century AD, in modern times it is represented by denominations primarily in the Middle East and in Kerala, India....

. The descendant dialects of this branch of Mesopotamian Aramaic (which still retains a number of Akkadian loan words) still survive as the spoken and written language of the ethnically Mesopotamian Assyrians
Assyrian people
The Assyrian people are a distinct ethnic group whose origins lie in ancient Mesopotamia...

 to this day, and is found mostly in Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, northeast 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....

, southeast Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

, Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, southern Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

, as well as in diaspora communities in the west, particularly the USA, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. The Western Aramaic dialect of the Arameans themselves is now only spoken by tiny minorities in one or two villages in 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....

. Mandic
Mandic
Mandić is a Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian surname. It may refer to:* Andrija Mandić, Serbian politician* Dominik Mandić, Bosnian Croat historian and politician* Igor Mandić, Croatian writer and journalist* Leopold Mandić, Croatian saint...

 is spoken by up to 75,000 speakers of the ethnically Mesopotamian Gnostic Mandean sect, mainly in Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 and Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. A number of Jews, particularly those originating in Iraq, and to a lesser degree Iran and Syria, retain Aramaic as a spoken tongue, however this is largely being eroded by Hebrew.

Religion and art

See also Canaanite gods.

It appears from their inscriptions as well as from their names that Aramaeans worshipped Assyro-Babylonian gods such as Haddad
Haddad
Haddad or Hadad is a common family name and personal name. Hadad was also a Semitic storm-god.The original Haddad name means Blacksmith in ancient Semitic. The Haddad name dates back to the Phoenician era of the Eastern Mediterranean...

 (Adad
Adad
Adad in Akkadian and Ishkur in Sumerian and Hadad in Aramaic are the names of the storm-god in the Babylonian-Assyrian pantheon. All three are usually written by the logogram dIM...

), Sin
Sin (mythology)
Sin or Nanna was the god of the moon in Mesopotamian mythology. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. The two chief seats of Nanna's/Sin's worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north.- Name :The original meaning of...

, Ishtar
Ishtar
Ishtar is the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She is the counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna and to the cognate north-west Semitic goddess Astarte.-Characteristics:...

 (whom they called ‘Attar), Shamash
Shamash
Shamash was a native Mesopotamian deity and the sun god in the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian pantheons. Shamash was the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria, corresponding to Sumerian Utu...

 and Nergal
Nergal
The name Nergal, Nirgal, or Nirgali refers to a deity in Babylon with the main seat of his cult at Cuthah represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim. Nergal is mentioned in the Hebrew bible as the deity of the city of Cuth : "And the men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal"...

, and Caananite-Phoenicia
Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

n deities such as the storm-god, El
El (god)
is a Northwest Semitic word meaning "deity", cognate to Akkadian and then to Hebrew : Eli and Arabic )....

, the supreme deity of Canaan, Anat
Anat
Anat, also ‘Anat is a major northwest Semitic goddess.-‘Anat in Ugarit:In the Ugaritic Ba‘al/Hadad cycle ‘Anat is a violent war-goddess, a virgin in Ugarit though the sister and lover of the great Ba‘al known as Hadad elsewhere. Ba‘al is usually called the son of Dagon and sometimes the son of El....

 (‘Atta) and others.

The Aramaeans who lived outside their homelands apparently followed the traditions of the country where they settled. The King of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, for instance, employed Phoenicia
Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

n sculptors and ivory-carvers. In tell Halaf-Guzana, the palace of Kapara
Kapara
King Kapara of Guzana was the ruler of a small Aramaean kingdom of Bit Bahiani in the 10th or 9th century BC...

, an Aramaean ruler (9th century B.C.), was decorated with orthostats and with statues that display a mixture of Mesopotamian, Hittite
Hittites
The Hittites were a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia c. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height c...

 and Hurrian influences.

External links