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In the end, Jason was sent on to Egypt, and Menalaus's position was also attested. Aretas is mentioned in II Maccabees and this gives us a solid connecting date between the Nabataean leaders and the records of western civilization. Over the centuries, as the Nabataeans moved from nomadic values to urban values, the role and function of their rulers changed.

When the historian, Strabo, tells us that their leader was a democratic chief citizen among citizens, he in effect describes to us the role of a desert sheik, who rules by consensus rather than authority. According to western historians, kingship soon evolved from tribal sheikdom and with it, the urge and opportunity to emulate neighboring, more sophisticated, cultures. As much of our knowledge of the Nabataeans comes to us through Roman historians, we must accept that the Roman historians interpreted the facts as they saw them through their Romanized worldview.

Thus, they would speak of kings, rulers, and tyrants when referring to those who led the Nabataean people. Royal Marriages Along with this, the Nabataeans accorded a high position to their women. Women could inherit property and dispose of it.

Women were often honored, such as the queens whose pictures appeared on coins, sometimes alone and sometimes with their husbands. In addition, many of the Nabataean gods were depicted as females. During the time of Aretas IV, the queens of his reign were his sister Huldu and his sister Shuqailat.

Historians have argued whether the term 'sister' meant that these two were his actual sisters, or whether the term 'sister,' simply referred to them as female. Some have also wondered if they were married. Brother-sister marriages were not unknown at that time. This custom was an old tradition in Pharaonic Egypt and existed even later among the Seleucid dynasties of Syria. There is no record, however, that tells us if these women were indeed the sisters or wives of the king, or, if they were his sisters, whether they were married.

Some have even speculated that perhaps they appeared on the coins simply because of a wish of someone in the royal house. Offices From the thousands of Nabataean graffiti, we can discover the names of many different offices held by Nabataeans in the middle and late kingdom, after they had left their nomadic lifestyle and had settled.

Religion in Petra | AMNH

Some of these offices were: eparch, chiliarch military rank, commander of , hipparch military rank, perhaps cavalry general , strategos military rank, infantry general of plus , epitropos First Minister , and ethnarch deputy of the ruler. When Paul was in Damascus he noted that there was a Nabataean ethnarch of Aretas in control there.

Others offices found in graffiti are: mas'r administrators , qara readers , priests, scribes, and sculptors. From the inscriptions on tombs, reference is made to inheritance, property, etc.

This is further augmented by the fact that Nabataean merchants were continually creating, fulfilling and disputing contracts for their merchant business. Along with this, Nabataeans guided, guarded, and supplied the caravans as they moved through the desert. This meant that there were caravan drivers, caravan masters, navigators, guards, station attendants, etc. The Nabataeans also handled the bitumen trade, raised horses, and cultivated palm groves for date production, as well as tending balsam groves as indicated in Antony's attempt at taxation.

As their civilization developed, other professions were added. From Nabataean graffiti we can discover trades such as: copper-smith, blacksmith, carpenter, surveyor, mason, warrior, hunter, laborer, and others along with the government and religious designations, as well as those of artists and sculptors, musicians and singers. Along with this, there are some references to 'slave,' and one reference to a 'freeman.

Classes may have developed as well, as can be implied in the layout of the Graeco-Roman amphitheater in Petra with its various sections of seats. Role of the family Family relationships remained strong throughout the culture. This can be seen in the graffiti, in the words of parental relationships, and their habit of rehearsing lineage as part of naming. There are also numerous instances of Nabataeans marrying non-Nabataean wives, and of Nabataean women marrying non-Nabataean men. Slaves Strabo tells us that they had few slaves or servants. This was true in Petra, where very few of the names that have come down to us are servant-hood type names.

On the other hand, around sixty percent of tombs in Egra belonged to the upper class. If the Nabataeans did not generally have slaves, one would imagine that the Nabataean Kingdom would become a haven for escaped slaves. From history we know that several rulers who were in trouble escaped to the Nabataean court, so it would seem in keeping that slaves running from their Roman masters might also try and make for the Nabataean Kingdom. Houses Archeologists can tell a great deal about a civilization by examining their houses.

The problem with the Nabataeans, however, is that archeologists have not been able to find a single Nabataean house from the earlier Nabataean period. For example, there was a dig at Moyet Awad Moa in the Arabah , on the Petra- Gaza road, that found coins, pottery, and a caravan station, but no houses. Even to this date, archeologists have not dug up a single house from before BC in the great city of Petra. This law they hold because they judge that those who possess these things will be easily compelled by powerful men to do what is ordered them because of their enjoyment of these things.

Some of them keep camels, others sheep, pasturing them over the desert. In the Early and Middle Nabataean period, the Nabataean people must have lived exclusively in tents, and only very occasionally are their camping spots found. Usually these are identified by a little broken pottery and blackened stones used for cooking and upturned stones, possibly used for worship. During the time that the Nabataeans were nomads, they had little use for pottery and used water skins and wooden bowls instead. Hence, little or no Nabataean pottery can be found before BC. When the Nabataeans suddenly started using pottery, however, it was the best pottery of its time in the whole region of Palestine and Syria.

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The same is true of their architecture. Their earlier buildings are excellently constructed, with well made foundations and walls of finished stone. Why is this? I suspect that this is because the Nabataeans copied what they saw and could pay to get it done right. On their visits to eastern Asia, and especially China, they saw beautiful pottery and copied it.

Thus, they were copying the masters, not the common pottery of the Middle Eastern world. Its religious significance is confirmed by the monumental stairway that leads to it and by the religious niches, some with inscriptions and distinctive religious iconography, that surround it.

One niche carved nearby has crescent moons and was probably dedicated to a moon deity, while another, farther away, has a remarkable dual representation probably of Dushara both as a bearded "classical" god and as a plain betyl or stone pillar. Cult niches are a common religious artifact of the Nabatean tradition.

They were often podia for betyl s cult-stones. The latter are usually plain and unmarked, but some have minimalist representations of a face. Some were movable, while others were carved in situ out of the rock face, with up to three betyl s of different sizes, apparently representing a "divine family. That the Nabateans believed in an afterlife is suggested by hundreds of monumental tombs.



In some cases these are provided with triclinia , ritual banqueting rooms, suggestive of a commemorative ceremony. Dushara appears to be the main Nabatean god, his primacy being evident in the phrase "Dushara and all the gods" in several inscriptions and in the fact that wherever gods are listed he appears first. The name's structure is paralleled in northern and southern Arabia. Dushara's close link with the Petra area is clear from his epithet "god of Gaya," this being an old name of the village at the entrance to Petra. Of the few indications of specific characteristics of Dushara, we may note the title "the one who separates night from day" in an inscription, which suggests an astral character.

Roman identifications of Dushara, for example, with Zeus and Dionysos, are secondary. Certainly he was the dynastic deity of the royal house, "the god of our lord the king ," and because of this his cult spread wherever Nabatean rule extended. In the different localities he was connected with established local gods, such as Baalshamin in Syria. The distribution of these in the inscriptions suggests that they were never worshiped side by side.

The two were, however, distinguished in later tradition in northern Arabia. A final resolution of this may be provided in the future by further epigraphic evidence identifying or distinguishing the two. The former is described in inscriptions as "mother of the gods" reading uncertain and "the great goddess.

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Reference has already been made to a Nabatean and wider northern Arabian tradition of representing deities not as human beings but as betyls. This is part of the Nabateans' northern Arabian heritage, but it was not in itself a matter of rigid religious principle, as can be see from the fact that under Greek and Roman influence the Nabateans soon got used to making statues.

Reference has been made earlier to the combined representation of Dushara both as a plain betyl and as a bearded male figure. Aniconism reluctance about or rejection of images constitutes one of the cultural links between the Nabateans and their contemporary Judaean neighbors on the one hand and the later Muslims on the other, though in the case of Judaism and Islam, aniconism became a central part of religious ideology.

There are other points of contact with Jewish practice such as the probable use of secondary burial , but the northern Arabian coloring of Nabatean religion is much stronger.

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The most likely explanation of this phenomenon of Arabianism is that at least the higher strata of Nabatean society were of northern Arabian origin: this would also explain the probable use of a form of Arabic as a vernacular and the predominance of Arabian-type personal names. Because of the sparsity of the evidence, there are few aspects of Nabatean religiosity on a personal level that can be teased out in any detail.

A certain fondness among a minority for devotional cults associated with particular gods Isis and others may reflect personal religion. The repeated use in graffiti of the religious formula "Remembered be … " envisages a pious passer-by bringing blessing on himself by mentioning the name of the inscriber "before the god. Nabatean religious tradition was heavily influenced by northern Arabian religion, both in the particular gods venerated and in some of the forms that veneration took: the reluctance to depict deities in human form is a good example.

This is a modified form of monotheism, though involving a pair of deities rather than just one. This type of "dyotheism" was not new — even the Old Testament Yahweh was regarded by many Israelites as having a spouse. It shows they could monitor the lunar calendar by solar and lunar observation. Scholar believe the pre-Islamic culture of the Nabataeans to have drawn from Persian and Hellenistic civilizations. Some of their primary deities may have adopted Greco-Roman identities over time, including one goddess, al-Uzza , who is identified with Venus and the morning star.

Researchers believe several of Petra's structures to be dedicated to her. US Edition U. News U. HuffPost Personal Video Horoscopes. Newsletters Coupons.