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Nabataean Coins

Nabataean coins for sale in the Forum Ancient Coins shop.

The early Nabataeans forsook all building and agriculture because those who possess these things, in order to retain them, are easily compelled by the powerful to do their bidding. Rather than fight invaders, they would go into the desert, where only they could survive and wait for the invaders to leave. Aretas II was a contemporary of Alexander Jannaeus. Aretas III was the first to issue coins, which he began after he defeated the Seleucid army in 84 B.C. and the council of Damascus asked him to govern their city. A Roman army under Marcus Aemilius Scaurus defeated Aretas III and besieged Petra, but paying a tribute, Aretas received formal recognition by the Roman Republic. The kingdom was slowly surrounded by the expanding Roman Empire, who conquered Egypt and annexed Judea, but wealthy from incense trade, Nabataea paid tribute and retained independence. The Nabataeans fought against Herod and also provided forces to the Romans during the Second Jewish Revolt. After the last Nabataean king, Rabbel II, died in 106 A.D., Trajan incorporated Nabataea into the Roman province Arabia Petraea. One of the latest known Nabataean language inscriptions, from 191 A.D., records "...This in the year 85 of the Eparchy [Roman Rule], in which Arabs destroyed the land." It seems likely that raiding Arab tribes extinguished what remained of a weakened Nabataean culture. In 747 A.D. what was left of the Nabataean cities was destroyed in a major earthquake.


References

Barkay, R. "New Nabataean Coins" in INJ 16 (2007-8).
Barkay, R. "Seven new silver coins of Malichus I and Obodas III" in NC 2006, pp. 99 - 103.
Barkay, R. "The earliest Nabataean coinage" in NC 2011.
Bowersock, G. Roman Arabia. (Cambridge, 1983).
Bowsher, J. "Early Nabataean Coinage" in ARAM 2:1-2 (1990), pp. 221-228.
Cohen, E. Dated Coins of Antiquity: A comprehensive catalogue of the coins and how their numbers came about. (Lancaster, PA, 2011).
Dussad, R. "Numismatique des rois de Nabatene" in Journal Asiatique 12 (1904), pp 189 - 238.
Hill, G. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum - Arabia, Mesopotamia and Persia. (London, 1922).
Hoover, O. "A Reassessment of Nabataean Lead Coinage in Light of New Discoveries" in NC 2006.
Hoover, O. Handbook of Coins of the Southern Levant: Phoenicia, Southern Koile Syria (Including Judaea), and Arabia, Fifth to First Centuries BC. HGC 10. (Lancaster, PA, 2010).
Huth, M. Coinage of the Caravan Kingdoms, Ancient Arabian Coins from the Collection of Martin Huth. ACNAC 10. (New York, 2010).
Huth, M. & P. van Alfen. Coinage of the Caravan Kingdoms. Studies in the Monetization of Ancient Arabia. ANSNS 25. (New York, 2010).
Meshorer, Y. Nabatean Coins, Qedem 3. (Jerusalem, 1975).
Plant, R. The Coinage of the Nabataeans, Seaby Coin and Medal Bulletin, March 1979, pp. 81-84.
Robinson, E. "Coins from Petra etc." in NC 1936, pp. 288-291, pl. XVII.*
Schmitt-Korte, K. & M. Cowell. "Nabatean Coinage - Part I. The Silver Content Measured by X-ray Fluorescence Analysis" in NC 1989, pp. 33-58, pl. 11-17.
Schmitt-Korte, K. "Nabatean Coinage - Part II. New Coin Types and Variants" in NC 1990, pp. 105-133, pl. 10-15.
Schmitt-Korte, K. & M. Price. "Nabatean Coinage - Part III. The Nabatean Monetary System" in NC 1994, pp. 67-131, pl. 10-12.
Spikerman. A. The coins of the Decapolis and Provincial Arabia. (Jerusalem, 1978).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, The Collection of the American Numismatic Society, Part 6: Palestine - South Arabia. (New York, 1981).
Tal, O. "Coin denominations and weight standards in fourth-century BCE Palestine" in INR 2, pp. 24 - 28.

*Reference not held by Forum.  Please let us know if you see a copy for sale.


The Nabatean Kings

The Nabataean kingdom was located in present-day Jordan, southern Syria, southern Israel and north-western Saudi Arabia. The fall of the kingdom of Judea was followed by the rise of the Nabateans beginning in the fourth century B.C. These traders traveled in caravans from Arabia and made their capital Petra, in what is now southern Jordan. They eventually controlled trade in perfumes and spices and built numerous fortresses along the branch of the Spice Route in the Negev Desert.

Aretas I

The first known Nabatean king. His name appears on the earliest Nabatean inscription discovered to date, a 168 BCE carving found in Halutza. He is also mentioned in 2 Maccabees 5:8. The passage relates that Jason, the high priest who established a Hellenistic polis in Jerusalem, was held prisoner by Aretas I after being forced to leave the city.

Rabel I

Aretas I's successor, whose reign began c. 140 BCE. His name is known from a statue dedicated to him in Petra.

Aretas II

Rabel I's successor. His reign began in 120 or 110 BCE and he ruled until 96 BCE. Aretas 11 was a contemporary of the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus, whose expansionist policies were a direct threat to the Nabatean kingdom.

Obodas (Avdat) I

Obodas I ascended the throne in 90 BCE and defeated Alexander Jannaeus in a battle on the Golan Heights-probably the key to the Nabatean return to the Negev. The town of Oboda (Avdat) was named for the victor, who was worshiped as a god even after his death.

Aretas III (87-62 BCE)

Hostilities between the Hasmoneans and the Nabateans came to a head with the rise to power of Aretas III. In 84 BCE he conquered Damascus. He later invaded the Hasmonean kingdom and defeated Alexander Jannaeus at Hadid (a few kilometers east of Ben-Gurion Airport). The latter retaliated by capturing Nabatean cities in Moab and attacking the Bashan and Gilead. Alexander was succeeded by his wife Shlomtzion; after her death, her sons Hyrcanus and Aristobolus fought over the throne, which the latter finally ascended.
Hyrcanus fled to Aretas III, with whom he forged an alliance. In 65 BCE the Nabatean army besieged Jerusalem, but its attack was to end the following year when the Romans appeared in the East. The two Hasmonean brothers took their case to Pompey, who sent Scaurus to Jerusalem to force a Nabatean retreat.

Obodas II

Obodas II's existence was uncertain for years, until an inscription recently found east of the Suez Canal confirmed it. He probably ruled for only a few months.

Malichus I (60-30 BCE)

Obodas II's son. In 40 BCE he helped the Parthians overrun Syria and Palestine. After the Romans expelled the Parthians in 34 BCE, they confiscated Malichus's date groves around Jericho and his Red Sea harbors. Herod also fought Malichus, defeating his army near Philadelphia (present-day Amman).

Obodas III (30-9 BCE)

This king's reign was an era of cultural flowering for the Nabatean kingdom. Under him, most of its temples were built, including that at Avdat. It was during his days that the Romans attempted to discover the sources of the perfume and spice trade.

Aretas IV (9 BCE-40 CE)

Aretas IV was the greatest of the Nabatean kings. During his reign, large religious centers-also serving as banks and clearinghouses-were established on the Hauran, in Petra, and at Avdat. Aretas's daughter married Herod Antipas, tetrarch of the Galilee. When Antipas took another wife, Herodias, Aretas's daughter returned to her father, who went to war against the Jewish tetrarch and defeated him. Antipas appealed to Emperor Tiberius, who dispatched the governor of Syria to attack Aretas. The episode was an important factor in the beheading of John the Baptist. Aretas is mentioned by Paul in connection with his visit to Damascus (2 Corinthians 11:32).

Malichus II (40-70 CE)

In Malichus's time, Nabatean trade dwindled as the Romans diverted the perfume and spice cargos to Egypt. Malichus sent 5,000 horsemen and 1,000 soldiers to help Titus quash the Jewish revolt.

Rabel II (70-105)

Rabel II was the last of the Nabatean kings; Emperor Trajan deemed his death the right moment to annex the Nabatean kingdom. On March 22, 105, it was incorporated into the new Roman province of Provincia Arabia.


Source: Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority, Scented Cities: The Nabatean Negev, (Israel: Eretz ha-Tzvi, 1999)

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