Aretas III
Aretas III was king
Rulers of Nabatea
The Rulers of Nabataea, reigned over the Nabataean kingdom , inhabited by the Nabateans, located in present-day Jordan, southern Syria, southern Israel and north-western Saudi Arabia.- List :...

 of the 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:...

 from 87 to 62 BCE. Aretas ascended to the throne upon the death of his brother, Obodas I
Obodas I
Obodas I was King of the Nabateans from 96 BC to 85 BC. He was the successor of Aretas II, from whom he inherited the war with the Hasmonean kingdom. He defeated them around 93 BC on the Golan Heights....

, in 87 BCE. During his reign, he extended his kingdom to cover what now forms the northern area of 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...

, the south
Coele-Syria , or Cœle-Syria or Celesyria, traditionally given the meaning 'hollow' Syria, was the region of southern Syria disputed between the Seleucid dynasty and the Ptolemaic dynasty. Rather than limiting the Greek term to the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, it is often used to cover the entire area...

 of 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 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...

. Probably the greatest of Aretas' conquests was that of 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...

, which secured his country's place as a serious political power of its time. Nabataea reached its greatest territorial extent under Aretas' leadership.

Conquest of 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...

 straddled the primary commercial route from the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 to India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and 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...

. In taking the city from the loosening grip of the Seleucid Empire
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

 in 85 BCE, Aretas III brought the Nabataeans from a backward nomadic tribe to a minor Eurasian power. In an attempt to cover his nomadic background, Aretas styled himself Aretas III Philhellenos (friend of the Greeks
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

). He ordered the mints
Mint (coin)
A mint is an industrial facility which manufactures coins for currency.The history of mints correlates closely with the history of coins. One difference is that the history of the mint is usually closely tied to the political situation of an era...

 of Damascus to produce the first silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 Nabataean coins, in a Hellenic
Hellenic Greece
Ancient Greece in the eighth through fourth centuries BC, between the Greek Dark Ages and the Hellenistic period, is referred to as Hellenic Greece. It is made up of two epochs:*Archaic Greece...

 style and lettering his name in the Greek language
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;...

 instead of Nabatean Aramaic
Nabataean language
The Nabataean language was a form of Aramaic and was the language of the Nabataeans of Iraq and Syria.In the early Islamic era and probably before, the Arabians referred to the sedentary Aramaeans of southern Iraq and southern Syria as Nabat...

. To further reinforce the new culture of the Nabataeans, Aretas endeavoured to bring architecture of Greek and Roman fashion
Roman architecture
Ancient Roman architecture adopted certain aspects of Ancient Greek architecture, creating a new architectural style. The Romans were indebted to their Etruscan neighbors and forefathers who supplied them with a wealth of knowledge essential for future architectural solutions, such as hydraulics...

 to the Nabataean capital, 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...

, and to new settlements such as Humayma, including a 26.8 km aqueduct
An aqueduct is a water supply or navigable channel constructed to convey water. In modern engineering, the term is used for any system of pipes, ditches, canals, tunnels, and other structures used for this purpose....

. Nabataean rule of Damascus was interrupted in 72 BCE by a successful siege led by the Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

n king Tigranes II
Tigranes the Great
Tigranes the Great was emperor of Armenia under whom the country became, for a short time, the strongest state east of the Roman Republic. He was a member of the Artaxiad Royal House...

. Armenian rule of the city ended in 69 BCE when Tigranes' forces were pulled out to deal with a Roman attack on the Armenian capital, allowing Aretas to re-take the city.

Hyrcanus and the Judean throne

In 67 BCE, Hyrcanus II
Hyrcanus II
Hyrcanus II, a member of the Hasmonean dynasty, was the Jewish High Priest and King of Judea in the 1st century BC.-Accession:Hyrcanus was the eldest son of Alexander Jannaeus, King and High Priest, and Alexandra Salome...

 ascended to the throne of Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

. Scarcely three months later, his younger brother Aristobulus II
Aristobulus II
Aristobulus II was the Jewish High Priest and King of Judea, 66 BC to 63 BC, from the Hasmonean Dynasty.-Family:Aristobulus was the younger son of Alexander Jannaeus, King and High Priest, and Alexandra Salome. After the death of Alexander in 76 BC, his widow succeeded to the rule of Judea and...

 incited a rebellion, successfully leading the uprising to overthrow Hyrcanus and take the offices of both King and High Priest. Hyrcanus was confined to Jerusalem, where he would continue to receive revenues of the latter office. However, fearing for his life, he fled to Petra and allied himself with Aretas, who agreed to support Hyrcanus after receiving the promise of having the Arabian towns taken by the Hasmonean
The Hasmonean dynasty , was the ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during classical antiquity. Between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE, the dynasty ruled semi-autonomously from the Seleucids in the region of Judea...

s returned to Nabataea by Hyrcanus' chief advisor, Antipater the Idumaean
Antipater the Idumaean
Antipater I the Idumaean was the founder of the Herodian Dynasty and father of Herod the Great. According to Josephus, he was the son of Antipas...


Aretas advanced towards Jerusalem at the head of 50,000 men, besieging the city for several months. Eventually, Aristobulus bribed Marcus Aemilius Scaurus
Marcus Aemilius Scaurus
Marcus Aemilius Scaurus was a Roman consul in 115 BC and considered one of the most talented and influential politicians of the Republic....

, deputy of the Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Scaurus ordered Aretas to withdraw his army, which then suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Aristobulus on the journey back to Nabatea.

Despite the compliance of Aretas, in 62 BCE Scaurus marched on Petra. However, a combination of the rough terrain and low supplies, obliged Scaurus seek the aid of Hyrcanus, now High Priest (not king) of Judea, who sent Antipater to barter for peace with Aretas. The siege was lifted in exchange for several hundred talents of silver (to Scaurus himself) and recognition of Roman supremacy over Nabatea. Aretas would retain all Nabataean territory and possessions, becoming a vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 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....

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