Monday, February 12, 2018

Nabatean seafaring

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Echoes of Nabataean Seafaring (Ralph Pedersen).
When one thinks of the Nabataeans, the desert comes to mind, with wind-blown sands, the red rock-cut architecture of their capital of Petra, and trade routes carrying incense from Arabia to the Mediterranean. There is, however, another aspect of the Nabataeans, one that is only now coming into focus: Seafaring.

I didn't know that seafaring was so important for the Nabateans. In fact, it seems they were also pirates:
Examining the literary sources, we find that the Greek geographer Strabo (XVI.4, 18) states that the Nabataeans used crude rafts in their initial maritime activities. But the Greek historian and geographer Agatharchides (5.90), writing in the mid-second century BCE, stated that Nabataeans were known for attacking passing ships. Clearly, their piratical ventures quickly earned the Nabataeans a sordid and dangerous reputation.
Does that mean they spoke pirate Aramaic?

Cross file under Nabatean (Nabataean) Watch. The Nabateans actually spoke Arabic but wrote in a dialect of Aramaic. For many past posts on the Nabateans and their language, start here and follow the links or search the PaleoJudaica archive.

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