Petra, Jordan History

 

Though the city was founded relatively late, a sanctuary has existed there since very ancient times.

Neolithic

By 7000 BCE, some of the earliest recorded farmers had settled in Beidha, a Pre-Pottery Neolithic settlement just north of Petra.

Bronze Age

Petra is listed in Egyptian campaign accounts and the Amarna letters as Pel, Sela or Seir.

Iron Age Edom

The Edomite site excavated at the top of the Umm el-Biyara mountain at Petra was established not earlier than the seventh century BCE (Iron II).

The emergence of Raqēmō/Petra

The Nabataeans were one among several nomadic Bedouin tribes that roamed the Arabian Desert and moved with their herds to wherever they could find pasture and water. Although the Nabataeans were initially embedded in Aramaic culture, theories about them having Aramean roots are rejected by modern scholars. Instead, archaeological, religious and linguistic evidence confirm that they are a northern Arabian tribe. Current evidence suggests that the Nabataean name for Petra was Raqēmō, variously spelled in inscriptions as rqmw or rqm.

Petra as "Rekem"

The Rekem Inscription before it was buried by the bridge abutments

from Wikipedia by Kendall K. Down Public domain

Historian Josephus (ca. 37–100) writes that the region as inhabited by the Midianites during the time of Moses, and that they were ruled by five kings, one of whom was Rekem. Josephus mentions that the city, called Petra by the Greeks, "ranks highest in the land of the Arabs" and was still called Rekeme by all the Arabs of his time, after its royal founder (Antiquities iv. 7, 1; 4, 7).
The name 'Rekem' (rqm) was inscribed in the rock wall of the Wadi Musa opposite the entrance to the Siq. However, Jordan built a bridge over the wadi and this inscription was buried beneath tons of concrete.

Petra as "Sela"

An old theory held that Petra might be identified with a place called sela in the Hebrew Bible. Encyclopædia Britannica (1911) states that the Semitic name of the city, if not Sela, would remain unknown. It nevertheless cautioned that sela simply means "rock" in Hebrew, and thence might not be identified with a city where it occurs in the biblical text.
The passage in Diodorus Siculus (xix. 94–97) which describes the expeditions which Antigonus sent against the Nabataeans in 312 BCE, was understood by some researchers – and not so by others – to throw some light upon the history of Petra, but the "petra" (Greek for rock) referred to as a natural fortress and place of refuge cannot be a proper name, and the description implies that there was no town in existence there at the time.

Roman period

General view

from Wikipedia by Leon petrosyan CC BY-SA 3.0

In AD 106, when Cornelius Palma was governor of Syria, the part of Arabia under the rule of Petra was absorbed into the Roman Empire as part of Arabia Petraea, and Petra became its capital. The native dynasty came to an end but the city continued to flourish under Roman rule. It was around this time that the Petra Roman Road was built. A century later, in the time of Alexander Severus, when the city was at the height of its splendor, the issue of coinage came to an end. There was no more building of sumptuous tombs, owing apparently to some sudden catastrophe, such as an invasion by the neo-Persian power under the Sassanid Empire.
Meanwhile, as Palmyra (fl. 130–270) grew in importance and attracted the Arabian trade away from Petra, the latter declined. It appears, however, to have lingered on as a religious centre. Another Roman road was constructed at the site. Epiphanius of Salamis (c.315–403) writes that in his time a feast was held there on December 25 in honour of the virgin Khaabou (Chaabou) and her offspring Dushara. Dushara and al-Uzza were two of the main deities of the city, which otherwise included many idols from other Nabataean deities such as Allat and Manat.
Between 111 and 114, Trajan built the Via Traiana Nova, running from the Syrian border to the Red Sea through Petra. This road followed the old routes of Nabataean caravans. In the shadow of the Pax Romana, this route revived trade between Arabia, Syria, and Mediterranean harbors. In 125 AD, one of Emperor Hadrian's administrators left marks in Petra, pointed out by documents found at the Dead Sea. In 130 AD, Hadrian visited the former Nabataean capital, giving it the name of Hadriane Petra Metropolis, imprinted on his coins. His visit, however, did not lead to any boom in architectural development and new buildings as it did in Jerash. The province's governor, Sextius Florentinus, erected a monumental mausoleum for his son near the end of the al-Hubta (King's Wall) tombs, which had been generally reserved during the Nabataean period for the royal family.
The interest that Roman emperors showed for the city in the 3rd century suggests that Petra and its environs remained highly esteemed for a long time. An inscription to Liber Pater, a god revered by Emperor Septimius Severus, was found in the temenos of the temple known as Qasr al-Bint, and Nabataean tombs contained silver coins with the Emperor's portrait, as well as pottery from his reign. Emperor Elagabalus declared Petra to be a Roman colony, when he reorganised the Roman Empire towards the end of the 3rd century. The area from Petra to Wadi Mujib, the Negev, and the Sinai Peninsula were annexed into the province of Palaestina Salutaris. Petra may be seen on the Madaba mosaic map from the reign of Emperor Justinian.

Byzantine period

Petra declined rapidly under Roman rule, in large part from the revision of sea-based trade routes. In 363 an earthquake destroyed many buildings, and crippled the vital water management system. The old city of Petra was the capital of the Byzantine province of Palaestina III and many churches were excavated in and around Petra from the Byzantine period. In one of them, the Byzantine Church, 140 papyri were discovered, which contained mainly contracts, dated from 537 to 593, establishing that the city was still flourishing in the sixth century. The Byzantine Church is a prime example of monumental architecture in Byzantine Petra.

Crusaders and Mamluks

In the 12th century, the Crusaders built fortresses such as the Alwaeira Castle, but were forced to abandon Petra after a while. As a result, the location of Petra was lost for the Western world until the 19th century.
Two further Crusader-period castles are known in and around Petra: the first is al-Wu'ayra, situated just north of Wadi Musa. It can be viewed from the road to Little Petra. It is the castle of Valle Moise which was seized by a band of Turks with the help of local Muslims and only recovered by the Crusaders after they began to destroy the olive trees of Wadi Musa. The potential loss of livelihood led the locals to negotiate surrender. The second is on the summit of el-Habis, in the heart of Petra, and can be accessed from the West side of the Qasr al-Bint.
The ruins of Petra were an object of curiosity during the Middle Ages and were visited by Baibars, one of the first Mamluk sultans of Egypt, towards the end of the 13th century.

19th-20th centuries

View of the Royal Tombs in Petra

from Wikipedia by Carlalexanderlukas CC BY-SA 3.0

The first European to describe them was Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt during his travels in 1812. At that time, the Greek Church of Jerusalem operated a diocese in Al Karak named Battra (باطره in Arabic, and Πέτρας in Greek) and it was the opinion among the clergy of Jerusalem that Kerak was the ancient city of Petra.
Léon de Laborde and Louis-Maurice-Adolphe Linant de Bellefonds made the first accurate drawings of Petra in 1828. The Scottish painter David Roberts visited Petra in 1839 and returned to England with sketches and stories of the encounter with local tribes, published in The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, and Nubia. Frederic Edwin Church, the leading American landscape painter of the 19th century, visited Petra in 1868, and the resulting painting El Khasné, Petra is among his most important and well-documented.
Because the structures weakened with age, many of the tombs became vulnerable to thieves, and many treasures were stolen. In 1929, a four-person team, consisting of British archaeologists Agnes Conway and George Horsfield, Palestinian physician and folklore expert Dr Tawfiq Canaan and Dr Ditlef Nielsen, a Danish scholar, excavated and surveyed Petra.
The archaeologist Philip Hammond from the University of Utah visited Petra for nearly 40 years. He explained that the local folklore says it was created by the wand of Moses, when he struck the rock to bring forth water for the Israelites. Hammond believed the carved channels deep within the walls and ground were made from ceramic pipes that once fed water for the city, from rock-cut systems on the canyon rim.
Numerous scrolls in Greek and dating to the Byzantine period were discovered in an excavated church near the Temple of the Winged Lions in Petra in December 1993.

Source

Wikipedia