Essential Histories

Essential Histories

Essential Classical Societies

Roman Society Celtic Society Hellenic Diadochi Carthage German Tribes

Scythians Dacia Illyrians Libyans Iberians Arabs


Online Sources Books & Articles Videos


Arabians were a group of peoples who inhabited the Arabian peninsula. Most Arabs of the Hellenistic period spoke an Aramaic language, which was gradually replaced as a lingua franca by the Greek language.

The northern part of the Arabian peninsula was home to several Arab tribes and petty kingdoms.

Nabataean Kingdom

The largest and most powerful of these kingdoms at the time of the Romans, was the kingdom of Nabataea.

The city of Petra was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom. This city had grown rich through the spice trade.

Hasmonean Dynasty

Another powerful but short-lived kingdom in the Levant was the Hasmonean dynasty.

The Hasmonean dynasty yielded, thanks to the Romans, to yet another short-lived kingdom known as the Herodian dynasty. The Herodian dynasty was a Roman client state, until that kingdom too was ultimately annexed by the Romans and made into a protectorate known as Judea.

The capital of the Hasmonean dynasty was the city of Jerusalem. This city was home to the Second Temple. The Second Temple was an important Jewish Holy Temple and was a rebuild temple on top of Temple Mount. The temple got its came from the fact that the first temple built under King Solomon of the state of Israel, had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC. This Second Temple too was destroyed in 70 AD during the Great Jewish Revolt.


Another short-lived petty kingdom of some importance was the city of Palmyra. Initially the city had been part of the Seleucid Empire, but when that empire was destroyed by the Romans, it became an independent city in its own right, until it too was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 14 AD.


Most early Arabs were semi-nomadic and engaged in nomadic herding, agriculture and sometimes fishing.

A few were seafarers and held trade links between Egypt, Persia, and India, and it is reputed that some of these seafarers briefly took to piracy.

A major source of income was the taxation of caravans, and tributes collected from non-Bedouin settlements. They also earned income by transporting goods and people in caravans across the desert.


Religion in Arabia during the Hellenistic period and later under the early part of the Principate consisted of indigenous polytheistic beliefs, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism.

Of the indigenous polytheistic faiths there were basically three regional categories: Canaanite religions of the Levant, Assyro-Babylonian religion influenced by Sumerian tradition, and pre-Islamic Arabian polytheism.