Nabataean Kingdom, Syllaeus and Aretas IV, 9 B.C., Very Rare .

Ancient Coins - Nabataean Kingdom, Syllaeus and Aretas IV, 9 B.C., Very Rare .
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Nabataean Kingdom, Syllaeus and Aretas IV, 9 B.C., ; Bronze AE 16,   2.38g, 15.5mm, Petra mint, obverse diademed head of Obodas II; reverse crossed cornucopias, Syllaes' Aramaic monogram (shin) left (Syllaes' Aramaic monogram ) , Aretas' Aramaic monograms (het) left and right; K. Schmitt-Korte II, p. 113, 26; Meshorer Nabataean 43 var (no left het on rev); SNG ANS 1426 var (same); BMC -, Choice EF. very rare . After the first expedition, Augustus Caesar encouraged Aelius Gallus to employ the Nabataeans as guides and escorts on an expedition down the Arabian side of the Red Sea to locate the source of frankincense. You can imagine the predicament this was for the Nabataeans. The Nabataeans were deemed allies of Rome, but if the Romans discovered their source of frankincense, then the Romans would simply sail down the Red Sea and buy directly from the South Arabian kingdoms, thus excluding the Nabataeans from their lucrative trade. It appears that Syllaeus, the chief minister of Obodas II had a clever solution to the problem. He agreed to lead the expedition, and together with a contingent of Nabataean camel cavalry, took his place at the head of the Roman Army with the Roman General Aelius Gallus. First, however, the Roman Army needed to get from Egypt to Arabia. The Romans decided to build a fleet of boats for this purpose. Strabo tells the story this way: "He (Aelius Gallus) was, moreover, encouraged to undertake this enterprise by the expectation of assistance from the Nabataeans, who promised to cooperate with him in everything. Upon these inducements Gallus set out on the expedition. But he was deceived by Syllaeus, the king's minister of the Nabataeans, who had promised to be his guide on march, and to assist him in the execution of his design. Syllaeus was, however, treacherous throughout; for he neither guided them by a safe course by sea along the coast, nor by a safe road for the army as he promised, but exposed both fleet and the army to danger by directing them where there was no road, or the road was impracticable, where they were obliged to make long circuits, or to pass through tracts of country destitute of everything; he led the fleet along a rocky coast without harbors, or to places abounding with rocks concealed under water, or with shallows. In places of this description particularly, the flowing and ebbing of the tide did them the most harm. The first mistake consisted in building long vessels of war at a time when there was no war, nor any likely to occur at sea. For the Arabians, being mostly engaged in traffic and commerce, are not a very warlike people even on land, much less so at sea. Gallus, notwithstanding, built not less than eighty biremes and triremes and galleys at Cleopatris, also called Arsino', and near Hero'polis, near the old canal which leads from the Nile. When he discovered his mistake, he constructed a hundred and thirty vessels of burden, in which he embarked with about ten thousand infantry, collected from Egypt, consisting of Romans and allies, among whom were five hundred Jews and a thousand Nabataeans, under the command of Syllaeus. After enduring great hardships and distress, he arrived on the fifteenth day at Leuce-Come, a large mart in the territory of the Nabataeans, with the loss of many of his vessels, some with all their crews, in consequence of the difficulty of the navigation, but by no opposition from an enemy. These misfortunes were occasioned by the perfidy of Syllaeus, who insisted that there was no road for an army by land to Leuce-Come, to which and from which place the camel traders travel with ease and in safety from Selah, and back to Selah, with so large a body of men and camels as to differ in no respect from an army." XVI.iv.24 After landing the army, with the loss of men and ships, they headed inland, and south towards southern Arabia. Then things got worse. "Gallus, however, arrived at Leuce-Come, with the army laboring under stomacacce and scelotyrbe, diseases of the country, the former affecting the mouth, the other the legs, with a kind of paralysis, caused by the water and the plants (which the soldiers had used in their food). He was therefore compelled to pass the summer and the winter there, for the recovery of the sick." The following spring they set out again. Strabo tells the story: "Gallus, setting out again from Leuce-Come on his return with his army, and through the treachery of his guide, traversed such tracts of country, that the army was obliged to carry water with them upon camels. After a march of many days, therefore, he came to the territory of Aretas (modern Medina?), who was related to Obodas. Aretas received him in a friendly manner, and offered presents. But by the treachery of Syllaeus, Gallus was conducted by a difficult road through the country; for he occupied thirty days in passing through it. It afforded barley, a few palm trees, and butter instead of oil The next country to which he came belonged to the nomads, and was in great part a complete desert (the Debae). It was called Ararene. The king of the country was Sabos. Gallus spent fifty days in passing through this territory, for want of roads, and came to a city of the Nejrani (probably Mecca), and to a fertile country peacefully disposed. The king had fled, and the city was taken at the first onset. After a march of six days from thence, he came to the river (in the land of the Minae). Here the barbarians attacked the Romans, and lost about ten thousand men; the Romans lost only two men. For the barbarians were entirely inexperienced in war, and used their weapons unskillfully, which were bows, spears, swords, and slings; but the greater part of them wielded a double-edged axe. Immediately afterwards he took the city called Asca (probably modern Al-Lith), which had been abandoned by the king. He thence came to a city Athrula (modern Abha?), and took it without resistance; having placed a garrison there, and collected provisions for the march, consisting of grain and dates he proceeded to a city Marsiaba, belonging to the nation of the Rhammanitae, who were subjects of Ilasarus (in modern Yemen, east of modern San'a). He assaulted and besieged it for six days, but raised the siege in consequence of a scarcity of water. He was two days' march from the aromatic regions, as he was informed by his prisoners. He occupied in his marches a period of six months, in consequence of the treachery of his guides. This he discovered when he was returning; and although he was late in discovering the design against him, he had time to take another route back; for he arrived in nine days at Negrana (near modern Sa'dah?), where the battle was fought, and thence in eleven days he came to the "Seven Wells" (modern Al-Qunfudhah), as the place is called from the fact of their existing there. Thence he marched through a desert country, and came to Chaalla, a village, and then to another called Malothas (perhaps modern Jeddah), situated on a river. This road then lay through a desert country, which had only a few watering-places, as far as Egra (modern Yanbu) a village. It belongs to the territory of Obodus, and is situated upon the sea. He accomplished on his return the whole distance in sixty days, in which, on his first journey, he had consumed six months. From Negra he conducted his army in eleven days to Myus Hormus; thence across the country to Coptus, and arrived at Alexandria with so much of his army as could be saved. The remainder he lost, not by the enemy, but by disease, fatigue, famine, and marches through bad roads; for seven men only perished in battle. For these reasons this expedition contributed little in extending our knowledge of the country. It was however of some small service. Syllaeus, the author of these disasters, was punished for his treachery at Rome. He affected friendship, but he was convicted of other offences, besides perfidy in this instance and was beheaded(actually he was killed by throwing him from a cliff)." XVI.iv.25 Gallus accused Syllaeus of treachery, charging that the Nabataean minister had deliberately led the Romans across the most arid and desolate land he could find, using the most round about route he could think of. The route the army took, however, was an established trade route; although it was one that the Nabataeans seldom used as in those days they preferred the maritime route. Syllaeus managed to peacefully get away from the Romans and return to Petra a hero. Along with defeating the Roman Army, he had used the Roman army to weaken the South Arabian kingdom of Saba allowing the Himyarites, the kingdom friendliest to the Nabataeans to overcome them later that year. (25 BC) I look at this in more detail in chapter ten. Obodas confirmed Syllaeus as chief minister and almost immediately, Syllaeus initiated negotiations with both the Romans and Herod the Great, a long time foe of Nabataea. Some think Syllaeus was setting himself up to be the next king. Obodas was assassinated in 9 BC, (possibly poisoned by Syllaeus) and Aenaeas took possession of leadership, and took on the name Aretas IV. A short time later Syllaeus found himself in shackles, and was transported to Rome. He was tried for the murder of Obodas by a Roman court, found guilty and pitched headlong from the Tarpeian Rock in 6 BC. In 9 BC a war broke out between Herod and the Nabataeans. Again we are entirely dependant on the narrative of Josephus, based on a much fuller contemporary narrative by Nicolus of Damascus who himself acted as Herod's envoy to defend his actions before Augustus. (Josephus Ant. XVI, 9, 1-4: 271 - 299, 9, 8-9: 335-355) In brief, the conflict developed as follows. In 12 BC, while Herod had been absent, the Nabataeans had encouraged the inhabitants of Trachonitis, now under Herod's rule to revert to brigandage, and had given asylum to forty of their 'bandit chiefs'. Using a base provided for them in Nabataean territory, they raided not only Judea but into the province of Syria, and quite possibly the cities of the Decapolis. Herod could and did repress those in Trachonitis, but he could do little about those operating out of Nabataean territory. He appealed to the governors of Caesar, Saturninus, Volumnius, and Sentius Saturninus and the procurator of the province. No question of Roman military interception seems to have arisen. They merely decided that the Nabataeans would pay a debt due to Herod and that refugees on both sides should be restored. Only when this was not done, did they give Herod permission to invade Nabataean. After a successful invasion and a minor battle, Herod settled a colony of three thousand Idumaeans to control Trachonitis, and wrote to the Roman officials explaining his actions. The affair was further complicated by the death of Obodas, the king of Nabataea, and the accession of Areneas, without Augustus' permission. The Romans considered the Nabataeans allies and perhaps subjects of Rome. The Nabataeans considered themselves subject to no one.
Preis SKU: c722
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