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Greetings Europa Barbarorum II fans!
It has been a long wait but today we are proud to present a heavily changed Arabia. It will be the home of two exciting factions. The first is commonly known and referred to as Saba, or Sb' w-gwm as it will be called in EB II, the famous ancient civilisation of the south. After a short introduction of its new name we will taking a closer look at Sabaic, the language they spoke and wrote. Naturally we also have an overview of the faction’s history. We will then have a look at their ancient gods, mythology and religious practices. However it has not been merely the Sabaeans who have been revamped. The Arabian Peninsula has been fully researched from the ground up, provinces, settlements, ports, trade resources and more undergoing changes. So from the south we move east, where we will have a look at the Maka’ province. Of course we cannot wait to disclose the new Arabian faction. After the in-game campaign introduction we will provide you with a brief history and our reasons for including it. Finally we will take a look at their religious practices and deities. Having featured the south, the east and the west we will go Pan-Arabian by previewing one of the most important features of the Peninsula: the incense routes, which will play a major role in Europa Barbarorum II. A preview would not be a preview without taking a look at the armies and units of Arabia. After a general introduction we will reveal beautiful renders, screenshots and concept art of the warriors you will use to conquer the world or slay in battle. Lastly we will provide you with signature banners of both factions, should you wish to use them.
Presenting Sb' w-gwm or the Sabaean Commonwealth
A new name
The Sabaean commonwealth is often referred to as a kingdom, yet this is not entirely correct. The common view that it is, in fact, a kingdom stems largely from the Biblical account of this nation, which refers to it as the kingdom of Sheba, headed by a queen of the same name who visited the wise king Solomon [שְׁלֹמֹה]. The Sabaeans were indeed led by a single leader, who in the early period were called federator or mukkarib [mkrb] in Sabaic, as they headed a federation of different clans and urban communities. Which we will refer to as shabs [s’b], like the ancient Yemenites did. These leaders were also the malik [mlk] of Maryab the nucleus of the Sabaean shab, which was the leading tribe of the federation. While the Semitic ‘malik’ translates in most languages as ‘king’, it is not a perfect description in this case. Though it seemed to have been hereditary by sons or younger brothers, the power of a malik was usually much more limited. Later and during our time frame they lost the title of mukkarib as the commonwealth had grown smaller. The remaining shabs were however much better incorporated and the Sabaean malik was simply referred to and called himself the Sabaean mlk [mlk Sb’]. Hence most outsiders clearly understood their leader to be a king leading a kingdom. In the many epigraphic texts this nation the name they referred to themselves was ‘Sb' w-gwm’, meaning ‘Saba and all of their [communities]’. Logically this was the best and only correct choice to have as the faction's new name. Later the Sabaean federation would have been referred to as ‘Sb' w-s'bn-hwm’, meaning ‘Saba and their communities’.
The language they spoke and wrote: Sabaic
In EBI the language used for the Sabaeans was a mixture of languages and included classical Hebrew and Arabic, languages foreign to the Sabaeans. While both are Semitic languages, not unlike the language the Sabaeans actually spoke, Sabaic, is part of a completely different subfamily. Sabaic belongs to the south Semitic language family, or more specific the south-west Semitic. This branch of Semitic language also include the other old South Arabian languages like Minaic and Qatabanic, but is also related to Ge'ez, the language of the people of ancient Ethiopia. However the old theory of Ge'ez having evolved out of Old South Arabian is now commonly viewed as disproven. Hebrew and Arabic, while sharing some similarities, are part of the West Semitic language family. There are indications that South Semitic goes as far back as around 4,000 years, hence it is not surprising to see that Sabaic and especially Ge’ez retained many traditional and ancient elements in their language.
This language was not used for many unit names and the like in EB I, as only specialist academic researchers have a profound knowledge of it. Sadly we do not have any of them on the team, but using a specialist dictionary and applying some basic grammatical rules or by taking literal constructions from epigraphy, we will try our best to use Sabaic as frequently and as accurately as possible considering our limited knowledge and resources.
An inscription addressed to the protector god and main god of the Sabaeans, Almuqah.
Our major source of information on the Sabaean language, and the Sabaeans in general, comes from the monumental inscriptions which exceed 50,000 in number . These are written in the so-called Musnad script or monumental script, which is used and shared by all the Sayhad cultures and languages in their monumental inscriptions and was deciphered in 1841. The script is designed to be easily engraved or inscribed on stone, bronze or other hard materials and to be easily legible. The script is usually written from right to left though there are exceptions. Especially earlier texts tend to be in boustrophedon manner, meaning that each line alternates from going right to left to going left to right. Asymmetrical letters are usually mirrored horizontally when not written from right to left. This phenomenon can be seen in the picture of a Sabaean inscription above. The earliest inscriptions date back to at least the ninth century before the birth of Christ and the script would remain in use until they were conquered by the Arabs in the 7th century AD. Naturally the script evolved and changed over this period of nearly two thousand years. Over the centuries even regional variations developed. The style of a script has even been used for estimating the dates it was written.
These inscriptions do tend to provide only limited information as they tend to be brief, rather limited in the topics and themes they cover; they also use a lot of standard formulas and expressions, and are hard to date. The research on the many Near Eastern civilisations is known for using clay tablets from archives, in Egypt the famous papyri shedding much light on the ancient period. These sources provide information on personal use, administrative use and also include pieces of literature. The study of ancient South Arabia on the other hand was for a long time limited to public texts, which do not contain private information and only rarely include literary texts. It was less than half a century ago, and more than a century after the first deciphering of the monumental script, that similar private sources were found in the ancient cultural area around the Sayhad Desert. They came in the form of inscriptions on tree sticks and palm-leaf stalks. These were written in the so-called Zabur script, which is also the Sabaic name of any document written in the script. These new sources, of which there are now about five or six thousand, and the recent discoveries of literary inscriptions especially at the Mahram Bilqis, may significantly increase our knowledge and understanding of the ancient Sabaeans in the near future.
There is however one problem with both South Arabian scripts; neither writes most of its vowels, making it hard to reconstruct its actual pronunciation. Therefore Sabaic will feature few vowels in most cases. Exceptions however will be made in the cases of commonly transliterated names or words. Hence Sabaean names (Karib'il Watar, for example), settlements (Maryab) and certain words like shab (a tribe/community/collection of villages) or malik (a title) will contain vowels. However most buildings, units and traits will be referred to as they were written; for example mkdh (port) or qdb (citizen militia) will be written without additional vowels inserted. The exact transliteration of Sabaic will depend on what will be possible and has not been decided on yet. Sabaic had four different variants of the English s, not counting the z of which Sabaic had two variants as well. The most important factor here will be legibility, as this will be hard enough as it is.
A brief history of the Sabaean Commonwealth
It is impossible to write an actual histoire totale of the Sabaeans, due to the limited amount of information currently available, especially on the earlier periods of their history. Though the Sabaeans are mentioned by some classical Roman and Greek authors, our main sources are based on archaeological remains and epigraphy. Many thousands of inscriptions are known and translated, yet most offer little information. The last two main sources of information from the period are coins and writings on palm leaves. Indeed these shed light on many aspects of their culture and its change over the centuries. Yet they fail to offer us a general overview of the events or a clear chronology. One of the better known and more notorious parts of Sabaean history is the reign and campaigning of Karib’il Watar. But even his rule is hard to date. Some authors like von Wissman and Ryckmans have suggested a long chronology, placing Karib’il Watar in the 9th to 7th century BC. The likes of Beeston and Pirenne have suggested the 6th or the 5th century BC in the past. While most now favour a longer chronology due to Archaeological evidence, some Authors like Kitchen still favour a short chronology. It is not until the first centuries AD that we can really date events. Central to the many theories are two Assyrian records mentioning the Sabaean kings “Yita’ ‘amar” and “Karibilu” paying tribute. These were dated to 715 and 685 BC respectively. Archaeology has recently however made it more and more clear that the start of Sabaean history is likely even earlier than the historians estimated. Though some authors like Kitchen still advocate a short chronology.
What we do know is that in Maryab we find traces of sedentary life and agriculture dating back to at least the 3rd millennium BC. Around the 12th century BC the incense routes seem to have been born, and with them a new culture came into existence. By the beginning of the 1st millennium the main political structure would be the shab (s’b), towns or villages which were small and independent from one another. Nearby villages then started to work together and formed small unities comprising several shabs. This would become the new standard unit of shabs, comparable to a tribe. Certain shabs grew larger and more powerful; Shabs as Sirwah – sometimes suggested as the first capital of the Sabaeans - and Maryabu [modern day Ma’rib] soon started dominating smaller nearby shabs and together formed larger unions or federations of shabs usually ruled by one or multiple ‘kings’ or ‘Malik’ [mlk], often confined to a single wadi.
By the time of Karib’il Watar some of these Maliks had grown rather powerful and expanded their rule so much that only a few would dominate a region comparable with modern Yemen. Saba was one of these leading powers and this lead them into the next phase of Sabaean history, often dubbed the time of the ‘mukkaribs’, which can be dated to the 9th or 8th century BC. It is named after the title mukkarib [mkrb] which in English translates as federator, referring to the many shabs under his rule. The famous inscriptions of the aforementioned Sabaean leader on the walls of the great temple at Sirwah talk about his many military campaigns and building projects, and under his rule the Sabaeans conquered their main rivals: the kingdom of Ausan and its capital Miswara. In the north he even expanded the kingdom as far as the fabulous oasis and city of Najran and made Hadramawt in the east their protectorate. He claims in his inscriptions not to have lost a single battle! It is during this period that the Sabaean kingdom flourished most and became a major player not only in terms of trade but also politically. During the mukkarib period this wealth allowed the building of great monumental temples but more importantly the building of the great Maryab Dam. This dam enabled the region around Maryab to become the most fertile of South Arabia and helped to sustain its 50,000 inhabitants. The rate of urbanisation in the area increased during this period, especially at Maryab which became by far the largest settlement and shab, something which could explain the sometimes suggested change of capital city from Sirwah to Maryab.
Qatabân [qtbn], the former allies of the Sabaeans, now became their main rivals. Saba seems not to have been able to fully integrate and keep her newly conquered regions, except for a core of around twelve loyal shabs unified by their malik [mlk] and their god Almuqah [clmqh]. The Qatabân and the African kingdom of Dm’t used this opportunity and were able to become the leading nations in the region by the coming period. In the north the Ma’in also profited from the weakening of the Sabaeans and became the great traders of Arabia and as such the allies of the incense-producing Hadramawt, former protectorates of the Sabaeans. These kingdoms kept each other in check from probably around the 4th century BC and 3rd century BC. This went hand in hand with the continuous loss of power of the malik in favour of an increased importance of the tribes. By the end of the 2nd century the Qatabân seem to have grown weaker as well, which resulted in the independence of Ramdan, but more importantly and somewhat later: the rebellion of the Himyarites. The latter people would found their own 'kingdom' around approximately 115 BC and would grow to be the next leading nation in South Arabia.
In the first century BC Emperor Augustus sent Aelius Gallus, then the governor of Egypt, with a force of 10,000 soldiers and 500 Jewish infantry. He was joined by Syllaeus, the ‘minister’ of the Obodas III, the Nabataean king. He would act as a guide and as a commander of the 1,000 strong Nabataean force that was added to the mission. The goal of this exploration was conquering the incense-producing lands and their riches. But the inhospitable sea, the unforgiving climate, dry land and disease proved fierce enemies. Syllaeus was accused by the Romans for boycotting the operation as well and would ultimately be decapitated because of these allegations. The mission failed without the expedition even reaching Maryab. Though captives taken by the Romans would have claimed that they were a mere two days' walk away. They also had a few encounters with local forces. These were described as inexperienced, unskilled and using mainly arrows, spears and especially double edged axes, and were most likely encounters with nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes akin to the Kindha or the ‘Amar, not to the settled armies of South Arabia. Strabo reports these events in great detail and claims that only two Romans had died in battle. Dio Cassius also gives a short report on this expedition, though less informed, but perhaps less coloured as well. The invasion was however never followed up by another and did not have many consequences. However the Romans' presence at the end stations of the incense routes would have a cultural and artistic impact. More important, however, was their increasing naval presence in the Red Sea and sea trade with India, which would put the already divided and hostile kingdoms under economic pressure.
The first victim was Qatabân, which was sandwiched geographically by the Sabaeans and the Himyarites. Soon the Sabaeans followed. The Himyar federation suffered from the same weakness as the ancient Sabaean federation and could not yet keep their conquered provinces for long. Around the start of the third century the Sabaeans rebelled to form the middle Sabaean ‘kingdom’. The Sabaean malik at this point however was no longer a member of the Sabaean shab, nor was the title simply inherited anymore. This new Sabaean federation was then even able to conquer the Hadramawt capital of Shabwa and to destroy its royal palace in 217 or 218 AD. These defeats were not enough to eliminate the Hadramawt, who had now founded their new capital of Shibam. This revival and initial success was short lived and soon the Sabaeans were to be reconquered by their Southern foes. The Himyar would ultimately conquer the whole of western south Arabia and hold it until the dawn of Islam.
Out of respect for the Sabaean legacy and because of the respect they wished to get, even these kings called themselves kings of Saba and did not lay a finger on ancient Maryab in the same way Babylon or Athens have often been spared during their histories.
Athtar the lord of the Gazelles
In the earliest period of South Arabian history, meaning when the first South Arabian inscriptions start appearing, the God of most importance was Athtar [cttr], who according to Sabaean mythology was the creator of the world. He was however primarily a god of agriculture to whom sacrifices were made for having a good harvest, but was also asked for protection and good fortune. This was done in many ways: there were ritual banquets in honour of ‘the lord of the gazelles', likewise there were ritual hunts in which the oryx was one of the most prized targets next to other kinds of gazelles. At this point in history the mukkarib [mkrb], meaning federator, was the political leader but was also the main priest of Athtar and hence presided over the most important of these festivities. Both were commonly reserved for the aristocracy and nobles and were most likely unique to Athtar. There was also a tradition of pilgrimages to some of the major temples, which was likely done by all layers of society. To get the good fortunes they were hoping for, they performed offers, most often by burning different forms of incense. With unique altars and clerics for different kinds of incense. Another common thing to offer were little bronze statuettes.
Inscriptions sometimes accompanied by some reliefs both written in stone or bronze were also a common method and often -- as they list themselves -- were combined with the previous methods of offering. For a long time most of our knowledge about the Sabaeans and the other Sayhad cultures was restricted to Archaeology and inscriptions, of which most were either of this type or were part of funerary stelae. The most common topics except for asking for fortune and a good harvest include asking for the prosperity of newly born children and petitioning or expressing gratitude for a successful military campaign. In the latter case a good bounty and the fortune of the Sabaean mukkarib [mkrb] or later malik [mlk], king, were often included.
The worshipping of Athtar was however not just restricted to merely the Sabaeans and their federations, which might indicate the possible ancient origin of this deity. He was the creator god in all the Sayhad cultures though in some texts he is said to have been helped by ‘the patron gods and all the other gods’. Modern scholars commonly couple him with the female god Hawbas who is also evidenced frequently in Ethiopia, highlighting the spread of the cult. It also demonstrates early contact between the ancient South Arabians and the ancient Africans, of which the nature - especially in earlier period - is still being discussed and is still unclear, not unlike the Sabaean pantheon itself.
Almuqah, lord of the ibexes
Already in the earliest inscriptions of the Maryab [modern day Ma'rib] and Sirwah area Almuqah [clmqh] takes a very prominent place. Not surprising as he was the patron god of the Sabaeans, the super tribe centered around the first mentioned settlement. Two majestic temples were constructed three to four kilometres to the south-east of Maryab in his honour. The first constructions dates to at least the 8th century but probably even earlier.
Today they are commonly known as the Mahram Bilqis, ‘the Queen of Sheba's temple’, and the al-Amaid or ‘Throne [of Bilqis]’, both referring to the famous legendary Queen of Sheba by her Arabic name Bilqis, who became a famous legend to the Ethiopians and the Islamic Arabs. Both were however temples primarily dedicated to the god Almuqah. In ancient South Arabia they were called the temple of Awâm and the temple of Bar'an respectively. The importance of the former, the largest of all the temples build by the Sayhad cultures, is reflected by one of titles given to Almuqah: Bcl| cwm [Lord of Awâm].
The mlk [malik, king] of Saba who in the early combined this function with the title of Mukkarib [mkrb] was the head priest of the cult. During the growth of the Sabaean realm in the mukkarib period and especially the conquests of Karib 'il Watar, the cult of the lord of the ibexes was spread over most of the Sayhad cultural group. It is not known whether the spread of the cult was promoted or mandatory. However as Sabaean authority crumbled in the outer regions, so did the superficial cult of Almuqah [clmqh] in this region. The core regions of a dozen or so tribes by the EB II start date however became more than a stable part of the Sabaean realm and would continue to offer to the Lord of Awâm next to their own patron god(s). With the contemporary growth and prosperity of the now independent Qatabân, Ma'in and Hadramawt, the patron gods of the leading tribe of these federations, respectively 'Amm [ ,"Paternal Uncle"], Wadd [ , "Father" or "Affection"] and Sayin (wrongly connected to the Mesopotamian god Sin and whose name’s meaning is unknown) also came to more prominence.
The cult of Almuqah was thriving until the second and definite conquest of the Sabaeans by the Himyarites who considered themselves the progeny [wld] of Shams. Not much later these kings would convert to Judaism and would transfer the South Arabian region to monotheism in the fifth century. Less than two hundred years later the region was conquered by the Arabs and would become Islamic. However some pre-Islamic customs, both cultural and religious, have survived to this very day. Children for example are still ritually held above burning incense to secure good health and future for them, a custom likely to date back to ancients Sabaean times. Which seems to be backed up by the many steles dedicating young children to Almuqah or another god for good fortune. Traditional hunts are still held in Wadi Hadramawt during droughts to get rain to fall. Some customs have had a lasting impact even on Islam: many of the customs and regulations in mosques trace their origins from ancient Yeminite temple practices.
Nielssen’s Trias: father Moon, mother Sun and son warrior Venus
The queen of Sheba has always been the subject of much fantasy and curiosity. This ensured that historical and archaeological research and interest in ancient, mythical and biblical Sheba was high. As Sabaic was rapidly deciphered and made possible to read, researchers stumbled upon a lot of inscriptions of either sacral or funerary nature. Quickly a lot of ancient South Arabian gods became known. But because of the limited content of the inscriptions, little information was available. Except for titles, symbols, when and where they were popular and what they were asked for. The many crescent moons decorating many religious inscriptions, altars and temple decorations made it clear that the Sabaean and other South Arabian gods were connected to Astronomical elements. In the early twentieth century Nielssen tried to make sense of the ancient near eastern pantheons, which replaced the most ancient and common Semitic god El, and came up with the theory of the trias of the sun, the moon and the Venus or the morning and evening star. In the case of the Sabaean pantheon, he saw Almuqah as the father moon god, who was married to the goddess Shams. They would have a son, Athtar, who represented Venus in the trias. This theory has come under heavy criticism however, especially by a group of researchers who saw Almuqah as a sun god. Based on associated images as vines and the bull he was seen as, and compared to Dionysos and thus a solar instead of lunar god. It is however clearly ludicrous to try to uncover the nature of an ancient Semitic and Yemenite god based on Mediterranean and Indo-European religious concepts and themes.
The Pantheon as described by Nielssen survived this challenge but not those based on the many evidences in the short epigraphic texts of which thousands have been discovered. Most inscriptions end with invocations of Gods and rulers following a strict order.
Take for example the starting invocations from inscription MB 2001 I. 20:
Or in translation:
By Athtar, and by Almuqah, and by Dât Hamîm, and by Dât Badân, and by Yita'amar and by Yita'il.
As can be seen Athtar always takes first place, and is only later followed by Almuqah. He then is followed by two invocations to the solar goddess Shams, who in this early period of Sabaean history was not yet called this. Certain inscriptions also mention Hawbas, and she is placed between Athtar and Almuqah. The last two invocations are addressed to Yita’amar and Yita’il who were the contemporary rulers, not gods. It is thus usually seen that the more ancient Athtar and principal creator of the world (though some texts also mention the help of other gods) seems to have been the supreme god and possibly the father of the patron god(s), who in turn were the fathers of their people. Almuqah’s position as the principle god in Saba' was aptly compared by sir A. F. L. Beeston to that of Athena in Athens, where she was perhaps the most important deity, yet still the true head of the pantheon remained the more pan-Hellenic Zeus.
Current knowledge and further questions
The astral connotations of the gods by Nielssen were however mostly correct. Indeed Almuqah seems to be moon connected, likewise Athtar is clearly the morning and evening star. Shams can also be clearly be put down as a Solar goddess. This makes the Sabaean pantheon the best attested of the area, due to it also having most sources available. However the different roles of the gods are far from completely known, nor how they relate to each other. Almuqah and Athtar share many resemblances and are prayed and offered to for the same reasons. Which true for the other patron Gods as well. Ta’lab, the patron deity of the Sum’ay clan, who were clients [‘dm] of the Sabaeans, is particularly well attested in inscriptions asking for almost precisely the same things as the aforementioned gods. Hence a major difference between the gods was which community and ruler it was the main protector of. Athtar was the god and ruler of all people, that of the early federation and the mukkarib, while Almuqah was the protector of the Sabaean community, the Sabaean malik and throne, and later the core of Sabaean allies and clients.
Another but not well supported difference was suggested by Ryckmans; Athtar would provide natural irrigation In the form of rain, while Almuqah would be the protector of artificial rain. The function of the gods may be in their titles as well. ‘Almuqah’ has been suggested to mean ‘the giver of health’. Athtar has no clear suggested meaning but he has been suggested to have been somewhat of a dual god. He is mentioned as “cttr|srqn|wgrbn|”, Athtar of the east and the west. This has been commonly seen as a division of Athtar, the Venus god, as the morning and evening star. This not unlike the early invocations of shams as Dât Hamîm and Dât Badân (see above). When referred to for destruction of enemies, grave violators and the likes, he is commonly titled Athtar Sariqan [cttr srqn], Athtar of the East. It is clear that in this invocation he is a god of war and vengeance. And again so is Almuqah. Recently three hymns were discovered celebrating the prowess of Almuqah in a victorious battle against a mythological enemy, similar to the one of Marduk against Tiamat or the fight between Ba’l and Yamm.
When it comes to linking the possible family ties of the gods, we are still very much in the dark due to the scant sources and regional differences, possible changes and evolutions in time. The patron god of the Hadramawt, Syn, is mentioned in a text to be the son of Athtar. Possibly this might suggest the patron gods in general were sons of Athtar. However the patron goddess of the Himyarites, Shams, has been mentioned as Umm’Athtar, and this name or title has been read as both the mother of Athtar and the spouse of Athtar. Elsewhere Shams is suggested to be marrying Athtar on a relief. However Hawbas has also been named the wife of Athtar. Possibly Shams was replacing Hawbas -- the latter herself likely entered the Pantheon as a result of some alliance in the 6th century -- as the Himyarites grew in importance? Umm’Athtar was also the title of the patron goddess of the very ancient city of Sirwah.
Titles, functions and relations of gods and goddesses seem to have changed over the years. As regions or communities rose or declined in importance, so did the local deity. Functions, titles and invocations could possibly have been usurped by gods as well. The same titles and invocations might also have been responsible for creating new gods as this or that name became more and more connected to certain traits, symbols, powers and rituals. It has even been suggested that certain gods even changed sex during history. Others have suggested or hinted at certain gods having multiple sexes. Certainly some gods are mentioned as female and male, but this can be seen as possible regional variation. Hawbas for one is mostly known as a female goddess but has locally been identified as a male god. Lastly many titles and names of deities found in the many description have not been connected with anything at all. Hence one must conclude that our knowledge on the ancient Sayhad pantheons is rather limited and distorted. Further study is absolutely most necessary. But as more information is found on enscribed wood stalks from palm leaves and more and more literary epigraphic texts turn up, a much clearer image of the religion of the Sabaeans and their neighbours may be formed in the near future.
A newly researched map
The old Arabian map from Europa Barbarorum contained many errors. This because the map was not designed at the start to have a faction in it, and as our dedicated historians of the EB I Sab'yn faction left, the map never got a historical overhaul. One of the major points of change thus became the Arabian map. Many settlements or regions had Latin, Greek or for other reasons incorrect names. Some were not in the right place or were of no importance during the Hellenistic period. Below we will present you with one such updated province, which we shall present to you with its description from its province building.
The maka' province
Introduction: General, you have conquered the lands of the Makans! Deserts and sand surrounds their houses, but be not mistaken: it is opposite these coasts where the once great city of Dilmun grew rich! There is indeed much wealth that can be gained here. Central to this region is the settlement of Mleiha, a large city and the home of many craftsmen, peasants and rich traders, and the splendid palace of its former ruler and his riches. Not only are they rich traders of the Persian Gulf, but they are also skilled at diving for precious pearls! However we must also look beyond the city walls, where there lies a desert, full of roaming nomads trying to escape your rule.
Geography: This land lies to north and east of ar-Rub al-Khali, the Empty Quarter, the driest and hottest desert of Arabia, and south of the empty coastal strip that houses Gerrha. But between these mighty and endless sand dunes we find a more hospitable climate. Here we find the coolness of the Hajar mountains or the refreshing winds from the sea. This was the logical choice of residence for the Makans, with many trading settlements and fishing ports at the coast of the Persian Gulf. It is exactly these waters that give them their riches from trade with the people living on the other side of it. But their trade goes even further than Charax or India: they even buy pottery at Rhodos! Along the coast lay many small islands where, under the bright blue waves, lie precious pearls waiting to be found. Central in the Province on a plain west to the Hajar mountains we find Mleiha, without doubt the most important settlement of the region and home of the Mleihan king.
The Hajar mountains
History: The first signs of settling probably date from the 6th BC to the 5th millennium BC and started most probably at the coastal regions and especially the islands, which were ideal bases for fishing and hunting, such as sites on Marawah and especially the much larger site at Dalma. Archaeological missions have shown that people living on the latter built houses of palm fronds. At both remains of Ubaid ceramic have been found as well as evidence for trade with Mesapotamia, which start is often dated to 5500 BC. Often the question is raised whether such or some of these settlements were permanently occupied during the Ubaid period or were often only seasonally occupied for the annual pearl season. However the importance of livestock is generally underrated. Inland sites at Sarjah have probably been the home of semi-nomad herders who would have lived there during spring. Most remarkable is the cemetery found and the gifts that were given to the dead, which included various kinds of jewellery and a large collection of perforated pearls. Little is known about the 4th Millennium BC, possibly due to the region getting much more arid, which gave birth to the ‘shell midden culture’ which survived at the coasts of Northern Oman. This culture survived on the nearby lagoons which were excellent places for fishing. Children and women could fish catfish, sea bream and mullets, while the men used their superior physical strength to catch larger, carnivorous fish.
Around the end of the 4th millennium to the start of the third millennium BC, the Bronze Age in modern day Oman starts. The first period of the Bronze Age in Oman is dubbed the Hafit period which dates from 3200 BC to 2700 BC, after an important archaeological site which contained the remains of single chambered round or oval tombs, typical for this region. In it many Mesopotamian vessels, decorated with geometrical and floral designs from the Jemdet Nasr period have been found. It is also around the start of this period that the first mentions of Dilmun are made on Sumerian clay tablets found at Uruk. This legendary trading partner of the Mesopotamians was most probably situated on one of the many islands of the Persian gulf. The next phase of the Bronze Age in this area has been dubbed the Umm an-Nar period which lasted until around 2000 BC, which refers to the archaeological site near Abu Dhabi. At this site remains of a settlement has been found but more importantly and typical are the remains of fifty above ground circular stone built tombs, of which many, if not most are multi-chambered. Similar tombs have been found most notably at Hili, but at Mleiha as well. The former has the grandest collection of tombs of which the most famous was dubbed the Hili grand thomb which had a diameter of 12 metres and reached 4 metres in height and had decorative carvings at both entrances. The houses of Hili itself were built with sun dried mud brick and were the homes of farmers and traders. Its riches lay in the high groundwater, good soil and copper industry which was the reason for its 1,000 years of continuous occupation. The next phase of the Bronze Age usually is called the Wadi Suq period, which is dated from around 2000 BC to 1250 BC. However recently it has become clear that the Wadi Suq period encompasses two different archaeological cultures and should best be divided into two, the first dating from 2000 BC to around 1600BC and the latter period, these days often dubbed the Late Bronze Period, from 1600BC to 1250BC. During the Wadi Suq period metallurgy takes big steps forward and tombs now often contain spearheads, one piece swords, axes and other equipment. During the Late Bronze Period the arrow seems to have been introduced as well. The best examples of their metal working skills are most visible in what are called 'antithetical animal pendants' usually made of gold or gold-silver alloys.
antithetical animal pendant
With the start of the Iron age, around 1250 BC, the number of settlements in what is today the UAE has increased significantly. This has been linked to the introduction of the Falaj, also called Qanat in Arabian, an underground canal flowing groundwater to irrigate dry farmland. Though often linked with modern day Iran, recent research and findings point out that it was most probably invented here, with the oldest known example been found at Hili. It is also at this time that the Assyrian king claims to be king of Dilmun, which is mentioned multiple times as paying tribute. The last mentions of Dilmun date from the 6th century where it is claimed to be a possession of the Neo Babylonian kingdom. Not much later with the collapse of this kingdom no more mention of Dilmun is made, and soon after, the region was annexed by the Persians. It is mentioned in the Behistun Inscription as Maka, a name which comes from the Akkadian 'Magan' probably referring to its copper mines, and that Darius I inherited the region. Hence it was already a Persian satrapy before 520 BC and was most likely conquered by Cyrus the Great. They are mentioned by Herodotus wearing leather armour fighting with bows and swords in the army of Xerxes, who also mentioned them in the daiva inscription. Under Persian rule many Persian merchants settled at the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf and the settlement and port of Sohar was built. With the fall of the Persian empire at the hands of Alexander the Great, they seemed to have gained independence. Arrian of Nicomedia mentions their lands as Maketa in his work on the campaigns of Alexander.
Sometime before 300 BC, the new city of Mleiha was founded. One theory is that it was founded by nomads who settled down. It was during this period of independence that Maka flourished most; Sohar grew to be one of the most important ports of Arabia. Mleiha quickly became the most important settlement of the region, which due to its intense trade with the Seleucids and other Hellenes, quickly became Hellenised in many respects. This resulted in an interesting culture with archaic influences of Mesopotamian and Arabian origin mixed with Persian and Hellenic culture. The Persian gulf was a hotspot for naval trade and this extended far beyond its geographical area. Amphoras discovered here that were originally made in Rhodos which were dated to the second century BC are a nice example. Mleiha was a large settlement built around a large building which served as an administrative centre where coin minting was practised. Around it stood houses, workshops and memorial buildings. Many graves have been found as well in which the dead were often buried with their dromedaries, hybrid camels and horses. One such grave contained a horse wearing a bridle decorated with bronze and golden discs which was dated between 200 and 150 BC. The importance of horses is also seen reflected in the weapons found at Mleiha and the little later site of ed-Dur of which cavalry longswords were very common and on a bowl found at Mleiha depicting an already very much Hellenised cavalryman dated to around 250 BC. However the old Mesopotamian and Arabian elements of their culture had far from disappeared and still played a major role as a temple dedicated to the ancient Semitic solar god Shams from ed-Dur dated to the first century BC aptly illustrates. By 140 BC the Parthians stole hegemony over the Persian gulf from the Greeks and became the Makans' new main trade partners. By the end of the third century ad Mleiha and the rest of Maka was conquered by the Sassanids and named Mazun. At the same time our archaeological record of Mleiha and ed-Dur stops, which most probably is no coincidence.
Presenting a new Faction: The Nabataean Kingdom or Malkûtâ Nabâta
A short introduction
Shlamâ Aleikûm, Malk Nabâtû
You have come to rule over the Nabatû, the men who dig for water. But what we lack in water, we make up for in riches - for you preside over some of the greatest merchants in the world.
Today we dwell in the land known as Edom, the land of red rock. It is an ancient land, one inhabited by the 'Edomîn, far longer than we have been here. Since time immemorial, caravans have crossed these lands, bringing to the rich towns of the Levant the fruits of the south - incense, frankincense, and myrrh. Through this trade, cities have grown from rock and dust, and brought gold to places where all men knew were their fathers' goats and stories. But this prosperity does not go far, and most people live the same way their fathers did, with the herd at their heel and the tent in their hand.
To the east lie the vast sands of the Qadrîn, whose territory once nearly spanned the peninsula, and challenged the Babylonians to the north. Since then, they have declined, and rich cities and lands have slipped from their grasp. Now is the time, my lord, to put an end to this threat, and expand onto grounds they once called their own. Hauran and Lihyan, to the north and south, are ripe for the taking, and their chief towns - Bostra and Dedan - are oases of commerce. The arrogant Diadochoi overlook these lands, too embroiled in their own dynastic rivalries to care about the affairs of a few Arabs.
West of Hauran and our domain are the lands of Sûrîâ, Mesr, Isra'êl and Punîqîâ, dominated by rich cities and powerful Greeks, to whom the incense of Sabâ and Hazarmût flows. Here, the once-independent city-states and kingdoms cling to their culture as the tide of Hellenism washes over them. Perhaps one day we will march victorious through the streets of Dammasq and Akko, and their wealth and glory shall be ours as well. But for now, we should avoid conflict with the great Ptolemaioi and Seleukides, who control these lands, and relentlessly war over them.
But we cannot be peaceful forever. As we expand our trade routes and gain in wealth, the Hellenes will no doubt turn their ever-greedy eyes towards prosperous Arabia. Their style of warfare is advanced, their vast armies the best-armed and -armoured; their horsemen ride the finest of horses and the average footman wears more armour than our nobles can afford. Defeating them will present more of a challenge than conquering all the tribes and trade-towns combined. But the men who lead their armies are nothing like their great-king of old, Alexandros, and a good commander will be able to defeat them with the aid of cunning, speed, and the desert.
But the desert does not extend forever, and if our kingdom is to truly be great, we must overcome this obstacle. With wealth from trade and conquest, perhaps we too can have great armies and cities of our own. And perhaps, more than a Malkût - an Archê.
A Brief faction history
Most scholars are of the opinion that the Nabataeans are a tribe of Arabian stock. In the Aramaic language, which they used since the dawn of their history, they were named Nabatu (Nabataeans). In Greek sources they were named Nabataioi or Arabes (Arabians) or both, perhaps pointing to their Arabian origin. By these names they were known also to the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius. The verb nabata, and the name deriving from it, means “a man who digs for water” - The significance of this name can be seen in the accounts of Diodorus Siculus, describing the ancient omadic traditions of the Nabatu:
"Here it is worthwhile to recount the institutions of these Arabs, by the practice of which they seem to protect their liberty. Their country has neither rivers nor copious springs from which it is possible for a hostile army to get water. They have a law neither to sow corn nor to plant any fruit-bearing plant, nor to use wine, nor to build a house. This law they hold because they judge that those who possess these things will be easily compelled by powerful men to do what is ordered them because of their enjoyment of these things. Some of them keep camels, others sheep, pasturing them over the desert. Of the Arabian tribes there are not a few who graze the desert and these are much superior to the others in the amenities of life, being in number not much more than 10,000. For not a few of them are wont to bring down to the sea frankincense and myrrh and the most costly of spices, receiving them from those who convey them from what is called Arabia Felix. They are conspicuously lovers of freedom, and flee into the desert, using this as a stronghold. They fill cisterns and caves with rainwater, making them flush with the rest of the land, they leave signals there, which are known to themselves, but not understood by anyone else. They water their herds every third day so that they do not constantly need water in waterless regions if they have to flee."
The Nabatu maintained an extensive network of underground cisterns to provide for their fresh water needs, and by these cisterns could sustain themselves and their flocks while on the move, and even while in flight from an invading enemy. Their name may then refer to their cistern-digging way of life: the Nabatu, the people who cause water to pour forth from the desert. However, these cisterns are also symptoms of their beginning to build permanent structures, the first sign of settling down - a process that would continue throughout the Hellenistic period.
This settling-down and wealth from trade seems to have been what set the Nabatu apart from the other tribes of North Arabia (as opposed to the non-tribal dwellers of cities such as Bostra). An early Greek source, Hieronymous of Cardia, describes the Nabataeans in 312 BC: “While there are many Arabian tribes who use the desert as pasture, the Nabataeans far surpass the others in wealth, although they are not much more than ten thousand in number; for not a few of them are accustomed to bring down from the sea frankincense and myrrh and the most valuable spices.” Their monopoly on the myrrh and frankincense trade with South Arabia was the main reason behind Roman interest in the area in the later years of the Nabatu.
As the Nabatu settled, their cisterns came to be of ever greater use to them - they would use the water from these cisterns to irrigate the land and begin farming. From tribes "whose custom it was neither to sow corn, plant fruit-bearing trees, use wine, nor construct any house; if anyone is found acting contrary to this, death is his penalty”, the descendants of the Nabataeans became farmers, producing the best wines which, like spices and aromatics of older times, were shipped to Europe.
The Malkûtâ Nabâta (Kingdom of the Nabatu) consisted of separate districts stretching along their caravan routes. The southernmost district corresponded to the northern parts of the land known as Lihyan. Its capital was Hegra, meaning "rocky place," and its harbour on the eastern shore of the Red Sea was known to the Greeks as Leuke Kome, ‘The White Village’. To the north came the district of Edom, the backbone of the Nabataean kingdom with Rekem (known as Petra, meaning 'rock' in Greek) as its capital and the capital of the kingdom. The caravan routes go further north, to the region of Hauran, with the city of Bostra as its capital. Returning to Petra the routes ran westward to the district of Naqab/Negev. The capital of this region was Haluza (probably derived from the Nabataean name Halsat), and a large military and religious center now known as Avdat was centered around the burial place of the deified king Obodat (Obodas I).
Obodas I can be considered the king under whom the Nabatu became an important entity in contemporary Middle Eastern politics, in light of the withering of the Seleucids and Ptolemies. Since the rise of the Hasmonean kingdom, the Nabatu had suffered several important setbacks at their hands, losing significant territory around the Jordan River, nearly splitting the kingdom between Bostra and Petra. Even worse, the Hasmonean king Alexandros Iannaios managed to take Gaza, the Nabataeans' link to the Mediterranean, in 96 BC (the year Obodas came to power). However, Obodas managed to defeat Iannaios at Gadara, on the Golan Heights, through an effective use of the iconic Nabataean troop: the camel archer. By doing so, he restored the Nabataean territory in Hauran. Later, Obodas would defeat an invasion by Antiochos XII in a battle that cost both kings their lives. However, the Nabataean kingdom was saved, and the last Seleukid efforts to restore some amount of power, defeated. For this, he was deified, and buried at an important centre in the Negev which was named Obodat, after the saviour-king.
The power of the Nabatu reached its height under Aretas III, who seized the city of Damaskos from the dying Seleukids, who soon accepted the hegemony of Tigranes II of Armenia. At his order, mints of the city began producing Hellenistic coins of him, and the Nabatu came into their own as a true Hellenistic power. The kingdom suffered a setback when Tigranes seized Damaskos in 72 BC, but the Armenian king later had to withdraw from the city in order to defend his realm from invasion. Aretas would later make an alliance with the exiled Hasmonean king Hyrkanos II and his advisor, Antipatros Idumaios (father of Herod), who promised the return of several Arabian towns if Aretas were to depose Hyrkanos' younger brother, Aristoboulos. Aretas marched on Hierosolyma with an army of 50,000 men, and defeated Aristoboulos in battle. He then besieged the city, but the cunning Aristoboulos bribed Pompey's deputy Scaurus to order the Nabataeans to withdraw. Fearing Roman retribution, Aretas complied; Aristoboulos was able to reorganise his armies and defeat Aretas on the march back.
Later, Pompey and Scaurus would march on Petra, but the rough terrain and news of opportunity in Pontos allowed the Nabataeans to negotiate their way out of destruction in exchange for vassalship and a judicious sum of money (to Scaurus himself). They would remain independent until the year 106 when they seem to have been peacefully incorporated into the Roman.
Reasons for inclusion
Before any faction can be included in EB, it must first meet certain pre-approved conditions. These conditions include existence at the start date (272BC), desire/historical precedence for expansion, availability of good sources, uniqueness, and military prowess among others. When the Nabataeans were first proposed, the idea intrigued the members of EB, but it was unclear whether or not the Nabataeans were a viable faction. Before the Nabataeans could be chosen as a faction, it needed to be proved that they were worthy.
It just so happened that one of the EB members was on an archaeological dig in Jordan at the time, and was able to gain access to sources in the ASOR library in Amman, as well as take pictures of artifacts from sites and museums which allowed it, and directly question several experts on Nabataean and Roman Jordan. With this new information, a entirely new insight into the Nabataeans was gained.
It is known that the Nabataeans waged war against two major Hellenistic powers of our timeframe, the Antigonids and Seleukids, and were able to fend them off in both cases. The Nabataeans also maintained friendly diplomatic relations with the Ptolemaioi, and fought a long war against the Hasmoneans. At the height of their power, the Nabataean territory stretched from the Sinai into the Arabian desert, and from Lihyan in the south to Damascus in the north. With the coming of the Romans the Nabataeans performed well, though at times they had to make use of bribes to survive, and when they were finally annexed by the Roman Empire, their soldiers served in auxiliary units as far away as Numidia and were well known for their skill as horse archers.
The Nabataeans were not only powerful in military terms, but also in economic terms. The Nabataeans controlled a vital portion of the trade routes for spices, incense, silk and many other precious commodities. They fortified outposts along their roads and trails to provide shelter and supplies to travelling caravans, and their impact on maritime trade in the Red Sea was highly significant. Living in an arid landscape, the Nabataeans had to make use of the resources at their disposal as best they could. Most particularly the Nabataeans were famous for their skill and constructing waterworks, irrigation, cisterns and channels to harness the water that was available as efficiently as possible.
Although sources from before the second century BC are somewhat lacking on the Nabataeans, archaeology is beginning to push back this shroud on history. A great example is looking for proof of the Nabataean power structure before its recording in the second century. In the third century there was a king we now know from the excavation of his tomb. This archaeological expedition is still ongoing, and as such many details have not been revealed yet, such as whether or not they have recovered a name, but the proof of Nabataean power, and a continuity between the third-century people and their second- and first-century descendants, is vital to proving the viability of this faction.
The Nabataeans differ significantly from any other faction currently in EB. Although of a Semitic culture like the Carthaginians and Numidians, the Nabataeans are nothing like them, and although they are Arabians like the Sabaeans, they are not the same. The Sabaeans represent the southern Arabians, while the Nabataeans represent the northern Arabians. Significant differences include the use of horse archers by the Nabataeans, as well as the progressive Hellenisation they underwent in our time frame, developing Hellenistic establishments, equipment, ranks and tactics.
Being a people of power, with ambition, historical expansion, military might, unique culture and tactics, and having adequate source material, the Nabataeans were approved for inclusion into EB2. And indeed, the Near East simply would not be the same without them.
In addition to participating in the state religion, the worship of Dûsharâ, the god of the mountains, this man participates in a marzeh, a religious organisation and a club or cult of sorts; analogous to Greek thiasoi. This tradition comes from a long history, traces of which can be found in the Hebrew Bible. These would usually consist of a professional or trade group, such as soldiers, merchants, or scribes; some were even composed of slaves.
Typically a marzeh would conduct most of its activities and rituals within a triclinium (though biklinia and stibadia are also found), a banquet room with three benches. Over a hundred such triclinia (smākîn in Nabataean Aramaic) have been found, many carved out of rocks (as is typical of Nabataean architecture) but some freestanding, as in Palmyra. While most of these triclinia were for domestic and probably nonreligious purposes, a large number were funerary and a small number were connected with temples or cult-sites. Some marzeh inscriptions have been interpreted to be commemorating dead, though there is no direct evidence of a connection between marzehîn and funerary rituals. Deified Nabataean kings, however, such as 'Obodat, would sometimes be the focus of one of these cults.
Similar to the Romans, the Nabatu would drink plenty of wine in their triclinia; for this, they are dissaproved of in the biblical tradition. Wine craters, called 'gn at Palmyra and Petra, are present in many of these triclinia, and an inscription shows that one of the duties of the rab marzêhâ, the head of the organisation, was to provide the members with good quality wine. Strabo notes, "They prepare common meals together in groups of thirteen persons, and they have two girl-singers for each banquet [symposion]. Their leader holds many drinking-bouts in magnificent style, but no one drinks more than eleven cupfuls, each time using a different golden cup," though this could describe a secular celebration.
The religions of Arabia, and many other Semitic-speaking areas, tended to be aniconic - that is, they averted depictions of their deities - this tradition can be seen today in Islam, which avoids depictions of Muhammad and Allah. Instead, they primarily worshipped to stelae, rock carvings often of simple geometric shapes, on which sacrificial blood would be smeared. While the Nabataeans depicted foreign gods with images, they avoided doing so with their own gods. Later on, the Byzantine emperor Leo III would be accused of being a Nabataean, for his destruction of icons.
An Inscription from a Nabataean Tomb
The following inscription found at Turkmaniyyeh does some good illuminating the religion of the Nabataeans, in particular their burial practices.
Qbr’ dnh wṣryḥ’ rb’ dy bh wṣryḥ’ z’yr’ dy gw’ mnh dy bh bty mqbryn ‘bydty gwḥyn wkrk’ dy qdmyhm w’rkwt’ wbty’ dy bh wgny’ wgnt smk’ wb’rwt my’ wṣhwt’ wṭwry’ wš’ryt kl ‘ṣl’ b’try’ ‘lh ḥrm wḥrg dwšr’ ‘lh mr’n’ wmwtbh ḥryš’ w’lhy’ klhm bšṭry ḥrmyn kdy bhm wpwdn dwšr’ wmwtbh w’lhy’ klhm dy kdy bšṭry ḥrmy’ ‘nw yt’bd wl’ ytšn’ wl’ ytpṣṣ mn kl dy bhm mnd’m wl’ ytqbr bqbr’ dnh ‘nwš klh lhn mn dy ktyb lh tn’ mqbr bšṭry ḥrmy’ ‘nw ‘d ‘lm
Qabrâ daneh wa sarîkhâ rabâ dî-beh sarîkhâ za’îrâ dî gawâ meneh dî-beh batî maqbrîn ‘abîdthî gawahîn wa karkâ dî-qdamêhem wa ‘arkōtâ wa batayyâ dî-beh wa gnayyâ wa gantâ smākâ wa bî’arōt mayyâ wa sahōtâ wa tûrayyâ wa sha’rît kul ‘aslâ be’atrayyâ ‘aleh kharm wa harag dûsharâ ‘alahâ marânâ wa mōtabeh kharîsh wa ‘alahayyâ kulhem beshtarê harmîn kadî behem wa puqdān dûsharâ wa mōtabeh wa 'alahayyâ kulhem dî-kadî beshtarê kharmayyâ 'enû yith'abed wa lâ yithshanâ wa lâ yithfassa man kul dî-behem mend’em wa lâ yithqbar beqbarâ daneh ‘anōsh kuleh lāhen man dî-ktîv leh tanâ maqbar beshtarê kharmayyâ 'enû ‘ed ‘alam.
This tomb, the large chamber within it, the small chamber beyond it (in which the burial niches are located), the enclosure in front of them, the pillars and the chambers within, the gardens and triclinium, the cisterns of water, the chapels, the courtyards, and the rest of the property within these premises, are dedicated to Dûsharâ the god of our lord, his sacred throne, and all of their gods according to the documents of consecration; it is the charge of Dushara, his throne, and all of their gods that it should be done as in said documents of consecration: that nothing within these premises should be changed or removed and that no one shall be buried in this tomb except those for whom an authorisation for burial is written within the documents of consecration, forever.
Major Deities of the Nabatu
'Ilātu - 'Ilātu, commonly known by her Arabic (as opposed to Aramaic) names, al-'Ilāt or Allat, recorded by Herodotus as Alilat. She was worshiped throughout the North Arabia, from Hatra to Hegra, and down the coast as well (though this could be later spread); early Islamic sources frequently mention her, and she is prominent in the Kitab al-Asnam (The Book of Idols) - she was one of the deities of the Ka'bah. She was equated with Athena and Minerva in Greek and Roman sources, and is often called "The Goddess," "The Great Goddess" in multilingual inscriptions. Along with her sisters 'Ûzzâ and Manawāt, she was one of the chief 3 goddesses of pre-Islamic Mecca, and all were considered daughters of Allah.
To avoid confusion, it should be stated here that Allah was known to pre-Islamic Arabs as the supreme deity. This is evidenced by the Quran. Sura 29:61, for example, says "And if you ask them [the pagans], Who created the heavens and the earth and made the sun and the moon subservient, they will certainly say, Allah." Suras 31:25 and 39:38 echo the same idea. Indeed, the fact that the idea of a supreme deity was so widespread among the Arabs aided the expansion of Islam significantly. The core difference between Islam and these pre-Islamic beliefs lay in the assertion of the existence of only a single deity by Islam.
Qaumâ - Qaum was a god of war and a protector of the night; his "role" was mainly that of a caravan vanguard, and as such he was of particular importance to the Nabatu, who achieved their success through caravan trade. He was the principal god of the Nabatu in their early period and at the start date of our game.
Kutbâ - "The Scribe" - Kutbâ was a god of scrolls and writing, and was brought to Egypt by Arabian merchants; Egyptian-style temples dedicated to him have been found. He was commonly associated with Hermes during the latter phase of the Nabataean kingdom.
Dusharâ - "The Lord of the [Shara] Mountains" (the mountains around Petra and Zela) - The chief deity among the settled and Hellenised Nabatu, he was especially venerated in the Edom area (some think he originated as an Edomite deity) as well as the Lihyan area. He was associated with many gods; often as Zeus, since the two shared a role as head of their respective pantheons; Dushara was also cast in the role of Dionysos and Ares by Greco-Roman sources. The Byzantine Souda, a lexicographical compilation, says:
Theos Ares (Dushara); this is the god Ares in Arabic Petra. They worship the god Ares and venerate him above all. His statue is an unworked square black stone, four feet high and two feet wide. It rests on a golden base. To this they sacrifice and pour out the blood of sacrificial victims; this is for them the libation. The whole building is rich in gold and has many details.”
'Ûzzâ - "The Powerful/Mightiest One" - More commonly known as al-Uzza, she is first mentioned in inscriptions from Dedan, and became the goddess of Petra, alongside Dushara; two temples are dedicated to them, respectively, in Petra; the one to 'Ûzzâ featured winged lions. Like Isis in Egypt, she assumed the roles of many minor local goddesses, and the cult of 'Ûzzâ became extremely popular, and features prominently in the early history of Islam, being the primary idol of the Quraysh. Fittingly, she was identified with Isis during the later phase of the kingdom.''
Manōtu - The goddess of fate, equated with the goddess Nemesis in the Hellenistic view; she was known to the pre-Islamic Arabs around Mecca and Yathrib (later Medina) as Manāt, and was the wife of Hubal in their tradition.
How Many Gods?
Unlike the comparatively simple Greek mythology, the identities of Semitic deities are quite complicated. Considering the close interrelatedeness of Semitic languages and religions (given their geographical proximity to each other), it can be difficult to identify one deity as clearly different from another. This makes it somewhat ambiguous whether deities are different entities or one and the same.
One interesting thing to note about the Nabataean "gods" is that their names are actually titles or epithets. "Du Sharâ" literally means "The Lord of the Shara Mountains," a title that refers to the fact that he was the supreme male deity venerated in the area around the Shara mountains, the Nabataean homeland (where he is often referred to simply as 'ilāhâ, "the god"). "Kutbâ" roughly means "The Scribe," which is why his name is translated into Arabic as "al-Kutbay." Further evidence of this can be found in the multitude of names that end in 'lh or 'lhy, "The God," implying the one truly significant [male] god, or Dushara as he was known to the Nabatu. The same sort of pattern can be found among the female deities: 'Uzzâ means "The Powerful" and 'Ilātu (Arabic al-'Ilāt or Allāt, Safaitic han-'llāt) literally means "The Goddess."
Some of the most convincing support that Northern Arabs only had two definite deities comes from Herodotus, who (speaking of the Arabs, referring to West-Semitic speaking Northern Arabs) says, "They believe in no other gods except Dionysus and the Heavenly Aphrodite; and they say that they wear their hair as Dionysus does his, cutting it round the head and shaving the temples. They call Dionysus, Orotalt; and Aphrodite, Alilat." It is known that Orotalt was another name for Dusharâ; evidence of this comes from the fact that Dusharâ, too, was identified with Dionysus by the highly Hellenized Nabatu. Alilat is clearly a transliteration of al-'Ilāt, that is to say, "The Goddess," the one and only.
The Incense and spice Routes
The incense routes are a collection of routes followed by the nomadic and semi-nomadic traders who travelled 1,200 miles from the southern, incense-producing lands to the north of Arabia. This trade came into existence when the camel, whose domestication most probably began around 3000 BC, started to be used as a pack animal in the second half of the second millennium BC. Most often authors put forth 1200BC as an estimate. Before this trade was mainly done by sea and limited mostly to the Eastern coast of the Peninsula, especially the pearls from Dilmun and the copper from Magan were popular trading goods prior to the existence of the incense routes. Though one must not forget that incense and myrrh were not the only goods that travelled these routes. Spices, minerals and gems - imported from India, Soqotra ,Africa and from Arabia proper - also formed an important and significant part of the Arabian trade.
The incense routes were a collection of multiple routes, which passed and led to many different settlements and markets. Obviously the importance of the various routes shifted with time and not all routes may have come into existence simultaneously. The most important and best-known routes are those following the Red Sea coast in the West. The most important incense-producing lands were those of the Hadramawt in modern East Yemen and especially the Qara mountains in what is now called the Dhofar region, which lie on the southern coast of present day Oman. The latter was presumably home to the 'Ad tribes or legendary Ubarites, one of the many peoples of Arabia fabled for being immensely rich. However little evidence for them exists. Around the fourth or third century BC the Hadramawt founded outposts and ports on these coasts with Sumhuram as the most known and famous one.
From here traders travelled westwards to lands of the Qatabân and the Sabaeans, which also produced incense but in lesser quantities. The main branch of the incense routes then went northwards into the lands of the federation of the most famous incense traders, the Ma’in or Minaeans. As with most of the southern Arabian kingdoms their economy was largely based on the numerous and heavy taxes the traders had to pay in return for their protection. The Ma’in were considered the greatest traders of all and were known for their long-distance trade, especially with their main trade partner, Egypt. The extent of their trading networks is most noticeably evidenced in not just Egypt but even as far as Delos, where an altar devoted to their god Wadd was erected. Along these routes communities settled and some large cities may even have been founded, presumably as trade colonies. The Ma’in are often regarded and credited as the founders of some of the northern trade settlements such as Dedan. What we do know, however, is that Ma’in influence and even rule at times indeed extended this far north, as Minaic kings are attested in local epigraphic texts.
Europa Barbarorum II will feature incense as a resource on the strategy map.
However after leaving the nucleus of Ma’in territory an important branch separated at Najran, home of the Muh ‘amar, one of the largest of the southern settlements, to cross the peninsula north-eastwards towards the remote but prosperous coastal sea trading city of Gerrha. From here the incense was traded largely by sea but it also travelled farther on camelback to Persia and later the Seleucid or Parthian empires. Early on the incense routes were supplemented by sea routes as for example the important sea route in the Red Sea with Leuke Kome as the end station, from which camels brought it further north. In the west the main end stations were Petra, Palmyra and the ports of Gaza and Alexandria. From here incense was spread and sold to most of the known world, where it was most precious as it was needed for many religious ceremonies.
During the last centuries of the first millennium BC there was an evolution to increased naval trade. The main factors were the strong and organised empires of the Ptolemaioi and later the Romani who wanted their share of the action, both using Alexandria as the main centre and benefactor. This was possible not only due to their naval capabilities but due to the newly discovered system behind the Monsoon winds, a long-protected secret of the Arabs, which eased sailing to and from India and round Arabia. Not surprisingly this meant the beginning of the downfall for many of the land trade-dependent nations. It also meant a shift in economic activity in North Arabia, where agriculture and crafts became more important. The east of Arabia however was presented with a new period of flourishing trade, of which the coastal trade hub Ed-dur was one of the side effects. Especially the southern settlements in the east profited from this shift to sea trade, due to a significantly increased amount of direct trade with Charax in the north. This meant they no longer had to use Gerrha as a side stop, increasing profit margins. Here as well there was a shift of power when it comes to the control over the sea trade with the Parthians taking over from the Seleucids, but this did not have such important effect on trade. It was not until their successors, the Sassanids, conquered the eastern part of Arabia that this period of flourish came to an end.
The importance of the incense routes cannot be overlooked and was not only central to the economy of the Arabians, but it was central to and determined their way of life.