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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.


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 Empire.


Qala'im Arabim (Arabian Slingers)

Slings are a common poor man's weapon, no matter where you go, and Arabia is no exception. A mixture of poor folk, older boys, and ageing men, these Arabs head into battle protecting their herds and lands from whatever enemy wishes to take them away. While valuable troops from a distance, they are nigh-worthless in close combat, with only a simple knife to defend themselves against whatever sword, spear, or - the gods forbid - horseman the enemy throws at them. Thus, they must be kept out of close combat, but if this is done, they will serve their chieftain or Malek well, and rain pestilence and death from afar.

Muqrabê Lukhâta (North Arabian Spearmen)

Muqrabê Lukhâta('Warriors of the Spear') these men are not levies per se, and are generally superior to Pantodapoi and such eastern spear levies, having lived a harsh live in the desert and experienced a raid or two in their time. However, they are not reliable warriors, and will fold to almost any infantry of any quality. Relying their speed and buckler to ward off enemy missiles, they are very vulnerable to arrows, but can put up resistance for a while to lighter horsemen. Their best use is as a mobile reserve, the final piece in a battle-plan, to move in to support the swordsmen and finish off an enemy tired and weakened by sling-bullet, arrow, and most importantly, the desert.

Muqrabîn (North Arabian Shortswordsmen)

These are the veterans among the North Arabian tribes: men who have seen and lived through many a raid. Hardy men from the desert, they rush into battle with what they can afford - sword, helmet, and buckler - and cut down enemy skirmishers or spear-armed infantry. Relying their speed and buckler to ward off enemy missiles, they are very vulnerable to arrows, and do not stand much of a chance against a cavalry charge, but can effectively deal with infantry of similar quality. They are no match for well-equipped and trained Hellenistic troops, and should not be recklessly thrown at such enemies; rather, they are best used as a finishing touch, to deal with an enemy worn down by missiles of all sorts, as well as the desert heat, rather than a fresh and ready one.

Nabatean Horse Archers

These men are rich enough to afford horses and have trained as archers since their youth. They are a mobile and deadly force especially in the desert, which tires their adversaries. Their Arabian horses, famous for their stamina and their light armour, make them capable to outrun any enemy. As such they are able to attack their foes from distance. Their skill and the light armoured nature of arid warfare make them some of the dangerous troops available to any Arab commander. Even if their arrows would run out, their lances can still finish off their fatigued enemies.

Some suggest the Nabataeans first came to prominence by courtesy of their new camel saddles, making them superior travellers and providing them with superior camel archers. While their camel archers might be their most iconic unit and certainly more numerous, the superior speed, agility, intelligence and famous stamina of their horses make them the elite missile unit of northern Arabian armies. The horse especially trumps the camel when it comes to mêlée and charging.

Parashîn Khiarîn (Nabataean Noble Lancers)

Parashîn Khiarîn ('Noble Horsemen') are the best troops the chieftains of North Arabia can field. Mounted on horses, a rare and valuable creature in Arabia at this time, they are the elite among the tribes. Despite this, some of them cannot even afford armour. Those who can wear a Persian style thorax or quilted cotton armour, common among Arabians of this time; in addition to their bronze conical helmets, they are relatively well protected, able to take a few more hits than most of the less well-off tribesmen. For their weapons, they carry a sturdy lance, offering a powerful charge, and wield a good quality, Arabian-style sword in melee. They are well able to charge down many Arabian troops, and are even more powerful as a flanking force, however they will not overrun superior disciplined Hellenistic troops who will stand their ground in the face of a mounted assault. Here, they must fill the role of the hammer, with the infantry as the anvil or perhaps wipe out an enemy weary and weakened from stone and sand. Either way, they are a rare and key force for the Nabataean commander, and must be used wisely; they could very well be the key to the creation of a true Archê Arabâyâ.

Parashîn Khiarîn (Nabataean Bodyguard Lancers)

Parashîn Khiarîn ('Noble Horsemen') are the best troops the chieftains of North Arabia can field. Mounted on horses, a rare and valuable creature in Arabia at this time, they are the elite among the tribes. Despite this, some of them cannot even afford armour. Those who can wear a Persian style thorax or quilted cotton armour, common among Arabians of this time; in addition to their bronze conical helmets, they are relatively well protected, able to take a few more hits than most of the less well-off tribesmen. For their weapons, they carry a sturdy lance, offering a powerful charge, and wield a good quality, Arabian-style sword in melee. They are well able to charge down many Arabian troops, and are even more powerful as a flanking force, however they will not overrun superior disciplined Hellenistic troops who will stand their ground in the face of a mounted assault. Here, they must fill the role of the hammer, with the infantry as the anvil or perhaps wipe out an enemy weary and weakened from stone and sand. Either way, they are a rare and key force for the Nabataean commander, and must be used wisely; they could very well be the key to the creation of a true Archê Arabâyâ.

Thureophoroi (Hellenic Spearmen)


The thureophoroi represent the ability of the Hellenistic states to adapt to changing conditions. The coming of the Galatians has brought a shattering realisation that an evolution was necessary for continued success militarily. To that purpose, the thureophoroi have been developed. They fight with javelins and the common hoplite spear the dory. They are armoured with a helmet and at times greaves and a tube & yolk cuirass, and now use the Celtic thureos shield instead of the more familiar aspis or pelte. This elliptical shield of varying sizes is made of wood, covered in leather and has a horizontal grip. And with it, these men fight in a looser formation than traditional hoplitai, allowing them to be more mobile and flexible. They are a newer class of infantry, but are capable of many roles on the battlefield. Their key word is versatility; however, as Jack of all trades, they are masters of none.

The Galatian invasions and migrations of the 270s were incredibly destructive. Makedonia was hit the hardest, but few in the region escaped damage. It was during this epoch that the Hellenistic states saw the potential of infantry equipped similar to these invaders, which included utilising the thureos. Within the next few decades, this shield seems to have spread quickly, and could be seen even as far as the Bosporon kingdom north of the Black sea.

Thureophoroi proved their worth as an infantry class again and again as attested by their continual appearance in historical writings, iconography, inscriptions and documents. Their inherent flexibility meant that they could react to changing battlefield conditions much more quickly than the traditional hoplite or Makedonian phalangite - including their ability to operate in rough terrain as evidenced in Antiochos III's eastern campaigns. The Ptolemaic army particularly favoured this unit class, which may have been due to the large numbers of Galatians serving in Egypt, but also to the failure of the phalanx at the massive Battle of Panion. Regardless, thureophoroi and the heavier thorakitai became staples in the armies of the Ptolemies in the 2nd century: a testament to their capabilities.

Euzonoi (Hellenic Light Spearmen)

The euzonoi are the mainstay, light troops of Hellenistic armies. Sacrificing heavy arms and armour for mobility and range, they are akin to the peltastai of the Classical period. Like the peltastai, they may be understood as either the lightest of melee troops or the heaviest of the psiloi. Drawn primarily from the young men and burdened only by a light exomis, they are very mobile. Their armament consists of several javelins and a sword or dagger. To increase their survivability in skirmishes and melee, they carry the thureos shield, and those with access to them also wear helmets. Thus they are armed and trained for the express purpose of excelling as skirmishers, and while they are able to engage in melee, they are too lightly armed and armoured to last long against heavier or better-trained opponents without suffering severe casualties.

The euzonoi became one of the most important components of Hellenistic armies over the course of the 3rd century. The Galatian invasions in the early third century introduced the thureos to the Hellenistic world. By mid-century, many Hellenistic cities, confederations and kingdoms had begun equipping some of their soldiers with the new shield. Offering greater protection than the pelte and more affordable than the aspis, the thureos suited light troops well. The euzonoi were important contingents in practically any army in the Hellenistic period. For local operations, they often equalled in number the heavier contingents, and soldiers that performed well before their kings, generals and fellow soldiers could hope to win honour and advancement. They often undertook roles that utilized their mobility, seizing heights, attacking flanks, or harassing enemy troop formations.

Machairophoroi (Hellenic Swordsmen)

An extension of the concept of the thureophoroi, peltastai and Galatian influence upon the Hellenistic powers, the machairophoroi (sword-bearers) are distinguished by the short sword they carry. It is a design modeled on those carried by the Galatians and can be used for slashing or stabbing - similar to the more familiar gladius hispaniensis. Along with this sword, these infantrymen carry the seemingly ubiquitous javelins and are protected by a helmet, greaves, the thureos shield and possibly a tube & yolk cuirass. They function well in assault of fortifications, but their mobility and tactical flexibility means that they can be put to use almost anywhere.

The coming of the Galatians in the 270s left its mark on the Hellenistic kingdoms. This could be seen in units such as the euzonoi and thureophoroi. By the early 2nd century, a new innovation was seen in Ptolemaic Egypt: the machairophoroi. Although this class of unit could be seen throughout the Hellenistic world, it was in Egypt that it has most clearly been attested. Troops with this name could be seen as part of local police forces and were deployed to the Nile region to suppress rebellious regions. Furthermore, they played an increasing role in the Ptolemaic military throughout and after the 2nd century and it is troops of this type that were depicted on the Sido n stelai.

Thorakitai (Hellenic Heavy Spearmen)

The Thorakitai represent the second evolution of the concept of the Theurophoroi, and show definite influence by the Romaioi in their implementation. They are armored in mail and carry heavy javelins instead of the lighter javelins carried by the Thureophoroi. They are more expensive and less mobile than their more lightly armored companions, but make excellent shock troops for any Hellenic army. They are best utilized on the flanks of the phalanx to either flank the enemy while the phalanx pins them, or prevent enemy flankers from attacking the phalanx's vulnerable flanks. They are best used in combination with the lighter Thureophoroi, who can support them with extra javelins and more importantly, speed, to make sure they are not surrounded.

Historically, the Thorakitai were used much like the Thureophoroi, but more rarely and later on. They were expensive soldiers, and one had to be fairly wealthy to equip one's self as a Thorakites. They were only used in any real numbers by the Seleukidai and the city-states of Hellas. They were never used to their full potential until the Romaioi raised legions in Hellas, and the type of fighting practiced by the Romaioi Legions and Thorakitai became the norm rather than the exception.

Iudaioi Taxeis (Jewish Spearmen)

These Ioudaioi Taxeis have been recruited in the army for the purpose of providing reliable garrison troops, useful for policing borders and keeping the general population in line, but can fill a gap in a battle line in a pinch. Their equipment is fairly basic: a couple of solid javelins and a thrusting spear; most have access to helmets, fewer access to armor. Their main defenses are their peltai and their own vigilance. While they may appear unimpressive, they have compiled a good track record for loyalty and valor, and a reputations as tough and reliable medium infantry. Their boldness may lead them to take on much heavier, or more numerous, opponents. This makes them excellent troops to fight off the occasional raids from desert peoples or hold off a more serious invasion until more professional reinforcements have arrived.

The Ptolemaioi, who after the battle of Gaza gained a firm hold on Ioudaia, lacked the Hellenic manpower to firmly garrison all of Koile Syria as well as their possessions in Egypt and Hellas. To supplement their Hellenic forces, they began recruiting heavily from a few local, warlike populations. In Koile Syria, these were the Ioudaioi and Samareitai, many of whom fought in the small field armies used by the Ptolemaioi to police the borders against Arab raids or Seleukid invasions. They proved more valuable soldiers than the Ptolemaioi had expected, well able to defeat many comparable opponents in either skirmishes or close quarters battle, and many eventually received a full-size kleros in Aigyptos, where they were added to the ranks of the cavalry or even the Makedonian phalanx. With the advent of Seleukid rule in Ioudaia, after the battle of Panion, the Ioudaioi contingents did not fall out of favor. In fact, the Seleukid monarchs had been levying outlying Ioudaian populations to serve in garrison duty all over their empire, from Lydia to India, and they only increased their use of Ioudaioi after seizing the province from the Ptolemaioi. Their most famous action may have been that against Galatian raiders near Babylonia, when the other garrison troops refused to fight, and the Ioudaioi won the day. This policy helped the Seleukids slow the deterioration of their farther territories, but also led to more disastrous consequences--a more able enemy--when the Ioudaioi eventually revolted from Seleukid rule. Even after Epiphanes' wars against them, and the atrocities committed on both sides, the Ioudaioi remained common contingents in late Seleukid armies. Refugee Ioudaioi found a place in Aigyptos, and remained a significant population in both the Ptolemaic army, in Alexandreia, and in the Heliopolite nome of the eastern Delta, until the Roman Empire.

Lonchophoroi Hippeis (Hellenic Medium Cavalry)

Hail Stratege! Fine noblemen forming a sturdy body of cavalry whose purpose is to crash into your foe and have the staying power to breach his line are here, arrayed before you. Armed with heavy javelins, stout single handed lances and the mighty aspis of our ancestors, they can unleash a terrible charge. Once they have inflicted gruesome casualties on our enemies, they will switch to their melee weapon and begin a close-in slaughter. While men from Epeiros or Makedonia proper would have the sturdy Kopis, men further east may prefer the stout bladed war axe like that used by Alexander at the Granicus. They are armored with scale reinforced linen, greaves, and masked Phrygrian helmets that betray naught but the angry face of Zeus Pater or wrathful Poseidon. They are best used as a general purpose medium cavalry. However, if facing the sturdier men from the east, or, Gods forbid, the elite Hetairoi or massive Kataphraktoi of the Seleukides and Baktrioi, they may not have the staying power that they would against heavy cavalry. Use them well, and they will give your enemies naught but the death they so richly deserve!

Historically, the lancers of later Hellenistic armies were divided into several types. Some cavalry performed shock roles as a secondary function, with the charge itself being their goal, and thus it became necessary to develop a specific force of cavalry who could charge in suppport but lend staying power to their comrades. This sort of cavalry was used to great effect by the forces of Syrakousai and Taras in the west, Epeiros, Pergamon and Makedonia in the heartland of the Greek and Makedonian peoples, and the even the great Hellenistic kingdoms of Aigyptos, Syria, and Baktria. They appear on both sides at the battle of Magnesia, where they and the Pergamene Hetairoi checked the advance of more heavily armored Seleukid cavalry, allowing the Romans to roll up the line of Seleukid infantry. Still, they have some weaknesses, and should not be expected to defeat elite troops in prolonged battle.

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