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Under Roman Rule


Photo: © Cincinnati Art Museum; Photographer: Peter John Gates FBIPP, ARPS, Ashwell, UK

Goddess with diadem

For centuries Petra thrived in its remote valley, queen city of a rich and fiercely independent kingdom. But while it flourished, a superpower 1,500 miles to the west gathered size and strength. Rome, with its great wealth, voracious appetite for territory and trade goods--and seemingly invincible army--cast a lengthening shadow over the affairs of the ancient Near East. And when the empire began expanding eastward in earnest, annexation of Petra was only a matter of time. In AD 106 Emperor Trajan laid claim to all of Nabataea, calling his prize Arabia Petraea.

For Rome, Nabataea completed a massive jigsaw puzzle. Once the kingdom was annexed, all Mediterranean trade fell under imperial control. The new province would also serve as a staging area for campaigns against Parthia, a hostile Iranian kingdom farther to the east. After the seemingly bloodless takeover, life for ordinary Nabataeans probably went on much as before. Sheltered by Rome's might, trade routes were safer, and--at least for a while--some caravans still stopped at Petra. For the next three centuries, the fate of the desert city would be yoked to the fate of Rome.

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