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Aretas IV Philopatris

File:Bronze Coin of Aretas IV.jpg
Caption: Bronze Coin of Aretas IV, with Inscription "Aretas King of Nabathæa . . . Year . . ."

Aretas IV Philopatris (Ḥāritat in Nabataean)[1] was the King of the Nabataeans from roughly 9 BCE to CE 40.

Aretas came to power after the assassination of Obodas III, who was apparently poisoned.[2] Josephus says that he was originally named Aeneas, but took "Aretas" as his throne name.[3] An inscription from Petra suggests that he may have been a member of the royal family, as a descendent of Malichus I.[4]

His full title, as given in the inscriptions, was "Aretas, King of the Nabataeans, Friend of his People." Being the most powerful neighbour of Judea, he frequently took part in the state affairs of that country, and was influential in shaping the destiny of its rulers. While on not particularly good terms with Rome and though it was only after great hesitation that Augustus recognized him as king, nevertheless he took part in the expedition of Varus against the Jews in the year 4 BCE, and placed a considerable army at the disposal of the Roman general.

Aretas had two wives. The first was Huldu to whom he was already married when he became king. Her profile was featured on Nabataean coins until CE 16. After a gap of a few years the face of his second wife, Shaqilath, began appearing on the coins.[5]

Defeat of Herod Antipas

His daughter Phasaelis married Herod Antipas, otherwise known as Herod the Tetrarch. When Phasaelis discovered Herod intended to divorce her in order to take his brother's wife Herodias, mother of Salome, some time before the death of Philip 33/34 CE,[6] she fled to her father. Aretas IV invaded Herod's holdings, defeated his army, partly because soldiers from Philip's tetrarchy changed sides.[7]

Josephus, the source for these events, says that some Jews attributed the defeat of Herod Antipas, which occurred during the winter of CE 36/37, to the beheading of John the Baptist.

Herod Antipas then appealed to Emperor Tiberius, who dispatched Vitellius the governor of Syria to attack Aretas. Vitellius mustered his legions and moved southward, stopping in Jerusalem for the passover of CE 37, when news of the emperor's death arrived and the invasion of Nabataea was never completed.[8]

The Christian Apostle, Paul, mentions that he had to sneak out of Damascus in a basket through a window in the wall to escape the ethnarch of King Aretas. (2 Corinthians 11:32, 33, cf Acts 9:23, 24). However, there is some dispute as to if troops belonging to Aretas actually controlled the city or if Paul was actually referring to "the official in control of a Nabataean community in Damascus, and not the city as a whole."[9][10][11]

Aretas IV died in CE 40 and was succeeded by his son Malichus II.[5]

See also

List of rulers of Nabatea


  1. ^ G. W. Bowersock (1971). "A Report on Arabia Provincia". The Journal of Roman Studies 61: 221. doi:10.2307/300018. 
  2. ^ Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 16.296 (16.9.4)
  3. ^ Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 16.294 (16.9.4)
  4. ^ Jane Taylor (2001). Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans. I B Tauris. p. 66. ISBN 9781860645082. 
  5. ^ a b Jane Taylor (2001). Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans. I B Tauris. p. 69. ISBN 9781860645082. 
  6. ^ Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 18.4.6, 18.5.1, and 18.5.4
  7. ^ Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 18.109-118
  8. ^ Jane Taylor (2001). Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans. I B Tauris. p. 72. ISBN 9781860645082. 
  9. ^ Alpass, Peter (2013) The Religious Life of Nabataea BRILL pg 175
  10. ^ Riesner, Rainer (1998) Paul's Early Period Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1998 pg 81-82
  11. ^ Gerd Ludemann (2002) Paul: The Founder of Christianity pg 38

See also

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