About Aretas IV 'Philopatris', King of Nabataea
Aretas IV Philopatris was the King of the Nabataeans from roughly 9 BC to AD 40. 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 - as intimated by his surname, "Friend of his People", which is in direct opposition to the prevalent φιλορώμαις ("Friend of the Romans") and φιλόκαισαρ ("Friend of the Emperor") - 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 BC, and placed a considerable army at the disposal of the Roman general.
His daughter Phasaelis married Herod Antipas, otherwise known as Herod the Tetrarch. When Herod divorced Phasaelis to take his brother's wife Herodias, mother of Salome, in AD 26, Phasaelis fled to her father. Aretas IV invaded Herod's holdings, defeated his army and captured territories along the West Bank of the Jordan River, including the areas around Qumran.
The classical author Josephus connects this battle, which occurred during the winter of AD 26/27, with the beheading of John the Baptist, but not necessarily occurring at the same time. Herod Antipas then appealed to Emperor Tiberius, who dispatched the governor of Syria to attack Aretas. But because of the emperor's death in AD 37 this action was never carried out.
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 Governor (ethnarch) of King Aretas. (2 Corinthians 11:32, 33, cf Acts 9:23, 24), The question remains open as to when King Aretas received Damascus from Caligula in the imperial settlement of the affairs of Syria. The Aretas’ administration in Damascus may have begun as early as CE 37 based upon archeological evidence in the form of a Damascus coin, with the image of King Aretas and the date 101. If that date points to the Pompian era, it equals C.E. 37 (T. E. Mionnet, Description des medailles antiques greques et romaines, V , 284f.)
- ^ Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 18.109-118
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.