Aretas IV Philopatris

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

Aretas IV Philopatris (Arabic: حارثة الرابع Ḥāritat in Nabataean)[1] was the King of the Nabataeans from roughly 9 BC to 40 AD.

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 descendant 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 not on 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 BC, 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 16 AD. After a gap of a few years the face of his second wife, Shaqilath, began appearing on the coins.[5]

Defeat of Herod Antipas

The Khazneh at Petra, is believed to be Aretas IV's mausoleum.

His daughter Phasaelis married Herod Antipas, otherwise known as Herod the Tetrarch. When Phasaelis discovered Herod Antipas intended to divorce her in order to take a new wife Herodias, mother of Salome, who was already married to his brother Herod Philip, the father of Salome, some time before the death of Herod Philip 33/34 CE,[6] she fled to her father. Aretas IV invaded Herod Antipas' holdings and defeated his army, partly because soldiers from the domain of Philip the Tetrarch (a third brother) 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 Lucius Vitellius the Elder 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. 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 whether troops belonging to Aretas actually controlled the city or if Paul was 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, and daughter Shaqilath

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. ^ Jane Taylor (2001). Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans. I B Tauris. p. 69. ISBN 9781860645082. 
  6. ^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 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

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Aretas IV". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. 

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