Nabataean Maritime Trade

Abdullah A. Al-Abduljabbar


The Nabataeans are often depicted as desert dwellers, who were engaged in pastoralism and caravan trade along the vast tracts of the Arabian Peninsula, Syria and Egypt. But in their commercial activities, they visited many ports and seas to exchange goods from the East and built political and economic relations. Classical authors testify to their participation in the maritime trade in the Red Sea. Nabataean inscriptions and archaeological finds confirm their commercial presence in the Red Sea and along the Mediterranean coast and islands. Although numerous studies have been devoted to goods from the East in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, none have addressed Nabataean activities, despite their participation in domestic and international commerce.
The paper will cover the period from the 4th century BC to the second century AD. Archaeological evidence, historical records and epigraphic material contain sufficient information to demonstrate the range of their involvement in the sea. I assume that important aspects about the Nabataeans and their sources of wealth can be illuminated from studying Nabataean maritime trade.


Nabataeans, Commerce, Red Sea, Mediterranean

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