This post is meant describe the decline Nabataean Kingdom. So around the 7th-8th century CE, a glorious episode of the Land of Israel had come to an end. A period that lasted about 1,500 years. And It’s beginning was marked by the rise of prosperous cities that rose from the Desert’s sand. Ultimately ended with the destruction of those cities and their abandonment. These cities were built with enormous efforts and dexterity; alongside the deep acquaintance of the desert and its inherent possibilities. Later, they were destroyed by the new inhabitants of the wilderness that the Nabataean cities were alien to them.
The Decline Nabataean Kingdom: Why Did the Nabateans Leave?
Another reason for the abandonment of the Nabataean cities is that were built in such great efforts is told in ancient papyrus that was found by Harris Duncombe Colt and his archaeological team during excavations at Nitzana in 1935. During the 5th-6th century CE. At their peak, the Byzantine rulers had designated the Nabatean cities the task of being some kind of military outpost in the Limes Palestine. Which was a line of fortifications that crossed the Negev from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea. As a result, the Nabateans were exempt from paying taxes that the rest of the population was forced to pay. But after the Muslims took over they were obligated to pay heavy taxes which eventually ruined their economy.
What Does the Nessana Papyri Tell Us?
From the Nessana papyri, it is now known that the Nabateans of the Negev had to pay texas to the Muslim rulers in commodities like wheat and olive oil but in great amounts. But far more important was the production of wine that was produced by Nabateans since the 3rd century CE. And was in high demand among the soldiers of the Byzantine army. Now that the Byzantines had lost and retreated; the main consumer of that precious wine was gone. Moreover, perhaps even the possibility to export the precious wine to Europe was now not possible. So for two more generations, the Nabateans were struggling for their existence. But in the end, they had to call it quits; pack up and move on to more promising regions than the harsh Negev desert.
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