Timeline of World History: Year by Year from Prehistory to Present Day


  Illustrated History of the World

The Ancient World - ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.

The Ancient World

ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.


Judea and Arabia before the Romans

CA.1100 B.C.-136 A.D.



The Kingdoms of South Arabia


Kingdoms in South Arabia grew rich from the 1 caravan trade of the Incense Road. In the first century A.D. the Himyars of Saba (Sheba) were able to bring the whole region under their control.


1 An Arab Caravan, painting by Alberto Pasini



1 Caravan on its way to the Red Sea, painting by Alberto Pasini, 1864



Caravan in the Desert, painting by Alberto Pasini


The Arabian Peninsula, inhabited since the Paleolithic age, has been home to Semitic tribes since the third millennium в.с. These peoples have generally been referred to as "Arab" and are mentioned in Assyrian sources as early as the ninth century B.C. While the inhospitable central desert was largely crossed only by nomads, a number of city kingdoms developed in the more favorable climes of the south (present-day Yemen and Oman along the coast).

Very early on, they built irrigation systems like the 2 dam of 3 Marib and profited from the incense trade.


2 Dam of Marib, in present-day Yemen

3 Terracotta statuettes from Marib in Yemen


They connected the Persian Gulf with India and even China by caravan and shipping trade routes. Incense, myrrh, and spices reached the Mediterranean by way of the militarily guarded caravan stations and cities built on rocky hilltops.

The South Arabian empire of Saba, or Sheba, initially ruled by priest-princes and then from the fifth century B.C. by kings, developed in the tenth century. Its capital was Marib.

The visit of the 7 queen of Sheba to King Solomon, as reported in the Old Testament, reflects Israel s trade relations with the southern Arabian area.



7  The Queen of Sheba and Solomon by Tintoretto

see also text

KING SOLOMON "Song of Songs"

Another state that is mentioned in inscriptions dating back to the tenth and ninth centuries B.C. is 4, 5 Qataban, with its capital Timna.


 4 Figure with sword and dagger,
found in Qataban, first с a.d.

5 Depiction of a goddess carrying
an ear sheaf, found in
Qataban, first century B.C.


This kingdom reached its height in the second century B.C. but was conquered by the 6 Hadhramauts about 20 a.d.

The kingdom of the Hadhramauts, whose capital was Shibam, began its ascendancy at the beginning of the first century a.d., and by 50 a.d. was sovereign overall of southeastern Arabia.

At this time, the kingdom of Saba, under the tribe of Himyars, was regaining importance. The Himyars made the rocky fortress Zafar their new capital and conquered the Hadhramauts, bringing all of South Arabia under their rule by around 300 a.d. Following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a.d., the Himyarite kingdom experienced a strong influx of Jewish communities and, from the fourth century on, of Christian communities. Originally the Himyarite kingdom had good relations with Christian Abyssinia, but the persecution of Christians by the last Himyarite rulers, who were religiously inclined toward Judaism, resulted in an attack by the Abyssinians in 525. The kingdom was subsequently conquered by the Persian Sassanids in 575.


6 The village Kawkaban in western Hadhramaut


The Nabataea of Petra


The kingdom of the Nabataea also became wealthy through its position on the Incense Road. It had become a leading power in the region by the second century B.C., but ultimately succumbed to the power of Rome.


The Nabataea migrated out of the Arabian Peninsula and into the territory of present-day Jordan in the fourth century B.C.

They founded 8, 9 Petra (today Wadi Musa) in a rocky basin of soft red sandstone that was accessible only through a narrow 13 gorge.

Up until the second century B.C. they remained without political ambitions and lived in their secluded valley as herdsmen, caravan guides, and traders, maintaining good relations with Egypt, Persia, and Greece. The Nabataea controlled an important section of the incense route and built warehouses for goods and foodstuffs in the rock faces.


Ed-Deir ("the Convent") of Petra


9 Petra



13 The gorge Siq is the main entrance to Petra

Urn Tomb


Some of these became multistoried dwellings, burial complexes, and shrines in which, at first, 11 stone idols and later deified rulers were worshiped. The Nabataea produced finely decorated 10 pottery, which became a sought-after article in the Orient.


11 Anthropomorphic idol
with a Nabataean inscription

10 Three containers for incense from the Ancient East,
tenth-sixth century в.с


12 The amphitheater in Petra, built in the
first century B.C. and extended by the Romans

Nabataean politics changed in the second century B.C. and the kingdom began to expand. The kings proceeded cautiously in the power struggles between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies, aiding the Jews in their revolt against the Seleucids in 164 B.C.

New times came with Аretas III, who conquered half of Palestine and a large part of Syria from the Seleucids in 84 B.C. The inhabitants of Damascus chose him as king. He went on to besiege Jerusalem in 65 B.C. but was forced to withdraw when threatened with war by the Romans. Still, Aretas III had extended his kingdom from Damascus in the north to Egypt in the west. Aretas IV (9 в.с-49 a.d.) conducted a victorious campaign in Judea against Herod Antipas, who had divorced his wife, Are-tas's daughter, to marry his niece Herodias.

Aretas ruled in harmony with the Romans and, with the construction of an aqueduct and the 12 amphitheater in Petra, achieved a cultural merging of Nabataean, Hellenistic, and Roman building styles, which is characteristic of the surviving structures that were cut from the living rock.

The death of the Nabataean king Rabel II (70-105) provided Rome with the excuse to occupy the kingdom in 105, resulting in Petra's destruction. Emperor Trajan turned it into a Roman province.



Petra Rediscovered

Petra became the capital of the Roman province Palaestina Tertia in 106 and was still the seat of a Christian bishopric into the fourth century. After being overrun by the Arabs in the seventh century, the city decayed and lay completely forgotten in its inaccessible rocky valley until it was identified in 1812 by the Swiss Orientalist Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, following up on reports of indigenous nomads.



Johann Ludwig Burckhardt

see also:

David Roberts

"A Journey in the Holy Land"

David Roberts