Petra was early occupied by the Edomites (see Edom ) and by the Nabataeans (an Arab tribe; see Nabataea ), who had their capital there from the 4th cent. BC until the Roman occupation in AD 106. The city is referred to as Sela in the Bible (2 Kings 14.7). It was for many centuries the focal point of a vast caravan trade but declined with the rise of Palmyra ; however, it remained a religious center of Arabia. Under the Romans in the 2d and 3d cent. it was included in the province of Arabia Petraea. An early seat of Christianity, it was conquered by the Muslims in the 7th cent. and in the 12th cent. was captured by the Crusaders, who built a citadel there. Petra was unknown to the Western world until its ruins were visited by Johann Burckhardt in 1812.
See M. I. Rostovtsev, Caravan Cities (1932, repr. 1971); I. Browning, Petra (1974); M. G. Amadasi Guzzo and E. Equini Schneider, Petra (2002); J. Taylor, Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans (2002).
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