Nabataean Inscriptions

On this page, you will find several ancient Nabataean inscriptions.

A Deified Nabataean King

One of the three Nabataean kings named Obodas was deified as a healing god, probably Obodas I (r.96-87 BCE). How serious this cult was, is proved by an inscription from Madaba, which mentions a man named Abdobodat, a "servant of Obodas". The following inscription, a votive offering from the first century CE, is not without interest because it contains a (still unintelligable) poem of several lines, written in Arabic. They are the oldest evidence for this language.

May he who recites this inscription before the god Obodas be remembered for good and may whoever ... be remembered.

Garmalahi son of Taymalahi set up a statue before the god Obodas.

And he [Obodas] works without reward or favor, and he, when death tried to claim us, did not let it claim us, for when a wound of us festered, he did not let us perish.

Garmalahi wrote this with his own hand.

Religious Laws from Petra

The following text, written on 14 August 28/29 CE on a slab of marble, was once attached to a temple wall. The text is not really well-understood, and the translation is tentative, but appears to refer to the duties of the priest.

Whatever he receives of silver or gold or offerings or provisions of any kind, or of silver (coinage) or bronze (coinage) ... and the other half (will be allotted) to the priests after the carrying out of a proclamation of delinquency before this (time). Then there shall be allotted ...

... concerning it, whoever does other than all of what is written above shall as a consequence repay that which was found out ...

On the fourth day of Ab, the thirty-seventh year of Aretas, king of the Nabataeans, lover of his people, and ...

A Tomb Inscription from Mada'in Salih

Many tombs have been excavated in Hegra, modern Mada'in Salih in Saudi Arabia. The following one informs us about several pre-Islamic, Arab deities, and has a remarkably legal nature. The text can be dated to December 1 BCE / January 1 CE; it was carved by a man named Wahballahi, whose father's name was Abdobodat. He cannot have been born before, say, 35 BCE, which makes it extremely unlikely that the deified Obodas (above) was another one than Obodas I.

This is the tomb which Kamkam daughter of Wa'ilat daughter of Haramu and Kulaybat, her daughter, made for themselves and their descendants.

In the month of Tebeth, the ninth year of Aretas, lover of his people.

And may [the supreme god] Dushara and his throne and [the goddess] Allat of Amnad and [the goddess] Manotu and her Qaysha curse anyone who sells this tomb or who buys it or gives it in pledge or makes a gift of it or removes from it body or limb or who buries in it anyone other than Kamkam and her daughter and their descendants.

And whoever does not act according to what is written above, shall be liable to Dushara and Hubalu and to Manotu in the sum of five shamads and to the exorcist priest for a fine of a thousand Aretite sela's, except that whoever produces in his hand a document from the hand of Kamkam or Kulaybat, her daughter, regarding this tomb, this document will be valid.

[The mason] Wahballahi son of Abdobodat made it.


This page was created in 2009; last modified on 4 October 2020.