AskDefine | Define Petra

User Contributed Dictionary

see petra

English

Etymology

A feminine form of Peter, identical with Late Latin petra "stone"; came into regular use in the nineteenth century.

Proper noun

  1. A given name.

Translations

female given name

Related terms

Czech

Proper noun

  1. A given name, cognate to Petra

Danish

Proper noun

Petra
  1. A given name, feminine of Peter.

Finnish

Proper noun

  1. A given name borrowed from German or Swedish; sometimes associated with dialectal Finnish petra.

German

Proper noun

Petra
  1. A given name, feminine form of Peter.

Norwegian

Proper noun

Petra
  1. A given name, feminine form of Peter.

Swedish

Proper noun

Petra
  1. A given name, feminine form of Peter.

Extensive Definition

Petra (from "petra", rock in Greek; Arabic: البتراء, Al-Butrā) is an archaeological site in Arabah, Aqaba Governorate, Jordan, lying on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It is renowned for its rock-cut architecture. Petra is also one of the new wonders of the world.
The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was discovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was famously described as "a rose-red city half as old as time" in a Newdigate prize-winning sonnet by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage." In 1985, Petra was designated a World Heritage Site.

Geography

Rekem is an ancient name for Petra and appears in Dead Sea scrolls associated with Mount Seir. Additionally, Eusebius and Jerome assert that Rekem was the native name of Petra, supposedly on the authority of Josephus, Pliny the Elder and other writers identify Petra as the capital of the Nabataeans, Aramaic-speaking Semites, and the centre of their caravan trade. Enclosed by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra not only possessed the advantages of a fortress but controlled the main commercial routes which passed through it to Gaza in the west, to Bosra and Damascus in the north, to Aqaba and Leuce Come on the Red Sea, and across the desert to the Persian Gulf. The latitude is 30° 19' 43" N and the longitude is 35° 26' 31" E.
Excavations have demonstrated that it was the ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, in effect creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. These innovations stored water for prolonged periods of drought, and enabled the city to prosper from its sale.
Although in ancient times Petra might have been approached from the south (via Saudi Arabia on a track leading around Jabal Haroun, Aaron's Mountain, on across the plain of Petra), or possibly from the high plateau to the north, most modern visitors approach the ancient site from the east. The impressive eastern entrance leads steeply down through a dark, narrow gorge (in places only 3–4 metres wide) called the Siq ("the shaft"), a natural geological feature formed from a deep split in the sandstone rocks and serving as a waterway flowing into Wadi Musa. At the end of the narrow gorge stands Petra's most elaborate ruin, Al Khazneh ("the Treasury"), hewn into the sandstone cliff.
A little further from the Treasury, at the foot of the mountain called en-Nejr is a massive theatre, so placed as to bring the greatest number of tombs within view. At the point where the valley opens out into the plain, the site of the city is revealed with striking effect. The amphitheatre has actually been cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction. Rectangular gaps in the seating are still visible. Almost enclosing it on three sides are rose-colored mountain walls, divided into groups by deep fissures, and lined with knobs cut from the rock in the form of towers.

History

So far, no method has been found to determine when the history of Petra began. Evidence suggests that the city was founded relatively late, though a sanctuary may have existed there since very ancient times. This part of the country was traditionally assigned to the Horites, probably cave-dwellers, the predecessors of the Edomites. The habits of the original natives may have influenced the Nabataean custom of burying the dead and offering worship in half-excavated caves. However, the fact that Petra is mentioned by name in the Old Testament cannot be verified. Although Petra is usually identified with Sela which also means a rock, the Biblical references are not clear. 2 Kings xiv. 7 seems to be more specific. In the parallel passage, however, Sela is understood to mean simply "the rock" (2 Chr. xxv. 12, see LXX). As a result, many authorities doubt whether any town named Sela is mentioned in the Old Testament.
It is unclear exactly what Semitic inhabitants called their city. Apparently on the authority of Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews iv. 7, 1~ 4, 7), Eusebius and Jerome (Onom. sacr. 286, 71. 145, 9; 228, 55. 287, 94), assert that Rekem was the native name and Rekem appears in the Dead Sea scrolls as a prominent Edom site most closely describing Petra. But in the Aramaic versions Rekem is the name of Kadesh, implying that Josephus may have confused the two places. Sometimes the Aramaic versions give the form Rekem-Geya which recalls the name of the village El-ji, southeast of Petra. The capital, however, would hardly be defined by the name of a neighboring village. The Semitic name of the city, if not Sela, remains unknown. The passage in Diodorus Siculus (xix. 94–97) which describes the expeditions which Antigonus sent against the Nabataeans in 312 BC is understood to throw some light upon the history of Petra, but the "petra" referred to as a natural fortress and place of refuge cannot be a proper name and the description implies that the town was not yet in existence. Brünnow thinks that "the rock" in question was the sacred mountain en-Nejr (above). But Buhl suggests a conspicuous height about 16 miles north of Petra, Shobak, the Mont-royal of the Crusaders.
More satisfactory evidence of the date of the earliest Nabataean settlement may be obtained from an examination of the tombs. Two types may be distinguished—the Nabataean and the Greco-Roman. The Nabataean type starts from the simple pylon-tomb with a door set in a tower crowned by a parapet ornament, in imitation of the front of a dwelling-house. Then, after passing through various stages, the full Nabataean type is reached, retaining all the native features and at the same time exhibiting characteristics which are partly Egyptian and partly Greek. Of this type there exist close parallels in the tomb-towers at el-I~ejr [?] in north Arabia, which bear long Nabataean inscriptions and supply a date for the corresponding monuments at Petra. Then comes a series of tombfronts which terminate in a semicircular arch, a feature derived from north Syria. Finally come the elaborate façades copied from the front of a Roman temple; however, all traces of native style have vanished. The exact dates of the stages in this development cannot be fixed. Strangely, few inscriptions of any length have been found at Petra, perhaps because they have perished with the stucco or cement which was used upon many of the buildings. The simple pylon-tombs which belong to the pre-Hellenic age serve as evidence for the earliest period. It is not known how far back in this stage the Nabataean settlement goes, but it does not go back farther than the 6th century BC.
A period follows in which the dominant civilization combines Greek, Egyptian and Syrian elements, clearly pointing to the age of the Ptolemies. Towards the close of the 2nd century BC, when the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms were equally depressed, the Nabataean kingdom came to the front. Under Aretas III Philhellene, (c.8560 BC), the royal coins begin. The theatre was probably excavated at that time, and Petra must have assumed the aspect of a Hellenistic city. In the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris, (9 BC–AD 40), the fine tombs of the el-I~ejr [?] type may be dated, and perhaps also the great High-place.
Christianity found its way into Petra in the 4th century AD, nearly 500 years after the establishment of Petra as a trade center. Athanasius mentions a bishop of Petra (Anhioch. 10) named Asterius. At least one of the tombs (the "tomb with the urn"?) was used as a church. An inscription in red paint records its consecration "in the time of the most holy bishop Jason" (447). The Christianity of Petra, as of north Arabia, was swept away by the Islamic conquest of 629632. During the First Crusade Petra was occupied by Baldwin I of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and formed the second fief of the barony of Al Karak (in the lordship of Oultrejordain) with the title Château de la Valée de Moyse or Sela. It remained in the hands of the Franks until 1189. It is still a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church.
According to Arab tradition, Petra is the spot where Moses struck a rock with his staff and water came forth, and where Moses' sister, Miriam, is buried.

Decline

Petra declined rapidly under Roman rule, in large part due to the revision of sea-based trade routes. In 363 an earthquake destroyed many buildings, and crippled the vital water management system. The ruins of Petra were an object of curiosity in the Middle Ages and were visited by the Sultan Baibars of Egypt towards the close of the 13th century. The first European to describe them was Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.
Because the structures weakened with age, many of the tombs became vulnerable to thieves, and many treasures were stolen and remain unknown.

Petra Today

On December 6, 1985 Petra was designated a World Heritage Site.
In 2006 a team of architects began designing a "Visitor Centre," and Jordan's tourist revenue is expected to increase dramatically with the attraction of visitors on package holidays. The Jordan Times reported in December 2006 that 59,000 people visited in the two months October and November 2006, 25% fewer than the same period in the previous year, which may suggest that the flow of visitors may be affected by perception of political instability or travel safety considerations.
On July 7 2007, Petra was named one of New Open World Corporation's New Seven Wonders of the World.

Media Appearances

The picturesque site is a popular sight and featured in various works of art such as the movies Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Passion in the Desert, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and the Sisters of Mercy music video "Dominion". It was recreated for the video game Spy Hunter and appeared in the novels "Left Behind", "Appointment with Death", "The Eagle in the Sand" and "The Red Sea Sharks", in The Adventures of Tintin.

Photo Gallery

Notes

References

  • Bedal, Leigh-Ann. 2004. The Petra Pool-Complex: A Hellenistic Paradeisos in the Nabataean Capital. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press. ISBN 1–59333–120–7.
  • Rosemary Harty, "The Bedouin Tribes of Petra Photographs: 1986–2003" : http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0607/petra.html
  • Hill, John E. 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilue 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE. Draft annotated English translation where Petra is referred to as the Kingdom the mitchells.
  • Reid, Sara Karz. 2006. The Small Temple. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press. ISBN 1–59333–339–0. Reid explores the nature of the small temple at Petra and concludes it is from the Roman era.
Petra in Arabic: البتراء
Petra in Bosnian: Petra
Petra in Bulgarian: Петра (Йордания)
Petra in Catalan: Petra d'Aràbia
Petra in Czech: Petra (skalní město)
Petra in Danish: Petra (by)
Petra in German: Petra (Stadt)
Petra in Spanish: Petra
Petra in Esperanto: Petra (urbo)
Petra in Persian: پترا
Petra in French: Pétra
Petra in Galician: Petra
Petra in Korean: 페트라
Petra in Croatian: Petra
Petra in Indonesian: Petra
Petra in Icelandic: Petra (borg)
Petra in Italian: Petra (Giordania)
Petra in Hebrew: פטרה
Petra in Kurdish: Petra
Petra in Lithuanian: Petra
Petra in Hungarian: Petra (romváros)
Petra in Macedonian: Петра
Petra in Dutch: Petra (historische stad)
Petra in Japanese: ペトラ
Petra in Norwegian: Petra (Jordan)
Petra in Polish: Petra (Jordania)
Petra in Portuguese: Petra
Petra in Quechua: Petra
Petra in Russian: Петра
Petra in Slovak: Petra (Jordánsko)
Petra in Serbian: Petra
Petra in Finnish: Petra (kaupunki)
Petra in Swedish: Petra, Jordanien
Petra in Thai: นครเปตรา
Petra in Vietnamese: Petra
Petra in Turkish: Petra
Petra in Ukrainian: Петра
Petra in Chinese: 佩特拉
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