Bostra PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
 
  
The desert city of Bostra (from Semitic busra , "fort"), which is today in Syria, stood at the north end of the easternmost Nabataean trade route; this came up through the 300-mile long Wadi Sirhan, which has enough ground water to sustain traffic. The Nabataeans were able to develop the place because of their enormous skill in harnessing meagre water supplies. From here they could connect northward via Damascus, westward via Gerasa, eastward through Palmyra, southeast to the Persian Gulf and south toward Happy Arabia. 

There is historical evidence in The Zenon Papyri for a strong Nabataean presence in the Hauran, south of Damascus, from the 2nd century BC if not earlier. Already at that time they may have engaged in viniculture, for which the Hauran, with its fertile, well-aerated volcanic soil, is famous.
 
After Vespasian put down the Jewish revolt and pacified the region (70 AD), Rome began developing trade with Mesopotamia via Palmyra. To take advantage of the commercial possibilities, the last Nabataean king, Rabel II, shifted his capital from Petra to Bostra. In 106 AD, the Emperor Trajan peacefully dissolved the Nabataean kingdom, incorporating it into his new "Provincia Arabia." Bostra became the province's capital. It formed the northernmost point on the Via Nova Traiana, which Trajan paved (111-114 AD) for a distance of 250 miles through Petra to Aela (Aqaba) on the Red Sea.

The Nabataean and Roman remains may still be seen. Bostra is reputed to have the best preserved Roman theater in the world.

Map of northern Jordan in the Roman period