The Significance of Petra to the Ancient World
Petra has been named the “Rose red city, half as old as time” (Dean Burgen, Petra). It is visited by thousands people per year as they are attracted to the intricate carvings and unique aesthetes, but many of the visitors are blissfully unaware of how significant this magnificent city was to the ancient world.
What made it so important to the ancient world was its location. It is in a very sought after position as it had access to water, many trade and caravan routes crossed through the city, it was protected from attack by the 20 story high walls and only had two entrances though narrow canyons. Whichever empire occupied Petra had control over important trade routes.
The crossing of trade routes through Petra meant that anyone traveling or transporting goods from Egypt and China to the rest of the Middle East had to cross through the city, so who ever had control of the city could impose levies on anything, this was one feature that made Petra so significant to the ancient world. Petra was the junction of the world’s two most important trade routes; The silk and spice routes linking china, India and Southern Arabia with the Mediterranean world pass. (see appendix 1) The other was the land route encompassing Wadi Araba, Gaza, and the Northern Sinai coast, which allowed men and good to travel westwards to Egypt. This meant that whoever had political control of the city was able to impose taxes and levies on good and travel through the city. Evidence we have to support the idea that taxes were being implemented and the amount imposed comes from the First Book of Kings, referring to the taxes collected by the Israelites: “the weight of golf that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold. Beside that he had the tribute of the merchants and of the traffic of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and the governors of the country” (10, 14;15)