The Arameans, or Aramaeans (Aramaic: ܐܪ̈ܡܝܐ‎, ʼaramáyé), were an ancient Northwest Semitic Aramaic-speaking tribal confederation who emerged from the region known as Aram (in present-day Syria) in the Late Bronze Age (11th to 8th centuries BC). They established a patchwork of independent Aramaic kingdoms in the Levant and seized large tracts of Mesopotamia.

Use of the Western Aramaic language has steadily declined in the face of Arabic since the Arab Islamic conquest of the area in the 7th century AD, and the last vestiges of the spoken tongue in and around Maalula are in danger of extinction.

The Arameans never formed a unified state but had small independent kingdoms across parts of the Near East, (present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian territories, the northwestern Arabian peninsula and south-central Turkey). Their political influence was confined to a number of states such as Aram Damascus, Hamath, Palmyra, Aleppo and the partly Aramean Syro-Hittite states, which were entirely absorbed into the Neo-Assyrian Empire by the 9th century BC. In the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the Aramaeans, Chaldeans and indigenous Assyrians became largely indistinguishable.[1]

By contrast, Imperial Aramaic came to be the lingua franca of the entire Near East and Asia Minor after King Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria (ruled 745–727 BC) made it one of two official languages of the vast Neo-Assyrian Empire in the mid-8th century BC, in recognition of the mostly-Aramean population in areas Assyria had conquered west of the Euphrates. This empire stretched from Cyprus and the East Mediterranean in the west to Persia and Elam in the east, and from Armenia and the Caucasus in the north to Egypt and Arabia in the south. The Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC) greatly spread Imperial Aramaic: north to the coast of the Black Sea and eastward to the Indus Valley. This version of Aramaic, influenced by Akkadian and later by Old Persian, later developed into the Syriac dialect of Edessa.

Between the 1st and 4th centuries AD, the Arameans began to adopt Christianity in place of the polytheist Aramean religion, and the Levant became an important centre of Syriac Christianity, along with Assyria to the east from where the Syriac language and Syriac script emerged. After the Arab Islamic conquest of the region in the 7th century AD, native Arameans gradually became a minority in their homelands, the language was gradually replaced by Arabic, as increasing numbers of Arabs (together with Turkic and Iranian peoples) began to move into the region. Today, an Aramean identity is mainly held by a number of Syriac Christians in south-central Turkey, south-eastern Turkey, western, central, northern and southern Syria and in the Aramean diaspora especially in Germany and Sweden.[2] In 2014, Israel recognized the Aramean minority, an Arabic- and Aramaic-speaking Christian community.[3][4]

The toponym A-ra-mu appears in an inscription at the East Semitic speaking kingdom of Ebla listing geographical names, and the term Armi, which is the Eblaite term for nearby Idlib (modern Aleppo), occurs frequently in the Ebla tablets (c. 2300 BC). One of the annals of Naram-Sin of Akkad (c. 2250 BC) mentions that he captured "Dubul, the ensí of A-ra-me" (Arame is seemingly a genitive form), in the course of a campaign against Simurrum in the northern mountains.[5] Other early references to a place or people of "Aram" have appeared at the archives of Mari (c. 1900 BC) and at Ugarit (c. 1300 BC).

However, there is no historical, archaeological or linguistic evidence that the Aramu, Armi or Arame were actually Arameans or related to them; and the earliest undisputed historical attestation of Arameans as a people appears much later, in the inscriptions of Tiglath Pileser I (c. 1100 BC).[6]

Nomadic pastoralists have long played a prominent role in the history and economy of the Middle East, but their numbers seem to vary according to climatic conditions and the force of neighbouring states inducing permanent settlement. The period of the Late Bronze Age seems to have coincided with increasing aridity, which weakened neighbouring states and induced transhumance pastoralists to spend longer and longer periods with their flocks. Urban settlements in The Levant diminished in size, until eventually fully nomadic pastoralist lifestyles came to dominate much of the region. These highly mobile, competitive tribesmen with their sudden raids continually threatened long-distance trade and interfered with the collection of taxes and tribute.

This page was last edited on 18 June 2018, at 13:43 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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