Before the Muslim era, most ancient Arabs inhabited dry wastelands lacking arable fields and pastures, and their populations, organized into competing tribes, were small and often nomadic. For these reasons, they did not create any strong, well-organized kingdoms and generally remained outside the political and cultural mainstream of the empires of Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean.
   The first historical references to Arabs, called Aribi in the Akkadian tongue, appear in the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Old Testament and in Assyrian annals of the early first millennium b.c. Assyria's King Shalmaneser III mentioned Arabs as one of the peoples he defeated circa 853 b.c. Later Assyrian bas-reliefs show battles in which Arab warriors ride camels. Some evidence suggests that Persia's King Darius I conquered parts of Arabia in the late sixth century b.c. and collected tribute from local sheikhs.
   Following the fall of Persia nearly two centuries later, the Arabs remained autonomous until a.d. 106, when the Romans annexed the northwestern portion of Arabia and made it a province of their empire. The Romans called this region, roughly corresponding to modern Jordan, Arabia Petraea. It was one of the three general divisions of Arabia recognized throughout antiquity. The other two were, in Roman terminology, Arabia Deserta, the remote, nearly waterless interior of the country; and Arabia Felix, the southern coastal region now occupied by Yemen and Oman. For many centuries the ports of Arabia Felix were vital links in a trade route that received goods from the Far East and funneled them via camel caravans northward into Mesopotamia and Palestine.

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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