ARETAS °, name of four *Nabatean kings. The sources relate little about the first two. aretas i (second century b.c.e.) is mentioned in ii Maccabees 5:8 as the ruler with whom *Jason the high priest sought asylum. aretas ii (first century b.c.e.) promised assistance to the people of *Gaza who were besieged by Alexander *Yannai.
Aretas iii (85–60 b.c.e.) became involved in the war between the Seleucids Antiochus xii and Demetrius iii in *Coele-Syria. When Antiochus fell in battle Aretas extended his rule to Coele-Syria and Damascus. He defeated Alexander Yannai at Addida. In the civil war between the two Hasmonean brothers, *Hyrcanus ii and *Aristobulus ii, Aretas iii sided with Hyrcanus in exchange for a promise to restore to him 12 towns in Moab. Aretas laid siege to Aristobulus in the Temple Mount, but was forced to desist by Scaurus, the emissary of the Roman general *Pompey. After the conquest of Judea by Pompey in 63 b.c.e., Scaurus was sent against Aretas; but the difficulties of the terrain obliged the Romans to abandon the campaign, after exacting an indemnity of 300 talents.
Aretas iv (9 b.c.e.–40 c.e.), previously called Aeneas, was reluctantly recognized as king by *Augustus. His daughter married Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She returned to her father, however, when Antipas married *Herodias, and a war broke out between Aretas and Antipas in which the latter was defeated. Antipas then appealed to the emperor *Tiberius, who ordered *Vittelius, governor of Syria, to attack Aretas. When Tiberius died, the campaign was abandoned. Aretas iv is also mentioned by Paul in connection with his visit to Damascus (ii Cor. 11:32).
Jos., index; Pauly-Wissowa, 3 (1895), 673–4, nos. 1–4, and suppl., 1 (1903), 125, no. 2; N. Glueck, Deities and Dolphins (1965), index; A. Kammerer, Pétra et la Nabatène, 1 (1929), index.