World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

King's Highway (ancient)

Article Id: WHEBN0002785896
Reproduction Date:

Title: King's Highway (ancient)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Silk Road, Edom, Via Maris, Ancient Egypt, Incense Route
Collection: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Levant, Ancient Roads and Tracks, Bible Articles Needing Attention, Edom, Geography of Ancient Egypt, History of Jordan, History of Syria, Trade Routes
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

King's Highway (ancient)

The King’s Highway was a trade route of vital importance to the ancient Near East. It began in Egypt and stretched across the Sinai Peninsula to Aqaba. From there it turned northward across Transjordan, leading to Damascus and the Euphrates River.

Since the Muslim conquest in the 7th century CE and until the 16th century it served as the darb al-hajj or pilgrimage road for Muslims coming from Syria, Iraq and beyond and heading for the holy city of Mecca.[1]

In modern Jordan, its route is followed by Highway 35 and Highway 15 connecting Irbid in the north with Aqaba in the south. Its southern part crosses several deep wadis, making it a highly scenic if curvy and rather low-speed road.[2]


  • Route 1
  • History 2
    • Iron Age 2.1
    • Classical Antiquity 2.2
    • Byzantine Period 2.3
    • After the Muslim conquest 2.4
  • In the Bible 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


The Via Maris (purple), King's Highway (red), and other ancient Levantine trade routes, c. 1300 BCE

The Highway began in Heliopolis, Egypt and from there went eastward to Clysma (modern Suez), through the Mitla Pass and the Egyptian forts of Nekhl and Themed in the Sinai desert to Eilat and Aqaba. From there the Highway turned northward through the Arabah, past Petra and Ma'an to Udruh, Sela, and Shaubak. It passed through Kerak and the land of Moab to Madaba, Rabbah Ammon/Philadelphia (modern Amman), Gerasa, Bosra, Damascus, and Tadmor, ending at Resafa on the upper Euphrates.


Iron Age

Numerous ancient states, including Edom, Moab, Ammon, and various Aramaean polities depended largely on the King's Highway for trade.

Classical Antiquity

The Nabataeans used this road as a trade route for luxury goods such as frankincense and spices from southern Arabia. It was possibly the cause of their war with Hasmonean Alexander Jannaeus and with Iturea in the beginning of the 1st century BC.[3]

During the Roman period the road was called Via Regia. Emperor Trajan rebuilt and renamed it Via Traiana Nova, under which name it served as a military and trade road along the fortified Limes Arabicus.

Byzantine Period

The Highway has also been used as an important pilgrimage route for Christians, as it passed next to Mount Nebo, Moses' death and burial site according to the Bible. Another road connected it with Jerusalem via al-Maghtas, the "Baptism Site" on the Jordan River (where Jesus is believed to have been baptized by John the Baptist), Livias and Jericho.

After the Muslim conquest

After the Muslim conquests, the road was used it as the main Hajj route from Syria to Mecca, until the Ottoman Turks built the Tariq al-Bint in the 16th century.[4]

A difficult time was during the Crusader period, when the road passed through the province of Oultrejordain of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.[4] During periods of truce the Hajj caravans were usually left unharmed by the Crusader lords of Oultrejourdain, with the memorable exception of Raynald of Châtillon, who attacked and plundered the pilgrims twice. His deeds would eventually lead not only to his own death at the hands of Saladin, but altogether to the fall of the Crusader kingdom in 1187.[5][6]

In the Bible

The King's Highway or Derech HaMelech is referred to in the Book of Numbers, ( Numbers 20:17, 21:22), where it is related that the Israelites, in their Exodus journey into Canaan, requested right of way across Edom but were refused. After making a detour and coming to Transjordan, they directed the same request to Sihon the Amorite King, but had to fight him to pass in the road section he ruled - between River Arnon and River Jabbok.[7] As a result they gained control in that land and to the north of it. The tribes of Manasseh (eastern half), Gad, and Reuben subsequently settled those territories.

Many of the wars of the Israelites against the kingdoms of the trans-Jordanian highlands during the period of the Kingdom of Israel (and its sister-kingdom, the Kingdom of Judah) were probably fought, at least in part, over control of the Highway.

See also


  1. ^ Lonely Planet, Jordan
  2. ^ Lonely Planet, Jordan
  3. ^ Kasher, Aryeh (1985-01-01). "Alexander Yannai's Wars with the Nabataeans / מלחמות אלכסנדר ינאי בנבטים". Zion / ציון (in Hebrew) 50: 107–120.   English abstract: JSTOR 23559946, p. XI.
  4. ^ a b Petersen, Andrew (2013). "The Lost Fort of Mafraq and the Syrian Hajj Route in the 16th Century". In Porter, Venetia; Saif, Liana. The Hajj: collected essays. p. 21.  
  5. ^ Hamilton, Bernard (1978). "The Elephant of Christ: Reynald of Châtillon". Studies in Church History (15): 97–108. 
  6. ^ Runciman, Stephen (1951). The History of the Crusades. Volume II. The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East 1100 – 1187. Cambridge University Press. pp. 445, 450.  
  7. ^ Numbers 21:23-24
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.