Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
Posted at Mar 17/2007 06:43PM:
Harry: An Arab group originally hailing from the urban centers of South Arabia, who then migrated up the western Arabian coast to a solidified domain in the Hawran (southwest Syria) and Golan Heights (northeast Israel) by 529-569 CE. Here, they established a capital called Jabiya, as well as a possible second capital at Jalliq, although archaeological proof of the latter settlement has yet to be verified. The Ghassanids became embroiled in the imperial clash between the Byzantines and the Persians as both empires began to encroach upon the Middle East region. This lead the Ghassanids (who supported the Byzantines) to also clash with the Lakhmid Arab tribe, who were supporters of the Persians. A major defeat of the Lakhmids occurred in 554 CE near the site of Qinnasrin, and by 578 CE, the Ghassanids were able to capture and burn the Lakhmid capital of al-Hira. The Ghassanids were paid by the Byzantines to control the borders of the Byzantine realm (the "limes").
There has been some debate about the issue of whether the Ghassanids constituted a settled group, versus the stereotype of Arabs as nomads. Recent scholarship has led many to believe that they were in fact a sedentary group, their settlements replete with major architectural structures (such as lavish churches with mosaics, gathering houses, etc.) as well as tents of less-settled ethnic suburbs on the outskirts ("hadir"). However, because later Umayyad dynasty structures were built in close proximity to or made use of earlier Ghassanid structures, the destruction of Umayyad structures by the opposing Abbasid dynasty may have also destroyed crucial evidence for the proof of the Ghassanids as a settled people.