Hydreuma

In Hellenistic and Roman Arabia and Egypt, a "hydreuma" (plural "hydreumata") was an enclosed (and often fortified) "watering station" (Greek "hydros", "water") at wadis in dry regions. A "hydreuma" was a manned and fortified watering hole or way station along a caravan route, providing a man-made oasis. Juris Zarins, rediscoverer of the city of Ubar in Arabia, described that site in a 'Nova' interview:

:"The site that we uncovered at Shisur was a kind of fortress/administration center set up to protect the water supply from raiding Bedouin tribes. Surrounding the site, as far as six miles away, were smaller villages, which served as small-scale encampments for the caravans. An interesting parallel to this are the fortified water holes in the Eastern Desert of Egypt from Roman times. There, they were called hydreumata."

In the first century CE, Pliny's Natural History described the current Roman sea-route to India, which had recently been established. The route that linked the Nile with the Red Sea was established by "hydreumata". The annual caravan from Alexandria sailed up the Nile to Keft (Pliny's "Coptus").:"From Keft the journey is made with camels, stations being placed at intervals for the purpose of watering; the first, a stage of 22 miles, is called Hydreuma; the second is in the mountains, a day's journey on; [103] the third at a second place named Hydreuma, 85 miles from Keft; the next is in the mountains; next we come to Apollo's Hydreuma, 184 miles from Keft; again a station in the mountains ; then we get to New Hydreuma, 230 miles from Keft. There is also another old Hydreuma known by the name of Trogodyticum, where a guard is stationed on outpost duty at a caravanserai accommodating two thousand travellers; it is seven miles from New Hydreuma. Then comes the town of Berenice where there is a harbour on the Red Sea, 257 miles from Keft." ["aquationum ratione mansionibus dispositis: prima appellatur hydreuma, secunda in monte diei itinere, tertia in altero hydreumate a copto, deinde in monte; mox ad hydreuma apollinis a copto, rursus in monte; mox ad novum hydreuma a copto" (Pliny xvii.45) ]

The site of the "Hydreuma of Apollo", Apollos Hydreuma, mentioned by Pliny has yielded papyri in modern times. The "hydreumata" of Abu Qreiya and of Samut have been surveyed but not excavated. Abu Qreiya, one of these watering places, consists today of a concrete well in the wadi, drilled at the beginning of the twentieth century; Aby Qreiya has been surveyed but not excavated.

Another route dictated by "hydreumata" dug into the beds of wadis linked the barren mountain that was the sole source of Roman "imperial porphyry" with the Nile, the "Via Porphyritis", the Porphyry Road.: Along the way are seven "hydreumata", or fortified wells, each one a day's march from the next. Outside the fortifications are lines of large stones to which oxen were tethered at night." (Werner 1998).

The designation "hydreumata" is commonly recognized in the ancient name for the coast of Arabia between Yemen and Oman, the Hadhramaut, a connection today denied as impossible by Yemenis.

Notes

References

* [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/pliny-india.html Ancient History Sourcebook: Pliny: "Natural History" 6.96-111. (On India)]
* [http://www.barnard.nl/desert/qreiya.html Abu Qreiya]
* [http://www.barnard.nl/desert/samut.html Samut]
* [http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/199806/via.porphyrites.htm "Saudi Aramco World" Louis Werner, "Via Porphyrites" November/December 1998]

ee also

*Hadhramaut
*Oasis


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