- Agroup of peoples speaking a western Semitic language (Aramaic). They were originally tribal pastoralists and emerged in the middle of the second millennium B.C. to form states in Syria and northern Mesopotamia. They first appeared in Assyrian annals around 1300 B.C. as “hordes of Ahlamu”. Tiglath-pileserI(c. 1110) defined them as Arameans (ahlame armaya). They were much feared in Babylonia, together with another tribal people known as the Suteans, for raiding and pillaging the country. Arameans were spread out over large areas of Syria and divided into several tribal groupings. They were frequently in conflict with the Assyrians, either because they raided Assyrian territory or because their various petty kingdoms had become targets of Assyrian expansion. Some Aramean groups suffered mass deportation as a punishment. Nevertheless, their language, Aramaic, became the most widely spoken and understood language in Western Asia since the eighth century B.C. and became the international language of commerce and diplomacy, not only within the Assyrian empire but also under subsequent empires, until the early centuries A.D. The Arameans adopted an alphabetic form of writing in the 11th century that was based on the Phoenician alphabet. Due to the perishable nature of their writing material, few original texts other than those engraved on stone or written on clay bowls and shards have survived.
Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. EdwART. 2012.