For a long time the study of the place that the Greeks and Romans called ‘Arabia’—a vast area stretching from the Peninsula up into the southern parts of modern Jordan, Syria, and Iraq—remained tucked away in obscurity at the edges of the classical world. Even though figures as famous as Alexander the Great and the Roman emperor Augustus were fascinated by Arabia and assembled ambitious expeditions to explore it, the region was of only minor interest to a discipline whose centres of gravity were located far away in the Mediterranean. For scholars of later periods the pre-Islamic age was sometimes overlooked, because the emergence of Islam, the conquests of the Middle East and North Africa, and the building of the caliphates seemed the most suitable topics on which to focus questions about Arab politics, religion, identity, and literary culture. In consequence, pre-Islamic Arabia remained in a disciplinary no-man’s land between the study of the classical world and that of the Islamic period—of some interest to both, but not really belonging to either. The results of this academic ambiguity are easy to see in any library catalogue. While Irfan Shahîd began his multi-volume project with Rome and the Arabs in 1984, providing an in-depth examination of the subject, it was not until 2001 that a concise single-volume historical work on pre-Islamic Arabia appeared in English. 1 Before 2007 no new single-volume work on Arab Christianity had been published since 1979, and to this day no up-to-date book exists in English on the topic. 2