Aramaeans, or Arameans, an ancient Semitic people whose language, Aramaic, was for a long time the most widely spoken tongue in the Middle East. Aramaic was the language Jesus spoke. The Aramaic alphabet was the foundation for the Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic alphabets. Parts of the Old Testament were originally written in Aramaic.
The Aramaeans probably originated in the North Arabian desert. By the 11th century B.C. they had established several small kingdoms in the area of Syria and Upper Mesopotamia. These kingdoms were conquered by the Assyrians during the ninth Century B.C., and the Aramaeans were dispersed to various parts of the Assyrian empire. The Aramaic lauguage was widely adopted wherever the Aramaeans moved. Beginning in the seventh century A.D., Aramaic was gradually replaced by Arabic as the dominant language of the Middle East. However, in isolated villages in Syria and elsewhere a form of Aramaic is still spoken.