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820 BC - 115 BC - Sabean Kingdom

Aden was anciently one of the most celebrated cities of Arabia, and owed its riches and importance to being the general entrepot of the great carrying trade which existed between India, Persia, Arabia, and Africa, and the various nations of Europe, Egypt, and Phoenicia. Ships from the east conveyed the treasures of their respective countries thither, for transmission up the Red Sea, by means of smaller craft, to the ports of Egypt; rich caravans brought to it the produce of the thuriferous regions, and merchants from all parts of the east and west formed there commercial establishments, and imported the goods of their various lands, either for consumption in the country or to be forwarded to the further east.

Authorities agree in dating the rule of the Sabean Kingdom from the beginning of the tenth century BC, and in making the advent of the kings contemporaneous with the destruction of the Mimran kingdom. Here agreement ceases. Glaser, e.g. dates the Sabean kings from 820, Mller from 750, and they can certainly not be placed later than 500 BC, since at least seventeen of them reigned before 115 BC. At that date a new era begins. Their capital was irwah.

When King Solomon was ruling in Jerusalem during 965 to 926 B.C., Queen Bilquis of Saba (Sheba) visited King Solomon in 960 B.C.. This visit has references in the Bible and Holy Koran. Ancient Yemeni civilisation prosperity prompted the Romans to call it "Arabia Felix" or Happy Arabia. Saba had taken Mareb as its capital and built the Great Dam in Mareb to control the irrigation of Wadi Adhana. In Timna, the capital of Qataban, explorations show a complete network of dams, canals and water tanks. These clearly reflect the advancement of science and architecture. The great Sirwah inscription indicates that the King of Saba had managed to establish a central State comprising almost all parts of Yemen in the 4th Century B.C.

Saba (Sheba) must not be confounded with Saba (Seba) in Ethiopia of Is., xliii, 3; xlv, 14. It lies in Southern Arabian about 200 miles north-west of Aden. The Sabeans are mentioned in the Bible as a distant people (Joel, iii, 8), famous traders (Ez., xxvii, 22-3; (Is., Ix, 6), and perhaps slaves (Joel, ibid.), and practised brigandage. The genealogies of Genesis eonnect them now with Dadan, as sons of Regma (x, 7; cf. I Par., i, 9) and of Jecsan (xxv, 3; cf. I Par., i, 32), now with Asarmoth (Hadhramt), as sons of Jecsan (x, 26-8, cf., I Par., i, 20-22). These details point to two Sabas, one in the south contiguous to Hadhramt, another in the north near Taima (Job, i, 15; vi, 19) and El 'Ela (cf. "Comptes rendus de l'Acadmie des Inscriptions" etc., June, 1910); but which was the original home of the Sabeans, cannot yet be decided.

Hommel indeed places it in the north, near Idumean Dcdan, and identifies it with Aribi-Yareb (whose queens figure in Assyrian inscriptions), with the Saba, whose queen visited Solomon (III Kings, x), which is probably mentioned as tributary to Theglathphalasar III (74.5-27 ?. ?.), and whose ruler, Ithamara, paid tribute to Sargon in 715 BC. Thence (according to Glaser) the Sabeans moved south in the eighth or ninth century and established their kingdom on the ruins of the Minsean power. This theory is plausible and solves the difficulty of III Kings, x; but the identification of Saba with Aribi-Yareb is arbitrary, and all present evidence disproves the existence of kings in Saba till much later. Sargon, who lavishes the title of King on his tributaries, refuses it to Ithamara, the Yethamara of Sabean inscriptions, and these inscriptions point to a long period of rule by Mukarribs (priestkings), ten of whose names have been preserved.

The religion of the Sabeans resembled that of the idolatrous nations who surrounded them: they addressed their devotions to numerous deities, of which the principal were represented by the sun, moon, and stars; but there were many who acknowledged one deity as the supreme Lord of the universe. They believed in the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments; while many held the doctrine of transmigration.* Arabian authors who lived with the Sabeans state unanimously that they worshipped the seven planets,t and that their faith did not materially differ from that of the Chaldeans.

Towards the 1st Century B.C., the Ma'in Kingdom joined Saba followed by the Kingdom of Qataban (400-50 B.C.) and lastly Hadhramout which lasted from 450 B.C. until the 2nd Century AD. By the advent of the 3rd Century B.C., Himyar had unified the southern Arabian Peninsula under one strong political State. The Himyarites (Homerito of classical geography) overthrew in 115 BC the Kingdom of Saba, and founded the "Kingdom of Saba and Raidn". Inscriptions indicate the military campaigns of Saba and Himyar in the middle of the 4th Century AD. They had reached the regions of Al Yamama, Bahrain, the Eastern Arabian Peninsula, Uzd region in Oman etc.

The Sabean polity seems to have been based on the feudal system. Two kings appear to have shared the supreme power, but the monarchy was not hereditary, and passed on the king's death to the first male born during the reign to one of the leading families. When, in the first century after Christ, the Ptolemies exchanged the Southern Arabian route for a direct road from Alexandria to Egypt, the decline of Sabean prosperity began. The bursting of the dam of Marib in 575 AD was the consequence, not, as Arabic legend pretended, the cause, of the disintegration of the Sabean tribes.

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Page last modified: 05-08-2011 20:03:36 ZULU