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Title: Sabaeans  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: History of Yemen, South Arabia, Sheba, Ancient history of Yemen, GDRT
Collection: History of Yemen, Semitic Peoples, Tribes of Arabia, Yemeni Tribes
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Sabaeans (khaki) in the 3rd century AD.

The Sabaeans or Sabeans (Arabic: السبئيونas-Saba’iyūn) (Hebrew: סבא‎) were an ancient people speaking an Old South Arabian language who lived in what is today Yemen, in the south west of the Arabian Peninsula.[1]

Sabeans inhabited the Biblical land of Sheba,[2][3][4] a trading state that flourished for over a thousand years in modern-day Yemen.

Modern archaeological studies support the view that the biblical kingdom of Sheba was the ancient Semitic civilization of Sabaeans in Yemen,[5][6][7][8][9] between 1200 BC until 275 AD with its capital Marib.[10][11] The Kingdom fell after a long but sporadic civil war between several Yemenite dynasties claiming kingship,[12][13] resulting in the rise of the late Himyarite Kingdom. Sabaeans are mentioned in the biblical books of Job, Joel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah.,[14] and in ayat 2:62, 5:69, and 22:17 of the Quran.


  • History 1
  • Religious practices 2
  • Quran 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The ancient Sabaean kingdom probably arose sometime in the 2nd millennium BCE.[15] It was conquered, in the 1st century BCE, by the Ḥimyarites. After the disintegration of the first Himyarite Kingdom of the Kings of Saba' and Dhū Raydān, the Middle Sabaean Kingdom reappeared in the early 2nd century.[16] The Sabaean kingdom was finally conquered by the Ḥimyarites in the late 3rd century and at that time the capital was Ma'rib. It was located along the strip of desert called Ṣayhad by medieval Arab geographers, which is now named Ramlat al-Sab`atayn.

The Sabaean people were South Arabian people. Each of these had regional kingdoms in ancient Yemen, with the Minaeans in the north in Wādī al-Jawf, the Sabeans on the south western tip, stretching from the highlands to the sea, the Qatabānians to the east of them and the Ḥaḑramites east of them.

The Sabaeans, like the other Yemenite kingdoms of the same period, were involved in the extremely lucrative spice trade, especially frankincense and myrrh.[17]

They left behind many inscriptions in the monumental Musnad (Old South Arabian) alphabet, as well as numerous documents in the cursive Zabūr script. The Book of Job mentions the Sabaens for slaying his livestock and servants.[18]

In the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, Augustus claims that:

Religious practices

Muslim writer Muhammad Shukri al-Alusi compares their religious practices to Islam in his Bulugh al-'Arab fi Ahwal al-'Arab:[20]

A late Arabic writer wrote of the Sabaeans that they had seven temples dedicated to the seven planets, which they considered as intermediaries employed in their relation to God. Each of these temples had a characteristic geometric shape, a characteristic color, and an image made of one of the seven metals. They had two sects, star and idol worshippers, and the former doctrine was similar to one that come from Hermes Trismegistus.[21]


The Sabaeans were mentioned in the Quran twice قوم سبأ people of Saba. The Qur'an, mentions the kingdom of the Saba in the 34th Chapter. The Qur'anic narrative, from sura 27 (An-Naml),[5] has Suleiman (Solomon) getting reports from the Hoopoe bird about the kingdom of Saba, ruled by a queen whose people worship the sun instead of God. Suleiman (Solomon) sends a letter inviting her to submit fully to the One God, Allah, Lord of the Worlds according to the Islamic text. The Queen of Saba is unsure how to respond and asks her advisors for counsel. They reply by reminding her that they are "of great toughness" in a reference to their willingness to go to war should she choose to. She replies that she fears if they were to lose, Suleiman may behave as any other king would: 'entering a country, despoiling it and making the most honorable of its people its lowest'. She decides to meet with Suleiman in order to find out more. Suleiman receives her response to meet him and asks if anyone can bring him her throne before she arrives. A jinn under the control of Suleiman proposed that he will bring it before Suleiman rises from his seat. One who had knowledge of the "Book" proposed to bring him the throne of Bilqis 'in the twinkling of an eye' and accomplished that immediately.[6] The queen arrives at his court, is shown her throne and asked: does your throne look like this? She replied: (It is) as though it were it. When she enters his crystal palace she accepts Abrahamic monotheism and the worship of one God alone, Allah.

See also


  1. ^ Stuart Munro-Hay, Aksum: An African Civilization of Late Antiquity, 1991.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Adolf Grohmann, Arabia Volume 3, Issue 1, Part 3 p. 122
  7. ^ PHILBY, H. ST. John B. THE LAND OF SHEBA London: Royal Geographical Society, 1938 p. 445
  8. ^ Israel Finkelstein, Neil Asher Silberman,David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition p. 171
  9. ^ britannica last retrieved April 18 2013Saba
  10. ^ Kenneth A. Kitchen : The World of Ancient Arabia Series. Documentation for Ancient Arabia. Part I. Chronological Framework and Historical Sources p.110
  11. ^ "Sabaʾ." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 03 Feb. 2013
  12. ^ D. H. Muller, 1891; Mordtmann, Himyarische Inschriften, 1893 p. 53
  13. ^ Javad Ali,The articulate in the history of Arabs before Islam Volume 2 p. 420
  14. ^ 45&src= Isaiah Chapter 45
  15. ^ [1] Ronald Lewcock, The Old Walled City of Sana'a, UNESCO 1986, p.19
  16. ^ Andrey Korotayev. Pre-Islamic Yemen. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1996. ISBN 3-447-03679-6.
  17. ^ Yemen
  18. ^ Job 1:14-15
  19. ^ Res Gestae Divi Augusti, paragraph 26.5, translation from Wikisource
  20. ^
  21. ^


  • Bafaqīh, M. ‛A., L'unification du Yémen antique. La lutte entre Saba’, Himyar et le Hadramawt de Ier au IIIème siècle de l'ère chrétienne. Paris, 1990 (Bibliothèque de Raydan, 1).
  • Andrey Korotayev. Ancient Yemen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-19-922237-1 [2].
  • Andrey Korotayev. Pre-Islamic Yemen. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1996. ISBN 3-447-03679-6.
  • Ryckmans, J., Müller, W. W., and ‛Abdallah, Yu., Textes du Yémen Antique inscrits sur bois. Louvain-la-Neuve, 1994 (Publications de l'Institut Orientaliste de Louvain, 43).
  • Info Please
  • Article at Encyclopædia Britannica

External links

  • S. Arabian "Inscription of Abraha" in the Sabaean language, at Smithsonian/NMNH website
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