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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Yemen

YEMEN, in Arabia, literally the land “on the right hand” of one who faces east, meant originally all the land southwards from Syria (Shám). The Arabia Felix (εὐδαίμων) of Ptolemy and other ancients is a mistranslation, the right hand being taken to mean “lucky” (δεξιός, dexter). Arabia Felix included all Arabia except the peninsula of Sinai (Arabia Petræa) and the Syrian desert (Arabia Deserta): i.e., it took in the Ḥijáz and Nejd as well as South Arabia. The Arabs use the term Yemen in various extensions. A tradition of the Prophet makes Yemen and Shám meet at Tabbák; but Abú ‘Abbás already confines the name to all Arabia south of Mecca. This usage, which excludes Nejd and Hijáz from Yemen, is not merely that of Moslem geographers, who take Mecca as their imaginary standpoint, but is found in the heathen poets. When Imraolḳais speaks of a Yemenite trader, Ṭarafa, of tanned ox-hides from Yemen, Labíd of a youth from Yemen who knew letters, or a poet of Hodhail of the excellent work of a Yemenite smith, they all mean by Yemen the southern region where trade, letters, and industry had their early home in the peninsula. The northern boundary of Yemen is variously laid down. Al-Asma‘í makes it a line drawn obliquely from ‘Omán to Nejrán; but Hamdáni rightly draws it farther north, from ‘Omán and Yebrín in the south of Yemáma by way of Al-Ḥujaira, Tathlith, and Jorash to Kodommol (Kotumble of the Admiralty chart, in lat. 17° 52′). In its narrowest limitation Yemen comprises, not the whole south of the peninsula, but only the south-west as far as Ḥaḑramaut, which was viewed as a dependency of Yemen. The physical conformation of the south-western portion of the peninsula differs greatly from that of Arabia proper, being similar to that of Ethiopia. A range of mountains, which rises into peaks of considerable elevation, and descends with a steep slope towards the shore of the Red Sea, stretches from the southern extremity northwards as far as Ṭáif. This range is pierced by several streams and wadies, which flow into the Red Sea.[1] In old times the region cannot of course have been called “the Southland” by its own inhabitants.


EB9 Yemen.png
Map of Yemen.


Sabæans.—The ancient name of the people of Yemen was Saba (Saba’ with final hemza); and the oldest notices of them are in the Hebrew Scriptures. The list of the sons of Joktan in Gen. x. 26–29 contains in genealogical form a record of peoples of South Arabia which must rest on good information from Yemen itself. Many of these names are found on the inscriptions or in the Arabic geographers,—Sheba (Saba’), Hazarmaveth (Ḥaḑramaut), Abimael (Abime‘athtar), Jobab (Yuhaibib, according to Halévy), Jerah (Waráḥ of the geographers), Joktan (Arab Ḳaḥtan; waḳata = ḳaḥata). On the other hand, the names of some famous nations mentioned on the inscriptions are lacking, from which it may be concluded that they did not rise to prominence till a later date. Saba’ (Sheba) itself, which was in later times the chief name, has in Gen. x. 28 a subordinate place; it was perhaps only a collective name for the companies of merchants who conducted the South-Arabian export trade (the root saba’ in the inscriptions meaning to make a trading journey), and in that case would be of such late origin as to hold one of the last places in a list that has genealogical form. Two other accounts in Genesis, originally independent, give supplementary information drawn from the Sabæan colonies, the stations and factories established to facilitate trade through the desert. The inscriptions of Al-‘Ola published by D. H. Müller show that there were Minæan colonies in North Arabia. Other South Arabs, and especially the Sabæans, doubtless also planted settlers on the northern trade routes, who in process of time united into one community with their North-Arab kinsmen and neighbours. Thus we can understand how in Gen. xxv. 2–3 Sheba and Dedan appear among the North-Arab “sons of Keturah.” Again, the Sabæans had colonies in Africa and there mingled with the black Africans; and so in Gen. x. 7 Sheba and Dedan, the sons of Raamah (Raghma), appear in the genealogy of the Cushites. With the Ethiopians Saba’ means “men,” a clear indication of their Sabæan descent.

The queen of Sheba who visited Solomon may have come with a caravan trading to Gaza, to see the great king

whose ships plied on the Red Sea. The other Biblical books do not mention the Sabæans except incidentally, in allusion to their trade in incense and perfumes, gold and precious stones, ivory, ebony, and costly garments (Jer. vi. 20; Ezek. xxvii. 15, 20, 22 sq.; Isa. lx. 6; Job vi. 19). These passages attest the wealth and trading importance of Saba from the days of Solomon to those of Cyrus. When the prologue to Job speaks of plundering Sabæans (and Chaldæans) on the northern skirts of Arabia, these may be either colonists or caravans, which, like the old Phœnician and Greek traders, combined on occasion robbery with trade. The prologue may not be historical; but it is to be presumed that it deals with historical possibilities, and is good evidence thus far.

The Biblical picture of the Sabæan kingdom is confirmed and supplemented by the Assyrian inscriptions. Tiglath Pileser II. (733 b.c.) tells us that Teima, Saba’, and Ḥaipá (=Ephah, Gen. xxv. 4 and Isa. lx. 6) paid him tribute of gold, silver, and much incense. Similarly Sargon (715 b.c.) in his Annals mentions the tribute of Shamsi, queen of Arabia, and of Itamara of the land of Saba’, gold and fragrant spices, horses and camels.

The earliest Greek accounts of the Sabæans and other South-Arabian peoples are of the 3d century b.c. Eratosthenes (276194 b.c.) in Strabo (xv. 4, 2) says that the extreme south of Arabia, over against Ethiopia, is inhabited by four great nations,—the Minæans (Μειναῖοι, Mηναῖοι; Ma‘in of the inscriptions) on the Red Sea, whose chief city is Carna; next to them the Sabæans, whose capital is Mariaba (Mariab of the inscriptions); then the Catabanes (Ḳatabán of the inscriptions), near the Straits of Báb-al-Mandeb, the seat of whose king is Tamna; fourthly, and farthest east, the people of Ḥaḍramaut (Chatramotitæ), with their city Sabota. The Catabanes produce frankincense and Ḥaḍramaut myrrh, and there is a trade in these and other spices with merchants who make the journey from Ælana (Elath, on the Gulf of ‘Aḳaba) to Minæa in seventy days; the Gabæans (the Gaba’án of the inscriptions, Pliny’s Gebanitæ) take forty days to go to Ḥaḍramaut. This short but important and well-informed notice is followed a little later by that of Agatharchides (120 b.c.), who speaks in glowing terms of the wealth and greatness of the Sabæans, but seems to have less exact information than Eratosthenes. He knows only the Sabæans and thinks that Saba is the name of their capital. He mentions, however, the “happy islands” beyond the straits, the station of the Indian trade 103). Artemidorus (100 b.c.), quoted by Strabo, gives a similar account of the Sabæans and their capital Mariaba, of their wealth and trade, adding the characteristic feature that each tribe receives the wares and passes them on to its neighbours as far as Syria and Mesopotamia.

The accounts of the wealth of the Sabæans brought back by traders and travellers excited the cupidity of Rome, and Augustus entrusted Ælius Gallus with an expedition to South Arabia, of which we have an authentic account in Strabo (xvi. 4, 22). He hoped for assistance from the friendly Nabatæans (q.v.); but, as they owed everything to their position as middlemen for the South-Arabian trade, which a direct communication between Rome and the Sabæans would have ruined, their viceroy Syllæus, who did not dare openly to refuse help, sought to frustrate the emperor’s scheme by craft. Instead of showing the Romans the caravan route, he induced them to sail from Cleopatris to Leucocome, and then led them by a circuitous way through waterless regions, so that they reached South Arabia too much weakened to effect anything. But the expedition brought back a considerable knowledge of the country and its products, and the Roman leader seems to have perceived that the best entrance to South Arabia was from the havens on the coast. So at least we may conclude when, a hundred years later (77 a.d., as Dillmann has shown), in the Periplus of an anonymous contemporary of Pliny (§ 23) we read that Charibael of Ẓafar, “the legitimate sovereign of two nations, the Homerites and Sabæans,” maintained friendly relations with Rome by frequent embassies and gifts. Pliny’s account of Yemen, too, must be largely drawn from the expedition of Gallus, though he also used itineraries of travellers to India, like the Periplus Maris Erythræi just quoted.

Nautical improvements, and the discovery that the south-west monsoon (Hippalus) gave sure navigation at certain seasons, increased the connexion of the West with South Arabia, but also wrought such a change in the trade as involved a revolution in the state of that country. The hegemony of the Sabæans now yields to that of a new people, the Homerites or Himyar, and the king henceforth bears the titleking of the Himyarites and Sabæans.” Naval expeditions from Berenice and Myoshormus to the Arabian ports brought back the information on which Claudius Ptolemy constructed his map, which still surprises us by its wealth of geographical names.

Sabæan colonies in Africa have been already mentioned. That Abyssinia was peopled from South Arabia is proved by its language and writing; but the difference between the two languages is such as to imply that the settlement was very early and that there were many centuries of separation, during which the Abyssinians were exposed to foreign influences. New colonies, however, seem to have followed from time to time, and, according to the Periplus (§ 16), some parts of the African coast were under the suzerainty of the Sabæan kings as late as the Sabæo-Himyaritic period; the district of Azania was held for the Sabæan monarch by the governor of Maphoritis (Ma‘áfir), and was exploited by a Sabæan company. Naturally difficulties would arise between Abyssinia and the Sabæan power. In the inscription of Adulis (2d century) the king of Ethiopia claims to have made war in Arabia from Leucocome to the land of the Sabæan king. And the Ethiopians were not without successes, for on the Greek inscription of Aksúm (c. the middle of the 4th century) King Æizanes calls himself “king of the Aksumites, the Homerites, and Raidán, and of the Ethiopians, Sabæans, and Silee.” More serious was the conflict under Dhú-Nu’ás (Dhú-Nuwás of the Arab historians) in the beginning of the 6th century; it ended in the overthrow of the Himyarite king and the subjugation of Yemen, which was governed by a deputy of the Aksumite king, till (about 570) the conquerors were overthrown by a small band of Persian adventurers (see Persia, vol. xviii. p. 613).

With the exception of what the South-Arabian Hamdání relates of his own observation or from authentic tradition, the Mohammedan Arabic accounts of South Arabia and Sabæa are of little worth. The great event they dwell on is the bursting of the dam of Ma’rib, which led to the emigration northwards of the Yemenite tribes. We may be sure that this event was not the cause but the consequence of the decline of the country. When the inland trade fell away and the traffic of the coast towns took the sea route, the ancient metropolis and the numerous inland emporia came to ruin, while the many colonies in the north were broken up and their population dispersed. To this the Koran alludes in its oracular style, when it speaks (xxxiv. 17) of well-known cities which God appointed as trading stations between the Sabæans and the cities He had blessed (Egypt and Syria), and which He destroyed because of their sins.

 

Inscriptions.—This abstract of the history of Yemen from ancient sources can now be verified and supplemented from inscriptions. Doubts as to the greatness and importance of the Sabæan state, as attested by the ancients, and as to the existence of a special Sabæan writing called “Musnad,” of which the Arabs tell, were still current when Niebuhr, in the 18th century, brought to Europe the first account of the existence of ancient inscriptions (not seen by himself) in the neighbourhood of Yarím. Following this hint, Seetzen, in 1810, was able to send to Europe, from porphyry blocks near Yarím, the first copies of Sabæan inscriptions. They could not, however, be read. But the inscriptions found by Wellsted in 1834 at Ḥiṣn Ghoráb were deciphered by Gesenius and Rödiger. Soon after this the courageous explorer Arnaud discovered the ancient Mariab, the royal city of the Sabæans, and at great risk copied fifty-six inscriptions and took a plan of the walls, the dam, and the temple to the east of the city. These, with other inscriptions on stone and on bronze plates brought home by Englishmen, found a cautious and sound interpreter in Osiander. The historical and geographical researches of Kremer and Sprenger gave a fresh impulse to inquiry. Then Joseph Halévy made his remarkable journey through the Jauf, visiting districts and ruins which no European foot had trod since the expedition of Gallus, and returned with almost 800 inscriptions. Of more recent travellers S. Langer and E. Glaser have done most for epigraphy, while Manzoni is to be remembered for his excellent geographical work.

The alphabet of the Sabæan inscriptions is most closely akin to the Ethiopic, but is purely consonantal, without the modifications in the consonantal forms which Ethiopia has devised to express vowels. There are twenty-nine letters, one more than in Arabic, Samech and Sin being distinct forms, as in Hebrew. This alphabet, which is probably the parent of the South-Indian character, is undoubtedly derived from the so-called Phœnician alphabet, the connecting link being the forms of the Ṣafa inscriptions and of the Thamudæan inscriptions found by Doughty and Euting. Of the latter we can determine twenty-six characters, while a twenty-seventh probably corresponds to Arabic (ظ). A sign for ض also probably existed, but does not occur in the known inscriptions. In the Thamudæan and Sabæan alphabets the twenty-two original Phœnician characters are mostly similar, and so are the differentiated forms for غ and خ, while ث, ذ, and probably also ظ and ض, have been differentiated in different ways. This seems to imply that the two alphabets had a common history up to a certain point, but parted company before they were fully developed. The Thamudæan inscriptions are locally nearer to Phœnicia, and the letters are more like the Phœnician; this character therefore appears to be the link connecting Phœnician with Sabæan writing. It may be noticed that a Thamudæan legend has been found on a Babylonian cylinder of about 1000 b.c., and it is remarkable that the Sabæan saṭara, “write,” seems to be borrowed from Assyrian shaṭâru.

The language of the inscriptions is South Semitic, forming a link between the North Arabic and the Ethiopic, but is much nearer the former than the latter. To the details already given in the article Semitic Languages (vol. xxi. p. 653 sq.) it may be added that of the two dialects commonly called Sabæan and Minæan the latter might be better called Hadramitic, inasmuch as it is the dialect of the inscriptions found in Ḥaḍramaut, and the Minæans seem undoubtedly to have entered the Jauf from Ḥaḍramaut.

The inscriptions not only give names of nations corresponding to those in the Bible and in classical authors but throw a good deal of fresh light on the political history of Yemen. The inscriptions and coins give the names of more than forty-five Sabæan kings. The chronology is still vague, since only a few very late inscriptions are dated by an era and the era itself is not certain. But the rulers named can be assigned to three periods, according as they bear the title “mukrab of Saba,” “king of Saba,” or “king of Saba and Raidán.” The last, as we know from the Aksum inscriptions, are the latest, and those with the title “mukrab” must be the earliest. Four princes of the oldest period bear the name Yatha‘amar, and one of these may, with the greatest probability, be held to be the “Itamara Sabai” who paid tribute to Sargon of Assyria. This helps us to the age of some buildings also. The famous dam of Ma’rib and its sluices were the work of this ancient princestructures which Arnaud in the 19th century found in the same state in which Hamdání saw them a thousand years ago. The power of these old sovereigns extended far beyond Ma’rib, for their names are found on buildings and monuments in the Jauf.

We cannot tell when the kings took the place of the mukrab, but the Sabæo-Himyaritic period seems to begin with, or a little after, the expedition of Ælius Gallus. A fragmentary inscription of Ma’rib (Br. Mus., 33) was made by “Ilsharḥ Yahḍib and Ya’zil Bayyin, the two kings of Saba and Raidán, sons of Far‘m Yanhab, king of Saba.” If this Ilsharḥ is identical with the Ἰλάσσαρος of Strabo, king of Mariaba at the time of the Roman invasion, the inscription preserves a trace of the influence of that event on the union of the two kingdoms.

The inscriptions of the latest period present a series of dates669, 640, 582, 573, 385—of an unknown era. Reinaud thought of the Seleucid era, which is not impossible; but Halévy observes that the fortress of Mawiyyat (now Ḥiṣn Ghoráb) bears the date 640, and is said to have been erected “when the Abyssinians overran the country and destroyed the king of Himyar and his princes.” Referring this to the death of Dhú Nuwás (525 a.d.), Halévy fixes 115 b.c. as the epoch of the Sabæan era. This ingenious combination accords well with the circumstance that the oldest dated inscription, of the year 385 (270 a.d.), mentions Athtar, Shams, and other heathen deities, while the inscriptions of 582 (467 a.d.) and 573 (458 a.d.), so far as they can be read, contain no name of a heathen god, but do speak of a god Raḥmánán—that is, the Hebrew Raḥmán, “the compassionate” (Arabic, Al-Raḥmán), agreeably with the fact that Jewish and Christian influences were powerful in Arabia in the 4th century. The only objections to Halévy’s hypothesis are (1) that we know nothing of an epoch-making event in 115 b.c., and (2) that it is a little remarkable that the latest dated inscription, of the year 669 (554 a.d.), should be twenty-five years later than the Abyssinian conquest. An inscription found by Wrede at 'Obne is dated “in the year 120 of the Lion in Heaven,” which we must leave the astronomers to explain.

The inscriptions throw considerable light not only on the Sabæans but on other South-Arabian nations. The Minæans, whose importance has been already indicated, appear in the inscriptions as only second to the Sabæans, and with details which have put an end to much guesswork, e.g., to the idea that they are connected with Miná near Mecca. Their capital, Ma‘ín, lay in the heart of the Sabæan country, forming a sort of enclave on the right hand of the road that leads northward from Ma’rib. South-west of Ma‘ín, on the west of the mountain range, and commanding the road from San‘a to the north, lies Baráḳísh, anciently Yathil, which the inscriptions and Arabic geographers always mention with Ma‘ín. The third Minæan fortress, probably identical with the Κάρνα of the Greeks, lies in the middle of the northern Jauf, and north of the other two. The three Minæan citadels lie nearly in this position (), with old Sabæan settlements (Raiam) all round them, and even with some Sabæan places (e.g., Nask and Kamná) within the triangle they form. The dialect of the Minæans is sharply distinguished from the Sabæans (see above). The inscriptions have yielded the names of twenty-seven Minæan kings, who were quite independent, and, as it would seem, not always friends of the Sabæans, for neither dynasty mentions the other on its inscriptions, while minor kings and kingdoms are freely mentioned by both, presumably when they stood under the protection of the one or the other respectively. The Minæans were evidently active rivals of the Sabæan influence, and a war between the two is once mentioned. In Ḥaḍramaut they disputed the hegemony with one another, the government there being at one time under a Minæan, at another under a Sabæan prince, while the language shows now the one and now the other influence. The religions also of the two powers present many points of agreement, with some notable differences. Thus, puzzling as the fact appears, it is clear that the Minæans formed a sort of political and linguistic island in the Sabæan country. The origin of the Minæans from Ḥaḍramaut is rendered probable by the predominance of their dialect in the inscriptions of that country (except in that of Ḥiṣn Ghoráb), by the rule, already mentioned, of a Minæan prince in Ḥaḍramaut, and by Pliny’s statement (H. N., xii. 63) that frankincense was collected at Sabota (the capital of Ḥaḍramaut; inscr. שבות), but exported only through the Gebanites, whose kings received custom dues on it, compared with xii. 69, where he speaks of Minæan myrrhin qua et Atramitica est et Gebbanitica et Ausaritis Gebbanitarum regno,” &c., implying that Minæan myrrh was really a Hadramite and Gebanite product. All this suggests a close connexion between the Minæans and Ḥaḍramaut; and from the Minæan inscriptions we know that the Gebanites were at one time a Minæan race, and stood in high favour with the queen of Ma‘ín. Thus we are led to conclude that the Minæans were a Hadramite settlement in the Jauf, whose object was to secure the northern trade road for their products. We cannot but see that their fortified posts in the north of the Sabæan kingdom had a strategical purpose; and so Pliny (xii. 54) says, “Attingunt et Minæi, pagus alius, per quos evehitur uno tramite angusto [from Hadramaut]. Hi primi commercium turis fecere maximeque exercent, a quibus et Minæum dictum est.” Besides this road, they had the sea-route, for, according to Pliny, their allies, the Gebanites, held the port of Ocelis. If the Minæans were later immigrants from Ḥaḍramaut, we can understand how they are not mentioned in Gen. x. In later times, as is proved by the Minæan colony in Al-‘Olá, which Euting has revealed to us, they superseded the Sabæans in some parts of the north. In the ‘Olá inscriptions we read the names of Minæan kings and gods. Notable also is the mention in 1 Chron. iv. 41 of the “Bedouin encampments (אהלים) and the Ma‘íním” smitten by the Simeonites, which may possibly refer to the destruction of a Minæan caravan protected by these Bedouins. The LXX. at least renders Ma‘íním by Μιναίους. It seems bold to conjecture that the Minæans were in accord with the Romans under Ælius Gallus, yet it is noteworthy that no Minæan town is named among the cities which that general destroyed, though ruin fell on Nask and Kamna, which lie inside the Minrean territory.

The inscriptions seem to indicate that the monarchies of South Arabia were hereditary, the son generally following the father, though not seldom the brother of the deceased came between, apparently on the principle of seniority, which we find also in North Arabia. Eratosthenes (in Strabo xvi. 4, 3) says that the first child born to one of the magnates after a king came to the throne was his designated successor; the wives of the magnates who were pregnant at the king’s accession were carefully watched and the first child born was brought up as heir to the kingdom. There seems to be a mistake in the first part of this statement; what Eratosthenes will have said is that the oldest prince after the king was the designated successor. This law of succession explains how we repeatedly find two kings named together among the Sabæans, and almost always find two among the Minæans; the second king is the heir. The principle of seniority, as we know from North-Arabian history, gives rise to intrigues and palace revolutions, and was probably often violated in favour of the direct heir. On the other hand, it readily leads to a limited power of election by the magnates, and in fact good Arabian sources speak of seven electoral princes. Some inscriptions name, besides the king, an eponymus, whose office seems to have been priestly, his titles being dhú ḥarif, eponymus, and rashúw, “sacrificer.” All royal inscriptions are signed by him at the beginning and the end, and he appears with the king on coins.

Religion.—In spite of the many ruins of temples and inscriptions, the religion of the Sabæans is obscure. Most of the many names of gods are mere names that appear and vanish again in particular districts and temples. Of the great national gods of the Sabæans and Minæans we know a little more. The worship of the heavenly bodies, for which there is Arabic evidence, had really a great place in Yemen. Sun-worship seems to have been peculiar to the Sabæans and Hamdanites; and, if the Sabis of Sabota (Pliny) was in fact the sun deity Shams, this must be ascribed to Sabæan influence. The Sabæan Shams was a goddess, while the chief divinity of the Minæans was the god ‘Athtar, a male figure, worshipped under several forms, of which the commonest are the Eastern ‘Athar and ‘Athtar Dhú Ḳabḍ. Wadd and Nikrah, the gods of love and hate, are possibly only other forms of the two ‘Athtars. The Sabæans also recognize ‘Athtar; but with them he is superseded by Almaḳah, who, according to Hamdání, is the planet Venus, and therefore is identical with ‘Athtar. The moon-god Sin appears on an inscription of Shabwat; but, according to Hamdání, Haubas, “the drier,” was the Sabæan moon-god. On the Shabwat inscription ‘Athtar is the father of Sin, and it is noteworthy that these two deities also appear as nearly related in the Babylonian legend of Ishtar’s descent to Hades, where Ishtar is conversely the daughter of the god Sin. The mother of ‘Athtar on another inscription is probably the sun. We find also the common Semitic Il (El) and a Dhú Samai answering to the northern Ba‘al Shamayim. Three gods of the inscriptions are named in the Koran,—Wadd, Yaghúth, and Nasr. In the god-name Ta’lab there may be an indication of tree-worship. The many minor deities may be passed over; but we must mention the sanctuary of Riyám, with its images of the sun and moon, and, according to tradition, an oracle. In conformity with old Semitic usage, pilgrimages were made at definite seasons to certain deities, and the Sabæan pilgrim month, Dhú Ḥijjatán, is the northern Dhú’l-Ḥijja. The outlines, and little more, of a few of the many temples can still be traced. Noteworthy are the elliptic form of the chief temples in Ma’rib and Ṣirwáḥ, and the castle of Naḳab-al-Ḥajar ẉith its entrances north and south.

Sacrifices and incense were offered to the gods. The names for altar (midhbaḥ) and sacrifice (dhibḥ) are common Semitic words, and the altar of incense has among other names that of miḳṭar, as in Hebrew. A variety of spices—the wealth of the land—are named on these altars, as rand, ladanum, costus, tarum, &c. Frankincense appears as lubán, and there are other names not yet understood. The gods received tithes of the produce of trade and of the field, in kind or in ingots and golden statues, and these tributes, with freewill offerings, erected and maintained the temples. Temples and fortifications were often combined. The golden statues were votive offerings; thus a man and his wife offer four statues for the health of their four children and a man offers to Dhú Samai statues of a man and two camels, in prayer for his own health and the protection of his camels from disease of the joints.

Their commerce brought the Sabans under Christian and Jewish influence, and, though the old gods were too closely connected with their life and trade to be readily abandoned, the great change in the trading policy, already spoken of, seems to have affected religion as well as the state. The inland gods lost importance with the failure of the overland trade, and Judaism and Christianity seem for a time to have contended for the mastery in South Arabia. Jewish influence appears in the name Raḥmán (see above), while efforts at Christianization seem to have gone forth from several places at various times. According to Philostorgius, the Homerites were converted under Constantius II. by the Indian Theophilus, who built churches in Ẓafar and Aden. Another account places their conversion in the reign of Anastasius (491518). In Nejrán Syrian missionaries seem to have introduced Christianity (Nöldeke). But, as the religion of the hostile Ethiopians, Christianity found political obstacles to its adoption in Yemen; and, as heathenism had quite lost its power, it is intelligible that Dhú Nuwas, who was at war with Ethiopia before the last fatal struggle, became a Jew. His expedition against Christian Nejrán had therefore political as well as religious motives. The Ethiopian conquest rather hurt than helped Christianity. The famous ḳalís (ἐκκλησία) of Abraha in San‘á seems to have been looked on as a sign of foreign dominion, and Islám found it easy to supersede Christianity in Yemen.

Coins.—In older times and in many districts coins were not used, and trade was carried on mainly by barter. Nor have there yet been many great finds of coins; indeed most of the pieces in European collections probably come from the same hoard. At the same time the coins throw a general light on the relations of ancient Yemen. The oldest known pieces are imitations of the Athenian mintage of the 4th century b.c., with the legend ΑΘΕ and the owl standing on an overturned amphora. The reverse has the head of Pallas with a Sabæan N. Of younger coins the first series has a king’s head on the reverse, and the old obverse is enriched with two Sabæan monograms, which have been interpreted as meaning “majesty” and “eponymus” respectively. In a second series the Greek legend has disappeared, and, instead of the two Sabæan monograms, we have the names of the king and the eponymus. A third series shows Roman influence and must be later than the expedition of Gallus. As the standard of the coins of Attic type is not Attic but Babylonian, we must not think of direct Athenian influence. The type must have been introduced either from Persia or from Phœnicia (Gaza). One remarkable tetradrachm with the Sabæan legend Abyath’á is imitated from an Alexander of the 2d century b.c., the execution being quite artistic and the weight Attic. There are also coins struck at Raydán and Ḥarib, which must be assigned to the Himyarite period (1st and 2d century a.d.). The inscriptions speak of “bright Hayyilí coins in high relief,” but of these none have been found. They also speak of sela‘ pieces. The sela‘ in late Hebrew answers to the older shekel and the mention of it seems to point to Jewish or Christian influence.

Literature.—Fresnel, Pièces rel. aux Inscrr. Himyarites déc. par M. Arnaud, 1845; Inscriptions in the Himyaritic Character in the British Museum, London, 1863; Prætorius, Beitr. zur Erklärung der himjar. Inschr., 3 parts, Halle, 187274; Kremer, Südaribische Sage, 1866; Sprenger, Alte Geogr. Arabiens, 1873; D. H. Müller, Südarabische Studien, Vienna, 1877; Id., Die Burgen u. Schlösser Südarabiens, 2 parts, Vienna, 187981 (especially for chronology and antiquities); Mordtmann and Müller, Sabäische Denkmäler, Vienna, 1883; Derenbourg, Études sur l'Épigraphie du Yemen, Paris, 1884; Id., Nouv. Étud., 1885; Glaser, Mittheilungen über . . . sab. Inschr., 1886; Hamdání, Geogr. d. Arab. Halbinsel, ed. D. H. Müller, vol. i., Leyden, 1884. See also papers by Osiander, Z.D.M.G., xix.–xx. (186465); Halévy, Journ. As., 187274; D. H. Müller, Z.D.M.G., xxix.–xxxi., xxxvii.; Prideaux, Tr. Soc. Bibl. Arch., 1873; Derenbourg, Bab. and Or. Record, London, 1887. In the press, D. H. Müller, Epigraphische Denkmäler nach . . . Copien Eutings. Further cp. the travels of Niebuhr, Seetzen, Wellsted, Wrede, Maltzan, Halévy, Manzoni, and Glaser.




  1. An excellent topographical description of Yemen is given in Hamdáni’s Geogr. d. Arab. Halbinsel, ed. D. H. Müller (1884).