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The Bar'an temple in Marib. Built in the 8th century BC and performed its function for nearly 1000 years.
Sabaean inscription addressed to the moon-god Almaqah, mentioning five South Arabian gods, two reigning sovereigns and two governors, 7th century BC
"Bronze man" found in Al Bayda' (ancient Nashqum, Sheba kingdom). 6th-5th century BCE. Louvre Museum.

The Sabaeans or Sabæans (Arabic: السبأيين‎) were an ancient people speaking an Old South Arabian language who lived in what is today Yemen, in south west Arabian Peninsula. Some Sabaeans also lived in D'mt, located in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea, due to their hegemony over the Red Sea[1].



The ancient Sabaean Kingdom lasted from the early 2nd millennium to the 1st century BC. In the 1st century BC it was conquered by the Himyarites, but after the disintegration of the first Himyarite empire of the Kings of Saba' and Dhu-Raydan the Middle Sabaean Kingdom reappeared in the early 2nd century. It was finally conquered by the Himyarites in the late 3rd century. Its capital was Ma'rib. The kingdom was located along the strip of desert called Sayhad by medieval Arab geographers and that is called now 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 along the Red sea, the Sabeans on the south western tip, streaching from the highlands to the sea, the Qatabanians to the east of them and the Hadramites east of them.

The Sabaeans, like the other Arabian and Yemenite kingdoms of the same period, were involved in the extremely lucrative spice trade, especially frankincense and myrrh.[2]

Some archaeologists now believe them to be the same nation as the Biblical kingdom of Sheba. They left behind many inscriptions in the monumental Musnad (Old South Arabian) alphabet, as well as numerous documents in the cursive Zabur script.

They were polytheistic, and should not be confused with the Sabians mentioned in the Qur'an, whose name is written with the Arabic letter sad rather than sin.

Due to their hegemony of the Red Sea some Sabaeans lived in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea during the Sabaean-influenced kingdom of D`mt. Most modern historians consider this civilization to be indigenous,[3] but some still view, as in the past, D`mt as the result of a mixture of "culturally superior" Sabaeans and indigenous peoples;[4] a small minority even views the kingdom as wholly Sabaean or Eritreans and Ethiopians as the descendents of ancient Sabaean immigrants, but with little evidence given by modern historians.

In the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, Augustus claims that:

By my command and under my auspices of two armies were led at about the same time into Ethiopia and into Arabia, which is called the Blessed [?]. Great forces of each enemy people were slain in battle and several towns captured. In Ethiopia the advance reached the town of Nabata, which is close to Meroe; in Arabia the army penetrated as far as the territory of the Sabaeans and the town of Mariba.[5]

However, the Res Gestae Divi Augusti is a work of propaganda and the only source which mentions this raid.

See also


  1. ^ Stuart Munro-Hay, Aksum: An African Civilization of Late Antiquity, 1991.
  2. ^ Yemen
  3. ^ Stuart Munro-Hay, Aksum: An African Civilization of Late Antiquity. Edinburgh: University Press, 1991, pp.57.
  4. ^ Taddesse Tamrat, Church and State in Ethiopia: 1270-1527 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), pp.5-13.
  5. ^ Res Gestae Divi Augusti, paragraph 26.5, translation from Wikisource


  • 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[1].
  • 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 Encyclopedia Britannica

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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Sabaean (uncountable)

  1. An extinct Semitic language spoken in Sheba.


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