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Sheba (Ge'ez: ሳባ, Saba, Arabic: سبأ, Sabāʾ, South Arabian , Hebrew: שבא, Šeḇā) was a kingdom mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) and the Qur'an. Sheba features in Ethiopian, Hebrew and Qur'anic traditions. Among other things it was the home of the biblical "Queen of Sheba" (named Makeda in Ethiopian tradition and Bilqīs in Arabic tradition).
Modern archaeological studies support the view that the biblical kingdom of Sheba was the ancient Semitic civilization of Saba in Southern Arabia, in Yemen, between 1200 BC until 275 AD with its capital Marib. The Kingdom fell after a long but sporadic civil war between several Yemenite dynasties claiming kingship, resulting in the rise of the late Himyarite Kingdom.
Similar description in the Hebrew Bible is found in Strabo's writings and Assyrian annals about the Sabaeans Their civilization stretched as far as Aqaba with small colonies to protect the trade routes, these colonies included Yathrib and the central Arabian kingdom of Kindah and northern Ethiopia where archaeologists found an ancient temple dedicated to the Sabaean chief god El-Maqah The study of the history and culture of this kingdom is still patchy. Especially the chronology of historical events and famous kings due to the instability in Yemen
The two names Sheba (spelled in Hebrew with shin) and Seba (spelled with samekh) are mentioned several times in the Bible with different genealogy. For instance, in the Table of Nations Seba, along with Dedan, is listed as a descendant of Noah's son Ham (as sons of Raamah, son of Cush). Later on in Genesis, Sheba and Dedan are listed as names of sons of Jokshan, son of Abraham Another Sheba is listed in the Table of Nations as a son of Joktan. Another descendant of Noah's son Shem.
There are possible reasons for this confusion, the Sabaean established many colonies to control the trade routes and the variety of their caravan stations confused the ancient Israelites, as their ethnology was based on geographical and political grounds not necessarily racial Another theory suggests that the Sabaean hailed from Southern Levant and established their kingdom on the ruins of the Minaean Kingdom It remains a theory however and cannot be confirmed.
The most famous claim to fame for the Biblical land of Sheba was the story of the Queen of Sheba, who travelled to Jerusalem in search of King Solomon. The apocryphal Christian Arabic text Kitāb al-Magall ("Book of the Rolls", considered part of Clementine literature) and the Syriac Cave of Treasures mention a tradition that after being founded by the children of Saba (son of Joktan), there was a succession of sixty female rulers up until the time of Solomon.
In Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, the Sheba who was Joktan's son is considered the primary ancestor of the original Semitic component in their ethnogenesis, while Sabtah and Sabtechah, sons of Cush, are considered the ancestors of the Cushitic element. Traditional Yemenite genealogies also mention Saba son of Qahtan (Joktan), however they claim Sabaean descent not from him, but from yet another Saba not mentioned in scripture, who was said to be a grandson of Yarab and a great-grandson of Qahtan.
The Jewish-Roman historian Josephus describes a place called Saba as a walled, royal city of Ethiopia, which Cambyses afterwards named Meroe. He says "it was both encompassed by the Nile quite round, and the other rivers, Astapus and Astaboras" offering protection from both foreign armies and river floods. According to Josephus it was the conquering of Saba that brought great fame to a young Egyptian Prince, simultaneously exposing his personal background as a slave child named Moses.
In the Qur'an, Sheba is mentioned by name at 27:22 in a section that speaks of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon Qur'an 27:20-44. Also in the Qur'an, the people of Sheba are called the people of Tubba' (أهل تبّع) because Tubba' was used as the title for Sheba's kings. The Qur'an mentions this ancient community along with other communities that were destroyed by God. Muslim scholars, including Ibn Kathir, related that the People of Tubba' were Arabs from South Arabia.
In the medieval Ethiopian cultural work called the Kebra Nagast, Sheba was located in Ethiopia. Some scholars therefore point to a region in the northern Tigray and Eritrea which was once called Saba (later called Meroe), as a possible link with the biblical Sheba. Other scholars link Sheba with Shewa (also written as Shoa, the province where modern Addis Ababa is located) in Ethiopia. Some even believe that the Arabic word Tubba' in the Quran to be a perversion of the name "Ethiopia", with the letter P in "Ethiopia" being replaced with a B because the letter P doesn't exist in Arabic
Speculation on location
The actual location of the kingdom mentioned in the Bible was long disputed. On the one hand, archaeologists have no doubt that the kingdom was located in southern Arabia. The Sabaeans colonized northern Ethiopia during the rule of Karibill Watar I in the 7th century BCE and established several other colonies to control the trade routes that stretched from their capital Marib to Aqaba. Strabo referred to the Sabaeans in Southern Arabia and Nabateans as the same people. These colonies served the sole purpose of shortening the long and difficult journey for the caravans.
However, owing to the connection with the Queen of Sheba, the location has become closely linked with national prestige, and various royal houses claimed descent from the Queen of Sheba and Solomon. According to the medieval Ethiopian work Kebra Nagast, Sheba was located in Ethiopia. Some scholars have long since linked Sheba with the Egyptian city of Thebes. Thebes is a Greek name, and apparently derived from the Greek word Thebai, while the correct Egyptian pronunciation of the city’s name was She.wa or similar. Ruins in many other countries, including Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia and Iran have been credited as being Sheba, but with only minimal evidence. There has been a suggestion of a link between the name "Sheba" and that of Zanzibar (Shan Sheba); and even a massive earthen monument of the Yoruba people in Nigeria known as Sungbo's Eredo is held by local tradition to have been built in honour of the powerful chieftain Bilikis Sungbo, who is considered by them to be the Bilqis of Arabic legend.
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- Andrey Korotayev. Pre-Islamic Yemen. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1996. ISBN 3-447-03679-6.
- Kenneth A. Kitchen: The World of Ancient Arabia Series. Documentation for Ancient Arabia. Part I. Chronological Framework & Historical Sources. Liverpool 1994.
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- Walter W. Müller: Skizze der Geschichte Altsüdarabiens. In: Werner Daum (ed.): Jemen. Pinguin-Verlag, Innsbruck / Umschau-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-7016-2251-6 (formal false ISBN), S. 50–56.
- Walter W. Müller (Hrsg.), Hermann von Wissmann: Die Geschichte von Sabaʾ II. Das Grossreich der Sabäer bis zu seinem Ende im frühen 4. Jh. v. Chr. (= Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften,Philosophisch-historische Klasse. Sitzungsberichte. Vol. 402). Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 1982, ISBN 3-7001-0516-9.
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- First Kings
- Islamic view of the Queen of Sheba
- King Solomon
- Queen of Sheba
- Rulers of Sheba
- Rulers of Saba and Himyar – a reconstruction of the lineage of the rulers of Saba and Himyar based on extant inscriptions. Based on the work of Dr. Javad Ali.
- Second Chronicles
- Old South Arabian
- Ancient history of Yemen
- "The kingdoms of ancient South Arabia". Britishmuseum.org. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
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- 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
- Saba britannica last retrieved April 18 2013
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- Javad Ali,The articulate in the history of Arabs before Islam Voulume 2 p.420
- arabia felix humnet.unipi.it/
- Javad Ali ,The articulate in the history of Arabs before Islam Volume 7 p.241
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- David W. Phillipson, Ancient Churches of Ethiopia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 36
- Queen of Sheba - Behind the Myth Documentary
- Genesis 10:7.
- Genesis 25:3.
- Genesis 10:28
- Javad Ali,The articulate in the history of Arabs before Islam Voulume 7 p.421
- HOMMEL, Südarabische Chrestomathie (Munich, 1892) p.64
- 1 Kings 10
- Kitāb al-Magāll. Kitab al-Magall
- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews II.10
- The Qur'an. A New Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem Oxford University Press. ad loc.
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- Qur'an 50:14
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- Edward Ullendorff, Ethiopia and the Bible (Oxford: University Press for the British Academy, 1968), p. 75
- The Quest for the Ark of the Covenant: The True History of the Tablets of Moses, by Stuart Munro-Hay
- Donald N. Levine, Wax and Gold: Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopia Culture (Chicago: University Press, 1972)
- The Queen Of Sheba By Michael Wood BBC News
- Israel Finkelstein, Neil Asher Silberman,David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition p.167
- Phillipson. "The First Millennium BC in the Highlands of Northern Ethiopia and South–Central Eritrea: A Reassessment of Cultural and Political Development". African Archaeological Review (2009) 26:257–274
- The Encyclopaedia Britannica: latest edition. A dictionary of arts, sciences and general literature, Volume 24 Day Otis Kellogg, William Robertson Smith Werner 1902 p.739
- Ben Abrahamson and Joseph Katz,Yosef Dhu Nuwas, a Sadducean King with Sidelocks p.28
- W. H. Irvine Shakespear, In The Geogr. Journal, Lix., No. 5, “1922”, P.321
- Strabo's Geography XVI.iv.21
- H. Grimme, Neubearbeitung der wichtigeren Dedanischen und Lihjanischen Inschriften, Le Muséon, vol. L, Louvain 1937 p.271
- Empire of Thebes Or Ages In Chaos Revisited, By Emmet John Sweeney, pg 30-32, at http://books.google.co.za/books?id=F74JXoief34C&pg=PA31&lpg=PA31&dq=sheba,+thebes&source=bl&ots=r2yUEA5SlJ&sig=IxhU3VKFh4f4mhJ25x-PpRAxoFQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dd4sUbLELO6Y0QWKh4H4BA&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=sheba%2C%20thebes&f=false
- A general collection of the best and most interesting voyages and travels in all parts of the world. By John Pinkerton, pg 256, at http://books.google.co.za/books?id=v5RJAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA256&dq=sheba,+thebes&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WeAsUeyPIMaRhQftwIHQDA&ved=0CEQQ6AEwAzgK#v=onepage&q=sheba%2C%20thebes&f=false
- A Description of the East and Some Other Countries, By Richard Pococke, Bowyer, Société de Géographie de Lyon, pg 110, at http://books.google.co.za/books?id=aiAdpfVZH9gC&pg=PA110&lpg=PA110&dq=pococke,+sheba,+thebes&source=bl&ots=x1gCCiJxyn&sig=HjBK2qLLKZ-w2cw3Hx_V79gzEs8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5ecsUfa5B4O_0QWx1oG4DA&ved=0CDkQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=pococke%2C%20sheba%2C%20thebes&f=false
- Abraham's Other Sons, by Grant Bishop Williams, Grant Bishop Williams, Jr., Ph.D., pg 89, at http://books.google.co.za/books?id=kRYOxmKLwxoC&pg=PA89&dq=sheba,+zanzibar&hl=en&sa=X&ei=A94sUeP5G4-BhQfRp4HwCg&ved=0CEIQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=zanzibar&f=false
- Nigeria News, 4 June 1999, "Archaeologists find clues to Queen of Sheba in Nigeria"
- "Queen of Sheba mystifies at the Bowers" – UC Irvine news article on Queen of Sheba exhibit at the Bowers Museum
- "A Dam at Marib" from the 'Saudi Aramco World' online – March/April 1978
- Queen of Sheba Temple restored (2000, BBC)
- "Africa's Golden Past: Queen of Sheba's true identity confounds historical research", William Leo Hansberry, E. Harper Johnson, Ebony Magazine April 1965, p. 136 - thorough discussion of previous scholars associating Biblical Sheba with Ethiopia