South Arabia

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South Arabia as a general refers to several regions as currently recognized, in chief the Republic of Yemen; yet it has historically also included Najran, Jizan, and 'Asir which are presently in Saudi Arabia, and Dhofar presently in Oman. The frontiers of South Arabia as linguistically conceived would include the historic peoples speaking the related South Arabian languages as well as neighboring dialects of Arabic, and their descendants. Anciently there was a South Arabian alphabet, which was borrowed by Ethiopia. South Arabia as generally conceived would include the lands inhabited by peoples partaking of its distinctive traditions and culture, which overlap recently demarcated political boundaries.

Yemen or al-yaman means "the south". One etymology derives Yemen from yamin the "right side" as the south is on the right when facing the sunrise; yet this etymology is considered suspect. Another derives Yemen from yumn meaning "felicity" as the region is fertile; indeed the Romans called it Arabia Felix.[1]

Three thousand years ago several different state entities occupied the region of South Arabia, e.g., M'ain, Qataban, Hadhramaut, Saba.[2] In these ancient times South Arabia claimed several notable features: the famous dam at Marib, the cosmopolitan incense trade, as well as the legendary Queen of Sheba.[3] Two thousand years ago the Himyarites became the masters of South Arabia, remaining dominant for several centuries. From Ethiopia across Al-Bahr Al-Ahmar came armies of Axum first in the 3rd-4th centuries, then later in the 6th under King Kaleb who established dominion, c. 520. They were displaced by Persian forces of the Sassanid dynasty, c.575, who also arrived by sea.[4][5][6][7] A half-century later, in the year 6 A.H. (628), the region became Muslim.[8]

History of South Arabia as History of Yemen:

Ancient South Arabia, entities or appellation:

South Arabia, Islamic dynasties:

South Arabia, early modern and colonial-era entities:

South Arabia in the recent history of independent Yemen:

South Arabia outside of Yemen:


  1. ^ Mackintosh-Smith, Yemen (London: John Murray 1997) at 8.
  2. ^ Brian Doe, South Arabia (London: Thames & Hudson 1971) at 60-102.
  3. ^ Jean-Francois Breton, Arabia Felix (University of Notre Dame 1999) at 13-20, 23; 53-73; 3-5, 41-43.
  4. ^ al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, volume V, The Sasanids, the Byzantines, the Lakmids, and Yemen (S.U.N.Y. 1999), in Yemen: Ethiopian conquest at 179, 182-183, 204-208, 212; Persia over al-Habashah at 159-160, 236-249.
  5. ^ Stuart Munro-Hay, Aksum. An African civilization of late antiquity (Edinburgh Univ. 1991) at 71-74, 76-77 (3rd century), at 78-80 (4th century), at 84-88 (6th century).
  6. ^ Sally Ann Baynard, "Historical Setting" in The Yemens: Country Studies (Washington, D.C.: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, c.1985) 1-89, at 3-14: Ethiopians at 11-12 (4th century for 4 decades, 6th century for about 50 years); Persians at xiii, 12.
  7. ^ Guy Annequin, Little-Known Civilizations of the Red Sea (Geneva: Ferni 1979) at 196-202.
  8. ^ al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, volume VIII, The Victory of Islam (S.U.N.Y. 1997) at 114 (became Muslim).

See also[edit]