|between 1200 and 800 BCE-CE 275|
|Religion||pre-Islamic Arabian religions|
o 700-680 BCE
o 620-600 BCE
o 60-20 BCE
|Historical era||Iron Age to Classical Antiquity|
|between 1200 and 800 BCE|
The Sabaeans or Sabeans (Sabaean:, S¹B?; Arabic: , as-Saba?iyy?n; Hebrew: ) were an ancient people of South Arabia. They spoke the Sabaean language, one of the Old South Arabian languages. They founded the kingdom of Saba? (Arabic: ?), which was believed to be the biblical land of Sheba and "the oldest and most important of the South Arabian kingdoms".
The date of the foundation of Saba? is a point of disagreement among scholars. Kenneth Kitchen dates the kingdom to between 1200 BCE and 275 CE, with its capital at Ma'rib. On the other hand, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman write that "the Sabaean kingdom began to flourish only from the eighth century BC onward" and that the story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba is "an anachronistic seventh-century set piece." The Kingdom fell after a long but sporadic civil war between several Yemenite dynasties claiming kingship; from this the late Himyarite Kingdom arose as victors.
The origin of the Sabaean Kingdom is uncertain. Kenneth Kitchen dates the kingdom to around 1200 BCE, while Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman write that "the Sabaean kingdom began to flourish only from the eighth century BCE onward". Originally, the Sabaeans were one of the sha?bs (Sabaean: ?), "communities", on the edge of the Sayhad desert. Very early, at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, the political leaders (Sabaean: ?, romanized: 'mlk) of this tribal community managed to create a huge commonwealth of sha?bs occupying most of South Arabian territory and took the title Sabaean: ? , romanized: mkrb sb', "Mukarrib of the Sabaeans".
Several factors caused a significant decline of the Sabaean state and civilization by the end of the 1st millennium BC. Saba' was conquered by the Himyarite Kingdom in the first century BCE; but after the disintegration of the first Himyarite Kingdom of the Kings of Saba' and Dh? Rayd?n, the Middle Sabaean Kingdom reappeared in the early second century. Note that the Middle Sabaean Kingdom was different from the Ancient Sabaean Kingdom in many important respects. The Sabaean kingdom was finally conquered by the ?imyarites in the late 3rd century and at that time the capital was Ma'rib. It was located along the strip of desert called Sayhad by medieval Arab geographers, which is now named Ramlat al-Sab'atayn.
The Sabaean people were the South Arabian people. Each of these peoples had regional kingdoms in ancient Yemen, with the Minaeans in the north in W?d? al-Jawf, the Sabeans on the southwestern tip, stretching from the highlands to the sea; the Qatab?nians to the east of them, and the ?a?ramites 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. They left behind many inscriptions in the monumental ancient South Arabian script or Musnad, as well as numerous documents in the related cursive Zab?r script.
The Arabs during the pre-Islamic period used to practice certain things that were included in the Islamic Sharia. They, for example, did not marry both a mother and her daughter. They considered marrying two sisters simultaneously to be the most heinous crime. They also censured anyone who married his stepmother, and called him dhaizan. They made the major hajj and the minor umra pilgrimage to the Ka'ba, performed the circumlocution around the Ka'ba tawaf, ran seven times between Mounts Safa and Marwa sa'y, threw rocks and washed themselves after sexual intercourse. They also gargled, sniffed water up into their noses, clipped their fingernails, removed all pubic hair and performed ritual circumcision. Likewise, they cut off the right hand of a thief and stoned Adulterers.
According to heresiographer Shahrastain, Sabaeans accept both the sensible and intelligible world, but do not follow religious laws, but center their worship on spiritual entities.
The name of Saba' is mentioned in the Qur'an twice, in the 27th and 34th Chapters, with the latter S?rah being named after the area. The former refers to the area in the context of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, whereas the latter refers to the Sayl al-?Arim (Flood of the Dam), in which the historic dam was ruined by flooding. As for the phrase "Qawm Tubba'" ("People of Tubba'"), which occurs in the 44th and 50th Chapters, "Tubba'" was a title for kings of Saba', like for Himyarites.
Sabaeans are mentioned in the biblical books of Job, Joel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. The Book of Job mentions them as having slain Job's livestock and servants. In Isaiah they are described as "tall of stature".