Institute of Semitic Studies

Sabaean

History Of The Language

From the age of the fabled Queen of Sheba to the ill-fated expedition of Aelius Gallus and the collapse of the great Marib Dam, Yemen was an inaccessible land of wealth, power and mystery to which the epigraphic texts of Sabaean, Minaean, Qatabanian and Hadramitic are the key.

Preserving many archaic structural features and a large vocabulary, the Old Yemeni dialects provide a valuable and often neglected resource for the history of South Semitic, while the texts themselves reveal an exciting world of rival kingdoms, tribal wars, large-scale agricultural projects supported by impressive architectural achievement, and a polytheistic religion constituting the cultural and cultic background against which Islam was to rise.

Recent scholarship has begun to provide basic tools - dictionaries and grammars as well as careful editions of the texts - to render this hitherto little-studied material available for research.