Arabia is the land of the Queen of Sheba

A large part of Arabia is occupied by deserts and mountains. It's hard to believe that once ancient authors called this land Arabia Felix - "Happy Arabia". However, this name did not apply to the entire peninsula, but only to its southern extremity - to the country in which, according to legend, was the land of Queen of Sheba.

A large part of Arabia is occupied by deserts and mountains. It's hard to believe that once ancient authors called this land Arabia Felix - Happy Arabia

The land of the Queen of Sheba was located in the territory of modern Yemen, where abundant rains on the flat bank, overgrown with palm trees, in the mountains covered with forest, contributed to the rapid growth of tropical vegetation. Here, on a narrow strip of the coast of the Arabian Sea, trees and shrubs grew, giving incense, myrrh, which were in high demand in the countries of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The cultivation of fragrant trees and the production of incense, myrrh became the source of the prosperity of Arabia.

Reports of ancient authors about the mysterious cities of Arabia, about the former wealth of this ancient country have long attracted the attention of researchers. For a long time, Yemen remained a country that was closed to the "infidels". In 1761 an expedition of the famous Dane Karsten Nibur was first visited here. In 1802 Ulrich Jasper Zeetsen set off on a journey through the Middle East. But on the way there, Seetzen died.

Only in the middle of the 19th century the researchers managed to visit South Arabia for the first time. The first European, who set foot on the land of Yemen, was the Frenchman Tom Arnault. In July 1843, he managed to penetrate the ancient capital of the country, Marib. Arno took copies of 56 ancient inscriptions.

In 1869, the French scientist Joseph Alevi went to South Arabia. He secretly penetrated this country and after a tiring 300-kilometer journey reached Marib. He managed to copy over 600 ancient inscriptions, preserved on the ruins of various buildings. These were texts in the Sabean language and samples of the unknown Minnesian language until then.

Systematic excavations in South Arabia began only in 1950, when the American archaeological expedition arrived under the direction of Wendell Philipps. By that time, the scientists had already had a huge body of texts collected in South Arabia. As it turned out, "the land of the Queen of Sheba" was a real "country of inscriptions", which indicates an extremely wide distribution of writing. They wrote everything: kings and noble people, slaves and merchants, builders and priests, camel drivers and artisans, men and women. Wrote on a variety of materials: stone, wooden plaques, clay tablets, cast inscriptions in bronze, scratched on the rocks.

The ancient inhabitants of South Arabia spoke the languages of a separate subgroup of Semitic languages and used a special letter inherited from the alphabetical writing of the Eastern Mediterranean. According to archaeological materials, the Semitic tribes began to penetrate the territory of South Arabia in the late 3rd - early 2nd millennium BC. These tribes already had a fairly high level of development. They were familiar with agriculture, they had skills in many areas of economic and cultural life: irrigation, construction, had a harmonious system of religious beliefs. Thus, in southern Arabia, several foci of culture emerged: the Maine (Minea) and Sabaean kingdoms, the kingdom of Kataban, Hadramaut. Since the 2nd millennium BC until the 6th century AD these states of South Arabia went through a complex path of development, then reaching the heights of civilization, then plunging into dust.

The prosperity of the state of South Arabia was due, above all, to the wide international trade of incense. In the 10th century BC the Sabbian kingdom ties in trade and diplomatic relations with the Eastern Mediterranean, in the 8th century BC. comes into contact with Assyria. Not later than the 7th century BC Sabaeans occupy the territory of modern Northeast Ethiopia, and from the 7th century BC all of South-West Arabia passes under the authority of the Sabaean kingdom. Probably, it is to this period that the birth of legends about the Queen of Sheba (Sabean), the ruler of a powerful state rich in gold and incense, belongs.

The capital of ancient Saba in the 11th-2nd centuries BC was Marib. Today, looking at the boundless sea of sand and stone with the dark islets of mountains, on the adobe constructions of today's Marib, it's hard to imagine that once this edge was a blooming garden.

Marib, located at an altitude of 2000 m above sea level, is visible from afar. Today's village stands on the step-like ledges of the mountain, to which the dwellings have cleaved. Impressive panorama of Mariba is complemented by 12-meter pylons rising to the left of it, partially covered with sand. These are the ruins of the temple of the lunar god Ilumkuhu (Almakahu), excavated in 1951-1952. American archaeologists. They established that this sanctuary was built around the middle of the 7th century BC.

Back in 1928, Karl Rafiens reported on the famous dam Mariba - one of the wonders of the Ancient World. Built in the 8th century BC, it blocked off the Wadi-Dan gorge and delayed the water flowing from the river system, so that the desert around Mariba turned into a blooming garden. In parallel to the dam stretched a notable irrigation canal about a kilometer long, which once irrigated the gardens of the left bank of Wadi Dan.

In the 6-4 centuries BC as a result of prolonged wars, Mine, Kataban and Hadramaut freed themselves from Sabaean dependence. All caravan trade from the 6th century BC was in the hands of Maine. However, the wars did not abate and continued throughout the 2nd half of the 1st millennium BC. As a result, the Maine kingdom fell and was captured by the Sabaeans, but soon the Sabaean state itself, weakened by long wars, became the arena of internal strife. Relative stability in Arabia was established only from the 3rd century AD, when a dynasty of Himyarites from the Khimyar region, located in the extreme south-west of South Arabia, was established in Saba.

However, by the beginning of our era there was a sharp deterioration in the situation on the international market of incense. And at the end of the 2nd century BC the monopoly of South Arabia in the transit trade between India and Egypt was dealt a heavy blow: the discovery by the Greek-Egyptian navigators of the monsoon regime allowed them to make a direct voyage to and from India. The Vnugraravian trade was rapidly declining, and internecine wars destroyed the very foundation of the prosperity of the economy of South Arabia - the struggle was fought directly on the lands where the trees that gave incense were growing in the seaside areas where the harbors were located for the export of these incense. The decline of South Arabia, which began in the first centuries of our era, ended in her death.