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Title: Himyar  
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Subject: Arab people, History of Yemen, 1st millennium, Aden, Ancient history, Meroë, Kingdom of Nekor, Qahtanite, Himyarite Kingdom, Ezana of Axum
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"Himyar" redirects here. For other uses, see Himyar (disambiguation).
Himyarite Kingdom
مملكة حِمْيَر
110 BCE–525 CE
Ḥimyarite Kingdom (red) in the 3rd century CE.
Capital Zafar
Sana'a (poss. 500s)
Languages Ḥimyarite
Religion Pagan cults and Judaism
Government Monarchy
 -  490s-500s Abu Kariba Assad
 -  500s-510s Dhū-Shanatir
 -  510s Dhū-Shanatir
 -  510s-525 Dhū Nuwās
Historical era Antiquity
 -  Established 110 BCE
 -  Disestablished 525 CE

The Ḥimyarite Kingdom or Ḥimyar (in Arabic مملكة حِمْيَر Mamlakat Ḥimyar) (Flourished 110 BC–520s), historically referred to as the Homerite Kingdom by the Greeks and the Romans, was a kingdom in ancient Yemen. Established in 110 BCE, it took as its capital the modern day city of Sana'a after the ancient city of Zafar. The Kingdom conquered neighbouring Saba' (Sheba) in c.25 BCE (for the first time), Qataban in c.200 CE, and Haḍramaut c.300 CE. Its political fortunes relative to Saba' changed frequently until it finally conquered the Sabaean Kingdom around 280 CE.[1] Himyar then endured until it finally fell to Christian invaders in 525 CE.


The Ḥimyarite Kingdom was the dominant polity in Arabia until 525. Its economy was based on agriculture, and foreign trade centered on the export of frankincense and myrrh. For many years, the kingdom was also the major intermediary linking East Africa and the Mediterranean world. This trade largely consisted of exporting ivory from Africa to be sold in the Roman Empire. Ships from Ḥimyar regularly traveled the East African coast, and the state also exerted a large amount of Influence both cultural religious and political to the trading cities of East Africa whilst the cities of East Africa remained independent. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea describes the trading empire of Himyar and its ruler Charibael (Karab Il Watar Yuhan'em II), who is said to have been on friendly terms with Rome:

"23. And after nine days more there is Saphar, the metropolis, in which lives Charibael, lawful king of two tribes, the Homerites and those living next to them, called the Sabaites; through continual embassies and gifts, he is a friend of the Emperors."

Early period (115 BCE until 300 CE)

During this period, the Kingdom of Ḥimyar conquered the kingdoms of Saba' and Qataban and took Raydan/Zafar for its capital instead of Ma’rib. In the early 2nd century CE Saba' and Qataban split from the Kingdom of Ḥimyar; yet in a few decades Qataban was conquered by Hadramawt (conquered in its turn by Ḥimyar in the 4th century), whereas Saba' was finally conquered by Ḥimyar in the late 3rd century CE.[3]

Zafar's ruins still lie on Mudawwar Mountain near the town of Yarim. During this period, they began to decline and fall. Their trade failed to a very great extent, firstly, because of the Nabetaean domain over the north of Ḥijāz; secondly, because of the Roman superiority over the naval trade routes after the Roman conquest of Egypt, Syria and the north of Hijaz; and thirdly, because of inter-tribal warfare. Thanks to the three above-mentioned factors, families of Qaḥṭān were disunited and scattered about all over Arabia.

From 300 until the advent of Islam in Yemen

This period witnessed a lot of disorder and turmoil. The great many foreign and civil wars cost the people of Yemen their independence. During this era, the Aksumites invaded Tihāmah and Najrān for the first time in the year 340, making use of the constant intra-tribal conflict of Hamdan and Ḥimyar. The Aksumite occupation of Tihāmah and Najrān lasted until 378, whereafter Yemen expelled the Aksumites. After this the Ma'rib Dam's last great flood (450 or 451) weakened Ḥimyar further and led to its collapse.

In the fifth century, several kings of Ḥimyar are known to have converted to Judaism. The political context was the position of Arabia between the competing empires of Christian Byzantium and Zoroastrian Persia. Neutrality, and good trade relations with both empires, was essential to the prosperity of the Arabian trade routes. Scholars speculate that the choice of Judaism may have been an attempt at maintaining neutrality.[4]

Around the year 500, the King of Ḥimyar, Abu-Kariba Assad, undertook a military expedition into northern Arabia in an effort to eliminate Byzantine influence. The Byzantine emperors had long eyed the Arabian Peninsula as a region in which to extend their influence, thereby to control the lucrative spice trade and the route to India. Without actually staging a conquest of the region, the Byzantines hoped to establish a protectorate over the pagan Arabs by converting them to Christianity. The cross would then bear commercial advantages as it did in Ethiopia. The Byzantines had made some progress in northern Arabia but had met with little success in Ḥimyar.[4]

Abu-Kariba's forces reached Yathrib and, meeting no resistance and not expecting any treachery from the inhabitants, they passed through the city, leaving a son of the king behind as governor. Scarcely had Abu-Kariba proceeded farther, when he received news that the people of Yathrib had killed his son. Smitten with grief; he turned back in order to wreak bloody vengeance on the city. After cutting down the palm trees from which the inhabitants derived their main income, Abu-Kariba laid siege to the city. The Jews of Yathrib fought side by side with pagan fellow inhabitants to defend their town and harried the besiegers with sudden sallies. During the siege Abu-Kariba fell severely ill. Two Jewish scholars in Yathrib, Ka'ab and Asad by name, hearing of their enemy's misfortune, called on the king in his camp, and used their knowledge of medicine to restore him to health. While attending the king, they pleaded with him to lift the siege and make peace. The sages' appeal is said to have persuaded Abu-Kariba; he called off his attack and also embraced Judaism along with his entire army. At his insistence, the two Jewish savants accompanied the Ḥimyarite king back to his capital, where he demanded that all his people convert to Judaism. Initially, there was great resistance, but after an ordeal had justified the king's demand and confirmed the truth of the Jewish faith, many Himyarites embraced Judaism. Such conversions, by ordeal, were not uncommon in Arabia. Some historians argue that the conversions occurred, not due to political motivations, but because Judaism, by its philosophical, simplistic and austere nature, was attractive to the nature of the Semitic people.[5] In any case, it is known that by the 6th and 7th centuries, Judaism flourished in Himyar; and in inscriptions dating from those centuries Jewish religious terms such as "Raḥmān" ("the merciful," a divine epithet), "the God of Israel", and the "Lord of Judah" bears testament to this fact.[4]

Abu-Kariba's reign did not last long after his conversion to Judaism. His warlike nature prevented him from maintaining peace and prompted him to engage in bold enterprises. It is uncertain how Abu-Kariba met his death, although some scholars believe that his own soldiers, worn out by constant campaigning, killed him. He left three sons, Ḥasan, 'Amru, and Zorah, all of whom were minors at the time. After Abu-Kariba's demise, a pagan named Dhū-Shanatir seized the throne.[4] In the reign of Subahbi'il Yakkaf, the son of Abu Karib Assad, a certain Azqir, a Christian missionary from Najrān was put to death after he had erected a chapel with a cross. Christian sources interpret the event as a martyrdom at Jewish hands -the site for his execution, Najrān, being said to have been chosen on the advice of a rabbi,[6] but indigenous sources do not mention persecutions on the grounds of faith, and it may have been merely to deter the extension of Byzantine influence.[7]

The Jewish monarchy in Ḥimyar continued for several decades, with one interruption. It finally ended with the reign of Yṳsuf, known as Dhū Nuwās, who in 523 attacked the Christian population of Najrān. [8] (These events, long attested to by Syriac, Greek, and Arabic sources, had until recently been largely dismissed by Western scholars as implausible, but recent discoveries of period inscriptions seem to leave little doubt regarding the historicity of the sources). Word of the slaughter eventually reached the negus of Axum, who invaded Ḥimyar in 525, conquering it and deposing Yūsuf. Ethopian Jewish tradition describes a second Jewish kingdom that arose soon after, the Kingdom of Semien.

Ancestral divisions of Himyar

Kahlan septs emigrated from Yemen to dwell in the different parts of the Arabian Peninsula prior to the Great Flood (Sail Al-‘Arim of Ma’rib Dam), due to the failure of trade under the Roman pressure and domain on both sea and land trade routes following Roman occupation of Egypt and Syria.

Naturally enough, the competition between Kahlan and Ḥimyar led to the evacuation of the first and the settlement of the second in Yemen.

The emigrating septs of Kahlan can be divided into four groups:

  • Azd: Who, under the leadership of ‘Imrān bin ‘Amr Muzaiqbā’, wandered in Yemen, sent pioneers and finally headed northwards. Details of their emigration can be summed up as follows:
    • Tha‘labah bin ‘Amr left his tribe Al-Azd for Ḥijāz and dwelt between Tha‘labiyah and Dhī Qār. When he gained strength, he headed for Madīnah where he stayed. Of his seed are Aws and Khazraj, sons of Haritha bin Tha‘labah.
    • Haritha bin ‘Amr, known as Khuzā‘ah, wandered with his people in Hijaz until they came to Mar Az-Zahran. They conquered the Ḥaram, and settled in Makkah after having driven away its people, the tribe of Jurhum.
    • ‘Imrān bin ‘Amr and his folks went to ‘Oman where they established the tribe of Azd whose children inhabited Tihama and were known as Azd-of-Shanu’a.
    • Jafna bin ‘Amr and his family, headed for Syria where he settled and initiated the kingdom of Ghassan who was so named after a spring of water, in Ḥijāz, where they stopped on their way to Syria.
  • Lakhm and Judham: Of whom was Nasr bin Rabi‘a, father of Manadhira, Kings of Heerah.
  • Banū Ṭai’: Who also emigrated northwards to settle by the so- called Aja and Salma Mountains which were consequently named as Tai’ Mountains.
  • Kindah: Who dwelt in Bahrain but were expelled to Hadramout and Najd where they instituted a powerful government but not for long, for the whole tribe soon faded away.

Another tribe of Himyar, known as Banū Quḑā'ah, also left Yemen and dwelt in Samāwah on the borders of Iraq.

However, the majority of the Ḥimyar Christian royalty migrated into Jordan, Al-Karak, where initially they were known as Banū Ḥimyar (Sons of Ḥimyar). They later on moved to central Jordan to settle in Madaba under the family name of Al-Hamarneh.


It is a matter of debate whether the Himyarite language (Semitic, but not Ṣayhadic) was spoken in the south-western Arabian peninsula until the 10th century.

Kings of Saba' and Ḥimyar

   Mukribs of Saba'
1Yatha' Amar Bayin I
2Yada' Il Bayin I
3Samah Ali Yanuf I
4Yatha' Amar Watar I
5Yakrib Malek Zarih
6Yakrib Malek Watar I
7Samah Ali Yanuf II
8Yada' Il Bayin II
9Yatha' Amar Watar II
10Yada' Ab I
11Yada' Il Bayin III
12Yakrib Malek Watar II
13Yatha' Amar Bayin II
14Karab Il Watar I
15Yada' Ab II
16Akh Karab
17Samah Ali Watar
18Yada' Il Zarih son of 17
19Samah Ali Yanuf III son of 18
20Yatha' Amar Watar III son of 18
21Yada' Il Bayin IV son of 20
22Yada' Il Watar I son of 20
23Zamir Ali Zarih I son of 21
24Yatha' Amar Watar IV son of Samah Ali Yanuf son of 20
25Karab Il Bayin I son of 24
26Samah Ali Yanuf IV son of 24
27Zamir Ali Watar son of 26
28Samah Ali Yanuf V son of 27
29Yatha' Amar Bayin III son of 28
30Yakrib Malek Watar III
31Zamir Ali Yanuf son of 30
   Kings of Saba'
32Karab Il Watar II son of 31
33Samah Ali Zarih son of 32
34Karab Il Watar III son of 33
35Il Sharih I son of 33
36Yada' Il Bayin V son of 34
37Yakrib Malek Watar IV son of 36
38Yatha' Amar Bayin IV son of 37
39Karab Il Watar IV son of 38
40Yada' Il Bayin VI son of 39
41Samah Ali Yanuf VI son of 39
42Yatha' Amar Watar V son of 39
43Il Sharih II son of 41
44Zamir Ali Bayin I son of 41
45Yada' Il Watar II son of 44
46Zamir Ali Bayin II son of 45
47Samah Ali Yanuf VII son of 46
48Karab Il Watar V son of 46?
49Karab Yuhan'em son of Ham Athat
50Karab Il Watar VI son of 49
51Wahab Shamsam son of Halik Amar
52Wahab Il Yahiz I son of Saraw
53Anmar Yuha'man I son of 52
54Zamir Ali Zarih II son of 53
55Nasha Karab Yuha'man son of 54
56Wahab Il Yahiz II
57Zamir Ali Bayin III
58Anmar Yuha'man II son of 56
59Yasir Yuhan'em I
60Shamir Yuhar'esh I son of 59
61Yarim Aymin son of Awsalat Rafshan
62Karab Il Watar Yuhan'em I son of 56
63Alhan Nahfan son of 61
64Far'am Yanhab
   Kings of Saba' & Ziridan
65Sha'ram Awtar son of 63
66Il Sharih Yahzib son of 64
67Yazil Bayin son of 64
68Hayu Athtar Yazi' son of 65?
69Karab Il Watar Yuhan'em II son of 57
70Watar Yuha'min son of 66
71Zamir Ali Zarih III son of 69
72Nasha Karab Yuha'min Yuharhib son of 66
73Karab Il Bayin II son of 71
74Yasir Yuhasdiq
75Sa'd Shams Asri' son of 66
76Murthid Yuhahmid son of 75
77Zamir Ali Yahbir I son of 74
78Tharin Ya'ib Yuhan'im son of 77
79Zamir Ali Yahbir II son of 78
80Shamdar Yuhan'im
81Amdan Bayin Yuhaqbiz
82Hutar Athat Yafish
83Karab Athat Yuhaqbiz
84Shahar Aymin
85Rab Shams Namran
86Il Ez Nawfan Yuhasdiq
87Sa'd Um Namran
88Yasir Yuhan'em II
   Kings of Saba' & Ziridan & Hazarmut & Yamnit
89Shamir Yuhar'esh II son of 88
90Yarim Yuharhib son of 89
91Yasir Yuhan'im III son of 89
92Tharin Ayfi' son of 91
93Zari' Amar Aymin I son of 91
94Karab Il Watar Yuhan'em III
95Tharin Yakrib son of 89
96Zamir Ali Yahbir III son of 95
97Tharin Yuhan'im son of 96
98Malki Karab Yuha'min son of 97
99Zari' Amar Aymin II son of 98
100Ab Karab As'id son of 98
101Hasan Yuha'min son of 100
102Sharhib Il Ya'fir son of 100
103Sharhib Il Yakif
104Mu'di Karab Yan'im son of 103
105Luhay'ath Yanuf son of 103
106Nawfim son of 103
107Murthid Alan Yanuf
108Mu'di Karab Ya'fir
109Yusif Asar

See also



  • Alessandro de Maigret. Arabia Felix, translated Rebecca Thompson. London: Stacey International, 2002. ISBN 1-900988-07-0
  • Andrey Korotayev. Ancient Yemen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-19-922237-1.
  • Andrey Korotayev. Pre-Islamic Yemen. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1996. ISBN 3-447-03679-6.
  • Bafaqīh, M. ‛A., L'unification du Yémen antique. La lutte entre Saba’, Himyar et le Hadramawt de Ier au IIIème siècle de l'ère chrétienne. Paris, 1990 (Bibliothèque de Raydan, 1).
  • Yule, P., Himyar Late Antique Yemen/Die Spätantike im Jemen, Aichwald, 2007, ISBN 978-3-929290-35-6
  • Yule, Zafar-The Capital of the Ancient Himyarite Empire Rediscovered, Jemen-Report 36, 2005, 22-29
  • Joseph Adler, "The Jewish Kingdom of Himyar (Yemen): Its Rise and Fall" Midstream, May/June 2000, Volume XXXXVI, No. 4

External links

  •, Islam by Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.
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