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Arabian Peninsula, 1000 B.C.1 A.D.

 Encompasses present-day Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen


Alabaster male figure Bronze inscribed plaque Bronze incense burner

Key Events

• ca. 950 B.C. The South Arabian kingdom of Saba (biblical Sheba) emerges, with its capital at Marib, a fertile oasis east of modern San'a in Yemen. In biblical accounts, the Queen of Sheba brought a rich gift of gold, spices, and precious stones to King Solomon in Jerusalem.

• ca. 7th–5th century B.C. The Sabaeans monopolize the trade in frankincense and myrrh from their capital, situated on one of the principal caravan routes linking the Arabian Peninsula to the Mediterranean. Among their many building projects, they construct the immense, stone-faced Marib Dam (ca. 550 B.C.), about 1,800 feet wide with sluices to control the flow of water.

• ca. 5th–2nd century B.C. The South Arabian kingdoms of Ma'in, Hadhramaut, and Qataban, originally vassal states of Saba, rise to power and alternately monopolize the trade routes. Unlike the other kingdoms, which are composed of federations of communities led by one dominant community, Ma'in's form of governance approaches democracy. Essentially a trading organization, it consists of large and small groups of traders, none of whom play a hegemonic role. The Minaeans' international relations are attested in their inscriptions, which mention Egypt, Ionia, Phoenicia, and Gaza, among other places.

• ca. 300 B.C. Greeks arrive in Dilmun, naming it Tylos, thus beginning the Hellenistic period in Dilmun's history.

• ca. 3rd century B.C. During a period of colonization, the Persians introduce the falaj underground irrigation system to southeastern Arabia. The system allows the continuation of agriculture although the climate is becoming progressively drier, greatly increasing permanent settlements throughout the peninsula.

• ca. 2nd century B.C. The center of South Arabian power shifts from inland to coastal areas, with the kingdom of Himyar rising to prominence and controlling land routes leading to the coast. Originally a tribe in the kingdom of Saba, the Himyarites adopt Sabaean traditions and language and rule from their capital at Zafar (near modern Yarim).

• ca. 100 B.C. The spectacular rock-cut city of Petra, capital of the Nabataean kingdom of Arabia, reaches its apogee.

• ca. 1st century B.C. Qataban is conquered and Timna', its capital, burned and incorporated into Hadhramaut.

• ca. 25 B.C. Aelius Gallus, Roman governor of Egypt, leads an army into southern Arabia but is forced to retreat as disease spreads among his soldiers.


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