Saba, modern day Yemen, was a kingdom in pre-
Islamic southwestern Arabia, mentioned in the
Bible, in the story of King Solomon and the
Queen of Sheba, and variously cited by ancient
Assyrian, Greek, and Roman authors.
Its capital was the city of Ma?rib, with Sirwah as
the second major city.
The Sabaeans were of Semitic origins and at an
unknown date entered southern Arabia from the
north, imposing their culture on an aboriginal
population. Excavations in central Yemen suggest
that the Sabaean civilization began as early as
the 10th–12th century BC. The period between
the 8th to the 5th century BC was characterized
by a tremendous outburst of building activity,
with most of the great temples and monuments,
including the great Ma?rib Dam, on which
Sabaean agricultural prosperity depended, dating
back to this period.
For centuries Saba controlled the straits leading
into the Red Sea, also establishing many colonies
on the African shores.
Saba was rich in spices and agricultural products
and carried on a wealth of trade by overland
caravan and by sea. In addition, a trade route
that connected India to Egypt that passed
through their capital of Marib was another major
source of wealth.
Although gold and silver deposits were present,
the chief source of the kingdom’s vast wealth
derived from the monopoly of two of the most
coveted materials in ancient times: frankincense
and myrrh. Marib's wealth accumulated to such
an extent that the city became a byword for
riches beyond belief throughout the Arab world.
In the 1st Century A.D., the Ptolemaic Greeks
discovered a sea route from India directly to the
port of Alexandria, eliminating Saba from her
lucrative trade and ushering in the decline of
Sabean prosperity. In the following two centuries
the Sabaeans would completely disappear as they
were successively overrun by Persian adventurers
and by the Muslim Arabs.
This magnificent funerary stone in high relief is a
stunning example of the sophistication of Sabean
art. It was originally inserted into a matching tall
and narrow but larger quadrangular pillar, as to
form the tombstone.
Male face with top hair-fringe, rigorously semi-
circular ears, level eyebrows, long triangular
nose, slit mouth, plain beard and a slight
squared chin. The 5- letter name, G w t ‘ l –
Ghawth-il – is well attested.
It dates between the 3rd-4th centuries BC.