Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte
|Governorate||Amānat al-ʿaṣimah (Ṣanʿāʾ)|
|Coordinates||Latitude: 15° 21' 17" Longitude: 44° 12' 57"|
|Type of site||Settlement|
ʾlmqh bʿl Ḍfrn
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Building with political function
|Location and toponomy||The city of Sanaa, the ancient Ṣanʿâ (Ṣnʿw), is located in a rift plain with a north-south orientation, bordered by volcanic escarpments to the east and the west. The plain presents a quaternary alluvial sedimentary cover. Combined with frequent precipitations (over 600 mm of water per year), this soil cover allows a dry agriculture.|
|History of research||For the ancient Ṣanʿâʾ, most probably still under the current ancient city, there was only a sounding, in the court of the great mosque (Warburton 1998).|
The studies on Ṣanʿâʾ mainly concern the Ghumdân palace and the pre-Islamic church through the analysis of the texts of Arab historiographers, south Arabian inscriptions (from the current urban pattern) and the identification of reemployed ancient architectural elements (Lewcock 1979; King 1980; Beeston 1983; Serjeant & Lewcock 1983; Piotrovsky 1988; Finster & Schmidt 1994; Keall 2005; Lewcock 2005, Robin 2015).
|General description||The city of Ṣanʿâʾ mainly developed at the beginning of the Christian era.|
A rampart: the ancient city was probably surrounded by a rampart. On the one hand Beeston (1983) saw in the toponym Ṣanʿâʾ a derivation from the Sabaean root ṢNʿ which means « fortified » ; on the other hand, the testimony of ʿAmr b. Isḥâq al-Ḥaḍramî related by al-Hamdânî let us know that the Sabaean king Shaʿr Awtar (beginning of the 3rd century) had the rampart of Ṣanʿâʾ built. Lewcock (1986, 2005) identified the perfect square foundations of the two bastions of the citadel of Ṣanʿâʾ and the lower parts of Bâb as-Sitrân as the vestiges of pre-Islamic fortifications.
The Ghumdân palace: at the beginning of the 3rd century, south Arabian texts recall the presence of a royal palace called Ghumdân. The first mention of Ghumdân dates to the reign of Shaʿr Awtar (Ir 11). Al-Hamdânî provided a description of the palace in the 10th century, recalling the presence of vestiges in front of the western entrance to the great mosque, the looting of building stones, and its destruction under the caliph ʿUthmân (Piotrovsky 1988).
At the end of the 3rd century, after the annexation of the Sabaean kingdom, Ṣanʿâʾ lost its statute of seat of the royal power. Nonetheless, the city probably remained an administrative centre for some time. The text Ja 655, at the end of the 3rd century, actually indicates the presence of a governor heading the tribe of Maʾdhin. It is possible that Ṣanʿâʾ was one of the main urban centres on the territory of this tribe; therefore it could appear as a residency of the governor. Ṣanʿâʾ became once again the seat of the royal power under the reign of Abrahâ (mid-6th century).
Temples and churches: during the second half of the 3rd century, an Awwâm sanctuary was attested somewhere around the city (CIAS 39.11/o 3 no 6).
In the mid-6th century, under the reign of Abraha, a church was built (unless it had only been embellished). Arab tradition recalls the existence of a church in Ṣanʿâʾ that was supposed to satisfy the wish of Abraha to attract pilgrims to Mecca towards Ṣanʿâʾ The magnificence of the church described by the Arab traditionalists (King 1980) shows the importance of the structure for the whole region as well as the attraction that it certainly exercised upon the surrounding populations. The church was destroyed between 753 and 755. Lewcock (1979, 2005) suggested that its location was to the south of the ancient city of Ṣanʿâʾ, assimilating the polygonal depression Ghurqat al-Qalîs to the martyrion of the church of Ṣanʿâʾ. On the contrary, Robin proposed to locate the church where the Great Mosque is (Robin 2015). The presence of a Christian community is attested for the last time in Ṣanʿâʾ in the 9th century as mentioned by a bishop called Pierre (Robin 1991).
|Chronology||Ṣanʿâʾ appeared in the 1st century in the inscription Gl A.452. A new mention of the city is dated to the end of the 1st century in Ja 644 as a starting point of an expedition against the Himyarite qayls of the Shadad tribe.|
An inscription found in a construction trench (MAFRAY-Ṣanʿâʾ 1) is dated to the reign of the son of ʿmdn Byn Yhqbḍ (end of the 1st century). Two inscriptions, probably coming from Ṣanʿâʾ, mention the kings Wtrm Yhʾmn mlk S¹bʾ w-ḏ-Rydn, c. AD 130-140 (CIH 10), and Krbʾl Wtr Yhnʿm mlk S¹bʾ bn Whbʾl Yḥz mlk S¹bʾ, c. AD180 (CIH 1).
At the beginning of the 3rd century, the institution of a Sabaean royal palace in the city of Ṣanʿâʾ transformed it into the second Sabaean capital (together with Maʾrib).
Under the reign of Shaʿr Awtar, in the 3rd century, it is in this city that the king of Kinda was held as prisoner, captured during a Sabaean military campaign (DAI Barʾân 2000-1). The establishment of this new political capital can be explained by the growing power of Ḥimyar on the southern part of the highlands and by the need to institute a political and military Sabaean presence to oppose the Ḥimyarite power. This establishment is also the consequence of the growing strength that the tribal aristocracy of the highlands takes, inside the Sabaean élite, starting from the beginning of the Christian era.
The choice of Ṣanʿâʾ is strategic, the city controls the area that connects the northern with the central highlands, through the pass of Yakâr; it controls the communication axis that goes from Jawf and Nihm to Tihâma and the Red Sea passing through the wâdî Surdud.
With the annexation of Sabaʾ by Ḥimyar, the city of Ṣanʿâʾ lost its statute of political capital. We do not know of any attestation of the city during the period that separates the end of the Sabaean kings (end of the 3rd century) to the middle of the 6th century. Only the inscription CIH 6, which comes from Ṣanʿâʾ, mentions the construction of a building in the year 463.
Halfway through the 6th century Abraha transferred the seat of power from Ẓafâr to Ṣanʿâʾ. Ṣanʿâʾ then becomes the political centre of the different political organizations that succeeded one another. The Persian satraps settled in Ṣanʿâʾ.
After al-Hamdânî, the city continued to grow over the first two centuries of the Hegira (Grjaznevic 1988). The pre-Islamic ramparts probably did not exist anymore, because the traditionalists describe a city that does not have any fortifications before the rebellion of Ibn Yuʿfir in the 9th century (Grjaznevic 1988; Lewcock 2005). It remained an administrative centre hosting the seat of the Umayyad and Abbasid governors.
|north-east of Ḥaddah (unknown)|
|north-west of Hijrat Qirwān (unknown)|
|north-west of Naʿḍ (Nʿḍ)|
|south-east of Qaryat al-Qābil (Unknown)|
|west of Tanʿim (Tnʿmt)|
|south of Unknown (Unknown)|
|south of Bayt Dughaysh (Ḥdqn)|
|south of Nāʿiṭ (Nʿṭm)|
|north of Bayt Ḍalaʿa (Unknown)|
|south of Shuʿūb (S²ʿbm)|
|north of Bayt Baws (Unknown)|
|south-east of Ḥāz (Ḥzym)|
|south of ʿIrrān (ʿrn)|
|north of ʿAṭṭān (ʿḍdn)|
|south of Banū Ḥushaysh (Unknown)|
|north of as-Sadū (wādī al-ʿIshash) (Ḥḍt)|
|south-east of Ḍahr (Ḍhr)|
|south-east of Ḍulaʿ (Ḍlʿm)|
|west of Naqīl Shijāʿ (Unknown)|
|south-east of al-Kharba (unknown)|
|north-west of Hijrat al-Kibs (Unknown)|
|north-west of Asnāf (Unknown)|
|north-west of Dār ash-Sharīf (Unknown)|
|west of Bayt an-Najjār (Unknown)|
|west of Bayt al-Ḥaysa (Unknown)|
|west of Jabal Tinaʿ (Unknown)|
Objects in CSAI
|Beeston 1983||Beeston, Alfred F.L. Pre-Islamic Ṣanʿāʾ. Pages 36-38 in Robert B. Serjeant and Ronald Lewcock (eds). Ṣan'ā'. An arabian islamic city. London: The world of Islam festival trust. |
|Finster and Schmidt 1994||Finster, Barbara and Schmidt, Jürgen 1994. Die Kirche des Abraha in Sanʿāʾ. Pages 67-86 in Norbert Nebes. Arabia Felix. Beiträge zur Sprache und Kultur des vorislamischen Arabien. Festschrift Walter W. Müller zum 60. Geburtstag. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. |
|Gajda 1997: 289-291||Gajda, Iwona 1997. Ḥimyar gagné par le monothéisme (IVe-VIe siècle de l'ère chrétienne). Ambitions et ruine d'un royaume de l'Arabie méridionale antique. (Université d'Aix-en-Provence). |
|al-Garoo 1986: 310-313||al-Garoo, Asmahan 1986. Les antiquités du Yémen dans l'œuvre de al-Hamdânī. (PhD, Université Paris I). |
|Grjaznevič 1988||Grjaznevič, Petr A. 1988. The Monuments of Old San’a. Pages 8-27 in Svetlana Ya. Bersina (ed.). Ancient and Mediaeval Monuments of Civilization of Southern Arabia. Investigation and Conservation Problems. Moscow: Nauka Publishers, Central Dept. of Oriental Literature. |
|Höfner 1966: 29-36||Höfner, Maria 1966. Bearbeitung der von Carl Rathjens in Sabaeica I und II in Abbildungen veröffentlichten altsüdarabischen Inschriften, sowie einiger sonstiger von ihm gesammelter Inschriftensteine. (Carl Rathjens, Sabaeica. Bericht über die archäologischen Ergebnisse seiner zweiten, dritten und vierten Reise nach Südarabien. III). (Mitteilungen aus dem Museum für Völkerkunde in Hamburg, 28). Hamburg: Kommissionsverlag Cram, de Gruyter and Co.. |
|al-Ḥiwālī 1967 a: 101||al-Ḥiwālī, Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Akwaʿ 1967. Kitāb al-Iklīl li-lisān al-Yaman Abī Muḥammad al-Ḥasan ibn Aḥmad ibn Yaʿqūb al-Hamdānī, al-ǧuz' al-ṯānī. Cairo. |
|al-Ḥiwālī 1967 b: 33, 36, 57, 64||al-Ḥiwālī, Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Akwaʿ 1967. Kitāb al-Iklīl li-lisān al-Yaman Abī Muḥammad al-Ḥasan ibn Aḥmad ibn Yaʿqūb al-Hamdānī, al-ǧuzʾ al-ṯāmin. Cairo. |
|al-Ḥiwālī 1974: 81, 82, 154||al-Ḥiwālī, Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Akwaʿ 1974. Ṣifa ǧazirat al-ʿArab, taʾlīf Lisān al-Yaman al-Ḥasan ibn Aḥmad al-Hamdānī. Riyāḍ: Manšūrāt Dār al-Yamāma li-l-baḥṯ wa-l-taraǧama wa-l-našr. |
|Keall 2005||Keall, Edward J. 2005. Was there a Round City in Ṣanʿāʾ under Sasanian Rule?. Pages 59-70 in Sālih ʿAlī Bāsurrah (ed.). Sanʿāʾ. History and Cultural Heritage. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Yemeni Civilization. (2 vols), 2. Ṣanʿāʾ. |
|King 1980||King, G. R. D. 1980. Some Christian Wall-Mosaics in Pre-Islamic Arabia. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 10: 37-43. |
|Lewcock 1979||Lewcock, Ronald 1979. La cathédrale de Sanaa au VIe siècle. Dossiers d'Archéologie, 33/mars/avril: 80-83. |
|Lewcock 2005||Lewcock, Ronald 2005. Early and Medieval Sanaa. The evidence on the Ground. Pages 71-85 in Sālih ʿAlī Bāsurrah (ed.). Sanʿāʾ. History and Cultural Heritage. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Yemeni Civilization. (2 vols), 2. Ṣanʿāʾ. |
|Lundin 1988 a||Lundin (=Loundine), Avraam G. 1988. Sabaean City Sanʿa in the Ist to VIth centuries A.D.. Pages 39-48 in Svetlana Ya. Bersina (ed.). Ancient and Mediaeval Monuments of Civilization of Southern Arabia. Investigation and Conservation Problems. Moscow: Nauka Publishers, Central Dept. of Oriental Literature. |
|Morony 2002||Morony, Michael G. 2002. The Late Sasanian economic impact on the Arabian peninsula. Nāme-ye Irān-e Bāstān, 1/2: 25-37. |
|Piotrovsky 1988||Piotrovskij, Mikhail B. 1988. The Fate of Castle Ghumdan. Pages 28-38 in Svetlana Ya. Bersina (ed.). Ancient and Mediaeval Monuments of Civilization of Southern Arabia. Investigation and Conservation Problems. Moscow: Nauka Publishers, Central Dept. of Oriental Literature. |
|Rathjens 1953: 37-48||Rathjens, Carl 1953. Sabaeica. Bericht über die archäologischen Ergebnisse seiner zweiten, dritten und vierten Reise nach Südarabien. I. Teil. Der Reisebericht. (Mitteilungen aus dem Museum für Völkerkunde in Hamburg, 24). Hamburg: Kommissionsverlag Ludwig Appel. |
|Rathjens and Wissmann 1929||Rathjens, Carl and Wissmann, Hermann von 1929. Sanaa, eine südarabische Stadtlandschaft. Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin: 329-353. |
|Rathjens and Wissmann 1934: 137-154||Rathjens, Carl and Wissmann, Hermann von 1934. Landeskundliche Ergebnisse. Rathjens-v. Wissmannsche Südarabischen-Reise. 3. (Abhandlungen aus dem Gebiet der Auslandskunde; Völkerkunde, Kulturgeschichte und Sprachen, 40/B; 20). Hamburg: Friederichsen, De Gruyter and Co. |
|Robin and Vogt 1997: 186, 191-192||Robin, Christian J. and Vogt, Burkhard (eds) 1997. Yémen, au pays de la reine de Saba. Exposition présentée à l'Institut du monde arabe du 25 octobre 1997 au 28 février 1998. Paris: Flammarion, Institut du Monde Arabe. |
|Serjeant and Lewcock 1983 a||Serjeant, Robert B. and Lewcock, Ronald (eds). Ṣan'ā'. An arabian islamic city. London: The world of Islam festival trust. |
|Serjeant and Lewcock 1983 b||Serjeant, Robert B. and Lewcock, Ronald The Church (al-Qalīs) of Sanʿāʾ and Ghumdān Castle. Pages 44-48 in Robert B. Serjeant and Ronald Lewcock (eds). Ṣan'ā'. An arabian islamic city. London: The world of Islam festival trust. |
|Shahid 1979: 81-83||Shahid, Irfan 1979. Byzantium in South Arabia. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 33: 23-94. |
|al-Sheiba 1987: 38-39||al-Sheiba, Abdullah Hassan 1987. Die Ortsnamen in den altsüdarabischen Inschriften (mit dem Versuch ihrer Identifizierung und lokalisierung). Archäologische Berichte aus dem Yemen, 4: 1-62. |
|Smith 1998||Smith, G.R. 1998. Ṣanʿāʾ. Pages 1-3 in C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs and G. Lecomte (eds). Encyclopaedia of Islam/Encyclopédie de l'Islam. Volume IX San-Sze. (2nd edition). 9. Leiden: Brill. |
|Warburton 1998||Warburton, David A. 1998. A stratigraphic section in the Old City of Ṣanʿāʾ. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 28: 271-285. |
|Wissmann 1964 a: passim||Wissmann, Hermann von 1964. Zur Geschichte und Landeskunde von Alt-Südarabien. Sammlung Eduard Glaser. 3. (Sitzungsberichte der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-historische Klasse, 246). Vienna: Böhlaus. |
|Wissmann and Höfner 1952: passim||Wissmann, Hermann von and Höfner, Maria 1952. Beiträge zur historischen Geographie des vorislamischen Südarabien. (Abhandlungen der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse, 4). Mainz: Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur / Wiesbaden: Steiner. |