Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions

Jamme 1972: pl. 5 (facsimile)
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LanguageAncient South Arabian » Qatabanic » Central Qatabanic
AlphabetAncient South Arabian
Script typologyMonumental writing
Writing techniqueIncision
Measure of letters4-6
Textual typologyLegal text


   1  kn wqh ʾnby w-rb(q)((rb(ʿ))) Brm b-s¹ʾl
   2  s¹ʾl Ydʿʾb Ygl mlk Qtbn b-ʿl[w]
   3  S²bʿt w-Mtntm w-Ḍḥyn w-Fryḍ w-Ḍḥyn w-
   4  S²bʿt w-Myfʿ w-ḏt Yḫḍ w-ḥql ʿynm bn ḫmyw
   5  Byḥn w-ḏ-ʿdnm l-lʿl bn ʿḍd Byḥn mmqṭytm l-ms²r[q]
   6  ʿd s¹mtn w-ʾs¹ṭrn ḏtm ws¹m w-s¹ṭr b-Ḫlbṣm l-lʿl l-ʾy-
   7  (ḥ)rm rḥbt w-S²bʿt w-Mtntm w-Fryḍ w-Ḍḥyn w-ḥql ʿynm
   8  (m)rḥbm bn nḫlm w-ḥrṯ ʾwd w-bqlm bqlm w-bny ḥrtm w-ʾqr—
   9  (ḍ)m w-bn ḍmr ḍmrm ʾw ḥrṯ kl ʾwdm w-mrḥbm-ʾy l-yḍʾ w-ḥrt-s¹ w-
  10  (b)qlm kwn b-ḏtn ʾrḍtn l-ygbḏ w-wḍʾ ḥrt-s¹n w-ʾwwd-s¹n w-bḍʿ
  11  Ḫḏry l-yḥrm bn ʿlym w-fʿl w-ṣyr l-lʿl bqlm w-ṣyrm w-ḥrtm w-ʾ—
  12  wwd bn qf Ẓrn ʿd ʾs¹ṭr Ḫlbṣm l-ms²rq w-l-lʿl w-ḏtn ʾrḍtn (w)-(ʾs¹)—
  13  ṭrn ḥrmw bn qwr b-s¹m kl bʾrm bn-ḏn wrḫn l-ʾḫr w-kwnt ḏt
  14  qhtn ywmyt s²lṯm ḏ-Fqḥw ḏ-Bs²mm ḫrf Yqhmlk ḏ-Ḏrʾn qdmn

1the reading rbʿ is also possible, more than a human waterkeeper, we could have a divine protector.
2bʿl could be referred to the king: "the Lord of", but seems better to read b-ʿl[w].



   1  So commanded ʾnby and the waterkeeper (or, the Protector) of Brm - through the oracle
   2  requested by Ydʿʾb Ygl king of Qatabān - regarding
   3  S²bʿt and Mtntm and Ḍḥyn and Fryḍ: Ḍḥyn and
   4  S²bʿt and Myfʿ and ḏt Yḫd and the plane of ʿynm from the two properties,
   5  Byḥn and ḏ-ʿdnm, towards the North from the enclosure of Byḥn, the area in the West, towards the East
   6  as far as the mark and the inscriptions which were drawn and written in Ḫlbṣm towards the North,
   7  that (these areas) were country open to the flood: S²bʿt and Mtntm and Fryḍ and Ḍḥyn and the plane of ʿynm,
   8  as a country open to the flood (it is free) from palm-groves, terracing and retaining walls, cultivation of plants and edification of canals and dams,
   9  edification of water conduits or terrace cultivations with retaining walls - and as a country open to the flood all constructions must be destroyed, its canals and
  10  its cultivations, which were in these lands, their canals and their retaining walls must be eliminated and destroyed; the territory
  11  of Ḫḏry is to be prohibited from building, putting up, cultivating, towards the North, cultivations, water pits, canals and retaining walls
  12  from the land mark of Ẓrn as far as the inscriptions of Ḫlbṣm towards the East and the North and these lands and the inscriptions
  13  which forbad to dig any well from this month forth. This decree has been
  14  issued in the third day of the second ten days period of Bs²mm, the first year of Yqhmlk ḏ-Ḏrʾn.


Support typeRock inscription
Measuresh. 180, w. 98-118
Link to object record


Modern siteJabal Khalbaṣ
Ancient siteḪlbṣ
Geographical areaWādī Bayḥān
Link to site record


The majority of the legal texts are royal decrees. But this first decree was emanated directly by the god ʾnby, the protector of property rights. According to our interpretation, the king is trying to
repeat, with the emphasis he draws from divine authority ("through the oracle" requested by the king), a decree which has not been
obeyed. It seems that, considering the system of water collection and conservation developed by the inhabitants of South Arabia, it was crucial for the entire
community that ownership of the lands earmarked for flooding be subtracted from individuals
and that they be considered the property of the king, namely of the state. Therefore the listed lands that the king is lord of had been declared set aside for the waters, thus making
it forbidden to cultivate them and build on them. In the first part, there is an attempt to specify
as clearly as possible what territories they are, giving the name and specifying the geographical
position. The decree, obviously, had not been obeyed and the king had to order the demolition of
all unauthorized buildings and cultivations that had been made. The prohibition to dig wells on the
land set aside for the flood had also to be repeated.


Jamme 1972: 22-26, pl. 5 (facsimile)Jamme, Albert W.F. 1972. Miscellanées d'ancient arabe III. Washington. 2019/07/23; https://cuislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/cuislandora%3A206336#page/1/mode/1up. [Privately printed]
Pirenne 1971: 117-132, pl. IIIPirenne, Jacqueline 1971. Une législation hydrologique en Arabie du sud antique. Pages 117-135 in Hommages à André Dupont-Sommer. Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve.