Corpus of Late Sabaic Inscriptions


Corpus of Late Sabaic Inscriptions

The Late Sabaic Corpus is made up of some 200 inscriptions that date to between the 4th and 6th centuries AD. Inscriptions from this period are found all over south Arabia, but they also come from places beyond the border of Najrān, like Biʾr Ḥimā, Biʾr Murayġan or wādī Maʾsal, in central Arabia. We have long, commemorative texts, which describe the military campaigns of the Himyarite kings (BR-Yanbuq 47, Ry 509, Ry 510).

Besides describing their wars, the kings, as well as private subjects, also loved commemorating the construction of their palaces, going into detail of the various sections and materials used (e.g. Gar Bayt al-Ashwal 2, Gar Sharahbil A and B, or Gr 27, Ibrahim al-Hudayd).
The same descriptive precision is seen in the many texts on the repair of the dam of Mārib (CIH 540, 541, Ja 547 and DAI GDN 2002-20).
Dedicatory inscriptions are no longer attested in this period, after the adoption by the ruling Himyarite class of the monotheistic religion. Texts now invoke a single god, firstly generally called "lord of heaven and earth", known as Rḥmnn from the mid 5th century onwards.
Inscriptions are now dated according to the Himyarite era. The last south Arabian inscription (CIH 325) dates back to 560 AD, just before the conquest of Yemen by Persia. From a linguistic standpoint, the adoption of Sabaic as the official language was part of the Himyarite dynasty's drive to legitimise its power by adopting the language of tradition. Texts of the Raydanite period (first-third centuries AD), however, do already show some deviations from classic Sabaic. In this last period of time, differences increasingly appeared in morphology, syntax and lexicon.

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