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Arabia Antica


By Land and by Sea. A history of South Arabia before Islam recounted from inscriptions

Alessandra Avanzini 2016, L'ERMA DI BRETSCHNEIDER, 376 pp., ISBN 9788891311108

In our collective memory there still lies the Queen of Sheba, her journey to Jerusalem to meet the wise King Salomon, or the Arabia Felix with its fame associated in the classical world with frankincense and other precious aromas. Nevertheless the history of the Arabia Felix, the country of the Queen of Sheba, is not well known to a wider public.

At the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, in south-western Arabia, in the region that today corresponds to the Republic of Yemen, some kingdoms were formed. Their history deserves to be better known. Its desert and ocean protected Arabia Felix from the invasions of hostile armies. Its inhabitants did not remain isolated on their mountains and in their valleys. Their caravans crossed the desert, their ports hosted foreign ships, they had commercial and cultural contacts, by land and by sea, with the whole world.

The history of this culture was very long; from the 8th century BC to the 6th century AD: from the Assyrian expansion into the Levant to the Roman empire, from the expedition only planned before his death by Alexander the Great to the failed expedition of Augustus, from Hellenism to the wars between Byzantium and the Persia, and from polytheism to Judaism and Christianity.

The events, the characters, the history of art, together with the beliefs of the ancient inhabitants of South Arabia, will be recounted in this book starting from direct written sources: the wealthy corpus of ancient South Arabian epigraphic public texts.