Histories & Culture

The Himyar are an ancient people of Yemen. They formed a strong state, the Himyarite Kingdom, which governed the greater part of southern Arab lands, from the Qilzam Sea (Red Sea) and the Indian Ocean to Hadramaut (Southern Arabian Peninsula), in addition to what was annexed from the lands of the Sabeans (in modern-day Eritrea and Ethiopia). Dhofar became the state capital under the reign of King Sherbail.

The Himyar enjoyed friendly relations with the Romans. During the reign of Emperor Constantine II (337-391a.d.) Christianity was spread through Yemen by Theophilus the Indian, and churches were set up in Aden, Dhofar and other locations. At this time, the Himyar converted to Christianity.

The Abyssinian King Aksum, ruler of the Aksumite Empire and contemporary of Constantine II, gained a foothold in Yemen and took the title “King of the Himyar”. Some historians think that the Himyar were actually descended from the peoples of Ethiopia, which is also indicated by some Byzantine chroniclers.

The Himyar revolted against the Abyssinians in 521 A.D., under the leadership of Dhu Nawas. He is said to have converted to Judaism, and to have persecuted the Christians in Najran, an Aksumite stronghold in southern Yemen.

Himyar rule did not last much longer after Dhu Nawas, as their lands were subjected to Persian military occupation. At the advent of Islam in the region, the Himyarite Kingdom had long since faded into the past. Remaining members of the Himyar and descendants of the Persian occupiers converted to Islam.

The Himyar speak a version of Arabic that differs slightly from Northern Arabic in terms of vocabulary and grammar.

Source : حِمّير
Translated for the Arabic by Andrew Leber, Brown University, Class of 2012.