Yemen is a modern day country that is located in the Middle East just south of the nation of Saudi Arabia. This nation has been in existence for over 2,000 years and in ancient times it was dominated by the Minean, Sabaean, and the Himyarite tribal confederations. It was around 100 B.C. when the Himyarite Confederacy established its foothold all throughout desert lands of the Middle East which is where it appears on the Biblical Timeline chart with world history.
Ancient Yemen was located in the southern part of Arabia, and while it was under the Sabaean rule, it had become a powerful state that controlled a lucrative spice trade. The Sabaeans were a tribal people who developed the spice trade for thousands of years. They had taken the spice routes from the Minean tribes, and once they had control over the region of ancient Saudi Arabia, they tried to create a centralized state. Since ancient Yemen and the spice routes were located through a vast desert, it was impossible for them to set effectively up a stabilized society. Without a viable water source for use, it would have been too hard for them to create a settled society with a powerful government. The Sabaeans had to create a series of independent fortresses that were connected to towns or villages. These fortresses were primarily located all along the spice routes in the desert where oasis were found. Eventually, the Sabaeans were overrun by a tribe of people known as the Himyarites. Yatha Amar Bayin I was the first ruler of Himyarite Dynasty in Yemen and the last Himyarite ruler was Zamir Ali Yunuf.
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After the Himyarites managed to take over most of the different fortifications they established a centralized state in Yemen that would dominate the spice trade in Arabia. They established their capital in the ancient city of Zafar, which was located in the southern part of Yemen. This particular area was located near the Red Sea.
Each Himyarite tribe played a role in controlling the territory of Yemen. They managed to govern most of the land that is now known as modern day Arabia. When the Himyarite Kingdom came to power, they took over the trade routes that specialized in providing spices to many empires and kingdoms within the ancient world. Spices such as salt, myrrh, cumin, frankincense, and pepper were traded to empire and kingdoms such as Greece, Rome and the Middle East. They also traded with the Jews, Tyre, and Egypt. The Himyarite’s focused most of their energy on developing efficient trade routes that crossed the vast Arabian Desert. They even had contact with Asian empires such as India and China. They were an economically successful people because of the spice trade, and they spent their wealth on luxury and splendor.
The Himyarites were not a powerful people that had world domination in mind and as long as they were able to control the spice trade they were content with their position. They dealt with outside empires and kingdoms on the basis of their spices. Many foreign powers needed or desired the spices that the Himyarites were able to manufacture and sell. The spices they produced were used for nutritional, medical and religious purposes. The Himyarite kingdom resembled a modern corporation that had a monopoly on the spice trade.
The Himyarite kingdom ruled Yemen in relative peace and was not conquered by anyone during its 600-year span from 100 B.C. to A.D. 500. Even though the Himyarites were never conquered by another group of people, their kingdom did go into decline. The Empire of Rome slowly eroded the power of the Himyarite kingdom. Around 200 A.D., the Romans were probably the most powerful force in the world, and they dominated many trade routes by sea. Once the Romans figured out how to access the spices that they needed through the use of sea routes they no longer needed to rely on the Himyarites. Over the next 300 years, the Himyarites economic activity started to decline, and they found fewer buyers for their product. Around 500 A.D., the Himyarites became insignificant, and their kingdom disintegrated. The people went back into a nomadic way of life. The Himyarite kingdom in Yemen was the last major kingdom in Arabia before the rise of Islam.