>The Throne of Adulis: Red Sea Wars on the Eve of Islam by Glen Warren Bowersock
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It is not well known but before the advent of Islam during a time of upheaval and war between the Persian Empire and the Byzantines, there was a militant Jewish Kingdom in Southern Arabia. This kingdom was called the Himyarite and it’s location was in Yemen. I have always been fascinated with Yemen and all aspects of its culture, including their own minorities the Yemenite Jews.
Across the Red Sea from this kingdom was Ethiopia, whose capital was in Axum. They were a Christian country. Back in those times most Christians were allied with the Byzantines while Pagan were divided. The Jews both in Israel/Palestine and Yemen were allied with the Persians. This Christian country would eventually over take the Jewish Kingdom of the Himyarites. It was these event that would help lead up to the ad vent of Islam. Seems that everyone back then was rather hardline.
Prior to full independence the Himyarite were dominated by the Kingdom of Axum. The reason why Axum left the Himyarites was that problems were brewing in Ethiopia. This enabled the Himyaarite to taste some freedom for a bit. But there was always Christian agitation, and the fomentation of rebellion. Christians acts of terrorism were occurring on Jewish Himyarite soil. So Joseph Dhu Nawwas retaliated by storming Najran and locking all the Christians in a Church and burning it with them inside. This sparked the Axumite invasion of Himyar.
The main account of this invasion was told by a travelling historian named Cosmas several years after the invasion and by then the Himyarites were pretty much history. King Kaleb king of Axum. Sat on a throne that was located in Adulis. Adulis was some 20 miles north of an Ethiopian harbor that emptied into the say and south from the capital of Axum. The throne had inscription that praised the king. The inscription were also in greek and had some documentation of Ptolemaic invasions of Palestine and and Mesopotamia. The Pagan Ethiopians prayed to a war god named Mahrem, a war god comparable to Aries. The inscriptions were in Greek. Apparently the Ethiopians were fond of these thrones.
After Kaleb took over Himyar he retired to a Monastery. Everntually Abraha would take over Himyar by force and he was not the best leader. In either case the Himyarites never regained control of their land.
Joseph Dhu Nawas fought back as well he could. Even erected a chain to stop the incoming ships. He would be last seen riding his horse into the sea. It is rumored that the Ethiopians were assisted by byzantine troops. Persian reinforcements never arrived to help their Jewish allies. Persia had control of it’s lands and some Arab tribes in the peninsula. Byzantium had Palestine, Egypt and their own territory. To bolster their control there was some assistance given to the new religion of Islam from the Byzantine.
All this set the stage for the coming of Islam. There was more then one hajira. The most well known is when Muhammad fled Mecca and went to Medina. The secend was when followers of Muhammad went to Axuman many remained there.
The book is short and scholarly. Most of the sources are in Syriac and are almost untrackable or too expensive to get a hold of. This does not detract from the scholarly value of the book. It is only 150 pages worth of information and over half the book is footnote. If you are expecting a long read you will be disappointed.
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