The Castles of South Arabia According to the Iklīl of Hamdānī


The Austrian Orientalist David Heinrich Müller (1846‒1912) was born in Buczacz (Buchach, present-day Ukraine), then part of the Austrian Empire, and educated in Vienna, Leipzig, and Strasbourg. After initially focusing on biblical and Hebrew studies, he turned to Arabic philology, writing his doctoral dissertation on Kitāb al-Farq (The book of rare animals) by philologist, anthologist, and zoologist ʻAbd al-Malik ibn Qurayb al-Asmaʻi (740‒circa 828). In 1881 Müller became professor of Semitic philology at the University of Vienna. He is particularly known for his archaeological, geographic, epigraphic, and linguistic works on South Arabia and for leading the 1898‒99 expedition of the Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften (Imperial Academy of Sciences) to the region. Through his own research and that of his students (who included Eduard Glaser, Maximilian Bittner, Rudolf Geyer, and Nikolaus Rhodokanakis), Müller left a significant imprint on South Arabian studies. Presented here is the original Arabic text, with Müller’s German translation and editorial commentary, of Part Eight of al-Iklīl (The crown), a 10-part history of pre-Islamic Yemen by Yemeni encyclopedist and geographer Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Ahmad al-Hamdani (circa 893‒945). This part of al-Iklīl covers South Arabia’s palaces, castles, tombs, and other ancient monuments, especially those dating from the Sabaean and the Himyarite Kingdoms. The Sabaeans were a people of South Arabia in pre-Islamic times, founders of the kingdom of Saba’, the biblical Sheba. The Himyarite Kingdom flourished between 110 BC and 525 AD. It was initially pagan, then Jewish for more than a century, before being overthrown by Christian Ethiopia. Known by the nickname Lisān al-yaman (The Tongue of Yemen) and also known in Arabic sources as Ibn al-Ha’ik, al-Hamdani wrote many other works, including his ifat jazīrat al-ʻArab (Geography of the Arabian Peninsula), an edition of which Müller also translated and edited. Only Parts Eight and Ten of al-Iklīl are known to exist. The other eight parts are thought to be lost.

Last updated: April 29, 2016