• 𐩤𐩩𐩨𐩬 (Qatabanian)
  • مملكة قتبان (Arabic)
4th Century BCE–200 CE
Qataban in 100 BC
Qataban in 100 BC
Common languagesQatabanian
Worship of 'Amm
Historical eraClassical Antiquity
• Established
4th Century BCE
• Disestablished
200 CE
Succeeded by
Himyarite Kingdom
Today part ofYemen
Bronze lion with a rider made by the Qatabanians circa 75-50 BCE.
Bronze lion with a rider made by the Qatabanians circa 75-50 BCE.

Qataban or Qatabania (Arabic: مملكة قتبان; Qatabanian: 𐩤𐩩𐩨𐩬, QTBN) was an ancient Yemeni kingdom which existed from 4th century BCE – 200 CE. Its heartland was located in the Baihan valley. Like some other Southern Arabian kingdoms it gained great wealth from the trade of frankincense and myrrh,[1] incenses which were burned at altars. The capital of Qataban was named Timna[2] and was located on the trade route which passed through the other kingdoms of Hadramaut, Sheba and Ma'in. The chief deity of the Qatabanians was 'Amm, or "Uncle", and the people called themselves the "children of Amm".


It was a prominent Yemeni kingdom in the 2nd half of the 1st millennium BCE, when its ruler held the title of the South Arabian hegemon, Mukarrib. In 110 BCE, it integrated the Himyarite Kingdom, but afterwards recognized it as an independent kingdom.[3]

Qataban is first mentioned in the inscription of Karib'il Watar, king of the Sabaean Kingdom, where it appears as an ally of the Sabaeans. Some later inscriptions speak of a conflict between Saba and Qataban, led by the king of Saba & joined by their allied tribes against the king of Qataban, Yada'ab. The Qatabanian rulers pursued an expansionist policy, as their inscriptions have been found in areas formerly under Sabaean influence.[4] Eratosthenes says that their "territory extends down to the straits and the passage across the Persian Gulf", but mentions nothing about Sabaean lands. Thus it seems that by the third century BC, Qataban was challenging Saba's dominant position in South Arabia.[4] During the disastrous expedition into South Arabia led by Aelius Gallus, he mentioned the Cerbanians (identified with the Qatabanians) along with the Agraeans & especially the Hadramites, excel as warriors.[4]

It was mentioned by Eratosthenes of Cyrene while referring to the transport of aromatic goods from South Arabia: "Qataban produces myrrh and Hadhramaut produces Frankincense and both these and other aromatics they trade to merchants. The latter come to these from Aila (modern-day Aqaba as far as Minea in seventy days...and the Gabaioi arrive at Hadhramaut in forty days"[4]


The decline of the Incense trade route must have severely affected Qataban. According to historian Garry Young:[5]

The third century would thus appear to be a significant time in the history of the incense trade in Arabia. During the political and economic crisis of that century the nature of the trade changed dramatically; prior to that time the incense route from South Arabia seems to have continued to function. Much of this trade seems to have been brought to a standstill by the poor economic conditions of the third century, however, when the economic situation improved again under the Tetrarchy many things had changed. By this time, the two main routes in use seem to have been the Wadi Sirhan, now carrying trade which formerly would have passed through Palmyra, and Aila, receiving goods from India and Arabia which before had gone to the Egyptian Red Sea ports.

It's territories were annexed & divided up by Himyar and Hadhramaut in the late second century A.D.[4]


  1. ^ Archibald 2001: 169
  2. ^ Phillips, Wendell (1955). Qataban and Sheba : exploring the ancient kingdoms on the Biblical spice routes of Arabia. New York: Harcourt Brace. OCLC 408743.
  3. ^ Jérémie Schiettecatte. Himyar. Roger S. Bagnall; Kai Brodersen; Craige B. Champion; Andrew Erskine; Sabine R. Huebner. The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, John Wiley & Sons, 2017, 9781444338386.ff10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah30219ff. ffhalshs-01585072ff
  4. ^ a b c d e Robert G. Hoyland (11 September 2002). Arabia and the Arabs. Taylor & Francis. p. 47. ISBN 9781134646357.
  5. ^ Young, Gary Keith (2001). Rome's Eastern Trade: International Commerce and Imperial Policy, 31 BC–AD 305. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 0-415-24219-3.

Further reading