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Old January 5th, 2017, 07:59 PM   #1

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Were Yemeni Arabs mostly Jewish and Christian before the Islamic Era?


I ask the question based on the Axumite invasion of Yemen in the 6th century. The invasion was done on behalf of the Christian community being persecuted by a Yemeni ruling elite who had recently converted to Judaism. So who were the Christians being persecuted by this Yemeni elite? Were they also Yemeni Arab? And from what religion did this Yemeni elite convert from: Christianity or some "pagan" religion?

Here is a link which gives the background to these events:

In the southwestern part of Arabia, known in antiquity as Himyar and corresponding today approximately with Yemen, the local population converted to Judaism at some point in the late fourth century, and by about 425 a Jewish kingdom had already taken shape. For just over a century after that, its kings ruled, with one brief interruption, over a religious state that was explicitly dedicated to the observance of Judaism and the persecu*tion of its Christ*ian population.

https://www.ias.edu/ideas/2011/bowersock-jewish-arabia
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Old January 6th, 2017, 12:11 AM   #2

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Originally Posted by mansamusa View Post
I ask the question based on the Axumite invasion of Yemen in the 6th century. The invasion was done on behalf of the Christian community being persecuted by a Yemeni ruling elite who had recently converted to Judaism. So who were the Christians being persecuted by this Yemeni elite? Were they also Yemeni Arab? And from what religion did this Yemeni elite convert from: Christianity or some "pagan" religion?

Here is a link which gives the background to these events:

In the southwestern part of Arabia, known in antiquity as Himyar and corresponding today approximately with Yemen, the local population converted to Judaism at some point in the late fourth century, and by about 425 a Jewish kingdom had already taken shape. For just over a century after that, its kings ruled, with one brief interruption, over a religious state that was explicitly dedicated to the observance of Judaism and the persecu*tion of its Christ*ian population.

https://www.ias.edu/ideas/2011/bowersock-jewish-arabia
I think there were pagan beliefs prior to the Jewish/Christian influences in the first centuries of our era. Moon god/goddess aka future Allah etc. There must be some fugitive Jews after they were dispersed from Jerusalem. After the Jewish conversion some parts of Arabs must had retained their previous beliefs or had them as superstitions inside a new religion. Who were the Christians? Maybe some of the converted Jews living there, maybe there were locals.
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Old January 6th, 2017, 01:15 AM   #3

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Moreno in his history of Visigothic Spain (I think it was that one) speaks of a generalised jewish revolt all over the arab empire in the mid to late 7th century. I can't remember exactly what other parts he mentions (but they were far and wide) but his main subject was female Berber warrior, who led her tribe, which was Jewish, and others in the Ifriqiya area against the ruling arabs (sadly I can't remember her name either).

The point is, this berber tribe was Jewish and additional proof that what we think of today as a 'race' was once merely a religion, with anyone anywhere converting to Judaism - which ties in with the Yemen. There's no reason not to think this berber tribe could not have been jewish for hundreds of years.

Also step back to the early 7th century and the Sassanid invasion of the holy land. The jews allied with the Persians and it is said (!) that up to 50,000 Christians were handed over to the jews and tortured to death.

This probably led, or contributed to, the total anti-Semitism of the Visigothic Catholics in Spain, and proves that relationships were far from harmonious.

Last edited by johnincornwall; January 6th, 2017 at 01:17 AM.
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Old January 6th, 2017, 01:49 AM   #4
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M

Also step back to the early 7th century and the Sassanid invasion of the holy land. The jews allied with the Persians and it is said (!) that up to 50,000 Christians were handed over to the jews and tortured to death.

This probably led, or contributed to, the total anti-Semitism of the Visigothic Catholics in Spain, and proves that relationships were far from harmonious.
torturing 50,000 people is hard work a lot of trouble. Why?

it is said by who ,and whats the connection with spain.? Long way apart.
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Old January 6th, 2017, 03:20 AM   #5

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torturing 50,000 people is hard work a lot of trouble. Why?

it is said by who ,and whats the connection with spain.? Long way apart.
Firstly I'm not an expert on the Middle East, but I have read it in connection - experts on the middle east will confirm details about the Jewish alliance with the Sassenid invasion of the Holy land. Figures are of course alwys debateable but have a read of this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sasani...t_of_Jerusalem

The connection between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Visigothic Kingdom of Spain is strong, at a time when things in Italy or North Africa didn't always work out for the Empire. Both were Catholic and at this time there was still a Roman province in Spain. Sure - they would be finally pushed out within 10 years but they were neighbours and co-religionists and even shared diocese. Until the arab expension interfered trade between the Visigothic ports and the Empire was strong.

Even prior to the conversion to Catholicism under Recaredo, his father Leovigildo had based many of his structures on Imperial structures, as he turned the Visigothic kingdom into a cohesive structure.

Once Catholic, the Visigoths were quite fanatical about their religion (despite their violent nature) - the church played a major part in the governance and land-owning of the state.

Serious anti-jewish laws were enforced not long after the Sassenid conquest, increasing throughout the century to a peak under the despotic and cruel Egica, who banned judaism colpletely - they should all convert of die. It was only the dysfunctionality of the Visigothic state that meant this was fairly ineffective, and the increasingly draconian nature of such laws merely tell us that they weren't working in the first place.

Now - Egica made a speech to the Synod (around 697/8?) where he justified his harsh anti-jewish policies by declaring that the jews were in league with the arabic forces in North Africa with a view to taking over the Visigothic kingdom of Toledo.

It came to pass that, as well as disaffected Goths, the takeover of Spain 15 years later was heavily assisted by the jews, especially in functions of administration and local government.

The chicken and egg question is - was the Jewish aid to the arab invaders prompted by the ever-harsher laws against, and persecution of, jews? Or was Egica right?

See the connections?

Last edited by johnincornwall; January 6th, 2017 at 03:22 AM.
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Old January 6th, 2017, 02:22 PM   #6

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The Himyarites converted from South Arabian paganism. Some say they did so to annoy Aksum, which btw had a presence in Yemen since the third century AD in form of settlers. The persucated Christian would have been Aksumites, Roman merchants and Arab converts.

Last edited by Swagganaut; January 6th, 2017 at 02:33 PM.
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Old January 8th, 2017, 01:15 AM   #7

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The Himyarites converted from South Arabian paganism. Some say they did so to annoy Aksum, which btw had a presence in Yemen since the third century AD in form of settlers. The persucated Christian would have been Aksumites, Roman merchants and Arab converts.
THanks for the response. But annoying Axum seems like very flimsy motivation.
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Old January 8th, 2017, 01:23 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by johnincornwall View Post
Firstly I'm not an expert on the Middle East, but I have read it in connection - experts on the middle east will confirm details about the Jewish alliance with the Sassenid invasion of the Holy land. Figures are of course alwys debateable but have a read of this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sasani...t_of_Jerusalem

The connection between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Visigothic Kingdom of Spain is strong, at a time when things in Italy or North Africa didn't always work out for the Empire. Both were Catholic and at this time there was still a Roman province in Spain. Sure - they would be finally pushed out within 10 years but they were neighbours and co-religionists and even shared diocese. Until the arab expension interfered trade between the Visigothic ports and the Empire was strong.

Even prior to the conversion to Catholicism under Recaredo, his father Leovigildo had based many of his structures on Imperial structures, as he turned the Visigothic kingdom into a cohesive structure.

Once Catholic, the Visigoths were quite fanatical about their religion (despite their violent nature) - the church played a major part in the governance and land-owning of the state.

Serious anti-jewish laws were enforced not long after the Sassenid conquest, increasing throughout the century to a peak under the despotic and cruel Egica, who banned judaism colpletely - they should all convert of die. It was only the dysfunctionality of the Visigothic state that meant this was fairly ineffective, and the increasingly draconian nature of such laws merely tell us that they weren't working in the first place.

Now - Egica made a speech to the Synod (around 697/8?) where he justified his harsh anti-jewish policies by declaring that the jews were in league with the arabic forces in North Africa with a view to taking over the Visigothic kingdom of Toledo.

It came to pass that, as well as disaffected Goths, the takeover of Spain 15 years later was heavily assisted by the jews, especially in functions of administration and local government.

The chicken and egg question is - was the Jewish aid to the arab invaders prompted by the ever-harsher laws against, and persecution of, jews? Or was Egica right?

See the connections?
Thank you very much for this very enlightening post in referral to the laws of Catholic Spain against the Jews as the inquisition ensued after ousting the Moors from power.
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Old January 8th, 2017, 08:05 AM   #9

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THanks for the response. But annoying Axum seems like very flimsy motivation.
To be concrete, it perhaps converted to distance itself from Aksum and the Roman Empire. The Khazar Khanate did something similiar several centuries later, when it converted to Judaism to not be involved in the struggles between the Romans and Abbasids.
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Old January 13th, 2017, 12:34 AM   #10

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There was a Jewish King but he was moreso just a victorious warlord over neighboring tribes than a bellweather for a new religion. Paganism was still strong in Yemen despite a Christianized/Judaicized ruling class.
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