Hostages in Pre-Islamic Southern Arabian Inscriptions (3rd to 6th Centuries AD)

Fathiyah Husayn Aqqab


Hostage-taking was known in many states in the ancient world including the political entities of the Arabian Peninsula. Such a system was not seen as deplorable from a political view of point or as a form of terrorism that states are combatting at the present times. On the contrary, this practice was a tool to achieve social, political and economic objectives. This study sheds light on the nature and practice of the hostage system in the political entities of southern Arabia during the 3rd to 6th centuries AD and its influence on the course of historical events. The study is based on the Sabaean epigraphic evidence related to warfare, which records fighting among the political powers of the southern Arabian Peninsula and between them and other ancient northern Arabian tribes. These inscriptions refer to hostages in the course of recording military campaigns. Although there are only a few words meaning “hostage” in the southern Arabian lexicon, the inscriptions reveal the political tendency to take hostages as one means to counter insurgencies and to pressure rivals.


hostages, warfare, inscriptions, pre-Islamic Arabia.


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