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DEBAE or DEBEDAE (Δέβαι), an Arab tribe on the coast of the Red Sea, a little to the north of Mekka. Diodorus Siculus (3.44) describes their country as situated at the foot of the Chabinus Mons (ὄρος Χαβῖνον), and permeated by a river so rich in gold dust that the deposit at its mouth glittered with the precious metal; but the inhabitants were utterly ignorant of the art of working it. He describes them as “occupied wholly with the rearing of camels, which animal they used for all purposes, pacific and belligerent; living on their milk and flesh, and using them for the transport of themselves and their merchandise.” He mentions a remarkable fact, if true, that “their hospitality was restricted to the Boeotians and Peloponnesians,” and assigns a still more remarkable reason, viz., “that, according to ancestral traditions, Hercules had been on terms of intimacy with this nation.” Such is the report of Diodorus, copied almost literally from Agatharcides (Hudson, vol. i. p. 59), whose account is abridged by Strabo (xvi. p.777). Mr. Forster takes this last statement (which he misunderstands of a “descent from one common stock” ) to intimate, “under the thin veil of classical fiction, the important historical fact, of the existence of an open trade between the Greeks and Arabs from very remote times, and of all the facilities implied by commercial intercommunity” (vol. i. p. 38). He finds this tribe in “the Zebeyde of Burckhardt; the rectified anagram changing Zebeyde into Zedeybe, and the idiomatic interchange of the d and z restoring the classical name, as written by Agatharcides, Debedae.” “The relative geographical positions place the identity beyond question, and the sameness of manners, habits, and occupations will complete the conclusive proof that the Dedebae and the Zebeyde are one and the same people” (p. 73). He imagines them to be the same as the Cinaedocolpitae of Ptolemy, and the auriferous river to be the Baetius of that geographer. [BAETIUS]


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