Three cities of this name are distinguished by ancient geographers: the name indeed was a common appellation of towns, and signified head of the province, or of its lesser divisions. (Comp. Plin. Nat. 6.28. s. 32
（Σαβαί, Steph. B. sub voce Σαβᾶς,
Agatharch. ap. Phot. p. 63), was the chief city of the Sabaeans.
It is described by Diodorus (3.46
) as situated upon a lofty wooded hill, and within two days' journey of the frankincense country.
The position of Saba is, however, quite uncertain: Mannert (Geogr. der Griech. u. Röm.
vol. vi. pt. i. p. 66) places it at the modern Saade:
other geographers identify it with Mareb
]; and again Sabbatha, both from its site in the interior and its commercial importance, seems to have a good title to be considered as Saba (Σάβη
of Agatharchides) or Sheba, the capital of the Sabaeans.
（Σάβη, Ptol. 6.7
. § § 38,42; Plin. Nat. 6.23. s. 34
), was also seated in the interior of the Sabaean territory, 26 miles NE. of Aden.
Niebuhr (Descript. de l'Arabie,
vol. ii. p. 60) identifies it with the modern Saaba.
（Σάβαι, Strab. xvii. p.771
; Σαβάτ, Ptol. 4.7.8
), on the western shore of the Red Sea, was the capital city of the Sabaeans, and its harbour was the Sabaiticum Os (Σαβαΐτικον στόμα, Strab. xvii. p.770
The position of Sabae, like that of so many Aethiopian races and cities, is very uncertain. Some writers place it at the entrance of the Arabian gulf (Heeren, Histor. Researches,
vol. i. p. 333); others carry it up as high as the bay of Adule, lat. 15° N. Bruce (Travels,
vol. iii. p. 144) identifies the modern Azab
with the Sabae, and places it between the tropics and the Abyssinian highlands. Combes and Tamisier (Voyages,
vol. i. p. 89) consider the island Massowa
to have a better claim: while Lord Valentia (Travels,
vol. ii. p. 47) finds Sabae at Port Mornington.
But although neither ancient geographers nor modern travellers are agreed concerning the site of the Aethiopian Sabae, they accord in placing it on the sea-coast of the kingdom or island of Meroe, and between the Sinus Avalites and the bay of Adule, i. e. between the 12th and 15th degrees of N. latitude. On the opposite shore were seated the Sabaeans of Arabia, and as there was much intercourse between the populations of the opposite sides of the Red Sea, the Aethiopian Sabaeans may have been a colony from Arabia. Both races are described as lofty in stature and opulent (Psalm
lxxii.; 1 Kings,
45.14), and this description will apply equally to the Sabaeans who dwelt in the spice country of Arabia, and to those who enjoyed almost a monopoly of the Libyan spicetrade, and were not far removed from the geldmines and the emerald and topaz-quarries of the Aegyptian and Aethiopian mountains.
The remarkable personal beauty of the Sabaeans is confirmed by the monuments of Upper Nubia,, and was probably reported to the Greek geographers by the slave-dealers, to whom height and noble features would be a recommendation. The Sabaeans, at least in earlier periods, may be regarded as one of the principal tribes of the Aethiopian kingdom of Meroe. [MEROE
] Josephus (J. AJ 2.5
) affirms that the Queen of Sheba or Saba came from this region, and that it bore the name of Saba before it was known by that of Meroe.
There seems also some affinity between the word Saba and the name or title of the kings of the Aethiopians, Saba-co. [W.B.D