A Pre-Islamic Nabataean Inscription Mentioning The Place Yathrib
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First Composed: 2nd February 2018
Last Modified: 18th February 2018
Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:
Figure (a) photo of original inscription, (b) its trace, and (c) its transcription.
No date but from pre-Islamic era.
The translation of the inscription is given below:
- Greetings! kad bin Aslam
- who came from Yathrib.
The place Yathrib, known as Madina after the advent of Islam, has a long history of settlement. Ancient sources mention this town a few times. Perhaps the earliest mention of it comes from an inscription found in Harran, of the Babylonian king Nabonidus (r. 556-539 BCE) that says yatribu (ia-at-ri-bu) among the towns of northwest Arabia in which he traveled for a decade. Datable to the second half of the first millennium BCE, a Minaean inscription found near the ancient city of Maʿīn records some form of registration of women from non-Minaean land, and mentions two originally from Yathrib (ytrb). Next on the list is the famous Geography of Ptolemy that comes from 2nd century CE which mentions lathrippa (λαθριππα), a town in the Arabia Felix. It is mentioned again twice in the mid-6th century CE. The first mention comes as iathrippa (ιαθριππα) by Stephanus Byzantinus (c. 528-35 CE), who located it near Hegra (al-Ḥijr). The second mention comes from a Sabaean inscription of Abraha, a South Arabian ruler, written shortly after 552 CE. In this text, he annouced the establishment of his authority over Yathrib (ytrb) among other areas of the Arabian Peninsula. In this long line of mentions of Yathrib, this undated Nabataean inscription near Tabuk is interesting because it is written in a script that was forerunner of Arabic script.
The proper name of the person with consonants k-a-d is uncertain and hence left as it is.
Neat Tabuk, Saudi Arabia.
 C. J. Gadd, "The Harran Inscriptions Of Nabonidus", Anatolian Studies, 1958, Volume 8, pp. 58-59, 84 (Nabonidus H2, A, Col. I, 22-27).
22. ...But I
23. hied myself afar from my city of Babylon
24. (on) the road to Tema', Dadanu, Padakku[a],
25. Ḫibra, Iadiḫu, and as far as Iatribu;
26. ten years I went amongst them, (and) to
27. my city Babylon I went not in...
 K. Mlaker, Die Hierodulenlisten von Maʿin: Nebst Untersuchungen Zur Altsüdarabischen Rechtsgeschichte Und Chronologie, 1943, Harrassowitz: Leipzig, pp. 18, 27.
 E. L. Stevenson (Trans.), Geography Of Claudius Ptolemy, 1932, The New York Public Library: New York, Book VI, p. 139. Also see W. M. Watt, "Al-Madina" in C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, B. Lewis & Ch. Pellat (Eds.), The Encyclopaedia Of Islam (New Edition), 1986, Volume V, p. 994; M. Schöller, "Medina" in J. D. McAuliffe (Ed.), Encyclopaedia Of The Qur'an, 2003, Volume 3, Brill: Leiden, Boston, p. 367.
 M. Billerbeck, C. Zubler, Stephani Byzantii Ethnica, 2011, Volume II (Δ–Ι), Walter de Gruyter GmBH: Berlin, pp. 258-259. The German translation of the Greek text says:
5. Iathrippa (Medina), Stadt in Arabien, nahe bei der Stadt Egra. Der Bewohner <heisst> Iathrippener; denn dieser Typus ist landesüblich, <gebildet> wie Medabener.
 C. Robin & S. Ṭayran, "Soixante-Dix Ans Avant L'Islam: L'Arabie Toute Entière Dominée Par Un Roi Chrétien", Comptes-Rendus Des Séances De L'Académie Des Inscriptions Et Belles-Lettres, 2012, pp. 525-553 for Murayghan 3 inscription of Abraha mentioning Yathrib. For its translation in English, see C. J. Robin, "Ḥimyar, Aksūm, and Arabia Deserta in Late Antiquity: The Epigraphic Evidence" in G. Fisher (Ed.), Arabs And Empires Before Islam, 2015, Oxford University Press, pp. 169-170.
+ King Abraha Zybmn, king of Saba’, of dhu-Raydān, of Hadramōt, and of Yamnat, and of their Arabs in the Upper-Country and on the Coast, has written this inscription when he returned from the Country of Maʿaddum, when he seized the Arabs of Maʿaddum taken at [Mu]dhdhirān, chased out ʿAmrum son of Mudhdhirān, and seized all of the Arabs of Maʿaddum [, Ha]garum-and-Khaṭṭ, Ṭayyum, Yathrib, and Guzā(m).
 Sulayman bin ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Theeb, Nuqūsh Jabal Umm Jaḏāyiḏ al-Nabaṭiyyah, 2002, Maktabat al-Malik Fahd al-Waṭaniyyah: al-Riyāḍ, pp. 168, 269, 317 (Inscription No. 163).
 J. F. Healey, "Nabataean To Arabic: Calligraphy And Script Development Among The Pre-Islamic Arabs", Manuscripts Of The Middle East, 1990-1991, Volume V, p. 44; Also see J. F. Healey, "The Early History Of The Syriac Script: A Reassessment", Journal Of Semitic Studies, 2000, Volume XLV, No. 1, pp. 55-67; B. Gruendler, "Arabic Script", in J. D. McAuliffe (Ed.), Encyclopaedia Of The Qur'an, 2001, Volume I, Brill: Leiden, p. 138. For detailed discussion on the evolution of Arabic script from Nabataean script see B. Gruendler, The Development Of The Arabic Scripts: From The Nabatean Era To The First Islamic Century According To The Dated Texts, 1993, Harvard Semitic Series No. 43, Scholars Press: Atlanta (GA), pp. 123-127.
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