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Most of the earliest inscriptions mentioning Habesha deal with wars, alliances and peace treaties among rivaling Yemeni kingdoms - this reference below is no different: "Shamir of Dhu-Raydan and Himyar had called in the help of the clans of Habashat for war against the kings of Saba; but Ilmuqah granted ...
the submission of Shamir of Dhu-Raydan and the clans of Habashat." This inscription tells us that Shamir of Dhu-Raydan, who is almost certainly the Himyarite king Shamir Yuhahmid, requested assistance from the Habashat clans to go to war with Saba, a rivaling Yemeni kingdom.
From his chronicles, we learn there were five independent and rivaling Beja kingdoms in present-day Eritrea and that 'Habeshas' were living alongside them. They have big towns and their sea coast is called Dahlak. Zayla`, a town on the coast of the Red Sea, is a very populous commercial centre. Arab travelers' accounts show Habesha was embraced by some of the local inhabitants of the region by the mid-9th century CE.
He also mentions an important Habesha capital near the Eritrean coast called Ku'bar (the site is still undiscovered but it's believed to be in Eritrea "a vast and powerful country. All the kings of the Habasha country are subject to the Great King (al-malik al-a`zam) and are careful to obey him and pay tribute." "The chief town of the Habasha is called Ku`bar, which is a large town and the residence of the najashi [nagassi; king], whose empire extends to the coasts opposite the Yemen, and possesses such towns as Zayla, Dahlak and Nasi." "one of the greatest and best-known towns is Ka`bar, which is the royal town of the najashi . In order to make sense of this, early European historians hypothesized the highland regions of Eritrea and northern Ethiopia must have mixed with large groups of people from ancient Yemen.
In modern times, Habesha has become a complex phrase that has specific social, geographical and sometimes political connotations.
So it raises a question: when was Habesha used in reference to the Horn?
Habesha in many ways is a state of mind - hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.
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When Portuguese missionaries arrived in the interior of what is present-day Ethiopia in the early 16th century CE, they took the altered word Abesha (without the letter "H" beginning) which is used by Amharic speakers and subsequently Latinized it to 'Abassia', 'Abassinos', 'Abessina' and finally into 'Abyssina'.
This Abyssinia term was widely used as a geographic expression for centuries, even though it was a term not used by the local inhabitants.
By the end of the 8th century CE, most of the prominent Yemeni kingdoms ended and areas they once controlled were under foreign occupation.