The Queen of Sheba is a mysterious and powerful female in numerous stories and myths. She is depicted in the sacred texts of ancient world cultures and religions. The Queen has had a profound but mystical presence in the regional folklore. However, the origin and sources of evidence to support the Queen’s existence remain elusive. The documentary attempts to comprehend the story behind this legend and follow historical clues to determine the myth’s origins (Jeffs, 2005).
One of the most fascinating aspects of the documentary consisted of the cultural perspectives and interpretation of the fabled myth. There is an inherent debate on the origin of the Queen as being from Ethiopia or Arabia. The woman’s described intellect, wealth, and beauty are immense, which has led her to be one of the few but extraordinarily influential rulers of the ancient world. The Queen of Sheba maintains an enigmatic presence within the cultural folklore and religious history of Jewish, Islamic, and Ethiopian traditions. Each culture maintains its own view of the Queen, with Ethiopians seeing her as a symbol of power for the nation, while Arabian and Jewish storytellers showed admiration and respect.
The myth states that the Queen of Sheba wanted to visit King Solomon of Jerusalem after hearing about his wisdom from merchants. Solomon himself has heard legends about the Queen. The Queen and Solomon had an agreement that he would not touch her (he was known for his sexual promiscuity) as long as she agreed not to touch his possessions. However, after a feast of spicy foods intentionally set up by Solomon, the Queen wanted to drink water. At this moment, Solomon caught her and coerced her into sexual relations. However, the relationship between the two was respectful and consensual. The Queen tested Solomon’s wisdom, and he converted her to a follower of the Jewish deity Yahweh. There is a common belief that this led to the appearance of Christianity in Ethiopia.
One of the most well-known texts which depict Queen of Sheba is the Jewish Old Testament Book of Kings. It describes the interaction between King Solomon and Queen of Sheba as one of generosity and love. Although this cannot be historically verified, elements from the text can be used to deduce the origin of Queen of Sheba. A caravan which bore spices, gems and gold can be attributed to the Kingdom of Ethiopia or the Sabean Kingdom in Southern Arabia (modern-day Yemen). The documentary follows the trade routes that were established between Jerusalem and Ethiopia as a result of the interaction. Ethiopia would experience a golden age and harbor the mystical Ark of the Covenant.
The Queen was rumored to give birth to a son from Solomon, which brought the two nations closer. Initially, she raised the son by the name of Menelik by herself. However, upon adulthood, he travels to Israel to meet his father. He is received with warm welcome. Upon return to Ethiopia, Menelik brings the Ark of the Covenant which holds the Ten Commandments. According to legend, Solomon wanted Menelik to rule Ethiopia as a descendant of David and establishes him as the beginning of an unbroken dynasty of rule for the next millennia.
In the end, the documentary notes that the journey of following a myth brought the crew to the ruins of the Sabean civilization from Biblical times. This civilization had cultural and historical ties to Ethiopia. The temples and forts of the civilization remain preserved. Therefore, the evidence does show that there is some historical validity to the Queen of Sheba legends. The legend has been and continues to be revered in storytelling, art, and film. However, as Michael Wood notes, the Queen of Sheba has passed beyond history, being preserved in cultural traditions as the archetype of an immaculate and perfect lover, mother-figure, female leader, and protector.
Jeffs, J. (Director). (2005). In search of myths and heroes: Queen of Sheba [Video file].