History of Socotra

the 'home' of Saalef

According to the legend of the island, Aristotle advised Alexander the great to send a colony of Greeks from the philosopher’s home town to Socotra in the 4th century BC. The goal of the expedition was to take advantage of the abundance of aloe and other plants that grew freely on the island. After all the Indians who occupied the island before the Greeks had named it Dvipa Sukhadra – Sanskrit for the Island of Bliss. When the Greeks landed on Socotra , they unseated Indian colony and started their own reign of the island. The island’s newest inhabitants adapted the old Sanskrit name to Greeks language as Dioscorida.From this Sanskrit appellation as well ,the island’s modern name ,Socotra, was derived.

There are several other theories accounting for the origin of Socotra’s name. On commonly put forward hypothesis is that the name reflected the business of the island- in addition the island was known for exporting the sap of the dragoon’s tree, incense and herbs .According to the Arabian geographer Yaqut Al-Hamawi,  Socotra known locally as Souk means market ,Qatira means Drop ,combined the two words till formed, Socotra,

The Greeks formed a colony on Socotra: They may have influence the indigenous and Indian population on the island with their history of democracy. By the 1st century BC,Socotra had developed a reputation as shining utopia. At that time Diodorus of Sicily described Socotra as a thriving democracy and religious society whose warlike people elected its president annually and rode about the island on chariots. Perhaps this is what Aristotle had in mind when picking out the families to form a colony on the island. In Books VII and VIII of his politics, Aristotle discusses the condition of the ideal or perfect state. In Aristotle’s perfect state’s ,in which he allows himself  presuppose many purely imaginary conditions, he envisions a type of electorate – with a populated by a class of warriors.perhps the island of Socotra provided the perfect arena for experimentation in democracy. In any event Diodorus provides an interesting description of the island that is a bit absurd at time. His account must be treated cautiously- he had never visited the island and he was copying largely from previous geographer who had not visited it either. That being said ,he describes Socotra (using its Egyptian name of Panchaea)as an island on which is built a massive temple dedicated to Saturn containing large statues of the gods, and he notes that Abd al-Kuri was holy island in which the inhabitants refused to bury their dead. More common toady’s understanding of the island, he notes that Socotra is rich in frankincense and myrrh ,filled with an abundance and great variety of wildlife – although his account includes a large number of elephants .Elephants were not only unlikely creature claimed to make their home on Socotra. The perilous of the Erythraean sea notes the presence of crocodiles , large lizards and white tortoise. More fancifully ,the stories of Sindbad note the presence of roc , large mythological bird often describe  as being  large enshroud to carry off an elephant .perhaps that’s where all of Diodorus,s animals went.

Christianity on Socotra

The first church was built by Apostle Thomas from shipwrecked ,by id 4th century the church had grown strongly that it was able to send missionaries to mainland Yemen. Emperor Constantine II is said to have sent Bishop The phallus Indus to the Himyarite capital of Dhafar, where the Bishop founded a church and helped to propagate Christianity as the official state religion for a brief period of time. On such account that referended the continued Christians presence on the island was that of Cosmas  Indicopleustes ,who set out in the mid 6th century on a journey to prove that world was indeeded flat .During his voyages to refute the pre-Christian geographers ,Cosmas sailed past island’s Christians were under the authority of the Assyrian account of the  the island of Church of east Cosmas claim was  confirmed by Marco Polo in his own account of island some 700 years later. The Assyrian Church of the east ,often referred to as the Nestorian church ,split from the Roman Catholic church in the 5th when Nestorius, then Bishop of constantnople,refuse to address Mary as ,mother of god, cording to  the Church’s theology . jesus,s divinity and humanity were two separate entities within the unified Christ ,and that God had nothing to do with the latter ,and Mary not thing to do with former.Accordingly,Nestorius would only grant Mary the title ,Mother of Christ. The Assyrain church is reputed to have been founded by the Apostle Thomas- which either helps to confirm his presentence on the island or explain how the myth of his visit began. In addition to Christians Socotra became famous as a haven for pirates between the 10th and 15th centuries. There is evidence to suggest that island may have had a female ruler in the early 15th century. Female rulers are surprisingly prevalent in Yemen’s history – the Queen of Sheba had ruled the Sabaean Kingdom, and Queen Arwa ruled much of Yemen in the 11th century ,so the idea that Socotra also had a female ruler is plausible

Portuguese occupied Socotra

In 1507, Socotra was occupied briefly by the Portuguese. In a bloody attack, the Portuguese were able to overcome a fortress occupied by Mahri forces near the town of Souk. Four years later, the Mahri sultans sent forces to reclaim the island, and by 1511 the Portuguese had withdrawn, but not before constructing a church at fortress they had conquered. The Mahri destroyed both the church and fort. The Portuguese maintained contact with the island off and on over the next century. Vitaly Naumkin notes in his book on Socotra at some of the socotri mountain  tribes had songs about how their ancestor were expelled to Socotra because of their sins. He suggest that the Portuguese may have used Socotra as an island of exile, the idea that native socotri descended from the Portuguese has been widely circulated.

Socotra converted to Islam

By the late 16th century the Christian elements of Socotra has rapidly deteriorated. There were no longer any priests on the island, and the islanders who did practice religion combined old rituals that they could no longer understand with aspects of astral worship. As the Mahri sultans regained control of Socotra, the islanders converted to Islam. Hardly any evidence of Christianity ,s presence on the island remains today.

British Occupied Socotra

In 1835, the British occupied Socotra after the ruling Mahri sultan refused to sell the land to Empire. The British intended to use the island as coaling station but scrapped the idea after they founded the colony at Aden in 1838.Socotra reverted to Mahri control. In 1886, the Mahra Sultan of Qishan and Socotra become the first sultanate in the area to sign formal treaty with Britain and become a British protectorate. By the mid 29th century the Mahri sultans were  living on Socotra, and they decline to join the Federation of South Arabia in the 1960s.In 1967 Socotra became part of South Yemen. Socotra was incorporate into new unified Republic of Yemen ,when the people’s Democratic  Republic of Yemen and Yemen Arab Republic merge in 1990