In order to have any hope of identifying the Queen of Sheba, one must first establish the identity of Solomon. In my book, I present the case that Solomon is a composite character based on two great kings of the Egyptian 18th Dynasty, Amenhotep II and Amenhotep III. These two kings were a father and grandson, however their reigns were actually contiguous (See Essay #3). Amenhotep III was by far the most renowned of the two, and the Biblical account is primarily based on him.
The Bible makes liberal use of exaggeration, understatement and just about every other literary device. For example, brothers and cousins of a Biblical king are often referred to as "foreigners." This reflects the culture of the ancient royal court and the great size of ancient kingdoms. The Queen of Sheba may have been truly exotic. Some say she was from modern day Yemen, and indeed the name of an 18th Dynasty pharaoh, Thutmose II, was found in Yemin. But she was far more likely to have been Amenhotep III's (Solomon's) own sister-wife Tiye. Tiye was a great queen, and was certainly considered the Queen of Nubia/Ethiopia (and who knows, even Yemen) as well as the Queen of Egypt throughout her lifetime. Queen Tiye was quite independent and travelled widely. Her returns to the capital and to the king would have been accompanied by considerable pomp, as described in the Bible and Koran.
The name Sheba is not exotic. It is very Hebrew and means "seven." Seven is the number of Thoth and the 18th Dynasty was the dynasty of the Thoth kings. This dynasty was founded through an alliance of two Thoths, viz., Thutmose I and prince Djehuty (Egyptian form of Thoth). The Bible describes their covenant at the well of Beer-sheba, meaning "well of the seven" or "well of the oath." (See Essay #5) The title "Queen of Sheba" could be interpreted as "Queen of the Thoth Empire," which of course Tiye was.
[In the Bible, Solomon himself is said to have been the son of Bath-sheba ("daughter of sheba," i.e. the daughter of one of the Thutmose's/Djehuty's.]
In the Talmud, Moses marries the Queen of Ethiopia. In the reign of Amenhotep III, the Queen of Ethiopia was Queen Tiye. After the death of Amenhotep III, she became the queen of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten-Moses), who was her own son and by whom she had two more sons. Tiye and her first husband Amenhotep III did not have any surviving sons. However, at least some of Tiye's sons were considered the "legal" sons of Amenhotep III but virtue of her being the legal wife of Amenhotep III. This is related to the Biblical custom of producing heirs on the behalf of a dead (or sexually sterile) brother. Amenhotep III produced dozens of children through minor wives, but because he was the half-sister of Tiye, the two of them turned out to be a sterile pair. This is a very common and recurring Biblical theme.
The legend of Menelik well could have been based on one of the sons of Tiye produced on behalf of king Solomon (Amenhotep III), even Moses (Akhenaten) himself. A king such as Solomon would have wanted to pass his throne on to a natural son. He would have been suspicious of "legal" sons, and probably was reluctant to concede the throne to such a son. The story of the grand state visit of the Queen of Sheba likely comes from late in Amenhotep III's reign when he convinced Tiye to make one last try to give him a true heir. It either didn't work or was too late. That was the reality of the ancient royal reproduction model. It was based on maximal inbreeding.
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.