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In the pre-Islamic era, most Arabs followed polytheistic religions.
Some tribes had adopted Christianity or Judaism, and a few individuals, the hanifs, apparently observed monotheism.
Additionally, from the beginning of the first millennium BC, Southern Arabia was the home to a number of kingdoms, such as the Sabaean kingdom, and the coastal areas of Eastern Arabia were controlled by the Parthian and Sassanians from 300 BC.
The first written attestation of the ethnonym Arab occurs in an Assyrian inscription of 853 BCE, where Shalmaneser III lists a King Gindibu of mâtu arbâi (Arab land) as among the people he defeated at the Battle of Karkar.
The Arabs forged the Rashidun (632–661), Umayyad (661–750) and the Abbasid (750–1258) caliphates, whose borders reached southern France in the west, China in the east, Anatolia in the north, and the Sudan in the south.Of the names of the sons of Ishmael the names "Nabat, Kedar, Abdeel, Dumah, Massa, and Teman" were mentioned in the Assyrian Royal Inscriptions as tribes of the Ishmaelites.Jesur was mentioned in Greek inscriptions in the First Century BC.Other ancient Greek historians like Agatharchides, Diodorus Siculus and Strabo mention Arabs living in Mesopotamia (along the Euphrates), in Egypt (the Sinai and the Red Sea), southern Jordan (the Nabataeans), the Syrian steppe and in eastern Arabia (the people of Gerrha).
Inscriptions dating to the 6th century BCE in Yemen include the term "Arab".Yet another view is held by al-Masudi that the word "Arabs" was initially applied to the Ishmaelites of the "Arabah" valley.