The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 19a – The Abbasids arrive!

After the murder of Marwan II, last of the Ummayad caliphs, we begin the Abbasid caliphs.  These are basically Persians, so the centre of the Islamic world moves eastward.  The first few Abbasid caliphs seem to lack shelf-life.  Interestingly Eutychius does not have good information on the patriarchs of Constantinople or Rome from this point onwards; indeed his information on the Byzantine emperors is sketchy too.  The west is moving out of vision.  Also Eutychius becomes suddenly silent on how caliphs died, saying only “they died”.  Of Musa al-Hadi he says, “He was twenty-five, handsome, he loved to ride and enjoyed a strong constitution”, none of which was enough to keep him alive and ruling for more than fourteen months.

Chapter XIX.  THE ABBASID CALIPHS.

CALIPHATE OF ABŪ’L-‘ABBĀS AS-SAFFĀH (132-136/749-754).

1. The bay’ah was given to Abūl’ Abbās, i.e. Abd Allah ibn Muhammad b. Ali b. Abd Allah b. al-Abbas b. Abd al-Muttalib – his mother was Radiyya, the daughter of Abd Allah ibn Ubayd Allah b. al-Abbas b. Abd al-Maddān -, in Kufa, on Wednesday of the month of Rabi al-Akhar in the year 132 of the Hegira.  He went on horseback to the mosque on Fridays, and preached to the people standing, while the Umayyads used to deliver their “khutbah” [1] while sitting.  Then he sent his armies against Yazid ibn Omar al-Huzayza Qarāri in Wasit and he sent against Marwan ibn Muhammad his uncle Abd Allah b. Ali who put him to flight in order to oust him from Mesopotamia and Syria.  Then he sent Salih ibn Ali who chased Marwan into Egypt – Abu Awn was at the forefront – until Marwan was killed.

2. As for the Rum, after the death of king Leo[2] and suffering continuous revolts so as to see their kingdom a prey to disorder, they elected as their king a man from Mar’ash named Artābatus.[3]  His rule was very disordered during the time of Abu’l-Abbās and al-Mansur.  Abu’l-Abbās built near al-Anbar a city which he called al-Hāshimiyyah.  His caliphate lasted four years and nine months.  He died in al-Anbar on Sunday 12th of the month of Dhu’l-hiğga in the year 136 of the Hegira and was buried in his town of al-Hāshimiyyah.  Abu’l-`Abbās was tall, handsome and with a perfect complexion.  The leader of his bodyguard was Abd al-Gabbar b. Abd-ar-Rahman al Azdi and his hāgib was the freedman Abu Assan.

CALIPHATE OF ABU JAFFAR AL-MANSUR (136-158/754-775).

1. The prince of the believers, Abu’l-Abbas left in writing a will in which he designated as his successor his brother Abu Jaffar bd Allah b. Muhammad b. Ali b. Abd Allah b. al-Abbas – his mother was an umm walad [4] named Sallāmah, daughter of Bishr from Basra – and he had been entrusted to his uncle Isa b. Ali b. Abd Allah b. al-Abbas saying: “When I die, make sure that the bay’ah is given to the person designated in my writing.”  On the death of Abu’l-Abbās, Isa ibn Ali caused the Banu Hashim and the commanders who were in al-Anbar to give the bay’ah to Abu Jaffar Abd Allah b. Muhammad.  Abu Jaffar was on a pilgrimage to Mecca along with Abu Muslim.  So he let him know the news by letter. As soon as this reached him, he was recognized as caliph by Abu Muslim and the leaders who were with him, and he went to al-Anbar.  In Mesopotamia Abd Allah ibn Ali b. Abd Allah b. al-Abbas rose up, claiming the caliphate for himself. Abu Jaffar sent against him Abu Muslim, who defeated him.  Al-Mansur[5] returned to Kufa.  He then built the city of Baghdad and called it Madinat as-Salam [= “City of Peace”].  It was called “Baghdad” because there lived in that place, in a hermitage, a monk named Baghdad.  The hermitage was at the centre of a large and beautiful expanse of land.  As Abu Jaffar really liked that place, he enclosed it and he built a city there.  It was called Baghdad, after the name of the monk; or else Abu Ga’far built a city on the site where the monk Baghdad lived.

2. In the first year of the Caliphate of Abu Jaffar al-Mansur, there was made patriarch of Antioch Prophilatus[6].  He held the office for eighteen years and died.  In the twentieth year of his caliphate there was made Patriarch of Antioch Theodore.  He held the office for twenty-three years and died.  In the fourth year of his caliphate there was made patriarch of Alexandria Politianus.  He was a physician.  He held the office for forty-six years and died.  In the first year of his caliphate there was made patriarch of Constantinople Theodore.  He held the office for twenty-six years and died.  I shall not list the names of the patriarchs of Constantinople who have held the seat from Theodore’s death until I have finished composing this book.[7] The same applies to the patriarchs of Rome.  From Aghābiyūs onwards, in fact, I had no way of finding either the names or any information on the patriarchs of Rome.  In the twentieth year of the caliphate of al-Mansur there was made patriarch of Jerusalem George.  He held the office for thirty-six years and died.

3. Artābatus, king of Rum, died.  After him reigned over Rum Constantine[8], son of Leo.  In the year 158 of the Hegira al-Mansur made the pilgrimage to Mecca, where he died on the 9th of the month of Dhu’l-hiğğa, at the age of sixty-eight.  His caliphate had lasted twenty-two years.  His son Salih said the prayer for him.  He was buried in Mecca at the “Bi’r Maymun”[9].  Abu Jaffar al-Mansur was tall, dark, with a sparse beard on his cheeks but a long chin.  The leaders of his bodyguard were Abd al-Gabbar b. Abd ar-Rahman al-Azdi b. Musa b. Ka’b at-Tamimi and al-Musayyab Zuhayri az-as-Sabbi.  His hāgib was the freedman Abu’l-Khasib Marzuq.  After him his hāgib was the freedman ar-Rabi.

CALIPHATE OF AL-MAHDĪ (158-169/775-785)

1. Upon the death of al-Mansur, which took place in Mecca, Salih ibn al-Mansur and Isa ibn Musa gave the bay’ah to al-Mahdi ibn Muhammad b. Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. Ali b. Abd Allah b. al-Abbas – his mother was Umm Musa, daughter of al-Mansur b. Abd Allah b. Sahwa al-Himyari b. ar-Ru’ayni.  The pilgrimage of the people in Mecca was led by Salih ibn al-Mansur, or, as others say, by Muhammad ibn Yahya b. Muhammad b. Ali b. Abd Allah b. al-Abbas, and at that time the people were invited to recognize al-Mahdi as caliph.  The news was brought to al-Mahdi, who was then in Baghdad, by Munāra, freedman of al-Mansur, and he was given the bay’ah in Baghdad, on the last day of the month of Dhul-higga in the year 158 .

2. Constantine (V), son of Leo (III), king of Rum, died.  After him there was made king his son Leo (IV), son of Constantine, son of Leo.  The caliphate of al-Mahdi lasted ten years, one month and sixteen days.  He died in the month of al-Muharram in the year 167 of the Hegira, at the age of thirty-nine.  His death took place at a village called ar-Rud, in the district of Māsidān, where he was also buried.  Al-Mahdi was handsome of face, body and complexion; in the right eye he had a speck of white.  The leader of his bodyguard was Nasr ibn Nusayr b. Malik al-Khuzā’i.  Then Nasr died and the leader of his bodyguard was Hamza ibn Malik b. Abd Allah b. Malik.  His hāgib was first the freedman ar-Rabi, and then the freedman al-Husayn [or al-Hasan] ibn Rashid.

CALIPHATE OF MŪSĀ AL-HĀDĪ (169-170/785-786).

1. On the death of al-Mahdi at az-Zud, in the territory of the province of Māsidān , Musa ibn al-Mahdi became caliph – his mother was an umm walad named al-Khayzuran, daughter of Ata native of Hurash in the Yemeni land – while Musa al-Hadi was in Gurgan[10]  fighting against Madar Hurmuz, lord of Tabaristan.  Harun ibn al-Mahdi persuaded the Hashemites and the commanders who were with him to give the bay’ah to his brother Musa and sent Salma al-Wasif, freedman of al-Mahdi, who served as a courier, to Musa to give him the news.  Harun ibn al-Mahdi and the commanders went to Baghdad and there awaited the arrival of Musa al-Hādi.  His caliphate lasted fourteen months.

2. Musa al-Hādi died outside Baghdad in a place called Isarmād, and was buried there.  He was twenty-five, handsome, he loved to ride and enjoyed a strong constitution.  The leader of his bodyguard was Abd Allah b. Hazim b. Huzayma at-Tamimi, and, on the dismissal of this man, Abd Allah b. Malik al-Khuzā’i.  His hāgib was ar-Rabi`, and on the death of ar-Rabi`, al-Fadl ibn ar-Rabi`.

  1. [1]I.e. Sermon
  2. [2]Leo III Isauricus.
  3. [3]Here is meant Artavasdos, to whom Leo the Isaurian had given his daughter Anna, and who became a usurper from July 741 to 2 November 742. It was Leo III who was from Marash, in fact.
  4. [4]The term indicates a slave woman who had a child with her owner.
  5. [5]I.e. Abu Jaffar.
  6. [6]Theophilatus Bar Qanbara (744-750).
  7. [7]In fact the information about these in Eutychius is doubtful.
  8. [8]Constantine V.
  9. [9]I.e. the Well of Maymun.
  10. [10]I.e. Georgia

3 thoughts on “The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 19a – The Abbasids arrive!

  1. Gurgan is not our Georgia, which was still called “Iberia” in those days. It is Hyrcania on the other side of the Caspian – the western part of Tabarestan (as Agapius notes, correctly – for a change). I’m told the Islamic Republic calls that area Golestan now.

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