The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 19b – Abbasids part 2

We continue with a couple more caliphs.

CALIPHATE OF HARUN AR-RASHID (170-193 / 786-809).

1. The bay’ah was given to Harun ar-Rashid b. al-Mahdi – his mother was al-al-Khayzuran – in the same night that Musa al-Hadi died, the night of Friday 14 Rabi al-awwal in the year 170.  That night his son al-Ma’mun was born.  He entrusted the management of his business in Yahya b. Khalid b. Barmak.  During his caliphate he made the pilgrimage to Mecca  nine times and he invaded the territories of Rum eight times.  He removed his favour from the Barmakees in the month of Safar of the year 187 of the Hegira. His caliphate lasted twenty-three years, two months and sixteen days.

2. Leo (IV), son of Constantine, son of Leo, king of Rum, died.  After him there was made king of Rum Nicephorus (I), son of Istirāq[1], who asked for a truce from [Harun] ar-Rashid.  Ar-Rashid gave him a respite of three years.  There ruled in Egypt, in the name of ar-Rashid, Musa b. Isa al-Hashimi, who extended the Great Mosque of Misr at the rear of the building which may still be seen.  Ar-Rashid then deposed Musa ibn Isa and entrusted the government of Egypt to Abd Allah ibn al-Mahdi.  Abd Allah sent as a gift to ar-Rashid a young girl of his choice from among the Yemenis who lived in the south of Egypt.  She was very beautiful and ar-Rashid fell intensely in love.  The young girl was then hit by a serious disease.  The doctors cared for her but no medicine was effective.  They said to ar-Rashid: “Send word to your governor in Egypt, Abd Allah, to send you an Egyptian doctor.  The Egyptian doctors are more able than those of Irāq to cure this young girl.”  Ar-Rashid sent word to Abd Allah ibn al-Mahdi to choose the most skillful Egyptian doctor and send him to him, telling him about the young girl and of what had happened.  Abd Allah sent for Politianus, the Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria, expert in medicine, made him aware of the young girl and the disease that had struck her, and sent him to ar-Rashid.  [Politianus] brought with him some Egyptian durum “ka’k”[2], and some pilchards.  When he arrived in Baghdad and presented himself to the young girl, he gave her some rustic ka’k and pilchards to eat.  The young girl recovered her health at once, and the pain disappeared.  After that [ar-Rashid] began to order from Egypt, for the sultan’s use, durum ka’k and pilchards.  Ar-Rashid gave lots of money to the patriarch Politianus and gave him in writing an order which provided that all the churches that the Jacobites had taken away from the Melkites and of which they had taken possesion, should be returned.  The patriarch Politianus returned to Egypt and got back his churches.  The patriarch Politianus died after having held the patriarchal seat for forty six years.  After him there was made patriarch of Alexandria Eustathius[3], in the sixteenth year of the Caliphate of ar-Rashid.  Eustace was a linen-maker and had found a treasure in the house in which he used to prepare linen.  He had embraced the monastic life at “Dayr al Qusayr”, later becoming the superior.  He built at “Dayr al-Qusayr” the church of the Apostles, and a residence for the bishops.  Later he was made patriarch of Alexandria, held the office for four years and died.  After him there was made patriarch of Alexandria Christopher[4] in the twentieth year of the Caliphate of ar-Rashid.  The patriarch Christopher was hit by hemiplegia and could only move if supported.  There was therefore appointed a bishop named Peter after a vote whom the bishops put in place of the patriarch.  Christopher held the office for thirty-two years and died.  In the eighth year of the Caliphate of ar-Rashid there was made patriarch of Antioch Theodoret.  He held the office for seventeen years and died.  During the caliphate of ar-Rashid there was, after the afternoon prayer, an eclipse of the sun so intense that you could see the stars, and people stood screaming at the sky imploring God – may His name be glorious!  In Khurasan there rebelled against ar-Rashid, Rafi ibn al-Layth and occupied it.  Ar-Rashid invaded Khurasan, but at Gurgan he became ill and stopped at Tus, sending al-Ma’mun to Merv to the head of a large army.

3. Ar-Rashid died in the month of Jumādà al-Akhar in the year 193 [of the Hegira], at the age of forty-six.  He was buried in Tus, in the city of an-Nirāt [5].  The sons who were with him, those of his family and his commanders gave the bay’ah to his son Muhammad ibn Zubaydah.  Al-Fadl ibn ar-Rabi returned with his men to Baghdād.  Ar-Rashid was of perfect stature, handsome of face, with a black and flowing beard which he used to cut when he went on pilgrimage.  The leaders of his bodyguard were al-Qasim ibn Nasr b. Malik first, then Hamza ibn Hazim b. Obayd Allah b. Malik, then Hafs ibn Umar b. ash-Shugayr.  His hāgib was Bishr ibn Maymun b. Muhammad b. Khalid b. Barmak.  Then al-Fadl ibn Rabi regained this position.

CALIPHATE OF MUHAMMAD AL-AMIN (193-198 / 809-814).

1. The news of the death of ar-Rashid arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday, twelve days before the end of Jumāda al-Akhar.  The crowds gathered, his son Muhammad went out in the pulpit, and invited them to mourn his death.  The people gave him the bay’ah on that day.  Then there appeared strong differences between him and his brother al-Ma’mun.  The mother of Muhammad al-Amin was called Umm Jaffar[6], and was the daughter of Abu Jaffar al-Mansur.  Muhammad al-Amin sent Ali ibn Isa b. Mahan to Khurasan to fight against al-Ma’mun, who sent against him, from Merv, Zahir ibn al-Husayn b. Sa’b al-Būsagi.  Zahir killed Ali ibn Isa, put to flight the armies of Muhammad al-Amin and came to Baghdad, where he was joined by Hartama ibn A’yan and Humayd ibn Abd al-Hamid at-Tusi. Al-Ma’mun was hailed as caliph in Khurasan in the year 196.  The civil war then moved to Baghdād.

2. Muhammad al-Amin was killed in Baghdad on Saturday, five days before the end of the month of Muharram of the year 198 [of the Hegira].  His caliphate, until the day of his murder, had lasted four years, eight months and six days. He was killed at the age of twenty-eight years.

3. Nicephorus, son of Istabraq, king of Rum, died.  After him there reigned over Rum  Istabraq[7], son of Nicephorus, son of Istabraq.

4. In the third year of the caliphate of Muhammad al-Amin there was made patriarch of Jerusalem Thomas, nicknamed Tamriq[8].  He held the office for ten years.

5. Muhammad al-Amin was handsome, with a perfect constitution, white-skinned, fat, strongly built, with thin fingers.  His body was buried at Baghdād and his head brought to Khurasan.  The leader of his bodyguard was Ali ibn Isa b. Mahan and his hāgib al-Fadl ibn ar-Rabi, who was also his confidential adviser.

  1. [1]Elsewhere “Istabrāq”; i.e. Stauracius.
  2. [2]A collective term for various pastries and pretzels.
  3. [3]813-817 AD
  4. [4]817-848.
  5. [5]Possibly means “Iran”?
  6. [6]I.e. Zubaydah, the wife of Harun ar-Rashid.
  7. [7]Stauracius, emperor of the East from 26 July 811 to 2 October 811.
  8. [8]807-821.

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