The plague and famine under Hisham – from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

The translation continues:

Of the drought and famine that also took place on the earth in those days.

At that time, God sent us on these most cruel and terrible plagues: the sword, captivity, famine and pestilence, because of our sins and the misdeeds that our hands had engaged in.

“Even if Moses and Samuel stood before me, my soul would not incline towards this people. Send them away from before me, and let them withdraw. What if they say to you: Where shall we go? [You shall tell them:] Thus says the Lord: To death he who [is destined] to death; to the sword he who [is destined] to the sword; [34] to famine he who [is destined] to famine; to captivity he who [is destined] to captivity. I will send four plagues upon them, says the Lord: the sword to kill, the dogs to eat, the birds and beasts of the earth to devour and tear in pieces, and I will deliver them over to the earthquake.” This is what Jeremiah, taught by revelation, has left us. He himself said: “The cry of Jerusalem has gone up before me. The great have sent the small to the water; they have come to the cisterns and have found no water: they have returned with empty vessels, they have been confused and distressed, and they have covered their heads. Because of the works of the earth there has been no rain; the labourers have been confounded, and have covered their heads; the does have given birth in a desert, and they have abandoned their young because there was no grass; the wild asses are keeping to the roads: they have sucked the air like dragons and their eyes are dim because there was no grass.” In truth, all these things which the prophet said were fulfilled in the present time.

This is the carnage that the armies of Arabs have made between them. They have drowned the earth in their blood; the birds, the beasts and even the dogs are filled with their flesh. Men pillage one another. The plague ravages them, so that if someone goes outside the sword stops him; if he stays at home, plague and famine take him. One hears on all sides only sadness and bitterness.

First, the rain that used to descend to earth during the winter has been held back and has not fallen. All the seeds have been dry and nothing has sprouted, so that there has been a great famine throughout the region, so much so that wheat rose to eight or seven qephîzè for a dinar: and yet none is for sale. Some governors sent men who seized wheat wherever they found it, either in houses or in silos, and sent it to him. Men were oppressed to death by the famine, especially the owners of wheat who had not experienced [35] the test of famine and whose corn had been seized by the authorities, so that they died of hunger. Thus the famine was felt even more by the rich than the poor. It also spread throughout the country, so there was no place better preserved than another from its ravages: everywhere was the same oppression. The wild beasts, as well as domestic animals that live on grass, perished because there was no grass. So there was great distress upon men and upon all flesh because of the famine which had not its equal in our time, nor in the time of our fathers. The fountains and streams were empty and the rivers dried up.

Upon the death of Hisham miseries were multiplied upon the earth. All the miseries, and especially the plague and famine, befell us because of our many sins.

 Note how the famine was worsened by seizing grain from those who had it. 

This is why Africa starves.  If what a  man saves will be seized by others, then the poor man has no incentive to save.  Anything he saves will simply be stolen by the local “Big Man” — a concept unknown under the honest colonial administrations.  In consequence everyone does the bare minimum they need to stay alive.  So when drought comes, as it always will, they starve.  Security of property is essential to human life.


2 thoughts on “The plague and famine under Hisham – from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

  1. True, oppression kills all incentive in men to produce for they know that all that could keep them above the animal survival level will be taken away from them by the oppressor.

    NB I think Zuqnin here speaks about the plague and famine after (and not under) Hisham; i.e. during his successors Al-Walid II (743–744 AD), Yazid III (744 AD) and Ibrahim (744 AD) during whose reigns the whole area convulsed with wars, insecurity and economic collapse.

  2. Could be. And I think the dates are not reliable; Witakowski says that in part 3 (all this material is from part 4) the author must have been guessing a lot.

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