The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 19g – Abbasids part 7

We’re not that far from the close of Eutychius’ Annals, in his own times.  But we still have a few Abbasid caliphs to go through.  None of the next few caliphs lasted very long. Ominously the Turks start to appear as the king-makers.


1.  The bay’ah was given to al-Muntasir bi’llāh/Abū Ğa‘far/ Muhammad b. /Ğa‘far/ al-Mutawakkil – his mother was an umm walad named Hasanah – on the same night that al-Mutawakkil was killed.  Five days after he obtained the caliphate, he moved from al-Ga’fariyyah to Surramanra’ah, destroying al-Ga’fariyyah and abandoning al-Gawsaq.  He deprived his two brothers, Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Mu’tazz bi’llāh and Ibrāhim al-Mu’ayyad bi’llāh, of the right of succession, and wrote letters about this to every part of his territory.  His caliphate lasted one year, six months and three days.  He died at the age of twenty-eight and was buried at Surramanra’a.  His mother raised his tomb: for no caliph before him was a tomb erected.  Al-Muntasir was of medium stature, handsome of body, brown and obese. The chief of his bodyguard was Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Zāhir and his huğğāb were Abū Nāsirat-Turki and Ahmad ibn al-Hasīb.

CALIPHATE OF AL-MUSTA`IN (248-252/862-866).

1. The commanders of the Turks got together to choose the one to whom to give the bay`ah.  They rejected al-Mutawakkil’s son and their choice fell on Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Mu’tasim – his mother was an umm walad named Mukhādiq. They gave him the bay’ah and called him al-Musta`in bi’llāh. But as a result of an uprising within the army and a turmoil among the Mawāli[1], al-Musta`in fled, along with the Turks Wasif and Bughā, to Baghdad.  The Mawāli and the forces who were at Surramanra’a placed on the throne Abū ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mu’tazz b. al-Mutawakkil – his mother was an umm walad named Fabtahah – and gave him the bay’ah at the beginning of the month of al-Muharram of the year 251.  Great disagreements and fighting broke out between the men of al-Musta`in, of al-Mu’tazz, and of Abū Ahmad ibn al-Mutawakkil, in charge of al-Mu’tazz’s military affairs.  They continued to fight until the beginning of the month of al-Muharram of the year 252. Then al-Musta`in abdicated and there was peace.  Al-Musta`in wrote of his decision to al-Mu’tazz, who answered him by guaranteeing his safety with an oath.  Then he retired to Iraq, to Wāsit.  His caliphate lasted three years and eight months until the day of abdication.

2. In the first year of the caliphate of al-Musta`in, there was made patriarch of Jerusalem Theodorus, called al-Miqlāti.  He held the office for nineteen years and died.  Al-Musta`in was fat, handsome in body, and had a black beard.  The chief of the bodyguard was Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Zāhir, and his huğgāb were the Turks Wasif and Bughā.

CALIPHATE OF AL-MU`TAZZ (252-255/866-869).

1. All the Turks, and the others who were in Surramanra’a, gave the bay’ah to al-Mu’tazz, in the month of al-Muharram of the year 251, while al-Musta`in was in Baghdad, and the countries were at the mercy of tumults, and most people were on the side of al-Musta`in.  So when al-Musta`in abdicated, at the beginning of the month of al-Muharram of the year 252, the people made submission to [al-Mu’tazz].  Al-Mu’tazz restored the right of succession to the throne to Ibrāhim al-Mu’ayyad bi’llāh (156) but then took it away.  Ibrāhim al-Mu’ayyad bi’llāh died.  Abu Ahmad conceived a violent hatred against al-Mu’tazz because of what had happened to his brother.  Al-Mu’tazz then exiled him to Basra, and killed Wasīf and Bughā. Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah b. Zāhir, chief of the guards, died.  [Al-Mu’tazz] recalled al-Musta`in  from Wāsit and gave the job of killing him to his hāgib, Sa`īd ibn Sālih.

2. Theophilus, son of Michael, son of Theophilus, king of the Rūm, died.  After him, his son Michael, son of Theophilus, son of Michael, reigned.  There was at that time a general named Basil, whom the king had preferred to all the others, giving him command over all his men and generals.  One day, King Michael went out for a walk on the island opposite Constantinople, in the middle of the sea called Pontus.  The general Basil attacked him, killed him inside the church on the island, got rid of all those who were on the island and took over the kingdom.  Basil did not belong to the royal family, because he was of Slavic origin.  When asked why he had killed the king, he replied, “Michael had fallen madly in love with a woman and had ordered me to marry her but never to approach her.  The woman would be mine in words, but he would be sleeping with her.” He had resorted to this expedient for fear that his wife knew him,[2] and also because he was not allowed to marry another woman in addition to his wife.  “First I followed him, then I felt repentance, I was afraid of God, and I thought it best to kill him.”  Thus Basil became king of the Rūm.

3. Al-Mu’tazz appointed as governor of Egypt the Turk Bākbāk, who appointed as his lieutenant Ahmad ibn Tulūn and sent him to Egypt.  Bākbāk had given his daughter in marriage to Ahmad ibn Tūlūn.  Ahmad ibn Tūlūn entered Egypt in the month of Ramadan in the year 254.  Between al-Mu’tazz and the Mawāli there were strong disagreements.

4. Al-Mu`tazz died on Tuesday, three days before the end of the month of Ragab of the year 255.  His caliphate had lasted, from al-Musta`in’s abdication, three years, nine months and eight days.  He died at the age of twenty-two and was buried at Surramanra’a.  His mother erected his tomb near that of al-Muntasir.  Al-Mu’tazz was of a fair complexion, handsome, with a handsome face and a graceful body.  There had never been one equal to him for the grace of face and beauty. The chief of his bodyguard was Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah b. Zāhir, and, on  his death, ‘Ubayd Allah ibn ‘Abd Allah b. Zāhir.  Then the guard passed to the command of Sulaymān ibn ‘Abd Allah b. Zāhir (167), and was later entrusted to Ubayd Allah ibn ‘Abd Allah b. Zāhir.  His huğgāb were Wasif and Bughā, then Sālih took the place of his father [Wasīf] and Bākbāk at-Turki took that of Bughā.

CALIPHATE OF AL-MUHTADĪ (255-256/869-870).

1.  The bay’ah was given to al-Muhtadī, i.e. Muhammad ibn Hārūn al-Wāthiq bi’llāh b. al-Mu’tasim bi’llāh – his mother was an umm walad named Qurb – on Tuesday, three days before the end of the month of Rağab of the year 255.  His caliphate lasted only one year. He was killed at the age of thirty-nine and was buried at Surramanra’a. Al-Muhtadī was of medium stature, handsome in body and face, and had a black curly beard.  The chief of his bodyguard was Ubayd Allah ibn ‘Abd Allah and his hāgib was Sālih ibn Wasif. Then Sālih was killed and Takin at-Turki took the place.

  1. [1]The freed slaves.
  2. [2]Not sure that I have this right: the Italian is “Era ricorso a questo espediente per paura che lo sapesse sua moglie, …”.

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