The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 19i – Abbasids part 9

The events of the Abbasid caliphs continue.  This reign is interesting for a curious storm that affected Egypt in 284 AH / 897 AD.

CALIPHATE OF AL-MU`TADID (279-289/892-902).

1. The bay’ah was given to al-Mu’tadid bi’llāh Abū’l-‘Abbās, i.e. Ahmad b. Abū Ahmad al-Muwaffaq bi’llāh b. Ga’far al-Mutawakkil ‘alā’llāh – his mother was an umm walad named Sirār.  The bay’ah was given to him on the same day that al-Mu’tamid died, eleven days before the end of the month of Rağab of the year 279 [of the Hegira].  The revolts ceased, the countries returned to order, the wars stopped, each rebel accepted peace, and prices fell sharply.

2. Al-Mu’tadid sent to ask Khumārawayh b. Ahmad b. Tūlūn to give him his daughter in marriage.  Khumārawayh consented, and sent her with great riches, slaves, and maidservants.  They made peace and order was restored.  Khumārawayh b. Ahmad b. Tūlūn left Egypt for Syria and stopped at Damascus.  He had built, outside Damascus, below the dayr Murrān, on the “Thawrah” River, a palace that used to be his residence.  Khumārawayh was killed in this palace that he built, near Damascus, on Sunday night, three days before the end of the month of dhū’l-qa’da of the year 282 [of the Hegira].  His servants, Zāhir, Sābūr, Lu’lu ‘, Natīf, Shafi` ash-Sharābi and Ghanā’im, were charged with his killing.  These servants were then killed and their heads were taken to Egypt, while their bodies were crucified at Damascus.  Khumārawayh was taken in a coffin from Damascus to Egypt, and was buried on mount al-Muqattam.  Egypt was shaken by violent riots because of Khumārawayh and his death.

3. After him there was appointed governor of Egypt Gaysh ibn Khumārawayh.  Gaysh returned from Damascus to Egypt and stayed there for eight months. Then there were serious dissensions between him and the commanders.  They rose up against him and killed him.  His brother Hārūn ibn Khumārawayh took his place, at the age of ten years, in the month of rağab of the year 283 [of the Hegira].

4. Al-Mu’tadid wrote a letter to Hārūn b. Khumārawayh, in which he entrusted him with the rule of Egypt.  Hārūn was ten years old and his regent was Abū Ga’far b. Muhammad b. Abā at-Turki.

5.  On the night of Thursday, two days before the end of the month of Rabī’al-awwal of the year 284 [of the Hegira], a strange phenomenon happened in Egypt.  The Christians were intent on celebrating the feast of the Ascension into heaven of our Lord Christ, when wild and violent winds blasted them, from dinner time until midnight.  At midnight, then, there came such a thick darkness that nobody could see their fingers even if they were in their eyes.  Then the harsh winds of earlier returned, taking off the roofs of many houses.  On the heads of people, gathered in their homes, there was a rain of red sand.  At the four corners of the heavens there were flaming columns of fire.  This lasted until dawn.  Then the wind calmed a little and the sky became intensely red, like a flame of fire, with a cold wind.  The earth, the mountains, the trees, the people and their clothes, and all that they could see, looked red because of the intensity of the red sky.  The red [sky] lasted for two hours, then turned yellow until noon.  Then the yellow vanished and the sky became black all day and until noon the day after, before dissolving.  The sun did not appear for a day and a half, from when the winds began to blow, until the black clouds broke.

6. On the morning of Wednesday, 9th of the month of Dhū’l-qa’da of the year 288, there was also, in Egypt, from midnight to dawn, a violent movement of the stars, which the vulgar called falling stars.  The sky was full of such stars coming down from east, west, south and north.  No one could watch the heavens because of the many falling stars.[1] In the first year of the caliphate of al-Mu’tadid, there became patriarch of Antioch Simeon, son of Zarnāq. He held office for twelve years and died.

7. As for Leo, king of the Rūm, his wife died without having children.  He decided to remarry, but the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nicolas, forbade him, saying, “You are not allowed to marry, because you have been consecrated as an anagnoste [= a reader] and you have to fulfill the priestly prayer. If you marry, you will not be allowed to come to the altar.”  King Leo replied: “I decided to marry only in order to have a son who can inherit the kingdom after me.” But the patriarch did not allow him to marry.  Then King Leo wrote to the patriarch of Rome, to Michael, the patriarch of Alexandria, to Elijah, son of Mansur, patriarch of Jerusalem, and to Simeon son of Zarnach, patriarch of Antioch, asking them to go to him in order to examine whether he was allowed to get married or not.  None of them could go in person to the king, but each one sent their own messenger.  The bishops gathered together with the messengers at Constantinople to examine the case of the king and pronounced in favour of his marriage.  King Leo married and had a son called Constantine.  Nicholas was removed from his office and Anthimus was made patriarch of Constantinople.

8. Al-Mu’tadid bi’llāh died on Sunday, nine days before the end of the month of al-ākkar of the year 289.  His caliphate lasted seven years, nine months and two days.  He died at the age of forty-seven.  The administrators of his property were the freedman Badr and `Ubayd Allah b. Sulaymān, who was succeeded in the place that he occupied by his son al-Qasim b. ‘Ubayd Allah (204). Al-Mu’tadid was handsome in his face and body, and he spent much time accumulating riches.

  1. [1]Does he perhaps mean that astronomy became impossible?  There is no explanation of these interesting events in the notes of the Italian.  I find discussion of this, however, in Richard B. Stothers, “Cloudy and clear stratospheres before A.D. 1000 inferred from written sources“, Journal of Geophysical Research 107 (2002), online here: “2.14. A.D. 897 [26] Red skies in Egypt made the outdoor surroundings appear red (Eutychius of Alexandria, Annals, Migne, PG, 111, 1144; al-Tabari, Annals, A.H. 284; Elias of Nisibis, Chronicle, p. 92, Brooks). This event, which occurred only on 5 May and only near Alexandria, was apparently caused by a red sandstorm, as mentioned by the chroniclers.”.

One thought on “The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 19i – Abbasids part 9

  1. Leo the Wise was not allowed to marry a fourth time because the (Orthodox) church only allows three marriages. The Pope though was willing to do the wedding in order to gain favor, and in the end it was out of his 4th wedding (which after his death was declared invalid) that Constantine VII Porphyrogennitos was born.

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