The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 19k – Abbasids part 11

A new caliph, al-Muqtadir.  In this period the entire population of Alexandria is ordered out of the city, and many perish in the countryside, leaving ruins behind.  Some do return in the end.

As is often the case in chroniclers, the events of recent history – but not contemporary history, which might be dangerous for the chronicler – get treated at more length. 


1. The bay‘ah was given to al-Muqtadir bi’llāh Ga‘far b. Ahmad al-Mu‘tadid bi’llāh, on the very day that his brother al-Muktafī died, that is, on Sunday 13th of Dhul-qa’da of the year 295 [of the Hegira]. His mother was an umm walad named Sha‘ab.  He confirmed the position and office of al-‘Abbās, his brother’s minister, and entrusted him with the management of his affairs.

2. Then some of the officers came together in order to put on the throne ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mu‘tazz.  For several days Baghdad was convulsed by acts of war.  The ministers al-‘Abbās ibn al-Husayn and Fātik were killed in the month of Rabī‘ al-ākhar of the year 299 [of the Hegira].  ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mu‘tazz was taken and put in prison.  Al-Muqtadir appointed as minister Ali ibn Muhammad b. Musa b. Al-Furāt.

3. In the Maghrib, a man named Abū ‘Abd Allah al-Muhtasib bi’llāh revolted who, put to flight the troops of Ibn al-Aghlab, killed his men and captured the Maghrib.  Learning this, Ziyādat Allah b. Ibrāhim b. Al-Aghlab, who took with him his women and followers and went to Egypt.  He entered Egypt in the month of Ramadan of the year 296 [of the Hegira], and then went to ar-Ramlah and remained there until his death.  Abū ‘Abd Allah al-Muhtasib, who had been raised in the Maghrib, took a man named ‘Ubayd Allah who claimed to be an ally, enthroned him, gave him the bay’ah, and invited others to do the same.  Then ‘Ubayd Allāh attacked Abū ‘Ubayd [1]Allah al-Muhtasib and killed him, taking over the Maghrib, in the year 298 [of the Hegira].  Al-Muqtadir removed his favour from Ali ibn Muhammad b. Al-Furāt in the month of Dhū’l-hiğğa of the year 299 [of the Hegira] and he was thrown into prison, appointing as his minister Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah Allāh b. Yahya b. Khāqān, nicknamed “Daqqa sadrahu”, because when asked to do something, he used to beat his chest saying, “Yes, with great pleasure!”[2]

4. In the third year of the caliphate of al-Muqtadir there was made Patriarch of Jerusalem Leo.  He held office for seventeen years and died.  In Alexandria, the great church called “al-Qaysāriyyah” – i.e. the temple that Queen Cleopatra had erected and dedicated to Saturn – caught fire on Monday, 3 of the month of Shawwāl of the year 300 [of the Hegira].

5. In the month of Rabī’ al-ākhar of the year 300 [of the Hegira] Abd Allah sent an officer named Habāsa at the head of a large army.  Habāsa occupied the city of Barqah, routing the soldiers of al-Muqtadir who were there, then he aimed at Alexandria, engaging the soldiers of al-Muqtadir in Alexandria in a tough battle.  Habāsa routed them and occupied Alexandria.  He then sent a detachment to al-Fayyūm and to al-Bahnasā[3] and occupied them.  He wrote to Ubayd Allāh[4] to inform him about what was happening, and Ubayd [Allah] sent his son Abū’l-Qasim (In another copy it says ‘Abd ar-Rahmān’) at the head of a great army to support Habāsa.  Takin al-Khassah was governor of Egypt.  Al-Muqtadir sent al-Qāsim ibn Simā to help with a group of officers, as well as the eunuchs Mu’nis and Hawa.  They went to al-Gizah and asked for the help of the people, recruiting about a hundred thousand armed men.  [Habāsa] moved against them with his army, and the others also deployed, ready for battle.  The battle between the two sides took place in an district of al-Ğazīrah known as “Ard al-Khamsin”.  Habāsa was put to flight, and his servants were killed and hunted down by the population.  Then Habāsa’s soldiers marched back and fell upon the people and killed all those whom they came across.  It was already evening and night separated them.  Of the people there were about twenty thousand killed, and of the men of Habāsa ten thousand.  During the night, the men of ‘Ubayd Allāh reassembled, and cryers went around to recall the population.  Abū’l-Qāsim returned to the Maghrib with his men and his army.

6. Al-Muqtadir withdrew his favour from Ali ibn Muhammad b. ‘Ubayd Allāh b. Yahya b. Khāqān on Monday, 10th of the month of al-Muharram of the year 301 [of the Hegira], and appointed as his minister Ali b. Al-Garrāh, who he then dismissed in the month of Dhūl-hiğğa of the year 303 [of the Hegira].  Ali b. Muhammad b. Al-Husayn b. Al-Furāt was brought out of prison and appointed as minister.  Then he dismissed him, and again put him in prison in the month of ğumādà al-awwal of the year 304 [of the Hegira], appointing as his minister Hāmid ibn al-‘Abbās.

7. In the year 307 [of the Hegira] Abū’l-Qāsim ibn ‘Ubayd Allāh moved from the Maghrib at the head of one hundred thousand men and captured Alexandria.  The people of Egypt were terrified.  He then conquered al-Fayyūm, al-Bahnasi, and the island of al-Ashmuriyyin.[5]  Learning of this, al-Muqtadir sent the eunuch Mu’nis with a large army.  The armies encamped at al-Gizah.  Then Ubayd Allah arose and sent one hundred warships, eighty of those called humuli[6] and twenty of those called ushārinī[7], who docked at Rosetta.  Mu’nis wrote al-Muqtadir, informing him of the fact.  Al-Muqtadir sent the eunuch Thamāl with fifty warships.  Thamāl confronted them, and destroyed the fleet by burning it.  Most of the men were killed, others drowned, many others surrendered pleading for protection.  He then sent the latter to Misr.  When they arrived, the people said to them, “Whoever of you is a kutāmī [8] should separate himself from the Sicilians, the Africans, and the Tripolitanians.” The Kutāmiyyūn were set aside: they were about five hundred.  Then they attacked them and killed them in a place called “al-Muqass”, without saving anyone, in the vilest and most repugnant manner.  Mu’nis stayed with his army at al-Gizah for two years, and dug a moat around his camp.  Abū’l-Qāsim ibn ‘Ubayd Allah was camped at Alexandria and soon marched in the direction of al-Fayyūm.  The eunuch Mu’nis wrote to the eunuch Thamāl to take his ships to Alexandria – in fact it was known that in Alexandria there were only three thousand soldiers of Abū’l-Qāsim – to evacuate the population, and to prevent anyone from entering.  When he arrived in Alexandria with his ships, Thamāl sent around his cryer, announcing that no one could stay in Alexandria beyond the third day, on penalty of death.  The inhabitants left their furnishings and everything they possessed, closed the doors of the house, and left Alexandria as if going for a walk.  Thamāl transported them on his ships to the island known under the name of  “gizat Abi Qir”.  Many of them were drowned in the Nile while others, about two hundred thousand men, women and children, died of hunger and thirst in rural villages and at al-Fustāt.  The country was reduced to a ruin, depopulated as it was.  Thamāl acted in this way so that Abū’l-Qāsim would find no place to take refuge if he returned from al-Fayyūm.  Later the eunuch Mu’nis gathered his army and went against him while he was still at al-Fayyūm.  He routed them, killed the men and laid hands on their possessions and everything they had.  Abū’l-Qāsim ibn ‘Ubayd Allāh fled with his followers and returned to al-Qayrawān in the month of Dhū’l-hiğğa of the year 308 [of the Hegira].  After these events the eunuch Mu’nis stayed at that place for another two months, then returned to Baghdad, leaving in Egypt [as governor] Hilāl b. Badr.  As for Alexandria, the survivors of those who had fled returned, and the city returned to life.

8. King Leo contracted a serious illness, and fearing that he was to die soon, sent for the Patriarch Nicolas, who he had dismissed, reconciled with him and returned him to his office.  He then removed the patriarch Anthimus,[9] and relegated him to a monastery in Constantinople, where he remained for two years and died.  King Leo bore his illness for several months, until he died.  After him there reigned over Rum his brother Alexander.  He reigned seven years and died.  After him reigned over Rūm Constantine [10], son of Leo.  He was twenty-three years old (in another text it says “thirteen years”).  His mother Augusta administered the empire.  The King of the Bulgars sent to ask Constantine to give his sister to his son, but Constantine did not consent.  There were many wars between the king of Rūm and the king of the Bulgars.  Observing such a continuous succession of wars between the two, Nicholas, patriarch of Constantinople, had good reason to fear that they might destroy each other.  He therefore called for an officer of the king named Domitius[11] and joined him to Constantine as emperor.  He then took Domitius’ daughter and gave her to Constantine.  Constantine, Domitius and Christopher, the son of Domitius, were recognized as the three kings of the Rūm, and together administered the Empire.  Domitius gave his daughter to the king of Bulgars and the wars ceased.[12]

The reign of al-Muqtadir will be continued in the next post.

  1. [1]This should read “Abū ‘Abd Allāh…”.
  2. [2]Pirone does not explain this nickname, instead referring to the reader to another source.  I would infer that the label is obscene.
  3. [3]I.e. to Oxyrhynchus.
  4. [4]Called ‘Abd Allah a little earlier.
  5. [5]Probably “al-Ashmūnayn”, the classical Hermopolis or Mercurii oppidum, now in the district of Rawdah in the province of Assiut.
  6. [6]I.e. transport or cargo vessels, also known as markab hamla or markab hammāl.
  7. [7]Lighter vessels, seemingly used for transfer of goods and people from cargo ships to shore.
  8. [8]The Kutama tribe were Berbers, and supported the Fatimids against the Aghlabids.
  9. [9]I.e. Eutymius I.
  10. [10]Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus.
  11. [11]Pirone suggests a confusion of consonants in the Arabic for Romanus, i.e. Lecapenus.
  12. [12]In fact Peter of Bulgaria, son of Simeon of Bulgaria, married the neice of Romanus Lecapenus.

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