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ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Nadia Maria El-Cheikh


From : “Byzantium through the Islamic Prism from the Twelfth to the Thirteenth Century”, included in The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World, ed. Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh, Dumbarton Oaks © 2001 - Here published with title and subtitles by Elpenor.

Historiography ||| The twelfth and thirteenth centuries ||| al-Rum ||| Byzantine skills ||| General character ||| Constantinople ||| Constantinople and Jerusalem ||| 1204 ||| Symbols of Constantinople ||| Islamic monuments of Constantinople 


Page 7


In addition to our texts’ elaboration on various facets of the Byzantine persona, twelfth-and thirteenth-century Arabic Islamic sources on Byzantium include physical descriptions of bilad al-Rum and especially of Constantinople. Here again the surviving earlier view is juxtaposed side by side with the evolving image that reflects the new contemporary situation.

Bilad al-Rum, that is, the Byzantine Empire, continues to be highly praised. Exaggerating its geographical extent, al-Zuhri states that bilad al-Rum extends from Constantinople in the East to Barcelona in the West. Yaqut gives its frontiers: They have the Turks, Khazars, and Rus on the north and east, in the south their limits are al-Sham and Alexandria, and in the west they border the sea of al-Andalus.

Al-Qazwini states that bilad al-Rum is a great country and kingdom. The reason for its survival, he claims, lies both in its great distance from bilad al-Islam and in the strength of its rulership. Its survival, as opposed to the disappearance of the great Persian Empire, was predicted by the Prophet Muhammad, who said: “For Persia no thrusts and no Persia after that; whereas al-Rum with the many horns, as a generation passes, another one succeeds it.”

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Bilad al-Rum in our sources is its high fertility. Al-Qazwini states that “it is a great land, most fertile,” and al-Zuhri mentions that bilad al-Rum is a fertile land, as are all the other cities of al-Rum, which abound in crops, cattle, fruit, and vineyards.

The Aleppine historian Kamal al-Din Ibn al‘Adim (d. 660/1262) corroborates these authors in his statement about Aleppo: “Aleppo is a country scarce in fruits, vegetables, and wine, except for what it imports from bilad al-Rum.

Among the most important cities are Amorium and especially Antioch, which al-Zuhri describes as one of the greatest cities of bilad al-Rum. Topping the list, by far, however, was Constantinople.  

The Arab authors of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries called the Byzantine capital al-Qustantiniyya; they are nevertheless also aware of the site’s old name, Byzantium. Yaqut relates that Constantinople was built by one of their kings who is referred to as Buzanti. Both Ibn al-Athir and Yaqut mention a third name, that of Istanbul. Gathering their information from earlier Arabic sources, our authors underline the historical importance of the transfer of the Roman capital from Rome to Constantinople in the fourth century A.D.

Cf.  Christianity and Islam - Two related, yet different religions * Koran – the invention of an artificial religion * Turkey * The Orthodox Church * Byzantine history * On the Byzantine Military Strategy * Greek Language

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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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