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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 8

They also stressed the watershed represented by both Christianization and the establishment of the empire’s capital in Byzantium and connected the two events with Constantine the Great. Yaqut, for instance, states that Constantine the Great moved to Byzantium and built a wall around it and called it Qustantiniyya, and it is their dar al-mulk (ruling capital) until today. Similarly, the geographers Ibn Sa‘id, al-Zuhri, and al-Dimashqi confirm that Constantinople was built by Constantine, who made it the city of the caesars.

Constantinople occupied a unique place in the Byzantine Empire, well reflected traditionally in the Muslim sources, which continued to confirm its exceptional political, economic, and cultural importance despite the historical developments and mutations it underwent during this period. The Muslim authors of the thirteenth century were aware of the two momentous events in the recent history of the city, namely, the massacre of the Latins in 1182 and the conquest of the city by the Latins in 1204. Concerning the events of 1182, Ibn Jubayr relates the following confused and inaccurate story:

The report had it that the Sovereign of Constantinople had died, leaving his kingdom to his wife and young son. But his cousin usurped the throne, killed the widow, and seized the boy. The usurper fell in love with the boy’s sister, who was famed for her beauty. Yet he could not marry her since it was forbidden for the Rum to take their kinswomen in marriage. Impetuous love, blind and deafening desire ... impelled him to take her and go to Prince Mas‘ud, Sovereign of Konia. ... The two of them embraced Islam ... and got married ... then with the backing of Muslim armies he entered Constantinople, slaying some fifty thousand of its inhabitants. The Muslims seized Constantinople, and all its money was transported to Amir Masud. ... This conquest is one of the signs of the Hour, ashrat al-sa‘a.

Ibn Jubayr, here, has the Muslims conquering Constantinople in 1182. Of course, no Muslim army captured Constantinople until the Ottoman conquest of 1453, and it was the Latin inhabitants who were slaughtered by the Byzantines. As for the last phrase on ashrat al-sa‘a, it belongs to the Muslim apocalyptic literature that developed very early on in connection with the military expeditions against the Byzantine capital in the seventh and eighth centuries.

Numerous traditions going back to the Prophet Muhammad made its conquest one of the six portents of the Hour signaling the approaching end of the world. These traditions, found in the earliest compilations, are naturally included in the twelfth-and thirteenth-century texts, albeit in an altered form at times.


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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