Sixth century


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who moved in that milieu, such as ʿAdī ibn Zayd.

 

63 See 


Dīwān al-Aʿshā al-Kabīr, ed. M. Ḥusayn (Cairo, n.d. [1950]), 173, verse 24 (an edition that 

in a few cases usefully supplements the excellent standard edition of R. Geyer, cited above). 



Al-khandarīs 

has been considered a loanword in Arabic. Most commentators, including the medieval author Jawālīqī, 

consider it a Byzantine Greek term (

rūmiyya); see Abū Manṣūr Jawālīqī, al-Muʿarrab min al-Kalām 

al-Aʿ jamī ʿalā Ḥurūf al-Muʿ jam, ed. and annot. A. Shakir (reprint; Tehran, 1966), 124–25. Apparently 

it is related to the Greek χόνδρος, which originally meant a grain or lump of salt, then gruel (oat-

meal boiled in milk), and finally wine; see Fraenkel, 

Die aramäischen Fremdwörter, 163–64. The edi-

tor of 


al-Muʿarrab contributed many footnotes on khandarīs; in one, Shakir quotes the lexicographer 

al-Zabīdi, who suggested in 



Sharḥ al-Qamūs that it may be a Persian loanword (125 note 7). The term 

survived well into later Islamic times, and is attested in the tenth-century poetry of al-Mutanabbi; see his 



Dīwān, ed. ‘A. al-Barqūqī (Cairo, 1930), I, 362, verse 1. Perhaps al-khandarīs is a Persian term; al-musṭār 

(Greek μουστάριον, Latin 



mustarium) is attested in the poetry of al-Akhṭal, the poet laureate of the 

Umayyads of Oriens/Bilād al-Shām, ca. a.d. 700. For 



al-mustār, see T. Nöldeke, ed., Delectus Veterum 

Carminum Arabicorum (1890; reprint, Wiesbaden, 1966), 54, verse 13, and Fraenkel, Die aramäischen 

Fremdwörter, 163.

 

64  For his references to these cities, see 



BASIC II.1, 272–78.

 

65  See Aʿshā,



 Dīwān, ed. Geyer, 160, verse 7, and BASIC II.1, 274 note 264.

 

66  For Imruʾ al-Qays in Ḥims, see 



BASIC II.1, 263–64.

150

byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century

al-Aʿshā uses also the Arabic term 

mashrabāt, the noun of place from the verb 

shariba (drink), when speaking of the taverns of Najrān.67

al-Nābigha al-Jaʿdi

Like his namesake, al-Nābigha al-Dubyānī, al-Nābigha al-Jaʿdi, too, visited the 

Ghassānids and left a cluster of verses in which he remembered their hospitality.68 

The reference comes in his famous long poem that rhymes in 



R, the rāʾiyya, a text 

with several versions.69 The cluster of verses is a sextet in which he speaks of his 

boon companions at the court of Mundir, who could be Lakhmid or Ghassānid, 

but in this context are likely to be Ghassānid.70 His companions are handsome 

and attractive as the 

danānīr, the dinars from “the land of Caesar.” Reference is 

made to Najrān, which he frequents so often that he was afraid of being converted 

to Christianity (a remark that demonstrates the importance of Najrān as a great 

Christian center). The specifically Ghassānid dimension of the cluster comes in 

verses 12–14.

 

In verse 13 al-Nābigha states that the king of the house of Jafna, the eponym 



of the Ghassānids, was his host.

 

He refers to the cup of wine he drank there; to the 



shiwāʾ, the broiled meat, he 

ate; and to the expensive robes he was given as a present.71

 

Verse 14 states that he received Iraqi linen cloth from Oriens (Bilād 



al-Shām),72 as well as musk from Dārīn at the Ghassānid court.73

ʿAmr ibn Kulthūm

The so-called Suspended Ode of ʿAmr ibn Kulthūm74 is structurally exceptional in 

that it opens with a wine lyric rather than a description of a deserted encampment, 

 

67  See Aʿshā, 



Dīwān, ed. Ḥusayn, 173, verse 29.

 

68  For the poet al-Nābigha al-Jaʿdi, see Sezgin, 



GAS, II, 245–47. Citations to his Dīwān are from the 

edition of A. Rabbāḥ, 



Shiʿr al-Nābigha al-Jaʿdi (Damascus, 1964); M. Nallino’s edition (Rome, 1953) 

was not available to me.

 

69  See al-Nābigha al-Jaʿdi, 



Dīwān, 35–59, 60–69, 70–76.

 

70  Ibid., 61–62, verses 9–14.



 

71  The robes he received at the Ghassānid court came from Ḥaḍramawt, known for its elegant cloth 

even in Islamic times, as indicated in the poetry of the Umayyad poet Jarīr. The Ghassānids had close 

relations with inhabitants of South Arabia, especially their relatives in Najrān.

 

72  The reference to fine cloth from Oriens may reflect the rise of the silk industry there during the 



reign of Justinian, after the introduction of the silkworm. The political tensions between Byzantium and 

Persia did not affect trade relations; similarly, hostilities between the Ghassān and Lakhm, inveterate 

enemies, did not affect social and economic intercourse between Ḥīra in Lower Mesopotamia (Iraq) and 

Jābiya in Bilād al-Shām (Oriens), especially after the fall of the Lakhmids ca. a.d. 600.

 

73  Dārīn was a town in Baḥrayn, in eastern Arabia; at the time, Baḥrayn included parts of the 



Arabian mainland.

 

74  For the poet, see Sezgin, 



GAS, II, 128–29. In BASIC II.1, 268–72, ʿAmr ibn Kulthūm was dis-

cussed mainly in connection with the toponyms in his poem. 



151

Drink


the conventional prelude of pre-Islamic odes. These opening verses may have been 

a separate lyric, erroneously linked to the ode in the long process of transmission.75

 

In verse 1, the poet calls on the waitress/songstress to entertain him with 



a drink in the morning (

ṣabūḥ). He refers to the wines of Andarūn, apparently 

a famous wine-producing region, and uses the term 



ṣaḥn for the more common  

kaʾs (cup).

 

In verse 2 he asks for wine mixed with 



ḥuṣṣ, saffron; he likes it warm, sakhīn, 

presumably because the mornings on the steppe are cold.

 

Verse 3 names the places where he drank wine: Baʿalbak/Heliopolis, Damas-



cus, and Qāṣarīn. Arab communities had presumably lived in those cities since the 

days of the Ituraean Arabs in the first century b.c.

 

In verse 4 he speaks of the progress of the cup, which was passed around a 



group of partygoers starting from the right-hand side, presumably the auspicious 

direction.

IV. The Tavern

The taverns that these Arab poets visited were centers of social life, as they were in 

Oriens. Out of the fragmentary verse of Ḥassān and other Arab poets, it is thus 

possible to reconstruct the ambience of the taverns that these poets—whether fed-

erate Ghassānid or Rhomaic Arab—frequented in Oriens. Their elements included 

the following.

 

1. The waiter. Only the male server is described in the surviving poetry of 



Ḥassān.76 He appears with an earring and a long hat or robe (

burnūs) and an expen-

sive 


mandīl, kerchief. Ḥassān notes that he has his hair cut behind his ear,77 his belt 

tightly fastened around his waist. He is also alert and quick to respond to requests. 

He is the 

sāqi, the one who pours wine for the patrons in the tavern. 

 

2. The songstress. Equally important was the 



musmiʿa (from the root samiʿa, 

“hear”), who often was also an instrumentalist (



ʿāzifa), playing a lute or a zither.78 

No names of songstresses have survived, as did those of the 



qiyān (plural of qayna), 

“songstresses,” in Mecca and Medina/Yathrib.79 Ḥassān must have seen song-

stresses in Medina and possibly in Mecca, but he naturally saw more of them in 

the taverns of Byzantine Oriens, where both music and song were much more 

 

75  See the perceptive remarks of T. Nöldeke in 



Fünf Moʿallaqat (Vienna, 1899–1901), 13–14. For 

the text of the wine lyric, see al-Zawzani, 



Sharḥ al-Muʿallaqāt al-Sabʿ (Beirut, 1963), 118–19, verses 1–7.

 

76  For descriptions of the waiter, see Ḥassān, 



Dīwān, I, 75, verse 22; 106–7, verses 14–15; 313, verse 6.

 

77  In Arabic, 



muḥtalaq al-dhifrā; see ibid., 106, verse 14. The dhifrā is the bone behind the ear. 

 

78  For the 



musmiʿa in Ḥassān, see Dīwān, I, 75, verse 17; 426, verse 2. For the ʿāzifa, see 91, verse 9.

 

79  On the 



qiyān of Uḥayḥa ibn al-Julāh in Medina, see C. Pellat, “

˙

Kayna,” 



EI2, IV, 820; for those of 

Ibn Judʿān in Mecca, the so-called 



jarādatān, see ibid., 821. 

152

byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century

developed.80 

Tarab was the term used to describe the ecstatic state induced by song 

in the tavern.

 

3. The boon companion. The 



nadīm (plural nudamāʾ, nadāma) was another 

important member of the drinking party in the tavern. Ḥassān refers to these com-

panions in Arabia as well as in Oriens.81 He is careful to emphasize their quality, 

as conducive to a more pleasurable experience in the tavern. Just as the waiter, 



sāqi, 

was regularly featured in pre-Islamic wine lyrics, so too was the 



nadīm, both in 

Ḥassān’s time and in the later Islamic period.

 

4. The importance of the tavern. Apparently Arabs of this period, whether in 



Arabia or Oriens, frequented the tavern both in the morning and in the evening. 

Therefore new technical terms were coined: drinking in the morning was called 

the 

ṣabūḥ; in the evening, the ghabūq. 

 

5. The manner of serving wine. The wine in these taverns was drunk straight 



or mixed.82 Ḥassān also specifies what was added: sometimes honey,83 sometimes 

water or saffron or musk for a better bouquet. The mixing water was warm, as in 

the wine ʿAmr ibn Kulthūm drank in various cities of Oriens he mentions (see 

above). It may sometimes have been mixed with ice.84

 

6. Perfumes. Perfumes were perhaps used to make the ambience of the tavern 



more seductive.85 The musk mentioned in Ḥassān’s verse may have been the sub-

stance extracted from the musk rose, not from gazelles. 

 

7. Seating. It is uncertain whether these poets who frequented the taverns 



sat on chairs or reclined on couches, as was common in the Roman 

convivium or 

the Greek 



symposion. Two terms used by Ḥassān—mirfaqa, “pillow,” and the verb 

ittakaʾa, “recline,” “place the elbow”86—suggest that they reclined. But the terms 

are ambiguous, since 



mirfaqa may be the armrest of a chair, on which an elbow 

might be placed (an action described with the verb 



ittakaʾa). Ḥassān also uses the 

term 


jalasa, “to sit on a chair.”87

 

One verse of Ḥassān is remarkable for its inclusiveness.88 It combines three of 



the elements listed above (numbers 2, 3, and 4) and expresses his notion of the per-

 

80  The prose accounts that describe entertainment at the Ghassānid courts such as that of Jabala are 



not unauthentic, although they may have been embroidered. 

 

81  For boon companions in Arabia, see Ḥassān, 



Dīwān, I, 91, verse 6; in Oriens, 279, verse 9.

 

82  Ibid., 106, verse 10.



 

83  Ibid., 17, verse 6.

 

84  In a particular verse, 



baradā may be a misreading of bardan, which inter alia can mean “hail”—in 

this context, a form of ice with which the wine described as 



raḥīq was mixed; ibid., 74, verse 13.

 

85  Or perhaps the patrons’ use of musk and saffron was responsible for the fragrance in the tavern, as 



in ibid., 312, verse 3. 

 

86 For 



mirfaqa, see ibid., 303, verse 10; for ittakaʾa, 74, verse 16.

 

87  Ibid., 312, verse 3.



 

88  Ibid., 279, verse 9.



153

Drink


fect tavern experience. His lady, Shaʿthāʾ, had wished he would shake off his intoxi-

cation—presumably incurred by quaffing one cup (



kaʾs) of wine after another. He 

replies that what he desires, even hankers after, is camaraderie in the tavern, boon 

companions (

nadmān), and their conversation for his early morning drink, the 

ṣabūḥ. During his later visit to the tavern for his evening drink, the ghabūq, he 

enjoys the conversation of his evening companion, 



al-musāmir, especially when the 

latter is also endowed with an appealing voice as a singer, 



gharid. The verse reveals 

his hedonism. 

V. The Vineyard

As a piece of cultivated land, the vineyard, 



karm, was highly valued in Oriens, as 

was the olive grove. Its grapes were a prized fruit: when partially dried, they became 

raisins; when squeezed, they produced juice; and when pressed and fermented, they 

created wine. Ghassānland, especially in the Provincia Arabia and the Golan, was 

blessed with vineyards, where the vine flourished as it still does to the present day, 

especially in Lebanon and northern Jordan.

 

The term 



karm for vineyard is originally Syriac, as are many terms in Arabic. 

It appears in the 



Dīwān of Ḥassān both as a common noun and as a toponym, 

al-Kurūm (plural of karm), much as the common terms for fort and monastery, 

qaṣr and dayr, were transformed into proper nouns. The Byzantines apparently left 

their vines untrellised,89 as the Ghassānids and other 



foederati in Oriens may also 

have done. The 



Dīwān of Ḥassān, however, applies to the vine or vineyard some 

terms, such as 



ahdal,90 that suggest a shaded bower or arbor, an ʿarīsh, possibly trel-

lised or covered with a roof to protect the plants within it from the blazing sun. 

The term as a 

nomen patientis is attested in the Koran, maʿrūshāt.91 Presumably it 

was used by the poets of the Ghassānids who visited Oriens and must have seen the 

bowers and arbors of the Arabs in that diocese, but the term is not attested in the 

surviving poetry of Ḥassān. The Ghassānid bowers/arbors may be added to the list 

of elements that appear in the Koran as descriptions of paradise, possibly inspired 

by what the Arabs of those days saw in federate Byzantine Oriens: hence the 



jannāt 

maʿrūshat, the bowered gardens of paradise.92

 

The Ghassānids came from a peninsula that was baked by the sun; hence the 



bower or arbor in the vineyard must have been a most welcome retreat for them 

 

89  See J. Nesbitt and A. Kazhdan, “Vineyards,” 



ODB, III, 2170. 

 

90 Ḥassān, 



Dīwān, I, 75, verse 33. When applied to branches, the adjective ahdal connotes dangling 

or overhanging.

 

91  See Koran, 6:141. 



Maʿrūshāt (plural of maʿrūsha) can be applied to gardens that have these 

bowers. 


 

92  One of the terms related to ʿ



arīsh, namely ʿarsh, came to mean “throne,” and it is used in this sense 

throughout the Koran.



154

byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century

and for the poets who visited them from Arabia. The vineyard became pleasant 

surroundings for drinking wine in the open air rather than within the walls of a 

tavern. Ḥassān availed himself of this locale for drinking parties, as may be seen 

from an analysis of the relevant part of his celebrated 



lāmiyya, or rhyme in L, in 

praise of the Ghassānids.93

 

Some of its verses refer to the urban tavern that Ḥassān used to frequent 



(verses 21–25), while others (13–18) refer to drinking wine in the bower of the 

vineyard. The description of the latter is more vivid.

 

He describes his journey to the Ghassānid rulers in whose royal com-



pany he drinks wine, for him the antidote of all cares. His explicit reference to 

the Ghassānids in three verses (15, 18, 30) supports the prose sources where he 

describes in detail the time he spent tasting the wine of the Ghassānid kings as 

their boon companion (see Chapter 3, above).

 

Verses 16 and 17 clearly describe his journey: he leaves the district of the Barīṣ 



and then reaches the vineyard (which he specifies as located between al-Kurūm 

and al-Qasṭal), where he reclines, drinks his wine, and listens to the warblings of 

the songstress, the 

musmiʿa.

VI. The Wines of Federate Oriens

Out of the 

dīwāns of Ḥassān and other poets who have been discussed in detail, 

it is now possible to draw some conclusions about wine and its history in federate 

Oriens.

 

1. The poetry records that wine was produced in Bostra, Bayt Rās (Capitolias), 



and Gaza. These are well-known cities of Oriens, and the first were in the Provincia 

Arabia, the headquarters of the Ghassānids. Others are not well known to the 

Byzantine sources, such as Maqadd, in Trans-Jordan, to whose wines the Ghassānids 

were partial. Its wines remained popular even in Umayyad Islamic times, when 

poets sang its praises. Salkhad/Sarkhad in the Provincia Arabia may also be added to  

the list.94

 

Apparently the wines of Palestine were particularly well known and sought 



after, as is clear from a passage of Corippus’ Latin panegyric on Justin II, discussed 

at the beginning of this chapter. The poet speaks of two cities of Palestine, Gaza 

and Ascalon, known for their wines, but more significantly he refers to the god of 

wine, Dionysus, by his other name, Bacchus, as Palestinian. His use of the epithet 

Palestinian, like that of his younger contemporary al-Aʿshā, an Arab poet, could 

 

93 Ḥassān, 



Dīwān, I, 74–75.

 

94  The philosopher-poet of Arabic medieval Islam, Abu al-ʿAlāʾ al-Maʿarrī, included in his work the 



names of places in Oriens where wine was produced, thus confirming some known in Byzantine times 

and others unknown, such as Adriʿāt and Shibām; see his 



Risālat al-Ghufrān, ed. A. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān 

(Cairo, 1963), 150–59.



155

Drink


reflect the importance of the province as a whole in wine production and its expor-

tation abroad, including Constantinople, where Corippus finds it served at the 

imperial banquet given by Justin II.

 

2. The poetry provides information on the containers that transported the 



wine from these places of production to the markets and cities where it was in 

demand, the 



qilāl (plural of qulla), the vats. To these may be added other vessels 

of various sizes and functions, including the 



dann and ḥantam, a green-colored jar. 

Smaller in size were the 



ziq or nājūd, wineskins to be found in taverns, and ibrīq, 

the jug, flask.95 The term 



khābiya is especially interesting: it indicates that the wine 

was hidden, kept for a long time, and its plural, 



khawābī, gave rise to a toponym 

and a monastery of that name. It is still in existence in Syria; presumably the place 

was well known for its winepresses.96

 

3. Wine trade was important both in Byzantium and in the Diocese of Oriens. 



Wine merchants were either 

vinarii, oinopolai—that is, wholesale merchants—or 

caupones, kapeloi, the retailers who ran the taverns. There is only one possible ref-

erence to such an individual, Luqmān, in the poetry of al-Nābigha, if indeed the 

word indicates not a toponym but a 

vinarius or a caupo (as discussed above). If so, 

he probably was a 



vinarius, who would receive the large casks transported by the 

camels from their place of production, Capitolias, and then would place them in 

the market.

 

4. In the verse that has survived, many terms are used to refer to wine. Certain 



authors in later Islamic times provide long lists of such terms, some of which no 

doubt go back to pre-Islamic times.97 They may be found in the verse of Ḥassān 

and the other poets who frequented the Ghassānids in Byzantine Oriens. Some of 

the names refer to its color.

 

a. Two terms relating to color became in later Islamic times common words for 



wine. Both 

al-ṣahbāʾ and al-kumayt usually connote a dark color with a dash of red. 

 b. 


Qahwa is attested in this period and in the later Islamic period as meaning 

wine; only later did it come to mean “coffee.”

 c. 

Mudām indicates that the wine is vintage, has been kept a long time;98 a 

synonym also in use was 



muʿattaqa. 

 d. 


Sulāf and raḥīq are words attested in this period as terms for very good 

wine; the latter even appears as a choice drink in the Koranic paradise.99

 

95 


Khurṭūm may be added to terms that meant a jug, though for some it meant wine; see Ḥassān, 

Dīwān, I, 439, verse 2, and II, 87, line 18; also Fraenkel, Die aramäischen Fremdwörter, 164–65.

 

96  On al-Khawābī, see 



BASIC II.1, 240.

 

97  See Ibn al-Sikkīt, 




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