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who moved in that milieu, such as ʿAdī ibn Zayd.
Dīwān al-Aʿshā al-Kabīr, ed. M. Ḥusayn (Cairo, n.d. ), 173, verse 24 (an edition that
in a few cases usefully supplements the excellent standard edition of R. Geyer, cited above).
has been considered a loanword in Arabic. Most commentators, including the medieval author Jawālīqī,
consider it a Byzantine Greek term (
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,
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
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.
byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century
al-Aʿshā uses also the Arabic term
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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-
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
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, “
EI2, IV, 820; for those of
Ibn Judʿān in Mecca, the so-called
jarādatān, see ibid., 821.
byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century
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,
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
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
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
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.
mirfaqa, see ibid., 303, verse 10; for ittakaʾa, 74, verse 16.
87 Ibid., 312, verse 3.
88 Ibid., 279, verse 9.
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
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
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.
karm for vineyard is originally Syriac, as are many terms in Arabic.
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
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
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.
Dīwān, I, 75, verse 33. When applied to branches, the adjective ahdal connotes dangling
91 See Koran, 6:141.
Maʿrūshāt (plural of maʿrūsha) can be applied to gardens that have these
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.
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
VI. The Wines of Federate Oriens
Out of the
it is now possible to draw some conclusions about wine and its history in federate
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
al-ṣahbāʾ and al-kumayt usually connote a dark color with a dash of red.
Qahwa is attested in this period and in the later Islamic period as meaning
wine; only later did it come to mean “coffee.”
synonym also in use was
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
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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