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z fi Kitāb Tahdhīb al-Alfā
z, ed. L. Cheikho (Beirut, 1895), 211,
where thirty-three names for wine are given.
98 It is the
nomen patientis from the verb adāma, “to make to last long.”
99 Koran, 83:25; see also Fraenkel,
Die aramäischen Fremdwörter, 158.
byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century
until the Umayyad period, its usage then was likely a continuation of its popularity
in the immediately preceding Ghassānid-Byzantine period.
f. Two very common terms are
al-rāḥ and al-ʿuqār, which will be discussed
g. Finally, the generic term for wine,
khamr, has remained in use to the pres-
ent day. It is the word employed in the Koran. Another term for wine was
Khammār was the word for the wine merchant and, more often, for the tavern
5. The effect of wine on its devotees was noted by the poets and was given var-
ious names. In a dialogue with the Ghassānid king Jabala, the poet Ḥassān lists its
three vices and its three virtues.100 It induces a mood not unlike insanity, madness;
it leads to
this context probably means fall to the ground as a result of intoxication, having
lost one’s rational faculty.101 Conversely, wine relieves the one who drinks it of his
sorrows; cares vanish.102 The three vices and three virtues discussed in this dialogue
were succinctly expressed by two native Arabic terms for wine:
that silences or even kills the rational faculty, and
al-rāḥ, the wine that induces
comfort in the one who drinks (probably a shortened form of
The most pleasant state that the wine used to induce in Ḥassān and the other
nashwa, “ecstasy”; it made them nashāwā (plural of nashwān), “ecstatic.”
As noted above, of particular interest in this lexicon of wine in Arabic is the
appearance of the term
tiryāq, diryāq, diryāqa, a medical expression meaning “anti-
dote” borrowed from Greek medical literature and indicating the Arabs’ familiar-
ity with it even in pre-Islamic times.
6. Reference has been made to various cities in Oriens where the poets of the
Ghassānids visited taverns, but to what strictly Ghassānid localities did they come
for their wine? The previous volume in this series has examined the Ghassānid
urban centers, especially two: Jābiya, the Ghassānid capital in the Golan, and
Jalliq, whose location remains in dispute.103 Taverns must have existed in the capi-
tal, but Jalliq is more likely to have been frequented by these poets—it is Jalliq that
is remembered in Umayyad times as the place visited in the seventh century by the
caliph Yazīd, a hedonist, for his entertainment. He was married to a Ghassānid
princess, Umm Ramla, and the Ghassānid presence in the Umayyad state was
101 Roughly the same sentiment is expressed in a verse in one of his poems, in which he says that
when an old man drinks wine, he starts behaving like a child; ibid., 106, verse 12.
102 The third virtue is expressed by the term
imātatuhā—probably a corrupt reading, unless it
implies that wine dispels cares; ibid., 442, verse 4.
103 On Jābiya and Jalliq, see
strong. As important as Jalliq was another town, Ḥuwwārīn,104 also frequented by
Yazīd; it was there that the young Umayyad caliph died.
Taverns must often have been centers of social life in many Ghassānid local-
ities as they were in Oriens generally. As is well known, the Arabic sources are
much more informative on the Lakhmids of Ḥīra in Sasanid Persia than on the
Ghassānids of Jābiya in Byzantine Oriens. These sources provide much specific
information about the taverns of Ḥīra, including their names,105 and by analogy
taverns in Ghassānid Oriens were likely very similar. The surviving fragments from
Dīwān of Ḥassān depict a Ghassānland in which the tavern was a well-known
social center, prominently positioned in the layout of the Ghassānid town.
As has already been pointed out, wine had a special place in Christianity (unlike
Islam), which gave it much visibility. To this may be added the dimension of its asso-
ciation with monasteries, whose members cultivated vines and pressed grapes, giving
wine a place at monastic meals. As monasteries also became a reflection of Christian
a night at Dayr al-Khammān, the monastery of al-Khammān.106 Although he must
have tasted its wines, they are not mentioned in his extant poems. It is ironic that in
later Islamic times and because of the prohibition imposed on wine by the Muslim
Sharīʿa, conventual wine became the most important element that attracted Muslims
to Christian monasteries; thus the monastery was later perceived not as a place for
imitatio Christi but primarily as a venue for the consumption of wine.107
104 For its association with the Ghassānids, see
BASIC I.1, 152. On Yazīd, see G. R. Hawting, “Yazīd
EI2, XI, 309–11. On Ḥuwwārin/Evaria, where he used to spend time, see D. Sourdel,
EI2, III, 645.
105 For the taverns of Ḥīra and their names, see A. ʿAbd al-Ghani,
Tārīkh al-Ḥīra (Damascus, 1993),
106 For Ḥassān at Dayr al-Khammān, see his
Dīwān, I, 116–17.
107 As may be seen from al-Shābushti,
Kitāb al-Diyārāt, ed. G. ʿAwwād (Baghdad, 1966), passim.
The phrase “Garisaean Bacchus” appears in the passage from Corippus discussed in
Chapter 5, but Averil Cameron made no attempt to explain it in her 1976 edition,
and it has been left as of uncertain origin.1 In the same year, a German version of
Corippus with a commentary appeared; its author, Ulrich J. Stache, suggested that
the phrase means Bacchus of Mount Garizim in Samaria.2 Several points might be
adduced to support this view.
In Laudem Iustini Augusti Minoris, III.102, ed. and trans. Av. Cameron (London,
1976), 184 note 102; for a translation of the passage, see p. 104.
2 See U. J. Stache,
Flavius Cresconius Corippus, In Laudem Iustini Augusti Minoris: Kommentar
(Berlin, 1976), 400.
byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century
1. The vocalic sequence is identical with Mount Garizim as presented in such
Greek texts as Procopius.3
2. Mount Ephraim and Samaria were famous among the ancient Israelites for
3. The identification is consonant with the praises of Palestine as a wine-
4. Of the two mountains of Samaria, Garizim was the one that was blessed.5
On the other hand, it is most unusual to connect wine with a mountain,
especially one linked in Byzantine times with the Samaritans, who often rebelled
and caused much trouble in the Holy Land. The mountain was associated with
known for its wines, let alone produced them in commercial quantities.
A possible alternative to Garizim is one of the cities of the Decapolis, Gerasa.
There are several points in its favor.
1. This city was located in the midst of the vine-growing area in Trans-Jordan.
2. Gerasa had a temple of Dionysus,6 which suggests that it was a city where
wine was popular or an important commodity for trade.
3. The vocalic sequence in Ge-ra-sa is not as close as in Garizim to Garisaean,
consonantal skeleton—g-r-s—is identical. Besides, vocalic changes often
occur when a Semitic term is transliterated into another language, such as Greek.
For example, the name of a Jewish rabbi thought to have perhaps been a native of
Gerasa appears in Talmudic literature as Garsi,7 illustrating the same alteration of
vowels as in Corippus.
3 See Procopius,
Buildings, V.vii.7, 16.
4 See J. Feliki, “Vine,” in
Encyclopaedia Judaica, XX, 535.
5 See Deuteronomy 11:29.
6 Wine festivals were popular in a city where Dionysus, the god of wine, had a temple. It has been
suggested that the celebration of Christ’s miracle at Cana was a Christian adaptation of the former pagan
wine festival held there; see B. Brenck, C. Jäggi, and H. Meier, “The Buildings under the Cathedral of
7 See M. Avi-Yonah and S. Gibson, “Gerasa,” in
Encyclopaedia Judaica, VII, 506.
s important as what they ate and drank is the clothing of the Ghassānids.
Dress, as social historians generally recognize, is a fundamental element in
the expression of self-identity. It reflects cultural and ethnic affiliation as well as
social and economic status, and is sometimes used to distinguish one people from
others. The ancient Romans, as a
gens togata, distinguished themselves from the
Greeks, who were
palliati, wearers of the pallium, and from the barbarians, bracati,
who wore trousers.
So too did the Arabs employ clothing in ancient times and in the medieval
and modern eras, especially after most of them adopted Islam.1 This is reflected in
the vast number of terms in Arabic for dress in all its various aspects,2 and in their
tenacious attachment to their characteristic attire even in the face of social and
The Ghassānids were Arabs who had hailed from the Arabian Peninsula
1 On the retention by Muslims of certain elements of dress as an expression or even assertion
of identity, see the appendix, “The Vestimentary System: Further Observations.” Of particular note
is headgear, especially the ʿ
imāma, the turban, worn by men (nowadays mainly by Muslim ʿulamāʾ,
mullahs), and the
ḥijāb, the veil, worn by women.
2 Collected by S. Dāghir for the pre-Islamic period alone; see his
Madhāhib al-Ḥusn (Beirut, 1998),
282 note 7. The best brief account of Arab dress is the entry by Y. K. Stillman (with N. A. Stillman), “Libās,”
EI2, V, 732–42 (on the pre-Islamic period, see 732–33). It summarizes Y. K. Stillman’s Arab Dress: A
Short History: From the Dawn of Islam to Modern Times, edited after her death by N. A. Stillman (Leiden,
2003), which contains an extensive bibliography as well as pictures of Arab dress. It also has an account
of early studies on the subject (175ff.), beginning with the well-known works of R. Dozy,
2 vols. (Leiden, 1881). Not included are a very specialized standard work on pre-Islamic Arab dress, based
on attestations in Arabic poetry, Y. al-Jubouri,
and M. al-Jamīl,
al-Libās fi ʿAṣr al-Rasūl, Annals of the University of Kuwait, Monograph 91 (Kuwait,
1994). Because Arab dress during the lifetime of the Prophet Muḥammad—al-Jamīl’s theme—was largely
a continuation of that in pre-Islamic times, it contains much relevant material.
The most recent works on dress in general in late antiquity are a special issue (12) of
Tardive, Tissus et vêtements dans l’antiquité tardive, ed. J.-M. Carrié (Turnhout, 2004), with more up-
to-date bibliography, and J. Ball,
Byzantine Dress: Representations of Secular Dress in Eighth- to Twelfth-
Century Painting (New York, 2005), especially chapter 3.
byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century
from its most sedentary part, South Arabia. In Oriens they became both
of Byzantium and also devotees of the Christian faith. Although they kept a
strong sense of Arab self-identity, they were inevitably influenced by Romanitas
and Christianity in their dress, as in many other aspects of their life. The problem
of source survival makes it difficult to determine what they retained of the Arab
dress that they brought with them from the Peninsula and what they adopted and
adapted in Oriens from the Byzantines and various other peoples. It is easier to
enumerate and discuss the influences upon them while they were in Oriens, though
the main sources on their social life, such as
lost. Their congeners, the Rhomaic Arabs in Oriens, Palmyrenes and Nabataeans,
left behind them monuments that offer substantial visual representations of their
clothing.3 Nothing of this sort has survived from the Ghassānids. So the conclu-
sions in this chapter on the vestimentary systems of the Ghassānids will remain
partly inferential and partly evidential, relying on the few invaluable references to
them in the contemporary sources, mainly poetry.
I. Influences on Ghassānid Dress
After leaving the Arabian Peninsula, the Ghassānids continued to have close rela-
tions with the Arabs. Influences on their dress must have come from two main
sources: Najrān in South Arabia and Ḥīra on the Lower Euphrates.
Especially important in this context were their relations with Najrān, the city
peopled by their relatives and co-confessionalists, Monophysite Christians. South
Arabia had been a region of
de luxe articles, which it exported to the Roman world
of the Mediterranean, and it remained prosperous in late antiquity. Najrān was the
main center of the textile industry and produced luxury cloth.4 Its garments were
also known all over the Peninsula and among the Arabs. They are referred to in the
sources, and they were in demand. One source lists about eighteen different types
of men’s and women’s robes for which Najrān was known, including the
burda, the ḥabara, the ḥulla, and the rayṭa.5 Of these, the burda or burd became
the most famous in Islamic history: it became the most prized of Muḥammad’s
3 See R. Hoyland,
Arabia and the Arabs (London, 2001), 133, 135, 143, 144.
4 On Najrān as a center of the textile industry, see L. Massignon, “La Mubāhala de Medine
et l’hyperdule de Fatima,” in
Opera Minora, ed. Y. Moubarac (Beirut, 1963), I, 550–72. Because few
sources have survived, it is not clear whether the Najrānis were influenced in the manufacture of their
textiles by the Ḥimyarites, in whose shadow they lived.
5 See Jubouri,
al-Malābis, 35–51, which discusses South Arabian and Najrāni dress. For a descrip-
tion of the various items of Arab dress, see the glossary in Stillman, “Libās,” 740–42. Various authors
sometimes give slightly different descriptions of these items.
some of whom came from Najrān; because a certain Rayṭa was the wife or mother of the first Abbasid
caliph, the Ḥārithids of Najrān came to be known as
relics, assumed by the caliphs on ceremonial occasions, after the Prophet threw
burda on Kaʿb ibn Zuhayr following the poet’s recital of a panegyric on him.6
Also famous was the
ḥulla of Najrān, a two-piece costume composed of a robe and
an outer wrap. One condition of a treaty concluded between Muḥammad and a
Najrāni delegation to Medina was that Najrān should deliver 2,000
year to the Muslims.7 Surely these Najrāni robes, highly prized and worn by dis-
tinguished Arabs in this period,8 were not unknown to the Ghassānids, though no
specific evidence on this point remains.
On a smaller scale than Najrān, Ḥīra was also an Arab urban center in which
the textile industry flourished. Because more poetry has survived on Ḥīra than
on Ghassānid Jābiya, some references to its textile industry—such as one to the
ous garments associated with it and mentions cloth such as silk and linen. When
Khālid ibn al-Walīd captured Ḥīra, one of the conditions of the peace treaty was
its contribution of a number of garments to the Muslims, namely,
al-sāj and al-
taylasan. Especially noteworthy were athwāb al-riḍā, “the robes of pleasure,”
which the Lakhmids used to present to favored individuals, such as poets who
eulogized them.9 All these articles of clothing must have had their counterparts at
the Ghassānid court in Jābiya.
Ḥīra always maintained ties with Mecca and Najrān, which became closer
after the Persian occupation of South Arabia. The sources speak of the
caravan of silk and perfume, which traveled from Ḥīra to Mecca, and to Najrān in
South Arabia.10 They thus bring to mind the influence of the Sasanids, the over-
lords of the Lakhmids, who long monopolized the silk trade, since the route from
China passed through their territory.11
6 On Kaʿb and the Burda, see Sezgin,
GAS, II, 229–30. According to one account, the provenance
of this Burda was Najrān; Jubouri,
al-Malābis, 87. On the burda, presented by Yūḥanna, the bishop of
Ayla, to the Prophet Muḥammad, see al-Jamīl,
al-Libās fi ʿAsr al-Rasūl, 55.
7 On the treaty with Najrān and the
ḥulla, see M. Ḥamīdullāh, Majmūʿat al-Wathāʾiq al-Siyāsiyya
(Beirut, 1987), 175.
8 On the Najrāni robes worn by the Prophet Muḥammad, see al-Jamīl,
al-Libās fi ʿAsr al-Rasūl,
50–90. On his death, the Prophet was shrouded in the Najrāni robes (67, 93).
9 For all this material on Ḥīra, see Y. R. Ghunayma,
al-Ḥīra (Baghdad, 1936), 84–85.
10 On the
laṭīma, see Ibn Hishām, Sīrat al-Nabiyy, ed. M. ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd (Cairo, 1937), I, 199; for
the correct etymology of this term, see S. Fraenkel,
Die aramäischen Fremdwörter im Arabischen (1886;
reprint, Hildesheim, 1962), 176–77. On Ḥarb al-Fijār, “the Sacrilegious War,” caused by this
J. W. Fück, “Fidjār,”
EI2, II, 883–84.
11 Persian influence is reflected in technical terms found even in the Koran, such as
istabraq for fine silk and silk brocade; see A. Jeffery, Foreign Vocabulary of the Qurʾan (1938; reprint,
Leiden, 2007), 179–80, 58–60.
Sundus and istabraq were the garments worn by the righteous in the
Koranic paradise. For the possibility that the depiction of paradise in the Koran may have been influ-
enced by what the Arabs of Mecca saw in Oriens and at the Ghassānid court, see the appendix “Paradise
in the Koran,” above.
byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century
The Arabs of late antiquity, especially the sixth century, whether urbanites
or pastoralists, were in close touch with one another, especially through the many
aswāq, which spread throughout the vast Arab areas; hence products such
as textiles and garments were traded across the region. Robes from Hierapolis,
Manbij, in Syria were known in Medina, since the Prophet Muḥammad asked spe-
cifically for a
manbijāniyya, a robe made in Manbij.12 Robes from Ḥaḍramawt in
the distant south were available at the court of the Ghassānids in Oriens, as may
be gathered from a verse of al-Nābigha al-Jaʿdi, whose description of the liberal-
ity of the Ghassānid dynasty included the gift to him of a
ḥadramiyy, a robe from
Ḥaḍramawt.13 The poet Ḥumayd ibn Thawr, who belonged to the tribe of ʿĀmir,
which lived far to the south of the Ghassānids, alluded to their white robes in one
of his similes, which implied his acquaintance with their fabrics.14
The Byzantine influence was more important than the Sasanid Persian influ-
ence.15 After all, the Ghassānids were
Byzantines. This influence found expression in various ways.
1. One emanated from the Ghassānids’ congeners, the Rhomaic Arabs of the
diocese: Byzantinized Nabataean and Palmyrene Arabs. The two Nabataean cities
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