Sixth century

Download 3.98 Mb.
Pdf просмотр
Hajmi3.98 Mb.
1   ...   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   ...   55


39  Ibid., 106, verse 10. Although Ḥassān specifically refers not to poetry but to song, the singing of 

poetry is implied in the verb 

nughannā. Ḥassān was a poet and he would have been interested in hear-

ing poetry, especially his own, sung in these 

ōdeia. He had already expressed his view that poetry is best 

recited and heard when sung. 

    The description in 

al-Aghānī of the Ghassānid king in a relaxed mood watching dancers more 

likely referred to an occasion in an 

ōdeion rather than the palace (given the image of the Ghassānids as 

seriously devout Christians); see R. Nicholson, 

A Literary History of the Arabs (1907; reprint, London, 

1969), 53, and Iṣfahānī, 

al-Aghānī, XVII, 105.


Architecture and Decorative Art 


Ḥassān was the poet who most frequently visited the Ghassānids from the 

Arabian Peninsula, since he was also their kinsman. He moved between Jābiya in 

Oriens and Yathrib/Medina in Ḥijāz, living one year here and one year there.40 His 

poems on the Ghassānids must have been recited in an appropriate venue while he 

was in Oriens, either the palace or the odeum; the latter would attract a large audi-

ence, especially since the poetry was accompanied by music. 

Buyūt al-rukhām must 

have been such a venue.


The phrase shows that these venues were monumental buildings in whose 

construction marble was used. The technical term for the structure (nowadays 


ṣālah) in the Arabic of that period is not clear. The poet may have used the 

plural, “mansions,” out of a metrical necessity; if so, the popular name of the build-

ing might have been the singular 

Bayt al-Rukhām. It is unusual to refer to a struc-

ture by the stone with which it was built rather than by its function; on the other 

hand, the name “Marble House” might have reflected the admiration of the struc-

ture by visitors or the Ghassānids themselves. 


It was only natural that the Ghassānids should have had a structure especially 

designed for the recitation of poetry, speeches, and song; the Ghassānid kings 

were themselves connoisseurs of poetry and some of them composed it. The case of 

Arethas and ʿAlqama may now be recalled: the king insisted that he would hear the 

panegyric on his victory only when it was 

chanted by the poet.41 It is impossible to 

believe that on such an occasion, the performance occurred anywhere but the most 

appropriate place, such as a poetry recital hall—an odeum.


40  See Iṣfahānī, 

al-Aghānī, XI, 132.


41  See note 22, above.

Appendix I

On the Archaeology of the Limitrophe

Although this volume deals with culture and not archaeology, it is dependent on 

the previous volume, 

BASIC  II.1, which offered archaeologists a road map for 

Ghassānid sites. This appendix presents some further observations on these sites.


1. The principal Arabic source that alerted scholars to the Ghassānids as 

lovers of building is the indispensable 

Chronicles of Ḥamza al-Iṣfahānī, treated in 

great detail in the preceding volume.1 The most extensive account of Ghassānid 

sites, however, may be found in an article that lists about twenty in the vicinity of 

Damascus alone; and Philip Hitti, the distinguished historian of the Arabs and 

Islam, states that traces of no fewer than three hundred villages associated with the 

Ghassānids can be found in Auranitis.2 The figures put forth by these two authors


1 See 

BASIC II.1, 306–41.


2  M. Khuraysāt, “Dawr Ghassān fī al-Ḥayāt al-ʿĀmmah,” in 

Proceedings of the Third Symposium: 


byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century

are surely exaggerated, but they rest on a kernel of truth: the extensive urbaniza-

tion performed by the Ghassānids in the limitrophe. But it is not always clear 

whether the site was an original Ghassānid foundation or one that was rebuilt or 

restored. Sometimes the Ghassānids’ mere presence in a certain location such as 

Buṣra, where they might have built a structure, earns a mention. It is also possible 

that the reference may be to Ghassānids who settled in a particular place after the 

Muslim Conquest of Oriens. Without excavation and archaeological research, the 

status of many of these toponyms will necessarily remain undefined. They there-

fore should not be the first resort for archaeologists looking for Ghassānid sites.


2. Toponyms of a different kind are more reliable, coming as they do from 

sources that have been cleared by what I have called Nöldeke’s Law for reconstruct-

ing pre-Islamic Arab history—that is, they are found in Greek, Latin, and Syriac 

texts and contemporary Arabic poetry. Toponyms from the last two sources are the 

most useful.


a. The string of toponyms included in the odes of the poets who visited the 

Ghassānid courts is invaluable. They referred to these toponyms from personal 

knowledge. Ḥassān and al-Nābigha, and to a lesser degree Ḥātim and Aʿshā, are 

the main poets.3


b. The list of 137 monasteries in the letter of the Monophysite archimandrites 

addressed to the Ghassānid king Arethas is an invaluable source on the ecclesias-

tical structures.4 These monasteries should be the subject of a monograph, with 

map and commentary, to update Nöldeke’s celebrated article on them, and the few 

Ghassānid monasteries included deserve a detailed and careful study. The value of 

such research is made clear by an investigation of one of the monasteries on this list, 

Maḥajja in western Trachonitis. The account of it in the 

Geographical Dictionary 

of the Arab Syrian Republic, published in 1992, confirms that Maḥajja was indeed 

a monastic site and thus suggests that exciting remains from the Byzantine period 

may be recovered there.5


Epigraphy, both Greek and Arabic, is a highly reliable source for identifying 

Ghassānid sites. The bilingual Ḥarrān inscription in Trachonitis pinpoints Ḥarran 

as a Ghassānid site, just as an inscription in Arabic does for Usays, later occupied 

and developed by the Umayyads.6 This makes Trachonitis possibly an important 

The Fourth International Conference on the History of Bilād al-Shām during the Umayyad Period, ed. M. A. 

Bakhīt (Amman, 1989), 191–217; P. K. Hitti, 

History of the Arabs, 10th ed. (New York, 1970), 80–81.


3  Ibid., 220–87.


BASIC I.2, 824–38; BASIC II.1, 183–84.


5 See 

al-Muʿ jam al-Jughrāfi li al-Quṭr al-ʿArabi al-Sūri, ed. M. Ṭlas (Damascus, 1992), V, 167, 

which refers to the remains of temples, churches, palaces or mansions, cemeteries, cisterns, canals, pools, 

and wine presses. 


6  For Ḥarrān and Usays, see 

BASIC I.1, 325–31, 117–24.


Architecture and Decorative Art 

sector of Ghassānland for sites associated with the martyrs of Najrān, the relatives 

of the Ghassānids; there the second Najrān, the namesake of the South Arabian 

original, was also located.7


3. The Umayyad period is also relevant to this quest for Ghassānid sites. It 

has been maintained earlier that the Umayyads took over the Ghassānid establish-

ment of structures in the limitrophe. Thus a new approach to the examination of 

Umayyad sites is required, one that seeks a Ghassānid substrate in them. Finding 

those substrates will not be easy, since the affluent and powerful Umayyads, as 

the new masters of the region, sometimes developed them beyond recognition. 

Yet Ghassānid substrates have persisted in sites such as Ruṣāfa/Sergiopolis, Qaṣr 

al-Ḥayr al-Gharbī, and Usays. And one Ghassānid city in its entirety, Jalliq, sur-

vived into Umayyad times and was much frequented by the Umayyad crown prince 

himself, Yazīd, son of Muʿāwiya.


4. A Ghassānid site has been recovered unexpectedly in the Madaba region in 

Trans-Jordan—namely, Nitil, where a church was first discovered by Alois Musil 

almost a century ago, and has been recently excavated by Fr. Michele Piccirillo. 

This is a most important find of a definitely Ghassānid church, in which some 

mosaics and the plan of the church have survived. That Nitil is not included in any 

of the lists of Ghassānid structures demonstrates that despite their detail, these 

lists are not exhaustive. So the limitrophe may have within it more sites that will 

surprise those who choose to excavate.


7  For Najrān in Trachonitis, see the present writer in “Byzantium in South Arabia,” 

DOP 33 

(1979), 78–79. Apparently it was still flourishing around a.d. 1000 when Abū-Ḥāmid al-Antāki, an 

expatriate Syrian poet living in Egypt, expressed his longing for it in a poem quoted by Zaki Mubārak; 

see his ʿ

Abqariyat al-Sharīf al-Raḍiyy (Cairo, 1940), I, 111, verse 6.

Appendix II

The Monasteries of the Ghassānids

This is a complex of three monasteries in the vicinity of Damascus, described in 


Geographical Dictionary of the Arab Syrian Republic.1 In 1994 I visited every 

Ghassānid site from the Euphrates to the Sinai Peninsula but missed these three 

monasteries, since the recently published volume was then unknown to me. In the 

previous volume, I described the complex as follows: 

Under the title Al-Ghassāni, the new 

Geographical Dictionary of the Arab 

Syrian Republic includes an entry in which three structures are described 

as monasteries and are attributed to the Ghassānids. They are 30 km east of 

al-Nashshābiyya, which is about 15 km east of Damascus. The three monas-

teries are 2 km apart. Of the northern one there remain traces of halls, rooms, 


1 See 

al-Muʿ jam al-Jughrāfi li al-Quṭr al-ʿArabi al Sūri, ed. M. Ṭlas (Damascus, 1992), IV, 438. 


byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century

towers, and two cisterns. The middle monastery is square and consists of two 

stories; east of it are the remains of what must have been a storeroom, while 

to its west there is a cemetery. The southern monastery is not described, but a 

photograph of it is provided.2


It is clear from the description that the monasteries constituted a major 

Ghassānid monastic complex. The question arises as to whether it was constructed 

by either ʿAmr ibn Jafna or al-Ayham, Ghassānid kings to whom Ḥamza al-Iṣfahānī, 

the authority on Ghassānid structures, ascribes the building of six monaster-

ies.3 Only one of the six attributed to ʿAmr, Dayr Hunād, is near Damascus, like 

the three monasteries of the complex; but it is too close to Damascus, in its very 

Ghūta,4 to match the description of their location. It is thus likely that these mon-

asteries are not among those mentioned by Ḥamza, whose list is selective, not com-

prehensive.5 The scholar who wrote the 

Geographical Dictionary entry clearly had 

at his disposal data that enabled him to attribute the complex to the Ghassānid 

king: he must have found the name Ghassānid (

Ghassāni) engraved somewhere in 

one or more of its monasteries.


Apparently the Ghassānid builder or builders of the complex had left one or 

more inscriptions, much as Hind, the Lakhmid queen of Ḥīra, had engraved in 

her monastery an inscription that shed much light on Arab Christianity in Ḥīra.6 

The inscription or inscriptions referring to the founder as a Ghassānid might be in 

Greek or Arabic, as Ghassānids used both languages for their inscriptions.7 If in 

Arabic, they would be especially valuable, since so few Arabic Ghassānid inscrip-

tions have survived.


In view of the prospect of recovering new Ghassānid inscriptions, I vis-

ited the complex on 4 August 2001. Through the kindness of the Department of 

Antiquities in Damascus, one of its officers, Mr. Muḥammad Maṣri, accompanied 

me and my wife to the complex, which we found to be in ruins. Abū-Turki, the 

local guide who helped us find our way through the difficult terrain, told us that in 

the 1980s, the complex experienced some damage, and its furnishings and appoint-

ments were shipped away to an unknown destination. One can only hope that they 

have not been irretrievably lost.


BASIC II.1, 195. My description was based on the entry in al-Muʿ jam cited in the preceding note.


3  Ḥamza al-Iṣfahānī, 

Tārīkh Sinī Mulūk al-Arḍ wa al-Anbiyāʾ, ed. Y. Maskūni (Beirut, 1961), 99, 

101; see 

BASIC II.1, 324–25, 332–33.


4  See M. Kurd ʿAli, 

Ghūṭat Dimashq (1952; reprint, Damascus, 1984).


5 See 

BASIC II.1, 320–21.


6  See the present writer in “The Authenticity of Pre-Islamic Poetry: The Linguistic Dimension,” 

al-Abḥāth 44 (1996), 11. 


7  See, for example, the Ḥarrān inscription, published in W. H. Waddington, 

Inscriptions grecques 

et latines de la Syrie (1870; reprint, Rome, 1968), 561, no. 2464; discussed in BASIC I.1, 325–31.


Architecture and Decorative Art 

Appendix III

Al-Jawhara al-Nafīsa

Whether there was a strictly Monophysite style of art and architecture reflect-

ing a theological position and a related liturgy is not clear. One treatise that deals 

with Coptic Christianity, including architectural features of Coptic churches, is 

al-Jawhara al-Nafīsa. The Copts were Monophysites, but this treatise may reflect 

only the Coptic version of Monophysitism and not speak for all Monophysites, 

including those in Byzantine Oriens, such as the Ghassānids. During the reign of 

Mundir, the influence of the Ghassānid Monophysites extended beyond Oriens 

into Egypt itself.1


The treatise, which discusses various ecclesiastical matters pertaining to the 

Coptic church in Egypt, was written by the thirteenth-century Coptic scholar 

Yūhannā ibn Zakariyya, better known as Ibn Sabbāʿ.2 It has been translated 

into French by Jean Périer, with the title 

La perle précieuse: Traitant des sciences 

ecclésiastiques, and both the Arabic text and the French version were published in 

Patrologia Orientalis. Only the three relevant chapters will be cited here. 


1. Chapter XXVII, “De la construction d’une église; de sa ressemblance avec 

le Tabernacle,”3 has the following pertinent data.


a. The Holy Apostles recommended the erection of churches anywhere and 

everywhere for the worship of God, and enjoined certain specifications.


b. Churches should be oriented toward the east.


c. The side of the church oriented toward the east should be constructed in 

the course of twenty-one days of the Coptic month of Baouneh.


d. The dimensions of the church should be fixed: twenty-four cubits in length 

(matching the number of the prophets) and twelve cubits in width (matching the 

number of the apostles).


e. It should have three gates, reflecting the number of the Holy Trinity: one 

for men, one for women, and one for those who secretly bring votive offerings.


f. It should be domed, with two cupolas—an external one resembling the 

Tabernacle of Moses called the Holy, and an internal one called the Holy of Holies.


2. Chapter LV, “Des Lampes et des Oeufs d’autruche placés entre elles,”4 has 

the following data.


1 See 

BASIC I.2, 902–7.


2  Ibn Sabbāʿ, 

La perle précieuse: Traitant des sciences ecclésiastiques (chapitres I–LVI), ed. and trans. 

J. Périer, PO 16 (Paris, 1922), 591–760. 


3  Ibid., 658–60.


4  Ibid., 753–54. It is interesting to note that the chapter on the various kinds of incense employed 

in the Monophysite Coptic church contains a prohibition against the use of amber/ambergris, on the 

grounds that it comes from the excrement of a savage sea animal (748). In contrast, the Nestorians in 

Dayr Hind in Ḥīra did use it; see ʿUmarī, 

Masālik al-Abṣār, ed. A. Zakī Pasha (Cairo, 1924), I, 323. 


byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century


a. The terrestrial church should be most beautifully fashioned.


b. Its lamps or lanterns should be lit during mass, because the church is really 

a terrestrial heaven and the lamps are its stars.


c. The “lamps of the east” and the 

iskana5 should be always lit, day and night.


d. They should be lit both to preclude the need to bring an alien fire within 

the church and to fulfill the injunction in the Torah that the Tabernacle contain 

lamps kept always lit.


e. These lamps should be lit by olive oil.


3. Chapter LVI, “Des images et de ceux qui y sont représentés,”6 has the fol-

lowing data.


a. The church should have icons or images painted in colors and modeled after 

the martyrs and the saints.


b. The underlying rationale for including this art is the legendary exchange 

between Christ and Abgar, the king of Edessa, that resulted in Christ’s sending the 

Edessan king a picture of himself.


c. Another reason is the icon of the Virgin Mary with her child that the evan-

gelist Luke is believed to have painted; she told him before her Dormition and 

Assumption to paint her picture lest she should be forgotten, and the painting met 

with her approval.


d. Clean, new mats should also be laid over the floor of the church so that those 

who prostrate themselves in worship can avoid soiling their foreheads with dust.


5 The 

iskana is explained by Périer as “la partie du temple séparée par le voile, σκηνή” (La perle 

précieuse, 750 note 1). 


6  Ibid., 755–56.


The Monastery as a Cultural Center


he previous volume in this series has dealt with the problem of identifying the 

monasteries of the Ghassānids.1 

Inter alia it drew attention to the partiality 

of the Arabs in general to monasticism, showing their contribution to the rise of 

many monasteries in Oriens and beyond in the western part of Arabia.2


Of all the venues of cultural life in the Ghassānid city, the monastery was 

undoubtedly the most important.3 By the sixth century, the monastery had 

emerged not only as a place for 

imitatio Christi but also as a cultural center, where 

the monks were engaged in intellectual and literary pursuits. 

Early Centers of Learning

A very informative and detailed account by Arthur Vööbus of the function of the 

Syriac monasteries of Oriens as educational centers is especially relevant in this 

context.4 It treats the golden age of Syriac literature, roughly the period of the Arab 

foederati in the three centuries before the rise of Islam, presenting Edessa as the 

spiritual capital of the Semitic 

Oriens Christianus. Vööbus discusses the monas-

tery as a center that promoted the rise of the library, study groups, and the instruc-

tion of children and adults.5 Its residents undertook such pursuits as transcribing 

and reproducing manuscripts; translating Greek thought, secular and ecclesiasti-

cal, into Syriac; and producing original creative literary works. There was also a 


1  For the list of these monasteries, see 

BASIC II.1, 183–95.


2  Ibid., 164–71.


3  On the monastery as the greatest monument of the Syrian countryside, see C. Foss, “Life in City 

and Country,” in 

The Oxford History of Byzantium, ed. C. Mango (Oxford, 2002), 95.


4  See A. Vööbus, 

History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient, vol. 2, Early Monasticism in Mesopota-

mia and Syria, CSCO Subsidia 17 (Louvain, 1960), 388–414.


5  Learning flourished in this period at the schools of Edessa and Nisibis, the two great Semitic 

Christian centers of 

Oriens Christianus. For the school of Nisibis with its library, see A. Vööbus, History 

of the School of Nisibis, CSCO 266, Subsidia 26 (Louvain, 1965). For more recent treatments of the two 

centers, see J. W. Drijvers, “The School of Edessa: Greek Learning and Local Culture,” and G. J. Reinink, 

“‘Edessa grew dim and Nisibis shone forth’: The School of Nisibis at the Transition of the Sixth–Seventh 

Century,” both in 

Centres of Learning, ed. J. W. Drijvers and A. A. MacDonald (Leiden, 1995), 49–62, 



byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century

“missionary” side to the activity of monasteries, as they propagated their work 

in other monasteries in Armenia and Syria, stimulating them to do likewise.6 

The great figure in this golden period of Syriac literature was the fourth-century 

Ephrem in Edessa, whose work was translated into Greek and whose metrical com-

positions, the 

madrāshē, influenced hymnography through Romanus the Melode 

when the latter composed his 



The Arab monasteries of Ghassānid Oriens surely could not have escaped the 

Do'stlaringiz bilan baham:
1   ...   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   ...   55

Ma'lumotlar bazasi mualliflik huquqi bilan himoyalangan © 2019
ma'muriyatiga murojaat qiling