Sixth century

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Kanz al-Ḥuffā


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


Khandarīs and musṭār also connoted wine. While the second is not attested 

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 

masraʿ, which can mean “to fell someone to the floor or ground,” but in 

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: 

al-ʿuqār, the 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 

rāḥa, “comfort”).


The most pleasant state that the wine used to induce in Ḥassān and the other 

poets was 

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 

  100 Ḥassān, 

Dīwān, I, 442.

  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 

BASIC II.1, 96–104, 105–15.



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 

philanthropia, its wines were offered to the stranger and the wayfarer. Ḥassān spent 

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 

b. Muʿāwiya,” 

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.


Garisaean Bacchus

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.


1 Corippus, 

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 

their wines.4


3. The identification is consonant with the praises of Palestine as a wine- 

producing area.


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 


loca sancta and Christian shrines; it is doubtful that it ever became 

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, 

but the 

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 


Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 39 (1995), 211–27.


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 

political revolutions.


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, 


détaillé des noms de vêtements chez les Arabes (Amsterdam, 1845) and Supplément aux dictionnaires arabes, 

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, 

al-Malābis al-ʿArabiyya fi al-ʿAṣr al-Jāhili (Beirut, 1989), 

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 

Akhbār Mulūk Ghassān, have been 

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

The Arabian 

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. 

Rayṭa became a name given to Arab women, 

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 

al-Akhwāl, the maternal uncles of the Abbasids. 



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 

ḥullas every 

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 

weaver, the 

nassāj—are extant. Additionally, the poetry attests a number of luxuri-

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 

laṭīma, 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 

laṭīma, see  

J. W. Fück, “Fidjār,” 

EI2, II, 883–84.


11  Persian influence is reflected in technical terms found even in the Koran, such as 

sundus and 

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 

foederati of Byzantium, living close to the 

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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