Byzantine Ambassadors as Related by Ibn Al-Khatib

Published: 2019-12-02 09:30:00
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Abbasid era was the Islamic golden age which existed around the years 750 and 900 AD. With the spread of Islam, there was an urgent need by the Abbasids to build mosques, buildings of commercial use, sporting facilities such as polo fields and racing tracks, not forgetting the palaces and defense houses. Abbasid cities covered about 25miles along river Tigris on which monumental buildings such as the spiral minaret and the great mosque of Samarra were built. They consisted of large piers which were round and with other attached smaller columns, and were further decorated with glass mosaics, as well as marble sheets.

The experience of the byzantine ambassadors recorded by Al-Khatib in History of Baghdad (917) may well describe how the palace of the Abbasids looked like. The Abbasid palace was heavily guarded by seven thousand eunuchs of which four thousand were white and the remaining three thousand black. Also, there were seven thousand chamberlains and four thousand black pages who occupied the flat roofs and the banqueting halls. The palace had store chambers which had treasures displayed as in customary for a brides show. The Caliphs jewelries were well arranged in trays and further covered with clothes of black brocade.

There was a palace of trees which had birds fashioned out of silver of which whistled with every motion. The birds were perched on a silver tree which weighed five hundred dirhams. As well, there was the palace of the caliphs which had thirty eight thousand curtains of gold wonderfully painted with artistic drawings of elephants, lions, drinking vessels, birds and horses, alongside other thirty eight thousand long and plain curtains, made in Armenai at Basinna, Wasit and Bahasna, plain curtains of golden brocade to the number of twelve thousand five hundred, twenty two thousand carpets and mats made at Jahram, Darabgird and Ad-Dawrak, all well laid from the limit of the new official gate right to the presence of the Caliph.

Next was a palace called Khan al-Khayl. It was majorly a peristyle court consisting of marble columns. On the right side were five hundred horses each with either a saddle of gold or silver while on the left were five hundred horses each held in hand by a groom marvelously dressed. They had long head covers and brocade saddle clothes. From this palace, there were several corridors and walls one opening to other until the next park called the park of wild beast. This park was composed of various wild animals. The next palace consisted of four elephants caparisoned in peacock silk brocade. There were eight men of Sind on the back of each elephant and javelin men with fire all of which were terrifying.

The next palace mainly consisted of lions. They were a hundred in total, fifty to the right and fifty to the left. Each lion had an iron chain about its neck and head and every lion was held in by the hands of its keeper. Not further was the New Kiosk which was a palace located between two gardens. At the center of this palace was an artificial pond containing white lead. The pond was round with constant flow of white lead more radiant than polished silver. The pond was thirty cubits in length and twenty cubits across and around it were four outstanding boats with gist seats decorated with embroidery of Dabik and on its pavilion were covers of gold work from Dabik. Next to the pond was a garden which bounded the pond. The garden had lawns with four hundred palm trees each five cubits long and all had full grown dates. The entire stem of these palm trees were covered in carved teak wood, further surrounded with gilt copper rings. On the sides of the garden were citrons and other kind of fruits. Not further from this palace of pond was the palace of trees characterized by a great circular pond with clear water and a tree standing in the middle of the pond. The tree had eighteen branches mostly golden and silvery and on each branch were numerous twigs full of all sorts of golden and silvery birds both large and small. The branches were consisting of leaves having diverse colors spreading into the air. These birds piped and sang as the leaves swayed due to the blowing wind. There were figures of fifteen horsemen mounted upon their mares on one side of the palace to the right of the tank. Both men and steeds had clothes caparisoned in brocades and on the hands of the horsemen were long pooled javelins pointed in one direction likewise to the other side.

From the palace of trees was the palace of paradise. It had many carpets and furniture that could not be quantified. On the walls were ten thousand gilded breast plates. There was a corridor heading to the Court of the Ninety. The corridor was three hundred cubits in length and on the sides were other ten thousand pieces of arms, casques, ornamented quivers, helmets, bucklers, coats of mails and bows. Stationed were around two thousand eunuchs both black and white aligned both left and right. At the Court of Ninety were pages chamber full armed and splendidly dressed. All had small axes, swords and maces. There was a formed line of black slaves, deputy chamberlains, soldiers, footmen and sons of chieftains leading back to the presence hall which had cooled drinking water and beer. Close to it was the palace of Crown located at the bank of the Tigris where Caliph Muktadir was. He sat on ebony throne and on his head was the tall bonnet. He dressed in clothes of Dabik stuff with a touch of gold.

sheldon

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