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AN EMBASSY OF THE BYZANTINE EMPEROR TO THE FATIMID CALIPH AL-MU'IZZ

Author(s): S. M. Stern
Source: Byzantion, Vol. 20, ACTES DU VIIe CONGRÈS DES ÉTUDES BYZANTINES BRUXELLES
1948. — II (1950), pp. 239-258
Published by: Peeters Publishers
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/44168680
Accessed: 09-03-2018 12:01 UTC

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Byzantion

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AN EMBASSY OF THE BYZANTINE EMPEROR

TO THE FATIMI D CALIPH AL-MU'IZZ

The Caliphate of the Fatimids, established at the beginning


of the tenth century in North Africa (the « second amer-
mumnes » of Constantine Porphyrogennetus) (*), engaged
at times both in war and in diplomacy with the Byzantine
Empire, and what I propose to do here is to give an account,
from hitherto unaccessible sources, of an episode in the
relations of the two ; the main document on which the
following account is based, is full of curious details shedding
new light on Byzantine-Fatimid relations in general.
It is not so long since the existence, in the libraries of the
« Bohra » sect of Ismailis in India, of remains of the old
religious literature of the Fatimids became known to Western
scholarship (2). Among the books of the sect there are to
be found some historical works, too, and it is these that
furnish the material for the present article.
The qadi al-Nu'mãn ibn Muhammad, one of the intimates
of the Fatimid Caliphs from al-Mahd! to al-Mu'izz and
one of the foremost theologians of the Ismaili sect, wrote
(probably in 351 A.H. / 962-63 A.D., the date of the last
event mentioned, as far as I can see) a book bearing the
title : Kitãb al-majālis wa-l-musāyarāt, i.e. « Book of Aud-
iences and Voyages ». As a matter of fact, it contains an
account of conversations between al-Mu'izz and al-Nu'mān,

(1) « It must be known that there are three Commanders of the


Faithful (io eïç apsQfiovfivsîç) in the whole of Syria (i. e. the Moslem
world). The first resides in Baghdad... the second in Africa ( = Ifrl-
qiya, the old Província Africa)... and the third in Spain. » De ad-
ministrando imperio, ch. XXV, p. 113, Bekker.
(2) The main survey of this literature is W: Ivanow, A Guide to
Ismaili literature, London 1933.

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m S. M. STÉHÑ

or rather panegyrics on the dicta


more an edifying and hagiograph
one, and much of it is useless en
it contains, here and there, precio
the value of which is enhanced
accounts, set down by an eye-w
events recorded. The other sour
of Ismailism by a fifteenth cent
'Uyūn al-akhbār of 'Imād al-dīn
deals with the three first Fatim
Qâ'im, al-Mansūr), the first half o
These volumes are partly based on
able to us -so for instance the Kit
rat - partly on chronicles that a
The account of the Byzantine e
which follows, is contained in the
sãyarãt. No date for the event i
it can be fixed by the help of othe
chronicle called Kitāb al-uyūn (not
'Uyūn al-akhbār ) records an em
al-Mu'izz under the year 346 A.H.

(1) I hope to publish soon a collection


Fatimids, which will contain, among o
tions of the 'Uyßn al-akhbār that are taken from chronicles no
more extant. I take the opportunity to quote here the short account
of another Byzantine embassy, to be found in the 'Uyūn al-akhbār
(V, 409 ; the exact date and locality are supplied from parallel sour-
ces). The Caliph al-Mançûr left al-Qayrawān (on the 26th Rabf I,
335 A. H. / Okt. 946) in pursuit of the rebeli Abū Yazld. He made his
first halt in Sãqiyat Mams. « The Ambassador of the King of the
Rūm arrived, to inform himself of the state of the (Fatimid) realm,
as rumours had it that it was in the outmost peril, overwhelmed by
the (rebellious) Berbers. The Imam received the envoy and sent
him away with lavish gifts. »
(2) A. A. Vasiliev, Vizantion i Arabi, II, 308 and Appendices,
p. 155 ; F. Dölger, Regesten der Kaiserurkunden , n° 668, p. 83.
See now Vasiliev - Grégoire - Canard, Byzance et les Arabes, II, 2,
p. 225. - All the passages of the Kitab al-Uyūn referring to the
Fatimids, among them the present one (which has never been prin-
ted in the original text), will be published in the collection mentioned
in the preceding note.

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AN EMBASSY OF THE BYZANTINE EMPEROR 241

be no doubt that al-Nu' man's story refers to this diplomatic


occasion. Thanks to him we now have of this embassy, of
which the barest fact only was hitherto known, a vivid and
detailed account, allowing a curious, if somewhat one-sided,
insight into the nature of the relations between the Basileus
and the Fatimid Caliph.
In the two years preceding the embassy there was some
fighting between Christians and Moslems, mainly at sea.
Al-Nu'mān (*) gives a few particulars that do not seem to
be known from elsewhere. As is well known, the interception
of a Fatimid mail-boot in 343 A.H. / 954-55 A.D. by an
Omayyad vessel led to hostilities between those two rival
powers (2). According to al-Nucmān, the Omayyad Caliph
asked next year (344/955-56) for the help of the Emperor,
who dispatched a few men-of-war, but made, at the same
time, an offer to the Fatimid Caliph to withdraw his forces
in exchange for a long-term truce. In a council of war, his
advisers were for accepting the offer ; but al-Mu'izz, his
panegyrist says proudly, would not hear of that : « God
forbid ! I shall take no course but the one commanded by God,
who said (Qoran LXVI, 9, Bell's translation) : « O prophet,
strive against the unbelievers and the hypocrites ; and be
rough with them » ; or in another passage (IX, 124) : « O ye
who have believed, fight the unbelievers who are near to
you. » Now they are actually very near to us. We ask
God's help against those criminals, the Omayyads, who ask
the help of the unbelievers - their brethren - against us,
making common cause with them and entering their company.
What a shame and what an ignominy is this for them, in this
life and in the coming one ! » The Fatimid army and navy

(1) The following account goes back to the first volume of the
Kitāb al-majālis wa-l-musãyarãt. As I have not this volume at my
disposal, I employ the extracts given by the author of the 'UyHn
al-akhbãr (VI, 95 ff.). Some extracts from the account of al-Nu'mān,
taken from a manuscript of the Kitāb al-majãlis wa-l-musãyarãt,
are to be found in H. I. Hassan and T. A. Sharaf, Al-Mu'izz li-dīn
Allah, Cairo 1948, p. 39 ff.
(2) Cf. M. Amari, Storia dei Musulmani di Sicilia, 2nd ed. revised
by C. A. Nallino, II, 287.
Byzantion XX. - 16.

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242 S. M. STERN

proceeded to Sicily under the co


Hasan ibn al-Husayn [read 'A. <b
Abī->1-Husayn] ; « he gained a vi
sinking many of their ships ; t
956-57 A. D. ». Al-Mu'izz proceede
Mahdiyya in order to supervise p
of an army under the command
'All, the governor of Sicily. « The
it met the navy of the Commande
the Omayyad navy, too, came t
gave the victory to his Friend ov
great battle has been fought be
army of the Commander of th
Byzantines were killed or drow
sea and fled before the fleet of the Commander of the Faith-
ful to the Straits of Reyyo ('Prjyio(y), Reggio ; i.e. the
Straits of Messina) in order to defend their country. They,
however, (seil, the Fatimid fleet) met them at sea again
and put them to flight. God broke their power and the army
of the Commander of the Faithful landed in their country,
killed many of them, burnt their towns, destroyed their
churches and did to them what their heart desired. » The
' Uyūn al-akhbār quotes the word of a historian of the name
of al-Hasan ibn Ja'far al-Ansārī : «The Byzantines have been
beaten in a way that has not been heard of since the battle
of the Yarmük » (*). The Omayyad fleet took refuge in a
harbour of the West (i.e. of the North African coast), but was
badly mauled by the local population ; when the news of
the total defeat of the Byzantines reached them, they returned
ignominiously to their bases. The 'Uyūn al-akhbār quotes
also poems by the court-poet of al-Mu'izz, Ibn Hānī, celebr-
ating the victory, poems which are also to be found in the
Diwan of that poet (2).

(1) It is, however, not utterly impossible that this statement


referred to another, even more famous, Battle of the Straits (353 A.H./
964-65 A. D. ; cf. next note) and was wrongly referred by the ' Uyüri
al-akhbār to the battle of 345.
(2) Ed. Zāhid 'All, Cairo 1934, XXVI (p. 390 ff. ; no much
details). N° XL (p. 540 ff.) quoted here by the ' Uyün al-akhbār, refers

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AN EMBASSY OF THE BYZANTINE EMPEROR 243

We learn from the account of al-Nu'mān of the alliance


between the Omayyad Caliph and the Byzantines in this
war - a thing of which we did not know before, and which
makes the situation so much clearer. 01' the naval victory
of the Fatimids, too, we do not hear from other sources ;
yet it is evident that the information given by contemporaries
- al-Nu'mān and the chronicler al-Ansārī - states the truth.
Only not the whole truth ; from other historians (*) we learn
that the campaign did by no means consist solely of events
favourable to the Fatimids. They recount that the fleet
of al-Hasan ben 'Ali, the governor of Sicily, was dispersed
by a storm ; when it reassembled in Iqlîbiya (3), it was
attacked by the Byzantines, who sank twelve ships and also
took the Island of al-Rāhib and « a fortress in Sicily », i.e.
Termini. Another expedition of the fleet, too, fended in a
disaster - on its return it was overtaken by a storm off
Palermo, several ships were sunk and the commander, 'Ani-
mar ben 'Ali was drowned (4).
At any rate, next year the Emperor and the Caliph came to
terms. As we have mentioned already (5), the Kitāb al-
'Uyūn has an entry about the arrival of a Byzantine am-
bassador at al-Qayrawān (i.e., more correctly, al-Mansūriyya,
the actual residence of the Caliph). « In this year (seil.
346/957-58) there arrived an ambassador at al-Qayrawān,
to demand an armistice from al-Mu'izz. A great crowd in
al-Qayrawān went out to meet him. » In the Fatimid sources

in reality to another Battle of the Straits (353 A. H. ; cf. Amari-


Nallino, III, 318). On the other hand no. XIII (p. 224 if.) quoted
later by the 'Uyãn el-akhbār, refers to our events (lines 45 and 62 ff.
mention the alliance of the Omayyads and the Byzantines).
(1) See Amari-Nallino, op. cit., II, 289 ff.
(2) See Kitāb al- Uyūn, ap. Vasiliev-Grégoire-Canard, II, 224
and the authorities quoted by Amari-Nallino, loc. cit., especially
p. 289, note 3.
(3) Vasiliev gives the erroneous translation « Calabria ». The ma-
nuscript has Iqlîbiya, i. e. ancient Glupea, near Tunis.
(4) See Kitāb al-Uyün, ap. op. cit., p. 225 ; Amari, loc. cit. -
The exact chronology of the events remains somewhat obscure ;
similarly the interpretation of the passages of the Greek chroniclers
(quoted by Amari) ; for one detail cf., however, below, p. 245, note 2.
(5) Cf. above, p. 240, note 2.

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244 S. M. STERN

(the Kitãb al-majãlis wa-l-musã


copied also in the ' Uyūn al-ak
description of this embassy. The
the chapter from the Kitãb al-
taining this account with the fo
ruler of the Byzantines sent to t
ful al-Mu'izz li-dln Allah (peace
big presents, asking him to lea
tines who remained in the coun
ration of an amount which he
tribute ( jizya ) to be sent to the
al-Mu'izz li-dīn Allah (peace on
prisoners from the East. The C
considered this as advantageou
Moslems, after God had endowed
and given satisfaction to him an
The chapter from the Kitãb a
reads as follows (2).
*
* *

A discourse addressed by al-Mu'izz ( blessings of


to the ambassador of the Byzantine emperor
patrician, one of their noblemen, came to him
from their sovereign, the ruler of Constantinop
with him, as was their wont every year, the tr
the emperor had agreed to pay for the country
also many presents, vessels of gold and silve
jewels, embroidery, silk, nard and other pre
which they have. He also delivered a letter from
in which the latter showed himself submissive
entreating the Caliph to abstain from attack
begging for a truce. He also sent a great number
oners of the Easterners ; (to put it short) he

(1) VI, 107. - As appears from the excerpt in the b


Hassan and T. A. Sharaf, quoted above, p. 241, note 1, this
sentence, too, derives from the first volume of al-Nu'mān's Kitãb
al-majãlis wa-l-musãyarãt.
(2) See the text in Appendix.

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AN EMBASSY OF THE BYZANTINE EMPEROR 245

which no sovereign of Byzantium has ever sent to any king


of the Maghrib or to any of the Imams (God's blessings on
them) who had preceded al-Mu'izz ; nor did it ever happen
that a sovereign of Byzantium should pay tax ( kharāj ) or
tribute ( jizya ) to a foreign ruler for any of the people of his
religion (1). The ambassador kissed the earth several times
before al-Mu'izz, stood up, delivered the message of his mas-
ter, gave al-Mu'izz the emperor's letter and asked permission
to bring in his presents. All this took place after the tribute
had reached the Civil Governor Çãmil) of Sicily (2), according
to the usual procedure. The Commander of the Faithful
(blessings on him) gave him permission to do so and deigned
to accept the presents.
The main point in the (oral) message and the letter, which
the ambassador had delivered, was the demand for a per-
petual truce, on condition that the emperor should pay the
costumary tax and tribute for the people of Calabria ; he
also asked that the Caliph should send an ambassador to him,
in order that he might be rejoiced and enabled to receive
him in the way which behoved one like him - for, so he
alleged, he had a great love and sympathy (for the Caliph).
Al-Mu'izz (blessings on him) answered the ambassador in
the following terms : « Religion and the canon law ( al-sharVa )
did not admit such a perpetual truce as he had asked for.
Allah had sent his prophet Mohammed and set up the Imams
after him from among his descendants in order to call man-

(1) It suited Moslem pride to regard the sums paid by the Byzantines
as tribute (to be paid, according to Moslem law, by Christians
and Jews subject to, and protected by, the Caliph) ; the Byzantines
themselves, however, took another view of these matters. « At times
even, if Byzantium was for some reason unwilling to undertake a war,
a yearly sum of money would go to Baghdad or to Preslav. The
Caliph or the Tsar might call it tribute, if he chose - to the Em-
peror it was merely a wise investment ; when he was ready to fight,
the payment would cease » (S. Runciman, Byzantine Civilization,
p. 162).
(2) We must probably refer to this the entry, in the Greek texts
parallel to the Chronicle of Cambridge, under the year 6464 of the
Greek era (955-56, A. D.) : « Arrived (ms. Paris adds : in Calabria)
the patrician Mariano and peace ( àyántj ) was made » (cf. Amari-
Nallino II, 288, note 1). Cf. also below, Additional Note.

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246 S. M. STERN

kind to His religion and to make


recalcitrant till they embraced th
being subdued » (Koran, IX, 29)
of the Imam of the Moslems a
(dhimma). Truce was admissibl
according to what in the opinion
was convenient for them and ser
If a permanent truce were agree
was a religious duty for all Believ
the propagation of Islam would c
Qoran would be contravened. He told the ambassador that
it would have been fitting for his master the king, holding
a position as he did, not to be unaware of such important
a point in the law of those with whom he corresponded, and
not to ask for something which was inadmissible according
to their law.
The Barbarian Çilj ) (x) acknowledged the truth of this
remark directed against his master, and asked that the
Caliph should grant the Emperor an extension of the period
of truce.

Al-Mu'izz (blessings on him) answered as follows. « The


answer to this is contained in the letter which we sent by
your hand on a former occasion ; namely, that as long as he
keeps the terms which we propose and he accepts, we shall
not open hostilities against him, till he breaks the agreement
or till the expiration of the period of truce between us. We
shall not act in a perfidious and treacherous manner as is
your custom » ; and he enumerated various instances when
they had so acted.
The ambassador tried to excuse his king by saying that
those actions had been taken without the knowledge of the
emperor, that he had disapproved of them and has punished
the perpetrators.
Al-Mu'izz (blessings on him) said to him ; « If it is as you
say, namely that the authority of your king is being over-
ridden and that he is powerless against those of his own

(1) For 'ilj = Byzantine, cf. Nallino's remark in Storia, I, 465,


note 1 and II, 309, note 2.

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AN EMBASSY OF THE BYZANTINE EMPEROR 247

religion who disobey him, what is the use of making a truce,


as long as he is powerless and his authority overridden?
Would you, or he, wish me to grant him a pact agreed
upon by him and by those who consider themselves as being
outside my realm (x), like his neighbours in the East, Ibn
Hamdān and others ; if they will not keep the terms which
I undertake with them, the pact is to be considered void (2).
But as to those who dwell inside the boundaries of my realm,
he as well as you know perfectly well that they have much
more power to do harm to his co-religionists and subjects
- in case they choose to act treacherously - than those of
the East ; did he ever hear, or did you ever hear, that one
of them dared to contravene an order of mine or act against
it »?
The Barbarian admitted the truth of these words and
agreed that the Friend of God (blessings on him) was in the
right ; and went on asking and entreating him. Al-Mu'izz
evaded giving an answer in that matter and began to ask him
how matters stood between them and the people of Tarsus
and Ibn Hamdān in their wars and mutual relations. He drew
out the conversation at length ; the Barbarian answered all
the questions that he asked on these matters. Those present
at the audience looked at each °Hier, as if to shew that they
did not see what was the point in asking all those questions
and discussing that subject. Then the Barbarian once again
asked that the Caliph should send an ambassador to his
king. He recalled how ambassadors used to be regularly dis-
patched (by the Emperor) to him ( sc'l . al-Mu'izz) and his
fathers, since Almighty God had given lhe rule into their
hands ; and that no ambassador had ever been sent by him
or by his fathers (to the Emperor).
Al-Mu'izz (blessings on him) said: «People send ambassadors
to other people for one of the following two reasons : either

(1) The text is not quite certain at this point ; I have adopted
the reading of the 'Uyūn al-akhbār.
(2) The argument seems to be as follows. « I cannot guarantee tne
behaviour of princes who do not acknowledge my sovereignty, and
do not, therefore, undertake obligations on their behalf ; in the same
way, if the local governors in Southern Italy do not follow the orders
of the Emperor, there is no point in reaching an agreement that he
cannot enforce. »

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248 S. M. STERN

because they are in need of some


an obligation towards the perso
ambassador). We do not know, thank
need of your master or that we are
why, then, should we send an am
be, of course, quite a different th
with him in a matter touching r
a correspondance is permitted t
think he would dislike it. If we knew that he would acceed
to our demand (*) if we sent an envoy in that matter, we would
find it possible to send an ambassador as he, and you, have
asked. We would not do that, were it not for the sake of
Almighty God and His religion ; nor is it convenient for us
to do so except in the case we were sure that he would acceed
to our demand, because we do not think we ought to ask
for anything. If it is on God's behalf, we shall comply with
his demand ; because if this happened, the responsibility for
its outcome would lie on him (2). We do not ask you to give
a definite answer on his behalf ; it would not be fitting for
you to do so ; but we shall give orders to mention (in the
letter addressed to the Emperor) what we want to mention
to you. So return (to Constantinople) and ascertain his opin-
ion in the matter, because it is a large affair. If you learn for
certain that he will fulfil our demand (3), let us know it and
then it will be possible for us to send an envoy to him about
this matter. We would not think it permissible to send an
ambassador about anything which the world contains within
its corners ; but as it is question of doing something for Al-
mighty God's sake and for acquiring His reward, we do con-
sider this incumbent on us. »
The Barbarian said he considered this a great favour, and

(1) It is not quite clear in what the « accession » of the Emperor


would consist. Accepting the religion of Islam ? (Such an insinuation,
impertinent as it is, is not, perhaps, impossible.) Or, perhaps taking
an active part in the religious disputation conducted by letters ?
(2) This last sentence is rather obscure ; does it mean that if the
Emperor did not accept Islam in spite of the conclusive proofs to
be adduced by the Caliph, the responsibility would be his?
(3) So according to the reading of the original (Hay hi) ; the ' Uyiin
al-akhbãr reads 'alayhi, i. e. « that he will give an answer to it ».
(Cf. above, note 1.)

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AN EMBASSY OF THE BYZANTINE EMPEROR 249

began to praise the Commander of the Faithful, till his speech


partook of heterodoxy and anthropomorphism, which is
what he believes in. Al-Miťizz, (blessings on him) rebuked him
for this and prostrated himself before Almighty God as
became him. He pointed out to the Barbarian (the wrong
he had done), in order to let him know that he was not pleased
by his manner of speaking ; although the ambassador only
wanted to honour him, and in his opinion such expressions
were quite permissible. The Caliph (blessings on him) then
asked him to retire to the place which had been set aside
as his residence - which he did accordingly.
The Caliph then turned to those who had been present at
the audience as if he knew their innermost thoughts. He
said : « Probably some of you had thought it strange that
I spent such a long time in asking him about their relations
with the people of the East. It is not that I just wanted to
find a subject for conversation ; but I know that he is an
ambassador, who has exact instructions what to tell me, what
impression to try to create in my mind and which answers
to give on questions which his master possibly foresaw he
would be asked. So we approached him from an angle which
came as a surprise to him and which his master did not know
he would be asked about ; in this manner we have elicited
from him answers which constitute proofs for the truth of
our case : in this point and in that point. » He enumerated
many of these points, which we heard them conversing about
but which we did not perceive as being in fact proofs, till
he (blessings on him) mentioned it - and, lo, they were
weighty proofs indeed. They did not, however, become clear
to those present till he mentioned them and explained them.
They kissed the earth before him and showed their joy at
the divine assistance and inspired wisdom accorded to him.
This happened after he (blessings on him) asked them their
opinion of the discourse he had held (with the ambassador)
and what they thought it all meant - but no one amongst
them was able to say. He then asked them if they considered
that what he had said was a proof against him (the ambas-
sador) and his master ; but no one amongst them knew that.
He then uttered those words which I have (just) related.
*
* *

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250 S. M. STERN

The ' Uyãn al-akhbār contains


the curious attempts of al-Mu
« The king of the Byzantines
sadors and his patricians to th
ful showing submission and se
obtain a truce and followed ..
Faithful al-Mu'izz li-dln Allah
it to him ; it contains the demon
Christians and proves the proph
ings of God upon him), which t
the evidence borne to that effe
aments and the Books of the
Friends of God (i.e. the Imams
can be learned only from them
by the Commander of the Fai
for the ruler of the Byzantines
existence ». So it seems that the
a treatise for the benefit of th
against Christianity and for
still in existence in the time of I
the present day Ismailis of Ind
some trace ot it. In the Biblio
there is an Arabic manuscript w
excerpts from different ecclesi
there is a short passage, extra
Damiette (who had found it in
certain Ja'far ibn Muhammad - this name has been omitted

(1) The copyist here marked a lacuna, but forgot to add the
missing words in the margin.
(2) As a matter of fact, there was no need of any supernatural
powers to compose an apology of Islam ; by that time there was
already available a copious literature on the subject, listing
Biblical passages taken as prophesying the coming of Mohammed.
(Cf. E. Fiutsch, Islam und Christentum im Mittelalter, Breslau,
1930 ; G. Graf, Geschichte der christlich arabischen Litteratur, I,
44-51 ; and especially P. Kraus, Hebräische und syrische Zitate in
ismā' Īli tischen Schriften, Der Islam, XIX, 243 ff.) We have also a
letter sent by Hārūn al-Rashīd to the Byzantine Emperor (of which
I hope to treat on another occasion). There is no doubt that ai-
Mu'izz made use of this literature in composing his treatise.

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AN EMBASSY OF THE BYZANTINE EMPEROR 251

by Massignon - ibn 'Āmir). The passage, given by Ja'far on


the authority of Abu-1-Fawãris al-Husayn b. Muhammad,
who in turn had it from Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Halabī, is
from a treatise of al-Mu'izz named al-Risāla al-masïhiyya,
that is « The Christian Epistle » (x). It contains some re-
marks about the incarnation of the Divine in the Human ;
this is usually taken as a reference to a doctrine of divine
immanence in the Imams, which al-Mu'izz is alleged to
have professed. According to all we know of the teachings
of the sect, as expounded in the circle of al-Mu'izz, it is
utterly impossible to attribute to him such doctrines (which
were, indeed, taught by certain groups within Ismailism,
but which al-Mu'izz expressly branded as heterodox). There
seems nothing to prevent our assuming that the passage is
actually from the treatise composed by al-Mu'izz for the
benefit of the Emperor, for which al-Risāla al-Masīhiyya
would be an apt title indeed ; the incarnation would then
refer to that of Christ, adduced by al-Mu'izz in order to
attack it. Paul of Damiette (whoever he may be), quoted
the treatise, no doubt, in order to refute the objections of
al-Mu'izz to the doctrine of the incarnation (5).
As to the outcome of the negotiations for a truce, we quote
(from the 'Uyūn al-akhbār ) a passage of al-Nu'mān : « The
ruler of the Byzantines had entreated the Imam al-Mu'izz
li-din Allah (blessing on him), the Commander of the Faith-
ful, to grant him an armistice ; he spent great sums for that
purpose. His demand was for a long truce, or even a per-
petual one if that was possible. When the Imam (blessing
on him) saw that it was good for Islam and the Moslems to
make a truce, in order that they might collect their forces
and have the strength to fight the polytheists, he deemed it
advisible to grant him a truce of five years ». The truce was
not, however, allowed to run to the end of the period originally
fixed. AI Nu'mān informs us in the same passage that when
the Domesticus (« who is the next man, in rank, to the Emp-

ii) See L. Massignon, Recueil des textes inédits concernant le


mysticisme en Islam, p. 214 ff.
(2) I do not pretend to understand all the details of the rather
poor extract.

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252 S. M. STERN

eror among all his entourage and


Crete, (in the year 350 A.H. / 96
used to pay hommage to the A
of al-Mu'izz. The latter « saw f
God has ordered in His Book (t
on making war ». AI Nu'mān als
addressed to the Emperor in t
known, the intervention of the
and Crete was occupied by th
S. M. Stern.

ARABIC TEXT

The text is taken from a manuscript of the Kitāb al-majāli


wa-l-musãyarãt [ W], written in 1897, belonging to the librar
of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London (see
the Bulletin of the School, vol. VII, p. 34). The whole
chapter was copied by the author of the 'Uyūn al-akhbã
I'ř7] (vol. VI, p. 107 ff. in the copy at my disposal, written
in 1873).

(1) The materials concerning the diplomatic intervention of th


Fatimid Caliph in the affair of Crete are published in H. 1. Hass
and T. A. Sharaf, op. cit., p. 46 ff. I hope to study these documen
on another occasion.

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AN EMBASSY OF THE BYZANTINE EMPEROR 255

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<J& or Uc. ¿JM vi.^U M : ( = p>LJI ¿uU) 'L7. The formu


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16. ¿jlM fj^| M : ¿Ui f¿7

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254 S. M. ŚTERIsf

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AN EMBASSY OF TOE BYZANTINE EMPEROR 255

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256 Ś. M. STERN

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An embassy of the byzantine emperor 257

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Byzantion XX. - 17.

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Ś58 s. M. sterN

ADDITIONAL NOTE.

There is an allusion to the war against the Byzantines in another


book of al-Nufmān. It is the Iftitāķ al-dawa , the main subject of
which is the beginning of Fatimid rule in North Africa, and which
was written in 346 A.H. / 957-958 A.D. - the very year of the
embassy. The passage in question is to be found in the last chapter,
a rapid survey of the history of the Fatimid rulers up to the date
of the composition of the book.
The following is the translation of the passage, made from a
modern manuscript copy of the work. « Al-Mufizz raided the
Omayyads, burning their fleet and the arsenal of their ships. He
overcame Almeria with a small number of vessels. These he had
sent out because of a wrong they have done and an act of injustice
they have perpetrated on sea to the East, against his orders. [The
last words are not quite clear to me ; they read in Arabic : li-amrin
taadd.au fīhi wa-jauriri jārū fi-l-baķri ila-l-mashriqi r an ghayri am-
rihi.] He raided the country of the Byzantines, carried away into
captivity (the people of) Calabria, destroyed its churches and laid
vaste its cities. Previously, his fleet had met the fleet of the Emperor
of Calabria, engaged them and put them to flight. He then descended
on the country of the Byzantines. The Commander of the Emperor's
fleet, the leader of his army, paid to him tribute ( jizya ) on behalf
of his co-religionists and came abashed to his court. This was a great
victory granted by the bounty of God ». - While the payment of
the tribute (to the governor of Sicily) is also mentioned in the account
on the embassy, here we learn of an additional detail : it was the
Byzantine admiral who delivered the payment (cf. above, p. 245,
note 2). Moreover, perhaps one may take the last words as a refe-
rence to the embassy of 346 ; in this case we would learn that the
admiral was also sent as the envoy of the Emperor to the Caliph.

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