How did the Arab historians perceive the different Caliphs?

Too often, when we think about the Medieval World, our focus rests on Medieval Europe and the Byzantine Empire. The aim of this discussion, however, is to get you to consider the other major power that emerged during the period — the Abbasid Caliphate. Based on the primary sources provided below and material in this week’s textbook reading, please write a 2-3 paragraph main post, in which you consider two of the following questions:

  1. What were the concerns of the Abbasid Caliphate when dealing with the Byzantine Empire? 
  2. What was everyday life like for different people living in the Abbasid Caliphate? 
  3. What was court life like for the Caliph and his familiars? 
  4. How did the Arab historians perceive the different Caliphs? Do you get a sense that they were being open, or were they praising the Caliphs excessively at the expense of truth?
  5. According to the early Arab historians, how did the early history of the world unfold? What other early stories of origins do these stories remind you of?
  6. Look at a map of the Abbasid Caliphate in the textbook or online. In what ways did the geography of the Abbasid Caliphate contribute to its success?

Primary sources (be sure to cite these in your initial post!):

  1. An Arab Ambassador in Constantinople (late 10th century CE): https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/byz-arabambas.asp
  2. Baghdad under the Abbasids: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/1000baghdad.asp
  3. The Court of the Caliph:https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/nizam-courtiers.asp and https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/980Ibn-Miskawaih.asp
  4. Biographies of different Caliphs: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/masoudi.asp
  5. Early world history according to Al Biruni: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/1030al-biruni1.asp
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