IMC 2018: Sessions

Session 1028: Remembering the Other in Islamic History

Wednesday 4 July 2018, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Fozia Bora, School of Languages, Cultures & Societies - Arabic, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, University of Leeds
Paper 1028-aArabic Voices and the Memory of the Byzantine Expansion in the East: Evidence of Military Effectiveness in the 10th Century
(Language: English)
Georgios Theotokis, Department of Italian Language & Literature, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Military History
Paper 1028-bMemorizing Zindīqs: The Making of Biographies of Some Poets
(Language: English)
Yuko Tanaka, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London
Index terms: Historiography - Medieval, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Pagan Religions, Social History
Paper 1028-cRemembering Zaganos Pasha from Byzantine Sources: Was the Ottoman Devshirme System for Embracing the 'Other' or Not?
(Language: English)
Sophie Sexon, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow

Paper -a:
The objective of this paper is to examine – strictly from a military perspective – the most important Arabic primary sources for the period of the Imperial expansion in the 10th century, reaching significant conclusions regarding a) their value as ‘military historians’, and b) the evidence regarding the battle-effectiveness and military innovation of the Byzantine armies of the period as these are reflected in the Arabic sources. These include a local Syriac source, Yahya-ibn-Said al-Antaki from Antioch, and three Muslim ones, al-Mutanabbi, Abu Firas, and Ibn Zafir, who provide us with invaluable information about the Byzantine-Arab conflicts of the 940-960s in Cilicia and Syria. All of them are peculiar historical figures of prominent educational and literary background, two of them being contemporaries and eye-witnesses of the events they describe (Mutanabbi and Abu Firas) and with their work being immersed in the qasida poetry – a category of lyric poetry that originated in pre-Islamic Arabia – that glorifies the exploits of a patron.

Paper -b:
Biographies can be used as tools to understand shifting images of figures. This paper explores the re-production of biographical stories and contemplates the types of topoi represented within them. In particular, it focuses on Arabic zindīq poets who flourished in the 2nd century and are known for their extreme or heretic behaviour. Through close examination of biographical anecdotes, this paper reveals that portions of their reported behaviour were exaggerated in later periods, thus reflecting the development of a nuanced concept of immorality. Finally, the paper points out the functions of biographies as ‘memories’ upon which contemporary perception was projected.

Paper -c:
The devshirme (child levy) system in Ottoman Empire is based on training of non-Muslim children (mostly Christian ones) in the Palace, by isolating them from their family, to place them later in the high military or administration services. At first glance, this system seems cruel or tyrannical but at the same time, it is seen as a method for the embracement of ‘other’ in Muslim society. One of the famous devshirmes, Zaganos Pasha was known as the right-hand man for Mehmed II during the conquest of Constantinople. But after a while, he fell from favor and even was deleted from Ottoman court records. Thus, we can hardly find his memory only in records written by non-Muslims, such as Dukas and Kritovulos. In this paper, the devshirme system as the embracing method for non-Muslims in Ottoman Empire will be discussed with reference to the example of the lost memory of famous devshirme Zaganos Pasha.