The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Pupils of the Sasanians

Philip Wood last November put out an article on shah Khusro II Aparvez's historiography. As of the middle 500s AD, the Sasanian Empire had a consistent narrative supporting its rule, compiled into the Khoday-Nameh. For the early 600s AD, the Sasanian material available to Pseudo-Sebeos, to the Khuzistan Chronicle, to Dinawari et al. accepted and supported the Khoday-Nameh. But events (dear boy) intervened before anyone could compile it all into a single narrative, into a Khoday-Nameh Second Edition; that much would have to await Firdawsi. Dr Wood is now on the case of one of those strains of Parvez-era literature: "Al-Ḥīra and Its Histories", Journal of the American Oriental Society 136.4 (2016), 785f.

Wood argues that our histories of "the Lakhmids" are question-begging. The dynasty in charge, the Banū Naṣr, happened to belong to the Lakhm tribe of Arabs. The Lakhm had come from the west (Jérémie Schiettecatte, "The political map of Arabia and the Middle East in the 3rd century AD revealed by a Sabaean inscription - a view from the South", Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, Wiley, 2016, 176-96) and were never the majority in Iraq. Whenever we call the Arab kingdom in Iraq "the Lakhmids", we tell the world we are suckers; victims of Naṣrī propaganda (p. 787). In the Sasanian-era Arabian frontier, other families and indeed whole tribes took their turn at the wheel (or in the barrel, depending on your viewpoint - p. 791). Wood doesn't mention shah Kovad's support of the Kinda there, but he easily could. The Kinda period may even be a subtext.

The Naṣrīs won the propaganda-war for several reasons. Theirs was the last dynasty standing when Khusro II abolished the kingdom, so were freshest in mind during Islam. They also put their claims to power in writing: in Naṣrī king-lists, Naṣrids were the rightful heirs, even in those years when other people (like the Kinda) were doing the ruling. Given, as of 795 AD, a choice between a deed in 595 AD parchment and some hearsay from a now-bedouin bitter-clinger Kindī, whom would you prefer (p. 791)? - especially if you like the strong horse, like an Arab does. The last Naṣrids were Christian, so their surviving partisans could claim proto-Islam when the muhājirūn came; the Islamic term is, I think, anṣār. I would add, Lakhmī tribesmen held out long enough to aid the Umayyads, whereas Kindīs like the family of al-Ashʿath kept joining rebellions.

I wonder, if the Kindīs had held out for longer, if we would have inherited a more nuanced view of the "Lakhmid" Ḥīra.

posted by Zimri on 14:58 | link | 0 comments

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