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AnTard, 19, 2011, p.

237- 266
VARIA
CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS
IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE)*
NOEL LENSKI
Captivit et esclavage chez les Saracnes
dans lAntiquit tardive (ca. 250-630)
Cet article examine le phnomne de la prise de captifs et la dtention desclaves parmi les Sarrasins, les
Arabes nomades qui habitaient les dserts de Syrie et dArabie et le territoire de steppe en marge des empires
romain et perse, ainsi que le royaume de Himyar au sud de la peninsule arabique. Une breve enqute sur les
structures tribales sarrasines montre comment, dans la priode de lAntiquit tardive, ils se sont dvelopps en
puissantes confederations alliees aux peuples sedentaires qui les entouraient. Sont ensuite passes en revue les
tmoinages des attaques grand chelle des Sarrasins sur lempire romain au cours desquelles la prise de cap-
tifs est attestee. On voit comment Rome et la Perse ont exploite tous deux les competences des Sarrasins dans la
prise de captifs en maintenant un avantage tactique et strategique. Un bref aperu de la sedentarisation dans la
rgion rvle comment les provinciaux se sont dplacs en nombre dans la steppe au cours de lAntiquit tardive
et comment cela a conduit resserrer les liens entre les Arabes nomades et les sdentaires, mais aussi redoubler
les possibilites de conflits. Enfin, un survol des sources aide a mieux comprendre comment les Sarrasins ont utilise
leurs captifs : en tant que cibles de la violence, bergers, partenaires sexuelles et, surtout, sources de revenu par la
ranon et par la vente comme esclaves. Une sorte de commerce triangulaire des captifs et esclaves emerge, grace
auquel les Sarrasins ont exploite leur controle de la terre desertique a mi-chemin entre Rome, la Perse et Himyar,
pour renforcer leur pouvoir dans la region. [Auteur.]
Around 390/391 CE Jerome committed to writing the
story of an ascetic named Malchus whom he had met some
fIteen years earlier while staying near Chalkis (Qinnesrin)
in Syria
1
. The aging monk spoke only Syriac and had
1. On the date of their encounter, see S. Rebenich, Hieronymus und sein Kreis:
Prosopographische und so:ialgeschichtliche Untersuchungen (Historia
EinzenschriIten, 72), Stuttgart, 1992, pp. 89-93. On the date oI composition
of the Vita Malchi, see P. LeClerc and E.M. Morales (dir.), Jrme : trois
vies de moines (Paul, Malchus, Hilarion) (SC, 508), Paris, 2007, pp. 19,
91-92. I use the term Saracen throughout to reIer to those people who
lived in the Jazra, the Sinai, on the steppe outlining the inner curve oI the
Fertile Crescent, and in the Syrian Desert, and who shared the qualities of
an ethnos, above all a more or less common language (some version oI
Old Arabic) and a culture based in pastoral nomadism (though some lived
as semi-nomads or sedentarists, as oIten occurs with nomadic cultures).
This generic term does not designate a single tribe or polity. Its use has the
advantage oI representing a people with identifable elements oI cultural
cohesion as they were seen Irom the Romano-Byzantine perspective, which
is the primary Iocus oI this paper. It also represents the Syriac perspective,
Ior although Syriac speakers used the term Tayyye Ior this same group
(derived Irom the north Mesopotamian tribe oI Tayyi`), they too perceived
them as a generically identifable ethnic category, cI. J.B. Segal, Arabs in
Syriac Literature before the rise of Islam, in Jerusalem Studies in Arabic
* I should like to thank the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Ior the
Iellowship which I held while writing this article. I am also grateIul to
Scott Bruce, Greg Fisher, Elizabeth Fowden, and Kyle Harper Ior their
careful readings and learned comments on earlier drafts. Versions of
this paper were discussed at Princeton University and the University oI
Chicago before attentive audiences that offered many useful suggestions
Ior improvement.
Epigraphic corpora are abbreviated according to the conventions outlined
at F. Berard et al., Guide de lpigraphiste, 3
rd
ed. rev., Paris, 2000.
Abbreviations Ior papyrological corpora Iollow J.F. Oates, R.S. Bagnall,
W.H. Willis, and K.A. Worp, Checklist of Editions of Greek and Latin
Papyri, Ostraca and Tablets
4
, Atlanta, 1992. In addition the Iollowing
abbreviations recur: CIS = Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum,
5 vols., Paris, 1881; FHG K. Mller (dir.), Fragmenta Historicorum
Graecorum, 5 vols., Paris, 1841-1847; WH = F.V. Winnett and
G.L. Harding, Inscriptions from Fifty Safaitic Cairns (Near and Middle
East Series, 9), Toronto, 1978.
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 238
caught Jerome`s attention Ior practicing asceticism in the
company oI an elderly woman, an unusual pairing, or so
thought Jerome. When asked his story, Malchus reported
that he had grown up on a Iarm near the city oI Nisibis and
had decided to fee his parents to pursue divine perIection
at a monastic community in the steppe between Imma
(Yenisehir) and Beroea (Aleppo)
2
. Having spent a number
of years there, Malchus learned that his mother had been
widowed and decided to return to Nisibis to care Ior her and
claim the inheritance to which he was entitled
3
. Knowing
that the route between Beroea and Edessa (SanliurIa)
was plagued by Saracen raiders, he attached himselI to a
group oI about seventy Iellow travelers to provide saIety
in numbers for his journey
4
. Nevertheless, his worst Iears
were realized when a group oI Saracens swooped down on
the road and took the travelers into captivity. They divided
their spoils, allotting Malchus and the woman who became
his Iuture companion to the same master.

The raider packed
them on the back oI a camel and ported them Ior days
beIore crossing a large river, perhaps the Chabur
5
.
Shortly thereaIter the party reached the camp oI the
Saracens family, where Malchus was forced to do obeisance
to the wiIe and children. It was not long beIore he Iound
himselI dressing and eating like a Saracen
6
. The master estab-
lished Malchus as a goatherd, charged him with watching
his focks, and made him inhabit a cave near his pasturage.
Because Malchus was generally obedient, his master
entrusted him with his Iemale Iellow captive intending that
Malchus should use her as a mate. This situation fomented an
existential crisis in Malchus, both because of his own vow of
chastity and because the woman had been previously married.
But when the master angrily threatened their lives iI they did
not couple, the two slaves resolved to cope with this dilemma
and Islam, 4, 1984, pp. 89-124, at pp. 100-104. On Arab ethnicity, oI which
the Saracens can be considered a smaller (because Iundamentally nomadic)
subset, see R. Hoyland, Arabia and the Arabs. From the Bron:e Age to
the Coming of Islam, London / New York, 2001, at pp. 229-247; Id., Arab
kings, Arab tribes and the beginnings of Arab historical memory in late
Roman epigraphy, in H.M. Cotton et al. (dir.), From Hellenism to Islam:
Cultural and Linguistic Change in the Roman Near East, Cambridge,
2009, pp. 374-400; J. Rets, The Arabs in Antiquity. Their History from
the Assyrians to the Umayyads, London / New York, 2003, passim;
M.C.A. MacDonald, Arabs, Arabias, and Arabic before Late Antiquity, in
Topoi, 16, 2009, pp. 277-332. On the etymology oI the name Saracen,
see below n. 87. On the nomadic nature oI Saracen culture, see below at
n. 88-91.
2. Jer., Vita Malchi 3.1-4, in LeClerc and Morales, Trois vies, cit. (n. 1),
pp. 188-190.
3. Ibid., 3.5. On Malchus` inheritance, cI. Vita Malchi 4.3: Ego...
haereditarius possessor; 6.5: Quid prodest... rem familiarem
contempsisse.
4. Ibid., 4.1.
5. Ibid, 4.2-5.1. On the river (grandi amne transmisso), cI. 8.2. On the likelihood
it was the Chabur, see I. Opelt, Des Hieronymus Heiligenbiographien als
Quellen der historischen Topographie des stlichen Mittelmeerraums, in
RQA, 74, 1979, pp. 145-177, at pp. 151 n. 17; T.D. Barnes, Early Christian
Hagiography and Roman History, Tbingen, 2010, p. 175, n. 79.
6. Vita Malchi 5.1-2; cI. 4.3: Cibus semicrudae carnes; et lac camelorum
potus erat.
by pretending to live conjugally while abstaining Irom inter-
course
7
. As time passed, however, Malchus wearied oI his
condition and convinced his Iemale companion to attempt
fight with him. The two killed a pair oI goats, prepared the
meat Ior provisions, and sewed the hides into leather bags
to serve as fotation devices
8
. They fed at night, covering
ten miles to the river over which they had entered Saracen
territory, and crossed it with the infated bags. From there
they traveled three further nights before catching sight of
their master, who had come in pursuit oI them on camelback
together with another of his slaves
9
. The two fugitives
attempted to hide in a cave, but the master and Iellow slave
Iollowed their tracks and entered it in an eIIort to recapture
them. Instead a lioness who dwelt there killed the two slave
hunters but leIt Malchus and his companion unharmed.
Astonished at this stroke oI luck, the Iugitives took the
master`s camels together with his provisions and continued
their fight westward Ior another week beIore reaching a
Roman military installation. They were soon turned over to
the Dux Mesopotamiae Sabinianus, a fgure attested as an
eastern general in Ammianus Marcellinus
10
. After recounting
their story and selling their camels, Malchus and the woman
were ported back to Syria where they took up residence near
Chalkis and, some decades later, met Jerome.
While Jerome`s tale has met with skepticism Irom some
scholars, there are many reasons Ior accepting it as a credible
rendition though by no means a verbatim recounting of
an actual lived experience
11
. It is also, thereIore, an incredibly
valuable source Ior the experience oI slavery among the
Saracens. It tells us oI the Saracens` prowess at raiding
travelers Ior booty and captives on the roads along the desert
Iringe; oI the suddenness oI their attacks Irom both camel and
horseback; oI the segmented liIestyle Iound in their small clan
groups; oI their scanty clothing and milk and meat diet; oI
their readiness to regard captives as slaves and their retention
7. Ibid., 5.3-8.2.
8. Ibid., 7.1-8.3. On the use oI such fotation devices in the region, Irom
Assyrian times through the early 20
th
century, see M. Tardieu, Les
paysages reliques : routes et haltes syriennes dIsidore Simplicius,
Louvain / Paris, 1990, pp. 71-102, 137-47.
9. Vita Malchi 9.3: Quid terroris, cum ante specum haud procul starent
dominus et conservus. This Iellow pursuer`s slave status is confrmed
three further times: Ibid., 9.5: mittit servum; 9.6: introgresso famulo;
9.8: servi increpans socordiam.
10. Ibid., 10.2. Full references on Sabinianus at PLRE 1, Sabinianus 3.
For the reading Sabinianus rather than Sabianus, as some MSS, see
LeClerc and Morales, Trois vies, cit. (n. 1), p. 208.
11. For interpretation as a novelette, see M. Fuhrmann, Die Mnchsgeschichten
des Hieronymus Formexperimente in er:hlender Literature, in Christia-
nisme et formes litteraires de lAntiquite tardive en Occident (Entretiens
Hardt, 23), Vandouvre, 1977, pp. 41-99; Id., Christen in der Wste: Drei
Hieronymus-Legenden berset:t und erlutert, Zrich / Munich, 1983. For
a strong deIense oI the LiIes authenticity, see Opelt, Hieronymus, cit. (n. 5).
S. Weingarten, The Saints Saints. Hagiography and Geography in Jerome,
Leiden, 2005, pp. 178-181, which includes additional bibliography, adds
further arguments both for the authentic core of the narrative as well as the
introduction of literary elements by Jerome.
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 239
of slaves in sizable numbers
12
; oI their use oI these slaves as
herders; oI their eIIorts to breed their slaves by establishing
conjugal unions; oI their willingness to allow slaves consid-
erable Ireedom oI movement; and oI their readiness to chase
down and even kill Iugitives. II, in Iact, we can trust Jerome`s
report as a literary rendition oI Malchus` lived experience, it
offers an invaluable window into a society that has left very
few traces whatsoever from which to reconstruct its social
history. It is thus all the more remarkable how much oI that
picture Iocuses on captivity and slavery.
This becomes somewhat less surprising, however, when
we consider how much evidence we have Ior the practice
of slave raiding among the Saracens. The following
discussion will examine this material in great detail,
using Malchus` experience as a sort oI tableau refexive
oI a much larger phenomenon. Jerome was in a particu-
larly good position to serve as the intermediary Ior such
a report, Ior during the period when he met Malchus he
lived in the steppe oI the Chalkidik and thus along the
margins of Saracen country
13
. As such he apparently
had regular experience with Saracens and will have had
ample opportunity to meet the victims oI their raids
14
. As
we shall see, however, Saracen captivity is attested in less
detail but with almost monotonous regularity in a variety
oI other contemporary sources. This study will systemati-
cally present this testimony Irom the mid 3
rd
century down
to the eve oI the Muslim conquests. It will catalogue only
examples oI Saracen raiding in which captive taking is
explicitly mentioned. This does not mean that captivity did
not play a role in the many other attacks reported in the
sources, but the article will eschew discussion of these both
in order to limit its scope and also to abide by the letter oI
the texts. It will show that the Saracens` pastoral mode oI
subsistence lent itselI to captive raiding and slaveholding;
that these captives were put to a variety oI uses, including
interbreeding or adoption into the tribal unit, targets Ior
violence or human sacrifce, exchange Ior ransom, sale to
neighboring sedentarists, and as with Malchus retention
as slaves; that both the Roman and Persian Empires worked
to limit these slaving activities against their own peoples
12. Malchus` master not only kept him, his Iemale companion, and the
conservus who helped hunt the two Iugitives (above n. 9), but also an
unspecifed number oI other slaves, cI. Vita Malchi 5.3: dominos meos
et conservos rarius video.
13. The notion of Saracen country is attested at Eus., Onom. 118.22
(Klostermann): coti oc _epu Lupuknvev; Comm. in Is. 2.23 (Ziegler):
ca tn, co_tn, cp\ou, nv kutc_civ uo to Lupuknvev ycvo,; Pereg.
Eg. 3.8 (Maraval): hnes Saracenorum inhnitos; 7.6: relinquentes iam
terras Saracenorum.
14. Jer., Ep. 5.1 (Hilberg, CSEL, LIV 21): in ea mihi parte heremi commoranti,
quae iuxta Syriam Sarracenis iungitur; Ep. 7.2 (CSEL, LIV 27): ad me
heremi parte delatae sunt, quae inter Syros ac Sarracenos vastum limitem
ducit; Ep. 15.2 (CSEL, LIV 63): ad eam solitudinem conmigravi, quae
Syriam iuncto barbariae hne determinat. Cf. Jer., Jita Pauli 6.2 (LeClerq
and Morales, SC, DVIII 154): testor...in ea parte eremi, quae iuxta Syriam
Saracenis iungitur, et vidisse me monachos...
and to encourage them against their enemies; and that the
sedentarists living near the Saracens fought against the
eIIects oI Saracen raids but, paradoxically, also encouraged
them by providing a thriving market Ior those whom the
Saracens enslaved.
The Growth of Saracen Confederations
in Late Antiquity
BeIore entering into the question oI captivity and slavery
among the Saracens, it is necessary to survey briefy the
nature oI their political leadership and social structures and
to describe how these appear to have changed in the period
of Late Antiquity. The word Saracen came into fashion
in this period as a generic designation Ior Arab nomads
Iormerly reIerred to in Greek sources as taenoi or skenitai
('tent dwellers). These tribes had been present in the Near
East since long before the arrival of the Romans, and they
appear not to have posed any particularly acute threat prior
to the late 3
rd
century
15
. This was due at least in part to the
direct application oI Roman power in the settled regions oI
the Fertile Crescent. To an even greater extent, however,
this relative peace resulted Irom the exertion oI authority
by the Arabs of oasis cities on the margins of the Roman
and Persian Empires, especially Petra in the 1
st
century CE,
and Hatra and Palmyra in the second and third
16
. With the
destruction oI Hatra in 240 and the reduction oI Palmyra
in 273, the nomads began to exert growing pressure on the
Roman and Persian frontier zones even as they formed into
more tightly knit and powerIul tribal conIederations to be
discussed below. It is in precisely this period oI increased
cohesion and violence that we begin to encounter the
word 'Saracen to describe nomadic Arabs as a group
17
.
15. On the scale and nature oI nomad threat`, a much debated subject, see
D.F. GraI, Rome and the Saracens. Reassessing the Nomadic menace,
in T. Fahd (dir.), LArabie prislamique et son environnement historique
et culturel, Strasbourg, 1989, pp. 341-400; P. Mayerson, Saracens and
Romans. Micro-Macro Relationships, in BASOR, 274, 1989, pp. 71-79
Id., Monks, Martyrs, Soldiers and Saracens. Papers on the Near East in
Late Antiquity (1962-1993), Jerusalem, 1994, pp. 313-321; B. Isaac, The
Limits of Empire. The Roman Army in the East, rev. ed., OxIord, 1992, esp.
pp. 68-77, 235-49; M.C.A. MacDonald, Nomads and the Hawrn in the
Late Hellenistic and Roman Periods. A Reassessment of the Epigraphic
Evidence, in Syria, 70, 1993, pp. 303-413 Id., Literacy and Identity in Pre-
Islamic Arabia, Farnham, 2009, study II; M. Sartre, The Middle East under
Rome, trans. C. Porter and E. Rawlings, Cambridge (Ma) / London, 2005,
pp. 233-239, 358-363; S.T. Parker, The Roman Frontier in Central Jordan.
Final Report on the Limes Arabicus Profect, 1980-1989, 2, Washington
(DC), 2006, pp. 535-571; D.F. Caner, History and Hagiography from the
Late Antique Sinai (TTH, 53), Liverpool, 2009, pp. 39-51.
16. F.E. Peters, Romans and Bedouin in Southern Syria, in JNES, 37,
1978, pp. 315-26; Sartre, Middle East, cit.(n. 15), 344-58.
17. For the use oI the name Saracen in Greek and Latin sources, see below
n. 31. For its etymology, see M.C.A. MacDonald, Quelques reexions
sur les saracenes, linscription de Rawwfa et larmee romaine, in
H. Lozachmeur (dir.), Presence arabe dans le croissant fertile avant
lHgire, Paris, 1995, pp. 93-101, and below n. 87. For the possible role
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 240
Our fullest understanding of the growth of the
Saracen confederation can be gleaned from our evidence
Ior a change in leadership patterns, a change which can
only be measured with any degree oI complexity on the
Roman side. From its earliest encounters with nomadic
Arabs, Rome had structured its relationships through their
leaders, whom it designated with the Greek word phylarch
(uup_o,)
18
. This name continued to be used down to the
played by the invention oI a new camel saddle, the sadd, in the rise
of the Saracens, see M.J. Zwettler, Ma`add in Late-Ancient Arabian
epigraphy and other Pre-Islamic sources, in WZKM, 90, 2000, pp. 223-
309 at pp. 266-284, with earlier bibliography.
18. For what Iollows, see M. Sartre, Trois etudes sur lArabie romaine et
by:antine (Collection Latomus, 178), Brussels, 1982, pp. 122-128; Isaac,
Limits of Empire, cit. (n. 15), pp. 235-249; MacDonald, Nomads, cit.
(n. 15), pp. 368-377; A.G. Grouchevoy, Trois niveaux de phylarques.
time oI the Muslim conquests, but its scope and the range
of meanings changed considerably. Around the time of
Trajan`s annexation oI the Nabataen kingdom in the early
Etude terminologique sur les relations de Rome et de By:ance avec les
Arabes avant lIslam, in Syria, 72, 1995, pp. 105-131; T. Brggemann,
E0vp_o,, 4uup_o, and Ltputnyo, vooev in Roman Arabia
(1st-3rd century). Central power, local administration, and nomadic
environment, in A. Lewin and P. Pellgrini (dir.), The Late Roman Army
in the Near East from Diocletian to the Arab Conquest (BAR IS, 117),
OxIord, 2008, pp. 275-284; Hoyland, Arab kings, cit. (n. 1); Id., Late
Roman Provincia Arabia, monophysite monks, and Arab tribes. a problem
of centre and periphery, in SemClas, 2, 2009, pp. 117-139, at pp. 118-
119; Millar, Romes Arab Allies, cit. (n. 25), pp. 206-219; A. Lewin, Did
the Roman Empire have a military strategy and were the Jafnids part of
it?, in D. Genequand and C. J. Robin, Regards croises de lhistoire et de
larchologie sur la dynastie Jafnide, forthcoming. See also Segal, Arabs in
Syriac, cit. (n. 1), pp. 94-96, on the use oI phylarch to designate the leaders
oI settled communities like Edessa in the frst centuries BCE and CE.
Fig. 1 The Fertile Crescent (N. Lenski and D. Underwood).
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 241
1
st
century CE, the title phylarch, or sometimes ethnarch,
usually paired with strategos, was used to identify leaders
oI nomadic groups in Iormal alliance with the Empire who
were nevertheless relatively minor players with authority
over only local contingents. By the 4
th
century, however,
phylarch is often used of leaders who have much broader
authority over larger groups that were now being deployed
not just Ior local policing but also Ior long distance expedi-
tions. By the time we reach the 6
th
century, phylarchs had
taken on a quasi-oIfcial role which included Iormal titles
like comes, patricius, and cvoootuto, (gloriosissimus)
19

19. E.g. IGLS, V 2553bd; M. Sartre, Deux phylarches arabes dans lArabie
by:antine, in Museon, 106, 1993, pp. 145-154; cI. I. Shahd, By:antium
and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, 1.1. Political and Military History,
Washington (DC), 1995 |BASIC|, pp. 258-261.
and involved imperial appointments as semi-autonomous
military leaders over the deIense oI designated provinces
or regions
20
. These sixth-century phylarchs led groups
identifed in the sources as the 'Saracens oI the Romans
or the 'Saracens oI the Persian which could feld military
forces said to be as large as 30 000 men
21
. Some of this
centralization oI authority surely stemmed Irom the impetus
20. See especially R. Hoyland, Late Roman Provincia Arabia, monophysite
monks, and Arab tribes: a problem of centre and periphery, in
SemClas, 2, 2009, pp. 117-139, Ior a vigorous description oI the extent
oI 'Ghassnid authority in sixth-century Syria.
21. Joh. Mal., 18.16 (Thurn, p. 364): ku u0ev toito o Auouvoupo,
o Lupuknvo, tev Hcpoev, caippiu, uut( t( up_; Teuiev,
aupuuev covcuocv uutov \v yp ct _iioev tpikovtu; Cyr.
Scyth., Vita Johannis Hesychastae 13 (Schwartz, p. 211): Auouvoupo, o
Likikn, uoice, uieu tev uao Hcpou, tcouvtev Lupuknvev.
Fig. 2 The Arabian Peninsula (N. Lenski and D. Underwood).
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 242
oI the Roman and Persian Empires. These saw an advantage
in promoting a more hierarchized leadership both to help
them to assert greater control over the many nomadic tribes
and clans on their Irontiers and to harness the power oI these
groups Ior attacks against the opposing empire.
Nevertheless, the centralization oI authority among the
Saracens was very much a dialogic process and appears to
have built on impulses Irom within the nomad community
as well. Indeed, our earliest solid testimony Ior a supra-tribal
chieI comes in a crucially important but diIfcult to decipher
inscription Irom en-Namra which is written in Mudari
Arabic and was clearly intended for an Arab audience
22
. The
inscription was Iound east oI the Strata Diocletiana on the
edge oI the Syrian Hawrn, thus within the sphere oI Roman
infuence, but outside Roman territory. Firmly dated to 328,
it records the achievements oI Imru` al-Qays, who claims
to be king oI all the Arabs, and asserts his authority over
the two Syrias and the north-west Arabian territory oI Nizr.
Imru` al-Qays boasts oI his victory over the city oI Najrn
and his dominance oI the tribal conIederation oI Ma`add
(both deep in the Arabian peninsula), and relates his transIer
of control over the tribes to his sons. This was thus the head
oI a large conIederation, a major political and military leader
who operated in alliance with Rome, but very much as an
autonomous agent. His assertion oI overarching power and
independence are evident in his use oI the Arabic title malik
al-`arab (king oI all the Arabs), a claim clearly aimed at his
Iellow tribesmen, and by his authority to devolve power to
his sons
23
. His autonomy can also be surmised Irom what
we can know oI his background. His inscription identifes
22. The inscription (Paris, Louvre, AO, 4083), frst published at R. Dussaud
and F. Macler, Rapport sur une mission scientihque dans les regions
dsertiques de la Syrie moyenne, in Nouvelles archives des missions
scientihques et litteraires, 20, 1902, pp. 716-724, has generated a
tremendous bibliography. Important new readings can be Iound at
M.J. Zwettler, Imra` alqays, son of `Amr, king of... ???, in M. Mir and
J.E. Fossu (dir.), Literary Heritage of Classical Islam: Arabic and
Islamic Studies in Honor of James A. Bellamy, Princeton, 1993, pp. 3-37,
and M. Kropp, Vassal neither of Rome nor of Persia. Mar`-al-Qays
the great king of the Arabs, in Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian
Studies, 23, 1993, pp. 63-94. While Iully acknowledging the unstable
nature oI the text, I Iollow the most recent detailed reading, at P. Bordreuil,
A. Desreumaux, C. J. Robin, and J. Teixidor, Linteau inscript AO 4083,
in C. J Robin and Y. Calvet (dir.), Arabie heureuse, Arabie deserte. Les
antiquits arabiques du Muse du Louvre, Paris, 1997, pp. 265-269.
23. The precise meaning oI al-`arab in the inscription has occasioned
debate, particularly over whether this indicates a people or a region, see
Zwettler, Imra` alqays, cit. (n. 22), pp. 9-14, arguing Ior the latter, and
I. Shahd, By:antium and the Arabs during the reign of Constantine.
the Namra inscription, in By:F, 26, 2000, pp. 81-86, arguing more
persuasively Ior the Iormer. On the use oI mlk in other epigraphic
texts, see C. J. Robin, Les Arabes de Himyar, des Romains et des
Perses (III
e
-IV
e
siecles de lere chretienne), in SemClas, 1, 2008, pp. 167-
202, at pp. 182-184; Hoyland, Arab kings, cit. (n. 1). Justinian Iamously
recognized the claim oI Hrith ibn Jabala to kingship by granting him
the oIfce oI king (uieu uoice,), see Procop., Bell. 1.17.45-47
(Haury), cI. Sartre, Trois etudes, cit. (n. 18), pp. 170-172; Shahd,
BASIC 1.1, cit. (n. 19), pp. 95-124; G. Fisher, The Political Development
of the Ghassn between Rome and Iran, in JLA, 1, 2008, pp. 311-334, at
pp. 318-319; Robin, Les Arabes de Himyar, cit., pp. 178-179.
him as the son oI `Amr. We know Irom the eighth-century
Arab historian Ibn al-Kalb that an Imru` al-Qays was son
oI a certain `Amr ibn `Ad oI the Lakhmid tribe oI al-Hra
in Persia. The Shahanshah Narses I also claims an `Amr
king oI the Lakhm as one oI his supporters in the text he had
inscribed at Paikuli ca. 293. This must then have been Imru`
al-Qays` Iather, which would mean that the son had shiIted
his allegiance, and one assumes that of his followers, from
Persia to Rome
24
.
Imru` al-Qays was only the frst frmly attested such leader
in a long line oI similar chieIs oI whom we know Irom Late
Antiquity. Up until very recently, painstaking attempts have
been made to associate these with the named tribal confed-
erations described in the early Arabic historiography oI the
8
th
century and Iollowing, but an important article recently
published by C. Robin has demonstrated the tenuousness oI
these connections, and important historians have Iollowed
him in beginning to put aside the older models
25
. Even in
the 6
th
century, when our literary and epigraphic sources are
comparatively abundant, we can say with relative certainty
only that Byzantium allied itselI with a dynasty now reIerred
to as the Jafnids, for while its leaders are often associated
with the tribe oI Ghassn, Robin has shown this connection
to be extremely tenuous. Furthermore, sixth-century
Byzantium worked not only with the JaInids but also with
other conIederations like that oI the Tha`laba and Ma`add.
So too, the fIth and sixth-century Persians allied themselves
above all with the Nasrid dynasty, generally associated with
the tribe oI Lakhm, but Robin has shown that the connection
between dynasty and tribe is also questionable. In addition
we know that, by the late 5
th
century, the Kingdom oI Himyar
had risen to become an important power and made claims to
authority over the Saracen conIederations oI Mudar as well
as the Ma`add, over whom it installed yet another dynasty,
the Hujrids
26
.
24. Sartre, Trois etudes, cit. (n. 18), pp. 136-137; I. Shahd, By:antium and
the Arabs in the Fourth Century, Washington (DC), 1984 |BAFOC|,
pp. 32-35, 374-375; Robin, Arabes de Himyar, cit. (n. 23), p. 182;
Hoyland, Arab kings, cit. (n. 1), p. 389. This identifcation is not
universally accepted: see Kropp, Vassal, cit. (n. 22).
25. Robin, Arabes de Himyar, cit. (n. 23); cI. F. Millar, Romes Arab
Allies in Late Antiquity. Conceptions and representations from within
the Frontiers of the Empire, in H. Brm and J. WiesehIer (dir.),
Commutatio et Contentio. Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian,
and Early Islamic Near East in Memory of Zeev Rubin, DsseldorI,
2010, pp. 199-226; G. Fisher, Between Empires. Arabs, Romans, and
Sasanians in Late Antiquity, OxIord, 2011, the latter oI which I have
not been able to incorporate Iully into the arguments presented here.
For earlier models, see Sartre, Trois etudes, cit. (n. 18), pp. 132-188;
GraI, Rome and the Saracens, cit. (n. 15); Shahd, BAFOC, cit. (n. 24);
Id., By:antium and the Arabs in the Fifth Century, Washington (DC),
1989 |BAFIC|; Id., BASIC 1.1, cit. (n. 19); F. Millar, The Roman Near
East, 31 BC-AD 337, Cambridge (Ma), 1993, pp. 431-436; Hoyland,
Arabia, cit. (n. 1), pp. 78-83; Fisher, Political Development, cit. (n. 23).
26. C. J. Robin, Le royaume Hufride, dit royaume de Kinda , entre
Himyar et By:ance, in CRAI, 1996, pp. 665-675; Id., Arabes de Himyar,
cit. (n. 23), pp. 170-178; Hoyland, Arabia, cit. (n. 1), pp. 49-57; Fisher,
Political Development, cit. (n. 23), pp. 316-318.
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 243
Robin has also emphasized a point that should not be
in dispute but is oIten overlooked: these alliances were in
a constant state oI fux as tribes changed territories, shiIted
loyalties, went into extinction, or simply interrupted good
relations with Rome, Persia, or Himyar. We have already
seen that Imru` al-Qays shiIted Irom Persia to Rome, and
the same can be said oI Aspebetos, who ca. 420 fed Persia
with his tribesmen to Roman Arabia to become a phylarch
and eventually a bishop, as well as `Add, who shiIted his
allegiance and that of his warriors from Persia to Rome in
503/504
27
. More interesting still, Amorkesos, fed Persia with
his tribesmen and carved out his own suzerainty over southern
Palestina III and the island oI Iotab beIore winning acknowl-
edgement as phylarch Irom Leo I (457-474)
28
. Aspebetos`
deIection was due to his sympathy Ior Christianity, which
was rapidly spreading among the Saracens throughout the
region, making religion an important Iactor in determining
allegiance. But pagan practice retained its importance among
many Saracen groups into the 7
th
century, allowing leaders
like the Nasrid Mundhir (III) to diIIerentiate himselI Irom
his Roman-allied enemies the JaInids, who were staunch
adherents oI Miaphysite Christianity
29
. We also know oI
shiIts which were due to political machinations, as when
Justinian wooed the leadership oI Ma`add into the Byzantine
orbit during the Aksmite takeover oI Himyar in 531, or
simply to matters oI convenience, as in 622 when Heraclius
captured a Saracen chieI allied with the Persians but then
Ireed him on the condition that he fght Ior Byzantium
30
. The
relationships between Rome, Persia, Himyar and the various
Saracen groups were thus complex and subject to constant
negotiation. This fuidity, occasioned by the interplay
between powerIul empires and assertive Saracens leaders,
Iostered an environment that would prove very conducive to
slave raiding and trading.
27. On Aspebetos, see Cyr. Scyth., Jita Euthymii 10 (Schwartz, pp. 18-
19), with Shahd, BAFIC, cit. (n. 24), pp. 40-49. On `Add, see Ps. Josh.
Styl., 75 (ed. W. Wright, The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite, Cambridge,
1882; trans. and comm. F.R. Trombley and J.W. Watt, The Chronicle of
Pseudo-Joshua the Stylite |TTH, 32|, Liverpool, 2002), with Shahd,
BASIC 1.1, cit. (n. 19), p. 114.
28. Malchus, Ir. 1 (Blockley) with Shahd, BAFIC, cit. (n. 25), pp. 59-
113.
29. On the spread oI Christianity among the Saracens, see Segal, Political
Development, cit. (n. 1), pp. 105-121; E.K. Fowden, The Barbarian
Plain. Saint Sergius between Rome and Iran, Berkeley, 1999; Hoyland,
Late Roman, cit. (n. 20). On the ongoing survival oI paganism, see Segal
Political Development, cit. (n. 1), pp. 112-114; A.C. Klugkist, Die beiden
Homilien des Isaak von Antiocheia ber die Eroberung von Bet Hur
durch die Araber, in H.J.W. Drijvers (dir.), IV Symposium Syriacum,
1984. Literary genres in Syriac Literature (Groningen Oosterhesselen
10-12 September), Rome, 1987, pp. 237-256; F.R. Trombley, Hellenic
Religion and Christiani:ation, c. 370-529, 2, Leiden, 1993, pp. 134-204.
30. On 531, see Nonnosus (FHG, IV 179-180 Phot., Bib., cod. 3); Procop.,
Bell. 1.19.8-16, cI. Robin, Arabes de Himyar, cit. (n. 23), pp. 175-177;
cf. Zwettler, Ma`add, cit. (n. 17), pp. 257-261. On 622, see Georg. Pisid.,
Exp. Pers. II 217-38 (Pertusi), with A. Pertusi, Giorgio di Pisidia Poemi,
1, Panegyrici Epici, Ettal, 1959, pp. 152-153; W. Kaegi, Heraclius
Emperor of By:antium, Cambridge, 2003, p. 114.
Toward a History of Saracen Captive-Taking
in Late Antiquity
The earliest appearance oI the word Sarakenos in Greek
to describe nomadic Arabs taken generically as a group
derives Irom a letter composed by Dionysius oI Alexandria
recounting the troubles created by the Decian persecution in
251. In it Dionysius relates how those Christians who fed
into the desert near the Fayyum were taken captive on the
'Arabian Mountain by Saracens, who either sold them back
for ransoms or retained them as slaves
31
. In Latin, Saracenus
frst appears in a panegyric oI late 291 that mentions the
recent suppression oI a Saracen uprising by Diocletian the
previous year
32
. The troubles are localized more precisely
later in the same speech, which speaks oI laurels being oIIered
in thanksgiving to Diocletian by the Iormerly oppressed
inhabitants of Syria
33
. From May 10 oI 290 we also possess
a rescript issued to the governor oI Syria while Diocletian
was residing at Emesa (Homs). It orders inquests to be
made to sort out slaves, who were claiming freeborn status,
from freeborn individuals being held illegally as slaves
34
.
Two Iurther Diocletianic rescripts oI 290 survive without
recorded places oI issue but with dates ranging within weeks
oI that Irom Emesa (May 17 and 28). They must stem Irom
the same context, and both deal with similar ambiguities
associated with the victims oI recent captivity: in one the
petitioner wishes to claim the estate oI an aunt being held in
captivity, and in the other the petitioner attempts to assert the
31. The letter is preserved at Eus., HE 6.42.3-4 (Schwartz and Mommsen):
aoo oc oi kut` uuto to Apuikov po, cuvopuaooio0cvtc,
uao uppev Lupuknvev ev o cv oi, ca aooi, _p\uoiv
cutpe0nouv, o oc c_pi viv ouocae. The name Lupuknvo, frst
receives mention in Greek at Ptolem., Geog. 5.17.3, 6.7.21 (c. 160 CE).
Ptolemy applies the term only to a smaller tribal group in the Hijz.
The mention of Lupuknvo in the kephalaia oI Strabo (1.16) is
apparently the work oI a Byzantine copyist. Bardaisn, Book of the
Laws 50.11|595| (c. 220 CE) (H.J.W. Drijvers, The Book of the Laws of
Countries. Dialogue on Fate of Bardaisan of Edessa, repr. Piskataway
|NJ|, 2007, p. 50), mentions Saracens alongside Tayyye, the generic
Syriac designation Ior nomadic Arabs ( ). This
may represent the frst occurrence oI the term with generic scope, but
the passage says nothing oI use concerning their ethno-history; cI. the
direct quotation oI Bardaisn at Eus., Praep. 6.10.31 (Mras). The
Seniores Alexandrini Ir. 10 (J.-B. Pitra |ed.|, Analecta sacra spicilegio
Solesmensi parata, 2, Paris, 1884, pp. 343-344) speaks oI raids by the
Lupuknvo at Rhinocolura and even implies captive taking. Most oI this
collection of fragments dates to the second century, but fr. 10 is more
likely to date to the sixth.
32. Pan. Lat. 11|3|.5.4 (Mynors): omitto... oppressumque captivitatis
vinculis Sarracenum. See also IGLS, VI 2771, and Millar, Roman
Near East, cit. (n. 25), p. 177. Saraceni recur several times in the
Historia Augusta, which purports to be an early 4
th
century source but
actually dates to the end oI that century, cI. G.W. Bowersock, Arabs
and Saracens in the Historia Augusta, in Bonner Historia Augusta
Colloquium 1984/1985 (Antiquitas, 4), Bonn, 1987, pp. 71-80.
33. Pan. Lat. 11[3].7.1: Laurea illa de victis accolentibus Syriam
nationibus. This may also be related to the notice at Joh. Mal., 12.38,
(Thurn, p. 237) that Diocletian established an arms Iactory (fabrica) at
Damascus because of the inroads of the Saracens.
34. CJ IX.41.9 (Krger).
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 244
freeborn status of his son, who had just been recovered by
a praefectus legionis from the barbarians, almost certainly
Saracens
35
. Taken in combination, this evidence points to
a clear link between the Saracen uprising oI 290 and the
taking oI provincial captives. Thus, beginning already with
our very frst attestations oI the name 'Saracen in the Greek
and Latin languages, we meet a people given to the capture
oI prisoners.
As noted in the previous section, beginning in the
4
th
century, we have evidence for the formation of larger and
more powerIul Saracen conIederations. The establishment
and maintenance of alliances with these was, from the earliest
days, inextricably intertwined with the problem oI captive
taking. This picture emerges already in the early 4
th
century
with a conIused but intriguing sentence Irom a seventh-
century Syriac chronicle. In a notice Iollowing shortly
aIter its report oI Constantine`s death, the Chronicon ad
annum 724 states: 'In Mesopotamia many Assyrians living
in Persia were sold by the Saracens
36
. The notice is placed
between the death oI Constantine in May 337 and Spur`s
frst siege oI Nisibis that same summer
37
. Theophanes, who
used a source common with the Chronicon ad 724, places
the same notice beIore Constantine`s death but also links it
to the conficts that drew Rome into war against Persia in
the fnal years oI his reign
38
. The motives for Constantines
abortive Persian campaign are both complex and shrouded in
mystery
39
, but this testimony indicates that at least one casus
belli was the sale oI Persian captives by apparently Roman
allied Saracens in Upper Mesopotamia
40
. Because they
dwelt on the margins oI both empires and were skilled at
35. CJ VIII.50.4-5. On the tendency oI rescripts to respond to requests
submitted by petitioners Irom the vicinity oI the emperor`s residence,
see S. Connolly, Lives Behind the Laws. The World of the Codex
Hermogenianus, Bloomington (In), 2009, pp. 63-97.
36. Chronicon miscellaneum ad AD 724 (ed. and trans. Brooks and Chabot,
CSCO SS, III 130 |text| IV 101 |trans.|):
. On the seventh-century date oI the Chronicon
miscellaneum ad AD 724 (despite its title), see A. Palmer, The
Seventh Century in the West-Syrian Chronicles (TTH, 15), Liverpool,
1993, pp. 5-12; cI. J. Howard-Johnston, Witnesses to a World Crisis:
Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century,
OxIord, 2010, pp. 59-66.
37. Sources and discussion on the frst siege oI Nisibis at M. Dodgeon
and S.N.C. Lieu, The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars
(AD 226-363). A Documentary History, London / New York, 1991,
pp. 164-171.
38. Theophan., Chron., a.m. 5828 (335/336 CE) (de Boor, p. 33): T( o` uut(
ctci aoo tev cv Hcpoui, Aooupiev cv Mcooaotuiu uao Lupuknvev
caiapokovto, Hcpoui oc co\eouv aocov apo, Teuiou,. On
Theophanes` source, see C. Mango and R. Scott (trans.), The Chronicle
of Theophanes Confessor. By:antine and Near Eastern History AD 284-
813, OxIord, 1997, pp. lxxvi-lxxvii and 55, n. 2; R. Burgess, Studies in
Eusebian and Post-Eusebian Chronography (Historia EinzelschriIten,
135), Stuttgart, 1999, passim, esp. pp. 156-157; cI. 219 on this notice,
which Burgess connects with Jul., Or. 1.21B.
39. See especially T.D. Barnes, Constantine and the Christians of Persia,
in JRS, 75, 1985, pp. 126-136.
40. It is unclear how this relates to the notice in Joh. Mal., 12.48 (Thurn,
pp. 240-241) that Licni(an)us was sent to the eastern Irontier to fght the
Persians and Saracens, who had been raiding the East as Iar as Egypt.
moving rapidly into and out oI these territories, the Saracens
were ideally suited to capturing prisoners Irom one empire
and selling them into the next. Moreover, this problem was
acute enough and the Saracen alliances with the two empires
strong enough that it seems to have helped stoke an already
heated situation into a Iull scale military confagration.
A similar picture emerges in the mid 4
th
century from
the detailed account oI Ammianus Marcellinus. Near the
opening oI his extant narrative he mentions devastating
Saracen attacks on Roman provincials in 354 without
going into detail about the precise names and aIfliations
oI their perpetrators; throughout his remaining pages he
then regularly alludes to Saracen raiding as an omnipresent
threat
41
. In the context oI Julian`s 363 Persian expedition,
we learn that the emperor made contact with Saracen allies,
who approached his army near Callinicum on the Euphrates
and volunteered their services Ior the campaign
42
. Julian
accepted the oIIer, and one important task he assigned
these conIederates was to needle the Persians by taking
captives: 'The Saracens brought skirmishers Irom a unit
oI the enemy to the emperor, who was overjoyed. These
were paid a reward and sent out to accomplish more oI
the same
43
. Julian thus motivated his Saracen allies
by oIIering cash down Ior delivering up prisoners, and
Ammianus makes it clear that the Persians did much the
same. Early in his account oI the campaign he describes
Persia`s prime Saracen ally thus: Malechus Podosaces
nomine, phylarchus Saracenorum Assanitarum, famosi
nominis latro (24.2.1). Malechus is best understood as the
title malik king which we encountered in our discussion
oI Imru` al-Qays
44
. Ammianus phylarchus is thus not
pleonastic but confrms that what the Arabs considered
kings, the Romans designated 'phylarchs (tribal chieIs).
The Assanitae were almost certainly the Ghassnids, a
tribe allied at this time with the Persians, and Ammianus
derogatory latro characterizes the sort of raiding behavior
that the Romans expected oI these nomadic groups even
in their capacity as allies oI the Persians. The Latin
can thus be translated: 'the Malik, Podosaces by name,
41. Amm., 14.4.1 (SeyIarth) (a. 354): Saraceni tamen...ultro citroque
discursantes, quidquid inveniri poterat, momento temporis parvi vastabant;
cI. below n. 121. The possible circumstances oI this uprising are feshed
out by Shahd, BAFOC, cit. (n. 24), pp. 75-76, 83-85; P.L. Gatier, Romains
et Saracnes : deux forteresses de lAntiquit tardive dans des documents
mconnus, in Topoi, Orient-Occident, 9, 1999, pp. 209-218. For Iurther
reIerences to Saracen raiding, see Amm., 23.3.8: ut ad furta bellorum
appositi; 24.2.4: omni saevitia per nostros limites diu grassatus; 31.16.5:
Saracenorum cuneus... ad furta magis expeditionalium rerum quam ad
concursatorias habiles pugnas; cI. Jul., Or. 1.15, (21 b) (Bidez): tou, c
Apuiu, ot, ca tou, aociou, tui, apcociui, tpcu,.
42. Amm.23.3.8: cI. Jul., Ep. 98 (401d).
43. Amm., 24.1.10: Saraceni procursatores partis cuiusdam hostium
obtulere laetissimo principi, et munerati ad agenda similia sunt remissi.
44. Following the reading Podosacis oI MS G, Shahd, BAFOC, cit.
(n. 24), pp. 119-123 preIers to translate Malechus as the proper name
Mlik and Podosacis as a patronymic.
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 245
phylarch oI the Assanitae Saracens, a bandit oI inIamous
renown. Indeed, Podosaces and his Iollowers lived up to
the designation latrones even as Julians forces struggled
to retreat out oI Persia in summer 363. Apart Irom general
harrying Irom Saracen skirmishers, Ammianus tells us
quite specifcally that those Romans who broke ranks and
crossed the Tigris too early, 'were captured by Saracens
or Persians and either slaughtered like sheep or carried Iar
away to be sold
45
.
From the 5
th
century we have further testimony of
Saracen raiding and captive taking on Byzantium`s eastern
Irontier. In a letter oI 410, Jerome describes a coordinated
series oI attacks on the borderland oI Egypt, Palestine,
Phoenic, and Syria carried out by Saracens
46
. A passage
from his Commentary on E:ekiel written that same year
mentions the same raids and indicates that many of their
victims were enslaved: who would believe... that all
the shorelines oI the East, oI Egypt and oI AIrica, once
flled with throngs Irom the mistress oI cities are now
flled with throngs oI slaves and serving girls
47
? The
source record Ior military and political events in the mid
5
th
century is particularly weak, but excellent evidence oI
Saracen captive taking is available Ior the later part oI the
century. In his Ecclesiastical History Evagrius describes
general Saracen raiding at the beginning of Zenos reign
(474-491), and Theophanes pinpoints these same attacks
to Upper Mesoptomia and locates them in the year 474
48
.
These notices can be linked to two homilies oI Isaac oI
Antioch that lament widespread Arab captive taking at
Bth Hur near Amida
49
. We are fortunate to have this very
45. Amm., 25.8.1: rapti a Saracenis vel Persis... caedebantur ut pecora
vel longius amendati sunt venundandi. On general Saracen skirmishing
and thievery, see also Amm., 25.1.3; Zos. 3.27.1 (Paschoud).
46. Jer., Ep. 126. 2 (CSEL, LVI 144): hoc autem anno, cum tres explicassem
libros, subitus impetus barbarorum, de quibus tuus dicit Vergilius: lateque
vagantes Barcaei (Aen. 4.42) et sancta scriptura de Ismahel: contra faciem
omnium fratrum suorum habitabit (Gen., 16:12), sic Aegypti limitem,
Palaestinae, Phoenices, Syriae percucurrit ad instar torrentis cuncta secum
trahens, ut vix manus eorum misericordia Christi potuerimus evadere.
47. Jer., In Ez. 3, praef. (Glorie, CCSL, LXXV 91): quis crederet ...ut tota
Orientis, Aegypti, Africae littora olim dominatricis urbis, seruorum
et ancillarum numero complerentur? On these passages, see Shahd,
BAFIC, cit. (n. 25), pp. 22-25; ctr. Graf, Rome and the Saracens, cit.
(n. 15), pp. 349-350.
48. Evag., HE 3.2 (Bidez and Parmentier); Theophan., a.m. 5966 (de Boor
p. 120).
49. Isaac oI Antioch, Hom. 11-12 (ed. G. Bickell, S. Isaaci Antiocheni
doctoris syrorum opera omnia, Gissen, 1873, pp. 207-249). See Iurther
Klugkist, Die beiden Homilien, cit. (n. 29); Shahd, BAFIC, cit. (n. 25),
pp. 114-115; G. Greatrex, Isaac of Antioch and the Sack of Beth Hur,
in Muson, 111, 1998, pp. 287-291; G. Greatrex and S.N.C. Lieu, The
Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars, 2. AD 363-630, London /
New York, 2002, p. 47, who are surely correct to date to c. 474. This
is confrmed by Isaac, Hom. 11.398-400 (Bickell, pp. 224-225), which
reports that peace had prevailed in the area Ior the 34 years preceding
the raids. This coincides well with the date oI the last known Romano-
Saracen confict in the area, which Iell early in the 450s: Priscus, Ir. 26;
cI. Ir. 10 (Blockley). UnIortunately Priscus` notices are too brieI to
provide inIormation on whether captive taking was involved in this
earlier confict: cI. Shahd, BAFIC, cit. (n. 25), pp. 55-56.
circumstantial evidence, for it serves to demonstrate that,
when our historical sources mention Saracen raids without
explicitly noting captive taking, this is by no means an
indicatation that it did not occur.
From the mid 480s another contemporary local source
goes even Iurther toward outlining the sorts oI conficts
created Ior the Persian and Roman Empires because oI
Saracen captive taking. In a detailed letter, Barsauma oI
Nisibis describes how a multiyear drought in the region
50

had unsettled the nomadic 'Tu`aye (probably the Persian
allied Tayyi`)
51
who had crossed into Roman territory and
captured livestock and provincials. This brought a Roman
army together with its Saracen allies to the frontier to
ask Ior compensation. The Persian mar:ban brokered an
agreement that would have led to an exchange of Roman
captives oI the Tu`aye Ior Persians captured by the Roman
allied Saracens in the region oI Bth Garmai, Adiabene,
and Niniveh. But when the mar:ban attempted to seal the
pact by inviting the Roman dux to Nisibis Ior a banquet,
the Tu`aye took advantage oI his absence to launch yet
another raid into Roman territory and seized still more
captives, provoking even the mar:ban to fury
52
. This
detailed description shows both the overriding importance
oI captive taking among these Saracen groups and the
degree to which they maintained autonomy, even to the
extent oI openly shirking commands Irom the imperial
powers that sought to control them.
By the 6
th
century, our evidence becomes much more
abundant and explicit. Moreover, as discussed in the
previous section, the power oI the Saracen leaders and their
conIederations had grown by this period, leading to a shiIt
in the scale oI the problem. Cyril oI Scythopolis epitomizes
the situation when he reports that in 509 a large and coordi-
nated Saracen force hit Arabia and Palestine:
At this same time Alamundarus the son of Sikika
(al-Mundhir ibn aqqa)
53
, who had attained the dignity
of being king over the Saracens subject to Persia, invaded
Arabia and Palestine in great fury against the Romans,
50. Drought surely played a prominent role in provoking Saracen raids,
cf. Marc. Com., Chron., s.a. 536 (ed. T. Mommsen, Monumenta Germaniae
Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi, 11, Berlin, 1894, p. 105); Narr. Anastasii
Sinaitae 10 (ed. F. Nau, Le text grec des rcits du moine Anastase sur les
saint pres du Sina, in OrChr, 2, 1902, pp. 58-89, at p. 66).
51. Shahd, BAFIC, cit. (n. 25), p. 117.
52. Barsauma, Ep. 2 (J.-B. Chabot, Synodicon orientale, ou Recueil de
synodes nestoriens, Paris, 1902, pp. 526-527). See the translation at
Greatrex and Lieu, Roman Eastern Frontier, cit. (n. 49), pp. 49-50. See
also Shahd, BAFIC, cit. (n. 25), pp. 115-119; Isaac, Limits of Empire,
cit. (n. 15), pp. 242-243. Extensive raids are described in Euphratesia
c. 499, although captive taking is not specifcally mentioned,
Theophan., a.m. 5990 (de Boor, p. 141); Evag., HE 3.36, with Shahd,
BAFIC, cit. (n. 25), pp. 120-130; Greatrex and Lieu, Roman Eastern
Frontier, cit. (n. 49), p. 51. Theophan., a.m. 5994 (de Boor, p. 143) also
recounts raids in Phoenicia, Syria, and Palestine ca. 500, but the dating
is insecure and captives are not mentioned, cI. Shahd, BASIC 1.1, cit.
(n. 19), pp. 4-12.
53. On this lineage, see Robin, Arabes de Himyar, cit. (n. 23), p. 185.
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 246
carrying off everything as plunder, taking Romans into
captivity by the tens of thousands, and after the capture of
Amida, perpetrating many lawless acts
54
.
As Cyril states, this attack was led by the Nasrid phylarch
Mundhir (III), operating in alliance with the Sasanian Empire,
which not only sanctioned his raids but even encouraged
them as a method Ior punishing Byzantium without
engaging in open warIare. Indeed, a passage Irom the Syriac
Chronicon ad annum 724 indicates that, beginning in 519,
the year Iollowing Justin I`s accession, the Shahanshah
Kavadh began using Mundhir to attack Upper Mesopotamia
in order to pressure the new emperor to agree with Persia`s
longstanding demand for subsidies that he might use to cover
the cost oI guarding the Caspian Gates; and Ps. Zachariah oI
Mitylene indicates that the same policy was still in Iorce in
525/526 when Mundhir invaded Roman territory and once
again carried oII numerous captives
55
.
That the prisoners Irom provincial territory who were
snared in these attacks remained enslaved among the
Nasrids is clear Irom a passage in Theophanes relating
that, in 527, a combined Iorce under the duces of Palestine,
Arabia, and Mesopotamia and the Saracen phylarchs oI
these provinces succeeded in capturing Mundhir`s camp
(though not the phylarch himselI) and were able to Iree a
considerable number oI Roman prisoners
56
. In response,
Malalas tells us, Mundhir raided Syria I as Iar as the territory
oI Antioch in 528/529, and in a later passage he confrms
that during these raids the Nasrid leader again carried oII
many captives
57
. Speaking oI the same attack, Zachariah oI
Mytilene reports the capture oI numerous provincials Irom
54. Cyr. Scyth., Vita Johannis Hesychastae 13-14 (Schwartz, pp. 211-212):
avtu ni,ocvo, ku kut ao, upiou, Teuiou, uvopuaooi,ev.
The date is stated explicitly at 14, i.e. the second indiction and the
56
th
year oI John Hesychast`s liIe. On the raid, see Shahd, BASIC 1.1,
cit. (n. 19), pp. 17-19 and 26-28, although he preIers to date to the
immediate aItermath oI the Iall oI Amida in 503 or 504.
55. Ps. Zach. Rhet., 8.5 (ed. and trans. F.J. Hamilton and E.W. Brooks,
The Syriac Chronicle Known as that of Zachariah of Mitylene, London,
1899, p. 206 G. Greatrex |comm.|, R.R. Phenix, and C.B. Horn
[trans.], The Chronicle of Pseudo-Zachariah Rhetor. Church and War
in Late Antiquity |TTH, 55|, Liverpool, 2011, p. 297); cI. Chronicon
miscellaneum ad AD 724 (CSCO SS, III 144 |text| IV 111 |trans.|);
Michael Syrus, Chron. 9.16 (text eds. G. Kiraz, G.Y. Ibrahim, and
S.P. Brock, Texts and Translations of the Chronicle of Michael the
Great, Piscataway |NJ|, 2009, p. 271; transl. J.-B. Chabot, Chronique
de Michel le Syrien, Patriarche Jacobite dAntioche (1166-1199), Paris,
1899-1924, 2, p. 178). On the date, see G. Greatrex, Rome and Persia
at War, 502-532, Liverpool, 1998, p. 148; cI. Greatrex and Lieu, Roman
Eastern Frontier, cit. (n. 49), pp. 79, 84.
56. Theophan., a.m. 6021 (de Boor, p. 179): oou, cupov Teuiou,
ui_uetou,; cI. Joh. Mal., 18.16 (Thurn, p. 252). On this incident see
Shahd, BASIC 1.1, cit. (n. 19), pp. 62-76; Greatrex, Rome and Persia,
cit. (n. 55), p. 152.
57. Joh. Mal., 18.32 (Thurn p. 372) with 18.59 (Thurn, pp. 386-387):
T( oc uut( _pov; ocnoi, kutcac0n 1pui; autpip_ aup
tev uaocivvtev cv ui_ueoiu uao Auouvopou Lupuknvoi;
cI. Theophan., a.m. 6021 (de Boor, p. 178). See also Greatrex, Rome
and Persia, cit. (n. 55), pp. 152-153; Greatrex and Lieu, Roman Eastern
Frontier, cit. (n. 49), p. 86.
the territories of Antioch and Emesa and even the brazen
sacrifce oI Iour hundred virgins captured Irom a convent
at Emesa
58
. From 531/532, Choricius oI Gaza describes
Saracen raids involving extensive captive taking without
speciIying the leader involved, but Mundhir is again to be
surmised
59
. Indeed, in a generalizing statement related to the
period, Procopius describes Mundhir`s capture oI Roman
provincials by the tens oI thousands Irom the borders oI
Egypt through Mesopotamia
60
. In every instance, we can
assume, the Nasrid leader`s attacks were permitted iI not
encouraged by Persia, which was able to use the Saracen
phylarch as a proxy in its ongoing struggles with Rome.
The same was surely true of Rome and its Jafnid allies vis
vis the Persians
61
, Ior by this point the opposing empires
had moved their Saracen allies to the Iront lines, and captive
taking constituted a signifcant element in their strategy oI
degrading the enemys infrastructure as well as its tax and
recruitment bases.
Indeed, throughout Late Antiquity, both Persia and Rome
were aware oI the Saracens` skill in capturing live prisoners
and capitalized on this tactical specialization both during
military campaigns and also in peacetime. We have already
seen Julian paying his Saracen allies to capture Persian
skirmishers during his invasion oI lower Mesopotamia
in 363. In the 5
th
century (c. 420), the Shahanshah Yazdgerd I
attempted to prevent Christians persecuted in his realm
Irom feeing to the Roman Empire by assigning Saracen
phylarchs under his control the job oI hunting them down
and capturing them on the roads leading out oI Persia
62
.
58. Ps. Zach. Rhet., 8.5 (Hamilton and Brooks, Syriac Chronicle, cit. |n. 55|,
p. 206 Greatrex, Phenix and Horn, Chronicle, cit. |n. 55|, p. 298);
cI. Michael Syrus 9.16 (Kiraz, Ibrahim and Brock, Texts, cit. |n. 55|,
pp. 270-271 Chabot, Chronique, cit. |n. 55|, 2, pp. 178-179).
59. Choric. Gaz., Or., 4.12 (Foerster): ku apon0c tui, aocoiv ccu0cpiu
ou\, c uop\tou oouciu,, ti, cacvciuto cv tev uouev
tou, ycitovu,; 20-23: aoo oc aui tev oouev ui_etoi oi
oc tn, cipncvn, apoonyopiu, cauuouvto... ckocvov ci, oouciuv
auioiov, uyocvnv ck auotoo, yuvuiku; cI. Shahd, BASIC 1.1, cit.
(n. 19), pp. 185-194.
60. Procop., Bell. 1.17.40-45: ck yp tev Aiyuatou opiev upcvo, ku
c_pi c, Mcooaotuiuv ni,ocvo, t ckciv _epiu, \yc tc ku ccpcv
ccn, dauvtu, kuiev tc t, cv aoov oikoooiu, ku tou, uv0peaou,
kut ao, uc upiou, uvopuaooi,ev; cI. Procop., HA 18.22; 23.6-8.
Greatrex, Rome and Persia, cit. (n. 55), p. 107, n. 97, would relate this
report to the raids oI 509, but it seems saIer to see this as a generalizing
notice. See a very similar statement on Mundhir`s prowess in taking
captives and his cruelty toward them at Vita Simeonis Stylitae Iunioris,
186 (ed. P. van den Ven, La vie ancienne de S. Symeon Stylite le Jeune
[521-592] |Subsidia Hagiographica, 32|, Brussels, 1962, p. 189).
61. This is confrmed at Agapius, Kitab al-`Unvan, 2.2 (PO, VIII 431), where
Harith ibn Jabala attacked Persian cities in 541 and took many captives
only to be pursued by Khusro`s mar:ban who recovered them. See also
Chron. Anon. ad 1234, 74 (CSCO SS, XXXVI 209-210), where the JaInid
Mundhir, in consort with the general Maurice, captures prisoners in Bth
`Arabhy during his invasion oI Persia in 581; cI. Greatrex and Lieu,
Roman Eastern Frontier, cit. (n. 49), pp. 109 and 165.
62. Cyr. Scyth., Jita Euthymii 10 (Schwartz p. 19): ouocvoi oi yoi
avtu, 0npcioui tou, Xpiotiuvou, tou, up_ou, tev ua` uutou,
Lupuknvev cacotnouv auvtu_oi tui, oooi, apo, to nocvu tev cv
Hcpoioi Xpiotiuvev Teuioi, apoocuyciv.
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 247
The same pattern continued in the 6
th
century when, during
his second investment oI Edessa in 544, Khusro I stationed
his Saracen allies in a wide perimeter beyond the siege
operations so that they could sweep up Iugitives
63
. So too
with the Roman general Philippikos, who used his Saracen
allies to snatch Persian prisoners Ior interrogation in
advance oI his victory at Solachon in 586
64
. And it surfaces
again in 623 when Heraclius used allied Saracens to make
a raid on Khusro II`s stronghold at Ganjak Ior the purpose
oI taking captives Irom whom to extract inIormation
65
. The
two superpowers thus prized their Saracen allies as experts
in the art oI capturing live prisoners and deployed this skill
for tactical and, as we have seen in the case of Mundhir,
strategic advantage.
At times, however, this same skill backfred on the two
empires when their Saracen allies asserted their indepen-
dence by taking captives Irom armies and territories that
they were theoretically responsible Ior protecting. Thus
in 363, Ammianus reports, aIter Julian withheld tribute
Irom his Saracen allies in the fnal days oI his Persian
expedition, these turned their attacks on his soldiers
66
.
A more spectacular instance oI the same occurred in 582
when Byzantium`s relationship with its Saracen allies broke
down aIter emperor Tiberius II arrested and his successor
Maurice then exiled the JaInid phylarch Mundhir. In retali-
ation his son Nu`mn raided widely across Phoenicia
and Palestine Ior plunder and captives
67
. On the Sasanian
side, when Khusro II had been Iorced to fee Persia in 590
during the usurpation oI Bahram Chobin, he had been
denied aid by his Arab ally, also named Nu`mn. AIter his
restoration, Khusro sought to redress the aIIront by humil-
iating Nu`mn at a banquet, which in turn provoked the
Saracen to seek revenge by sending his tribesmen as Iar
north as Bth `Arabhy to raid and take Persian captives
68
.
Such conficts better than anything convey the degree to
which Rome`s and Persia`s conIederates operated indepen-
63. Procop., Bell. 2.27.30-31: ae, uiokocvn, tn, aoce, uuto tou,
cuyovtu, ouynvcuouvtc, eoi.
64. Theoph. Sim., 2.2.5-6 (deBoor and Wirth, pp. 72-73); cI. Theophan.,
a.m. 6078 (de Boor, pp. 254-255).
65. Theophan., a.m. 6114 (de Boor, p. 307).
66. Amm., 25.6.9-10. A widely attested version oI Julian`s death even holds
one oI these Saracen allies responsible Ior spearing him, Lib., Or. 24.6
(Foerster); Greg. Naz., Or. 5.13 (ed. and trans. J. Bernardi, Gregoire
de Na:ian:e, Discours, 4-5 |SC, 250|, Paris, 1983); Philostorg., 7.15
(Bidez and Winkelmann); Soz., 6.1.14 (Bidez and Hansen); Theod.,
HE 3.20 (Parmentier and Hansen).
67. Evag., HE 6.2: Nuuvnv oc tov toutou auiou, upiev kukev
ca\ouvtu to aoitcuu, 4oiviknv tc ckutcpuv Huuiotivu, tc
nocvov ku uvopuaooiouvtu oi tev u` uutov uppev;
cI. Joh. Eph., HE 3.42-43 (ed. and trans. E.W. Brooks, Iohannis
Ephesini Historiae Ecclesiasticae Pars Tertia [CSCO SS, LIV-LV|,
Paris, 1952, 54, pp. 176-177 55, pp. 131-132); Joh. Mosch., Prat. 155
(PG, LXXXVII 3024) with Sartre, Trois etudes, cit. (n. 18), pp. 190-
192; Shahd, BASIC 1.1, cit. (n. 19), pp. 464-471, 532-540.
68. Khu:istan Chronicle (CSCO SS, I 20):
. See the translation at Greatrex and Lieu,
Roman Eastern Frontier, cit. (n. 49), pp. 230-231.
dently oI the empires with which they were allied, at times
supporting them dutiIully and at others turning on them
with punishing attacks. They also show the level to which
captive taking constituted one oI the primary weapons in
the Saracens` Ioreign policy arsenal.
This same independence meant that the various conIed-
erations and in the 6
th
century particularly those under
the JaInids and Nasrids also pursued their own intertribal
conficts which regularly involved the taking oI captives.
Among many examples, the most noteworthy is surely the
war that arose in 569 aIter the death oI the JaInid phylarch
Hrith ibn Jabala between his successor Mundhir and the
Nasrid Kbs. During this dispute Mundhir seized the camp
oI his rival, captured his livestock and Iamily, stole Kbs`
royal pavilion, and then used it to lure Kbs` confdants
into a trap resulting in their capture or execution as well
69
.
The phenomenon oI inter-tribal captive taking is also clear
Irom the extant relics oI pre-Islamic Arabic literature. To
take just two examples Irom the sixth-century, `Alqama
delivered his Iamous poem describing the horse oI the JaInid
Hrith ibn Jabala in an eIIort to convince the phylarch to
Iree his brother and Iellow members oI his tribe oI Tamm
Irom captivity; and Htim delivered several extant poems
to a western shaykh named Hrith ibn `Amr, perhaps a
JaInid leader, in order to Iree ninety oI his Tayyi` tribesmen
who had been captured and were being held in animal pens
in revenge Ior having plundered the Hrith`s camels
70
.
69. Joh. Eph., HE 6.3 (CSCO SS, LIV 281 LV 213) with Shahd, BASIC 1.1,
cit. (n. 19), pp. 340-346. See also: 1/ The (c. 473) raids oI Imru` al-Qays
on Iellow Arabs in southern Palestina Tertia, Malchus, Ir. 1 (Blockley);
2/ The (a. 502) raid on the Nasrid capital at Hra by the Ta`lab, which was
provoked by the Romans but conducted as an intertribal aIIair, Ps. Josh.
Styl., 57 (Wright, pp. 54-55) with Robin, Royaume Hufride, cit. (n. 26),
pp. 689-690, 697-699; A. Luther, Die syrische Chronik des Josua Stylites
(Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte, 49), Berlin,
1997, pp. 189-190; 3/ The (a. 527/528) attack by the Nasrid Mundhir
on the Hujrid leader Hrith, which involved captive taking, and 4/ the
subsequent JaInid attack (with Roman aid) on Mundhir`s camp, which
also netted many captives, Joh. Mal., 18.16 (Thurn, p. 252); Theophan.,
a.m. 6021 (de Boor, p. 179), with Shahd, BASIC 1.1, cit. (n. 19), pp. 62-
76; Greatrex, Rome and Persia, cit. (n. 55), p. 152; cI. Robin, Royaume
Hufride, cit. (n. 26), pp. 673-674, 696-699; Arabes de Himyar, cit. (n. 23),
p. 175; 5/ What Shahd has described as the 'War oI the Federates in
546-561, during which captive taking is also attested at Procop., Bell.
2.27.12-14; 2.28.14; cI. Shahd, BASIC 1.1, cit. (n. 19), pp. 236-266. See
also the much smaller-scale intertribal Ieuding described at Cyr. Scyth.,
Jita Euthymii 46, 51 (Schwartz, pp. 67, 75), which also involved captive
taking. For SaIaitic texts recording the capture oI individuals by the
Hawlat, see CIS, 2552; WH, 153.
70. For `Alqama, see O. Rescher, Beitrge :ur arabischen Posie.
berset:ungen, Kritiken, Aufst:e, 7.2, Der vorislamische Dichter
`Alqama etc., Stuttgart, 1961-1962, pp. 1-43; cI. F. Sezgin, Geschichte
des arabischen Schrifttums, 2, Poesie bis ca. 430 H, Leiden, 1975,
pp. 120-122; I. Shahd, By:antium and the Arabs in the Sixth
Century, 2.2. Economic, Social and Cultural History, Washington
(DC), 2009, p. 328. For Htim, see F. Schulthess, Der Diwn des
Arabischen Dichters Htim Tef, Leipzig, 1897, nos. 2, 24, 29, 79, 84,
88; cI. Sezgin, cit., pp. 208-209; I. Shahd, By:antium and the Arabs in
the Sixth Century, 2.1. Toponymy, Monuments, Historical Geography
and Frontier Studies, Washington (DC), 2002, pp. 246-259; Idem,
BASIC 2.2, cit., p. 328. The Iamous Suspended Odes (Mu`allaqt) that
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 248
Furthermore, at many times the boundary between inter-
tribal and inter-imperial conficts became blurred, always
with uniIormly disastrous consequences Ior the prisoners
caught up in the resultant violence. Thus in 573, when
the JaInid Mundhir ibn Hrith reIused to deIend Roman
territories aIter an attempt on his liIe by Emperor Justin II,
Persia`s allied Nasrids made raids as Iar as the Antiochn
in order to carry oII spoils and prisoners. AIter reconciling
with the Empire in 575, Mundhir then launched punitive
attacks oI his own, not against Persia but against the Nasrid
center oI Hra, where he captured all the livestock and huge
numbers oI Arab prisoners
71
. Captive taking was thus a
political tool and a socially accepted method oI asserting
power that permeated Ioreign relations intertribal and
international among the Saracens.
By now it should be clear that, Iar Irom discouraging
Saracen captive taking, the Roman and Persian Empires seem
rather to have struggled to harness it to their best advantage.
This was surely in no small part due to the Iact that it essen-
tially paid Ior itselI. Alliances always cost money, but oI
themselves prisoners constituted a Iorm oI recompense
that apparently well satisfed the Saracen allies at no cost
to the respective empires provided oI course the victims
were not taxpayers. Already in the 4
th
century, Rome at least
and likely also Persia had established regular money
payments to its Saracen allies, and such payments continued
into the 6
th
century and probably beyond. At times, however,
this tribute created tensions, as Ior example when Julian`s
overstrained situation in Persia forced him to refuse his
Saracens the allowances and abundant rewards that they
had become accustomed to receiving
72
. In similar Iashion,
disputes arose in the late 6
th
century over tribute arrange-
ments Justinian had made, both with his Jafnid allies and
with the Nasrids, that led to high level negotiations and even
violence
73
. A Novel oI Theodosius II Irom 443 indicates that
hung Irom the Ka`ba at Mecca as the fnest examples oI pre-Islamic
Arabic poetry are also flled with captive taking, cI. A.J. Arberry (trans.),
The Seven Odes. The First Chapter in Arabic Literature, London, 1957,
pp. 85, 179-182, 207, 209, 226.
71. Joh. Eph., HE 6.4 (CSCO SS, LIV 286-287 LV 216-217); cI. Joh.
Eph., HE 6.18 (CSCO SS,LIV 314 LV 238) with Shahd, BASIC 1.1,
cit. (n. 19), pp. 356-364, 378-384, 389-390.
72. Amm., 25.6.10: hos autem Saracenos ideo patiebamur infestos, quod
salaria muneraque plurima a Iuliano ad similitudinem praeteriti temporis
accipere vetiti questique apud eum solum audierant imperatorem
bellicosum et vigilantem ferrum habere, non aurum.
73. Men. Prot., Ir. 6.1 (ed. R.C. Blockley, The History of Menander the
Guardsman, Liverpool, 1985, p. 68): okovto, tc, ti yc o\aou ku uutov
eoacp ku tov apo uutoi nycovu toi Lupuknvikoi koi,co0ui _pcev
t, p _puoiou itpu,; fr. 9.3: no yp e, c0coi t ouv\0n _p\utu
koiouo0ui apo, nev. Further examples oI tribute at Men. Prot., Ir. 9.1;
Procop., Bell. 2.1.13; Joh. Eph., HE 6.3 (CSCO SS, LIV 282 LV 213-
214); Joh. Mal., 18.61 (Thurn, p. 390); Theophan., a.m. 6123 (de Boor,
p. 335); cI. T. Sizgorich, Do prophets come with a sword? Conquest,
Empire and Historical Narrative in the Early Islamic World, in AHR, 112,
2007, pp. 993-1015; Hoyland, Arab kings, cit. (n. 1), pp. 394-395. Ps.
Nilus, Narr. 6.11, 17 (ed. F. Conca, Nilus Ancyranus Narratio, Stuttgart,
1983; cI. Caner, History, cit. |n. 15|, pp. 121, 124) indicates that the
some Saracen allies were also entitled to regular food rations
(annona)
74
. In addition, the passages quoted earlier Irom
Ammianus (24.1.10, 25.8.1) make it clear that a third mode
oI compensation was the permissive taking oI captives. This
becomes even more apparent in a series oI citations Irom
the Chronicle oI Ps. Joshua the Stylite. In the frst the author
tells how, following his defeat of Roman forces at the battle
oI Tel-Besmai in 502, Kavadh rewarded his Nasrid ally
Nu`mn (II) by allowing him to make a surprise raid around
Carrhae and Edessa and capture some 18 500 prisoners
75
.
Ps. Joshua then explains that the ensuing Romano-Persian
war, led greatly to the enrichment of the Saracen allies of
both sides through plunder and captivity
76
. It is no surprise,
then, that when a truce was reached in winter 505/506,
some Saracens Iound it diIfcult to renounce raiding and
broke the truce by entering the opposing empire`s territory
where they captured entire villages` worth oI people. The
Iact that these Arabs looked to Persia and Rome respectively
Ior permission Ior such raids is confrmed by Ps. Joshua
when he reports that, upon learning oI these unauthorized
attacks, the Persian mar:ban at Nisibis and the Roman dux
at Callinicum had no choice but to arrest and execute the
shaykhs responsible
77
. The scene has remarkable resonances
with the incident described above Irom Barsauma oI Nisibis
in the 480s. In both, the Saracen allies oI the two empires
asserted their autonomy by reIusing to curb their intake oI
captives. As such they constituted an independent variable
that needed to be Iactored into the calculus oI Ioreign policy
by both empires
78
.
Nowhere is it clearer that the Romans capitalized on
the Saracen inclination toward slave raiding in order to
compensate their Saracen allies than in Malalas` account
oI the suppression oI the Samaritan uprising oI 529. There
he reports that the Dux Theodorus mustered his forces
together with a large contingent supplied by the 'phylarch
oI Palestine, by which he apparently means the JaInid
Saracens allied with the independent city oI Pharan in the Sinai oIIered
regular giIts to their local Arab phylarch as well.
74. Nov. Theod., 24.2 (Mommsen and Myer) (a. 443): De Saracenorum vero
foederatorum aliarumque gentium annonariis alimentis nullam penitus
eos decerpendi aliquid vel auferendi licentiam habere concedimus.
IGLS, V 2501 indicates that Saracen allies in Syria claimed angariae
alongside Byzantine limitanei.
75. Ps. Josh. Styl., 52 (Wright, pp. 48-49) with Luther, Chronik, cit. (n. 69),
pp. 181-182; Greatrex, Rome and Persia, cit. (n. 55), pp. 87-89; Trombley
and Watt, Chronicle of Pseudo-Joshua, cit. (n. 27), pp. 57-58.
76. Ps. Josh. Styl., 79 (Wright, p. 75):
77. Ps. Josh. Styl., 88 (Wright, pp. 82-83). The word I translate shaykhs
is (their chieIs). It does not reveal the relative position oI these
leaders in their complex tribal hierarchies, but they must have been
inferior to the phylarchoi, see cf. Segal, Arabs in Syriac, cit. (n. 1),
p. 104, cI. pp. 93, 99.
78. The Romano-Persian peace oI 562 stated explicitly that the Saracen
allies oI both empires also had to abide by the treaty, Men. Prot., Ir. 6.1
clauses 2 and 4 (Blockley). Earlier, however, during the Strata Dispute
oI c. 539, the Nasrid Mundhir had claimed he was exempted Irom peace
arrangements between the two powers, Procop., Bell. 2.1.4-5.
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 249
Abu Karb, brother oI the more Iamous Hrith ibn Jabala.
These deIeated and killed 20 000 Samaritans in battle and
then pursued the remaining Iugitives on Mt. Garizim and
in the Trachonitis (Leja). Malalas closes his notice on the
suppression oI the revolt:
And the Saracen phylarch of the Romans took as booty
20 000 boys and girls from among these. Capturing them as
prisoners he sold them in the territories of Persia and India
79
.
This brieI notice directly attests the payment oI Saracen
conIederates Ior military service through the permissive
taking oI captives. Just as interesting, it explains how these
captives could be converted into capital, Ior it states that the
JaInids transported their victims to Persia and 'India Ior
sale as slaves. By India Malalas apparently means Himyar
(Yemen) in the southern Arabian peninsula
80
, a kingdom
whose growing power, mentioned above, made it a third pole
in the geography oI sedentary states that pulled around the
edges of Saracen country
81
. The channels Ior the disposal oI
slaves were thus many and varied but were kept open both by
the inherent mobility of the Saracens and by the broad reach of
their powerIul conIederations. Above all, the strategic location
of the Saracens in the center of a triangle created by the Roman
and Persian Empires in the North and the kingdom oI Himyar
in the South aIIorded them unprecedented opportunities to
engage in slave trading. Because they alone controlled traIfc
through the desert dividing these sedentary powers, they were
uniquely positioned to uproot people Irom their societal and
legal 'homes and transport them to 'Ioreign lands where
their very deracination converted the victims Irom persons
with legal and social status to marketable chattels. With the
Samaritans, legal principles alone would have prevented easy
disposal oI the prisoners back into Roman markets as slaves
82
.
79. Joh. Mal., 18.35 (Thurn, pp. 374-375): cuc oc ku o uup_o,
Lupuknvo, o tev Teuiev apuiouv c uutev _iiou, ckooi auioev ku
kopuoiev oiotivu, uev ui_uetou, caenocv cv toi, Hcpoikoi,
ku 1voikoi, cpcoiv. See Sartre, Trois etudes, cit. (n. 18), pp. 168-170;
Shahd, BASIC 1.1, cit. (n. 19), pp. 82-95, and above all Sartre, Deux
phylarches, cit. (n. 19), pp. 150-154, which uses a recently discovered
inscription to identiIy the phylarch in question as Abu Karb.
80. Ancient geographers regularly interchange India with Yemen and
Ethiopia, cI. P. Schneider, LEthiopie et lInde. Interference et confusions
aux extrmits du monde antique (VIII
e
siecle avant J.-C-VI
e
sicle aprs
J.-C.) (CEFR, 335), Rome, 2004. Nevertheless, P. Mayerson (A Confusion
of Indias. Asian India and African India in the By:antine Sources,
in JAOR, 113, 1993, pp. 169-174 Id., Monks, Martyrs, Soldiers, cit.
|n. 15|, pp. 361-366, at pp. 172-173) has shown that Malalas invariably
uses 'India to mean Himyar / Yemen. Shahd, BASIC 1.1, cit. (n. 19),
pp. 93-95, holds Ior Aksm / Ethiopia and argues that the mass transIer oI
this populace may explain the origin oI the Jewish Felashas oI Ethiopia.
Curiously, Himyar had just been taken over by the Aksmite king Abraha
in 525, complicating the question Iurther.
81. Note the Himyarites` own predilection Ior captive taking at A. Jamme,
Sabaean and Hasaean Inscriptions from Saudi Arabia, Rome, 1966,
no. 1028.
82. As rebels, the captive Samaritans were more likely to have become
servi poenae, who were not alienable to private holders, see F. Millar,
Condemnation to hard labour in the Roman Empire, from the
Julio-Claudians to Constantine, in PBSR, 52, 1984, pp. 124-147;
But the JaInid Saracens` ability and experience traIfcking in
humans between the sedentary states, whose porous borders
they regularly traversed, allowed them to take advantage oI
a situation presented by the Samaritan revolt to the mutual
beneft oI the JaInid phylarch, the Byzantine Empire, Himyar,
and Persia.
Settlement Expansion
and the Problem of Saracen Raids
The Saracen liIestyle was markedly diIIerent Irom that
oI the settled urban dwellers and agricultural peasants oI
Rome`s eastern provinces. Above all, throughout Late
Antiquity, Saracen society was based on a culture of
pastoral nomadism. This was only to be expected, Ior the
Syrian and Arabian deserts create a massive, elliptical dry
zone, surrounded by a ring oI steppe-land and arable, which
only transhumant pastorliasts are capable oI exploiting Ior
its extremely limited resources of water and fodder. We
thus fnd an unbroken tradition oI transhumant pastoralism
attested in written sources for the region stretching from
the early 1
st
millennium BCE up to the 20
th
century. It is
certainly evident in the early Roman imperial period Irom
extant SaIaitic inscriptions, composed by the inhabitants oI
the western steppe and desert, who obviously conceived oI
themselves as wandering pastoralists
83
. In the same period,
those phylarchs who worked in alliance with the Romans
also selI identifed with Greek titles like 'commander oI
the nomads
84
. Even after the growth of the larger confed-
erations in the later empire and their establishment oI frm
alliances with Byzantium and Persia, this subset oI Arabs
appears to have held to their transhumant way oI liIe. The
continuation oI pastoralism in the period can certainly
be demonstrated archaeologically from the remains of
nomadic herding camps
85
. Furthermore, in numerous extant
M. GustaIson, Condemnation to the Mines in the Later Roman Empire,
HThR, 87, 1994, pp. 421-433. Servi poenae were, however, becoming
problematic already in this period and were soon to be phased out by
Justinian, Nov. 22.8 (Schoell and Kroll) (March 18, 535).
83. For pastoralism in the SaIaitic inscriptions oI the Hawrn, see
F.V. Winnett and G.L. Harding, Inscriptions from Fifty Safaitic Cairns
(Near and Middle East Series, 9), Toronto, 1978, pp. 27-30; GraI, Rome
and the Saracens, cit. (n. 15), pp. 367-368; MacDonald, Nomads,
cit. (n. 15), pp. 311-322. The inscriptions also reveal that the SaIaitic
nomads often boasted of raiding.
84. Waddington, IGLS, 2196 (ca. 150): c0vp_ou otputnyoi vooev;
cI. 2112: |otputn|yo, vooev; E. Littmann et al., Publications of the
Princeton University Archaeological Expeditions to Syria, 3. Greek
and Latin Inscriptions, Leiden, 1904-1922, no. III A 752: otputn|y|o,
aupcoev |v|ooev. See also Waddington, IGLS, 2203.
85. For the archaeological remains oI Saracen encampments in the Negev,
where exploration has been the most systematic, see S.A. Rosen,
A Roman-Period pastoral tent camp in the Negev, Israel, in JFA,
20, 1993, pp. 441-451; M. Haiman, Agriculture and Nomad-State
Relations in the Negev Desert in the By:antine and Early Islamic
Periods, in BASOR, 297, 1995, pp. 29-53, at pp. 31-33; J. Magness,
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 250
texts the sedentarist writers of Late Antiquity describe the
Saracens as an ethnic group characterized by nomadism or
tent-dwelling
86
. Indeed, much though it remains a matter
of debate, a strong argument has been made that the word
Saracen itselI derives Irom an Arabic root meaning 'people
oI the East, that is, those who wander (Irom Syria) into the
eastern desert
87
.
More questions have arisen, however, regarding the
sedentarization oI the leadership strata oI the late antique
conIederations. Indeed, I. Shahd has argued vociIerously
that both the major confederate leaders and their military
retinues settled in permanent urban centers already by
the 4
th
century and that this situation became only more
pronounced by the 6th when, he claims, the settlement
oI Jbiya was home to the 'Ghassnids and Hra to the
'Lakhmids
88
. This argument can only be made with some
diIfculty in light oI the Iact that Jbiya has never been
located convincingly, and while Hra just west oI the
middle Euphrates was clearly a permanent settlement,
it appears to have been more oI a stopping place than a
permanent home to the Nasrid hierarchy
89
. Indeed, the
The Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine, Winnona
Lake (In), 2003, pp. 131-170.
86. Eus. Comm. Is. 1.67 (Ziegler, p. 100): cac oc ao tev cp\ev
toaev caivcovtui aoicvc, vopu, toi, cuutev 0pcuoiv cv uutoi,
aopi,ocvoi; Amm., 14.4.3: nec eorum quisquam aliquando stivam
adprehendit, vel arborem colit, aut arva subigendo quaeritat victum, sed
errant semper per spatia longe lateque distenta, sine lare sine sedibus hxis
aut legibus; 22.15.2: et Scenitas praetenditur Arabas, quos Saracenos
nunc appellamus; 23.6.13: Scenitas Arabas, quos Saracenos posteritas
appellavit; Jer., Ep. 125.3 (CSEL, LVI 121): gentes vagae; Vita Malchi
4.1: solitudo per quam Saraceni incertis semper sedibus huc atque illuc
vagantur; In Es. 5.13.21-22 (CCSL, LXXIII 165); 5.21.13-17 (CCSL,
LXXIII 208-209): Saracenorum proprie gentem descripserit quia habitant
in tentoriis; qui quas nox compulerit sedes tenent, quibus armenta sunt et
pecora camelorumque greges; qui non habent ostia nec vectes, non enim
versantur in urbibus sed in solitudine habitant; 6.14.1 (CCSL, LXXIII
234-235); Theodoret., In Jer. 49.28 (PG, LXXXI 736): Au\v oc kuci
dauouv t\v tev Lupuknvev otoiv cacio\ vooc, ciov, cv oknvui,
kutoikoivtc,; Ps. Nilus, Narr. 3.4: ku oite, ciotcuovtc, t cpniu
toaou, ck toaev uciouoiv, ckci t, aupco, aoioucvoi aou o`
v _iov caopov ( toi, kt\vcoiv ku ioep cupciv ouic,; Malchus,
Ir. 1 (Blockley): uikvcitui ti, tev Lknvitev Apev, oi, kuoioi
Lupuknvou,, icpcu,; Procop., Bell. 2.1.6-8: io0ou, oc oi toi cvtui0u
vooi ck auuioi cuokc tou, t apoutu kcktncvou, oioovui;
Cyr. Scyth., Jita Euthymii 53 (Schwartz, p. 76): /ou Lupuknvoi ...
vcev o uio, apoutu kut t\v cpnov; Men. Prot., Ir. 9.3 (Blockley):
Lupuknvev c0vci, ku tuitu vooev; Theophan., a.m. 6021 (de Boor,
p. 179): aupcuov oc ku t, oknv, uutev; Narr. Anastasii Sinaitae,
24, 26 (Nau, Text grec, cit. |n. 50|, pp. 74-76); see also F. Millar, The
Theodosian Empire (408-450) and the Arabs. Saracens or Ishmaelites?,
in E.S. Gruen (dir.), Cultural Borrowings and Ethnic Appropriations in
Antiquity, Stuttgart, 2005, pp. 297-314, at pp. 301-308.
87. MacDonald, Quelques reexions, cit. (n. 17), links ,Saracen' to the
north-Arabic radical s
2
rq.
88. Shahd, BAFOC, cit. (n. 24), pp. 227, 401-404; BASIC 1.1, cit. (n. 19),
p. 958; BASIC 2.1, cit. (n. 70), pp. 1-15, 136-140 and passim.
89. On Hra, see D.T. Rice, Hira, in Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society,
19, 1932, pp. 254-268. For the absence oI archaeological confrmation oI
sedentarization among the JaInids, see K. Holum, review oI, I. Shahd,
By:antium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, 2, pt. 2: Economic, Social
and Cultural History, in BMCR, 2010.09.18. For archaeological evidence
textual sources make it very clear that the Saracen leaders
allied with both Rome and Persia remained mobile and
continued to migrate into the desert through the 6
th
century
90
.
Furthermore, as M. Whittow has stressed, even if the
Saracen elite became ever more closely involved in the
politics oI the settled communities oI the early Byzantine
East and the construction of their built monuments, there
is every indication that these leaders remained committed
to a fundamentally tribal social structure which was based
on the control oI Iellow transhumant pastoralists
91
. Their
relations with sedentarist provincials by all means grew
stronger, but the center oI their power continued to be
based among the nomads.
This understanding helps explain the numerous attesta-
tions of built architecture constructed by or with funding
Irom sixth-century phylarchs without compelling us to
assume that these mark the sites oI permanent settlement
for the tribes nor even their leaders
92
. Such buildings were,
rather, fxed meeting points that beneftted sedentarists in
certain ways, nomads in others, and facilitated the creation
of a modus vivendi between both groups. Thus while the
sedentarists who lived alongside these structures churches,
towers, meeting halls may have used them daily, the
nomads camped near them and even occupied them at given
times during their annual migrations (particularly the dry
period Irom June through early October)
93
, but then moved
on. This has certainly been said of the most grandiose of such
monuments, the so-called praetorium whose remains stand
outside Sergiopolis-RusIa, and which has been attributed
to the JaInid phylarch Mundhir based on a cryptically brieI
regarding the sedentarization oI the Hujrid leadership, see Hoyland,
Arabia, cit. (n. 1), pp. 50-51; Robin, Arabes de Himyar, cit. (n. 23), p. 187.
90. E.g. Joh. Eph., HE 3.42-43 (CSCO SS, LIV 176-177 LV 131-132);
Lives, 50 (ed. and trans. E.W. Brooks, Lives of the Eastern Saints
[PO, XVII-XIX|, Paris, 1923-1925, at PO, XIX 153-154); Life of Jacob
Bardaeus (PO, XIX 233-234); Joh. Mal., 18.16 (Thurn, p. 364); Mart.
Arethas, 25 (eds. M. Detoraki and J. Beaucamp, Le martyre de Saint
Arthas et de ses compagnons [BHG, 166], Paris, 2007, pp. 253-254);
Simeon oI Bth Arsm Letter, text, pp. 501-502 trans., p. 481 (I. Guidi,
La lettera di Simeone vescovo di Beth-Arsm sopra i martiri omeriti,
RAL, 278, ser. III, no. 7, 1881, pp. 471-515; cI. eng. trans. oI A. JeIIerey,
Christianity in South Arabia, in The Moslem World, 36, 1946, pp. 193-
216, at p. 204); Jita Anastasii Persae, II.5 (B. Flusin, Saint Anastase le
Perse et lhistoire de la Palestine au debut du VII
e
sicle, 2 vols., Paris,
1992, 2, pp. 103-105); Narr. Anastasii Sinaitae App. (Nau, Text grec, cit.
|n. 50|, p. 87). Robin, Arabes de Himyar, cit. (n. 23), pp. 185-189 should
now be taken as defnitive on this question.
91. M. Whittow, Rome and the Jafnids. Writing the History of a 6th-c.
Tribal Dynasty, in J.H. Humphrey (dir.), The Roman and By:antine
Near East, 2, Some Recent Archaeological Research (JRA Suppl., 31),
Portsmouth (RI), 1999, pp. 207-224, at pp. 219-224.
92. Fisher, Political Development, cit. (n. 23), pp. 320-324.
93. On migration patterns, animal and human, see A. Musil, The Manners
and Customs of the Rwala Bedouins, New York, 1928, pp. 7-8;
M.C.A. MacDonald, The Seasons and Transhumance in the Safaitic
Inscriptions, in JRAS, 3.2, 1992, pp. 1-11; G. Fowden, Desert kites.
ethnography, archaeology and art, in J.H. Humphrey (dir.), The Roman
and By:antine near East (JRA SS, 31), 2, Portsmouth (RI), 1999,
pp. 107-136, at pp. 121-127; cI. Winnett and Harding, Inscriptions, cit.
(n. 83), pp. 27-28.
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 251
inscription Irom its interior. E.K. Fowden has argued that the
building was deliberately placed outside the city`s walls not
just to mark the original tomb site oI St. Sergius but also to
serve as a suitable locus Ior the establishment oI a pastoralist
camp along a well documented migration route
94
. Mundhirs
building, whether it was a military garrison or more
likely a church, is thus symbolic not oI the establishment
oI nomadic Arabs in permanent settlements alongside seden-
tarists, but rather oI the growing power oI nomadic Arab
leaders over the settled communities through which they
and their tribesmen moved. Throughout Late Antiquity, the
Saracens clung to their mobility, which they cherished for
cultural, economic, and strategic reasons
95
. Even in as far as
their leaders became increasingly committed to the forms of
permanent architectural selI-expression they encountered
in their close-knit relations with the Roman and Persian
empires, their power base remained among the nomads
96
.
Simultaneous with the growth in power oI the Saracens
on the steppe, the eastern Empire witnessed a veritable
settlement boom in Late Antiquity. From upper Mesopotamia
through the Syrian Hawrn, the anti-Lebanon, the trans-
Jordan and Jawln, and south into the Negev and even the
Sinai, there is abundant evidence for a net increase in the
number and size of cities, towns, and villages and for a rise
in cultivated agriculture in the wdis on the steppe. This rash
of new settlement has been well documented by archae-
ologists, who have also noted that the remains of nomadic
encampments are Iound with regularity interspersed among
sites established by agriculturalists
97
. These same archaeolo-
94. E.K. Fowden, Barbarian Plain, cit. (n. 29), pp. 60-100, 141-149; Ead.,
An Arab Building at al-Rusfa-Sergiopolis, in MDAI(D), 12, 2000,
pp. 303-324; cI. G. Brands, Der sogenannte Audien:saal des al-Mundhir
in Resafa, in MDAI(D), 10, 1998, pp. 211-235; I. Shahd, The Ghassanid
Structure Outside Sergiopolis/Rusafa. Church or Praetorium?, in
J.D. Alchermes (dir.), ANAOHMATA EORTIKA. Studies in Honor of
Thomas F. Mathews, Mainz, 2009, pp. 283-287.
95. Compare the modern Rwala bedouin, who remained committed to
nomadic pastoralism through the 20
th
century despite extreme pressure
toward sedentarization, primarily because this helped them secure
cultural and political autonomy, W. Lancaster, The Rwala Bedouin
Today, Cambridge, 1981, pp. 120-131.
96. The story oI Aspebetus / Peter at Cyr. Scyth., Jita Euthymii 15 (Schwartz,
pp. 24-25) indicates that, even when tribes established a more permanent
Iooting on the steppe, some continued to dwell in tents.
97. For Syria, see G. Tate, Les campagnes de la Syrie du Nord du II
e
au
VII
e
sicle: un exemple dexpansion dmographique et conomique dans les
campagnes a la hn de lAntiquite, Paris, 1992; C. Foss, Syria in Transition,
AD 550-750. An Archaeological Approach, in DOP, 51, 1997, pp. 189-
269. For the Jawln and trans-Jordan, see D.F. GraI, Town and countryside
in Roman Arabia during Late Antiquity, in T.S. Burns and J.W. Eadie (dir.),
Urban Centers and Rural Contexts in Late Antiquity, East Lansing (Mi),
2001, pp. 219-240. For the Negev, see Haiman, Agriculture, cit. (n. 85);
Y. HirschIeld, Farms and Jillages in By:antine Palestine, DOP, 51,
1997, pp. 33-71, at pp. 50-60; S.A. Rosen, History does not repeat itself:
Cyclicity and particularism in Nomad-Sedentary relations in the Negev
in the Long Term, in J. Szuchman (dir.), Nomads, Tribes, and the State
in the Ancient Near East. Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives (Oriental
Institute Seminars, 5), Chicago, 2008, pp. 57-86. Upper Mesopotamia
has been less well explored, but settlement expansion and the rise oI
new urban centers is well attested in the written sources. See also L. Di
gists have been right to stress that such evidence is prooI
that nomads and sedentarists generally intermingled success-
Iully and established interdependent relations
98
. Indeed, the
nomads traded with sedentarists, they served as escorts for
travelers through the desert, provided protection Irom rival
neighbors, and oIten set up temporary settlements among
agriculturalists during the dry months. Their economy, like
that oI pastoralists in other periods, was complex and rested
on a variety of bases, many of which were tied to seden-
tarist communities. Wealth derived not just from herds of
camels, sheep, and goats, but also Iederate service Ior the
Persian and Roman Empires, the sale oI protection, long
and short distance trade, the production oI handicraIts, and,
as we have seen, the acquisition, maintenance, and sale of
slaves
99
. Furthermore, many Saracen nomads of antiquity,
like all nomads, must have Ielt a pull toward sedentarization,
particularly those that were either highly successIul or those
that Iailed entirely. As a result, nomadic Iamilies, groups, and
tribes oIten had sedentarized kin living among the provin-
cials who served to Iurther cement relations with the Empire.
One measure of the generally felicitous contact
between sedentarists and pastoralists can be Iound in the
many descriptions oI interactions between monks and
Saracens in the hagiographical literature. The new wave
oI asceticism that spread across the East beginning in the
4
th
century pushed this peculiar brand oI settler into parts oI
the steppe that had Iormerly been relegated to the nomads.
By choosing to inhabit this marginal land, monks opened
themselves to encounters with Arab pastoralists which
oIten proved mutually benefcial. The passage in Cyril oI
Scythopolis reporting the Lakhmid Mundhir`s attacks on
Palestine in 509 (quoted above, n. 54) goes on to indicate
that local Saracen phylarchs in Palestine helped to protect
monasteries from more extensive ravaging
100
. The Saracens
were, after all, not one tribe but many, and those tribes
Segni, Epigraphic Evidence for building in Palaestina and Arabia (4th-
7th c.), in J.H. Humphrey (dir.), The Roman and By:antine Near East (JRA
SS, 31), 2, Portsmouth (RI), 1999, pp. 107-136, on the growth oI villages in
particular beginning in the fIth century in Palaestina and Arabia. See also
Millar, Theodosian Empire, cit. (n. 86).
98. This has been made abundantly clear in modern studies oI both texts
and archaeology, M. Rowton, Enclosed nomadism, in JESHO, 17, 1974,
pp. 1-30; Mayerson, Saracens, cit. (n. 15); Hoyland, Arabia, cit. (n. 1),
pp. 96-102; Haiman, Agriculture, cit. (n. 85), pp. 45-48; Rets, Arabs, cit.
(n. 1), pp. 112-116; Rosen, History, cit. (n. 97); M. Sartre, Les nomades
dans lempire romain, in C. Moatti et al. (dir.), Le monde de litinrance
en Mediterranee de lAntiquite a lepoque moderne. Procedures de
controle et didentihcation, Bordeaux, 2008, pp. 51-91.
99. Shahd, BASIC 2.2, cit. (n. 70), pp. 3-51. Compare the variety oI sources
oI wealth exploited by the Rwala bedouin, Lancaster, Rwala Bedouin,
cit. (n. 95), pp. 97-116. One handicraIt in which late antique Saracens
are known to have specialized is the production oI leather, see Anon., De
rebus bellicis 16.2 (ed. Ireland): vitulinis pellibus Arabica arte mollitis
est enim apud eos praecipua confectionis cura propter aquam de puteis
follibus hauriendam; cI. Anton. Plac., Itin. 36 (CSEL, XXXIX 183).
100. Cyr. Scyth., Vita Johannis Hesychastae 13 (Schwartz, p. 211): toi toivuv
a\0ou, tev uppev kut t\v cpnov tuutnv oiuoaupcvto, ku tev
uup_civ tc ku uttciv t\v cpnov tctuycvev nvuovtev ci, t
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 252
that shared particular regions with sedentary provincials
oIten played a crucial role in policing and protecting their
neighbors. For this reason, as Cyril confrms, the monks oI
the lavras near Jericho carefully cultivated close relations
with their local phylarchs, in no small part to beneft
Irom the advantages these contacts could provide
101
. And
the Saracens themselves beneftted as well, experiencing
healing at the hands oI holy men, mediation Ior inter- and
intra-tribal conficts, the brokering oI relations with imperial
oIfcials, and opportunities Ior settlement and conversion
102
.
Nowhere has this mutually advantageous symbiosis been
described more evocatively than in E.K. Fowden`s The
Barbarian Plain, which explains in capillary detail the
webs oI interdependence that nomads, traders, provincials,
and imperial oIfcials wove into a complex, multicultural
Iabric which took its color above all Irom the shared cult
of St. Sergius
103
.
While many, indeed likely most, oI the encounters
between sedentarists and pastoralists were peaceable,
others were surely not. Above we have catalogued
numerous examples oI captive taking most oI which
happened across imperial boundaries and tribal divisions.
Nevertheless, we have thus Iar largely omitted the Irequent
attestations oI Saracen attacks that do not specifcally
mention connections with larger political events. Even so,
the tale oI Malchus with which this study began makes it
clear that such small scale raids were also a regular feature
oI the eastern landscape. Violent encounters need not, in
other words, have been rooted in larger political Ieuds
nor conducted on a grandiose scale nor even by Saracen
conIederates with openly declared loyalty to an opposing
empire. Indeed, many smaller scale raids were clearly
conducted by tribes, clans, or primary kin groups outside
the reach of the larger confederations
104
, and most no doubt
went unreported in our sources. This is why testimonia
Irom monastic communities are so important, Ior they oIIer
precious insights into the ground level experience oI those
who dwelt on the steppe. It is thus striking how oIten they
ovuot\piu t\v tev uppev cooov uoui,co0ui. For similar policing,
see Procop., Bell. 1.19.8-10; cI. Shahd, BASIC 2.2, cit. (n. 70), pp. 6-9.
101. Jita Euthymii, 10 (Schwartz, pp. 18-21); 23 (Schwartz, pp. 35-36);
28 (Schwartz, p. 45); 34 (Schwartz, p. 52); 51-53 (Schwartz, pp. 75-
76); Vita Sabae 13 (Schwartz, p. 96); 81 (Schwartz, p. 186).
102. See Ior example Moses the ascetic at Rufn., HE 11.6 (Mommsen);
Soc. 4.36.3-11 (Hansen); Soz. 6.38.5-9 with N. Lenski, Failure of
Empire. Jalens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century AD, Berkeley,
2002, pp. 203-210. See also the phylarch Zocomus who was granted a
cure Irom inIertility by local monks and then converted, Soz. 6.38.14-16
with Sartre, Trois etudes, cit. (n. 18), pp. 144-146; Shahd, BAFOC, cit.
(n. 24), pp. 188-189. And the various examples oI healing and mediation
provided to pastoralist Arab visitors by Simeon Stylites the Elder, Theod.,
HR 26.13-16 (ed. P. Canivet and A. Leroy-Molinghen, Theodoret de Cyr.
Histoire des moins de Syrie, 2 vols. |SC 234, 257|, Paris, 1977-1979).
103. Fowden, Barbarian Plain, cit. (n. 29), esp. pp. 141-173.
104. On the complex divisions oI Arab society, see Hoyland, Arabia, cit.
(n. 1), pp. 113-117; cI. Musil, Manners, cit. (n. 93), pp. 44-60; Lancaster,
Rwala Bedouin, cit. (n. 95), pp. 24-35 Ior modern divisions.
report violence and how much oI this is wrapped up in
captive taking
105
.
From the 4
th
century, in addition to his Life of Malchus,
Jerome reports a Saracen attack on Antony`s community in the
Thebaid in 356 in a notice Irom his Chronicle that is too brief
to treat the question oI captives
106
. Similarly, the so-called
Relatio Ammonii narrates at some length a Saracen raid on
the monastic settlement at Mt. Sinai in the 370s
107
. Although it
too reports nothing oI captive taking, and although the attack
was probably part oI a larger uprising initiated by the Saracen
queen Mwiya in 377/378
108
, the Relatio confrms that the
late antique push into the desert Iostered not just contacts but
also clashes. From the early 5
th
century we learn of similar
attacks Irom John Cassian on a group oI monastics living at
Thekoa south oI Bethlehem who were killed by 'Saracen
bandits but whose bodies were then venerated with near
violent devotion 'both by the priests oI that region and by the
entire Arab people
109
. Cassian`s phrasing summarizes neatly
the distinction he draws between sedentarists and nomads,
both natives of Palestine, but one termed Arabes and the other
Saraceni. Around the same time Jerome, whose monastery
was in Bethlehem, writes in general Iashion oI Saracens as
consummate thieves and raiders:
Instead of thief and crow, Arab is written in the
Hebrew, which can also mean Arabs, which people is
given over to thievery and even up to today makes raids
on the borders of Palestine and besieges the roads for
those going down from Jerusalem to Jericho
110
.
105. For an earlier summary, see H.J. Magoulias, The Lives of the Saints
in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries as Sources for the Internal and
External Enemies of the By:antine Empire, in `Eactnp, t\, Etuipciu,
Bu,uvtiev Laouoev, 48, 1990-1993, pp. 281-316.
106. Jer., Chron. s.a. 356 (Helm): Saraceni in monasterium beati Antonii
inruentes Sarmatam interhciunt; cI. Jita Pauli 12.4 (SC 508.170-2):
[Antonius]...ad monasterium quod postea a Saracenis occupatum est
regrediebatur.
107. Relatio Ammonii 2-7. For the Greek text, see D.G. Tsames and
K.G. Katsanes, To uptupooyiov tou Livu, Thessaloniki, 1989, with
English translation at Caner, History, cit. (n. 15), pp. 149-171. For the
Christian Palestinian Aramaic text and translation, see A.S. Lewis, The
Forty Martyrs of the Sinai Desert and the Story of Eulogius (Horae
Semiticae, 9), Cambridge, 1912. On the narrative as a historical source,
see P. Mayerson, An Inscription in the Monastery of St. Catherine and the
Martyr Tradition in Sinai, in DOP, 30, 1976, pp. 375-379 Id., Monks,
Martyrs, Soldiers , cit. |n. 15|, pp. 129-133; Id., The Ammonius Narrative.
Beduoin and Blemmye Attacks in Sinai, in G. Rendsburg et al. (dir.), The
Bible World. Essays in Honor of Cyrus H. Gordon, New York, 1980,
pp. 133-148 Id., Monks, Martyrs, Soldiers, cit. |n. 15|, pp. 133-163;
Shahd, BAFOC, cit. (n. 24), pp. 297-319; Caner, History, cit. (n. 15),
pp. 141-149.
108. On which see RuI., HE 11.6; Soc., 4.36; Soz., 6.38, with Lenski,
Failure of Empire, cit. (n. 102), pp. 204-209.
109. Cass., Conf. 6.1.1 (CSEL, XIII 153): sunt a discurrentibus Sarracenorum
latrunculis interempti. quorum corpora licet sciremus tam a pontihcibis
regionis illius quam ab universa plebe Arabum tanta veneratione
praerepta et inter reliquias martyrum conditus, ut innumeri populi e
duobus oppidis concurrentes gravissimum sibi certamen indixerunt.
110. In Hier. 6.40 (CSEL, LXXIV 40): Pro 'latrone` et 'cornice` in
hebrae 'arabe` scriptum est quod potest et 'arabas` signihcare,
quae gens latrociniis dedita usque hodie incursat terminos Palestinae
et descendentibus de Hierusalem Hierichum obsidet vias; cf. In
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 253
The late fIth-century Life of Theognius reports that a
Saracen or perhaps just a demonic vision in the guise oI
one chased its namesake Irom his cave at sword-point
111
.
The Egyptian communities oI Sketis and Nitria were set
upon in 407/408, 434, and 444 by Mazik nomads, who were
Berbers rather than Saracens, but whose attacks underline
the tension created by the expansion oI monastic settlement
into the territory oI pastoralist peoples
112
. From the late
fIth or early 6
th
century, Theodore of Petra describes a
nighttime raid on a monastery near Bostra during which the
Saracens carried oII the majority oI the monks
113
. From the
6
th
century, Cyril oI Scythopolis and his Iellow Palestinian
John Moschus recount numerous smaller scale raids on
monks by Saracen and Berber nomads that involved
pillaging, murder, and captive taking, and the Life of Jacob
Bardaeus describes how its namesake helped the JaInid
phylarch Hrith ibn Jabala to rid his people oI illness on
the condition that Hrith Iree a monk oI Sinai held captive
in the tent of one of his followers
114
. In the mid 6
th
century
Daniel oI Sketis was enslaved three times by neighboring
'barbarians, probably Berbers, but escaped each time,
the last after having murdered his master
115
. Finally, from
the mid to late 7
th
century, the Narrationes of Anastasius
of Sinai record multiple instances oI Saracen attacks at the
Holy Mountain, as Saracens interrupted trade routes, held
Christian captives as slaves, and launched at least two raids
on the community that killed many monks
116
.
Es. 5.21 (CCSL, LXXIII 208). See also Jerome`s description oI
Hilarion`s habitation near Gaza, which was subject to Saracen raids,
Vita Hilarionis 2.8 (SC, DVIII 218): nimis cruenta latrociniis loca; 3.1
(SC, DVIII 220): regio latrociniis infamis erat.
111. Paulus Helladicus, Jita Theognii 9 (ed. J. Van den Gheyn, Acta Sancti
Thegonii, in AnBoll, 10, 1891, pp. 78-113, at pp. 87-88).
112. On Scetis and Nitria, see H.G. Evelyn-White, The Monasteries of the
Wadin Natrun, 2. The History of the Monasteries of Scetis, New York,
1932, pp. 150-167, with sources.
113. Theodore Petraeus, Jita Theodosii, p. 83 (Usener): Lupuknvev
vuktep cac0ov an0o, to cv cipncvov capnouv ovuot\piov,
kckootc, oc t cvoov dauvtu ui_uetou, tou, aciovu, tev
ovu_ev uovtc, (_ovto.
114. Cyr. Scyth., Jita Euthymii 46 (Schwartz, pp. 67-68): capture oI monks by
Saracens in the time oI Anastasius; Vita Sabae 14 (Schwartz, p. 97): Sabas
is miraculously deIended Irom Saracen capture; Vita Abramii 1 (Schwartz,
p. 244): Saracens attack a monastery near Emesa; Joh. Mosch., Prat. 21
(PG, LXXXVII 2868): a Saracen murders a hermit on the Red Sea shore;
34 (PG, LXXXVII 2884): the capture by Saracens and ransom oI a slave oI
Alexander oI Antioch; 112 (PG, LXXXVII 2976): the capture oI Sketiote
monks by Mazaces and their ransom); 152 (PG, LXXXVII 3017): capture
and sale oI Marcellos oI Sketis; 155 (PG, LXXXVII 3024): Saracens with
a captive are conIronted by monks; Life of Jacob Bardaeus [PO, XIX
233-234|: Sinaite monk held captive in the camp oI the JaInids. See also
Ps. Anton. Plac., Itin. 39-40 (CSEL, XXXIX 185-186) on the danger oI
Saracen raids in the Sinai more generally.
115. Vita Daniel Scetiotae, rec. 8, at L. Clugnet, Vie et rcits de
labb Daniel le Sctiote, in ROC, 5, 1900, pp. 15-73, at pp. 71-73;
cI. B. Dahlman, Saint Daniel of Sketis, Uppsala, 2007, p. 114.
116. Narr. Anastasii Sinaitae 9, 26, 30, 35, app. (Nau, Text grec, cit. |n. 50|,
pp. 65, 75-76, 80-81, 87-89). On the various works attributed to 'Anastasius,
see J. Haldon, The Works of Anastasius of Sinai, in Av. Cameron and
L.I. Conrad (dir.), The By:antine and Early Islamic Near East, 1, London,
The same scenario can be reconstructed in even greater
detail from events that came just on the heels of the Muslim
conquests with the Persian sack oI Jerusalem in 614. This
disaster represented a total collapse oI Byzantine control
in the region that will have brought tribute payments to the
Saracens to a halt even as it wiped out the imperial Iorces
who normally acted as a counterbalance to these tribes in
the region. Furthermore, following Maurices elimination
of the Jafnid line and the dissolution of their confederation
in 582, the eastern Empire could no longer look to the
centralized Saracen leadership on which it had Iormerly
relied Ior control oI neighboring Arab groups. The resultant
power vacuum showed just how tenuous relations between
provincials and nomads could be as Saracens Irom near
and Iar took advantage oI the situation to execute razzias.
The Life of George of Cho:iba reports that this period
saw Irequent raids and enslavements oI monks Irom his
community in the Wdi el-Qilt near Jericho
117
. From the
same period we have an even more detailed eyewitness
report in a letter written ca. 620 by Antiochus Irom the
Lavra oI Sabas in the Wdi Kidron. In it he describes how a
band oI Saracens had set on his monastery one week beIore
Jerusalem Iell in May 614. Most oI the monks fed into the
desert, but the Saracens seized those who remained and
proceeded to torture and eventually kill Iorty Iour oI them
in an eIIort to extract inIormation about possible hidden
treasures
118
. Finally, a seventh-century epitome oI the Life
of John the Almsgiver reports how its hero, the archbishop
oI Alexandria, became involved in ransoming captives
from the Persians and the Madienians, a reference to the
ban Ma`add Irom the central Arabian peninsula
119
. As we
have seen, the Ma`add had been under the dominion the
south Arabian kingdom oI Himyar in the late 5
th
and early
6
th
centuries, and although the Himyarites had endured
major upheavals in the wake oI the Aksmite takeover oI
their kingdom in 525, some alliance may well have endured
into the 7
th
century as well. II so, like the Samaritans
captured by the JaInid Ab Karib in 529, many oI those
Palestinians seized in 614 may have ended up as slaves oI
1992, pp. 107-147; Caner, History, cit. (n. 15), pp. 172-173. I am grateIul to
Yannis Papadogiannakis Ior his advice on the works oI Anastasius.
117. Jita Georgii Cho:ebitae 7.31-8.34 (ed. C. Houze, Sancti Georgii
Cho:ebitae Confesoris et Monachi Jita Auctore Antonio Eius Discipulo,
in AnBoll, 7, 1888, pp. 95-144 and 336-370, at pp. 129-131, 134).
118. Antioch. Mon., Ep. ad Eust. (PG, LXXXIX 1421-1427); cI. J. Patrich,
Sabas, Leader of Palestinian Monasticism. A Comparative Study in
Eastern Monasticism, Fourth to Seventh Centuries, Washington (DC),
1995, pp. 326-327.
119. Jita Joannis Eleemosynarii 9 (ed. E. Lappa-Zizicas, Une epitome de
la Jie de st. Jean lAumonier par Jean et Sophronius, in AnBoll, 88,
1970, pp. 265-276, at p. 276. For the Ma`add and their connections
with Himyar, see Shahd, BASIC 1.1, cit. (n. 19), pp. 160-166; Robin,
Royaume Hufride, cit. (n. 26); Id., Arabes de Himyar, cit. (n. 23),
pp. 170-178; Hoyland, Arabia, cit. (n. 1), pp. 49-50; Fisher, Political
Development, cit. (n. 23), pp. 316-318. Zwettler (Ma`add, cit. |n. 17|)
is more skeptical that 'Ma`add represented a tribe or conIederation as
opposed to a general designation Ior nomadic Arabs.
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 254
the Himyarites. John the Almsgiver, it must be remembered,
could aIIord to rescue only twenty prisoners, but one can
assume that the Ma`add`s long journey to Palestine can
only have been proftable iI it netted many more.
The new Iashion Ior habitation in the desert thus helped
to Iorge contact but also to spark conficts with pastoralists
who had formerly been left to control this territory more or
less on their own
120
. It was these sorts oI encounters that
provoked the trenchant observer Ammianus to pronounce
that the Romans did not particularly want their Saracen
neighbors as either friends or enemies because of their
tendency to swoop down like rapacious kites and snatch up
any prey oI which they caught sight
121
. Indeed, while coexis-
tence and cooperation were probably more the rule than the
exception, tensions were always present and the potential
Ior violence lurked in the background oI every encounter.
The Piacenza Pilgrim, who traveled to Sinai through the
al-Tih desert in the late 6
th
century, offers an excellent case
oI just how this ambivalence played itselI out. He and Iellow
pilgrims chose to set oII Irom Elousa (Haluza) when they
knew the pagan Saracens oI the region were celebrating
their two-month religious holiday (Iollowing the vernal
equinox), Ior in this period the Saracens reIrained Irom
raiding. Along their way the pilgrims traded bread with
the wives and familiae sometimes translated slaves
oI Saracens in exchange Ior leather bags flled with cold
spring water
122
. But when the pilgrims returned north aIter
the close of the Saracen holiday, they consciously avoided
the desert route in Iavor oI the Iortifed coastal roads on
either side oI the peninsula Ior Iear that otherwise they
might be set upon. Raiding and captive taking were thus a
constant threat Irom the Saracens even iI their attacks were
as desultory as they were alarming. They tended to fall at
certain times and in certain places particularly in places
opened Ior travel and habitation by new waves oI Christian
120. Isaac, Limits of Empire, cit. (n. 15), pp. 213-218.
121. Amm., 14.4.1: Saraceni tamen nec amici nobis umquam nec hostes
optandi ultro citroque discursantes, quidquid inveniri poterat, momento
temporis parvi vastabant milvorum rapacium similes. For the stereotype
oI Saracen duplicity, see also Expositio totius mundi, 20 (Rouge): Sunt
similes Persis impii ac periuri et sponsiones non custodientes neque
belli neque alterius negotii; Theoph. Sim., 3.17.7; Men. Prot., Ir. 9.1
(Blockley); Procop., Bell. 1.17.47-48.
122. Anton. Plac., Itin. 36 (CSEL, XXXIX 183): Familia autem
Saracenorum uel uxores eorum uenientes de heremo, ad uiam sedentes
in lamentatione, et sareca missa ante se petiebant panem a transeuntibus
et ueniebant uiri ipsarum, adducebant utres cum aqua frigida de
interiore parte heremi et dabant, et accipiebant sibi panes et adducebant
resticulas cum radices, quorum odor suauitatis super omnia aromata,
nihil licentes; quia anathema habebant et dies festos suos celebrabant;
cf. 39 (CSEL, XXXIX 185). The annual religious truce is conrmed at
Nonnosus (FHG, IV 179-180 = Phot., Bib., cod. 3): 1v tuutui,, noi,
tui, auvnyupcoi auouv dyouoiv cip\vnv, ou apo, u\ou, ovov
u ku apo, dauvtu, tou, cvonoivtu, uv0peaou,; cf. Procop., Bell.
2.16.18. On familiae as slaves, see J. Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims
before the Crusades, Warminster, 1977, p. 87: Some of the servants and
wives of the Saracens; Caner, History, cit. (n. 15), p. 256: A group of
female slaves belonging to the Saracens (or else they were their wives).
ascetics and pilgrims in Late Antiquity. While peaceIul
encounters could be hoped Ior, caution was always in order,
as was an awareness of the societal tendencies and migra-
tional patterns oI a people alongside whom the sedentarists
lived, but with whom they did not always get along.
Fortication Against Saracen Attack
It is little wonder that the settled inhabitants oI the
territory along the edge of the fertile crescent made every
eIIort to dampen the impact oI Saracen raiding on their
lives by constructing Iortifcations, whether on their own
or with the support oI the imperial administration. For all
their skill at guerilla raids, the Saracens were notoriously
poor at attacking Iorts
123
. It thus made sense to build walls,
towers, and redoubts to protect communities and natural
resources Irom their incursions. The Iortifcation systems
built throughout the eastern Empire have generated heated
debate. While some, Iollowing especially S.T. Parker,
believe that these were established frst and Ioremost by the
imperial government in a systematic Iashion in order to seal
oII provincial territory Irom incursions by outsiders, others,
Iollowing above all B. Isaac, see these Iorts as having been
placed much less systematically along roadways rather than
deIensive perimeters, and as having been designed to exert
control over unruly provincials
124
. This is not the venue to
reopen the debate, but it is worth investigating, in brieI,
explicit attestations oI the goals oI these Iortifcations in
late ancient sources. These indicate overwhelmingly that,
at least during the late antique period, the eIIort and money
that went into the creation of these structures was aimed at
curbing attacks by outsiders nomads and Persians
125
.
The earliest known epigraphic attestation to a Iortress built
with the express purpose oI inhibiting nomadic attacks dates
already to the Severan period (c. 200 CE) and records the
construction of a praesidium near Aleppo (at Khan al-Qusayr),
'Ior public security and against the terror oI the tent-dwelling
123. Procop., Aed. 2.9.4 (Haury): uouvutoi yp tci_ou_civ cioi Lupuknvo
uoci, kui ti uutev, v oite tu_oi, tci_iou uuotutov ku an(
ouv0ctov caooiov t op yivctui; cf. Bell. 2.19.12.
124. Contrast S.T. Parker, Romans and Saracens. A History of the Arabian
Frontier, Winona Lake (In), 1986; Id., Roman Frontier, cit. (n. 15), with
B. Isaac, Bandits in Judaea and Arabia, in HSCP, 88, 1984, pp. 171-203;
Id., Limits of Empire, cit. (n. 15), and GraI, Rome and the Saracens, cit.
(n. 15); Id., The Jia Militaris in Arabia, in DOP 51, 1997, pp. 271-281;
cf. Di Segni, Epigraphic Evidence, cit. (n. 97), pp. 150-155. For a middle
ground, see Mayerson, Saracens, cit. (n. 15); Millar, Roman Near East, cit.
(n. 25), pp. 180-189; A. Lewin, The New Frontiers of Late Antiquity in the
Near East, in O. Hekster and T. Kaizer (dir.), Frontiers in the Roman World
(Proceedings of the Ninth Workshop of the International Network Impact of
Empire, Durham, 16-19 April 2009), Leiden, 2011, pp. 234-263.
125. In what Iollows Iortifcations in Osrhoene and Upper Mesopotamia,
which were primarily intended to protect against Persian assaults, will
not be discussed. No easy line can be drawn between Iorts aimed at
these two enemies, for surely no such line was drawn in Antiquity.
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 255
Arabs
126
. Similarly, an inscription oI 334 Iound at MaIraq in
the Transjordan records the construction of a cistern by the
Protector Vincentius in order to limit the impact oI ambushes
by Saracens on neighboring farmers as they collected water
127
.
A recently published inscription oI Petra records the victory
oI a certain Horion, who boasted oI deIending the city and
the broader region oI Palestina Salutaris against 'barbarian-
speaking enemies and constructing a Iort Ior Iuture protection.
The inscription, in Homeric verse, most likely dates to the late
5
th
or early 6
th
century, and the barbarian-speaking enemies
it mentions must surely be Saracens
128
. Most inscriptions
recording the construction oI Iorts say nothing oI the specifc
enemies at whom they were aimed, whether internal or
external
129
. Few though these examples are, their testimony
indicates that, when Iort-builders oI the region chose to
identiIy their intended opponents, these were Saracen nomads.
We also have a number of textual sources that attribute
the creation oI deIensive works specifcally to the desire to
protect against Saracens. From the 4
th
century, Ammianus
attests the building oI mounds (aggeres) near Charcha
(tepe) along the Tigris to prevent Saracen incursions into
Roman territory; in a more generalizing passage he describes
the province oI Arabia as, 'replete with strong Iorts and
castles, which the vigilant concern of earlier generations has
erected in suitable and deIensible passes Ior the purpose oI
repelling attacks by the neighboring barbarians, i.e. Arab
nomads
130
. Around the same time Egeria reported that the
imperial government had constructed the Iort at Clysma
on the GulI oI Suez, 'Ior deIense and order against the
126. CIL, III, 128: Imp(eratoribus) Caesaribus / Lucio Septimo (') et
Pio Pertinaci / semper Augusto / Livius Calphurnius(') provin(ciae)
Coelosuria(') p(raetor) / hoc presidium construxit / in securitatem
publicam / et / scaenitarum Arabum terrorem.
127. Ap, 1948.136: Cum pervidisset Jincentius Protector agens basie
plurimos ex agrariensibus dum aquas sibi in uso transfererent(') insidatos
a Saracenos(') perisse, receptaculum aquarum ex fundamentis fecit,
Optato et Paulino vv cc conss. C. Zuckerman, Aur. Jalerianus (293/305)
et Fl. Severinus (333), commandants en Arabie, et la forteresse dA:raq,
in AnTard, 2, 1994, pp. 83-88, has shown that Vincentius was working on
a larger, systematic Iort system under imperial auspices, cI. D. Kennedy,
The Roman Army in Jordan, 2
nd
ed., London, 2004, pp. 60-61, 71-72. For
an older view, see Isaac, Limits of Empire, cit. (n. 15), pp. 175-176.
128. R. Merkelbach and J. Stauber, Steinepigramme aus dem Griechischen
Osten, 4 vols., Munich, 2002, 22/71/01: oqiou...upupoevou. For
analysis, see A. Lewin, `Amr Ibn `Adi, Mavia, the Phylarchs and the
Late Roman Army. Peace and war in the Near East, in A. Lewin and
P. Pellgrini (dir.), The Late Roman Army in the Near East from Diocletian
to the Arab Conquest (BAR IS, 117), OxIord, 2007, pp. 243-262, at
pp. 250-255. For the use oI barbaroi / barbaroye to designate Arab
pastoralists, see E.K. Fowden, Barbarian Plain, cit. (n. 29), p. 65.
129. F.R. Trombley, War and society in rural Syria c. 502-613 AD.
Observations on the epigraphy, in BMGS, 21, 1997, pp. 154-209,
argues that the epigraphically attested construction oI numerous small
forts and towers in Syria during the sixth century was intended to
protect against Nasrid raiders, a reasonable conjecture, but he is unable
to pinpoint specifc attestations to this in the epigraphy.
130. Amm., 25.6.8 (a. 363): riparum aggeribus humana manu instructis,
ne Saraceni deinceps Assyriam persultarent. Amm., 14.8.13: castrisque
oppleta validis et castellis, quae ad repellendos gentium vicinarum excursus
sollicitudo pervigil veterum per opportunos saltus erexit et cautos.
incursion of Saracens, and half a century later, the author
of the Life of Alexander Akoimetos describes how, between
the Roman and Persian territories, there are fortresses built
every ten to twenty milestones from each other for defense
against the barbarians, a word he later uses to describe
nomadic Arabs
131
. Cyril oI Scythopolis tells us that, aIter the
suppression oI the Samaritan revolt in 529, the archimandrite
Sabas went in person to visit Justinian and request a sum
of a thousand solidi with which to construct and garrison a
Iort against Saracen attacks
132
. Ps. Zachariah attributes the
construction of the massive fort of Dara to the desire, to
guard the Bth `Arabhy Irom the Iorays oI the Persians
and Saracens (Tayyye)
133
. He also claims that construction
on the Iort at Thannuris (Tel-Tuneinir) was begun to provide
the region with shelter from marauding bands of Saracens
(Tayyye), a notice that is confrmed by Procopius who holds
that this same Iort was designed to prevent enemy Saracens
Irom crossing the Chabur River and wreaking havoc on the
settled populations on the other side
134
. Indeed, Procopius
oIIers numerous testimonia to the construction oI Iortifca-
tions with the express purpose oI inhibiting Saracen raids.
The walls oI Sergiopolis-RusIa were Iortifed to prevent
Saracens from overrunning it
135
. Justinian rebuilt Palmyra
to prevent Saracens Irom crossing the desert into Roman
territory to conduct raids
136
. Finally, he tells, Justinian paid
131. Petr. Diac., Y6 (CCSL, CLXXV 101), which is derived from lost
material in the Peregrinatio Egeriae: pro defensione et disciplina pro
incursione Saracenorum. Vita Alexandri Akoimtes 33 (ed. E. de Stroop,
La Vie dAlexandre lAcmte, PO, 6, Paris, 1911, pp. 645-704 at 683).
132. Cyr. Scyth., Vita Sabae 72 (Schwartz, p. 175): ku oi t\v tev
Lupuknvev caiopo\v t\v uctcpuv aupukuoicv yunvotntu kccioui
Lou; tei cvooottei uao toi onooiou oyou kotpov oikooonoui
cv tni cp\ei aup kte tev oi tn, cn, ctpiotqto ouotvtev
ovuotnpiev; cI. Patrich, Sabas, cit. (n. 118), pp. 316-319. Cyr. Scyth.,
Vita Sabae 83 (Schwartz, p. 188), indicates that the money given Ior this
construction was eventually turned over to the patriarch oI Jerusalem and
distributed to the poor. Isaac, Limits of Empire, cit. (n. 15), p. 92, sees this
as a sign that the Saracen threat was not serious, but the passage itselI belies
this reading.
133. Ps. Zach. Rhet., 7.6 (Hamilton and Brooks, Syriac Chronicle, cit. |n. 55|,
p. 35 Greatrex, Phenix and Horn, Chronicle, cit. |n. 55|, pp. 247-248).
134. Ps. Zach. Rhet., 9.2 (Hamilton and Brooks, Syriac Chronicle, cit. |n. 55|,
p. 92 Greatrex, Phenix and Horn, Chronicle, cit. |n. 55|, pp. 317-318);
Procop. Aed. 2.6.15-16: \v oc ti, _epo, aup Ouvvoupio, to cyu, ( o\
cai_epi,civ Lupuknvoi, toi, aocioi, oiuuivouoi aotuov Aoppuv
ao\ couoiu cyivcto, cv0cv oc opecvoi, oiuokcovvuo0ui cv uv tc
t\v inv ouociv tc ku uiun ououv ku to po,, o tuut uvc_ci,
kutu0civ tc uoccotcpov tou, (kncvou, u t ckciv _epiu Teuiou,.
u viv aupyov koio cyuv ck i0ou oknpoi 1ouotiviuvo, uoicu,
cv t( _ep; tout; ocicvo, cvtui0 tc poupv uiooyettnv
kutuotnocvo, uvuotcciv t, tev aociev caiopo, auvtce,
o_uoc, toitov caitc_vnocvo, kut` uutev apooov. For a critical
reassessment oI Procopius, De aedihciis, see the round table published in
AnTard, 8, 2000, pp. 7-180.
135. Procop., Aed. 2.9.3-4: tci_iouti pu_utt; acpic\kcouv, oov tou,
ckciv Lupuknvou, uaokpouco0ui oiov tc civui c caiopon, uuto ccciv.
136. Procop., Aed. 2.11.10-12: tuutnv uoicu, 1ouotiviuvo, oi _povou nko,
cpnov ca aciotov ycycvncvnv o_upeuoi tc oyou ci,ooiv caippeou,,
apo, oc ku uotev acpiouoiu, ku uuktnpiou otputietev canocvo,,
t, tev Lupuknvev caiopo, uvc_uitiocv. On Procopius` report concerning
RusIa, see T. Ulbert, Procopius, De Aedihciis. Einige berlegungen :u
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 256
to construct the Iortifcation walls around the monastery at
Mt. Sinai in order to protect it Irom Saracen raiding
137
.
These textual and epigraphic sources largely report
on Iorts built to protect non-military settlements, oIten on
local initiative, though Irequently with imperial Iunds or
the aid oI imperial personnel. They tell us nothing about
the vast majority of forts in the region that cluster along
roadways, most Iamous among them those on the so-called
Strata Diocletiana stretching along the desert edge from
Sura on the Euphrates southward to Azraq where it joined
the Iortifed Via Nova Trajana down to Aila on the GulI
of Aqaba. Such forts are a major feature of the standing
remains oI Roman occupation in the area, and many are
attested epigraphically, giving us some idea oI their dating,
largely to the late 3
rd
and 4
th
centuries. Without entering
more deeply into the vexed question oI the nature and
purpose oI this system, we would ask those who argue
against these being designed to control the movements of
Saracen nomads to contend with this catalogue oI explicit
testimonia in Iavor oI this hypothesis
138
. Meanwhile,
regardless of conclusions about the larger system, we can
say beyond doubt that Rome and its eastern provincials
regularly built at least some, indeed many forts with the
express intention oI protecting settled populations Irom the
attacks oI external enemies, especially the Saracens and, in
northern Mesopotamia, the Persians.
The Uses of Captives and Slaves
among the Saracens
Saracen attacks were thus a very real threat to the settled
populace oI the eastern provinces oI the Roman Empire. The
threat was of course much more acute from those Saracens
Buch II, Syrien, in AnTard, 8, 2000, pp. 137-147, at pp. 142-145, which does
not, however, discuss Procopius mention oI Saracens.
137. Procop., Aed. 5.8.9: c, oc toi, pou, tov apoaoou ku poupiov
c_upetutov o uoicu, outo, (kooo\outo, uukt\piov tc otputietev
uiooyetutov kutcot\outo, e, \ cv0cvoc Lupuknvo pupoi c_oicv
dtc tn, _epu, cp\ou oon,, acp oi cpntui, cociv e, u0puiotutu
c, t ca Huuiotivn, _epiu. P. Mayerson (Procopius or Eutychius on
the Construction of the Monastery at Mount Sinai: Which is the More
Reliable Source?, in BASOR, 230, 1978, pp. 33-38 = Id., Monks, Martyrs,
Soldiers, cit. |n. 15|, pp. 134-139) prefers the tenth-century account of
the Melkite patriarch of Alexandria Eutychius (originally in Arabic, Latin
trans. at PG, CXI 1071-1072) to Procopius. Regardless, both accounts
indicate that the walls were constructed to protect against nomadic Arab
raiders. From the Relatio Amonii 3 and 5 we learn that a fortied tower
(aupyo, / o_upeu) existed near Mt. Sinai already in the fourth century.
P. Grossmann, Early Monks at Mount Moses and Justinians Monastery,
in Pegaso: Rivista annuale di cultura mediterranea, 1, 2001, pp. 177-
201, at pp. 179-184, publishes evidence for the archaeological remains
of this earlier structure.
138. Gatier, Romains, cit. (n. 41), is able to show that Amm., 14.7.7 proves
a Saracen attack on the Iort Thelsee, attested at Not. Dig. or. 32.13
(ed. C.N. Faleiro, La Notitia Dignitatum: Nueva edicion critica y
comentario historico |Nueva Roma, 25|, Madrid, 2005, p. 257), evidence
at the very least that the Saracens regarded this system as a threat.
who were allied with the Persians than from those who lived
near and regularly Iought with Rome. Nevertheless, these
latter also raided their Roman neighbors, at times on a large
scale and with the express permission oI their phylarchs, as
with Nu`mn`s raids in 582 (above, n. 67). At other times,
such raids by neighboring Saracens apparently occurred
on a much smaller scale, when subordinate tribal groups
either refused to recognize the authority of their phylarchs
or simply ignored their orders to reIrain Irom attacks. An
example oI the latter can be Iound in the Narrationes of Ps.
Nilus oI Ancyra, a 5
th
century text that tells the tale of a father
and son who traveled to Mt. Sinai in pursuit oI an ascetic
lifestyle but instead met with disaster when Saracen raiders
attacked the monastic habitations at the Ioot oI the Holy
Mountain and killed many monks
139
. The Iather was spared
entirely, but his son, Theodoulos was taken into captivity
with the intention that he be sacrifced to the Morning
Star the Arab goddess al-`Uzz
140
. To his good fortune,
the Saracens slept past dawn the hour oI sacrifce and
decided instead to take him north into Palestina Tertia and
there attempt to sell him to the provincials. In the town oI
Sobata (Shivta) they were at frst unable to fnd anyone
willing to offer more than two solidi for the youth, but
when they threatened to kill him in cold blood in Iront oI
potential buyers, he was purchased and eventually sold on
to the bishop oI Elousa, a city whose temple oI al-`Uzz
made it a natural place Ior cultural interchange between
nomadic and settled Arabs
141
. There the boys father found
him working under a paramone contract Ior the bishop.
The Narrationes have long been acknowledged to be
heavily imbued with plot elements and even type scenes
Irom the Greek novel. As such, the text is not to be
trusted as an accurate account oI a lived experience Irom
Late Antiquity
142
. Nevertheless its most recent translator,
D. Caner, has shown that the story is flled with accurate
details about the geography and ecclesiastical history oI
139. Ps. Nilus, Narr. 4.1-3. See the excellent English translation at Caner,
History, cit. (n. 15), pp. 73-140.
140. Ps. Nilus, Narr. 4.4-5, 5.2-3; cI. 3.2. On al-`Uzz, see W. Robertson
Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, rev. ed., London, 1903,
pp. 300-302; T. Fahd, Le Pantheon de lArabie centrale la veille
de lHgire, Paris, 1968, pp. 163-182; J. Patrich, The Formation of
Nabatean Art. Prohibition of a Graven Image Among the Nabateans,
Jerusalem, 1990, pp. 60-62, 85-86, 100-103, and below n. 148-150.
141. Ps. Nilus, Narr. 6.19, 7.3-11. Jer., Vita Hilarionis 16.1-5 (SC, DVIII
256-258) attests to Elousa`s temple oI al-`Uzz and its attraction to
Saracen nomads; cI. Epiphan., Pan. 51.22.11 (Holl, Collatz, Markschies,
and Rattmann). On Elousa`s role as a meeting point between nomads
and sedentarists, see P. Mayerson, The City of Elusa in the Literary
Sources of the Fourth-Sixth Centuries, in IEJ, 33, 1983, pp. 247-253
Id., Monks, Martyrs, Soldiers, cit. |n. 15|, pp. 197-203.
142. K. Heussi, Untersuchungen :u Nilus dem Asketen, Leipzig, 1917;
R. Devresse, Le christianisme dans la pnisule sinatique des origines
larrive des Musulmans, in RBi, 49, 1940, pp. 205-223; J. Henninger, Ist
der sogenannte Nilus-Bericht eine Brauchbare religionsgeschichtliche
Quelle?, in Anthropos, 50, 1955, pp. 81-148; M. Link, Die Er:hlungdes
Pseudo-Neilos. Ein sptantiker Mrtyrerroman, Munich, 2005, pp. 8-24.
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 257
Palestine and the Sinai and that its author likely came Irom
Elousa and had extensive knowledge oI the region and its
peoples, settled and nomadic
143
. It can thus be used as a
reasonable refection, iI not a precise recreation, oI Saracen
captivity in the region
144
. This makes it all the more inter-
esting that the author describes how the raid he recounts
created tension within the Saracen community. The
surviving victims were able to fee to the city oI Pharan
(Wdi Feiran) and there to summon aid Irom a Saracen
phylarch, whom he calls Ammanes and who was allied
with the city by a treaty. Ammanes was incensed by the
attack and promised to hand over the perpetrators and
return any surviving captives and booty, Ior, 'he did not
want to dissolve the terms oI the peace, since he cherished
the treaty he had with [the Pharanites] on account of the
relieI (aupuu0iu: presumably tribute payment in kind or
cash) he received Irom them
145
. This implies not only that
nomadic Saracens served as much to protect as to attack
sedentary provincials (as well as non-provincial Arabs like
the Pharanites), but also that Saracen raiding and captive
taking were by no means always directed Irom the top
down and could even occur in direct contravention of the
mandates of a local phylarch
146
.
It is interesting that Theodoulos and a Iellow captive
youth were originally intended as sacrifcial victims. This
gruesome Iate has given pause to modern commentators
unwilling to believe that such an atrocity could represent
anything more than a literary fantasy
147
. Yet human sacrifce
among the Saracens is reported quite Irequently in Greek
and Syriac historical sources, particularly in the context
oI captives being oIIered to the goddess al-`Uzz
148
. Most
143. D.F. Caner, Sinai Pilgrimage and Ascetic Romance. Pseudo-Nilus
Narrationes in Context, in L. Ellis and F.L. Kidner (dir.), Travel,
Communication and Geography in Late Antiquity. Sacred and Profane,
Aldershot, 2004, pp. 135-147; Id., History, cit. (n. 15), pp. 51-63, 73-
83. CI. R. Solzbacher, Mnche, Pilger und Sara:enen. Studien :um
Frhchristentum auf der sdlichen Sinaihalbinsel von den Anfngen
bis :um Beginn islamischer Herrschaft, Altenberge, 1989, pp. 216-251.
144. See already Mayerson, Inscription, cit. (n. 107); Id., Ammonius, cit.
(n. 107).
145. Ps. Nilus, Narr. 6.9, 11-12, 17, at 11: uciv yp ouk 0cc tou, tn,
cip\vn, 0coou,, e, c\vuc, to apo, uutou, cvoaovoov uyuaev oi t\v c
uutev aupuu0iuv, translation from Caner, History, cit. (n. 15), p. 121. On
Ammanes` possible Arabic name, see Shahd, BAFIC, cit. (n. 25), p. 137.
146. An exact parallel can be Iound in the incident mentioned above at
n. 114 where Hrith ibn Jabala was unaware that one oI his Iellow
tribesmen was holding captive a monk Irom Sinai but, upon learning
oI it, executed the captor and Ireed the monk, Life of Jacob Bardaeus
(PO, XIX 233-234). Compare also the incident described at Ps. Josh.
Styl. 88 (Wright, pp. 82-83) with discussion above at n. 77.
147. Esp. Henninger, Sogennante Nilus-Bericht, cit. (n. 142), pp. 101-113.
148. Procop., Bell. 2.28.13-14; Joh. Mosch., Prat. 155 (PG, LXXXVII
3024); Ps. Zach. Rhet., 8.5 (Hamilton and Brooks, Syriac Chronicle,
cit. |n. 55|, p. 206 Greatrex, Phenix and Horn, Chronicle, cit. |n. 55|,
p. 298); Michael Syrus 9.16 (Kiraz, Ibrahim and Brock, Texts, cit.
|n. 55|, pp. 270-271 Chabot, Chronique, cit. |n. 55|, 2, pp. 178-179).
For debate about the veracity oI this testimony, see Hoyland, Arabia,
cit. (n. 1), p. 163; Greatrex and Lieu, Roman Eastern Frontier, cit.
(n. 49), p. 86; Caner, History, cit. (n. 15), pp. 45-49, 95-96.
telling among these testimonia are the homilies oI Isaac oI
Antioch, discussed above, which report that many oI the
captives taken at Bth Hur in 474 were sacrifed to al-`Uzz
or, as he calls the deity, Kawkabt (Star God)
149
. Such local
and contemporary testimony preached beIore a congre-
gation that had just witnessed the events described is
not easily reIuted by modern literary historians, especially
given that Isaac is unlikely to have had access to the Greek
accounts these claim formed the literary basis for such
reports. Given its Irequency in many premodern cultures,
human sacrifce should not seem as shocking as some have
supposed and should by no means be excluded as a Ieature
oI captivity to Saracens, at least to those that remained
pagan. For many victims, however, and especially the old
and infrm, ceremonial was dispensed with. Victims oI
al-`Uzz, Irequently associated with Aphrodite, apparently
needed to be young and beautiful, so those less favored
by nature to serve as victims or slaves were likely to have
suffered summary execution. This was the fate of the Sinai
monastics mentioned early in the Narrationes, and such
random murder is also described in the Relatio Ammonii
and a passage Irom Procopius on prisoners oI Mundhir the
Nasrid: 'most he killed without consideration, while he
gave up the others Ior great sums oI money
150
.
This last notice reminds us that, when Theodoulos role
as victim Iell through, he was sold or perhaps ransomed back
into the Empire, another common Iate oI Saracen captives.
In Theodoulos` instance, ransom is more likely than sale.
The price oI two solidi oIIered by the citizens oI Sobata
Ior him was only about one tenth the average price oI an
adult slave in Late Antiquity
151
. This would seem to refect
the Iact that potential buyers were chary oI the probability
that Theodoulous was a freeborn citizen and thus entitled
to return to free status by right of postliminium once he
reentered imperial jurisdiction
152
. The Bishop oI Elousa,
who eventually acquired control over him, would thus have
149. Isaac oI Antioch, Hom. 11.129-130, 345-346; 12.410-460 (Bickell,
Isaaci, cit. |n. 49|, pp. 244-247); cI. Klugkist, Die beiden Homilien, cit.
(n. 29).
150. Ps. Nilus, Narr. 4.1-3; cI. 5.5-9; Relatio Ammonii 3-5, with Mayerson,
Inscription, cit. (n. 107); Procop., Bell. 1.17.41: kut ao, uc
upiou, uvopuaooi,ev, ku uutev tou, cv aciotou, uaoktcivev
ouocv oy;, tou, oc dou, uaooioocvo, _pntev cyev. A
similar taste Ior bloodletting is attested in pre-Islamic Arabic poetry,
Arberry, Seven Odes, cit. (n. 70), pp. 182, 205-206, 225-226.
151. On slave prices, see H.-J. Drexhage and K. RuIfng, Antike
Sklavenpreise, in P. Mauritsch et al. (dir.), Antike Lebenswelten.
Konstan: Wandel Wirkungsmacht. Festschrift fr Ingomar Weiler
:um 70. Geburtstag, Wiesbaden, 2008, pp. 321-351; K. Harper, Slave
Prices in Late Antiquity (and in the Jery Long Term), Historia, 59,
2010, pp. 206-238. See also C. Morrison, Monnaie et prix a By:ance
du V
e
au VII
e
sicle, in Hommes et richesses dans lEmpire by:antin,
1. IV
e
-VII
e
sicle, Paris, 1989, pp. 240-260, pp. 253-254, which includes
ransoms, most of which are also higher than two solidi.
152. On postliminium, see M.V. Sanna, Ricerche in tema di redemptio ab
hostibus, Cagliari, 1998; Ead., Nuove ricerche in tema di postliminium
e redemptio ab hostibus, Cagliari, 2001.
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 258
thought of his investment in Theodoulos as a ransom rather
than a purchase. Ransoming captives Irom barbarians was
an activity regularly engaged in by Christian bishops Irom
the 3
rd
century onward
153
. Nevertheless, by the 5
th
century
ransomers were entitled to the return of their investment
in cash or fve-years labor in quasi-servitude Irom their
benefciary
154
. While some bishops piously eschewed the
opportunity to recapitalize their outlays, others conspicu-
ously did not
155
, as appears to be the case with the bishop oI
Elousa. This would explain the author`s use oI the legal word
paramone to describe Theodoulos situation, for this was the
word appropriate to his quasi-servile position at Elousa
156
.
Here again, we have a number oI explicit testimonia
that Saracens also regularly exchanged their captives
Ior ransoms, beginning already with the frst substantive
reIerence to them in Greek, Eusebius` quotation Irom
Dionysius oI Alexandria (HE, 6.42.3-4, cited at n. 31).
In the later period, the evidence Ior ransoms, as indeed
all evidence, becomes more abundant. In 524, Mundhir
the Nasrid was able to commandeer a large ransom Ior
the release of the Roman generals Timostratus and John,
whom he had captured several years previously
157
. Then
in 530, aIter raiding in the territory oI Antioch, Mundhir
was met by an embassy organized through the Roman
153. See C. Osiek, The Ransom of captives. Evolution of a tradition, in
HThR, 74, 1981, pp. 365-386; W. Klingshirn, Caesarius of Arles and
the Ransoming of Captives, in JRS, 75, 1985, pp. 183-203.
154. Const. Sirm., 16 = CTh V 7.2 = CJ VIII 50.20; cI. CJ I 4.11 (Dec. 10,
409). For earlier policy on the repayment oI ransomers, see S. Connolly,
Roman Ransomers, in AHB, 20, 2006, pp. 115-131.
155. E.g. Testamentum Berthramni, 69 (ed. M. Weidemann, Das Testament des
Bischofs Berthramn von Le Mans vom 27. Mr: 616. Untersuchungen :u
Besit: und Geschichte einer Frnkishen Familie im 6. und 7. Jahrhundert,
Mainz, 1986, pp. 46-47; Testamentum Remigii, 32 (Monumenta Germaniae
Historica, Scriptores Rerum Merowingicarum, III 339).
156. On paramone, see A.E. Samuel, The Role of Paramone Clauses in
Ancient Documents, in JJP, 15, 1965, pp. 221-311. The author clearly
reports that Theodoulos was sold by the Saracens to an initial buyer and
then resold to the bishop oI Elousa: Ps. Nilus, Narr. 7.11: oite, ouv
c ti, cc\ou, aotviecvov ku oukpuovtu capiuto oi,, kukci0cv
cvtui0u, e, uv0vci,, cevnu. Later, however, he makes it clear that
the bishop did not regard Theodoulos as a slave, Ps. Nilus, Narr. 7.17:
1 oc 0coi\, tev uuto0i caiokoao,... cvciv cv aup` uut( aupckci
ku iopove, auouv canyyccto cv auoiv uvauuoiv, e, o` v \
ooui iuv apooyciv uaovoiu tn, uacp toi auioo, ocoocvn, tin,
noc ocoaotiketcpov uauitciv t\v aupuov\v. Paramone is the
standard legal rider attached to manumission contracts in the Greek
East and required Ireed slaves to 'remain with their patron Ior a fxed
period, usually until the latter`s death, cI. R. Zelnick-Abramovitz, Not
Wholly Free. The Concept of Manumission and the Status of Manumitted
Slaves in the Ancient Greek World, Leiden, 2005, pp. 222-248. Caner,
History, cit. (n. 15), p. 134, n. 223, thus assumes Ps. Nilus reIers to a
manumission, but this would imply that the bishop held Theodoulos as
a slave, which was explicitly Iorbidden by law. As Samuel, cit., reveals,
paramone can also be used of a long term labor contract.
157. Procop., Bell. 1.17.43-45; Evag., 4.12; Ps. Zach. Rhet., 8.3 (Hamilton
and Brooks, Syriac Chronicle, cit. |n. 55|, p. 195 Greatrex, Phenix and
Horn, Chronicle, cit. |n. 55|, pp. 283-286); Nonnosus (FHG, IV 179
Photius, Bib. cod. 3); Mart. Arethas 25; Simeon oI Bth Arsm, Letter
(Guidi, La lettera, cit. |n. 90|, pp. 501-502, cI. JeIIerey, Christianity, cit.
|n. 90|, p. 204). See also PLRE 2, Ioannes 70; Timostratus; cI. Greatrex,
Rome and Persia, cit. (n. 55), p. 131, 228-230.
phylarch Taizanes, which conveyed a massive ransom
that was oIIered Ior Mundhir`s prisoners
158
. And after the
Saracen raids in the wake oI the Persian sack oI Jerusalem
in 614, as we have seen, the epitome oI the Life of John
the Almsgiver mentions the ransom oI Christian monks and
nuns Irom around Jerusalem at a price oI 60 solidi per head,
nearly three times the average value of an adult slave
159
.
High-status captives were oI course more valuable and thus
more likely to be kept alive and made the subject oI negoti-
ations, but the collective ransom brokered Ior the residents
Irom the Antiochn makes it clear that Saracen raiders
were also willing to seek ransoms on less exalted victims.
II, however, some captives met an early death or were
ransomed, many others were most certainly kept or sold
as slaves. The former was true in the case of Malchus,
with whom this study began. Malchus was captured and
transported apparently to the Chaburn and there made
to tend the focks oI his maser as a slave Ior some years
beIore eIIecting his fight. He was, as we have seen, one
of a number of slaves held by his master, nor is his case
unique. A similar tale is told by the Sinaite author of a
series oI mid-7
th
century Narrationes associated with
the Anastasius oI Sinai. One oI these describes briefy a
Christian named Georgios Adraam who was enslaved to a
Saracen and served him as a camel herder. Given his hybrid
Greek-Semitic name, Georgios was perhaps also a captive
provincial, and, like Malchus, he had grown weary oI his
condition and reported having begged Ior release Irom an
aged ascetic who appeared to him in a vision
160
. So too,
Thomas oI Marg (f. 860) reports an experience eerily
similar to Jeromes in a tale datable to c. 740. Thomas
relates how the bishop oI Hadhatt (Haditha) met another
such victim while journeying near the Jabal Sinjar. This
man had been a priest in Damascus but was enslaved by
nomadic raiders, who transported him eastward and made
him serve as a herder Ior some Iorty years. Over this period
he became integrated into their clan as oIten happens with
captives in segmented societies and no longer wished to
fee or be ransomed.
161
While it must be granted that the
158. Joh. Mal. 18.59 (Thurn, pp. 386-387); cI. Shahd, BASIC 1.1, cit.
(n. 19), pp. 79-82.
159. See above, n. 151.
160. Narr. Anastasii Sinaitae, 26 (Nau, Text grec, cit. |n. 50|, pp. 75-76);
cf. Caner, History, cit. (n. 15), pp. 193-194, esp. n. 115 on the possible
etymology oI (A)draam.
161. Thomas oI Marg, Ktb d-risne 2.41 (ed. and trans. E.A. Wallis
Budge, The Book of Governors. The Historia Monastica of Thomas,
Bishop of Marga, AD 840, London, 1893, Syriac at vol. 1, pp. 130-
135, English trans. at vol. 2, pp. 273-281). On the (possible) date oI the
incident, see J.M. Fiey, Assyrie chrtienne : Contribution ltude de
lhistoire et de la gographie ecclsiastiques et monastiques du nord de
lIraq, Beirut, 1965, 1, p. 108. On the rapid integration oI captives into
tribal societies, see J.F. Brooks, Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship
and Community in the Southwest Borderlands, Chapel Hill (NC), 2002;
E. HaeIeli and K. Sweeney, Captors and Captives. The 1704 French
and Indian Raid on Deerheld, Amherst (Ma), 2003, pp. 145-163, and,
with reIerence to pre-Islamic Arabs, Robertson Smith, Kinship, cit.
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 259
latter two stories both postdate the major societal changes
in this region that accompanied the Muslim conquest, they
seem to refect the continuation oI cultural patterns like
those that swept up Malchus three to Iour centuries earlier.
For Malchus and his Iemale companion, and likely the
Damascene priest as well, their enslavement at times meant
enduring a masters seething rage and death threats while in
servitude and risking deadly pursuit iI one attempted escape.
For many women, enslavement also meant rape which, iI
they were lucky, could then verge into concubinage and
even wiIehood. Saracen captive brides are, Ior example,
attested in Ephiphanius as well as Theodore Lector, who
claims that the Saracen queen Mwiya was originally a
Roman provincial girl taken captive and married to the
phylarch oI the Tankhids
162
. The capture oI brides is also
widely reported in pre-Islamic Arabic sources, even to the
extent that, in his still unsurpassed study oI Kinship and
Marriage in Early Arabia, W. Robertson Smith could claim,
'Instances oI marriage by capture might be accumulated
to an indefnite extent Irom history and tradition. At the
time oI Mohammed the practice was universal
163
. Indeed,
bride abduction is widely reported among many premodern
segmented societies and need not surprise us in the case oI
the Saracens
164
.
It is revealing to learn that the very practice oI pasto-
ralism to which the Saracens were attached can be
correlated anthropologically with a tendency toward slave-
holding. The importance oI slavery to pastoralists has been
quantifed in a study oI 186 premodern cultures by Orlando
Patterson, who has shown that:
Pastoralism is the only dominant subsistence mode that
has a direct and positive relationship with slavery: fully
69 percent of all predominantly pastoral societies are
slaveholding compared with only 35 percent of predo-
minant shing groups and 41 percent of agriculturalists
165
.
(n. 140), p. 52. For the rapid integration oI slaves into modern bedouin
society, see Lancaster, Rwala Bedouin, cit. (n. 95), pp. 12-13. See also
IGLS, I-II 501 (Toqad, on the route between Antioch and Aleppo), a
cenotaph (?) Ior Artemisios who 'died in captivity (ctccutnocv cv
cyi|..|eoiu | ui_ueoiu?|), we know not when or where.
162. Epiphan., Pan. 66.1.6-2.15; cI. Soc., 1.22.3-7, 12. On Mwiya, see
Theod. Lect., 185 (Hansen); cI. Theophan., a.m. 5869 (de Boor, p. 64).
163. Robertson Smith, Kinship, cit. (n. 140), pp. 74-91, quotation at 89.
For examples Htim at-T`i, v. 66 at Schulthess, Diwan, cit. (n. 70),
p. 72; al-Hrith, Mu`allaqa v. 42 at T. Nldeke, Fnf Mo`allaqat, 2,
Vienna, 1901, p. 63; cI. Hoyland, Arabia, cit. (n. 1), p. 128; G. Fowden,
Qusayr `Amra. Art and the Umayyad Elite in Late Antique Syria,
Berkeley, 2004, pp. 227-247.
164. Brooks, Captives, cit. (n. 161).
165. O. Patterson, Slavery, Gender, and Work in the Pre-modern World
and Early Greece. A Cross-cultural Analysis, in E. Dal Lago and
C. Katsari (dir.), Slave Systems, Ancient and Modern, Cambridge,
2008, pp. 32-69, at p. 46, which also shows that the correlation is
even stronger in pastoral societies with endemic warIare, as was the
case with the Arab nomads of Late Antiquity. For slaveholding among
modern bedouin pastorlists, see Musil, Manners, cit. (n. 93), pp. 276-
278; Lancaster, Rwala Bedouin, cit. (n. 95), pp. 12-13.
The study takes the bare presence oI slaveholding rather
than its scale as the criterion for a slaveholding culture and
must thus paint with the sort oI broad brushstrokes charac-
teristic oI comparative anthropology. Nevertheless, its
striking numbers indicate in broad outline that the Saracen
nomads who Iorced the slaves Malchus, Georgios Adraam,
and Thomas oI Marg`s Damascene priest to tend their
focks were acting according to cultural norms that can be
statistically correlated with their mode of subsistence. The
maintenance oI herd animals in premodern societies was
extremely labor intensive and went hand in glove with the
tendency to hold slaves. In Iact, slaves were surely classed
among livestock as just another Iorm oI selI-moving wealth
in a society where riches were traditionally measured by the
number oI animals human and ovicaprid one controlled.
For others, slavery among the Saracens led to sale.
We have already seen numerous attestations of the sale of
slaves by Saracens in the historical sources
166
. These tended
to involve the transfer of citizens outside the bounds of
the Roman (as indeed Persian and Himyarite) Empire(s),
but it is safe to assume that many others were also sold
back into these empires as slaves, regardless oI the legal
issues involved
167
. Moreover, even iI we are right to suspect
that Theodoulos` resale was complicated by his Ireeborn
citizen status, this was by no means true of children born
in captivity, Ior while captives citizens could not be held
legally as slaves inside the Empire, their children born in
captivity most certainly could
168
. One wonders, then, what
would have happened had Malchus and his Iellow Iemale
captive chosen to mate and produce oIIspring, as they were
ordered to by their master. Even Theodoulos, after being
spared the Iate oI sacrifce, was encouraged to couple
with Iemale captives oI the Saracens, but declined
169
. Like
livestock, then, slaves were apparently bred and their
surplus production oI oIIspring exchanged in the markets
oI settled territories, Roman, Persian Himyarite, etc.
Indeed, the ancient world`s hunger Ior slaves ensured
that slavery oIIered a major point oI contact between the
nomadic and sedentary cultures. In this sense we come Iull
circle with earlier arguments, for while Saracen raiding
and captive taking surely created riIts between nomads
and sedentarists, the slaves it generated must have afforded
market opportunities that helped heal these divisions. This
was particularly true iI the slaves being sold were the children
oI captives and were thus themselves Iully acculturated in
Saracen ways or, better yet, if they had been seized and
166. Chronicon miscellaneum ad AD 724 (CSCO SS, III 130); Amm., 25.8.1,
cI. 24.1.10; Joh. Mal. 18.35 (Thurn, pp. 374-375); Theophan. a.m. 5828
(de Boor, p. 33).
167. That captive citizens were sold back into the Roman Empire as slaves
is confrmed in the sources collected at Connolly, Roman Ransomers,
cit. (n. 154).
168. Sanna, Nuove ricerche, cit. (n. 152), pp. 111-156.
169. Ps. Nilus, Narr. 7.10.
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 260
transported Irom one empire to the next or Irom territories
beyond the reach oI both Persia and Rome Ethiopia, the
Arabian Peninsula, or the Armenian Marches, Ior example.
Such human chattels must have come into the respective
empires at relatively low prices and oIIered ample entice-
ments for trade contact between the Arabs and the settled
regions surrounding their territory.
Evidence for Human Trafcking
in the Saracen East
On the authority oI the Umayyad historian Wahb ibn
Munabbih (c. 654/730), Ibn Ishq reports a tale oI how
Christianity was introduced to the south Arabian kingship
oI Najrn, a process that occurred in the 5
th
century
170
.
A bricklayer Irom Syria named Faymiyn (perhaps
originally Euphmion)
171
cultivated an interest in ascetic
prayer and began spending his Sundays in the wilderness
outside his village. His devotion and spiritual power
attracted so many demands Irom Iellow townspeople that he
decided to take to the road as a wandering ascetic together
with a disciple named Slih. While traveling in Arabia,
Faymiyn and Slih were captured by nomadic Arabs,
who transported them to Najrn, and sold them to two
diIIerent masters. By perIorming miracles, and particularly
by successIully cursing to death a palm tree worshipped
by the pagan Najrnites, Faymiyn converted his master
to Christianity, and Faymiyn`s disciple, `Abdallh
ibn al Tmir, soon established a broader community oI
Iollowers. In another story, this time related to an early
seventh-century context, Ibn Ishq reports how a Persian
named Salmn converted to Christianity and immigrated
to `Ammriya in the Transjordan. From there he attempted
to travel to Arabia in the company oI Saracen traders oI
the ban Kalb, but was enslaved by these and sold to a
Jew at Wdi`l-Qur, who in turn sold him to a cousin Irom
Yathrib/Mdina. Arriving there aIter the hijra, Salmn Iell
in with Muslim believers who purchased his Ireedom and
170. Ibn Ishq, Sirat rasl Allh 20-22 (trans. A. Guillaume, The Life of
Muhammad. A Translation of Ishqs Sirat rasl Allh, London /New
York, 1955, pp. 14-16). The same story is repeated at al-Tabar Ta`rikh I.
915-925 (trans. C.E. Bosworth, The History of al-Tabari, 5, The Ssnids,
the By:antines, the Lakmids, and Yemen, Albany |NY|, 1999, pp. 192-
200). For analysis, see JeIIerey, Christianity, cit. (n. 90), pp. 196-200;
J. Tubach, Die Anfnge des Christentums in Sdarabien. Eine christliche
Legende syrischer Herkunft in Ibn Hiam, in Parole de lOrient, 18,
1993, pp. 101-111; T. Sizgorich, Narrative and Community in Islamic
Late Antiquity, in P&P, 185, 2004, pp. 9-42, at pp. 29-31; E.K. Fowden,
The Lamp and the wine ask. Early Muslim interest in Christian
Monasticism, in A. Akasoy, J.E. Montgomery, and P.E. Pormann (dir.),
Islamic Crosspollinations. Interactions in the Medieval Middle East,
Cambridge, 2007, pp. 1-28, at pp. 8-9.
171. Thus T. Nldeke, Geschichte der Perser und Araber :ur Zeit der
Sassaniden, Leiden, 1879, p. 177, n. 3; cI. Tubach, Die Anfnge, cit.
(n. 170), at p. 107.
then convinced him to serve in the armies oI the prophet
172
.
Both stories obviously derive Irom the legendary material
that makes up the earliest historiography oI the Arabs
173
.
As such, their origins are diIfcult to trace and their details
questionable, but both indicate Iamiliarity with a pattern
oI human traIfcking between, on the one hand, the settled
regions oI Syria and, on the other, the trans-Jordan and the
south Arabian peninsula that traces to pre-Islamic times.
We also have suggestive evidence from a much earlier
source transmitted in both Syriac and Greek. The History
of the Great Deeds of Bishop Paul of Qentos and the priest
John of Edessa tells a tale closely related to the Faymiyn
story which may represent the fIth-century basis Ior Wahb
ibn Munabbihs account
174
. The tale is set in the time of
Rabbula`s bishopric in Edessa (411-435 CE) and reports
that its protagonist, Paul, had been appointed bishop oI the
port city oI 'Qentos (perhaps Centum Cellae) in Italy but
chose to abandon his post in order to practice the ascetic liIe
in anonymity in Syria. Not knowing a trade, he earned his
daily bread as a laborer ( 6) and soon acquired a disciple in
the priest John, who joined him in retreating into the desert
and communing with a group oI twelve ascetics in a cave
( 20). Paul and John Iormulated a plan to visit Mt. Sinai
and, despite warnings Irom the twelve that they would be
set upon by Saracens (Tayyye) en route, embarked on
their journey ( 22). As prophesied, the two were captured
by nomadic Arabs near Mt. Sinai and taken as captives to
Himyar ( 23). Although intended as victims oI sacrifce,
they escaped this Iate when Paul managed to cure the
daughter oI his master and then curse a sacred palm tree
worshipped by the locals ( 24-25). This convinced the
Himyarite king (malk) and his people to be baptised and
to Iree Paul and John ( 26-28), who then visited Mt. Sinai
and eventually returned to Syria. There is clearly a genetic
relationship between this tale and the story oI Faymiyn
and Slih. Moreover, The History of Paul and John also
shares plot elements with Ps. Nilus Narrationes (the
abortive human sacrifce) as well as the Syriac tale oI the
Man of God (fight Irom Italy to Rabbula`s Edessa)
175
.
Investigating the nature oI this intertextual relationship
is beyond the scope oI this article. It suIfces here to call
attention to this account as yet another source in the rich
Iont oI materials about Saracen captivity in the period.
Regardless of the accuracy of truth claims made in any
oI these tales, all refect a common theme that clearly
permeated the imaginary oI late antique easterners. The
172. Ibn Ishq, Sirat Rasl Allh 136-143 (Guillaume, Life, cit. [n. 171],
pp. 95-98).
173. See C.F. Robinson, Islamic Historiography, Cambridge, 2003,
pp. 25-30.
174. H. Arneson, E. Fiano, C. L. Marquis, K.R. Smith (dir.), The History
of the Great Deeds of Bishop Paul of Qentos and Priest John of Edessa,
Piscataway (NJ), 2010.
175. Ibid., pp. 9-11; Tubach, Die Anfnge, cit. (n. 170).
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 261
experience oI captivity to nomadic Arabs must thereIore
have represented an occurrence remarkably Iamiliar Irom
the world in which these writers lived.
We also have ample documentary evidence that appears
to confrm this same pattern. During the high Roman
Empire, slave trading with the Arabs had always been Iacil-
itated by the oasis cities on the desert Iringe oI imperial
control
176
. It was in Iact known to be an important generator
oI wealth Ior Palmyra stretching back at least as Iar as the
2
nd
century CE. The very frst provisions oI Palmyra`s
Iamous tax law, inscribed in Greek and Palmyrene Aramaic
in 137, concern tariIIs on the traIfc in slaves: slaves
imported into Palmyra were taxed at 22 denarii, apparently a
customs duty; iI these imported slaves were sold in the city,
this was taxed at 12 denarii per head; by contrast, the sale
oI a 'veteran slave (andrapod]a ouetran[a|/`lm wtr[n|),
presumably one already serving in Palmyra, was tariIIed
at only 10 denarii; iI a merchant bought slaves in Palmyra
and then exported them, these were tariIIed an additional
12 denarii per head
177
. Slave trading was thus considered a
source oI proft Ior Palmyra, Ior the city`s tax law protected
domestic slave-holding and slave-trading with lower tariIIs
while exploiting the transit traIfc in slaves to generate
supplemental revenue. It was thus using its intermediate
geographical and cultural position to make money while
facilitating relations between neighboring nomads and
the sedentarized regions oI the Mediterranean, supplying
the Iormer with a stable marketplace and the latter with
slaves. Palmyras ongoing involvement in the slave trade
in Late Antiquity is attested by a rescript oI Diocletian
Irom 293. This orders that a Roman citizen captured and
sold as a slave by the Palmyrenes be restored to citizen
status
178
. This case apparently had its roots in the period oI
Palmyrene regency in the East in the 260s and 270s at the
close oI which the oasis city Iell aIoul oI imperial author-
ities, provoking Rome`s violent suppression oI its rulers.
Regardless, it proves that that Palmyra was putting its
176. On trade through these caravan cities, see J. Teixidor, La Palmyrene
orientale . frontiere militaire ou :one douaniere ?, in Frontires
dempire (Actes de la Table ronde internationale de Nemours, 1992)
(Memoires du Musee de Prehistoire d`Ile-de-France, 5), Paris, 1992,
pp. 95-103; F. Millar, Caravan Cities. The Roman Near East and Long-
Distance Trade by Land, in M. Austin et al. (dir.), Modus Operandi.
Essays in Honour of Geoffrey Rickman (BICS Suppl., 71), OxIord,
1998, pp. 119-137 Id., Rome, the Greek World, and the East, 3. The
Greek World, the Jews, and the East, Chapel Hill (NC), pp. 275-299;
Id., Roman Near East, cit. (n. 25), pp. 483-485.
177. For the Greek, see OGIS, 629 = CIS, II 3.3913 IGR, III 1056,
panel IIIa.1-8. For the Aramaic, see D.R. Hillers and E. Cussini, Palmyrene
Aramaic Texts, Baltimore, 1996, no. 259. See also J.F. Matthews, The
Tax Law of Palmyra. Evidence for economic history in a City of the
Roman East, in JRS, 74, 1984, pp. 157-180; G. Fox, S.N.C. Lieu, and
N. RickleIs (dir.), From Palmyra to Zayton. Epigraphy and Iconography
(Silk Road Studies, 10), Turnhout, 2005, pp. 36-54. The Aramaic text is
less lacunose and renders the scheme laid out here without the need for
Matthews, cit., supplement oI ouk at III.5.
178. CJ 7.14.4 (Jan. 10, 293).
experience at slave trading to work right up to the twilight
oI its period oI dominion over the eastern desert.
We can catch another glimpse oI how the slave trade
Iunctioned in the Near East Irom a number oI contracts
preserved on papyrus and parchment. A document Irom
Dura Europos dated 243 CE records the sale oI a twenty-
eight year old woman named Amath-Sin ('Maidservant oI
the Moon God Sin) Ior 700 denarii by Lucius Aurelius
Tiro, son oI Bar-Belsamen oI Carrhae (Harran) to Marcia
Aurelia daughter of amenbaraz, granddaughter of Abgar,
Irom Edessa. In this document, our frst extant evidence
oI Syriac, the seller states explicitly that Amath-Sin was
a bought slave (amt :byna) and that she had originally
been a captive (sby). We do not know the circumstances
oI her captivity, but enslavement to nomadic Arabs remains
a real possibility
179
. At the very least, the document attests
to a traIfc in captives in this region through which slaves
could be moved through a series of transactions that carried
them ever Iarther Irom the geographical, temporal, and
social circumstances of their birth and thus effectively
deracinated them.
We also have a striking series oI texts published in 1989
Irom the village oI Bth Phouraia near Dura Europos on
the middle Euphrates. OI the seventeen documents Iound
there, four were slave sale contracts, two dated to 249 being
copies oI a receipt Ior a single born slave (oikogenes),
the other two, dated 251 and 252, Ior bought slave girls
(argurnetai)
180
. The frst oI these, named Immedabou,
was thirteen at the time of sale and was from the territory
around Nisibis (perixra Nesibei) precisely like Malchus
(Nisibeni agelli colonus: J.Malch. 3.1). Her seller, named
Absalmas son oI Abidrdacos, was Irom a village in the
Chaburn, where Malchus appears to have been kept as
a slave. Absalmas had acquired the girl just nine months
earlier Irom a certain Septimius Saturnilus in Nisibis and
was now reselling her Ior 700 denarii at Bth Phouraia
to Samsaios son oI Teias, also oI the Chaburn. The
second girl, Ouardanaia (Persian: Vardny), was Irom the
Armenian Marcher territory oI Anzitene (Anjit/Urtaye)
along the Euphrates, and was being sold by Aulaeias son
oI Abdilaios, who also came Irom Chaburn, Ior just
500 denarii. Her age is not preserved in the document, but
the lower price probably indicates that she was younger
than Immedabou. As with the earlier transaction, Aueleias
had also bought the girl earlier Irom a resident oI Nisibis,
a certain Aurelia Victorina, the wife of a Roman legionary,
179. P. Dura 28. See already CIL, XI 137 ILS, 1980 (1
st
century CE), the
epitaph oI C. Iulius Mygdonius, a Ireeborn Parthian who was captured
and sold into Roman territory before being manumitted and dying at
fIty. Again, we do not know the circumstances oI his captivity, but
nomadic Arabs oIIer a reasonable possibility.
180. P. Euphr. 6-9, with D. Feissel, J. Gascou, and J. Teixidor, Documents
darchive romains inedits du moyen Euphrate II . les actes de vente-
achat (P. Euphr. 6 a 10), in JSav, 1997, pp. 3-57, at pp. 6-38.
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 262
and was now reselling her Iurther afeld in Bth Phouraia,
to Abisautas son oI Abidiardos oI Phourn. With these
girls we are unable to know Ior certain whether they
were originally captives, let alone whether they had been
taken by nomadic Arabs. Nevertheless, their designation
as arguronetai as opposed to the oikogenes of the earlier
documents indicates, at a minimum, that they were not born
into slavery
181
. Moreover, their homelands (on the Iringes
oI the Roman Empire where these overlapped with Saracen
territory), their seller`s Semitic names, and their young ages
certainly leave this possibility open. What we can know Ior
certain is that these purchases Iurther confrm a traIfc in
slaves in the region, and these two documents would seem
to indicate a distinct pattern. Both slaves passed through
the Irontier city oI Nisibis
182
, a key trading point on the
border between Persia and Rome, and both were then sold
through middle men southward along the Euphrates
183
.
We also know Irom a pair oI Egyptian papyri Irom
Oxyrhynchus that such human-traIfcking Irom the northern
steppe spread beyond the Fertile Crescent. The frst, a
bilingual document in Latin and Greek executed at Pelusium
on the Irontier between Egypt and Palestine, dates to 267
and attests the sale of a slave girl, by race an Arab, by
a cataphract named Barsimes Bassus, with the help oI his
friend and fellow cavalryman Rufus Abedsai, to Aurelius
Apollonius. Interestingly, Barsimes was already the slave`s
third owner, a Iact brutally attested both by an explicit
statement in the papyrus and also implicitly by the Iact that
the girl had three names: Nike, Sapriki(o)n ('Rotter), and
its Arabic equivalent Metethen
184
. What precisely the slave`s
'Arab origin meant is unclear: was she captured Irom an
Arab tribe? sold by Iellow Arabs? the child oI captives held
by Arabs? We simply cannot say, but her roots in Arabic
speaking territory are all but assured by this ethnikon, her
Arabic name, and the Semitic names of her sellers. The
181. Oikogenes (home-bred) does not mean that the slave was born in the
house of the current owner but rather that the slave had been born into
slavery. See J.A. Straus, LAchat et la vente des esclaves dans lgypte
romaine (Archiv Ir PapyrusIorschung BeiheIte, 14), Munich /
Leipzig, 2004, pp. 235-239; cI. Feissel, Gascou, Teixidor, Documents,
cit. (n. 180), p. 27.
182. Note that the Romano-Persian peace oI 561 required Saracen and
other barbarian merchants to use Nisibis (in Persian hands since
363) and nearby Dara (a sixth-century Byzantine Ioundation) as their
exclusive entrepots Ior trading between the empires, Men. Prot., Ir. 6.1
clause 5 (Blockley).
183. It should be noted that Nisibis and its region oI Bth `Arabhy were
in a state oI political and military turmoil in precisely the period oI these
sales. al-Tabar, Ta`rikh I 826 (Bosworth, History, cit. |n. 171|, p. 28)
reports that, in the eleventh year oI his reign (251/252 CE), Sapur I
besieged and captured Nisibis Irom the Romans: cI. Dodgeon and
Lieu, Roman, cit. (n. 37), p. 360, n. 1 on the credibility oI the notice.
These girls may then have been liquidated by their Nisibene owners in
anticipation oI the attack.
184. P. Oxy. XLI 2951 ChLA XLVII 1415, esp. l. 23: ycvi Apioouv.
On the name Mctc0cv m-it-`ttn ('rotten), see D. Del Corno and
M. Vandoni, Review oI G.M. Browne et al. (dir.), The Oxyrhynchus
Papyri, 41, in Gnomon, 48, 1976, pp. 234-239, at p. 237.
second document, Irom 265, registers the sale oI a slave
named Procopton, purchased in Bostra (Busra esh-Sham)
in Syria beIore ending up in Oxyrhynchus. Once again
Procopton was the subject oI three previous sales,
confrming a by now Iamiliar pattern oI using sale transac-
tions to move slaves ever Iarther Irom the steppe
185
. A third
papyrus, Irom Hermoupolis Magna, dated c. 300, records
the sale oI a twenty-year-old slave girl called Kalmera
by a vendor whose name is no longer extant, but who
originally bought the girl in the Arabian port city oI Aila
and eventually sold her to Artemidoros Melas in Egypt
186
.
These were all sale contracts which did not need to nor
was it necessarily wise to state the original circum-
stances oI enslavement Ior the humans being traIfcked.
Nevertheless, the pattern oI multiple sales in all three, and
the general movement of the slaves away from the fringes
oI Saracen country to markets in Egypt both seem to point
to a net surplus in slaves along the desert Irontier which
may well have been generated by Arab nomads.
Last but not least among ancient documents, from the
late 6
th
century we have a more revealing document which
actually opens a tiny window into the operations oI a
trader who worked between the world oI the Saracens and
the sedentarists. A papyrus Irom Nessana in the southern
Negev records the business transactions oI a certain
Zunayn, who managed a trading company that dealt in
livestock and slaves. It records the purchase oI a Iemale
slave for three solidi and a male slave for six, together with
fve camels, one donkey, one mare, and sundry other trade
goods
187
. It also records the payment oI protection money oI
3 1/2 solidi to a 'Saracen Ior saIe passage to Mt. Sinai, the
repayment oI a debt to a Saracen named `Adi, and the theIt
oI a camel stolen by Saracens oI the ban al-Udayyid
188
.
185. P. Oxy. XLII 3054. The editors argue that the slave was homebred,
but this is based on a reconstruction of the text, which is lacunose at the
point that discusses the slave`s origin.
186. SB V 8007, esp. l. 4: uao uao} |icvo|, Bcpvikn, oounv A|iu|
voiv ovouti Kuncpuv e|,| ctev ckooi. On the identifcation oI the
port as Aila-Berenike, see J. Straus, Remarques sur quelques contrats
de vente desclave conserv sur papyrus, in ZPE, 104, 1994, pp. 227-
229 at 229.
187. P. Ness. 89 ll. 20-21: o|o|0cv tin, toi kopuoiou v|o(ioutu)|
y ... ku tin, toi auioiou (voioutu)-. See also P. Mayerson, The
Word Saracen (oupukcvo) in the Papyri, in ZPE, 79, 1989, pp. 283-
287 Id., Monks, Martyrs, Soldiers, cit. |n. 15|, pp. 322-326, Ior this
and other papyri recording trading between Saracens and provincials.
See also Caner, History, cit. (n. 15), pp. 266-270, Ior a translation with
commentary.
188. P. Ness. 89 ll. 22-23: t( Lupuknv( t( oukouvt\ouvti nu, ci, to
dyiov po, (voioutu) y (); l. 35: |u|v ck|oi|oucv uao tin, toi
kuniou acp cuuv~ oi Lupuknvo uio Eiueocc io (voioutu) o.
The participle oukouvtqouvti apparently means 'extorting, implying
that this was some sort oI protection money Ior passage through the
Saracens revier: cf. Mayerson, The Word Saracen, cit. (n. 187), pp. 284-
285. This Iorm oI payment, used to buy out oI the economy oI raiding
(khuwa), remained common among bedouin well into the twentieth
century: Lancaster, Rwala Bedouin, cit. (n. 95), pp. 121-125; cI. Whittow,
Rome and the Jafnids, cit. (n. 91), pp. 219-222.
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 263
The terms oI the papyrus make it clear that Zunayn and
his partners did not consider themselves Saracens, Ior iI
they had, they would not have used this ethnikon of others.
Nevertheless, it is abundantly clear that they had regular
dealings with Saracens, and, as we would expect Irom what
has preceded, these were at times violent and negative and
at others positive and quite proftable. The papyrus does not
report the names oI their suppliers Ior livestock and slaves,
but it would not be Iar-Ietched to assume that they too were
Saracens. Indeed, given that the average price Ior a slave in
this period was, as we have seen, much closer to 20 solidi,
the low prices paid Ior these slaves more closely resemble
the cut-rate oIIered Ior the captive Theodoulos in Ps. Nilus`
Narrationes. This may refect a discount Ior the Iact that
these were potential captives and thus a risky investment
Ior Zunayn. Alternatively, it may refect a market situation
in which Saracens had a surplus oI slaves and were thus
forced to sell at a discount or both
189
.
At the close of this section, it is worth quoting a fasci-
nating document that betrays much about the relationship
between inter-ethnic violence and human traIfcking on
the Saracen frontier and how this charged situation simul-
taneously brought sedentarists and nomads together and
pushed them apart. The Codex Theodosianus preserves a
law (5.6.2), dated March 23, 409, whose heading is missing
but which was clearly part oI longer constitution issued
by Theodosius II to Anthemius, Praetorian PreIect oI the
East
190
. This we know because oI a second law (CTh 7.4.30)
issued on the same day about related matters whose heading
proves Anthemius to have been the addressee. The opening
words of CTh 5.6.2 are no longer extant, but iI we accept
Mommsens conjectural reconstruction, the law can be
translated:
[We commanded some time ago that whatever captives a
soldier is found to have] acquired from plunder recaptured
from the barbarians or a provincial of ours from conscated
spoils, he may take these back home on the condition that,
whatever persons are known to have been free or slaves
whom the enemy either carried off or will drive from
their abodes in future, if such people have been able to be
rescued in the meanwhile after the enemy was repulsed,
they are by no means to be held under the pretext that
they are pitiful plunder, but the power of a judge should
assign free people back to their original birth condition
and slaves to their masters as per the intercession of our
recent law
191
.
189. Or it may simply refect the age-price curve Ior ancient slaves
resulting Irom high mortality among children: cI. Harper, Slave Prices,
cit. (n. 151). We cannot, however, assume that the terms kopoiov
and auioiov necessarily mean that the slaves were children, for both
diminutives were used regularly for slaves of all ages.
190. PLRE 2, Anthemius 1.
191. [Iussimus dudum, ut quos captivos reperietur miles recepta b]
arbarorum praeda et ereptis manubiis noster provincialis promeruisse,
domum suam reportaret ita, ut quoscumque libertate conspicuos aut
servos vel iam traxit vel deinceps a suis sedibus hostis depulerit, si
interea eo depulso defendi potuerint, minime sub detestandae praedae
The section oI this law preserved as CTh 7.4.30
allows us to pinpoint the specifc geographical locus oI
concern, for it mentions the overreaching of limitanean
soldiers in Palestina I, II, and III stationed at the Iorts
oI Versaminum (Horvat Beer Shema) and Moenoenum
(Nirim / Khirbet Ma`in). Both are identifed in the Notitia
Dignitatum as Irontier outposts under the command oI the
Dux Palestinae
192
. The one was thus only about 20 km and
the other about 30 km Irom Elousa, where Theodoulos
was held in the aItermath oI his captivity, and like Elousa,
both were located along the road marking the southern
boundary of Palestine with Saracen country. The law is thus
an outstanding piece oI evidence Ior the brutal economics
oI captivity in the region. This involved a constant shuIfe
oI captives as Saracens captured provincial inhabitants
Iree and slave who were then at times recaptured by
Roman limitanean soldiers along with Saracen tribesmen
during attacks by Roman border troops on the nomads.
Interstingly, the emperor Ielt compelled to order these
limitanean soldiers to liberate Ireeborn imperial citizens and
to repatriate slaves to their original masters, Ior the soldiers
were apparently attempting to proft Irom the captives`
misIortune Ior their own fnancial gain. By the provisions
oI this law, these soldiers and their provincial customers had
to content themselves with being granted secure ownership
only oI those remaining 'barbarian captives who had been
seized, whether these were Saracen tribesmen, captives oI
other nationalities held by the Saracens, or the native slaves
of Saracen tribesmen
193
.
Conclusion
The nomadic Arabs who dwelt in the Sinai, the
Syro-Arabian desert and along the steppe territory bordering
the inner curve of the Fertile Crescent have a history in
the region stretching from the early 1
st
millennium BCE
up to the present. This includes a proud legacy oI the raid
(r:wa), usually against rival nomadic groups, but at times
also against the settled peoples through whose territories
occasione teneantur, sed iudiciarius vigor liberos quidem patriis
naturalibus, servos autem dominis pro recenti legis intercessione
consignet. Dat. x kal. april. Honorio viii et Theodosio iii aa. conss. The
earlier law refered to at the end of the text must be CTh 5.7.2 10.10.25
= CJ 1.4.11 8.50.20 Const. Sirm., 16 oI Dec. 10, 408, a constitution
intended to prevent similar problems in Illyricum in precisely the period
when the Goths were ravaging this territory.
192. ND, Oc. 34.19, 22: Menochiae, Birsama; cI. R. Talbert (dir.), The
Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, Princeton, 2000,
map. 70, E 3 and F 3.
193. The captivity oI Saracens by Roman soldiers is reported with some
Irequency, Choric. Gaz., Or. 4.20-23 (Op. 4); Evag., HE 6.2; Georg.
Pisid., Exp. Pers. II 217-34; Joh. Mal., 18.16 (Thurn, p. 252); Theophan.
a.m. 5990, 6021 (de Boor, pp. 141, 179).
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 264
they moved
194
. The scale and frequency of Arab raids
against sedentarists in the early centuries of the Roman
occupation oI Syro-Palestine seems to have been kept to a
minimum. This was likely due to military pressure exerted
by the Roman and Parthian Empires, and, more importantly,
to the strategic and cultural hegemony oI powerIul oasis
cities like Petra, Palmyra, and Hatra. With the collapse oI
these latter and the rise oI a more powerIul and militant
Sasanian state in Persia, new opportunities arose Ior the
nomads, who exploited the power vacuum in the desert and
the heightened military Iooting oI its neighboring empires
to their own advantage. Beginning in the late third and
early 4
th
centuries CE, larger and more powerIul conIedera-
tions oI Arab nomads began to catch the attention oI Greek
and Latin writers, who called these peoples generically
Saracenoi/i , and oI Aramaic speakers, who termed them
Tayyye. By the early 4
th
century, these confederations had
insinuated themselves into the Roman and Persian political
sphere through the intermediacy oI powerIul chieItains
(phylarchoi), who received recognition as well as subsidies
in exchange Ior policing their own peoples and serving
their neighboring empire in military expeditions. From the
beginning oI this process, the capture and/or enslavement
oI sedentarists was an issue that appears to have led to
tensions. At times these arose between the Saracens and
their imperial allies when Saracens captured citizens oI
their neighboring empire and at others between the two
empires when they captured citizens oI the opposing
empire.
Pastoral societies are particularly well suited to slave-
holding, both because of the labor involved in tending herds
and because regular contact with exogenous societies the
best source of slaves is necessitated by their migrations.
For the Saracens, however, it was not merely their pastoral
mode oI subsistence, but also their geo-political position
that encouraged the pursuit oI captives and slaves. The
highly militarized, rival world empires oI Rome and
Persia on the western and eastern edges of their territory
and, by the late 5
th
century, the growing power oI Himyar
to the south helped transIorm what might have remained a
relatively low level nuisance for sedentarists into a grand
scale problem. Nevertheless, the Saracens` topographic
collocation in a borderland and the beneft this oIIered Ior
their practice oI captive taking was not solely deleterious to
their sedentarized neighbors. Their geographical placement
oIIered them a chance to put their skills as raiders and
fghters to work in the service oI large-scale military
operations and smaller scale raids. In the process, it also
gave them a chance to proft Irom the assistance oI these
empires through the receipt oI recognition and tangible
rewards like Iood allotments and money subsidies. The
194. On raiding and warfare in Rwala society, see Musil, Manners, cit. (n. 93),
pp. 504-661; Lancaster, Rwala Bedouin, cit. (n. 95), pp. 140-145.
control and rationing oI authority and profts by Saracen
leaders in turn strengthened the power oI the largest conIed-
erations and Iacilitated their growth and independence Irom
the imperial states. It also brought these same leaders and
their people ever more tightly into the cultural and religious
orbits oI Rome, Persia, and Himyar, a reality which can
be witnessed, Ior example, in the widespread adoption oI
Christianity by Arabs on both sides of the rivalry.
Among the proft centers aIIorded by these relationships
was the lucrative business in captives and slaves. The taking
oI captives and transport oI slaves among the Saracens
was able to burgeon in this environment for two reason in
particular. First, the Saracens` control oI the steppe Iringe
around the two empires and above all the marginal desert in
between allowed them to capture humans Irom one empire
and transport them to another with remarkable Iacility.
Second, the ferocity of the territorial and cultural rivalries
between the Persian and Roman Empires induced both to
encourage their Saracen allies to raid and take captives in
the enemy empire as a way oI exerting ongoing military
pressure and unsettling the tax base and social stability oI
the rival state
195
. Much like the English privateers oI the
seventeenth and eighteenth-century Atlantic or the French
and Barbary corsairs oI the early modern Mediterranean,
the Saracens were permitted by their imperial allies to
conduct a proxy war designed to harry and weaken the
opposing state.
This environment encouraged a growing spiral oI slaving
and captive taking that became increasingly Irenzied over
time. By the late 5
th
century, the problem oI Saracen raiding
and slaving was becoming unmanageable. The growth in
diIfculties stemmed at least in part Irom a push out onto the
steppe by provincial settlers impelled both by an economic
boom in the late antique East and by a growing fashion
for desert dwelling and travel fostered by Christian ascetic
practice and pilgrimage. More importantly, however, by the
6
th
century, the Saracen confederations had grown in size
and strength to the point that they rivaled Byzantium and
Persia as regional military powers. Neither empire could
any longer sustain its military footing in the East without
the aid of its Saracens. At the same time, the number of
conficts between the state powers increased to a Ievered
pitch which only exacerbated the scale and Irequency oI
attacks. By century`s end, this was beginning to have a
serious impact on population bases in this Iormerly booming
region
196
. These problems were greatly exacerbated by the
Sasanian choice to conduct numerous forced removals of
195. Compare the Apache, Navajo, Kiowa, and Commanche, who
inhabited the desert on either side oI the Rio Grande and exploited their
intermediate position between the Mexican and American states and
the open war between the two powers to proft Irom raiding and captive
taking in the 1820s-1840s: B. Delay, War of a Thousand Deserts.
Indian Raids and the U.S. Mexican War, New Haven (Cn), 2008.
196. See Foss, Syria, cit. (n. 97); Trombley, War and Society, cit. (n. 129).
AnTard, 19, 2011 CAPTIVITY AND SLAVERY AMONG THE SARACENS IN LATE ANTIQUITY (CA. 250-630 CE) 265
Byzantine provincials Irom their homelands and transIer
them into Persian territory
197
. The fscal and military conse-
quences of this evacuation of the Levant must have been
signifcant and must greatly have contributed to the ease
with which the area was overrun with the onset of the
Muslim conquests.
The sedentary Arabs who drove the early stages of the
Muslim conquest quickly adopted their nomadic neighbors
into the cause during the ridda wars that consolidated
support Ior their new religion in the Arabian peninsula.
In the process they adapted the nomads` fghting tactics
to exploit the advantages these oIIered
198
. Among these
was the skill in the taking oI captives. The Muslims, oI
course, became one of the great slaveholding cultures of
world history
199
. Even beIore the rise oI the prophet, the
Quraysh oI Mecca certainly traIfcked in slaves. But it has
been rightly argued that, while slaves were indeed traded
out oI Mecca, they were not the city`s primary economic
interest
200
. It may then have been through nomadic Arabs
that the new conquerors came to develop such strong
attachment to slave raiding and trading. Indeed, many
Muslim slave holding practices appear to refect the
habitus we have seen Ior the pre-Islamic Saracens. Like
them, the Muslims displayed a remarkable liberality about
the integration oI captives into their society. This was
certainly true oI the oIIspring oI their captive concubines,
but also of their freedmen and of the slave soldiers they so
197. See M.G. Morony, Population Transfers between Sasanian Iran and
the By:antine Empire, in Convegno Interna:ionale la Persia e Bisan:io
(Roma 14-18 ottobre 2002), Rome, 2004, pp. 161-179. This pattern had
already begun in the 3
rd
century: cI. S.N.C. Lieu, Captives, refugees
and exiles: A Study of cross-frontier civilian movements and contacts
between Rome and Persia from Jalerian to Jovian, in P. Freeman,
D. Kennedy (dir.), The Defense of the Roman and By:antine East
(BAR-IS, 297), OxIord, 1986, pp. 475-505.
198. F.M. Donner, The Early Muslim Conquests, Princeton, 1981, pp. 82-90.
199. D. Pipes, Slave Soldiers and Islam. The Genesis of a Military
System, New Haven, 1981; J.R. Willis (dir.), Slaves and Slavery
in Muslim Africa, 2 vols., London, 1985; M. Gordon, Slavery in
the Arab World, New York, 1989; B. Lewis, Race and Slavery in
the Middle East. An Historical Inquiry, New York / OxIord, 1990;
E. Savage, Berbers and Blacks. Ibdi Slave Trafhc in Eighth-Century
North Africa, in Journal of African History, 33, 2008, pp. 351-368;
Y. Rotman, By:antine Slavery and the Mediterranean World, trans.
J.M. Todd, Cambridge (Ma), 1989, pp. 57-81. A good survey oI the
problem remains a desideratum. See also M. McCormick, Origins of
the European Economy. Communications and Commerce AD 300-900,
Cambridge, 2001, pp. 733-777, Ior a description oI the vortex in the
Mediterranean slave market created by the demand Ior slaves Irom the
Caliphate in the 8
th
to 10
th
centuries. S.G. Bruce, An Abbot between two
cultures: Maiolus of Cluny considers the Muslims of La Garde-Freinet,
in EME, 15, 2007, pp. 426-440, oIIers a Iascinating example oI a group
oI Muslim raiders who took up residence in tenth-century Provence and
subsisted Ior decades oII oI captive taking.
200. P. Crone, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, Princeton, 1987,
pp. 106-107; cI. H. Lammens, LArabie occidentale avant lhgire,
Beirut, 1928, pp. 18-19, which catalogs named slaves reported in the
early lives oI the prophet, many oI them Greeks and Egyptians.
readily employed
201
. Moreover, it is beyond question that
the early Muslims engaged in large scale captive raiding
and enslavements Irom the beginning. The ninth-century
Christian chronicler Dionysius oI Tel-Mahr conceived oI
the inIancy oI Islam as little more than a snowballing series
oI slave raids, a slander to be sure, but one that refected
popular perceptions
202
.
We also have good contemporary evidence that points
in much the same direction. While it is not within the
scope oI this paper to investigate this question in depth,
a recently published inscription illustrates the situation
quite pointedly. In the wake oI the Muslim takeover
oI Syria, many Byzantine provincials crossed over to
Cyprus in order to remain in Byzantine territory. By 649
the new conquerors had invaded the island, and a Greek
inscription frst published in 1985 reveals the extent oI
their depredations. It reports that, through the chastisement
oI God, many were killed and some 120 000 led away as
captives, and that in an invasion the Iollowing year an even
greater number were killed and some 50 000 subjected to
captivity.
203
The Arabic and Syriac sources had already
reported the invasion oI Cyprus by the Ummayyad caliph
Mu`wiyah ibn Ab SuIyn and even conveyed in general
terms that many inhabitants were captured
204
. With the
discovery of this document, we now have some gauge of
the scale oI the assault, which was on precisely the level
oI the great hauls oI captives so inIamous Irom the middle
Roman Republic. Nor is this the only example oI large
201. P. Crone, Slaves on Horses. The Evolution of the Islamic Polity,
Cambridge, 1980; Pipes, Slave Soldiers, cit. (n. 199); A. Kecia,
Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam, Cambridge (Ma), 2010. On the
use oI slaves in late ancient combat more generally, see N. Lenski,
Schiavi armati e forma:ione di eserciti privati nel mondo tardo antico,
in G.P. Urso (dir.), Ordine e sovversione nel mondo greco e romano,
Pisa, 2009, pp. 145-175.
202. Chron. Anon. ad 1234, 94 (CSCO SS, XXXVI 228); Michael
Syrus 11.2 (Kiraz, Ibrahim and Brock, Texts, cit. |n. 55|, pp. 405-406
Chabot, Chronique, cit. |n. 55|, 3, pp. 403-404). Dionysius` chronicle
is not preserved, but both the Chron. Anon. ad 1234 and Michael Syrus
used it as a common source: cf. Palmer, Seventh Century, cit. (n. 36),
pp. 85-104; R. Hoyland, Seeing Islam as Others Saw it. A Survey and
Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early
Islam, Princeton, 1997, pp. 416-419. See Iurther notices oI large-scale
captive taking at Chron. Anon ad 1234, 110 (a. 632: capture oI the
village oI al-Jsiya near Antioch); 115 (CSCO SS, XXXVI 248-249);
Theophan., a.m. 6124 (de Boor, p. 336): (a. 634: Ab `Ubayda prevents
large-scale captive taking to win tribute Ior `Umar); Chron. Anon
ad 1234, 121 (CSCO SS, XXXVI 256): (a. 640: enslavement oI the
citizens oI Antioch and the Antiochn); 124 (CSCO SS, XXXVI 259):
(a. 642: mass enslavements in Cappadocia). And see the intriguing
Iragmentary notice, composed in 637, on captives taken in Galilee
reported at E.W. Brooks, Chronica Minora, II (CSCO SS, III 75), and
translated at Palmer, Seventh Century, cit. (n. 36), p. 2.
203. D. Feissel, Chroniques depigraphie By:antine, 1987-2004, Paris,
2006, no. 545 SEG, XXXV 1471 J. des Gagniers and T.T. Tinh,
Soloi . Dix campagnes de fouilles (1964-1974), Sainte-Foy, 1985,
pp. 116-125, nos. 1-2. I am grateIul to Arietta Papaconstantinou Ior her
advice on this inscription.
204. The sources are collected at Gagniers and Tinh, Soloi, cit. (n. 203),
pp. 120-124.
NOEL LENSKI AnTard, 19, 2011 266
scale enslavements reported in contemporary sources, Ior
the Armenian chronographer Sebeos speaks oI multiple
instances oI large scale captiv-taking north oI the Taurus
Mountains, including 35 000 Irom the Armenian city oI
Dvin alone in 637/638
205
. By the time we arrive at the early
Arab historians, such reports come in foods and even speak
oI practices like the taking oI tribute directly in the Iorm oI
205. Sebeos 42|137-9|, 44|145| (trans. R.W. Thomson and comm.
J. Howard-Johnston, The Armenian History attributed to Sebeos
|TTH, 31|, 2 vols., Liverpool, 1999, 1, pp. 99-102, 109-110.
captives, a peculiarity that is striking in its reminiscence oI
the same practice among the pre-Islamic Saracens discussed
above
206
. The Muslim conquerors may then have continued
habits oI capturing, handling, and dealing in slaves that had
been cultivated by their Saracen predecessors Ior centuries
beIore the arrival oI the prophet.
University of Colorado at Boulder
206. See examples in Savage, Berbers, cit. (n. 199), pp. 356-362;
cf. Lewis, Race and Slavery, cit. (n. 199), p. 9.

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