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Medieval Empires and the Culture of CompetitionLiterary Duels at Islamic and Christian Courts$
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Samuel England

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474425223

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474425223.001.0001

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‘Baghdad is to Cities What the Master is to Mankind’: The Rise of Vizier Culture

‘Baghdad is to Cities What the Master is to Mankind’: The Rise of Vizier Culture

(p.24) 1 ‘Baghdad is to Cities What the Master is to Mankind’: The Rise of Vizier Culture
Medieval Empires and the Culture of Competition

Samuel England

Edinburgh University Press

Examines the phenomenon of vizier-poets in medieval Baghdad and the ‘Abbasid provinces. Argues that Persian viziers used literary, administrative skill to overshadow royals and the caliph. These viziers in the imperial provinces supported Arabic literature with great enthusiasm, but also revised the rules of courtly membership and poets’ ritual jousts. Not content to simply patronize authors, they composed their own works. With poetic statements of self-praise, religious dogma, and satire aimed at insufficiently loyal courtiers, they altered the relationship between patron and poet, each of whom was now able to slander the other in verse. Their exchanges of inflammatory compositions became some of the most closely followed events of Abbasid life, drawing the attention of imperial citizens and stationing the viziers themselves as the central, intimidating arbiters of taste. In effect, the vizierial class began to legislate with literature.

Keywords:   Arabic, ‘Abbasid, Buyid, Vizier, Epistle, Barmakid, Sunnism, Shi‘ism, Persian

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