The Byzantines in Medieval Arabic Poetry: Abu Firas’ “Al-Rumiyyat” and the Poetic Responses of al-Qaffal and Ibn Hazm to Nicephore Phocas’ “Al-Qasida al-Arminiyya al-Malʿuna” (The Armenian Cursed Ode)
By Nizar F. Hermes
BYZANTINA SYMMEIKTA/ BYZANTINA SYMMEIKTA, Vol. 19 (2009)
Abstract: Up until the Crusades, it was al-Rūm who were universally seen by Arab writers and Arab poets in particular as the Other par excellence. Nowhere is this more conspicuous than in the sub-genre of Al-Rūmiyyat (poems about the Byzantines), namely as found in the Rūmiyyat of Abu Firas al-Hamdani(d.968), and in the poetic responses of al-Qaffal(d. 946) and Ibn Hazm(d. 1064) to what was described by several medieval Muslim chronicles as Al-Qasida al-Arminiyya al-Malʿuna (The Armenian Cursed Ode). By exploring the forgotten views of the Byzantines in medieval Arabic poetry, this article purports to demonstrate that contrary to the impression left after reading Edward Said’s groundbreaking Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (1978) and other postcolonial studies, Orientals have not existed solely to be ‘orientalized’. Perhaps even before this came to be so, they too had ‘occidentalized’ their Euro-Christian Other(s) in a way that mirrored in reverse the subject/object relationship described as Orientalism.