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Ghassanids

Ghassanids

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The Ghassanids (al-Ghasāsinah, also Banū Ghassān "Sons of Ghassān") were a group of South Arabian
South Arabian
The Modern South Arabian languages are spoken mainly by minority populations in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen and Oman, which, together with the Ethiopian Semitic languages, form the Western South Semitic branch. In his glottochronology-based classification, A...

 Christian tribes that emigrated in the early 3rd century from Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 to Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 and the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

.
The term Ghassān refers to the kingdom of the Ghassanids, an ancient Arab Christian kingdom in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

.

Migration from Yemen 3rd Century AD


The Ghassanid emigration has been passed down in the rich oral tradition of Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

. It is said that the Ghassanids came from the city of Ma'rib
Ma'rib
Ma'rib or Marib is the capital town of the Ma'rib Governorate, Yemen and was the capital of the Sabaean kingdom, which some scholars believe to be the ancient Sheba of biblical fame. It is located at , approximately 120 kilometers east of Yemen's modern capital, Sana'a...

 in Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

. There was a dam in this city, however one year there was so much rain that the dam was carried away by the ensuing flood. Thus the people there had to leave. The inhabitants emigrated seeking to live in less arid lands and became scattered far and wide. The proverb “They were scattered like the people of Saba
Sheba
Sheba was a kingdom mentioned in the Jewish scriptures and the Qur'an...

” refers to that exodus in history. The emigrants were from the southern Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 tribe of Azd
Azd
The Azd or Al Azd, are an Arabian tribe. They were a branch of the Kahlan tribe, which was one of the two branches of Qahtan the other being Himyar.In the ancient times, they inhabited Ma'rib, the capital city of the Sabaean Kingdom in modern-day Yemen...

 of the Kahlan
Kahlan
Kahlan was one of the main tribal federations of Saba'a in Yemen.-Conflict with Himyar:By the 1st century BC Saba'a was declining gradually and its southern neighbor Himyar was able to settle many Nomadic tribes that was allied to Saba'a and create a stronger Himyarite nation in the lowlands...

 branch of Qahtani tribes.

Settling


The king Jafna bin ‘Amr emigrated with his family and retinue north and settled in Hauran
Hauran
Hauran, , also spelled Hawran or Houran, is a volcanic plateau, a geographic area and a people located in southwestern Syria and extending into the northwestern corner of Jordan. It gets its name from the Aramaic Hawran, meaning "cave land." In geographic and geomorphic terms, its boundaries...

, where the Ghassanid state was founded. From him the Ghassanid line are also sometimes known as the Jafnids. It is assumed that the Ghassanids adopted the religion of Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 after they reached their new home.

The Ghassanid Kingdom in the Roman era


The Romans found a powerful ally in the new coming Arabs. The Ghassanids were the buffer zone against the Lakhmids
Lakhmids
The Lakhmids , Banu Lakhm , Muntherids , were a group of Arab Christians who lived in Southern Iraq, and made al-Hirah their capital in 266. Poets described it as a Paradise on earth, an Arab Poet described the city's pleasant climate and beauty "One day in al-Hirah is better than a year of...

 penetrating Roman territory. More accurately the kings can be described as phylarch
Phylarch
A phylarch is a Greek title meaning "ruler of a tribe", from phyle, "tribe" + archein "to rule".In Classical Athens, a phylarch was the elected commander of the cavalry provided by each of the city's ten tribes....

s, native rulers of subject frontier states. The capital was at Jabiyah in the Golan Heights. Geographically, it occupied much of Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 and Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, and its authority extended via tribal alliances with other Azdi tribes all the way to the northern Hijaz as far south as Yathrib (Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

).

The Ghassanid kingdom in the Byzantine era



The Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 was focused more on the East and a long war with the Persians was always their main concern. The Ghassanids maintained their rule as the guardian of trade routes, policed Lakhmid tribes and was a source of troops for the Byzantine army. The Ghassanid king al-Harith ibn Jabalah
Al-Harith ibn Jabalah
Al-Ḥārith ibn Jabalah , [Flavios] Arethas in Greek sources and Khalid ibn Jabalah in later Islamic sources, was a king of the Ghassanids, a pre-Islamic Arab people who lived on the eastern frontier of the Byzantine Empire. The fifth Ghassanid ruler of that name, he reigned from ca...

 (reigned 529–569) supported the Byzantines against Sassanid Persia and was given the title patricius in 529 by the emperor Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

. Al-Harith was a Miaphysite Christian; he helped to revive the Syrian Miaphysite (Jacobite) Church
Syriac Orthodox Church
The Syriac Orthodox Church; is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Eastern Mediterranean, with members spread throughout the world. The Syriac Orthodox Church claims to derive its origin from one of the first Christian communities, established in Antioch by the Apostle St....

 and supported Miaphysite development despite Orthodox
Orthodox Christianity
The term Orthodox Christianity may refer to:* the Eastern Orthodox Church and its various geographical subdivisions...

 Byzantium regarding it as heretical
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

. Later Byzantine mistrust and persecution of such religious unorthodoxy brought down his successors, al-Mundhir (reigned 569-582) and Nu'man.

The Ghassanids, who had successfully opposed the Persian allied Lakhmids
Lakhmids
The Lakhmids , Banu Lakhm , Muntherids , were a group of Arab Christians who lived in Southern Iraq, and made al-Hirah their capital in 266. Poets described it as a Paradise on earth, an Arab Poet described the city's pleasant climate and beauty "One day in al-Hirah is better than a year of...

 of al-Hirah (Southern Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 and Northern Arabia), prospered economically and engaged in much religious and public building; they also patronised the arts and at one time entertained the poets Nabighah adh-Dhubyani and Hassan ibn Thabit
Hassan ibn Thabit
Hassan ibn Thabit was an Arabian poet and one of the Sahaba, or companions of Muhammad. He was born in Yathrib , and was member of the Banu Khazraj tribe. According to tradition, he was the court poet to Muhammad.-Life:...

 at their courts.

The Ghassanids and Islam


The Ghassanids remained a Byzantine vassal state
Vassal state
A vassal state is any state that is subordinate to another. The vassal in these cases is the ruler, rather than the state itself. Being a vassal most commonly implies providing military assistance to the dominant state when requested to do so; it sometimes implies paying tribute, but a state which...

 until its rulers were overthrown by the Muslims in the 7th century, following the Battle of Yarmuk in 636 AD.

Jabalah ibn-al-Aiham ordeal with Islam


There are different opinions why Jabalah and his followers didn't convert to Islam. All the opinions go along the general idea that the Ghassanids were not interested yet in giving up their status as the lords and nobility of Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. Below is quoted the story of Jabalah's return to the land of the Byzantines as told by 9th-century historian al-Baladhuri.
Jabalah ibn-al-Aiham sided with the Ansar (Azdi Muslims from Medina) saying, "You are our brethren and the sons of our fathers" and professed Islam. After the arrival of 'Umar ibn-al-Khattab in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, year 17 (636AD), Jabalah had a dispute with one of the Muzainah (Non Arab Caste) and knocked out his eye. 'Umar ordered that he be punished, upon which Jabalah said, "Is his eye like mine? Never, by Allah, shall I abide in a town where I am under authority." He then apostatized and went to the land of the Greeks (the Byzantines). This Jabalah was the king of Ghassan and the successor of al-Harith ibn-abi-Shimr.

Ghassanid Kings


  1. Jafnah I ibn `Amr (220-265)
  2. `Amr I ibn Jafnah (265-270)
  3. Tha'labah ibn Amr (270-287)
  4. al-Harith I ibn Th`alabah (287-307)
  5. Jabalah I ibn al-Harith I (307-317)
  6. al-Harith II ibn Jabalah "ibn Maria" (317-327)
  7. al-Mundhir I Senior ibn al-Harith II (327-330) with...
  8. al-Aiham ibn al-Harith II (327-330) and...
  9. al-Mundhir II Junior ibn al-Harith II (327-340) and...
  10. al-Nu`man I ibn al-Harith II (327-342) and...
  11. `Amr II ibn al-Harith II (330-356) and...
  12. Jabalah II ibn al-Harith II (327-361)
  13. Jafnah II ibn al-Mundhir I (361-391) with...
  14. al-Nu`man II ibn al-Mundhir I (361-362)
  15. al-Nu`man III ibn 'Amr ibn al-Mundhir I (391-418)
  16. Jabalah III ibn al-Nu`man (418-434)
  17. al-Nu`man IV ibn al-Aiham (434-455) with...
  18. al-Harith III ibn al-Aiham (434-456) and...
  19. al-Nu`man V ibn al-Harith (434-453)
  20. al-Mundhir II ibn al-Nu`man (453-472) with...
  21. `Amr III ibn al-Nu`man (453-486) and...
  22. Hijr ibn al-Nu`man (453-465)
  23. al-Harith IV ibn Hijr (486-512)
  24. Jabalah IV ibn al-Harith
    Jabalah IV ibn al-Harith
    Jabalah IV ibn al-Ḥārith, known also by the tecnonymic Abū Shamir, in Greek sources found as Gabalas , was a ruler of the Ghassanids. At first an enemy of the East Roman Empire, he raided Palestine but was defeated, becoming a Byzantine vassal in 502 until ca...

     (512-529)
  25. al- Amr IV ibn Machi (Mah’shee) (529)
  26. al-Harith V ibn Jabalah
    Al-Harith ibn Jabalah
    Al-Ḥārith ibn Jabalah , [Flavios] Arethas in Greek sources and Khalid ibn Jabalah in later Islamic sources, was a king of the Ghassanids, a pre-Islamic Arab people who lived on the eastern frontier of the Byzantine Empire. The fifth Ghassanid ruler of that name, he reigned from ca...

     (529-569)
  27. al-Mundhir III ibn al-Harith
    Al-Mundhir III ibn al-Harith
    Al-Mundhir ibn al-Ḥārith, known in Greek sources as [Flavios] Alamoundaros , was the king of the Ghassanid Arabs from 569 to c. 581. A son of Al-Harith ibn Jabalah, he succeeded his father both in the kingship over his tribe and as the chief of the Byzantine Empire's Arab clients and allies in the...

     (569-581) with...
  28. Abu Kirab al-Nu`man ibn al-Harith (570-582)
  29. al-Nu'man VI ibn al-Mundhir
    Al-Nu'man VI ibn al-Mundhir
    Al-Nu'man ibn al-Mundhir, known in Greek sources as Naamanes was a king of the Ghassanids, a Christian Arab tribe allied to the Byzantine Empire. The eldest son of Al-Mundhir III ibn al-Harith, he rose in revolt with his tribe after his father was treacherously arrested by the Byzantines in 581...

     (581-583)
  30. al-Harith VI ibn al-Harith (583)
  31. al-Nu'man VII ibn al-Harith Abu Kirab (583- ?)
  32. al-Aiham ibn Jabalah (? -614)
  33. al-Mundhir IV ibn Jabalah (614- ?)
  34. Sharahil ibn Jabalah (61 -618)
  35. Amr IV ibn Jabalah (628)
  36. Jabalah V ibn al-Harith (628-632)
  37. Jabalah VI ibn al-Aiham
    Jabalah ibn al-Aiham
    Jabalah Ibn Al-Aiham was the last ruler of the Ghassanid state in Syria and Jordan in the seventh century AD. He commanded a Christian Arab army in the Battle of Yarmouk in 636. After the Muslim conquest of the Levant he converted to Islam around the year 638...

     (632-638)

Primary Sources

  • Almaqhafi, Awwad: Qabayl Wa Biton Al-Arab
  • Almsaodi, Abdulaziz; Tarikh Qabayl Al-Arab
  • Bosra of the Ghassanids in the Catholic Encyclopedia
    Catholic Encyclopedia
    The Catholic Encyclopedia, also referred to as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia and the Original Catholic Encyclopedia, is an English-language encyclopedia published in the United States. The first volume appeared in March 1907 and the last three volumes appeared in 1912, followed by a master index...

     Newadvent.org

Secondary Literature

  • Fergus Millar
    Fergus Millar
    -External links:* staff page at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford* announcement of "History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ."...

    : "Rome's 'Arab' Allies in Late Antiquity". In: Henning Börm - Josef Wiesehöfer
    Josef Wiesehöfer
    Josef Wiesehöfer is a German classical scholar and current professor of Ancient history at the Department of Classics of the University of Kiel...

    (eds.), Commutatio et Contentio. Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian, and Early Islamic Near East. Wellem Verlag, Düsseldorf 2010, pp. 159-186.
  • Irfan Shahid: Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, Vol. 1, Part 1 and Part 2. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington (D.C.) 1995.
  • Yasmine Zahran: Ghassan Resurrected. Stacey International Publishers, London 2007.

External links