Macedonia and Slavs in an Arabic Catalogue of Byzantine Themes

 

Besides the Western World, Byzantine empire had attracted also the attention of Arab Writers. Ibn Khurdadhbih, apparently an official in the postal service wrote one of the first travel books and the form remained a popular one in Arabic literature with books by Al Garmi, ibn Hawqal, ibn Fadlan, al-Istakhri, al-Muqaddasi, al-Idrisi and most famously the travels of ibn Battutah. These give a fascinating view of the many cultures of the wider Islamic world and also offer Muslim perspectives on the non-Muslim peoples on the edges of the empire.  One of these sprawling accounts, An Arab Catalogue of the Byzantine Themes written in the 9th Century AD,  includes extremely important details about Byzantine Geography and History.

And beyond this province is the province of Trakiya (Thrace); and its boundary on the eastern side is this long wall, and on the south the province of Macedonia,’- and on the west the districts of Bureau (Bulgarians), <and on the north the sea of the Chazars, and its length is fifteen days journey, and its breadth from the sea of the Chazars to the boundary of the province of Macedonia three days’journey. And the sent of the imtratighus [στρατηγός] (the wali) is a fortress called Arkada (Arkadioupolis), seven days’ inarch from Al Kustantiniyn ; and its army consists of five thousand men-

Next the province of Macedonia; and its boundary on the cast is the long wall, and on the south the sea of Al Sham, and on the west the districts of the Sakaliba |Slavs], and on the north the districts of Burtran; and its breadth is five days’ journey,” and the seat of the imtratighus (meaning the wall)  is a fortress called Itandus; and its army consists of live thousand men.

Now these three districts are those which are beyond the Khalig; and on this side of the Khalig there are eleven provinces; and the first of them in the country lying upon the sea of the Chazars extending to the Khalig ot Al Kustautiniya is the province of Aflaguniya [Paphlagonia]; and the first of its boundaries η lurches upon Al Antimat [Optimatoi], and the second is the sea of the Chazars, and the third marches upon the Armeniakoi, and the fourth upon the Buccellarii: and the seat of the imtratighus is Ayalai (?), which is a village, and a town called Naikus (Nikopolis?). &na he has another seat named Siwas (Sebasteia ?) 10; and its army consists of five thousand men.

 

arabcatalogue Macedonia and Slavs in an Arabic Catalogue of Byzantine Themes

Therefore, even in the Arab World, the Muslim Perspective classifies Slavs as an entirely distinct people from Macedonians and their country to lie on the west of the Byzantine Theme of Macedonia.

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Want more of this? See these Posts:

  1. Slavs,Turks or Bulgarians were NEVER characterised as “Macedonians” in Byzantine Sources
  2. Imperial Byzantine Policy Towards The Slavs And Its Effects
  3. Byzantine icon returns in Macedonia
  4. Macedonia : Thessaloniki Rediscovers Its Byzantine Walls
  5. The term Μακεδόνας and its derivatives in Byzantine sources
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