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An Ignored Arabic Account of a Byzantine Royal Woman

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Imperial and aristocratic Byzantine women had a wide variety of roles with a spectrum of importance. One possible way to enrich our information about Byzantine royal women is to consult the historical and cultural heritage of Byzantium’s adjacent territories. The primary aim of this article is thus to trace Byzantine women in the Arabic Shīī literature, as exemplified by the underutilised autobiography of a hitherto unidentified Roman princess named Malīka. Probably because Malīka’s autobiography, along with its hagiographic and miraculous elements, is found in a source from the Shīī adīth tradition, the account’s potential historical value has escaped the notice of previous Byzantinists. Despite its hagiographic character, Malīka’s story has a historical core. Through an intertextual study between the Arabic and Byzantine historical texts, the present study seeks to shed light on the identification of Malīka and her paternal ancestry.
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Keywords: Arab–Byzantine relations; Byzantine royal women; Caesar Bardas; Enslaved women; Hagiography

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 3, 2020

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