The History of al-Ṭabarī Vol. 36

The Revolt of the Zanj A.D. 869-879/A.H. 255-265

Translated by David Waines

Subjects: Islam
Series: SUNY series in Near Eastern Studies
Paperback : 9780791407646, 252 pages, November 1991
Hardcover : 9780791407639, 252 pages, November 1991

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Table of contents



Translator's Foreword

Map I. The Lower Part of Southern Iraq in the Third/Ninth Century

The Caliphate of Ibn al-Wathiq: A1-Muhtadi bi-Allah

The Events of the Year 255 (cont'd) (868/869)

An Account of the Causes and Consequences of [the] Disturbances [in Baghdad]

An Account of [the] Deaths of [Ahmad b. Isra'il and Abu Nuh]

An Account of [the] Events [of Ramadan 255]

An Account of Musa's Departure

The First `Alawite Rebellion in al-Basrah

An Account of [`Ali b. Muhammad b. `Abd al-Rahim's] Expedition and What Determined Him to Revolt There

An Account of the Zanj Leader's Advance upon al-Basrah with His Army

The Events of the Year 256 (869/870)

An Account of Salih's Discovery in Hiding and His Death

An Account of [al-Muhtadi's] Removal and Death

Other Accounts of al-Muhtadi's Death

News of [the] Encounter [between Ju`lan and the Zanj]

An Account of the Zanj Occupation of al-Ubullah

The Account of [the Zanj Leader's] Summons for [the] Surrender [of the Inhabitants of `Abbadan]

An Account of [the Occupation of al-Ahwaz]

The Caliphate of al-Muctamid `ala-Allah

The Events of the Year 256 (cont'd) (869/870)

The Events of the Year 257 (870/871)

An Account of the Battle [between Sa`id al-Hajib and the Zanj]

An Account of the Battle [between Manstir b. Ja`far and the Zanj]

The Death of Shahin b. Bistam and the Flight of Ibrahim b. Sima

The Events that Led up to [the] Entry of al-Basrah[by the Zanj] and What Transpired Thereafter

An Account of al-Muwallad's Expedition

The Events of the Year 258 (871/872)

An Account of [Manstir b. Ja`far's] Death

An Account of [Muflih's] Death

An Account of [Yahya b. Muhammad's] Capture and Death

An Account of [Abu Ahmad's] Withdrawal to Wasit

The Events of the Year 259 (872/873)

An Account of [Kanjur's] Death

An Account of [the] Battle [at Suq al-Ahwaz] and How the Army Commander of the Central Authorities Was Killed

An Account of How [Musa b. Bugha's Commanders] Fared against the Zanj

An Account of [Ya`qub b. al-Layth's Entry into Naysabur]

The Events of the Year 260 (873/874)

An Account of [the] Battle [in Tabaristan]

An Account of [al-Azdi's] Death

The Events of the Year 261 (874/875)

An Account of [the] Battle [of Ramhurmuz]

The Events of the Year 262 (875/876)

An Account of [the Zanj Attack on the Salt Flats]

An Account of the Battle and Capture of al-Su`luk

The Events of the Year 263 (876/877)

An Account of [the] Battle [at `Askar Mukram]

An Account of [Ya`qub] al-Saffar's Activities This Year

The Events of the Year 264 (877/878)

An Account of [the] Capture [of `Abdallah b.Rashid]

An Account of [the] Battle [at Wasit]

An Account of How the Abominable One Prepared His Zanj to Occupy Wasit (and Other Events of the Year 264)

The Events of the Year 265 (878/879)

An Account of [the] Battle [of Junbula']

An Account of Takin's Arrival in al-Ahwaz

Bibliography of Cited Works



The present volume of al-Ṭabarī's monumental history covers the years 255-265/869-878, the first half of the reign of the Abbasid caliph al-Muʿtamid in Sāmarrā. Although the decade was one of relative calm in the capital, compared with the anarchy of the years immediately preceding, danger signals were flashing in territories adjacent to the imperial heartlands. Chief among them was the revolt of the Zanj, the narrative of which occupies the bulk of the present volume.

A people of semi-servile status, the Zanj, who were based in the marshlands of southern Iraq, were led by a somewhat shadowy and mysterious figure claiming Shi'ite descent, 'Ali b. Muhammad. Their prolonged revolt against the central authorities was not crushed until 269/882.

Al-Ṭabarī's account of these momentous events is unique in both the quality and the quantity of his information. He himself was present in Baghdad during the years of the revolt, and he was thus able to construct his story from reports by numerous eyewitnesses. The result is a detailed narrative that brings alive for the modern reader the main personalities and engagements of the revolt.