Baghdad vs. Damascus: a walk in Abū l-Hakam’s shoes

Abū l-Hakam’s poem on badly made shoes doesn’t just champion Damascus over Baghdad. It’s truly invested in intellectual fun.


Marian aretalogy of an impious Christian physician to Abbasid caliphs

An aretalogy fragment from the early Abbasid caliphate features the Christian physician Yūhannā ibn Māsawayhi, known also for being crude and impious.


Bakhtīshū chooses season for relaxation

The tale of Bakhtīshū’s great wealth evokes the wonder and marvel of fabulous, season-dominating luxury. That Bakhtīshū was Christian doesn’t figure.


ibn Butlān and ibn Ridwān in vicious intellectual competition

In the 11th century, the eminent physicians ibn Butlān and ibn Ridwān viciously disputed the question “which is warmer, the chick or the chicken?”

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managing patients: physicians serving early Islamic rulers

Physicians were highly influential figures in rulers’ courts in the early Islamic world, but managing ruler-patients was far from easy.


Christian fearlessness under early Roman persecution

Early Christians were known for fearlessness in facing death under Roman religious persecution.


early Islamic stories shift heroes from deeds to ideals

Compared to ancient Greek stories, early Islamic stories shift narrative weight from deeds to ideals.


poetic currency of ancient Islamic social distinction

Poetry was a common currency for claiming social distinction in the ancient Islamic world.


the perfect physician can revive the dead

Fulfilling a universal human hope is a physician who can revive the dead: the perfect physician.


Indian and Greek medicine competing in eighth-century Baghdad

Greek medicine prevailed over Indian medicine under the Abbasids at least in part through story-telling and courtly politics.

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