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Saqaliba ( Arabic صقالبة, DMG ṣaqāliba  'Slavs') refers to Slavs and other peoples of East Central, Southeastern and Eastern Europe in medieval Arabic sources .


The designation aṣ-ṣaqāliba (sing. Ṣaqlabī , Ṣiqlabī ) is borrowed from the Middle Greek Σλάβος, which is associated with the Slavic self- name Slovĕnin . Because of the large number of Slavic slaves, the word has taken on the meaning of "slave" in several European languages ​​(English slave , French esclave , Italian schiavo ), also in Umayyad Spain , where Ṣaqāliba denoted all foreign slaves.


In the Arab world there were Ṣaqāliba as soldiers, slaves, eunuchs , artisans and guards. Some even became famous, for example Sabir al-Fata or the Fatimid general Jawhar al-Siqillī as the founder of Cairo . Through their role as soldiers they were able to found various ruling dynasties together with slaves of other origins, see also Mamluken . The title al-Fata ("young man"; indeterminate fatan ) denotes the released Saqlabī .

Slavs in Northern and Eastern Europe

Although the meaning of the term saqāliba is somewhat vague, it primarily referred to Slavs. At the beginning of the Arab tradition, however, it may also have included neighboring peoples: al-Chwarizmi ( Ṣūrat al-arḍ , 9th century) mentions a “Gharmāniyā, land of the Ṣaqāliba”, and Ibn Faḍlān's travel report (921/22) names the king of the Turkic speakers Volga Bulgarians a "king of the Ṣaqāliba".

The earliest news about Slavic-Arab relations comes from the Theophanes Chronicle (10th century):

  • In the year 664 or 665 5,000 Byzantine slaves ran to the Umayyad Abd ar-Rachman b. Chalid over. They went with him to Syria and settled there in Seleucobolus near Apamea .
  • In 692 or 693, during the reign of the Caliph Abd al-Malik , the Byzantine Neboulos, leader of an Asian Minor Slav army of 30,000, defected to the Arabs with 20,000 men. Justinian II had the remaining Slavs killed in Leucate near Nicomedeia .

The oldest mention in Arabic comes from the Christian poet al-Akhtal (710), who describes a "mob of reddish Slavs" in a poem (جمعة الصقالبة الصهب jamʿat as-saqāliba as-suhb , DMG ǧamʿatu ṣ-ṣaqāliba aṣ-ṣuhb ). The Umayyad administrator Khorasan Yazīd ibn al-Muhallab mentioned the Ṣaqāliba in a speech (720).

These early mentions refer primarily to Slavic diaspora groups, direct contact between Slavs and Arabs took place after the Arab conquest of Khorezmia in the early 8th century.

Famous Saqaliba in Muslim Spain

Also in Islamic al-Andalus there were released military slaves who came from east-central, east or south-east Europe and were called aqāliba in Arabic sources and some of them rose to high dignitaries or emirs of some Taifa kingdoms , for example:

  • Ghalib, was General Hakams II until 976 and then father-in-law of Almansor
  • Sabur, ruled 1009-1022 as an emir in Badajoz and Lisbon
  • Khayran, ruled from 1012-1028 as emir in Murcia, Almería and Orihuela
  • Labib as-Saqlabi, ruled 1009-1039 as an emir in Tortosa (together with mujahid briefly in Valencia)
  • Mujahid al-Amiri, ruled 1012-1045 as emir in Denia and the Balearic Islands (with Labib together 1017-19 also in Valencia, without him until 1021)
  • Zuhayr, initially governor of Khayran in Murcia, then his successor as King of Almería 1028-1038. Was killed in a battle against the Zirids of Granada.

Individual evidence

  1. The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition. Brill, suffering. Vol. 2, p. 837 (FATĀ) is to be corrected and supplemented with the article


  • PB Golden, u. a .: al-Sakaliba ( Memento of August 17, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) . In: Encyclopaedia of Islam . New Edition, Vol. 8, Leiden 1995, pp. 872-881
  • Mohamed Meouak: Saqāliba, eunuques et esclaves à la conquête du pouvoir. Geographie et histoire des élites politiques "marginales" in l'Espagne Umayyade. Helsinki 2004 (Soumalaisen Tiedeakatemian toimituksia: Humaniora, 331), ISBN 951-41-0946-5

See also

Web links