Who's Who in Medieval History
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Harun al-Rashid was also known as:
Harun al-Rashid was known for:
Places of Residence and Influence:
About Harun al-Rashid:
Born to the caliph al-Mahdi and the former slave-girl al-Khayzuran, Harun was raised at court and received the bulk of his education from Yahya the Barmakid, who was a loyal supporter of Harun's mother. Before he was out of his teens, Harun was made the nominal leader of several expeditions against the Eastern Roman Empire; his success (or, more accurately, the success of his generals) resulted in his earning the title "al-Rashid," which means "the one following the right path" or "upright" or "just." He was also appointed governor of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia, which Yahya administered for him, and named second in line to the throne (after his older brother, al-Hadi).
Al-Mahdi died in 785 and al-Hadi died mysteriously in 786 (it was rumored that al-Khayzuran arranged his death), and Harun became caliph in September of that year. He appointed as his vizier Yahya, who installed a cadre of Barmakids as administrators. Al-Khayzuran had considerable influence over her son until her death in 803, and the Barmakids effectively ran the empire for Harun. Regional dynasties were given semi-autonomous status in return for considerable annual payments, which enriched Harun financially but weakened the power of the caliphs. He also divided his empire between his sons al-Amin and al-Ma'mun, who would go to war after Harun's death.
Harun was a great patron of art and learning, and is best known for the unsurpassed splendor of his court and lifestyle. Some of the stories, perhaps the earliest, of The Thousand and One Nights were inspired by the glittering Baghdad court, and King Shahryar (whose wife, Scheherazade, tells the tales) may have been based on Harun himself.
More Harun al-Rashid Resources:
Encyclopedia article on Abbasids
Harun al-Rashid on the Web
Baghdad in the Time of Harun Al-Raschid
Brief description at the Freethought History Newsletter.
Informative collection of data at NNDB.
Harun al-Rashid (786-809)
Brief overview of Harun's life at the Jewish Virtual Library.
Concise bio at Infoplease.
Harun al-Rashid in Print
The links below will take you to a site where you can compare prices at booksellers across the web. More in-depth info about the book may be found by clicking on to the book's page at one of the online merchants.
Reinterpreting Islamic Historiography: Harun al-Rashid and the Narrative of the Abbasid Caliphate
(Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization)
by Tayeb El-Hibri
Guide Note: This Who's Who Profile of Harun al-Rashid was originally posted in October of 2003, and was updated in March of 2012. Content is copyright ©2003-2012 Melissa Snell.
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