We have previously touched upon the work of the Persian spymaster and geographer Abu’l-Qasim Ubaydallah ibn Abdallah Ibn Khurradadhbih or Ibn Khordadbeh (circa 820 – circa 911) in the context of Radhanite and Rus traders. But we did not include all the “Slavic” references made by this author. Here we complete the Slavic excerpts from his Book of Roads and Countries (or The Book of Roads and Provinces) or, as it is also known, Kitāb al-Masālik wa l-mamālik. Ibn Khordadbeh was the son of a governor and general of the Abbasids (the Abdallah referred to above) and the grandson of a Khorasani convert from Zoroastrianism (the Khurradadhbih referred to above).
The first “scientific” Western edition of this work were de Meynard’s (1865) and M.J. de Goeje’s Classic Editions (1889).
Quibla of the inhabitants of all lands
The inhabitants of Armenia, Adarbaijan, Baghdad, Was it, Qufa, al-Mada’in, Basra, Hulwan, ad-Dinawar, Nahawand, Hamadan, Isbahan, ar-Rajj, Tabaristan, all of Khurassan, the country of al-Hazar and Quasmir in India orient themselves during prayers towards this wall Quaba, in which there are its doors. [Along the horizon,] this wall stretches from the North Pole towards the left up until the middle of the East.
Titles of the kings of the Earth
The King of Iraq, whose commonly called Quisra, [was called] Sahansah, the King of ar-Rum, commonly referred to as Quaisar [Caesar], is called Basil, the kings of the Turks, at -Tubat and al-Hazar [are] all [called] Haqan [khagan/khan] with the exception of the King al-Harluh, who they call Gabgujah. The King as-Sin [is called] Bagbur. They are all descendants of Afaridun. The greatest king of India [is called] Balhara which means the “king of kings”. The other rulers of India include: Gaba, king al-Taqan, king al-Gurz, Gaba and Rahma and king Qamrub. King az-Zabag [is called] al-Fungab, the king of Nubia [is called] Qabil, the king of Abissinia [is called] an-Nagasi, the king of the islands of the Eastern Sea [is called] al-Maharag, king as-Saqalib [of the Slavs] [is called] Qnaz [knyaz].
Rumiya, Burgan, the countries of as-Saqalib [of the Slavs] and al-Abar [lie] to the north of al-Andalus.
From the Western Sea there come Slavic, Byzantine [ar-Rum], Frankish and Langobard eunuchs, as well as Byzantine and Andalusian slave women and beaver pelts and other furs. From among the fragrances [they bring] al-mama and from medicines – mastic. From the depths of that sea near Francia they harvest bussed which is commonly called corral.
As regards the sea located beyond the Slav country, there lies at its shore a city called Tulija. No ship sails that sea nor any boat and nothing is brought from it either.
Thereafter comes Abidus at the strait. From there lies the road to the Strait of Constantinople [i.e., Bosphorus]. This is the sea that is also called Buntus [the Pontus]. It lies to the side of the Khazar Sea.
The distance of the entire Strait, from the Khazar Sea to the Syrian Sea is 320 miles. There sail through it [i.e., the the Strait of Bosphorus] ships from the islands of the Khazar Sea and those parts and there sail it upwards [in the other direction, ships] coming from the Syrian Sea towards al-Qustantinija [Constantinople].
Muslim ibn Abi Muslim al-Garmi says, we are told, that there are fourteen Byzantine provinces, which their king gave to his lieutenants to rule. Of these three are beyond the Strait. The first of these is the province Tafla. This is the province of al-Qustantinija [Constantinople]. On its east side it borders on the Strait all the way till its end at the Syrian Sea; on the west side its border is the wall that runs from the Khazar to the Syrian Sea and whose length one travels in four days. – which wall is two days’ journey from al-Qustantinija [Constantinople]; on the south side the Syrian Sea forms its border; on the north side, the Khazar Sea.
The second province that lies beyond this one, is the Taraqian province. Its boundary on the east side is the wall, on the south side the Maqadun province, on the west side the Burgan country, on the north the Khazar Sea. Its length is fifteen days’ journey, its width is three days’ [journey]. There are nine castles there.
The third province is the Maqadun province. Its boundary on the east side is the wall, on the south side the Syrian Sea, on the West side the country of the Slavs and on the north, Burgan. Its length is fifteen days’ journey, its width is five days’ [journey]. There are three castles there.
In ar-Rum [Byzantine Empire] there are 12 batriqs whose number neither decreases nor increases. Six of them reside at al-Qustantinija [Constantinople] at the side of ar-Tagiy [the tyrant] and six in the other provinces: batriq of Ammuria, batriq of Anquira [Ankara], batriq of Armenia, batriq of Taraquiya which lies beyond al-Qustantinija [Constantinople] in the direction of Burgan, batriq of Siquilya [Sicily] which is a great island as well as a great kingdom that lies opposite from Ifriqiya [Africa], batriq of Sardiniya [Sardinia]. This last one [last batriq] is the master of all the islands in the sea.
[A traveler] leaves [the caliphate] through the Darb-as Salam [the safety gate] and stops at al-Ullaqj, next at ar-Rahwa, next at ar-Gawzat, next at al-Gardaqub [this is clearly a Slavic name related to gard], next at Hisn as–Saqaliba [the stronghold of the Slavs]*, next at al-Budandun.**
* Various locations have been proposed such as Anasha-Kalesi (near Bozanti (Podandos) in Idlib). Another possibility is the Cappadocian Hasin which was also mentioned by Ibn al-stir and Ibn Haldun which lay in the Cappadocian lands that fell to the Arabs of Harun al-Rashid in 806. This appears to be a location either of Slavic settlers resettled there by the Byzantines (from Europe) or refugees/deserters from the Byzantine army (in which case the city would likely be in Arab territory). The Hisn as–Saqaliba seems different from the madinat as-Saqaliba (the city of the Slavs) which appears in the works of al-Ya’qubi and the later al-Ṭabarī.
** Or al-Badandun – likely the Byzantine Podandos/Podendos, i.e., Bozanti.
Al-Garbi [meaning the North] is a country in the north… It is here that you find Armenia, Adarbaygan, ar-Rajj, Dumawand [today’s Demawend]… Therein lies too Tabaristan… Here you find [the people] of al-Babr, at-Tajalasan, al-Hazar [the Khazars], al-Lan, as-Saqalib [the Slavs]* and al-Abar [the Avars].
* agreement with Masudi.
The provinces Arran, Gurzan [Georgia was overran by the Arabs in the 7th and the Khazars in the 8th century] and as-Sisagan belonged to the kingdom of al-Hazar [the Khazars].
The city of Samandar beyond al-Ban and the lands beyond it is in the hands of the Khazars.
The road between Gurgan [Jurjan] [Hyrcania or Verkâna] and Hamlih [Khamlij], a city of Khazaria is a northern road and it is for this reason that I mention it here. From Gurgan [Jurjan] to Hamlih [Khamlij] which lies on a river* that flows down from the country as-Saqaliba [of the Slavs] and comes into the Gurgan [Jurjan] [or Caspian] Sea, are eight days’ [journey] by sea if the wind holds. And these are the cities of Khazaria: Hamlih [Khamlij], Balangar and al-Bayda. As al-Buhturi says: ‘There is greatness which he added in Iraqn to what he had been given in Hamlih [Khamlij] or Langar.’ Beyond al-Bab there is the king of Suwar**, king al-Lachs***, the king al-Lan, the king Filan, king al-Maqat, and the ‘Master of the Throne’ – the city of Samandar is also there. This is the end of information about al-Garbi, the land of the north.
* The river is Volga. The country of the Slavs refers either to Volga–Kama Bulgars who may have spoken Slavic at that point or to the country of the Novgorod Slavs or Ilmen Slavs close to whose territory were the Valdai Hills with the source of the Volga.
** Old Turkic name of the Khazars (also in Ibn al-Faqih north of Derbend). Masudi knows it as Sabir. Moses Khorenatsi has Savir between Semender and the River Atil or Volga (also capital of the Khazars). The Savir state fell to the Avars in 558 and later it was reconstituted as a Khazar principality.
*** Perhaps the Lezgic tribes of southern Dagestan.
The routes of the Jewish merchants called al-Radhaniya [Radhanites]
for this section – see here
The routes of the Rus merchants
for this section – see here
The overland routes of the al-Radhaniya
for this section – see here
The inhabited Earth is divided into four parts:
Aruta [Europe] which contains al-Andalus [Spain], as-Saqalib [Slavonia], ar-Rum [Byzantine Empire], Firanga [Frankish Kingdom] and Tamga [Tangier] all the way to the border of Misr [Egypt].
Lubija which contains: Misr [Egypt], al-Qulzum, al-Habasa [Abyssinia], Berber [country], the country surrounding it and the Southern Sea…
Itjufija which contains Tihama, Yeman, Sind, India and China.
Isquitiya which contains Armenia, Khurassan, Turks and Khazars.
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