Abbasid Samarra

Samarra is a city in central Iraq, which served as the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate from 836 to 892. Founded by the caliph al-Mu'tasim, Samarra was briefly a major metropolis that stretched dozens of kilometers along the east bank of the Tigris, but was largely abandoned in the latter half of the 9th century, especially following the return of the caliphs to Baghdad.

Due to the relatively short period of occupation, extensive ruins of Abbasid Samarra have survived into modern times. The layout of the city can still be seen via aerial photography, revealing a vast network of planned streets, houses, palaces and mosques. Studies comparing the archeological evidence with information provided by Muslim historians have resulted in the identification of many of the toponyms within the former city.[1]

The archeological site of Samarra was named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2007, calling it "the best preserved plan of an ancient large city."[2] The modern city bearing the same name lies within the Abbasid ruins.

Samara spiralovity minaret rijen1973
The spiral minaret of the Great Mosque of Samarra
Abbasid Samarra is located in Iraq
Abbasid Samarra
Shown within Iraq
LocationSamarra, Saladin Governorate, Iraq
Coordinates34°20′27.562″N 43°49′24.755″E / 34.34098944°N 43.82354306°ECoordinates: 34°20′27.562″N 43°49′24.755″E / 34.34098944°N 43.82354306°E
BuilderAl-Mu'tasim, Abbasid Caliphate
Abandonedcirca 892, with partial settlement thereafter
Site notes


Dirhem of al-Muntasir, AH 247-248
Dirham of al-Muntasir minted in Surra Man Ra'a (Samarra) in 861-862

The toponym Samarra is known to have existed prior to the Islamic period. Classical authors mention the name in various forms, including the Greek Suma (Σουμᾶ), the Latin Sumere and the Syriac Šumara.

The formal name of the Abbasid city was Surra Man Ra'ā (Arabic: سر من رأى‎), meaning "he who sees it is delighted". This name appears on coins and was adopted by some medieval writers. Other sources, however, use Sāmarrā (سامرا) or Sāmarrā' (سامراء) as variants of the pre-Islamic name, and the latter form eventually became the standard spelling.[3]

History of the Abbasid city

Berlín Samarra IX
Decorative stucco panel, in Style C, or the "bevelled style"
British Museum Harem wall painting fragments 1
Fragments of painted or carved plaster from interiors


Samarra was founded by the eighth Abbasid caliph al-Mu'tasim (r. 833–842) in 836. Al-Mu'tasim's immediate motivation for the decision was a need to find housing for his newly formed Turkish and other army regiments. These troops, who were from groups that had previously held only a marginal role in the Islamic world, were deeply unpopular among the residents of Baghdad, and violent incidents had repeatedly broken out between the soldiers and Baghdadis. Al-Mu'tasim therefore resolved in ca. 835 to depart from Baghdad, the usual seat of the Abbasid caliphs since 762,[4] and create a new capital city of his choosing.[5]

Following a period of searching for an ideal spot, al-Mu'tasim settled on a site approximately 80 mi (130 km) north of Baghdad on the east side of the Tigris, near the head of the Nahrawan Canal.[6] After sending men to buy up the local properties, including a Christian monastery, the caliph had his engineers survey the most suitable places for development.[7] By 836, buildings had been erected at the site and al-Mu'tasim moved into the new city.[8]

From the start, construction at Samarra was undertaken on a massive scale. Space was no object; land was plentiful and cheap, with little in the way of preexisting settlements to hinder expansion.[9] Al-Mu'tasim marked out various allotments in the new city and granted these spaces to various elites of the army and administration for them to develop. Numerous cantonments were established for the army regiments, who in many cases were intentionally segregated from the residences for the general populace. Markets, mosques and baths for the people were built, together with a number of palaces for the caliph and other prominent individuals. Materials and laborers were shipped in from various parts of the Muslim world to help with the work; iron-workers, carpenters, marble sculptors and artisans all assisted in the construction.[10]

Founding a new capital was a public statement of the establishment of a new regime, while allowing the court to be "at a distance from the populace of Baghdad and protected by a new guard of foreign troops, and amid a new royal culture revolving around sprawling palatial grounds, public spectacle and a seemingly ceaseless quest for leisurely indulgence" (T. El-Hibri), an arrangement compared by Oleg Grabar to the relationship between Paris and Versailles after Louis XIV.[11] In addition, by creating a new city in a previously uninhabited area, al-Mu'tasim could reward his followers with land and commercial opportunities without cost to himself and free from any constraints, unlike Baghdad with its established interest groups. In fact, the sale of land seems to have produced considerable profit for the treasury: as Hugh Kennedy writes, it was "a sort of gigantic property speculation in which both government and its followers could expect to benefit".[12]

Under al-Mu'tasim's successors

After al-Mu'tasim's death, his successor al-Wathiq (r. 842–847) remained in Samarra. His decision to stay convinced the residents of the new city's permanence, and a fresh round of construction began during his reign. Al-Wathiq himself built a new palace, the Haruni (al-Wathiq's given name was Harun) on the bank of the Tigris, which became his new residence.[13]

Al-Mutawakkil (r. 847–861) aggressively pursued new construction, extending the central city to the east and building the Great Mosque of Samarra, the cantonment of Balkuwara and numerous palaces. After moving to Damascus in 858,[14] he returned to Iraq and undertook his most ambitious project, the new city of al-Mutawakkiliyya to the north of Samarra. Included in the new area was the palace of al-Ja'fari (Ja'far being his given name), which he moved into in 860. In the following year, however, he was assassinated, and al-Mutawakkiliyya was abandoned soon after.[15]

The decade following al-Mutawakkil's assassination was a turbulent period, sometimes known as the Anarchy at Samarra, during which the capital was frequently beset by frequent troop riots and coups. Al-Mutawakkil's son al-Muntasir (r. 861–862) abandoned al-Ja'fari and moved back to the Jawsaq palace, which remained the residence of his successors. Al-Musta'in (r. 862–866), finding it impossible to control the Samarran regiments, left the city and attempted to establish himself in Baghdad in 865, but the Turks and other troops responded by deposing him and besieging Baghdad until the caliph agreed to abdicate. His two successors, al-Mu'tazz (r. 866–869) and al-Muhtadi (r. 869–870), were similarly overthrown by the army.[16][17]

Al-Mu'tamid (r. 870–892) undertook the last known building projects in Samarra, but in the later period of his reign he appears to have spent less time in the city.[19] After his death, al-Mu'tadid (r. 892–902) formally returned to Baghdad, thus bringing an end to the Samarran interlude.[20] Al-Muktafi (r. 902–908) at one point considered moving back to Samarra and encamped in the Jawsaq palace, but was eventually dissuaded after his advisers informed him of the high costs of the plan.[21]

On its own, Samarra had little to incentivize residents to stay; the water supply was problematic[22] and the city seems to have been heavily dependent on supplies from elsewhere.[23] As long as the caliphs were willing to pour vast sums of money into the city, it continued to survive; with the return of the caliphs to Baghdad, this investment dried up and soon much of the city was abandoned.[24] In the following centuries, a few isolated settlements survived within the ruins, but the vast portion of the city soon became uninhabited.[25]

Overview of the city

Abbasid Samarra Map
Map of Abbasid Samarra

The known remains of Samarra occupy an area of approximately 58 km2 (22 sq mi), mostly on the east side of the Tigris. Out of 6,314 registered buildings at the site (as of 1991), only nine still have any components of significant height; the vast majority of the ruins consist of collapsed mounds of rammed earth and scattered debris. At ground level, the remains are mostly unimpressive; when viewed from the air, however, the entire plan of the Abbasid city, with its buildings and street pattern, can clearly be seen.[26]

Central Samarra

The core area of the city was initially constructed in the reign of al-Mu'tasim, with further development taking place under al-Wathiq and al-Mutawakkil.[27]

The street layout of this area was dominated by a series of long, broad avenues which ran north-to-south and northwest-to-southeast.[28] These avenues are described in detail by the Muslim historian and geographer al-Ya'qubi, who lists the various buildings and allotments which were located along each one.[29] In between the avenues were a great number of smaller streets and housing blocks, together with several larger buildings.[30]

The residents of this section of the city were a mixture of civilians and military personnel. In some cases, the cantonments of the troops were explicitly segregated from the rest of the populace. Numerous army commanders, together with their regiments, were granted allotments here, including those of the Turks, Faraghina, Ushrusaniyya, Maghariba, Ishtakhaniyya, Jund, Shakiriyya, Arabs and Khurasanis. Several bureaucrats, Abbasid princes and other personages also had allotments along the avenues.[31]

Besides residences, a number of other buildings were located in this area, including the public and private stables, the office of the Bureau of the Land Tax (diwan al-kharaj), and the great prison. The markets, as laid out by al-Mu'tasim, are described as having broad rows, with each type of merchandise sold in a separate section. Near the markets was the gibbet from which the rebel Babak Khorramdin was hanged (khashabat Babak), and which served as a place for displaying executed persons.[32] On the Tigris were a great number of wharves, where provisions from Mosul and other cities were unloaded.[33]

The original mosque, laid out by al-Mu'tasim, soon became too small for the city's residents; it was eventually demolished by al-Mutawakkil, who replaced it by building the Great Mosque of Samarra in the vicinity of al-Hayr.[34] This mosque, the largest in the world at the time, measured 239 m × 156 m (784 ft × 512 ft) and had 17 aisles in the prayer hall. An enclosure wall measuring 443 m × 374 m (1,453 ft × 1,227 ft) featured covered porticoes to accommodate additional worshippers. The spiral minaret, 52 m (171 ft) high, still stands in the rear of the mosque.[35][36]


Al-Matira was a cantonment located to the south of central Samarra. It was established two farsakhs (12 km) south of the initial city construction, at the site of a preexisting village.[37]

Al-Matira was first allotted by al-Mu'tasim to the Ushrusanan general al-Afshin, together with the Ushrusaniyya and others in his service. Al-Afshin built a residence for himself, and on the caliph's orders, he also constructed a small market, as well as mosques and baths. Following the execution of al-Afshin in 841, al-Matira was granted to the Turkish general Wasif by al-Wathiq. During the reign of al-Mutawakkil, his son al-Mu'ayyad took up residence there.[38]

Al-Matira survived the abandonment of Samarra by the caliphs, and remained occupied at least until the 13th century.[39]

Dar al-Khalifa

On the northern end of central Samarra was the Palace of the Caliph (dar al-khalifa). This site served as the official seat of government during the reigns of al-Mu'tasim, al-Muntasir, al-Musta'in, al-Mu'tazz, al-Muhtadi and al-Mu'tamid.[40]

The palace complex consisted of two primary buildings. The larger one has been identified as the Dar al-'Amma (Public Palace), where the caliph sat in audience and conducted official business, and where the public treasury (bayt al-mal) was housed.[41] On the western side of the palace was the Bab al-'Amma (Public Gate), whose triple iwan still survives.[42] The Bab al-'Amma was often used as a location for public executions and displaying the remains of those killed.[43]

The smaller building to the north has been identified as the Jawsaq al-Khaqani, which served as the private residence of the caliph. Construction of the Jawsaq palace was entrusted by al-Mu'tasim to the Turk Khaqan 'Urtuj, the father of al-Fath ibn Khaqan and Muzahim ibn Khaqan.[44] It was located within an enclosure wall, and on the eastern side was a maydan or square which overlooked the beginning of a racecourse in al-Hayr.[45] During the violent period following the death of al-Mutawakkil, the Jawsaq palace is frequently mentioned as serving as a prison for prominent persons; al-Mu'tazz, al-Mu'ayyad, al-Muwaffaq, al-Muhtadi, and al-Mu'tamid all were incarcerated there at various points in time.[46]

Cantonment of Khaqan 'Urtuj and al-Waziriyya

Chinese sancai sherd 9th 10th century found in Samarra
Chinese-made sancai pottery shard, 9-10th century, found in Samarra, an example of Chinese influences on Islamic pottery

On the northern side of the Dar al-Khalifa was a walled cantonment area. This site has been identified as the area allotted by al-Mu'tasim to Khaqan 'Urtuj and his followers, who were said to be segregated from the general populace.[47] At some point, the cantonment appears to have housed the servants who worked in the caliphal palace. A smaller palace (possibly the 'Umari palace built by Khaqan 'Urtuj) and storehouses were located here, and al-Hayr marked the eastern boundary of the area.[48]

Immediately to the north of the cantonment of Khaqan 'Urtuj was a second, diamond-shaped area. This cantonment is tentatively identified as al-Waziriyya, containing the Waziri palace built by Abu al-Wazir.[49] Like the cantonment of Khaqan 'Urtuj, it may have served as housing for the caliphal servants.[50]

Al-Karkh and al-Dur

Al-Karkh and al-Dur were two cantonments located several kilometers to the north of Samarra proper. Built during the reign of al-Mu'tasim, both areas seem to have housed Turkish regiments and are frequently mentioned together.[51]

Al-Karkh (sometimes called Karkh Samarra in the sources) was built near a preexisting settlement, Shaykh Wali. It was allotted to the Turkish general Ashinas, with strict orders that no strangers (i.e., non-Turks) were to be allowed to live there, and that his followers were not to associate with people of Arab culture.[52] Ashinas built a palace which contained a mosque; after his death, this building was given to al-Fath ibn Khaqan.[53] Details of the settlement of al-Dur, to the north of al-Karkh, are less well known, but it is clear that Turks were settled in this area as well.[54]

Al-Ya'qubi describes the building of mosques, baths and markets in al-Karkh and al-Dur.[55] Both areas continued to be populated following the abandonment of Samarra and seem to have been considered as suburbs of Samarra proper; the tenth century geographer al-Muqaddasi, for example, refers to both localities as dependencies of Samarra.[56] They appear to have survived until at least the 13th century.[57]


Al-Hayr was a massive hunting reserve to the east of Samarra. Surrounding it was a wall of coursed earth, enclosing an area of 114 km2 (44 sq mi). The western portion of the wall bordering the central city was repeatedly demolished and rebuilt to make way for new construction, including that of the Great Mosque.[58] Within al-Hayr were a series of racecourses, with each track measuring several kilometers in length. The layout of these racecourses varied; one was parachute-shaped, another bottle-shaped, and a third shaped as a cloverleaf.[59]


Al-Haruni was a palace built by Harun al-Wathiq on the Tigris. Al-Wathiq resided here during his reign, as did al-Mutawakkil prior to the construction of al-Ja'fariyya in 859.[60]


Balkuwara was a cantonment located to the south of al-Matira. A major feature of this site was the palace, which served as the residence of al-Mu'tazz during the caliphate of his father al-Mutawakkil.[61] Built during al-Mutawakkil's reign, the palace overlooked the Tigris and was surrounded by two enclosure walls, with the outer wall measuring 1,165 m × 1,171 m (3,822 ft × 3,842 ft) and the inner measuring 464 m × 575 m (1,522 ft × 1,886 ft).[62] Excavation work undertaken in the early 20th century revealed decorative elements consisting of stucco, frescoes, colored glass windows and niches.[63][64]

Al-Mutawakkiliyya and al-Ja'fari

Spiral minaret at Abu Dulaf
The spiral minaret of the Abu Dulaf Mosque

Al-Mutawakkiliyya was the largest building project of the caliph Ja'far al-Mutawakkil, who ordered the construction of a new city on the northern border of al-Dur in 859. This city, which was built in the vicinity of the settlement of al-Mahuza, was intended to replace Samarra as the residence of the caliphs.[65]

Al-Mutawakkiliyya consisted of an unwalled area, through the center of which ran a north-south avenue. On the western side of the avenue was the Abu Dulaf Mosque. Like the Great Mosque of Samarra, the Abu Dulaf Mosque included a spiral minaret, measuring 34 m (112 ft) high.[66][67] The avenue ultimately led to the Ja'fari palace, which served as al-Mutawakkil's new residence. It was located in the north of al-Mutawakkiliyya and separated from the rest of the city by a wall. A canal was also dug to supply water to the new city, but this project failed and the canal never functioned properly.[68]

The building al-Mutawakkiliyya marked the high point of the expansion of Samarra; al-Ya'qubi reports that there was continuous development between al-Ja'fari and Balkuwara, extending a length of seven farsakhs (42 km). Despite the significant amount of money spent to construct it, however, al-Mutawakkiliyya was occupied for only a very short time. Al-Mutawakkil took up residence in al-Ja'fari in 860 and transferred the government bureaucracies (diwans) from Samarra, but following his assassination in December 861, his son and successor al-Muntasir ordered a return to Samarra and took up residence in the Jawsaq palace instead.[69]


Al-Musharrahat was a complex in the vicinity of Qadisiyya, to the south of Samarra. On the north side was a palace, and on the east and west sides were housing units. A large trapezoidal enclosure branched out from the complex and extended several kilometers to the north into al-Hayr. The site, which evidently served as a hunting palace, is identified with al-Shah, probably built during the reign of al-Mutawakkil.[70]

To the west of the Tigris

Although the majority of the development in Samarra was located on the east side of the Tigris, several buildings were also constructed on the west bank. Al-Mu'tasim built a bridge across the Tigris and founded developments, orchards and gardens on the west side.[71]

Al-Istablat was a large walled structure located to the south of Samarra. The northern part consisted of a palace that overlooked the Tigris, while the southern area contained a number of housing units. A long outer wall enclosing al-Istablat and the surrounding area was also built. Al-Istablat is believed to be al-'Arus, one of the palaces built by al-Mutawakkil.[72]

Qasr al-'Ashiq was a palace located opposite al-Haruni and the Dar al-Khalifa. It is the best preserved of the Samarran palaces and the main building was nearly completely restored in the late 20th century. The plan of the palace appears to have been based on that of the Jawsaq. It is identified with al-Ma'shuq, which was built by al-Mu'tamid and served as his residence for part of his caliphate.[73][74]

Qubbat al-Sulaybiyya was a small octagonal building to the south of Qasr al-'Ashiq. An inner octagonal structure which featured a dome was reached by ramps ascending on four sides. Restoration work in the 1970s included the rebuilding of the dome.[75][76]

Modern research and developments

Photography Q27441
Samarra during the early 20th century.

Samarra first drew the attention of archeologists around the turn of the 20th century, and excavation work was conducted by Henri Viollet, Friedrich Sarre, and Ernst Herzfeld[77] in the period leading up to World War I. Aerial photographs were taken between 1924 and 1961, which preserved portions of the site that have since been overrun by new development. The Directorate-General of Antiquities of Iraq restarted excavations between 1936 and 1940, and continued in the 1960s and 1970s. Excavation and restoration work took place between 1980 and 1990.[78] Around the same time, Alastair Northedge surveyed the surviving portions of the city, and has since published several works on the subject.[79][80] Despite these projects, an estimated 80% of the site was still unexcavated around the beginning of the 21st century.[2]

Developments in the 20th century, including the completion of the Samarra Barrage in the 1950s and growth of the modern city of Samarra, have resulted in parts of the ruins being overrun by new construction and cultivation.[81] The Iraq War (2003–2011) also caused damage to the site, including in 2005 when a bomb was detonated at the top of the minaret of the Great Mosque.[82] The palace complex of Sur Ashinas was the site of fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Iraqi Army and tribal militias during the ISIL offensive in Iraq in 2015.[83]

The Samarra Archaeological City was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007.[2]


  1. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 32–33
  2. ^ a b c UNESCO.
  3. ^ Northedge 2008, p. 97; Le Strange 1905, p. 53
  4. ^ Al-Mu'tasim's move from Baghdad was not without precedent; Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809) had moved to Raqqa and formed a new administrative complex there, known as al-Rafiqah. EI2 (1960–2004, s.v. "al-Rakka")
  5. ^ Gordon 2001, pp. 15 ff., 50 ff.; Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 255–56; Al-Tabari 1985–2007, v. 33: pp. 24-28; Al-Mas'udi 1873, pp. 118–19
  6. ^ Kennedy 2004a, p. 163; Le Strange 1905, pp. 53–57
  7. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 256–58; Al-Tabari 1985–2007, v. 33: pp. 25-26; Al-Mas'udi 1873, pp. 119 ff.
  8. ^ Al-Tabari 1985–2007, v. 33: p. 26
  9. ^ Kennedy 2004b, p. 219
  10. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 258–64
  11. ^ Kennedy 2004a, p. 163; El-Hibri 2011, pp. 296–297.
  12. ^ Kennedy 2004a, p. 163.
  13. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 264–65
  14. ^ Al-Tabari 1985–2007, v. 34: pp. 149-52
  15. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 265–67; Al-Tabari 1985–2007, v. 38: pp. 154-56, 170, 190-91; Northedge 2008, pp. 195 ff. The sources agree that the sums that al-Mutawakkil spent on his various projects were enormous, and were likely missed in the decade following his death, when the government frequently ran into fiscal crises.
  16. ^ EI2 1960–2004, s. vv. "Al-Muntasir," "Al-Musta'in," "Al-Mu'tazz," "Al-Muhtadi".
  17. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 267–68
  18. ^ Tuetey 1985, p. 260 no. 145.
  19. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 268
  20. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 239 ff.
  21. ^ Al-Tabari 1985–2007, v. 38: pp. 120-21
  22. ^ Kennedy 2004a, p. 163
  23. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 263; Al-Tabari 1985–2007, v. 35: p. 39
  24. ^ Kennedy 2004a, p. 164
  25. ^ Le Strange 1905, pp. 55–56
  26. ^ Northedge 1991, p. 74; Northedge & Kennet 2015, p. 1; Kennedy 2004b, pp. 219–20
  27. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 97–100, 122 ff.
  28. ^ Northedge 2008, p. 100
  29. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 260–63
  30. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 100 ff.
  31. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 255–56; Northedge 2008, pp. 100 ff., 183 ff.
  32. ^ Al-Tabari 1985–2007, v. 33: pp. 87-88; v. 35, p. 122
  33. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 255–56; Northedge 2008, pp. 98 ff.
  34. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 258, 260–61; Northedge 2008, pp. 114, 122–25
  35. ^ CEMML, 060. Samarra — Al-Mutawakkil Mosque & Minaret al-Malwiya.
  36. ^ Leisten 2003, pp. 35–57; Northedge 2008, p. 123
  37. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 259
  38. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 259, 264–65; Northedge 2008, pp. 185–89
  39. ^ Northedge 2008, p. 242
  40. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 133, 143
  41. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 255
  42. ^ CEMML, 059. Samarra — Bab al-'Amma, the Jawsaq al-Khaqani Palace Gate.
  43. ^ Al-Tabari 1985–2007, v. 36: pp. 11, 90, 136; Northedge 2008, pp. 133–141
  44. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 258
  45. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 141–144; Northedge 1993, passim
  46. ^ Al-Tabari 1985–2007, v. 35: pp. 7, 35, 131; v. 36: pp. 98, 105
  47. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 258
  48. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 144–46
  49. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 258
  50. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 146–48
  51. ^ Gordon 2001, p. 199; Al-Tabari 1985–2007, v. 35: pp. 12, 30-31, 140, 152, 164; v. 36, pp. 76, 78, 85, 86, 87, 91. 95, 96, 99; Northedge 2008, pp. 173 ff.
  52. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 259; Al-Mas'udi 1873, p. 122
  53. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 259, 266
  54. ^ Northedge 2008, p. 183
  55. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 259
  56. ^ Al-Muqaddasi 2001, p. 55
  57. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 183, 242
  58. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 258, 263, 265; Northedge 2008, pp. 151–52
  59. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 152 ff.; Northedge 1990, passim
  60. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 264–65; Northedge 2008, pp. 225–27
  61. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 265
  62. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 198
  63. ^ CEMML, 056. Samarra — Balkuwara Palace.
  64. ^ Leisten 2003, pp. 69–71, 81–104; Northedge 2008, pp. 189–191, 198–200; Northedge 1991, p. 89
  65. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 266; Northedge 2008, pp. 211 ff.
  66. ^ CEMML, 055. Samarra — Abu Dulaf Mosque and Minaret.
  67. ^ Leisten 2003, pp. 58–68
  68. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 266–67; Northedge 2008, p. 211 ff.
  69. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 266–67; Northedge 2008, pp. 211, 220–23
  70. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 204–07
  71. ^ Al-Ya'qubi 1892, pp. 263–64; Northedge 2008, pp. 227 ff.
  72. ^ Northedge 2008, pp. 200–04
  73. ^ Leisten 2003, pp. 105–110; Northedge 2008, pp. 233–35; Al-Ya'qubi 1892, p. 268
  74. ^ CEMML, 061. Samarra — Qasr al-Ashiq.
  75. ^ CEMML, 063. Samarra — Sulaybiya Mausoleum.
  76. ^ Leisten 2003, pp. 72–78; Northedge 2008, pp. 230–33
  77. ^ Freer-Sackler.
  78. ^ Shaw & King 1999, p. 505; Northedge 2006, p. 6
  79. ^ Northedge 1990; Northedge 1991; Northedge 1993; Northedge 2008; Northedge & Kennet 2015
  80. ^ Finster 2004, p. 241, credits Northedge and his work for ensuring that "Samarra was not consigned to oblivion."
  81. ^ Northedge & Kennet 2015, pp. 49
  82. ^ BBC 2005.
  83. ^ Reuters 2015.



Year 870 (DCCCLXX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.


The 870s decade ran from January 1, 870, to December 31, 879.

== Events ==

=== 870 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

August 8 – Treaty of Meerssen: King Louis the German forces his half-brother Charles the Bald to accept a peace treaty, which partitions the Middle Frankish Kingdom into two larger east and west divisions. Louis receives most of Austrasia (which evolves into the Kingdom of Germany), and Charles receives territory in Lower Burgundy (which evolves into the Kingdom of France). However, large parts of the Frisian coast are under Viking control.

Charles the Bald marries Richilde of Provence, after the death of his first wife, Ermentrude of Orleans. He intends to secure his rule in Lotharingia through the powerful Bosonid family and the connection to Teutberga, widow-queen of Lothair II.

Rastislav, ruler (knyaz) of Great Moravia, dies in prison after he is condemned to death for treason, by Louis the German. He is succeeded by his nephew Svatopluk I, who becomes a vassal of the East Frankish Kingdom.

Bořivoj I, duke of Bohemia, makes Levý Hradec (modern Czech Republic) his residence. Around this time Prague Castle is founded (approximate date).

Wilfred the Hairy, a Frankish nobleman, becomes count of Urgell and Cerdanya (modern-day Catalonia).

====== Britain ======

Autumn – The Great Heathen Army, led by Ivar the Boneless and Ubba, invades East Anglia and plunders Peterborough. King Edmund the Martyr is captured, tortured, beaten and used as archery practice (or 869).

The Danes, led by Ivar the Boneless and King Olaf of the Dublin Vikings, besiege Dumbarton in Scotland, the capital of King Artgal of Stratchlyde. After a siege of four months, the citadel is captured and destroyed.

The Danes, led by Halfdan Ragnarsson and Bagsecg, invade Wessex and take the royal estate at Reading (Berkshire), which Halfdan makes his headquarters. A naval Viking contingent sails up the Thames River.

December 31 – Battle of Englefield: The Vikings clash with ealdorman Æthelwulf of Berkshire. The invaders are driven back to Reading; many of the Danes (including one of the earls named Sidrac) are killed.

====== Arabian Empire ======

January 29 – Anarchy at Samarra: The rebel Salih ibn Wasif is hunted down and killed in Abbasid Samarra by troops of Musa ibn Bugha al-Kabir.

June 21 – Caliph Al-Muhtadi is deposed and killed by the Turks, after a brief reign. He is succeeded by Al-Mu'tamid (son of the late Al-Mutawakkil) as ruler of the Abbasid Caliphate, who moves his court to Baghdad. End of the Anarchy at Samarra.

Byzantine–Arab War: A Muslim expeditionary force, led by Halaf al-Hadim, Arab governor of Sicily, conquers Malta. He is welcomed by the local Christian inhabitants as liberator of the agonizing Byzantine yoke. The Muslim invaders loot and pillage the island, destroying the most important buildings.

The Zanj Rebellion: The Zanj (black slaves from East Africa) capture the Abbasid seaport of Al-Ubdullah at the Persian Gulf, and cut off communications with Basra (modern Iraq).

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

February 28 – The Fourth Council of Constantinople ends. The Bulgarians are granted an autonomous archbishopric. with its seat in the capital of Pliska.

=== 871 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

The English retreat onto the Berkshire Downs. The Great Heathen Army, led by the Danish Viking kings Halfdan and Bagsecg, march out after the Saxons. Six pitched battles are fought between the Danes and Wessex. Of two of them the place and date are not recorded, the others are:

January 4 – Battle of Reading: A West Saxon force, under the command of King Æthelred I and his brother Alfred, is defeated by the Danes at Reading. Among the many dead on both sides is Æthelwulf. The Saxon troops are forced to retreat, allowing the Vikings to continue their advance into Wessex.

January 8 – Battle of Ashdown: The West Saxons, led by Æthelred I and Alfred, gather at the Berkshire Downs. The Danes under the command of Halfdan and Bagsecg occupy the high ground, but are successfully attacked by Alfred's men. During the battle Alfred breaches the shield wall formation.

January 22 – Battle of Basing: The West Saxon army, under the command of Æthelred I, is defeated at Basing. The Danes, led by Halfdan, are victorious; Æthelred is forced to flee and regroup, leaving behind precious winter supplies.

March 22 – Battle of Meretum: The West Saxons, led by Æthelred I and Alfred, are defeated by the Danes. Among the many dead is Heahmund, bishop of Salisbury.

May – Battle of Wilton: Alfred the Great is defeated by the Danes at Wilton (along the southern side of the River Wylye), leaving him in retreat for several years.

February 2 – Franco-Lombard forces, aided by a Croatian fleet (of Sclaveni), led by Emperor Louis II, capture Bari, capital of the Emirate of Bari in Southern Italy.

April 23 – Alfred succeeds as king of Wessex after Æthelred's death. He makes peace with the Danes, and pays them Danegeld, each ruling parts of England.

Alfred makes Winchester his residence. The Danish armies colonize areas of north, central and eastern England, which become known as the Danelaw.

The Danes sail down the River Thames, to raid the Mercian port of Lundenwic (in the London area). Here, over the winter, they divide their spoils.

King Rhodri Mawr ("the Great") of Gwynedd annexes Seisyllwg, uniting most of Wales under his rule (approximate date).

Tønsberg, the oldest surviving town in the Nordic countries, is founded.

====== Arabian Empire ======

September – Battle of Basra: Zanj rebels in Mesopotamia sack and capture Basra (see Zanj Rebellion).

==== By topic ====

====== Literature ======

The Cairo Genizah, a collection of Jewish manuscript fragments, is written (approximate date).

=== 872 ===

==== By place ====

====== Byzantine Empire ======

Battle of Bathys Ryax: Emperor Basil I ("the Macedonian") sends a Byzantine expeditionary force, led by Christopher (Basil's brother-in-law), to Anatolia. He defeats the Paulicians, and eliminates the sect as a military power. Their leader, Chrysocheir, is captured and (later) beheaded. Many Paulicians are forcibly located, on the orders of Basil in Thrace, to serve as a frontier force against the Bulgarians.

====== Europe ======

Battle of Hafrsfjord: The Norse chieftain Harald Fairhair wins a great naval victory at Hafrsfjord, outside Stavanger. He becomes (at age 18) the first king of Norway. Harald's conquests and taxation system lead many Viking chiefs and their followers to emigrate to the British Isles and (later) to Iceland.

Sancho III Mitarra (or Menditarra) becomes the founder and first 'king' of the independent Duchy of Gascony, with loose ties to the Frankish Kingdom.

May 18 – Louis II, after his successful campaign against the Saracens, is crowned for the second time as Roman Emperor ("Emperor of the Franks").

Al-Andalus: The city of Toledo rises up against Umayyad rule, due to ethnic tensions between recent converts, the muwalladun, and the Arab elite.

====== Britain ======

Autumn – The Great Heathen Army returns to Northumbria, to put down a rebellion at York. King Ecgberht I and his archbishop, Wulfhere, are expelled by the Northumbrians and flee to Mercia.

The Danes, led by Halfdan and Guthrum, establish a winter quarter at Torksey in the Kingdom of Lindsey (now part of Lincolnshire). King Burgred pays tribute (Danegeld) in return for 'peace'.

King Artgal of Strathclyde is slain, through the connivance of King Constantine I of Alba (modern Scotland) and his Viking allies. Artgal's son, Run, succeeds to the Strathclyde throne.

====== Arabian Empire ======

The Zanj Rebellion: The Zanj (black slaves from East Africa) defeat the Abbasid forces, led by caliphal regent Al-Muwaffaq (brother of caliph Al-Mu'tamid). Hostilities in Mesopotamia (Southern Iraq) will preoccupy Al-Muwaffaq, and the Zanj will remain on the offensive over the next several years.

In Egypt, the first hospital (bimaristan) is built in Cairo by the Abbasid governor, Ahmad ibn Tulun. Physician licensure becomes mandatory in the Abbasid Caliphate.

====== Japan ======

Fujiwara no Yoshifusa, Japanese regent (sesshō), dies at his native Kyoto, having ruled since 858. He is succeeded as head of the Fujiwara clan by his son Fujiwara no Mototsune.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

December 14 – Pope Adrian II dies (at age 80), after a 5-year reign. He is succeeded by John VIII, as the 107th pope of Rome.

=== 873 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

Carloman, son of King Charles the Bald, is hailed before a secular court and condemned to death – for plotting against his father. He is blinded, but avoids imprisonment by escaping to the East Frankish Kingdom, where his uncle, Louis the German, gives him protection.

Al-Andalus: The city of Toledo (modern Spain) rises up for a second time against Umayyad rule, due to ethnic tensions over two years.

====== Britain ======

The Danish Great Heathen Army, led by the Viking leaders Halfdan and Guthrum, attack Mercia and capture the royal centre at Repton (Derbyshire). The Vikings establish an encampment with a U-shape ditch, on the south bank of the River Trent and spend the winter there.

====== Persian Empire ======

Muhammad ibn Tahir, Muslim governor of Khorasan, is overthrown by the Saffarids, led by Ya'qub ibn al-Layth, who conquer the capital, Nishapur. Khorasan is annexed to their own empire in eastern Persia. The Tahirid Dynasty falls.

====== China ======

August 15 – Emperor Yi Zong (Li Cuī) dies after a 13-year reign. He is succeeded by his 11-year-old son Xi Zong, as ruler of the Tang Dynasty. During his reign, a widespread failure of the agricultural harvest leads to famine (which causes people to resort to cannibalism) and agrarian rebellions.

=== 874 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

Salomon, duke ('king') of Brittany, is murdered by a faction which includes his son-in-law Pascweten and Gurvand, son-in-law of late ruler Erispoe. After Salomon's death they divide the country, and Pascweten and Gurvand co-rule Brittany.

Svatopluk I, ruler (knyaz) of Great Moravia, concludes a peace treaty at Forchheim (Northern Bavaria). He is able to expand his territories outside the Frankish sphere, and subjugates the Vistulans.

Ingólfr Arnarson arrives from Norway, as the first permanent Viking settler in Iceland. He builds his homestead and founds Reykjavík. The settlement of Iceland begins (approximate date).

====== Britain ======

The Danish Vikings (from their base at Repton) drive King Burgred of Mercia into exile, and sack Tamworth. They conquer his kingdom and install his political opponent, Ceolwulf II, as sub-king.

Autumn – The Great Heathen Army splits into two bands; Halfdan returns with his forces to Northumbria, along with his brother Ubba, where he establishes a new base on the River Tyne.

Amlaíb Conung, the first Norse 'king' of Dublin, is killed in Scotland, during a campaign against his rival Constantin I (approximate date).

November – Frost begins in Scotland and lasts until April 875.

====== China ======

Huang Chao, a salt privateer, joins forces with Wang Xianzhi to raise a rebel army at Changyuan (modern Xinxiang). The uprising further weakens the Tang dynasty, which is already weakened by natural disasters such as severe droughts and floods.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

March 13 – The remains of Saint Nikephorus I are interred in the Church of the Holy Apostles, in Constantinople.

The monastery of Sevanavank, located on the shore of Lake Sevan (Armenia), is founded.

=== 875 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

August 12 – Emperor Louis II dies in Brescia, after having named his cousin Carloman, son of King Louis the German, as his successor. Louis is buried in the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio in Milan.

December 29 – King Charles the Bald, supported by Pope John VIII, travels to Italy. He receives the Imperial Regalia at Pavia, and is crowned Holy Roman Emperor as Charles II at Rome.

Louis the Stammerer, son of Charles the Bald, marries for the second time Adelaide of Paris, after divorcing Ansgarde of Burgundy, with whom he is he secretly married.

King Harald Fairhair of Norway subdues the rovers on the Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands, and adds them to his kingdom (approximate date).

====== Britain ======

June – The Great Summer Army, led by Guthrum, moves on Cambridge. He later returns to Wessex, to establish a winter quarter. King Alfred the Great fights the Danes in a naval engagement.

Battle of Dollar: Invading Danish Vikings defeat the Scots and the Picts, under King Constantine I, at Dollar. They occupy Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Moray, far to the north.

Danish Vikings, probably led by Halfdan Ragnarsson, invade Dublin. During the fighting, Eystein Olafsson, king of Dublin, is killed.

Donyarth, the last recorded king of Cornwall, drowns in what is thought to be the River Fowey.

====== Arabian Empire ======

Fall – An Arab fleet from Taranto sails up the Adriatic Sea and sacks Comacchio, putting it to the flames. They attack Grado (bishopric of the Venetian Republic), but are repelled by the Venetians.

Muhammad II, emir of the Aghlabids, dies and is succeeded by his brother Ibrahim II. Towards the end of his reign, a caravan of pilgrims from Mecca introduces the plague in Ifriqiya (Tunisia).

The Samanid Dynasty establishes a court at Bukhara (modern Uzbekistan), which becomes a rival city to Baghdad on the strategic Silk Road.

====== Asia ======

King Jayavarman III founds a new dynasty at Indrapura (Quảng Nam) in Champa, in the central region of modern-day Vietnam. He initiates a building program in the Dong Duong Style.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

The construction of the Great Mosque of Kairouan is completed by Ibrahim II. He builds another three bays, reducing the size of the courtyard.

Bretons begin to flee the land, seeking the relative security of Britain. Vikings loot the Abbey of Saint-Melaine at Rennes (approximate date).

=== 876 ===

==== By place ====

====== Byzantine Empire ======

At the invitation of Benevento, the newly-restored Byzantine fleet appears in the waters off Otranto. On the orders of Emperor Basil I, the Byzantines sail up the Adriatic Sea and reconquer part of southern Italy. The city of Bari is occupied in the name of the Byzantine Empire. Instead of holding it for his 'ally' Adelchis of Benevento, Basil makes it the capital of the new Byzantine Theme of Longobardia.

====== Europe ======

August 28 – King Louis the German dies at Frankfurt, while preparing for war against his brother Charles II ("the Bald"), ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. The East Frankish Kingdom is divided among his three sons: Carloman receives Bavaria and styles himself "King of Bavaria". Louis the Younger receives Saxony (with Franconia and Thuringia), and Charles the Fat receives Swabia (with Raetia).

October 8 – Battle of Andernach: Frankish forces, led by Louis the Younger, prevent a West Frankish invasion and defeat Charles II at Andernach. The Rhineland remains part of the East Frankish Kingdom.

====== Britain ======

The Great Summer Army, led by Guthrum, captures the fortress of Wareham (Dorset), and is met by a Viking army (3,500 men) from the sea, which lands at Poole Harbour. King Alfred the Great traps the Vikings, and demands hostages in return for a peace agreement. The Danes divide their forces; half flees to Exeter, where they besiege the town while the other half escape in their ships, but are lost in a storm near Swanage.

Viking leader Halfdan Ragnarsson formally establishes the Danish kingdom of York, after the removal of the puppet king Ricsige of Northumbria, and becomes the first monarch.

====== Arabian Empire ======

April 8 – Battle of Dayr al-'Aqul: Abbasid forces, led by Al-Muwaffaq, halt a Saffarid invasion on the River Tigris. Emir Ya'qub ibn al-Layth tries to capture the Abbasid Caliphate's capital of Baghdad, but he is forced, with his army, to retreat.

====== Japan ======

Emperor Seiwa abdicates the throne, in favor of his 7-year-old son Yōzei. Seiwa becomes a Buddhist priest; he appoints Fujiwara no Mototsune as regent (sesshō), who assists the child emperor.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

June – Synod of Ponthion: Charles II summons a council, in which a papal brief is read from Pope John VIII. He appoints Ansegisus as papal legate and primate over Gaul, in the West Frankish Kingdom.

John VIII travels throughout Campania, in an effort to form an alliance among the southern Italian states (the cities of Salerno, Capua, Naples, Gaeta and Amalfi) against Muslim raids.

=== 877 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

Summer – King Charles II ("the Bald") sets out for Italy, accompanied by his wife Richilde and a number of his chief vassals. He gives orders for an expedition, but Duke Boso (his brother-in-law) refuses to join the army. At the same time Carloman, son of Louis the German, has crossed the Alps into eastern Lombardy at the head of a Frankish army. Charles sends Richilde back to Gaul, for the coronation as empress of the Holy Roman Empire, and with orders for reinforcements. However, the Frankish aristocracy is more concerned with the attacks by the Vikings in their country, than the war with the Saracens in southern Italy. Pope John VIII receives Charles at Vercelli, where he requests help against the attacks by the Saracens in southern Italy. He forms an alliance with the Italian states at Traetto.

August – Siege of Syracuse: The Aghlabids begin raiding the Byzantine territories, in the east of the island of Sicily. They besiege Syracuse, and blockade the fortress city by sea and land.

October 6 – Charles II dies while crossing the pass of Mont Cenis at Brides-les-Bains, en route back to Gaul. He is succeeded by his son Louis the Stammerer, king of Aquitaine, who becomes ruler of the West Frankish Kingdom. Carloman, forced by an epidemic which breaks out in his army, returns to Germany. After the death of his father, Louis makes plans to receive the oath of fidelity from his subjects, but he learns that the magnates are refusing him obedience and rallying around Boso. The rebels are supported by his stepmother Richilda, and, as a sign of their displeasure, ravage the country. Hincmar, archbishop of Reims, intercedes and the rebels agree to a settlement. The magnates, whose rights Louis promises to recognize, all make their submissions.

December 8 – Louis the Stammerer is crowned by Hincmar as king (not emperor) of the West Frankish Kingdom, in the church of Compiègne. The imperial throne will remain vacant until 881.

====== Britain ======

Autumn – King Alfred the Great raises a large force, and marches on the Viking camp at the city of Exeter. His army besieges the Great Summer Army, led by Guthrum, and forces the Vikings to surrender. They flee north to Gloucester, and settle in the Five Boroughs (modern East Midlands).

Battle of Strangford Lough: King Halfdan I leaves for Ireland, in an attempt to claim the Kingdom of Dublin from his rival Bárid mac Ímair. He is killed in battle at Strangford Lough, and a probable interregnum follows in York.

Ceolwulf II is installed as puppet king of Mercia. The west of the kingdom comes under Ceolwulf's rule, while in the east the Five Boroughs begin as fortified Danish burhs.

The Vikings invade Wales once more, and King Rhodri ap Merfyn ("the Great") of Gwynedd, Powys and Seisyllwg is forced to flee to Ireland (approximate date).

King Constantin I is killed fighting Viking raiders, at the "Black Cave" in Fife. He is succeeded by his brother Áed mac Cináeda as ruler of Alba (Scotland).

====== Asia ======

King Jayavarman III dies after a 42-year reign. He is succeeded by his cousin Indravarman I, as ruler of the Khmer Empire (modern Cambodia).

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

October 23 – Photius I is reinstated as patriarch of Constantinople, after the death of Ignatius.

=== 878 ===

==== By place ====

====== Britain ======

January 6 – King Alfred the Great is surprised by a Viking attack at Chippenham. He is forced to flee, with his family, into the Somerset Levels for safety. From his headquarters at Athelney, Alfred wages a guerrilla war against the Vikings.

May – Battle of Edington: Supported by all the levies of Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire, Alfred the Great decisively defeats the main body of Danish Vikings, led by King Guthrum, at present-day Edington (near Bratton Castle).

Treaty of Wedmore: Guthrum agrees to a peace treaty and is baptised, taking the name of Aethelstan. England is divided between Wessex in the south, and the Vikings in the Danelaw up north. Guthrum returns to East Anglia.

Battle of Cynwit: Viking raiders, led by Ubba Ragnarsson, land on the coast at Combwich with 23 ships, and besiege a hillfort (called Cynwit) at Cannington. Ealdorman Odda launches a surprise attack, and kills Ubba in battle.

King Rhodri the Great of Gwynedd, Powys and Seisyllwg, returns to his kingdoms, but is killed fighting the Mercians of King Ceolwulf II. His kingdoms are divided amongst his three sons: Anarawd, Merfyn and Cadell.

King Áed I of Scotland is killed in battle, by his rival Giric mac Dúngal. Giric becomes king of the Picts, and allies himself with Eochaid (grandson of Kenneth I). The two rule all of Alba (Scotland) together as joint-kings.

====== Arabian Empire ======

May 21 – Siege of Syracuse: The Aghlabids capture the Byzantine fortress city of Syracuse, after a nine-month siege. Most of the population is massacred by the Arabs.

Zanj Rebellion: The Zanj (black slaves from East Africa) in Mesopotamia seize Wasit (modern Iraq), and establish a presence in the Persian province of Khuzestan.

King Alfonso III of Asturias conquers the city of Coimbra (modern Portugal), which is under Umayyad reign.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

April 16 – The city of Belgrade is first mentioned in a papal letter to Boris I, ruler (khan) of the Bulgarian Empire.

September 7 - Pope John VIII crowns Louis the Stammerer as king of the West Frankish Kingdom, in the cathedral at Troyes.

The excommunication of the later pope Formosus is lifted, after he has promised never to return to Rome.

=== 879 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

April 10 – King Louis the Stammerer dies at Compiègne, after a reign of 18 months. He is succeeded by his two sons, Louis III and Carloman II. They are crowned at Ferrières Abbey, and rule the West Frankish Kingdom together as joint-kings.

Baldwin I ("Iron Arm") dies, after 15 years as margrave of Flanders. He is buried in the Abbey of Saint Bertin (near Saint-Omer), and is succeeded by his son Baldwin II.

Oleg, brother-in-law of the Varangian ruler Rurik, is entrusted to take care of his kingdom Novgorod after his death. He becomes regent of his son Igor.

King Charles the Fat becomes ruler of the Kingdom of Italy, after the abdication of his brother Carloman of Bavaria, who has been incapacitated by a stroke.

====== Britain ======

King Alfred the Great establishes a series of fortified villages (or burhs) to protect Wessex against Viking raids. He creates a standing army to defend the strategic ports, and builds a network of well-maintained army roads (known as herepaths).

Viking leader Guthrum becomes 'king' of East Anglia. A Viking fleet sails up the River Thames, and builds a camp at Fulham (near London) to prepare for an invasion of France.

====== Arabian Empire ======

Zanj Rebellion: The Abbasid Caliphate concentrates its efforts against the Zanj rebels in Mesopotamia. The Abbasid general Al-Mu'tadid leads an expeditionary force (10,000 men) to suppress the revolt. This marks the turning-point of the war.

====== Asia ======

Guangzhou Massacre: The Chinese rebel leader Huang Chao besieges the seaport in Guangzhou, and slaughters many of its inhabitants and foreign merchants. According to sources, the death toll ranges from 120,000 to 200,000 foreigners.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

Fourth Council of Constantinople: Emperor Basil I calls for a synod, and reinstates Photius I as patriarch of Constantinople.

June 7 – Pope John VIII recognizes the Duchy of Croatia, under Duke (knyaz) Branimir, as an independent state.

Wilfred the Hairy, count of Barcelona, founds the Benedictine monastery at Ripoll, in Catalonia (Spain).

Abbasid architecture

Abbasid architecture developed in the Abbasid Caliphate between 750 and 945, primarily in its heartland of Mesopotamia.

The Abbasids inherited Persian architectural traditions in Mesopotamia, and were later influenced by Central Asian styles.

They evolved distinctive styles of their own, particularly in decoration of their buildings.

While the Abbasids lost control of large parts of their empire after 850, their architecture continued to be copied by successor states in Iran, Egypt and North Africa.


Abū Isḥāq Muḥammad ibn Hārūn al-Rashīd (Arabic: أبو إسحاق محمد بن هارون الرشيد‎; October 796 – 5 January 842), better known by his regnal name al-Muʿtaṣim biʾllāh (المعتصم بالله, "he who seeks refuge in God"), was the eighth Abbasid caliph, ruling from 833 until his death in 842. A younger son of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, he rose to prominence through his formation of a private army composed predominantly of Turkish slave-soldiers (ghilmān). This proved useful to his half-brother, Caliph al-Ma'mun, who employed al-Mu'tasim and his Turkish guard to counterbalance other powerful interest groups in the state, as well as employing them in campaigns against rebels and the Byzantine Empire. When al-Ma'mun died unexpectedly on campaign in August 833, al-Mu'tasim was thus well placed to succeed him, overriding the claims of al-Ma'mun's son al-Abbas.

Al-Mu'tasim continued many of his brother's policies, such as the partnership with the Tahirids, who ruled Khurasan and Baghdad on behalf of the Abbasids. With the support of the powerful chief qādī, Ahmad ibn Abi Duwad, he continued to implement the rationalist Islamic doctrine of Mu'tazilism and the persecution of its opponents through the inquisition (miḥna). Although not personally interested in literary pursuits, al-Mu'tasim also nurtured the scientific renaissance begun under al-Ma'mun. In other ways, his reign marks a departure and a watershed moment in Islamic history, with the creation of a new regime centred on the military, and particularly his Turkish guard. In 836, a new capital was established at Samarra to symbolize this new regime and remove it from the restive populace of Baghdad. The power of the caliphal government was increased by centralizing measures that reduced the power of provincial governors in favour of a small group of senior civil and military officials in Samarra, and the fiscal apparatus of the state was more and more dedicated to the maintenance of the professional army, which was dominated by Turks. The Arab and Iranian elites that had played a major role in the early period of the Abbasid state were increasingly marginalized, and an abortive conspiracy against al-Mu'tasim in favour of al-Abbas in 838 resulted in a widespread purge of their ranks. This strengthened the position of the Turks and their principal leaders, Ashinas, Wasif, Itakh, and Bugha. Another prominent member of al-Mu'tasim's inner circle, the prince of Ushrusana, al-Afshin, fell afoul of his enemies at court and was overthrown and killed in 840/1. The rise of the Turks would eventually result in the troubles of the "Anarchy at Samarra" and lead to the collapse of Abbasid power in the mid-10th century, but the ghulām-based system inaugurated by al-Mu'tasim would be widely adopted throughout the Muslim world.

Al-Mu'tasim's reign was marked by continuous warfare. The two major internal campaigns of the reign were against the long-running Khurramite uprising of Babak Khorramdin in Adharbayjan, which was suppressed by al-Afshin in 835–837, and against Mazyar, the autonomous ruler of Tabaristan, who had clashed with the Tahirids and risen up in revolt. While his generals led the fight against internal rebellions, al-Mu'tasim himself led the sole major external campaign of the period, in 838 against the Byzantine Empire. His armies defeated Emperor Theophilos and sacked the city of Amorium. The Amorium campaign was widely celebrated, and became a cornerstone of caliphal propaganda, cementing al-Mu'tasim's reputation as a warrior-caliph.


Abu Ja'far Muhammad (Arabic: أبو جعفر محمد‎; November 837 – 7 June 862), better known by his regnal title al-Muntasir bi-llah (المنتصر بالله, "He who triumphs in God") was the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad from 861 to 862, during the "Anarchy at Samarra".


The arabesque is a form of artistic decoration consisting of "surface decorations based on rhythmic linear patterns of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils" or plain lines, often combined with other elements. Another definition is "Foliate ornament, used in the Islamic world, typically using leaves, derived from stylised half-palmettes, which were combined with spiralling stems". It usually consists of a single design which can be 'tiled' or seamlessly repeated as many times as desired. Within the very wide range of Eurasian decorative art that includes motifs matching this basic definition, the term "arabesque" is used consistently as a technical term by art historians to describe only elements of the decoration found in two phases: Islamic art from about the 9th century onwards, and European decorative art from the Renaissance onwards. Interlace and scroll decoration are terms used for most other types of similar patterns.

Arabesques are a fundamental element of Islamic art but they develop what was already a long tradition by the coming of Islam. The past and current usage of the term in respect of European art can only be described as confused and inconsistent. Some Western arabesques derive from Islamic art, but others are closely based on ancient Roman decorations. In the West they are essentially found in the decorative arts, but because of the generally non-figurative nature of Islamic art, arabesque decoration is there often a very prominent element in the most significant works, and plays a large part in the decoration of architecture.

Claims are often made regarding the theological significance of the arabesque, and its origin in a specifically Islamic view of the world; however these are without support from written historical sources as, like most medieval cultures, the Islamic world has not left us documentation of their intentions in using the decorative motifs they did. At the popular level such theories often appear uninformed as to the wider context of the arabesque. In similar fashion, proposed connections between the arabesque and Arabic knowledge of geometry remains a subject of debate; not all art historians are persuaded that such knowledge had reached, or was needed by, those creating arabesque designs, although in certain cases there is evidence that such a connection did exist. The case for a connection with Islamic mathematics is much stronger for the development of the geometric patterns with which arabesques are often combined in art. Geometric decoration often uses patterns that are made up of straight lines and regular angles that somewhat resemble curvilinear arabesque patterns; the extent to which these too are described as arabesque varies between different writers.Arabesque is a French term that derived from the Italian word Arabesco, and it means Arabic style.

The development of this and related terms in the main European languages is complicated, and described in "Western arabesque" below.

Islamic art

Islamic art encompasses the visual arts produced in the Islamic world. Islamic art is difficult to characterize because it covers a wide range of lands, periods, and genres, including Islamic architecture, Islamic calligraphy, Islamic miniature, Islamic glass, Islamic pottery, and textile arts such as carpets and embroidery.

Islamic art comprises both religious and secular art forms. Religious art is represented by calligraphy, architecture and furnishings of religious buildings, such as mosque fittings (e.g., mosque lamps and Girih tiles), woodwork and carpets. Secular artistic production also flourished in the Islamic world, although some of its elements were criticized by religious scholars.Early development of Islamic art was influenced by Roman art, Early Christian art (particularly Byzantine art), and Sassanian art, with later influences from Central Asian nomadic traditions. Chinese art had a formative influence on Islamic painting, pottery, and textiles. Though the concept of "Islamic art" has been criticised by some modern art historians as an illusory Eurocentric construct,

the similarities between art produced at widely different times and places in the Islamic world, especially in the Islamic Golden Age, have been sufficient to keep the term in wide use by scholars.Islamic art is often characterized by recurrent motifs, such as the use of geometrical floral or vegetal designs in a repetition known as the arabesque. The arabesque in Islamic art is often used to symbolize the transcendent, indivisible and infinite nature of God. Mistakes in repetitions may be intentionally introduced as a show of humility by artists who believe only God can produce perfection, although this theory is disputed.Some interpretations of Islam include a ban of depiction of animate beings, also known as aniconism. Islamic aniconism stems in part from the prohibition of idolatry and in part from the belief that creation of living forms is God's prerogative. Muslims have interpreted these prohibitions in different ways in different times and places. Religious Islamic art has been typically characterized by the absence of figures and extensive use of calligraphic, geometric and abstract floral patterns. However, representations of Islamic religious figures are found in some manuscripts from Persianate cultures, including Ottoman Turkey and Mughal India. These pictures were meant to illustrate the story and not to infringe on the Islamic prohibition of idolatry, but many Muslims regard such images as forbidden. In secular art of the Muslim world, representations of human and animal forms historically flourished in nearly all Islamic cultures, although, partly because of opposing religious sentiments, figures in paintings were often stylized, giving rise to a variety of decorative figural designs.

Saladin Governorate

The Saladin or Salah ad Din Governorate (Arabic: صلاح الدين‎, Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn) is a governorate in Iraq, north of Baghdad. The governorate has an area of 24,363 square kilometres (9,407 sq mi). The estimated population in 2003 was 1,042,200 people. The capital is Tikrit; the governorate also contains the significantly larger city of Samarra. Before 1976 the governorate was part of Baghdad Governorate.

The province is named after leader Saladin (written Salah ad-Din in modern Arabic Latin transcription), a Muslim leader who defeated the Crusaders at Hattin, and who hailed from the province. Salah ad Din was the home province of Saddam Hussein; he was born in Al-Awja, a town near Tikrit.


Stucco or render is a material made of aggregates, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as a decorative coating for walls and ceilings, and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture. Stucco may be used to cover less visually appealing construction materials, such as metal, concrete, cinder block, or clay brick and adobe.

In English, "stucco" usually refers to a coating for the outside of a building and "plaster" to a coating for interiors; as described below, the material itself is often little different. However, other European languages, notably including Italian, do not have the same distinction; stucco means plaster in Italian and serves for both. This has led to English often using "stucco" for interior decorative plasterwork in relief.

Zanj Rebellion

The Zanj Rebellion (Arabic: ثورة الزنج‎ Thawrat al-Zanj / Zinj) was a major uprising against the Abbasid Caliphate, which took place from 869 until 883. Begun near the city of Basra in present-day southern Iraq and led by one 'Ali ibn Muhammad, the insurrection is traditionally believed to have involved some enslaved Bantu-speaking people (Zanj) who had originally been captured from the coast of East Africa and transported to the Middle East. It grew to involve many slaves and free men from several regions of the Caliphate, and claimed tens of thousands of lives before it was finally defeated.Several Muslim historians, such as al-Tabari and al-Mas'udi, consider the Zanj revolt to be one of the "most vicious and brutal uprisings" of the many disturbances that plagued the Abbasid central government. Modern scholars have characterized the conflict as being "one of the bloodiest and most destructive rebellions which the history of Western Asia records," while at the same time praising its coverage as being among the "most fully and extensively described campaign[s] in the whole of early Islamic historical writing." The precise composition of the rebels remains a subject of debate, both as regards their identity and as to the proportion of slaves and free among them – available historical sources being open to various interpretations.

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