Wolfram von Eschenbach, by Wikipedia

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Wolfram von Eschenbach, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:46 am

Wolfram von Eschenbach
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 8/20/19



Portrait of Wolfram from the Codex Manesse, c. 1300

Wolfram von Eschenbach (c. 1160/80 – c. 1220) was a German knight and poet, regarded as one of the greatest epic poets of medieval German literature. As a Minnesinger, he also wrote lyric poetry.


Statue of Wolfram at Burg Abenberg castle in Abenberg

Little is known of Wolfram's life. There are no historical documents which mention him, and his works are the sole source of evidence. In Parzival, he talks of wir Beier ("we Bavarians"); the dialect of his works is East Franconian. This and a number of geographical references have resulted in the present-day Wolframs-Eschenbach, until 1917 Obereschenbach, near Ansbach in present-day Bavaria, being officially designated as his birthplace. However, the evidence is circumstantial and not without problems - there are at least four other places named Eschenbach in Bavaria, and Wolframs-Eschenbach was not part of the Duchy of Bavaria (Altbayern) in Wolfram's time.

The arms shown in the Manesse manuscript come from the imagination of a 14th-century artist, drawing on the figure of the Red Knight in Parzival, and have no heraldic connection with Wolfram. Wolfram's work indicates a number of possible patrons (most reliably Hermann I of Thuringia), which suggests that he served at a number of courts during his life.

In his Parzival, Wolfram states that he is illiterate; while the claim is treated with scepticism by some scholars, the truth of the assertion, difficult for some moderns to believe,[1] is impossible to ascertain. But it has been credited by many commentators. It is noted in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain that "the greatest poet of the Middle Ages, Wolfram von Eschenbach, could neither read nor write,"[2] and the Catholic Encyclopedia observes: "Wolfram in his Parzival tells us explicitly that he could neither read nor write. His poems were written down from dictation. His knowledge was extensive and varied rather than accurate. He certainly knew French, but only imperfectly; for his proper names often show a curious misunderstanding of French words and phrases."[3]



Wolfram is best known today for his Parzival, sometimes regarded as the greatest of all German epics from that time. Based on Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, le Conte du Graal, it is the first extant work in German to have as its subject the Holy Grail (in Wolfram's interpretation a gemstone). In the poem, Wolfram's narrator expresses disdain for Chrétien's (unfinished) version of the tale, and states that his source was a poet from Provence called Kyot.

Titurel and Willehalm

Wolfram is the author of two other narrative works: the fragmentary Titurel and the unfinished Willehalm. These were both composed after Parzival, and Titurel mentions the death of Hermann I, which dates it firmly after 1217. Titurel consists of two fragments, which tell the story of Schionatulander and Sigune (lovers that were already depicted in Parzival). The first fragment deals with the birth of love between the main characters. The second fragment is quite different. Schionatulander and Sigune are alone in a forest, when their peace is suddenly disturbed by a mysterious dog, whose leash contains a story written in rubies. Siguna is eager to read the story, but the dog runs off. Schionatulander sets off to find him, but, as we already know from Parzival, he dies in the attempt.

Willehalm, an unfinished poem based on the Old French chanson de geste Aliscans, was a significant work, and has been preserved in 78 manuscripts. It is set against the backdrop of the religious wars between the Christians and the Saracens. The eponymous hero Willehalm kidnaps a Saracen princess, converts her to Christianity and marries her. The Saracen king raises an army to rescue his daughter. The poem has many of the distinguishing features of medieval literature: the victory of the Christians over a much larger Saracen army, the touching death of the young knight Vivian, Willehalm's nephew and the works mirror of chivalric courage and spiritual purity.

Lyric poetry

Wolfram's nine surviving songs, five of which are dawn-songs, are regarded as masterpieces of Minnesang. Dawn-songs recount the story of a knight who spends the night with his beloved lady, but at dawn has to slip away unnoticed. Mostly it's the lady who wakes the knight up in the morning, but sometimes this mission is made by the watchman. No melodies survived.


The 84 surviving manuscripts of Parzival, both complete and fragmentary, indicate the immense popularity of Wolfram's major work in the following two centuries. Willehalm, with 78 manuscripts, comes not far behind. Many of these include a continuation written in the 1240s by Ulrich von Türheim under the title Rennewart. The unfinished Titurel was taken up and expanded around 1272 by a poet named Albrecht, who is generally presumed to be Albrecht von Scharfenberg and who adopts the narrative persona of Wolfram. This work is referred to as the Jüngere Titurel (Younger Titurel).

The modern rediscovery of Wolfram begins with the publication of a translation of Parzival in 1753 by the Swiss scholar Johann Jakob Bodmer. Parzival was the main source Richard Wagner used when writing the libretto to his opera, Parsifal. Wolfram himself appears as a character in another Wagner opera, Tannhäuser.


1. In the foreword to his translation of Wolfram's Parzival, A. T. Hatto opines that ". . . his claim not to know his A B C must be discounted as one of his tactical jokes." Parzival, p. vi.
2. Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain, trans. H.T. Lowe-Porter (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946), p. 522; translation first published in 1927, the original published in 1924.
3. The Catholic Encyclopedia. (1913).


• Heinzle, Joachim (2019). Wolfram von Eschenbach. Dichter der ritterlichen Welt. Leben, Werke, Nachruhm (in German). Basel: Schwabe Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7965-3955-8.
• Bumke, Joachim (2004). Wolfram von Eschenbach (in German). Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler. ISBN 3-476-18036-0.
• D. H. Green, The Art of Recognition in Wolfram's Parzival. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982. ISBN 0-521-24500-1
• Groos, Arthur. Romancing the Grail: Genre, Science, and Quest in Wolfram's Parzival. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8014-3068-2
• Hasty, Will, ed. (1999). A Companion to Wolfram's Parzival. Columbia, SC: Camden House. ISBN 1-57113-152-3.
• James F. Poag, Wolfram Von Eschenbach (Twayne's World Authors Series) Twayne Publishers 1972. ISBN 0-8290-1750-X
• Sager, Alexander. Minne von mæren: on Wolfram's "Titurel." Göttingen: V&R, 2006.
• Otto Springer. "Wolfram's Parzival" in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, Roger S. Loomis (ed.). Clarendon Press: Oxford University. 1959. ISBN 0-19-811588-1
• Steinmeyer, Elias von (1964), "Eschenbach, Wolfram von", Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB) (in German), 6, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 340–346; (full text online)
• Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival with Titurel and The Love-lyrics, trans. Cyril Edwards (Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2004).
• Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival, trans. A.T.Hatto. Penguin 1980. ISBN 0-14-044361-4.
• Edwards, Cyril, "Wolfram von Eschenbach, Islam, and the Crusades," in James Hodkinson and Jeffrey Morrison (eds), Encounters with Islam in German Literature and Culture (Woodbridge, Camden House, 2009), 36-54.

External links

• Works by Wolfram von Eschenbach at Project Gutenberg
• Works by or about Wolfram von Eschenbach at Internet Archive
• Wolfram von Eschenbach in the Literary Encyclopedia
• Works (Middle High German)
• List of Parzival manuscripts (Marburger Repertorium)
• List of Willhalm manuscripts (Marburger Repertorium)
• Two of Wolfram's songs (Middle High German)
• El Grial, including songs by Wolfram von Eschenbach performed by Capella de Ministrers & Carlos Magraner
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Re: Wolfram von Eschenbach, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:58 am

Parzival [Parsifal]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 8/20/19




[Pir Zia Inayat-Khan] And this has led me to re-read a book which belongs to the great literature of the middle ages, the literature of the grail legends, and particularly to reexamine a work of the grail genre which emerged just after the unsuccessful 4th Crusade, when Europe was in a state of deep despondency because of the failure of that Crusade, the failure of this effort to reclaim Jerusalem, which had captured the imagination of Christendom, and then which fell flat, leading to a sense of impotence and cultural hopelessness.

Well, then came Wolfram von Eschenbach’s great interpretation of the Parsifal [Parzival] legend. And as we know, there have been a number of versions of that legend. The earlier one of Chrétien de Troyes' most notably. But Wolfram’s version adds an extremely important element, which is the backstory.

Now Parsifal by then was very well known as the grail hero, the champion who at last attains the grail after years of searching. But what Wolfram shows us is that Parsifal had a brother, a half-brother. And he learned this from a bard named Kyot of Provence who himself is said to have learned it from a discarded Arabic manuscript in Toledo, which was the work of a certain Flegatonis, who was known to be an astrologer, a mystic apparently, quite possibly a Sufi.

So this hidden story of the grail reveals that the father of Parsifal [Gahmuret], before Parsifal was born, had gone to Baghdad, and there had served the Caliph of Baghdad. So this quintessential Christian knight had been in the service of a Muslim king, and on further adventures had gone on to Africa to the kingdom of Zazamank, and there had rescued the queen [Herzeloyde]. And upon rescuing her, the two fell in love and were married and had a child. But this Ajevan prince was one to roam. He was never happy to put down roots, so he left his new wife and child and went on his way, returned to Europe, and there married again. And his Christian wife also bore him a child. And subsequently he died in an attempt, actually, returning to Baghdad. To defend Baghdad he died there.

So he left two children. The child born to the Christian mother was Parsifal. But he had this prior son, of which Christendom was completely unaware until Wolfram brought forth this story. And this son was named Firifis. He was notable for his partly colored skin. He was half black and half white, in patches. And eventually, when he grew up, he went in search of his father. And in the course of some adventures, he came across Parsifal in a glade.

Now Parsifal had been seeking the grail for 4-1/2 years precisely, because he had once encountered the grail castle and had been shown the grail, and was dazzled. But he failed to answer the right question. So the grail withdrew, the castle disappeared, and he was left in a state of utter frustration and sought frantically to recover that ultimate experience. So it was in the midst of this ongoing quest that he came across a Saracen knight. Now that word “Saracen” was the word used in those times to refer to the Muslims, or Arabs. Although etymologically it really should be traced back to another root. In the mythology, the legends, it’s traced to the island Saras…. And that island was known as the island of the grail. It was the island to which Gallahad brought back the grail after he attained it.

So here was a Saracen knight confronting a Christian knight, and they fell at each other swinging and clanging their swords, and at last Parsifal’s sword broke in two. So he was rendered helpless. And Firifis had the upper hand. He could have dealt the final blow, but instead he practiced Futuwwa, or Sufi chivalry. He sheathed his sword. He didn’t take advantage of his advantage, and the two sat down to talk. They removed their helmets, and Parsifal asked, “Who are you?” He said, “I am Firifis, the Ajevan.” He said, “How could you be an Ajevan? I am Parsifal. I am the Ajevan.” And so they got to talking, and realized at last they had the same father. Just as soon as that realization came, Parsifal took Firifis to Arthur’s camp, and he was warmly welcomed there. He was made a knight of the round table. And then came Kundry with the message that they were called to the Grail Castle.

And so this quest, which Parsifal had pursued for so long now reached its conclusion. And why did it reach this conclusion? Because the two brothers were united.

Now, there is significance in this story. And it is significant that it came at the end of the 4th crusade. Why? Because here is shown the moral: that the grail which symbolizes attainment, the grail that symbolizes salvation, is found in the reconciliation of two lives of the Abrahamic prophetic family. That is to say, that salvation which was sought by a conquest of the holy lands, needs to be redirected toward a process of reconciliation and spiritual reunification. That is what this version which draws upon the backstory shows.

And so it’s a version that evokes a kind of chivalry which is common to all three of these civilizations. And it’s a chivalry that’s traced back to the Prophet Abraham. The Sufi text refers specifically to Abraham as the founder of chivalry.

So we have chivalry understood in Suffism as the myth of Parsifal. Parsifal, upon attaining the grail, becomes the new grail keeper and Firifis is married to the maiden who is the holder of the grail. So there is a triumphal conclusion. And that conclusion is a piece of evidence, which together with the evidence of Futuwwa in Sufism, points to an understanding that was held by some in the middle ages, and which has been elaborated, and explored in great detail, in the Sufi texts, that there exists a tradition of ethical excellence and spiritual kinship between the people of the Abrahamic family despite the political differences between the empires that determine the fate of these peoples.

Illuminated manuscript page of Parzival

Parzival is a medieval romance written by the knight-poet Wolfram von Eschenbach in Middle High German. The poem, commonly dated to the first quarter of the 13th century, centers on the Arthurian hero Parzival (Percival in English) and his long quest for the Holy Grail following his initial failure to achieve it.

Parzival begins with the knightly adventures of Parzival's father, Gahmuret, his marriage to Herzeloyde (Middle High German: herzeleide, "heart's sorrow"), and the birth of Parzival. The story continues as Parzival meets three elegant knights, decides to seek King Arthur, and continues a spiritual and physical search for the Grail. A long section is devoted to Parzival's friend Gawan and his adventures defending himself from a false murder charge and winning the hand of the maiden Orgeluse. Among the most striking elements of the work are its emphasis on the importance of humility, compassion, sympathy and the quest for spirituality.[1] A major theme in Parzival is love: heroic acts of chivalry are inspired by true love, which is ultimately fulfilled in marriage.[2]

Regarded as one of the masterpieces of the Middle Ages, the romance was the most popular vernacular verse narrative in medieval Germany,[3] and continues to be read and translated into modern languages around the world. Wolfram began a prequel, Titurel, which was later continued by another writer, while two full romances were written adapting Wolfram's story of Loherangrin. Richard Wagner based his famous opera Parsifal, finished in 1882, on Parzival.

Synopsis and structure

Parzival is divided into sixteen books, each composed of several thirty-line stanzas of rhyming couplets. The stanza lengths fit perfectly onto a manuscript page. For the subject matter Wolfram von Eschenbach largely adapted the Grail romance, Perceval, the Story of the Grail, left incomplete by Chrétien de Troyes.[4][5] Wolfram claimed that a certain Kyot the Provençal supplied additional material drawn from Arabic and Angevin sources but most scholars now consider Kyot to be Wolfram's invention and part of the fictional narrative.[6]

Background and early life

Book I opens with the death of King Gandin, Parzival's grandfather. His oldest son, Galoes, receives the kingdom but offers his brother Gahmuret the land of Anjou in fief. However, Gahmuret departs to gain renown. He travels to the African kingdom of Zazamanc, whose capital is besieged by two different armies. Gahmuret offers his services to the city, and his offer is accepted by Queen Belacane. He conquers the invaders, marries Queen Belacane, and becomes king of Zazamanc and Azagouc. Growing bored with peace, Gahmuret steals away on a ship, abandoning his pregnant wife. Belacane later gives birth to a son, Feirefiz (whose skin is mottled black and white).

In Book II, Gahmuret returns to the West, where he meets and marries Queen Herzeloyde. Ever restless, however, he soon returns to fight for the Baruch in the Far East, where he is later killed by a treacherous acquaintance.

Book III tells of how the pregnant Herzeloyde, grief-stricken at her husband's death, retires to a secluded forest dwelling and vows to protect her new child, Parzival, from the ways of knighthood at all costs by raising him entirely ignorant of chivalry and the ways of men. His seclusion is shattered by three knights passing who tell him of King Arthur's court at Camelot. Enamored, he decides to go join Arthur's court. His mother is heartbroken at the news of his decision but allows him to depart, dressing him in fool's garments in the hopes that the knights will refuse to take him in. Soon after his departure she dies, utterly bereft.

Beginnings of knighthood

The first part of the journey takes place completely in the world of King Arthur, where the colourful and strange appearance of Parzival awakens the interest of the court. After becoming entangled in courtly intrigue between Duke Orilus and his wife Jeschute he meets his cousin Sigune who reveals to him his true name. Parzival also fights and kills Ither, the red knight of Kukumerlant. Putting on the red knight's armor he rides away from the court and meets Gurnemanz, from whom he learns the duties of a knight, especially self-control and moderation. Gurnemanz also advises him to avoid impudent curiosity.

In Book IV, Parzival meets and falls in love with Queen Condwiramurs. She has inherited her father's realm, but lost much of it to an enemy king who has besieged her town. Parzival uses his new found chivalric skills to restore her land. They marry but he leaves soon afterwards to seek news of his mother.

In Book V, he arrives at the castle of the Grail. He does not ask his host, Anfortas, about his mysterious wound, however, or about the magical objects paraded before him, remembering Gurnemanz's advice to be not too curious. The next morning Parzival finds himself completely alone in a totally deserted castle, leading him to speculate that his experiences of the previous night were an illusion conjured by malevolent spirits to snare him.

Return to Arthur's court

Parzival returns to the world of Arthur and again meets Sigune, who tells him of how he should have asked the lord of the castle a question, but does not specify. She then vows to never speak to him again. He also meets Jeschute again, who was unwittingly humiliated by him the last time, and defeats Orilus in single combat. Eventually Parzival renews the marriage of Jeschute and Orilus.

Parzival returns in Book VI as a perfect potential member of the Round Table to King Arthur. But during a festive meal, Cundrie, messenger of the Grail, appears, curses Parzival in the name of the grail and claims that Parzival had lost his honour. Parzival immediately leaves the court even though he is not able to understand his guilt.

Gawan takes over as the central figure of Books VII to VIII as he tries to clear his name of a false charge of murder.

The Grail quest

In Book IX, we learn that Parzival fights for the good but suffers from his alienation from God. After nearly five years of wandering and fighting, from combat he gains a new horse, owned by a Grail knight, and this horse leads him one Good Friday to Trevrizent to whom he introduces himself as a penitent sinner. He stays with this holy man for fourteen days and learns about the hidden meaning of life and the true meaning of the Grail, and also is informed that his mother is the sister of the Grail King. He makes a step towards a life of spiritual understanding. Through his loneliness and through his yearning for the grail and for Condwiramurs he puts himself outside the world of Arthur. He is called to another world, that of the Grail.

Books X to XIV tell of Gawan's attempts to win the hand of the maiden Orgeluse.

In Book XV, Parzival fights with a knight who is the first to seem more adept than he. Parzival's sword breaks but, instead of slaying him, the other knight sees no honor in such a feat and both retire to the grass. There they learn that they share the same father. "I was against my own self," says Parzival to Feirefiz, his brother from afar. Again Cundrie appears and proclaims now that Parzival's name has appeared on the Grail, marking him as the new Grail King.

During his journey to the Grail in Book XVI Parzival reunites with his wife and takes Feirefiz as a companion. Feirefiz cannot see the grail, but he can see the Grail maiden and promptly falls in love with her.

Scholarly debates

Some details of the romance have inspired controversy, partly because the narrative is interspersed with humorous anecdotes by Wolfram. It is not clear whether many of the claims he makes are intended to be taken as fact or as jest.

For example, in one passage he claims to be totally illiterate: whether the original poem was composed as part of an oral tradition or as a written work is a subject of debate among scholars. Wolfram also claimed that a lost Arabic manuscript by a descendant of Solomon was discovered by a certain Kyot. Although the claims of Wolfram's narrator about this source may be dubious, some critics have maintained that the knowledge about the Orient that is shown throughout the text suggests he may well have worked from at least one oriental source.[7]

Women in Parzival

The place of women in medieval German literature was in general an exalted one and Wolfram as an author reflects this by making womanhood an ideal for his characters. The characters like that of Herzeloyde, Sigune and Condwiramurs are not only intimately involved in Parzival’s search but also closely related to the Grail itself.[8]

The character of Herzeloyde, Parzival’s mother, is a virtuous woman. With a selfless devotion and the humility which is another vital attribute to the Grail King and as a descendant of the Grail family, she makes both the conscious and unconscious choice to guide Parzival on the quest to take his fated place as next in the lineage. Her advice is interpreted in the context of his finding both love and God as guidance towards better being prepared to take on the Grail.[8]

The womanly kinship of Sigune is the next guide that Parzival shall encounter. Her appearance (at three times in the tale) is essential and occurs on each occasion at a significant stage in his progress, at a point when he is in urgent need of some kind of guidance. Her first contribution is to provide Parzival his identity, an essential detail for a man that his mother was not able to impart. She directs him to Arthur’s Court, and in doing so heads him off to the quest. In their second meeting she scolds him for failing to understand the nature of his quest and goal, ultimately pushing him to the atonement needed to fully grasp his duty as Grail King. Thirdly, the last meeting of Parzival and Sigune is one of quiet recognition, her life a prayer in itself that anticipates the same state for Parzival.[8]

The last woman for Parzival is his wife, Condwiramurs. Her role lies in the “love of a devoted wife. She is interesting in that her vitality lies in what she is, rather than her specific guidance to Parzival. The time that Parzival must recognize his inability to possess her, he leaves her and does not return. Her symbolic significance allows her character to be a guide in terms of the readiness of Parzival. Ultimately, both the Grail and Conwiramurs combine to form Parzival’s goal. She spurs him on his quest, and like the Grail itself, is an inspiration and reward. In the end, her guidance is best represented by her name on the Grail as well as Parzival.[8]


Wolfram followed Parzival with the fragmentary romance Titurel, which serves as a prologue. This poem was continued by a later poet known as Albrecht. Wolfram's story of Loherangrin was expanded into two full romances, Lohengrin and Lorengel, and later German writers often referred back to Parzival in their works.

Ludwig II of Bavaria was inspired by the poem, and Singers' Hall in his castle Neuschwanstein is decorated with tapestries and paintings depicting the story. He was also patron to the composer Richard Wagner and encouraged him to create the opera Parsifal based on the romance. He then commissioned eight private performances of the work.


1. Loomis, Roger Sherman. Development of Arthurian Romance, Hutchsinson and Company, 1963, 70.
2. Weigand, Hermann J. Three Chapters on Courtly Love in Arthurian France and Germany, University of North Carolina Press, 1956, 33.
3. Hasty 1999, p. ix.
4. Chrétien de Troyes. The Complete Romances of Chrétien de Troyes-"The Story of the Grail", ed. David Staines, Indiana University Press, 1990, 340. ISBN 0-253-20787-8
5. BBC Gallery, Parzival and the Holy Grail
6. Bumke 2004, p. 245–247
7. Helen Adolf, “New Light on Oriental Sources for Wolfram’s Parzival and Other Grail Romances”, PMLA (June 1947), Vol. 62, No.2, 306-324
8. Gibbs, Marion. “The Role of Woman in Wolfram’s Parzival.” German Life and Letters. 21.4 (1968): 296-308. Print.


• Bumke, Joachim (2004). Wolfram von Eschenbach (in German). Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler. ISBN 3-476-18036-0.
• Green, D.H. The Art of Recognition in Wolfram's Parzival. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982. ISBN 0-521-24500-1
• Groos, Arthur. Romancing the Grail: Genre, Science, and Quest in Wolfram's Parzival. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8014-3068-2
• Groos, Arthur. "Wolfram von Eschenbach's 'Bow Metaphor' and the Narrative Technique of Parzival." MLN 87.3, 1972. 391-408.
• Hasty, Will, ed. (1999). A Companion to Wolfram's Parzival. Rochester, NY: Camden House. ISBN 1-57113-152-3.
• G. Ronald Murphy, SJ. Gemstone of Paradise: The Holy Grail in Wolfram's Parzival. Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-19-530639-2
• Springer, Otto. "Wolfram's Parzival" in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, Roger S. Loomis (ed.). Clarendon Press: Oxford University. 1959. ISBN 0-19-811588-1

Editions and translations

The standard edition of the text is Karl Lachmann's, 1926. This is the basis for all modern editions, including:
• Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival. De Gruyter 2003. ISBN 3-11-017859-1.

English translations:

• Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival with Titurel and The Love-lyrics, trans. Cyril Edwards. Boydell Press 2004, OUP 2006. ISBN 1-84384-005-7& ISBN 0-19-280615-7
• Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival, trans. A.T.Hatto. Penguin 1980. ISBN 0-14-044361-4.
• Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival, A Romance of the Middle Ages, trans. Helen M. Mustard and Charles E. Passage. Vintage Books, 1961. ISBN 0-394-70188-7
• Wolfram von Eschenbach. Parzival, trans. Jessie L. Weston. Digireads.com (January 1, 2014). ISBN 1420949845

Modern German translations:

• Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival. De Gruyter 2003. ISBN 3-11-017859-1. With prose translation by Peter Knecht.
• Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival, (2 vols). Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 2006. ISBN 3-618-68007-4. With verse translation by Dieter Kühn.
• Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival, (2 vols). Reclam 1986 ISBN 3-15-003682-8 und ISBN 3-15-003681-X. With translation by Wolfgang Spiewok.
• Hermann Reichert: Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival, für Anfänger. Wien: Praesens Verlag, 2., völlig überarbeitete Aufl. 2007. ISBN 978-3-7069-0358-5.

Spanish translations:

• Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival. Siruela 1999. ISBN 978-84-7844-446-5. With translation by Antonio Regales.
Fictional retelling of Wolfram's myth:
• Clarke, Lindsay. Parzival and the Stone from Heaven — a Grail Romance for our Time. Oxford: Godstow Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9547367-5-0.

External links

• Literary Encyclopedia entry on Parzival
• Electronic version of a Parzival-manuscript from the Bibliotheca Palatina (Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg) -from the workplace of Diebold Lauber in Hagenau around 1443-1446.
• E-text of Parzival from the Bibliotheca Augustana
• Article entitled "Wounded Masculinity: Parsifal and The Fisher King Wound" The symbolism of the story as it relates to the Wounded Masculinity of Men by Richard Sanderson M.Ed., B.A.
• Text of Parzival on Gutenberg.spiegel.de
• Manichaeanism and Wolfram's Parzival by Bruce MacLennan
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Re: Wolfram von Eschenbach, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:11 am

Futuwwa: Chivalry and Gangsterism in Medieval Cairo
by Robert Irwin



A tadhkira (memorandum) prepared some time in the 1280s, which gave general instructions for the management of Egypt during the absence of Sultan Qalawun from that land, also provided a fairly clear general picture of where the trouble spots of Cairo were. The memorandum directed those in charge of the city to take special care in patrolling certain areas, especially “the Nile bank, the cemeteries, and ponds such as the Elephant’s Pool (Birkat al-Fil) and the Abyssinian Pool (Birkat al-Habash)...and certain public halls in the Husayniyya Quarter known as Qa'at al-Futuwwa, where turbulent folk hang out.”1

What were the Qa'at al-Futuwwa (Halls of Chivalry), and why were they so dangerous? As we shall see, in the mean streets of al-Husayniyya there flourished a Chandleresque combination of chivalry and gangsterism.
In English “chivalry” and “gangsterism” are two words; in medieval Arabic one word may suffice: futuwwa. If the chivalrous aspects of the institution are only briefly dealt with here, this is because they have hitherto received more attention from scholars. The earliest Western studies of this puzzling phenomenon concentrated almost exclusively on them; Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall took the lead with a barmy essay in which he not only identified futuwwa as an Oriental institution corresponding to Western chivalry but also linked the drinking cup of futuwwa initiation with the Holy Grail.2 In general, early Western studies of medieval Islam were bedeviled and distorted by the impulse to look for Eastern equivalents of the chivalry of Christendom
. Hence the preoccupation with Saracenic heraldry and Saracen fiefs (as iqtas were understood to be) as well as with the poorly understood phenomena of furusiyya and futuwwa. Western scholars went looking for Saracen knights and Arabian orders of chivalry and, with some difficulty, found them. For example, A. N. Poliak, writing in 1939, offered a misleading description of futuwwa: “The order of knights devoted to Muhammad’s posterity, al-futuwwa, which was headed by the sultan and open to native knights, ceased to exist in the fourteenth century, probably owing to the growing exclusiveness of the ‘Turkish’ nobility.”3 Poliak probably took his lead from much earlier speculations by Étienne Quatremère, who had similarly linked futuwwa with the ashraf (descendants of the Prophet).4

Fata is a young man. Futuwwa literally means “youngmanliness” and, more specifically, the qualities that should be possessed by a young man—honor, generosity, courage, and solidarity with his confreres. (The corresponding Iranian term is javanmardi.)5 Although there is, I think, no evidence for the existence of futuwwa prior to the tenth century, its devotees traced the origins of futuwwa back to 'Ali and, through 'Ali, back to Ibrahim. In the course of the tenth to thirteenth centuries the institution spread through Iran, Iraq, Anatolia, Syria, and Egypt. Futuwwa lodges seem to have been meeting-places for “les jeunes” (to borrow the term used by the historian of medieval France, Georges Duby).6 That is to say, they were places where men who were too young to marry could get together and...well, it depended. Sometimes these lodges were no more than sports clubs; sometimes they acquired political interests and turned into local factions; sometimes they became closely linked with particular crafts and produced something akin to guild solidarity; but sometimes they turned away from the world and dedicated themselves to mystical devotions. In the early thirteenth century, a number of Sufi writers produced treatises that were devoted wholly or in part to the inner aspects of futuwwa. (Most notable among them was Ibn al-'Arabi, who addressed three chapters of al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya to the subject).

The earliest surviving treatise on futuwwa, written in the tenth century by Ibn al-Husayn al-Sulami, stressed the importance of feasting, hospitality, and good fellowship. In the early fourteenth century, Ibn Battuta received a great deal of hospitality in Anatolian towns from the akhis, the Turkish equivalents of the Arabic fityan. Ibn Battuta’s welcome as a visiting stranger may suggest that a primary function of futuwwa lodges was to offer hospitality to visitors, as does the special status of Ibrahim, or Abraham, as one of the patrons of futuwwa, for it was reported of Ibrahim that he never dined alone, since he always had guests at his dinners.7 In the 1180s there was an attempt to regularize the existence of such lodges and to bring them under central control, as the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, al-Nasir li-Din Allah (r. 1180–1225) declared himself the head of all the futuwwa lodges in Iraq and elsewhere. Al-Nasir’s patronage was perhaps designed to reconcile his Sunni and Shi'i subjects in a broadly tolerant umbrella organization.8 It was also a means of extending the caliph’s influence beyond his frontiers, since he conferred investiture on foreign princes as an honor—a sort of Middle Eastern anticipation of the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece.9

However, the elevated status of futuwwa in Iraq was a transitory phenomenon, for in 1258 the Mongols captured Baghdad and put the last of the city’s caliphs to death. Subsequently in 1261 the Abbasid caliphate was revived in Cairo, and the first act of the newly installed caliph was to ceremonially invest Mamluk Sultan Baybars with the trousers of futuwwa—a sort of girding with knighthood. In 1263 Baybars in his turn invested the second of the Cairo caliphs with futuwwa. There was a lot of fuss about these ceremonies at the time, and in the same year the trousers of futuwwa were sent to Bereke of the Golden Horde. Arab chiefs of the Khafaja tribe were also invested with futuwwa. Quite a bit later, in 1292, Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil invested a chieftain of the Hakkari Kurds in Upper Iraq with futuwwa. Thereafter there are no more references to courtly futuwwa. It was defunct.10

But if we move on to the twentieth century and consult a dictionary of colloquial Egyptian, we find fitiwwa defined as “neighborhood strong-man and protector of local interests, bully, tough-guy, hood.”11 Moreover, Sawsan al-Messiri’s article on the sociology of futuwwa in modern Egypt does not deal with any sort of chivalric revival à la Mark Girouard. Rather the article is about neighborhood protection rackets and roughnecks.12 The modern roughnecks discussed by Messiri and others, though they usually belong to gangs, do not appear to have undergone initiation rituals, nor do they trouble to trace the spiritual origins of what they are doing back to 'Ali and Ibrahim.

Staying with modern futuwwa, one finds that it features prominently in modern Egyptian novels and films— most notably the novels of Naguib Mahfouz. Futuwwa toughs make a minor appearance in one of Mahfouz’s early works, as the bullies of schoolchildren in Bayn alqasrayn (published in 1956; the English translation of 1990 is entitled Palace Walk). Their importance grows considerably in his later fiction. Mahfouz’s religio-sociological allegory, Awlad haratina (1967; translated in 1972 as Children of Gebelawi), is ostensibly devoted to futuwwa toughs who dominate the haras. The rival strong-arm men in the hara chronicled by Mahfouz are all descendants of Jabalawi (namely, God), and the novel only ends with the explosive destruction of these small-time local gangsters. Mahfouz’s novel Malhamat al-harafish (1977; translated in 1994 as The Harafish), an epic saga of urban riffraff, is similarly dominated by gang wars and intrigues. The very word used by Mahfouz in his title, harafish, is no longer part of modern Egyptian. In a study of medieval urban life under the Mamluk sultans, Ira Lapidus described harafish as “beggars and menials” who “formed a turbulent and dangerous mob.”13 As I have noted in a review of this novel, Mahfouz in Malhamat al-harafish has shaken off Western fictional models and “gone back to the oral storytelling tradition and revived the traditional romance, which dealt with the activities of such legendary urban criminals as Mercury Ali, Crafty Delilah, and Ahmad the Sickness. Such tales, which celebrate the craftiness and courage of rogues, have always been popular with the futuwwa gangsters who ‘protect’ the various quarters of Cairo.”14

In portraying these toughs, Mahfouz seems to have been drawing on childhood memory as much as on imagination. Interviewed by the novelist Gamal al-Ghitany, he looked back with actual nostalgia on the toughs of the Gamaliyya quarter of Cairo in the opening decades of this century—in particular, their storming of the local police station had lodged in his memory.15 The futuwwa toughs of Mahfouz’s novels are not always unmitigated villains, and Mahfouz’s attitude to the real life social phenomenon was and is tinged with ambivalence. He has gone on record with the view that the futuwwa leaders of the 1920s and 30s were protectors of the quarters rather than their oppressors, adding, however, that “as with some rulers, the protector sometimes turned into a usurper.”16 Mahfouz, who was involved in the film industry for much of his career, scripted the screenplay of al-Futuwwa. This film, directed by Salah Abou Seif and released in 1957, dealt with the unedifying career of Zaydan, the “Vegetable King,” a racketeer who used violence and corruption to dominate the vegetable market. Haridi, a naive immigrant newly arrived from the countryside, rallies the neighborhood to overthrow Zaydan, but in the course of the struggle Haridi himself becomes corrupted and in his turn becomes the “Vegetable King.”17 In the 1950s Mahfouz was also involved in the making of Tawfiq Salih’s Futuwwat al-Husayniyya (Tough-guys of the Husayni Quarter), a period gangster movie set in 1905.18

Indeed futuwwa has come to designate a whole genre of modern Egyptian cinema. As the authors of Arab and African Film Making observe, “The word futuwwa in the Middle Ages and in religious contexts generally designated ideals of chivalry and brotherhood. By now, in Egypt at least, its meaning has degenerated so that it denotes a kind of bully system, a sort of marketplace Mafia, in which any boss who loses his iron grip on his followers will rapidly be replaced by the next-toughest aspirant around.” (As Lizbeth Malkmus notes, this is perhaps faintly reminiscent of the Khaldunian cycle of corruption and decay.)19 In the films devoted to futuwwa, the plot usually revolves around the theme of an honorable man becoming corrupted in the course of trying to fight the system (as in Salah Abou Seif’s film referred to above). The futuwwa system always wins (just as Al Pacino is progressively corrupted in The Godfather). In futuwwa films and the Coppola Godfather series alike there is great play with the themes of honor and shame, though the honor in question is, of course, that of thieves. This gangster corruption quite often carries overtones of political allegory, and the political fatalism of such films is vaguely reminiscent of the cynical watchword of di Lampedusa’s great novel, The Leopard: “Things must change in order that they stay the same.”

However most of the above is by way of digression. To return (a little reluctantly) to the Middle Ages, it seems that some time between 1261 and modern times a sea change took place in the nature of futuwwa—a descent from caliphal patents of honor to muscling in on small-time rackets in the local markets of Cairo. And in fact Qalawun’s tadhkira, quoted earlier, strongly suggests that by the 1280s futuwwa had already acquired pejorative connotations. It seems that al-Husayniyya was the chief stamping ground of the adherents of futuwwa. This area lay to the north of Qahira proper, outside the Bab al Futuh. From Fatimid times onwards it had been settled by low-grade troopers, and in the early Mamluk period the area continued to provide lodgings for military men. In the 1260s, during the reign of Baybars I, the suburb was further colonized by immigrants of Mongol origin, who had fled to the Mamluks from the Mongol Ilkhanate; still more of them arrived in the 1290s. Baybars probably built his mosque on the northern edge of Husayniyya in order to encourage colonization in the area. In the thirteenth century Husayniyya was the most dangerous of all the suburbs of Cairo, for it was the home of the “Sons of al-Husayniyya,” otherwise known as the harafish.20 The harafish appear to have had a degree of organization and, at times at least, a recognized overall leader, a Sultan of the Harafish.21

In a late Syrian version of the Sirat al-Zahir Baybars, the medieval folk epic devoted to the largely fictional exploits of the historical Sultan al-Zahir Baybars (1260– 77), we are told that Baybars as a young mamluk was in the service of an amir called Najm al-Din al-Bunduqdari, who had his palace in al-Husayniyya. (There is, of course, no truth in any of this.) In this quarter the young Baybars found his friends and allies among the good-hearted thieves and beggars who described themselves as the Sons of Husayniyya.22 In general, the Sira takes a very benign view of the harafish and other lowlife types who inhabited al-Husayniyya and the other squalid suburbs of Cairo, such as Bab al-Luq. Usta 'Uthman, “Flower of the Gangsters,” a liveryman and one of the main heroes of the popular cycle, is identified as being one of the shuttar (and I will come to the significance of this term shortly).

In the real, non-fictional world, al-Husayniyya was also a recognized recruiting ground for zu''ar, or neighborhood militias of young cudgelmen, and was notorious for vice and crime. As the already-mentioned tadhkiras indicate, al-Husayniyya was an area over which it was necessary to exercise special vigilance. It was perhaps also not entirely coincidental that Shaykh Khadr al-Mihrani, the populist, rabble-rousing Sufi shaykh and spiritual guru of Baybars, had his zawiya just outside the Bab al-Futuh.23 According to al-Maqrizi, in the early fourteenth century the suburb improved a bit, becoming gentrified to some extent even though it was still the place to watch acrobats, prizefighters, and other street performers. But then in the 1360s the quarter was attacked by a plague of worms that ate food, paper, and wood. Roofs collapsed, and many houses were abandoned. A flood followed in 1375. The suburb reverted to its slummy ways and in al-Maqrizi’s own time—the early fifteenth century—the place was miserable, underpopulated, and controlled by zu''ar racketeers.24 According to al-Qalqashandi, the soldiers who used to live in al-Husayniyya moved to lodgings closer to the Citadel. However, later yet in the fifteenth century, the area was particularly favored by Qaytbay, whose powerful ally, the amir Yashbak, built his qubba there.25 Moreover, there is evidence of continued settlement in Ottoman times, when the butchers and abattoirs were concentrated in this area. From the eighteenth century onwards, the butchers, a notoriously tough body of men, linked their activities with the Sufi Bayumiyya order, which was powerful in the quarter.26 During Bonaparte’s occupation of Egypt, al-Husayniyya, with its turbulent population, proved to be one of the main foci of resistance to the French, so that in the end the French were driven to attempt to raze at least part of the quarter.27

As has already been noted, Mongol immigrants were settled in al-Husayniyya as early as the 1260s. In the years 1294 to 1296 a new wave of immigrants, the Oirats (that is, the western tribe of Mongols, also known as Kalmuks), deserted to the Mamluks, and Sultan Kitbugha settled them in al-Husayniyya. The Arab chroniclers remarked on a number of things concerning the Oirats: First, that they were not Muslims and therefore did not observe Ramadan and also un-Islamically clubbed horses about the head before eating them. Second, that they were astonishingly beautiful, and therefore Oirat women were much sought-after as brides by the Mamluk elite. Also, according to al-Maqrizi’s Khitat, the Oirats “became known for their zu'ara (gangsterism) and shuja'a (boldness), and they were called al-Badura. So an individual Oirat might be called al-Badr such-and-such. They adopted the dress of futuwwa, and they carried weapons. Stories about these people proliferated.”28 Later on their fortunes declined, and many ended up working as menial servants in the Citadel.29 These Mongol immigrants may be seen as the medieval Cairene precursors of the Sicilian mafiosi of New York. It also seems likely that they organized their activities on the basis of futuwwa lodges. (Indeed it is possible that there was no such thing as popular futuwwa in Egypt prior to the arrival of the Oirats and that they brought its rituals with them from Ilkhanid Iraq. While al-Maqrizi clearly did not think that the Oirats were Muslims, they may still have thought of themselves as such.)

If one turns to al-Turkumani al-Hanafi’s treatise on bid'a, or irreligious innovation, entitled Kitab al-luma' fi ’l-hawadith wa ’l-bida', which was completed around 1300, one finds the relationship between membership in futuwwa and disreputable behavior confirmed. According to al-Turkumani, futuwwa is something that angers God and delights Satan, for it fosters crime and sedition. The young men in futuwwa lodges organize themselves into militias. They learn to become handy with knives, and if one of their number should be apprehended and taken off to prison they will mass and organize to rescue him.30 Interestingly Ibn Battuta, who was in Egypt in the 1320s, reported the harafish massing to enforce the release from prison of one of their patrons, the amir Tashtamur Hummus Akhdar.31 The (somewhat Masonic) practice of members looking after each other was taken to such an extreme that, according to al-Turkumani, a man might even prostitute his wife in order to support his needy brethren.

Equally reprehensible for the pious Muslim was the futuwwa’s un-Islamic initiation rite, which required the drinking of a cup of water and salt and featured another, even more dubious, practice by the group’s elder, who stripped the blindfolded amrad, or beardless boy, and invested him with the trousers of futuwwa. The whole business of eyeing undressed and beardless boys was an abomination. As al-Turkumani put it, “the concupiscient glances of the older men are poisoned arrows from the quiver of Satan.”32 The homosexuality of the gaze was, according to him, as damnable as any other form of homosexuality. If members of futuwwa lodges did indeed sit and watch as beautiful youths were undressed before their eyes, then this practice may be linked to certain rather controversial Sufi meditation practices. In medieval Persia the religious contemplation of the unbearded was termed shahid bazi, or “witness play.”33

However, to return to al-Turkumani’s case against futuwwa, another aspect of the criminality of this sort of brotherhood was the readiness of its members to take up cudgels against the agents of the state (ghulman alshurta wa-wulat al-Muslimin). Futuwwa members prided themselves on their skill with weapons, but al-Turkumani piously observed that a true fata should not be identified by his skill with a knife but rather by his generosity to the needy. A little later in 808, al-Turkumani produced a brief risala wholly devoted to futuwwa, in which he noted that its apologists presented the deliverance of people from prison or from enforced legal penalties as a charitable activity: the big man (al-kabir) marches along at the head of his following and says, “Deliver your brethren in futuwwa,” but the right reply to this is “Listen, O you of little courage (muruwwa), this is all the deceit of the devil (talbis Iblis), and his aim is to lead you away from the way of the Prophet.”34 Futuwwa, as al-Turkumani viewed it, was one of the worst bida's of the age, and he treated with brisk contempt its partisans’ attempt to link it with caliphal futuwwa. The attempt to trace its lineage back to 'Ali was, if anything, even more outrageous. Al-Turkumani’s discussion of futuwwa comes in the fifth fasl of the Kitab al-Luma'.35 It follows a chapter devoted to the evil of chess and precedes the one on the wickedness of brotherhoods devoted to hunting.

Al-Turkumani also wrote a short treatise devoted solely to attacking futuwwa, and this has a colophon testifying that it had been endorsed by Ibn Taymiyya and, allegedly, by all the muftis of Egypt.36 Al-Turkumani had indeed studied under Ibn Taymiyya, and it is plausible that it was his teacher who had taught him to loathe futuwwa, for the latter had also issued a fatwa against the institution. In it, Ibn Taymiyya indicated that all sorts of vices might flourish in these meetings of young men. According to him, a futuwwa meeting was known as majlis al-daskara, or “session of the village.” He added that daskara had been a neutral word, but in his time it acquired pejorative overtones, because it was applied to gatherings for the purpose of fornication, wine drinking, and singing.37 The entry on daskara in Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon offers the meaning, “a town or village,” but two of the earlier definitions are more germane: “a building like a qasr, which is surrounded by houses, or chambers, and in which the vitious or immoral (shuttar) assemble”; or “houses of the foreigners, a'ajim, in which are wine and instruments of music and the like.”38 Incidentally, al-Turkumani in his Risala on futuwwa twice refers to the ritual of induction as a tazkira. Although Labib proposed emending this to tadhkira, another possibility is that tazkira represents a mishearing of daskara.

A fatwa by the fourteenth-century Aleppan Zayn 'Umar al-Din b. al-Wardi (1292–1349) echoed al-Turkumani’s writings in denouncing the prominence of liwat, or homosexuality, in futuwwa.39 It is indeed easy to imagine that the futuwwa’s cult of the young man may in certain circumstances have become confused with a different sort of cult of beardless youths. A number of litterateurs in the Mamluk period, among them al-Badri and al-Nawaji, produced anthologies devoted to the joys of the beautiful boy. Al-Badri’s was entitled “The Shining Dawn: On the Description of Fair Faces”; al-Nawaji, who died in 1455 and is better known for his anthology on wine-drinking, the Halbat al-kumayt, compiled at least two treatises on beautiful young men: “The Throwing-off of Shame in the Description of the First Growth of the Beard,” and “The Prairie of the Gazelles in the Purity of the Beauty of Servant Boys.” Mamluk moralists were also much vexed by the mukhannath, or transvestite prostitutes, who worked the streets.40

Ibn Taymiyya, al-Turkumani, and other Mamluk experts on bid'a rejected the claim of members of popular futuwwa lodges that their chain of initiation could be traced back to the Abbasid caliph al-Nasir. In so doing, they denied any link between popular Cairene futuwwa of relatively recent date and the more respectable and longer-established futuwwa of the courts. On a related issue, studies of twelfth-century Iraqi futuwwa have suggested that one of al-Nasir’s aims in promoting the institution was to reconcile Sunnism and moderate Shi'ism under its umbrella. The futuwwa’s slogan La fata illa 'Ali ('Ali is the youth par excellence) and its tracing its lineage of initiation back to 'Ali might be taken as hinting at Shi'i aspects to the organization, and it is probably true that Shi'ism was more of a vital force in Mamluk Egypt than has hitherto been realized. However, as far as the Mamluk period and Mamluk sources are concerned, there is no real evidence to suggest that futuwwa was linked to Shi'i sympathies or practices—and this was not one of Ibn al-Turkumani’s or Ibn Taymiyya’s grumbles. (Incidentally, Bulliet in his work on tenth-to-twelfth-century Nishapur found that members of futuwwa, when their affiliation was identifiable, were invariably Shafi'ite Muslims.41)

Although Ibn Taymiyya and al-Turkumani went out of their way to denounce various aspects of futuwwa, Abu 'Abdallah b. al-Hajj al-Abdari (1336–66?), who similarly wrote a lengthy treatise on bid'a, does not seem to have noticed the phenomenon at all. Ibn al-Hajj did deal disapprovingly with homosexuality, gazing on men, singing and dancing, various unacceptable Sufi rituals, and dodgy artisanal and commercial practices, but he does not discuss futuwwa (unless I have missed it). The evidence is too fragmentary and relies too much on the apparent silence of the sources for one to come to any firm conclusion here, but what this suggests is that popular, quasi-criminal, ritualized futuwwa was a phenomenon of limited duration in medieval Egypt. The futuwwa-loving Oirats had arrived at the end of the thirteenth century. Ibn Taymiyya and al-Turkumani lived and wrote at the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth century.42 Gabriel Baer, who wrote several excellent studies of guilds in the Ottoman period, suggested that there was an essential continuity between medieval Egyptian futuwwa and the craft-based guilds of Egypt in the Ottoman period.43 However, the supposed continuity is doubtful. I have come across no references to futuwwa in the Mamluk lands in the late fourteenth or the fifteenth century. Ibn al-Turkumani had urged the Mamluk authorities to ban futuwwa, and it is indeed possible that recommendations from him and other like-minded “ulema” were eventually heeded. A new wave of futuwwa manuscripts was produced in Egypt in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, but, although al-Jabarti’s 'Aja'ib al-athar contains plentiful information about criminal activity and popular disturbances in Ottoman Egypt, the word futuwwa does not seem to be in the author’s vocabulary. Compared to futuwwa, the brotherhood of the harafish had a longer existence. The first reference to the harafish was in 1298, but they were still a power to be reckoned with at least as late as 1516, when the shaykh of the harafish accompanied Qansuh al-Ghuri on his ill-fated journey to Syria.44

Futuwwa seems to have been linked, however vaguely, with another and more long-lived phenomenon, one that at first blush would not appear urban at all: the hunting lodge. Futuwwa treatises written during the caliphate of al-Nasir had spelled out the hunting privileges of young men, giving them special license to hunt with crossbows and listing the manasib, or fourteen noble species of birds that they could honorably hunt.45 According to Ibn Khaldun, the caliph was crazy about crossbows and pigeons.46 With respect to the belt of futuwwa, Louis Massignon has observed that “it was a military belt worn by an archer, a ‘tir-bent,’ an arrow belt, the insignia of the guild of ‘couriers’ (shatir, whence the Indian shattar, religious order, derives...).”47

It is noteworthy that, after al-Turkumani had finished discussing the wickedness of futuwwa lodges, he then immediately turned to the use of the crossbow. Hunting leagues that used the crossbow were reprehensible, according to him, because they were liable to break the Islamic law on slaughtering. The crossbow was cruel to birds and proscribed in Hadith. The shuttar huntsmen were wicked because they valued marksmanship more than piety. They were also bad because they did not mind admitting into their ranks homosexual men—nor, for that matter, Jews and Christians. Shuttar preferred to swear by the dirt, rather than by God. All that mattered to these awful people was the ability to kill certain birds—the manasib birds. If one succeeded, one was acclaimed a shatir. Their group solidarity and their unquestioning obedience to their leaders were also to be abominated. So was their trampling through other people’s fields.
Although a member of such a group is called a shatir, or cunning one, according to al-Turkumani, the only real cunning people are the good Muslims.48 (Interestingly and curiously, Ibn Turkumani’s aversion to companies of archers finds a parallel in the Western world in the fifteenth-century Malleus Maleficarum, whose authors, Krämer and Sprenger, wrote of “the witchcraft of archers.” According to the famous inquisitors, such skill as certain crack archers possessed could only be explained by their having entered into a pact with the devil.49 Also, more germanely with respect to Islamic archery’s association with vice, the sixth chapter of al-Badri’s treatise on beautiful boys was specifically devoted to archery and hunting and to the erotic prospects afforded by these activities.) Al-Turkumani’s view that hunting with a crossbow was illicit was backed up, to some extent at least, by Ibn Mangli’s fourteenth-century treatise on hunting, Uns al-mala bi-wahsh al-fala, in which the author states that it is forbidden to hunt and kill animals using blunt weapons or projectiles, such as the balls fired from a bunduqa.50

In medieval Arabic dictionaries, a shatir (plural: shuttar) was defined as a wrongdoer, a clever thief, someone who is agile and witty or swift on his feet. But in the usage of al-Turkumani and other medieval Egyptian writers, the word was also quite specifically associated with hunting and the use of the bow. While a shatir and a fata were not necessarily one and the same man, Ibn Taymiyya discussed futuwwa and assemblies of archers in one and the same disapproving breath. These are people, he claimed, who have taken an oath of infidelity, and who celebrate together with feasting.51 It seems that they formed gangs, somewhat similar to the Mohawks of eighteenth-century London or the Apaches of Paris in the 1920s. If the adherents of futuwwa excelled with the knife, the shuttar were more versatile, being enthusiasts also of single-stick fencing and wrestling as well as archery. In the early fourteenth century the sports and enthusiasms of the shuttar and like-minded wastrels briefly enjoyed court favor under Sultan al-Muzaffar Hajji (r. 1346–47). This young sultan enjoyed watching the single-stick fencing of the awbash (riffraff). He gambled on racing pigeons and donned leather breeches in order to wrestle with servants and lowlife types. (His other enthusiasms were polo and torture.)52

In the folk epic devoted to Baybars, which we have already mentioned, Baybars as a young mamluk was initiated into a hunting lodge in Damascus with the assistance of Fatima bint al-Awqasi, daughter of the bowyer, after he had proved himself by shooting at the manasib birds with a crossbow. The corporation of archers to which he was admitted was under the leadership of a shaykh and a naqib; it had forty members and was dedicated to hunting the ten noble breeds of bird. On the day of the hunt, each sub-group of four archers was assigned one particular breed to hunt. After this first round, the winner—in the Sira, the winner was of course Baybars—then had to use his crossbow to bring down forty birds, four from each species. The anonymous author concluded his account of Baybars’s prowess as an archer with the lament that those were the days when people preferred hunting to games of tric-trac or dominoes.53

The above was fiction, and moreover fiction from Ottoman Syria, but it may well reflect medieval realities. Historically, such jolly huntsmen may have been capable of providing sizable armed militias in times of crisis. When in 1524 Ahmad al-Kha'in, the Turkish governor of Egypt, rebelled against Istanbul, he called upon the support of the zu''ar and shuttar to help him dislodge the janissaries from the Citadel of Cairo. According to the geomancer and historical romancer Ibn Zunbul, the two leaders of the shuttar, Shaban al-Shagharti, Head of the Bowyers, and Ahmad al-Shirbini chose from their followers a squad to enter the Citadel by an underground passage and so come upon the janissaries unawares. Later on, when the Ottomans launched a counteroffensive, Ibn Zunbul tells us that the shuttar, along with the zu''ar, the riffraff, and every dog and his brother, were among the last of the rebel’s supporters.54

The tales of The Thousand and One Nights teem with with shuttar who get into scrapes but who, being infinitely resourceful, use artful dodges to get themselves out of those scrapes.55 Some of the shuttar featured in the Nights, such as Crafty Delilah or Calamity Ahmad, had epics in their own right devoted to them in medieval Egypt. Ali Zaybaq was the most famous of the shuttar to feature in the Nights. In a historico-literary analysis of “The Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo,” André Miquel has suggested that in this story, notionally set in Harun al-Rashid’s Baghdad, Ali, who eventually wins the caliph’s admiration and his blessing on Ali’s marriage to Delilah’s daughter Zaynab, is in some sort of metaphorical sense being inducted into Iraqi futuwwa.56 Other shuttar were specifically immortalized (or should that be “immoralized”?) in some of the stories added to later Egyptian recensions of Alf layla walayla, among them, “The Sharper of Alexandria and the Chief of Police,” “The Chief of Qus Police and the Sharper,” “The Simpleton and Sharper,” “The Tale of the Sharpers with the Shroff and his Ass,” and “The Story of the Three Sharpers.” Not all shuttar were all that sharp. Several stories indeed are devoted to their stupidity—stupidity heightened in some cases by drugs. And there is evidence that at least one real villain in fifteenth-century Egypt took to calling himself after the fictional Ahmad al-Danaf, or Calamity Ahmad. He was executed in 1485.57 In Cairo the legendary villains enjoyed the status of Robin Hood or Dick Turpin. The cult of such fictional “heroic” villains can be seen as a later and more vulgar version of the cult of crime and lowlife that was such a striking feature of the culture of the literary elite in Buyid Iraq, as represented by, for example, the tenth-century vizier and patron of Abu Dulaf, al-Sahib b. 'Abbad.58 Moreover, the cult of the criminal can, of course, be traced further back yet, to the semi-legendary lives of the saa'lik poets of pre-Islamic Arabia.

As noted above, the caliph al-Nasir li-Din Allah had been an enthusiast for futuwwa, hunting with the crossbow, and pigeons. Like crossbow hunting, pigeon fancying could have disreputable undertones in medieval Islamic society, and indeed pigeon racing was condemned by most religious authorities. A pigeon racer could not bear witness in a court. According to its enemies, pigeon racing was invented by the citizens of Sodom (so the sport is of some antiquity);59 professed pigeon fanciers used the excuse of pursuing errant pigeons to break into houses or to spy upon women from the rooftops. It was also forbidden to hunt pigeons, since it was not halal to consume them. According to al-Jahiz’s treatise on animals, the rearing and flying of pigeons was a privilege of fityan.60 In The Thousand and One Nights story, “The Rogueries of Delilah the Crafty and Her Daughter Zaynab the Cony-Catcher,” Crafty Delilah’s father had been the caliph’s master of carrier pigeons, and eventually Delilah is awarded the same post. In another story, “The Adventures of Mercury 'Ali of Cairo,” 'Ali pretends to have eaten Delilah’s pigeons. So, to begin to conclude, one finds a skein of ill-defined yet indubitable connections between the young men involved in pigeon fancying, crime, hunting, boy-ogling, and the rituals of brotherhood.

Such lowlife denizens of Cairo’s poorer quarters can be seen as marginal figures—as subversives and representatives of a counterculture. However, it is doubtful that this was their own perspective on the matter, for their gangs and associations played a central role in the functioning of the city. As far as most of the inhabitants of Cairo’s haras were concerned, it may be that it was the Mamluk elite whom they perceived as the marginal men and the representatives of an alien counterculture. The defense of poor and humble citizens from the oppression of the alien Turkish soldiery was surely one of the most important roles of futuwwa lodges and similar groups.

This study concentrated on the futuwwa and shuttar groups, but al-Husayniyya and the Bab al-Luq teemed with other “hushrat,” or “human vermin.” I have said little about the zu''ar and the harafish (for these ruffians have been well studied by Brinner and Lapidus). I have said nothing at all about the ju'aydiyya, or Curly-Haired Ones (possibly a confederation of Gypsy toughs: remarkably little work has been done on the Gypsies in the medieval Near East). According to a footnote in Quatremère’s Histoire des sultans mamlouks, Tenreiro claimed that Gypsies (Bohemiens) were called in Arabic “Xatres,” plausibly shatir, plural: shuttar.61 Nor have I had time to research and discuss the tawwabun, or repentant bandits who turned “sultan’s evidence” and became policemen. Nor have I discussed the subdivisions of the Banu Sasan, as listed in al-Zarkhuri’s conjuring manual—including the Ashab al-Mim (or professional treasure hunters), the false ascetics, the Halwati snake-charmers, and the Saramiti occultists.62 Yet the lives of all these strange people deserve at least a footnote in the turbulent history of Cairo.

London, United Kingdom



1. Shafi' b. 'Ali, Fadl al-Ma'thur, Oxford, Bodleian MS Marsh 424, fol. 94b. This is the third of three tadhkiras addressed to Qalawun’s son al-Salih in Shafi' b. 'Ali’s life of Qalawun. It was translated in part (with no indication of the source) in D. S. Margoliouth, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Damascus (London, 1907), p. 79. For another tadhkira from the same period, see Ibn al- Furat, Ta'rikh al-duwal wa al-muluk, ed. Q. Zurayk (Beirut, 1942), vol. 7, pp. 196–200. It dates from 679/1281 and was drafted by Ibn al-Mukarram. The tadhkira in Ibn al-Furat’s chronicle emphasizes the need to police Husayniyya, but does not actually mention halls of futuwwa. The following works discuss the 679 tadhkira as given in Ibn al-Furat: Linda Northrup, From Slave to Sultan: The Career of al-Mansur Qalawun and the Consolidation of Mamluk Rule in Egypt and Syria (679–689 A.H. / 1279– 1290 A.D.), Freiburger Islamstudien, vol. 18 (Stuttgart, 1998), pp. 209–10; Léonor Fernandes, “On Conducting the Affairs of State: A Guideline of the Fourteenth Century,” Annales Islamologiques, vol. 24 (1988), pp. 81–91; and Sato Tsugitaka, State and Rural Society in Medieval Islam (Leiden, 1981), pp. 105–23. Axel Moberg, “Regierungspromemoria eines ägyptischen Sultans,” in Festschrift Sachau, ed. Gotthold Weill (Berlin, 1915), pp. 406–21, translated and commented on the first of the three tadhkiras in Fadl al-Ma'thur, fols. 82b–89b; see Robert Irwin, The Middle East in the Middle Ages: The Early Mamluk Sultanate 1250–1382 (Beckenham, Kent, 1986), pp. 72–73.

2. J. von Hammer-Purgstall, “Sur la chevalerie des arabes antérieure à celle de l’Europe, et sur l’influence de la première sur la seconde,” Journal Asiatique, 4th series, vol. 13 (1849), pp. 5– 14.

3. A. N. Poliak, Feudalism in Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon (1250–1900) (London, 1939), p. 15.

4. Étienne Quatremère, ed., Histoire des sultans mamlouks de l’Égypte, écrite en arabe par Taki-Eddin-Ahmed-Makrizi, 2 vols. (Paris, 1845), vol. 1, pt. 1, pp. 58–59n.

5. On the Iranian tradition, see Morteza Saraf, ed., Traités des compagnons- chevaliers (Tehran and Paris, 1973) (Persian text with analytical introduction in French by Henri Corbin); Julian Baldick, Mystical Islam: An Introduction to Sufism (London, 1989), pp. 91–92; Seyyed Hossein Nasr, “Spiritual Chivalry,” in Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations , ed. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (London, 1991), pp. 304–15.

6. Georges Duby, “Au XIIe siècle: les Jeunes,” Annales, économies, societés, civilisations 5 (1964): 835–46.

7. On this sort of futuwwa in general, and on futuwwa in Anatolia more specifically, see F. Taeschner, Zunfte und Bruderschaften im Islam (Zurich, 1979).

8. Angelika Hartmann, Al-Nasir li-Din Allah (1180–1225) (Berlin, 1975), pp. 92–135; Herbert Mason, Two Statesmen of Mediaeval Islam: Vizir Ibn Hubayra (499–560 AH/1105–1165 AD) and Caliph an-Nâsir li Dîn Allâh (553–622 AH/1158–1225 AD) (The Hague, 1972), pp. 118–26; Seyyed Hossein Nasr, “Spiritual Chivalry,” pp. 304–15.

9. See, for an example of this, R. S. Humphreys, From Saladin to the Mongols (New York, 1977), p. 138.

10. On courtly futuwwa under the Mamluks, see Taeschner, Zunfte und Bruderschaften im Islam, pp. 219–25; idem, “Die islamischen Futuwwabünde: das Problem, ihrer Entstehung und die Grundlinien ihrer Geschichte,” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, n.s. vol. 12 (1934): 38–39.

11. Martin Hinds and El-Said Badawi, A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic, Arabic-English (Beirut, 1986), p. 641.

12. Sawsan al-Messiri, “The Changing Role of Futuwwa in the Social Structure of Cairo,” in Ernest Gellner and John Waterbury, eds., Patrons and Clients (London, 1977), pp. 239–53.

13. Ira Lapidus, Muslim Cities in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, MA, 1967), p. 179.

14. Robert Irwin, “Hoodlums, Harlots, and Holy Men,” Washington Post Book World (April 10, 1994): 10.

15. Mahfouz par Mahfouz: Entretiens avec Gamal Ghitany (Paris, 1991), pp. 25, 54–56, 61–62.

16. Mahfouz, interviewed in al-Musawwar (October 21, 1988): 10– 19, 68–73; quoted in Rasheed El-Enany, Naguib Mahfouz: The Pursuit of Meaning (London, 1993), p. 3.

17. Yves Thoraval, Regards sur le cinéma égyptien 1875–1975 (Paris, 1988), pp. 62–63; Magda Wassaf, ed., Égypte, 100 ans de cinéma (Paris, 1995), pp. 151–52; Viola Shafik, Arab Cinema: History and Cultural Identity (Cairo, 1998), pp. 135–37.

18. Hashim al-Nahas, “The Role of Naguib Mahfouz in the Egyptian Cinema,” in Critical Perspectives on Naguib Mahfouz, ed. Trevor Le Gassick (Washington, 1991), pp. 166–67.

19. Lizbeth Malkmus and Roy Armes, Arab and African Film Making (London, 1991), pp. 101–2.

20. Lapidus, Muslim Cities, pp. 176, 293; Doris Behrens-Abouseif, “The North-Eastern Extension of Cairo under the Mamluks,” Annales Islamologiques 17 (1981): 157–89; Jonathan Bloom, “The Mosque of Baybars al-Bunduqdari in Cairo,” Annales Islamologiques 18 (1982): 45–78.

21. William M. Brinner, “The Significance of the Harafish and Their Sultan,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 6 (1963): 190–215.

22. Georges Bohas and Jean-Patrick Guillaume, trans., Roman de Baïbars, 10 vols. (Arles, 1985): vol. 1, Les enfances de Baïbars.

23. On Khidr, the disreputable holy man, see E. [Ashtor] Strauss, “Sheich Hidr: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Juden in Damaskus,” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 44 (1937): 227–40; P. M. Holt, “An Early Source on Shaykh Khadir al- Mihrani,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 46 (1983): 33–39.

24. Ahmad b. 'Ali al-Maqrizi, Kitab al-mawa'iz wa ’l-i'tibar fi dhikr al-khitat wa ’l-athar (henceforth Khitat), 2 vols. (Cairo: Bulaq, 1853–54), vol. 2, pp. 22–23.

25. On Husayniyya, see Behrens-Abouseif, “North-Eastern Extension of Cairo.” On Baybars’s mosque there, see Bloom, “Mosque of Baybars al-Bunduqdari.”

26. On the butcher shaykh of the Bayumiyya, see Thomas Philip and Moshe Perlmann, trans., 'Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti’s History of Egypt, 4 vols. (Stuttgart, 1994): vol. 2, p. 311; also see André Raymond, “Quartiers et mouvements populaires,” in Political and Social Change in Modern Egypt, ed. P. M. Holt (London, 1968), pp. 106–7.

27. Philip, al-Jabarti’s History, vol. 3, pp. 42, 216, 249; Raymond, “Quartiers,” p. 116.

28. Al-Maqrizi, Khitat, vol. 2, pp. 22–23.

29. David Ayalon, “The Great Yasa of Chingiz Khan, a Reexamination: (A) The Basic Data in the Islamic Sources on the Yasa and on Its Contents,” Studia Islamica 33 (1971): 118; “The Great Yasa: (C1) The Position of the Yasa in the Mamluk Sultanate,” Studia Islamica 36 (1972): 134–35.

30. Idris b. Baydakin al-Turkumani al-Hanafi, Kitab al-luma' fi ’l- hawadith wa ’l-bida', Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Kairo: Quellen zur Geschichte des Islamischen Ägyptens, vol. 3a, ed. Subhi Labib (Wiesbaden, 1986): see editor’s Arabic introduction, pp. 54–62, and text, pp. 113–24; cf. Joseph Schacht, “Einige Kairiner Handschriften über furusiya und futuwa,” Der Islam 19 (1931): 49–52.

31. Ibn Battuta, The Travels of Ibn Battuta, A.D. 1325–1354, trans. H. A. R. Gibb (Cambridge, England: Hakluyt Society, 1958), 2nd series, no. 110, vol. 1, p. 54. See also Brinner, “The Significance of the Harafish,” p. 197.

32. Al-Turkumani, Kitab al-Luma', p. 114.

33. Peter Lamborn Wilson, “The Witness Game: Imaginal Yoga and Sacred Pedophilia in Persian Sufism,” in Scandal: Essays in Islamic Heresy (New York, 1988), pp. 93–121.

34. Al-Turkumani, Kitab al-Luma', vol. 3a, pp. 501–20 (appendix: al-Turkumani’s Risala on futuwwa).

35. Al-Turkumani, Kitab al-luma', pp. 113–24.

36. Al-Turkumani, Kitab al-luma', p. 501 (appendix).

37. Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu'at al-rasa'il (Cairo, 1905), pp. 147–60.

38. Edward William Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (Cambridge, England: Islamic Texts Society, 1984), p. 879. For the first of the two earlier meanings, Lane relied on the commentary to the second Paris edition of al-Hariri’s Maqamat, and, for the second, he cited the medieval Arab dictionary, Qamus al-muhit.

39. Ignaz Goldziher, “Eine Fetwa gegen die Futuwwa,” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 73 (1919): 127–28.

40. Carl Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur, 2nd ed. (Leiden, 1943–49), vol. 2, p. 132; Franz Rosenthal, “Male and Female: Described and Compared,” in Homoeroticism in Classical Arabic Literature, ed. J. W. Wright Jr. and Everett K. Rowson (New York, 1997), pp. 34–37, 50–51; Muhammad b. Ýasan al- Nawaji, La prairie des gazelles: Éloge des beaux adolescents, trans. R. Khawam (Paris, 1989). See also, Geert Jan van Gelder, “A Muslim Encomium on Wine: The Racecourse of the Bay (Halbat al-kumayt) by al-Nawagi (d. 859/1455) as a Post-classical Arabic Work,” Arabica 42 (1975): 222–26; Everett K. Rowson, “Two Homoerotic Narratives from Mamluk Literature: al-Safadi’s Law'at al-shaki and Ibn Daniyal’s al-Mutayyam,” in Wright, Homoeroticism, pp. 158–91.

41. Richard Bulliet, The Patricians of Nishapur: A Study in Medieval Islamic Social History (Cambridge, MA, 1972), pp. 43–45.

42. On al-Turkumani’s dates, see Kitab al-luma', “Einleitung,” pp. 15–16.

43. Gabriel Baer, “Guilds in Middle Eastern History,” in Studies in the Economic History of the Middle East, ed. M. A. Cook (London, 1970), pp. 16–17, 20.

44. Brinner, “Significance of the Harafish.”

45. Mason, Two Statesmen, pp. 118, 120.

46. Ibn Khaldun, Kitab al-'ibar, 7 vols. (Cairo: Bulaq, 1867), vol. 3, p. 535; cf. Douglas Patton, Badr al-Din Lu'lu': Atabeg of Mosul, 1211–1259 (Seattle, 1991), pp. 49–50.

47. Louis Massignon, The Passion of Hallaj, Mystic and Martyr of Islam, trans. Herbert Mason (Princeton, 1982), p. 621.

48. Al-Turkumani, Kitab al-luma', pp. 125–33.

49. Heinrich Krämer and Jacobus Sprenger, Malleus Maleficarum
(Nurenburg, 1494) pt. 2, chap. 16.

50. Ibn Mangli, De la chasse, trans. François Viré (Paris, 1984), p. 32.

51. Joseph Schacht, “Zwei neue Quellen zur Kenntnis der Futuwa,” in Festschrift Georg Jacob, ed. Theodor Menzel (Leipzig, 1932), pp. 283–84.

52. Yusuf b. Taghribirdi, al-Nujum al-zahira fi muluk Misr wa ’l-Qahira (Cairo, 1929–72), vol. 10, pp. 128, 168–9; Franz Rosenthal, Gambling in Islam (Leiden, 1975), p. 54; Irwin, Middle East in the Middle Ages, p. 134.

53. Bohas, Les Enfances du Baïbars, pp. 149–55.

54. Ahmad b. Zunbul al-Ramm¸l al-Mahalli, Kitab ta'rikh waq'a al-ghawri, British Library MS. Or 2811, fols. 82a–86b.

55. On this sort of material, see Victor Chauvin, Bibliographie des ouvrages arabes ou relatifs aux Arabes publiés dans l’Europe chrétienne de 1810 à 1885, 12 vols. (Liège, 1892–1922), vol. 5, pp. 245–50; Heinrich Schützinger, “Die Schelmengeschichten in Tausendundeiner Nacht als Ausdruck der ägyptischen Volksmeinung,” Rheinische Jahrbuch für Volkskunde, vol. 21 (1973), pp. 200–215; Boaz Shoshan, “Comedy, Pornography, and Social Critique in the Romance of Ahmad Danaf,” Journal of Arabic Literature 27 (1996): 216–26.

56. André Miquel, 'Alî az-Zi'baq et quelques autres aigrefins,” in idem, Sept contes des Mille et Une Nuits, ou Il n’y a pas de contes innocents (Paris, 1981), p. 65.

57. Miquel, Sept Contes, p. 63.

58. On Abu Dulaf and similar literary connoisseurs of crime, see vol. 1 of Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The Mediaeval Islamic Underworld: The Banu Sasan in Arabic Society and Literature, 2 vols. (Leiden, 1976).

59. Ignaz Goldziher, “On the Development of Hadith,” in idem, Muslim Studies, trans. C. R. Barber and S. M. Stern, 2 vols. (London, 1971), vol. 2, pp. 74–75; Rosenthal, Gambling in Islam, pp. 51–55.

60. Abu 'Uthman al-Jahiz, Kitab al-Hayawan, ed. 'Abd al-Salam M. Harun, 2nd ed. (Cairo, 1965–69), vol. 2, p. 157; vol. 3, p. 20.

61. Quatremère, Histoire des sultans mamlouks, vol. 1, pt. 1, pp. 50– 51, n. 4.

62. The lowlife of medieval Cairo is briefly discussed, however, in Robert Irwin, The Arabian Nights: A Companion (London, 1994), pp. 140–58.
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Order of the Golden Fleece
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Accessed: 8/20/19



Distinguished Order of the Golden Fleece
Insigne Orden del Toisón de Oro
Insigne Ordre de la Toison d'Or
Berühmt Orden vom Goldenen Vlies
Insignes Ordo Velleris Aurei
Insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece (Spain).jpg
Insignia of a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece of Spain. Modern manufacture, Cejalvo (Madrid).
Awarded by the King of Spain
and the Head of the House of Habsburg
Established 1430; 589 years ago
Motto Pretium Laborum Non Vile
Non Aliud
Status Currently constituted
Founder Philip III, Duke of Burgundy
Grand Masters Felipe VI of Spain
Archduke Karl of Austria
Grades Knight
Next (higher) None
Next (lower) Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Charles III
Order of the Golden Fleece ribbon bar.svg

Philip III, Duke of Burgundy, with the collar of the Order (portrait in c.1450 by Rogier van der Weyden)

The Distinguished Order of the Golden Fleece (Spanish: Insigne Orden del Toisón de Oro,[1] German: Orden vom Goldenen Vlies) is a Roman Catholic order of chivalry founded in Bruges by the Burgundian duke Philip the Good in 1430,[2] to celebrate his marriage to the Princess Isabella of Portugal. Today, two branches of the Order exist, namely the Spanish and the Austrian Fleece; the current grand masters are Felipe VI, King of Spain, and Karl von Habsburg, grandson of Emperor Charles I of Austria, respectively. The chaplain of the Austrian branch is Cardinal Graf von Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna.

Having had only 1,200 recipients ever since its establishment, the Spanish Order of the Golden Fleece has been referred to as the most prestigious and exclusive order of chivalry in the world, both historically and contemporaneously.[3][4] Each collar is fully coated in gold, and is estimated to be worth around $60,000 USD, making it the most expensive chivalrous order.[5]


The Order of the Golden Fleece was established on 10 January 1430, by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, in celebration of the prosperous and wealthy domains united in his person that ran from Flanders to Switzerland.[6] The jester and dwarf Madame d'Or performed at the creation of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Bruges.[7] It is restricted to a limited number of knights, initially 24 but increased to 30 in 1433, and 50 in 1516, plus the sovereign.[8] The Order's first King of Arms was Jean Le Fèvre de Saint-Remy.[9] It received further privileges unusual to any order of knighthood: the sovereign undertook to consult the order before going to war; all disputes between the knights were to be settled by the order; at each chapter the deeds of each knight were held in review, and punishments and admonitions were dealt out to offenders, and to this the sovereign was expressly subject; the knights could claim as of right to be tried by their fellows on charges of rebellion, heresy and treason, and Charles V conferred on the order exclusive jurisdiction over all crimes committed by the knights; the arrest of the offender had to be by warrant signed by at least six knights, and during the process of charge and trial he remained not in prison but in the gentle custody of his fellow knights.[2] The order, conceived in an ecclesiastical spirit in which mass and obsequies were prominent and the knights were seated in choirstalls like canons,[10] was explicitly denied to heretics, and so became an exclusively Catholic honour during the Reformation. The officers of the order were the chancellor, the treasurer, the registrar, and the King of Arms, or herald, Toison d'Or.

Baudouin de Lannoy, c. 1435, one of the first Knights of the Golden Fleece, inducted in 1430

the Marquess of Trazengnies with the Insignia, funeral of Albert VII of Austria

The Duke's stated reason for founding this institution had been given in a proclamation issued following his marriage, in which he wrote that he had done so "for the reverence of God and the maintenance of our Christian Faith, and to honor and exalt the noble order of knighthood, and also ...to do honor to old knights; ...so that those who are at present still capable and strong of body and do each day the deeds pertaining to chivalry shall have cause to continue from good to better; and .. so that those knights and gentlemen who shall see worn the order ... should honor those who wear it, and be encouraged to employ themselves in noble deeds...".[11]

The Order of the Golden Fleece was defended from possible accusations of prideful pomp by the Burgundian court poet Michault Taillevent, who asserted that it was instituted:

Non point pour jeu ne pour esbatement,
Mais à la fin que soit attribuée
Loenge à Dieu trestout premièrement
Et aux bons gloire et haulte renommée.

Translated into English:[12]

Not for amusement nor for recreation,
But for the purpose that praise shall be given to God,
In the very first place,
And to the good, glory and high renown.

The choice of the Golden Fleece of Colchis as the symbol of a Christian order caused some controversy, not so much because of its pagan context, which could be incorporated in chivalric ideals, as in the Nine Worthies, but because the feats of Jason, familiar to all, were not without causes of reproach, expressed in anti-Burgundian terms by Alain Chartier in his Ballade de Fougères referring to Jason as "Who, to carry off the fleece of Colchis, was willing to commit perjury."[13] The bishop of Châlons, chancellor of the Order, rescued the fleece's reputation by identifying it instead with the fleece of Gideon that received the dew of Heaven.[14]

The badge of the Order, in the form of a sheepskin, was suspended from a jewelled collar of firesteels in the shape of the letter B, for Burgundy, linked by flints; with the motto "Pretium Laborum Non Vile" ("No Mean Reward for Labours")[15] engraved on the front of the central link, and Philip's motto "Non Aliud" ("I will have no other") on the back (non-royal knights of the Golden Fleece were forbidden to belong to any other order of knighthood).

Spanish Order

The Duke of Wellington wearing the Spanish Fleece in 1820

Prince Albert wearing the Spanish Fleece in 1842 (portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter)

Emperor Pedro II of Brazil wearing the Spanish Fleece in 1838

Louis XV of France wearing the Spanish Fleece in 1773

With the absorption of the Burgundian lands into the Spanish Habsburg empire, the sovereignty of the Order passed to the Habsburg kings of Spain, where it remained until the death of the last of the Spanish Habsburgs, Charles II, in 1700. He was succeeded as king by Philip V, a Bourbon. The dispute between Philip and the Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne, the Archduke Charles, led to the War of the Spanish Succession, and also resulted in the division of the Order into Spanish and Austrian branches. In either case the sovereign, as Duke of Burgundy, writes the letter of appointment in French.

The controversial conferral of the Fleece on Napoleon and his brother Joseph, while Spain was occupied by French troops, angered the exiled King of France, Louis XVIII, and caused him to return his collar in protest. These, and other awards by Joseph, were revoked by King Ferdinand on the restoration of Bourbon rule in 1813. Napoleon created by Order of 15 August 1809 the Order of the Three Golden Fleeces, in view of his sovereignty over Austria, Spain and Burgundy. This was opposed by Joseph I of Spain and appointments to the new order were never made.[16]

In 1812, the acting government of Spain conferred the Fleece upon the Duke of Wellington, an act confirmed by Ferdinand on his resumption of power, with the approval of Pope Pius VII. Wellington therefore became the first Protestant to be honoured with the Golden Fleece. It has subsequently also been conferred upon non-Christians, such as Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand.

There was another crisis in 1833 when Isabella II became Queen of Spain in defiance of Salic Law that did not allow women to become heads of state. Her right to confer the Fleece was challenged by Spanish Carlists.[citation needed]

Sovereignty remained with the head of the Spanish house of Bourbon during the republican (1931–39) and Francoist (1939–1975) periods and is held today by the present King of Spain, Felipe VI.

Knights of the Order are entitled to be addressed with the style His/Her Excellency in front of their name.[17]

Living members

Below a list of the names of the living knights and ladies, in chronologic order and, within parentheses, the year when they were inducted into the Order:

1. King Felipe VI of Spain (1981) – As reigning King of Spain, Sovereign of the Order since 2014 after his father abdicated his rights to him.
2. King Emeritus Juan Carlos I of Spain (1941) – Former Sovereign of the Order as King of Spain from 1975 to 2014.
3. King Constantine II of Greece (1964)
4. The King of Sweden (1983)[18]
5. Emperor Emeritus Akihito of Japan (1985)[19]
6. Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands (1985)[20]
7. The Queen of Denmark (1985)[21]
8. The Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Realms (1989)[22]
9. King Albert II of Belgium (1994)[23]
10. The King of Norway (1995)[24]
11. Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, 2001–2005 (2004)[25]
12. The Grand Duke of Luxembourg (2007)[26]
13. Javier Solana (2010)[27]
14. Víctor García de la Concha (2010)[28]
15. Nicolas Sarkozy, Former President of the French Republic and Co-Prince of Andorra, 2007–2012 (2011) [29][30]
16. Enrique Valentín Iglesias García (2014)[31]
17. The Princess of Asturias (2015)[32]

Armorial of the Spanish Golden Fleece

Austrian Order

Ferdinand I, Emperor of Austria as Grand Master of the Austrian branch of the Fleece

Gala uniform of the emperor Franz Joseph, with the insigna around the neck

Potence or neck collar of the King of Arms to the Order

The Austrian Order did not suffer from the political difficulties of the Spanish, remaining (with the exception of the British prince Regent, later George IV) an honour solely for Catholic royalty and nobility. The problem of female inheritance was avoided on the accession of Maria Theresa in 1740 as sovereignty of the Order passed not to herself but to her husband, Francis.
Upon the collapse of the Austrian monarchy after the First World War, King Albert I of Belgium requested that the sovereignty and treasure of the Order be transferred to him as the ruler of the former Habsburg lands of Burgundy. This claim was seriously considered by the victorious allies at Versailles but was eventually rejected due to the intervention of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, who took possession of the property of the Order on behalf of the dethroned emperor, Charles I of Austria. Sovereignty remains with the head of the House of Habsburg, which was handed over on 20 November 2000 by Otto von Habsburgto his elder son, Karl von Habsburg.[33]

Living members

Below a list of the names of the living knights, in chronological order, followed in parentheses by the date, when known, of their induction into the Order:

1. The Duke of Bavaria (1960) [34][35]
2. Count Johann Larisch of Moennich (1960) [34]
3. Archduke Karl of Austria (1961) [34] – Sovereign (Grand Master) of the Order since 2000
4. Archduke Andreas Salvator of Austria, Prince of Tuscany [34][36]
5. Archduke Carl Salvator of Austria, Prince of Tuscany [34][37]
6. Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este [34][38]
7. Archduke Michael of Austria [34][39]
8. Archduke Michael Salvator of Austria, Prince of Tuscany [34][40]
9. Archduke Georg of Austria [34][41]
10. Archduke Carl Christian of Austria [34]
11. King Albert II of Belgium [34]
12. Prince Albrecht of Hohenberg [34][42]
13. The Duke of Württemberg [34][43]
14. The Prince of Lobkowicz [34]
15. Count Johann of Hoyos-Sprinzenstein [34]
16. The Prince of Liechtenstein [34][44]
17. Prince Clemens of Altenburg [34][45]
18. The Duke of Braganza [34][46]
19. Count Josef Hubert of Neipperg [34][47]
20. The Prince of Schwarzenberg (1991) [34][48]
21. Archduke Joseph of Austria (born 1960) [34]
22. The Prince of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg [34][49]
23. Count Gottfried of Czernin of Chudenitz [34]
24. Mariano Hugo, Prince of Windisch-Graetz [34][50]
25. Baron Johann Friedrich of Solemacher-Antweiler [34]
26. Baron Nicolas Adamovich de Csepin [34]
27. Bernard Guerrier de Dumast (fr) (2001)
28. The Prince of Panagyurishte (2002) [51]
29. The King of the Belgians (2008)
30. The Prince of Ligne (2011)
31. Prince Charles-Louis de Merode (2011)
32. Archduke Ferdinand Zvonimir of Austria [52]
33. The Margrave of Meissen (2012) [53]

Neck insignia of the Order


• Chancellor: Count Alexander von Pachta-Reyhofen (since 2005)
• Grand Chaplain: Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna (since 1992)
• Chaplain: Count Gregor Henckel-Donnersmarck (since 2007)
• Treasurer: Baron Wulf Gordian von Hauser (since 1992)
• Registrar: Count Karl-Philipp von Clam-Martinic (since 2007)
• Herald: Count Karl-Albrecht von Waldstein-Wartenberg (since 1997)

Chapters of the Order

Number / Date / City / Temple / Sovereign/Grand Master

I / 30 November 1431 / Lille / Saint-Pierre's Collegiate Church / Philip III of Burgundy

II / 30 November 1432 / Bruges / St. Donatian's Cathedral / Philip III

III / 30 November 1433 / Dijon / Sainte-Chapelle / Philip III

IV / 30 November 1435 / Brussels / Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula / Philip III

V / 30 November 1436 / Lille / Saint-Pierre's Collegiate Church Philip III

VI / 30 November 1440 / Saint-Omer / Abbey of Saint Bertin / Philip III

VII / 30 November 1445 / Ghent / Saint Bavo Cathedral / Philip III

VIII / 2 May 1451 / Mons / Sainte-Waudru's Collegiate Church / Philip III

IX / 2 May 1456 / The Hague / Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk / Philip III

X / 2 May 1461 / Saint-Omer / Abbey of Saint Bertin / Philip III

XI / 2 May 1468 / Bruges / Church of Our Lady / Charles I of Burgundy

XII / 2 May 1473 / Valenciennes / St. Paul 's Church / Charles I

XIII / 30 April 1478 / Bruges / St. Salvator's Cathedral / Maximilian of Austria (Regent of the Order)

XIV / 6 May 1481 / 's-Hertogenbosch / St. John's Cathedral / Maximilian of Austria

XV / 24 May 1491 / Mechelen / St. Rumbold's Cathedral / Philip IV of Burgundy (Philip I of Castile)

XVI / 17 January 1501 / Brussels / Chapel of the Carmelite Convent / Philip IV

XVII / 17 December 1505 / Middelburg / ? / Philip IV

XVIII / October 1516 / Brussels / Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula / Charles II of Burgundy (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor)

XIX / 5–8 March 1519 / Barcelona / Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Eulalia / Charles II

XX / 3 December 1531 / Tournai / Cathedral of Our Lady / Charles II

XXI / 2 January 1546 / Utrecht / St. Martin's Cathedral / Charles II

XXII / 26 January 1555 / Antwerp / Cathedral of Our Lady / Philip V of Burgundy (Philip II of Spain)

XXIII / 29 July 1559 / Ghent / Saint Bavo Cathedral / Philip V[54]


Collar (Spanish and Austrian Branches)

Sovereign's Neck Insignia

Knight's Neck and Dame's Ribbon Insignia

Neck Insignia

See also

• List of Knights of the Golden Fleece
• Jean Le Fèvre de Saint-Remy, first King of Arms to the Order


1. Vellus aureum Burgundo-Austriacum sive Augusti et ordinis torquatorum aurei velleris equitum ... relatio historiaca. Ed.I., Antonius Kaschutnig, Paulus-Antonius Gundl
2. Weatherly, Cecil (1911). "Knighthood and Chivalry" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 851–867.
3. D'Arcy Jonathan Dacre Boulton (2000) [February 1987]. The knights of the crown: the monarchical orders of knighthood in later medieval Europe. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-45842-8.
4. "Méndez, Daniel". XLSemanal.
5. "Bandera, María: ¿Qué es el Toisón de Oro y quiénes lo han merecido?". COPE.
6. Gibbons, Rachel (18 January 2013). Exploring history 1400-1900: An anthology of primary sources. Manchester University Press. p. 65. ISBN 9781847792587. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
7. The Anglo American. 1844. p. 610.
8. "Origins of the Golden Fleece". Antiquesatoz.com. September 8, 1953. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
9. Buchon, Jean Alexandre (1838). Choix de chroniques et mémoires sur l'histoire de France: avec notices [Selection of chronicles and memoirs on the history of France: with notices] (in French). 2. Paris: Auguste Desrez. pp. xj-xvj (11–16).
10. Johan Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages (1919) 1924:75.
11. Doulton, Op. cit., pp.360–361
12. Johan Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages [1919] 1924:75).
13. "qui pour emportrer la toison De Colcos se veult parjurer."
14. Huizinga 1924:77.
15. "Search object details". British Museum. February 22, 1994. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
16. Rey y Cabieses, Amadeo-Martín – La descendencia de José Bonaparte, rey de España y de las Indias, slide 22
17. Satow, Ernest Mason, Sir – A Guide to Diplomatic Practice, page 249
18. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 20 abril 1983 (accessed on October 23, 2016)
19. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 28 febrero 1985 (accessed on October 23, 2016)
20. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 8 octubre 1985 (accessed on October 23, 2016)
21. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 24 octubre 1985 (accessed on October 23, 2016)
22. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 6 mayo 1989 (accessed on October 23, 2016)
23. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 17 septiembre 1994 (accessed on October 23, 2016)
24. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 25 abril 1995 (accessed on October 23, 2016)
25. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 2 octubre 2004 (accessed on October 23, 2016)
26. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 14 abril 2007 (accessed on June 9, 2007)
27. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 23 enero 2010 (accessed on January 23, 2010)
28. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 23 enero 2010 (accessed on January 23, 2010)
29. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 26 noviembre 2011 (accessed on October 23, 2016)
30. "iafrica.com | news | world news | Sarkozy to get Golden Fleece". News.iafrica.com. November 25, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
31. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 29 marzo 2014 (accessed on March 30, 2014)
32. Spanish: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 31 octubre 2010 (accessed on October 31, 2015)
33. "Schatz des Ordens vom Goldenen Vlies". Die Wiener Schatzkammer. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
34. "Chevaliers de la Toison d'Or, Toison Autrichienne". Retrieved September 11, 2016.
35. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XVIII (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 2007), 4.
36. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIV (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 1991), 111.
37. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIV (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 1991), 113.
38. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIV (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 1991), 95.
39. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIV (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 1991), 119.
40. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIV (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 1991), 112.
41. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIV (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 1991), 94.
42. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XV (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 1997), 605.
43. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XVIII (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 2007), 122.
44. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XVIII (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 2007), 50.
45. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XVI (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 2001), 564.
46. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIV (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 1991), 122.
47. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIX (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 2011), 279.
48. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XV (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 1997), 424.
49. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIX (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 2011), 271.
50. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIX (Limburg an der Lahn: C.A. Starke, 2011), 436.
51. "The Habsburg Most Illustrious Order of the Golden Fleece: Its Potential Relevance on Modern Culture in the European Union"
52. Bild.de
53. Prince Alexander of Saxony Duke of Saxony
54. Livre du toison d'or, online, fols. 4r-66r


• Weltliche und Geistliche Schatzkammer. Bildführer. Kunsthistorischen Museum, Vienna. 1987. ISBN 3-7017-0499-6
• Fillitz, Hermann. Die Schatzkammer in Wien: Symbole abendländischen Kaisertums. Vienna, 1986. ISBN 3-7017-0443-0
• Fillitz, Hermann. Der Schatz des Ordens vom Goldenen Vlies. Vienna, 1988. ISBN 3-7017-0541-0
• Boulton, D'Arcy Jonathan Dacre, 1987. The Knights of The Crown: The Monarchical Orders of Knighthood in Later Medieval Europe, 1325–1520, Woodbridge, Suffolk (Boydell Press),(revised edition 2000)

External links

• The Society of the golden fleece, an association of people interested in the Order
• The Most Illustrious Order of the Golden Fleece at a reference site on chivalric orders.
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