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Abbasid Authority Affirmed
The Early Years of al-Mansur
A.D. 753-763/A.H. 136-145
Jane Dammen McAuliffe, translator
326 pages March 1995 Paperback

The initial years (126-145) of al-Mansur's reign presented several significant challenges to nascent Abbasid hegemony, and the resulting confrontations constitute the central focus of this section of Tabari's Tarikh. After Abu Jafar succeeded his brother Abu al-Abbas as caliph, the second of the Abbasid dynasty, he moved against his recalcitrant uncle, Abdallah b. Ali, and against the potential threat that he perceived in the person of the commander in Khurasan, Abu Muslim. Eliminating the latter and containing the former freed the caliph to address a series of other onslaughts and insurrections.

Starting with the year 144, however, Tabari turned to this volume's principal preoccupation, to which half of the book is devoted. Judging by the attention given to it, he clearly perceived the Hasanid rebellions of Muhammad b. Abdallah (the Pure Soul) and of his brother Ibrahim to be the most substantial attack on Abbasid authority to arise in the first years of that dynasty. Tabari's description of the prolonged search for Muhammad and Ibrahim and of the caliphal vengeance visited upon their father and family provides an extended prelude to the vivid battle and death scenes in Medina and Bakhamra. Yet, elaboration of these events does not eclipse mention of all other Abbasid activity. To bridge the account of Muhammad's defeat and that of Ibrahim's uprising, Tabari inserted a narrative interlude depicting the site selection and preliminary construction of al-Mansur's most celebrated achievement, the City of Peace, Baghdad.


Al-Mansur and al-Mahdi A.D. 763-786/A.H. 146-169
Hugh Kennedy - Translator
Paperback 281 Pages 

This volume opens when the caliph al-Mansur has just defeated the rebellion of Muhammad the Pure Soul in 145/762-3 and is now securely established in power. The main concerns of the remaining thirteen years of his reign are the building of his new capital at Baghdad, on which al-Tabari's text contains details not previously published in English, and his efforts to have his nephew 'Isa b. Musa replaced as heir apparent by his own son Muhammad al-Mahdi, a maneuver that required all his political skills.

The circumstances of al-Mansur's death in 158/775 are described in vivid detail, and this section is followed by a series of anecdotes, some serious, some humorous, most vivid and lively, that illustrate his character and habits.

The last section of the volume describes the reign of al-Mahdi, more pious than his father but also more liberal and open-handed. Along with routine administration, space is devoted to the bizarre intrigues that accompanied the rise and fall of the vizier Ya'qub b. Dawud and the mysterious circumstances of the caliph's own death in 169/785, followed by a short collection of character stories. In addition, the volume also contains important information about warfare on the Byzantine frontier and in Khurasan.

Table Of Contents



Translator's Foreword

The Caliphate of al-Mansur

The Events of the Year 146 (763/764)

The Events of the Year 147 (764/765)

The Events of the Year 148 (765/766)

The Events of the Year 149 (766/767)

The Events of the Year 150 (767/768)

The Events of the Year 151 (768/769)

The Events of the Year 152 (769/770)

The Events of the Year 153 (770)

The Events of the Year 154 (770/771)

The Events of the Year 155 (771/772)

The Events of the Year 156 (772/773)

The Events of the Year 157 (773/774)

The Events of the Year 158 (774/775)

Some Stories about al-Mansur and His Conduct

Information about His Wills

The Caliphate of al-Mahdi

The Events of the Year 158 (cont'd) (774/775)

The Events of the Year 159 (775/776)

The Events of the Year 160 (776/777)

The Events of the Year 161 (777/778)

The Events of the Year 162 (778/779)

The Events of the Year 163 (779/780)

The Events of the Year 164 (780/781)

The Events of the Year 165 (781/782)

The Events of the Year 166 (782/783)

The Events of the Year 167 (783/784)

The Events of the Year 168 (784/785)

The Events of the Year 169 (785/786)

Some of the Doings of al-Mahdi and Stories about Him

Bibliography of Cited Works


A volume in the SUNY series,
Near Eastern Studies


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