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Er Reshid And The Barmecides
by [?]

Er Reshid and the Barmecides. [152]

[Footnote 152] Breslau text, vol vii, pp.258-60, Night dlxvii.

It is said that the most extraordinary of that which happened to Er Reshid was as follows: His brother El Hadi,[153] when he succeeded to the Khalifate, enquired of a seal-ring of great price, that had belonged to his father El Mehdi,[154] and it came to his knowledge that Er Reshid had taken it. So he required it of the latter, who refused to give it up, and El Hadi insisted upon him, but he still denied the seal-ring of the Khalifate. Now this was on the bridge [over the Tigris], and he threw the ring into the river. When El Hadi died and Er Reshid succeeded to the Khalifate, he came in person to that bridge, with a seal-ring of lead, which he threw into the river at the same place, and bade the divers seek it. So they did [his bidding] and brought up the first ring, and this was reckoned [an omen] of Er Reshid’s good fortune and [a presage of] the continuance of his reign.[155]

[Footnote 153] Fourth Khalif of the house of Abbas, A.D. 785-786.

[Footnote 154] Third Khalif of the house of Abbas, A.D. 775-785.

[Footnote 155] The following is Et Teberi’s version of this anecdote. El Mehdi had presented his son Haroun with a ruby ring, worth a hundred thousand dinars, and the latter being one day with his brother [the then reigning Khalif], El Hadi saw the ring on his finger and desired it. So, when Haroun went out from him, he sent after him, to seek the ring of him. The Khalif’s messenger overtook Er Reshid on the bridge over the Tigris and acquainted him with his errand; whereupon the prince enraged at the demand, pulled off the ring and threw it into the river. When El Hadi died and Er Reshid succeeded to the throne, he went with his suite to the bridge in question and bade his Vizier Yehya ben Khalid send for divers and cause them make search for the ring. It had then been five months in the water and no one believed it would be found. However, the divers plunged into the river and found the ring in the very place where he had thrown it in, whereat Haroun rejoiced with an exceeding joy, regarding it as a presage of fair fortune.

When Er Reshid came to the throne, he invested Jaafer ben Yehya ben Khalid el Bermeki[156] with the vizierate. Now Jaafer was eminently distinguished for generosity and munificence, and the stories of him to this effect are renowned and are written in the books. None of the viziers attained to the rank and favour which he enjoyed with Er Reshid, who was wont to call him brother[157] and used to carry him with him into his house. The period of his vizierate was nineteen years,[158] and Yehya one day said to his son Jaafer, “O my son, what time thy reed trembleth, water it with kindness.”[159] Opinions differ concerning the reason of Jaafer’s slaughter, but the better is as follows. Er Reshid could not brook to be parted from Jaafer nor from his [own] sister Abbaseh, daughter of El Mehdi, a single hour, and she was the loveliest woman of her time; so he said to Jaafer, “I will marry thee to her, that it may be lawful to thee to look upon her, but thou shalt not touch her.” [Accordingly, they were married] and they used both to be present in Er Reshid’s sitting chamber. Now the Khalif would rise bytimes [and go forth] from the chamber, and they being both young and filled with wine, Jaafer would rise to her and swive her. She conceived by him and bore a handsome boy and fearing Er Reshid, despatched the newborn child by one of her confidants to Mecca the Holy, may God the Most High advance it in honour and increase it in venerance and nobility and magnification! The affair abode concealed till there befell despite between Abbaseh and one of her slave-girls, whereupon the latter discovered the affair of the child to Er Reshid and acquainted him with its abiding-place. So, when the Khalif made the pilgrimage, he despatched one who brought him the boy and found the affair true, wherefore he caused befall the Barmecides that which befell.[160]

[Footnote 156] This is an error. Jaafer’s father Yehya was appointed by Haroun his vizier and practically continued to exercise that office till the fall of the Barmecides (A.D. 803), his sons Fezl and Jaafer acting only as his assistants or lieutenants. See my Essay on the History and Character of the Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night.

[Footnote 157] Another mistake. It was Fezl, the Khalif’s foster-brother, to whom he used to give this title.

[Footnote 158] A third mistake. The whole period during which the empire was governed by Yehya and his sons was only seventeen years, i.e. A.D 786-803, but see my Essay.

[Footnote 159] The apparent meaning of this somewhat obscure saying is, “Since fortune is uncertain, conciliate the favour of those with whom thou hast to do by kind offices, so thou mayst find refuge with them in time of need.”

[Footnote 160] For a detailed account of the Barmecides and of their fall, see my Essay.