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The Rus trading slaves with the Khazars: Trade in the East Slavic Camp by Sergei Ivanov (1913). Many saqaliba slaves came from Europe to the Abbasid Caliphate via the Volga trade route from Eastern Europe via the Khazars and the Caspian Sea.

Saqaliba (Arabic: ‎, romanized?aq?liba, singular Arabic: ‎, romanized?aqlab?)[nb 1] is a term used in medieval Arabic sources to refer to Slavs and other peoples of Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe, or in a broad sense to European slaves. The term originates from the Middle Greek slavos/sklavenos (Slav), which in Hispano-Arabic came to designate first Slavic slaves and then, similarly to the semantic development of the term in other West-European languages, foreign slaves in general.[2] The word was often used to refer specifically to Slavic slaves, but it could also refer more broadly to Europeans traded by the Arab traders.[3]

There were several major routes for the trading of Slavic slaves into the Arab world: through Central Asia (Mongols, Tatars, Khazars, etc.) for the East Slavs; through the Balkans for the South Slavs; through Central and Western Europe for the West Slavs and to al-Andalus.[] The Volga trade route and other European routes, according to Ibrahim ibn Jakub (10th century), were serviced by Radanite Jewish merchants. (Compare Crimean-Nogai raids into East Slavic lands.) Theophanes mentions that the Umayyad caliph Muawiyah I settled a whole army of 5,000 Slavic mercenaries in Syria in the 660s.[] After the battle of Sebastopolis in 692, Neboulos, archon of the Slavic corps in the Byzantine army, and 30,000 of his men were settled by the Umayyads in the region of Syria.[4][5]

In the Arab world, Saqaliba served or were forced to serve in a multitude of ways: as servants, harem concubines, eunuchs, craftsmen, slave soldiers, and as Caliph's guards. In Iberia, Morocco, Damascus and Sicily, their military role may be compared with that of mamluks in the Ottoman Empire. In al-Andalus, Slavic eunuchs were so popular and widely distributed that they became synonymous with Saq?liba.[6][7] Some Saq?liba became rulers of taifas (principalities) in Iberia after the collapse of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031. For example, Muj?hid al-mir? organized the Saqaliba in Dénia to rebel, seize control of the city, and establish the Taifa of Dénia (1010-1227), which extended its reach as far as the island of Majorca.

Saqalabid dynasties

A map showing the extent of the Saqalabid alliance in 409 Hijri, 1018 Gregorian with Sardinian and Corsican possessions


The following list is derived from Bosworth 1996, p. 19.


The following list is derived from Bosworth 1996, p. 17, who calls them the Ban? Muj?hid. Muj?hid was a member of Mu?ammad ibn Abi mir's household.[8]



  • 1012 Aflah.
  • 1014 Khayran. Slavic slave from Cordoba Caliph palace, who dedicated his rule to the development of Almería.
  • 1028 Zuhayr, also a former Slavic slave from Cordoba
  • 1038 Abu Bakr al-Ramimi
  • 1038 Abd al-Aziz al-Mansur, al-Mansur's grandson, King of Valencia

From 1038 to 1041 Almería belonged to the Taifa of Valencia.


  • Geographer Ibn Khordadbeh (840-880) claimed that the Bulgar ruling title was "King of the Saq?liba" prior to the mid 7th century, meaning that the ruler held "a reservoir of potential slaves".[9]
  • Traveller Ibn Fadlan (fl. 921-22) called the ruler of Volga Bulgaria the "King of the Saqaliba".[10]
  • Polymath Abu Zayd al-Balkhi (850-934) described three main centers of the Saqaliba: Kuyaba, Slawiya, and Artania.
  • Traveller Ibrahim ibn Yaqub (fl. 961-62) placed the Saq?liba, Slavs, west of Bulgaria and east of other Slavs, in a mountainous land, and described them as violent and aggressive.[11] It is believed that these were situated in the Western Balkans.

See also


  1. ^ From Greek, ? (Sclavi) alternates with (Sclavini), came the Arabic Saqlab (plural Saq?liba) in the seventh century. The semantic shift to 'slave' is a later West European development.[1]


  1. ^ A. P. Vlasto; Vlasto (2 October 1970). The Entry of the Slavs Into Christendom: An Introduction to the Medieval History of the Slavs. CUP Archive. p. 320. ISBN 978-0-521-07459-9.
  2. ^ Golden, P.B., Bosworth, C.E., Guichard, P. and Meouak, Mohamed (1995). "al- ?aliba". In P. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C.E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W.P. Heinrichs (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam. 8 (2nd ed.). Brill. p. 872. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_0978.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  3. ^ Mishin 1998.
  4. ^ Treadgold, Warren T. (October 1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804726306.
  5. ^ Lilie, Ralph-Johannes. Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit: 1. Abteilung (641-867), Band 3: Leon (# 4271) - Placentius (# 6265). Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-016673-6.
  6. ^ The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery: A-K ; Vol. II, L-Z, by Junius P. Rodriguez
  7. ^ Lev, Yaacov (1991). State and Society in Fatimid Egypt. BRILL. pp. 74, 77-78. ISBN 978-90-04-09344-7.
  8. ^ a b Seybold 1960: "the descendants (and clients) of al-Manr ibn Abi mir, in the first place his sons ... To the former clients of the house belong Muh?rak and Mu?affar ... and Mudj?hid al-miri"
  9. ^ Abraham Ascher; Tibor Halasi-Kun; Béla K. Király (1979). The mutual effects of the Islamic and Judeo-Christian worlds: the East European pattern. Brooklyn College Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-930888-00-8.
  10. ^ Michael Friederich (1994). Bamberger Zentralasienstudien. Schwarz. p. 236. ISBN 978-3-87997-235-7.
  11. ^ H. T. Norris (1993). Islam in the Balkans: Religion and Society Between Europe and the Arab World. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-85065-167-3.


External links

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