Ibn Fadlan - Risala: Ibn Fadlan's Account of the Rus Ibn...

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Risala: Ibn Fadlan's Account of the Rus Ibn Fadlan was an Arab chronicler. In 921 C.E., the Caliph of Baghdad sent Ibn Fadlan with an embassy to the King of the Bulgars of the Middle Volga. Ibn Fadlan wrote an account of his journeys with the embassy, called a Risala . This Risala is of great value as a history, although it is clear in some places that inaccuracies and Ibn Fadlan's own prejudices have slanted the account to some extent. During the course of his journey, Ibn Fadlan met a people called the Rus, a group of Swedish origin, acting as traders in the Bulgar capital. The first allusion to the Rus comes toward the close of the description of the Bulgars. When the Rus or people of another race came with slaves for sale, the king of the Bulgars had a right to choose one slave in each ten for himself. The full description begins: § 80. I have seen the Rus as they came on their merchant journeys and encamped by the Volga. I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blonde and ruddy; they wear neither tunics nor caftans, but the men wear a garment which covers one side of the body and leaves a hand free. Note: Although Ibn Fadlan here says the men go without "tunic or caftan," he later describes the funeral of a Rus chieftain, who is specially dressed in both tunic and caftan before cremation (§ 89). The tunic probably corresponds to Old Norse kyrtill , "a knee-length tunic with sleeves which was worn belted." The caftan is a heavy woolen overgarment, known in Old Norse as an ólpa . The "garment which covers one side of the body and leaves a hand free" must be
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the Norse rectangular cloak (Old Norse möttull , skikkja , or feldr ) which was worn pinned at the right shoulder leaving the sword-hand free. § 81. Each man has an axe, a sword, and a knife and keeps each by him at all times. The swords are broad and grooved, of Frankish sort. Every man is tatooed from finger nails to neck with dark green (or green or blue-black) trees, figures, etc. § 82. Each woman wears on either breast a box of iron, silver, copper or gold; the value of the box indicates the wealth of the husband. Each box has a ring from which depends a knife. The women wear neck rings of gold and silver, one for each 10,000 dirhems which her husband is worth; some women have many. Their most prized ornaments are beads of green glass of the same make as ceramic objects one finds on their ships. They trade beads among themselves and they pay an exaggerated price for them, for they buy them for a dirhem apiece. They string them as necklaces for their women. I. In place of gold the Rus use sable skins. No standard measure is known in the land; they buy and sell by dry measure. They are very fond of pork and many of them who have assumed the garb of Muslimism miss it very much. II.
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This note was uploaded on 05/11/2010 for the course SCAN 3202 taught by Professor Sands,trac during the Spring '08 term at Colorado.

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Ibn Fadlan - Risala: Ibn Fadlan's Account of the Rus Ibn...

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