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Sean W. Anthony
*/Thread\* A good story has legs – legs that can take a good story very far indeed. I’ve recently been looking at one such late-antique story. Let’s call it ‘the virgin’s gambit’. As first told the story takes place in early-7th century Jerusalem
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Sean W. Anthony 24 Jun 18
Replying to @shahanSean
Set in CE 614, it takes place during the siege of Jerusalem by the armies of the Sasanid dynasty of Persia -- ruled at the time by Khosraw (II) Parvez (r. 590-628; depicted below in relief from Tāq-e Bustān) --
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Sean W. Anthony 24 Jun 18
Replying to @shahanSean
The conquest of the Jerusalem, the massacre captivity of its inhabitants, & the Persians’ capture of the relic of the True Cross was a signal event of the Byzantine-Sasanid War of 602-628 – here, we’re interested in only one (likely legendary) story...
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Sean W. Anthony 24 Jun 18
Replying to @shahanSean
On the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem there was a convent called Dayr al-ʿAḏārā (Eng. ‘convent of the virgins’). Persian soldiers captured its nuns & divided them as spoils. A clever nun schemed to preserve her virginity from her captor's lust (see the text below) …
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Sean W. Anthony 24 Jun 18
Replying to @shahanSean
The story appears in a surprisingly number of places – the above text is from a Christian Arabic recension of what purports to be an eyewitness account of this Persian conquest of Jerusalem –but not only is the story often re-told, it’s also placed in many different contexts …
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Sean W. Anthony 24 Jun 18
Replying to @shahanSean
The Egyptian John the Deacon (d. after CE 768) recounts the same story in his bio of the Coptic Patriarch Michael (744-768), but he sets it rather amid the Umayyads' suppression of a revolt in Upper Egypt during the caliphate of Marwān II (r. 744-750; )
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Sean W. Anthony 24 Jun 18
Replying to @shahanSean
The story entered Muslim Arabic literature as well. Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī (1327- 1370) relates the story about an unnamed wife of the last Abbasid caliph al-Mustaʿṣim (r. 1242-1258), set during the Mongol siege of Baghdad in 1258...
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Sean W. Anthony 24 Jun 18
Replying to @shahanSean
The caliph's wife uses this gambit to trick the Mongol conqueror Hülegü Khān into killing her and, thus, successfully preserves her honor. Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī claims to have encountered similar such stories about ‘righteous women (al-ṣāliḥāt)’ in other works...
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Sean W. Anthony 24 Jun 18
Replying to @shahanSean
[btw, if anyone knows anything more about this Rawḍat al-ʿulamāʾ by al-Dabūsī, which he mentions, pls let me know] ...
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Sean W. Anthony 24 Jun 18
Replying to @shahanSean
The story has a long after life in Europe, too. It appears in Ariosto's (d. 1533) *Orlando furioso*, Christopher Marlowe's (d. 1593) *Tamburlame the Greate*, and as recently as Jack London's (d. 1916) *Lost Face*
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Sean W. Anthony 24 Jun 18
Replying to @shahanSean
A good story is like a fine coin -- it will travel across astounding expanses of time and place, unbound even by hurdles such as language, religion, and culture.
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Sean W. Anthony Dec 30
Replying to @shahanSean
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