Session 3 – Conceptualizing rulers, real and imagined
Moderator: Thomas J. MacMaster
A: Heidi Stoner
Kings Without Faces: an examination of the visual evidence for kingship in the seventh century.
The long seventh century is a period that cannot be discussed without the discussion of kingship. The period is often characterized by the formation of kingdoms and the transformation of the insular world from that of a ‘pagan’ or ‘tribal’ society into medieval Christian kingdoms. This paper will address what kingship looked like and how the visual evidence of kings can be studied alongside the textual evidence creating a visual culture of kingship prior to the depiction of kings. While no portrait of a king exist from this time the material record is rich in objects that directly relate to kingship such as royal or princely burials, coins, and other extent archeologically finds. These objects have the potential to be examined alongside historic documents, such as Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica, in order to stitch together a more subtle picture of what kingship might hove looked like in this period of change, and it is perhaps in this we might find that amidst the discontinuity of political structures and religious lives that there is a continuous visual record. The images and visual language of this period has long been acknowledge to borrow from the iconographies of the late antique and Roman world in order to shift how the new leaders are signified, but it is possible that by maintaining visual indicators of power that the visual impact of a king would not have been so discontinuous.
Response: Bethan Morris
Sons of the Muhājirūn: Some comments on ‘Abd Allāh b. al-Zubayr and Legitimizing Power in the Second Fitna
The second Islamic civil war, or fitna, divided the early Islamic community from the years 680-692CE/60-73AH and had as one of its central figures the character of ‘Abd Allāh b. al-Zubayr. He has long been treated in western scholarship as a usurper or “counter-Caliph” to the rightful leadership of the Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik b. Marwān. The extant Islamic sources, however, are divided in their depiction of him: some treat him as a pious and saintly combatant against Umayyad depravity, while others characterize him as self-indulgent, ruthless, and a pretender to the lineage of the Prophet Muḥammad.
Ibn al-Zubayr was the son of an established Companion of the Prophet, and had himself borne witness to the Prophet Muḥammad and his revelation as a young member of the new Islamic community. More importantly, he came from a family line that included not only other prestigious early Caliphs and converts, but also the wives of Muḥammad, Khadīja and ‘Ā’isha, and the grandfather of Muḥammad, ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib.
Scholarship has largely ignored the questions surrounding his connection with the Prophet as well as this status as a legitimizing force in his establishment of power during the fitna, choosing often to focus on issues of geography instead. This paper will concern itself with the rise to power of Ibn al-Zubayr and his Caliphate, and how he may have legitimized his right to rule over other rivals through his connection to Muḥammad.
Response: Nicola Clarke
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