The Ghassanid Imperial Titles

Artwork by Michael Peschka

The Ghassanid Imperial address is object of interest of the historians, jurists and also people curious about the etymology of dynastic titles

Although not very commented and notorious, the historical information and evidence are very abundant confirming that initially the Ghassanid rulers, even though already Kings by their own right, have received the title of “Basileus” which back in the 6th century CE was the official title of the emperor himself.

About the “Basileus” title:

“Basileus and Megas Basileus were exclusively used by Alexander the Great and his Hellenistic successors in Ptolemaic Egypt, Asia (e.g. the Seleucid Empire, the Kingdom of Pergamon and by non-Greek, but Greek-influenced states like the Kingdom of Pontus) and Macedon. The feminine counterpart is basilissa (queen), meaning both a queen regnant (such as Cleopatra VII of Egypt) and a queen consort. It is precisely at this time that the term basileus acquired a fully royal connotation, in stark contrast with the much less sophisticated earlier perceptions of kingship within Greece.” Chrysos, Evangelos K. (1978), “The Title ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ in Early Byzantine International Relations”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers (Dumbarton Oaks) 32: 66–67, JSTOR 1291418

By the 4th century however, basileus was applied in official usage exclusively to the two rulers considered equals to the Roman Emperor: the Sassanid Persian Shahan shah (“king of kings”), and to a far lesser degree the King of Axum, whose importance was rather peripheral in the Byzantine worldview.” Chrysos, Evangelos K. (1978), “The Title ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ in Early Byzantine International Relations”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers (Dumbarton Oaks) 32: 35, 42, JSTOR 1291418

“… the title acquired the connotation of “emperor“, and when barbarian kingdoms emerged on the ruins of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, their rulers were referred to in Greek not as basileus but as rēx or rēgas, the hellenized forms of the Latin title rex, king.” Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, p. 264, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6

Until the 9th century, the Byzantines reserved the term Basileus among Christian rulers exclusively for their own emperor in Constantinople.” Chrysos, Evangelos K. (1978), “The Title ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ in Early Byzantine International Relations”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers (Dumbarton Oaks) 32: 52–57, JSTOR 1291418

Famous Ghassanid King Al-Harith

Unfortunately, there’s some confusion regarding the early Ghassanid titles. Many authors, for lack of information and interest in study the Ghassanid history in depth, have confused and mixed the numerous Ghassanid titles altogether: “Al-Malik Al-Ghassassinah” (from the Arab “King of the Ghassanids”), “Basileus Araves” (from the Greek “Emperor of all Arabs”), Phylarch, Archphylarch, etc.

Some authors even try to use the term “Chieftain” in the pejorative way. The most common mistake is to call the Ghassanid Kings merely as “Phylarchs”.

“A phylarch (Greek: φύλαρχος, Latin: phylarchus) is a Greek title meaning “ruler of a tribe”, from phyle, “tribe” + archein “to rule”. In Classical Athens, a phylarch was the elected commander of the cavalry provided by each of the city’s ten tribes. In the later Roman Empire of the 4th to 7th centuries, the title was given to the leading princes of the Empire’s Arab allies in the East (essentially the equivalent to “sheikh”), both those settled within the Empire and outside. From ca. 530 to ca. 585, the individual phylarchs were subordinated to a supreme phylarch from the Ghassanid dynasty.” Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991). Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University Press. p. 1672. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6

Here is also important to make a reference regarding the title “Sheikh”.

Sheikh also transliterated Sheik, Shaik, Shayk, Shaykh, Shaikh, Cheikh, and Shekh— is a noble and honorific title in the Arabic culture. Commonly designates a hereditary ruler of a tribe or people. The title is given to a royal male at birth, whereas the related title “Sheikha” is given to a royal female at birth. The title “Sheikh” also has a religious connotation being given to prominent Islamic leaders or clerics, which is not our focus here. The word literally means “a man of great power and nobility”, and it is used strictly for the royal families of the middle east. The title means: leader, elder, or noble. However, there are many degrees of “Sheikh”. It goes from a non-sovereign, non-dynastic Ottoman tax collector or a leader of small Bedouin tribe to the prince of a nation, like the UAE, Bahrain, etc. Hence, a Sheikh from a sovereign or semi-sovereign ruling family is the equivalent of a prince.

Here’s also important to mention the principle of sovereign equivalency. Although there are differences in Royal rank (with merely honorific meaning), the Prince of Monaco is as sovereign as the Emperor of Japan or the Queen of the United Kingdom.

But “Sheikh” was not the title given to the Ghassanid Kings. According to Professor Irfan Shahid:

“The title awarded to the Ghassanid Ruler or Chief by his own people was neither Patricius nor Phylarch but king (Malik). The title, established beyond doubt by Procopius is confirmed by the contemporary poetry of Hassan and of later poets who continued this authentic tradition.” Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 2 part 2 pg.164

The dignity of king in Procopius had been sharply differentiated from the “Supreme Phylarchate” (archyphilarchia), with which Arethas was endowed …” Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 1, 1995, p. 103

The dignity of king was not new to the Ghassanids; they had brought it with them from the Arabian Peninsula where its assumption by a Ghassanid ruler is attested in a Sabaic inscription. When the Ghassanids appeared on the stage of Byzantine history, their chiefs, such as Tha’laba and Harith had already been kings to their subjects.” Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 1, p.104

In 528 CE, emperor Justinian I bestowed upon King Al-Harith VI (Arethas in Greek sources) the aforementioned title of “Basileus” which, as cited, signified at that period the same as emperor.

The old Basileia (kingship) was confirmed by the byzantine emperor; the new one was bestowed by him…” Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 1, p.104

In the case of the Ghassanids it was a confirmation and an extension of the royal tradition that the Ghassanids had had and which they had brought with them from south Arabia.” (Ibid p.111)

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an empire is:

“a major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority; especially:  one having an emperor as chief of state”

The “Basileus Araves” or “the Emperor of the Arabs”ruled over many tribes in addition to the Ghassanid people.

“These were included in the phrase in Procopius that spoke of the elevation of Arethas to the Archyphilarchia and the Basileia: ‘as many tribes as possible placed under his command’.” Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 2, part 1, 1995, p. 51

Traditionally, each tribe was sovereign or semi-sovereign, having its own autonomous ruler. By simple logic that would make the bestowed “Basileia” an imperial title to all of the Arabs allied to the Byzantine empire.

“And though the Ghassanid King was the head of what we would today call a client state, he and the [byzantine] emperor met on equal footing – as comrades in arms – discussing matters of earthshaking and less-than-earthshaking importance.” Gene Gurney, “Kingdoms of Asia, the Middle east and Africa”, 1986, p.70

Here, the Ghassanid vassalage also has to be explained.

“Feudal Vassalage. So, also, tributary states, and those subject to a kind of feudal dependence or vassalage, are still considered as sovereign, unless their sovereignty is destroyed by their relation to other states. Tribute… does not necessarily affect sovereignty …, nor does the acknowledgement of a nominal vassalage or feudal dependency.” Henry Wager Halleck, Elements of international law and laws of war p.44

” . . . the mere fact of dependence or feudal vassalage and payment of tribute, or of occasional obedience, or of habitual influence, does not destroy, although it may greatly impair, the sovereignty of the state so situated.”(Ibid. p. 188)

According to one of the Forefathers of International Law, Emmerich de Vattel in his book, “Law of Nations”:

BOOK I – CHAP. I.

OF NATIONS OR SOVEREIGN STATES

  • 5. States bound by unequal alliance. We ought, therefore, to account as sovereign states those which have united themselves to another more powerful, by an unequal alliance, in which, as Aristotle says, to the more powerful is given more honour, and to the weaker, more assistance. The conditions of those unequal alliances may be infinitely varied, but whatever they are, provided the inferior ally reserve to itself the sovereignty, or the right of governing its own body, it ought to be considered as an independent state, that keeps up an intercourse with others under the authority of the law of nations.
  • 6. Or by treaties of protection. Consequently, a weak state, which, in order to provide for its safety, places itself under the protection of a more powerful one, and engages, in return, to perform several offices equivalent to that protection, without however divesting itself of the right of government and sovereignty, – that state, i say, does not, on this account, cease to rank among the sovereigns who acknowledge no other law than that of nations.

. . .

  • 8. Of feudatory states. The Germanic nations introduced another custom – that of requiring homage from a state either vanquished, or too weak to make resistance. Sometimes even, a prince has given sovereignties in fee, and sovereigns have voluntarily rendered themselves feudatories to others. When the homage leaves independency and sovereign authority in the administration of the state, and only means certain duties to the lord of the fee, or even a mere honorary acknowledgment, it does not prevent the state or the feudatory prince being strictly sovereign. the king of Naples pays homage for his kingdom to the pope, and is nevertheless reckoned among the principal sovereigns of Europe…”

The Ghassanid vassalage was limited to honorific homage and military alliance. Not even financial tribute or taxes were paid to Constantinople, on the contrary, a “salaria” or salary was paid to the Ghassanid kings so they could pay the Arab armies. Therefore, no harm to the Ghassanid sovereignty.

Such imperial bestowal to the Ghassanid King was so colossal and magnanimous that was criticized by Greek historian Procopius, a harsh critic of Arabs and especially the Ghassanid kings:

” . . . the Basileia (kingship) conferred by Justinian on Arethas takes a new meaning, one which Procopius’ comment that is something that ‘among the Romans (both western and eastern – byzantine) had never been done before‘…” (Ibid)

The imperial bestowal was very well documented being corroborated by hard evidence as the Usays inscription.

Usaysinscript
The Usays inscription

The (Usays) inscription is considered to be the most important Arabic inscription of the sixth century, the second most important of all the pre-Islamic Arab inscriptions as a historical document.” Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 1, 1995, p. 117

But the strongest evidence [of the imperial bestowal] is supplied by contemporary epigraphy — the Usays Inscription carved by one of [King] Arethas commanders, Ibn Al-Mughira, who refers to him around A.D. 530 as Al-Malik, the King. There is also no doubt that the Ghassanid Arethas was dressed as a King on important occasions in Ghassanland, since the poet laureate of later times underscores his own eminent position among his Ghassanid patrons by nothing that he used to sit not far from their crowned head.” Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 2 part 2 pg.164

“Contemporary documents reflect the contrast between the two Basileiai (kingships). In Simeon, Jabala is termed as ‘King of The Ghassanids’, in Usays inscription Arethas is called simply ‘The King’, possibly indicating the extension of the Basileia (kingship) over non-Ghassanids including the person who sets up the inscription.” (Ibid)

Also important to mention that the title of “Emperor of the Arabs” – wrongly called “king of the Arabs” by some authors – was subsequently confirmed by at least two other byzantine emperors. King Al-Mundhir ibn Al-Harith in 580 CE by Emperor Tiberius II Constantine (Justinian Dynasty /ruled 578-582 CE); and King Jabla ibn Al-Ayham by Emperor Heraclius (Heraclian Dynasty / ruled 610-641 CE). (See John A. Shoup, Culture and Customs of Jordan, pg. xvii)

It’s known by academia that the Ghassanid Dynasty ruled many realms in direct male line after the fall of the first State until 1747 CE. (See Ignatious Tannos Khoury, The Sheikhs Chemor rulers of Akoura (1211-1633 CE) and rulers of Zawie (1641-1747 CE)” Beirut, Lebanon, 1948)

 “After the disappearance of the Ghassanid state, isolated Ghassanian Princes continued to reign in some oases and castles, along with Salihids and some other phylae.” Bowesock/Brown/Grabar “Late Antiquity” –, Harvard University Press, 1999, p. 469

Certainly, the most noteworthy of those reigns was the Byzatine Empire in the 9th Century CE.

“Although little is known of Jabala’s activities after his emigration to Anatolia, his place in the history of the Ghassanids in the Middle Byzantine period is important, since it was he who established a strong Ghassanid presence in Byzantine Anatolia, one which lasted for many centuries. The climax of this presence was the elevation of one of his descendants to the purple and his establishment of a short-lived dynasty which might be described as the House of Nicephorus.” “Ghassan post Ghassan” by Prof. Irfan Shahid, Festschrift  “The Islamic World – From classical to modern times”, for Bernard Lewis, Darwin Press l989, pg. 325

solidus nicephorus
Solidus of the Ghassanid emperors of Byzantium Nikephorus and Staurakius

“Nicephorus (A.D. 802-11) was a descendant of the Ghassanid [King] Jabala.” (Ibid.)

This assertion was even stronger not merely citing the King Jabala as ancestor, but the eponym of the Royal Ghassanid Dynasty using the name of King Jafna, the founder of the Ghassanid Kingdom. Therefore, we can conclude that Emperor Nicephorus (or Nikephoros) was not only citing his ascendancy but by using the term “Jafna” he was claiming to be the head of the Ghassanid Dynasty.

“…This valuable information comes from Tabari; see Tarik (Cairo, 1966), VIII, 307, when he speaks of [King] Jafna, the eponym of the Ghassanids, rather than [King] Jabala.” (Ibid. pg.334)

For all of the aforementioned, the Ghassanid Dynasty has the imperial dignity not only once, but twice. First, in 528 CE receiving it from the highest emperor of those times, the Byzantine; and second by being elevated to that very throne in 802 CE.

Important to mention that the legal existence of those titles today is not due to an ancient link to a monarchy that ended fourteen centuries ago but through the a Princely Family (El-Chemor) that reigned until the 18th century in Zgharta-Zawie (currently Lebanon) and was recognized as the lawful heir of those Ghassanid titles by the Ottoman empire until its end in 1924 and is also recognized by the Lebanese republic until today. Please, click on the link to an official 2014’s article (in Arabic) from the Lebanese Government News’ Agency (Lebanese Republic – Ministry of Information) mentioning the titles and validating the book written in 1947 about the family’s history. http://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-report/371/

More about the Ghassanid Dynasty

Forget persecution “just” against Christians

While the world discusses about the intentions and anti-Isis projects, on small numbers of military forces to be sent to halt the advance of terrorists, on barriers to be placed as a thin brake for the peaceful entry of real or imagined migrant in Western Europe, a sad reality recurs and looms over the Middle East: Christians continue to be persecuted and murdered on a daily basis.

And so often, by fellow or friends of those want to uphold human rights in Gaza and impose sharia. I have nothing against the Palestinians, nothing against the Kurds, Iranians and Muslims. In fact, my long studies of history and anthropology have always led me to study and a great deal considering the civilizations of the Middle East or African populations whose history has put them in friction conditions if not continuous hostilities with other realities very next to their development centers. But these are problems concern the history and political science, with all the prospects a scholar can help to investigate and explore. I know too well the Christian religion is a Few since its inception has been persecuted. Jesus himself warned his disciples: “Rejoice when you are persecuted because of Me” by drawing several times what would be the essential lines in the history of Christianity.

It was not a persecutor of the St. Paul himself then struck on the road to Damascus? and how indifferent, how many jailers,since the days of the Roman Empire up to the Vietnamese prisons of the twentieth century, have been converted by the light emanated from love, patience and hope of those the blind would have looked like polosers condemned to rot for years?

However, I must remember the basis of persecution, as the basis for all the massacres perpetrated in the world at all latitudes, there is a rejection of life, a hatred for the individual man and mankind in a broader perspective. It’s no use trying to fool us. The hatred of which we speak is often generated and fed without cause, not only for economic or racial reasons of which we speak; but also for pleasure, for the satisfaction of hurting the man who is not like us or do not think like us. For the sick joy of inflicting the next mortal pangs in their own eyes, as did Calvin in Geneva, the Protestant capital of his time, when he wanted to personally attend to the numerous executions which were carried by its courts.

How surprising about this?

Jesus himself called the Devil “the murderer” and “the enemy of mankind.” The envy of the man who was one of the most beautiful of the angels was born since the beginning of time, ever since his heavenly and disembodied intelligence had the knowledge the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, has a body glorious and so human. Like being second to a man-God?

While for men the proof of his loyalty to God would have been constituted by the refusal to obey and not to eat the forbidden fruit, so for the angels proof was established by the acceptance of this supernatural reality. From knowing God had a mother, and that would be born men as priests who would have brought down the second Person on earth every day in the future earthly world. Michael and his fellows, devotees to their Creator proclaim their “amen” and went up to Heaven. Lucifer shouted his “non serviam” (I will not serve), and was instantly plunged into the deep abyss of which St. Paul speaks. Snatch man to God is the devil’s goal. Rip the soul but also to eradicate them from the earthly life; for the Lord is a lover of life, and therefore does not rejoice at the death of the living. Wars and persecutions, disasters and misunderstandings are the visible events of a struggle has physically started in heaven and continues on earth, having as object of conquest men and States.

About horrible massacres carried out by the pagan emperors, of which he himself was a witness, Eusebius of Cesarea says, “when the whole human race was plunged into a dark night and a dense darkness for the deception of demons and nefarious action of enemy spirits of God, with Jesus’ coming disbanded once and for all the chain of our wickedness.

But on one such grace and such a benefit the envy of the devil who hates the good and love evil is almost exploded and has moved against us its deadly forces (…)  and excited secretly against us all kinds the beast in human form “(cf. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, X, 4, 13-14).

It’s a fact brings us back through the millennia to the great massacres of history and chronicle. Protestant persecution physically liquidated all those refused to accept the creed of Luther, and caused the depopulation of entire Nations such as Norway and Iceland. The years of the English and French revolution who starved Europe and led to the martyrdom and war million victims in the name of civilization, of enlightenment. The invasion of the Americas with the massacres of American Indians and Redskins. And before that, human sacrifices with which the Aztecs and Maya pre-Columbian bloodied their temples, sacrificing thousands of innocent people every year in honor of their gods fatal. L ‘ “useless slaughter” represented by the First World War “.

The colonialism that was imposed in Africa and Asia, a new economic and political orders distorting the traditions of those populations. The Russian revolution which stretched its tentacles on the world to impose a new order in which there would be no place for God. The nazi and fascist regimes with their remodeling of human dignity, and the death camps, authentic temples of the devil and his unclean priests, clothed in the vestments of the uniforms of the SS squads, and to celebrate their satanic death rites. The Pol Pot fields where huge masses of people had begun to die and make room for a company that had no memory of the past. And ‘terrible to think how many massacres have been committed in the name of God, in the name of the alleged intellectual superiority, in the name of the greatness of a race or the triumph of a religion. Forgetting, especially on the part of too many Christians, Jesus’ warning that recalls how the smaller will be the first in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The persecution and an increasing number of Christians are part of this plot that insistently wants blood. While Jesus dies on the cross, shedding their blood and shouting his thirst for souls, the devil nailed on endless crosses so many human beings because of their blood thirsty. And the blood of these Hosts killed out of hatred for God and for life, is especially welcome if they are innocent baptized Christians who are blood relatives of Jesus for having received Communion or Jews in whose veins flows the same blood of Christ .

Think of as still in the Middle Ages knew well the families who were descended from King David, made up of people who had the same ancestor as the founder of Jesus. Kin of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. Anne and S. Gioacchino, St. John Baptist, the Apostles. The fierce tyrants have sought them in the ghettos and in the houses, they wrote their sentencing boards, posters racist and racist laws to have the taste to become like King Herod who wants to identify, among the infants children of Israel, divine child.

It’s time to think of our Martyrs, from Nigeria to Egypt to Iraq, and that the false gods generalist leave space to our Christian brothers who are killed out of hatred for Christ.

Carmelo Currò

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The real majesty – part 2

The celebration of the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Rainha Elizabeth II, que vai completar 90 anos, foi fotografada ao lado do filho Charles, do neto William e do bisneto George (Foto: Royal Mail/Reprodução)

I’m personally against the “glamorization’ of the role of a monarch.  We should perceive a sovereign as the ultimate servant. Someone that decides to give his/her life in its totality to a nation and people. That means service24 /7 and almost no freewill and privacy. And… to include all the family in the package.

And in that sense, HM Queen Elizabeth II is an example to be followed. Ninety years of age and over 63 dedicated to service. Very few monarchs in history had her impeccable sense of duty.

So today, I celebrate Her Majesty’s birthday and congratulating the Queen of Britain for her amazing example.

With appreciation and admiration,

HIRH Prince Gharios El Chemor of Ghassan Al-Numan VIII

 

 

 

 

Fear is worse than death

Syrian children say they’re living under constant fear

VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED

War is a subject for adults. And even for the them it’s a matter capable of chilling everyone souls. No children should live with the cold and heavy sword of death pending over their heads.

Watch the testimony of the children of Daraya, Syria and dare to complain about your live.

More about this news: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/04/syria-terrifying-eyewitness-video-of-life-under-siege-and-barrel-bombs/

Leadership by example

Pope Francis takes Syrian refugees to Rome after the visit in Lesbos…

… and guess what? All the 3 families are Muslim!

What message that sends to the world?

That humanitarianism is the highest expression of religion, or at least, it should be. After all , basic logic dictates that we are humans before being Christian or Muslim.

BRAVO, Pope Francis!

More about the news: http://www.wsj.com/articles/popes-refugee-airlift-was-last-minute-inspiration-1460927822

Sectarianism: a social cancer

How ethnic and religious “labeling” is destroying the Middle East and menacing the whole world

As we watch bewildered the fantastic technological advancements in the world we also see the barbaric reflexes of our still primitive nature. It’s absolutely paradoxical to put a man on the moon and still kill each other because of religion or ideology. The rise of groups like

ISIS, recruiting people from many western countries shows how far behind we are regarding tolerance and coexistence.

Before, the worst sectarian conflicts were restricted to the Middle East region, but today we see them infecting the whole world as a social cancer. Unfortunately, the middle eastern “patient” is in a terminal condition and will die very soon if noting is done. As if it was possible the situation in the region to get any worse, some might question. The answer is a rotund “yes”!

Before the so-called “globalization”, nations could live almost independently as “social islands”. Currently, that behavior became more and more difficult. The most closed and solid regimes are getting more and more poriferous of the novelties from the “free” world. Naturally, the internet has a considerable share on this process of penetrating the once inexpugnable system.  The politicians and the religious leaders must fill the gaps creating legal systems where everyone is the same, regardless of any label.

Religions and ideologies are an important part of our individuality and shall be preserved as inalienable rights. However, when those transpire to the political and legal establishment, that’s when there are problems.

In a recent article on the Aljazeera’s website, the award winning Egyptian-Belgian journalist Khaleb Diab wrote an opinion article called: “Diversity in disunity in the Middle East -The practice of assigning a faith to every citizen promotes division and sectarianism” and he finishes the piece saying:

It is time for Middle Eastern countries to remove all mention of religious and sectarian affiliation from official documents, and to abolish religious family courts.

This would not only be good for the freedom of belief – not to mention love and the equality of citizens – it would also reinforce a sense of common national identity among communities within a country, promoting a sense of unity in diversity.”

We share this opinion. We shall never forget that before everything and anything we are human beings all sharing the same small planet. Sadly, sometimes the labels make us to forget this paramount and self-evident truth.

 

Help Syrian Children now!

HIRH Prince Gharios El-Chemor of Ghassan Al-Numan VIII publicly supports the international campaign “One Million Meals” for the children of Syria. For only US$1 (One US Dollar) you can buy a meal for a starving child in Syria. Please, help and share! http://www.onemillionmeals.org/

The Sovereign Imperial & Royal House of Ghassan supports this initiative.