The history of courtesans and slave girls in the medieval Arab world transcends traditional boundaries of study and opens up new fields of sociological and cultural enquiry. In the process it offers a remarkably rich source of historical and cultural information on medieval Islam. 'The Slave Girls of Baghdad' explores the origins, education and art of the 'qiyan' - indentured girls and women who entertained and entranced the caliphs and aristocrats who worked the labyinths of power throughout the Abbasid Empire. In a detailed analysis of Islamic law, historical sources and poetry, F. Matthew Caswell examines the qiyans' unique place in the society of ninth-century Baghdad, providing a comprehensive cultural overview of an elusive and little understood institutionRigorously trained from the age of nine, the qiyan had a profound impact on the development of elegiac-erotic poetry as well as on trends in art and fashion. For the first time a substantial part of their work is reproduced in translation, showing the bulk of it to consist of clever, often risqu epigrams bearing the hallmarks of artistic virtuosity and a keen eye for social commentary. A parallel review of the music these women produced reveals their influence on the emergence of popular and unconventional forms of song from Baghdad to Basra. Through a study of contemporary Islamic law and academic literature, Caswell examines the qiyans' unique place in Abbasid society and their contested moral standing. The qiyan occupied a privileged position which set them apart from the general body of female slaves, as well as the population of free-born women. Caswell traces their long-lasting effect on Arab society and follows the moral criticism that surrounded their social popularity and sexual patronage. This important history will be essential reading for all those concerned with the history of slavery, and its place within both the context of medieval Islam and across the Abbasid Empire.
Slave Girls of Baghdad, The
The Qiyan in the Early Abbasid Era