Early Abbasid use of Graeco-Roman traditions to project imperial authority and power

Activity: Talk or presentation typesLecture and oral contribution


The Abbasid caliphal cities and monumental building projects in the period 754–861 CE operated as a language of power, articulating their relationship to the past as well as communicating with the rival imperial power in Constantinople. However, the more prominent focus on their Persian audience and transformation, the limitations of the material remains, and the generally overlooked relationship between the building projects themselves and the literary reception means this language of power and its multiple audiences have been misunderstood.
This paper explores the literary legacy to better ‘read’ the Abbasid imperial building projects within the Western Asian tradition. It employs a different periodisation and spatialisation to focus on the early Abbasid relationship with Rum, their imperial rivals in Constantinople and the other of the “two eyes” of late antiquity. This new reading demonstrates how the early Abbasid caliphs exploited the imperial building traditions of Western Asia, claiming the triple inheritance of Arabia, Rome, and Persia, to project a universal claim to power.
Period1 Dec 2022
Event title“Politics of pasts and futures in (post-)imperial contexts”: First annual conference of the GRK 2571 ‘Empires’
Event typeConference
LocationGermanyShow on map