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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Akhtal

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AKHTAL [Ghiyāth ibn Hārith] (c. 640–710), one of the most famous Arabian poets of the Omayyad period, belonged to the tribe of Taghlib in Mesopotamia, and was, like his fellow-tribesmen, a Christian, enjoying the freedom of his religion, while not taking its duties very seriously. Of his private life few details are known, save that he was married and divorced, and that he spent part of his time in Damascus, part with his tribe in Mesopotamia. In the wars of the Taghlibites with the Qaisites he took part in the field, and by his satires. In the literary strife between his contemporaries Jarir and Ferazdaq he was induced to support the latter poet. Akhtal, Jarir and Ferazdaq form a trio celebrated among the Arabs, but as to relative superiority there is dispute. In the ‘Abbasid period there is no doubt that Akhtal’s Christianity told against his reputation, but Abu ‘Ubaida placed him highest of the three on the ground that amongst his poems there were ten flawless qasidas (elegies), and ten more nearly so, and that this could not be said of the other two. The chief material of his poems consists of panegyric of patrons and satire of rivals, the latter being, however, more restrained than was usual at the time.

The Poetry of al-Akhtal has been published at the Jesuit press in Beirūt, 1891. A full account of the poet and his times is given in H. Lammens’ Le chantre des Omiades (Paris, 1895) (a reprint from the Journal Asiatique for 1894). (G. W. T.)