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Imru' al-Qays and Byzantium

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This article presents four reasons that were instrumental in bringing Imru' al-Qays to the Byzantine emperor Justinian's notice. The poet, seeking vengeance for his father's homicide, approached the poet al-Samawa'al who contacted Arethas the Ghassinid who, in turn, interceded for the poet with Justinian, Arethas' overlord and close ally. Second, the article traces the poet's trip to Constantinople to meet Justinian and refutes assorted legendary and fictitious accounts that have been associated with the trip, viz., the poisoned robe, the affair with Justinian's daughter, the poet's appointment as Phylarch of Palestine, and the Caliph al-Ma'mūn's seeing a statue of the poet. The poet, it is shown, died of the plague on his way back from Constantinople in 542.

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