Letter: T-S Misc.28.137

Letter T-S Misc.28.137


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In PGP since 2017


Letter from Shemuel, in Damietta, to Abū l-Mufaḍḍal Hibatallāh b. Faraḥ, perhaps related by marriage through the latter's sister. The handwriting is often ambiguous, so much of this analysis is tentative. Shemuel opens with the bare minimum of formalities, then, "As for what you mentioned about the events in Damietta, very ugly things came to pass. They took your sister to the ḥujra (barracks?). Then they brought her to the administrative complex (dār al-imāra), and they brought a basket to sit her in it and beat her. I pled and pled (? lam azal ashḥad—this verb is used for beggars, but perhaps he is using the Hebrew meaning: to bribe) until God had mercy and they brought her back to the ḥujra, without saying a word to her. I did not cease . . . until I got her out of the ḥujra to the house of Hilāl. Hilāl stood guaranty for her after a period of house arrest (? baʿd an aqām mudda fī l-tarsīm). He lost 13 dinars. They sold everything that was in the house. They left nothing worth even a half dirham. They took your sister's copper and sold it. No one was harsher than the secretary of the head of police (wālī) in Damietta, who supervises the inheritances. I sent him 10 gold coins with Abū l-ʿAlā' Muslim." The next line is tricky and involves something called "kutub al-sulṭān." At this point the writer switches to beseeching the addressee to do his utmost to protect the interests of his own family and of the writer: "Go to the amir Sayf al-Dīn, and to the owner of the house, and meet with Sayyidnā al-Rayyis. Let him go and meet with all of the amirs and bring up these matters that interest you and me." They are also to go to al-Amīr al-Ṭahīr (? אלטהיר. There is a qāḍī with the same epithet in the Arabic document T-S Ar.41.9. But perhaps it is al-ẓahīr). The subject matter on verso becomes still more obscure. The writer tells the addressee not to begrudge a certain payment, "for the amir Fakhr al-Dīn has promised me every good thing in the world. He has bestowed favor on me beyond description. He does not take a penny; others do." There follows another obscure passage: perhaps the writer obtained a loan of 30 gold coins from the amir that he needed for a bribe (shaḥadtu bihā, the same verb used during the beating). He then goes back to describe how the house was completely emptied; not even a nail was left behind. Finally he relates the episode described by Goitein as follows: "In Damietta, the Egyptian seaport, a makhzan was located in a dihlīz, or entrance hall [of the house of Abū Saʿd]. A jug containing a thousand gold pieces was discovered there and, of course, confiscated by the government." Med Soc IV, 79. Goitein mentions this letter one other time: "As with government offices in general, there was no clear-cut and fixed division of duties among the various branches of the judiciary and the security force. Thus we find, for example, in Damietta, the office of the chief of police (wālī) dealing with cases of inheritance, normally the prerogative of the qadis." Med Soc II, 371, referring to recto, lines 12–14. ASE.

T-S Misc.28.137 1r



T-S Misc.28.137 1v

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