n Ekklesiastikos Pharos - Once again the : the nomad Arabs of Sinai in pre-Islamic times, myth and reality

Volume 93, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1018-9556



The aim of this paper is to emphasize the historical importance of the hagiographical work, known as The Narrations of Nilus Sinaiticus (NNS), which has been repeatedly stigmatized as an imaginative description of the nomad Arabs in pre-Islamic times. The scrutiny of the text of NNS reveals that at the end of the 4th century AD a large number of the so-called Saracens wondered around the Sinai Peninsula while another part of them, called "Faranitai" named after Faran, the area they lived, had settled near the first primitive monasteries and had undertaken them under their security. In spite of the emphasis of the NNS on the slaughtering of the monks, the reader understands that usually there was a "modus vivendi" between monks and Saracens arranged by peace treaties and that temporary breaches were caused usually after the death of the tribe's leader. The peace treaties were arranged through the armed Faranitai without any interference of the Byzantine military or administrative authorities. Brief but substantial details of the daily life of the Saracens of Sinai are revealed in NNS, concerning especially their sacrificial rituals. An attempt has been made by the present author to distinguish the various elements of the sacrificial rituals as they appear in NNS, accepting those based on eye-witness information in contradistinction to the imaginary distortions frequently caused by the Byzantines' tendencies to degrade pagan Arabs.

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