The slave trade of european women to the middle east and asia from antiquity to the ninth century

Kathryn Ann Hain
T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f U t a h G r a d u a t e S c h o o l STATEMENT OF DISSERTATION APPROVAL The dissertation of Kathryn Ann Hain has been approved by the following supervisory committee members: Peter von Sivers ABSTRACT In the mid-ninth century, an Abbasid intelligence officer, Ibn Khurdadhbih, wrote a geography book, the extant sections of which describe the existing trade routes, products, and two major trade networks of the early Abbasid Empire. The Rus or Norse traders brought
more » ... traders brought furs and swords from north to south down the Volga River to Baghdad. The Jewish Radhanite traders who spoke a plethora of languages traded luxury times west and east. The list of articles that they transported from Europe to Arabia, India, and China included eunuchs, concubines, and servant boys. This dissertation analyzes the historical context of this trade by asking two questions. First, was this trade made possible by the ninth century convergence of the Carolingian-Abbasid-Tang empires or had west to east slave trade existed in antiquity? Greek, Latin, Prakrit, Sanskrit, and Tamil sources all reveal that Greek and then, Roman female slaves were transported in large enough numbers to be listed in bills of lading, tax rolls, descriptions of Jain harems, Sanskrit dramas, and the hagiography of St. Thomas. The second question uses eastern sources to interrogate what cultural values in India, China, and Baghdad made Asians desire European slaves. Indian royalty and elite required enormous female retinues. Greek girls are listed in these entourages as royal guards armed with bows and arrows. Greek sex workers also appear in the sources as courtesans and flutegirls. In Chinese chronicles, Greek and Roman slaves appear as acrobatic performers or tricksters presented to the emperor as tribute from rulers in Parthia and later, Burma. In Abbasid Baghdad, the ruler and elite desired slaves to gain the prestige that stemmed from having a large harem, one of the mores of the shared court culture across Asia. The Eurasian trade from Spain to China described by Ibn Khurdadhbih was not just possible; it mirrored Greek and Roman trade with India and Han China. The female slaves that the traders transported to Asia provided not just sex and entertainment, but fulfilled a cultural value that possessing beautiful foreign women in large numbers proved a ruler or elite courtier's prestige and power. iv
doi:10.26053/0h-r86n-d500 fatcat:je4c7j3anng2vj5yzbdohnfkeu