Squeezing Juice from the 'Fruits of the Caliphs:' Tastes, Contexts, and Textual Transplantation at a Fifteenth-Century Egyptian Court
Cover Image of 'Interfaces,' Issue #9: Pierpaolo Curti, 'Bridge,' 2014, tecnica mista su tela, 120 x 80 cm – Collezione privata – www.pierpaolocurti.com


Mamluk Sultanate
Ibn ‘Arabshah
textual mobility

How to Cite

Banister, M. (2022). Squeezing Juice from the ’Fruits of the Caliphs:’ Tastes, Contexts, and Textual Transplantation at a Fifteenth-Century Egyptian Court. Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, (9), 124–143. https://doi.org/10.54103/interfaces-09-07
Received 2022-06-16
Accepted 2022-10-24
Published 2022-12-07


This article concerns themes of translation, movement, and context in its examination of the intentions behind the composition of Ahmad ibn ʿArabshah's (1389–1450) mid-fifteenth-century opus of animal fables and anecdotal advice literature, the Fakihat al-khulafaʾ wa mufakahat al-zurafaʾ (Fruits of the Caliphs and Witty Banter of the Stylish Folk). With some alterations, including the introduction of a substantial amount of historical material in its ultimate and penultimate chapters, Ibn ʿArabshah's Fruits of the Caliphs is primarily an expanded reworking of an earlier work, the thirteenth-century Marzban-nama (Book of Marzban) attributed to Saʿd al-Din al-Warawini. Like the Book of Marzban, the Fruits of the Caliphs is largely a collection of moralistic animal fables and anecdotes of wisdom, bound together within several smaller stories which comprise a larger framework story. The ten chapters of the Fruits of the Caliphs share much in common with the Book of Marzban although Ibn ʿArabshah completed significant re-writing of the original tales with historical asides, changed names, and observations unique to his own mid-fifteenth-century interpretation of the book. Because the work is primarily an Arabic translation of an earlier Persianate mirror, it proves challenging to analyze as an "original" work. Nevertheless, Ibn ʿArabshah attempted to modernize the book and in its Arabic form, update it for what we may assume must be a late medieval Cairene courtly audience. In addition to engaging with the curious title of the work and its latent meanings, this article contextualizes and explains the author's creation of the work in relation to his later career trajectory and rising reputation in the fifteenth-century Syro-Egyptian cultural milieu.

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