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Bahaʾ al-Din Zuhayr  

Robert D. Young

Arab-born Egyptian poet and calligrapher of the Ayyubid period, was born 27/28 February 1186 in Mecca. He is also known as al-Bahaʾ Zuhayr. He moved to Qus, in upper Egypt, at a young age. Zuhayr’s later diwans (a Persian term meaning “collection of poems”) indicate some recollection of his time in Mecca; he likely moved to Qus when he became old enough to attend school. Qus was then a center of Islamic learning and culture. Zuhayr studied the Qurʾan and Islamic literature but was most enthused by poetry. Zuhayr made friends with another poet and quoted substantially from the “ancient” poets such as Imru al-Qays (c. 501–544), some of whom were pre-Islamic.

Despite a fascination with poetry Zuhayr also cultivated his position among the political elite He dedicated his first praise poem to the governor of Qus Zuhayr did not stop with the locals traveling to places such as Damascus ...


Bate, Besong, Jacobs  

Gilbert Doho

playwright and poet of Anglophone Cameroon, was born on 8 May 1954 in Mamfe, which was then located in the British-administered territory of Southern Cameroons. In 1954 the territory established an autonomous region separate from the larger British colony of Nigeria and in 1961 the Southern Cameroons voted in a plebiscite to join the majority French-speaking Federal Republic of Cameroon (FRC) as the Federated State of West Cameroon (FSWC). The Anglophone population of the Southern Cameroons led by John Ngu Foncha believed that federalism, in the form of the FSWC, would assure their autonomy.

Mamfe was only 37 miles (60 kilometers) from the Southern Cameroons border with Nigeria. Besong moved to and from the two newly independent nations. He attended Hope Wadell Institute in Calabar and Saint Bede’s Secondary School in Kom, both in Nigeria. It was in Kom that he obtained his GCE A Level in 1976.

Two ...


Callimachus of Kyrene  

Duane W. Roller

was a major poet and scholar of the third century BCE. He was born at the end of the previous century in Kyrene (also Cyrene), the important Greek city on the coast of Africa west of Egypt in present-day Libya. He was of distinguished background: his homonymous grandfather was a member of the ruling elite of the city. The younger Callimachus immigrated to Alexandria in Egypt at an early age and became an intimate at the court of Ptolemaios II (who came to the throne in early 282 BCE). Callimachus was part of the developing intellectual presence around the Ptolemies, which at that time included the mathematician Euclid and the poets Theokritos and Apollonios of Rhodes. He was especially close to the queen, Arsinoë II, and wrote her eulogy.

When Arsinoë died around 270 BCE Callimachus may have fallen out of favor since little is known about him for ...


Dave The Potter  

Elizabeth Kuebler-Wolf

typesetter, potter, and poet, was born and lived his entire life in and around Edgefield, South Carolina, an important center for pottery production in the nineteenth century. Dave's parents were slaves belonging to Samuel Landrum, a Scottish immigrant who had moved his family and slaves to Edgefield, South Carolina, in 1773. The outlines of Dave's life story can be traced through the business activities and legal papers of his various owners, oral history from Edgefield, and Dave's own pottery upon which he inscribed sayings, verses, and dates.

After moving to Edgefield the Landrum family became involved in the making of pottery and other entrepreneurial enterprises. Amos and Abner Landrum, sons of Samuel, became partners with a third man, Harvey Drake, in a pottery concern. Dave first appears in the legal record in a 13 June 1818 mortgage agreement between Harvey Drake and Eldrid Simkins both ...


Dioscorus of Aphrodito  

Giovanni R. Ruffini

Egyptian lawyer and poet, was the son of Apollos, son of Psimanobet. Flavius Dioscorus is the best-documented figure from Byzantine Aphrodito (modern Egypt’s Kom Ishqaw) and consequently one of the best-documented representatives of village life in Egypt in the entire Greco-Roman period. The Aphrodito papyri—largely the business and personal papers of Dioskoros and his extended family—comprise an archive of hundreds of texts detailing the economic and social connections between thousands of Aphrodito villagers in the sixth century CE. Dioscorus, an Aphrodito village headman and in turn the son of another village headman, was one of the leading figures in the politics of his village in that period, and was involved in the political and economic affairs of the landowning and officeholding Roman imperial elite at the higher provincial level.

The bulk of the evidence for Dioscorus concerns either his private economic transactions or his career in village politics In the ...


Hammon, Jupiter  

Duncan F. Faherty

poet and preacher, was born on the estate of Henry Lloyd on Long Island, New York, most probably the son of two of Lloyd's slaves, Rose and Opium, the latter renowned for his frequent escape attempts. Few records remain from Hammon's early life, though correspondence of the Lloyd family indicates that in 1730 he suffered from a near-fatal case of gout. He was educated by Nehemiah Bull, a Harvard graduate, and Daniel Denton, a British missionary, on the Lloyd manor. Except for a brief period during the Revolutionary War, when Joseph Lloyd removed the family to Hartford Connecticut Hammon lived his entire life on Long Island in the Huntington area serving the Lloyds as clerk and bookkeeper There is no surviving indication that Hammon either married or had children The precise date of his death and the location of his grave remain unknown although it is ...


Horton, George Moses  

Joan R. Sherman

poet, was born in Northampton County, North Carolina, a slave of William Horton; the names of his parents are unknown. As a boy he moved with his master's household to Chatham County, where he tended cows on the farm. Horton's teenage pleasures, he later wrote, were “singing lively tunes” and “hearing people read” (Horton, iv), and he taught himself to read, first learning the alphabet from an old spelling book. He acquired an extraordinary vocabulary and the forms, topics, and styles of his verse from reading the New Testament, Wesley's hymnal, and books given to him by University of North Carolina (UNC) students.

In his early twenties, now the slave of William's son, James Horton, George avoided the manual labor he disliked by walking eight miles from the farm to Chapel Hill on weekends to sell fruit and his poems. From about 1830 on he hired ...


Ibn al-Farid, ʿUmar bin ʿAli  

Allen J. Fromherz

Egyptian Sufi mystic and poet, was born in Cairo. Most of his early years were spent in the hills to the east of Cairo and in the deserts. Although he started along the same path of his father, an estate lawyer, he felt that dry, legal study of the scripture was insufficient. He abandoned formal schooling. In an act reminiscent of the Christian desert fathers, he spent time in the deserted and empty quarters of Arabia, where he faced trials and had a vision of the Prophet Muhammad. He was praised as a saint when he returned to Cairo and told of his visions. His tomb beneath the mountains near Cairo is a major site of veneration to this day. The diwan, or the collected writings of Ibn al-Farid, is famous primarily for its poetry.

Like many mystic poets and writers Ibn al Farid used images of forbidden pleasures and ...


Ibn Rashiq  

Russell Hopley

literary theorist, poet, anthologist, was born in Masila in the region of Constantine, a city in present-day Algeria, to a family of Arab origin. Hasan al-Qayrawani al-Azdi al-Masili Ibn Rashiq displayed an early interest in Arabic literature, and following his primary education in Masila he was sent to al-Qayrawan in 1015/1016 to pursue his secondary studies. There he was able to study under some of the most eminent literary figures of eleventh-century Ifriqiya (present-day Tunisia), among them the grammarian Abu ʿAbd Allah al-Qazzaz, and the poets Ibrahim al-Husri, Abu Muhammad al-Khushani, and Abu Muhammad ʿAbd al-Karim al-Nahshali. This latter was, like Ibn Rashiq, a native of Masila, and his principal work, al-Mumtiʿ fi ʿilm al-shʿir wa ʿamalih, served as Ibn Rashiq’s introduction to classical Arabic poetry, as it did for an entire generation of North African poets.

An accomplished poet by the age of nineteen Ibn Rashiq became a ...


Ibn Sharaf, Abu ʿAbd Allah Muhammad ibn Abi Saʿid al-Jidhami al-Qayrawani  

Russell Hopley

poet, litterateur, and historian, was born in the Tunisian city of al-Qayrawan to a family of Arab origin. Ibn Sharaf received his education in the Islamic sciences at the hand of several North African luminaries of the eleventh century, including the eminent jurists Abu al-Hasan al-Qabisi (d. 1012) and Abu ‘Imran al-Fasi (d. 1039), who provided the young pupil with a thorough training in Islamic jurisprudence. Ibn Sharaf also studied with Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Qazzaz (d. 1021–1022) in the fields of Arabic grammar and lexicography, and he was introduced to classical Arab literature by the poet and belle-lettrist Ibrahim al-Husri (d. 1022). It is likely that Ibn Sharaf received his initial exposure to Arab verse by studying the poetic selections found in the anthology al-Mumti‘ fi ‘ilm al-sh‘ir wa ‘amalih a work that served to initiate an entire ...



Eric Fournier

Latin poet, lived in or around Carthage during the reign of the last two Vandal kings, Hilderic (r. 523–530 CE) and Gelimer (r. 530–534 CE). He was a teacher of literature (grammaticus) and the author of over 90 poems (more or less depending on the editors) that have survived in the Latin Anthology (Anthologia Latina), a compilation of poetry from the late Vandal period. Additionally, Luxorius is most likely the author of two grammatical treatises, Cornicius and Orthographia, ascribed by medieval glossaries to a “Lisorius,” who just might be the same individual. Two of the poems’ superscriptions included in the Anthology note Luxorius’s rank as “clarissimus et spectabilis The poet most likely obtained these honorific titles after serving as teacher in a well known school for twenty years as a law of the Theodosian Code 6 21 1 indicates A letter from fellow ...


Nonnus of Panopolis  

Robert Shorrock

Greek epic poet, was born in the city of Panopolis in Upper Egypt (present-day Akhmim); at some stage, presumably early in his life, he moved to the literary metropolis of Alexandria. He is acknowledged as the author of two hexameter poems: the Dionysiaca and the Paraphrase of St. John’s Gospel.

The Dionysiaca (c. mid-late 5th century CE) is the longest poetic text to have survived from the whole of antiquity. It tells the story of the life Dionysus, the son of Zeus, in forty-eight books. The epic poem begins several generations before Dionysus’s birth and is dominated by the hero’s struggle to defeat the forces of the Indian king Deriades, and by his attempt to spread the gift of viticulture to all the races of the world; the poem culminates with Dionysus’s elevation from hero to god as he takes his place beside his father on Mount Olympus.

The Dionysiaca ...


Paccius Maximus  

Stanley M. Burstein

Nubian author, is a unique figure in ancient Nubian history. The Romans ruled the Dodecaschoenus—the approximately 70-mile stretch of the Nile valley south of the first cataract—for almost three centuries. During those three centuries only one Nubian spoke to us in his own voice: Paccius Maximus.

Paccius Maximus first came to the attention of scholars in 1894 when a complex thirty six line autobiographical poem was published The poem is contained in a graffito painted in large red letters on the south wall of the forecourt of the temple of the god Mandulis at Kalabsha Paccius Maximus claimed authorship of the poem in an acrostic consisting of the initial letters of the first twenty three lines of the poem I Maximus a Decurion wrote it A similar acrostic I Maximus a brave young man wrote it identified him as the author of another graffito this one in honor of ...


Raqiq, al-Qayarawani, al-  

Russell Hopley

poet, littérateur, historian, and court secretary, was born in al-Qayrawan around the time of the Fatimid departure from Ifriqiya to Egypt in 972. His full name was Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn al-Qasim al-Raqiq. Al-Raqiq acted as court secretary during a period of some forty years for three Zirid emirs: al-Mansur ibn Buluggin (r. 983–995), Badis (r. 995–1016), and al-Muʿizz (r. 1016–1062 An especially refined personage al Raqiq appears to have played an important role in several diplomatic missions to lands neighboring the Zirid state a number of which were quite sensitive in nature Prominent among these missions was the Zirid embassy to the court of the Fatimid sovereign al Hakim in 998 designed to consolidate the ties that brought these two North African states into alliance with one another It is also reported that al Raqiq accompanied the Zirid army on campaigns in the hinterland of Ifriqiya undertaken to ...


Terry, Lucy  

Anthony Gerzina

first known African American poet, was born in Africa. The facts of her early years are not known with certainty. But, as best as can be determined, she was brought to New England about 1729 through the port of Boston by Barbados-based slave merchants. As the property of Samuel Terry, a Harvard-educated aspiring minister, she lived initially in Mendon, Massachusetts, west of Boston and perhaps in Union in northeast Connecticut. She was sold to Ebenezer Wells, a Deerfield, Massachusetts, merchant and tavern holder, sometime before 15 June 1735 which is the date of her baptism Her baptism record notes her as servant to Ebenezer Wells as slaves were often euphemistically described in New England Many Deerfield slave owners had their slaves baptized during the Great Awakening and Terry s baptism proved the beginning of her lifelong religiosity She was admitted to the fellowship of the Church ...


Wheatley, Phillis  

John C. Shields

poet and cultivator of the epistolary writing style, was born in Gambia, Africa, probably along the fertile lowlands of the Gambia River. She was enslaved as a child of seven or eight and sold in Boston to John and Susanna Wheatley on 11 July 1761. The horrors of the Middle Passage likely contributed to her persistent trouble with asthma. The Wheatleys apparently named the girl, who had nothing but a piece of dirty carpet to conceal her nakedness, after the slaver, the Phillis, that transported her.The Wheatleys were more kindly toward Phillis than were most slaveowners of the time, permitting her to learn to read. The poet in Wheatley soon began to emerge. She published her first poem on 21 December 1765 in the Newport Mercury when she was about twelve The poem On Messrs Hussey and Coffin relates how these two gentlemen narrowly escaped drowning ...


Yahya Ibn Khaldun  

Allen J. Fromherz

a North African scholar, was born into a prominent, intellectual family, the descendants of Andalusi exiles in Tunis, the capital of the Almohad Hafsid dynasty. Although known primarily as the younger brother of the more famous historian ʿAbd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun, Abu Zakariyya Yahya Ibn Khaldun was a noted and important chronicler, poet, statesman, and scholar in his own right. A fairly intimate picture of Yahya Ibn Khaldun emerged in both the text and the subtext his older brother’s autobiography, the Taʿrif. The elder Ibn Khaldun saw his younger brother as something of a protégé.

It is fair to assume that Yahya would have followed many parts of his brother s path and would have studied under important and influential scholars such as the philosopher and rationalist al Abili Yahya wrote about al Abili and his work especially the scholar s famous protest against the formalization of education in official schools ...