information from Ptolemy, and names `Ksumi, the town (or, land) of the king of Kush'
(Nallino 1907: II, 47). This obviously refers to Aksum; but most other Arab writers
provide completely different names. The earliest is Jarmi or Jarma, followed by Ku`bar
Abu Ja`far al-Khuwarizmi, writing before 833AD, seems to be the first to cite a town
called `Jarma, the town of the kingdom of Habash', as well as `Jarmi, the great town', in
company with such other towns as Dunqula (Dongola), capital of the Nubian kingdom of
Muqurra (Vantini 1975: 50). Al-Farghani, writing before 861AD, mentions `the towns of the kingdom of the Habasha, which are called Jarmi (Jarma), Dunqula and the town of the Nuba' (Vantini 1975: 53). Ibn Rusta, who died before 913AD, wrote of `Jarmi, the capital of the Habasha and Dunqula, the capital of the Nuba' (Vantini 1975: 87), and
around 950AD Ishaq ibn al-Husain wrote that "The main town in the country of the Habashat is (the town of) Jarmi, (which is) the capital (dar) of the kingdom of the Habasha. This kingdom is ruled by the najashi". Interestingly, this author repeats
Kosmas' old tale about silent trade in the lands of the Habasha (Vantini 1975: 122-3), as
do others even later (e.g. al- Zuhri, Vantini 1975: 262).
About 966AD al-Maqdisi simply confirms the previous information, writing that "One of the towns of the First Climate is . . . Jarmi, a town of the king of the Habasha, another is Dunqula, the town of the Nuba" (Vantini 1975: 147), and a little later Ibn Yunus (d.
1009AD) listed both Jarmi and Madinat al-Habash (here Dongola/Dunqala?) with their
latitudes and longitudes (Vantini 1975: 223). Al-Tusi, an astronomer who died in
1273AD, also mentions these two towns with their latitude and longitude (Vantini 1975:
Al-Biruni (d. 1048), though a pupil of al-Mas`udi, does not mention Ku`bar (see below),
but in his list of towns, he includes "Jarma (Jarmi), a town of the Habasha" and Aydhab
as a Habasha town, the frontier between Beja and Habasha (Vantini 1975: 231-2), while
al-Marwazi (d. after 1120AD) mentions that the First Climate "passes through a country called Jarma, which is the residence of the king of the Habasha, and through Dunqala, which is the capital of the Nuba" (Vantini 1975: 250). Yaqut (d. 1229) mentions among
the towns of the First Climate `Jarma, the town of the king of the Habasha; Dumqula, the town of the Nuba' (Vantini 1975: 341). Abu'- l-Fida` (1273-1331AD) wrote that "Jarmi is the capital of the Habasha. It is mentioned by the majority of the travellers in the books of routes" (Vantini 1975: 463), and Ibn al-Shatir (1304-1379AD) still notes the latitudes
and longitudes of "Jarmi of the Habasha" and "Dongola of the Nuba" (Vantini 1975:
525). Finally, it may be that the name Tambra or Tarma, used by al-Wardi (d. 1457AD) is
a last memory of Jarmi or Jarma; he describes the town as "a big town on a lake in which the Nile waters collect " (Vantini 1975: 724).
Al-Ya`qubi (fl. c872-891) is the first of the Arab authors to mention Ku`bar or Ka`bar.
His report is interesting in that it names five Beja kingdoms bordering on the najashi's
realms and on Alwa (the Arab name for the Nubian Christian state of Alodia, with its
capital at Soba). They each had their own king, and there is no mention of dependence on
the najashi's kingdom; the last known Aksumite claim to control Beja and Noba is in
W`ZB's titulature (Schneider 1974). Al-Ya`qubi describes
"a vast and powerful country. Its royal town is Ku`bar. The Arabs go thither to trade. They have big towns and their sea coast is called Dahlak. All the kings of the habasha country are subject to the Great King (al-malik al-a`zam) and are careful to obey him and pay tribute" (Vantini 1975: 73).
This information, well over two hundred years after the time of Ashama ibn Abjar,
indicates that the Ethiopian kingdom had maintained itself relatively well, and was still in
control of some of the coastal area.
Al-Mas`udi, who died in 956AD, gives rather similar information in his geographical
work Muruj al-Dhahab, the `Meadows of Gold'.
"The chief town of the Habasha is called Ku`bar, which is a large town and the residence of the najashi, whose empire extends to the coasts opposite the Yemen, and possesses such towns as Zayla`, Dahlak and Nasi" (Vantini 1975: 131).
He repeated this in his Akhbar al-Zaman;
". . . the Habasha are the descendants of Habash b. Kush. b. Ham. The largest of their kingdoms is the kingdom of the najashi, who follows Christianity; their capital is called Kafar (Ka`bar). The Arabs used since the earliest times to come to this kingdom for trade" (Vantini 1975: 143).
Al-Harrani, writing about 1295AD, mentions that
"one of the greatest and best-known towns is Ka`bar, which is the royal town of the najashi . . . Zayla`, a town on the coast of the Red Sea, is a very populous commercial centre. . . . Opposite al-Yaman there is also a big town, which is the sea-port from which the Habasha crossed the sea to al-Yaman, and nearby is the island of `Aql" (Vantini
Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) also knew that Ka`bar was formerly the capital of Abyssinia
(Trimingham 1952: 59).
Conti Rossini proposed that Ku`bar originated in a mistaken rendering of [A]Ksum in
Arabic (1909: 263, n. 1). He says that "Aksum was the political capital still in the tenth century . . . I call . . . kings of Aksum the kings anterior to the Zagwé, who went down into Lasta". Vantini (1975: 131), whose extremely useful compendium of translations from
Arab authors we have used extensively in this section, also thought Ku`bar was Aksum,
suggesting a distortion from an epithet, `kabur', The Noble, or the name of some place
near Aksum. Paul (1954: 71) identified Ku`bar with Adulis. The editors of Mas`udi's
book The Meadows of Gold, where he mentions Ku`bar, identified it with Ankober in
Shewa, influenced by the current name for the Shewan capital (de Meynard and de
Courteille 1844: 34). Taddesse Tamrat (1970: 87-8; 1972: 37) thought Ku`bar might be in
southern Tigray or Angot; an Ethiopian legendary account (Kur 1965: 18) says that the
(ninth-century?) king Dil Na`od moved the capital "from Aksum to the country of the east" in the seventh year of his reign, and since the same phrase elsewhere in the text
describes the Lake Hayq region, Tamrat suggested Ku`bar was in that general direction.
In fact, little reliance can be placed on the names and dates (Tamrat 1972: 36, n. 3) in