Abū Zakariyyāʾ Yaḥyā ibn Ḥakam al-Bakrī al-Jayyānī (c. 790–864), nicknamed al-Ghazāl ("the gazelle"), was an Andalusi Arab poet and diplomat. He undertook to important missions for the Emirate of Córdoba, the first to the Byzantine Empire in 840 and the second to the Vikings in 845.A native of Jaén, he received the nickname al-ghazāl in his youth because he was thin and handsome. He was a Muslim who belonged to the Arab tribe of Bakr ibn Wāʾil. The 11th-century historian Ibn Ḥayyān called him "the sage of Spain" (ḥakīm al-andalus), and the 13th-century writer Ibn Diḥya devoted more space to his diplomacy than his poetry in his Melodious Compilation from the Poetry of the People of the West. Ibn Diḥya is the only source for the Viking embassy, which he claims to have read about in a now lost work by al-Ghazāl's contemporary, Tammām ibn ʿAlḳama.According to Ibn Diḥya, in 844 or 845 the Majūs (his name for the Vikings) launched a raid on Seville and were repulsed by the Emir ʿAbd al-Raḥmān I. Afterwards:
A Majūs ambassador came to make peace with ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, who sent al-Ghazāl on an embassy to the Majūs king, for al-Ghazāl had great presence of mind, and no door remained closed to him. Al-Ghazāl took costly presents with him on board, and sailed in his own ship along with the Majūs ship. He arrived at one of their islands, where he rested and repaired his ship. The Majūs ambassador then sailed first to announce his arrival. They sailed to where the king resided. It was a great island in the ocean, and in it were running waters and gardens. It was three days' journey from the continent. Innumerable Majūs were there, and near were many other isles, small and great inhabited by Majūs and the continent up there also belongs to them. It is a large country and it takes several days to pass through it. Majūs were then heathen, but are now Christians.
Ibn Diḥya, however, was considered unreliable in his own day. Moreover, his account contains elements that could only have entered the story in the 11th century or later: al-Ghazāl is said to have returned by way of Santiago de Compostela, an insignificant site in 845, and the Vikings converted to Christianity over a century later.
Ibn Diḥya quotes extensively from al-Ghazāl's poems. One in "the Arabic tradition of courtly love" describes his flirtation with the queen of the Vikings while her husband looked on.
You have to resist, Oh my heart, a love that troubles thee, and against which you defend yourself as a lion. You are in love with a Majūsiya, who never lets the sun of beauty set, and who lives at the rarely visited extremity of the world.
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