Ḥīrah, Al-

Ḥīrah, Al-
Ancient kingdom, Middle East.

Occupying the area of the lower Euphrates River valley and the upper part of the Persian Gulf, it was ruled by the Lakhmids (3rd century AD–602), who themselves were subordinate to the Sāsānian dynasty of Persia. Its chief town, also named Al-Ḥīrah, was a diplomatic, political, and military centre and an important station on the Persia-Arabia caravan route. Tradition holds that the Arabic script was developed there. Also the seat of a bishopric for Nestorian Christians, it promoted Christian monotheism in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Ḥīrah began to decline after the Sāsānians dissolved the Arab state there early in the 7th century, and in 633 the town was taken by the Muslims.

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▪ ancient city, Iraq
      (from Syriac ḥirtā, “camp”), English Hira, ancient city located south of al-Kūfah in south-central Iraq; it was prominent in pre-Islāmic Arab history. The town was originally a military encampment, but in the 5th and 6th centuries AD it was the capital of the Lakhmids (Lakhmid Dynasty), who were Arab vassals of Sāsānian Persia (Iran). As such it was a centre of diplomatic, political, and military activities involving Persia, the Byzantine Empire, and the Arabian Peninsula. It protected the Sāsānians from the attacks of Arabian nomads and served as an important station on the caravan route between Persia and the Arabian Peninsula.

      Al-Ḥīrah is most important, however, in the cultural history of the Arabs before the advent of Islām. The Lakhmids adorned the town with palaces and castles in its heyday during the 6th century. Tradition holds that the Arabic (Arabic alphabet) script was developed there, and al-Ḥīrah's role in the development of Arabic poetry and Arab Christianity was especially significant. Some of the best-known poets in pre-Islāmic Arabia (e.g., Ṭarafah (Ṭarafah ibn al-ʿAbd) and an-Nābighah adh-Dhubyānī (Nābighah al-Dhubyānī, al-)) gravitated toward the Lakhmid court. As the seat of a bishopric for Nestorian Christians, al-Ḥīrah exercised a strong influence over the religious life of the East, helping Christian monotheism to penetrate the Arabian Peninsula.

      Al-Ḥīrah began to decline early in the 7th century, after the Persians brought about the collapse of the Lakhmid dynasty, and in 633 the town capitulated to the Muslims.

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Universalium. 2010.

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