Ja'far ibn Yahya

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Ja'far ibn Yahya Barmaki, Jafar al-Barmaki (Persian: جعفر بن یحیی برمکی‎, Arabic: جعفر بن يحيى‎, ja`far bin yaḥyā) (767–803) was the son of a Persian vizier (Yahya ibn Khalid) of the Arab Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid and from whom he inherited that position. He was a member of the influential Barmakid family, formerly Buddhist leaders of the Nava Vihara monastery. He was beheaded in 803 for allegedly having had an affair with Harun al-Rashid's sister Abbasa, although historical sources remain unclear about the real cause of Ja'far's death and the fall of the Barmakids.

He had a reputation as a patron of the sciences, and did much to introduce Greek science into Baghdad, attracting scholars from the nearby Academy of Gundishapur to help translate Persian works into Arabic (the so-called "Translation Movement"). He was also credited with convincing the caliph to open a paper mill in Baghdad, the secret of papermaking having been obtained from Chinese prisoners at the Battle of Talas (in present day Kyrgyzstan) in 751.

In fiction[edit]

Ja'far also appears (under the name of Giafar in most translations) along with Harun al-Rashid in several Arabian Nights tales, often acting as a protagonist. In "The Three Apples" for example, Ja'far is like a detective who must solve a murder mystery and find the culprit behind the murder, whereas in "The Tale of Attaf", Ja'far is more of an adventurer. In Glenn Pierce's novel The Tyrant of Bagdad, Ja'far's story is told through a fictional account of Charlemagne's ambassador's travel to meet with Harun al-Rashid.

However, more recent media inspired by the Arabian Nights has portrayed Ja'far as both a villain and a sorcerer:

  • In the 1940 version of The Thief of Bagdad, Conrad Veidt plays the grand vizier Jaffar, a black magician who overthrows the king and tries to seduce the princess.
  • In the movie The Golden Blade (1952) Harun Al-Rashid (Rock Hudson) battles Jafar (George Macready), vizier to the caliph of Baghdad who tries to usurp the throne.
  • In 1989 the video game Prince of Persia featured a scheming magician named Jaffar who seized power from the Sultan and tried to force the Princess to marry him. (Jaffar returned in the 1993 sequel.)
  • In 1992 the Disney film Aladdin featured an evil vizier and sorcerer called Jafar, who is a combination of an (unnamed) vizier and an evil magician from the original Aladdin tale.
  • In the later Prince of Persia games, an unnamed 'Vizier' is the main villain and is based on the Jaffar character from the original game.
  • In the French cartoon series Iznogoud by René Goscinny and Jean Tabary, he is portrayed as an incompetent usurper who never gets to usurp the throne of good Caliph Haroun al Poussah.
  • In the Japanese manga of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Ja'far is a young general working under Sinbad, the king of Sindria.

See also[edit]

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