[In Our Time] Antarah ibn Shaddad

Antarah ibn Shaddad

28/02/2019 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=64511304
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p0725tbw.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, works, context and legacy of Antarah (525-608AD), the great poet and warrior. According to legend, he was born a slave; his mother was an Ethiopian slave, his father an elite Arab cavalryman. Antarah won his freedom in battle and loved a woman called Abla who refused him, and they were later celebrated in the saga of Antar and Abla. One of Antarah’s poems was so esteemed in pre-Islamic Arabia that it is believed it was hung up on the wall of the Kaaba in Mecca.


James Montgomery
Sir Thomas Adams’s Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge

Marlé Hammond
Senior Lecturer in Arabic Popular Literature and Culture at SOAS, University of London


Harry Munt
Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Start Date: 2019-04-27

Finish Date: 2019-04-28


  • Thoroughly enjoyable for hearing James Montgomery switch from a thick Scottish accent to speaking Arabic quite fluently (as far as I can tell). I wonder if he would be Hamish al-Muntugamari in Arabic.
  • I was wondering if Antarah is the origin for the star Antares, but no, apparently not
  • The background of tribal warfare repelled me a little. Made the Arabian life seem very nasty, brutish, and short. And reminded me of Deirdre McCloskey’s fulminations against honour cultures. The poems were essentially glorifying bandits.
  • On which note, the bard in The Last Hero.
  • A lot of technical terms about Arabic poetry which I couldn’t quite remember or connect to anything; though I encountered ‘taqalluf’; and learned that ‘akhbaar’ is record; not newspaper.
  • The post-end bit about ‘I have two halves, one is from a noble family, and the other one I defend with my sword’ was amazingly poignant.


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