Solomon, his demons and jongleurs: the meeting of islamic, judaic and christian culture

Sarit Shalev-Eyni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

The legend of Solomon's special ability to control demons originated in Jewish-Hellenistic circles and became widespread in later Judaic, Islamic and Christian culture. In the Qur’ān, as well as in the earlier Babylonian Talmud and other rabbinic sources, the legend was adopted with a clear tendency to avoid the pragmatic demonic aspects of the story. In a similar vein, Qur’ānic commentators presented the relations between Solomon and the demons as an expression of the supernatural rule of the king over the cosmos and ignored his shameful end. The inclusion of the legend in the most sacred canonical text of Islam, and its connotation of eternity may explain the frequent representation in Muslim art. On the other hand, the avoidance by the Christian establishment authorities and the relegation to profane literature mocking the king may account for its absence in western official art. A combination between the high and low aspects of Solomon is seen in an illuminated medieval Hebrew Mahzor from South Germany. The divine aspect of Solomon as he appears in the Mahzor is paralleled in the Muslim examples. These similarities are the result of close textual traditions deriving from the same sources. Yet a possible pictorial testimony linking East and West may be discerned in the Ottoman illuminated Book of Suleiman, possibly based on a western tradition.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)145-160
Number of pages16
JournalAl-Masaq: Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2006

Keywords

  • Demons
  • Qur’ān–Solomon
  • Solomon, biblical king

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