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For the English rugby union team, see Saracens F.C.

In older Western historical literature, the Saracens were the people of the Saracen Empire, another name for the Arab Caliphate under the rule of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. The Saracens are credited with many mathematical advances and inventions used in the modern world, including table and bed linens, sherbet and ice cream, and cultivated peaches and strawberries.<ref>Weaver, Henry Grady. The Mainspring of Human Progress.</ref>

The term Saracen comes from Greek sarakenoi, which is itself derived from the Arabic word شرقيين sharqiyyin ("easterners"). In the early centuries of the Roman Empire, the Saracens were a nomadic Arab tribe from the Sinai Peninsula, but later the Greek-speaking subjects of the Empire applied it to all Arabs. After the rise of Islam, and especially at the time of the Crusades, its usage was extended to what today are called Muslims, particularly those in Sicily and southern Italy.<ref> (1974) Where's Where: A Descriptive Gazetteer. London: Eyre Methuen Ltd.. ISBN 0413322904.</ref>

In Christian writing, the name was made to mean "those empty of Sarah" or "not from Sarah," as Arabs were, in Biblical genealogies, descended from Hagar and also called the Hagarenes. According to the Arthurian Lancelot-Grail Cycle, the name derives from Sarras, an island important in the Quest for the Holy Grail.

John of Damascus, himself a resident of the Caliphate's capital city, described the Saracens in the early 8th century :

There is also the people-deceiving cult (threskeia) of the Ishmaelites, the forerunner of the Antichrist, which prevails until now. It derives from Ishmael, who was born to Abraham from Hagar, wherefore they are called Hagarenes and Ishmaelites. And they call them Saracens, inasmuch as they were [sent away] empty-handed by Sarah (ek tes Sarras kenous); for it was said to the angel by Hagar: "Sarah has sent me away empty-handed" (cf. Genesis xxi. 10, 14).
These, then, were idolaters and worshippers of the morning star and Aphrodite whom in fact they called Akbar (Chabar) in their own language, which means "great". So until the times of Heraclius they were plain idolaters. From that time till now a true prophet appeared among them, surnamed Muhammad (Mamed), who, having happened upon the Old and the New Testament and apparently having conversed, in like manner, with an Arian monk, put together his own heresy. And after ingratiating himself with the people by a pretence of piety, he spread rumours of a scripture (graphe) brought down to him from heaven. So, having drafted some ludicrous doctrines in his book, he handed over to them this form of worship (to sebas).

In this extract, John might actually have been referring to Allat, a pre-Islamic goddess equated with Aphrodite.

In modern times, "Saracen" has also commonly been applied to Mediterranean pirates.

[edit] References

<references />be:Сарацыны ca:Sarraí da:Saracener de:Sarazenen el:Σαρακηνοί es:Sarraceno fr:Sarrasin (peuple) it:Saraceni nl:Saracenen ja:サラセン人 pl:Saraceni pt:Sarraceno ru:Сарацины sr:Сарацени fi:Saraseeni sv:Saracener


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