A Treatise on Buying Slaves
A Treatise on Buying Slaves, A Consumer’s Guide was written by Ibn Butlan, a medical
practitioner, who was a Christian in a Muslim-dominated Baghdad. In this text, Butlan described women, presumably slaves, from Turkey, Northern Iran, Northern Caucasus, Greece, and Armenia. The author went on to describe what’s beautiful in every race, as well as what he found disagreeable among them. Of all the races he described, the Greeks came out best, while Armenians came out the worst.
Being a doctor, it is understandable that Butlan would focus on hygiene and the physical attributes of the ladies he mentioned. But his descriptions sounded like he was talking about furniture or animals about to be sold to the highest bidder.
Although the author summarized the characteristics of each race, it is wrong to automatically assume that a Turkish woman would either be extremely beautiful or grotesquely ugly. It is also not right for every Armenian woman to be branded the worst among the white slaves. His description of each race probably stemmed from his personal experience with them, whether as patients or as his workers.
From the generalizations made by the author, it could be assumed that even slaves must be chosen based on certain characteristics. Butlan is obviously a lover of beauty for that’s the first thing he notices in a slave. Beauty for him should include having perfect physical features
— including well-formed feed, good hygiene. The non-physical things he wanted for a slave included loyalty, trustworthiness, and knowing her work. It also evident from the text that slaves during Butlan’s time was chosen not merely for service but as source of carnal pleasure. It is also clear that during this era, women were not treated as they are treated now. Women during that time were just there to serve men, to please men, and to bear their children.