three pairs of lovers with space



The Thousand Nights and One Night (Arabic: كِتَابُ أَلْفُ لَيْلَةٍ وَلَيْلَة) is an enormous collection of stories in Arabic derived mostly from Near Eastern and Egyptian folklore and literature.  The alleged setting of the stories, based on the characters known to be historical, ranges from the 7th to the 13th centuries. While some are historical and others not, most are of mediaeval origin, and all of them are at least told in the authentic voice of pre-modern Islam.  With an emphasis on the romantic and erotic, those concerning Greek love offer rich and eminently readable insight into its place in Near Eastern society between Antiquity and the beginning of modern European influence.

1986 edition of the Mardrus & Mathers translation

The most authentic, scholarly and complete translations into English are considered to be those by Sir Richard Burton[1] and by Malcolm and Ursula Lyons[2], but these are deeply unsatisfactory for different reasons.  Burton’s is in excessively archaic language, while the Lyons’s is excessively modern and literal, its clinical language at odds with the fine traditions of story-telling that the stories represent.[3] The translation adopted here, for its elegance and readability, is that made by Powys Mathers (The Thousand Nights and One Night, 4 volumes, London, revised edition of 1941) from the French translation by J. C. Mardrus.[4] To remedy the unscholarly distortion and even embellishment of which it stands accused, it has been compared for each story with Burton's rendition: serious discrepancies are noted and cross-references given so that scholars may easily resort to the many online versions of his work for greater accuracy.

To understand the setting for all the stories, the framing one with which they begin is that the Persian King Shahryār, grown from bad experience too distrustful of women to marry, “ordered his wazīr to bring him every night a young and virgin girl, whom he ravished and, when the night had passed, caused to be slain.”  After three years, the wazīr’s daughter Shahrazād, offered herself for the royal bed with the plan, successfully implemented, of telling the king a story without its ending, which the King would be so curious to hear that he would have to postpone her execution.  This she succeeded in doing and repeating a thousand times until he finally relented.

A manga spin-off with a Greek love twist: testament to the enduring place of The Thousand Nights and One Night in world-wide culture

It is hoped eventually to present here all the Greek love content of The Thousand Nights and One Night.  For the time being, here are the most relevant stories:

The Tale of the Third Kalandar

The Tales of Prince Tāj al-Mulūk and his Friend Azīz

The Tale of Alā al-Dīn Abū Shāmāt

The Poet Abū Nuwās, His Boys, and the Caliph

The Youth and his Master

Girls or Boys?

Salāh al-Dīn and his Wazīr

The Tale of Kamar and the Expert Halīmah


[1] The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainments, 10 volumes, 1885.

[2] The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights, 3 volumes, 2008.

[3] As well brought out in a review by Elspeth Barker in the Independent, 15 February 2009.

[4] Les mille et Une Nuits, 16 volumes, 1899-1903.