Ja'far ibn Yahya  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Ja'far bin Yahya Barmaki (767-803) was the son of a Persian Vizier (Yahya ibn Khalid) of the Arab Abbasid Caliph, Harun al-Rashid, from whom he inherited that position. He was a member of the influential Barmakids family. He was beheaded in 803 for allegedly having an affair with Harun al-Rashid's sister Abbasa.

He had a reputation as a patron of the sciences, and did much to introduce Greek science into Baghdad, attracting scholars from the nearby Academy of Gundishapur to help translate Greek works into Arabic (the so-called "Translation Movement". He was also credited with convincing the caliph to open a paper mill in Baghdad, the secret of papermaking had been obtained from Chinese prisoners at the Battle of Talas, in present day Kazakhstan in 751.

Ja'far also appears (under the name of Giafar in most translations) along with Harun al-Rashid in several Arabian Nights tales. The Disney adaptation of Aladdin features an evil vizier and sorcerer called Jafar, who is a combination of the (unnamed) vizier and the evil magician from the original Aladdin tale. The name "Jaffar" was also used three years before in the video game Prince of Persia. Like the Aladdin version, he too is a scheming villain and magician who seizes power from the Sultan and tries to force the Princess to marry him. In the later games, an unnamed 'Vizier' is the main villain and is clearly based on the original Jaffar stereotype.

In contrast to his antagonistic portrayal in Prince of Persia and Disney's Aladdin, Ja'far is often portrayed as more of a protagonist in several of the Arabian Nights tales. In "The Three Apples" for example, Ja'far is like a detective who must solve a murder mystery and find the culprit behind the murder, and in "The Tale of Attaf", Ja'far is more of an adventurer.

In the movie The Golden Blade (1952) Harun Al-Rashid (Rock Hudson) battles Jafar (George Macready), vizier to the caliph of Bagdad who tries to usurp the throne.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ja'far ibn Yahya" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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