FĀRES (plurs. forsān, fawāres), the Arabic term for “rider on a horse, cavalryman,” connected with the verb farasa/farosa “to be knowledgeable about horses, be a skillful horseman” and the noun faras “horse.” Since in ancient Arabian society the owner of a horse was a comparatively rich man, often a tribal chief, sayyed, and since in the early Islamic dīvān (q.v.) system the cavalryman was entitled to a stipend double that of the infantryman, the forsān were a privileged class, and acquired some of the fighting qualities and chivalric attributes of the medieval European knight. Hence by later ʿAbbasid, Ayyubid and Mamluk time, the term forūsīya had evolved for the ensemble of moral qualities and riding and weaponry skills necessary for the cavalryman.
The fāres thus came in many ways to be the equivalent of the Persian mailed cavalryman, the Old Pers. asabāra- and the Middle Persian and early New Persian aswār (q.v.), later yielding sowār, sovār, the standard term for a cavalryman in, e.g., the Mughal army in Muslim India.
See also asb, ASĀWERA.
Bichr Farès, L’honneur chez les Arabes, Paris, 1932, pp. 22ff.
“Fāris,” EI2 II, p. 800.
H. Lammens, Le berceau de l’Islam I: Le climat-les Bédouins, Rome, 1914, pp. 136-40.
E. W. Lane, An Arabic English Lexicon, London, 1863-93, pt. 6, pp. 2366-68.
(C. Edmund Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 1999
Last Updated: December 15, 1999