BARMECIDES, or descendants of Barmak, were a noble Persian family, who attained great power under the Abbaside caliphs. Barmak, the first of them, was a Ghebre, or Persian fire-worshipper, and is supposed to have been a native of the district of Khorassan. He was introduced to the caliph Abd-ul-Malik, and acquired great power under him. His family prospered, and his grandson, Yahya, was vizier to the caliph El-Mandy, and tutor of the famous prince Haroun-al-Raschid, celebrated in the Thousand and One "%Tights. Yahya's sons occupied high offices, one of them, Ja'afar (the Giafar of the Arabian. _Nights), being vizier and constant companion of Haroun. The caliph, however, conceived suspicions against the Barmecides, and in 802 beheaded Ja'afar with great cruelty, condemned the whole family to prison, and confiscated their property. Oriental historians give a romantic and not improbable reason for the caliph's conduct towards his vizier. Ja'afar had been married to Haroun's favourite sister, Abbasah, on condition that he should never see his wife save in presence of the caliph. He neglected this injunction, and Abbasah bore a son, who was brought up secretly. The caliph became aware of this, and in his wrath punished Ja'afar and all his family. The use of the expression Barmecides' Feast, to denote an imaginary banquet, is drawn from one of the tales in the Arabian Nights, where an entertainment of merely imaginary viands is served up to a hungry man by one of the Barmecides.