Home Geography Arabic-Islamic views of the Latin West : tracing the emergence of medieval Europe
SUCCESSORS OF ROME: THE LATIN-BASED NARRATIVE (9TH-11TH CENTURIES)
Hand in hand with important processes of acculturation and assimilation in the Iberian Peninsula of the eighth and ninth centuries, Muslim al-Andalus acquired new information on the peninsula’s pre-Islamic past and developed its proper historiography, Ibn H abib being only one of its earliest representatives/1
Challenges to the Early Standard Narrative
In the first half of the tenth century, the early standard narrative of Visigothic history was challenged and then significantly enlarged. Arabic-Islamic scholars in the Middle East did not change considerably their perspective on the Visigoths yet. However, some of them began to understand that new data on the Visigoths had been and was being acquired in al-Andalus.
Al-Mas'udl’s (d. 345/956) ethnographic work Meadows of Gold (muruj al-dhahab), accomplished in 336/947 in the Egyptian town of al-Fusm,     is not significantly better informed than older works, but nevertheless questions established theories on the Visigoths’ origins. Al-Mas'udl did not employ the Arabic transcription of the ethnonym ‘Goths’ (i.e. al-Qut, al-Qutiyyun) already used by Ibn Habib and al-Ya'qubl/3 But he does not seem to have been satisfied with calling the peninsula’s pre-Islamic population ‘the people of al-Andalus’ (ahl al-Andalus) as Ibn 'Abd al-H akam had done in his history of the expansion to the west. In al-Mas'udl’s muruj al-dhahab, the term ‘people of al-Andalus’ applies to all inhabitants of the peninsula, the pre-Islamic as well as the current mixed population of Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. In a work written several generations after the Muslim invasion that did not restrict itself to the history of the expansion, this term failed to mark the distinction between the peninsula’s indigenous population of preIslamic times and the Muslim invaders. Consequently, it had ceased to serve as the substitute for an unknown ethnonym for the pre-Islamic population of al-Andalus. In need of a new term, al-Mas'udl created an ethnonym by constructing the plural to the Arabic transcription of ‘Roderic’ (Ludhriq), thus inventing the ethnonym ‘Rodericians’ (al-Ladhariqa), a term he also applied to earlier Visigothic rulers/4 Al-Mas'udl lacked detailed knowledge about these earlier kings and only mentions one predecessor to Roderic. In view of the phonetic parallels, Awrlq’ or ‘Uriq’ can probably be identified as Euric (ruled 466-84). However, al-Mas'udl’s Euric is neither defined as a ruler of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse nor credited with the commission of the earliest Visigothic law code (CodexEuricianus) and the stabilization of Visigothic rule within a territory formerly ruled by the Roman emperor/5 Euric features in al-Mas'udl’s work because he was allegedly one of the first rulers to employ falcons for hunting/6
More important than al-Mas'udl’s lack of knowledge is his statement that the Muslims of al-Andalus held a different opinion of the origin of the Visigoths than had been customary so far. Instead of leading their origins back to the Persian city of Isfahan as others had done,      the Andalusian Muslims claimed that the last Visi- gothic king Roderic had, in fact, been of Galician origin (min al-Jalaliqa), thus hailing from a Christian people related to the Franks/8 This indicates that, by the middle of the tenth century, new information acquired by the Muslims of al-Andalus on their region’s pre-Islamic history was beginning to seep out of the Iberian Peninsula into the rest of the Arabic-Islamic world. Writing in Egypt, al-Mas'udl seems to have taken these new opinions seriously. But although his account is by all means original, he still lacked sufficient data to be able to provide an informed account of Visigothic history. Notwithstanding, the times of Ibn H abib, in which an Andalusian scholar looked exclusively to the Middle East for information on his own region of origin, were over. Information of local origin had finally become part of the region’s proper Arabic-Islamic view of history.
Andalusian texts of the tenth and eleventh centuries confirm that new data on the Visigoths had become available. One source of information seems to have been the fading memory of families who had collaborated with the Muslim invaders and achieved full-scale integration into Arabic-Islamic society by intermarriage. Among this group, we find Ibn al-Qutiyya (d. 367/977), a qadi, jurisconsult, lexicographer, grammarian, transmitter of Islamic tradition, and historiographer in Cordoba. In a series of acuate anecdotes, the History of the Conquest of al-Andalus (tarikh iftitah al-Andalus) ascribed to him discusses the conditions necessary to maintain the stability and power equilibrium of Umayyad rule/9
It begins with an account of the last years of Visigothic rule. After the death of king Vitiza (Ghaytasha, ruled c.700-10), the queen served as regent during the minority of their three sons Almund, Waqala, and Artabash. The military commander Roderic (Ludhriq) then ousted Vitizas family from power. When faced with the impending Muslim invasion, Roderic asked Vitizas sons for help. Full of distrust, they defected to the Muslims and received a guarantee for their possessions, including the royal domains, in turn.8° After some tensions with the first Umayyad ruler of al-Andalus, Abd al-Rahman I, the youngest son Artabash rose to the post of qumis (comes), thus representing the Christian community vis-a-vis a Muslim administration around half a century old/1 Ibn al-Qutiyya regarded Artabash as one of his indirect ancestors, claiming that the latter’s niece, i.e. Almund’s daughter and Vitizas granddaughter Sara, married a Umayyad client (mawla) from Syria named 'Isa b. Muzahim at the suggestion of the caliph Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik (ruled 105-25/724-43). Three generations later, her great-grandson 'Umar produced Ibn al-Qutiyya, a descendant of the royal house of Vitiza and direct client to the Umayyad caliphs of Damascus/2
Analysis opens up wide margins of interpretation. Some regard the genealogy as a fabricated political argument, others as the authentic expression of a family’s memory.     Yet the genealogy reaches further back into the Iberian Peninsula’s pre-Islamic history than any extant variant of the early standard narrative. To explain the involvement not only of the royal, but also of any Visigothic family in the downfall of the Visigothic kingdom, it was necessary to provide details about the political framework preceding Roderic’s usurpation. Fabricated or not, Ibn al-Qutiyya’s genealogy shows that a family’s role in the invasion could be of relevance to an Andalusian Muslim of the tenth century. It also stands for the very plausible possibility that families, whose ancestors had witnessed the last years of Visigothic rule, had preserved a vague memory of events preceding the invasion. With the successive integration of these families into the Muslim society of al-Andalus this memory was submitted to the double process of becoming part of this society’s past and culture, while slowly fading away if not conserved in writing.
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