Home Geography Arabic-Islamic views of the Latin West : tracing the emergence of medieval Europe
Diffusion of Translated Latin Sources in al-Andalus
Even if they are put down in writing, family memories usually do not reach very far back. Arabic-Islamic historiographers who wanted to delve deeper into Visi- gothic history needed access to Latin historiography produced under or shortly after Visigothic rule. This access was provided, at the latest from the ninth century onwards, thanks to a process of linguistic Arabization, reflected not only in the increasing number of Andalusian Christians capable of speaking and reading Arabic,84 but also in the Arabic translation of important Latin sources on Visigothic history and their subsequent disclosure on the part of Arabic-Islamic scholars.
Already mentioned several times, the most important work in this regard is the kitab Hurushiyush, the restructured, interpolated, and extended version of the His- toriae adversus paganos, the late antique universal history written by Orosius of Braga (d. c.417). This work consists of a reworked Arabic translation of the restructured Latin original studded with translated excerpts taken from other Latin works.85 Among these are the cosmography of Julius Honorius8fi and, even more important in this context, the Chronica Maiora, the Etymologiae, as well as the Historia Gothorum of Isidore of Seville (d. 636).8? The ‘erudite Isidore, bishop of Seville’ (Ishidhur al-alim, usquf Ishbiliya) is mentioned in the part of the translation’s fragmentary table of contents that summarizes the contents of the seventh book.  Isidore only recorded Visigothic history until the reign of Suinthila (ruled 621-31). Since the table of contents also claims to list Gothic kings up to the times of Roderic (d. 711),8® the author-translator(s) of the kitab Hurushiyush must have also drawn on Hispano-Latin sources produced after Isidore’s death. Unfortunately, the only extant manuscript ends with a description of the Goths’ situation in the wake of the Battle of Adrianople around 378, i.e. long before their settlement on the Iberian Peninsula.        Since the rest of the seventh book is lost, the identity of these post-Isidorian sources is disputed.®1
Dating the kitab Hurushiyush is equally difficult. Discussing contradictory references to the translation in the works of Ibn Juljul and Ibn Khaldun,®2 Giorgio Levi della Vida consigned the translation to the middle of the tenth century and the entourage of the future Umayyad caliph al-H akam II (ruled 355-66/961-76).®3 Only recently, Mayte Penelas interpreted the translation as an expression of ‘Mozarab’ self-assertion in the face of Islamization and Arabization. She proposed that it was translated at the end of the ninth century by Hafs b. Albar al-Qut!®4 who rendered Jerome’s Latin Psalter into Arabic either at the end of the ninth or at the end of the tenth century.®5 Penelas’ alternative hypothesis merits consideration but remains hypothetical, as she herself confirms.®6
Knowing when the kitab Hurushiyush was translated, is not without relevance to understanding its relationship to the most important Arabic-Islamic work on the peninsula’s pre-Islamic history written in tenth-century al-Andalus, the History of the Rulers ofal-Andalus (akhbar muluk al-Andalus) by Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Raz! (d. 344/955).®7 Unfortunately, this work can only be reconstructed approximately, either by drawing on citations in later works of Arabic-Islamic scholarship, or by discussing the proximity of later Portuguese and Castilian versions to the lost original.            The Portuguese version forms part of the Cronica Geral de Espanha de 1344," while the Castilian version is entitled Cronica del moro Rasis.1" Both texts, as well as other extant Romance versions, are based on a translation commissioned by the Portuguese king Don Dionfs in around 1300 and executed by a certain Gil Perez with the help of a certain Muhammad.101 Scholars have invested much effort into comparing later Arabic citations or later Romance versions of al-Razi’s history with various texts that he may have used. These include pre-Islamic Latin texts written by Orosius and Isidore of Seville, 102 even Eutropius and Jerome, 103 but also post-Islamic Latin texts such as the Continuatio hispana or Chronica muzara- bica from the eighth century,^ and, of course, the kitab Humshiyush.1" Because it seems to be a Latinized version of an earlier Arabic chronicle that features some parallels to the later Portuguese and Castilian versions of al-Razl’s chronicle, the late eleventh- or twelfth-century Historia Pseudo-Isidoriana also received much attention.106
Given this complex constellation of sources and the difficulty of producing sound evidence in a discussion intent on reconstructing the sources of a lost text, it seems impossible to arrive at conclusions. Concerning the relationship between the kitab Hurushiyush and the original al-Razi, for example, results are far from definite. According to Joaquin Vallve Bermejo, al-Razi had an excellent command of Romance and Latin and was himself involved in the translation of Latin sources, including the kitab HurushiyushDiego Catalan speculated that the author of the kitab Hurushiyush produced a Mozarab history of al-Andalus that served as a source to both the original al-Razi and the Historia Pseudo-Isidoriana.108 Luis Molina believed that al-Razi drew directly on the kitab Hurushiyush,1" while
Mayte Penelas claimed that al-Razi combined information taken from the kitab Hurushiyush with data from another source.     In view of this imbroglio of different opinions, it is difficult to reconstruct what al-Razi knew about Visigothic history in the tenth century.
However, in the discussion about the content of al-Razl’s history and its relation to earlier, contemporary, and later texts, certain points seem to be beyond doubt, namely that al-Razi had a fervent interest in the peninsula’s pre-Islamic history, and that he drew on non-Muslim sources. Al-Razis interest in the region’s history is confirmed by his son ‘Isa,m himself an eminent historiographer of the tenth century, who is quoted as a well-informed authority on the Iberian Peninsula’s Roman history by Ibn H ayyan.112 Later scholars who cite Ahm ad al-Razi, such as al-H^imyarl, also claim that he made use of non-Islamic sources from al-Andalus.n3 We can thus start from the assumption that al-Razi knew something about the peninsula’s pre-Islamic past. To understand what he knew about the Visigoths, one could either conjecture by drawing on the later Romance versions or turn to citations in later Arabic-Islamic scholarship.
The fourteenth-century Cronica del moro Rasis contains an almost complete list of Visigothic kings that reaches back to the late fourth century and ends in 710. The rulers’ names are so deformed that they cannot be clearly recognized as words of either Latin or Arabic origin. Each translation from Latin via Arabic and Portuguese to Castilian must have distorted the original names by adding further orthographical variants resulting from the use of two different alphabets and various pronunciations (see table in Appendix at the end of this chapter).n4 Since we cannot rule out that elements were added or deleted during transmission, we cannot be sure if the list of Visigothic kings included in the Cronica del moro Rasis really constitutes a reproduction of al-Razl’s Arabic original or, rather, if it has to be regarded as an interpolated and extended version of this or a similar list. We can only be sure that it reflects the knowledge available to the fourteenth-century Christian author-translator who claimed that he had taken it from al-Razl.
Evariste Levi-Provenqal, in turn, made the effort of reconstructing the original work’s geographical introduction by matching fragments of al-Razl’s history as transmitted in later Arabic-Islamic geographical writings with corresponding passages in the Portuguese version of a chapter that forms part of the Cronica Geralde
Espanha de 1344.ш The resulting French (sic!) reconstruction of al-Razl’s geographical introduction contains one passage of relevance. It states that the Visigothic king Leovigild (ruled 568-86) founded the city of Reccopolis in honour of his son Reccared (ruled 586-601).       The origins of this information can be traced back to the Visigothic chronicle written by John of Biclaro at the end of the sixth century,n7 a chronicle that did not experience a very wide diffusion.n8 Parts of this passage can also be found in four Arabic-Islamic works from the eleventh, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. Yaqut (d. 626/1229) mentions the city’s name (Raqawbal), but fails to name the rulers involved in its construction, and limits himself to claiming that the city is ‘of ancient build’ (qadimat al-bind)}lc> Al-Bakr! (d. 487/1094), Ibn al-Athir (d. 630/1233), and al-Himyarl (13th-l4th cent.), in turn, describe the foundation of the city as mentioned above.None of these later authors refers to al-Razi explicitly in connection with the city, but cites al-Razi in other contexts.121
Thus, there is a strong case for assuming that al-Razi had knowledge about certain aspects of Visigothic history that preceded the Muslim invasion. It even seems possible that he had a rather well-founded notion if not a firm command of Visigothic history. After all, al-Razi was not the only Arabic-Islamic scholar from tenth-century al-Andalus who had access to Latin-based material about the peninsulas pre-Islamic history.
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