Home Geography Arabic-Islamic views of the Latin West : tracing the emergence of medieval Europe
CONFLICTING TRADITIONS: LATE COMPILATIONS (13TH-15TH CENTURIES)
Earlier and Later Diffusion of the Latin-based Narrative
Writing in 336/947 in the Egyptian town of al-Fustat, al-Mas'udl (d. 345/956) pointed to the availability of new information about the Visigoths in al-Andalus and questioned the theory of the Visigoths’ alleged Persian origins.^ This reference to Andalusian sources was taken up again several centuries later in the city of Mosul by Ibn al-Athir (d. 630/1233). When he wrote the chapter on the conquest of al-Andalus that forms part of his universal history, he criticized the historiographer al-Tabari (d. 310/923) for having failed to make use of sources from al-Andalus in his description of the Muslim invasion:
This is everything that Abu Ja'far [al-Tabari] writes on the conquest of al-Andalus. But concerning such an important region and such a divine beneficence (fath mubin), one should not abridge to such a degree. Thus, God willing, I will present its conquest in a way that is more comprehensive than he has done by recurring to the documentation provided by its people (tasanif ahliha), since they are much better informed about their countryT6
It is deplorable that Ibn al-Athir refrains from mentioning the texts he used. His chapter on the Muslim invasion of al-Andalus probably contains the most complete account of Visigothic history found in an Arabic-Islamic source of the pre-modern age and constitutes the chief witness for the diffusion of the Latin-based narrative of Visigothic history to the Islamic Middle East. Although his account is cursory and contains some errors, Ibn al-Athir provides information on all important phases of Visigothic historyV7
Ibn al-Athir intends to explain how Roman rule was superseded by Gothic rule on the Iberian Peninsula. He begins with Gothic-Roman relations up to the fourth century, that is, Gothic raids against the northeastern frontiers of the empire, their defeat at the hands of the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Qalyudhyus qaysar), as well as a new Roman-Gothic confrontation in the times of Constantine (Qustantin al-akbar).i5& The following passage merges the persecution of Gothic Christians under Athanaricus, strife between Athanaricus and Fritigern, Roman support of the latter in connection with his adoption of Christianity, and the attack of the pagan Radagaisus on Italy into a rather distorted and confused accountV9 The text then deals with the rise of Alaric; the latter’s sack of Rome (410); his death on the way to Sicily, as well as with the Visigoths’ migration from Italy to Gaul and
!55 al-Mas'udl, muruj, ed./trans. Pellat, § 398, p. 191 (AR), pp. 145-6 (FR).
!56 Ibn al-Athir, al-kamil, ed. Tornberg, vol. 4, AH 92, pp. 439-40 (Leiden), p. 556 (Beirut): ‘hadha jami'uhu dhakarahu Abu Ja'far fi fath al-Andalus wa-bi-mithli dhalika al-iqlim al-'azim wa-l-fath al-mubin la yuqtasar fihi 'ala hadha al-qadr wa-ana adhkur fathaha 'ala wajhin atamm min hadha in sha Allah min tasanif ahliha idh hum a'lam bi-biladihim.’ Cf. Garcia Sanjuan, Conquista (2013), p. 194.
!57 Ibn al-Athir, al-kamil, ed. Tornberg, vol. 4, AH 92, pp. 441^ (Leiden), pp. 558-61 (Beirut); Ibn al-Athir, Annales, trans. Fagnan, pp. 8-11.
!58 Ibn al-Athir, al-kamil, ed. Tornberg, vol. 4, AH 92, p. 441 (Leiden), p. 558 (Beirut).
!59 Ibid., vol. 4, AH 92, pp. 441-2 (Leiden), pp. 558-9 (Beirut); cf. Konig, ‘Christianisation’ (2009), pp. 455-6.
their occupation of parts of the Iberian Peninsula, including the city of Barcelona, under Athaulf. This exposition largely concurs with the facts established by scholarship, with the exception that Athaulf was not succeeded by his brother but by the short-lived Sigericus (415).  
The ensuing enumeration of Visigothic kings from Vallia (ruled 415-18) to Leovigild (ruled 572-86) only omits the joint rule of the Ostrogothic king Theoderic with Amalaric (ruled 511-26), but is practically devoid of further information. Ibn al-Athir focuses on the respective number of ruling years as well as on family relations, i.e. the father-son relationship between Theodoric I and Thrasamund, or the fraternal relationship between Thrasamund and Theodoric II, as well as between Liuva I and Leovigild. Apart from this, he only mentions that Alaric II resided in Toulouse (Tulusha).16i
A long passage is dedicated to the dynasty of Leovigild. The first king to take residence in Toledo, Leovigild waged war until he controlled the entire peninsula, founded, and named the city Reccopolis after his son, subdued the Basques (al-Bashqans) and married his son Hermenegild to the daughter of a Frankish king (malik al-Faranj). Residing in Seville, this son rebelled against his father, but was defeated, remaining in prison until he died. Leading a moral, chaste, and pious life, Leovigild’s son and successor Reccared changed the ways of his father, i.e. by convoking the eighty bishops of his realm and by building a famous church. His son Liuva II followed his father’s example but was soon killed by the licentious and criminal tyrant Witericus, who, ruling without the people’s consent, was duly murdered by one of the men in his entourage.^
Reverting to the enumerative style employed before, Ibn al-Athir lists the kings from Gundemar (ruled 610-12) to Wamba (ruled 672-80), merely omitting Tulga and Reccesvinth. Only Sisebut and Suinthila are credited with a comment. The former is described as a man of good moral conduct whose son ascended the throne as a child and died shortly thereafter. The latter, a man worthy of praise, ascended to the throne when Muhammad began his preaching (al-ba'th). 
Focusing on the signs of crisis that preceded the Muslim invasion, Ibn al-Athir treats the last Visigothic kings in more detail. Ervigius is associated with a very harsh famine, Egica characterized as a wicked person, and Vitiza defined as a king of good moral conduct who either released his father’s victims from prison or provided for their widows. Because his sons failed to please the people of al-Andalus, the latter acclaimed a certain Roderic. For the moment, Ibn al-Athir omits all legendary material and explains the kingdom’s downfall with reference to Julian’s revenge on a king who had ravished his daughter.!64 Several pages later, however, he concludes his chapter on the conquest with the explanation that Roderic’s opening of the sealed house provoked the ensuing invasion.165
Ibn al-Athir provides an almost complete overview of Visigothic history. Beginning at the northeastern frontier of the late antique Roman Empire, he mentions their entry into the empire and the associated adoption of Christianity (376). He addresses their migration to Italy culminating in the sack of Rome (410), their settlement in Gaul and the foundation of the kingdom of Toulouse, their ensuing settlement on the Iberian Peninsula and their conversion to catholicism under Reccared (587-89). Finally, he also deals with the last years of the kingdom and its downfall in the wake of the Muslim invasion (711). Since the one or the other Latin text of the sixth to eighth centuries also contains this information, there can be no doubt that Ibn al-Athir used Andalusian texts that had profited considerably from Latin-based source material. According to Claudio Sanchez-Albornoz, Ibn al-Athir used the tenth-century Arabic version of Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Razi’s history of the pre-Islamic Iberian Peninsula.^6 Considering the above-mentioned difficulties of reconstructing this lost text and its interrelations with various Latin and Arabic sources, it seems tedious to speculate on the exact origins of Ibn al-Athir’s data. He himself only tells us that he used sources of Andalusian origin (tasanifahliha) because of their better quality.167
Ibn al-Athir’s account of Visigothic history served as a model to al-Nuwayri (d. 733/1333). The latter composed a manual for the education of secretaries in Mamluk Egypt that also includes an abbreviated universal history. His account of the conquest of al-Andalus forms part of a chapter on the early governors of Ifriqiya. Al-Nuwayrl mentions Ibn al-Athir as his primary source of information, but only reproduces excerpts of the original text. After copying Ibn al-Athir’s text on Roman-Gothic relations in the fourth century up to the reign of Alaric I (d. 410), he states briefly:
Then several kings ruled them, whom Ibn al-Athlr mentions, there being idol-worshippers and Christians among them, until the reign ofVitiza who ruled in AH 77.16®
He then reproduces Ibn al-Athir’s passages on Vitiza, Roderic, and the invasion, ending with the legend of the sealed houseTh0
Ibn al-Athlr was not the only scholar who contributed to the diffusion of the Latin-based narrative in the Middle East. Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406), who was born in the Maghreb but ended his life in Egypt, also participated in transmission. Ibn Khaldun’s version of Visigothic history differs considerably from that produced by Ibn al-Athlr. He not only transcribes the names of Visigothic rulers differently, but also makes use of different information and puts emphasis on other topics.      
In the muqaddima, which he seems to have written earlier without a library at hand,         Ibn Khaldun only mentions relations between Visigothic rulers and North Africa, claiming that Visigothic rulers had ruled the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years. 172 He corrects this information in the fourth volume of the kitab al- 4bar where he claims that the Visigoths ruled during the two centuries that preceded the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. 173 Based on the kitab Hurushiyush, the passages on the Visigoths in the later volumes of the kitab a—ibar contain information of higher quality.
In a chapter on genealogy, Ibn Khaldun claims that Orosius (Ahurushiyush, Hurushiyush) traced the Goths’ (al-Qut) origins back to Gog and Magog.m His account of ancient Roman history cites Orosius in connection with the Gothic incursions into the eastern parts of the empire that were repelled by Gallienus, Claudius, and Aurelianus. Ibn Khaldun claims that these Goths were known as ‘al-Sansabin’ (Scythians?) and lived around the same region as the Syriacs (al-Suryaniyyin)}7^ Orosius is also named as the source for other events of Gothic history, i.e. another Gothic incursion into the empire in the times of Constantine, 17fi for Valentinian’s Gothic campaigns, 177 for their division into two confessional groups following the precepts formulated by Arius and the council of Nicaea respectively,^8 as well as for Valens’ death in battle against the Goths. 179 The description of the Visigothic sack of Rome in the reign of Honorius, during which the looters allegedly respected church property, obviously draws on Orosius. 18° The latter is cited on the same topic a few paragraphs later, in a passage that additionally mentions the death of Alaric I and the ensuing negotiations between Romans and Goths. Following these negotiations, the Goths were endowed with al-Andalus and began their settlement of the Iberian Peninsula.181
Entirely dedicated to Gothic history, the ensuing chapter ends with an explicit reference to Orosius^ and begins with a summary of the above-mentioned data. Turning to al-Andalus, Ibn Khaldun identifies the Iberians (al-Arbariyyun) as the autochthonous population subdued by the people of Rome (ahlRuma). The invasion of three peoples, who probably represent the Alans (al-Abyun), the Suevi (al-Shawaniyyun), and the Vandals (al-Qandalush), led to the end of Roman rule and the political fragmentation of the peninsula. Seeing that they were losing control, the Romans agreed to cede parts of the peninsula to the Goths.183
In the following passage on Visigothic rulers, it is often difficult to decipher the Arabic transcriptions of Visigothic names. Ibn Khaldun (or his source) often confounds, merges, or switches rulers. He fails to give names for the early period outside the Roman Empire. The name of the earliest mentioned Gothic ruler, i.e. Antarik’, could apply either to Athanaric or to Alaric. He does not credit Athaulf with having initiated a phase of Roman-Visigothic cooperation. ‘Tusharik’ (Sigeri- cus?) is said to have been killed by the Romans, not by a Visigothic faction. Ibn Khaldun correctly relates that ‘Masita’ (Vallia?) found a compromise with the Romans, but claims erroneously that he married his sister to the Roman ruler Theodosius (Tudushish), a misinterpretation of Athaulf’s marriage to Theodosius’ daughter Galla Placidia. A certain ‘Luzriq’ (Theodoricus I?) allegedly campaigned against the other invaders of al-Andalus and—this rather recalls the Vandal invasion of North Africa under Geisericus—even subdued the Berbers around Tangier who thus shook off the shackles of Constantine’s rule (Qustantin) and became obedient to the Visigoths up to the time of Justinian (Yushtyanush). Ibn Khaldun ignores the rule of Thurismundus, and falsely calls ‘Turdlq’ (Theodoricus II?) ‘ruler of the Goths in al-Andalus’ (malik al-Qut bi-l-Andalus). An unnamed ruler is credited with having put down the rebellion of an allegedly Gothic group (ihda tawaif al-Qut) called ‘al-Basktis’, possibly a garbled transcription of the Latin term ‘Bagaudae’ that referred to peasant insurgents in fifth-century southern Gaul and northern Spain. 
A detailed but confused description of the situation preceding the downfall of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse follows. According to Ibn Khaldun, the Franks developed pretensions to rule al-Andalus (sic!) during the long reign of Alaric II (Aldik) and united against the Visigoths. Clearly evoking the Battle of Vouille (507), he claims that Alaric suffered a serious defeat and lost his life. In the only reference to the Ostrogoths and the Ostrogothic interregnum over the Visigoths in medieval Arabic-Islamic historiography, Ibn Khaldun explains that the Goths had divided into two groups during the reign of Valentinian. One group settled near Rome under a leader called Theoderic (Turadik). When this group heard about Alarics defeat, they attacked and defeated the Franks and assumed rule over the territories of al-Andalus. The Goths of Spain (al-Qut alladhina kanu bi-l-Andalus) submitted to Theoderic.
Largely correct until this point, the ensuing account shows that Ibn Khaldun did not fully understand the complex political constellation that resulted from Alaric II’s defeat in the Battle of Vouille. He claims that Theoderic appointed his son Amalaric (Ashtarik) to rule over the Visigoths of Spain. After five years of rule, Amalaric was attacked and defeated by the Franks near Toulouse, only to be succeeded by Gesaleicus (Bashliqush). Apparently repeating himself, Ibn Khaldun then claims that Gesaleicus’ reign was followed by the reigns of Theoderic (Tudariq), Amalaric (Abarliq), and eventually Theudis (Thdis).^5 Theoderic did in fact assume responsibility for the Visigoths after the downfall of Alaric’s illegitimate son
Gesaleicus (ruled 511-26). However, Amalaric, the legitimate progeny of Alaric II and Theoderic’s daughter Theodegotho, was Theoderic’s grandson and had not ruled before his half-brother Gesaleicus. Supervised by Theudis when underage, Amalaric assumed full rule over the Visigoths after Gesaleicus’ death (526) but was murdered and succeeded by his guardian Theudis five years later.     
Dealing rather briefly with the period from Theudisculus (ruled 548-49) up to Liuva I (567-72), Ibn Khaldun only errs occasionally with regard to the individual rulers’ length of rule. The order of rulers is correct, however, as is the reference to a rebellion of Cordoba during the reign of Agila (ruled 549-51).18? Dedicating more space to the reign of Leovigild (ruled 572-86) and his son Reccared (ruled 586-601), he fails to mention the rebellion of Hermenegild (580), but correctly points to Leovigild’s successful pacification of the peninsula as well as to the failure of his religious policy. Refusing to accept Arius’ interpretation of the trinity (tathlith Aryush) as propagated by Leovigild, the Christians of his realm tried to win him for ‘their creed of divine unity’ (tawhidihim). Leovigild’s refusal allegedly led to fighting and his death. His son Reccared then returned to ‘the creed of divine unity of the Christians as they claim it to be’ (tawhidal-nasara bi-zamihim)!* The very brief description of the period ranging from Liuva II (ruled 601-03) to Chintila (ruled 636-39) contains a few chronological errors and omits the usurpation of Witericus. Sisebut (ruled 612-21) is mentioned as the contemporary of Heraclius and the hijral9 The ruling periods of Tulga (ruled 639-42), Chindasvinthus (ruled 642-53), and Reccesvinthus (ruled 653-72) seem to have been merged in the twenty-three-year reign of a certain ‘Janshund’. According to Ibn Khaldun, it was during his reign that Visigothic rule began to weaken. He fails to elaborate on the last Visigothic kings from Wamba to Roderic. The latter is briefly described as the king whose realm succumbed to the Muslim invasion. It is noteworthy that Ibn Khaldun believes Julian (Yulyan) to have been Vitizas son and governor of Tangier.i90
The Visigoths also feature in the introduction to Ibn Khaldun’s chapter on Umayyad rule in al-Andalus. Given the synthetic nature of this introduction, which mainly repeats what has been laid down before, Ibn Khaldun neglects to mention his sources. He states that the Goths ruled al-Andalus for a period of 200 years before the arrival of the Muslims after several wars with the ‘Latins’ (al-Latiniyyin), during which they laid siege to the city of Rome. After concluding peace, the Visigoths settled in al-Andalus. In this context, Ibn Khaldun mentions that ‘Latin Romans’ (al-Rum al-Latiniyyun) had induced the Goths and the Franks to accept Christianity.m He names Toledo as the Goths’ residence but assumes that they moved between Toledo, Cordoba, Merida, and Seville, claiming that this situation lasted for 400 years until the arrival of the Muslims.m This provides the key with which to begin the actual description of the conquest. It involves Roderic (Lazriq), merely defined as the king who took advantage of Julian’s daughter. Once again, Ibn Khaldun omits the legend of the sealed house.193 Later in the same volume, Ibn Khaldun offers another very short overview on Visigothic history, which is of minor quality.^4 A final reference to the Visigoths can be found in a chapter on the rise of the Franks. Here Ibn Khaldun claims that the latter rose to power during the decline of Roman power as did the Visigoths of al-Andalus.195
Flanked by citations from the geographic works of Ibn Sa'ld, Abu l-Fida’, and al-Himyari, Ibn Khaldun’s version formed the basis of at least one other work of Arabic-Islamic scholarship in the Middle East, i.e. the work of the Mamluk scholar al-Qalqashandl (d. 821/1418). Al-Qalqashandl touches upon Visi- gothic history in several chapters dedicated to famous cities of the Maghreb and al-Andalus. He claims that Goths had ruled the city of Ceuta and describes the role of the Visigothic governor Julian in the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula.196 He states that the toponym Cordoba originally derived from the Gothic language, claiming that he had taken this information from Ibn Sa'ld, whereas in fact it features in the works of al-'Udhr! and al-BakrlTh7 A chapter on Toledo refers to Roderic (Ludhriq) as the last Gothic king before the Muslim invasion.198
Although he cites Orosius, parallels between Ibn Khaldun and al-Qalqashandl’s texts suggest that al-Qalqashandl modelled his version of Visigothic history on Ibn Khaldun’s universal history rather than on the kitab Hurushiyush. He admittedly uses different phrasing to Ibn Khaldun when he cites Orosius (Hurushiyush) in connection with the Visigoths’ (al-Qut) alleged descent from Gog and Magog.№ However, a passage on the early Gothic incursions into the Roman Empire repelled by Gallienus, Claudius, and Aurelianus is identical to the passage written by Ibn Khaldun and differs from the respective passage in the kitab Hurushiyush7°° When he states that Alans, Sueves, and Vandals invaded the Iberian Peninsula before they were attacked by the Goths, his and Ibn Khaldun’s spelling of the
ethnonyms is identical.201 Although it is introduced in a manner that differs from Ibn Khaldun, occasionally employs a different orthography for Visigothic names, and omits many details, the list of Visigothic kings based on Orosius not only follows the same order, but also is often identical to that provided by Ibn Khaldun.202 Considering that both scholars lived in Cairo at the turn of the fourteenth to the fifteenth centuries, it seems very probable that al-Qalqashandi made extensive use of Ibn Khaldun’s universal history in the respective passages on Gothic and Visigothic history.203
Thus, it is possible to trace two processes of diffusion, during which variants of the Latin-based narrative were transmitted from the Muslim West to the Middle East. In the case of Ibn al-Athir, we only know that he used Andalusian sources. In the case of Ibn Khaldun, we can assume that the Maghrebian scholar himself acted as a carrier of information, settling as he did in Cairo later in his life. Both Ibn al-Athir’s and Ibn Khaldun’s versions of the Latin-based narrative entered two different manuals for secretaries of the Mamluk chancery, written respectively by al-Nuwayri and al-Qalqashandi. This should not imply, however, that every Middle Eastern scholar made use of the Latin-based narrative. The geographer Yaqut (d. 626/1229), for example, is silent on the Visigothic past of the Iberian Peninsula, in spite of his personal acquaintance with Ibn al-Athlr.204 In his geographic encyclopaedia, the lemma ‘al-Andulus’ (sic!) completely ignores the peninsula’s pre-Islamic history, while the lemma Thulaym la’ only contains the statement that Toledo had once been the residence of the ‘rulers of the Cordovans’ (muluk al-Qurtubiyyin), obviously an orthographical distortion of the Arabic ‘rulers of the Goths’ (muluk al-Qutiyyun).205
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