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Claiming the Visigothic Heritage

The preceding section has not considered all texts produced in the late medieval Muslim West. Consequently, it is not possible to pronounce a sweeping judgement with regard to its understanding of Visigothic history. The universal history of Ibn Khaldun, largely conceived and written in the Muslim West but reworked in Mamluk Egypt,248 bears testimony to the continuous use of texts that provided well-founded data on Visigothic history, in this case the kitab Hurushiyush. Since Ibn Khaldun provided a Hafsid and a Marinid ruler with a copy of his work,249 we can safely assume that other inhabitants of the Muslim West had some knowledge of the Latin-based narrative.250

Notwithstanding, the analysed works from the late medieval Muslim West display a clear tendency to neglect the Visigothic past. They largely ignore the important discoveries made by their peers of the late ninth to eleventh centuries who drew on Latin source material. Their accounts cannot rival those written by contemporary Middle Eastern scholars such as Ibn al-Athir and al-Qalqashandl, none of whom specialized on the history of al-Andalus. Although it is not possible to provide an exhaustive explanation, the following hypotheses may merit consideration.

Many of the above-mentioned scholars from the late medieval Muslim West valued other sources, often of inferior quality, than the earlier proponents of the Latin-based narrative. The most obvious case concerns al-Zuhri who claims to have made use of a completely outdated text, i.e. the work of al-Mas'udl. In the geographical works, we can note a tendency to integrate dubious local tradition. Al-Zuhri, al-Himyari, and the dhikr bilad al-Andalus link several Visigothic rulers to specific architectural monuments while al-Zuhri and the dhikr mention unidentifiable rulers unheard of so far, i.e. ‘Sanbamn’ and ‘Marid b. Larid’^1 Legendary elements are preponderant. Al-Zuhri’s history of the Visigoths takes place in the archaic age of Abraham and Moses. According to al-H imyari and al-Maqqari, the extremely pious, but unidentifiable Visigothic kings ‘Khanshush’ or ‘Khashnadash’ interacted with the apostles.252

Apart from Ibn Khaldun, who seems to have quoted directly from the kitab Hurushiyush, all late medieval western scholars treated above drew on secondary or tertiary historiographical material. Since the abbreviation of a compilation is generally shorter than the summary of a primary source, their narratives of Visigothic [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

history are less comprehensive. Ibn 'Idharl, al-Himyarl, the dhikr bilad al-Andalus, and al-Maqqari were aware of the existence of several Visigothic kings with a total number of sixteen, thirty-six, or thirty-seven. Considering that they cited al-Razi, Ibn H ayyan, al-'Udhri, and al-Bakri, i.e. their earlier colleagues from the tenth and eleventh centuries, it seems possible that they had access to the lists of rulers proffered by these authors. They may have actively participated in the process of abbreviation and distortion by refraining from reproducing these lists. Historiographers such as the author of the fath al-Andalus and Ibn al-Khatib, in turn, began their narrative with the invasion. This way of dealing with Visigothic history followed a system of periodization used in the early standard narrative that also ignores all earlier events. One could point out that, contrary to Ibn Khaldun and his Middle Eastern colleagues Ibn al-Athir, al-Nuwayri, and al-Qalqashandi, western Muslim historiographers did not write universal history and consequently focused on the Muslim West or al-Andalus. All in all, however, their tendency to neglect pre-Islamic history suggests that they regarded the Visigoths as an irrelevant prelude to the history of Muslim al-Andalus.

This may have to do with the ideological climate in which they worked. Their approach to al-Andalus was formed in a period in which Muslim Spain suffered extreme pressure, even extinction from the Christian North, or—in the case of al-Maqqari—had ceased to exist.253 Such a climate was not conducive to producing elaborate accounts on the Christian as opposed to the Muslim past of al-Andalus. From the perspective of historiographers trying to preserve what was left of a continuously diminishing Muslim region, it is comprehensible that dealing with this region’s pre-Islamic past seemed less and less important.

In this context, it seems relevant that some scholars defined Roderic and the Visigoths as ‘Romans/Byzantines’ (al-Rum),254 thus dropping the ethnonym ‘Goths’ (al-Qut, al-Qutiyyun) that had been introduced by proponents of the early standard narrative and employed by all exponents of the Latin-based narrative. The term ‘al-Rum’ was also used as a generic term for the contemporary Iberian Christian adversary.255 The terminological shift from ‘al-Qut’ to ‘al-Rum’ suggests that, 500 to 800 years after the Muslim invasion and in the above-mentioned ideological climate, certain scholars cared little about terminological subtleties as long as the term employed clearly differentiated between the Iberian Peninsula’s Christians and Muslims, past and present.

In addition, several passages in Arabic-Islamic works from this period are revealing in that they reflect the contemporary Christian claim to the Iberian Peninsula’s pre-Islamic, i.e. Visigothic heritage. In a paragraph on the year 393/1002, Ibn [8] [9] [10]

'Idhari declares king Alfonso V of Leon a ‘king of the Goths’ (malik al-Qut).2^6 Al-Qalqashandl claims that Alfonso I of Asturias (Adfunsh b. Batra) was either of ‘Galician’ or ‘Gothic’ descent (min al-Jalaliqa aw al-Qut)[11] [12] and, reproducing al-'Umarl’s earlier manual for Mamluk chancery secretaries, ascribes the title ‘heir of Roderic’ (warith Ludhriq) to ‘Alfonso’ (al-Adfunsh), the ‘master of Toledo and Seville’ (sahib Tulaytula wa-Ishbiliya).[13] It is an established fact that the Visigothic heritage played an important ideological role for the Christian realms of medieval Iberia at the latest from the ninth century onwards.[14] [15] Of greater interest in this context is when these Christian realms began propagating their claim to the Visigothic heritage vis-a-vis the Muslims of al-Andalus. According to Ibn 'Idhari’s history of the Maghreb and al-Andalus, Fernando I of Leon and Castile (ruled 1037-65) already formulated such a claim vis-a-vis the Muslims of Toledo:

Verily, we demand our lands that you have conquered from us in ancient times at the beginning of your affairs. You have inhabited it for the period assigned to you, but now we have been victorious over you by the use of your arms. So now, go back to your shores and leave our lands to us, for there is no good in your living with us after this day, for we will not pull back, or God may judge between you and us . . 760

By reproducing the above-mentioned titles without further comment, at least some Arabic-Islamic historiographers of the later Middle Ages seem to have accepted and lent legitimacy to the Christian appropriation of the Visigothic heritage. Instead of seizing this heritage for the Muslims, they surrendered it to the Christian North.

  • [1] Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 148, 161—2. 247 Ibid., vol. 1, p. 139.
  • [2] 248 Talbi, ‘Ibn Khaldun’ (1971), p. 825. 249 Ibid., pp. 829-30.
  • [3] 250 Other texts preserved in the late medieval Maghreb were also based on Latin sources, cf. Penelas,
  • [4] ‘Novedades’ (2003), pp. 143-61.
  • [5] 251 al-Zuhri, al-ja'rafiya, ed. Hajj Sadiq, § 238, p. 90; al-Himyari, al-rawd al-mi'tar, ed. Abbas,
  • [6] pp. 457, 518; dhikr bilad al-Andalus, ed. Molina, pp. 56, 70.
  • [7] al-Zuhri, al-ja'rafiya, ed. Hajj Sadiq, § 244, p. 93, § 270, p. 103; al-Himyari, al-rawdal-mi'tar,ed. 'Abbas, lemma ‘al-Andalus’, p. 34; al-Maqqari, nafh al-tib, ed. Abbas, vol. 1, p. 139.
  • [8] On this climate see Fierro, ‘Success’ (1997), pp. 155—78; Viguera Molins, ‘Reactions’ (2003),pp. 243—51; Buresi, ‘Reaction’ (2003), pp. 229—41; Elinson, Looking (2009).
  • [9] 254 As is done by al-Zuhri, al-ja'afiya, ed. Hajj Sadiq, § 242, p. 93; fath al-Andalus, ed. Molina,cap. I,4, p. 12 (rumi); cap. I,5, p. 13 (ajam); cap. I,18, p. 21 (Rum); Ibn al-Khatib, al-ihata, ed. 'Inan,vol. 1, p. 100; Ibn al-Khatib, amal al- 'lam, ed. Levi-Proven^al, p. 243.
  • [10] al-Marrakushi, al-mujib, ed. Dozy, pp. 235—7; al-Nuwayri, nihayat al-arab, ed. Tarhini, vol.24, p. 212.
  • [11] Ibn 'Idharl, al-bayan, ed. Colin and Levi-Proven^al, vol. 3, p. 5: ‘arsala bihim malik al-Qutyawma’idhin Adhfunsh b. Urdun al-ma'ruf bi-Ibn Barbariyya’.
  • [12] al-Qalqashandi, subh alasha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 5, p. 264.
  • [13] Ibid., vol. 6, p. 176.
  • [14] Cf. Bonnaz, ‘Aspects’ (1976), pp. 81—99; Bronisch, Reconquista (1998), pp. 126—9, 235—77;Hillgarth, Visigoths (2009), pp. 57—118.
  • [15] Ibn ' Idharl, al-bayan, ed. Colin and Levi-Proven^al, vol. 3, p. 282: ‘fa-innama natlub biladinaallati ghalabtumuna 'alayha qadiman fi awwal amrikum fa-qad sakantumunaha ma qudiya lakumwa-qad nasarna al-an 'alaykum bi-rida’atikum fa-irhalu ila 'udwatikum wa-utruku lana biladana fa-lakhayr lakum fi suknakum ma'ana ba'd al-yawm wa-lan narja' 'ankum aw yahkum Allah baynanawa-baynakum . . .’; cf. Bronisch, Reconquista (1998), pp. 369—70.
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