Home Geography Arabic-Islamic views of the Latin West : tracing the emergence of medieval Europe
EMERGING CHRISTIAN REALMS OF THE IBERIAN PENINSULA (9TH-15TH CENTURIES)
After the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, the emerging Christian North needed a certain time to establish political structures visible to contemporary Arabic-Islamic observers. This is suggested by the fact that Middle Eastern Arabic- Islamic historiography of the late ninth and very early tenth century only addresses the downfall of the Visigothic kingdom, but fails to mention the nascent Christian North.224
From the early tenth century onwards, ethnonyms, toponyms, and brief comments show that knowledge about these polities had become available in the heartlands of the early medieval Islamic world. Al-Mas'udi (d. 345/956) mentions the emerging Catalans225 and coined the cliche that the Galicians were tougher and more bellicose than the Franks.226 Enemies of the Franks but Melkite Christians like them, they represented a great danger to al-Andalus. A certain Umayya b. Ishaq had sought refuge with the Galician king Ramiro II (Rudhmir), a king residing in Zamora (Sammura) who had succeeded Alfonso III (Adfunsh) and Ordono II (Urdun). With Umayya’s help, Ramiro almost defeated the troops of Abd al-Rahman III in 3 27/9 3 9.227 Al-Istakhrl (4th/10th cent.) lists a few toponyms in 
connection with the lands of Jaca (bilad Aljaskas), the Basques (bilad al-Baskuns), and the Galicians (bilad al-Jalaliqa). He recalls that these peoples were Christians (nasara) who lived in the ‘territory of unbelief’ (dar al-kufr) in a state of war with al-Andalus (bilad harb min al-nasdra).22S The ‘chief of the Galicians’ (’azim al-Jalaliqa) resided in a city called Oviedo (Ubit) far from the lands of Islam (buldan al-islam).229 Al-Istakhrl’s pupil Ibn Hawqal (d. after 378/988) refreshed this information, asserting that Galicia included the cities Zamora (Samurah), Oviedo (Ubit), and had its capital in Leon (wa-Liyun maskan sultanihim).230
These examples show that Middle Eastern scholars of the early tenth century were still unable to provide a comprehensive account of the still rather short history of the Christian North. Although they made use of information on a specific status quo, they were unable to sketch longer periods and developments. Only al-Mas’udl furnishes (the fragment of) a royal genealogy.
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