Geographies of Transmission and Reception

Ibn H abib wrote his universal history in the first half of the ninth century, a period in which al-Andalus finally witnessed a rather long phase of stability after the reign of twenty-three short-lived governors, the great Berber revolt of 123/740, and the Umayyad ‘coup d’etat’ carried out by Abd al-Rahman in 138/75 6.35 During Ibn Habib’s lifetime, Umayyad al-Andalus interacted with its northern Christian neighbours3[1] and was forced to accept the Carolingian intervention in the Spanish Levant that resulted in the establishment of the county of Barcelona^[2] [3] Apart from a chapter on the Iberian Peninsula’s conquest which contains some material on the downfall of the Visigothic kingdom as well as a brief reference to the Franks’ military prowess, Ibn H abib’s history neither betrays knowledge of the Visigothic past nor of contemporary relations with subjected or neighbouring Christian populations^ Considering that this Andalusian scholar of the ninth century almost exclusively drew on authorities of Egyptian and Middle Eastern origin,3[4] it is not surprising that Middle Eastern scholars, who bore the brunt of scholarly production up to the early tenth century, produced reports on the Latin-Christian West of such meagre quantity and quality.

The Muslim Middle East of the eighth century had some knowledge of the West. Conquerors who returned to the Middle East with booty and captives probably reported on the Visigothic kingdom and its Frankish neighbour.[5] [6] In the first half of the eighth century, Damascus frequently sent messengers to intervene in the affairs of al-Andalus.41 In some cases, Arabic-Islamic scholars seem to have had access to this flow of information.^ The latter must have dwindled when the shift of the empire’s centre from Damascus to Baghdad and the secession of Umayyad al-Andalus severed political and administrative links in the middle of the eighth century. Although some scholars in eighth-century Iraq and Egypt seem to have made efforts to extract information from Andalusian travellers,43 it cannot be taken for granted that the latter had something to say about the Latin-Christian world. Pilgrims to Mecca or ‘seekers of knowledge’ (tulab al-ilm) came with the aim of acquiring, not of providing knowledge.44 Moreover, they were probably better informed about the internal affairs of Muslim society in al-Andalus than about relations with the Latin-Christian environment. This may explain why the Egyptian historiographer Ibn 'Abd al-H akam (d. 257/871) has much to say about Christians involved in the invasion of al-Andalus, but focuses on Muslim affairs as soon as he has dealt with the conquest.45

In the ninth century, direct contact between the Latin-Christian world and the Arabic-Islamic Middle East was still scarce. Middle Eastern scholars such as al-Ya'qubi (d. after 292/905) took notice of some events in al-Andalus, e.g. the Viking attack on Seville in 229/844.46 Nonetheless, their works are almost devoid of information on the contemporary Latin West. The universal histories of al-Ya'qubl and al-Tabari (d. 310/923) dedicate a few lines to the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, but practically ignore what lies beyond al-Andalus.47 Even Ibn Khurdadhbah’s (d. c.300/911) kitab al-masalik wa-l-mamalik, probably the most elaborate Arabic-Islamic work on the Latin West in this period, does not overflow with information. His geographical outlook derives from Ptolemy.4® He possesses some knowledge on the history of the Roman Empire and its Christianization, but only rarely mentions western toponyms in this context^9 His description of Rome contains much legendary material.50 He describes how the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula brought about the end of the Visigothic kingdom, but proffers no information on the Christian North5i and only brief remarks on the Frankish realm.52

With the stabilization of Muslim rule and the rise of a more elaborate intellectual culture in al-Andalus from the ninth century onwards, the conditions were finally met for a more active local and regional documentation of the Latin-Christian ‘Other’ on the Iberian Peninsula. As in the Middle East of the seventh to tenth centuries, the intermingling of conquerors and conquered produced bilingual generations able, and an interested scholarly public willing to contribute to the transmission and reception of information about the peninsula’s pre-Islamic past. As soon as Arabic-Islamic scholars from al-Andalus assimilated this material in the course of the tenth century, their Middle Eastern colleagues also began to include more substantial data on the non-Muslim peoples of or adjacent to the Iberian Peninsula.53 We should consider, however, that information travelled at different speeds. According to later Andalusian tradition, the conqueror Musa b. Nusayr informed the caliph in Damascus about his plans to cross the Strait of Gibraltar and received a written response before he set out74 The Frankish chronicle used by al-Mas'udi arrived in Egypt only seven years after it had been presented to the Umayyad court in Cordoba in 328/939_40.55 In other cases, transmission from west to east seems to have taken longer. The Arabic version of Orosius’ Historiae adversuspaganos, produced between the late ninth and the early tenth century, was first used by scholars active in the Middle East in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, i.e. by Ibn Khaldun, al-Qalqashandi, and al-Maqrizi.56 The only Middle Eastern author, who used information recorded in the tenth-century travel account written by the Andalusian Jew Ibrahim b. Ya'qub al-Isra’ili, was the Persian cosmographer al-Qazwini. Writing in the thirteenth century, he gained access to this text via the work of the eleventh-century Andalusian scholar al-'UdhriW

Although Ibn Rustah’s (d. after 300/913) references to the pope, Venice, and the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy prove that Arabic-Islamic scholars also acquired information via other channels^8 currents of transmission from east to west often passed through al-Andalus in the pre-crusading eraG9 This was due to the geopolitical changes brought about by Latin-Christian expansionism. It would seem plausible to assume that the Norman conquest of Sicily, the crusades, and the rising momentum of the Reconquista made Latin-Christian societies less accessible to Muslims.[7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] Contemporary documentation suggests, however, that several Muslims entered Latin-Christian societies adjacent to the Arabic-Islamic orbit between the eleventh and the fifteenth century.[17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] The military thrust to the south involved various groups from all over Europe and resulted in (temporary) Latin-Christian rule over large Muslim populations who often maintained relations with the Arabic-Islamic sphere.62 The creation of commercial outposts in all important ports of the Mediterranean at the hands of the Christian maritime powers, in turn, resulted in intensified commercial interaction^3 Thus, expansionism brought new actors into the Mediterranean sphere, carried the contact zone farther into Islamic territory, and created new forms of cohabitation between Latin-Christian and Muslim populations. In view of this, Latin-Christian expansionism seems to have created additional channels of transmission and thus promoted rather than impeded the flow of information. In this period, Arabic-Islamic scholarship had firmly taken root in all parts of the Arabic-Islamic world. Consequently, Latin-Christian activities were duly recorded by Arabic-Islamic scholars.64

This should not obliterate that Latin-Christian expansionism also began to destroy environments which had so far boasted considerable intellectual activity. Ibn Khaldun’s (d. 808/1406) observation that writing styles in the Maghreb were replaced by Andalusian variants due to the large number of refugees seeking posts in the administrations of Ifriqiya, suggests that al-Andalus experienced a significant brain drain. Although these refugees may have diffused information about the Latin West, their decision to emigrate left the Iberian Peninsula increasingly devoid of Muslims able to record first-hand what was happening to the remnants of Islamic culture.65 Apparently, in reaction to the Christian claims to the Iberian Peninsula, western Muslim scholars also turned away from the pre-Islamic history of al-Andalus.66

  • [1] 36 Guichard, ‘Relations’ (2008), pp. 233^, 236—7. 37 Senac, Carolingiens (2002).
  • [2] 38 Ibn Habib, tarikh, ed. Aguade, pp. 136—56, with references to the Franks in § 353, 408, 430,
  • [3] pp. 122, 142, 148. On Ibn Habibs description of the Visigoths, see Chapter 5.1.2.
  • [4] Makki, ‘Egipto’ (1957), pp. 157—8, 197—200; Dhun-Nun Taha, ‘Importance’ (1985), pp. 40—1;Dhun-Nun Taha, nasha (1988), pp. 7—10; Ibn Habib, tarikh, ed. Aguade, pp. 72—3, 102—7 (intro-duccion); Garcia Sanjuan, Conquista (2013), pp. 225—6. See Chapter 2.2.1.
  • [5] On booty and captives, see Continuatio Hispana, ed. Mommsen (MGH AA 11), § 73, 76, 102,pp. 354, 362. The depiction of the last Visigothic king Roderic in the early eighth-century Umayyadpalace at Qusayr Amra in modern-day Jordan provides tangible proof for the accompanying flow ofinformation: Fowden, Qusayr Amra (2004), pp. 207—13; Drayson, ‘Ways’ (2006), pp. 115—28.
  • [6] Continuatio Hispana, ed. Mommsen (MGH AA 11), § 79, 86, 107, 122, pp. 356, 358, 362,364; cf. the correspondence between conquerors/governors of al-Andalus and caliphs in Damascus inthe later akhbar majmu a, ed./trans. Lafuente y Alcantara, pp. 5, 23 (AR), pp. 20, 34 (ES).
  • [7] Ibn Khurdadhbah, al-masalik, ed. de Goeje, pp. 83, 90, 92, 154—7, 231. See Chapters 5.1.2.and 8.3.
  • [8] 52 Ibn Khurdadhbah, al-masalik, ed. de Goeje, pp. 153—4. See Chapter 6.2.2.
  • [9] See Chapter 2.2.1.
  • [10] 54 akhbar majmu a, ed./trans. Lafuente y Alcantara, p. 5 (AR), p. 20 (ES).
  • [11] al-Mas' udi, muruj, ed./trans. Pellat, § 912, p. 146 (AR), p. 344 (FR).
  • [12] 56 Cf. kitab Hurushiyush, ed. Penelas, pp. 73—81.
  • [13] Cf. Jacob, Berichte (1927) with a translation of all historiographers who made use of this travelaccount. Cf. Miquel, ‘L’Europe’ (1966), pp. 1049—50.
  • [14] Ibn Rustah, al-a laq al-nafisa, ed. de Goeje, pp. 85, 128—30.
  • [15] For more details, see Chapters 4, 5, and 6.
  • [16] Lewis, Discovery (1982/2001), pp. 91—2.
  • [17] Catlos, Muslims (2014), pp. 228—80. Cf. Gautier de Compiegne (d. after 1155), Otia deMahomete, ed. Huygens, cap. V,11, pp. 291, 294, on a Muslim convert to Christianity from ‘thehomeland of Muhammad’ (Machomis patriam); Lagardere, Histoire (1995), fatwa no. 198—9, 241,275, 291, pp. 54, 64, 68, 72, on Muslims redeeming their coreligionists in the ‘dar al-harb’; MasLatrie, Traites, vol. 1 (1866), pp. 205, 365—6, on safe-conducts granted to ‘Saracens’ by Venice, Pisa,and Genoa; Conseil national de la recherche archeologique, Recherche (1997), pp. 301—2, on thepossibly Muslim craftsmen from al-Andalus working in Marseille of the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries. See Chapter 2.2.2. on Muslim envoys, Chapter 2.2.3. on Muslim captives, and Chapter 3.3.2.on Muslim travellers in Latin-Christian territories.
  • [18] 62 Catlos, Muslims (2014), pp. 454-6.
  • [19] Mansouri, ‘Consuls’ (2000), pp. 151-62; Abulafia, ‘Redes’ (2004), pp. 338-51; Constable,Housing (2009), pp. 107-57, 266-305.
  • [20] 64 See Chapters 2.2. and 8.
  • [21] Ibn Khaldun, tdrikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 1, pp. 528-9; Talbi, ‘Contacts’ (1973), pp.84-8; cf. Catlos, Muslims (2014), pp. xiii, 165, 445, 454, 518, on the available sources.
  • [22] See Chapter 5.3.2. and 5.3.3.
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