Ordering and Interpreting

Where an Arabic-Islamic scholar treated a certain aspect of Latin-Christian Europe in his work depended not only on his knowledge of contexts but also on his decision about how to present a certain topic. This could make it more difficult for readers to understand a specific historical constellation.

Near the beginning of his work, al-Bakri (d. 487/1094) introduces his readers to Roman history in a way that is also known from other Arabic-Islamic works of historiography. Preceded by an exposition of the deeds of Alexander the Great and the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, the chapter entitled ‘Rulers of the Romans/Byzan- tines’ (muluk al-Rum) features an account based on a list of Roman emperors from Augustus to the Byzantine era. However, al-Bakri also made use of information on pre-imperial Roman history, i.e. the republican system of rule as well as the Punic Wars. Rather than using this material as an introduction to his chapter on the imperial era, al-Bakri placed it in his geographical chapter on the Maghreb^6 far [1] [2] [3] [4]

away from the earlier chapter on Roman emperors, which does not refer to the republican period once.287 Instead of presenting the rise of the Roman Empire from its beginnings to the Byzantine era, al-Bakri interpreted the Punic Wars as part of the regional history of North Africa. Other historiographers chose alternative forms of presenting Roman history. In the extant fragments of his history of al-Andalus, Ibn H ayyan (d. 469/1076) included data about the republican phase, the Punic Wars, and the abolition of the republican system at the hands of Julius Caesar in a chapter on the local history of Toledo, thus reducing the description of Roman activities outside the Iberian Peninsula to a minimum.288 Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406) eventually provided an extensive exposition of these topics, this time in chronological order.289

The manual for Mamluk chancery secretaries written by al-Qalqashandi (d. 821/1418) confronts its readers with similar challenges of reconstructing contexts which the author had either neglected or not understood. Al-Qalqashandi wrote extensively on the offices and titles held by foreign rulers, including the doges of Venice. This also involved understanding the doge’s role within the Venetian constitution. In the fifth volume of his work, in a chapter dedicated to Byzantine history after the rise of Islam, al-Qalqashandi mentions that a certain ‘duqis al-Banadiqa’ played a leading role in the conquest of Constantinople in 1204790 A few pages later, he provides a short introduction to the realm of the Venetians (mamlakat al-Banadiqa) on the basis of Abu l-Fida’ and Ibn Sa'ld, claiming that they were a Frankish people in a part of Lombardy whose capital was a city called ‘al-Bunduqiyya’. The Venetians, al-Qalqashandi asserts, were ruled by a certain ‘duk’.291 In the sixth volume, in a section dealing with titles, al-Qalqashandi mentions a number of ways to address the doge of Venice. Aside from listing several honorary titles, he defines the doge either as ‘duk al-Bunduqiyya’ or as ‘duk al-Bunduqiyya wa-l-Mansiyya’ without mentioning when the respective title was held.292 The eighth volume finally contains specimens of letters exchanged between Muslim rulers and the doge of Venice. A letter written in Rajab 767/March-April 1366, addresses the doge as ‘duj al-Bunduqiyya wa-l-Mansiyya’.293 Yet another letter, undated but probably written after 1204 because of the reference to Constantinople/Ist anbul, addresses him as ‘duk al-Banadiqa, wa-Diyariqa, wa-l-Rusa wa-l-Ist anbuliyya’.294 In the ensuing comment, al-Qalqashandi expresses his irritation about the fact that the doge is credited with different titles and even questions if the doge had to be regarded as the real ruler (malik) of Venice:

[The] necessary [conclusion to be drawn] from what he [al-Qalqashandl’s source] has

mentioned concerning all these issues is that the Doge (al-duk) is not the ruler

(al-malik) himself . . . , even though it has been mentioned in the passages concerning [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

the routes and realms in the sections dedicated to Venice (al-Bunduqiyya) and transmitted from Ibn Sa'ld, that the ruler of Venice (malik al-Bunduqiyya) is called “Doge” (al-duk), [spelt with] an unnecessary doubling of the [letter] dal, the [letter] waw and the [letter] kaf at the end. This is something that needs to be investigated, for if the Doge was the ruler, then the manner of writing to him should differ as the circumstances demand or according to the objectives of the writers. It seems evident that there is a lack of information concerning the correct address and that everyone has always stuck to what he has been told by others.[10] [11] [12] [13] [14]

Being a secretary intent on providing practical information, al-Qalqashandi failed to consider that the doge of Venice may have changed his titles in line with the Republic’s changing political status. His manner of describing the Mamluks’ diplomatic and commercial partners by providing a superficial historical overview in volume five, a discussion of titles in volume six, and a commented copy of relevant documents in connection with these titles in volume eight, prevented him from drawing historical conclusions and from gaining a fuller understanding of his subject.296

Arabic-Islamic scholars also subjected the information at their disposal to excessive and creative interpretation. This could result from the effort to make up for the paucity of material by inference and deduction. According to al-Baladhuri (d. 279/892) and al-Mas'udl (d. 345/956), the historiographer al-Waqidi (d. 207/822) proposed that the pre-Islamic population of the Iberian Peninsula originally hailed from the Persian city of Isfahan.297 Ibn H abib and Ibn Khurdadhbah in the ninth century and al-Bakri in the eleventh explained the Visigoths’ origins in the same way.298 This theory seems to be based on an erroneous etymology of the ethnonym ‘Ashban’. Often used to define the pre-Islamic population of al-Andalus, this term obviously derives from the Latin ethnonym ‘Hispani’. Juxtaposing the ethnonym ‘Ashban’ and the toponym ‘Isb ahan’, Arabic-Islamic historiographers apparently detected phonetic similarities and concluded that the ethnonym derived from the toponym. Al-Mas'udl questioned this for the first time in the tenth century. He commented that, according to the people of al-Andalus, the last Visigothic king Roderic (Ludhriq) was not of Persian but of Galician origin, a kind of Frankish people living in the Christian north of the Iberian Peninsula.299 But although he questioned the established theory on the Visigoths’ origins, al-Mas'udl was not better informed about them in every respect. As opposed to the earlier histori?ographers Ibn Habib (d. 238/853) and al-Ya'qubl (d. after 292/905), he did not use an Arabic transliteration of the ethnonym ‘Goths’, i.e. ‘al-Qut’ or ‘al-Qutiyyun’,300 but took the liberty of inventing an ethnonym. He formed the plural of the Arabicized version of the royal name ‘Roderic’ (Ludhriq), thus creating the ethnonym ‘Rodericians’ (al-Ladhariqa) which he then applied to the population of the pre-Islamic Iberian Peninsula.301

  • [1] Ibn Rustah, al-a laq al-nafisa, ed. de Goeje, p. 130: wa-hiya madina kabira ala sahil bahral-Maghrib wa-yatamallak alayha sab'a min al-muluk . . . ’.
  • [2] al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 567, p. 340: ‘wa-malikuhum al-an sanatithnatayn wa-thalathin wa-thalathami a Ludhriq b. Qarlah . . . ’. Al-Masudi, muruj, ed./trans. Pellat,§ 914—16, pp. 147—8 (AR), pp. 344—5 (FR), ends: ‘thumma waliya ba'dahu Ludhriq b. Qarlah wa-huwamalik al-Ifranja ila hadha al-waqt . . . ’.
  • [3] al-Qazwini, athar, ed. Wustenfeld, pp. 334, 387—8, 404, 409, 413, 415, esp. 334; Jacob,Berichte (1927), pp. 21—31, esp. 31.
  • [4] al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 1177, p. 701.
  • [5] Ibid., § 485-515, pp. 306-19.
  • [6] Ibn Hayyan, al-muqtabis V, ed. Chalmeta and Corriente, pp. 272-4.
  • [7] Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 2, pp. 233-6.
  • [8] al-Qalqashandi, subh al-asha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 5, pp. 401-2.
  • [9] Ibid., vol. 5, pp. 404, 485. 292 Ibid., vol. 6, p. 178. 293 Ibid., vol. 8, p. 47. In a letter sent by the doge (vol. 8, p. 123) the spelling ‘duj’ is also used. 294 Ibid., vol. 8, pp. 47-8.
  • [10] Ibid., vol. 8, p. 48: ‘wa-muqtada ma dhakarahu min jami' dhalika anna l-duk ghayr al-maliknafsihi . . . . 'ala annahu qad taqaddama fi l-kalam 'ala l-masalik wa-l-mamalik 'inda dhikr al-Bunduqi-yya naqlan 'an Ibn Sa'id anna malik al-Bunduqiyya yuqal lahu al-duk bi-damm al-dal al-muhmalawa-waw wa-kaf fi l-akhir, wa-hadha mimma yahtaj ila tahrir, fa-in kana al-duk huwa al-malik fa-takunal-mukataba ilayhi ikhtalafat bi-khtilaf al-hal, aw bi-khtilaf gharad al-kuttab, aw 'adam itti la'ihim 'alahaqiqat al-aqdar wa-l-wuquf ma'a ma yulqa ilayhim min al-muzahima fi kull waqt wa-huwa al-zahir’.
  • [11] 296 See Chapter 8.
  • [12] al-Baladhuri, futuh, ed. de Goeje, § 269, p. 230; al-Mas'udi, muruj, ed./trans. Pellat, § 747,p. 49 (AR), p. 280 (FR).’
  • [13] Ibn Habib, tarikh, ed. Aguade, § 397, p. 138; Ibn Khurdadhbah, al-masalik, ed de Goeje,pp. 156—7; al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 505, p. 314.
  • [14] al-Mas'udi, muruj, ed./trans. Pellat, § 398, p. 191 (AR), pp. 145—6 (FR).
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >