Origins and Diffusion of the Early Standard Narrative

Although only extant in versions written more than a century after the fall of the Visigothic kingdom in 711, the early standard narrative reflects the experiences, observations, as well as the restricted range of vision characteristic of a conquering generation neither interested in nor capable of investing too much intellectual energy on the history of the recently subjected polity.

Some of the recorded data must have been acquired in indirect or direct exchange with the indigenous population of the Visigothic kingdom: the ethnonym ‘Goths’, the name ‘Roderic’, as well as details about internal affairs, i.e. opposition against Roderic. The erroneous theory of the Visigoths’ Persian origins, in turn, represents an intellectual contribution of Arabic-Islamic origin.

This permits to trace the following process of reception. The earliest data on the Visigoths was acquired in the preparatory phase and during the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. The conquerors’ observations as well as immediate interaction with informants and the subjected population constituted the main sources of information. This data was transmitted to Egypt and to the wider Middle East in the decades following the invasion. Muslims who had participated in the invasion and returned to the east created the relevant channels of transmission, e.g. the conqueror Musa b. Nusayr. When he returned to Damascus at the orders of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid, he is said to have brought with him spoils of war, prisoners, and—not explicitly mentioned but obviously associated—information on the invasion and the conquered territory.60 The depiction of Roderic in the early eighth-century Umayyad palace at Qusayr Amra in Syria provides tangible proof for this flow of information^1

References to chains of transmission in later Arabic-Islamic historiography provide an impression of how information on the invasion was diffused by the descendants and disciples of former conquerors.62 Transmitting historical traditions in Baghdad, al-Waqidi (d. 207/822) is said to have cited a certain Musa b. 'All b. Rabah al-Lakhmi, the son of a combatant involved in the conquest of al-Andalus,63 as well as a certain 'Abd al-H amid b. Ja'far, a man whose father’s acquaintance had reported on the battle against Roderick4 In a later phase, traders, pilgrims, and scholars from al-Andalus delivered further information.65 According to Ibn [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

al-Faradi (d. 403/1018), the Egyptian traditionist al-Layth b. Sa'd (d. 175/792), one of the principal transmitters used by Ibn H abib and Ibn Abd al-H akam, had disciples from al-Andalus.[7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] When he learned that the judge of Cordoba sojourned in Egypt after returning from his pilgrimage to Mecca, al-Layth sent his secretary to question him on Andalusian affairs.67

The early standard narrative represents the result of efforts to compile the accounts of such witnesses. It came into being in an Islamicized urban Middle Eastern environment that provided the necessary infrastructure for the intellectual endeavours of Arabic-Islamic scholars. At the beginning of the ninth century, such an environment was only beginning to emerge in al-Andalus/8 Early Andalusian scholars such as Ibn H abib still looked to the Middle East for orientation and i nformation, consequently neglecting indigenous oral and written sources from the Iberian Peninsula/9 Middle Eastern scholars, in turn, collected and recorded oral information in a distant Middle Eastern environment around half a century to one century after the Muslim invasion. The growing chronological and geographical distance to actual events probably accounts for many literary embellishments and legendary elements/0

In spite of all its defects, the early standard narrative constitutes the first Arabic- Islamic effort to explain the preconditions of the invasion and to illuminate the very recent pre-Islamic past of the Iberian Peninsula. Its limitations provide tangible proof for the obstacles of transmission in the period of expansion. Its dominance in Middle Eastern circles up to the tenth century also shows that it took Muslim al-Andalus more than a century to develop an intellectual culture confident and sophisticated enough not only to develop a proper approach to the region’s preIslamic past with the aid of indigenous sources, but also to be noticed as a potential source of information by Middle Eastern scholars.

  • [1] The sources focus on tensions between Musa b. Nusayr and the caliph, thus neglecting whatinformation might have been exchanged between the conqueror and the members of the caliphalcourt in Damascus, cf. Continuatio Hispana, ed. Mommsen (MGH AA 11), § 73, p. 353, § 76,p. 354; Ibn 'Abd al-Hakam, futuh Misr, ed. Torrey, pp. 210—11.
  • [2] Drayson, ‘Ways’ (2006), pp. 115—28; Fowden, Qusayr 'Amra (2004), pp. 207—13.
  • [3] Makkl, ‘Egipto’ (1957), pp. 164—9; Ibn 'Abd al-Hakam, Conquete, trans. Gateau, p. 26(Introduction).
  • [4] Ibn 'Idhari, al-bayan, ed. Colin and Levi-Proven^al, vol. 2, p. 13; cf. Makkl, ‘Egipto’ (1957),pp. 166—7, 172. But see the critique of Clarke, Conquest (2012), pp. 36—8.
  • [5] Ibn ' Idhari, al-bayan, ed. Colin and Levi-Proven^al, vol. 2, pp. 7—8; cf. Makkl, ‘Egipto’ (1957),pp. 166—7, 205; Sezgin, Geschichte, vol. 1 (1967/1997), pp. 361—3.
  • [6] See the overview in Makkl, ‘Ensayo’ (1961—62), pp. 65—92.
  • [7] Ibn al-Faradi, tarikh culama al-Andalus, ed. al-Husayni, vol. 1, § 457 (Ziyad b. 'Abd al-Rahman);cf. Makkl, ‘Egipto’, p. 176.
  • [8] Ibn al-Faradi, tarikh Ulama al-Andalus, ed. al-Husayrn, vol. 2, § 1445 (Muawiya b. Salih);cf. Makkl, ‘Egipto’ (1957), p. 176.
  • [9] 68 Cf. Pellat, ‘Origin’ (1962), pp. 118—25; Clarke, Conquest (2012), p. 31. See Chapters 2.2.1. and3.1.2.
  • [10] 69 Makkl, ‘Egipto’, pp. 157—8; Dhun-Nun Taha, ‘Importance’ (1985), pp. 40—1; Dhun-NunTaha, nash a (1988), pp. 7—10; Garcia Sanjuan, Conquista (2013), pp. 225—6.
  • [11] Makkl, ‘Egipto’ (1957), p. 208. Cf. Hernandez Juberias, Peninsula (1996).
  • [12] Pons Boigues, Historiadores (1898/1972), pp. 32^. Cf. Chapter 2.2.1.
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