The Visigothic Past within an Arabic-Islamic Framework

Historiographical texts from eleventh-century al-Andalus contain much more information about Visigothic history than the early standard narrative. In consequence, it is possible to leave the realm of conjecture and turn to secure evidence.

Following a chapter on the Roman history of Toledo based on 'Isa b. Ahmad al-Razi, the historiographer Ibn H ayyan (d. 469/1076) reproduces ‘the account of

Ibn Maslama on the history of the polity of the Goths’.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] Ishaq b. Maslama or, according to a variant of the manuscript, Ishaq b. Salama, can probably be identified with Ishaq b. Salama al-Laythi, the author of a history of al-Andalus written under the caliph al-Hakam II (ruled 350-66/961-76).ш The account contains a list of Visigothic kings that begins with Suinthila (ruled 621-31) and ends with Roderic and the Muslim invasion. Unfortunately, great parts of Ibn Hayyan’s historiographical work al-muqtabis are lost, including the first volume, which was probably dedicated to the pre-Islamic history of al-Andalus and the Muslim invasion. Although he may have had more information at his disposal, the chapter in question proves that this historiographer and his tenth-century source were aware of all Visigothic kings that ruled after 621, with the exception of Chintila (ruled 636-39) and Tulga (ruled 639-42). Ibn Hayyan links each reign to certain events. Suinthila is credited with having fought against the Romans, a reminiscence of his success in ending Byzantine rule on the peninsula.124 Allegedly informed about the prophet Muhammad, Wamba (ruled 672-80) convoked a synod, during which a certain Julian (of Toledo?) used the Book of Daniel to predict that the prophet’s people would eventually rule al-Andalus.ш Under Ervigius, the realm was affected by a great famine.126 Ervigius’ unnamed son is criticized for his bad conduct and oppressive rule.127 Vitiza is described very positively as an orthodox (jamil al-madhhab), moral, and well-loved ruler.m Roderic is dealt with briefly as the last Visigothic ruler who provoked the Muslim invasion by opening the notorious sealed house.m

In his description of al-Andalus, al-'Udhrl (d. 478/1085) not only mentions a Gothic language (lisan al-Qui)!0 but also several kings. The extant text is fragmentary: Roderic, for example, only appears in connection with an Arabic inscription on a building that he allegedly constructed.131 The few listed kings belong to the period of Visigothic history marked by the downfall of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse in the wake of the Battle of Vouille (507), which led to the firm establishment of Visigothic rule on the Iberian Peninsula. They are localized in the district of Seville (kurat Ishbiliya) and the nearby locality Italica (Taliqa). Theudisculus (Tudh Shaklash, ruled 548-49), the earliest king mentioned by al-'Udhrl, resided in Seville, was prone to adultery and hard to please, killed a great number of notables, and was eventually assassinated by one of his drinking companions.132 His successor Agila (Athila, ruled 549-54) was routed during a campaign against Cordoba. During the ensuing rebellion, Athanagild (Atanajild, ruled 554-67) sought help from the (Byzantine) ‘ruler of Rome’ (malik Ruma/sahib Ruma) and thus managed to defeat Agila. Several kings succeeded Athanagild. In the year 650 of the (Spanish) Christian era (tarikh al-Sufr), i.e. in 612,[10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] Sisebut (Shishighut, ruled 612-21) assumed power. A wise man of profound learning, he heralded an age of wisdom that witnessed the activities of Isidore of Seville (Ishidhur). He compelled the Jews to enter the Christian faith and allegedly died of poisoning in his residence in Toledo.Although al-'Udhr! refers to chronicles of ancient history in earlier paragraphs on the Romans, he fails to name his sources on the Visigoths.135 Since he mentions Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Razi and his son 'Isa—the former once, the latter thrice—several scholars have deemed it probable that he depended on al-RazI.136 Great parts of the information provided by al-'Udhri can also be found, in similar detail and order, in the Historia Pseudo-Isidoriana. The passages in question are made up of fragments of Isidore’s Historia Gothorum as well as the Continuatio Hispana or Chronica Muzarabica of 754.137

Ibn Hayyan and al-'Udhri provide a fragmentary overview on periods of Visi- gothic history known as the ‘regnum Arianum Hispanicum’ and the ‘regnum catholicum Toletanum’. Very different information can be found in the work of al-Bakri (d. 487/1094). His contradictory handling of the Visigoths’ origins clearly indicates that he made use of al-Mas'udl. He equates the rulers of al-Andalus, called ‘al-Ladhariqa’, with the Ashban’, leading their origin back to the city of Isfahan,138 only to question this theory later by pointing to their ‘Galician’ ori- gins.139 However, al-Bakri also made use of other sources, including the kitab Hurushiyush.14° In fact, his chapter on the Romans contains the most comprehensive summary of early Gothic history so far. Using the ethnonym ‘al-QuE, he reports on their admission into the Roman Empire under the pressure of the Huns (Anqlish) and their imperially guided conversion to Arianism (376), their conflicts with the emperor Theodosius, the sack of Rome under Alaric (410), and their settlement in Gaul in the times of Honorius (418)7*1 The same chapter also provides information on the Visigoths in Spain while additional topics relevant to the same period are addressed in the geographical chapters on al-Andalus at the end of his treatise, where al-Bakri also mentions the Gothic language.!^ In the Roman section, al-Bakri mentions a certain ‘Hadrifish’ (Theodoricus, Gesaleicus, Theo- dericus?) as the first Gothic ruler of al-Andalus with residence in Merida.^ In the geographic section, he claims that the Goths resided in several capitals, i.e. Merida,

Cordoba, and Toledo, at the beginning of their Hispanic reign.144 The reference to a conflict between father and son, involving the cities of Merida and Cordoba in the Roman section, recalls the rebellion of Leovigild’s son Hermenegild against his father (580), the more so as this episode leads directly to a paragraph about Rec- cared’s conversion to catholicism (587_89).145 In the geographical section, al-Bakri mentions that Leovigild (Lubyan) installed the capital at Toledo and named the newly founded city Reccopolis (Raqubul) after his son. Eighty bishops ruled eighty cities during Reccared’s rule. He put an end to internal strife and built many churches, including a church in Elvira with an inscription carrying his nameV6 Roderic is only mentioned in connection with the Visigoths’ originsV7 His involvement in the Muslim invasion was probably addressed in the later parts of al-Bakri’s work that are lostTh8

  • [1] Ibn Hayyan, al-muqtabis V, ed. Chalmeta and Corriente, pp. 274—6, 274: ‘riwayat Ibn Maslamali-akhbar dawlat al-Qut’; cf. Safran, Caliphate (2000), pp. 166—7.
  • [2] Pons Boigues, Historiadores (1898/1972), p. 100; Safran, Caliphate (2000), p. 240.
  • [3] Ibn Hayyan, al-muqtabis V, ed. Chalmeta and Corriente, p. 274.
  • [4] Ibid.,' p. 275.
  • [5] 126 Ibid., p. 275. Cf. Continuatio Hispana, ed. Mommsen (MGH AA 11), § 49, p. 349: ‘cuius intemore famis valida Spaniam populat’; Thompson, Goths (1969), p. 231.
  • [6] Ibn Hayyan, al-muqtabis V, ed. Chalmeta and Corriente, p. 275.
  • [7] 128 Ibid.,' p. 275. 129 Ibid., p. 276.
  • [8] 130 al-Udhri, tarsi' al-akhbar, ed. al-Ahwam, p. 121.
  • [9] 131 Ibid., p. 124. 132 Ibid., p. 97.
  • [10] That al-'Udhri dates Sisebut’s accession thirty-eight years later than modern scholarship, showsthat he calculated according to the so-called ‘Spanish era’, which begins in 38 BCE, cf. Roth, ‘Calendar’(2003), p. 190.
  • [11] al-'Udhri, tarsi' al-akhbar, ed. al-Ahwarn, p. 98.
  • [12] Ibid., p. 97: ‘kutub muarrikha li-l-akhbar al-qadima’.
  • [13] 136 Ibid., pp. 25, 38, 42, 64. Santiago Simon, ‘Al-Razi’ (1969—70), pp. 103—8; Sanchez Martinez,‘Razi’ (1971), pp. 7^9; Cronica del moro Rasis, ed. Catalan and de Andres, pp. lxi-lxix.
  • [14] Historia Pseudo-Isidoriana, ed. Mommsen (MGH AA 11), § 9, p. 383, § 16, p. 386; cf. GonzalezMunoz, ‘Nota’ (1990), pp. 281—90.
  • [15] al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 505, p. 314.
  • [16] Ibid., § 516, p. 319; cf. al-Masudl, muruj, ed. Pellat, § 398, p. 191 (AR), pp. 145—6 (FR).
  • [17] 14° See kitab Hurushiyush, ed. Penelas, pp. 73^.
  • [18] al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 501—3, pp. 312—13. 142 Ibid., § 1508, p. 9 00. 143 Ibid., § 504, p. 314.
 
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