Visigothic History and Regional Identity in al-Andalus

These three texts demonstrate that, by the eleventh century, Arabic-Islamic scholars from al-Andalus had acquired knowledge about all phases of Visigothic history— the Visigoths’ admission into the Roman Empire at the end of the fourth century, their presence in Italy and Gaul in the fifth century, their ensuing establishment on the Iberian Peninsula in the sixth century, as well as the fall of the kingdom in 711. They all drew on sources that had already been available in al-Andalus one century earlier.

That new information on the Visigoths was assimilated by Andalusian historiographers in the tenth and eleventh centuries is not only due to a process of Arabization on the side of a sizeable Christian population, which now made use of the linguistic means to make such material available in Arabic. One should also consider that, by the tenth century, Muslim al-Andalus had developed a proper regional identity.^9 This is expressed in the fact that the term ‘the people of al-Andalus’ (ahl al-Andalus), still reserved for the conquered population of the Visigothic kingdom in Ibn Abd al-H akam’s narrative of the invasion,^0 was now applied to Muslims and even to Arabic-Islamic scholars from the peninsula. The ‘people of al-Andalus’ now featured in the titles of works such as Ibn H ayyan’s al-muqtabis min anba ahlal-Andalus or al-Dabbis (d. 599/1203) bughyat al-multamis fi tarikh rijal ahl al-Andalus. This regional identity promoted the writing of local and regional history, i.e. a genre of historiography that also took account of the pre-Islamic era. As soon as Muslims began considering Andalusian localities as their home, they were able to regard the pre-Islamic (including Visigothic) history of these localities as their own. The fact that Ibn H ayyan, al-'Udhrl, and al-Bakri [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

all mention Visigothic kings in connection with the history of certain towns of al-Andalus shows that the Visigothic past had become part of a regional collective memory that was specifically ‘Andalusian’. Consequently, it became possible for Muslim scholars such as Ibn Juljul and al-'Udhr! to praise the scholarly merits of a Christian bishop of the Visigothic period such as Isidore of Seville, thus acknowledging that he had contributed to the preservation of ‘their’ history.^1

It would probably be going too far to speak of an ‘appropriation’ of Visigothic history. Carrying a different ethnonym than the Muslims and regularly described as the power toppled by the Muslim invaders, the Visigoths remain a distinct ethnic entity in the texts dealt with above. Moreover, we cannot automatically assume that all Arabic-Islamic scholars from al-Andalus made use of the new information. If we assigned the chronicle akhhar majmua to the eleventh or even twelfth century, as some scholars do, we could claim that its author continued to write the history of al-Andalus from a conqueror’s perspective on the basis of older material even after new information based on Latin sources had become available. However, one could also side with scholars who assign the chronicle to the period between the eighth and early tenth centuries, and argue that the conquerors’ perspective could only have been maintained by an author writing before the diffusion of the Latin-based narrative in al-Andalus.m The author of the chronicle does not seem to have known as much about the period preceding the invasion as the exponents of the Latin-based narrative, but knew more about it than the exponents of the early standard narrative. Like Ibn al-Quriyya, he mentions the penultimate king Vitiza whose sons conspired against Roderick3 Under the years 88-90/706-08, he refers to the great famine ascribed to the reign of Ervigius (ruled 680-87) by Ibn Hayyan and the earlier Continuatio hispana of 754.154 Thus, judging it on the basis of its content on the Visigoths, the chronicle akhhar majmua seems to stand between the exponents of the early standard narrative and those of the Latin-based narrative. However, considering the arguments that assign the chronicle to a later date, we cannot rule out that a later author chose to ignore the Latin-based narrative and to concentrate on the conquest itself. [8] [9] [10] [11]

  • [1] Ibid., § 1508, p. 900, § 1521, p. 907. 145 Ibid., § 501-504, pp. 313-14.
  • [2] 146 Ibid., § 1522, p. 908. Al-Bakri probably conflates Reccared with his brother Hermenegild, who
  • [3] had rebelled against his father and who is commemorated in an inscription in Alcala de Guidara.Cf. Ripoll, ‘Changes’ (2003), p. 132.
  • [4] al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 516, p. 319.
  • [5] Ibid., pp. 13-15 (introduction fran^aise).
  • [6] See Chapter 2.2.1. Alternative interpretation in Christys, ‘History’ (2003), pp. 323^8, esp. 348.
  • [7] Ibn Abd al-Hakam, futuhMisr, ed. Torrey, p. 205: ‘ahl al-Andalus’, ‘sahib al-Andalus’.
  • [8] Ibn Juljul, tahaqat al-atihha , ed. Sayyid, p. 41: ‘Bashir al-Ishbll! al-matran’ (‘Isidor of Seville,the archbishop’); al-'Udhri, tarsi' al-akhhar, ed. al-Ahwam, p. 98: ‘Ishidhur al-alim bi-ilm al-kitab /ilm al-kuttab’. Due to the lack of vocalization, the word following ‘ilm’ can either be read as ‘kitab’(‘book’) or ‘kuttab’ (pl. of ‘writer’, ‘secretary’). Thus, two translations are possible: ‘Isidore, the scholaron the science of the book’ which would point to Isidore’s qualifications as a theologian, given that theterm ‘ilm al-kitab’ is often used in connection with Quranic studies; or ‘Isidore, the scholar of thescience of writers’, which would classify him as an eminent scholar trained in all kinds of writing skills,ranging from calligraphy to the production of historiographical and other works.
  • [9] 152 The date of writing is fixed by Pedro Chalmeta to the ninth to tenth centuries, by ClaudioSanchez-Albornoz to the eleventh, and by Luis Molina to the twelfth century or even later, cf. Molina,‘Ajbar’ (1989), pp. 540—1; Molina, ‘relato’ (1998), pp. 44—6. Garcia Sanjuan, Conquista (2013),pp. 199—200, assigns it to the eighth to tenth centuries.
  • [10] akhhar majmu'a, ed./trans. Lafuente y Alcantara, pp. 4—8 (AR), pp. 18—22 (ES).
  • [11] Ibid., p. 8 (AR), p. 22 (ES); cf. Ibn Hayyan, al-muqtahis V, ed. Chalmeta and Corriente, p. 275.On possible connections between both sources see Molina, ‘Ajbar’ (1989), pp. 516—22. The originalreference in Continuatio Hispana, ed. Mommsen, § 49, p. 349; cf. Thompson, Goths (1969), p. 231.
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