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Catalan ‘Franks’ on the Iberian Peninsula

The clearest case in which the term ‘Franks’ was applied to the inhabitants of a new region concerns early medieval Catalonia. This frontier zone situated between the Frankish and the Muslim sphere came into being after the Carolingian occupation of Barcelona and its surroundings at the beginning of the ninth century. In the course of the ninth and tenth centuries, several counties were brought together under the leadership of the count of Barcelona whose matrimonial alliance with the royal offspring of Aragon in the twelfth century resulted in the creation of the so-called ‘Crown of Aragon’.79

Since Arabic-Islamic sources are lacking up to the ninth century, it is once again necessary to draw on later material to understand how this region was defined from an ethnic point of view.8° Historiographers describing the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, situate the Frankish realm north of the Iberian Peninsula.81 Historiographers addressing the Carolingian activities in the Spanish Levant during the ninth century such as Ibn H ayyan (d. 469/1076) and Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406) then explain how this region was occupied by ‘Franks’.82 Dealing with the tenth century, historiographers apply the specification ‘Frankish’ to the increasingly influential county of Barcelona. Citing al-Razi (d. 344/955), Ibn Hayyan defines Barcelona as ‘capital of the Franks’ (qaidat al-Faranja) in connection with a Muslim raid in 3 23/9 34-35,[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] and mentions a peace treaty concluded with Sunyer I, ‘the Frank’ (Shunyir b. Ghifridal-Ifranji), in 328/939-40.84 Citing Ibn Hayyan, Ibn 'Idhari (d. after 712/1312-13) speaks of ‘Franks’ when he describes a Muslim raid against the environs of Barcelona in 3 9 3/100 2-03.85 Ibn al-Khan b (d. 776/1375) mentions a raid against ‘Frankish’ territory, i.e. Barcelona, led by Muhammad Abu 'Amir al-H ajib al-Mamur around the turn of the tenth to the eleventh centuries.8fi Various later historiographers claim that the caliph Muhammad b. Hisham b. 'Abd al-Jabbar Mahdi (ruled 399/1009) and his supporter, the governor of Toledo Wadih, employed ‘Franks’ against the caliphal contender Sulayman b. al-Hakam who were probably led by the count of Barcelona, Ramon Borrell III.87

Paraphrasing Ibn Hayyan, Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406) explained many years later that James I of Aragon (ruled 1208-76) descended from these ‘Franks’. Although he wrongly believed the Franks to have ruled the Spanish Levant before the Visigoths, his account retraces the essential developments that led to the emergence of the county of Barcelona and, eventually, the Crown of Aragon:

As concerns the king of Barcelona in the eastern part of al-Andalus: his territories are vast and his realm large, including Barcelona on the one side and Aragon, Xativa, Zaragoza, Valencia, the peninsula of Denia, Mallorca and Minorca. His genealogy leads back to the Franks, and a summary of the data on his realm as transmitted by Ibn Hayyan runs that the Goths, who were in al-Andalus, had in ancient times been in the realm of the Franks. Then they [the Franks] attacked, obstructed and dispossessed them of their realm. Barcelona belonged to the realms and territories of the Franks. So when God brought Islam and the conquest took place, the Franks refrained from supporting the Goths because of this enmity. Then, when the affairs of the Goths ended, the Muslims advanced upon the Franks, chased them from Barcelona and took possession of it. Then they crossed the mountainous regions behind it into the plains of the great mainland and, among its cities, took possession of the peninsula of Narbonne and the adjacent plains. Then there was a phase during the downfall of the Umayyad state in the East and the beginning of the Abbasid state, during which the Arabs of al-Andalus fought with each other. The Franks seized the opportunity and reconnected their lands to Barcelona, taking possession of it in this period of the year 200 after the hijra [i.e. 815 ce], ruling it as they had done before. Their affairs passed to the ruler of Rome among the Franks, which was Charlemagne (Qarluh al-akbar), who belonged to their royal house. Then, in a time of weakness, they were seized by strife, competition and dissensions among their rulers, such as had seized the Muslims and had weakened the hands of the rulers. Consequently, the leaders in all their peripheries seceded. The rulers of Barcelona were among those who led their realm to independence, and the rulers of the Umayyads were among the first polities who sought peace by armistice with these rulers of the people of Barcelona looking for security from the expanding arms of the ruler of Rome.[6]

Thus, the realm of Barcelona was initially regarded as an extension of the Frankish realm that achieved independence in the period witnessing the Carolingians’ demise in West Francia.[7] [8] It only began to carry additional names as soon as it had reached political maturity as the epicentre of the Crown ofAragon.9° Al-Marrakushi was still able to use the ethnonym ‘Franks’ when he wrote about the rise of Aragon in the middle of the thirteenth century:

The Banu Hud possessed the towns of this region [eastern al-Andalus], Tortosa and its environs, Zaragoza and its environs, Fraga, Lerida and Calatayud. They are now in the hands of the Franks, belonging to the prince of Barcelona, may God curse him, and constitute the country known as Aragon (Araghun).[9] [10]

Pedro Chalmeta has shown that Arabic-Islamic scholarship initially only accorded a geographic dimension to the term ‘Araghun’.92 In the eleventh century, Ibn Hayyan still refrained from linking the ‘Valley of Aragon’ (wadi Araghun) to a corresponding polity holding the same name.[11] In the latter sense, the term seems to have come into use in the thirteenth century. Aside from al-Marrakushi, a polity called Aragon features in the works of al-Himyari (13th-l4th cent.), Ibn al-Khan b (d. 776/1375), Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406), and al-Qalqashandi (d. 821/1418).9[12] [13] Contemporary correspondence as well as treaties concluded between the king of Aragon and Muslim rulers from North Africa, ranging from Hafsid Tunis to Mamluk Egypt, use the Arabic term for Aragon’.95

From the thirteenth century onwards, Arabic-Islamic sources also employ the ethnonym ‘Catalans’. In some cases, the polity ‘Aragon’ and the ethnonym ‘Catalans’ appear together. Citing the manual tathqifal-taFifby the Mamluk secretary Ibn Nazir al-Jaysh (fl. 762-78/1361-76), al-Qalqashandi states that the ‘master of Barcelona’ (sahib Barshaluna) holds the title ‘king of Aragon’ (al-ridAraghun) and belongs to the ‘group of the Catalans’ (taifat al-Kitlan).[14] [15] [16] [17] Other authors only refer to the Catalans. Ibn Sa'ld (d. 685/1286) and Abu l-Fida’ (d. 732/1331) assert that Barcelona is the capital of the ‘Catalans’ (al-Katalin, al-Kitlan), while al-'Umarl (d. 749/1349), using a variant transcription (al-Kitlan or al-Katiran), only refers to ‘the lands in which they are now’.9? It is noteworthy that Ibn Sa'ld and al-'Umarl both provide an alternative explanation of this people’s origins, thus taking up a motive already known to the tenth-century Middle Eastern geographer al-Ist akhriT8 Ibn Sa'id explains that the king of the Catalans

is genealogically related to Jabala ibn al-Ayham, the Christian king of the [tribe of] Ghassan during the caliphate of [the second caliph] 'Umar b. al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him.99

Al-'Umari reproduces this theory, but also claims that they constitute an ethnic mix made up of Frankish and Arab elements:

The Catalans (al-Katiran or al-Kitlan) are the Arabs among the Franks (‘Arab al-Far- anj). Their origin leads back to the Christian [tribe of] Ghassan, the entourage of Jabala ibn al-Ayham. They entered the territory of the Byzantines (al-Rum) and were swallowed by what lies behind it until they settled in the lands where they are now and became local. They have a king from among them who enlists their obedience and they are a people active on the land and on the sea . . .[18] [19] [20] [21]

Both passages lead the Catalans back to the Ghassanids. Allies of the Byzantines, their rulers held the title of phylarch, put their troops at the disposition of the empire, and contributed significantly to the establishment of Syrian monophy- sitism and to the urbanization of Greater Syria before the rise of Islam. The Ghassanid ruler Jabala b. al-Ayham fought in the army of Heraclius against the Muslims in the decisive Battle of Yarmuk in 636.m The equation of Catalans and Ghassanids thus ascribes a certain degree of ‘Arabhood’ to the Catalans. Read as an analogy, this equation could express the Catalans’ special position as intermediaries between (Andalusian) Islam and (‘Frankish’) Christendom. However, these ‘deviant’ statements about the origins of the Catalans stand alone in medieval Arabic-Islamic scholarship. Other western and eastern scholars of this late period, who use the ethnonym ‘Catalans’, maintain that they are of Frankish origin.102 Arabic-Islamic scholars thus clearly acknowledged the Frankish roots of medieval Catalonia.

  • [1] Ibn Hayyan, al-muqtabis V, ed. Chalmeta and Corriente, fol. 245, p. 363. Another maritimeraid against the ‘land of the Franks’ (balad al-Faranja), described in ibid., fol. 248—49, pp. 366—8,involves Marseille (Massanit) and later Barcelona. Then again, in fol. 257, p. 379, ‘the Franks’(al-Faranja) are led to war against the Muslims by the ‘master of Barcelona’ (sahib Barshaluna) in AH324/935-36.
  • [2] Ibn Hayyan, al-muqtabis V, ed. Chalmeta and Corriente, fol. 308, pp. 454-5. Cf. Zuccato,‘Gerbert’ (2005), pp. 750-1.
  • [3] Ibn ' Idharl, al-bayan, ed. Colin and Levi-Proven^al, vol. 3, p. 4.
  • [4] 86 Ibn al-Khatib, a’mal al-a’lam, ed. Levi-Proven^al, p. 74. Cf. Ibn al-Khatib, al-ihata, ed. 'Inan,vol. 3, p. 281.
  • [5] al-Marrakushi, al-mujib, ed. Dozy, p. 29; Ibn 'Idharl, al-bayan, ed. Colin and Levi-Proven^al,vol. 3, pp. 93-5, 98-9, 106; Ibn al-Khatib, a’malal-a’lam, ed. Levi-Provernjal, pp. 114-15; cf. Norris,Berbers (1982), p. 67; Scales, Fall (1994), pp. 75-6, 191-3; Clement, ‘Nommer’ (2009), p. 90.
  • [6] Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 4, p. 235: ‘wa-amma malik Barshaluna bi-jihatsharq al-Andalus fa-amalatuhum wasia, wa-mamlakatuhum kabira tashtamil ala Barshaluna bi-jihawa-Araghun wa-Shatiba wa-Saraqusta wa-Balansiya wa-jazirat Daniya wa-Mayurqa wa-Minurqa,wa-nasabuhum fi l-Faranj, wa-siyaq al-khabar an mulkihim ma naqala Ibn Hayyan anna l-Ghutalladhina kanu bi-l-Andalus kanu qadiman fi mulk al-Faranj, thumma itazzu alayhim wa-imtanauwa-nabadhu ilayhim ahdahum. wa-kanat Barshaluna min mamalik al-Faranj wa-amalatihim, fa-lammajaa Allah bi-l-Islam wa-kana al-fath, qaada al-Faranj an nasr al-Ghut li-tilka al-adawa, fa-lammainqada amr al-Ghut zahafa al-muslimun ila l-Faranj fa-azajuhum an Barshaluna wa-malakuha.thumma tajawazu al-durub min waraiha ila l-basait bi-l-barr al-kabir fa-malaku min qawaidiha jaziratArbuna wa-ma ilayha min tilka al-basa it. thumma kanat fatra inda inqirad al-dawla al-umawiyya bi-l-mashriq wa-bidayat al-dawla al-abbasiyya iftatana fiha al-Arab bi-l-Andalus. wa-intahaza al-Faranjfursatahum fa-irtajau biladihim ila Barshaluna fa-malakuha li-hadha al-ahd miatayn min al-hijra,wa-wallu alayhim min qablihim, wa-sara amruha rajian ila malik Ruma min al-Faranja, wa-huwaQarluh al-akbar, wa-kana min al-jababira. thumma rakabahum min al-khilaf wa-l-munafasa fi awqatdafihim wa-ikhtilaf mulukihim ka-lladhi rakabahum al-muslimun man daafat yadihi min al-muluk,fa-iqtataa al-umara nawahihim bi-kull jiha, fa-kana muluk Barshaluna haula mimman iqtataaamalahu, wa-kana muluk Ban! Umiyya li-awwal dawlatihim yataraduna bi-muhadanat haula5 al-mulukahl Barshaluna hadharan min maddad sahib Ruma.’
  • [7] On the counts of Barcelona asserting their independence vis-a-vis their nominal Carolingianoverlords, see Zimmermann, ‘Souverainete’ (2012), pp. 111-40.
  • [8] 9° Clement, ‘Nommer’ (2009), p. 95; Chalmeta, ‘Araghun’ (2004), p. 82. For further reading, seeMillas i Vallicrosa, Textos (1987); Bramon Planas, Textos (1998).
  • [9] al-Marrakushi, al-mujib, ed. Dozy, p. 50: ‘kanu Banu Hud haula5 yamlikuna min mudunhadhihi al-jiha al-janubiyya Turtusha wa-amaliha wa-Saraqusta wa-amaliha wa-Ifragha wa-Laridawa-Qalat Ayyub hadhihi al-yawm kulluha bi-aydi al-Ifranj yamlikuha sahib Barshanuna laanahuAllah wa-hiya al-bilad allati tusamma Araghun.’ Translation adapted from Chalmeta, ‘Araghun’(2004), p. 82. Cf. al-Qalqashandi, subh al-a(sha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 5, p. 374, on ‘Catalan Franks’(al-Faranj al-Kitlaniyyiri), and, p. 409, on ‘a race of the Franks called Catalans’ (jins min al-Faranjyuqal lahum al-Qitlan).
  • [10] 92 Chalmeta, ‘Araghun’ (2004), p. 80.
  • [11] Ibn Hayyan, al-muqtabis V, ed. Chalmeta and Corriente, fol. 123, p. 192.
  • [12] 94 al-Himyari, al-rawd al-mictar, ed. Abbas, pp. 27, 97, 567, with several shorter references; Ibnal-Khatib, acmal al-a4am, ed. Levi-Proven^al, pp. 337—8, provides a historical overview on ‘the kingsof Aragon and Barcelona’ (muluk Araghun wa-Barjaluna) and a list of kings that seems to begin inthe late tenth or the early eleventh century; Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 4,pp. 235—6, proffers another historical overview; al-Qalqashandi, subh al-a 'ha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 5,pp. 233, 270, 415; vol. 6, pp. 84, 176; vol. 8, p. 34; vol. 14, pp. 26, 63, contains some historiographical material, lists of titles held by the kings of Aragon, and the texts of two treaties signed with theCrown of Aragon.
  • [13] Gimenez Soler, ‘Episodios’ (1908), pp. 195—224; Gimenez Soler, ‘Documentos’ (1911),pp. 210—59; Ibn Abd al-Zahir, tashrif al-ayyam, ed./trans. Amari (BAS), p. 341 (AR), pp. 548—68(IT); al-Qalqashandi, subh al-a 'ha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 14, pp. 26, 63.
  • [14] 96 Ibid., vol. 8, p. 36.
  • [15] 97 Ibn Sa id, al-jughrafiya, ed. al- Arab!, p. 181; Abu l-Fida, taqwim, ed. Reinaud and de Slane,pp. 30, 67, esp. 182—3; al-' Umari, Condizioni, ed./trans. Amari, p. 9 (AR): ‘biladihim allati hum bihaal-an’, p. 17 (IT).
  • [16] In a chapter on ‘the western regions’ (diyar al-Maghrib), al-Istakhri, al-masalik, ed. de Goeje,pp. 44—5, also mentions a group that claims to stem from Jabala b. Ayham, but without calling themCatalans.
  • [17] Ibn Sa id, al-jughrafiya, ed. al- Arabl, p. 181: ‘wa-huwa muntasib ila Jabala ibn al-Ayham, malikGhassan al-muntasi r [sic, Ibn Sa id probably meant mutanass i r] fi khilafat ' Umar b. al-Khattab radiyaAllah ' anhu’.
  • [18] al-Umari, Condizioni, ed./trans. Amari, p. 9 (AR): ‘wa-amma al-Katiran wa-hum al-Kitlanwa-hum Arab al-Faranj wa-asluhum min mutanassirat Ghassan ashab Jabala ibn al-Ayham dakhalubilad al-Rum wa-tawaghghalu fima warahim hatta istawtanu bi-biladihim allati hum biha al-anwa-saru min ahliha wa-lahum malik minhum muta fihim wa-hum ahl barr wa-bahr . . .’, p. 17 (IT):‘gli Arabi dei Franchi’.
  • [19] Shahid, ‘Ghassan’ (1965), p. 1020.
  • [20] Dealing with Muhammad Abu Amir al-Hajib al-Mansur’s raid against Barcelona at the turn ofthe tenth to the eleventh centuries, Ibn al-Khatib, a cmal al-a 4am, ed. Levi-Proven^al, p. 74, defines theraiding zone as a region ruled by ‘the Franks adjoining the territory of France and Rome’ (al-Firanjaal-muttasila bi-ard Ifransa wa-Ruma); Abu l-Fida, taqwim, ed. Reinaud and de Slane, p. 183:‘wa-Barshaluna qa idat malik min muluk al-Faranj yuqal lahu al-Barshaluni wa-huwa malik ‘ ala jinsmin al-Faranj yuqal lahum al-Kitlan wa-Barshaluna min jumlat futuh al-muslimin thumma irtaja ahaal-kuffar’; al-Qalqashandi, subh al-acsha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 5, p. 374, on ‘Catalan Franks’ (al-Faranjal-Kitlaniyyiri), and, p. 409, on ‘a race of the Franks called Catalans’ (jins min al-Faranj yuqal lahumal-Qitlan).
  • [21] 103 Gasparri, ‘Passagio’ (2000), pp. 25-43; Tabacco, ‘L’avvento’ (2004), pp. 443—80.
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