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Depending on their sources and geographic perspective, Arabic-Islamic observers described the Frankish sphere from different angles and at different stages of its development. To a certain degree, Arabic-Islamic scholarship reflects the Frankish expansion onto the Iberian and Apennine Peninsulas as well as the integration of non-Frankish groups into the Frankish world. The question remains, however, if Arabic-Islamic scholars also drew these different ‘snapshots’ together to form a coherent picture of early Frankish expansionism.

Theories of the Pre-Crusade Era

It seems as if certain scholars had already acquired enough information in the course of the tenth century to be able to form a theory on the subject. The earliest proponent of such a theory is al-Mas'udi (d. 345/956) who wrote extensively on the Franks in two extant works, the earlier geo- and ethnographical treatise muruj al-dhahab, finished in 336/947, and the later historiographical work kitab al-tanbih, finished in 345/956, the year of his death.^7

On first sight, al-Mas'udi’s statements of the Franks in these two works seem contradictory. In the earlier muruj al-dhahab, based on the Frankish chronicle presented to the prince-regent al-H akam, the Franks appear as a powerful and well- organized people.138 In the later kitab al-tanbih, they are presented as barbarians who, due to the climate in which they live, have not developed the intellectual facilities characteristic of civilized peoples, a description clearly inspired by ancient Greek ethnography.139 However, one feature is common to both works: al-Mas'udl tends to group the Franks together with several northern peoples. In the muruj al-dhahab he refers to scholarly consensus when claiming that the Franks, the Slavs, the Langobards, the Spaniards, Gog and Magog, the Turks, the Khazars, the Burjan, the Alans, the Galicians and all the other peoples that we have cited as living in the northern regions, descend from Yafeth, the youngest son of Noah, according to the opinion formulated without objection by researchers and scholars among those who follow the precepts of divine revelation.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

This notion of unity is also expressed in terms of a political alliance based on ethnic affiliation:

Those who we have mentioned, that is the Galicians, the Franks, the Slavs, the Lango- bards as well as other peoples, have their territories close to each other and most of them wage war against the people of al-Andalus. . . . Again and again, these neighbouring peoples stemming from Yafeth, i.e. the Galicians, the Burjan, the Franks and others, have united against them.141

In the kitab al-tanbih, al-Mas'udi provides historical depth to this ethno-political relationship. According to al-Mas'udl, the early human race split up into seven grand peoples. These peoples differed in character, in the way they shaped their environment, and in language.^2 Speaking one language and ruled by one king, the third group of grand peoples was made up of Greeks, Romans, Slavs, and Franks as well as ‘the other peoples that lay behind them in the northern regions’.!43 In his exposition of Roman-Byzantine history, al-Mas'udl leaves the realm of prehistoric legend and sketches the notion of a multi-ethnic Frankish world centred on Rome and heir to the ancient Romans. Dealing with the ruling periods of the late antique emperors Maximian, Maxentius, and Constans, he unambiguously defines the ‘lands of the Franks’ (bilad al-Ifranja) as territory under Roman rule.^ However, he does not seem to have believed that the Franks only constituted one among many peoples subject to the Romans. While other Arabic-Islamic scholars also defined Latin words as ‘Frankish’,^ al-Mas'udl went one step further by claiming that the term ‘Caesar’ (qaysar) pertained to ‘the archaic Frankish language’ (al-Ifranjiyya al-ula), obviously Latin. ^ Eventually, he even asserted that all other Frankish peoples, that is the Galicians, the people of Jaca, the Basques, the Armanjas [Germans?], most of the Slavs, the Bulgars and other peoples adhere to Christianity and recognize the authority of the ruler of Rome. Rome is and has always been the capital of the realm of great Francia.[7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

This statement is preceded by an episode that relates how the ruler of the city of Rome (sahib Rumiyya), subject to the Byzantine emperor, successfully challenged Byzantine authority by usurping imperial insignia and adopting the title ‘king’ (malik) in 340/951-52. The ensuing military confrontation with the troops sent by the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos was decided in favour of the ruler of Rome who eventually married one of his daughters to the

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emperors son.

The account seems to be concerned with the Carolingian and Ottonian thrust to the south. The latter had not only led to the incorporation of great parts of the Apennine Peninsula into the Frankish, then into the Eastern Frankish realm, but also to the western revival of the Roman imperial idea, a notion summed up in the concept of translatio imperii.149 Classical elements of Frankish-Byzantine relations, i.e. disputes about the legitimacy of wearing imperial insignia as well as marital connections resulting from diplomatic contact, play a role in this account. Notwithstanding, it is impossible to correlate the events and persons described by al-Mas'udi with events and persons identified by scholarship for the decades around the year 340/951-52. At first sight, al-Mas'udl’s account seems to portray the Ottonian policy vis-a-vis Italy in the middle of the tenth century. The latter involved Otto I’s marriage with Adelheid of Burgundy, the widow of King Lothair II of Italy, then Otto’s adoption of the royal title ‘rex Langobardorum’ and his endowment of Berengar of Italy with a golden sceptre symbolizing rule over the ‘regnum Italiae’ around 951.15° These measures served to prepare Otto I’s imperial coronation and the resulting adoption of imperial insignia. However, this coronation took place in 961, i.e. five years after al-Mas'udl’s death in 345/956.151 Al-Mas'udi’s Roman usurper could also be equated with a certain Alberic, who seized power in Rome around 932, adopted the title of ‘princeps ac senator omnium Romanorum’, opposed Otto I’s imperial coronation in the 950s, and ruled the eternal city for twenty-two years. However, Alberic, who even pursued a marital alliance with Byzantium, seized power in 932, not in 340/951-52.152

According to Michael de Goeje, the daughter of the ‘ruler of Rome’ who married the emperor’s son, corresponds to the illegitimate daughter of the king of Italy, Hugh of Vienne (ruled 926-47).153 Constanine VH’s son Romanos had been betrothed to Hugh’s daughter Bertha-Eudokia in 944. However, due to Bertha’s death in 949, the marriage never took place. Another marriage was arranged with Otto’s niece Hadwig, who, however, eventually married Burchard II of Suabia in 954.154

In view of the difficulty of matching events and persons in al-Mas'udi’s account with those known to modern scholarship, the passage in question could apply to, maybe even draw together various events that took place between Charlemagne’s imperial coronation in 800 and al-Mas'udi’s completion of the kitab al-tanbih in 345/956. There can be no doubt that the account addresses the dissociation of the ‘Frankish’ West from Byzantium. It seems to have been constructed from several scraps of information and to synthesize two divergent versions of events. The fact that the Roman ruler’s actions are described as an act of usurpation seems to reflect a Byzantine view, the identification of Romans and Franks in the paragraph following the account, a ‘western’ perspective.155

Two points are remarkable. The first concerns the notion of unity, expressed in the fact that al-Mas'udi classifies a number of obviously different peoples from the north as ‘Frankish’ and as subject to the authority of Rome. The second point concerns the notion of continuity from ancient times to his own era, expressed in the statement that Rome has always been at the centre of an imposing polity defined as ‘Frankish’. It seems important to note that al-Mas'udl’s concept of a ‘realm of great Francia’ (mamlakat al-Ifranjiyya al-uzmd) had been formulated a few years earlier in Greek by the same emperor featuring in al-Mas'udl’s account, i.e. Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos. He used the term ‘ fieyakgv Upayylav to define the realm of CharlemagneV6

As shown earlier, Arabic-Islamic scholars often had problems with both correlating data and deciding between different theories. 157 In this case, the inherent contradictions of al-Mas'udi’s exposition seem to result from the informational situation of an Arabic-Islamic world that had collected shreds of information about the Frankish sphere for around two and a half centuries and stood at the brink of weaving these fragments together into a coherent theory. Al-Mas'udi met this challenge by producing the earliest extant macrohistorical theory on the medieval rise of the Franks in Arabic-Islamic scholarship. He can be considered the first author to use the term ‘Frankish’, not only as an ethnonym for a specific people, but also as a generic term for the peoples of the Roman and post-Roman world north of the [13] [14] [15] [16] [17]

Mediterranean. The fact that he also includes the Slavs, the Bulgars, the Turks and even the legendary peoples Gog and Magog in his enumeration, makes it difficult to propose that he accurately equated the Frankish realm with the Roman and post-Roman west. It is clear, nonetheless, that he gave expression to the notion of a dominant and multi-ethnic Frankish sphere in the north, a sphere that had Roman roots but was independent from Byzantium. His belief that this sphere must have extended to the south at some point in time is expressed not only in his claim that the Franks originally hailed from the Mediterranean island of Rhodes, occupying Crete and Sicily thereafter, ^ but also in his statement that North Africa was inhabited by ‘Franks’ when it was occupied by Berber groups in ancient times.!59

  • [1] al-Mas'udl, muruj, ed./trans. Pellat, § 910, p. 145 (AR): ‘al-Ifranja wa-l-Saqaliba wa-l-Nawkubard wa-l-Ashban wa-Yajuj wa-Majuj wa-l-Turk wa-l-Khazar wa-Burjan wa-l-Lan wa-l-Jalaliqawa-ghayrihim mimman dhakarna mimman halla bi-l-jarbi wa-huwa al-shimal la khilaf bayna ahlal-bahth wa-l-nazar min al-shar'iyyln anna jami' man dhakarna min ha’ula’ al-umam min wald Yafithb. Nuh, wa-huwa al-asghar min wald Nuh . . .’, p. 343 (FR).
  • [2] Ibid., § 922, pp. 151—2 (AR): ‘wa-man dhakarna min al-Jalaliqa wa-l-Ifranja wa-l-Saqalibawa-l-Nawkubard wa-ghayrihim min al-umam fa-diyaruhum mutaqariba wa-l-akthar minhum muharibun li-ahl al-Andalus____wa-la-rubbama ijtama'a 'alayhim man jawarahum min al-umam min wald Yafith min al-Jalaliqa wa-Burjan wa-l-Ifranja wa-ghayrihim min al-umam’, pp. 347—8 (FR).
  • [3] al-Mas'udl, al-tanbih, ed. de Goeje, p. 77.
  • [4] Ibid., p. 83: ‘wa-man ittasala bi-him min al-umam fi l-jarbi wa-huwa al-shimal’.
  • [5] Ibid., pp. 136, 145, trans. Carra de Vaux, pp. 189, 199—200. See Chapter 4.2.1.
  • [6] al-Biruni, al-athar, ed./trans. Sachau, p. 29 (AR), p. 33 (EN). 146 al-Mas'udl, al-tanbih, ed. de Goeje, p. 123, trans. Carra de Vaux, p. 173. Even though he translates ‘al-Ifranjiyya al-ula’ with ‘ancienne langue des Francs’, Carra de Vaux uses the term ‘les Latins’ for‘al-Ifranja’, thus obscuring al-Masudl’s terminological nuances. The latter never used Arabic transcriptions of the term ‘Latin’. The ethnonym ‘al-Latlniyyun’ and the language ‘al-Latlm’ only figure inworks of later historiographers dealt with in Chapters 3.2.2., 3.2.3., and 4.2.2.
  • [7] al-Mas'udl, al-tanbih, ed. de Goeje, pp. 181—2: ‘wa-sair ajnas al-ifranjiyya min al-Jalaliqa wa-l-Jasaqas wa-l-Washkans wa-Armanjas wa-akthar al-Saqaliba wa-l-Burghar wa-ghayruhum min al-umamfa-dainun bi-l-nasraniyya munqadun ila sahib Rumiyya wa-Rumiyya dar mamlakat al-Ifranjiyyaal-'uzma qadiman wa-hadithan’, trans. Carra de Vaux, p. 246. It is unclear if the term ‘Armanjas’ canbe translated as ‘Germains’, as proposed by Carra de Vaux.
  • [8] 148 al-Mas'udi, al-tanbih, ed. de Goeje, p. 181, writes that the ruler of Rome adopted the title‘king’ (tusamma malikan) and began to wear a crown (fa-labasa al-taj), to dress in purple (al-thiyabal-firfir), and to claim further insignia for himself, which were actually reserved for the Byzantineemperor (mimmayakhtass bihi malik al-Rum).
  • [9] Kowalewski, Theorie (1923); Guldenfels, Translatio (1950); Goez, Translatio (1954); Baar, Lehre
  • [10] (1956); Schramm, Kaiser (1957); Thomas, ‘Translatio’ (1997), pp. 944—6.
  • [11] 15° Schmid, ‘Bayern’ (1987), p. 88. 151 Althoff, Ottonen (2005), pp. 96—101, 112—18.
  • [12] 152 Kolzer, ‘Alberich’ (1980), pp. 280—1.
  • [13] al-Mas'udi, al-tanbih, ed. de Goeje, p. 181 n. r): ‘de filia Hugonis sermo est’.
  • [14] Garland, Empresses (1999), p. 126; Althoff, Ottonen (2005), pp. 137—8.
  • [15] Konig, ‘Ausstrahlung’ (2012), pp. 214—15.
  • [16] Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De administrando imperio, ed./trans. Moravcsik and Jenkins,cap. 26, fol. 115 Be, p. 108 (EL), p. 109 (EN): ‘great Francia’. The accounts of al-Mas'udi and Constantine contain other parallel phrasings, but differ much in content. It seems far-fetched to believethat al-Mas'udi developed his story of secession on the basis of Constantine’s work, written, this maybe noted, between 948 and 952, that is before al-Mas'udi wrote the kitab al-tanbih in 345/956. Seeibid., p. 11 (Introduction).
  • [17] See Chapter 3.3.3.
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