Log in / Register
Home arrow Geography arrow Arabic-Islamic views of the Latin West : tracing the emergence of medieval Europe

From the Ruler of Rome to the Leader of Christendom

In Arabic-Islamic sources from the tenth century onwards, the bishop of Rome bears the title ‘pope’. Ibn Rustah (d. after 300/913), who uses the title for the first time, defines the pope as the ruler of urban Rome. In his wake, al-Bakri (d. 487/1094) and al-Himyari (13th-l4th cent.) state that Rome is a city ‘whose affairs are administrated by a ruler called the pope’.173 Later sources also use the title ‘ruler/master of Rome’ (sahib Rumiyyd)}7^

Several sources suggest that the pope was not the only medieval ruler in and of Rome. Since the tenth century, sources mention the rebellion of a ‘ruler of Rome’ (sahib Rumiyyd) against the Byzantine emperor, which is said to have taken place in 340/952. However, the ‘Roman ruler’ who usurps imperial insignia in the course of this rebellion, is never equated with the pope.175 Since the twelfth century, Arabic-Islamic sources point out repeatedly that Rome was also the residence of a ‘ruler of the Franks’ (malik al-Afranj) or ‘ruler of the Germans’ (malik al-Alman)}76

Authors of the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries took notice of the pope’s enlarged sphere of influence. Already before the crusading period, al-Bakri highlights that Christian rulers have to demonstrate submission to the pope in the official protocol.177 Al-Idrisi (d. c.560/1165) and al-'Umarl (d. 749/1349) define the localities Magliano, Ostia, Mentana, and Castello as dependencies of Rome in connection with their references to the pope.178 Abu l-Fida (d. 732/1331) claims [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

that the pope also ruled Pisa.[7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] Other scholars confer a ‘Frankish’ dimension to papal rule.180 Yaqut (d. 626/1229) defines him as ‘leader of the Franks’ (rais al-Afranj) who is obeyed by the entire Frankish world.m Ibn al-Athir (d. 630/1233) calls the pope ‘ruler of the Franks in Rome’ (malik al-Faranj bi-Rumiyya al-kubra).m According to al-Qazwlnl (d. 682/1283), all Franks were obliged to obey the pope.183 Ibn Wasil (d. 697/1298) defines him as ‘caliph of the Franks’ (khalifat al-Faranj)i84 and asserts that ‘according to their legal customs’ (fi sharPatihim) every affair had to be decided by the pope.185 Together with Ibn al-Furat (d. 807/1405) and Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/14o6) he mentions the pope’s role in the coronation of emperors.186 This papal function is also reflected in the official title ‘crowner of Christian rulers’ (mumallik al-muluk al-nasraniyya) to be used in written correspondence with the pope according to al-Qalqashandi.187 The latter defines the pope as ‘friend of kings and sultans’ (sadiq al-muluk wa-l-salatin), thus emphasizing his high rank.m Occasionally, he also confers the title ‘comforter of the pope’ (mu)zz al-baba or even muizz imam Rumiyya) as well as ‘supporter of the pope’ (zahir baba Rumiyya) on several Latin-Christian rulers, such as the doge of Venice (duk al-Banadiqa),189 the ruler of Montferrat (malik Munfirad),m a certain Frankish king called ‘Firank’, probably Frederick II,191 and the king of Aragon.192

The most explicit and detailed definition of papal rule is provided by al-'Umari (d. 749/1349). He defines Rome as ‘the seat of the greatest tyrant’ of the Christians (maqarr taghutihim al-akbar). All Melkite rulers (jamP muluk al-malikiyya) were subject to him. He ruled them with justice and according to the principles of their predecessors. The spiritual rulers (al-falakiyya) obeyed him and hoped for his intercession in both this and the next world. The pope regulated their divergencies and differences, coalitions, and agreements.[21] In line with other Arabic-Islamic scholars, al-'Umarl makes it plain that papal leadership was ultimately based on religious authority. Authors commenting on the pope’s religious adherence, unanimously claim that he belonged to the faction of Melkite Christians.19[22] [23]

The pope’s religious authority is described as follows: al-Bakri (d. 487/1094) defines him as a ‘religious leader’ (sahib al-din).lc,5 Al-Idrisi (d. c.560/1165) even asserts that Christian rulers conferred the rank of the Creator upon himTh[24] while Abu H amid (d. 565/1169-70) highlights that all Christians had recourse to his judgements and followed his commands.^[25] Ibn Shaddad (d. 632/1235) calls him ‘chief of the Christian religion’ (kabir din al-nasraniyya),19[26] [27] while Yaqut (d. 626/1229), Ibn Wasil (d. 697/1298), and Ibn al-Furat (d. 807/1405) report, that he is regarded as the representative or successor of the Messiah (naib al-masih/ khalifat al-masih).m Speaking of the Franks, Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406) calls him ‘their leading patriarch’ (batrakuhum al-azam).[28] [29] [30] [31] [32] Abu l-Fida (d. 732/1331) defines him as ‘caliph of the Christians’ (khalifat al-nasard).2^

Aside from using the definition ‘the great priest in Rome’ (al-qissis al-azam bi-Ruma),202 the Andalusian historiographer Ibn al-Khatib (d. 776/1375) calls the pope ‘the great comes(al-qumis al-aczam).2l03 This definition equates the papal office with the specifically Andalusian office of the qumis, an Arabic transcription of the Latin title comes. This title was used not only to designate counts in the service of a Christian king, but also to define a Christian functionary who represented the Christian community vis-a-vis its Muslim overlords and collected the Christians’ taxes for the Muslim authorities, approximately since the times of the first Umayyad amir Abd al-Rahman I (ruled 138-72/756-88).204 By assigning this title to the pope in connection with the aforementioned Muslim embassy to Rome, Ibn al-Khatib pointed to the pope’s function as the chief representative of the Christian world.205

The greatest number of papal titles is listed by the Mamluk chancery official al-Qalqashandi (d. 821/1418).2°6 Correcting hypotheses formulated in the earlier manual for secretaries by Ibn Nazir al-Jaysh, he underscores that the pope cannot be compared to the Mongol Ilkhan since the pope was responsible for religious (amr diyanatihim), the Ilkhan for secular affairs (amr al-mulk).207 In the section dedicated to the titles to be used in letters to the pope, al-Qalqashandi defines him as ‘Mighty one of the Christian community’ (’azim al-milla al-masihiyya), ‘Paragon of the community of Jesus’ (qudwat al-taifa al-‘isawiyya), ‘Refuge of patriarchs, bishops, priests and monks’ (maladh al-batarika wa-l-asaqifa wa-l-qusus wa-l- ruhban), ‘Reciter of the gospels’ (tali al-injil), and as ‘the one who informs his religious community about what is forbidden and what is licit’ (muarrif taifatihi bi-l-tahrim wa-l-tahlil). The title ‘Protector of bridges and canals’ (hafiz al-jusur wa-l-khuljan) may represent a distorted version of the very old Latin title ‘pontifex maximus’.2°8 That the medieval pope convoked assemblies which discussed religious and political issues is acknowledged by al-MaqrlzI (d. 845/1442) who reports on the pope’s convocation of the council of Ferrara-Florence in 843/1439, where Franks and Byzantines discussed questions of faith and planned a new attack against the Muslims7°9

Several Arabic-Islamic scholars draw parallels between the papacy and Muslim offices of spiritual authority. Yaqut compares the pope with the Muslim ‘Commander of the faithful’ (amir al-mu minin).2i° Yaqut, al-Qazwlnl, and al-Qalqashandi also use the title ‘Imam’.211 Others compare him with the caliph, defining him as ‘caliph of the Franks’ (khalifat al-Faranj), such as Ibn Wasil, or as ‘caliph of the Christians’ (khalifat al-nasara) such as Abu l-Fida’. More nuanced, Abu H amid and al-Qalqashandi claim that he fulfilled the functions of a caliph among the Christians.212

Some sources provide further details. The work of Ibn Wasi l contains the deprecatory remark ascribed to Frederick II who criticized that the pope could not lead his genealogy back to Christianity’s founding figure.2i3 Ibn Wasil mentions that

6 On a systematic comparison with their Latin equivalents, see Beihammer, ‘Kirche’ (2013),

pp. 292-7.

  • 2°7 al-Qalqashandi, subh al-a’ha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 8, p. 42.
  • 2°8 Ibid., vol. 8, p. 43. On the Arabic translation of ‘pontifex maximus’, see Lewis, Discovery (1982/2001), p. 179 n. 12. Another interpretation in Beihammer, ‘Kirche’ (2013), p. 286 with n. 101.
  • 9 al-Maqrizi, al-suluk, ed. Ata, vol. 7, AH 843 (11 Sha’ban), p. 446. On the council of Ferrara- Florence, see Setton, Papacy, vol. 2 (1978), pp. 58-62; Meuthen and Martl, 15. Jahrhundert (2006), pp. 65-7.
  • 2i° Yaqut, mujam, ed. Wustenfeld, vol. 1, lemma ‘Bashghird’, pp. 469-70.
  • 211 Ibid., vol. 2, lemma ‘Rumiya’, p. 867; al-QazwInI, athar, ed. Wustenfeld, p. 397; al-Qalqashandl, subh al-aesha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 7, pp. 117-18.
  • 212 Ibn Wasil, mufarrij, ed. Rabi' and Ashur, vol. 4, AH 626, pp. 248, 251; Abu l-Fida’, taqwim, ed. Reinaud and de Slane, p. 209. Abu Hamid, tuhfa, ed. Ferrand, p. 194, probably does not refer to the Byzantine emperor in this context, even though other parts of this passage obviously apply to Constantinople: ‘wa-yusamma dhalika al-malik indihim al-malik al-rahim bi-manzilat al-khallfa fl l-muslimln wa-jaml’ al-nasara yarji una ila hukmihi wa-yutl‘una qawlahu’; al-Qalqashandl, subh al-a'sha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 8, p. 42: ‘al-qa im indihim maqam al-khallfa’.
  • 213 Ibn Wasil, mufarrij, ed. Rabi' and Ashur, vol. 4, AH 626, p. 251.

the pope had to be a monk who was replaced by another monk at his deaths14 According to al-'Umarl, the Christians claimed hypocritically that the pope was chaste and unmarried, did not succumb to any luxury as regards clothes, drink, and food, neither ate meat nor animal products such as milk and honey, thus being the strictest among the patriarchs and monks.215

  • [1] Ibn Rustah, al-a laq al-nafisa, ed. de Goeje, p. 128: ‘yudabbir amraha malik yuqal al-bab’;al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 803-05, pp. 478—9; al-Himyari, al-rawdal-mi'tar,ed. Abbas, lemma ‘Ruma’, pp. 275—6.
  • [2] 174 Ibn Rustah, al-a4aq al-nafisa, ed. de Goeje, pp. 128—32; al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwenand Ferre, § 803-05, pp. 478—9; Ibn al-Athir, al-kamil, ed. Tornberg, vol. 12, AH 586, p. 34 (Leiden),p. 53 (Beirut); vol. 12, AH 614, p. 216 (Leiden), p. 330 (Beirut); vol. 12, AH 623, pp. 303—4(Leiden), p. 465 (Beirut): ‘al-baba, malik al-Faranj bi-Rumiyya al-kubra’; Ibn Wasil, mufarrij, ed.Rabf and Ashur, vol. 4, AH 618, p. 98; vol. 4, AH 626, p. 248; Abu l-Fida , al-mukhtasar, ed.Zaynuhum Azab et al., vol. 3, AH 618, p. 162; al-Himyari, al-rawd al-mitar, ed. Abbas, lemma‘Ruma’, pp. 275—6.
  • [3] al-Mas udi, al-tanbih, ed. de Goeje, p. 181; Sa id al-Andalusi, tabaqat al-umam, ed. Bu Alwan,p. 99; Ibn al-Athir, al-kamil, ed. Tornberg, vol. 1, p. 242 (Leiden), pp. 338—9 (Beirut). See Chapters4.2.1. to 4.2.3. and 6.4.1. to 6.4.2.
  • [4] Yaqut, mujam, ed. Wustenfeld, vol. 2, lemma ‘Rumiya’, p. 867; al-Qazwlnl, athar, ed. Wusten-feld, p. 397; Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 1, p. 92.
  • [5] al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 803-05, pp. 478—9. The Arabic-Islamicsphere thus became aware of the pope’s rising authority much earlier than Beihammer, ‘Kirche’ (2013), p. 269, believes.
  • [6] al- Umari, masalik al-absar, ed./trans. Schiaparelli, p. 307 (AR), p. 312 (IT); al-Idrisl, Opusgeographicum, ed. Bombaci et al., fasc. VII, p. 752.
  • [7] Abu l-Fida, taqwim, ed. Reinaud and de Slane, pp. 209, 211. Although Abu l-Fida’ claims tohave used Ibn Sa id as a source, Ibn Sa id, al-jughrafiya, ed. Arabi, pp. 169, 182, draws no connectionbetween Pisa and the pope.
  • [8] See Chapter 6.
  • [9] Yaqut, mujam, ed. Wustenfeld, vol. 1, lemma ‘Bashghird’, pp. 469—70.
  • [10] 182 Ibn al-Athir, al-kamil, ed. Tornberg, vol. 12, AH 623, pp. 303—4 (Leiden), p. 465 (Beirut).
  • [11] al-Qazwlnl, athar, ed. Wustenfeld, p. 397.
  • [12] 184 Ibn Wasil, mufarrij, ed. Rabf and Ashur, vol. 4, AH 626, p. 248.
  • [13] Ibid., vol. 4, AH 626, p. 249.
  • [14] 186 Ibid., vol. 4, AH 626, pp. 250—1; Ibn al-Furat, AH 644, ed./trans. Lyons, vol. 1, p. 11 (AR),vol. 2, p. 9 (EN); Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 1, p. 292; cf. Beihammer,‘Kirche’ (2013), p. 278.
  • [15] al-Qalqashandi, subh al-a'sha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 8, p. 43; cf. Lewis, Discovery (1982/2001),pp. 178-9.
  • [16] al-Qalqashandi, subh al-a'sha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 8, pp. 42-3; cf. Lewis, Discovery (1982/2001),pp. 178-9.
  • [17] al-Qalqashandi, subh al-aesha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 6, p. 179; vol. 8, pp. 47-8.
  • [18] Ibid., vol. 6, p. 178.
  • [19] Ibid., vol. 7, pp. 117-18. The ruler in question allegedly received a letter sent by the Ayyubidruler al-Malik al-Kamil in Sha ban 630/May 1233. That Frederick II, banned by Gregory IX in 1227and 1228, should feature as ‘the comforter of the imam of Rome’ may be due to the fact that the letterwas written between the Peace of San Germano (1230) and the death of Herman of Salza (1239), cf.Houben, Friedrich II (2008), pp. 47-8, 54-5. Gabrieli, Historians (1984), p. 280 n. 5, regards the useof this title, in this case by Frederic, as ‘one of the ironies of protocol’.
  • [20] al-Qalqashandi, subh al-a sha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 6, pp. 89, 176; vol. 8, p. 36.
  • [21] al-Umari, masalik al-absar, ed./trans. Schiaparelli, pp. 306—7 (AR), p. 312 (IT) with n. 2; cf.Mohring, ‘Konstantinopel’ (1989), p. 76.
  • [22] al-Mas udi, al-tanbih, ed. de Goeje, p. 147, claims that, in his time, in 325/936, all patriarchsadhered to the Melkite form of Christianity. Also see Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada,vol. 1, p. 292; al-Qalqashandi, subh al-aesha, ed. Ibrahim, vol. 8, p. 42.
  • [23] al-Bakri, al-masalik, ed. van Leeuwen and Ferre, § 1527, pp. 910—11.
  • [24] al-Idrisi, Opusgeographicum, ed. Bombaci et al., fasc. VII, p. 752: yuqlmunahu maqam al-bari’jall wa- azz . . .’; cf. Mohring, ‘Konstantinopel’ (1989), p. 75.
  • [25] Abu Hamid, tuhfa, ed. Ferrand, p. 194: ‘yarji c una ila hukmihi wa-yuti una qawlahu’. In hisdescription of the city ‘Rumiyya al- uzma’, Abu Hamid seems to speak about Rome and the pope. Inother passages, however, he seems to deal with Constantinople, as on p. 193, where he claims that theBlack Sea (al-bahr al-aswad) surrounded the city on three sides. See Chapter 7.2.3.
  • [26] Ibn Shaddad, al-nawadir, ed. al-Shayyal, p. 304.
  • [27] Yaqut, mu jam, ed. Wustenfeld, vol. 1, lemma ‘Bashghird’, pp. 469—70; Ibn Wasil, mufarrij, ed.Rabi and Ashur, vol. 4, AH 626, p. 249; Ibn al-Furat, ed./trans. Lyons, vol. 1, AH 644, p. 11 (AR),vol. 2, p. 9 (EN).
  • [28] Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 1, p. 92.
  • [29] Abu l-Fida’, taqwim, ed. Reinaud and de Slane, p. 209.
  • [30] Ibn al-Khatib, acmal al-a4am, ed. Levi-Proven^al, p. 336.
  • [31] Ibn al-Khatib, al-ihata, ed. c Inan, vol. 4, pp. 34—5.
  • [32] Chalmeta, ‘Kumis’ (1986), p. 376. 205 See Chapter 7.3.4.
Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >
Business & Finance
Computer Science
Language & Literature
Political science