Summer Reading

These are some books I’m planning to read over the summer.

1) Joan A. Holladay, Genealogy and the Politics of Representation in the High and Late Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

“Images and image cycles with genealogical content were everywhere in the high and later Middle Ages. They represent families related by blood as well as successive office holders and appear as family trees and lineages of single figures in manuscripts, on walls and in stained glass, and in sculpture and metalwork. Yet art historians have hardly remarked on the frequency of these images. Considering the physical contexts and functions of these works alongside the goals of their patrons, this volume examines groups of figural genealogies ranging across northern Europe and dating from the mid-twelfth to the mid-fourteenth century. Joan A. Holladay considers how they were used to legitimize rulers and support their political and territorial goals, to reinforce archbishops’ rights to crown kings, to cement relationships between families of founders and their monastic foundations, and to commemorate the dead. The flexibility and legibility of this genre was key to its widespread use.”

https://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/history/european-history-1000-1450/genealogy-and-politics-representation-high-and-late-middle-ages?format=HB

holladay

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The Iconography of Royal Power in 12th-c. Norman Sicily

The reign of Roger II (r. 1130-1154), who had began his rule as Count of Sicily in 1105, became Duke of Apulia and Calabria in 1127, and then King of Sicily in 1130, has long fascinated everyone interested in Mediterranean history. It marks a particularly significant period for the consolidation of Norman rule in both Sicily and southern Italy. Roger II instituted a strong royal administration, overcame various challenges to his authority (in the form of rebellions) and inaugurated an expansionist foreign policy that resulted in the incorporation of substantial territories in North Africa into his realm (discussed further here).

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(Image source: http://almostforgotten.squarespace.com/podcast/2018/3/13/episode-35-norman-in-italy-part-2-roger-ii)

In addition to overseeing the transformation of the Norman kingdom into a Mediterranean power that controlled Sicily, southern Italy and parts of modern-day Tunisia and Libya, Roger II’s reign is also distinguished by his patronage of a courtly culture colored as much by Arab-Islamic and Eastern Roman (“Byzantine”) influences as by Latin Christian culture. This is unsurprising, given the rich Islamic and Eastern Roman history of Sicily in the preceding centuries. Indeed, the island’s large population of Christians, Muslims and Jews was predominantly Greek and Arabic speaking during the early 12th century.  This variety of cultural influences and convergence of diverse communities is indicated by the distinctive culture of the Norman kingdom, perhaps best embodied by the wonderful architecture patronized and constructed by Roger II and his successors during the 12th century.

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(Muqarnas in the Palatine Chapel/Cappella Palatina in Palermo, constructed between 1132 and 1180. Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bautisterias/24595747119/)

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Arabia Felix: why everyone should read the story of a failure

SquareKufic

“On a calm winter morning, on 4th January, 1761, a company of five men, clad for a journey, were rowed out from the Tollbooth into the shipping roads of Copenhagen. […] They were bound for “Happy Arabia”, but none of them seemed particularly happy at the thought”.

This is how Thorkild Hansen starts his book , Arabia Felix. The Danish expedition of 1761-1767. Hansen’s work was published in 1962, roughly two centuries after the Danish expedition took place, and by then, the adventures of the five men, the first European scholars to embark on a scientific expedition to Yemen, was well forgotten. Hansen compiled the book starting from the original documents concerning the expedition – articles, journals, letters, drawings – and combining them with a touch of gentle imagination. The result is an exquisite account. Of a failure.

Niebuhr_-_Map_of_taiz,_Yemen.jpg Map of Taiz, drawn by Niebhur.

The Danish expedition that left…

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Not a Moor, Exactly

S.J. Pearce

Following a truly bizarre exchange on Twitter a few months ago, the racial animus that inheres in the term moor has been on my mind. It’s not just social media, either: I’m teaching a Muslim Spain course this fall and using Richard Fletcher’s Moorish Spain as the main text, which meant that I had to devote part of my lecture on race in the Middle Ages to why we don’t use that term even though Fletcher does, and what it means for us to live with the book this semester and to try to do better than its author does when we write and talk about questions of race. It’s been percolating in the back of my head, then, and so it is perhaps not surprising that the role of moor in Spanish historiography and popular perception made its way into the talk I gave at the University of Minnesota…

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27 Prominent Medieval Andalusi Women

The following biographies of medieval Andalusi women are drawn from the Kitāb al-Ṣilah of Ibn Bashkuwal (d. 1183), the Takmilat Kitāb al-Ṣilah by Ibn al-Abbar (d. 1260), and the Kitāb Ṣilat al-Ṣila by Ibn al-Zubayr (d. 1308). They include women from various classes of society and different regions of al-Andalus who participated in scholarship and learning between the ninth and thirteenth centuries. These biographical works and accounts provide important insight into the social and intellectual history of al-Andalus and allow modern scholars to better understand the role of Andalusi women in the transmission of knowledge during the Middle Ages.

 


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El-Mo’izz de la dynastie Ziride reconnaît la suzeraineté d’El-K’â’im bi-amr Allah l’Abbasside rejetant officiellement les Fatimides en 1043 et l’entrée des Arabes des Banu Hilal et des Banu Sulaym en Ifrikiyya en 1050 par ibn al-Athir de son ” Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh “

An excellent French translation of the sections of Izz al-Din ibn al-Athir’s historical chronicle dealing with the reign of Zirid emir al-Mu’izz ibn Badis (r. 1016-1062)

Histoire Islamique

Abu Zayd al-HilaliAbu Zayd al-Hilali

[P. 356] El-Mo’izz de la dynastie Ziride  reconnaît la suzeraineté d’El-K’â’im bi-amr Allah l’Abbasside rejetant officiellement les Fatimides en 1043 et l’entrée des Arabes des Banu Hilal et des Banu Sulaym en Ifrikiyya en 1050 par ibn al-Athir de son ” Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh “

En 435 (9 août 1043), El-Mo’izz d’Ifrîkiyya fit publiquement faire la prière au nom de la dynastie Abbaside et prononcer dans la khotba le nom de l’imam et prince des croyants El-K’â’im bi-amr Allah.[6] Il reçut alors des robes d’honneur et l’investiture des diverses régions d’Ifrîkiyya ainsi que des conquêtes qu’il pourrait faire ultérieurement.

La lettre confiée aux porteurs de ces présents débutait ainsi :

« De là part du serviteur et ami de Dieu Aboû Dja’far el-K’â’im bi-amr Allah, Prince des croyants, au roi unique [P. 357] confiance de l’Islam, gloire de l’époque, soutien des créatures, protecteur de la religion de Dieu…

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Translating #Cervantes400 into Arabic

ArabLit

Just as the world will mark the 400th year since the death of Shakespeare, so we also mark the same the number of years since the death of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra:

By Shadi Rohana

cervantesNot only did the two authors mark world literature forever, but they also died on the same day in 1616, if on different calendars. Shakespeare died on “April 23rd” before Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar. For the Catholic world, which adopted the Gregorian calendar immediately in 1582, Shakespeare died on May 3rd — that is, 10 days after the death of Cervantes.

While it’s uncertain whether Cervantes knew of Shakespeare, Shakespeare certainly knew him. The title of one of Shakespeare’s lost plays — The History of Cardenio — clearly shows it. But what of Cervantes in Arabic?

Cervantes is the author of many novels, stories, poems and plays. However, in the Arabic language, Cervantes’ name is almost a synonym for that…

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20 Influential Medieval/Early Modern Muslim Women

This is the second part of a previous post on the subject (https://ballandalus.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/15-important-muslim-women-in-history/), which sought to highlight the important role of women in the influencing the political, social, intellectual and military developments in the Islamic world during the medieval and early modern era. This post, like the previous one, is an attempt to introduce readers to the names of a few women who made their mark in Islamic (and world) history while providing a few sources for those interested in learning more about each.  Continue reading