Single-Source Records in the Intercommunal Life of al-Andalus: The Cases of Ibn al-Naghrīla and the Cordoban Martyrs

in Intellectual History of the Islamicate World
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In the historiography of the medieval Islamicate world, major events that concern two or three religious communities sometimes appear only in the records of one of them. The absence of evidence for a major event from the records of a community it supposedly concerns can be seen as merely reflecting the random survival of manuscripts, or it may cast doubt on the veracity of the existing reports concerning this event. The present paper discusses this methodological question through the examination of two examples from Umayyad al-Andalus: the alleged military position of Samuel ha-Nagid/Ibn al-Narghīla, and the so-called Cordoban voluntary martyrs. The paper argues that the evidence—explicit, implicit, or silent—of all concerned communities must be treated as relevant, and it offers some criteria for evaluating such unbalanced records.




On the name, see Stern, “Life of Shmuel ha-Nagid,” p. 135, n. 2; idem, “Les vers finaux,” pp. 330–331, n. 3; Schirmann. “Samuel Hannagid,” p. 99, n. 1; and compare Isḥsān ʿAbbās’s Introduction to Ibn Ḥazm’s Risāla fī l-radd ʿalā Ibn al-Naghrīla, pp. 7–8.


Brann, “Textualizing Ambivalence,” p. 110.


Wasserstein, “Samuel Ibn Naghrīla ha-Nagīd,” pp. 114–116.


Lévi-Provençal, “Deux nouveaux fragments,” p. 12 (= The Tibyān, p. 56; see Tibi’s Introduction, pp. 17–18); see also The Tibyān, p. 60 and n. 145 on p. 211.


Lévi-Provençal, “Deux nouveaux fragments,” p. 14 (= The Tibyān, p. 60).


For some prominent examples, see Brann, “Textualizing Ambivalence,” p. 131; Wasserstein, “Samuel Ibn Naghrīla,” pp. 113–114; idem, The Rise and Fall, pp. 209–213; Stroumsa, “Between Acculturation and Conversion,” pp. 13–20. See also The Tibyān, p. 208 and n. 126, referring to Ibn al-Jidd who reminded Ibn al-Qarawī al-islāmī of his Jewish origins.


Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, pp. xv–xvii. Safran, Defining Boundaries, p. 93, counts twenty nuns and monks and eight priests. On the decisive role of the monasteries in this episode, see also Patey, “Asserting Difference,” pp. 61–65. For a list of the martyrs, see for example Ruiz, Obras completas de san Eulogio, pp. XLVILII; Cagigas, Los Mozárabes, pp. 211–221; Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, pp. xv–xvii.


See Wolf, Christian Martyrs, pp. 25–35; Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, p. 17.


Colbert, Martyrs, p. 167.


See Wolf, Christian Martyrs, pp. 16, 59; Safran, Defining Boundaries, p. 98; Delgado León, Álvaro de Córdoba, p. 56. Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, p. 97 n. 51, sees the oddity, and suggests that the Muslim Emirs “may in part have inherited” from the Visigothic kings the right to convoke episcopal councils. As her cautious formulation reveals, there is also no indication of this inheritance. Colbert, Martyrs, p. 247, suggests that it was rather Muḥammad I who convened the council in the first months of his reign, combining it with the occasion in which he received homage and oath of allegiance from lords and magnates of his realm.


See Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, p. xi; The sources include Documentum Martyriale, Liber apologeticus martyrum, and Memoriale sanctorum, by Eulogius. Paulus Alvarus, who had studied with Eulogius under Speraindeo (d. before 853) at the monastery of St. Zoilus, wrote Indiculus luminosus as well as the Vita Eulogii (English translation in Sage, Paul Albar, pp. 190–214; Spanish translation in Ruiz, Obras); See Gil, Corpus scriptorum Muzarabicorum, passim.


De Gaiffier, “Les notices,” p. 27.


De Gaiffier, “Les notices,” p. 269. Usuard’s Martyrolgy, written in 858, lists 24 Hispanic martyrs, some of them from Cordoba, who appear in previous martyrologies. As noted by De Gaiffier (“Les notices,” p. 273) these do not reflect information drawn from Usuard’s voyage to Spain.


See De Gaiffier, “Les notices,” pp. 274–278. Jiménez Pedrajas, “San Eulogio de Córdoba,” pp. 465–473, argues that Eulogius wrote this text independently of the Memoriale. See also Lambert, “Le Voyage de Saint Euloge,” p. 559; Kedar, “Latin in Ninth-Century Mar Sabas?” p. 253; idem, Crusade and Mission, p. 31; Levy-Rubin and Kedar, “A Spanish Source,” p. 64.


Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, p. 54; De Gaiffier, “Les notices,” pp. 274–277. As noted by De Gaiffier, four of the dates do not correspond with those given by Eulogius, either because Usuard relied on another source (perhaps a calendar) or because of a mistake in noting the dates. Other Latin sources mentioned by Coope as confirming Eulogius’s report—Abbot Samson’s Apologeticus and Abbot John of St. Arnulf’s Vita Johannis Abbatis Gorziensis—should also be closely checked, as they are likely to be also dependent on Eulogius and Alvarus; see Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, p. xii and n. 11, and pp. 56–61, 67.


De Gaiffier, “Les notices,” p. 274, assumes that along with the relics, the monks carried in their bags a copy, perhaps incomplete, of Eulogius’s writings. The transfer of Eulogius’s narrative may be significant also regarding its rather peculiar early modern history. We are told that the Acts of the Cordoban martyrs survived only in one copy of Eulogius’s writings, which may have been taken to Oviedo, along with Eulogius’s relics, by Dulcidius, who went on a mission to Cordoba in 883. The Inquisitor General Pedro Ponce de León (d. 1573) rediscovered Eulogius’s works, but shortly thereafter the manuscript disappeared again, and only a copy made by Ambrosio de Morales (d. 1591) and published in 1574 saved the martyrs of Cordoba from oblivion; see Wolf, Christian Martyrs, p. 36; Christys, Christians in al-Andalus, p. 53. Wolf notes the timely discovery of the manuscript, which fit well within Morales’s project of producing an up-to-date account of Iberian “antiquities and events”. Christys seems more suspicious, but stops short of spelling this out. See also Aillet, Les Mozarabes, p. 8.


Cagigas, Los Mozárabes, p. 197; Wolf, Christian Martyrs, pp. 41–42.


Tolan, Saracens, pp. 87–88.


Cutler, “The Ninth-century Spanish Martyrs’ Movement,” pp. 321, 329–330.


Walz, “The Significance of the Voluntary Martyrs,” p. 153.


Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, pp. 4–6, 14; Griffith, The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque, p. 153. See also Tolan, Saracens, p. 85.


But see Tolan, Saracens, p. 85.


Fierro, La heterodoxia, p. 54; Walz, “The Significance of the Voluntary Martyrs,” pp. 155, 226; Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, p. xiii. The anxiety caused by the accelerated pace of Arabisation is clearly expressed by Alvarus; see Simonet, Historia, vol. 2, pp. 369–371; Griffith, The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque, p. 152; Tolan, Saracens, pp. 86, 95–96; Abulafia, “What Happened in al-Andalus,” p. 538; Fierro, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, pp. 15–16, 23.


Wolf, Christian Martyrs, pp. 117–118.


Patey, “Asserting Difference,” pp. 53–54, 61.


Safran, Defining Boundaries, p. 91.


Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, pp. 12–14 and 23. See also Fierro, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, p. 15; Cutler, “The Ninth-century Spanish martyrs’ movement,” p. 323; Safran, Defining Boundaries, p. 94; Zorgati, Pluralism in the Middle Ages, pp. 68–71.


Tolan, Saracens, pp. 85–86.


Christys, Christians in al-Andalus, p. 53.


Christys, Christians in al-Andalus, p. 79.


Christys, Christians in al-Andalus, p. 54.


Christys, Christians in al-Andalus, p. 79.


Christys, Christians in al-Andalus, p. 2 (emphasis mine. SAS).


Christys, Christians in al-Andalus, p. 9.


Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, p. xii. That Eulogius embellished the material at his disposal is assumed by other scholars too, for example Tolan, Saracens, p. 87; Wood, “Martyrs, Past and Present,” p. 44.


Wood, “Martyrs, Past and Present,” p. 44 and p. 59.


Monferrerer-Sala, “Mitografía,” p. 421. He notes (ibid., p. 416) the curious fact that the Muslim authorities did not interfere with Eulogius’s inflammatory writings, nor did they prevent him from meeting in jail potential martyrs (which last detail he puts in question mark). The hagiographical nature of the relevant texts is noted also by Tieszen, “From Invitation to Provocation,” p. 23 (but he sees no reason to doubt that the recorded events actually took place).


See Christys, Christians in al-Andalus, p. 61; Wood, “Martyrs, Past and Present,” esp. pp. 50–51. The familiarity with Oriental Christian anti-Muslim literature is suggested also by the remarkable parallels between the anti-Islamic tract written by Speraindeo and a contemporary eastern Christian-Muslim Disputation; see Franke, “Die freiwilligen Märtyrer,” pp. 50–58; Colbert, The Martyrs, pp. 157–162; Kedar, Crusade and Mission, p. 22.


Christys, Christians in al-Andalus, pp. 65–66.


Burman, Religious Polemic, pp. 5, 97, 126, 170; see also Safran, Defining Boundaries, p. 93.


See Griffith, “Christians”; Swanson, “The Martyrdom of ʿAbd al-Masīḥ,” pp. 119–120; Soffer, The Use of Early Tradition, pp. 8, 19; Griffith, The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque, pp. 148–151; Lamoreaux, “Early Eastern Christian Responses,” p. 23. These tropes include the repentance of an ex-apostate from Christianity; the active search for confrontation with the Muslim authorities; the (sometimes rather rude) defiance of these authorities and the blunt vilification of Islam; the reluctance of the Muslim authorities to reach the point where they cannot avoid execution; and the tension between the martyr (often a monk) and the accommodating Christian clergy, anxious to find a compromise with the rulers.


See Griffith, “The Arabic Account of ʿAbd al-Masīḥ”; Swanson, “The Martyrdom of ʿAbd al-Masīḥ”; Binggeli, “L’ hagiographie du Sinaï,” pp. 175–177; Hoyland, “Seeing Islam,” pp. 381–383; Soffer, The Use of Early Tradition, p. 16. Levy-Rubin and Kedar (“A Spanish Source,” p. 70) remark that the monks of Mar Saba were promoters and champions of martyrdom in the Islamic East.


In particular, see Monferrer-Salla, “Mitográfia,” pp. 426–427.


Colbert, Martyrs, p. 359; Coope, Martyrs of Córdoba, p. 21, 28: Kedar, Crusade and Mission, p. 32; Delgado León, Álvaro de Córdoba, pp. 63–65. Coope, ibid., p. 22 and 40–42, mentions the easy communication between al-Andalus and the Middle East, which, she says, could have influenced the Cordoban monasteries in general as well as the tone and content of Andalusian martyrology. Wasilewski points to the similarities between Eulogius’s Life of Muhammad and John of Damascus’s De haeresibus. She suggests that George of Mar Saba was Eulogius’s source for this polemic, and that based on it Eulogius made alterations to the text of the Life, just as he altered George’s Memoirs; see “The ‘Life of Muhammad’,” especially pp. 337, 348–350, 352–353.


See Monferrer-Salla, “Mitográfia,” pp. 429, 441.


See Hoyland, Seeing Islam, p. 347. On these martyrologies, see Hoyland, ibid, pp. 336–386 (for example, pp. 347–350, regarding the supposed Passion of sixty martyrs of Gaza in 638). In discussing the Cordoban martyrs, however, Hoyland too treats the incident as a historical fact; see above, n. 22. Griffith (The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque, pp. 149–150), who evaluates their historical verisimilitude as “by all accounts very high,” nevertheless focuses on the narratives themselves and on their role in the churchmen’s effort to strengthen the faith of Christians tempted to convert to Islam, and he too identifies among the narratives that which is “surely completely legendary”.


Swanson, “The Martyrdom of ʿAbd al-Masīḥ,” pp. 108–109, 120–128; Soffer, The Use of Early Tradition, p. 9. See also Dehandschutter, “Hagiographie et histoire,” pp. 295–301.


Manzano-Moreno, “Oriental ‘Topoi’,” p. 42.


Wasserstein, “Samuel Ibn Naghrīla ha-Nagīd,” p. 112.


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