The Camels of Charles the Bald

In: Medieval Encounters
Samuel Ottewill-Soulsby Research Associate, Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge United Kingdom

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This article investigates a previously neglected aspect of diplomatic relations between the Carolingians and the Umayyads of al-Andalus, the camels sent by Emir Muḥammad I to Charles the Bald, King of the West Franks, in 865. In addition to being placed within a diplomatic and historiographical context, the meaning of these animals needs to be understood within the traditions both of the donor and the recipient. The unusual nature of camels for both al-Andalus and Francia is explored. For both Muḥammad and Charles and their respective courts, camels would have been resonant of eastern monarchy, strengthening a claim to parity with other Islamic rulers for the former, while contributing to Charles’s presentation of himself as a Solomonic king.

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