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Shlomo Sela


Abraham Ibn Ezra (ca. 1089–ca. 1161) was born in Muslim Spain, but his extensive scientific corpus, dealing mainly with astrology and astronomy, was composed in Latin Europe and written almost exclusively in Hebrew. Recent work on Reshit Ḥokhmah (Beginning of Wisdom), an introduction to astrology that is considered to be the zenith of Ibn Ezra’s astrological work, revealed that at least one-fourth of this text consists of translations or close paraphrases from identifiable and available Arabic astrological and astronomical texts. Relying on these findings, this paper identifies the Arabic texts Ibn Ezra drew on, shows where their Hebrew translations were incorporated into Reshit Ḥokhmah, and then scrutinizes his translation methods.

Constanza Cavallero


From a comparative perspective, I will study two anti-Islamic Castilian writings produced during the period of the transition between the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era: Alonso de Espina’s Fortalitium fidei (1460) and Gonzalo de Arredondo’s Castillo inexpugnable defensorio de la fe (1528). This study compares the terms in which each of these works addresses (a) the confrontation with Islam, (b) dissensions within Christianity, and (c) the king’s role in the midst of those conflicts. The contrastive approach to these analogous works, which were written almost seven decades apart, will allow an analysis of two different articulations of anti-Saracen Christian discourse in Spain, both before and after some key milestones in European history. These different perceptions of Islam had an impact on the conception of Christianity and Europe itself at the very beginning of the early modern period.

Cecilia Palombo


This paper analyzes a group of homilies composed in Middle Egypt around the early ninth century CE by monastic leaders who had to cope with unsettling changes in local politics and society. The corpus deals with issues of taxation, economic distress and conversion to Islam in subtle and indirect ways, showing the inside perspective of Christian leaders on developments on which we are informed primarily from documentary papyri and historical works. It highlights the view of a certain segment of Egyptian Christianity on Islam and ongoing processes of Islamization, adding to the better-known literary sources from the area of Alexandria, and revealing the existence of internal tensions within the monastic world.

Samuel Ottewill-Soulsby


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.

Nadia Zeldes


Forced mass conversions were relatively rare in the Middle Ages but they have a central place in both medieval narratives and modern historiography. A distinction should be made between conversions ordered by Christian rulers, and pressure to convert coming from popular elements. Some well-known examples of the first category are the baptism ordered by the Visigothic rulers in Spain and the forced conversion of the Jews in Portugal. The mass conversion of the Jews of the kingdom of Naples in 1495 belongs to the second category.

The article proposes to analyze the causes leading to the outbursts of violence against Jews in 1495 and the resulting mass conversions by making use of primary sources such as contemporary Italian and Hebrew chronicles, rabbinic responsa, and Sicilian material. Finally it proposes a comparison with other events of mass conversion, and principally that of 1391 in Castile and Aragon.

Daniella Talmon-Heller and Miriam Frenkel


This paper describes religious innovations introduced by Muslims in the (arguably) holy month of Rajab, and by Jews on the High Holidays of the month of Tishrei, in eleventh-century Jerusalem. Using a comparative perspective, and grounding analysis in the particular historical context of Fatimid rule, it demonstrates how the convergence of sacred space and sacred time was conducive to “religious creativity.” The Muslim rites (conducted on al-Ḥaram al-Sharīf / the Temple Mount) and the Jewish rites (on the Mount of Olives) shared a particular concern with the remission of sins and supplication on behalf of others, and a cosmological world view that envisioned Jerusalem as axis mundi. The Jewish rite was initiated “from above” by the political-spiritual leadership of the community, was dependent on Fatimid backing, and was inextricably tied to specific sites. The Muslim rite sprang “from below” and spread far, to be practiced in later periods all over the Middle East.

Jitske Jasperse


In the Museo de la Real Colegiata de San Isidoro in León, Spain, an intriguing portable altar is on display. Its multicolored stone and long inscription detailing the material objects enshrined within invite an analysis of the artwork in terms of materiality and mobility. This article addresses the multiple questions raised by the altar, shifting away from a straightforward interpretation of patronage by Sancha of León-Castilla (ca. 1095–1159), whose name is inscribed on its face. Conceptualizing the altar as a multilayered object that can be placed within Sancha’s network of connections facilitates our understanding of this exotic artifact between León and the Levant.