Golden Age, Golden Myth

Islam’s Golden Age: An Archaeological Nonentity

How Islam Shaped the Medieval World?

Breaking news: the Muslims saved civilization!

Shameless Islamo-propaganda:

Scholar of Islamic thought to speak,” from the Ithaca Journal, April 11/JW:

The second Arts and Sciences Humanities Lecture, “How the Muslims Saved Civilization: the Reception of Greek Learning in Arabic,” will be given by distinguished scholar of Islamic thought Peter Adamson, professor of ancient and medieval philosophy, King’s College London.The lecture will be held at 4:30 p.m. April 13, at the Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall. A reception will follow the lecture in the Ruth Woolsey Findley Gallery of Art on the lower level of Goldwin Smith Hall. Both events are free.

Dr. Adamson is likely to be retailing the idea that Islamic culture was once a beacon of learning and enlightenment — a common myth, and one that is ultimately meant to make non-Muslims relax and love the jihad.

But in fact, much of the most common claims about the great achievements of Islamic culture have been exaggerated, often for quite transparent apologetic motives. The astrolabe was developed, if not perfected, long before Muhammad was born. The zero, which is often attributed to Muslims, and what we know today as “Arabic numerals” did not originate in Arabia, but in pre-Islamic India. Aristotle’s work was preserved in Arabic not initially by Muslims at all, but by Christians such as the fifth century priest Probus of Antioch, who introduced Aristotle to the Arabic-speaking world. Another Christian, Huneyn ibn-Ishaq (809-873), translated many works by Aristotle, Galen, Plato and Hippocrates into Syriac. His son then translated them into Arabic. The Syrian Christian Yahya ibn ‘Adi (893-974) also translated works of philosophy into Arabic, and wrote one of his own, The Reformation of Morals. His student, another Christian named Abu ‘Ali ‘Isa ibn Zur’a (943-1008), also translated Aristotle and others from Syriac into Arabic. The first Arabic-language medical treatise was written by a Christian priest and translated into Arabic by a Jewish doctor in 683. The first hospital was founded in Baghdad during the Abbasid caliphate — not by a Muslim, but a Nestorian Christian. A pioneering medical school was founded at Gundeshapur in Persia — by Assyrian Christians.

The point here is simply that the great achievements of Islamic culture are being exaggerated for political and apologetic reasons today. For this sort of thing to go on at jihad-justifying Islamic websites is one thing, but an academic should know better. Emphasis on “should.”

If anyone makes Dr. Adamson’s lecture and he takes questions, these would be some facts that one might politely and respectfully ask him about.

John J. O’Neill’s latest guest-essay on the Gates of Vienna concerns the lack of any substantive evidence for a “golden age” of Islam.

In my recently published Holy Warriors: Islam and the Demise of Classical Civilization, I have argued in detail that Islam, far from being a force for enlightenment in the so-called Dark Age, was actually responsible for the destruction of the literate and urban civilization that we now call Classical; and that, if anything, it was Islam that caused Europe’s descent into backwardness during the Middle Ages. In the same place I have argued in detail that the Islamic Golden Age of the late seventh to the mid-tenth centuries, during which the world of Islam is supposed to have basked in the light of science and learning, is a complete myth, and that no such epoch ever existed. The evidence for this is archaeological.

Muslims claim that the period of the Emirate and the Caliphate was tolerant to the surviving Christianand Jewish dhimmis living on the conquered land provided that they followed stringent dhimmi rules imposed by the Islamic occupiers. The Caliphate during the tenth century has been called an Islamic Golden Age by Muslims though critics challenge this as a myth pointing out that this supposed golden age was preceded by the brutal slaughter of tens of thousands of native spaniards by the invading Muslim armies. In Muslim culture, Andalus today is a nostalgic symbol of an earlier “Golden period” of Islam.

Until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries scholars were compelled to rely entirely on written sources for their knowledge of the ancient and medieval worlds. The competent historian of course always had the critical faculty with which to differentiate between fact and fable, between propaganda and honest reporting. There was also, from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a more sophisticated form of textual criticism. Yet no matter how discerning the scholar, in the end all he had to work with was the written word. But this all began to change in the nineteenth century. From then on, scholars had something independent with which to check the claims of the chroniclers and annalists of old: the science of archaeology.

By the mid-twentieth century, archaeologists had begun to put together a fairly comprehensive picture of the archaeology of Europe and the Near East. Indeed, several areas of the Near East, such as Egypt, Palestine and Iraq, were and remain among the most thoroughly excavated regions of the earth.

Medievalists had of course been very interested in throwing light on the somewhat romantic though apparently fabulously wealthy and cultured Islamic world of the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries. Strange and wonderful tales were told of this epoch, though all agreed it was an age of high civilization. Indeed, the seventh to tenth centuries, as we saw, were regarded as the Islamic Golden Age. This was the age of the Omayyad and Abbasid Caliphs; the romantic epoch of Scheherazade and Harun Al-Rashid, the fabulously opulent Caliph of Baghdad, who is said to have donned the disguise of a commoner and wandered by night through the dimly-lit streets of the metropolis — a city of reputedly a million people. This epoch, and this alone, is said to have marked the age of Islam’s cultural ascendancy. Consider the following description from an English historian of eighth-tenth century Cordoba, typical of the genre: “In Spain … the foundation of Umayyad power ushers in an era of unequalled splendour, which reaches its height in the early part of the tenth century. The great university of Cordova is thronged with students … while the city itself excites the wonder of visitors from Germany and France. The banks of the Guadalquivir are covered with luxurious villas, and born of the ruler’s caprice rises the famous Palace of the Flower, a fantastic city of delights.” (H. St. L. B. Moss, The Birth of the Middle Ages; 395-814 (Oxford University Press, 1935) p. 172) All are agreed that in later years, from the eleventh century onwards, the Islamic world began to fall rapidly behind the West.

On the word of the written histories, then, archaeologists expected to find, from Spain to eastern Iran, a flourishing and vibrant culture; an Islamic world of enormous cities endowed with all the wealth of antiquity and the plunder gathered in the Muslim wars of conquest. They hoped to find palaces, public baths, universities and mosques; all richly decorated with marble, ceramic and carved stone.

In fact, they found nothing of the sort.
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The archaeological non-appearance of the Islamic Golden Age is surely one of the most remarkable discoveries to come to light in the past century. It has not achieved the sensational headlines we might expect, for the simple reason that a non-discovery is of much less interest to the public than a discovery. Then again, as archaeologists searched in vain through site after site, they imagined they had just been unlucky; that with the next day’s dig the fabulous palaces and baths would be uncovered. And this has been the pattern now for a hundred years.. In fact, the entire Islamic world is a virtual blank for roughly three centuries. Normally, we find one or two finds attributed to the seventh century, then nothing for three centuries, then a resumption of archaeological material in the mid- or late-tenth century. Take for example Egypt. Egypt was the largest and most populous Islamic country during the Early Middle Ages. The Muslim conquest of the country occurred in 638 or 639, and we should expect the invaders to have begun, almost immediately, using the wealth of the land to begin building numerous and splendid places of worship — but apparently they didn’t. Only two mosques in the whole of Egypt, both in Cairo, are said to date from before the eleventh century: the Amr ibn al-As, AD 641 and the Ahmad ibn Tulun, AD 878. However, the latter building has many features found only in mosques of the eleventh century, so its date of 878 is controversial. Thus, in Egypt, we have a single place of worship, the mosque of Amr ibn al-As, dating from three years after the Muslim conquest, then nothing for another three-and-a-half centuries. Why, in an enormous country with up to perhaps five million inhabitants, should the Muslims wait over 300 years before building themselves places of worship?

And it is the same throughout the Islamic world. No matter where we go, from Spain to Iran, there is virtually nothing between circa 650 and 950. Spain, as we have seen, is supposed to have witnessed a flowering of Islamic culture and civilization in the two centuries after the Arab conquest of 711; and the city of Cordoba is said to have grown to a sophisticated metropolis of half-a-million people or more.. We recall the description of a flourishing and vastly opulent metropolis painted by the writer quoted above. Yet the same author admitted that “Little remains of the architecture of this period.” Little indeed! As a matter of fact, the only Muslim structure in the whole of Spain dating from before the eleventh century is the so-called Mosque of Cordoba; yet even this, strictly-speaking, is not an Islamic construction: It was originally the Visigothic Cathedral of Saint Vincent, which was converted, supposedly in the days of Abd er-Rahman I, to a mosque. Yet the Islamic features that exist could equally belong to the time of Abd er-Rahman III (latter tenth century) whom we know did conversion work on the Cathedral, adding a minaret and a new façade. (Louis Bertrand, The History of Spain (2nd ed. London, 1945) p. 54) Most of the Islamic features in the building actually come after Abd er-Rahman III, and there is no secure way of dating anything in it to the eighth century.

The poverty of visible Islamic remains is normally explained by the proposition that the Christians destroyed the Muslim monuments after the city’s re-conquest. But this solution is inherently suspect. Granted the Christians might have destroyed all the mosques — though even that seems unlikely — but they certainly would not have destroyed opulent palaces, baths, fortifications, etc. Yet none of these — none at least ascribed to the eighth to early tenth centuries — has survived. And even assuming that such a universal and pointless destruction did take place, we have to assume that at least under the ground we would find an abundance of Arab foundations, as well as artifacts, tools, pottery etc. Indeed, in a city of half a million people, as Cordoba of the eight, ninth and tenth centuries is said to have been, the archaeologist would expect to find a superabundance of such things. They should be popping out of the ground with almost every shovel-full of dirt.

Now Cordoba has been extensively excavated over the past seventy years or so, often specifically to search for Arab/Moorish remains. What then has been found?

According to the prestigious Oxford Archaeological Guide, the city has revealed, after exhaustive excavations: (a) The south-western portion of the city wall, which was “presumably” of the ninth century; (b) A small bath-complex, of the 9th/10th century; and (c) A “part” of the Umayyad (8th/9th century) mosque. (The Oxford Archaeological Guide (Collins, 1998) pp. 73, 119, 120) This is all that can be discovered from two-and-a-half centuries of the history of a city of supposedly half a million people. And the rest of Spain, which has been investigated with equal vigor, can deliver little else. A couple of settlements here and a few fragments of pottery there, usually of doubtful date and often described as “presumably” ninth century or such like.

The sheer poverty of these remains can only be properly understood if we compare them to other well-attested archeological eras. Thus for example any single century of Imperial Rome’s history has produced not thousands, but literally millions of archeological finds, ranging from amphitheatres and temples down to pieces of pottery and objets d’art. That almost three centuries of Islamic history — three centuries of a supposedly Golden Age of opulence and prosperity — can produce virtually nothing from the Atlantic coasts of Morocco to the borders of India is an utterly astonishing fact; a fact which leads inexorably to a single conclusion: namely that the Islamic Golden Age of the eighth, ninth and early tenth centuries is a myth. And the elusive nature of all material from these three centuries, in every part of the Islamic world, makes us wonder whether the rise of Islam has been somehow misdated: For the first real mark left (in archaeological terms) by Islam in Spain is dated to the mid-tenth century, to the time of Abd er-Rahman III, whose life bears many striking comparisons with his namesake and supposed ancestor Abd er-Rahman I, of the eighth century. Again, there are strange and striking parallels between the major events of Islamic history of the seventh and eighth centuries on the one hand and of the tenth and eleventh centuries on the other. Thus for example the Christian Reconquista in Spain is supposed to have commenced around 720, with the great victory of Don Pelayo at Covadonga; but the real Reconquista began three hundred years later with the victories of Sancho of Navarre around 1020. Similarly, the Islamic invasion of northern India supposedly commenced around 710-720 with the victories of Muhammad bin Qasim, though the “real” Islamic conquest of the region began with the victories of Mahmud of Ghazni, roughly between 1010 and 1020.

What then does all this mean?

The lack of Muslim archaeology from before the tenth and eleventh centuries (with the exception of two or three monuments such as the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Amr ibn al-As mosque in Cairo, usually of the mid-seventh century), would indicate that the rise of Islam has been misdated, and that some form of error has crept into the chronology. But error or not, the fact that virtually nothing from before the mid-tenth century has been found means that Islam was not a flourishing, opulent and cultured civilization whilst Europe was mired in the Dark Ages. By the late tenth century Europe was experiencing her own “renaissance”, with a flowering of art and architecture, much of it strongly reminiscent of the Late Classical work of the Merovingian and Visigothic period.

Muslim spin: its all because of “colonialism”, “injustice” from the kuffars, etc etc

Read it and weep, from Why has the Muslim world made no Contribution to Science and Technology?

4 thoughts on “Golden Age, Golden Myth”

  1. The lofty estimation of the population of Cordoba in the 11th century of 500 000 may indeed be a wild exaggeration, but exaggeration is not a preserve or monopoly of Islamic apologists. Rome was often said in the 19th and early 20th centuries to have had a peak population of up to three million during the peak of the Roman Empire. Then, as the science of urban geography arises, we can tell that a city’s population is limited by its size, density, and food supply. Today, the estimates for the peak population of imperial Rome have dropped considerably to half a million — and that, too, is probably a little high.
    Cheers, wild exaggerations are found everywhere, as I can tell you as a sociologist, such as the myth that wives are battered by their husbands during the Superbowl Weekend.

  2. The desire to restore Al-Andalus

    The Myth of the Golden Age in Muslim Spain

    Apologists for Islam including those agitating for a mosque and Muslim community center at Ground Zero (labeled as the “Cordoba Initiative”) never tire of referring to the “Golden Age” of tolerance that supposedly characterized seven centuries of Muslim dominated Spain. This fundamentally flawed assessment draws the wrong conclusion based on fragmentary evidence and distorts the larger picture. It is usually portrayed in such rosy terms by those who have no access to primary Spanish language historical sources and ignores the reality of enormous destruction wrought by the three Arab-Berber Muslim invasions that repeatedly sought to hold on to control and rule over the indigenous peoples of Spain who had been reduced to second class citizens in their own homeland; see for example the recent best seller – Espana Frente al Islam De Mahoma a Ben Laden” by Cesar Vidal, 2005; La Sfera de los Libros.

    The desire to restore “Al-Andalus”, an Arabic corruption of the land they conquered that had previously been ruled by the Germanic Vandals (hence al-Andalus as “Land of the Vandals” in Arabic) and Visigoths has persisted to this day. Extremist support for the atrocious terrorist bombing of the Madrid Train Station on March 11, 2004 is viewed by some Muslims today not simply as just punishment for the pro-American government of former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar but as the first step in the re-conquest of what is still considered along with “Palestine” as land that must be returned to Muslim dominion.

    Renewed Theological Debate
    In Medieval Spain, numerous theological debates were held to discuss the relative merits and claims of the three monotheistic religions. Even though many centuries have passed, there is still a fundamental division among them. Jews who first discovered a path towards salvation, believed they were setting an example by serving God as a nation, demonstrating their way of life to other nations. This continued to be possible even after the destruction of the Temple and loss of Jewish independence in 70 AD. Christians, on the other hand, believed that this was possible on a purely individual level and could be achieved by anyone through the agency of the church no matter what his or her nationality, race or sex.

    For Islam, the world is divided between two hostile camps, and it is incumbent upon Muslims to subject the other camp to its will. More than a matter of personal submission to the will of Allah, subjugation (the deeper meaning of “Islam” usually confused with salaam meaning “peace”) requires the dominion over territory. The struggle for Islam requires a continual appraisal of a chess-board like map of what part of the world has been subdued and placed under Muslim rule FOREVER (no retreats or “do-overs” are allowed). The subdued territory is Dar-al-Islam while the remaining territories are ideologically still in the camp of the unbelievers. The other camp is labeled the “Camp of War” (Dar-Il-Harb) and must ultimately be conquered. In this regard, territories such as Israel, Spain, Chechnya, Kosovo or Albania, that were once submitted to Allah, cannot be allowed to return to the Camp of War.

    Moderate Muslims may want to live in harmony with their neighbors, but this theological sword and the pressure it exerts, suggest that the more militant strain will gain the upper hand.

    It is more than six years since Al-Qaeda forced a change in Spain’s foreign policy with a terrorist bombing, it is questionable whether European domestic policies will be able to remain free from the aims and goals of Islamic radicals.

    The Original Conquest of 711-716
    The Islamic Civilization of medieval Al-Andalus endured in various parts of the Iberian peninsula from a few decades to 700 years. It left its mark primarily in Castile and Andalusia and provided Spain, and to a lesser degree Portugal, with a colorful and illustrious but also violent past that marked the history, language, architecture, art, music, food, place names and society of the country long after the last Muslim had departed.

    The Muslims did not constitute anywhere near a majority of the population that numbered approximately 7 million Christians and Jews at the time of the first conquest in 711-716. By the beginning of the tenth century it has been estimated that the Muslim population of Berbers, Arabs and Muladies (Christians who had converted to Islam) was approximately 2.8 million out of a total of more than 7 million. By the beginning of the twelfth century, the number of Muslims had almost doubled but were just a bare majority of the total population of the peninsula. (source: “Judios, Moros y Cristianos; tres pueblos, ritos y costumbres” by Pastora Barahona, editorial Libsa, Madrid; 2004.) There was a hierarchical pecking order in spite of the lip service that all believers were equal.

    Arabs stood at the top, Berbers provided the majority of the shock troops and hewers of wood and drawers of water followed by converts and at the very bottom were the infidel Jews and Christians no matter how significant their contribution to the arts and sciences.

    The Muslim conquest of Spain was greatly aided by internal divisions among the Christians, especially the land-owning class of Visigoth nobles. The Muslim Conquest of Spain was accomplished in the short space of five years but society did not change abruptly. The newly won territory was given the name Al-Andalus with its capital in Cordoba and became a dependency of the Omayyid Caliphate of Damascus. Just prior to the conquest, much of the original Christian population demonstrated little stake in continued Visigothic rule and, even among the Visigoth ruling class, several clans found it expedient to cooperate with the Muslim rulers in order to preserve their property and privileges.

    These Germanic rulers were still considered “foreigners” by many ordinary native Spaniards and their formal conversion to Catholicism from the Arian heresy that rejected the idea that Jesus was co-equal or co-eternal with God the Father(contesting the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity and that Christ was both human and divine). Their “conversion”had only been an initial step designed to appeal to the Catholic majority and integrate the different elements of the population into one society. The harsh anti-Jewish measures adopted by the last Visigothic king were made to appeal to Christians and unite the kingdom in the face of the Muslim invaders who were originally welcomed by the Jews, initially regarding them as liberators.

    The tolerant Spain of The Three Great Monotheistic Religions (often referred to as Las Tres Culturas) gradually contracted and was eventually extinguished as a result of repeated invasions of the peninsula from North Africa by severe Muslim-Berber tribes people who brought with them a fanaticism reminiscent of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Only later did a resurgent Christian-Hispanic reaction begin to imitate this intolerance. The term “Golden Age” of Muslim Spain most correctly applies to a relatively short period from the eighth to the mid-eleventh century and is even more accurate when applied to the Christian North of the country for a period of more than three hundred years. (1050-1390).

    The Berber-Arab Division
    From the very beginning of the Muslim domination of Spain, a considerable antagonism existed between a minority of Arab overlords and their predominantly Berber followers who had joined the Muslim crusade after their conversion to Islam. The majority of these Berbers lived in Morocco and Mauretania and for this reason were referred to as Moros (Moors), a term that continues in use today and is more prevalent that muselmanes(Muslims) or árabes (Arabs) in contemporary Spanish.

    Many of the Berbers had remained pagan or converted to Byzantine Christianity before accepting Islam and had long been in contact with the south-eastern corner of Spain separated from the Moroccan coastline by the narrow strait of Gibraltar. They provided the majority of the manpower for the invasion but were regarded with contempt by an Arab ruling class who felt a racial superiority and purity of faith connected with the Caliphs in Damascus and later in Baghdad

    Collapse of Muslim Spain into Chaos
    Muslim Spain, nominally subject to the rulers (caliphs) in Damascus and Baghdad, eventually broke free from any foreign subservience. Around the years 930-1000, Cordoba excelled as the most cultured city in Europe under a stable and prosperous rule, especially during the reign of Abd-al Rahman III (proclaimed Caliph in Cordoba in 929). This enlightened ruler built a sumptuous palace, Medina Azahara, named for his favorite wife Azahara. Its magnificence in ivory, jade, ebony and alabaster rivaled or exceeded that of the Taj Mahal and yet it was totally destroyed and sacked not by the “barbarian Christians” attacking from the North but by the fanatical Muslim Berber invaders in 1010. They left hardly a stone standing.

    During a few months in 1009, five different rulers succeeded each other and lost control of much of the provincial territories. A rebellion against loyalty to the Omayyid dynasty led to civil war and the descent of Muslim Spain into chaos. Within a generation, approximately 40 independent Muslim mini-kingdoms or emirates called taifasproclaimed their independence and enabled the Christian kingdoms to organize and make major advances in the reconquest of the peninsula.

    The Native Jewish population of Spain (many and perhaps most Sephardi Jews were native born converts rather than migrants), always a barometer of tolerance, quite clearly preferred the Christian North to the Muslim South from the beginning of the 11th century. Severe anti-Jewish disturbances began first in Granada and the Muslim South under the Almoravids and Almohades. The great palaces, artistic achievements and part of the sophisticated irrigation works of the Omayyids and Abbasids were largely destroyed by the new invaders. By the time of the final conquest of Granada – the last remaining Muslim kingdom in 1492, almost no Jews resided there whereas more than 225 Spanish towns had their distinctive Jewish quarters (juderías) still intact on the eve of the expulsion.

    The Reconquest
    The Reconquest (La Reconquista) by the Christian kingdoms eventually took on the dimensions of a religious crusade in which there could only be one winner. The Christians would have won and evicted Muslim rule much earlier had it not been for the arrival of fresh forces brought with the Berber incursions during the 11th and 12thcenturies. The gains of territory achieved by the rival Christian kingdoms did not originally contribute to cementing a sense of religious unity or a crusade (“Christendom”). It was early beset by national, dynastic and linguistic rivalries (Castilian, Catalan, Leonese, Aragonese, Valencian, Portuguese and Navarran-Basque). Fortunately for them, the Muslim opposition was even more fragmented. The many small feuding taifas were to fall one by one to the conquering Christian princes and their armies.

    Medieval Spain
    Medieval Spain was the scene of a unique encounter among the three great civilizations of Roman Christianity. Arab-Berber Islam and Sephardi Jewry. The multi-cultural synthesis that emerged following the Muslim conquest left behind a stunning legacy, but one that was uneven, sporadic and marred due to political fragmentation, intermittent warfare, religious intolerance and eventual excessive religious zeal that ended in the eventual expulsion of the Jews (1492) and Muslims (1609) or their forced conversion as a step in the consolidation of political unity.

    Only in Andalucia, was Muslim rule in Spain continuous for a long period of time. Elsewhere, it was limited and endured for a much shorter lengths of time, notably in Galicia, Asturias, the Basque country, Aragon and much of Catalonia. A good indicator of the Muslim presence is the large number of sites that bear Arabic place names (toponynms) starting with either the article “al” (the) or the prefix “Beni” (sons of). These sites show a strong concentration in the south of Andalucia and along the Mediterranean coasts of what are today the provinces of Murcia and Valencia.

    Las Tres Culturas
    There is abundant evidence of social coexistence and considerable cultural interchange between members of all three religions in the early period of Muslim rule in the south and later in the Christian North, participation in holidays (even Christmas) and celebrations such as weddings and baptisms across religious lines. Noted Spanish historian Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, in his classic essay Las Tres Culturas en la Historia de Espana, put it this way:

    Conversion to Islam had not eroded the taste of many for good wines, the woman’s veil had not yet become a widespread custom (such a requirement does not appear in the Koran) and the happy sensual and cultivated environment that has always characterized the peoples of the South of Spain was not compatible with a rigid interpretation of the Koranic precepts.

    The Cosmopolitan and Tolerant Christian North of Spain (1050-1390)
    It is noteworthy that the most successful Christian rulers during the greatest advances made in the Christian re-conquest were also the most tolerant. Their kingdoms derived particular benefit from the active cooperation and participation of their Jewish communities. Alfonso VI, known as “The Brave” (1072-1090) appointed a Jewish minister and treasurer. The “philosopher king” Alfonso X (1252-1284) collaborated on many projects with Jewish scholars and translators and proclaimed them as valuable citizens, specifically forbidding the use of force to bring about conversions to Christianity. Jaime I, the conqueror of Valencia, was an enlightened king who promoted his Jewish subjects to positions of prestige and influence. As a sign of special favor, he offered a distinct part of the town for Jewish residence in 1239 at their own request.

    Under Muslim rule, especially following the arrival of the Almoravids and the Almohades, both Christianity and Judaism were scarcely tolerated and regarded as decidedly “inferior” religions. Their adherents were either forced at sword point to convert or paid exorbitant tribute to remain “protected peoples” (dhimmis), who possessed a divinely inspired book of revelation. They had to pay a “head tax” from which Muslims were exempt. The Jews, being more literate and whose Hebrew closely resembled Arabic, felt much more able to adapt to the new State at once and began to specialize in those activities and professions that Arabs regarded as “beneath them” (especially trade and tax collecting), administration, or onerous and “defiling” (working with leather).

    The Three Sources of Hispanic Civilization
    The arts, sciences, technology, literature, architecture, navigation, map making, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and art that flourished in Medieval Spain are often credited to Islam but this is a distortion of the role played by adherents of all three religions. The United Visigothic kingdom of Spain prior to the Muslim invasions had inherited five centuries of Roman civilization and had made use of the achievements of the Greeks and earlier Carthaginians as well as the Assyrians in agriculture, irrigation, mathematics, time keeping, the calender,mining, architecture, road building, mosaic art, pottery, jewelry, law and civic responsibility. The Muslim conquerors who arrived in 711 had inherited these same arts and sciences on their path of conquest across the Byzantine empire, the Near East and Christian-Roman North Africa. Christian and Jewish artisans and scholars made major contributions enabling the Muslim conquerors to make use of these achievements. The Schools of Translation established in Granada and Toledo by Muslim and Christian rulers respectively relied heavily on Jewish scholarship.

    Spain’s View of their troubled Past Relations with the Muslims
    Due to a long troubled history, Spanish involvement in the affairs of Morocco and the religious fervor generated by the Re-conquest, the Crusades and the Counter-reformation, a problematic legacy has been inherited by many Spaniards who maintain a kind of love-hate relationship with their past and with their Muslim neighbors to the South. From the eighth century to the present day, stereotypes have dominated Spanish attitudes and relations with the Arab states and Muslim civilization no less than with Israel, Judaism and the Jewish Diaspora. Since the 1970s, Islam has re-emerged as a major factor in Spanish society and since then the continual flow of cheap migrant labor and illegal immigration from Morocco has resulted in the rapid growth of the Muslim community.

    From the time of the expulsion of the last “Moors”, the term moros has been used in Spain and applied indiscriminately to everything connected with Islam. Due to Spain’s involvement in Morocco, a large Army of Africa was created. In the 1930s, it was commanded by General Francisco Franco and its troops came to play a major part in the suppression of a revolt by anarchist miners and other workers in the northern province of Asturias in 1934, and then in the uprising to overthrow the Republic that culminated in the Civil War (1936-39). In spite of General Franco’s frequent use of the theme of “rescuing” Spain’s Christian heritage from “barbarism”, the use of Muslim troops brought with him from Morocco earned him a reputation for brutality. They were hated and feared by ordinary Spaniards wherever they fought.

    Spanish Civilization is indeed indebted to both its early Iberian-Carthaginian-Roman-Greek-Germanic-Celtic origins and the invaluable contributions of both Jews and Muslims in the Middle Ages. The “Golden Age” was due originally to a wise policy of coexistence but was short-lived and followed by centuries of chaotic condition of fanaticism and fratricidal conflict due to the extremist Berber sects who followed a policy similar to that of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda of today. The Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by the Christian Kingdoms of Castile, Aragon and Portugal attracted Jews to these lands from the feuding Muslim taifas in the South and initially followed a policy of tolerance towards the remaining Muslims (known as Mudejars). Unfortunately, the bitterness of almost seven centuries of war between the Christians and Muslims for domination eventually resulted in Spain’s liberation and unification (1492) that was marred by the triumph of a religious crusade, fed by the excessive zeal of the Church and monarchy bent on the consolidation of state power and the realistic fear that the Muslims would continue to raid and pillage Spain’s Mediterranean coast in preparation for a new invasion. During the period from the 16th century until the suppression of the Barbary Pirates by American sea-power, Muslim pirates kidnapped and enslaved several hundred thousand Christians and held them in captivity and the harems throughout the Ottoman Empire and the lands of its North African allies.

  3. The history of the reconquista

    The Martyrs of Córdoba

    [23] Who were the martyrs who contributed so much to the anxiety of the emirs? What prompted their suicidal outbursts against Islam? The limitations of the sources make these questions difficult to answer. The only martyr who left any written record was Eulogius and, as we shall see in a subsequent chapter, there is every reason to believe that he was not representative of the group as a whole. For the most part, what we know about the other martyrs is what Eulogius chose to report about them. Though it can be risky to rely on a martyrology which, true to its genre, inflates its protagonists to heroic proportions, we can trust Eulogius at least to identify the martyrs and to inform us of the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

    Isaac was the first and probably most politically prominent of the martyrs.(1) His noble birth and training in Arabic contributed to his rise within the local government to one of the highest positions to which a non-Muslim could aspire: that of kâtib adh-dhimam (secretary of the covenant), or, as Euloguis called it, exceptor reipublicae. Sometime later, he relinquished his post and retired to the monastery at Tabanos, located in the mountains just north of Córdoba.

    Isaac remained at Tabanos for three years. Then one day he left his retreat and returned to Córdoba. Approaching the emir’s palace where he had once been employed, he asked the qâdî (judge) for some instruction in the fine points of Islam.(2) No sooner had the official begun to elaborate on the life of Muhammad when the monk burst out with a vituperative attack against Islam, claiming that its “prophet” was languishing in hell for having misled the Arabs.

    The qâdî was dumbfounded. His first reaction was to slap Isaac, [24] but he restrained himself when his counsellors reminded him that Islamic law protected the accused from physical harm prior to sentencing. At the suggestion that he must either be drunk or mad to disparage Islam in the presence of a qâdî, Isaac assured him that the “zeal of righteousness” compelled him to speak out against Islam and that he was prepared to die for his indiscretion.(3)

    After arresting Isaac and reporting the case to cAbd ar-Rahmân II, the qâdî sentenced the monk. On June 3, 851 he was decapitated and suspended upside down for public viewing on the opposite bank of the river.(4) His body was then cremated and its ashes cast into the Guadalquivir.(5)

    The response of the Muslim judge to Isaac’s outburst is significant. Not only was he, in Eulogius’ words, stupore nimio turbatus, but he felt compelled to consult the emir before acting in his judicial capacity. Isaac’s case was apparently unusual. But it is important to realize that neither the crime nor the punishment themselves were new. Less than fifteen months before, the authorities had also condemned the priest Perfectus for blasphemy. As we shall see, however, the circumstances were significantly different.

    Perfectus, who served at the basilica of St. Aciscius just outside the city walls, was stopped one day on his way to market by a group of Muslims.(6) Seeing that he was a priest, they asked him to explain the “catholic faith” and to share with them his opinions about Christ and Muhammed. Fearing that he would only provoke his audience, Perfectus declined. But when the Muslims swore to protect him, he proceeded, in Arabic, to decry Muhammed as one of the false prophets foretold by Christ and as a moral reprobate who had seduced the wife of his kinsman.(7)

    Though angered by the harsh attack, the Muslims respected their oaths and let Perfectus go on his way. But a few days later the priest ran into some of the same group, who no longer felt constrained by their earlier promise. Seizing Perfectus, they took him before the magistrate and testified that he had disparaged the prophet. As they led Perfectus to prison to wait out the holy month of Ramadân, he repeatedly denied his guilt. Only when he realized that his fate was sealed did he repeat his denunciation of Islam. On April 18, 850, Perfectus was decapitated before the crowds that had gathered to celebrate the end of the feast.(8)

    The novelty of Isaac’s case, then, was not that he blasphemed [25] Muhammad or that he was sentenced to death for it. What was new was the manner in which he broke the law. His actions were deliberate and provocative, specifically designed to bring about his own death. This willful disobedience was precisely what concerned the authorities, prompting them to consider drastic measures to forestall future outbursts.

    cAbd ar-Rahmân II’s edict, threatening any future blasphemers with execution, was not a well-conceived deterrent for those Christians attracted by Isaac’s example. Just two days after the monk’s death, a young Christian soldier named Sanctius was decapitated for the same crime. Born in Albi in southern France, Sanctius was captured as a boy and raised to serve in the Cordoban army, perhaps in the palace guard established by the emir’s father. It is not clear, from the unusually brief passio that Eulogius composed for Sanctius, whether or not Isaac’s example was the principal motivating factor behind the martyrdom.(9)

    More explicit are the connections between Isaac and the six Christians who died within yet another forty-eight hours. Petrus, a priest from Ecija, thirty miles southwest of Córdoba, and the deacon Walabonsus from Elche on the southeast coast of Spain, had come to Córdoba to study.(10) At the time of their deaths, they were serving as the supervisors of a convent dedicated to Mary just west of Córdoba in the village of Cuteclara. Sabinianus from Fronianus, a small mountain village twelve miles northwest of the city, and Wistremundus, another native of Ecija, had recently entered the monastery of St. Zoylus, some thirty miles north of Córdoba. Joining these four were Habentius, a native Cordoban residing at St. Christopher’s just down river from Córdoba, and Hieremia, a kinsman of Isaac and a founder of the monastery at Tabanos. All six presented themselves together before the authorities and made their intentions and inspiration very clear: “We abide by the same confession, O judge, that our most holy brothers Isaac and Sanctius professed. Now hand down the sentence, multiply your cruelty, be kindled with complete fury in vengeance for your prophet. We profess Christ to be truly God and your prophet to be a precursor of antichrist and an author of profane doctrine.” Their executions brought the total number to eight in less than a week.(11)

    A month later three more Christians set out on the increasingly [26] well-worn path to martyrdom. The deacon Sisenandus had, like Petrus and Walabonsus, come to Córdoba to study, in his case from Beja, in the southwest corner of the peninsula. Inspired by their example and by a vision in which the two martyrs beckoned him to join them, he died on July 16. Sisenandus’ example in turn prompted a deacon named Paulus, from the church of St. Zoylus, to sacrifice himself four days later. Within a week a monk from Carmona named Theodemirus added his name to the growing list of martyrs.(12)

    After the death of Theodemirus on July 25, 851, the executions subsided for three months. The next victims were Flora and Maria, the first of nine females whose names appear in Eulogius’ martyrology. Maria’s father, a Christian landowner, had married a Muslim woman whom he had subsequently converted to his own religion. Forced, as a consequence of her marriage and apostasy, to leave their family lands in Elche, the couple came with their two children to live in the village of Fronianus. Shortly afterwards Maria’s mother died and her father decided to adopt a penitential lifestyle. So he arranged for his son, Walabonsus, to pursue studies at the local monastery of St. Felix and his daughter to go to the convent in Cuteclara. The two siblings were later reunited when Walabonsus was appointed to act as one of the convent’s supervisors.

    The death of her brother in June had a profound effect on Maria. This, combined with the fact that her abbess, Artemia, had witnessed the execution of two of her sons thirty years before, no doubt contributed to her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps.(13) While praying for guidance at the church of St. Aciscius, Maria met Flora.(14)

    Flora was also the product of a religiously mixed marriage. Her mother, a Christian from the village of Ausianos just west of Córdoba, had married a Sevillan Muslim who died while Flora was still quite young. Deprived of this paternal influence, the girl grew up as a Christian. Well aware that children of mixed marriages legally had no choice but to be Muslim, the mother and daughter worked together to keep Flora’s Christianity a secret from her older Muslim brother. Ultimately the tension forced her to run away from home in the company of a sympathetic sister.(15) Her hopes of practicing her religion in peace were spoiled, however, when her [27] brother, apparently an influential figure in Córdoba, began to put pressure on the Christian community, forcing Flora to return. When neither threats nor promises had any effect on her resolve to remain Christian, he turned her over to the authorities. Despite Flora’s defense that she had been a Christian from birth and was therefore innocent of the charges of apostasy, Flora was sentenced to a severe whipping and placed on probation in her brother’s custody. No sooner had her wounds healed, however, than she fled again, this time taking refuge at a Christian household before leaving town with her sister. Ultimately, however, she decided to return and suffer the consequences.(16)

    It is important to realize that though Flora and Maria approached the qâdî and denounced Islam together, they were, in fact, guilty of two distinct crimes. Flora, as the daughter of a Muslim, was legally an apostate. Unlike her predecessors, she was a fugitive long before she presented herself before the magistrate. Her subsequent treatment by the authorities reflected the special nature of her offense. In contrast to the blasphemers, whose fates were sealed from the moment they opened their mouths, she was given ample opportunity in prison to avert her sentence by renouncing Christianity and assuming her proper religious identity.(17)

    Aside from Flora and Maria, only two other Christians died in Córdoba between July 851 and July 852. Gusemindus had come from Toledo with his parents, who had dedicated him to the priesthood and arranged for his training at the basilica of St. Faustus, St. Januarius, and St. Martialis. On January 13, 852, he and the monk Servus Dei, who was associated with the same institution, delivered their confessions before the authorities and were put to death.(18)

    The six-month lull that followed the executions of Gusemindus and Servus Dei ended in. July with the deaths of five more Christians: Aurelius, Sabigotho, Felix, Liliosa, and Georgius. Aurelius’ father was, like Flora’s, a Muslim who had married a Christian. Apparently orphaned at an early age, the boy was raised by a paternal aunt, who directed his studies toward Arabic literature. But again like Flora, Aurelius harbored a secret longing for Christianity and began to seek out priests for his instruction. When he had come of age, his relatives selected what they thought to be a suitable spouse, not knowing that the young woman, [28] Sabigotho, was also a secret Christian. In her case, both of her parents had been Muslims, but when her widowed mother remarried, she happened to pick a clandestine Christian who succeeded in converting his new wife. At the time of Sabigotho’s marriage to Aurelius, she had long since embraced the religion of her stepfather.

    Aurelius had a relative named Felix who, to make things even more complicated, had been born of Christian parents and converted to Islam, only to decide that he had made a mistake. This also constituted apostasy, so he too had to practice his Christianity in private. But he managed to find a sympathetic mate in Liliosa, who, like Sabigotho, was a filia occultorum Christianorum.(19)

    The two couples concealed their Christianity for some years, and perhaps would have continued to do so, had not Aurelius witnessed the whipping and humiliation of the Christian merchant Joannes, who, as we saw in the first chapter, had indiscreetly sworn by the name of Muhammad.(20) Struck either by the injustice of the punishment or the fortitude of the victim, Aurelius decided that it was time to make public his Christianity regardless of the consequences. Together with Sabigotho, he adopted a severe penitential program in preparation for martyrdom. For one thing they transformed their marital relationship into a fraternal one so as to generate “spiritual offspring” to match the two children they had produced in their previous life. They also began frequenting the Cordoban prison where they visited not only Joannes, but sought advice from the imprisoned Eulogius.(21) More significantly, Sabigotho met Flora and Maria. In fact, she “frequently visited their cell. . . and stayed at night as if she herself were shackled, not only to console the two soldiers, but to confide in them her own intention to die.”(22) Her devotion to the confessors paid off. During the vigil that Sabigotho kept after the execution of Flora and Maria, the two virgins appeared to her in all their newly-won, martyrial glory, and promised that she would ultimately join them. Sahigotho’s time, they said, would be at hand when a foreign monk arrived to share her fate.

    With renewed vigor, Sabigotho and Aurelius readied themselves for what they now felt certain was their destiny. They sold all their worldly possessions and spent their last days at Tabanos, where they not only prepared for their deaths but arranged for the care of [29] their children. Finally the promised sign appeared in the form of a monk from Palestine named Georgius.

    Born in Bethlehem, Georgius resided in the large monastery of St. Sabba just south of Jerusalem. There he not only learned Greek, Latin, and Arabic but engaged in certain austerities, which would win for him the unbounded admiration of, among others, Eulogius, who was particularly impressed that Georgius had never taken a bath.(23) The chain of events leading up to his arrival in Córdoba began when his abbot sent him on a mission to solicit donations from daughter monasteries in North Africa. There Georgius found the church so “oppressed by the incursion of tyrants” that he decided to take a detour to Spain. Again he was surprised by the affliction he found. Leaving the city of Córdoba, he proceeded north to Tabanos, where the abbess Elizabeth, apparently recognizing him as a portent, referred him to Sabigotho. A dream identified him as the one for whom she had been waiting, and henceforth the monk and the couple sought martyrdom together. Soon Felix and Liliosa, having sold all of their porperty, joined them as well.

    When the day of their public profession arrived, the women entered a church with unveiled faces and were immediately detected and arrested as apostate Muslims.(24) Meanwhile Aurelius, after making the final arrangements for his children, waited at home with Felix in anticipation of his own arrest. The soldiers came shortly after and marched them all to the judge. At first, the guards ignored Georgius. Their task had been to arrest the husbands of the apostates. But Georgius’ quick verbal assault on Islam sufficed to bind his fate with that of the others.

    As in the case of Flora, the newly discovered apostates were granted every opportunity to change their minds, but remained unmoved: “Any cult which denies the divinity of Christ, does not profess the essence of the Holy Trinity, refutes baptism, defames Christians and derogates the priesthood, we consider to be damned.” After a four day imprisonment, the captives still refused to relent. The authorities, who had not heard Georgius’ earlier diatribe, gave him permission to leave. The monk responded with a new outburst for their benefit, and, on July 27, 852, five more Christians were put to death.(25)

    During that same summer, six more joined the ranks of martyrs. [30] Christophorus was a Cordoban-born monk residing at the monastery of St. Martin at Rojana in the mountains above the city. Learning of the other martyrs, he came forward to offer his confession and was immediately imprisoned bending execution. There he met Leovigildus, a monk from Granada who lived in the mountain monastery of St. Justus and St. Pastor, some fifteen miles north of Córdoba. He too had denounced Islam and on August 19 was killed along with Christophorus.(26)

    The week prior to cAbd ar-Rabmân’s death on September 22, 852, brought with it four more cases of blasphemy. Emila and Hieremias, childhood companions who had been educated together at the church of St. Cyprian, delivered an especially forceful denunciation of Islam in Arabic, one which served only to multiply the frustration of the dying emir.(27) As if to add insult to injury, the monk Rogelius from a village near Granada and the Syrian pilgrim Servus Dei entered the Cordoban mosque and, to the horror of the Muslim worshipers present, preached the truth of the gospel and the falsehood of Islam. Saved by the authorities from death at the hands of the irate crowd, the two were sentenced to a particularly grisly punishment for desecrating the mosque: their hands and feet were amputated prior to their decapitation.(28)

    As we have already seen, one of the first official actions of the new emir, Muhammed I, was to purge the Cordoban bureaucracy of Christians. He must have been pleased with the apparent effect of this change in policy: the next nine months passed without incident. But again, as summer approached, a new parade of martyrs stepped forth.

    Fandila, from the town of Guadix just east of Granada, had, like so many of the other martyrs, come to Córdoba gratia discendi. Residing first at Tabanos under abbot Martinus, Fandila rose to the priesthood, serving the needs of the monks of the nearby monastery at Pinna Mellaria. It was Fandila’s vituperative confession which, according to Eulogius, pushed the emir to the point of considering the most drastic of measures for silencing the Cordoban Christians. He settled, however, for Fandila’s head on June 13, 853.(29)

    The very next day, three more Christians died. The priest Anastasius, who received his training at the church of St. Acisclus, turned to the monastic life before finally “descending to the forum” [31] to offer his confession. He was joined by the monk Felix, a native of Alcalá de Henares, fifty miles northeast of Toledo. Though of Numidian Muslim parentage, Felix was exposed to Christianity in Asturias, and later converted. The nun Digna from Tabanos, inspired by a vision of St. Agatha and by the news of the double execution, added her own name to the martyrology before the sun had set. The following day, an aged laywoman named Benildus sacrificed her life as well.(30)

    The fact that two of the first five Christians executed under the new emir had been associated with the monastery of Tabanos, an institution that had already produced more than its share of martyrs, must have simplified Muhammed’s decision about where to begin enforcing the restrictions on church building.(31) But the legacy of Tabanos as a fertile breeding ground for confessors outlived the monastery, which was leveled in the summer of 853. Columba, the sixth Christian to die under Muhammed I, was the sister of Elizabeth and Martinus, two of the co-founders of Tabanos. Having fortuitously evaded her mother’s plan to give her away in marriage, Columba followed her siblings into their cloister. When the Muslims arrived to close Tabanos, she took up residence at the basilica of St. Cyprian, where she prepared herself penitentially for a martyr’s death. On September 17 she was decapitated.(32)

    Columba’s example in turn prompted the nun Pomposa to seek martyrdom. Her parents had founded the monastery of St. Salvador at Pinna Mellaria which had already contributed the martyr Fandila. Now, three months later, Pomposa prepared to follow his example. Despite the efforts of her fellow nuns to dissuade her, she escaped to Córdoba, where she died on September 19, 853.(33)

    After Pomposa’s death, the executions became increasingly sporadic. Abundius, a priest from Ananellos in the Sierra Morena, died ten months later (July 11, 854) as the result of what Eulogius referred to as the “trickery of the gentiles.”(34) Perhaps, like Perfectus, he unwittingly blasphemed Muhammed. In any case, another ten months would pass before the next executions. The priest Amator, who had come to Córdoba from a village near Jaén to study, joined forces with the monk Petrus from Pomposa’s monastery of Pinna Mellaria, and Ludovicus, a brother of the deacon Paulus who had been one of the earliest martyrs in the [32] summer of 851. All three were executed for blasphemy on the last day of April 855.(35) At some unspecified point during the same year another Christian was executed for apostasy. This was the layman Witesindus from Cabra, thirty miles southeast of Córdoba, “who suffered a lapse of the holy faith” and converted to Islam only to convert back again.(36)

    Helias, a priest from western Spain, and two monks named Paulus and Isidorus blasphemed and died on April 17, 856.(37) Two months later, Argimirus, a nobleman from Cabra who served as Muhammad I’s censor, was executed for the same crime, but under very different circumstances.(38) Having, like Isaac, “retired from the administration of justice to inhabit the peace and quiet of a monastery,” he was accused by Muslims of having degraded the prophet and professed the divinity of Christ. The emir gave him a rare chance to save his life by embracing Islam, but Argimirus refused and was hung up alive on a gibbet before being killed on June 28, 856.(39)

    Three weeks later the virgin Aurea was executed, again under quite unique circumstances. Her father had been a Sevillan Muslim, yet for more than thirty years she lived with her mother Artemia as a nun in the convent at Cuteclara without the knowledge of her Muslim relatives. During that time she had seen her two brothers Joannes and Aduiphus executed for apostasy in the early 820s, and witnessed the deaths of Petrus, Walabonsus, and Maria, who were associated with her convent in the early 850s. When some of her Muslim relatives came from Seville and recognized her, they brought Aurea to a judge for religious rectification. Offered the choice of renouncing her Christianity or suffering the penalty for apostasy, Aurea opted for the former and was released. But bothered by her lack of fortitude she continued to practice Christianity, all the time preparing herself for her second encounter with the authorities. Finally discovered by her family to have relapsed, she was imprisoned and executed.(40)

    The final two martyrs whose passions Eulogius recorded were Rudericus and Salomon. The former was a priest in Cabra whose family life was complicated by the fact that one of his two brothers had converted to Islam. Once, while Rudericus was intervening to break up a fight between his brothers, he received a blow which left him unconscious. His Muslim brother then dragged him through [33] the streets claiming that Rudericus had decided to embrace Islam. Upon regaining his senses and realizing what had happened, he left town fearing that he might be arrested for apostasy. He found what appeared to be a safe hideaway in the mountains above Córdoba, but one day he ran into his Muslim brother. Finding himself in front of the local qâdî, Rudericus denied the charge of apostasy on the grounds that he had never abandoned his Christianity in the first place. But his plea of innocence fell on deaf ears. The judge offered him the standard apostate’s choice: accept Islam or die.(41) In prison Rudericus met Salomon, a Christian layman from some unspecified foreign land, who, like Felix and Witesindus, had converted to Islam and then reconverted to Christianity. After three attempts to change their minds, the authorities ordered them executed on March 13, 857.(42)

    This is where Eulogius’ martyrological accounts end. Yet we know that the executions did not cease with the deaths of Rudericus and Salomon in 857. Alvarus informs us that two years later the authorities arrested the virgin Leocritia for apostasy. “Begotten from the dregs of the gentiles,” Leocritia was introduced to the teachings of Christianity by a relative named Litiosa. At first no one suspected that Leocritia’s frequent visits to Litiosa’s home were anything more than social. Even after her parents discovered the truth and tried to dissuade her, Leocritia refused to relent. But like Flora, Leocritia began to fear the spiritual consequences of practicing her religion surreptitiously. Using messengers, she sought the advice of Eulogius and his sister Anulo, who, like Litiosa, was also a “virgin dedicated to God.” Both encouraged her to leave home. So as to be able to depart without arousing suspicion, Leocritia made it appear as if she were attending a wedding. But no sooner was she out of sight than she hastened to meet Eulogius and Anulo. Like Flora’s brother, Leocritia’s parents responded by applying pressure on the Christian community in an attempt to determine her whereabouts. But in this case the search efforts were hindered by Eulogius who made certain that the girl never stayed in any one hiding place for very long. Eulogius continued to meet with Leocritia to instruct her in the finer points of the faith. But after one of these sessions, her appointed escort failed to appear to lead her to her latest hiding place. A tip led the authorities to the house, where they not only arrested Leocritia for apostasy, but [34] Eulogius for proselytizing. On March 11, 859, Eulogius was decapitated.(43) Three days later Leocritia met the same fate.

    Within the next year, two more Christians were executed. An envoy sent by Charles the Bald to gather information about the martyrs Aurelius and George, whose bodies had been recently translated to Paris, returned to report that he had witnessed the execution of the two sisters while he was in Córdoba.(44) Shortly afterward, according to abbot Samson, “a certain Christian was punished for blaspheming the one whom the gens Caidea venerate as a prophet.”(45)

    Though we have no evidence of any more executions for the duration of the ninth century, a variety of sources, even some Arabic ones, refer to similar incidents in the first half of the tenth. Sometime during the latter part of cAbd Allah’s emirate (888-912), a Christian woman named Dhabba came before the Cordoban qâdî claiming that Jesus was God and that Muhammed had lied to his followers.(46) A few years after her execution, the qâdî Aslam ibn cAbd al-cAziz (913-920) was confronted with a Christian “requesting his own death.” The judge’s biographer wrote, by way of explanation, that “the nonsense or ignorance of the Christians led them to attribute great merit to this action of offering themselves to death.”(47) An inscribed piece of marble, uncovered in the sixteenth century in Córdoba, allows us to identify still another martyr, Eugenia, who died on March 26, 923, but the circumstances of her death are unknown.(48)

    In contrast to the lack of detail about these three martyrs, the accounts of Pelagius and Argentea, who died in 925 and 931 respectively, are full of information. Pelagius was ten years old when his father, a Galician nobleman, sent him to cAbd ar-Rahmân III’s court in Córdoba as a hostage in return for the release of the boy’s uncle, Bishop Hermogius of Tuy, who had been captured during a recent skirmish between Christian and Muslim forces. The boy remained confined for three and a half years until, according to the author of the passio, the caliph summoned him, offering him a life of ease in exchange for his conversion to Islam and his submission to the caliph’s sexual advances. Pelagius refused both requests and was tortured and killed on June 26, 925.(49)

    Argentea, the daughter of the great Andalusian rebel leader cUmar ibn Hafsun (d. 917), converted to Christianity and entered a [35] monastery in the vicinity of Córdoba. There she met Vulfura who, according to the anonymous passio, had come to Córdoba from France in response to a vision that had revealed to him his martyrial destiny. The authorities imprisoned Vulfura after they discovered him publicly preaching the gospel, and later arrested Argentea who, on one of her visits to the prison, was recognized as the daughter of cUmar ibn Hafsun. The authorities gave both of them the chance to convert to Islam and avoid execution, but they refused and were killed on May 13, 931.(50)

    There is no reason to suppose that the martyrdoms ceased in 931 or, for that matter, that we even know about all of the incidents that occurred in the eighty or so years covered by the extant documentation. Eulogius’ martyrology would seem to have exhausted the cases from 851 to 859, but after his death we know of no one who shared his interest in maintaining a catalogue of executed Christians. In other words, what might seem at first glance to be a significant decrease in the incidence of executions after 859 may have as much to do with the death of a hagiographer as with any real decline in the number of victims. Because we know of cases after Eulogius’ time that were never incorporated into any martyrology we have to assume that, as unprecedented as the high incidence of spontaneous martyrdom in the early 850s was, the decision on the part of a Cordoban priest to record the victims’ passions was equally unusual. Before we try to understand what prompted Isaac and the rest to provoke the authorities, we need to determine what motivated Eulogius to compose the passiones and promote their cults. As we shall see in the next chapter, this is not a part of the episode that has received its proper share of scholarly attention.

  4. The Myth of Islamic Civilization – from The Idiot’s Guide to Islam, part 21

    The Mohammedan Muslim media and individuals as well as so-called Arabists incessantly speak in glowing terms of the contribution of Mohammedan Muslims to civilization. What is the reality?

    Before I begin to address this question, there is an extremely important word that has to be defined which is at the root of this discussion. This word is “Civilization”.

    According to the English language, it comprises a society which is in an advanced state of social development, with complex legal, political and religious organizations. That is, in an advanced state of intellectual, cultural and material development in human society marked by progress in the arts and sciences, the extensive use of record-keeping including writing, and the appearance of complex political and social institutions.

    Like everything else about Mohammedan Islam, fact and reality are contrary to all their exaggerated and invariably false and wishful thinking declarations. Let us examine the historical facts as recorded by the Mohammedan Muslims themselves and contemporaries.

    In the Arabian peninsula where Mohammed was born, the Arabs were among the most illiterate, superstitious and unlearned nomadic and semi-nomadic people in what we call the Middle East today. Although surrounded by other truly advanced civilizations and cultures, they had not even the semblance of a civilization to speak of. They had no central authority such as a king or a priest-king, no government, no army, no civil service, no arts, no sciences and no record-keeping. The Arabs under the banner of Islam conquered several civilizations on three continents, such as the Zoroastrian Sassanid Persian Empire, the Byzantine Christian empire, the Coptic Christian Egyptians, the Hindu Indians, the Buddhist Chinese. These were truly advanced civilizations.

    It is therefore inconceivable to suggest that the Arabs could have imparted anything of value to the subjugated peoples of these conquered civilizations. In Arabic, the subjugated people who converted to Mohammedan Islam are called mawadi, meaning clients, followers or supporters. This is an extremely relevant and important word because it is from among the conquered people of these civilizations that the Arab imperialists were able to build their mosques, their palaces, run their trade and their economies, collect taxes and take census.

    It was from among the mawadi and the Jews and Christians of the conquered territories that Greek, Roman and Hebrew literature, philosophies and sciences were translated into Arabic. From 701 to 1423, a period of about 700 years, a maximum of eighty scientists and scholars under the sword of Mohammedan Islam, mostly from among the mawadi, contributed a wealth of advancement in many branches of knowledge. it is vitally important to realize that these scholars based their knowledge on foundations first set by others centuries before them: Egyptian, Hebrew, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Indian et cetera, whose knowledge and writings were translated into Arabic by men from the conquered people, by converts to Mohammedan Islam, mawadi, as well as by Jews, Christians and others. The so-called Islamic science and Islamic civilization had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Mohammedan Islam.

    Almost the entirety of these scholars and scientists excelled not because of Mohammedan Islam but in spite of Mohammedan Islam, since they were invariably secular thinkers. No knowledge whatsoever in the sciences, arts, engineering, architecture, philosophy, et cetera, can possibly sprout under fundamentalist Mohammedan Islam, because the only knowledge that fundamentalist Mohammedan Islam can recognize as valid and worthy is knowledge of the Koran.

    Out of the 80 or so scientists and scholars mentioned above, only a handful were pure Arabs; the remainder were Persian, Turkic, Jews, Christians, Sabeans, Spaniards, north Africans, etc. In reality this science and civilization should be called mawadi science and mawadi civilization, because Mohammedan Islam contributed absolutely nothing to its evolution, propagation, and establishment.

    Nothing of value in human intellectual endeavours can possibly be created or grow under fundamentalist Mohammedan Islam.

    Mohammedan Muslims listening will be outraged at such statement. Well, let them think of the following facts and find out the common denominator that underlies them.

    1. Can any follower of Mohammed name ten Mohammedan Muslims who have contributed anything whatsoever to human intellectual, artistic, and philosophical advancement from among the tens of millions in the Arabian peninsula in the last 1372 years (since 635)?

    2. Can any follower of Mohammed name ten Mohammedan Muslims who have contributed anything whatsoever to the advancement of human knowledge in the sciences, art, philosophy, theological discourses etc, from among the hundreds of millions of Mohammedan Muslims in the world during the five hundred years from 1450 to 1950 AD?

    The only reason they cannot find these scholars or scholars is because fundamentalist Mohammedan Islam cannot survive under the bright light of knowledge, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of religious belief, and freedom of intellectual dialogue and debate. The best and most perfect system of fundamentalist Mohammedan Islam is that of the Taliban in Afghanistan – a state of mind-boggling ignorance, religious intolerance, hate, terror, and utter stupidity.

    Fundamentalist Mohammedan Islam can only survive in darkness, and as we know, very little can bloom or prosper in the dark without sunshine. That is why very little knowledge, if any, emanates from over fifty Mohammedan Muslim states in the world today.

    Mohammedan Muslims thrive in the twilight zone of denial and of blaming all others – the denial of facts, the denial of reality, the “blame others” syndrome. For as long as they are not willing or not able to face facts, Mohammedan Islam and Mohammedan Muslims will continue to remain forever fixed in the time warp of the seventh century, the time of Mohammed and his Koran.

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