1250: A Letter from the Regional Ruler al-Azraq to the Queen of Aragon
|Author: Eric Böhme|
|Barcelona, Arxiu de la Corona d’Aragó, Cartas árabes, n. 154, ed. María del Carmen Barceló Torres, Documentos árabes de Al-Azrāq (1245-1250), in: Saitabi. Revista de la Facultat de Geografia i Història 32 (1982), pp. 40-41 [recto only], trans. Eric Böhme.|
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم صلّى الله على محمد نبيه الكريم
In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. God bless His honourable prophet Muḥammad.
|مولاتِي السلطانة الكريمة المويدة المنصورة العميمة المباركة الرينة دنة مولانا السلطان المويد المنصور ملك الرومية وملك شرق الأندلس من عبدكم وخديمكم ومقبل يديكم المباركة الكريمة محمد بن هذيل الشاهر بالأزرق سلام كريمٌ برٌ طيبٌ مبارك على مقامكم الشريفة ورحمة الله تعلى وبركاته||[To] My Lady, the honourable, supported [by God], victorious, all-embracing, blessed ruler (sulṭāna), the reina Dona (al-rīna duna) of our lord, supported [by God], victorious ruler (sulṭān), King of Christendom (malik al-rūmiyya) and King of the Šarq al-Andalus. [A letter] from your subordinate and servant (min ʿabdikum wa-ḫadīmikum) who kisses your blessed and noble hands, Muḥammad bin Huḏayl, known as al-Azraq. An honourable, sincere, amicable and blessed greeting to your venerable Majesty. The mercy of God the Exalted and His blessings [be upon you].|
|اما بعد فالكتاب اليكم من حصن القلاعه حماه الله تع[لى] فالذين وجب به على العبد تعرفكم انه وصل الى عبدكم وخديمكم ثقتكم وخديمكم دون جوان ذي موره بـ[ـمـ]كتوبٍ من عندي مولانا السلطان ايده الله فقرئيناها وعلمنا ما فيها من البر والرعائة والحفظ والعناية وامر ارسالنا اليكم||This letter [is sent] to you from the fortress of al-Qalāʿa, may God the Exalted protect it. Among the things about which the subordinate (al-ʿabd) must inform you is that your confidant and servant Dūn Ǧuwān ḏī Mūrah has reached your subordinate and servant (ʿabdikum wa-ḫadīmikum), bearing a letter from our lord the ruler (al-sulṭān), may God sustain him. We have read it and understood what it contains in terms of sincerity, care, protection, patronage, and the command to send [an embassy in return] to you.|
|فاخذنا في الحركة والارسال اليكم فيما يكون فيه خيراً ان شا الله فوجهنا اليكم ثقتنا قريبنا وابن خالتنا ابي الحسن بن هذيل والقايد الاجل الاكرم الارفع الاكمل الأفضل ابي القاسم بن هلال والقايد ابي عمر عثم[ن] بن سهل اكرمهما الله فيرغب العبد منكم ان يكون مكرومين ملحوظين عندكم وفي بلادكم تحت كنفكم سائرين واردين حتى يقضي الله ما فيه الخير ان شا الله وقد وصيت ثقتِنا القايد ابي القاسم اليكم ان يأخذ يدكم عنا ويقبله وقد وصيناه ما يقول لكم من الكلام فاعتمد عليه فانا أقوله وما يخاطبكم به انا اخاطبوه فالله تعلى يقدم الخيارة ان شا الله فهذا ما وجب به تعرفكم||We have set in motion the sending [of envoys] to you according to what is good therein, God willing. We send to you our confidant [and] relative, the son of our maternal aunt, Abū l-Ḥasan bin Huḏayl, the most exalted, honourable, supreme, perfect and virtuous commander (qāʾid) Abū l-Qāsim bin Hilāl as well as the commander Abū ʿAmr ʿUṯma[n] bin Sahl, may God honour them. The subordinate asks you [to ensure] that they may be honoured and heard by you and be under your protection in your lands when they come and return, so that God may fulfil what is good, God willing. I have instructed our confidant, the commander Abū l-Qāsim, to take your hand in our stead and kiss it. We have instructed him with what he tells you verbally, so trust in him, for I speak through him, and what he says to you I say to you. May God the Exalted give good things, God willing. That is what you need to know.|
|والسلام على مقامكم العليَّ ورحمة الله وبركاته كتب في رابع لشهر ذي حجة عام سبع وأربعين وستمائة.||Peace be upon your exalted Majesty, and the mercy of God and His blessings. Written on the fourth [day] of the month Ḏū [l-]Ḥiǧǧa in the year 647 [10 March 1250].|
مولاتِي السلطانة المويدة المنصورة الرينة دنة مولانا السلطان أراغون حامه الله(…)
[To] My Lady, the victorious ruler supported by [God], the reina Dona of our lord the ruler of Aragon (Arāġūn), God save him (…).
The Author & and his/her Work
[§1] The cited text forms part of a document now preserved in the archive of the Crown of Aragon, Barcelona. This document is a letter, written on paper by an unknown scribe in partially deficient or dialectal Arabic. Both the script and the overall form of the document appear comparatively simple and unadorned. The most distinctive feature is the reversal of the direction of writing at the bottom of the page, frequently used in Western Arabic diplomatic correspondence in the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries. However, in the present document the uneven division of space makes it difficult to read the last lines of text. The document was once folded several times, with one of the outer layers (indicated as verso in the text above) having an inscription that is now only barely legible.
[§2] The letter dates to 4 Ḏū l-Ḥiǧǧa 647, which corresponds to 10 March 1250 in the Gregorian calendar used today. The fortress (ḥiṣn) al-Qalāʿa (today in the Vall d’Alcalá, Marina Alta, Alicante) is indicated as the letter’s place of origin. It was sent by the Andalusian regional ruler Muḥammad b. Huḏayl “al-Azraq” (d. 674/1276), one of the leaders of the first great Muslim uprising in the Kingdom of Valencia in the 1250s. The content of the letter was most likely defined and authorised by him, whereas one or more unknown scribes from his chancery (kitāba) were probably responsible for the actual formulation of the text. The letter is addressed to the Queen of Aragon, who—although she is not mentioned by name—can be identified with Yolanda of Hungary (r. 1235-1251), then wife of King James I (r. 1213-1276).
[§3] Apart from a bilingual agreement with the Crown of Aragon issued in April 1245, this letter seems to be the only Arabic document which informs us about al-Azraq’s political activities.
Contents & Source Context
[§4] The letter opens with the customary Muslim formulas, thus invoking God (basmala) and praising the Prophet Muḥammad (taṣliya). It continues with an elaborate and respectful salutation of the addressee and introduces al-Azraq as the sender writing from the fortress of al-Qalāʿa. He informs the queen that the royal envoy Dūn Ǧuwān ḏī Mūrah (Don Joan de Mur/Mora/Muro) had previously reached him with a letter from James I, the contents of which he had acknowledged with favour. He has now complied with the king’s request for a counter embassy by sending his cousin Abū l-Ḥasan b. Huḏayl as well as the commanders (quwwād) Abū l-Qāsim b. Hilāl and Abū ʿAmr ʿUṯman b. Sahl. He asks that these envoys be granted the protection of the Crown on their journey through the Kingdoms of Valencia and Aragon. He also authorises a member of the delegation, Abū l-Qāsim, as spokesman to pay homage to the Queen and to speak to her about certain matters he has instructed the envoy to discuss. The letter concludes with frequently used Islamic blessings and the date of issue.
[§5] The significance of the short letter only becomes clear when it is placed within the broader context of political developments on the Iberian Peninsula, which are often summarised under the controversial term “Reconquista.” The first half of the thirteenth century was marked by the competing efforts of the two major Christian powers, Castile and Aragon, to expand into the south of al-Andalus, which had been ruled by Muslims for centuries. In the east (šarq) of this region, the conquests of James I had massively changed the political situation from the late 1220s onwards. At least nominally, vast areas between Morella (Qalʿat Murīla) in the north and Xixona (Šīšūna) in the south formed part of the young Christian-ruled Kingdom of Valencia, itself one of the realms of the Crown of Aragón, shortly before the middle of the thirteenth century.
[§6] Muḥammad b. Huḏayl al-Azraq was a petty Muslim ruler in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula. Due to the lack of reliable source material, we know nothing concrete about his early years. He first becomes tangible in April 1245 in the aforementioned agreement with the Crown of Aragon. The remote and barely accessible mountainous region between the Serpis river valley and the coast of Dénia (Dāniya), where al-Azraq held sway over several strongholds, represented one of the last independent Muslim dominions in the Šarq al-Andalus at that time. In the winter of 1244/1245, King James I vainly tried to integrate this region into the Kingdom of Valencia by military force. In spring 1245 at the latest, pressing foreign affairs in Occitania and in contacts with the Papal Curia in connection with the preparation of the first Council of Lyon forced him to come to terms with the Muslims quickly. To this end, he concluded a diplomatic agreement with al-Azraq, which stipulated the following conditions: the latter would hand over some of his fortresses to the Crown immediately, others after a moratorium of three years. Alcalá (al-Qalāʿa) and Perpunxent (Burbanǧān), however, would remain in his possession permanently.
[§7] However, this pragmatic solution, intent on concluding the Valencian conquest in a timely manner, only briefly pacified the situation in the Crown’s new realm. In the middle of 1247, al-Azraq began spearheading a resistance movement that sought to shake off Christian rule over the Šarq al-Andalus as swiftly as it had been imposed on the Muslim communities (Catalan: aljama > Arabic: al-ǧamʿ). Through the agreement concluded two years earlier, al-Azraq had possibly sought to buy more time for reorganising resistance against the invaders as not to give up his independence without a fight. Immediately after the beginning of the uprising in late summer 1247, he seized several fortresses in the south of the kingdom.
[§8] Completely surprised by these events, the Crown reacted hastily and with a heavy hand. King James I not only ordered the violent suppression of the uprising, but also the expulsion of all Muslims from the kingdom. These so-called Mudejars (Catalan: mudèjars, Castilian: mudéjares > Arabic: mudaǧǧan), however, made up the overwhelming majority of the population in the kingdom and, as tax-paying subjects and labour force, were indispensable both to the Crown and its subordinate Christian landowners. Therefore, it would hardly have been possible to enforce a large-scale expulsion throughout the kingdom. Nevertheless, the flow of refugees to safer regions in the south probably reached immense proportions. Despite their extraordinary harshness, these measures were unsuitable to bring about the rebels’ surrender. On the contrary, it fueled the rebellion which spread throughout the entire kingdom: the rebels conquered about a dozen more fortresses, thus provoking a resolute military counterattack by the Crown. Probably as early as mid-1248, al-Azraq was forced to retreat to Alcalá (al-Qalāʿa). Until the end of 1249, the king succeeded in putting down the uprising in most regions. To some extent, James I owed this success to the support of Pope Innocent IV (sed. 1243-1254) who, at the king’s request, had circulars and bulls distributed, which intended to give the enterprise the character of a crusade, at least formally.
[§9] Almost nothing is known about the course of the military conflict in the following years. This is largely due to King James’s refusal to report in more detail in his autobiographical Llibre dels feits about events that were as humiliating for him as they influenced his future policy. It seems likely that the Crown’s harsh counterattack and the rebels’ withdrawal marked a turning point in the development of the military situation. Probably because a conquest of al-Azraq’s remote and barely accessible heartlands would have demanded excessive efforts, the confrontation came to a halt and calmed down in the following years. The rebels’ retreat, which at its peak comprised about twenty fortresses, could resist mainly thanks to its contacts with the outside world, especially with the Kingdom of Castile: in July 1254, al-Azraq was even invited to personal talks with Alfonso X (r. 1252-1284), the son-in-law of James I, with whom he tried to conclude an alliance against the Crown of Aragon. Although this was never realised, the Castilian king’s indirect protection and mediation enabled the rebel leader to wring an official truce from James I in the spring of 1257, at the latest. The channels of communication to the ruler of Aragón remained open as well. Written in 1250, i.e. two years after the beginning of the harsh suppression of the rebellion, the letter to Queen Yolanda discussed here and analysed in more detail below, provides prime evidence for this. However, at an unknown later date, al-Azraq also took advantage of the king’s willingness to negotiate: under the pretext of peace negotiations, he lured James I and his escort into an ambush known as the fet de Rugat (“deed of Rugat”), from which the monarch only escaped narrowly.
[§10] According to the account in the Llibre dels feits, a confidant in al-Azraq’s entourage informed the king of a food shortage in the rebels’ area of retreat, which he himself had promoted. This betrayal brought an end to the stalemate. As a result, James refused another truce and, in February 1258, set in motion a large-scale campaign to seize the rebel areas. By the end of May, the royal host was in a position to besiege al-Azraq’s headquarters at Alcalá (al-Qalāʿa). In view of his hopeless situation, the rebel leader was forced to abandon his resistance under the most honourable conditions possible. In the surrender negotiations, he had to agree to go into exile permanently. In return, the king conceded to him a small, strategically rather insignificant remnant of his former domain, which was to be held in the future in the name of al-Azraq by his brother Bassām and his nephew Abū Ǧaʿfar b. Huḏayl. With this agreement, the nearly decade-long resistance of the rebels around al-Azraq came to an end in June 1258.
[§11] When the Muslims of the Kingdom of Valencia rose up again against Christian rule almost two decades later (1275-1277), the former rebel leader returned to reconquer his old domain. According to King James’s account, he led 250 mounted elite fighters to besiege Alcoi in the spring of 1276, but there met his own death in battle.
[§12] In the context of these briefly outlined events, al-Azraq’s letter to Queen Yolanda represents an important source. It sheds light on the continuing communication between the two sides during the stalemate between the Crown and the retreating rebel group around al-Azraq that began around 1250, the course of which is deliberately ignored in the Llibre dels feits and is therefore difficult to trace: an authentic original document from the rebel leader’s environment, the letter forms a counterweight to the king’s tendentious report of his own deeds.
Contextualisation, Analysis & Interpretation
[§13] Having outlined the letter’s historical context, we can now analyse the document in more detail. The following discussion will concentrate on the style of the letter and the implications of the titles used, the possible circumstances of the diplomatic understanding, the role of the queen as addressee, the identity and the tasks of the envoys as well as the possible repercussions of their mission. At the end, the events surrounding al-Azraq’s rebellion will be placed in the larger context of political developments on the Iberian Peninsula and in the western Mediterranean.
[§14] One cannot escape the impression that al-Azraq was well able to present himself as an eloquent and self-confident interlocutor who was familiar with the formal conventions of correspondence with a Christian queen. At first glance, the tone of the letter seems to stand in sharp contrast to the military conflicts of the previous and subsequent years, which were conducted with intransigence and harshness. Notwithstanding these circumstances, al-Azraq addresses Yolanda as “My Lady” (mawlātī) and “ruler” (sulṭāna), adding several adjectives of great respect. Her status as queen of Aragon is also referred to by calling her “Queen Lady” (Arabic: al-rīna duna > Old Catalan: reina Dona) “of our lord” (mawlānā), the “ruler” (al-sulṭān) and “King of Christendom and the East of Andalus” (malik al-Rūmiyya wa-Šarq al-Andalus). Like his wife, James I is not mentioned by name, but is showered with adjectives of praise as well. The address of the ruling couple on the top layer of the once folded letter repeats the vocabulary of the main text in a shortened form and adds the more pragmatic formula “Ruler of Aragon” (sulṭān Arāġūn), which is not used in the main text.
[§15] In contrast to these titles, the sender presents himself humbly as Muḥammad b. Huḏayl, “your subordinate and servant (min ʿabdikum wa-ḫadīmikum) who kisses your blessed and noble hands,” and refers to his epithet (laqab) al-Azraq, by which he was known. This modest self-designation falls short of the titles bestowed on him in the 1245 agreement. In the Arabic text, he features as “the most illustrious Wazīr, the noble, the highest, the most eminent, the most exalted Abū ʿAbd Allāh bin Huḏayl – may God honor him!” In the Romance text, he is referred to as “Abū ʿAbd Allāh bin Huḏayl, vizier and lord of Alcalá.” It is hardly surprising that, in later royal documents, he is merely referred to without any titles as “our traitor” (traditor noster).
[§16] The terms used in each case reflect the respective political circumstances. In the spring of 1245, the Infante Alfonso, the king’s eldest son, negotiated with an independent regional ruler who could not yet be defeated by military means, on an almost equal footing; five years later, a cornered rebel leader addressed the Queen of Aragon. Despite his continued resistance, al-Azraq had to acknowledge political realities at least formally, especially as he certainly hoped this would improve his position in negotiations with the Crown. Against this backdrop, it becomes understandable that he described himself as a “subordinate and servant” of the Crown equal to the royal envoy Don Joan de Mur/Mora/Muro, whereas he referred to James I, against whose rule the rebels had risen and who therefore now punished all Muslims with a heavy hand, as the “Ruler of Aragon,” and even granted him (titular) rule over the Muslim Šarq al-Andalus.
[§17] The other sections of the letter also provide valuable details that are not known from other sources. We learn, for example, that al-Azraq resided in Alcalá (al-Qalāʿa) in the spring of 1250. Obviously, the rebel leader felt confident enough to disclose this crucial information to the enemy, fully aware of the fact that this virtually impregnable stronghold provided a safe refuge. Moreover, the document testifies that the two warring parties had previously communicated with each other. We lack details about the royal envoy Don Joan de Mur/Mora/Muro and the content of the royal letter he delivered. However, it is rather unlikely that James I had only met his opponent with “sincerity, care, protection, patronage” as well as with the request for a counter embassy. It rather seems as if al-Azraq and his advisors reacted to the customary phrases of courtesy which the monarch used to circumscribe threats, a stylistic device he also employed in communication with other negotiating partners. That the king was still considering military options in addition to the exchange of envoys is suggested by his intensified communication with the Papal Curia in the spring of 1250. As a result, Innocent IV called on the clergy of the Crown of Aragon to recruit supporters for the king’s campaign against the rebellious Muslims in their sermons in March of the same year.
[§18] The reason why al-Azraq sent the desired counter embassy to the queen rather than to the king is unknown. It seems possible that James I himself had asked him to do so in his previous letter, as his rather assertive wife had already been involved in important political and diplomatic matters several times in the past. Whether the monarch credited her and her advisors with particular skills to resolve the military stalemate by diplomatic means or simply delegated the correspondence to her due to other obligations remains unclear.
[§19] The envoys accredited by the letter remain difficult to grasp. They appear neither in the agreement of 1245 nor in the Llibre dels feits or any other source at our disposal. In any case, al-Azraq’s decision to appoint as envoy a close relative, his maternal cousin, was well in line with common diplomatic practice. It is not known, whether this cousin, Abū l-Ḥasan b. Huḏayl, went into exile with the former rebel leader after their resistance ended in 1258, or remained on the family estates left to him by the king. He does not appear in the comparatively rich diplomatic evidence. His two companions are defined as commanders (quwwād). We do not know, however, which specific roles they occupied within al-Azraq’s domains. While the qāʾid Abū ʿAmr ʿUṯman b. Sahl possibly enjoyed less prestige than his companions, given that he is mentioned last and without any titles, Abū l-Qāsim b. Hilāl quite obviously took on the role of the delegation’s leader and spokesman. We do not know why al-Azraq favoured him over his cousin, but the adjectives praising him identify him as a man of high rank. What all envoys certainly had in common was that they enjoyed al-Azraq’s trust. Otherwise, they would hardly have been suitable candidates for such an important mission serving the rebels’ aim of gaining concrete political advantages in a delicate situation. The designation of Ibn Huḏayl as “our confidant” (ṯiqatanā) should probably also be interpreted in this light. Whether the envoys were qualified for the task on the basis of their language skills is likewise unknown. In any case, one can assume that they had a sufficient command of the language(s) of their addressees to be able to communicate independently on their journey. But they may also have been accompanied by interpreters who are not mentioned separately in the text, or else employed mediators at the queen’s court. Yolanda herself certainly had to rely on such specialists in order to be able to understand the content of the Arabic letter addressed to her.
[§20] The phrases by which the qāʾid Abū l-Qāsim is introduced as spokesman are especially remarkable. Before all else, he was to kiss the queen’s hand as a sign of al-Azraq’s deference to his royal interlocutor. This ritual, common in Latin-Christian court culture, had no equivalent in Muslim diplomacy, at least with regard to female dignitaries. It seems reasonable that it was perceived by the Christian and even the Muslim side as a symbolic confirmation of a still existing relationship of dependence between al-Azraq and the Crown.
[§21] In the ensuing negotiations, Abū l-Qāsim was supposed to act as the embodied voice of al-Azraq, through which the rebel leader himself could communicate directly with the queen. The fact that the letter does not mention al-Azraq’s concerns, which Abū l-Qāsim was to convey only orally, could have served as a precautionary measure in case the envoys did not reach their destination and the letter fell into the wrong hands.
[§22] The phrases used to introduce and close the main parts of the letter, “Among the things about which the subordinate must inform you (…)”, and “That is what you need to know”, once again illustrate the pragmatic approach that, leaving aside all courteous phrases and religious formulas, represents a main element of the short letter.
[§23] With regard to the progress of the events directly connected with the letter, many more questions remain open. It is quite certain that it did not remain a lettre morte and that the envoys actually set out and reached their destination. Otherwise, the document they carried would not have been preserved in the royal archives until today. The rebels’ central concerns and the progress of the negotiations they were to conduct personally at the queen’s court remain a matter of conjecture. Considering the situation outlined above, it seems conceivable that they were to find diplomatic ways out of the deadlock and to resolve the conflict between the Crown and the rebels. However, the course of events in the following years, which we can only reconstruct vaguely, shows that the mediators on both sides succeeded only in the short term, if at all. The relationship between the conflict parties remained so tense that al-Azraq and his advisors even launched an—albeit unsuccessful—assassination attempt on the “King of the Šarq al-Andalus,” who was to remember this so-called fet de Rugat for the rest of his life. Although tensions eased again during the truce of 1257, the determined campaign of James I in the following year finally brought an end to a conflict that had lasted almost a decade.
[§24] In sum, it should be emphasised once again that the letter sent by the rebel leader al-Azraq to the Queen of Arágon can be considered an important document in several respects. Apart from the treaty of 1245, it is the only authentic Arabic document to date that provides first-hand information about al-Azraq’s diplomatic activities as well as the members of his inner circle. In view of the sparse surviving records for the decade of the first Muslim uprisings in the Kingdom of Valencia and especially concerning the stalemate of 1250-1258, the letter sheds a singular light on events and persons left unmentioned in the Llibre dels feits—probably deliberately. Moreover, the fact that the letter was composed by a Muslim regional ruler and his closest advisors allows us to draw conclusions about the view a small Muslim ruling elite held on Christian kingship in the Šarq al-Andalus. This view is reflected in the way this elite presented itself to the queen in the cited letter: it had to reconcile its self-perception with the contemporary political realities.
[§25] In the broader context of political developments in the western Mediterranean, the first large-scale uprising of the Mudejars in the Kingdom of Valencia under the leadership of al-Azraq can be seen as a regional symptom of larger developments that affected other regions of the southern Iberian Peninsula as well: the first half of the thirteenth century had been marked by massive territorial gains on the part of the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, which were pushing into the southern parts of the peninsula at that time. The decades that followed saw repeated revolts by a Muslim population subjected to Christian rule. These uprisings were not confined to the Kingdom of Valencia (1247-1258, 1275-1277), but also shook the Castilian Kingdom of Múrcia (1263-1266). They were a cause for serious concern, especially due to the almost omnipresent rivalry between Castile and Aragon. This rivalry was a fact well known to Muslim leaders like al-Azraq, who frequently tried to play off both great powers against each other to their own advantage. After the suppression of the Muslim uprisings, the respective Christian monarchs considerably intensified their efforts to consolidate their rule over the subjugated territories, so that, by the end of the century, the balance of power had been clearly established in favour of Christian rule.
[§26] For the Kingdom of Valencia as the youngest realm of the Crown of Aragon, the rebellion of al-Azraq can be considered largely under control from 1250 onwards. Nevertheless, al-Azraq’s opposition continued to challenge the Crown. The stubborn resistance of a petty rebel leader, who had been outmaneuvered militarily but could not be defeated entirely, threatened to become a problem in foreign relations: King James I, who liked to present himself as a successful “conqueror” (Catalan/Aragonese: Conqueridor, Castilian: Conquistador) and champion of Latin Christendom in his relations with the Papacy and the great rulers of Latin Europe, risked losing his credibility if he seemed unable to keep his conquests under control. At a time when the Mongols were emerging as a hitherto unknown and threatening power on the eastern borders of the Euromediterranean, and imposing rulers such as Frederick II (regn. 1198-1250) or Louis IX (regn. 1226-1270) maintained intensive diplomatic and military relations with the Islamic sphere, the “international” prestige of the king of Aragon had to be preserved.
[§27] The events surrounding the Muslim uprising led by al-Azraq, which gave birth to the letter of 647/1250, thus fell into a period in which Christian rule over large parts of the Iberian south had been established, but not yet stabilised. Here as in other Mediterranean regions affected by European-Christian expansion, Muslims began to oppose a hitherto successful expansionist movement by military and diplomatic means.
Editions & Translations
María del Carmen Barceló Torres (ed.): Documentos árabes de Al-Azrāq (1245-1250), in: Saitabi. Revista de la Facultat de Geografia i Història 32 (1982), pp. 40-41, URL: https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=1034238 [recto only].
Maximiliano Augustín Alarcon y Santón; Ramón García de Linares (eds.): Los documentos árabes diplomáticos del Archivo de la corona de Aragón, Madrid: E. Maestre, 1940, vol. 1, n. 154, pp. 393-394 [recto only].
Ministerio de Cultura de España (ed.): El perfume de la amistad. Correspondencia diplomática árabe en archivos españoles (siglos XIII-XVII), Madrid: Ministerio de Cultura, 2009, n. 1, pp. 98-99 [recto only, translation only].
Cited & Additional Literature
[King James I of Aragon], Les quatre grans cròniques. I. Llibre dels feits del rei En Jaume, ed. Ferran Soldevila, with the collaboration of Bruguera and María Teresa Ferrer i Mallol, Barcelona: Institut d’Estudis Catalans, 2008. English translation: The Book of Deeds of James I of Aragon. A Translation of the Medieval Catalan Llibre dels Fets, ed. Damian J. Smith and Helena Buffery, Farnham/Burlington: Ashgate, 2003.
Burns, Robert Ignatius (ed.), Diplomatarium of the Crusader Kingdom of Valencia. The Registered Charters of its Conqueror Jaume I., 1257-1276, 4 vols., Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press, 1985-2007, URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1m323m0 [vol. 1], https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ztgpt [vol. 2].
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Baño Armiñana, Ricard: Contribució a l’estudi de les sublevacions d’Al-Azraq en les comarques de l’Alcoia i del Comtat, in: Revista de investigación y ensayos del Instituto de Estudios Alicantinos 33 (1981), pp. 39-65.
Burns, Robert Ignatius: A Lost Crusade. Unpublished Bulls of Innocent IV on Al-Azraq’s Revolt in Thirteenth-Century Spain, in: The Catholic Historical Review 74/3 (1988), pp. 440-449. Reprint in: Robert Ignatius Burns, Mary Elizabeth Perry (eds.): Warrior Neighbours. Crusader Valencia in its International Context. Collected Essays of Father Robert I. Burns, S. J., Turnhout: Brepols, 2013, pp. 255-266, URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25022843 [1988 version].
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Burns, Robert Ignatius: La guerra de Al-Azraq de 1249, in: Sharq al-Andalus. Estudios mudéjares y moriscos 4 (1987), pp. 253-256. Reprint in: Robert Ignatius Burns, Mary Elizabeth Perry (eds.): Warrior Neighbours. Crusader Valencia in its International Context. Collected Essays of Father Robert I. Burns, S. J., Turnhout: Brepols, 2013, pp. 267-270, URL: https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=747868 [1987 version].
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Burns, Robert Ignatius: Warrior Neighbors. Alfonso the Learned (El Sabio) and Crusader Valencia, an Archival Case Study in his International Relations, in: Viator. Medieval and Renaissance Studies 21 (1990), pp. 147-202. Reprint in: Robert Ignatius Burns, Mary Elizabeth Perry (eds.): Warrior Neighbours. Crusader Valencia in its International Context. Collected Essays of Father Robert I. Burns, S. J., Turnhout: Brepols, 2013, pp. 31-102, URL: https://deremilitari.org/2014/02/warrior-neighbours-alfonso-el-sabio-and-crusader-valencia-an-archival-case-study-in-his-international-relations/ [1990 version].
Burns, Robert Ignatius; Chevedden, Paul Edward: A Unique Bilingual Surrender Treaty from Muslim-Crusader Spain, in: The Historian. A Journal of History 62/3 (2000), pp. 511-534, URL: https://www.academia.edu/25685682/A_Unique_Bilingual_Surrender_Treaty_from_Muslim_Crusader_Spain.
Burns, Robert Ignatius; Chevedden, Paul Edward: Negotiating Cultures. Bilingual Surrender Treaties in Muslim-Crusader Spain under James the Conqueror, Leiden/Boston/Cologne: Brill, 1999.
Deswarte, Thomas; Herbers, Klaus; Scherer, Cornelia (eds.): Frühmittelalterliche Briefe: Übermittlung und Überlieferung (4.-11. Jahrhundert). La lettre au haut Moyen Âge: transmission et tradition épistolaires (IVe-XIe siècles), Cologne: Böhlau, 2018.
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Ferrer i Mallol, María Teresa: Panorama general de les relacions internacionals de Jaume I. Les relacions amb Italia, in: María Teresa Ferrer i Mallol (ed.): Jaume I. Commemoració de VIII centenari del naixement de Jaume I, 2 vols., Barcelona: Institut d’Estudis Catalans, 2011-2013, vol. 1, pp. 387-426.
González Jiménez, Manuel: Jaime I el Conquistador y Alfonso X el Sabio. Una compleja relación de encuentros y desencuentros, in: María Teresa Ferrer i Mallol (ed.): Jaume I. Commemoració de VIII centenari del naixement de Jaume I, 2 vols., Barcelona: Institut d’Estudis Catalans, 2011-2013, vol. 1, pp. 437-454.
Guichard, Pierre: S̲h̲arḳ al-Andalus, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam 2, vol. 9, Leiden: Brill, 1997, pp. 351-352, URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_6852.
Guichard, Pierre; Torró, Josep (trans.): Al-Andalus frente a la conquista cristiana. Los musulmanes de Valencia (siglos XI-XIII), Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 2001.
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Potthast, Daniel: Drei Fragmente von arabischen Staatsbriefen (14. Jh.) im Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, in: Der Islam 92 (2015), pp. 367-412, URL: https://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/59540/.
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|Eric Böhme, "1250: A Letter from the Regional Ruler al-Azraq to the Queen of Aragon", in: Transmediterranean History. Commented Anthology of Primary Sources, ed. Daniel G. König, Theresa Jäckh, Eric Böhme, URL: https://wiki.uni-konstanz.de/transmed-en/index.php/1250:_A_Letter_from_the_Regional_Ruler_al-Azraq_to_the_Queen_of_Aragon. Last Revision: 16.08.2022, Access: 27.01.2023.|
al-Andalus, diplomacy, embassy, envoy, interpreter, letter, Mudejars, Mudéjares, Muslims under Christian rule, negotiation, protocol, rebellion, uprising, war
- The expression malḥūẓīn may also be understood in the sense of “giving official recognition” to the al-Azraq’s envoys, but this is merely conjectural.
- This has already been remarked by earlier editors: Maximiliano Augustín Alarcon y Santón; Ramón García de Linares (eds.): Los documentos árabes diplomáticos del Archivo de la corona de Aragón, Madrid: E. Maestre, 1940, vol. 1, n. 154, pp. 393-394. The transcription of the front page (recto) used here is based on the edition in Barceló-Torres, Documentos. I have corrected a few printing errors, made some additions in square brackets, and removed the line break markings. The largely “normalised” spelling adopted from this edition does not reflect all orthographic peculiarities of the manuscript for the sake of readability and comprehensibility. For example, I have added the diacritical dots enabling distinction between graphemes of the same type, which are missing in the original manuscript due to omission or fading. However, this approach does not affect the rendition of the letter’s contents. For more detailed philological explanations of the relevant grammatical and orthographical phenomena cf. Institute of Islamic Studies of the University of Zaragoza, Grammar.
- Illustrations of numerous other examples can be found in: Ministerio de Cultura de España (ed.): El perfume de la amistad. Correspondencia diplomática árabe en archivos españoles (siglos XIII-XVII), Madrid: Ministerio de Cultura, 2009; a detailed analysis based on three examples in Potthast, Drei Fragmente.
- On the kitāba, see Burns, Islam, pp. 354-360, esp. 397-398; Guichard, Al-Andalus, pp. 422-431, 450; Buresi and Al-ʿAllaoui, Chancellerie almohade.
- Potthast, Drei Fragmente, p. 409, attributes two additional letters (Barcelona, Arxiu de la Corona d’Aragó, Cartas árabes, n. 165-166) to al-Azraq or his entourage. However, they are still unedited, difficult to read, and cannot be assigned to this group with certainty. This probably explains why they have not been treated in historical research to date (see the references below). Due to lack of space, the present contribution cannot address this problem in detail.
- For more details, see Potthast, Diplomatischer Austausch.
- For an overview of these developments, see the standard work by Engels, Reconquista, and Jaspert, Reconquista.
- The contemporary Arabic expression Šarq al-Andalus broadly refers to the eastern mainland of the Iberian Peninsula with the population centres of Valencia (Balansiya), Xàtiva (Šāṭiba) and Múrcia (Mursiya). It also included the Balearic Islands. See Guichard, S̲h̲arḳ al-Andalus.
- Catalan: Jaume I, Aragonese: Chaime I, Spanish: Jaime I, German: Jakob I.
- See for example the syntheses by Guichard, Al-Andalus, pp. 175-202 and Torró, Naixement, pp. 25-56.
- Burns, Islam, pp. 323-324; Burns and Chevedden, Negotiating Cultures, pp. 6-8.
- The Aragonese king played an important role at this council, held in June/July 1245, during which various measures ultimately directed against Islam were discussed and decided upon, including the deposition of Emperor Frederick II because of his relations with the “Saracens,” a new crusade to the Middle East under the leadership of Louis IX, the introduction of a special tax for the financial support of the Holy Land and the sending of a papal envoy to the Mongols; see Roberg, Lyon, for an overview, and Smith, Jaime I, for the broader context.
- For a detailed analysis of the document, see Burns and Chevedden, Negotiating Cultures, pp. 3-59, as well as its edition on pp. 35-37 (Aragonese-Castilian text) and pp. 39-50 (Arabic text).
- Details in Torró, Guerra; a short version in Torró, Expellere Sarracenos, pp. 78-83.
- On these events see Guichard, Al-Andalus, pp. 574-581; Burns, Crusade, pp. 80-101; Torró, Guerra, pp. 201-224, and Torró, Naixement, pp. 56-63. On the papal letters, whose concrete distribution and reception remains unclear, see Burns, Lost Crusade. Burns has repeatedly argued that the measures taken by the Curia to support the campaigns of James I against the Muslims in the Šarq al-Andalus (both in the years up to 1245 and 1248-1250) should be interpreted as “crusades.” However, this interpretation remains disputed to date, see e.g. Torró, Expellere Sarracenos, p. 81 n. 29.
- While the military campaigns of the years 1233-1245 are described in detail in more than 200 chapters, the events of the following two decades up to the campaign against Múrcia (Mursiya) are treated in little more than fifteen, chronologically rather confused chapters: [King James I of Aragon], Les quatre grans cròniques. I. Llibre dels feits del rei En Jaume, ed. Ferran Soldevila with the collaboration of Jordi Bruguera and María Teresa Ferrer i Mallol, Barcelona: Institut d’Estudis Catalans, 2008, cap. 361-377, pp. 388-402; English translation: The Book of Deeds of James I of Aragon. A Translation of the Medieval Catalan Llibre dels Fets, ed. Damian J. Smith and Helena Buffery, Farnham/Burlington: Ashgate, 2003, cap. 361-377, pp. 271-282. On this problem in our context, see Burns and Chevedden, Surrender Treaty, pp. 525-527; and Guichard, Al-Andalus, pp. 571-572, 581.
- Guichard, Al-Andalus, pp. 581-584; Torró, Naixement, pp. 59-61, 63-65; on Aragonese-Castilian relations in this context, see Burns, Crusade, pp. 102-105; on the broader context: Burns, Warrior Neighbors; and González Jiménez, Jaime I.
- Llibre dels feits, ed. Soldevila, cap. 375, p. 400; trans. Book of Deeds, ed. Smith and Buffery, cap. 375, p. 280.
- Llibre dels feits, ed. Soldevila, cap. 373-377, pp. 398-402; trans. Book of Deeds, ed. Smith and Buffery, cap. 373-377, pp. 279-282. Cf. also the analyses in Guichard, Al-Andalus, pp. 584-586 and Torró, Naixement, pp. 65-67.
- Llibre dels feits, ed. Soldevila, cap. 556, pp. 520-521; trans. Book of Deeds, ed. Smith and Buffery, cap. 556, p. 376; moreover Guichard, Al-Andalus, pp. 606-607.
- Cf. the source text above: “mawlātī al-sulṭāna al-karīma al-muʾayyada al-manṣūra al-ʿamīma al-mubāraka al-rīna duna mawlānā al-sulṭān al-muʾayyad al-manṣūr malik al-rūmiyya wa-malik šarq al-Andalus (…).” The title reina Dona was a common form of address for queens in medieval Catalan, and was also used by James I himself, see, for example, Llibre dels feits, ed. Soldevila, cap. 3-4, 7, 17-18, pp. 51-52, 55, 75; trans. Book of Deeds, ed. Smith and Buffery, cap. 3-4, 7, 17-18, pp. 19, 21, 33.
- Source text above: “min ʿabdikum wa-ḫadīmikum wa-muqabbil yadaykum al-mubāraka al-karīma Muḥammad bin Huḏayl aš-šāhir bi-l-Azraq (…).”
- Burns and Chevedden, Negotiating Cultures, p. 48: “al-wazīr al-aǧall al-ḥasīb al-arfaʿ al-asmā al-asnā Abū ʿAbd Allāh bin Huḏayl akramahu Allāh (…),” translation at p. 49. Concerning the title of vizier (Arabic: wazīr, Romance: alguazil), note that this and other official titles (e.g. qāʾid or raʾīs) were no longer associated with clearly definable or delimitable competences in the thirteenth-century Šarq al-Andalus, see Burns, Islam, pp. 365-367, and, for further possible definitions of the term wazīr: Zaman, Eddé, Carmona, Lambton, İnalcik, Wazīr.
- Burns and Chevedden, Negotiating Cultures, p. 35: “Habuabdele Yvan Fudayl, alguazil et senor Dalcala (…),” translation at p. 37. Nothing concrete is known about the drafting of both text variants, but the editors (pp. 54-59) have deduced from various clues that the final version of the treaty was probably produced in the Infante’s chancery. It is nevertheless likely that al-Azraq and his advisors had a say on the titulatures used for the Muslim side and probably had asserted this right in the preliminary negotiations on the textual formulation.
- See for example Robert Ignatius Burns (ed.), Diplomatarium of the Crusader Kingdom of Valencia. The Registered Charters of its Conqueror Jaume I, 1257-1276, 4 vols, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985-2007, vol. 2, n. 79, 85, pp. 70, 75: “Aladrachum traditorem nostrum (…),” n. 91, p. 80: “Aladrach proditorem nostrum (…).” The Llibre dels feits usually has only “al-Azraq” in various Catalan spellings.
- A similar conclusion is reached by Burns, Crusade, p. 99, and Torró Abad, Naixement, pp. 64-65.
- See the source text above: “mā fīhā min al-barr wa-l-riʿāya wa-l-ḥifẓ wa-l-ʿināya wa-amr irsālinā ilaykum (…).”
- For example, towards the quwwād of Bairén (Bayrān) in 1239, and Xàtiva (Šāṭiba) in 1243: Llibre dels feits, ed. Soldevila, cap. 308, 334-335, pp. 354-355, 369-370; trans. Book of Deeds, ed. Smith and Buffery, cap. 308, 334-335, pp. 244-245, 257-258. For Barceló-Torres, Documentos, p. 36, the preceding legation was merely “relacionada con un principio de conversaciones de paz, de las que nada sabemos (…).”
- The relevant documents edited in Burns, Lost Crusade, n. VII-X, contain no reference to the concrete situation in the Kingdom of Valencia or to al-Azraq, however. On the disputed interpretation of the measures as a “crusade”, see n. 15 above.
- Yolanda was involved in the secret negotiations on the surrender of Valencia (Balansiya) in 1238: Llibre dels feits, ed. Soldevila, cap. 276-277, pp. 335-336; trans. Book of Deeds, ed. Smith and Buffery, cap. 276-277, p. 227. As late as February 1249, she arbitrated in a dispute between her husband and the Infante Peter of Portugal, whose main issue was the expulsion of Muslim peasants from the latter’s dominion in the north of the kingdom. The surviving charter finalising the reconciliation of both parties is edited in Burns, Guerra, Appendix I, and has recently been reinterpreted by Torró, Expellere, pp. 82-83.
- For further information on the possible agency of the queen and her court, see Ponsich, Petite filie.
- For broader considerations on the topic of language mediation, see Echevarría Arsuaga, Trujamanes, among others.
- On the possible implications of the formula ʿabdikum wa-ḫadīmikum, see Barceló-Torres, Documentos, p. 33, who suggested equating ḫadīm with “vassal” but did not adopt this terminology in her own translation of the document (p. 41). Owing to our lack of knowledge about the Andalusian-Arabic understanding of the Latin-European concept of vassalage, only vague conjectures on this subject are possible, however.
- The conception of envoys as the direct voice of their masters was widespread in Latin-Christian epistolary culture as well. As an introduction, see Deswarte, Herbers and Scherer (eds), Frühmittelalterliche Briefe.
- Source text above: “fa-allaḏīna waǧaba bihi ʿalā al-ʿabd taʿarrufukum annahu (…).”
- Source text above: “fa-haḏā mā waǧaba bihi taʿarrufukum (…).”
- However, nothing is known about the history of the document’s preservation. In contrast to many other Arabic documents, it has apparently never been translated into Latin or Romance languages, which may have facilitated the survival of the original. For further information on this topic, see Potthast, Translations.
- In Múrcia, the rebel leaders also tried to play the kings of Aragon and Castile off against each other and even sought diplomatic understanding with the Papal Curia. Eventually, however, James I launched a military expedition in support of his son-in-law, Alfonso X, in the course of which the rebellions were put down by force. On these events, see the recent study by Maser, Convivencia.
- On the foreign relations of the Crown of Aragon under James I, see the classic synthesis by Engels, König Jakob I.; Smith, Jaime I; Ferrer i Mallol, Panorama; and Vela Aulesa, Jaume I.