The History of Spain Podcast
About this podcast
Biweekly podcast on the history of Spain following a chronological order.
About this podcast
Biweekly podcast on the history of Spain following a chronological order.
The History of Spain Podcast
Reforms of Abd al-Rahman II
This is episode 30 called Reforms of Abd al-Rahman II and in this episode you will learn: Show notes Global context of the first half of the 9th century A background of Emir Abd al-Rahman II The early dynastic and territorial revolts of his reign How Abd al-Rahman II reformed and reorganized the administration of the Emirate of Córdoba, in emulation to the centralized model of the Abbasid Caliphate The sophistication of the Cordoban court and the economic and fiscal reforms The ambitious civil and religious construction program of Abd al-Rahman’s reign How Ziryab transformed the culture of al-Andalus and the cultural, intellectual and artistic changes that were coming from the East The foreign policy objective and implementation of projecting the political and commercial power of the Emirate of Córdoba in the Western Mediterranean The other foreign policy objective to maintain the supremacy of Córdoba in the Iberian Peninsula A reflection on the limits of Abd al-Rahman’s reforms Script I’m David Cot, host of The History of Spain Podcast, and this is episode 30 called Reforms of Abd al-Rahman II. In this episode you will learn about the early reign and reforms of Abd al-Rahman II of Córdoba, the cultural transformation of al-Andalus and the foreign policy of the Emirate of Córdoba. Subscribe to the podcast to not miss an episode! The previous episode was entirely focused on the foundation of new political entities, the Kingdom of Pamplona and the County of Aragon, but we left the narrative of the other Iberian states in the 820s. Let’s start with some global and Iberian context. In northern Europe the Norse Vikings started their expansion, and spoiler alert in 844 they attacked Spain for the first time. During this period Bulgaria was on the rise; the Abbasid Caliphate had had a short civil war that provoked the destruction of palaces and the exile of several leading intellectuals and artists; and it started to become obvious that the Carolingian Empire wouldn’t expand any further. That meant that the Carolingian Empire faced more internal problems and that the objective was not offensive, but defensive. As we will see in the next episode, these problems echoed throughout the Marca Hispanica too. With this context in mind, I can continue the narrative of al-Andalus with the ascendancy of Emir Abd al-Rahman II. His 30-year rule was marked by administrative reforms, the strengthening of the Emirate of Córdoba from both a domestic and foreign point of view, and the cultural and scientific rise of al-Andalus. Therefore, he was an important ruler of Muslim Spain and I will cover his reign in several episodes. Okay, so to give you a little background about this new emir, if you have listened to previous episodes you know that Abd al-Rahman II was already experienced in political and military affairs. He had governed several cities and regions, and he led the suppression of a few revolts, notably in the Day of the Moat. Abd al-Rahman had inherited a pacified kingdom, with a rising economy and demography, and a progressive conversion of Mozarabs to Islam. Before the death of his father al-Hakam, Abd al-Rahman executed the much-hated leader of the Mutes and gained the favor of the common people. Maybe even more importantly, Abd al-Rahman II ordered the destruction of the wine markets of Córdoba, which earned him the favor and support of the Islamic jurists and scholars, the ulama. For instance, he made the influential Berber qadi Yahya ibn Yahya his close confidant and religious advisor. Because of this alliance between the Emir and the ulama, we see how Muslim chronicles always speak in good terms about the reign of Abd al-Rahman II, referring to it as a “honeymoon for the Andalusis”. However, if we look objectively at the events of his reign, it wasn’t so peaceful and free of opposition. Following his accession to the throne, Abd Allah the Valencian rebelled again against the ruling Umayyad branch, even though he was ruling the Spanish Levant quite autonomously and his son Ubayd Allah was a successful and loyal general. Abd Allah the Valencian tried to conquer the region of Murcia, but before the Emir could send an army Abd Allah suffered a paralysis and died the following year. These circumstances allowed Córdoba to name a new and loyal governor of Valencia. In Murcia there was factional struggle between Arab families to control the region, an anarchy that lasted seven years. The Emir let them weaken each other until he decided to intervene and crush them. The Emir was decided to control more effectively the southeastern region of Murcia, so he demolished the fortress of Orihuela and founded the new capital of the region, the city of Murcia. Statue of Abd al-Rahman II in Murcia, to commemorate the foundation of the city On the other hand, the endemic particularistic revolts of the Lower, Middle and Upper Marches broke out again during the reign of Abd al-Rahman II. I will cover the revolt led by Musa ibn Musa of the Banu Qasi and Íñigo Arista of Pamplona in the next episode, but even the less important revolts of Mérida and Toledo lasted a few years. One rebel leader of Mérida later escaped into Asturias and defended the Christian kingdom from Andalusi raids. In Toledo, a survivor of the Day of the Moat returned to the old Visigothic capital and led a new uprising against Umayyad central authority, that wasn’t suppressed until seven years later. In both cases, the revolts were led by Muladis and Berbers, and in the aftermath the Emir built new fortresses to provide refuge for the Umayyad governor of the city should another revolt occur, which was almost 100% likely to happen. These citadels were known as alcazabas, and the Alcazaba of Mérida was built using parts of the ancient Roman walls. The Roman walls were for the most part destroyed to make the city easier to conquer in case of a new rebellion, and this policy proved to be effective in reducing the level of rebelliousness of Mérida. Nonetheless, it also provoked the political and economic decline of the city. With the aim to put an end to the endemic revolts of al-Andalus, the new Emir thought that he needed to reform the administration to centralize political and administrative power and strengthen the Emirate of Córdoba. Therefore, the first objective of Abd al-Rahman II was the organization of the Emirate of Córdoba based on the model of the Abbasid Caliphate, which was among the most centralized of its time. That’s right, Abd al-Rahman couldn’t hide his admiration for the administration of the Abbasid Caliphate, even though as an Umayyad he had to hate the Abbasids. The Cordoban emir knew that he could emulate what his archenemies were doing in the East, and he did successfully implant the Abbasid model in al-Andalus. Abd al-Rahman II was determined to build the emirate into a cultural and economic powerhouse. Later Caliph Abd al-Rahman III perfected this model, but the basis for the central administration of Muslim Spanish states kept being that of Abd al-Rahman II, even after the fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba. To start with, nothing could be decided without his explicit authorization. Abd al-Rahman had all the authority and he was infallible. He had supreme authority over religious matters too, even though it would take another century for the Emirate to become a Caliphate. To make his position more solemn and respected, Abd al-Rahman II established a strict courtesan protocol too. Emir Abd al-Rahman established a clear hierarchy within the central administration, to avoid mixing the functions and responsibilities of public offices and to make communications more effective. Everything became more formal and bureaucratic. With all these measures, Abd al-Rahman II became de facto more autocratic than his father al-Hakam, all while maintaining an image that was neither violent nor tyrannical. Abd al-Rahman was more of a ladies’ man than his father too, having a growing number of concubines and having more than 40 sons and 40 daughters, and he surrounded himself of tens of eunuchs in imitation to the sophisticated courts of the East. Continuing with the reforms, the Emir of Córdoba put the Chancellery and Treasury under a unified supreme office, known as diwan, under the hajib. As I explained in episode 26 ‘Administration of al-Andalus’, the hajib was like a prime minister, and at first Abd al-Rahman maintained the close adviser of his father in that position. When the veteran died, the incorruptible Isa ibn Shuhayd became hajib. During his rule Abd al-Rahman II met daily with the high-ranking officials to be held accountable and to always have fluid communications with each department of the central state and to communicate with the provinces too. Talking about the provinces, the Emir also reorganized the kuras of the Emirate, but that didn’t serve to substantially prevent particularistic revolts. Furthermore, the Emir was also the mayor of Córdoba, so he had to deal with more and more issues of the growing capital of al-Andalus. On the other hand, Abd al-Rahman II issued economic and fiscal reforms. Under him the Andalusi state assumed the monopoly of coinage and the manufacture of luxury fabrics, which helped to increase state income and boost both domestic and foreign trade, and taxes on dhimmis were increased. These administrative and fiscal policies produced notorious effects. The minting of new silver and copper coins led to the rise of trade in al-Andalus, which contrasted with the subsistence economies of Christian Spanish kingdoms or the Carolingian Empire. During the reign of al-Hakam the annual income of the state was over 600,000 dinars, while under Abd al-Rahman II that figure surpassed one million dinars. These finances were strong enough to allow for an ambitious civil and religious construction program, with the foundation of Murcia, the building of walls in Seville after the Viking attack, the building of several fortresses and citadels in key cities, the building of the Mosque of Jaén, or the improvement of the Great Mosque of Córdoba. And by the way, the Andalusis didn’t hesitate to plunder Roman remains on a large scale to support this massive construction program. Moreover, with that money the Emir could buy more slaves for his bodyguard and more Slavic eunuchs, organize extravagant feasts and patronage culture. At the same time, it was becoming obvious that more and more Mozarabs were deciding to convert to Islam, although according to estimations only 20% of the population of al-Andalus was Muslim by the time of the death of Emir Abd al-Rahman. The process of conversions was starting to accelerate for many reasons. Just to name some motives; the ever-increasing taxes, the impossibility to access certain public offices, the building of new mosques, and the new centralizing and Islamic policies of Abd al-Rahman II. However, the process of Arabization and Islamization of Christian Hispano-Goths started to worry some members of the Mozarab Church, but we will see which were the consequences of that in two episodes. What’s clear is that al-Andalus was becoming increasingly Arab. A mix of Arab and native Hispano-Gothic culture emerged, the Andalusi culture. It was neither 100% Arab nor 100% native, it was a new identity, just like new mixed identities emerged in Spanish America. On another note, Emir Abd al-Rahman II embodied the new Arab masculine ideal. He was a fearless warrior, a tireless lover, a proud and generous man, and he was learned and wit. The Emir studied the Quran, composed poetry and studied astrology. Poetry was important for the Andalusi upper-class, it was the freestyle rapping of the era, while astrology was used to discuss the religious events of the year. Abd al-Rahman looked at the Abbasid Caliphate not only for the politico-administrative model, but to cultivate sciences and arts in al-Andalus. The Islamic Golden Age of Baghdad irradiated the Islamic world, and the Emir of Córdoba eagerly wanted the same prestige that was associated to the sophisticated, refined and cosmopolitan high culture of Baghdad. But as you can imagine, not everyone liked this opulent culture. Puritanical, conservative theologians of the Andalusi ulama, like the Berber Yahya ibn Yahya, despised it. Later the Moorish Almoravid and Almohad Empires precisely used this argument of religious and cultural decadence to impose their fundamentalist regimes, attacking precisely this aristocratic culture that was spreading in the Emirate of Córdoba. Still, many aristocrats went east on their own account, while others were sent by the Emir with the mission to bring books and knowledge that could only be found in the Abbasid and Byzantine Empires. Travelers carried back works on medicine, astrology, agriculture, theology, history, and literature. The Berber courtier and polymath Abbas ibn Firnas is among the most famous travelers, because when he returned he built bird-like wings to attempt to fly. Of course the attempt almost killed him, but it shows the innovative spirit of the time. Abbas ibn Firnas was more successful building a water clock, manufacturing corrective lenses, or bringing the technique for cutting rock crystal lenses that allowed the Emirate to stop importing crystal luxury items from Egypt. Moreover, not only men travelled, but women, especially concubines, were sent to the East. A slave Basque noblewoman married to Abd al-Rahman II was sent to Medina to learn to sing and play musical instruments. The best concubines were not only sexual objects, but also cultured, skillful and sophisticated companions. It was also around this time that the Arabic numerals arrived in Europe through Muslim Spain and several fruits and improved irrigation techniques arrived as well. Ziryab Abd al-Rahman’s patronage became known in al-Andalus and beyond, therefore artists, intellectuals and physicians of the Abbasid Caliphate started to migrate to Umayyad Spain, especially since there was political instability in the Islamic Caliphate. The most prominent cultural figure to arrive was without the slightest doubt Ali ibn Nafi, better known as Ziryab, which means Blackbird. Ziryab is the main responsible of the cultural transformation of al-Andalus. He had been born in the Abbasid Caliphate, but his ethnic origins are disputed, since his nickname, Blackbird, indicates that his skin was dark. Anyway, he first worked in the Abbasid court of Baghdad where he cultivated his excellent musical skills and developed a renowned taste in gastronomy, dressing and courtesan code. As civil war started, Ziryab left the Abbasid Caliphate for North Africa and later the Emirate of Córdoba. As soon as he arrived in 822, Ziryab remained the uncontested arbiter of elegance and noble manners until his death in the 850s. He was an influencer, but a real and learned influencer, not like these pretentious, fake Instagram jackasses. As a musician, he introduced the singing and instrumental styles of Baghdad, he improved the lute, the ancestor of the guitar, and he founded a musical academy to spread these new styles across al-Andalus. As a fashion influencer, Ziryab popularized the Arab and Iranian dressing and hairstyles, and seasonal clothing too. As a culinary expert, the Blackbird introduced unknown foods and dishes in Spain, such as asparagus and different spices and fruits. He introduced a three-course meal consisting of soup, the main course and a honeyed dessert, and this was not a banal issue. A good diet was regarded as crucial to maintain a good physical and mental health, following the Greek four temperament theory that kept being popular throughout Europe and other continents until modern medicine appeared in the 18 and 19th centuries. Ziryab is also credited with the popularization of crystal cups, ceramic dishes and tablecloths. In general, the Arab high culture and fashion of the Abbasid Caliphate quickly filtered through the Andalusi upper-class and later the lower classes. These changes in tastes and aesthetics were a key step to Arabize and Islamize the society of al-Andalus. Yet throughout the rest of the 9th century Muslims of the Abbasid Caliphate still regarded Andalusis as uncultured bumpkins, because notice how the development of Andalusi culture was at this stage about copying the Abbasids, so we cannot yet speak about a cultural golden age in al-Andalus. However, the image and influence of the Emirate of Córdoba was improving elsewhere. This was due to the centralizing and economic reforms that were allowing the growth of commerce, urbanization and Islamization. The incorporation and patronage of renowned artists and intellectuals served to exalt the prestige of the court of Córdoba. But more importantly, Emir Abd al-Rahman II made a conscious effort to establish a foreign policy, with two immediate objectives: to project the political and commercial power of the Emirate of Córdoba in the Western Mediterranean and to maintain the supremacy of Córdoba in the Iberian Peninsula. Map of 9th century North Africa The first objective was about strengthening ties with the Western North African states. There were mainly three independent Islamic states in North Africa: the Idrisids of Morocco, the Rustamids of Algeria and the Aghlabids of Ifriqiya. The Aghlabids of Ifriqiya gained independence from the Abbasids early in the 9th century, but they still served their interests. Despite this, a group of Andalusi pirates and mercenaries didn’t hesitate to help their fellow believers in the Muslim conquest of Sicily. With the Andalusis assisting, Palermo fell in 831 and the Aghlabids conquered the western half of Sicily. Abd al-Rahman II celebrated the victory of the Ifriqiyans, while feeling a bit anxious seeing the maritime power of the Aghlabids. Andalusi chronicles show an indifferent attitude towards the Idrisids of Morocco, hostile sometimes, although commercial relations were continuously improving. The Idrisids were the dominant force of Morocco, but there were smaller states as well: one in the Mediterranean coast, the small Emirate of Nekor, one in the Atlantic, the Barghawata confederation, and there were also the Midrarids of Sijilmasa, a key city of the Trans-Saharan trade route. The Emirate of Nekor was a client state of Córdoba, to defend it from annexation of the Idrisids, while the Barghawata didn’t establish formal relations with Córdoba until the reign of Caliph Abd al-Rahman III. The Midrarids of Sijilmasa, on the other hand, sent an embassy to Córdoba during the reign of Muhammad, the successor of Abd al-Rahman II. In general, the strategic goal was to keep Morocco divided, since a strong Morocco could be a real threat to al-Andalus, as it later happened under the Almoravids and Almohads. Map of Western North Africa / Morocco in the 9th century Finally, the Emirate of Córdoba maintained closed political ties with the Rustamids of Algeria, based on Tahert. The ruling imam of Rustamid Algeria sent an embassy to Córdoba in 822 with three of his sons, after Emir al-Hakam had sent an uncle to the court of the Rustamids. The aim of the embassy was to establish ties of clientage, with the Rustamids accepting to become vassals of the Umayyads. This way the Rustamids could feel protected from the hostilities that their neighbors the Idrisids and Aghlabids showed towards them. The Emirate of Córdoba greatly benefited from this relationship, both commercially and politically. Cereals from Tahert flowed to the Cordoban granaries and many mercenaries served in the Umayyad army. The relationship was so close that two Rustamid princes served as generals of the Cordoban army, and prince Muhammad ibn Rustam was key to decisively defeat the Vikings in 844. Overall, the Emirate of Córdoba under Abd al-Rahman II was successful in achieving political and economic supremacy over the Western Mediterranean, and this helped to strengthen the prestige of the Umayyads of Córdoba, so good job Abd al-Rahman. In fact, a Byzantine embassy to Córdoba confirms the improved image of strength of the Emirate. Emperor Theophilos saw how the Byzantine Empire was threatened in two fronts, one in Italy and the other in Anatolia. Remember that even a group of Andalusi pirates had conquered Crete and established an emirate. In Italy the Aghlabids continued to advance while in the east the Abbasid Caliphate waged war against the Roman Greeks. Because of that, Theophilos contacted the Carolingian Empire and Venice for help in 839. Nonetheless, he didn’t ignore that the Abbasids had an existential enemy in Spain, so Emperor Theophilos sent an embassy to Córdoba to make a military alliance. Unfortunately for the Byzantines the diplomatic mission was unsuccessful, but it shows how the strength of the Emirate of Córdoba was recognized by foreign powers, even Christian ones. The other main objective of the foreign policy of Córdoba was the maintenance of hegemony in the Iberian Peninsula. The greatest obvious threat to the territorial integrity of the Umayyad regime was the Carolingian Empire, that had gained a foothold in northeastern Spain by establishing the Marca Hispanica. The Kingdoms of Asturias and Pamplona were also a problem, but they were more like a visible failure of Córdoba, in the sense that they couldn’t effectively subdue them. The Andalusis launched raids from time to time against them, so the foreign policy actions to maintain their hegemony were mainly military and not diplomatic at all. But even though the relationship between the Emirate of Córdoba and the Carolingian Empire was tense most of the time, with periods of open hostilities, that didn’t stop the Cordobans from sending an embassy in 847 to the weakened and divided Carolingian Empire of Charles the Bald. This embassy tried to establish friendly relations between the two but didn’t achieve anything concrete. However, its sole existence is significative of the foreign policy actions of Córdoba. THE VERDICT: In today’s verdict I want to discuss the limits of Abd al-Rahman’s reforms. We have seen in this episode that Abd al-Rahman II was a very good monarch, for sure among the top 5 of al-Andalus. He established the foundations for the eventual economic, military and cultural rise of the Caliphate of Córdoba, but at the same time his reforms didn’t solve certain never-ending issues of the Umayyad regime. The most important being the particularistic and separatist threats and related to that the ethnic tensions too. Abd al-Rahman II attempted to centralize the state, and he did strengthen the Emirate, but his success was only partial. The efforts to centralize mostly affected Córdoba and the nearby areas, so the marches that represented around 1/3 of the territory of al-Andalus were de facto outside much of Cordoban control, and that is even more clear when you look at the finances of the Emirate, because the marches barely ever paid taxes. Abd al-Rahman II wasn’t effective in truly implementing a loyal and professional bureaucracy outside of Córdoba. If he had managed to replace the local aristocracies, like Caliph Abd al-Rahman III kind of did a century later, things would have been very different for his successors, who had to face the slow but unstoppable disintegration of the Emirate until Abd al-Rahman III reversed completely the situation. And with that, The Verdict ends. In the next episode I will cover the revolts of Musa ibn Musa of the Banu Qasi, the reign of Ramiro of Asturias, and what was happening in the Carolingian Empire and Marca Hispanica. To end this episode, let me remind you that the podcast has a website, thehistoryofspain.com, that has a fantastic store with merchandising, history books, travel guides, books and material to learn Spanish, and more. If you love the podcast, you may want to support it by becoming a patron or making a donation, but there are other non-financial ways to support the show, like reviewing the podcast or spreading the word. Please subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, YouTube and more and follow the social media accounts of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I hope you enjoyed the episode and thank you for listening! Sources A HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL SPAIN. Joseph F. O’Callaghan CALIPHS AND KINGS, 796-1031. Roger Collins KINGDOMS OF FAITH. Brian A. Catlos MUSLIM SPAIN AND PORTUGAL. Hugh Kennedy HISTORIA DE ESPAÑA IV. ESPAÑA MUSULMANA (711-1031). Ramón Menéndez Pidal HISTORIA DE ESPAÑA. AL-ANDALUS: MUSULMANES Y CRISTIANOS (SIGLOS VIII-XIII). Editorial Planeta NOTE: Credit for the intro and outro music to Jeris and Clarence Simpsons, the song is called ‘Conquistador’and it’s under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license The post Reforms of Abd al-Rahman II was first posted on The History of Spain Podcast.
History of Spain Podcast Q&A #1
History of Spain Podcast Q&A #1 I’m David Cot, host of The History of Spain Podcast, and this is the first special episode, a Q&A to answer your questions. Some of you have sent me questions as I asked you to do, but since there weren’t enough, I had to turn to my Ask Me Anything Twitter threads. That’s not bad, because all of you will be able to hear many good questions and answers that I’m sure will clarify some misconceptions about Spanish history. Without further delay, let’s start with the Q&A. Kev Kenny asks me this question related to Visigothic Spain: In “Visigothic Twilight” you suggest that Reccared was a weak ruler after his father Leovigild. He seems quite important uniting the Iberian Peninsula under one religion, no? You are right, he was important, but he made a lot of concessions to the nobility and especially to the Catholic Church. Leovigild had already attempted to unify religiously Spain with a reformed, quasi-Catholic version of Arianism, but he failed. In all other aspects Leovigild was very successful though. Reccared was successful in converting the Visigoths to Catholicism, but he could do that because his father had left him a consolidated kingdom, and other than that he didn’t do much more because he had ceded much of his power to the nobility and clergy. Another question about the Visigoths comes from Craig Jennings: Did the Visigoths ever fully integrate into Spanish society and culture? Yes, during the reigns of Leovigild and Reccared in the second half of the 6th century the Visigoths adopted pretty much everything of the Hispano-Roman society, and the two groups intermixed much more after that. It’s true that the writings talk about the Visigoths and the ‘gens gothorum’, the Gothic people, but after the late 6th century that doesn’t mean the Goths of the writings were actually of Gothic descent. In any case, all the processes of interaction between two cultures involve an exchange, the cultural integration and assimilation is never one-sided. Therefore, the Visigoths also had an impact on the culture and costumes of the Hispano-Romans, even though this impact was smaller than the cultural influence the Hispano-Romans had on the Visigoths. About the Muslim conquest, Kent Wang asks: Did the Muslims ever completely conquer Iberia? They landed in 711 and the Battle of Covadonga happened in 718 or 722. Did they manage to achieve complete dominance of the peninsula in between those dates? It’s not an unusual question, really, I’ve wondered that myself too. I would say that on paper yes, but actual control was extremely weak or didn’t even exist in some areas of the Iberian Peninsula. The same happened to the Spanish Empire or even all modern countries, you see how they theoretically control this or that land, but if you see the map carefully or study events it’s way more complicated than that. In some regions you always have less control than in others. That can mean that you have weak control over a large region, a small one, or on a neighborhood level, but the thing is that states never have uniform control over a territory. To answer more directly the question, they had weak-to-no control over Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Basque Country and the Pyrenees. After my response, he made this other question: So what happened in Asturias and the northern areas? Did they go from Roman to Visigothic to nominal Umayyad and then very quickly to Kingdom of Asturias? There was a small Berber garrison in Gijón, but that was pretty much the entire Muslim presence in Asturias. We could say that Asturias was briefly occupied by the Umayyads. Asturias and Cantabria had revolted from time to time during Visigothic rule and they had periods of self-government when Visigothic rulers were extremely weak or during the transition from Roman to Visigothic rule in the 5th century. So that along geography and lack of economic development and urbanization are the main factors that made the north independent first. Another question related to Asturias, this time from Richie: Is Covadonga the Mecca for Spaniards? Not really, last year Covadonga received close to 1.500.000 visitors, I would say that mainly due to the rise of Spanish nationalism, but it’s not a Mecca for Spaniards and it’s far behind the most visited places of Spain. The closest equivalent to the Mecca in Spain is clearly Santiago de Compostela, the city of pilgrims with a religious and spiritual meaning, similar to the pilgrimages to Mecca, Medina or Jerusalem. My proof-reader Guillem Navarro leaves me a very interesting question to answer: Why does the central government of Córdoba look so weak? Why did it have so many problems to control the territories of al-Andalus? Okay, the oversimplistic answer would be that the provinces revolted because they could. The continuous revolts of the territories of al-Andalus, especially the marches, were led by Arabs, Berbers or Muladis, so religion didn’t play a role, there wasn’t some sort of Christian uprising or a Spanish protonationalist response against Islamic rule. The administration of the Emirate of Córdoba was quite bureaucratic in Córdoba and the nearby areas, but as you moved away from the capital their power rested upon the Arab and Berber settlements or the Muladi families of the region. In that aspect, it wasn’t different from the Christian kingdoms, as the Umayyads relied upon clients just like Christian kings relied upon the loyalty of the nobles of each region. What mattered to keep the loyalty of the provinces of al-Andalus were basically two things: the military, political and economic strength of the Emir, and the relations of clientage between the Umayyads and the Arab, Berber and Muladi clans, and among the clans. To keep the loyalty of the clients their Umayyad patrons had to make concessions, like autonomy, offices, income, tax reductions, marriages, or any other form of benefit. When a client revolted, the Emir needed to draw on his network of loyal clients and cultivate new clients, that could rise to prominence in a region and substitute the rebel clients. However, as you can imagine, if nothing was changed, the new clients would revolt too when they saw the opportunity and the cycle of revolts would never end. António Rodrigues sent me this question: How was the daily life of a simple peasant and what holidays did he have? This is a very dense topic and I would need very in-depth research to answer it appropriately. I would suggest you to read Daily Life in the Middle Ages by Paul Newman, The Middle Ages: Everyday life in Medieval Europe by Jeffrey Singman, and in Spanish Vida cotidiana en la Edad Media by the Medievalist Julio Valdeón Baruque. These books cover many aspects, like diet, cooking, housing, clothing, hygiene, or pastimes. Kent Wang asks me another question about the everyday life, and I can answer this one: What did peasants eat, what did the elites eat? How did this change from the various periods, Roman, Visigothic, Muslim? In Roman Hispania the diet was based on cereals, olive oil and wine, the classic Mediterranean diet. The plebs prepared puls, a staple dish of Roman cuisine that is basically a pottage of cereals or legumes, and there were variations to include meat, vegetables, or cheese on it. The elites had the same Mediterranean diet, but since they were richer, they could consume much more frequently meat, honey, milk, oysters, and they used spices and sauces like garum. Garum was mainly produced in Spain and exported to other parts of the Roman Empire, and I talked about it in episode 8 ‘Hispania: Principate and Romanization’. The Roman diet didn’t change much with the arrival of the Visigoths, but their diet gave more importance to the consumption of meat and they probably introduced the growing of spinaches and hops. Unlike the Visigoths, the Muslims introduced many changes in the diet and crops of Spain. They introduced rice, orange trees, lemon trees, eggplants, melons, watermelons, apricots, sugar canes, and many spices and nuts that made the cuisine of Muslim Spain much tastier and more sophisticated than any other cuisine of Europe. With the brief research that I’ve made I couldn’t find the differences between the diet of the elite and the plebs in al-Andalus. However, what all these periods have in common is that the local resources and environment were very determinant for the diet of the locals. Trade was much more limited than it is today in a globalized world, meaning that if you lived in the Pyrenees you would barely eat fish, unless it’s freshwater fish, and you would have a diet more based on meat and fruits than someone who lives in fertile lands suitable for agriculture. Keep that always in mind. My patron Shane Lewis lays out an alternate history question: If the Marinids had been at their zenith, would have Fernando and Isabel been successful? Well the Marinids of Morocco had been overthrown already in 1465, so you are asking me to make a lot of assumptions here. The Marinids had overthrown the Almohads in Morocco and they later gained a foothold in the Iberian Peninsula by controlling the Strait of Gibraltar. However, they never controlled more than that and they never were as threatening as the Almoravids and Almohads had been. The Marinids had been decisively defeated in 1340 in the Battle of Río Salado, which led to the end of North African interventions in the Iberian Peninsula and the Castilian conquest of Algeciras. So to answer your question, yes, the Catholic Monarchs would have been successful in the Granada War, even if the Marinids still ruled and were at their height of power. The Twitter account Knowledge Voyage asks me a question that I really like: What if Spain continued the Reconquista into North Africa rather than go to the New World? As the great French historian Fernand Braudel put it, the discovery of America was an accident that distracted Spain from its natural area of expansion. In her last will, Queen Isabel of Castile ordered many things, for example that her daughter Juana would succeed her or that the indigenous people of America must be treated fairly. Moreover, she ordered to his successors: “And that they don’t cease in the conquest of Africa and fighting for the faith against the infidels.” Her last will was only partly followed, because the European matters were prioritized, with wars in Italy, the Netherlands, France, Germany and England. So instead the Spanish Empire only occupied a few coastal strongholds, like Oran, Tripoli or Tunis, and Spain progressively abandoned many of these cities. There were also some very resounding defeats, like the Algiers Expedition of 1541 that was led by Emperor Charles V himself and the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. We can say that since the arrival of the Habsburgs Africa was seen as a secondary objective, and they preferred to use their resources in the wars of Europe and against the Ottoman Empire. If the Europeans hadn’t discovered America and the Trastámara dynasty had continued to rule Spain, I believe that Spain could have conquered North Africa and re-Christianize it. The Twitter user Mada is one of my most active followers, and his first question is: Was it even feasible for the Spanish to win against America in the 1898 war? No, the US was already the 1st economic power in the world by the 1890s, while 19th century Spain was plagued by internal conflicts and it only had a few overseas territories. It’s an exaggeration of American propaganda to call Spain an empire by the time of the Spanish-American War. Spain lost any status of empire after the Spanish American Wars of Independence succeeded in the 1820s. Yet the US declared war on Spain after the either false flag or accidental explosion of the Maine and Spain had no other choice but to fight. The troops and navy had had a low morale for a long time, since they had to suppress revolutions in Cuba and the Philippines, and the US intervention destroyed any morale left. For instance, Admiral Pascual Cervera knew very well that the Spanish fleet wasn’t a match for the American fleet, so he decided to fight honorably in the naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba while trying to minimize losses. For honor and pride Spain still had to fight a war that most Spanish leaders knew was lost from the start. However, politicians couldn’t just cede and give what the Americans were asking without a fight, as that would have caused revolts and a crisis of the establishment in Spain. He also sets out this interesting question: Was the Spanish Civil War a continuation of the Carlist Wars? No, the Carlist Wars had a component of both modern civil war and the ancient regime wars of monarchical pretenders. Also, the Carlist Wars were about liberalism and centralization vs regional privileges, the germ of regional separatism. What’s funny is that Catalonia and Basque Country were even more conservative and traditionalist than other regions of Spain, but decades later Catalonia was dominated by anarchists, socialists and communists. Then José Barrera sent me two questions related to WW2 and Francoist Spain: What if in 1940 Franco had offered to declare war on Germany if Britain would give Spain Gibraltar. Do you think Churchill would have done it? That’s impossible to imagine, because Franco had been aided by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in the Spanish Civil War. What we know is that Churchill bribed several influential Spanish politicians and generals to keep Spain out of the war. In any case, Franco was smart enough to die in a bed in 1975, unlike Hitler or Mussolini. Had he joined the Axis, a revolt could have happened and a foreign intervention would have occurred for sure. The other question of Barrera is this one: Spain didn’t participate in WW2. Spanish economy was not destroyed like rest of Western Europe. So why is Spain still a relative economic backwater? Spain was destroyed after a civil war and we didn’t receive any money from the very generous Marshall Plan. Yet after ending political isolationism in the late 1950s and removing the Falangists from power, there was a period of high economic growth, much like in the rest of the “Free World”, and at the death of Franco Spain was in the top 10 of industrial economies. I wouldn’t say we are an economic backwater, since we are the 4th largest economy of the EU with just 46 M inhabitants. Still, political mismanagement and disunity, the lack of medium and large-sized companies and many other factors make Spain perform below its full potential. Our private sector is very weak, with most companies being microcompanies of less than 10 employees, and that’s a great obstacle to become an innovative country. Now I have three questions related to the formation of Spain and Spanish identity. My patron Shane Lewis sets out a very important question: When did Spain officially become Spain? This is a much more complicated question than it sounds, and it will require a long answer. With the marriage of Queen Isabel of Castile and Fernando of Aragon in 1479 the two crowns united, but they didn’t use the titles of King and Queen of Spain. A humanist wrote to the bishop of Braga the following: “We call Fernando and Isabel monarchs of Spain, because they own the body of Spain, and the fact that two little fingers like Navarre and Portugal aren’t part of this body it’s not enough to prevent us from calling them monarchs of Spain.” People in the Crowns of Castile and Aragon and abroad started to refer to Isabel and Fernando as Monarchs or Lords of Spain or the Spains. One of the impediments to officially use the title King and Queen of Spain was the lack of a legal union in terms of common laws and institutions, but the political union did happen. The same problem continued with the Habsburgs, who kept the Iberian political entities legally differentiated, although they used the abbreviated title King of the Spains and the Indies, because it’s not practical to always say the full list of titles: King of Castile, of León, of Aragon, of Sicily, of Granada, of Toledo, and on and on. During the reign of Felipe IV Count-Duke of Olivares, who acted as prime minister, attempted to centralize Spain and move towards the legal formation of Spain, first with the Crown of Aragon, Navarre and Portugal contributing their fair share in terms of taxes and manpower. Those attempts failed and that’s when Portugal regained independence and Catalonia was briefly occupied by France. Later the Bourbons substituted the Habsburgs in the 18th century and they were successful in eliminating the institutions of the Crown of Aragon and in their efforts to move towards the administrative and legal unification of Spain. King Felipe V maintained his position after the War of the Spanish Succession, and he removed the institutions and laws of the Crown of Aragon between 1707 and 1716, although its territories except Valencia maintained their own private law. However, Navarre and Basque County maintained their fueros, that is their Medieval privileges and institutions. Then in 1812 the Cádiz Cortes promulgated the first Spanish Constitution that abolished the institutions of the Ancient Regime and recognized the Spanish nation and sovereignty, defined by all the citizens of Spain, Spanish America, Asia and Africa. The Spanish Constitution of 1812 talks about the Kingdom of the Spains, so we can say that in 1812 Spain was founded as a nation-state. But if you are even more picky, then you could say that Spain was founded in 1868 with the Glorious Revolution, because after that the official name of the country was Kingdom of Spain, in singular. To sum up, there’s not a unique answer to the question of when Spain was founded. As a political union under the same monarchs and with the same foreign policy, Spain was founded in 1479 with the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs. After that it was perceived by foreign powers as a united political entity and referred to it as Spain. Some people would answer 1714 or 1716 with the Bourbon reforms, but I don’t think that a higher or lower degree of centralization determines if a country or a nation exists or not. Many more people would say that 1812 marks the foundation of Spain, officially under the name Reino de las Españas, Kingdom of the Spains. Therefore, I would go either for 1479, or 1812 if you want the official constitution of Spain. Gary, the host of The French History Podcast, asked me: When did the Spanish race emerge? To my understanding, during much of Prehistory the Iberian Peninsula was populated by people of North African origin. Then Celtic people migrated, and Pre-Roman Iberia was divided between Celts, Iberians and Basques. Then the Romans conquered Spain in two centuries, and slowly integrated and mixed with the local population. The so-called Hispano-Romans appeared out of this partly genetic and partly cultural union, and they are pretty much the bulk of the current Spanish population. The Visigoths and other Germanic immigrants did leave a genetic legacy, but it wasn’t that substantial because they were between 100.000 and 150.000 people in a region with 5 or 6 million inhabitants. The Arabs, Berbers and Jews left their DNA too, since the average Spaniard has between 5 and 10% of North African and Middle Eastern DNA. In the Christian repopulations of the Middle Ages the Franks and Central Europeans participated too. For instance, there are more people in Andalucia with blue or green eyes and blonde hair than in the rest of Spain, and that’s because of certain repopulations of the 16th century with Central Europeans. The last question about the Spanish identity comes from Mada: When did the Spanish identity emerge? I talked about it in episode 16 ‘Visigothic Conversion to Catholicism‘ if I recall correctly. I talked about the vague medieval idea of nation, especially the “mother Spain” of Saint Isidore of Seville. Some Christian Medieval monarchs, like Alfonso III of Asturias, Fernando the Saint, or Queen Isabel of Castile, dreamed about the political and religious unification of Spain and the restoration of the Visigothic order. That means that they dreamed about a united Iberian Peninsula, with Portugal included, and about a Catholic-only Spain. That’s the idea of the Reconquista and Neogothicism. Of course, the modern idea of nation didn’t appear until the Spanish War of Independence against Napoleonic France, that’s when the Spanish identity was embraced by both the elite and the plebs. Yet forging the Spanish identity came with its problems – notably with the lack of unity of the Spanish people after the Spanish American Wars of Independence and the rise of peripheral nationalisms like the Basque and Catalan nationalisms. The remaining questions are about my views on several issues, from history to Spanish culture, or more personal questions. My patron Sian Williams asks me about: My views on bullfighting. Honestly, I have a very indifferent view towards bullfighting, I don’t have a strong opinion for or against bullfighting and I’ve never been to a bullfight. There are good arguments on both sides. Taurinos, those who are in favor of bullfighting, say that bullfighting is an ancestral art form, while antitaurinos, those who are against it, say it’s rather a barbaric and archaic practice, like Gladiator combats and slavery were. Antitaurinos argue that the death of the bull is painful and extended because the spectacle demands it, while taurinos say that bulls are killed in a very efficient manner and that the bullfighter can be killed too. I think that in this case the antitaurinos win, the pain that bulls suffer during the spectacle is undeniable. However, I think it’s also a very strong argument for bullfighting the fact that toro bravos, those bulls raised for bullfighting, live several years under extremely good conditions in very extensive pastures before being used in bullfights. Compare that to how the vast majority of livestock that we consume to eat live. If bullfighting was banned, then no one would dedicate money to raise these bulls and they could face extinction. I would say there’s a lot of hypocrisy about this issue, and by the way, the meat of those bulls killed is eaten later. Moreover, taurinos perceive that the bullfighting debate is used to attack Spanish culture. That’s not completely false because in Catalonia it was banned to eliminate anything that seemed remotely Spanish, while other typically Catalan activities related to bulls, like street bulls, are still permitted. Another question from António Rodrigues: Why aren’t there more independent countries in the Iberian Peninsula, besides Spain, Portugal and Andorra? I prefer to think about it in the opposite way, why do Portugal and Andorra still exist? And the same for the British colony of Gibraltar. Yes, yes, I know my British and Portuguese listeners will not like this, but Spain is incomplete now because it doesn’t control the entire Iberian Peninsula, that’s the original idea of Spain, the idea was to have a political entity that controlled all Hispania. That was the dream of many Christian monarchs, including Portuguese monarchs. For instance, Miguel da Paz, son of the King of Portugal and a daughter of the Catholic Monarchs, could have inherited all the Iberian kingdoms, except for Navarre that had yet to be conquered. But he died when he wasn’t yet 3 years old and the Iberian Union had to wait until 1580. As for Andorra, it exists because of a Medieval dispute of rights between the bishop of Urgell and the Count of Foix. What should have happened with the formation of modern nation-states is that Spain and France should have divided Andorra, just like Spain and Portugal divided the Coto Mixto and the Pueblos promiscuos, in English the Mixed towns. The Coto Mixto and Mixed towns were remnants of the feudal system and functioned as microstates that paid no taxes and were exempted of military service, and a division between the two neighbor powers is how an abnormal situation like the existence of Andorra should have been solved. Andrés Coimbra tweeted: Do you think El Cid should get a movie or a TV show? Yes! There is a 1961 Hollywood superproduction depicting the life of El Cid in a romanticized way. It’s a very good epic drama, but it’s historically inaccurate. I think El Cid deserves a movie with the real story, not depicting him as a Christian hero of the Reconquista, but as a self-made man who founded his own kingdom with his military, political and leadership skills. And not related, but thankfully last year Amazon Prime released, at least in Spanish, the TV series Hernán, about the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. I’m about to start watching it and I’m very excited! The last question that I picked to answer in this episode is from Mada: What would be the craziest alternate history timeline in any moment for Spain’s history as an empire? I would say the Spanish conquest of China. Few people know it, but there were plans to conquer China using the Spanish Philippines as a base and allying with Japan. Of course, such an attempt would have failed because, unlike indigenous Americans, the Chinese were used to Euroasian diseases too and China is just too big. Okay, that’s all for this first Q&A, I think there have been many interesting questions and I hope the answers I’ve given have been insightful enough. The next episode will be a regular episode, episode 30 titled ‘Reforms of Abd al-Rahman II’. In the following episode I will cover the early reign and reforms of Emir Abd al-Rahman II, the cultural transformation of al-Andalus, and the foreign policy of the Emirate of Córdoba. To end this episode, let me remind you that the podcast has a website, thehistoryofspain.com, that has a fantastic store with merchandising, history books, travel guides, books and material to learn Spanish, and more. If you love the podcast, you may want to support it by becoming a patron or making a donation, but there are other non-financial ways to support the show, like reviewing the podcast or spreading the word. Please subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, YouTube and more and follow the social media accounts of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I hope you enjoyed the episode and thank you for listening! The post History of Spain Podcast Q&A #1 was first posted on The History of Spain Podcast.
Kingdom of Pamplona and County of Aragon
This is episode 29 called Kingdom of Pamplona and County of Aragon and in this episode you will learn: Show notes Why Vasconia has always been subject to external attacks How the Carolingian Empire and Emirate of Córdoba fought to control Iberian Vasconia and how that led to the emergence of pro-Frankish and pro-Umayyad Basque parties The assassination of the Banu Qasi governor of Pamplona, led by Velasco the Basque who represented the pro-Frankish party How Íñigo Arista, supported by the Banu Qasi and Córdoba, gained control of Pamplona Why the Kingdom of Pamplona is not considered a kingdom and the game of double legimitacy The origins of the County of Aragon, briefly under the Carolingian Empire and how García the Bad made the County of Aragon a vassal of Pamplona instead The last attempt of the Carolingian Empire to regain control over the Western Pyrenees, the Second Battle of Roncesvalles and its consequences What kind of relationship did the Banu Qasi and Arista-Íñigo dynasty had The political history of the County of Aragon in the 9th century and the origins of surnames like Sánchez or García Brief talk about social and economic aspects of the Kingdom of Pamplona and the County of Aragon What are the origins of the Basques (genetic studies) The external history of the Basque language, why its usage declined and the current situation of Euskera Reflection on the pragmatic relationship between the Kingdom of Pamplona and the Banu Qasi Script I’m David Cot, host of The History of Spain Podcast, and this is episode 29 called Kingdom of Pamplona and County of Aragon. In this episode you will learn about what was happening in the Western Pyrenees, with the foundation of the Kingdom of Pamplona and the County of Aragon, and the origins of the Basque people and language. Subscribe to the podcast to not miss an episode! In previous episodes I’ve talked about the Emirate of Córdoba, the Kingdom of Asturias and the Carolingian Marca Hispanica. However, in the early 9th century other new political actors appeared in the fragmented Iberian Peninsula. These political actors appeared in areas that had either defended their autonomy for centuries, as in the case of the Basques, or that had been quite independent from direct Cordoban control. I must warn you before we start that the history of the smallest of the Christian states of this period, the Kingdom of Pamplona, is very obscure. Unlike the Kingdom of Asturias, the Kingdom of Pamplona, the germ of the Kingdom of Navarre, produced no chronicles earlier than the 12th century. Most of what we know about its origins comes from Frankish and Arabic sources or from genealogies. The same lack of sources happens with the County of Aragon, which was at that time a frontier vassal county, as it happened to the other great state of later medieval Spain, Castile. The first question that must be raised is, why the region inhabited by the Basques has always been subject to external attacks? Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, Franks and Asturians have all made an effort to control this region, some with more success than others. The answer to this question is the Roncesvalles Pass. In Roman and Medieval times people that wanted to cross the Pyrenees usually used the Roncesvalles Pass, rather than entering the Iberian Peninsula through the coastal and border Basque town of Irun, or through the Eastern and Central Pyrenees that were more inaccessible. And which was the key fortified settlement to control that mountain pass? Right, Pamplona. The Franks had gained control over the Eastern Pyrenees by establishing the Marca Hispanica, to prevent Muslim attacks in core Frankish territory, among other reason. The Western Pyrenees was as important as the other half, that’s why within the context of struggle between the Carolingian Empire and the Emirate of Córdoba the Iberian region of the Basques suffered great external pressures. The Basque chieftains had to choose which form of submission they preferred, to serve the Franks as Counts and become vassals, or pay tribute to the Emirate of Córdoba but with a higher degree of autonomy. Central Pyrenees, 10th century Those external pressures led to bitter power struggles among the Basques, as the Basque chieftains allied with external forces to beat their rivals. The ruralization and later fall of the Western Roman Empire led to the disarticulation of cities as administrative territorial centers. For the region of Vasconia that meant that Pamplona didn’t control the Basques of rural areas anymore, now the Basque chieftains fought to control the city. The fact that Pamplona was constantly changing hands and allegiances only proves this point. Soon, two rival families stood out, the Velascos and the Íñigos. These dynamics are also indicative of an evolution of the tribal Basque society and economy, transforming the old tribal aristocracy into a landlord class that required a more powerful leader to protect their interests. During the early reign of al-Hakam Pamplona revolted, as Velasco the Basque led the assassination of the Umayyad governor of the city, who was actually a member of the Banu Qasi dynasty. If you remember them, the Banu Qasi were this Muladi family that later dominated half of modern Aragon, and it’s during the reign of al-Hakam when they started to show their lack of loyalty towards the Emir, but more on that later in this episode. As I was saying, this Banu Qasi governor still loyal to the Emirate of Córdoba was assassinated by Velasco the Basque. Velasco was a pro-Frankish Basque chieftain, and simultaneously with the establishment of the Spanish March this meant that the Carolingian Empire had vassals and allies in both extremes of the Pyrenees. However, the pro-Umayyad Íñigos, who had kinship ties with the Banu Qasi, wouldn’t just sit and let the Velascos control Pamplona. The Íñigos, led by Íñigo Arista, would remain quiet and be on the defensive until the Emirate of Córdoba could regain strength to send an expedition against the pro-Frankish Pamplona. Al-Hakam was able to send an expedition in 816, and after several days of fighting Velasco and his allies were defeated. On Velasco’s side there were both Christian and Pagan Basques, and also Alavese Basques of the Kingdom of Asturias. An Arab chronicle mentions that a relative of Alfonso II, someone named García López, was either killed or captured. This defeat supposed a blow for Frankish interests in the region, and although sources aren’t clear we can assume that in 816 the Basque chieftain Íñigo Arista started to rule Pamplona. Map of Northern Spain, year 1035 under Sancho the Great Notice how I’m not saying that Íñigo Arista was the first King of Pamplona, as he was traditionally considered. Modern historians consider that the Kingdom of Pamplona under the Arista-Íñigo dynasty, that ruled until 905, cannot be considered a kingdom. As I said when I spoke about the Kingdom of Asturias under its founder Pelayo, the early Kings of Pamplona were caudillos or strong military leaders rather than kings. As I always say, the frontier between what’s a state and what’s not wasn’t as clear as it is now. Like in other frontier societies, the Arista-Íñigos had to sustain a difficult balance of double legitimacy. Outwards the Íñigos had to recognize that they were vassals of the Emirate of Córdoba and pay tribute, otherwise the Andalusis would come and launch raids against them. Inwards though, the Íñigos were the governors of a mostly Christian society, and to legitimize themselves they adopted symbols of royal power. This game of double legitimacy wasn’t easy, because one wrong gesture could make Córdoba perceive them as rebels or the opposite, could make them seem like traitors in the eyes of their subjects. Now let’s see the origins of the County of Aragon and what was happening parallelly to these events of Pamplona, because the political arena of the Western Pyrenees was very interconnected. The County of Aragon was originally a very small county with its capital in Jaca, located in a valley of the Central Pyrenees and right next to the modern province of Navarre. The County of Aragon derives its name from the Aragón river that flows through that region until it joins the Ebro near Tudela, the second most important city of Navarre. To the south it lays Huesca, a city controlled at that time by the Banu Amrus family loyal to the Emirate of Córdoba, but due to the mountainous nature of the county and the low economic interest that it had the County of Aragon didn’t suffer as many attacks as other more accessible Christian regions. As it happens with the Catalan Counties, we don’t know if the County of Aragon was established following a previous Visigothic administrative division, but we know that this county was established by the Franks in the late 8th or early 9th century. The Carolingian Empire designated Count Aureolus to rule it, although he died in 809 and the Basque Aznar Galíndez I succeeded him. Aznar Galíndez established his own indigenous hereditary dynasty in the County of Aragon, although he remained loyal to the Franks. Aznar Galíndez married a daughter of Íñigo Arista and had four children, including the future Count Galindo Aznárez I and Matrona, the wife of García el Malo or the Bad who as we will now see overthrew his father-in-law. The pro-Umayyad rebellion led by Íñigo Arista extended to Aragon too. García Galíndez, also known as García the Bad, killed his brother-in-law and repudiated his wife Matrona because they had made fun of him on the feast of Saint John the Baptist. That’s why you should never make fun of someone if you are not sure how he or she will react. García the Bad quickly formed an alliance with the Banu Qasi and the caudillo of Pamplona, Íñigo Arista. With their support García the Bad was able to overthrow Count Aznar Galíndez I and replace him as Count of Aragon in 820. After that, the County of Aragon never returned to Frankish hands and remained a vassal county of Pamplona, and from time to time they also paid tribute directly to the Banu Amrus of Huesca. The deposed count sought refuge in French Gascony and the Emperor Louis the Pious appointed him Count of the Catalan Counties of Urgell and Cerdanya. Under these circumstances, Carolingian Emperor Louis the Pious launched in 824 the last expedition to attempt to regain control over the Western Pyrenees. With the objective to reinstall a pro-Frankish governor in Aragon and Pamplona, Count Aznar and Eblo led an army made up of Basques of Gascony. It’s not clear if this Count Aznar was the deposed Count of Aragon or Aznar Sánchez, the Duke of Gascony, which probably makes more sense. Anyway, this intervention led to the Second Battle of Roncesvalles, where Íñigo Arista and his allies the Banu Qasi and García the Bad set up an ambush. The Frankish Basque army was massacred, and the two counts were captured. Count Eblo was sent to Córdoba as a trophy, while Count Aznar was sent back to Gascony due to the ancestral ties with the Basques of the other side of the Pyrenees. The Second Battle of Roncesvalles was more relevant than the more famous first battle, because it marked the end of Frankish interventions in the Western Pyrenees and it kept Pamplona closer to al-Andalus than to other Christian political entities for almost a century. A section of Roncesvalles Pass The outcome of the Second Battle of Roncesvalles also gives us interesting interpretations about key aspects of the Spanish Basque region and about the blurred religious lines of this period in general. Opposition to Carolingian expansion was happening in other parts of Christian Europe, even though the Carolingian dynasty tried to make inseparable their political order with the unity of Christianity. Although the Basques of the Iberian Peninsula were predominantly Christian, the Basque faction friendly with the Emirate of Córdoba won over the pro-Frankish one. This was nothing new, because in 778 the Franks had showed their distrust in relation to Pamplona by tearing down its walls, and the Basques paid them back in the First Battle of Roncesvalles. The same had happened initially in Septimania, where the native Hispano-Goths didn’t receive the Franks as liberators because the Franks gave less guarantees of no-interference compared to the Muslims. The fact that Muslim presence in the region was weak only made the choice of allying with Córdoba easier for Pamplona, because the Franks were more threatening to their political autonomy. Again, political pragmatism beats religious or ideological differences. I’ve mentioned a few times how the Banu Qasi family sealed an alliance with Íñigo Arista and García the Bad, but even though they acted autonomously they would remain loyal to the Umayyads of Córdoba until 841, when the most prominent member of the family, Musa ibn Musa, openly rebelled. That rebellion and rise of the Banu Qasi will be covered in a future episode, but you have to know already that Musa ibn Musa was actually a maternal half-brother of Íñigo Arista, because the widow of Íñigo’s father later married a Banu Qasi. Because of these family ties and their mutual interests, the two families supported each other and never let the other interfere in their respective area of influence. At that time the Banu Qasis led by Musa ibn Musa had their strongholds in Arnedo, La Rioja, and Tudela, in modern Navarre, while Íñigo Arista dominated Pamplona and the nearby Pyrenean valleys to the north and east. Maybe because of these close ties archeologists have found a Muslim necropolis in Pamplona, and the Christian necropolis had notable people buried with items with Arabic inscriptions. After 824, since Frankish interventions in the Western Pyrenees ended and most of our sources are Frankish, we have a period of remarkable lack of documentation about what was happening in Pamplona and the County of Aragon. I will not mention in this episode the few events that we know about the Kingdom of Pamplona under the Arista-Íñigo dynasty, because these intertwine with the history of the Emirate of Córdoba, the Banu Qasi and the Kingdom of Asturias. However, I can talk about the political history of the County of Aragon of the whole 9th century because it remained away from the main conflicts of this period. At the time of the Second Battle of Roncesvalles García the Bad was still the Count of Aragon, until he died in 833 and was succeeded by his son Galindo Garcés. I know, the names of the counts seem to have been chosen to be confusing, but it has an explanation. Most Spanish and Portuguese surnames ending with the suffix -ez or -es have a patronymic origin, meaning that they mean son of. So Sánchez means son of Sancho, Rodríguez son of Rodrigo, López son of Lope, or Hernández son of Hernán. In this case, Garcés means son of García, Galíndez son of Galindo, and I could go on and on, but I guess you get it already. To go back to the point, the only thing that we know about the reign of Galindo Garcés is that he made a donation to the Abbey of San Pedro de Siresa, the most important monastery of the county. Monasteries were key intellectual, cultural, economic and social centers, like it happened in other Christian frontier political entities. The Mozarab martyr Eulogio of Córdoba wrote about the magnificent library of San Pedro de Siresa, and he said that he could find Greco-Latin works that he couldn’t find in the Emirate of Córdoba. The Abbey of San Pedro de Siresa exploited economically the nearby valleys and towns thanks to the up-to-date knowledge that the monastery preserved, so again the monasteries of the Christian bastions were both cultural and production centers. Abbey of San Pedro de Siresa Apart from that donation, we know that Galindo Garcés died in 844 without descendancy, so he left the County of Aragon to the son of the deposed Count Aznar Galíndez I. The new count was Galindo Aznárez I, and to give you a bit of background he succeeded his pro-Frankish father as Count of Urgell and Cerdanya, but he then usurped the counties of Pallars and Ribagorza, in modern northeastern Aragon and northwestern Catalonia. Because of that the Carolingian Empire stripped him of his rank and his ambition costed him both the counties of his father and the counties he had usurped. Luckily for him he was able to become Count of Aragon while recognizing the vassal status of the county in relation to Pamplona. Then in 867 Galindo Aznárez was succeeded by Aznar Galíndez II, who married the daughter of the King of Pamplona. This marriage only reinforced the dependency of the County of Aragon in relation to Pamplona, although it was still autonomous in terms of domestic policy. On the other hand, Aznar Galíndez II had a daughter who married the Muslim governor of Huesca to secure peace, a common practice in this period of Islamic hegemony, although this marriage didn’t prevent a Muslim raid against Aragon. I will stop telling Aragonese history here, since Aznar Galíndez II died in 893 and was succeeded by Galindo Aznárez II, who was more active in foreign policy. Now let’s leave the political talk aside and talk about social and economic aspects of the early Kingdom of Pamplona and County of Aragon. Andalusi sources talk about the region inhabited by the Basques in these terms: “it’s a not much favored land, its inhabitants are poor, they don’t eat enough and because of that they are prone to brigandage. Most of them speak the Basque language, which makes them incomprehensible.” This is an accurate depiction of how was life like in Vasconia. The substantial lack of Romanization and agriculture explains why in Visigothic Spain I was always talking about how the Basques launched raids to pillage in the Ebro Valley. They were growing demographically, but their extremely rudimentary economy wasn’t able to satisfy the material needs of a booming population. The economy of Aragon was similarly poor. The small county only controlled a few valleys of the northwestern extreme of modern Aragon, so few areas were suitable for agriculture and animal husbandry was the main economic activity in this subsistence economy. Manufacturing was mostly done by families to cover their own needs and trade was almost inexistent. In the County of Aragon people lived in small villages or in isolated houses, and it’s only in the late 9th century and early 10th century that we start to see an increase in the concentration of people in castles, mainly due to an increase of military conflicts. Most people were small landowners and since the County of Aragon quickly got rid of Frankish influence we don’t see the same levels of development of feudalism as in the Marca Hispanica. Okay, so since the lack of sources is evident, I can’t talk more about the political, social or economic history of early Pamplona or Aragon. Because of that I’ve decided to research about the mysterious origins of the Basque people and language, since it links greatly with the last episode where I explained the origins and development of the Spanish Romance languages. However, I must warn you that there’s no academic consensus on this topic and there will probably never be, so there are theories and speculation but there are few unequivocal facts. I’m going to present the information based on research in the fields of anthropology, genetics and linguistics, with up-to-date information. So to start with the origins of the Basques we must rely on genetics to study them. There have been different studies to compare the DNA of modern Basques with that of other Spaniards, other European people and ancient DNAs. I will discuss the results of two of these studies. We have a study reported in 2015 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Leading researchers analyzed DNA from 3000 to 5000 years old skeletons found in the famous Prehistoric site of Atapuerca, in Burgos. They compared the genomes of these remains to modern European genomes and ancient genomes of other parts of Western and Central Europe. The results suggest that modern Basques are not descendants of ancient hunter-gatherers that managed to survive, rather they are the closest descendants of early Iberian farmers. Agriculture and therefore the Neolithic Revolution apparently spread mostly through migrations, therefore these early Iberian farmers would have come from other parts of Europe and mixed with the local hunter-gatherers. However, after this mixing, the ancestors of the Basques became more isolated and Vasconia remained much less affected by subsequent migrations compared to other parts of the Iberian Peninsula or Europe. Here I’m referring to the Romans, Visigoths, or Arabs and Berbers. The same happened in the island of Sardinia, and it’s clear that geography played a role in keeping the Basques and Sardinians more genetically unchanged compared to other peoples of Europe. In a more recent study of 2019, published in Science Magazine, results show that the Basques of the Iron Age were not genetically distinct from other peoples of the Iberian Peninsula. Nonetheless, the study confirms that Vasconia remained genetically quite unchanged to the arrival of Romans, Germans and North Africans, even though that doesn’t mean that Basques didn’t change in terms of culture. Still, the Basque language, or Euskera, managed to survive and become the only pre-Indo-European language that is still alive in Europe. But why was that the case? Why and how did the Basque language manage to survive? The dense forests and mountainous landscapes have played a major role in preserving the language, but also the lack of economic and urban development until recent times, the weak and late Romanization and Christianization, and the very fact that Proto-Basque and Aquitanian were completely different from the rest of Iberian languages or Latin. Extension of the Basque language by 1 AD About the external history of the Basque language, as I said in a previous episode, ancient Vasconic languages were spoken in a wider territory compared to modern Basque. Based on historical, anthroponymic and toponymic evidence we know that ancient Vasconic dialects were spoken in modern Basque Country, Navarre, La Rioja, northern Aragon, the northwestern extreme of Catalonia, and the region of Gascony in France. During the Visigothic period the Basques experienced a demographic growth, and they colonized new lands as subjects of the Kingdom of Pamplona and the County and later Kingdom of Castile. However, even though Basque people expanded, their language receded and declined in usage. So the question is, why was that the case? The most important reason for the decline of Basque was the lack of prestige of the language. Before 1980, Basque hadn’t been used in any political and administrative division, and Basque had not been taught in schools before 1975. Even the Kingdom of Pamplona didn’t use Basque as the official language of the administration, which can be surprising considering that the common people predominantly spoke Basque. They used either Classical Latin, Occitan or Navarro-Aragonese, in all cases following the administrative Latin tradition that was the only one that most Medieval European states knew. Since neither the administration nor the literate clergy class used Basque, there are barely any written texts in Basque before the Counterreformation of the 16th century. It was only in the late 19th century, with the rise of Basque nationalism and the interest of philologists in the mysterious Basque language, that there appeared a growing consciousness about the need to preserve Basque. Nonetheless, there was a problem. There were different dialects of the Basque language to the point that Basque speakers from different regions had difficulties to understand each other. These different dialects appeared due to the lack of codification of grammar and usage of Basque and the lack of social prestige. With the idea of modern nation states, compulsory education and the arrival of waves of Spanish-speaking immigrants, or French-speakers in the case of French Gascony, Basque was truly on its way to extinction. The language politics of Francoist Spain only made the threat more real, so to increase the chances of survival a group of Basque linguists created between 1968 and the 1970s the Standard Basque, known as Euskera Batúa. Something similar had happened in Italy in the 19th century, where there were multiple dialects of Italian and there was a need to codify and unify the language. The problem with that is that these kinds of codifications create a sort of artificial language, although in the case of Euskera Batúa most of the language rules were based on the central dialect of Gipuzkoa. About the current situation of Basque, it has grown in usage because it’s taught in schools and used by the administration of Basque Country and northern Navarre, however in France it has continued to decline. Currently there are more than 800,000 Basque speakers fully able to speak the language, while more than a million are considered passive speakers, meaning that they can understand the language, but they don’t use it. Because of this situation, UNESCO still considers Basque a vulnerable language. THE VERDICT: In today’s verdict I want to discuss, again, the blurred religious lines of the Upper Ebro Valley. I say again because I had already discussed this issue in previous episodes, but the Kingdom of Pamplona might be the Christian Iberian state with the more relaxed attitude towards Muslims. While the Kingdom of Asturias was isolated and had to fight alone and the Franks established the Marca Hispanica as a buffer zone, the Kingdom of Pamplona was born precisely to maintain their independence from the Carolingian Empire. The faction of the Basques represented by Íñigo Arista, although predominantly Christian, was rather pragmatic. They knew that the Emirate of Córdoba couldn’t exert direct influence over them at the moment, while the Carolingian Empire had the ambition to subdue all the Christian states and they were more capable to subdue Pamplona through attacks from Gascony. Heck, even the Kingdom of Asturias was more threatening for the Basques of the area of Pamplona. Therefore, the Arista-Íñigos allied with the Banu Qasi, another rather pragmatic dynasty of the Ebro Valley. Their religious differences were never an issue that caused friction between the two families, as what matter for them was only one thing: autonomy and power. And with that, The Verdict ends. The next episode will be a Q&A, so please remember to send me as many questions as you wish about the history of Spain, Spanish culture or about me through social media or contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To end this episode, let me remind you that the podcast has a website, thehistoryofspain.com, that has a fantastic store with merchandising, history books, travel guides, books and material to learn Spanish, and more. If you love the podcast, you may want to support it by becoming a patron or making a donation, but there are other non-financial ways to support the show, like reviewing the podcast or spreading the word. Please subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, YouTube and more and follow the social media accounts of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I hope you enjoyed the episode and thank you for listening! Sources EARLY MEDIEVAL SPAIN: UNITY IN DIVERSITY, 400-1000. Roger Collins A HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL SPAIN. Joseph F. O’Callaghan CALIPHS AND KINGS, 796-1031. Roger Collins HISTORIA DE ESPAÑA IV. ESPAÑA MUSULMANA (711-1031). Ramón Menéndez Pidal HISTORIA DE ESPAÑA. AL-ANDALUS: MUSULMANES Y CRISTIANOS (SIGLOS VIII-XIII). Editorial Planeta HISTORIA MUNDIAL DE ESPAÑA. Xosé M. Núñez Seixas HISTORIA DEL REINO DE NAVARRA EN LA EDAD MEDIA. José M. Lacarra T. Günther, et al. Ancient genomes link early farmers from Atapuerca in Spain to modern-day Basques. PNAS, 112 (38), 11917-11922, 2015. I. Olade, et al., The genomic history of the Iberian Peninsula over the past 8000 years. Science Magazine, 363 (6432), 1230-1234, 2019. NOTE: Credit for the intro and outro music to Jeris and Clarence Simpsons, the song is called ‘Conquistador’and it’s under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license The post Kingdom of Pamplona and County of Aragon was first posted on The History of Spain Podcast.