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Conquerors, Brides, and Concubines

Conquerors, Brides, and Concubines: Interfaith Relations and Social Power in Medieval Iberia

Simon Barton
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Conquerors, Brides, and Concubines
    Book Description:

    Conquerors, Brides, and Concubinesinvestigates the political and cultural significance of marriages and other sexual encounters between Christians and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula, from the Islamic conquest in the early eighth century to the end of Muslim rule in 1492. Interfaith liaisons carried powerful resonances, as such unions could function as a tool of diplomacy, the catalyst for conversion, or potent psychological propaganda. Examining a wide range of source material including legal documents, historical narratives, polemical and hagiographic works, poetry, music, and visual art, Simon Barton presents a nuanced reading of the ways interfaith couplings were perceived, tolerated, or feared, depending upon the precise political and social contexts in which they occurred.

    Religious boundaries in the Peninsula were complex and actively policed, often shaped by an overriding fear of excessive social interaction or assimilation of the three faiths that coexisted within the region. Barton traces the protective cultural, legal, and mental boundaries that the rival faiths of Iberia erected, and the processes by which women, as legitimate wives or slave concubines, physically traversed those borders. Through a close examination of the realities and the imagination of interfaith relations,Conquerors, Brides, and Concubineshighlights the extent to which sex, power, and identity were closely bound up with one another.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9211-4
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[vii])
  3. [Illustrations]
    (pp. [viii]-[x])
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Every year, on the Sunday before 5 October, the feast day of St. Froilán, the inhabitants of the northern Spanish city of León celebrate a curious and eye-catching popular festival known simply as Las Cantaderas.¹ The purpose of thefiestais to commemorate the agreement supposedly reached by the Christian kings of Asturias in the late eighth century, by which they undertook to deliver one hundred maidens (cien doncellas) to the emir of Muslim-ruled Iberia, ‘Abd al-Raḥmān I (756–88), in annual payment of tribute. Tradition records that this humiliating obligation was later expunged by King Ramiro I (842–50),...

  5. Chapter 1 Sex as Power
    (pp. 13-44)

    The circumstances surrounding the Islamic conquest of the Visigothic kingdom of Iberia between 711 and c.720 remain deeply obscure, for Muslim and Christian accounts of the invasion differ greatly in terms of chronology, detail, and emphasis. The two earliest Muslim accounts of the invasion—composed by the Maliki religious and legal scholars (‘ulamā) Ibn Ḥabīb (d. 853) and Ibn ‘Abd al-Ḥakam (d. 871) fully 150 years after the events took place—are a notable case in point. In those texts, it has been argued, the authors’ primary concern appears to have been to demonstrate that the lands of the Peninsula...

  6. Chapter 2 Marking Boundaries
    (pp. 45-75)

    Between c.1050 and 1300 the Iberian Peninsula was subjected to a series of powerful political and cultural impulses. There was a dramatic shift in the military balance of power after the demise of the Umayyad Caliphate in 1031, which allowed the Christian realms of the North to undertake a spectacular—if spasmodic and largely uncoordinated—movement of territorial expansion into the southern half of the Peninsula at the expense of al-Andalus, as major cities such as Toledo (1085), Zaragoza (1118), Lisbon (1147), Córdoba (1236), Valencia (1238), and Seville (1248) fell in turn. The result was to be that, with the...

  7. Chapter 3 Damsels in Distress
    (pp. 76-109)

    During the course of the twelfth century the specter of interfaith sex came to haunt the Christian societies of the Iberian Peninsula. True, as we saw in the previous chapter, the convergence of a range of political, religious, and cultural factors after c.1050 meant that the practice of cross-border interfaith marriage among the Peninsular élites was condemned to a swift decline. Partly as a consequence of this shift in attitudes, the Christian authorities came down hard on Christian women who engaged in sexual relationships with Muslim or Jewish men, or who even prostituted themselves to non-Christians; by the same token,...

  8. Chapter 4 Lust and Love on the Iberian Frontier
    (pp. 110-142)

    The focus in the previous chapter was on Christian women as perceived victims of interfaith sexual mixing. We have seen that by artfully deploying the potent image of the vulnerable “damsel in distress,” whose personal honor had been tainted through sexual contact with a Muslim man, Christian churchmen and others sought to elicit pity and indignation in the hearts of their coreligionists in the Peninsula as a means to foster solidarity among their communities. However, not all narratives involving interfaith sexual relations were configured in this way. In some, it is the women themselves who become the protagonists, seeking out...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 143-152)

    The ethnoreligious communities of the medieval Iberian Peninsula—whether they dwelled in al-Andalus or in the Christian-ruled realms of the North—did not and could not exist in complete isolation from one another, whatever their religious leaders might have preferred. The fact of the matter was that in areas where the mixed faith population was relatively dense, such as the Ebro valley or the cities of Córdoba or Toledo, interfaith social interaction was frequent, extensive, and by no means necessarily antagonistic. Christians, Muslims, and Jews could be next-door neighbors, engage in commerce with one another, share public amenities such as...

  10. Appendix. The Privilegio del Voto
    (pp. 153-164)
  11. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 165-166)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 167-218)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 219-254)
  14. Index
    (pp. 255-262)
  15. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 263-264)