EXTREMADURA: HOME TO HERDSMAN, RULERS AND ANARCHY (PART 28 – Works Referenced in Assembling these Posts)


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Chejne, Anwar G., Muslim Spain its History and Culture, Minneapolis, MI: University of Minnesota Press, 1974


Fletcher, Ian, In Hell Before Daylight, New York: Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1984


Glick, Thomas F., Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages, Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979


Imamuddin, S. M., Some Aspects of the Socio-Economic and Cultural History of Muslim Spain, Leiden Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1965


Jackson, Gabriel, The Making of Medieval Spain, New York: Harcort Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1972


Michener, James A., Iberia, New York: Fawcett Crest, 1968


Reilly, Bernard F., The Contest of Christian and Muslim Spain, Oxford UK: Blackwell, 1992


Smith, Colin, Christians and Moors in Spain (Vol. 1) 711 – 1150, Warminster, Wiltshire, UK: Aris & Philips Ltd. Teddington House, 1988

     —., Christians and Moors in Spain (Vol. II) 1195 – 1614   1989


Watt, W. Montgomery et. al, The History of Islamic Spain, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1965


Oliver Leaman, Averroes and his Philosophy, Clarendon Press – Oxford, 1988


A Book Review of “Order and Exclusion: Cluny and Christendom Face Heresy, Judaism, and Islam. (1000-1150)”        

“English Historical Review”, Sept. 2003, by H.E.J. Cowdrey


Dominique Urvoy, IBN RUSHD (AVERROES), Translated by Olivia Stewart, Routledge Press – London and New York, 1991



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guadiana river map


What was it about the Extremadura that attracted people in the first place? As previously stated the Guadianna River basin, although marginally navigable,was of sufficient flow to maintain crops. Sizable migrations of native Iberians followed this waterway inland as early as 1500 B.C.. In 711 A.D. seven million Hispano-Romans lived in al Andalus. By 912 A.D. 2.8 million indigenous Muslims existed there. By 1100 A.D. the number had risen to 5.6 million indigenous Muslims. The Moors put the Guadianna’s fair supply of water to good use in order to irrigate land that would otherwise lay useless.

The Guadianna River flows for 840 kilometers (about 500 miles) starting at a point just eighty miles west of the Mediterranean coastal city of Valencia. Its path cuts almost directly westward until it reaches Badajoz at which point it turns southward and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The watershed of the Guadianna covers 69,000 square kilometers (33,000 square miles). The Extremadura principality was a basin principality not unlike Toledo or Zarragossa.

The conquering Islamic policy of allowing the conquered people to continue farming their land was a boon to agricultural Spain. Likewise, it was a boon for the urban areas due to leasing arrangements made by wealthy Muslim landholders. This practice also allowed inexpensive produce to reach city dwellers.

Badajoz had a population of about 20,000 people during the Aftasid Dynasty. The roads that the Romans had built were no longer the busy byways that they had been. However, they were still used as a trading route starting at Lisbon (modern Portugal) and followed an eastward path to Badajoz, Merida, Manzares, Albacete and finally Barcelona.


“Andalusi merchants circulated freely throughout the Middle East: a Jewish trader from Badajoz was active in Palestine and Syria.”


["Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages", Thomas F. Glick, Princeton University Press, 1979, Page 131]


In 1065 the taifa of Badajoz included modern Extremadura plus Portugal Algarve; Leira, Coria, Santarem, Sintra, Lisbon, Badajoz, Merida, Setabul and Evora. The products of this taifa included wheat, olives and vines; which all were more well suited than the Extremadura’s less intensive garden agriculture. Leather was a year-round supplementary product as was its source, stock raising. The mountainous area surrounding Badajoz was more suitable for a pastoral system than a purely agricultural one.

Fishing was a major component of some urban areas. Cordova imported 20,000 dinar worth of sardines per day. Badajoz’ year round fishing industry was limited to two commercial fish species called “Tunny” and “Turtata.” These were found in the waters of the Guadianna upstream to Badajoz and Merida. In the spring and fall migrations of three additional species of fish left the sea and followed the river basin inland; “al Shulah” ran upstream in the spring, “Sardines” and “Burah” ran upstream in the fall.

The heavy mining areas south of Badajoz (towards Cadiz) did not extend inland far enough to be a major product of the principality of Badajoz. However, silver was mined just west of Badajoz in the area of Beja, which was located in the Badajoz principality.

Deforestation was becoming prevalent in some areas of Christian Spain due to ship building and the need for timbers in the mining industry. The Extremadura not only escaped a majority of this lumber industry but also had a climate that allowed oak to grow.

Badajoz’ strategic location seems to presage its fate. After the several aforementioned sieges, by both Muslims and Christians, Badajoz remained relatively safe until the political strife of the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. Badajoz’ location made it ripe for siege by the British during the Napoleonic Peninsular war (1812) and then again during the Spanish Civil War when Franco’s Nationals defeated Badajoz’ majority of Republicans (1939). Both of these more recent sieges resulted in massacre and heavy bloodshed to both the military and civilian population.


Tomorrow: “Citations”

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The Prince of the Faithful, Abu Yaqub Yusuf, was Averroes patron in supporting his translations of Aristotle.

Yet, the following was written in the year 1224 AD by Abdelwahid al-Marrakushi in his writing of “The Pleasant Book in Summarizing the History of the Maghreb.”

“And in this – - – -[Averroes] faced his severe ordeal and there were two causes for this; one is known and the other is secret. The secret cause, which was the major reason, is that [Averroes] —may God have mercy on his soul— when summarizing, commenting and expending upon Aristotle’s book “History of Animals” wrote: “And I saw the Giraffe at the garden of the king of the Berbers”.

“They took one phrase out of context that said: ‘and it was shown that Venus is one of the Gods’ and presented it to [The Prince of the Faithful, Abu Yaqub Yusuf] who then summoned the chiefs and noblemen of Córdoba and said to [Averroes] in front of them ‘Is this your handwriting?’. [Averroes] then denied and [The Prince of the Faithful, Abu Yaqub Yusuf] said ‘May God curse the one who wrote this’ and ordered that [Averroes] be exiled and all the philosophy books to be gathered and burned…And I saw, when I was in Fes, these books being carried on horses in great quantities and burned.”

In truth what had happened was that the king was troubled by political upheaval. He needed a scapegoat – - – and what better scapegoat could be had than a philosopher? Ignoring the fact that Averroes was his personal physician, The Prince of the Faithful, Abu Yaqub Yusuf, banished Averroes in 1195 and ordered his writings burned. Averroes was not allowed to return to Marrakesh until 1197.

Averroes died in the year 1198 AD. His body was returned to Cordoba for burial.

ibn Rushd memorial

However, copies of Averroes’ writings had been spirited away, northward across the Pyrenees Mountains. They have been translated from Arabic into Hebrew by Jacob Anatoli, and then from Hebrew into Latin by Jacob Mantino and Abraham de Balmes. Michael Scot translated other works of Averroes directly from Arabic into Latin.

Those works, initially written in Greek by Aristotle, and translated by Averroes into Arabic, became fuel for the 12th Century Renaissance.


Tomorrow: Genisis

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Averroes’ work for the Aristotelian revival in the 12th and 13th centuries. Averroes wrote short commentaries on Aristotle’s work in logic, physics, and psychology. Averroes long commentaries provided an in depth line by line analysis of Aristotle’s:

“Posterior Analytics,” (production of scientific knowledge and the statement of a thing’s nature),

“De Anima,” (the nature of living things, different kinds of living things, distinguished by their different operations)


de Anima


“Physics,” (philosophical principles of natural or moving things, living and non-living, rather than physical theories in the modern sense)

“De Caelo,” (on the heavenly bodies most perfect realities whose motions are ruled by principles other than those of bodies in the sublunary sphere; such as the four classical elements; earth, water, air, fire)

And “Metaphysics” (examines what can be asserted about anything that exists just because of its existence and not because of any special qualities it has).


Tomorrow: Duplicity

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Pieces of Aristotle’s work had started to become translated from Greek into Arabic. Averroes read some of these pieces and realized that they were incomplete and that the translation was poor. The more he read the more his interest grew. However, other duties kept him from attacking the problem in a diligent manner.

Averroes was 42 years old when a friend, ibn Tufayl, realized that The Prince of the Faithful, Abu Yaqub Yusuf, might prove helpful in Averroes’ Aristotelian endeavors.

Abu Yaqub Yusuf was the son of the first caliph of the Almohad dynasty. Yusuf and his bloodline were descended from the Berbers that controlled North Africa; Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria.

Abu Yaqub Yusuf

It was in 1169 AD that Averroes’ friend, ibn Tufayl, set up a meeting with Yusuf, Prince of the Faithful. Ibn Tufayl knew that Yusuf had an interest in philosophy. Because philosophy was not a subject discussed in public the meeting got off to a slow start.

Yusuf, Prince of the Faithful, did have an interest in philosophy. Ibn Tufayl praised Averroes’ abilities in the philosophy of Aristotle. When the prince looked at Averroes and asked him a question about his interest Averroes gave a rather indirect answer. The Prince of the Faithful realized that Averroes was hesitant and prudent about becoming involved in a discussion on philosophy; especially with the Prince of the Faithful.

The prince turned to ibn Tufayl and engaged him in a rather lengthy discussion on philosophy. This made Averroes feel more comfortable and he gradually opened up about his efforts in translating Aristotle’s works.

The prince told Averroes that nothing would make him more pleased than to help support Averroes’ efforts in completing those translations.



Tomorrow: The Translations

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The Christians and Jews who lived in southern Spain (Andalusia) at the period of Islamic control were treated fairly under these legal concepts.

These doctrines emanated from the Maliki School of jurisprudence. Both Averroes’ father and grandfather were Maliki judges.

The following is summarized text from Wikipedia.

The Maliki school enjoyed success in the Muslim west (Andalusia and The Maghreb). Under the Umayyad, the Maliki School was promoted as the official state code of law, and Maliki judges had free rein over religious practice. In return, the Maliki jurists were expected to support and legitimize the government’s right to power. This dominance in Andalus from the Umayyads, and then the Almoravids continued, with Islamic law in the region dominated by the opinions of Malik and his students. The stricter prophetic tradition in Islam, played a lesser role; few were well versed in it. The Almoravids eventually gave way to the Almohads, at which point Malikis were tolerated at times but lost official favor.

Averroes, while still in his youth, looked unfavorably on the logic that the Maliki School was offering. It was not a matter of ignorance of the school; for Averroes was known as a highly regarded legal scholar on Maliki law. In 1160, Averroes was made judge of Seville. In the following years he served as a jurist Seville, Cordoba, and Morocco.



So, how is it that such a man would foster the birth of the 12th Century Renaissance in Europe?

We will need to look a little deeper.

Tomorrow: Averroes’ Princely Patron

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The Extremadura was changing political boundaries.

However, the 12th Century Renaissance was about to be born.

The crucible for that renaissance was a man called ibn Rushd.

The exact year was 1126 AD.

He was born in Cordoba, Andalusia.

He was formally named Abul Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd.

We refer to him as Averroes.


ibn Rushd

Before I get ahead of myself I should state the context of the era that Averroes lived in. This is not an easy task and I hope not to confuse you with detail. However, I will do my best to keep the following context honest, concise and without malice.

Andalusia was in an almost constant state of upheaval. The political thinking and warring factions originated from three distinctly different areas.

They were the Arabic East, the Maghreb of northern Africa and the Christian northern section of Iberia.

The philosophies of that time also varied. There were themes that rested on the theology of Islam. These themes were also used to decide cases of law. The legal scholars and judiciary decided cases based on this theological philosophy.

However, keep in mind that the intellectuals and those in power did not think of this as a philosophy. In fact, they looked askance at the concept of philosophy. Their theological philosophy, if I may call it that, was based on the Revelation given to Mohammed. Several branches of legal doctrine were also born from this.

Additionally, there were varieties of this doctrine; some were more conservative than others. The most conservative came with the Berbers from the Maghreb when they invaded southern Iberia. Even in those instances, as there were several invasions, the level of conservative legal doctrine varied. Those concepts also changed over time; often becoming more liberal.

One line of thought was that these conservative doctrines were necessary and natural for the invading Berbers. The reason offered was that the mentality was more militaristic than intellectual. Valuable time and efforts could not be squandered arguing over details.

Therefore the Islamic doctrines, previously defined, served well to settle legal matters.


Tomorrow: The Maliki School of Jurisprudence

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In reviewing the end of the grand Islamic influence in Spain we have wandered somewhat afar from the topic of the Extremadura. However, there is one more piece of Extremaduran history that is tightly linked to the reforms of the Cluny and the mixing of politics and religion.

Between 1160 A.D. and 1180 A.D. monastic societies of Christian Knights defended against the frontiers of Islam in al Andalus.


The Military Orders


” . . . three societies of armed monastics were the Calatrava, the Alcantara and the Santiago. For almost one hundred years they fought on the southern borders of Castile, Extremadura and Portugal in which time they also became wealthy landlords.”

["The Making of Medieval Spain", Gabriel Jackson, 1972, Page 76]


“These {Christian} military orders which ruled the immense estates {in Extremadura} were, in effect, – - – independent principalities.”

[Jackson, page 93]


“{- -this ranching economy continued to exist in the Extremadura during the thirteenth-century} Badajoz was dominated by the Christian military orders on their immense estates devoted to raising cattle and sheep.”

[Jackson, page 95-96].


“The discovery of the New World coincided with the decline of Aragonese –

prowess- – {however} Extremadura {wide and windswept} was dominated by sheep raising interests {based on the old triumvirate of soldier priest and farmer}.’

[Jackson, page 126].

Jacksons Book


The above quotes prefix a time period of complete control of the market and territory by these land barons whose ancestors were members of the Christian monastic military orders. This control, especially true for the Merino sheep herding barons, was subsidized by the Spanish government at the expense of the agricultural farmers.


“A giant {monopoly} developed, the Mesta, – - only gentlemen were

allowed to join – - it won special privileges from Spanish kings and flourished – - from about 1300 to 1800.”

["Iberia", James A. Michener, 1968, page 284]


“The Mesta – - ravaged the land – -irreparable damage of two kinds had been done – - the land was depleted – - and ordinary agricultural processes {which central Europeans had mastered} through the centuries were not known {in Spain}.”

[Michener, 1968, page 285]


Michners Book

A great exodus of these hardy and hard working farm people occurred and crop farming in Spain suffered dearly. Sugar cane plantations sprung up throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.


Tomorrow: Meanwhile; back in Cordoba

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