Traducción castellana del siglo XIV de la Historia Arabum de Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada

Edición: Fernando Bravo López
Editorial: UCOPress – Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Año: 2019
Serie: Arabo-Islámica. vol. 2
Editora de la serie: Maribel Fierro
Consejo Asesor: Hassan Ansari, Julia Bray, Khaled El-Rouayheb, Sebastian Günther, Verena Klemm
ISBN: 978-84-9927-526-0
408 pp.

Trabajo realizado en el marco del proyecto Islamofobia. Continuidad y cambio en la tradición antimusulmana: el caso de España (HAR2015-73869-JIN), financiado por el Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad.


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«The edition of an unpublished source is always an academically remarkable event. When that edition is well cared and presented, and is preceded by an extensive, clear, precise and argumentatively well-constructed study, its interest increases considerably. This is the case of the edition of the Spanish translation of Jiménez de Rada’s Historia Arabum, prepared by Fernando Bravo López through the manuscripts that contain the complete and earlier version of the aforementioned translation, which can be dated to the first half of the 14th century.»

Review of Estoria de los árabes

«La edición de una fuente inédita es siempre un acontecimiento académicamente notable, y cuando a esa edición, cuidada y bien presentada, le antecede un estudio extenso, claro, preciso y argumentalmente muy bien construido, su interés se acrecienta de manera considerable.»

Reseña de Estoria de los árabes

Estoria de los Árabes: a Fourteenth-century Castilian Translation of Rodrigo Jimenez de Rada’s Historia Arabum

Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada’s Historia Arabum was the first Latin chronicle to give an account of the history of al-Andalus from the fall of the Visigothic kingdom of Toledo in 711 to the fall of the Caliphate in 1031. It was the last book of the great Historia de rebus Hispaniae that the archbishop completed just before he died in 1247. The work was conceived as the first history of Iberia, from the mythic times of Tubal —Noah’s grandson—, to the times in which don Rodrigo himself lived. The work tried to comprise the history of all the peoples that had lived in the Peninsula for such a long period of time. To that purpose, in the first and most important book of the work, don Rodrigo covered the history of the Goths, and also that of all the Christian kingdoms of Iberia. Then, in the following three books, he dealt with the history of the other peoples that had invaded the misera Hispania: Romans, Vandals, Alans, Huns, Suevi, Silings, and Ostrogoths. Finally, he left the last book to those that he considered the second most important people in the history of Hispania: “the Arabs” —the Muslims as he used to call them.

The Historia Arabum is a singular book. Using mainly Arabic and Mozarabic sources, the author transmitted a quite sympathetic view of the majority of Muslims rulers. Not only did it include their history, as part of the history of Hispania as a whole, but it also transmitted the idea that they, the Moors or Arabs, belonged to that country—they were Mauri Hispanie or Hispani Arabes. With this kind of approximation don Rodrigo tried to transmit a fair and open image of the Muslim rulers of al-Andalus, one that would allow King Fernando —for whose instruction was the work written— to follow their example in order to be a good ruler; not only for the growing number of Muslims that lived under his dominion, but also for all his subjects alike, whether they were Christians, Jews or Muslims. History was a magister, and showing the King the good and bad examples of the great kings of the past was the main purpose of the whole work.

Don Rodrigo’s Historia had a tremendous influence in the centuries to come. Not only did it provide much of the information that gave form to King Alfonso X’s Estoria de Espanna—the most influential medieval chronicle in the history of Spain—, but it was also translated to the vernacular languages of the Peninsula. It was soon translated into Castilian and it became —along with the Estoria de Espanna— one of the main ways by which the lay nobility had access to the history of Iberia.

In this work we present the first edition of a fourteenth-century Castilian translation of the Historia Arabum, the Estoria de los árabes. The edition has been realized using the only surviving complete copy of the work, contained in manuscripts 684 and 7801 of the Spanish National Library (BNE). The Castilian text has been compared to the original Latin text contained both in the 1999 edition by Fernández Valverde, and in the manuscript 1364 of the BNE —a fifteenth-century copy of the manuscript that supposedly was used by the original translator—. It has also been compared with the Castilian version of the Historia contained in Alfonso X’s Estoria de Espanna, and with other truncated translations that have also survived in manuscript.

The edition is preceded by an introductory study in which Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada’s life and work is presented and analyzed. It begins with a brief biography that offers an overview of his career as head of the Archdiocese of Toledo, as a prelate and crusader, as a man of letters and as a not very honest businessman. It examines his relationship with Rome, mainly because of his struggle to defend the primacy of Toledo over all the churches in Iberia, and with King Fernando: how their relationship was progressively deteriorating and how it ended with Rodrigo’s fall in disgrace, expelled from Toledo and exiled in Alcalá de Henares, just before his death.

The second part of the study examines Rodrigo’s Historia. Firstly, it analyzes one of the most common misunderstandings concerning the composition and conception of the work: that Rodrigo confounded the history of Iberia with that of the Goths alone; that for him the history of Iberia and the history of the Goths was the same thing, and that the other parts of the Historia were separated pieces of work. Actually, as mentioned above, don Rodrigo conceived his Historia as comprising the histories of the all the different peoples that had inhabited the Peninsula, and not just as a history of the Goths. That idea in fact originated in the sixteenth century, when the first printed edition of don Rodrigo’s work appeared; an edition that, as we prove in our study, was deliberately manipulated by the editor in order to create that confusion. After having made these clarifications, we then provide an overview of the first four books of the Historia, analyzing some of the most relevant passages, and trying to explain some ongoing interpretation problems.

In the third part of the study we make a synopsis of the Historia Arabum. Firstly, we pay particular attention to one of the most extraordinary parts of the work: one of the most interesting biographies of Muḥammad ever written in medieval Latin Europe. We show how don Rodrigo, although he certainly felt hostility towards the prophet of Islam, showed however less animosity than the rest of medieval Latin authors that wrote about him, and greater knowledge of some Islamic sources, especially of those concerning Muḥammad’s journey to Jerusalem and the Heavens. Afterwards, regarding the rest of the Historia Arabum, we explain some obscure passages, some errors the author made while trying to understand his sources, and we try to offer an interpretation of the motivation that led don Rodrigo to expose some episodes in the way he did, particularly those concerning the rebellions that broke out in Toledo. Besides, we also emphasize how the archbishop sympathetically described most of the emirs and caliphs of al-Andalus, and how he even showed some sort of affections for some of them, and for the “Moors of Spain” in general, especially when they were confronted with those Berber Muslims that he despised.

The fourth part of the study is devoted to the analysis of the image of Islam and Muslims that don Rodrigo’s presented in his Historia. Firstly we analyze don Rodrigo’s biography of the prophet Muḥammad and we compare it with other biographies, especially the one by Lucas de Tuy, the thirteen-century chronicler whose work was one of the main sources used by don Rodrigo. Thus, we show that the archbishop systematically avoided many of the legends that other Latin authors had previously transmitted, making his image of the prophet appear, although far from sympathetic, much less hostile than that offered by Lucas de Tuy and others previous authors.

Secondly we analyze the image that don Rodrigo transmitted of Islam itself, as a religion or “law”. Here it is showed that the archbishop did not considered Islam to be an heresy, despite what other Latin author were defending at that time. Don Rodrigo systematically avoided using the term “heresy” when speaking about Islam, preferring instead the term “law”, and showed that Muḥammad was never a Christian, but someone that grew up in a Pagan environment. He also avoided mentioning any of the most common accusations that polemicists used to employ in order to make associations between the prophet and heresy. Then don Rodrigo exposed, for the most part, an accurate, albeit scant, knowledge of the main precepts of Islam, mentioning, among other things, the belief in just one God, the five pillars of Islam, its holy book, the prophetical character of Muḥammad, the beliefs about the afterlife, and the role of the Caliph. In order to understand what was the contribution that don Rodrigo made in this domain, all the knowledge about Islam that he showed in his work is analyzed in comparison with what was known about that religion in Latin Europe at the time.

Finally, the last part of the fourth section of the introductory study is devoted to analyzing the image of the Muslims that don Rodrigo conveyed in his Historia. Here we do not restrict our analysis to the Historia Arabum alone, but we include also in it the Historia Gothica, where Muslims play a very important role. What we show here is that, far from transmitting an unitary, homogeneous or monolithic image of the Muslims, don Rodrigo presented a great variety of different kinds of Muslims: enemies and allies, even friends; Arab and Berber Muslims; Muslims of Slavic or Gothic origins; Muslims from Spain, and foreign Muslims; men and women; good Muslim subjects, faithful to their Christian kings, or treacherous ones that betrayed their lords; brave, pious and wise rulers, but also tyrannical and perfidious sovereigns that drove their subjects to chaos and destruction. The image that don Rodrigo offered to his readers was, finally, not much different to that of Christians: the same problems, the same fears, the same hopes, the same search for harmony and peace; a search that, in the end, was unfruitful —or just came, in the eyes of don Rodrigo, with the Christian conquest, for those who remained in the country “to cultivate their land in peace”.

In the fifth section of the study we analyze how scholars have interpreted the Historia Arabum and what were don Rodrigo’s intentions when he wrote it. We first criticize the most common interpretation: that the archbishop wrote the last book of his Historia as a polemical piece of work, with the intention of denigrating Islam and Muslims, and legitimating the Christian conquest of al-Andalus. We show that, given the sympathetic way in which don Rodrigo portrayed most of the Muslim rulers of al-Andalus, that interpretation seems unfounded. Even his biography of Muḥammad, despite being tainted with hostility, is much less hostile than others biographies that circulated by the time. We show that, in fact, don Rodrigo’s purpose was far from polemical: that he only was interested in giving his King good advice concerning the way in which he should rule his kingdom and his Muslims subjects. His Historia Arabum was full of good examples to follow and bad examples to avoid, and that was the idea behind writing it. That is why don Rodrigo portrayal of the good rulers of al-Andalus is sympathetic: because his work was intended to showing how good rulers do their job, how they fight against rebellion, and how they rule by themselves, and not by means of all-powerful chancellors. Consequently, if a Muslim ruler governed well, he deserved being praised for that, and so did don Rodrigo.

Besides, it seems that the archbishop had another purpose when writing his Historia Arabum. It seems that, by including the history of al-Andalus as part of the history of Iberia, by considering the Muslims of al-Andalus as “Moors” or “Arabs of Spain”, and by avoiding the accusation of heresy, don Rodrigo was defending the Iberian model of inclusion that permitted Muslims to live under Christian rule, just as the Jews, precisely in a moment when some voices claimed that Islam was an heresy and that Muslims should not be allowed to live in Christian lands. His was, perhaps, a defense of Convivencia, a concept that himself used when speaking of the situation in which Christian had lived under Islamic rule —“eo quod mixti Arabibus convivebant”—, exactly the model that don Rodrigo himself cited when explaining in which way Muslims should live under Christian rule.

The sixth section of the study is devoted to the analysis of the later influence of the Historia Arabum. Here we first study the relationship between the Historia Arabum and Alfonso X’s Estoria de Espanna. Both texts are compared and differences are pointed out. The conclusion is that, despite the fact  that the Estoria almost completely incorporated the Historia Arabum, it nonetheless made interesting changes that came to portray a worse image of Islam in general, and especially of Muḥammad. However, in the end it depicted a very similar image of Muslims as an extremely diverse group of peoples. Afterwards we briefly summarize the history of its printed editions until the present day.

The last section of the study is dedicated to the examination of the different Castilian translations of the Historia Arabum. We show that, as we said before, the only complete translation that has survived is contained in the manuscripts 684 and 7801 preserved at the BNE. We also show that other translations not only were unfaithful to the spirit of the work, but they even introduced significant changes, especially in the biography of Muḥammad, in order to convey a worse image of the prophet of Islam. In conclusion, the translation contained in the manuscripts 684 and 7801 is not just the only complete one,  but it is also the only one that has remained faithful to the message that don Rodrigo wanted to transmit.