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(509 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Girona (Ar. Jarunda; Sp. Gerona) was one of the most important medieval cities in the northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula, strategically situated on the route between Iberia and Provence. Because of its location, it was frequently besieged and changed hands a number of times. The first testimonies of a Jewish community are from the ninth and tenth centuries. In the thirteenth century, under Christian rule, the aljama of Girona became the second-most-important Jewish community in Catalonia…


(440 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Niebla (Ar. Labla) is a city in the Spanish province of Huelva situated to the west of Seville. Conquered by Arabs in 712 or 713, it was the seat of the military district of Ḥimṣ and later the administrative center of a kūra (administrative district) of the Gharb al-Andalus under the Umayyads. Niebla became an independent state in 1022 during the disintegration of the caliphate. Its first ruler was Aḥmad ibn Yaḥya al-Yaḥsubī. In 1053–54 this little kingdom, which also included the city of Gibraleón or Jabal al-ʿUyūn, was annexed to the powerful kingdom of Seville by al-Muʿtaḍid. There is no …

Ibn Laṭīf, Isaac

(720 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Isaac ibn Laṭīf (ca. 1210-1280) from Toledo was a Jewish thinker in Christian Spain, well educated in Arabic and philosophy, who combined kabbalistic mysticism with philosophical rationalism. For  kabbalists, he was a gifted philosopher; whereas for philosophers, he was a kabbalist. Seven of Ibn Laṭīf's works are extant, and it is known through quotations that he wrote others. Extant Works Shaʿar ha-Shamayim (The Gate of Heaven) is Ibn Laṭīf's most famous and longest work. It was finished in 1238 and was wrongly ascribed to Abraham ibn Ezra. It is still i…


(614 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Jaén (Ar. Jayyān) is an Andalusian city and the capital of the province of  the same name situated on the slopes of the rocky Santa Catalina hills on top of which the Muslim fortress still sits, a reminder of the frontier character of the region. Jaén province is located in northeastern Andalusia, in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. Today the region is known for its production of olive oil, but according to Arabic sources, in the early Middle Ages it was renowned as the granary of Cordova. It…


(391 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Lorca (Ar. Lūrqa) is located in eastern Iberia to the southwest of the capital city of Murcia. One of the earliest mentions of Lorca during the Muslim penetration of the Iberian Peninsula is found in a capitulation treaty between ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz and the Visigothic ruler of the region, Theodomir (Ar. Tudmīr), who settled in Orihuela. The treaty passes power to the Arabs and cedes seven cities, among them Lorca. Later on, during the taifa period, Lorca was a frontier city disputed by the kingdoms of Valencia, Murcia, Granada, and Almeria. Under the rule of Muḥammad al-Muʿtaṣim (1050-1091) Lo…


(418 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
The independent taifa kingdom of Denia (Ar. Dāniya ) in the first half of the eleventh century incorporated the Balearic Islands (Ar. al-Jazāʾir) and was founded by the Slavic taifa king Abū al-Jaysh Mujāhid (1010–1013). He actively supported the creation of a center for the study of the Qurʿān in the city of Denia. Like the other taifa kingdoms in the eastern part of the Iberian peninsula, Denia was the final destination of refugee intellectuals fleeing the destruction of Cordova, among them the famous Muslim theologian Ibn Ḥazm. There was probably a Jewish community in Denia before t…

Moses ben Ḥanokh

(523 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Moses ben Ḥanokh is one of the four captive sages in Abraham Ibn Da'ud's twelfth-century Hebrew chronicle Sefer ha-Qabbala (The Book of Tradition). According to this account, the commander of the Umayyad fleet, during the reign of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III (912-961), captured a ship in the Mediterranean carrying four great Jewish scholars. On his way back to Cordova, the commander sold the sages as slaves to different Jewish communities along the Mediterranean coast. Ḥushiel was sold on the coast of Africa and ended up in Qayrawan; Moses and his son Ḥanokh ben Moses were sold in Cordova; Shemariah…

Moses ben Joseph ha-Levi

(357 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
The biography of the philosopher Moses ben Joseph, also known by his Arabic name, Abū ʿImrān Ibn al-Lawī al-Ishbīlī, remains a mystery. He has been connected to the Abulafia family, but the claim has not yet been proven. His work has survived mainly in extensive quotations by the famous fourteenth-century Judeo-Arabic philosopher Joseph Ibn Abraham Ibn Waqār, who admired him. The quotations are included in Ibn Waqār's Judeo-Arabic treatise Al-Maqāla al-Jāmiʿa bayn al-Falsafa wa ’l-Sharīʿa, which was translated into Hebrew as Ha-Ma'amar ha-Maskim beyn ha-Filosofiya ve-ha-Torah (T…


(512 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
The city of Huesca (Ar. Washqa), in northeastern Spain, lies in the foothills of the Pyrenees, 70 kilometers (40 miles) north of Saragossa, on the frontier of Islamic al-Andalus. During the caliphal period Huesca was occasionally the seat of an independent ruler, and it was also independent for a short time before being absorbed by the powerful taifa kingdom of Saragossa. It had another short period of independence under Lope (Lubb), a son of Sulaymān ibn Hūd, but it was later reunited with the kingdom of the Saragossa Ḥudids. Although there is little information about the Jewish co…

Joseph (Abū 'l-Ḥasan) ben al-Battāt

(235 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Very little is known about the Andalusian poet and theologian Joseph (Abū 'l-Ḥasan) ben al-Battāt (fl. 11th cent.) other than the brief notice in Moses ibn Ezra’s treatise on the ars poetica, Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa 'l-Mudhākara (Halkin ed., 42v): “Abū 'l-Ḥasan ben al-Battāt is a famous expert in law, theology (Ar. kalām), and poetry. He is from the houses of the prophets [i.e., well-born, from a noble family] and an excellent man.” Moses ibn Ezra’s poem Gedude Lel Nedod (Brody, no. 185) is addressed to Ibn al-Battāt from a place in Castile and praises his poetic talent in v…

Ibn al-Muhājir, Joseph (Abū ʿAmr) ben Meʾir ha-Nasi

(232 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Joseph ibn al-Muhājir (11th to 12th century) was a member of a distinguished Andalusian family (sometimes mentioned with the additional Romance family name of Ibn Shortmeqash), and he himself is referred to by the princely title of nasi. Little is known about Joseph ibn al-Muhājir. Many authors identify him as the brother of the raʾīs Abū Isḥāq (Abraham) ibn Muhājir ben Me’ir, head of the Jewish community of Seville, to whom Moses ibn Ezra dedicated the Sefer ha-ʿAnaq , also known as the Tarshish. Joseph is mentioned in Abraham ibn Da’ud’s Sefer ha-Qabbala (Book of Tradition) together …

Ibn Barzel, Joseph

(405 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Joseph ibn Barzel was a physician and  poet in al-Andalus in the twelfth century. Very little is known about his life, and only three of his poems are extant. In the chapter of the Taḥkemoni dedicated to the poets of Spain, Judah al-Ḥarīzī praised Ibn Barzel’s poetry in these words: “Like the poems of Ben Barzel, which are necklaces to every neck . . . they are strong as iron (Heb. barzel) and soft as honey.” Ibn Barzel is also mentioned in a Geniza letter written by Judah ha-Levi to a friend in Egypt, Ḥalfon ben Nethanel ha-Levi. In the letter Judah ha-Levi states that “the illus…


(669 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Calatayud (Ar. Qalʿat Ayyūb), a city located in northeastern Spain near Saragossa, had an important Jewish community throughout the period of Muslim rule. Following the Reconquista it became, after Saragossa, the second-most-important aljama (autonomous community) in the Crown of Aragon. Most scholars date the foundation of Calatayud to the ninth century, following the Nuṣūṣ ʿan al-Andalus of the Arab chronicler al-ʿUdhrī, known as ibn al-Dilāʾī (11th century), who states that the emir Muḥammad rebuilt the city in 862. The oldest archaeological test…

Ibn ‘Abbās, Judah ben Samuel

(435 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Judah ben Samuel ibn ‘Abbās was born in Fez, probably in the early twelfth century. Although he was not of Iberian origin and spent most of his life in Aleppo, he was counted as one of the great Andalusian poets by Judah al-Ḥarīzī, who wrote in the Taḥkemoni:  “And R. Judah ben ‘Abbās, too, turned his steps toward the East, and brought to Song’s feast lines succulent and fat, if others less than that; and still others dry and flat.” Further on, in describing the people of Aleppo, al-Ḥarīzī says: “And some of them feel proud of Ibn ‘Abbās’s poems, and they say that there was no oth…


(376 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Lisbon (Ar. al-Ushbūna; Port. Lisboa), today the capital city of Portugal, situated on the Atlantic coast at the mouth of the Tagus River, was in the earliest Islamic period part of the province of Beja, but later was part of a separate province with Santarem and Sintra. During the Muslim period the Jewish communities of Portugal (Roman Lusitania) were small, sparse, and not well documented. Jews settled first in the neighboring city of Santarem, 65 kilometers (40 miles) to the northeast up the Tagus from Lisbon, and their quarter was in the heart of the city. In Lis…

Ibn Ṣaqbel, Solomon (Abū Ayyūb) ben Sahl

(491 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Solomon ben Sahl Ibn Ṣaqbel was the twelfth-century Andalusian author of a collection of Hebrew maqāmāt (Heb. maḥberot), picaresque tales in rhymed prose. Only one maqāma from this work is extant: Neʾum Asher ben Yehuda (The Words of Asher ben Judah). The work and its author are mentioned in the Taḥkemoni by al-Ḥarīzī, who describes Ibn Ṣaqbel as a learned and well-known scholar in the art of poetry and the author of the pleasant maqāma that begins Neʾum Asher ben Yehuda. As Raymond Scheindlin states, it is the first known Hebrew fiction from medieval Spain, probably written …

Jacob ben Eleazar

(737 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Jacob ben Eleazar was a prolific writer, poet, translator, grammarian, and philosopher in Christian Toledo and a member of one of the city’s distinguished families. Little is known about his life, but he was active during the first three decades of the thirteenth century and left several important works, among them a translation of the Arabic classic Kalīla wa-Dimna, a linguistic treatise written in Arabic, piyyuṭim , and two works on ethics. Kalīla wa-Dimna is the Arabic version of the popular oriental collection of fables based upon the Indian tales of Bidpai. The …

Ibn ʿAqnīn, Joseph ben Judah ben Jacob

(804 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Joseph ben Judah ben Jacob Ibn ʿAqnīn was born in Barcelona around the middle of the twelfth century but emigrated to Fez during the Almohad period. Little is known about his personal life. In his commentary on the Song of Songs (fol. 129a), he says that he converted outwardly to Islam, but in the same passage he expresses his desire to leave Fez and openly return to Judaism. It is unknown whether he did so or remained in Fez. While in Fez, Ibn ʿAqnīn became acquainted with Maimonides and wrote a poem on the great sage's departure for Egypt. Maimonides profoundly influenced Ibn ʿAqnīn's work,…


(626 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Barcelona (Ar. Barshilūna) was one of the most important commercial ports on the northeastern coast of Spain during the Middle Ages. There are references to the Jewish community of Barcelona as early as the ninth century, but its history is best documented during the period of the Crown of Aragon. The Arabs ruled the city during the eighth century, but it returned to Christian control in the ninth (801). Although the period of Muslim rule was quite brief -only three generations- there was constant contact with al-Andalus. After the destruction by al-Manṣūr ibn Abī ʿĀmir (Almanzor) in …


(565 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Merida is one of the most ancient Jewish settlements in Spain. The city is located in the region of Extremadura in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula, near the frontier with Portugal. It is a very ancient city, and its foundation dates from the Roman period. Eliyahu Ashtor asserts that Merida was "the most important [Jewish] community of all the western provinces of the peninsula." In Abraham Ibn Da'ud's Sefer ha-Qabbala , it is mentioned as the final destination of a group of exiled "noble Jews from Jerusalem" after the destruction of the Temple by Titus. Acco…
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