IMC 2005: Sessions

Session 1022: Religious Tensions in Medieval Islam: Sicily and Portugal

Wednesday 13 July 2005, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Hugh Kennedy, Department of Mediaeval History, University of St Andrews
Paper 1022-aThe Expulsion of the Muslims from Portugal, 1496-97
(Language: English)
François Soyer, School of History and Politics, University of Adelaide
Index terms: Islamic and Arabic Studies, Religious Life, Social History
Paper 1022-bServant or Infidel?: The Eunuch Tradition in Medieval Sicily
(Language: English)
Joshua Birk, Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Sexuality
Paper 1022-cEconomic and Political Relations Between Muslim Sicily and South Italy
(Language: English)
Leonard C. Chiarelli, Marriott Library, University of Utah
Index terms: Economics - Trade, Politics and Diplomacy, Social History

Grouped by IMC Programming Committee
Abstract Paper -a:
In December 1496 King Manuel I of Portugal ordered all the Muslims and Jews residing in his lands to convert or leave. This measure was both remarkable and unprecedented. Subject Muslims, or Mudejars, were not expelled from Castile until 1502, 1516 in Navarre and 1526 in the Crown of Aragon. My paper seeks to find a plausible explanation of why Manuel decided to expel his Muslim subjects and thus abruptly end centuries of official toleration. This extraordinary event has attracted practically no academic attention.
Abstract Paper -b:
The condition of the court eunuchs of Sicily, converted Muslim slaves in service to a Christian monarch, illuminates cultural and ideological tensions created by royal appropriation of practices and symbols from radically different cultures. However, most scholarship on the region treats eunuchs primarily as a sign of the court’s Eastern otherness, with little attention to their real circumstances, their relation to other Mediterranean eunuchs, or the tradition of eunuchs as a whole. This paper situates Sicilian eunuchs in a wider tradition and explains how they reveal religious tensions within the court culture of the Norman kings of that island.
Abstract -c:
The expansion of the Arabs in the 8th century CE into the Fertile Crescent, Egypt and North Africa, brought them into direct contact with the Byzantine Empire. After meeting on the battlefield, and after the borders between the two sides stabilized, the peoples living in the two empires often developed a modus vivendi, whereupon peaceful exchanges prevailed. One of the best examples of this complex relationship can be found in Sicily, where its position, straddling the two basins of the Mediterranean Sea became a bridge between Europe, Africa and Asia. The island became a frontier region between the Byzantine Empire and the Arabo-Muslim world, but their on-again off-again warfare, which appears to have continued until the Norman conquest of the island at the end of the 11th century, does not mean that peaceful exchanges were exceptional, since economic and political ties became the norm, and at times, both sides at times sought each other’s political assistance.
Historians have usually characterized the history of Muslim Sicily’s relations with Italy as purely one of military conflict. A dividing line between Christian and Muslim worlds, giving little attention to the economic and political cooperation that characterizes Sicily’s traditional role with south Italy. This picture is incomplete and overall somewhat inaccurate. This paper aims to put this relationship into a broader context and shed light on the interaction between the two regions, and demonstrate how Sicily was a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds.