Moonlight in a Jar: An Al-Andalus Timeline

ACT I: Hisham II and al-Mughira
  • With thanks to XanXar for rekindling my interest in actually sharing my first honest-to-goodness TL publicly, and more broadly to everyone who's discussed al-Andalus on these forums over the years for leaving behind a massive body of discussion to trawl through over the past several months, and of course to the authors of the various primary and academic sources drawn upon, adapted and thrown for a loop to inform what's here. Let's see how this goes, and how much damage the butterflies from a few changes in a distant corner of medieval Europe can do to everything else in the world.


    We are crescent moons, whose light
    Banishes the shades of night;
    Wheresoe'er we sit, we bring
    Glory to the gathering.

    Fate, the traitor, may efface
    Wrongfully our pride of place;
    Fate may take our most; yet whole
    Still abides our pride of soul.

    - Ibn Adha (1098-1145), OTL

    A palm tree I beheld in ar-Rusafa
    Far in the West, far from the palm-tree land:
    I said: You, like myself, are far away, in a strange land;
    How long have I been away from my people!
    You grew up in a land where you are a stranger,
    And like myself, are living in the farthest corner of the earth:
    May the morning clouds refresh you at this distance,
    And may abundant rains comfort you forever!

    - Abd ar-Rahman I, Emir of Cordoba (r. 756-88)


    Excerpt: The Rise and the Fall of the Mohammedan Caliphs of al-Andalus - Muhallab ibn Jalil al-Dani, AH 1056 (AD 1646)

    Chapter 6
    The Days Between the Death of al-Hakam II al-Mustansir
    and the Ascendancy of Hisham II al-Mu'ayad

    On the eve of the death of the Caliph al-Hakam al-Mustansir, his son Hisham, surnamed al-Mu'ayad-billah, who was perhaps twelve years old at the time, succeeded to the throne. It was, however, a narrow thing, and the years that followed him were uncertain ones for the Córdoban Caliphate.

    The historian, ibn Hayyan, tells us that among his multitude of virtues, al-Hakam, a wise and vigorous man whose reign saw the Caliphate enjoy such relative steadiness as so precipitously situated an institution could in those dark days, possessed paternal love in such a degree that it blinded his prudence. In his love, he appointed as his successor his only son, then a child, in preference to any of his brothers or nephews, men of mature age and wisdom, with the experience and capability of making their mandates obeyed.

    Perhaps it is that love of a father for a son that blinded al-Hakam to the folly of his decision, or perhaps an expectation of a longer life in which to prepare the boy. Though he doted upon his son, others rose in his young life. Prominent among them was a man, Mohammed ibn Abi Aamir, the manager of the child's estates and a favourite of Sobha, his mother. The influence ibn Abi Aamir held upon the boy Hisham and his mother cannot be understated, nor the ambition he demonstrated. Among them, too, was the hajib, the Berber named Ja'far al-Mushafi, a man of obscure lineage who may have counted himself among Hisham's supporters but whom we are told by the historians saw opportunities in the lad - for with the ascent of the youth, he believed, the empire would be in his hands, but with the ascent of another sovereign his soldiers would lose all power and authority.

    Thus was the circumstance on the eve of the second day of Safar, AH 366[1], when al-Hakam swooned and perished. All eyes turned to the child, Hisham al-Muayad.

    It has been observed by the histories of the day that the first to know of the death of the Caliph were two of his eunuchs, of the saqaliba[2] - the master of the tiraz[3], Fa'iq al-Nizami, and the faulconer, Judhar. Together they were among the foremost of some thousand saqaliba present within the palace of Córdoba, as well as within the palace guard. Even as al-Hakam al-Mustansir breathed his last, these two men, foreseeing the troubles and calamities that might arise from the ascent to the throne of a mere child, conceived of the idea to replace Hisham in the line of succession instead with a brother of al-Hakam, al-Mughira, son of the late Abd ar-Rahman III by the concubine, Mushtaq.

    Their first move was to summon the hajib, Ja'far al-Mushafi. Before he arrived, however, the two spoke of their plan. "Methinks," Fa'iq is said to have said to Judhar, "we shall never be able to carry our plans into execution as long as Ja'far al-Mushafi lives. He must die."

    "And are we," said Judhar to Fa'iq, "to begin our undertaking by slaying an old man, who is our master and protector?"

    "By God! I can see no other way," Fa'iq said.

    What actually transpired in the ensuing meeting, behind closed doors, was witnessed by none. The histories tell us only of what happened when the doors opened, and the two siqlabi conspirators exited, and left behind the corpse of al-Mushafi, his life having been taken from him.

    In the hours thereafter, a detachment of the royal guard, perhaps twenty saqaliba in number, travelled to the house of al-Mughira, finding him in complete ignorance of what had occurred. To his credit, the young man appears to have been totally innocent of any political aspirations at that time, though not lacking for hope in his younger years. At the receipt of the news of his brother's end, al-Mughira was thunderstruck; but soon after recovering, he said, "I hear and obey the orders of my new master," and swore to Hisham his loyalty.

    More difficult was the man, ibn Abi Aamir, who commanded the loyalty of some in the court - particularly his contacts were strong among the Berbers, among whom he once served on behalf of the Caliph. The saqaliba, too, attended the house of ibn Abi Aamir. It was a journey less to win his loyalty than to neutralize him, a man who did not yet know of the death of the Caliph.

    Upon receipt of the news, the wily ibn Abi Aamir feigned acceptance. Within, he chafed at it mightily, for it is said that he was a man of the greatest ambition - a man who decided from a young age that his goal would be to become the most powerful man in the Caliphate. He made a show of bowing his head and going along with things, while resolving to maneuver himself, somehow, even closer to power.

    Thus it was that the machinations of the saqaliba came to fruition. In truth, al-Mushafi was a man buoyed in his position in the main by the patronage of al-Hakam, for he had no base of power in Córdoba, and many of the oldest families felt his ascent to power an affront, and considered his removal the righting of a grievance. Many loyal to the Umayyad line rallied behind the heir of al-Hakam, some out of love of the dynasty, others sensing the opportunity of winning the favour of a Caliph still but a child. And yet, faced with the reluctance of a thunderstruck al-Mughira to push aside his brother's son, and faced with critical eyes in many corners of the court, a compromise could be found.

    It was announced that a coup had been foiled - an attempt to undermine the Banu Umayya by al-Mushafi, to raise the child as a figurehead to be manipulated by the hajib, who was interested only in their own greed. This tale was readily accepted by many in the establishment, for al-Mushafi had long been viewed among the great families as a Berber upstart, widely despised at court. An agreement was struck: Hisham would be raised to the throne, but in his stead for now would stand al-Mughira, not as Caliph but as hajib and protector of his nephew, to guide him in his minority and to stand aside when the boy became a man strong enough to rule.

    Thus it was that the boy-Caliph, Hisham II, ascended to the height of power, his uncle al-Mughira standing uneasily behind him to guide him.

    It was not an enviable ascent. The boy, the man, supported by much of the court and by the saqaliba, held precariously in their hands a strong land, but one deeply divided against itself, riven by internal struggles for power, surrounded on all sides by the Christian and the Berber, reft by the simmering tensions of centuries since founding between Arab and Berber and Muladi and others. More immediately, upon the sidelines stood the ambitious ibn Abi Aamir, the favourite of the umm al-walad[4], Sobha, herself infuriated by the course of events but powerless to change them. To guide the Caliphate in these days, the most pivotal of al-Andalus, was the challenge suited for a great man.

    The years ahead would test the boy's capacity to rise to that greatness.

    [1] September 29, 976.
    [2] "Slavs" - Slaves of eastern European origin, often eunuchs. They form a nascent but powerful military class in Andalusi society as slave-soldiers and are in some ways analogous to mamluks.
    [3] The official wardrobe.
    [4] Mother of the son. Specifically a concubine who bears her master's child.

    * Reprinted with permission from the Qapraqan el-Usuli Library, Shillah, Cawania

    976: Al-Hakam II, Caliph of Córdoba, dies. After an internal power struggle in which the hajib, Ja'far al-Mushafi, is killed, the late Caliph is succeeded by his young son, Hisham II, under the regency of al-Hakam's youngest brother, al-Mughira. Mohammed ibn Abi Aamir, the man who would be Almanzor in another time, remains a strong figure at court, but the saqaliba gain the upper hand in the political battles in Córdoba.
    ACT I Part II: The Pyxis of al-Mughira
  • This was all wrong. All wrong.

    He looked to the door to his chamber; closed, secure - he hoped - and guarded by two of the
    saqaliba, more of them stationed outside his chambers in the palace of Madinat az-Zahra. Protection, but yet feeling so terribly scant.

    Erring close to the window, the young man found himself staring out into the gardens beyond. The light of the moon bathed the world in the haunting, washed-out lucidity that sometimes comes at the deepest and most serene reaches of the night, a time for dreams and rest. He found he could do neither, lost instead in the memories of a time before now.

    Of course, the man reflected to himself with a certain bitterness, there was once a day when this outcome would have been an opportunity. To rule... if not in name, then in fact.

    Slowly, Abu al-Mutarrif al-Mughira turned from the moonlit garden. The trains of his court robes hissed softly against the flooring as he turned to the bedside, to the collection of objects there - quills, scrolls, the like.

    His hands fell to one object - a masterwork of ivory carving, a little cask which had sat out of the way there for some years since its arrival. He turned it over slowly in his hands, eyes lingering on the elegantly carved panels. The hands of the young men reaching into the nest of the falcon.

    He sighed and closed his eyes, twisting his lips with a deeply-felt bitterness. Momentarily flirted with the notion of hurling the priceless, accursed thing across the room and ridding himself of it.


    Blessings from God, goodwill, happiness and prosperity to al-Mughira, son of the amir al-mu'munin, may God's mercy be upon him; made in the year 357.

    - Inscription on the Pyxis of al-Mughira


    ....................................................................................................................[OTL photo credit: Steven Zucker (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)]

    Excerpt: Andalusi History Through Artifacts - Prof. Peire-Raimond Raspail, University of Lacoide Department of History, Acatian Scholastic Press, 1987

    Preserved strikingly intact in the National Museum of Culture in Córdoba, the Pyxis of al-Mughira is a cylindrical, domed box or jar. The Pyxis is considered an Andalusi national treasure, and from an artistic standpoint, has long been hailed as a masterwork in the art of the ivory-carver. It has also been hailed as one of the great pieces of irony in the history of Muslim Iberia, recognized not as a piece of art but as a piece of subtext.

    The lid of the pyxis - a type of ornamental box, wrought in precious ivory - identifies the intended recipient as a son of the first Córdoban Umayyad caliph, Abd ar-Rahman III (r. 912-61). Namely, the receipient was Abu al-Mutarrif al-Mughira, a young man with a complex history. Among the youngest sons of Abd ar-Rahman III, he was a young man during the reign as caliph of his older brother, al-Hakam II al-Mustansir. The pyxis came to him in the year 968 by European reckoning of the calendar, 357 by the Muslim reckoning.

    Leaving aside the artistic merit of the object, that it belonged once to al-Mughira, one of the most remarkable figures in a turbulent time in the history of ancient al-Andalus. All the more remarkable is the message contained within the imagery of the pyxis itself: At least in many circles, a field of scholarly thought hewed to most closely in modern studies of Andalus suggests the pyxis was most likely commissioned by al-Mughira's enemies, perhaps the influential estate manager Muhammad ibn Abi Aamir or the vizier Ja'far al-Mushafi - or perhaps even his own brother - as a warning to him against seeking the caliphal throne. Another view suggests the pyxis was commissioned from a prominent eunuch by al-Mughira's mother, al-Mushtaq, whom contemporary historians portray as someone of influence at court. Certainly something as expensive and luxurious as the pyxis could not have been commissioned by anyone outside the upper echelons of the Caliphate.

    Nevertheless the images are striking - one medallion, for instance, depicts two men gathering eggs from falcon nests, the falcon widely being seen as a symbol of the power and legitimacy of the Umayyad dynasty. The medallion depicts these men being bitten by dogs. Yunus Yusufeddine (1977) interpreted this as an implication of threat to those who would seek to grasp the power of the dynasty. The subtextual message - joined with other medallions depicting symbols of the strength and tradition of the Umayyad line - seems to convey a warning to al-Mughira: An urging to him to abandon any aspirations to power he may have, both for the sake of the dynasty and for the sake of himself. The fate of the men who would pluck the eggs from the falcon's nest is thus a warning that any ambition on the part of al-Mughira will lead both him and the Umayyad line to a dire fate.

    Though we know little of al-Mughira's early years, the existence of the pyxis can tell us much of who he was. The young al-Mughira must have been a gifted young man, undoubtedly possessed of the ambition and the desire to rule, and most certainly viewed at least in court circles as a young man suitable to take the reins of power if not for the choice of the unready boy Hisham.

    It is, perhaps, ironic that the message is ensconced upon the pyxis eight years before the tumultuous succession of 976. In that year, the caliph al-Hakam II passed, and a succession crisis erupted around the person of his designated successor, his son Hisham II. The crux of the dilemma was the boy's age - he was a lad of perhaps 11 or 12 at the time, while al-Mughira was about twenty-five and considered possessed of attributes suitable for the rule of the Andalusi caliphate.

    A faction coalesced around three members of the court: Hisham's mother Subh, who had been al-Hakam's consort, the powerful visier al-Mushafi, and ibn Abi Aamir. This faction seemingly sought to place Hisham on the throne with no true figure of guidance, save perhaps by ibn Abi Aamir, a man spoken of in the histories as a man of towering pride and ruthless ambition. Al-Mughira's faction comprised the powerful palace eunuchs who had been members of both caliphs' inner circles, among them the eunuchs Fa'iq al-Nizami and Judhar, who were present at the time of al-Hakam's death and moved to place al-Mughira on the throne. Ironically, the faction did not comprise al-Mughira himself.

    The message of the pyxis, however, must have registered upon al-Mughira even as he was presented by the palace eunuchs with a path to power. We are told by history that he refused the call when it came, swearing his loyalty to Hisham even after the die was cast. He would, true to the message of the pyxis, never stand as caliph, but as regent and protector for his young nephew, Hisham.

    Therein lies the true irony: Even without grasping the eggs from the nest of the falcon, al-Mughira would prove to be a key but unheralded mover in the history of medieval Andalus, coming to prominence just as the ancient Iberian caliphate steamed towards a critical fulcrum which would decide the future of Islam in the west. With Muhammad ibn Abi Aamir still opposed to him, al-Mughira faced the choice of either following his youthful ambitions, or placing his love of his brother and his family - and the Caliphate - ahead of his own personal desires.

    That he chose a different road is, perhaps, most striking of all.
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    ACT I Part III: Ghalib's Expedition
  • Excerpt: The Rise and the Fall of the Mohammedan Caliphs of al-Andalus - Muhallab ibn Jalil al-Dani, AH 1056 (AD 1646)

    On the death of al-Hakam, his son Hisham al-Mu'ayad, who was then but a lad of twelve, rose to succeed him. The Christians of the north mountains, hearing word of the passage of al-Hakam, began to muster their men-at-arms and made some threat upon the frontiers. Al-Mughira, who stood as the protector and regent for Hisham his nephew and Caliph, sent against them Ghalib al-Nasiri, the commander of the outpost of Medinaceli, and an army with him.[1]

    By the grace of almighty God, it came to pass that Ghalib returned victorious from the expedition, leaving the Christians defeated upon the field. The circumstance gained the veteran even greater acclaim, and with it, acclaim for the young Caliph and his protector, and the people cried out in celebration of the viictory.

    It did little to bring ease to the heart al-Mughira, though for he was an intelligent man and not absent of ambition, he remained a man who had been thrust to his surprise into a precarious circumstance, advising a young Caliph with the foundations of an adept mind and a compassionate manner but with little sign of the dynamism of his father. While the people hailed the victories of Ghalib against the Christians, in the court, al-Mughira, himself a man of steady disposition and loyal demeanor, found himself faced with the blandishments of the favourite of the umm al-walad, Mohammed ibn Abi Aamir.

    By the murder of the hajib, al-Mushafi, Hisham saw himself ensconced firmly upon the throne handed down through the lineage of the Banu Umayya, and al-Mughira guided him in his administration and counselled him as wisely as he could in his affairs. In his heart knowing that he possessed greater gifts than his young ward, nonetheless he looked upon the court and saw the perils of attempting to grasp power for himself, in defiance of the will of the old families that al-Hakam's choice of his son as his heir should be honoured. He laid aside much pomp and sat along with the wizirs and other members of the council on a seat similar to theirs, and he stood behind Hisham in public.

    Ibn Abi Aamir, however, was in character less willing to compromise his ambitions. Against the judiciousness of al-Mughira he demonstrated an unbounded spirit of vigor and liberality, and to al-Mughira's reserve and steadiness of temper, ibn Abi Aamir opposed an agreeable charm and wit, enough so to win the admiration of many hangers-on at the court. The zeal with which ibn Abi Aamir carried out the duties of his office so won the favour of Sobha, the umm al-walad, that his power and influence made him a dangerous man. The man who was al-Mushafi had been disliked in many circles, but ibn Abi Aamir was a different man - an esteemed officer of the royal household, a man of both charisma and towering ambition, too dangerous for al-Mughira to send away and leave unchecked, yet too perilous to allow him to whisper in those quarters close to the young Hisham, or those whose support was key to him. While he presented a face of loyalty to Hisham and al-Mughira, ibn Abi Aamir was secretly working in the shadows to tear the foundations of support from the latter. He worked to destroy him in the favour of the umm al-walad, speaking of him as disloyal to Hisham.

    Al-Mughira himself gathered significant support, especially from the old tribes, the likes of the Banu Abi Aabda and the Banu Shuhayd, those whose ancestors had come to the Andalus in the beginning, and from Ghalib, the old siqlabi general. These old supporters of the Banu Umayya viewed Ja'far al-Mushafi as something of a carbuncle upon the face of the court, a man with no natural power base in Córdoba, of a Berber family of no real significance, and thus viewed his demise as welcome rectification of a decision which had rankled them. At the advising of al-Mughira, Hisham granted the role of his financial manager not to ibn Abi Aamir, but to Muzaffar, a son of the Banu Abi Aabda, and placed some confidence in such ministers as Abu Umar Ahmad ibn Said ibn Hazm. In the game of politics, al-Mughira maneuvered to position ibn Abi Aamir outside the circle of the supporters of the Banu Umayya, to tacitly position him as an outsider.

    An ally to him in these matters came in the form of his mother, Mushtaq, once a concubine of Abd ar-Rahman III. A woman of some influence among the great men of the court, her words carried great weight with many of the great families, and it is said she both whispered to them words of the readiness of al-Mughira, and of the amorality of ibn Abi Aamir. The man, she said, clearly sought to rise above his station, to act in the stead of a caliph when he was not even of the Banu Umayya, but from a lesser noble family - he was of an Arabian family from Yemen, dwelling in Al-Jazira, and could not trace his lineage to the companions of the Prophet, may God honour him and give him peace.

    The relationship between al-Mughira and Ghalib, meanwhile, grew closer as the days passed, and Ghalib began to advise the hajib closely. This bond was deepened in the month of Moharram of the year 367, on the night of Naurus[2] as al-Mughira took in marriage the hand of Asmá, daughter of Ghalib. The marriage was celebrated with pomp and extravagance surprising for such an occasion; the bride was received in state at the palace by the Caliph Hisham, who accompanied her afterwards to the dwelling of the bridegroom. These marks of distinction increased the power and influence of al-Mughira. It is said that he doubled in one night the number and vigor of his supporters at the court, among them many of the men who had stood in support of ibn Abi Aamir, who himself had sought the hand of Asmá and been rebuffed by Ghalib himself. The man grew bitter as he watched his rival, the hajib al-Mughira, gain in prestige and consolidate his position at the expense of ibn Abi Aamir himself.

    And yet perhaps al-Mughira's greatest opportunity came not from his mother, nor from the efforts of the saqaliba to support and aid Hisham and himself. Rather it came from the foe in the north, the Christian.

    As the earliest days of the year 367 wound past, calamity rose once more from the north. Hearing word of unease at the court of Córdoba, the Count of Castile, Garcia Fernandez by name, sought to capitalize upon the succession and win glory for his faith and his name. The Christians rode across the River Douro into the lands of al-Andalus.

    Some two years before, the Count of Castile had sent forth an edict to his people, which has been preserved by history: Any villein of the town of Castrojeriz whosoever furnished the arms of a knight would be raised into the ranks of the nobility as reward for their services to lord and faith. It is likely that other such edicts were issued to the villeins of other settlements within his fief. These new warriors, eager to cross blades with the warriors of al-Andalus in the name of the cross, rode into the lands of the Muslims and sought to bring the host of Córdoba to battle, raising fire and sword to the land. While the King of Pamplona also dispatched men to raid the lands, it was the host of the Count of Castile which came even within sight of Córdoba, the Jewel of the World, to the consternation and worry of the villeins of the land, and even to the anxiety of the righteous men of that great city.

    Upon receiving word of the blandishments of the Castilians, al-Mughira again turned to the old general, Ghalib. As the seasons warmed, Ghalib rode to the north a second time, taking with him a host of warriors as well as saqaliba and Berbers - and with him he brought the embittered ibn Abi Aamir as a second, himself accompanied by Berber warriors of the Banu Birzal, men greatly loyal to ibn Abi Aamir personally.

    It was a dangerous move for al-Mughira. He waited for word anxiously as his strongest military supporter, Ghalib the old man, rode north with his most dangerous enemy and his strongest supporters - friend and foe, to be matched against the Christian, in the hopes that if they could not unite, that the stronger would emerge ascendant. The host of Ghalib and ibn Abi Aamir rode north in the late days of Sha'ban 367[3], to a battle which would prove decisive.

    Encountering the Christian in the lands of Calatrava, the host of al-Andalus clashed with them, and by God's mercy emerged in triumph, the Christians forced to withdraw towards the river. As the forces of Ghalib and ibn Abi Aamir made camp overnight, chance had it that the pair walked to the crest of a tall hill to speak of their strategy. A dispute having arisen between the two as to the best plan to be adopted, ibn Abi Aamir grew increasingly nettled and said to Ghalib, "What manner of man art thou, who grants the hand of thine blood to the usurper al-Mughira, who seeks only to empower himself?"

    "Fie on you, serpent!" was the retort of Ghalib. "All men know it is thou who seeketh the royal power for thine own self!" He then drew his sword and smote ibn Abi Aamir, whom he wounded mildly on the left arm, before ibn Abi Aamir drew his blade and struck Ghalib in turn, striking only his armour. It is then that, beholding the drawn blades of their superiors, several of the royal guard and a number of common soldiers grappled with the two men and forced them apart, until such time as they retired to separate tents in utmost rancour.

    As the day dawned again, Ghalib resolved to rely no longer on ibn Abi Aamir, who he had come to resent. Leaving his colleague and rival in the reserve, he rode out from the fortress to seek the remnants of the enemy host, that he might sweep them from the lands of the caliphs, and smite them gravely.

    Chance should have it that the knights of the Count of Castile encountered the enemy in the open field, and that as the blades of the Castilians and the Córdobans crossed, that Ghalib should be wounded most direly. So grave was his injury that the encounter may have been lost, save for the thunder of hooves from the rear, and the sudden arrival of the Banu Birzal in full battle array, ibn Abi Aamir with them despite his wound. By the grace and fortune of God, the arrival of the Berbers routed the Christian, who broke and fled to the north, to not return in such numbers for a great time to come.

    It is said that ibn Abi Aamir hoped that the valiant foeman would remove the obstacle of Ghalib for him, and leave for him all the glory and the honour of the victorious warrior. He was not so fortunate, for Ghalib would by dint of fate and stiffness of spirit survive his wound, though grievous. And yet the dire gravity of his wounds ensured that, as he returned home to Córdoba, Ghalib could and would never again ride out into battle, and in his maiming as well as his advancing eld, it was certain his remaining days were few. Ibn Abi Aamir was hailed as a victorious leader, a younger man and dynamic, seen as a natural heir to Ghalib as a military leader.

    While the victory brought glory to the name of caliph Hisham, it furrowed the brow of al-Mughira mightily. The hajib was filled with consternation, for the wisdom and leadership of Ghalib were of great value to him. With his leading commander of men maimed and unable to ride again at the head of the host, and certainly to die soon, he found himself faced with the valiant man, ibn Abi Aamir, whose renown was only on the increase and who appeared destined to glorious things, and yet whose eye remained fixed on claiming for himself the caliphal power.

    [1] Late AD 976.
    [2] August 19, 977.
    [3] April 978.

    977: Al-Mughira, hajib of al-Andalus, marries Asmá, daughter of the general Ghalib al-Nasiri, en route to consolidating his power in al-Andalus.
    978: Mohammed ibn Abi Aamir - the ITTL Almanzor - leads Córdoban troops to victory in an expedition against raiders dispatched by Count Garcia Fernandez of Castile. Ghalib al-Nasiri, one of hajib al-Mughira's key supporters at court, is maimed in the dispute and likely to die. Ibn Abi Aamir's position at court is strengthened by the key victory.
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    ACT I Part IV: Hisham II's Formative Years
  • "Whatever I know, I owe solely to my assiduous reading of books of the ancients, to my desire to understand them and to appropriate this science; then I have added the observation and experience of my whole life."

    - Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas az-Zahrawi, The Method of Medicine, ~1000 AD


    Excerpt: Lives of Medieval Andalus: Tracing the Footsteps of the Western Caliphs - 'Amr Saadeddine, Falconbird Press, 1427 (2006)


    Hisham II al-Mu'ayyad and Abu al-Mutarrif al-Mughira

    The Unready Boy and the Unlikely Guardian

    Following the death of al-Hakam II in 976, his son Hisham II succeeded him to the throne, setting himself on the path to becoming one of the more interesting rulers in Andalus's history.

    In most respects, contemporary historians, such as Ibn Hayyan, recall al-Hakam II as a worthy and vigorous caliph capable of adequately managing the affairs of the state. These histories take on a somewhat more cautious tone with Hisham, his son by a Basque concubine named Subh (or Sobha in some translations), one coloured by the fact that this caliph ascended the throne as a mere boy of 11 or 12 years. While the texts speak of him with the reverence and respect due to the chosen descendant of the caliph and the representative of the Umayyad dynasty, as he grew into a man he demonstrated little sign of ambition or an active spirit. When the histories address him, it is often with the veiled suggestion that Hisham was seen in his early years as too young and too callow to rule.

    Most sources agree as to the general accuracy of the events of the succession from al-Hakam to Hisham. Fearing Hisham too young to rule on his own, the palace eunuchs arranged the assassination of the unpopular vizier, Ja'far al-Mushafi, and engineered the installation of Hisham's uncle and al-Hakam's brother, Abu al-Mutarrif al-Mughira, as his regent. While contemporary sources suggest al-Mughira was innocent of any political aspirations at the time, it's likely that he knew he would have been a more viable candidate than his nephew simply in terms of being old enough to handle the complexities of managing the Caliphate. Certainly, though, he would not have expected the fraught political situation he inherited, nor did he likely have a hand in the plot to install him as Hisham's vizier, nor as caliph, despite his ambitions.

    Perhaps it is remarkable that al-Mughira did not seek to centralize power in his own person. But it was also inevitable.

    The legitimacy of the Córdoban caliphate lay upon the shoulders of the caliph himself. The strength of the caliph and the deep roots of the Umayyad dynasty - tracing back to the Quraysh, the companions of the Prophet Muhammad - gave the dynasty significant personal legitimacy which could be exercised mainly through the caliph's person. And while the palace eunuchs may have been more than willing to give al-Mughira some degree of liberty to centralize power, the court in general respected al-Hakam highly and would have expected his decision to pass power to Hisham to be honoured. An al-Mughira caliphate may have been acceptable to the Slavic eunuchs who engineered al-Mushafi's death, but would have run the risk of alienating other groups among the many competing ethnic interests which the Córdoban political scene of the day required balancing with utmost delicacy.

    To that end, Hisham found himself embroiled in the functions of the court almost from the moment of his ascent to the throne. Far from being a secluded figure fully under the thumb of his regent, Hisham appeared in full regalia at functions on a regular basis. What records remain, particularly those of Ibn Hayyan, emphasize that al-Mughira took great care to always stand behind and to the right of Hisham, so that the young caliph would always appear first and most prominent in the eyes of others. It also seems that al-Mughira judged, rightly, that the only way to preserve the dynasty - barring setting Hisham aside, which he must have decided would be imprudent - would be to complete Hisham's education and teach him the skills of manhood and rulership that al-Hakam had seemingly neglected to impart until that point.

    In the first years of his caliphate, Hisham took on the role of a learner. Highly skilled tutors were called to court to guide him in fields such as stewardship and law. The day-to-day administration fell to al-Mughira in those first few years, who evidently made a point of involving Hisham in a mentor-and-student fashion.

    By 367, the political headwinds shifted around Hisham after an expedition against Count Garcia Fernandez of Castile resulted in a key supporter, Ghalib al-Nasiri, being maimed, while a key competitor for his favour, Mohammed ibn Abi Aamir, returned home in triumph. While Hisham personally held ibn Abi Aamir in high regard, al-Mughira, who viewed ibn Abi Aamir as a danger to Hisham and himself, urged the boy caliph to cultivate new allies capable of projecting caliphal power outside of Córdoba. By and large their efforts focused at first on shoring up their core of supporters - the saqaliba, the court eunuchs and the influential class of old Arab families with their roots in the original migration to al-Andalus. With the public, too, al-Mughira was seen as more suited for the regency; he was, after all, of the Umayyad line, while ibn Abi Aamir's line was a minor Yemeni noble family with no ties to the Quraysh, ensuring that the caliphal power could never legitimately be his. But beyond status, Hisham and al-Mughira also made their power felt through foreign relations.

    Not long after the battle in Calatrava, in 367 (978), Hisham received in state the King of Leon, the 17-year-old Ramiro III. Hisham met the Leonese monarch in full caliphal regalia, with al-Mughira standing well behind him and out of the way. Evidently without prompting, Hisham, then about 14, fairly smoothly navigated through the standard ceremonies of receiving the Leonese monarch before renewing the peace treaty previously renewed by his father, al-Hakam II - in effect a tributary agreement. The decision came despite the urgings of some few nobles, many loyal to ibn Abi Aamir, to eschew the treaty and resume warring with Leon. Instead Hisham asserted his power over Leon by accepting the treaty as a sign of the Christian kingdom's submission, then insisted firmly that Ramiro rein in the Count of Castile, then under the vassalage of the Leonese crown. Ramiro, still struggling with Viking raids along his coastlines in Galicia, acceded to the request, though likely he chafed at being dictated to by a younger man.

    Ramiro's promises to rein in his vassal proved difficult to enforce - the already separatist Castile, much like Galicia, was hardly about to start following the king's orders now. In Córdoba, however, the meeting added to Hisham's legitimacy. The unready boy began to be seen as having some level of power over the Christians of the north. Warriors continued to be sent to punish Castilian raiders, realizing a drop-off in the level of raider activity.

    Hisham's weakest constituency, however, was likely the Berber tribes involved with al-Andalus. Prior emirs and caliphs had utilized tribes of Berber warriors as mercenaries, acknowledging the small numbers of Arabo-Andalusians within al-Andalus as being insufficient to provide a "native strength" military. Berbers from North Africa were seen as the obvious source of manpower, and the Maghreb was treated as a manpower factory by the caliphs. While Hisham and al-Mughira sought to continue the policy of their predecessors, their ties to the region were weak, and damaged by their dispute with ibn Abi Aamir, whose connections among many prominent Berber tribes ran deep.

    In roughly 368,[1] Hisham and al-Mughira found a potential ally in Ziri ibn Atiya, the newly-enthroned king of the Zenata tribe. The pair extended nominal protection to Ziri as he set his sights on conquering much of the Maghreb. It was hoped that by cultivating a relationship with a future client, like Ziri, Hisham would one day be able to go around ibn Abi Aamir and develop his own ties into the Berber world.

    The first steps in the rise of Ziri ibn Atiya weren't all that happened in 979. During the cold months, Hisham apparently came down with an illness. Historians are somewhat vague on the actual name of the diease but the symptoms seem consistent with a fairly severe and persistent infection of the ear. Evidently in a great deal of pain, Hisham, then about 14 or 15, found himself spending long periods in bed that winter under the treatment of the court physician.

    Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas az-Zahrawi[2] had served Hisham's father as court physician, and Hisham had retained him in the office. Science knows al-Zahrawi for his enormous contributions to modern medicine - he is hailed as the Father of Surgery, and many of his medical practices remain in use. He had no political presence save that, in this instance, the man who once wrote of maintaining a positive doctor-patient relationship irrespective of social class was now a constant presence for Hisham as he treated the young caliph to the best of his ability.

    Far from the fear of physicians one might expect in the Middle Ages, Hisham accepted al-Zahrawi's treatments with respect and a keen interest. Court history of the time suggests he must have asked al-Zahrawi many questions about how he knew what was wrong with him and how to fix it. What is apparent is that the expert care and positive bedside manner of the wise physician influenced Hisham's outlook on life.

    Hisham survived the infection and returned to the public eye healthier and with a budding interest in the sciences, and he began to spend more time in his father's library, legendary at the time for the number of books he had accumulated. He developed a strong interest in books and learning, and he took to his tutors' lessons with greater vigor in the hopes of one day becoming a learned man too. The boy who had gone into his reign with little perceptible political personality had begun to develop the first signs of a curious mind and a mature identity. His new focus on scholarship also began to create, unwittingly, distance between himself and ibn Abi Aamir, who, while erudite in his way, disapproved of the "ancient science books" al-Hakam had collected.

    Sensing ibn Abi Aamir's disdain for scientific learning, al-Mughira encouraged the young caliph to pursue his scholastic interests.[3] He also apparently worked to interest Hisham in women as he drew close to the age of 16, though even at that young age it was evident that Hisham's predilections lay towards men, much like his father. Court stories tell that al-Hakam was only convinced to bed Hisham's mother Subh when her hair was cut short and she donned trousers and styled herself Ja'far; the trait seems to have bred true in Hisham, who is said to have taken on a male playmate as he reached the years of puberty. Few would seem to have begrudged him his preferences, interestingly.

    It's likely that someone - probably al-Mughira - did at least impress upon him the importance of having a child and continuing the family line, as by 370[4] Hisham, then about 17, took on his first wife, a girl of Arabo-Andalusian stock by the name of Asma.

    [1] AD 979.
    [2] The man who would be known as Abulcasis in the Spanish world, if a Spanish world existed ITTL.
    [3] Both OTL and ITTL, Hisham II came to power as a boy with no discernable political personality. OTL, this made him perfect for Almanzor, who for better or for worse envisioned a model of governance inspired by that of the Buyids of Iraq over the Abbasids around that time - acting as "the pillar of the state" for a powerless and secluded caliph. Even when Hisham became old enough to rule, OTL Almanzor basically locked him in the palace and made up the excuse that he wanted to devote himself to religion and was leaving everything to the hajib. ITTL, al-Mughira needs to keep Hisham in the public eye to maintain his position against Almanzor, the result being that Hisham actually gets the opportunity to develop a personality.
    [4] AD 981 - skipping ahead just a little.

    978: Ramiro III, King of Leon, travels to Córdoba to renew the peace treaty with the new Caliph.
    979: Ziri ibn Atiya becomes king of the Zenata Berbers. He embarks on a campaign to consolidate as much of the Maghreb under his control as possible, with the tacit consent of Caliph Hisham II of Córdoba, whose regent hopes to cultivate him as a future ally.
    979: Hisham II falls ill with a severe ear infection. He spends much of the winter under the care of the court physician, Abulcasis, and begins to develop an interest in the sciences, not unlike his father's scholastic interests.
    ACT I Part V: Ibn Abi Aamir's Gambit
  • Excerpt: The End of Caliphal Andalus - Radah Alziri, Alcazar Publishing, 1420 (1999)

    (From Chapter 5: Hisham II)

    Understanding the systemic changes which began to take root in Hisham's time requires unpacking some of the foundational ills which plagued pre-modern al-Andalus in its nature as a society built on the forceful takeover of land from a population of a foreign religion.

    From its founding almost 300 years before Hisham, al-Andalus was a society ruled by a small number of Arabo-Andalusians, with Arabized Berbers serving as both allies and thorns in their side, with the bulk of the population initially being of non-Arab extraction. Paradoxically, while Berbers like Tariq ibn Ziyad carried most of the military burden in the conquest of al-Andalus from the Quti[1], the Umayyad governors of the region continued to treat them like second-class citizens even as they relied on them to keep in check a rebellious population unfond of Muslim rule.

    Inevitably, in 121[2], the Berbers revolted in al-Andalus and North Africa. The Iberian revolt was finally brought in line when an expedition of Syrians arrived, sparking off a period of infighting among the Andalusis as the Syrians clashed with the local governors. Order was eventually restored when a subsequent governor landed the remnants of the Syrian expedition in the form of junds - effectively military colonies.

    The landing of the junds proved to be a double-headed decision. The Syrian presence strengthened the hold of the Arabs on al-Andalus, especially in the southern regions along the Wadi al-Qabir[3] and along the coast of the great sea. However, it also created a class of landed tribes with their roots in geographic regions and genealogies outside of al-Andalus, with varying degrees of loyalty to the Emir, and later the Caliph. The jund system allowed these families enormous autonomy and an ability to operate without the sanction of the governor if they so chose. The decision that stabilized al-Andalus in the short run created a long-term destabilizing factor, because as much as there was always tension between the junds and the ruler, and even as subsequent rulers granted territory to new tribes, the rulers of al-Andalus nevertheless had to rely on these semi-autonomous tribes.

    Until the reign of Hisham II, trends in the Andalusian military scene had been towards revising that military model through the hiring of external armies - mercenaries and slave soldiers. The first Caliph of al-Andalus, Abd ar-Rahman III, in many ways started the trend of hiring in bands of Berbers and putting them on a monthly salary rather than giving them land. This policy was continued by Abd ar-Rahman's son and successor, al-Hakam II. Also popular were Saqaliba, slaves and freed slaves of eastern European origin. While there was some reluctance to utilize the Saqaliba as large armies given the trepidation of some towards massing slave soldiers in great numbers, Saqaliba like Ghalib al-Nasiri nevertheless distinguished themselves in al-Andalus as military leaders, and Berbers as regular troops.

    Had trends continued as they were, it would have been easy to envision a circumstance in which an aggressive leader committed fully to hiring a large army of personally loyal Berbers, draining the treasury and taxing the commons to pay for it. Of course the perils of this approach is obvious: A strong man may command the loyalty of the army, but what of when the strong man is no longer there?

    Particularly dangerous with Abd ar-Rahman and al-Hakam's reliance on hired Berbers was the place Berbers held in society. While much has been written of the comparative tolerance of the Islamic and Christian worlds of the era, the characterization of medieval al-Andaus as a beacon of egalitarianism is somewhat delusive and obscures the reality that the society was wracked by astonishingly regular small-scale revolts. In truth the polity rested on a distinct racial hierarchy, with Arabo-Andalusians at the top and Berbers occupying a role below the muwalladun[4], of which the Saqaliba were often considered a part. Berbers were often held in mistrust and treated poorly by society even at this point in Andalusi history, and many individuals who did cross from the Maghreb often found urban life in Córdoba or other cities difficult to reconcile with their more rigorist tendencies. The confluence of military strength with a societal grievance sets the conditions for a catastrophe.

    Hisham, however, benefited from the power struggle between his uncle and regent, al-Mughira, and the powerful master of the estates, Muhammad ibn Abi 'Amir. In particular what changed the trend in al-Andalus - and averted a massive professional army of Berbers from draining the treasury[5] - was that ibn Abi 'Amir was considered an ally of the Berbers. He had strong ties to many Berber tribes, to the point that he commanded the respect of more of them than al-Mughira.

    Among al-Mughira's key backers, meanwhile, were the Saqaliba and the old Arab families, including many of the jund tribes. It was on them whom Hisham and his regent thus came to rely. With al-Mughira's support lying where it did, the seeds were sown for the Saqaliba to begin taking on a greater role in Andalusian society. While still employing Berbers where possible, al-Mughira began to place Saqaliba in positions of greater authority, relying on them as his main commanders. He worked to strengthen Hisham's relationships with the junds as well, effectively strengthening that institution, at least for awhile.

    As before, Hisham and his regent continued to treat the Berbers by looking for those groups who could serve as strong allies while still acceding to Córdoba's wishes. Berber relations were always a fraught problem, though - and one which would become more worrying for the regent and the young Caliph as the Zenata chieftain, Ziri ibn Atiyya, launched his campaigns in the Maghreb in the 370s. Hisham and al-Mughira tacitly endorsed his conquests in the hopes of cultivating him as a client. But Ziri was an unpredictable man, and a Berber at a time when Berbers were held in some suspicion by the ruling caste in Córdoba. Al-Mughira apparently realized that Ziri could be either a strong ally, or a dangerous enemy.

    Largely, however, Hisham and al-Mughira kept the old power structure in place, though in Hisham's minority the young caliph struggled to make his power felt in the Northern Marches, where the Banu Tujibi held sway. The year 369 passed with little incident save the dispatching of another army to the north to clash with raiders out of Castile. Al-Mughira celebrated the minor raid with significant pomp, making a point of welcoming his troops - mostly junds and Saqaliba - with a ceremony in which he rewarded them for each Christian head delivered back to the palace in Córdoba.

    In 370[6], however, the peace along the northwestern border was shaken by civil war from outside of Andalus. Reaching his majority a couple of years prior, the Leonese king, Ramiro III, evidently feeling secure in both his peace treaty with the Caliph and the taming of Viking raids along the Galician coast, moved to increase the monarchical power at the expense of the nobility. This ill-advised move was predictably challenged by partisans of one of his cousins, who in late 370 was crowned King Bermudo II of Galicia in a ceremony in the sacred chapel of Santiago de Compostela.[7] The coronation in many ways dovetailed from decades of succession crises in northwestern Iberia, but immediately set the two cousins at each other's throats.

    With his position precarious relative to Ramiro's, Bermudo sought the aid of the semi-independent junds along the border, and indeed a number of Berbers nominally under the vassalage of the Caliph aided Bermudo's cause in the early months of the war. An incensed Ramiro, struggling both to wage war and to raise his new son, Ordono, appealed to the Caliph to aid him in holding on to his crown. Hisham II evidently declined to send troops, but it's known that he and al-Mughira traveled to Badajoz to meet with the local leaders there, arriving with a certain amount of ceremony.

    The meeting proved only modestly effectual; Berbers continued to appear sporadically among Bermudo's forces, allowing the Galician faction to make some headway in the conflict's early months before it ground down to a stalemate. As the year dragged on, Hisham, now close to the age of majority, issued a proclamation recognizing Ramiro as the King of Leon, but consented only to send a few light raids to harry Galicia's borders along with the regular seasonal runs against Pamplona and Castile.

    Evidently al-Mughira's hope was that the conflict between Leon and Galicia would exhaust the northwestern polities, and only them would Córdoba send her men north to restore order, ensuring that Leon would remain a weak, squabbling tributary. His vision seems to have favoured a divided, neutered Christian world with petty kinglets too weak and fractious to challenge the Caliphate. However, he was opposed by a faction at the court, among them the influential ibn Abi 'Amir, his perennial rival. Ibn Abi 'Amir favoured aggressively pressing the jihad against Galicia and Leon and is said to have even proposed pressing north to attack the Galician core in Santiago de Compostela. Al-Mughira brushed that strategy off, fearing it would galvanize the Leonese against Hisham's rule and shatter the prospects for a peaceful entente with what was then the largest Christian kingdom north of the Duero.

    This rejection rankled ibn Abi 'Amir, who - for all that he was in the minority at court - retained one key advantage: The favour of Subh, Hisham's mother. While discontent with al-Mughira's elevation to hajib over ibn Abi 'Amir, who was likely her lover, Subh had held her tongue and given the situation a chance for the first few years or so. But as war raged in Leon and the Maghreb, ibn Abi 'Amir turned to Subh.

    Histories from the time tell us that the seed of the Coup of 371 was sown as Hisham drew near to the age of 18, when Subh asked him to remove al-Mughira as hajib and replace him instead with ibn Abi 'Amir.

    [1] The Goths - namely the Visigoths.
    [2] AD 739 or so - about 230 years before the POD.
    [3] The River Guadalquivir.
    [4] Muslims of local descent, or of mixed Arab, Berber and Iberian ethnicity. They make up the majority in al-Andalus. This is distinct from the Mozarabs - that is, semi-Arabized Christians.
    [5] Effectively what happened OTL. Almanzor achieved enormous military success and expanded Córdoba's borders, but the price of it was that he over-taxed the junds and didn't bother raising levies off of them. You ended up with a societal divide: A professional army of rigorist Berber tribes held in check by Almanzor's money, and an unmilitarized commons being taxed to death to give Almanzor enough money to pay the Berbers. Guess how that turned out when people less competent than Almanzor came into power. Lookin' at you, Sanchuelo.
    [6] AD 981.
    [7] OTL this happened a year later, but the timetable gets bumped a bit because there's no real unifying factor of an aggressive Muslim world taking Zamora to prevent internal factions from jumping on an unsuspecting Ramiro.

    981: In Galicia, Bermudo II is crowned King in opposition to his cousin, Ramiro III of Leon. Civil war breaks out in Leon. Berbers out of Badajoz provide the Galicians with some extra muscle. Officially, Córdoban Caliph Hisham II continues to recognize Ramiro as the rightful king and sends some token raiders north to show his power, but on the advice of al-Mughira he sits back and allows Leon to damage itself with a destructive civil war.
    981: Subh, mother of Hisham II, urges him to replace al-Mughira as his regent with his rival and her favourite, Muhammad ibn Abi Aamir.
    ACT I Part VI: The Coup of 982
  • Secret conspiracy is the devil's idea, through which he seeks to hurt those who believed. However, he cannot hurt them against God's will. In God the believers shall trust.

    - Quran 58:10


    Excerpt: The Rise and the Fall of the Mohammedan Caliphs of al-Andalus - Muhallab ibn Jalil al-Dani, AH 1056 (AD 1646)

    Now it came to pass, as the Christians of Leon and those of Galicia crossed their swords in battle to determine the supremacy of the crowns of the north-west, that the caliph Hisham al-Mu'ayyad neared an age where he was deemed prepared to set aside his regency, and to stand alone in the robes of the caliph. As the boy's adulthood drew near, ibn Abi Aamir, whose ambition buned within him as undying embers, appealed to his lover Sobha, the umm al-walad, to prevail upon her son to change the status quo, that the caliph should set aside his uncle al-Mughira from the role of hajib, and choose instead ibn Abi Aamir.

    Long had Sobha been enflamed at the setting aside of ibn Abi Aamir from the guidance of her son, for she loved ibn Abi Aamir deeply, and believed greatly in his wisdom and vigour. Thus it was in the year 371 that the umm al-walad approached her son and said unto him, "Surely you as the caliph and the defender of the faith, can see the righteousness of the pursuit of the jihad against the infidel! By God, will your uncle al-Mughira spurn the will of the almighty one? Will you not set him aside and choose instead ibn Abi Aamir, and in so doing bring greatness to your name?"

    But Hisham, wisened and given to scholarship by his years of education, spake unto her, saying, "By God, mother! While I hail the goodness of ibn Abi Aamir and the glory of his deeds, would you have me spurn the honour shown to me by my uncle, and the wisdom he has shown me these years? I could no sooner cast him aside than cast the very limbs aside from my body." For while once Hisham had admired ibn Abi Aamir, the years had placed divisions between them, and where Hisham had come to love the study of the ancient sciences, such was anathema to ibn Abi Aamir, and his ambitions had been called to his mind by al-Mughira, who had sought to guard Hisham against his foe's ambition.

    Informed by Sobha of this turning of events, and wroth in his rebuff, ibn Abi Aamir conspired with his allies, the Banu Birzal and his own sons, themselves still younger men, to replace al-Mughira in his office, and to impress upon the caliph their way of rule. For while most in the court supported al-Mughira, the turning of Hisham to adulthood raised the expectation that he would set aside his regency, and some wondered if al-Mughira would be set aside with such ease.

    To turn to this means of achieving the removal of al-Mughira was of no light undertaking for ibn Abi Aamir, for he was not of his nature a man given to duplicity. And yet he believed strongly that, for whatever his virtues might be, Hisham was a man in need of strong guidance, and not in his nature ruthless enough to administer the caliphate with a strong enough hand. Nor, he thought, was al-Mughira suited to guide him in what must needs be done, for he too was a judicious man, and in ibn Abi Aamir's eyes, too hesitant to visit the jihad upon the Christian, or to vigorously condemn the Mu'tazilite. So driven by his own ambition was he that he could not conceive of al-Mughira not being just as he was, and it could not have occurred to him that al-Mughira might not be scheming to set Hisham aside, for ibn Abi Aamir felt such was inevitable, and that acting to remove the regent was an act in defense of the caliph.

    It was therefore on the fourth day of Dhu'l-Qa'dah, 371[1] that with the purchase of the loyalty of two of the palace guards, a band of Berbers, all loyal to ibn Abi Aamir, slipped into the Madinat az-Zahra[2] in the dead of night, and with blades at the ready began to approach the resting-place of al-Mughira.

    And yet ibn Abi Aamir could not have known that as he schemed to betray al-Mughira to the blades of his allies, that so too were those in his confidence betraying him.

    Among the conspirators were the sons of ibn Abi Aamir, the eldest and the favourite Abd al-Malik, and the younger Abdallah, still not yet fully a man but full of ambition. It is said that ibn Abi Aamir favoured greatly Abd al-Malik, for whom he believed to be the wiser and the more capable of his blood, to the exclusion of Abdallah. But as is so often the case it was the younger son who coveted the inheritance of the father, and moreover he had dwelled on the Northern Marches for a time and encountered al-Mughira and Hisham during their visits to the halls of the Banu Tujibi, and been convinced there that he was wiser and better than his brother, and that a bright future lay in store for him.[3]

    Thus it was that even before the Berber men, the conspirators, entered the halls of Medina Azahara, the youth Abdallah ibn Muhammad had gone privily to the chambers of Hisham, with dire warning that the attack would come. The conspirators found al-Mughira's chambers unguarded, and burst inside to find the bedchamber empty, before a detachment of the saqaliba arrived and smote them with swords, and slew two of them, taking as prisoner two more.

    Anticipating the success of his conspirators in removing al-Mughira, ibn Abi Aamir being none the wiser yet of the failure of his scheme, prepared with his loyal men to take Hisham into custody, on the pretense of protecting the Caliph's person from the usurpation of the royal power. And yet as he mustered a small band of the Banu Birzal at his home, he found a band of the royal guard marching instead to detain him. Battle erupted at the home of ibn Abi Aamir, and many of the Berbers fell, while ibn Abi Aamir fled on the back of a horse, pursued hotly by the royal guard as he fled into the wilds. Among those captured was Abd al-Malik, the son of ibn Abi Aamir.

    As the dawn came, and ibn Abi Aamir fled the city, al-Mughira and Hisham returned from seclusion with the youthful Abdallah the son of ibn Abi Aamir among their retinue, and announced to the court the foiling of a coup. In the following days, Abd al-Malik the son of ibn Abi Aamir was put to death as a traitor, and his head displayed for all the city to behold, and the Banu Birzal were driven from the city and exiled from the sight of the caliph.

    Secure now in his position, al-Mughira acceded to the will of the old families. He soon proclaimed the end of the regency, and he stood aside to stand only as hajib, and relinquished all stewardship of the caliphal authority. Now a man, Hisham II assumed the full exercise of his power, affirming al-Mughira as his continued hajib, and filling the offices around him with his kin of the Banu Umayya, and others of the old families. The line of the Banu Umayya continued without interruption, the caliphal power no longer in danger of usurpation, and the name of al-Mughira is remembered even today, for the good Protector of the caliph guided him from an unready boy into a man who would face the challenges of the years ahead with, if not strength, then at least competence.

    His name tarnished at the court by his failure, and by the betrayal of his plot by his own blood, ibn Abi Aamir fled north, and crossed the Douro to seek refuge in the court of his old nemesis, Garcia Fernandez the Count of Castile. With word brought back to Córdoba that ibn Abi Aamir dwelled in seclusion at the Count's court, Hisham sent word to the Castilian demanding that the conspirator be returned to Córdoba to face justice. The letter met with no answer, and ibn Abi Aamir dwelled, plotting his revenge.[4]

    [1] May 1, 982.
    [2] Medina Azahara, the caliphal palace just outside Córdoba.
    [3] We're not sure of the exact ages of Almanzor's kids but OTL, Abdallah stayed with the Tujibids and was involved in an abortive plot a few years after Almanzor took power. OTL he was caught and died for his trouble, and Abd al-Malik went on to become al-Muzaffar, Almanzor's successor as hajib. Just based on math, Abdallah is likely under 18 here - guesstimating around 16 or 17 based on the fact that Almanzor is 44 in 982 - but still with the spurned-little-brother syndrome he carried with him OTL. Also, on the butterflies front: Sanchuelo obviously is never born, much to the relief of all.
    [4] Six years after the POD, we've thus far averted Almanzor. Still alive, though.

    982: The Coup of 982 (371). As Caliph Hisham II nears his eighteenth birthday, conspirators led by Muhammad ibn Abi Aamir attempt murder his regent, al-Mughira, and seize the caliph's person under the fear that al-Mughira would usurp the Caliphate. The conspiracy fails when ibn Abi Aamir's teenaged son Abdallah betrays him to al-Mughira. Several Berber conspirators are killed along with ibn Abi Aamir's son Abd al-Malik. Ibn Abi Aamir flees to the court of Count Garcia Fernandez of Castile.
    982: Caliph Hisham II reaches his majority. The regency of al-Mughira ends. He continues to advise Hisham as hajib.
    ACT I Part VII: Hisham's Majority
  • "What happened to ibn Abi Aamir? And why is Hisham so important if he's supposed to be just an average caliph?"

    At the head of the classroom, Dr. Hasan Mirza smiled behind the short crop of his beard, blue eyes finding the young student tucked away in the back of the crescent-shaped rows of seats. He deftly flicked the green indicator of his lumicator[1] towards the lit screen behind him, towards the list of text there. "Very well," the genial historian said with a nod. "A fair question.

    "We can ascribe Hisham's importance to some of the events which took place in his lifetime," Dr. Mirza explained. "True, there were greater caliphs - we've just finished discussing Abd ar-Rahman the Third, for instance. But you don't have to be a paragon of piety or even virtue to be of great importance to history. And in Hisham's life, many things happened which would set the stage for what would happen after he was gone."

    "Like al-Muntasir?" the student asked.

    Mirza just smiled. Reaching for the podium to his left, he picked up the object resting there - a hardbacked tome with writing embossed across its cover and spine. He held it up, evoking the predictable low groans from the assembled students as the thickness of it became apparent to them.

    The professor merely smiled that pleasant smile. "Don't worry. This one's not as dry as some of the others. But as we tell the story of Hisham and al-Muntasir, we're going to be hearing a lot from the man who wrote this book - and his name was Joseph."


    Excerpt: The Palm of the Distant West Nurtured in the Soils of al-Andalus - Joseph ibn Abram al-Qadisi, AH 442 (AD 1059)*

    Note from Dr. Mirza: Joseph ibn Abram, a Jewish historian and merchant from the city of Qadis, lived from AH 377 to 452 - the years 987 to 1060 in the Christian reckoning - and traveled regularly to Córdoba, including to the Caliphal court. His Palm of the West represents one of the most complete preserved histories of medieval Andalus. He is widely considered the best primary source on the reign of Caliph Hisham II and events subsequent to his life.

    Chapter 2
    The Reign and Manhood of Hisham II al-Mu'ayyad
    And the Travails of a Peaceful Caliph

    At the age of eighteen, Hisham II al-Mu'ayyad fully assumed the caliphal power, and his regent and uncle al-Mughira the hajib stepped aside from his regency, to leave his nephew fully grasping the reins of al-Andalus.

    To further your understanding of the circumstances of Hisham's reign, presumptuous though it may be to assume that this tome may survive long past its penning, one must digress here to a brief elucidation of the surrounds of the Andalus, and of the states of the nations upon whose borders Hisham's realm sprawled. Of course these circumstances shall change greatly as our history plays onwards, for while the reign of al-Mu'ayyad was in many ways a time of prosperity for the Córdoban polity, compared to the calamities to come, the Christian and the Berber experienced many an upheaval, as is often their tendency in this age.

    The dawn of Hisham II's adulthood saw the limits of the caliphal power stretch into an area vaguely bounded in the north by the river called the Douro, though in fact the border was no firm border, and much of this area was thinly-peopled, and subject often to raids by both the Muslim and the Christian.

    To the north of this border, in the year 371,[2] the greatest of the kingdoms was that called Léon. As of this year it was ruled by Ramiro III, son of the ill-fated Sancho the Fat, who had been poisoned and passed the crown to his child in his mere infancy. Now Ramiro was a man of perhaps twenty and one years, who held an agreement of peace with Hisham II, though it was in effect an agreement of submission, for Ramiro's kingdom lacked the power to challenge the caliphal authority. And yet in his ambition he sought to institute the absolute power for himself, and in so doing provoked the challenge of his cousin Bermudo II, who crowned himself the King of Galicia, in the northwestern reaches of the land. It is with the two cousins at war with themselves that Hisham II became a man.

    To the easternmost reach of Léon lay another land nominally subject to the crown of Ramiro, that being the County called Castile. At this time the land was ruled by a man in his fortieth decade, named Garcia son of Fernan, and he acknowledged Ramiro as his suzerain although in truth he ruled in effect as a sovereign with enormous autonomy. Perhaps ten and two years he had reigned at the time Hisham rose to his throne. As Ramiro and Bermudo warred in the west, Garcia Fernandez the old rival of many in the Córdoban court sought to increase his demesne and power, and he sent men regularly against the borders to test the Caliphal power, and to seek for himself greater land and glory.

    Easternmore still lay a kingdom in its own right, that of Pamplona, a mountain redoubt of a sort. Perhaps six years before the death of al-Hakam II al-Mustansir was the land of Pamplona ruled by King Sancho II Abarca the son of Garcia, a man who had seen some strife in his time, for in 364[3] he was seized in battle and taken prisoner at the battle of Estercuel, where the warrior al-Tuyibi routed the forces of himself and the Castilian as well as the Vigueran, of whom we shall speak shortly. Though ransomed back to his kingdom and continuing to send raiders, Sancho, understanding that by force of arms he could not defeat the Muslim, watched Hisham's emergence into manhood in the hopes of achieving an entente.

    The youngest of the crowns at this time was that of Viguera,[4] that crown created some six years before the death of al-Hakam II by the decree of Garcia father of Sancho II of Pamplona, and granted to Ramiro the eldest son of his second marriage as he split his realm among his children. The land they held lay somewhat southerly of Pamplona herself, and once was the land held by the tribe of the Banu Qasi. At this time the crown was newly held by Sancho the eldest son of the founding king Ramiro, and the kingdom remained in close kinship with Pamplona, though this was not always to be so.

    Finally in the east, in the lands of the Marches of Catalunya where the Pyrenees flow to the Mediterranean rim, lay the Counties of the Spanish March. The counts of this rich land owed allegiance in name to the King of the Western Franks, at the time Lothair of the bloodline of Charles the Great, though in truth the distance between the Frankish throne and the March was broad, and the people of Catalunya were greatly independent in their ways. At this time the most powerful of the landowners here was Borrell II of the County called Barcelona, a man known for his patronage of the arts, and well-respected, for though he was no great warrior, he had travelled now and then to the lands of al-Andalus even with churchmen of some station to study the sciences known to the Muslims but strange to the Christian.

    We have thus delineated the state of things among the Christian polities, and turn thus to the south of al-Andalus, to the land called the Maghreb, where the remnants of the descendants of Idriss[5] clung to what scant power they had even as the ever-fractious Berbers battled amongst themselves. Strongest at this point was the rising power that was Ziri ibn Atiyya, the king of the Zenata tribe, who by now had begun to gain significant territory unto himself. While Hisham and his advisor al-Mughira sought to curry the favour of Ziri, the Berber chieftain viewed them with something of a skeptical eye, though he did not oppose them.

    Eastward still of them lay the lands of the Sanhaja Berbers, and further east the horn of Ifriqiya, where lay the city of Tunis. That city once being the seat of the strong power, the ad-Dawlah al-Fatimiyyah[6], it was handed to another tribe when the Shia caliph, styled in short al-Mu'izz, chose to move his seat instead to the metropolis of Cairo, and left Tunis instead in the hands of Buluqqin ibn Ziri, also a Shia, of the Sanhaja Berbers. The Zirid clan thus established, and seeking to entrench themselves within Ifriqiya, ibn Ziri sought to place the western lands near Tunis under his firm control. Impairing him in his actions was the loss of the treasury of the ad-Dawlah al-Fatimiyyah, which had been taken to Egypt with the caliphal seat. To leap across the channel of the Mediterranean lies, further, the island called Sicily by the Christian, now that lonely emirate of the descendants of al-Hasan al-Kalbi, though the departure of the navy of the Shia caliph placed this land in some jeopardy, seated as it was off the "toe" of lands shared by the Romans[7] and some other duchies.

    Thus is the world into which Hisham II emerged as a man at the end of his regency, with his most immediate foreign concerns the civil war in Léon, and the flight of the conspirator Muhammad ibn Abi Aamir into the arms of Garcia Fernandez the Count of Castile. And yet the fist visitor was in fact Sancho II of Pamplona, whose raiding parties had been routed fully by the caliphal forces, culminating the year prior in their defeat at Riaza in the shadow of Medinaceli, once the seat of Ghalib al-Nasiri.

    Acknowledging that he could not crush the Muslim power, Sancho traveled to Córdoba with some small retinue, and there presented himself in audience to Hisham, and made some submission to him, that the caliph should consent to a pact of peace with him. Hisham received him in the full regalia, and welcomed the overtures of the Pamplonan. As demonstration to the court of his power over Sancho's kingdom, he took as concubine his daughter Urraca[8], and agreed that there should be peace provided the northern monarch should continue to submit to the caliph, and that should his submission cease, that the jihad should be visited upon the infidel in earnest.

    It was late that year, that Asma the first bride of Hisham came to flower with child, and soon the next year bore the young caliph a boy-child. This dark-haired boy pleased the young Hisham, then perhaps 19, who named the child Abd ar-Rahman in honour of his grandfather. The line of the caliphs was thus ensured for the moment, and an heir at the ready for the young man.[9]

    [1] A laser pointer.
    [2] 982.
    [3] 975.
    [4] OTL, the Kingdom of Viguera was a footnote in history and gone within 50 to 60 years of its creation. How long does it last ITTL? Don't touch that dial.
    [5] The Idrisids.
    [6] The Fatimid Caliphate.
    [7] The Eastern Roman Empire, which holds Calabria and Apulia around this time. There is a sporadic Muslim presence in Reggio but most of the area owes its allegiance to the Basileus.
    [8] OTL, Urraca was given to Almanzor around 981 - a year earlier than here. The union resulted in Sanchuelo, who would go on to attempt to force Hisham to name him his successor. If Almanzor damaged the Caliphate of Córdoba irrevocably, Sanchuelo is the man who took the wrecking ball to it for good.
    [9] Re. Zireael: Hisham's love of men has been noted previously. He'll go on to have both a male and a female harem.

    982: Sancho II Abarca, King of Navarre, gives his daughter Urraca to Caliph Hisham II as part of a peace deal, effectively acknowledging his inability to trump the Caliphate of Córdoba militarily.
    983: Abd ar-Rahman ibn Hisham II is born.
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    ACT I Part VIII: Civil War in Leon
  • Excerpt: The Palm of the Distant West Nurtured in the Soils of al-Andalus - Joseph ibn Abram al-Qadisi, AH 442 (AD 1059)*

    Taking into his harem the daughter of Sancho II the Pamplonan monarch, Hisham bestowed upon her the name of Buhayr, and grew fond of her to some degree.

    It was also about this time, that Hisham began to take for himself the first members of a harem of young men, favouring to an extent men of Sclavonian countenance, for though many of the Saqaliba of the palace were eunuchs, the unmanning was hardly a constant for their kind. (Here it must be admitted the oft-spoken-of fondness of the men of the Banu Umayya for blondes, as befit their own countenance, for Hisham himself was fair-haired and blue-eyed as had been his father and his father's father, and their preferences tracked much the same way, to the degree that the masculine harem of Hisham would come to be almost exclusively of blonde men.)[1]

    Now as it happened, in the north the conflict between the two cousins, Ramiro III of Leon and Bermudo II the so-crowned King of Galicia, had raged for the better part of a year, and further on still, until again Ramiro, in sensing the desperation of his circumstance, once more appealed to the caliph to intervene, and mediate in the dispute. After consulting over the letter of Ramiro with al-Mughira the hajib, Hisham ultimately issued another declaration recognizing Ramiro as the rightful King of Leon, and urging Bermudo to come to terms with him.

    In truth the goal of Hisham and al-Mughira was to divide Leon, and render it as a series of shattered fragments, each in and of itself too weak to challenge the power of Islam in Andalusia. Only in 374[2] did the issue begin to break, as the forces of Galicia neared the city of Leon, when Ramiro fled his kingdom and rode to Córdoba, throwing himself upon the mercy of Hisham and pleading for his protection.

    Showing some mercy to the broken king, Hisham finally consented to send al-Mughira northward, drawing upon the junds to draft a force sufficient to rout the Galician. The forces of the hajib marched past the Douro, and turned north to Leon, where word came of the armies of Bermudo encamped outside Astorga, soon to march upon Leon. With haste al-Mughira marshaled his men northward.

    Now as the Galician forces broke camp, they encountered the army of al-Mughira near the stream called Obrigo. Cunningly did al-Mughira move to cut off Bermudo's forces on the opposite side of the stream, and met them with a storm of arrows, and the Christians were slow to answer despite their fatalities, for the stream lay between the opposing armies. When finally the forces of Bermudo mustered to cross the Obrigo they had suffered some attrition, and the horsemen of al-Andalus proved the superior to Bermudo's forces, already exhausted and demoralized from the hard fighting, and unable to match a fresh army with an advantage of terrain. Thus it was that the Battle of the Obrigo proved a victory for the caliphal forces, and the army of Galicia began its retreat, as al-Mughira dispatched after them some forces to break the garrison of Astorga.

    As the summertime wound to cooler months, and Bermudo no doubt sensing the precariousness of his position with the caliph prepared to support the independence of Leon, the Galician monarch agreed to come to Córdoba and submit to the mediation of Hisham. The young caliph ushered the Christian monarchs together, and in recognition of the zeal of Bermudo's support, received from Ramiro the agreement to acknowledge Bermudo as sovereign, and from Bermudo the agreement to acknowledge Ramiro's kingship as true. To both kings he extended the peace agreement al-Hakam had generously offered their forebears, with the caveat that any action against the caliphal power would be met with the end of the peace, and the punishment of the offender by force of arms.

    Thus it was on the twentieth day of Jamada al'Ula of 374[3] that Ramiro and Bermudo rode home in submission to the caliph, one as King of Leon and the other as King of Galicia, the realm split between them. The strong power of the north had been divided unto itself, and Leon itself still grappled with the de facto independence of Garcia Fernandez the Castilian.

    As the cooler months approached, further news trickled into Cordoba, this time from the north. Messengers brought word of the death of Lothair, the King of the Western Franks, and the passage of the throne to his son, the fifth to bear the name of Louis.[4] Now the new king was a young man, perhaps of eighteen years, and was reputed to live a debauched and dissolate lifestyle even in his tender years, much to the consternation of his bride Adelaide-Blanche, a woman who had passed her fortieth year some years prior, and who was said to hold the king in the greatest contempt. In the Marches of Catalunya the counts there were slow to acknowledge the young king.

    Now not all was a matter of war at the Madinat az-Zahra, for Hisham by his nature was a peaceful man given to scholarship and pursuits of the art. He took to lavishing some patronage upon poets and painters, and he attracted to his court artisans of all stripes, even among them the Jew and the Christian, those who lived in al-Andalus as dhimmi. Among those invited were two Jewish brothers, Jacob ibn Jau and his brother Joseph, who approached Hisham the year after the battles in Leon, and presented the caliph and the hajib with garments of precious silks, and flags woven with Arabic writings, the likes of which had never before been beheld at the court. Upon receipt of the precious weavings, Hisham is said to have cried out, "By God! Such sublime skill could only be a divine gift!" From that day onward was Jacob ensconced at court as the master of the royal wardrobe, and later to become one of the great liaisons of Hisham to the community of the Jews.[5]

    As the year turned, word came north of a break in the campaigning of the Zirids of Ifriqiya to place more of the Maghreb under their control, with the death of the governor Buluqqin ibn Ziri, the rule passing then to his son al-Mansur. Warfare continued between the Zirids and the Berbers supported by the caliph in the area, with the Shia governor slowly realizing he was unable to press his interests towards Fes or Sijilmasa. These men of the Sanhaja Berber tribe clashed often with the Zenata tribe of Ziri ibn Atiya, who had by now captured Fes and moved onwards to the coast. The men of the caliph watched all this from the strongholds of Ceuta and Tangier, with some worry, for despite positive overtures between the caliph and the Berber, there was some doubt in the reliability of Ziri, who seemed to hold little respect for Hisham, or for al-Mughira.

    Thus it was that the early years of Hisham's reign saw the Saqaliba begin to be purchased in greater numbers than before, for the unreliable nature of the Zenata and the association of the Banu Birzal with ibn Abi Aamir provided some worry about continuing to hire them in as mercenaries.

    Now the typical Saqlab soldier was purchased as a youngster, as a mere child imported from the lands far to the east, some from the lands on the fringe of the Romans and many from the cold lands of the pagans even further beyond. Brought into the court as youths, they were educated in the ways of Islam, and of battle, and trained from childhood as warriors. Surely there were never many of them, for it is prudent not to place too many slaves together with weapons. It must however be said that the slavery of the warrior Saqaliba was of a different sort than those purchased as eunuchs at the palace, for while an ordinary slave would never be given the consent to bear a weapon or march into battle, so were the Saqaliba warriors permitted to do so. These men would gradually grow in prominence in years subsequent, some eventually to be renowned to a degree for their prowess and nobility.[6]

    [1] Believe it or not, this is historical - the Umayyads apparently really liked blondes.
    [2] 984.
    [3] October 19, 984.
    [4] OTL, Lothair died suddenly in 986. Here he dies somewhat earlier thanks to butterflies, while Louis V is still married to a 40-year-old Adelaide-Blanche of Anjou, who hates him.
    [5] Jacob ibn Jau was a real guy and his story here is much the same as it was with Almanzor, save that Hisham gives him a "make my clothes" role while Almanzor used him to collect taxes and appoint rabbis and judges in al-Andalus's jewish community.
    [6] Incidentally, here's another change from OTL: Where Almanzor relied on Berbers to the exclusion of all else, here Hisham and al-Mughira favour the Saqaliba, who will come to fill a societal role in al-Andalus analogous to the Mamluks, in combination with a regular army drawn from the jund system. Slowly we're seeing the seeds sown for an al-Andalus which can eventually draw a native-strength military, while also adding an elite military class with more in common with regular Andalusis than the Berbers had (most Berbers brought in were tribal warriors who didn't speak Andalusian Arabic and didn't like city life).

    984: The Battle of the Obrigo. As the Caliphate of Córdoba intervenes in the Leonese civil war on King Ramiro III's behalf, an army led by hajib al-Mughira defeats a Galician host by forcing them to charge into the Muslim lines across a stream.
    984: Caliph Hisham II brokers peace between Ramiro III of Leon and Bermudo II of Galicia, acknowledging the claims of both as valid. Galicia becomes independent of Leon.
    984: Lothair, King of West Francia, dies suddenly. His son Louis V becomes King of West Francia.
    985: In Mahdia, Buluqqin ibn Ziri is succeeded by hs son al-Mansur, who continues to war intermittently with the Berbers.
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    ACT I Part IX: Ziri ibn Atiya
  • Excerpt: The Palm of the Distant West Nurtured in the Soils of al-Andalus - Joseph ibn Abram al-Qadisi, AH 442 (AD 1059)*

    Now the days of Hisham largely being peaceful ones, with the monarchs of Leon and Galicia and that of Pamplona given to acknowledgment of the supremacy of the caliph in the region, the periodic missions to the north came to be directed mainly against the Castilian, Garcia Fernandez, and against the Vigueran and occasionally the Frank, small though this kingdom was. Perhaps once per summer did the men of Córdoba ride into the mountainous north to cross their blades with the Christian, always returning having issued some small chastening upon them, though in truth these raids achieved little save to test the mettle of those Christians who did not acknowledge the caliph's dominance. For the most part the angers of the Christians were directed against one another. Despite the guarantee of peace, the relations between Ramiro of Leon and Bermudo of Galicia were fraught and most bitter, and in the northeast, the Vigueran Sancho looked with some disfavour upon the submission of his counterpart in Pamplona, and chafed at the restriction of peace, submissive though his tiny kingdom was to the larger.

    Yet it was in the north of Africa, there that the greatest change lay. As quiet years passed in Córdoba, such was not so in the Maghreb, where some events occurred which stirred the attentions of the caliph. So it was in the year 375[1] that one of the Idrisites, one al-Hasan ibn Kanun, had taken possession of the city of al-Basra, and there swore his allegiance to the caliph of the followers of Ali.[2] Anxious to see the treacherous Idrisite removed from the land, Hisham did send entreaty to the chief of the Zenata, Ziri ibn Atiya, and sought to test his willingness to remove this obstacle.

    Himself in the midst of his conquests, Ziri sent word to Hisham cautiously, and agreed to dispatch some tribes to meet up with an army of Córdoba, this under a siqlabi commander named Wadih, a young man but of some skill. These armies met in the north along the coast and turned east to march to al-Basrah, and encircled it, and there forced the submission of the Idrisite, and defeated his followers and took many into their custody. And yet it was that the siqlabi and the Berber looked at each other askance, and marched at some distance from each other, for it was said among some of the Berbers that Hisham was a young and decadent man, and that his ways were unlike theirs.

    Defeated in spite of these divisions in the ranks of the besiegers, ibn Kanun was taken in chains to Córdoba, and presented to Hisham. The young caliph, then gave to the Idrisite his mercy, and retired him to an estate on the outskirts of the city, there to live out his days in peace, but never to leave those grounds or scheme against the caliphal authority, lest he be put to death.

    The battle had sown in Hisham and al-Mughira the sense that Ziri could be a useful force for them, though a mercurial one, given to mistrust of the caliphal authority. Thus it was that the pair watched closely as the years passed, until in 377[3] Ziri had bested the rebellious men among the Zenata in the name of his own tribe, the Meghrawa, and established for himself a court at the city of Fes.

    This consolidation of the Meghrawa over the Maghreb stymied in some part the ambitions of the ruler of Ifriqiya named al-Mansur ibn Buluqqin, himself of the Sanhaja tribe, the old enemies of the Zenata. Though his men and the forces loyal to ibn Atiyya had crossed blades often, it had become apparent to the Ifriqiyan that he could not press his efforts westwards to claim Fes or Sijilmassa, and his limit instead was to duel with some of the restive remnants of the Kutama.[4] The region between al-Mansur's seat at Kairouan and the dominions of the Zenata was placed by al-Mansur under the governance of Hammad his brother.

    Meanwhile, in Córdoba, Hisham sent word to Fes, and sought audience with Ziri ibn Atiya, inviting the Berber to the great city. In the following year did Ziri agree to the meeting, and arrived in Córdoba with significant pomp. It is said that Ziri rode into the city carried by 500 slaves, in a column of 500 of the fleetest horses, with one thousand shield-bearers, and twenty and five elephants bedecked in fine woolen cloth and silks, as well as rhinoceroses and tigers bedecked in similar, but that he styled himself emir, brought only a token gift for Hisham, and merely put on airs to demonstrate that he was no weak servant, but a man of strength in his own right, with great conquests to his name. While the demonstration left the burgers of Córdoba in some awe, and he was received with courtesy and great honour and ceremony by Hisham, who called him friend and sanctioned him as the lord of the Maghreb, rather more frosty was his rapport with the hijab, al-Mughira, at whom he could scarcely deign to glance without a sneer.

    When Ziri ultimately returned home, al-Mughira prevailed upon Hisham, and advised him that the Maghrawa chief could be a valuable ally, but one with his own ambitions, which would not always be those of the Banu Umayya. Furthermore, the ostentatious display of Ziri, placing himself on so great a pedestal even before the caliph, had rankled al-Mughira. Thus Hisham, while hailing Ziri as the ruler of the Maghreb, and supporting him in his endeavours, kept closer in his confidence the Saqaliba, and continued to train some number of them as soldiers, to carry out his will loyally.[5]

    In the ensuing years, Ziri and his followers bent their will upon the lords of Ifriqiya in the central Maghreb, with the intent of seizing that land for their own. This warring ensured that the lands of Córdoba itself were not infringed upon by the servants of the Fatimite, and that things were mostly secure.

    Hisham's reign is spoken of as a time of poetry and art, though there were some interruptions to the period of serenity, as is the nature of these things. About two years subsequent to the visit of Ziri, some of the Berbers settled along the frontier, wroth at the perception that they were falling out of favour at the court, rose up in arms to demand satisfaction, and were quelled with some fuss by forces raised from Córdoba.[6]

    [1] AD 985
    [2] The Fatimids.
    [3] 987.
    [4] As opposed to those who left for Egypt as the Fatimids' military muscle.
    [5] Ziri was a problem for Almanzor, too - eventually he backed out on his fealty to Almanzor and recognized the by-then-secluded Hisham, prompting Almanzor to send troops and smack him around. Here the relationship is a bit different: Ziri is unquestionably the big fish in the Maghreb, while al-Mughira views him as a useful but dangerous tool who should be handled with care.
    [6] We'll likely be taking it a few more years at a time at this point until we get to EVENTFUL THINGS. Hisham's reign has so far been a state of quiet transition; the big foundational events begin to set in later in his life, as his kids begin to come into the world. Averting Almanzor has, at least, bought al-Andalus a few more decades of relative calm.

    985: Córdoban forces reduce al-Basra in the Maghreb and capture the rebellious Idrisid, ibn Kanun. He is shown mercy by Caliph Hisham II and sent to live out his days under house arrest.
    987: Ziri ibn Atiya, ruler of the Maghrawa tribal confederacy, establishes his court at Fes. The Maghrawa largely embroil themselves in a series of skirmishes with the Zirids of Tunisia and Algeria, not really achieving much on either side.
    988: Ziri ibn Atiya visits Córdoba. He styles himself an emir and attempts to impress Caliph Hisham II with a show of power and wealth, mostly serving to remind Hisham's hajib that Ziri is a potentially dangerous ally. Hisham nevertheless affirms Ziri's rule of the Maghreb with his sanction.
    ACT I Part X: Hisham the Builder
  • Excerpt: The Palm of the Distant West Nurtured in the Soils of al-Andalus - Joseph ibn Abram al-Qadisi, AH 442 (AD 1059)*

    Now in his day, Hisham's father, the great al-Hakam al-Mustansir, had bought for the land the peace that his predecessor Abd ar-Rahman al-Nasir had strived mightily for, and in this respect Hisham sought to continue that peace and prosperity. Aside from the the unrest among the Berbers and the ever-present grumblings of the muwalladun and the dhimmi, and the campaign against the Castilian menace in the north, Hisham's deeds were of peace and development. He widened roads to encourage trade and built marketplaces and ports across the Caliphate, and far ranged the trading ships of al-Andalus in those days, and they brought back with them rich silks, and spices, and tomes of knowledge.

    Among the greatest works of Hisham was the establishment of a great madrasah within Cordoba, to be dedicated to the study of the ancient sciences, and the works such as those collected by his father. To this great school flocked some of the wisest minds in the world at the time, not only the Muslim thinkers but also the Christian, and the Jew, and some even from beyond the Caliphate's borders. There did the wise men pore over the ancient texts, and sought to divine from them great wisdom and advancement, and in so doing, brought Hisham great honour as a patron of higher learning.

    In matters of war Hisham was no great commander, however. While predecessors past had deigned to lead their men personally into battle,[1] Hisham had neither martial prowess on his side, nor a gifted mind for strategy, and thus in these aspects deferred to his advisors, his uncle and hajib al-Mughira, and the siqlabi commander Wadih, as well as relying on the Banu Tujibi of the Upper March, who treated the caliph with due respect if not fawning obeisance.

    These years of peace saw Hisham gradually grow into a father, and to begin to fill his life with his children. For a time the eldest and only remained his first son, Abd ar-Rahman, who was loved by Hisham with the same blindness with which his own father had loved him. But as Abd ar-Rahman grew into a young lad, the signs began to show in him of an indolent and arbitrary nature, though balanced in some respects by his relatively kind demeanor.

    Hisham had other sons in his time - there was the second, al-Mundhir, a sickly child who perished before his second year could dawn, leaving Hisham stricken by grief. But he was followed by other sons, as his concubine Buhayr brought into the world Hayyan in 384[2] and one more some three years later, and while this son would be named Muhammad he came to be known most often as al-Azraq, for his pale and breathtaking blue eyes were what one noticed most upon meeting him. Some other sons would follow late in the life of Hisham, but these two and Abd ar-Rahman are those whom history must note. At this point the potential of any one of them was yet to be formed.

    Now between the births of Hayyan and al-Azraq, in perhaps 386[3] came a time of some trouble, as the migrating Berbers of the Middle March, owing their allegiances to the Hawarah Berbers of the area near Santaver,[4] fearing their position as paid soldiers of the caliph to be in jeopardy, and incited by outside forces, raised some calamity in the north. Now those Berbers who acknowledged the Santaverians as their lords migrated often between Balansiyya and Tulaytu, though descended from those who had helped to claim al-Andalus in the name of Islam some centuries prior, were often prone to making some hostile demonstration, and rising up in rebellion, but in his day al-Nasir had not deigned to break their power.

    As the spring dawned in the Middle March, did the Hawarah migrating to the north attempt to seize Tulaytu from the governor there, itself a key city which while operating with some sovereignty, nevertheless stood as a bastion against the Christian. But most worrying was the sudden arrival of a host of Christians, under the command of Garcia Fernandez the Count of Castile,[5] embittered by the raids of the Córdoban against him, and desirous of a caliph more liable to wage war upon his own enemies.

    Indeed, the Christian and the old foe of Córdoba had cast his lot with the Berbers through the conspiracy wrought by a group of bitter men, who sought power unto themselves. In secret they sought to set aside Hisham, and to place in his stead a descendant of al-Hakam I named Abdallah ibn Abd al-Aziz, known as al-Hajar[6] for his great avarice, whom the conspirators believed would be more favourable to their condition, and more wont to continue without question the payment of great sums to the Berber, and in the eyes of the Castilian, more likely to wage the jihad against his liege in Leon, and enable him to seek more readily his independence. And yet the leader among them was not al-Hajar himself, but rather the old nemesis of al-Mughira, the ambitious man, Muhammad ibn Abi Aamir, embittered by the execution of his son, and desirous of returning to Córdoba and ridding it of what he thought to be the unbecoming influence of insufficiently pious men.

    Now as word came to Córdoba from Tulaytu, seeking the aid of the caliph, the Christians undertook to reduce the city, while the Berbers stormed the gates from the opposite side, and raised great calamity within the walls, and took for themselves much booty, and slaughtered the governor placed there by the caliph, for they sought to hold the city as the seat of their power. In haste did al-Mughira and Wadih marshal their men, drawing some two thousand mounted saqaliba as the core of their force, as well as some few thousands of mounted Andalusians and some ten thousand more of infantry, and proceeded northwards to the Upper March, there to confront the conspiracy of ibn Abi Aamir by force of arms.

    [1] Abd ar-Rahman III, for instance, was known for personally leading his campaigns, at least until later in his life.
    [2] 994.
    [3] 996 - we're jumping ahead a few years past some peaceful times. The sons of Hisham will become important later on.
    [4] You may know this group as the Dhunnunids.
    [5] OTL, Garcia Fernandez died after being captured by a raiding party while out hunting in 995. Here he gets to live a little longer. He conspired more than a few times in Córdoban politics in our world.
    [6] Dry Stone here was involved in a conspiracy OTL, in 989, but in that case it was against the very folks he's conspiring with here - in fact he conspired with Almanzor's son Abd al-Malik and the Tujibids of Zaragoza to divide the Caliphate. We know little about him save that his greed was sufficient to earn him a nickname based on it.

    992: Work is completed on a new madrassa in Córdoba, focused on the sciences.
    996: The Hawarah Berbers of the Meseta once again rebel against the Caliphate of Córdoba and attempt to seize control of Toledo. They're part of a conspiracy engineered by Muhammad ibn Abi Aamir and supported by Garcia Fernandez, the Count of Castile, to overthrow Caliph Hisham II and place a puppet caliph on the throne.
    ACT I Part XI: Last Gasp of Ibn Abi Aamir
  • Excerpt: The Palm of the Distant West Nurtured in the Soils of al-Andalus - Joseph ibn Abram al-Qadisi, AH 442 (AD 1059)*

    On their march northward, the forces arrayed by al-Mughira and Wadih were joined soon by some two thousand more men, these being mounted Africans, having been despatched by the agreement of the Maghrawa warlord, Ziri ibn Atiya. These men joined up with the column as it drew near to the Upper March.

    Now the conspiracy crafted by ibn Abi Aamir stood upon a foundation of his own immense powers of persuasion, and balanced delicately several competing interests. While Garcia was in his way an abettor of the conspiracy, in truth he held no love for any of the Muslims, and sought to increase mainly his own power, by the gain of the Upper March for his demesne. The Berbers, too, sought to hold the city to increase their own power, while some few mercenaries followed the dinars put forth by ibn Abi Aamir and al-Hajar. Thus it was that the relations between them were fraught, and as the Castilian and the Berber crossed paths in the city, bitterness turned on occasion to scuffle and disagreement, and some lives were lost.

    Upon the looting of the city, and with the Castilian troops beginning to take up their fortified stations, the Hawarah rode out from its gates and decamped themselves outside the walls, for most of them were mounted men, and the Berbers were never known for their skill in siegecraft. It is in this situation that the army of al-Mughira and Wadih arrived, finding the better part of the Berbers beyond the walls and upon the plains, and Garcia within along with ibn Abi Aamir, al-Hajar and their paid men.

    In numbers the conspirators may have in some measure combined themselves, and better resisted the armies of the caliphate, perhaps. And yet it came to pass that the frictions between them dealt the first blow as surely as the soldiers of Wadih, for the Berbers being beyond the walls, received no help from the city, and the forces of the siqlab surrounded the Hawarah in a great forking maneuver, and slew them with arrows and the spear, until many of them routed and broke across the meseta. Some detachment of al-Mughira's forces turned, and pursued the Berbers into the hinterlands, though many of the survivors would continue to stir up trouble for some time to come.[1]

    Now as they regrouped from the battle beyond the walls, al-Mughira and Wadih found the gates of Tulaytu secured against them, and the men of Castile manning its walls and towers. The armies moved to encircle the city, and to prepare to move against the gates. A force of some men moved against the entryways but faced the spears and arrows of the Christian, and was repulsed for the moment, and Wadih directed the men to make good the siege, and break the resolve of the occupiers.

    For some days did the armies hold their surround of the city, until the gates swung open and a body of mounted men rode forth to challenge the forces of Wadih, many of them the Castilians. No doubt these men had sought to break the siege and buy leave for their lord to return home, for it is said by some who were there that Garcia was struck in the thigh by an arrow during the fighting, and sought to seek the attentions of a physician. Nevertheless, as the Christians met the forces of Wadih, the cavalry of the Castilians crashed into the amassed front, and raised some great calamity, but they found stiff quarter in battle against the bodyguard of saqaliba assembled by Wadih, and were soon pushed back and surrounded. Now during the battle was Garcia Fernandez pulled from his horse, and slain by the blade of a spear, and it is said the slayer of him was one of the Syrians.

    As the sallying forces were broken, some part of the army poured through the gates of Tulaytu, and clashed with the paid men of ibn Abi Aamir, until many began to flee from the greater numbers. In the fighting were men despatched by al-Mughira, there to find the conspirators mounting their horses and riding for the gates. The men clashed with them, and brought ibn Abi Aamir and al-Hajar into their custody, and brought them before al-Mughira in chains, and at the point of a blade. Now it is said that al-Mughira looked upon ibn Abi Aamir with some pity, and spoke unto him gravely, saying, "What prowess God gave you, ibn Abi Aamir! That your ambition has led you here can only be a great sadness, for though you have tormented me for some twenty years now, what power do you have to show for it?"

    And ibn Abi Aamir said to him, "Thou accursed dog, who shows weakness to the infidel and despoils the power of the monarchy, the only power I should wish is that which could damn your eyes from your skull, and yet I shall not wish for it, for the ultimate punishment awaits you for your sins, and the weakness of your beliefs."

    And al-Mughira was wroth, and turned his back on ibn Abi Aamir, and ordered his men to bind him in chains, and al-Hajar with him, and both were taken to Córdoba and presented to Hisham. Thus it was decreed that al-Hajar would be placed into the dungeon, there to live out the rest of his days, and ibn Abi Aamir with him. It was in the cells that ibn Abi Aamir's life left him, and he passed from this world some years later, his name tarnished as a conspirator against the rightful descent of the Banu Umayya. For some time afterwards al-Hajar survived, until Hisham showed him mercy some years later, and permitted him to live out his days under guard at a small estate in the countryside, though were he to leave it, would he be struck dead.

    As to the fate of the Hawarah, stirred up by the conspiracy, these men continued to roam the lanes between Tulaytu and Balansiyya, and across the central meseta, accosting travellers and troubling the burghers. Thus it was that Hisham, at the advising of al-Mughira and Wadih, began to create a garrison in the area for many of the saqaliba to be stationed, as well as to settle some Andalusians of a military mind, to respond quickly to these arrivals, and to rout them as needed. Nevertheless they continued to raise some calamity for years to come. It was for this reason that the saqaliba have many of their settlements in this area, and why Deniyya is said to be a city strong in their ways.[2]

    Now with the conspiracy broken, the succession of Castile passed to the son of Garcia, the man named Sancho Garcia of the Good Laws, who was less a warrior than his father, and sought some period of quiet along his frontiers. In the northwest, the border conflicts between Galicia and Leon had turned upon each other, while far to the northeast, the turmoil of the Frank had become a great upheaval, following the death of Louis some years prior, then the death of Hugh, and the usurpation of Charles, and the tribulations of the landowners over the throne.[3] Now some among those landowners would trouble the Muslims, and some knights from the lands under the lord of Aquitaine, then the fifth to be named Guilhem, deigned to ride to the lands of the Muslims and cause trouble, but these incursions came scarcely, and the borders were troubled only by these raids, and the occasional turmoil raised by the Northmen along the coasts. Beyond the lands at least, most of the strong threats were focused inwardly for the moment, and peace was left by that period of some few years, where Hisham could govern with neither war nor calamity his immediate concern, and only fickle fate his enemy.

    [1] The Caliphate was almost never free of internal troubles, including from rebellious Berbers.
    [2] OTL, Denia was one of the saqaliba-controlled Taifas. It also had a really good navy, incidentally. Broadly, the setting up of a garrison out here is intended to be analogous somewhat to the Bahri Mamluks out in Egypt some centuries later OTL.
    [3] At some point I'll have to turn to where the butterflies have flown, 20 years out from the POD. But suffice it to say France is going to look quite different.

    996: The conspiracy of ibn Abi Aamir and al-Hajar is thwarted when Garcia Fernandez of Castile is killed. Ibn Abi Aamir and al-Hajar are imprisoned, but many of the rebel Berbers escape and continue to raid villages in the Upper March.
    997: In response to continued Hawarah raiding after the 996 conspiracy, the Caliphate of Córdoba begins to create a garrison of siqlabi soldiers in the meseta region, beefing up its presence there.
    ACT I Part XII: War in the North
  • The right hand of the wind forges a coat of
    mail on the river which ripples with a thousand wrinkles.
    And whenever the wind adds a ring, the rain comes
    along to fasten it with its rivets.

    - Asa al-A'ma (c. 1131)


    Excerpt: Histories of the North - Onorio of Penalba, AD 1154*

    Note from Dr. Mirza: Onorio is known to history as the Abbot of the Monastery of Santiago de Penalba from 1131 to 1154 by the Christian reckoning. He seems to have worked from primary sources of his time in chronicling the histories of the Christian monarchs of the Northern Kingdoms during the time of Hisham II and his successors. I include this excerpt acknowledging that Córdoban chroniclers of the time saw the Northern Kingdoms primarily as a source of tribute, and often provided scant details of their lives.

    In the years since the great fracturing of the Leonese crown did the King Ramiro III grapple with Vermudo II the Galician pretender, in some defiance of the declarations of the Mohammedan in Andalusia, whose judgment had riven the kingdom in twain. The two cousins defied the other and claimed lordship over each other's lands.

    Now the nobles of Leon viewed Ramiro with some contempt, for the depth of his sin had doomed his crown to division with his cousin. As he had reached his majority as a young man, he had sought to take from the noble vassals of his land the privileges which had by tradition been vested under them, for he desired the increase of his own power. In his avarice he so offended the Galicians that it was inevitable he would be challenged. Only the mercy of the Moor spared him upon his throne, and he paid an annual tribute of gold to the king Hesham to preserve the peace, for he feared the wrath of the southerners upon him should he take up arms against them.

    Now the sons of Ramiro were twofold and more admired by the nobles of the time. Of the two was the eldest, and his name was Ordono, and he was known among the court as an upright man if not sinless. And his second son was named Pelayo and born some six years after, and he came to be known too as a man of upright nature.

    Yet in the nature of Ramiro remained the urge to claim more power unto himself. Some few laws have been preserved from his reign following the peace agreement with the Moor, among them his decrees seeking to increase the taxation he levied upon the nobles. It seems that the vassals of Ramiro, seeing the sin and greed of their young liege, complied scarcely with these entreaties, particularly the Counts of Castile, who had in their minds a streak of independence and a will to determine their own destiny, even as they acknowledged with their mouths but not their hearts the suzerainty of the King over their lands.

    Upon the throne of Santiago, his cousin Vermudo was a man of weaker station, and though he had been supported by his nobles to the throne, he proved himself in his years to be a man of tyrannical nature. Upon the visiting to his court of Bishop Gudestus of Oviedo, come from Leon to seek parley and cessation of conflict between the cousin kings of the northwest, Vermudo instead cast the holy man into irons and placed him within the gaol, wherein the good and holy man toiled for several years. Now God beheld the conduct of the king and sent famine and drought upon the lands, and sorely afflicted the king with gout,[1] and the Galicians cried out against Vermudo's cruelty.

    So incensed were the men of Leon by the tyranny of Vermudo that battle again was joined along the lines between the two crowns, and holy men exhorted the Galician to free Gudestus from the gaol and restore him to his rightful station. So precarious was Vermudo's station that he sent entreaty to the Moors who dwelled in the lands of Badajoz, themselves rightful vassals to the King of the Moors, yet eager to sell their swords in battle.[2] In the year 995 these men rode to the north to lend their swords to the Galician, though they received some chastisement from the King of the Moors, and their numbers soon began to dwindle.

    Now Ramiro the King of Leon was a young man when he perished, in the year of our Lord 998, and passed his crown to his son Ordono, numbered the Fifth. Some time that year did Vermudo the Galician, sorely afflicted by the ravages of gout and troubled by the agitation of his vassals, finally relent of his tyranny and restore Gudestus to his bishopric, and the bishop traveled to Leon to place the crown upon the brow of Ordono V and crown him in the name of the Lord. Some years of peace were to follow, but in the year 1001 the disease was to claim the life of Vermudo II, and the throne passed to his only son, the youth named Sancho,[3] the second to bear that name.

    As he ascended to the throne, Sancho II was but a boy of eight, and unready for the challenges left for him by his father. The nobles of the land schemed against him, and some sought to restore the Galician lands to Ordono V of Leon. Some conspiracy was crafted with the Moorish lords to the south, and the armies of Leon moved against the boy-king, whose regents were his mother Elvira along with the Duke of Galicia, one Menendo the son of Gonzalo.

    The armies of Leon soon advanced into Galicia, and in 1003 did Duke Menendo cast about for allies. And yet instead he received the arrival of the Moors in great numbers in the year following, for they would often come in the summers and raid and pillage the lands. While the stout fighting men of the land could have resisted in normal days, these were fragile ones for the Galician kingdom, with a boy king and a people weary of combat. Now with the levies of Galicia warring in the east did the Moorish chancellor al-Mugheirah march to the walls of Coimbra with a host, and they stormed the gates of that city and overcame the garrison. The flag of the Mohammedans was raised above the city walls and the people forced to live beneath a Mahommedan lord, and many of the treasures of the city were taken to Córdoba to enrich the Moors greatly.[4]

    Defeated at arms in Coimbra, Menendo was forced on behalf of the King to resume paying tribute to the Moorish lords. Later in the year did Ordono's men wrest Adobrica[5] from the Galician, and the kingdom's power slowly waned, while the Moors stood by and entreated the kings to be at peace. Only with these entreaties did Ordono relent and permit the young boy Sancho to reign over his reduced lands, though his authority was thought quite narrow, and his nobles exercised great power over him.

    [1] Again we're mirroring OTL events, but this time Gudestus was there for different reasons, and his imprisonment is by a much weaker monarch whose kingdom doesn't include Gudestus's bishopric.
    [2] Many of the tribes in this area were settled Miknasa Berbers who came over with Tariq ibn Ziyad during the conquest of Iberia. Don't feel bad if you lose track of how many different Berber tribes have a presence in al-Andalus at this point. There were a lot, which was part of the problem.
    [3] Butterflies at work: OTL, Bermudo had one son named Alfonso, born in 994.
    [4] Almanzor took Coimbra in 987. The much less aggressive Al-Mughira is about 17 years behind here, even without a unified Leon.
    [5] Ferrol.

    995: War breaks out between Leon and Galicia after Bermudo II of Galicia throws a high churchman from Leon in the gaol.
    998: Ordono V succeeds his father, Ramiro III, as King of Leon.
    1001: Bermudo II of Galicia dies. He is succeeded by his eight-year-old son, Sancho.
    1004: A Córdoban army on a summer raid captures Coimbra in Galicia. Later that year, Leonese troops seize Adobrica. The subsequent peace reduces Galicia to a pocket kingdom and affirms Leon's relative superiority over it.
    ACT I Part XIII: The Aquitaine-Pamplona Connection
  • Excerpt: Pocket Kingdoms: Navarre and Viguera in the Middle Ages - Artau Munez, Albatross Printing, AD 1989

    IV. Garcia II and III and Sancha

    King Sancho II passed away peacefully in his sleep sometime in 995, the histories specifying that it was sometime in the autumn. He left the kingdom to his son Garcia II, a man apparently in his thirties when he took the throne.

    History remember Garcia II as "the Tremulous," though in fact this king's immediate preoccupation seems to have been to break the tributary agreement his father had reached with the Caliphate of Córdoba, presumably in the hopes of re-establishing the Kingdom of Pamplona as an entity capable of opposing the Muslims in Iberia at this time. In this regard it was fortuitous that his mother was Urraca Fernandez, a sister to the Count of Castile, Garcia Fernandez. That Count threw in, in 996, with conspirators led by Mohammed ibn Abi Aamir, the former master of the estates to Caliph Hisham II who had been exiled years earlier after attempting to replace the caliph's chamberlain.

    It's likely that some troops from Garcia's domain joined with the Castilian contingent when the move was made to attempt to seize Toledo. Poor coordination spelled the end of that abortive coup, though, as Mohammed proved unable to rein in the competing ambitions of Garcia Fernandez and the semi-nomadic Berber tribesmen who routinely roamed the central meseta, antagonizing the Caliphate along the way. When the coup collapsed and Garcia Fernandez was killed, the Castilian crown passed to his son Sancho Garcez, who quickly moved to parley with the Muslim forces.

    In Pamplona, this sudden change of fate left Garcia II in an unenviable position, having committed to breaking the peace with the Caliph but immediately losing his strongest ally. While urging his cousin in Castile to resume the conflict against the Córdobans, Garcia was otherwise forced to mount his own opposition, and a series of raids were carried out against the Muslim outposts beyond the Ebro valley. In this respect he was joined by his cousin, Sancho Ramirez of Viguera, of that pocket kingdom carved out some twenty-five years prior. With the twin kingdoms of Leon and Galicia wracked by internecine conflict and the counties of the Hispanic March seemingly unwilling to mount a serious opposition to the Caliphate, the nexus of conflict against the Moors shifted to focus on the pair of Basque pocket kingdoms.

    Muslim histories of the period tend to speak little of the roles played by the Basques. However, the Jewish historian Joseph ibn Abram does mention "calamities raised by the men of the northern valleys" and speaks to a punitive expedition led sometime around 998 by Wadih, the Slavic slave-general placed in command of the frontier outpost of Medinaceli, alongside the Tujibids who held sway in Zaragoza at the time.

    That expedition culminated in the Battle of Tarazona, where an army of Pamplonan and Vigueran troops led by Garcia II was defeated by the Muslim troops. Joseph ibn Abram mentions that fifty "Christians" were brought back to Córdoba as prisoners and paraded before the populace as a symbol of the Caliphal authority, though Christian sources suggest most of the survivors were able to escape back down the Ebro Valley. Certainly the raids continued after this point, as Garcia is mentioned again leading a raid in 1000, this time against Carinena, where he apparently made off with several prisoners and was pursued by the Tujibids under Yahya, the then-current governor of the area under the Caliph's authority.

    The 1000 expedition is the last mention of Garcia II in the historical record, chronologically speaking, though it's known he succumbed to some sort of serious flu. Beyond raiding, his largest legacy was most likely his children with Jimena, daughter of the Count of Cea. He was succeeded by his second child and only son, Garcia III, surnamed Garces, though when he first appears as King of Pamplona in 1003, he's listed as a boy of perhaps 10 or 11, completely under the control of a regency council and with Sancho I, King of Viguera, effectively exercising authority in the kingdom.

    Arguably the most historically remarkable of Garcia II's children, however, was his firstborn and older sister to Garcia III. Born around 990, she was given the name Sancha. Histories of the time speak to her as a fairly precocious child who grew up with what the historian Munio of Najera describes as "an unseemly ambition, so gravely unsuited for a maiden so fair." When Garcia III takes the throne, Sancha is described as being around the age of 13 and growing up in the court of Pamplona even as her brother toiled under a regency council led by the Pamplonan bishops, Sancho I of Viguera, his mother and his grandmother.[1]

    While Garcia III aspired in his heart to rally the kingdoms of Hispania against the Muslims, he proved to be inadequate to the task, given more towards seclusion in prayer than towards matters military. From a young age he was referred to as a boy of great zeal in his religious devotions, and history remembers him as "Garcia the Pious" accordingly. As he grew into a man, Garcia took an interest in church life, particularly so in 1005 or thereabouts, when he received an emissary from Odilo, abbot of the great monastery at Cluny. Greatly impressed by the idea of welcoming these churchmen into his lands, Garcia and the regency council granted a donation to the churchmen, sending a deputation of their own to the Abbey to study the ways of that great reforming house.[2]

    Perhaps it was this introduction to French thought - the Abbey of Cluny was itself based in Burgundy, and established by the dictate of a past Duke of Aquitaine some century prior - that saw Garcia and his regents turn their eyes to the north in search of friends. More likely the political climate of the time made searching a divided Iberia a non-starter, for most of the Christian kings of the north seemed either wrapped up in their own internecine bickering or simply cowed into paying tribute to the Caliphate of Córdoba, at that point a fairly stable institution on its way to establishing an elite retinue of Sclavonian slave-soldiers as a counterbalance to its historic reliance on mercenaries and imported Berbers. Regardless, in 1007 the young Garcia appears at the court of King Henry of France[3] as an emissary, and in 1008 at the court of William V, Duke of Aquitaine.

    It was to the latter that Garcia betrothed his sister Sancha in that same year, making her William's second wife. The decision seems to affirm Garcia as something of a Francophile, or at least suggests that he found few opportunities in his own neighbourhood for a matrimonial alliance. With France still in deep turmoil after the great succession crisis stemming from the disastrous accession of Hugh Capet some decades prior,[4] the Dukes of Aquitaine at the time held a deep antipathy towards the French crown. William, whose first wife - Adalbert of La Marche - had born him a single daughter, apparently saw the marriage as an opportunity for any potential son of the new marriage to stake a claim on territory to the south. Whatever the reasons, the move would have significant historical ramifications.

    [1] You've got about a 50-50 chance of being conceived male or female. It's a coin flip. In this case, the coin flipped, and OTL Sancho III was born female, while the second child of Sancho II was born a man.
    [2] OTL, Sancho III bears a lot of the responsibility for introducing Cluniac thought into Iberia.
    [3] Heh heh heh. Stay tuned.
    [4] We'll get into this soon enough, but suffice it to say there are some pretty significant butterflies in France stemming from a less aggressive al-Andalus around the time the Capets became a thing.

    1003: Garcia III becomes King of Pamplona.
    1008: William V, Duke of Aquitaine, takes the 18-year-old infanta, Sancha of Pamplona, as his second wife.
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    ACT I Part XIV: Hugh Capet and Gerbert of Aurillac
  • "For those who seek to restore him to his see to the confusion of your kingdom, do not think this is enough unless they can destroy me first with whatever opportunity."

    - Gerbert of Aurillac, to Queen Adelaide of the Franks, 997 (OTL)


    Excerpt: Kings of Nothing: France in the Post-Carolingian Period - Amélie du Clos, Scholapresse, AD 2004

    ...and it was as the armies of Francia marched through the winter to press King Lothair's claim on Lotharingia that the monarch -- left hanging by his erstwhile ally, Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, and unable to muster much support for his initiative back home -- took ill and died in his tent, just before yuletide of 984.

    The death of Lothair on campaign cut short the Frankish bid to wrest Upper Lotharingia from the hands of the Holy Roman Empire, and the army returned home to see to the task of raising to the throne the son of Lothair, one Louis V.

    In a bid to counter the growing influence of Hugh Capet, the Duke of the Franks, Lothair had wed his son Louis to Adelaide-Blanche, sister of Geoffrey I, Count of Anjou, and widow to two powerful southern lords, the counts of Gevaudan and Toulouse. Upon the occasion of their marriage in 982, the young man was crowned as King of Aquitaine. The move was an ambitious one for Lothair: An effort to re-assert the waning power of the Carolingian dynasty in the de-facto-independent south of West Francia, where the Dukes of Aquitaine, the Counts of Toulouse and the various lords of the Catalan March owed little by way of allegiance to the throne at a time when the Frankish monarchy was a fairly weak thing to begin with.

    If Lothair's hope was that empowering his son and heir in this way would bring the southern lords of the land in line, he would have been dismayed by the results of this decision. Coming to the throne at perhaps 17 or 18, he found himself wed to a woman many years his senior, perhaps in her forties. As the historian Richer of St. Remi recounts, "They had almost no conjugal love; because Louis barely left the puberty, and Adelaide was old, among them were only discord and wroth. They didn't share the common chambers and in this way can never suffer with the presence of the other; and when the crown happened so to be placed upon the brow of the young man, they spoke even lesser, and only as though by the force, and it is without a doubt that she does frowned upon the frivolity and callowness of his behaviour, and wishes to be elsewhere."[1]

    It would seem that at one point or another, Adelaide made some effort to divorce herself from Louis, but the demands of kingship ensured that the matrimony between the young man and the older woman could not be so easily broken. In any case her contempt for Louis is recorded by all contemporary histories, as is the personality of Louis, almost invariably described as a vain and frivolous man given to indulging himself in youthful nonsense.

    Perhaps such a young man could not have hoped to truly navigate the factional divide at the Frankish court at the time. At the court existed two factions: A faction led by Adalberon, Archbishop of Reims and the queen mother, Emma, desiring renewed friendship with the Ottonians of the Holy Roman Empire, while another faction seeking to continue the campaign for Lotharingia. Frought as well were matters around the issue of succession. The line of the Carolingian kings had been interrupted a few times before, twice by the Robertian faction and once by Rudolf Bosonid, and tensions existed as to whether the Carolingian line would continue or whether the nobility would exercise the right to choose the king.

    Though initially disinterested in such court intrigues, Louis seems to have soon enough come down on the side of the anti-Ottonians, committing to renewing the campaign for Lotharingia. Sometime in 985 he sought to rally his nobles to carry out the campaign cut short by his father's death; he sought the support of Hugh Capet to no avail, and otherwise found few allies, settling instead for seeking the support of Odo I, Count of Blois. His urge to campaign in the area notwithstanding, ultimately he found himself instead vexed by his relationship to Archbishop Adalberon, to the point that in 985 he drove the churchman from his see and into the protection of Hugh Capet, with Queen Emma not far behind.

    Ultimately Louis set out with his troops to complete the work of Lothair, joined by Odo's forces but with the troops of his detractors in the rival faction left behind. Bolstered by a band of mercenaries, Louis reached Verdun in 987 and besieged the city, though it would seem that his forces proved inadequate to break down that stronghold, and he was rebuffed in fairly short order.

    Leaving his domain behind proved to be a foolish decision: Left in the care of the Duke of the Franks, Adalberon would bend his will to swaying Hugh into the camp of the Ottonians, and seemingly won him over. He was joined as well by another churchman of Ottonian leanings, Gerbert of Aurillac, who would become one of Hugh's strongest boosters and a central figure in the challenging years to come. A former tutor to Emperor Otto II and at one point abbott of Bobbio, Gerbert had deep ties to the Ottonians and proved to be a natural ally of Adalberon, and the two succeessfully cultivated Hugh as an ally. By the time Louis returned from his abortive campaign in 988, beaten and humiliated by the failed siege, he found himself King in name only, with Hugh widely viewed as the more kingly of figures in the land.

    Louis sought to curtail the power of the Robertian faction somewhat, moving to accuse Adalberon of various heresies and minor crimes in the hopes of undermining his position. His opportunity arose in that same year, when Adalberon died on towards winter. Still with the power of investiture at this time, Louis arranged for the Archbishopric of Reims to go to Arnulf, a bastard son of Lothair and thus the king's own half-brother, ensuring himself a supporter among the clergy. The pro-Ottonians decried the appointment to an extent, but Arnulf received the papal sanction nevertheless.

    The move would have lasting consequences, but it would not do much for Louis: On March 5 of 989 the young man was found dead in his cups. Contemporary accounts suggest he was poisoned on the order of his wife, who gave him no heir and as mentioned quite detested him.

    With no children of his issue to claim the throne, the natural successor to Louis appeared to be his uncle Charles, the Duke of Lower Lorraine. But while he was supported by the likes of Arnulf, Charles was widely detested among the pro-Ottonian faction, despite his close ties and actions on behalf of Otto. Some years prior, he had sided with the Empire in invading Francia and laying waste to some of the core lands around Rheims and Soissons, leaving a lasting impression of him, particularly among the Robertian faction, as a traitor and a man of low character. Thus it was Gerbert of Aurillac who rose before the assembled nobles after the death of Louis V and gave an impassioned speech, praising the virtues of Hugh Capet and exhorting the nobility of the land to choose him as king.

    The Robertian faction acceded to Gerbert's desires, and in 989 Hugh was reluctantly crowned by a seething Archbishop Arnulf.

    Immediately after his coronation, seeking to consolidate his power, Hugh made a significant misstep in seeking to crown his son Robert as a junior monarch alongside him. This initiative was supported by Gerbert and urged by his partisans at the court. Arnulf, however, refused the king's urgings, stating that no two kings could be crowned in the same year. Contemporary accounts tell us that Hugh's argument was that he had planned an expedition against the Moors of Iberia, at the time under the reign of Hisham II. However, the activities of the Caliphate of Córdoba at the time had largely been limited against the Catalonian counties, which already held little loyalty to the Frankish throne, while most of the Moorish attention was directed against the kings of Leon and Galicia. Arnulf seemed to find little credibility in Hugh's arguments - after all, there had been no request for such a raid from Borrell, the Count of Barcelona.[2]

    Hugh would have little time to campaign anyway, for the spurned Charles of Lower Lorraine quickly made to move against him. The Duke gathered support from Count Herbert of Vermandois, himself a cadet of the Carolingian line, as well as from another Carolingian loyalist, the Count of Flanders. The rebels quickly made their move on Laon and seized the city by surprise, casting Queen Emma into the gaol in the process.

    Infuriated, Hugh laid siege to Laon but was rebuffed by the upstarts. Again he exhorted Arnulf to crown his son as co-monarch, and again he was refused, this time with the excuse that a king could hardly be crowned properly in such a fraught situation. Hugh had apparently hoped to try and win Arnulf's loyalty; in fact the Archbishop was betraying him. Soon enough the forces of Charles arrived at the gates of Rheims. Feigning terror, he ordered the gates thrown open for Charles, then made some show of denouncing him even as Charles's forces took control of the city. The ruse didn't last long, and Arnulf eventually swore fealty to his kinsman.

    By now in a troubling predicament, Hugh reacted with anger to news of the taking of Rheims. He declared Arnulf a traitor and deemed his see vacant, and gathered those churchmen loyal to him to proclaim Gerbert of Aurillac Archbishop of Rheims in his stead. The next week, Gerbert presided over a ceremony crowning Hugh's son as King Robert II and co-monarch.

    The move invited enormous controversy, of course, and supporters of the Carolingian cause denounced it as illegitimate. Charles and Arnulf quickly dispatched swift rider to Rome to seek the intervention of Pope John XV in the matter, counting on the pontiff to side with the legitimate Archbishop. Hugh too sent word to the Pope, seeking his support in stripping Arnulf of his office as a traitor and accusing him of selling his influence to Charles.[3]

    [1] Adapted from the actual works of Richer of St. Remi.
    [2] OTL, Hugh used the "oh we're going to go raid some Moors" argument on Adalberon to sweet-talk him into eventually crowning Robert. It actually had some oomph to it because Count Borrell genuinely was looking for help after Almanzor sacked Barcelona. Here, aside from him dealing with Arnulf (whom he'd appoint anyway), there's no campaign against Barcelona, thus no Borrell calling for help, thus no sense of urgency when Hugh tries to crown his son, thus no Capetian junior monarch. The butterflies up to there are all pretty minor, but that change is a big one that throws the whole thing into a blender.
    [3] As promised, French butterflies. Sadly most of my primary sources here are in French or Latin so hopefully I'm not too far off feasible.

    989: Louis V of France is poisoned by his wife and dies. At the urgings of Gerbert of Aurillac, the Franks choose Hugh Capet as their king, prompting war with the stronger claimant, Charles of Lower Lorraine.
    990: Charles of Lower Lorraine seizes Rheims through the complicity of Arnulf, Archbishop of Rheims. A furious Hugh Capet declares Arnulf deposed and names Gerbert the legitimate Archbishop.
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    ACT I Part XV: Francian Succession Crisis
  • Excerpt: Kings of Nothing: France in the Post-Carolingian Period - Amélie du Clos, Scholapresse, AD 2004

    - 2 -
    Hugh Capet, Charles of Lower Lorraine
    and the Succession Crisis of the 990s

    Finding his demand for the deposition of Arnulf to fall on deaf ears, Pope John XV embroiled in conflict with his nobles in Rome at the time, Hugh Capet settled for convening a synod of the French bishops himself in 990. That gathering declared Arnulf deposed and selected Gerbert of Aurillac as Archbishop of Rheims in his place.

    As word reached Rome of the happenings in Francia, Pope John XV dispatched a letter back to Hugh Capet's domain, proclaiming Arnulf to be the legitimate Archbishop of Rheims and declaring Gerbert's nomination invalid. While some bishops loyal to the cause of Charles acceded and acknowledged Arnulf, the greater whole of the French clergy instead renewed their support for Gerbert, at that point reigning from Paris as Charles dug into Rheims and secured the city.

    Through 990 to 991, Hugh's armies made attempts to break down Laon, but Charles held fast within its walls and continued to repulse the efforts of the Robertian faction to remove him. Meanwhile, within the city, Charles was formally crowned King of the Franks by Arnulf, in a ceremony dismissed by Hugh as invalid and unlawful.

    An attempt was made around this time by a churchman to seize the persons of Charles and Arnulf, but the perpetrator - Adalberon, then Bishop of Laon - was caught by the retinue of Charles and cast into the gaol forthwith. Emboldened by the defeat of this conspiracy, Charles cast about for further allies; having already secured the loyalty of Odo, the Count of Blois, he sent appeal to some of the nobles of the south of Francia, mostly made up of powerful fiefs nominally loyal to the crown but in fact all but autonomous. None of them threw in with his plot to usurp the throne, and most stayed out of the combat, though Hugh's efforts were hindered somewhat by the hostility to him of William IV, Duke of Aquitaine at the time.

    Prior to his accession as king, Hugh had been granted Aquitaine by the late king Lothair, though the king had later been reconciled to William's father, William III. As Hugh continued to claim Aquitaine for himself, William refused to recognize his election and raised his levies to war with the crown. Even as Charles made gains in the north, the armies of the Duke of Aquitaine met a royal army near Bourges in late 990 and turned the king's men back. This put Hugh in the position of dealing with the Carolingian pretender storming his kingdom in the north, while in the south, a disloyal vassal troubled him, though it would seem that the campaign of Charles was viewed as the more existential threat.

    Finding his siege of Laon coming to naught, Hugh withdrew his forces to regroup, at which point the forces of Charles took to the field and marched on Soissons, taking the city in the spring of 992 after some few months of siege. At this point the usurper's army was coming uncomfortably close to Paris. Late in that year Charles met a setback as Hugh scored a narrow victory over him as their armies met at Compiegne; while losses weren't grave on either side, Charles chose to regroup and prepare for a more serious push on Paris, his eyes still set on the throne.

    As winter passed with Francia still wracked by division, an attempt was made on Charles's life on Yuletide of that year, but the would-be assassin - the son of a minor nobleman loyal to Hugh - was captured and put to death. The year passed without incident, and as the cold weather broke, Pope John XV finally waded into the tussle in Francia, convening a synod in Metz to settle the matter. Hugh forbid the French bishops from attending, but even as the French clergy confirmed Gerbert as the Archbishop of Rheims, the German bishops gathered at Metz declared the election of Gerbert illegal, and ordered the restoration of Arnulf to the privileges of his see.

    The French clergy refused to recognize this decree as valid, and in the spring of 994, John XV declared both Hugh and Gerbert excommunicated, not wishing to excommunicate the entirety of the French clergy for fear of creating a schism. The decision came some time after a push by the Robertians to retake Soissons failed, with much of Hugh's army lost in an abortive attempt to storm the gates.

    As the royal army withdrew, Charles pursued them out from Rheims and Soissons, and reached the gates of Paris just in time to learn of Hugh's excommunication. As support for Hugh waned among the commons and among some nobles on the fence, the pro-Carolingian forces laid siege to the city. Despite bloody losses as the autumn dragged on, eventually Charles and his troops were able to break into the city and engage the royal army in the streets. Hugh was captured and killed during the fighting, while his son Robert was seen escaping on horseback with Gerbert and a much-diminished retinue, bound westward.

    With Hugh driven out of Paris, Charles made his way to the palace, where Arnulf once again affirmed him as Charles IV, King of the Franks, and himself as Archbishop of Rheims. But his position was a precarious one, for while many of the nobles had not been quick to jump to Hugh's defense, the Robertian faction remained strong in the land, and the power base of Charles remained concentrated mainly in his relatives. The death of Odo of Blois in 995 robbed Charles of one of his strongest supporters and replaced him in the counthood of Blois with his son Theobald II, a boy of ten years and unready to rule, much less support a usurper king. His relation Herbert III, Count of Vermandois, would also die within a couple of years and leave a teenaged son to rule his lands. Beyond that, though, the clergy of France and the barons and nobles of the land were broadly opposed to Charles, and favoured the Robertians greatly. While Charles had some supporters - aside from Arnulf, he counted on the uneasy support of Sevinus, Archbishop of Meaux - by and large he faced a hostile gentry out to remove him from power.

    Charles raised the ire of those lower nobles early in his tenure on the throne, when his guards discovered Robert the son of Hugh taking refuge in the court of Fulk III of Anjou. Robert fled upon hearing the royal guard coming for him, but he was soon captured and thrown into the gaol as a traitor, where he perished in starvation and sickness in the late spring of 996. Shortly after that Charles was obligated to send his men to quell a revolt among the population of Meaux, agitated against him by churchmen loyal to the Robertian cause. As for Gerbert, he eluded capture and went into exile in al-Andalus, out of the reach of the Church for the moment.[1]

    But Charles IV, known as the Usurper, would not long outlive Robert; in 997, he was slain in his chambers by a knife-wielding assailant, apparently his chamberlain, and likely on the orders of one of Robert's supporters. Charles's son Otto, left behind in Lower Lorraine as regent, set out for Paris in the hopes of securing the succession, but the dukes of Francia quickly convened a council to insist upon the right of the nobility to elect the king, the Robertian faction seeing an opportunity to oust the hated Carolingians once again. The council was held without Otto in attendance, though his younger son Louis, who had come to Francia with him, spoke in favour of his brother, only for the greater part of the dukes to brush him off and choose instead Henry, Duke of Burgundy and brother to the late Hugh.

    At that time an old man with no heir to succeed him, Henry was chosen as a compromise candidate, one who would die in a few years' time and bring the nobles back to the election table to choose someone else when tensions had faded somewhat. But Henry found himself facing the same challenges as Charles and Hugh: A divided kingdom with the power of the crown so reduced that the role of King of the Franks had become almost a titular title, with his vassals effectively operating autonomously. Again he faced stubborn refusals from the likes of the Counts of Vermandois and the Dukes of Aquitaine to recognize him, though surprisingly Otto of Lower Lorraine, succeeding Charles as duke of that fief, chose not to pursue his father's usurped throne, though he sent on letters of protest, continued to style himself King of the Franks, and demanded that his father's assassin be found and brought to justice.[2]

    Though Henry's grip on France was fragile and to some extent unwanted, he surprised the court in 998 when his third wife, Mathilde, turned up pregnant - and in 999 brought a boy named Adalbert into the world.[3][4]

    [1] So much for the OTL Pope Sylvester II. And the Capetians.
    [2] OTL, Charles lost his bid for the crown and died in Hugh Capet's gaol, and Otto did nothing to really push the issue. In general he seems like a less ambitious man than his father, and in this case he's not about to get stabbed to death like his dad.
    [3] OTL, Henry's only biological child was Aramburga, a daughter, setting up a succession crisis when his stepson inherited Burgundy and came into conflict with King Robert. Here, we're going into the Burgundian branch of the Robertian line, and the only kid is male.
    [4] I've had this chain of events in the hopper for awhile and figured it'd be a good time to get it off my plate. While this change creates enormous butterflies in the Holy Roman Empire and even England, I'm thinking our next stop is Ifriqiya, then back to al-Andalus for awhile.

    994: Pope John XV excommunicates Hugh Capet and Gerbert of Aurillac after their refusal to relinquish the Archbishopric of Rheims back to Arnulf. Later that year, Charles of Lower Lorraine captures Paris. Hugh is killed and Gerbert escapes with Hugh's son Robert, and Charles is crowned Charles IV of West Francia.
    997: Charles IV of West Francia is assassinated after years of grappling with the anti-Carolingian faction. Before his son can reach Paris, the dukes of France proclaim Hugh's brother, Henry, Duke of Burgundy, as the new King. Many of the electors refuse to recognize him, including Duke William V of Aquitaine.
    999: A son, Adalbert, is born to the aging King Henry of West Francia.
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    ACT I Part XVI: Affairs in the Maghreb and Ifriqiya, 997-1002
  • Excerpt: Berber Dynasties of Ifriqiya and the Maghreb - Fayik Saadeddine, Falconbird Press, AD 1997

    The Late 10th and Early 11th Centuries
    The Maghrawa and the Zirids

    When Maghrawa cavalrymen shipped north into Iberia to fight alongside the Umayyad caliphate against the coup of the usurper Muhammad ibn Abi 'Amir in 996, their leader, Ziri ibn Atiya, was among them.

    Ziri, who was no appreciator of the Umayyad chamberlain al-Mughira but held the Caliph Hisham II with the respect due to the nominal protector of the faith, had served largely as the Umayyads' man in the Maghreb. But when he returned home to his seat of power in Fes in 997, he received unwelcome word that the city had been besieged and captured by the Banu Ifran.[1]

    Like the Maghrawa, the Banu Ifran were Zenata Berbers and had allied with Ziri's tribe in many matters in the past, but most of them were devout Kharijites known for their zeal in religious affairs. They held court at the city of Salé on the Atlantic coast, much to the consternation of the Barghawata tribe in the area, and from there sought to project their power across the Maghreb at a time when the region was still not really unified under any one dynasty. While Ziri's tribal group was the dominant one in the region, other tribal kinglets - like Yaddu of the Banu Ifran - contested the region with them.

    An irritated Ziri returned to Fes in 997 with a large army, among them a detachment of Andalusians sent over with the consent of Hisham. Over the course of three months, the Maghrawa waged a bloody war for the city. Ultimately they breached the gates and drove out the Banu Ifran by the sword. Yaddu was killed in the fighting, and Ziri had his head cut off and mounted on a stake above the city gate for all to see.

    The conflict with the Banu Ifran hardly ended there; pushing westward, again with explicit Caliphal backing, Ziri pressed his war against that tribe, overrunning the settlement of Tiflet before launching an attack on Salé in 998, resulting in a bloody clash outside the city as the Maghrawa army suffered from constant harrying raids from expert Ifranid cavalry as they tried to mass outside the walls.

    Nevertheless Ziri's men managed to inflict serious losses on the Ifranids, and ultimately turned the battle in his favour, exacting tribute from the Banu Ifran later that year. He went on to turn his attention to the remnants of the hated Idrisid dynasty, holed up in the fort of Tiaret years after their authority in the Maghreb had been broken by al-Hakam al-Mustansir in 974. Still under the protection of the Umayyads, he drove the Idrisids out of Tiaret and expanded his relative zone of control eastward to encompass Tlemcen.

    Battle wasn't Ziri's only concern. Sometime before his trip to Andalusia, he had begun building a city at Oudja in the Rif.[2] Some of the oldest buildings still standing in Oudja today date from about this time period, and a dedication stone has been found honouring Ziri.

    While the authority of the Maghrawa over the region was never really complete - tribal loyalties alone ensured Ziri would spend most of his days battling the likes of the Banu Ifran, the Barghawata and various tribes of the Sanhaja - the tribe continued to consolidate what hold it had, rounding into by far the most robustly-positioned group in the Maghreb at the time. This stood in contrast, though, to happenings in the east, in Ifriqiya.

    When the Fatimid Caliphate moved their capital to Egypt in 969, they had left Ifriqiya under the viceroyalty of the Zirid dynasty, in the hands of Buluggin ibn Ziri. When he passed in 985, he left control of the region to his son, al-Mansur.[3] His inheritance was divided to an extent, with control over the central Maghreb being entrusted by al-Mansur to his brother, Hammad. The Zirids couldn't press their old claims over Fes and Sijilmasa, those cities being lost to the Maghrawa, but they bent their will upon the Kutama Berbers in the central Maghreb between 986 and 989, consolidating their control on that stretch of the continent.

    Al-Mansur went on to do battle with some of the loose tribes of Zenata Berbers in the area. The Zenata and Sanhaja groups had been traditional rivals, and al-Mansur was able to push many of these tribesmen out of Zirid territory and into that controlled by the Maghrawa in name at least. The lands they once held were placed under Sanhaja governors, but much of the expance between Zirid and Maghrawid territory remained lawless and tribalized.

    The Zirids would face their own instability soon enough. Spurned in the division of Buluggin's realm was his brother, Zawi ibn Ziri, the uncle of al-Mansur. Recognized as a fine warrior from Cairo to Córdoba and with a large body of tribesmen under his purview, Zawi agitated within the Zirid realm, seeking to secure some sort of his brother's inheritance for himself.

    In 995, al-Mansur took ill with what seems to have been pneumonia,[4] holing up in his palace in Kairouan. Zawi took the opportunity to launch a sweeping revolt against his nephew. Records of the actual war are scarce owing to the low levels of literacy and organization in the region at the time, but the fighting raged until at least 998, when the Zirids successfully forced Zawi and his loyalists westward, with Zawi himself holding the reins of that exiled tribal group.

    Al-Mansur perished in 999, and Zawi appealed to his son Badis in the hopes of reconciling - perhaps in the hope of securing power for himself. Badis seems to have ignored these entreaties.

    Evidently seeing no future for himself and his tribe in Ifriqiya, Zawi sent appeal to Caliph Hisham II of Córdoba, swallowing his contempt for the old enemies of the Sanhaja and seeking the protection of a leader he rightly despised. However, Zawi's appeal, in 1000 or thereabouts, was rejected outright on the advice of the chamberlain al-Mughira, who advised Hisham that a rogue element like Zawi would cause nothing but trouble. Most of the Berbers employed by the Umayyads were Zenata, and Zawi was Sanhaja, creating the potential for enormous factional unrest between his tribe and the likes of Ziri ibn Atiya - and al-Mughira feared as well that importing an entire large tribe at once would cause even more unrest. Tribal Berbers often had trouble adapting to urban life in al-Andalus, and many did not even speak Arabic, much less adapt easily to living in cities.[5]

    Rejected by the Andalusians, and with Hisham at the time still in his thirties and unlikely to die any time soon, Zawi cast about for a place to bring his people. Ultimately he sent appeal to Ja'far al-Kalbi, the Emir of Sicily at the time. Ja'far, new to the throne and suffering from a shortage in manpower as Sicilian Muslims chose to pay a tax rather than contribute to the jihad as warriors, saw in Zawi an opportunity to bring a powerful force in on his side, and in 1002 he acceded to Zawi's wishes, permitting him to cross to Sicily.

    It's debatable whether Ja'far realized how dangerous an element he had just introduced to the island.[6]

    [1] The Maghrawa feuded with these guys OTL, too.
    [2] The coastal area east of the point of Tangier/Ceuta.
    [3] Not the same guy as the Almanzor of Iberia.
    [4] OTL, al-Mansur died in this year.
    [5] Even Almanzor was uneasy about bringing in Zawi; he put him off and put him off, and ultimately it was his son who allowed him to come in. Of course, OTL the Zawids settled in Elvira and became one of the most powerful and destabilizing influences in the area as the Taifa of Granada.
    [6] Someone in the comments wanted Kalbid Sicily butterflies. Here they are. Instead of al-Andalus getting the Zawids, Sicily gets them.

    997: In the Maghreb, Ziri ibn Atiya retakes Fes from the Banu Ifran. He goes on to wring submission from them en route to strengthening the Maghrawa tribe's hold in the region.
    998: Al-Mansur ibn Buluggin of Ifriqiya successfully stamps out a rebellion by his uncle, Zawi ibn Ziri.
    1002: The Zawids arrive in Kalbid Sicily at the invitation of Ja'far al-Kalbi.
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    ACT I Part XVII: The Death of Al-Mughira
  • Az-Zahrawi had returned to them just before the onset of the eve. The old physician had drawn the sheet up to the chin of the hajib and offered his quiet blessing and a cup of some soothing drink or another. It wasn't one Hayyan understood very well, but it seemed to put the old vizier at ease.

    The breeze drifted through the open window of the keep of Madinat az-Zahra to tug gently at the robes and the thinning blond hair of Hayyan's father, the Caliph Hisham. The younger man watched as his father bowed his head deeply over the bedridden al-Mughira. The aging vizier's face was drawn and pallid, his breathing slow and laboured with illness, though the smile he returned to Hisham twisted Hayyan's stomach into a knot of sympathy almost as readily as the sight of the tears beading down Hisham's cheeks.

    Finally, with a dreadful serenity, al-Mughira closed his eyes and breathed out a slow, shaky breath. His hands, folded atop the silk of the sheet, went still. They would not move again.

    At age fifteen, Hayyan ibn Hisham II had not yet known death in such a close way. Al-Mughira, he knew, had guided his father as a boy after the death of his father and Hayyan's grandfather. Even as dangerous men had circled his father, al-Mughira had resisted the siren call of conspiracy, remaining loyal to Hisham and working to shape him into the scholarly and wise man he was. He had treated the sons of Hisham, Hayyan among them, with respect - imparted upon them the greatest advice. Respect your blood. Be honourable.

    Swallowing a lump in his throat, Hayyan brushed back a strand of golden-blond hair from out of the pale blue of his eyes. He stepped forward to find a place beside his father. Thinking only of bringing him comfort, he reached for his hand, wordless.

    His fingers slid into the spaces between Hisham's. Squeezed. Received a squeeze in return. As if he could speak with a contact. Father, I am here for you.

    Another hand wove into his father's opposite. With a sniffle, Hayyan's younger brother took up stance to his father's left, clasping his hand tightly and fighting back his own emotions. Even at the age of thirteen, young Muhammad seemed to keep his poise better than Hayyan felt he was keeping his, though the tears stood in the striking ice blue of his eyes, so pale as to appear as endless as the sky.

    The eyes had earned him a nickname - al-Azraq, the Blue-Eyed. In truth, all the sons of Hisham were blue-eyed. Al-Azraq's were different, deep and clear, quick and expressive, and today wrought with pain at the loss of kin.

    The heavy click of the door latch interrupted the silent mourning. All sets of eyes in the room - Hisham's, Hayyan's, Muhammad's, az-Zahrawi's, the eyes of al-Mughira's wife and his son Mutarrif, a young man of perhaps twenty-one, cradling in his arms the delicately-carved ivory and jade pyxis his father had passed to him - turned towards the door as it swung open to reveal the fellow behind it, a tall man in his mid-twenties or so, broad-shouldered, stocky and dark-haired, his dark blue eyes focused towards the bed and his full lips pressed into a neutral line behind the curl of his heavy beard.

    "So it's true," murmured Abd ar-Rahman, eldest son of Hisham. "The hajib is gone."

    Hisham sniffed back tears as he nodded sadly to the younger man. "Gone to sleep in the arms of God, my son."

    With due gravity, Abd ar-Rahman bowed his head and closed his eyes. Hayyan forced himself not to say anything, just biting down to the inside of his cheek.

    He'd long learned to recognize how falsified his older brother's shows of emotion were - how the man who cared mostly for himself struggled to express empathy for other men, even his own blood. The whispers of the courtiers about Abd ar-Rahman had not escaped Hayyan's ears. They spoke of him in terms the younger brother had long ago realized himself: Arrogant, slothful, arbitrary, absent of compassion. A mean-spirited and unemotive man, undeserving of the favour in which their father held him.

    With his lips pressed together, Hayyan turned his gaze towards the still form upon the bed. A smile lingered on the dead lips of al-Mughira as he lay there in the bosom of God.

    Respect your blood. Be honourable.

    There were days Hayyan wished it were that easy with his older brother.

    For a moment, Hayyan's eyes locked with Muhammad's ungodly clear blue ones. He could see his younger brother biting his lip as well. A small sign, but enough to remind Hayyan that in that wish, he was not alone.


    1007: The hajib of the Caliphate of Córdoba, al-Mughira, dies of pneumonia at the age of 56.
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    ACT I Part XVIII: Hisham II's Middle Years
  • Excerpt: The Palm of the Distant West Nurtured in the Soils of al-Andalus - Joseph ibn Abram al-Qadisi, AH 442 (AD 1059)*

    Now the passage of al-Mughira greatly troubled Hisham, and he mourned his uncle gravely and in private, and lamented the departure of the man who had been his closest advisor and friend for nigh-on thirty years.

    In his uncle's stead did Hisham choose as hajib Ahmad ibn Sa'id ibn Hazm,[1] whose family descended from the line of the Banu Umayya but in a branch more distant from Hisham. While Hisham placed trust in Ahmad, he did not share with him the richness and closeness that he had felt for al-Mughira, and he sought others as well for advice. Among those who had his ear most closely were his son, Abd ar-Rahman, of whom we shall speak momentarily, as well as the favourite boy of his harem, the Saqlabi who was called Ragad.

    As a boy this may have placed Hisham in some danger, for when he took the throne he was but a naive and trusting young lad, unready for the role, and yet to learn of the world. Now aged perhaps forty and three, he was a wiser man, though one still given to much time in prayer and scholasticism, and not prone to pressing the jihad aggressively.

    To this he entrusted Wadih, commander of the garrison of Madinat as-Salih, as well as his son Abd ar-Rahman, whom he favoured as his successor. Some time after the death of al-Mughira, Abd ar-Rahman led a party of some few thousand Andalusians and Berbers north and east, and into the marches of Catalunya, to the lands ruled by Ramon Borrell the Count of Barcelona. The raiders of Abd ar-Rahman came even within sight of the gates of Barshilunah, but turned back before laying siege to that city. The knights of Catalunya pursued the host to the border place of Taraghuna,[2] but were defeated, and Abd ar-Rahman returned home with some prisoners and golden takings.

    Now while this victory raised the standing of Abd ar-Rahman in the eyes of some, he was also a man of some mixed virtue. Some spoke of him as a man who cared little for those around him, and his manners were often cold and callous, and yet he served as well as the manager of his father's estates, and was a skilled manager of finances, and his eye for detail was said to be sharp. He stood by his father's side in many affairs, and some years after the passage of al-Mughira, on the 19th day of Dhu'l-Qa'dah in the 399th year,[3] he attended when the delegation al-Mu'izz ibn Ziri attended the great hall of Córdoba, bringing word that his father the lord of the Maghrawa, Ziri ibn Atiya, had perished.

    Hisham, receiving from al-Mu'izz the son of Ziri gifts and honours, as well as his submission, affirmed upon Ziri the protection of the Banu Umayya, and recognized him as the lord of the Maghreb. In the ensuing days, Abd ar-Rahman spent much time in conversation with the man, and the grains of a friendship were sown between them.

    Now the dalliances of Hisham with his concubine had produced four sons and some small number of daughters. The eldest of his children was Abd ar-Rahman, his son by his wife 'Asma, who bore him as well a daughter named A'isha. Second of his sons was Hayyan, and third was Muhammad, known as al-Azraq, both sired upon Buhayr the princess of Pamplona. His fourth son was al-Hakam, perhaps nine years old at the time of al-Mu'izz's visit, though he was a shy and retiring young man, and held no ambition to the caliphal power, and sought to spend his life in prayer.

    The middle sons of Hisham could not be spoken of in the same way, and as Hayyan came of age in the year 400, he demonstrated himself to be a man widely beloved at the court, and held in high respect by the old families and the
    Saqaliba alike, and even by some among the Berbers and the dhimmi for his pious and charitable nature. Though it was not said of him that he was the administrator Abd ar-Rahman was, Hayyan was known even as a young man for his skill with the blade, and for his humble demeanor, even as in his heart he harboured a resentment of Abd ar-Rahman for being so favoured by their father.

    Upon reaching his eighteenth year, and seeking to win the favour of his father, Hayyan the young prince struck out against the Galician, gathering with him some few thousand men and riding upon a pure white mare[4] as he marched north of Coimbra, and coming to the walls of the city called Porto. Though he could not breach the gate, he met the Count of Portugal in battle beyond the walls, and triumphed there, returning home with prisoners and prizes, and great honour to his name.

    Word of the success of his brother reached the ears of Abd ar-Rahman, and he went to the stairs of the Madinat az-Zahra to receive his brother, and compared the prisoners and prizes he had won from the lords of Catalunya. Upon realizing that Hayyan had returned home with more than his elder brother, Abd ar-Rahman was filled with bitterness, and veiled his feelings, saying to his brother, "With such talent upon the field, perhaps I shall have you marshal my forces, when the day comes!"

    "Perhaps so," said Hayyan to his brother, "but that day has not come yet."

    In silence were the two watched by the third son of Hisham, named Muhammad but so called by the laqab of al-Azraq, for though his brother Hayyan was also blue-eyed, so was al-Azraq known for his eyes of a blue so clear and pale as to appear as endless as the sky at the summer noon. The younger man is spoken of at the time as beautiful but affable and withdrawn, concerned often with his studies and often given to speaking with the dhimmi of their troubles. And yet it was said of him that his brilliance was uncommon to man, and his wit as quick as the flight of the swiftest swallow.

    Now a time of some peace settled across the north, broken only by the wedding of the kinglet of Viguera, Sancho II the son of Sancho,[5] to the daughter of the Count of Castile in 400, and by a bid in 402[6] by Ordono of Leon to send men to retake Zamora, only to be repelled for his efforts and forced to pay reparations. The chastened king groused beneath the weight of the caliphal power, but agreed to respect the agreement of peace signed by his father Ramiro, at least for now. It was about that time that Hisham, then reaching his fiftieth year, began to grow weary of the caliphal duties, and more and more chose to withdraw from the court, and spend time with the men of his harem, and in the company of Ragad, his favourite. His movements grew wearier, and his hair began to show the first signs of grey.

    Now Hisham still appeared to the people of the city at the due times, and was not perceived by them to be absent, but in truth the administration of the land fell more and more to Ahmad, and to Abd ar-Rahman. The relationship between the two men was not close, for while Ahmad was a man of duty and learning, if not passion, Abd ar-Rahman sought to secure his position, and he planned a larger summer raid for 403, to strike against the Galician and bring glory to his name. Again Hayyan rode along with him, and both were honoured by the people when the raid returned, even as the quiet rift remained between them.

    [1] The father of the OTL historian Ibn Hazm, who apparently played prominent bureaucratic roles in the court of Almanzor.
    [2] Thanks for the accurate transliteration, @snassni2.
    [3] July 15, 1009.
    [4] The Andalusis and Berbers favoured mares as warhorses because they were quieter than stallions. On another note, there might be a bit of myth-making going on here.
    [5] Yes, his name is Sancho Sanchez. Shut up.
    [6] 1012. We've averted the fitna as we know it, at least.

    1009: Ziri ibn Atiya, king of the Maghrawa Berbers, dies. His son al-Mu'izz receives the sanction of Hisham II as the new lord of the Maghreb.
    1010: Sancho II, King of Viguera, marries the daughter of Sancho Garcia, the Count of Castile.
    1012: Leon mounts a lightning raid to try and retake Zamora. The raid fails and the kingdom is subjected to raids from the Caliphate of Córdoba, and forced to pay tribute again.
    1013: Hisham II, approaching 50, begins to withdraw from day-to-day rule, worn down by almost 40 years in power. He still exercises power but leaves the regular tasks of governing the Caliphate to the hajib, Ahmad ibn Sa'id ibn Hazm, and his oldest son Abd ar-Rahman ibn Hisham II.
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    ACT I Part XIX: The Death of Hisham II
  • Excerpt: The Palm of the Distant West Nurtured in the Soils of al-Andalus - Joseph ibn Abram al-Qadisi, AH 442 (AD 1059)*

    The enmity between the sons of Hisham festered like a buboe on the face of the Banu Umayya, for though Abd ar-Rahman sought to raise glory unto himself, and further his favour in the eyes of his father, it rankled in his heart that he could not be thought of as a man as just as his brother Hayyan, and though Hayyan sought to bring honour to his family, he was wroth that Hisham still favoured his elder brother.

    Now both of the sons were fine men at arms, and sought to raise their standing through the jihad as well as through their acts of learning, and in so doing both brought with them allies. Thus it was that as the Banu Ifran of the Maghreb agitated against al-Mu'izz ibn Ziri, and raised some calamity in the whereabouts of Sale, did Abd ar-Rahman ride to Fes to join some number of Andalusians with the men of the Maghrawa, and sought to bring the rebels into submission. That was in the 406th year,[1] though the Banu Ifran, while agreeing to pay the tribute to al-Mu'izz as they had to Ziri, were sore wroth with this.

    Now Hayyan was more beloved by the Saqaliba, and by many of the old families, and he turned his eyes away from the kingdoms of the north, with whom a peace had settled, and towards the counties of the Marches, for in the feuds of the monarchs of the Franks, those counts had ceased to pay tribute to the Frankish crown, and had not recognized any Frankish king since the rise and death of Hugh and his deposition by Charles, and their lands were in practicality without sovereign save for those counts who dwelled there.

    Through the swiftness of his tongue and the earnestness of his words was Hayyan able to persuade his father Hisham to permit him to ride to the north, to again cross swords with the counts of the Marches. Taking with him Wadih, the commander of Madinat as-Salih, and the Siqlabi known as Mujahid,[2] himself raised a great warrior, Hayyan led a party of some few thousand Andalusians, Saqaliba warriors and African riders, and entered the lands of the Christian, and raised great calamity against Barshilunah a second time.

    Some years prior, the raiding of Abd ar-Rahman had come close to the gates of Barshilunah, and yet Hayyan exceeded this, and breached the city, and put the defenders to the sword. Many of the Christians were captured, and much riches seized, and the city was laid prostrate before the Muslim. Now driven from the walls, the Count Ramon Borrell did write some plea to the very King of the Franks whose predecessors he had spurned, and beseeched him to send men at arms to relieve the situation, but the King of the Franks at the time was King Adalbert, and was then a man of perhaps seventeen or eighteen years, and mistrusted by his nobles, and possessed of lands distant from Catalunya. The King would later write to Ramon Borrell, urging him to "perhaps recall your oath to the Crown, rather than the bending of your knee to the Ishmaelite," while assuring him that no men could be spared - and in any case, his lords would not consent to ride to the south, consumed as they were by the power struggles within West Francia. No warriors of the Franks thus rode to the rescue, and the army of Hayyan returned from their expedition without interception, and the people of Córdoba were much pleased with the success of the faithful over the Christian.[3]

    Now it was about this time that Abd ar-Rahman saw the successes of his brother, and resolved to win his love, for he saw in him a useful commander for when he would succeed their father. Some time after the sacking of Barshilunah did the two brothers meet, with their sister A'isha endeavouring to bring between them a peace, and urging them towards greater conciliation, and honour towards their father's wishes.

    With a spirit of humility did Hayyan agree to honour the desires of Hisham, and to follow in the decisions his father would make, though at heart he remained wroth, and wished it were not so. With satisfaction did Abd ar-Rahman embrace his brother and call him friend.

    But the brothers could not know that as they made some efforts to serve together, if not love one another, A'isha was deep in the shadows, and whispered in close conspiracy with some diverse group of others, though these conspirators were not yet in the open. The oldest daughter of Hisham, and a woman of stubborn spirit and quiet insight, she saw that the Caliphate could not bear the feuding of two strong brothers, and she sought to lay the situation right.

    And yet as the late months of 408[4] came upon the world, and the colder weather set upon Córdoba, did Hisham withdraw himself further, and confided in his favourite Ragad that his vigour was beginning to fade, and his years of rule had aged him beyond the passing of the calendar. "O my friend! I can see the enmity between my sons as clearly as the dawn," he said to Ragad one day, "and though I know that Hayyan will faithfully serve his brother, I can but wish he would do so joyously."

    And Ragad took his master's lament, and he too followed into the shadows, and conspired privily with A'isha, and the two began to hatch a plot to secure the future of the land.

    Their plot would not yet see fruition before the slow passage of the cold months of 408 and into spring, when Hisham withdrew from his duties, and took to his bed with a lingering fever, spending his days at rest. At his side were his sons and daughters, standing vigil over him, as well as Ragad, and Ahmad the hajib. It was clear that the life would leave him soon, and the caliphal power would pass to Abd ar-Rahman.

    In those waning days, Abd ar-Rahman moved to secure himself, and demanded the loyalty of both Hayyan and al-Azraq, and the brothers swore to uphold the wishes of their father that Abd ar-Rahman be caliph. He received as well the loyalty of the younger brother, al-Hakam, though he was suspicious of him, for though he knew Hayyan and al-Azraq were unfond of him, he imagined dissemblage in al-Hakam's quietude and preference for scholasticism and prayer, and wondered privily if the younger brother had some conspiracy within him, for Abd ar-Rahman found it more difficult to know his mind than those of his other brothers. He ordered a guard placed upon al-Hakam's person, and undertook to watch him for signs of conspiracy, though this came to naught. He slept as well with a guard outside his door, and would not eat without a servant to first taste his wine, lest some assassin strike him down.

    All these precautions preserved him, and on the 14th day of Shawwal, in the year 408,[5] did Hisham II al-Mu'ayyad close his eyes and fall asleep in God, and did pass into death peacefully in his 54th year, 42 of which were spent in the rule of the Caliphate.[6]

    Swiftly did his heir move to secure his position, and Abd ar-Rahman was presented to the court, accompanied by his sister A'isha as well as the hajib, Ahmad. So styled al-Musta'in-billah, did he rise as the fourth ruler of the land of the name Abd ar-Rahman, and was recognized by the people as the caliph. He could not know that the conspirators continued to whisper against him in the shadows, and that many of those who hailed him as caliph sought instead to work against him.

    [1] Roughly 1015.
    [2] This individual became leader of the taifa kingdom of Denia OTL.
    [3] Almanzor sacked Barcelona in 985. Hayyan is about 30 years behind him. Adalbert, the son of Henry of Burgundy, is about as jerky to Ramon Borrell here as OTL Hugh Capet was to Borrell II, and hamstrung by the French monarchy's weakness anyway.
    [4] 1018.
    [5] March 5, 1018.
    [6] We don't know when OTL Hisham died but he was presumably more insulated from the actual hardships of ruling in reality, given that Almanzor locked him in the palace and wouldn't let him out. ITTL, Hisham had a long, boring reign where he had to balance a precariously-perched caliphate very carefully. 42 years after the POD, Hisham exits stage left. Buckle in and get ready for the fireworks.

    1016: The Caliphate of Córdoba conducts a successful sacking of Barcelona. The pleas of Count Ramon Borrell for aid from Adalbert, King of the Franks, are answered curtly owing to years of the Catalonian counties being alienated from the crown, and Hayyan ibn Hisham II rides home with loot and prisoners.
    1017: The mediation of Hisham II's daughter A'isha sees Hayyan ibn Hisham II grudgingly agree to acknowledge his older brother Abd ar-Rahman as his father's choice to succeed him.
    1018: Hisham II al-Mu'ayyad, Caliph of Córdoba, dies of an illness in his 50s after being worn down by 42 years of rule. He is succeeded by his abrasive but administratively competent eldest son, Abd ar-Rahman IV al-Musta'in.
    ACT I Part XX: Abd ar-Rahman IV of Cordoba
  • She had slipped out of the harem only discreetly, in the dead of night. Deeply hooded and veiled to hide herself from the world, the eunuch Ragad moving behind her like a shadow, she slid with care through the courtyard and into the foliage by the Wadi al-Kabir,[1] where the starlight danced on the water and the low gurgle of the river kept words from carrying.

    Only the dim flicker of the candle told Aisha they were there - three of them, each hooded as well. Perfect.

    The daughter of Hisham slid back her hood; dark curls poured free of it. A'isha was a woman who could be called less beautiful than she could handsome, strong-jawed and sharp of feature. Stern dark eyes moved from face to face - Mujahid the commander of the Saqaliba, Fatin the master of the royal wardrobe, and her own younger brother, Muhammad, the one they called al-Azraq.

    "We don't have much time," she said, voice low. "Morning will come soon and we mustn't be discovered."

    "Then we shall get straight to the point." Beard bristling slightly behind his hood, Mujahid folded his arms across his chest and scowled. "We all know there are better men for the job than Abd ar-Rahman. We've committed to that. We need to find a candidate."

    A'isha lowered her eyelids slightly. "And we need to find a way to remove him, or turn enough of the court that they will remove him."

    From the shadows of his cloak, Fatin, a willowy young man with soft blond hair, bit down to his lower lip in worry. "Do we have a candidate to replace him yet? Surely someone could do it."

    "What about him," Ragad suggested with a stiff nod towards A'isha's younger brother.

    From his seat on a smoothed-off stone, al-Azraq lifted his head. The ice-like clarity of those pale blue eyes settled on A'isha, steady.

    He shook his head. "I don't want to be Caliph," he said, his soft voice low and level. "All I want is to know that I can wake up in the morning and know that the Caliph is not the brother who laughed at me when I struggled and sneered at me when I succeeded. I'll help you to remove him. But I won't replace him." He lowered his head.

    "Besides," he added more quietly, "I don't think our candidate should know he's our candidate."

    A moment's silence hung over the gathering. A'isha finally broke it with a clearing of her throat. "Brother," she murmured, "Who did you...?"

    "Isn't it obvious?" grunted Mujahid. "Our candidate should be Hayyan."

    "But he's reconciled with Abd ar-Rahman. Surely he wouldn't join us," Fatin worried, knitting his hands together.

    As realization dawned on A'isha, she shook her head, brushing back a curl. "No... he never would. He's too loyal. But he would have to rise to the occasion if something were to happen to Abd ar-Rahman - and his hands would be completely clean."


    Excerpt: The Palm of the Distant West Nurtured in the Soils of al-Andalus - Joseph ibn Abram al-Qadisi, AH 442 (AD 1059)

    It must be said of Abd ar-Rahman IV that he was a man of two natures, one of industry and tenacity, and another of malice and carelessness. For though his nature as a man of wroth and arbitrariness caused many in the court to chafe beneath his rule, so too was it true that the caliphal treasury did not diminish in the years of his reign, and his spending of the dinars was temperate, and not to excess.

    Now the early days and months of the reign of Abd ar-Rahman IV were months of some minor turbulence, as he attempted to secure the land from within and without. At his bidding, the King of Leon, then the fifth to be called Ordono, made journey to Córdoba, and there received from Abd ar-Rahman demand of tribute, and renewal of the status of submission imposed upon him by Hisham II. The Christian did grudgingly accept these terms, and gave gifts unto Abd ar-Rahman, but left most rankled by the caliph's imperious attitude, and lamented to his bodyguards, "Look, look at the smirk upon the face of the Moor, as he dictates his terms as some emperor! How long shall we bend our knee to the heathen?"

    In the north, the occasional disturbance from the men at arms of Castile and the small land called Viguera - then but the tiniest kingdom, and nearly forgotten - was met with force from the defenders at Madinat as-Salih, though in the mountains of Pamplona was the King Garcia III silent, and devoted to his prayer. In his stead began to appear the occasional mounted raiders of the land of Aquitaine, bound to the house of Garcia by the bonding of the Duke William to the young princess, Sancha.

    Abd ar-Rahman moved against these raiders, and in 409[2] did move against the raiders, and struck against the city of Najera and its surrounds, and set some villages to the torch. Thus chastised, did Sancho III agree to withdraw his men, and keep his peace thus far.

    With his neighbours to the north making only these small protestations against him, and easily kept at bay by their own squabbles - for at that time Leon again set its eye upon the remnants of Galicia, and lusted after it, and raised its levies to seize those lands from the Galician kings once more, to which Abd ar-Rahman voiced no objection - the Caliph nonetheless sought to legitimize his rule by pressing the jihad against the Christian. For though the son of al-Hakam II had been accepted out of love, and embraced for his mildness in rule, it was more difficult for Abd ar-Rahman, whose demeanor drew the scowls of many at the court.

    Seeking a demonstration of his reach, and to legitimize himself, did Abd ar-Rahman look across the sea, and to the isle called Sardinia by the Christian. In those days the island was a divided place, once a subject of the Greek, but sorely divided, and ruled by local lords,[3] and Abd ar-Rahman saw in it a place ripe for the spread of his domain, as once had been tried in the Djabal al-Qilal under the emir Abdullah.[4]

    The mission was placed beneath the command of Mujahid, the Siqlabi, for he had some knowledge of ships, and ties to the sailors of Denia, where the Saqaliba were many. Now over the seasons did Mujahid marshal the ships of the caliphate, and Abd ar-Rahman beseeched his brother Hayyan to marshal the forces, and when the date came in the year of 410, were massed some few thousand of Andalusians and conscripts, and some Saqaliba, and some handful of riders from Africa send by al-Mu'izz. These men boarded the ships, and set sail into the east.

    And yet, as the ships sailed for the east, did A'isha the daughter of Hisham go to Ragad the favourite of her father, and the two schemed to put their plot into motion.

    At the same time, messengers brought word from the north of the passage from this world of Garcia III of Navarre, the young man having been felled by some ailment, some time after a meal. Now the Basques of Pamplona being a people not averse to the ensconcing of the female sex upon the throne, was Garcia replaced by his sister, Sancha.

    Now this created the seed of a great danger, for though this young woman, she of breathtaking beauty and a mind as sharp as the finest sword, was enthroned as Queen of Pamplona, so too was she also the Duchess of Aquitaine, and wed to a man twenty years her senior and gradually failing in his later years, and with a young son named William Sancho in line to follow him to the throne. Thus was laid a most dire portent, that of the marital link between Pamplona and Aquitaine, guided by the hand of a woman of towering ambition, and with one child soon to inherit both, and the caliph cast a wary eye to the north even as his men took to the sea.[5]

    [1] The River Guadalquivir.
    [2] 1019.
    [3] The judicati. OTL, the taifa of Denia, under Mujahid, attempted an invasion of Sardinia in the early 1010s. Here, it's a juicy target, far afield, and Abd ar-Rahman has reason to do something to show he's a worthy caliph.
    [4] Between about 889 and 973, the Umayyads "held" a small colony at Fraxinet in Provence. At its peak the Moors had colonies near Grenoble and Nice and held part of the Susa Valley before William the Liberator, Count of Provence, kicked them out. The Arabic placename means "Mountain of Many Peaks."
    [5] Enter a potential strong enemy. Aquitaine-Navarre appears much less simple to kick around than the divided remnants of Leon. Sancha, remember, is a similar person to OTL Sancho III, but born female. More on her later.

    1018: Caliph Abd ar-Rahman IV renews Leon's tribute agreement to the Caliphate of Córdoba, much to King Ordono V's chagrin. Ordono returns home to resume the subjugation of Galicia.
    1019: Seeking to punish King Garcia III of Pamplona for raids in the north, Abd ar-Rahman orders the torching of some of the towns in the vicinity of Najera.
    1020: The Caliphate of Córdoba embarks upon a mission to gain a foothold in Sardinia.
    1020: Garcia III, King of Pamplona, dies of a suspiciously-timed illness. His sister Sancha ascends the throne. She is both Queen of Pamplona and Duchess of Aquitaine, as wife of Duke William V, and has given him a son. Aquitaine and Pamplona come into marital union.