15 October 2014
Commentary 1 on the Chronicle of 754
Nature of the document
This document is a historical chronicle with religious and social connotations. While a Christian individual did write it and there are religious implications present since Muslims were conquering Christians during this time, it does not serve as a religious document. Rather, it serves as a historical account of the Arab conquest of Spain. Written from a Christian point of view, it was likely addressed to fellow Christians who were able to read and write, i.e. monks and priests. While the author is unknown, it is known that it is written by a Christian and thus must be written by some type of cleric. The author seems to express grief about the violence and destruction, as he repeatedly mentions how Spain was being “devastated” and the cities were being ruined and forced into famine. He does not express contempt for the Muslims, but rather concern for peace as he describes how Musa (a Muslim ruler) imposed evil and forced fear and terror into citizens. He never recognizes the rulers as non-Christians, but rather associates them with their ethnic identity. It appears to biased, somewhat surprisingly, against the Christians. It seems as though the author has anger towards his fellow Christians for fighting each other and thus making the Visigothic kingdom more vulnerable, along with individuals like Oppa who betrayed their people and collaborated with the Muslims. This chronicle was likely written in al-Andalus, as the author must have witnessed much of these conquests happening and specifically talks in detail about Cadiz and Cordoba. The author uses the Byzantine calendar to date the events throughout the chronicle, but there are Gregorian dates listed in parentheses (probably added later for reference). The article is reportedly written in 754, following the Gregorian calendar. Without taking this for granted, we can reason that since the author is recounting the 711 conquests, it should have been created between that year and his death; leaving approximately a fifty year period from 715-765 AD to date the document.
The piece begins by describing the incredible rule of the Walid. He exercised armies well; taking Romania, India, Libya and even the kingdom of the Goths with the help of his army general Musa. Although, he did face some challenges. In the year 711, Roderic rose up against Walid and tried to take some of his lands but he eventually failed when his army abandoned him. Musa himself tried to take Spain in year 711. He conquered Toledo with Oppa’s assistance, killing all noblemen in the process. He devastated various Spanish cities in the West and East with many citizens fleeing for the mountains. The Saracens eventually set up their headquarters in prosperous Córdoba.
This document was written around 754, over 40 years after the conquest it describes. During this time, the Omeya and Abasí families were fighting for power. When the Abasí family revolted against the then ruling Omeyas, all but one Omeya member was killed. This man, Abderraman Omeya, fled to the Iberian Peninsula in 755 and began ruling as emir of Cordoba while the Abasís rose to power in Damascus. During Abderraman’s reign, Charlemagne king of the Franks invaded Spain to combat the Muslims but was defeated. The Muslim rule possibly motivated the Christian author because he didn’t foresee the downfall of Islamic power and thus decided it was worthy history to document. In a way, he was legitimizing the Muslim rule by writing about their conquest. Although he was recognizing their rule as legitimate, he was not necessarily happy about it. The conquest took a toll on the Christian church as bishops were deposed; so perhaps the Christian writer decided to continue the universal chronicle at this time out of concern that if all of Spain fell to the Muslims, the clergy would lose legitimacy. In Asturias,…