|D. M. DUNLOP
Several critics have placed the court of the `King of the Norsemen'
in Jutland (Denmark)."1" The
late Professor Levi-Provencal, a high authority in all matters
connected with Muslim Spain, expressed the opinion in more than
one place that the narrative was unhistorical, in fact `imagined
in the 12th or 13th century' "2"
i.e. in the time of Ibn Dihyah (544/1149-633/1235).
The rest of the narrative gives an account of
the reception of the ambassadors. Yahya al-Ghazal, speaking through
an interpreter, informed the `King of the Norsemen' of the contents
of a letter from `Abd arRahman. Then bales from Spain were
opened, and the `King of the Norsemen' is represented as well
satisfied with the presents (rich garments and vessels), which
they contained. Much of the narrative purports to recount conversations
between Yahya al-Ghazal and the consort of the `King of the Norsemen',
called in the text Nud, perhaps for Thud, Theuda, who is represented
as taking a sympathetic interest in the stranger. Finally, his
mission (very indistinctly indicated) accomplished or not, Yahya
al-Ghazal left his hosts and sailed back to St. James of Compostella
in the Asturias (north-west Spain). After travelling overland
through Christian Spain, he reached Cordova, according to the
account, after an absence of twenty months."3"
There appears to be nothing here decisive for
or against the authenticity. Two further points may be made. A
poem attributed to Yahya al-Ghazal, incorporated in the narrative
like the verses on the storm already mentioned, speaks of shining
buttons (azrdr) as part of the dress of the queen. It is somewhat
remarkable that a few decades later the traveller Ibn Fadlan also
speaks of the gold buttons (azrur dhahab) on the khaftdn of a
Germanic chief, whose funeral he had witnessed on the Volga. "4"
If, on the other hand, `the mountain known as Aluwiyah'-not apparently
mentioned elsewhere, and nowhere explained-is the same name as
Aluya above (§ 1), then `mount Albion' would evidently be
imaginary, and we should have a strong argument against the authenticity.
In any case, this narrative clearly cannot be regarded as an unexceptionable
account of a visit to the British Isles by Arabs from Spain in
the ninth century, but it has not yet been proved not to be such.
Measures taken after the descent of the Norsemen
in 229/844 (see § 2), which was scarcely the first of its
kind, appear to have included the patrolling of the Atlantic coast
of Spain by Umayyad squadrons, as far even as the Bay of Biscay."5"
The Norsemen appeared again in 245/859, first in Galicia, then
farther south, also in Africa and on the east coast of Spain."6"
It is apparently to this raid that al-Mas'udi refers in the following
passage."7" `Before the year
300 A.H. there came to Spain certain ships by sea in which were
thousands of people, and they raided their coasts. The people
of Spain supposed that they were a nation of Norsemen, who appear
against them every two hundred years, and that they come to z
heir land from a gulf of the Ocean, which is not that on which
is the watch-tower of brass "8"
(SC. Strait of Cadiz or Gibraltar). I think, and God knows better,
that the strait from which they came is connected with the Sea
of Maeotis and Nitas (i.e. modern Sea of Azov and Black Sea, or
Pontus), and that this nation are the Rus, whom we previously
mentioned (as having recently descended the Volga to the Caspian)
"9" in an earlier art of this
book, since none but they traverse these seas which are connected
with the Ocean.' Al-Mas'udi was wrong about direct communication
between the Atlantic and the Black Sea, but he has grasped the
general connexion between Viking raids in the extreme west and
the extreme east of Europe. One of the commanders of the Muslim
fleet which operated in the Atlantic against the invaders was
a certain Khashkash, a name which will meet us later."10"
Al-Kindi, who died c. A.D. 87o, knew Ptolemy's
Geography in a translation specially made for him, as mentioned
in the Fihrist, which characterizes the translation as a poor
one."11" Al-Mas`udi says"12"
that he had seen in the books ascribed to al-Kindi and his pupil
as-Sarakhsi the statement that at the extremity of the inhabited
land in the north is a great lake under the North Pole (taht qutb
ash-shimal), and that in its vicinity is city beyond which is
no habitation, called Tuliyah (Thule, usually taken = the Shetlands).
He had seen also that the Banul- Munajjim, i.e. the Banu
Musa b. Shakir"13" in one of
their treatises, had mentioned this lake.
Another reference to Thule about the same time
is in the Ta'rikh al-ya'qubi,"14"
who analyses the Kitab fi dhdt al-halaq (On the Armillary Sphere)
attributed to Ptolemy, chapter by chapter. Chapter 25 deals with
the shortest day and longest day-four hours and twenty hours respectively-
at 63 degrees north. This is the farthest habitable point. It
is an island called Tuli (Thule) in the land of Europe (Uriba),
and is north of the land of the Greeks. The Ta'rikh is dated to
- So Dozy, G. Jacob (Arabische Berichte von Gesandten an germanische
Fiirstenhofe aus dem 9. und 10. Jahrhundert, Berlin and Leipzig,
1927, p. 38), and H. Munis.
- Hist. de l'Espagne, p. 178; `Une echange d'ambassades entre
Cordoue et Byzance au ix' siecle' Byzantion, xii (1937), p. 16.
- In the passage first named in the previous note Levi-Provenral
gives nine months.
- A. Zeki Validi Togan, Ibn Fadldn's Reisebericht, A.K.M., xxiv.
3 (Leipzig, 1939), § 89, Arabic text, , p. 40.
- Levi-Provencal, Hist. de l'Espagne, pp. 157, 218, 224 H. Munis,
`Contribution', pp. 66-67, cites Ibn ‘Idhari, Bayan, ii. 99 for
the year A.H. 245.
- Levi-Provencal, op. cit., pp. 218-19; H. Munis, Op. cit., pp.
64-73. (The date 238/853 of the section-heading on p.64 there
- Muruj, i. 364-5.
- Cf. ibid. i.257.
- The reference here is to Muruj, i. 273-4. A full account is
in Muruj, ii. 18-23. See D. M. Dunlop. Hist. of the Jewish Khazars
(Princeton, 1954), PP. 209-12
- §§ 13, 20.
- Ed. Flugel, p. 268.
- Muruj, i. 275. Cf. also Yaqut, Buldan, i. 5oo.
- For them see Fihrist, p. 271.
- Ed. Houtsma, i. 156.
The Islamic Quarterly, London