The Mercenary Mediterranean: Sovereignty, Religion, and Violence in the Medieval Crown of Aragon

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University of Chicago Press, Mar 22, 2016 - History - 310 pages
Over the course of the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, as the Christian kingdoms of Iberia subdued, expelled, and enslaved resident Muslim populations, a curious alliance was also forged between the kings of Aragon in eastern Iberia and Muslim soldiers from southern Iberia (al-Andalus) and from North Africa. Besides contesting with the Crown of Castile for control of the peninsula, the Aragonese rulers of this period, until at least the middle of the fifteenth century, also had extensive holdings throughout the Mediterranean (including Majorca, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, southern Italy, and parts of Greece) and were always in need of soldiers outside of the peninsula to maintain their territories. Hence thousands of Muslim soldiers (jenets, as they were called) were recruited to serve in Aragonese armies as well as in their courts, as personal bodyguards, as members of their entourages, and, on occasion, as their sporting entertainment. Why would a Muslim, if not just for money, agree to fight alongside a Catholic king to protect the Catholic king's territories in Iberia or elsewhere in the Mediterranean? Hussein Fancy's purpose in this study is twofold: first, like the jenets themselves, Fancy wishes to cross both linguistic and political boundaries by bringing Arabic sources into conversation with traditional Latin and Romance archives employed in western scholarship on the subject. While earlier studies have either focused on Christian Iberia, or on Arabic sources in al-Andalus and North Africa, Fancy discusses the Arabic, Latin, and Romance documents together to create a different picture of the interaction among the populations based in Iberia, especially those in Aragon, which had aspirations stretching across the Mediterranean. Second, he asks: must mercenaries always act on political rather than religious grounds, by rational self-interest rather than spiritual belief. Fancy complicates the issue by suggesting that Muslim mercenaries were also motivated to fight for Catholic kings on religious grounds, contending that the relation between the jenets and Aragon is more complex than is understood in current scholarship, and that both depended upon and reproduced ideas of religious difference. As such their shared history is a unique opportunity to reconsider the relation of religion to politics in the medieval Mediterranean on its own terms, and to demonstrate the manner in which competing and overlapping conceptions of religious and political authority evolved across and between Christian and Islamic contexts.

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A Mercenary Logic
Chapter 1 Etymologies and Etiologies
Chapter 2 A Sovereign Crisis
Chapter 3 Sovereigns and Slaves
Chapter 4 A Mercenary Economy
Chapter 5 The Unpaid Debt
Chapter 6 The Worst Men in the World
Medievalism and Secularism

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About the author (2016)

Hussein Fancy is assistant professor of history at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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