The base, craven, heretical Maurontus

One of the interesting bits that caught my eye while researching the post on Islam in Francia was the story of Duke Maurontus, and how he “invited” the Arabs of Narbonne to occupy his city of Avignon. That a duke of Christendom would voluntarily surrender his fortified city to the dread Saracens seemed incredible, so naturally I wanted to take a closer look.

Avignon is part of Provence, a region with long ties to the Mediterranean, and one that had an uneasy relationship with the Franks to the north. In the first few decades of the eighth century two great families dominated Provence: the first family was led by a bishop named Abbo, and they controlled the passes into Lombardy; the second family was led by Duke Maurontus, and they controlled the coast, including Avignon and the mouth of the Rhone river. Bishop Abbo allied himself with Charles Martel, which proved to be a deciding factor in the struggle for Provence, and a smart decision by Abbo.

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Early (very early) Islam

Christianity wasn’t the only religion in western Europe in the eighth century. It was certainly the dominant religion on the continent, but it was Islam that covered the southern Mediterranean, and, as we will see, even extended into modern France. A movement, a religion, and a military force that powerful deserves our exploration. But let’s not get bogged down in the movement’s first flowering in Arabia. If you are interested here are plenty of histories┬áto chose from. Rather, let’s survey the state of Islam at the opening of the eighth century, and then trace developments from that point.

The Islamic world in the year 700 was ruled out of Damascus by the Umayyad dynasty.1.Arabic transliterations are all over the place with proper names. Even among academics you will find various spellings of important persons. For simplicity I will use the most common spelling found on Wikipedia. In the east the Islamic empire had spread out of Arabia and encompassed the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, to the eastern tip of the Black Sea. To the south the faith had spread across north Africa. In the year 661 the Umayyads came to power and continued the pattern of conquest. By 702 they could see the northern Pillar of Hercules (Gibraltar, to those of us living in a less legendary age) from the shore of Tangier in modern-day Morocco.

Read moreEarly (very early) Islam

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Arabic transliterations are all over the place with proper names. Even among academics you will find various spellings of important persons. For simplicity I will use the most common spelling found on Wikipedia.