Landscape Change and Environmental Perception

When Baltasar Gracian observed that the Spain of his day was "just as God created her, without a single improvement made by her inhabitants, except for the small amount done by the Romans,"(4) he was expressing a perception of the immobility and stagnation of Spanish society of the seventeenth century. But in fact Gracian was mistaken. The cultural landscape of the Spain of his day was largely created in the high middle ages, as the result of the Islamic conquest and of the early modalities of Cbristian settlement. In the south, although the Muslims built on a Roman base, the landscape was substantially orientalized; while in the north the mountaineers, as they moved onto the plains, became acculturated, through a variety of agents, to Mediterranean patterns of agriculture and settlement.

All movements of organized colonization involve a prior image in the mind of the settler of where he is going. What he actually does when he arrives depends to a great extent on how well his image, which is conditioned positively or negatively by his old environment, meets the requirements of the new ecological reality.

Muslims and Christians alike perceived the Iberian environment as richly endowed with natural resources; at least, this is the view that predominates in the literary traditions of both peoples. That the opposite was more nearly true was not fully appreciated, in a programmatic way, until the late nineteenth century, although there were earlier demurers.(5)

The outstanding image associated with Arabic literary perceptions of the peninsula is that of the Koranic paradise. The historian al-Razi noted [54] the country's natural endowments (among which he includes numerous rivers which allowed widespread irrigation, a salubrious climate, good wines, and great mineral wealth) had led certain authors to say that "Spain resembled God's paradise." Although such images were widely applied, they appear in exemplary fashion in descriptions of Valencia: its waters, the airy, diaphanous, and healthy nature of its atmosphere -- clear reflections throughout this literature, I believe, of Hippocratean notions that ideal urban locations were dependent upon the hydrographic characteristics of the region and the pattern of prevailing winds. The semblance of highly developed irrigated sectors of the Valencian huerta surrounding the city led more than one poet to describe the city as paradise.(6)

The notion, repeated in the Koran, of Paradise as a garden (aljanna, "The Garden") is symbolized in the form of Andalusi gardens, a few of which survive physically and some of which are described in literary sources. The form of these gardens, quadripartite rectangles with fruit trees arranged in rows parallel to an axial watercourse, was of direct Persian (though ultimately, perhaps, of Roman) inspiration. Such an arrangement is apparent in an eleventh-century description of the Hair al-Zajjali, a renowned Cordoban garden, and is confirmed by the pattern of gardens, such as the Generalife of Granada, surviving from a later era. The symbolic value of the formal Islamic garden was as an earthly anticipation of paradise. In this sense, its contents of water, shade trees, and flowers were dictated by a generalized reaction to the desert environment, the traditional environment of Arabs, one that is dominated, of course, by aridity and conditioned by associations of the desert with fear and evil.(7) It is striking, indeed, that desert images, a traditional theme in Arabic poetry, are almost completely lacking in Andalusi poetry, except as a device to introduce, for example, the paradisiacal, watery freshness of a place like

Valencia,(8) and this in spite of the fact that wide stretches of the southern peninsula (e.g., the Almerian hinterland) already resembled the face of the moon, having been deforested by the Romans.

Besides the image of the Koranic Paradise, there was a second theme characteristic of the Andalusis' perception of their environment: a consistent stream of comparisons with eastern Islamic landscapes. Places were valued not only for their distinctive characteristics but for their associations with other regions of the Islamic world, one of whose elements resembled that of a given Andalusi city or, more typically even, when a constellation of elements presented an environment perceived as identical [55] to an eastern one. Partly this phenomenon has to do with poetic conceits linked to specific places (such as the likening of any river to the Nile), and partly to the prestige with which the Islamic East was regarded; but, more significantly, such allusions were the result of specific patterns of settlement in the peninsula by groups of eastern origin.

The climatic unity of the Mediterranean made possible the wholesale transfer of landscapes from one sector of the basin to others. Migrants, encountering a familiar ecological context, found that they were able to establish themselves in new territories without substantially changing their settlement patterns, agricultural regimes, or diet. To such colonists, in Fernand Braudel's apt characterization, "their journey simply meant finding in a new place the same trees and plants, the same food on the table that they had known in their homeland; it meant living under the same sky, watching the same familiar seasons." It was natural that the old associations would be remembered. Thus al-Himyari likened al-Andalus to Syria in fertility and "the purity of its air," to the Yemen for its even, temperate climate, to India for its aromatic plants, to China for its mineral richness, and to Aden for its seashore economy.(9)

Moreover, the process was self-reinforcing: because climatic conditions made landscape transference possible, such transference was encouraged as a matter of policy. The troops led by Balj ibn Bishr were deliberately settled in habitats resembling their place of origin.

Thus the Egyptians were settled in Murcia, ostensibly because they were accustomed to irrigation agriculture, and later al-Himyari reported that "Murcia is found on a great river which irrigates its whole territory in the manner of the Nile of Egypt."(11) The obvious, but unwitting hyperbole, in comparing the

Segura to the Nile is a reflection of the tradition to which we have been referring.

Most striking of all was the extensive Syrianization of the landscape that took place throughout the eighth century, first, through the settlement of Syrian contingents (junds) in such places as Seville and Valencia; second, through the wholesale importation of Syrian styles by the cadres of Umayyad clients who flocked to the peninsula after 756; third, by the deliberate policy of Umayyad emirs, 'Abd al-Rahmân I in particular. The introduction of Syrian agricultural systems, of hydraulic machinery used in Syria, of Syrian building techniques and decorative motifs, the deliberate importation of vegetation native to Syria -these were among the many discrete elements that contributed to the Syrianization of Andalusi towns [56] and countryside. Here, we are concerned only with perceptions: that these constellations of elements were perceived of as being distinctively Syrian. Seville (Ishbîliya), settled by Syrian junds, was customarily and affectionately referred to by Arab writers and poets of east and west alike as Hims al-Andalus, after the Syrian town of that name. In a similar vein, ibn Sa'îd, a thirteenth-century writer from Alcalá la Real (Granada), remarked that no eastern cities reminded him of home except for Damascus and Hama, a central Syrian town, and al-Shaqundî called Granada the Damascus of al-Andalus. Not surprisingly, the Damascus scenes in the film "Lawrence of Arabia" were filmed in Seville, a city generally acknowledged to resemble traditional Damascus more than Damascus itself.(12)

The Isidorean tradition of the laus hispaniae was continued faithfully by Christian writers and poets. Here we analyze the perception of the environment of Old Castile as portrayed in the Poema de Fernán González and in the related version in the Primera Crónica General.(13) In the first place, and similar to the concern of the Arabic commentators, primary emphasis is placed upon the temperate quality of the climate:

Tierra es muy tenprada syn grandes calenturas Non faze en yvyerno destenpradas fryuras Non es tierra en mundo que aya tales pasturas arboles pora fruta syquier de mil naturas.

(Stanza 145)

(It is a very temperate land without great heat; there are no extreme cold spells in winter. There is no land in the world that has such pastures, fruit trees of at least one thousand kinds.)

This is clearly the perception of an optimum environment for a pastoral, mountain economy, an appreciation of which follows in the next stanza:

Sobre todas las tierras me'or es la Montanna de vacas e ovejas non a tierra tamanna tantos ha y de puercos que es fuera fazanna syrven se muchas tierras de las cosas d'Espanna.

(Stanza 146)

(Of all the lands the best is the mountain; there is no land equal to it for cows and sheep; there are so many hogs there it is a famous feat; many lands are served by Spanish products.)

[57] The positive valuation of the Old Castilian summer, which is in fact too arid to permit a three-course crop rotation, supports the strong identification with a mountain agroecosystem. These two stanzas are not Isidorean per se, but rather an affirmation of the Castilians' continuing identification with the traditional north Castilian ecology even after substantial shift to wheat-growing had occurred. There is no doubt that these two stanzas are cast within a Castilian frame of reference, although that famous line asserting that "Of all Spain, Castile is the best" does not occur until stanza 156; the intervening verses mix generalities drawn from the standard catalogue of the laus hispaniae genre, although highlighting certain products of mountain economies (e.g., beeswax, in the same stanza -- no. 147 -- which praises olive oil, a product not native to Old Castile and, in no. 148, wild game and river fish, which are typical of Castile).

The version in the Primera Crónica General begins with a Koranic echo, that Spain is like "el parayso de Dios," and stresses themes found in both the Isidorean and Arabic traditions, relevant mainly to the peninsula as a whole. Particular stress is laid upon (1) the theme of abundant water; the five principal rivers (Ebro, Duero, Tajo, Guadalquivir, and Guadiana); the good quality of river water ("el humor de los rios"); and the abundance of subsoil water -- "there never lack wells for each place that has need"; (2) the great variety and abundance of agricultural products, including wine, bread, honey, beeswax, sugar, silk, and saffron (Andalusi products); and olive oil (the Crónica, more faithful to the Isidorean tradition, says olio, while the Poema uses the Arabism a%eyte, which was imported into Old Castile); (3) a great stress, standard in the genre in both Arabic and Christian versions, on the mineral wealth of the peninsula.

These stock perceptions, although similar, must have related to different economic situations. Castilians before the twelfth or thirteenth centuries could well conceive of their resources as abundant because, given the low population density of the region and the underdevelopment of urban economies, not much demand was exercised on the resource base. Thus, for the Castilians, the roster of minerals, a reminiscence of Roman mining exploitation, represented more a promise than a reality (with the possible exception of iron).

For the Muslims, mineral wealth had real meaning because these resources were utilized and the resource base, through the eleventh century at least, was adequate to the demand of urban artisan industry and the [58] export trade. Only in the case of climatic perceptions do cultural differences play a substantial role in ecological assessment. Both groups perceived as temperate climates which are not now so perceived, the Arabs on the practical level because of their reliance on irrigation, which lessened their fear of aridity and provided a contrast to the expectations of a culture with traditions rooted in the desert; the Castilians because as mountaineers they had not yet broadened their agricultural base to the point where the climatic conditions traditionally valued became dysfunctional. In Castile, perceptions of agricultural impoverishment came later. Only in the fourteenth century, when the dynamic forces of the economy were located on the plains, not the mountains, when the agricultural economy had become substantially diversified, and when population pressure began to make excessive demands, did Castilians begin to perceive their environment more realistically. Only then were plaints raised in the Cortes about the sterility and poverty of the soil and the shortage, not abundance, of livestock and other foods.(14)

3. The Frontier as an Image and as a Creator of Landscape

Previously, I have intimated that in the Iberian peninsula during the high middle ages the borders or frontiers between Christians and Muslims were ecological in nature or, stated another way, they had clear ecological ramifications which not only colored perceptions of the frontier but which also necessitated ecological adjustments when those frontiers were breached, first by conquest, then by permanent settlement. Following in the spirit of the previous section, we shall first note differing perceptions of the frontier and then examine the relationship between these perceptions and the way in which the frontier districts were organized.

For the Christians the dominant image of the frontier was a desert -- locus desertus -- a place that was uninhabited, due to the conditions following from the Islamic conquest, and uninhabitable given prevailing conditions of insecurity and threat of incursion. To a certain extent the apposite Arabic term for a wasteland, mafa%a> played a similar role, but lacked the connotations of permanence and the symbolic weight that it held for the Christians. To give expression to a perceived division of the peninsula into two sectors Arab geographers created an imaginary mountain chain, based in part on fact and in part on perceptions that demanded a palpable barrier where none existed. This chain began in the [59] east, somewhere between Barcelona and Tarragona (in effect placing the Catalan counties that had come under Frankish influence to the north of the Pyrenees), whence it proceeded southward towards Tortosa and then veered west and continued on a general east-west trajectory until it reached the Atlantic midway between the mouths of the Duero and Tajo.(15) One group of Arab geographers, possibly representing a later tradition and whose outstanding representative was al-Idrisi, placed the eastern terminus of this system at Medinaceli, whence it continued due west to the ocean. This chain, called al-Sharrat (that is, the Sierra), was a more realistic portrayal of the Central Cordillera (which in reality proceeds in a markedly southwesterly direction from Medinaceli). Its massive, rectilineal depiction on Idrisi's map is an idealization of a social reality: the stabilization of the western frontier on the Duero line. In the east, Idrisi still portrayed Barcelona as lying to the north of the Pyrenees.(16)

The interplay between frontiers perceived as significant and those which actually acquire geopolitical reality is complex. Through the tenth century the Duero River played the role of a geopolitical barrier and was so perceived by the rulers of the Asturo-Leonese kingdom. For similar reasons, that of establishing an easily identifiable line of defense, the Central Cordillera had both geopolitical and symbolic significance for the Muslims. The Iberic system, on the other hand, which in the later centuries virtually determined the division between Castilian and Aragonese spheres of influence and therefore had enormous geopolitical significance, during this period lay mostly within al-Andalus and was not considered the most important factor differentiating eastern al-Andalus (Sharq al-Andalus) from the west. The tenth-century geographer, al-Razi, for example, considered the direction of river flow and of prevailing winds as the most valid criteria for dividing the peninsula in two parts.(17)

In both Islamic and Christian territories, frontier zones were, by their very nature, organized on a distinctive basis, inevitably entailing defensive structures embedded in a looser system of state control than was possible in the hinterlands. The Umayyads did not impose upon the frontier zones the full provincial organization into kuras but rather delimited three defensive frontier regions known as thugur (singular, thagr), modeled after border organization in the eastern empire and generally translated "marches."

In earlier centuries the thagr was simply an empty zone separating Muslims from Christians, defended by a line of castles, and lacking a [60] full civil administration. Typically they were connected loosely with the emirate, and strong dynasties such as the famous Beni Qasi, descended from Goths and intermarried with the Navarrese nobility, were able to rule in virtual independence from Córdoba -- in this case, in the Upper March (thagr al-aqsa) around Tudela. During the Caliphate only two marches were accorded significance: the Upper, headquartered in Zaragoza, which controlled the region from Huesca and Tudela in the west to Lérida and Balaguer in the east, and the Middle March (thagr al-awsat), delineated by a line of castles along the Tajo (to the south of the Sierra, al-Sharrat, it will be noted), dependent politically upon Toledo, but organized militarily from Medinaceli.(18)

The Upper March, whose population grew more dense in the course of the tenth century, particularly along the border with the Catalan counties, in effect became further differentiated into the old Upper March defending the heartland of the Ebro Valley and an Eastern March (thagr al-sharqi) whose defensive orientation was apposite to the Catalan military frontier.(19) The Upper March, due to its dense population, acquired greater political vitality than the other frontier regions of al-Andalus and, concomitantly, socio-cultural distinctiveness which persisted even past the time of Islamic domination: Aragonese Moriscos emigrating to North Africa in the sixteenth century still distinguished themselves as tagarinos, men of the thagr, a confirmation of the cultural cohesiveness of the area.

A similar situation prevailed in the frontier areas of the Catalan counties and much has been written about the so-called Spanish March- - Marca Hispanica -a term that until quite recently was generally and mistakenly applied to the entire region that eventually became Catalonia. In fact, as Maravall demonstrates, those areas referred to as marca were not organized parts of the Frankish kingdom south of the Pyrenees, as once thought. In reality, the term connoted just the opposite: a lack of organization, a zone of imprecise changing boundaries open to enemy incursions and defended by castles and other military installations, much like their Islamic counterparts.

Indeed the marca, as Maravall concludes, was not a term applying to any one area, but to a variety of frontier regions, a term analogous to the Castilian usage of extremo, the edge of settlement, wherever that happened to be. In Catalan usage, the two terms marca and extremus were intermixed -- extremum in ipsa marchia, in ipsa marcha extrema -- and in 1017 the monks of San Cugat, at that time an outpost near the frontier, [61] spoke of the need to build defensive installations "in barren marches and in solitary places, against the pagans.

Similar concepts of the frontier prevailed in the west, where the frontier of Galicia was referred to as extremos Galletiae fines and where Sancho II was known as king of Castile et in omnibus finibus eius (in all its ends), where fines has the sense of marca.(22) The land south of the Duero was called Extremadura -- which in the tenth century designated the region just south of the Duero encompassing Zamora and Simancas, but which later, as the frontier advanced southward, came to acquire its present geographical connotation, the lands to the south of Salamanca along the Portuguese border, including Caceres, Merida, and Badajoz, all well within the Andalusi hinterland during the high middle ages.

The defensive nature of frontier life can be vividly appreciated in surviving place-names that reflect military structures erected on both sides of the line. By mapping these names, one can get a sense of the frontier in motion as Christian lines advanced, and as Muslims built new lines of defense. In toponymic maps, this process is manifested in the marked regression of Latin-derived military place-names and their substitution with Arabic-derived names.

In areas of continuous Christian settlement, where large numbers of Goths took refuge from the conquering Muslims one finds names derived from the Gothic wardja ("centinel"), such as Guardia and La Guardia in Galicia, Asturias, and particularly in Catalonia on the southern frontier of the marchlands. Names derived from castrum, "fort," and its diminutive castellum are also found in relative abundance in the northern kingdoms -- the name of Castile itself being the most obvious example -- and these names become less dense as one moves southward to encounter names derived from the Arabic qasr, "castle," and qal'at, "fortress" -for example, Alcázar, Alcalá, Calatayud ("Ayyub's fort"), Calatrava, names which occur in peak density along the northern line of Islamic defenses as in the provinces of Lisbon and Zaragoza.

Not all military emplacements were as heavily fortified as castles. The defensive strategy in medieval warfare placed great reliance on watchtowers which served as advanced positions to warn against enemy incursions, particularly in lightly settled areas on the frontier. Names derived from turrem, "tower," abound in the north and even increase toward the south, for as the Christians grew in military power they placed less reliance on castles and more on building a military communications [62] network. Names from the corresponding Arabic term, burj, concentrate below the stabilized frontier and represent the apposite phenomenon on the Islamic side. Two functionally related Arabisms, almenara and atalaya, both meaning watchtower, are found on both sides of the line: atalaya, in fact, is a good example of an Arabic military term, representing an initially superior technology which was adopted at an early date in the Christian kingdoms.

In the eleventh century, with the invasion of Almoravids, the Muslims introduced a new form of defensive installation: the rabita or frontier headquarters of religious ascetics who served in the holy war against the infidel, giving rise to place names such as La Rábida (in Castilian; Rápita, in Catalan), as well as to others expressed in Arabic with a borrowed Latinism munastir (from monastery, as in Almonacid in the province of Castellon).

Finally, one finds the name frontera itself, attached to various sites which at one time or another found themselves on the boundary, from Aldeaseca de la Frontera in the province of Salamanca, to the many towns so named in Andalusia (Jerez, Aguilar, Vejer), representing the advances of the thirteenth century.(23)

Pierre Bonnassie has noted that Christians and Muslims living in close proximity to one another in the northeast of the peninsula had different perceptions of the same "frontier." That part of al-Andalus stretching from the north of Lérida to southern Pallars had been until the tenth century a region of relatively low population, not well integrated into the Islamic state. The region became substantively Islamized only in the tenth and eleventh centuries, but even then there was no hard line of political demarcation as connoted by the modern sense of frontier. Indeed, Christian and Islamic settlements intermingled to a certain degree and the Muslims considered their own those areas in which Muslims were settled.

For the Christians, on the other hand, their settlements in the same regions were regarded as tenuous outposts of civilization in an environment highly colored by insecurity and charged with fear, a place (as described by some monks from San Cugat in 1022) of "great terror and trembling" and to which terms like "solitary" and "deserted" were consistently applied. The very end of this territory -- the marca ultima-was regarded as a no-man's-land and those Christians who dwelt there were held by their coreligionists of the hinterland to be perverse and depraved men, doubtless because they benefited from trade with the Muslims.(24)

[63] The same perceptions of fear, solitude, and desertion are even more pronounced in many references to the Duero Valley in the ninth and tenth centuries. In future sections there will be ample discussion of various aspects of Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz's theory that, through warfare and the conscious policy of Alfonso I, who was said to have transported the Christian population of the valley en masse to the northern mountains, the Duero Valley had become wholly depopulated in the wake of the Islamic invasion, an extreme literalist interpretation of the admittedly reiterated descriptions of places within the valley as barren, deserted, and uncultivated. Beyond whatever value the term locus desertus may have as a description of reality, we must however also agree with Ramón Menéndez Pidal that it had a "rhetorical" value, or rather what I think is more accurately characterizable as a perception of a human landscape whose density of settlement was extremely low.(25)

Indeed the basic element in the perception of the frontier by Castilians and Leonese of the ninth and tenth centuries was the awareness of the paucity of their own population in comparison with the great numbers of their Muslim adversaries. Such perceptions emerge regularly in accounts of early battles with the Muslims: for example, the tens of thousands of Muslim troops said in the Chronicle of Alfonso III to have been defeated by Pelayo's tiny band at

Covadonga. In the Poema de Fernán González the same point is made in the assertion that "thirty wolves" (that is, the Castilians) can kill 50,000 sheep (the Muslims).(26)

A much quoted line from the same poem (stanza 217) describes the Castilians of the tenth century as "a few men gathered together in a small land" (eran en poca tierra pocos omnes juntados). This line occurs in some recensions of the poem in the opposite sense, muchos hombres juntados, which Sánchez-Albornoz used to support the picture of a Castile expanding through the dynamism of an exploding population^27) The first reading, that stressing low numbers, is supported by the corresponding section in the Crónica General, but moreover is more in line with what I believe was a general perception of the insignificance of Christian numbers compared to the Islamic colossus.

Uninhabited territory was regarded as fearsome not only because of its susceptibility to attack by the enemy, but because those living in such places, and their farm animals, were subject to attack by wild beasts. Thus when Alfonso VI placed the Segovia region under the control of the bishopric of Toledo, he noted that this newly settled and cultivated region [64] had previously been the domain of bears and boars, the latter an animal much feared by peasants.(28) There were, to be sure, uninhabited areas within Islamic territory as well. The countryside between Almanzora and Almería was described as sandy and sterile, and the plain extending from Almería to Cape Gata as a true desert.(29) Yet the presence of such inhospitable country did not lead Andalusi poets to utilize the traditional images of desert environment found in the pre-Islamic poetic tradition, as one might expect; rather, the convention was to depict the entire peninsula as a vast garden, as we have noted. In general, the sterile areas of al-Andalus (mafaza) described in Arabic geographical literature were not frontier areas, with some exceptions, such as al-Razi's characterization as mafaza of the area stretching between Albarracín and Toledo, which in the tenth century, while not densely populated, was also not directly on the frontier. Ibn ldhari associates areas devastated by Berbers during the fitna as having fallen prey to wolves; Abu Ishaq of Elvira, not a frontier region in the eleventh century, mentions wolves (claiming that they were less dangerous than faqihs-- the legal jurisprudential elite); ibn Muqana mentions deserted areas (mafawiz) around Alcabideche where wild boars roamed untrammeled.(30) A mafaza was, therefore, a term describing a particular kind of environment, wherever it chanced to occur, whereas the locus desertus was inevitably associated with the frontier and the process of conquest and resettlement.

Nevertheless, in the late eleventh century there are signs that, as a result of the shift in the balance of power in the favor of the Christians, perceptions of the frontier were changing too. The Christians, growing constantly in strength and feelings of security after the death of al-Mansur, felt their fear of the frontier subside accordingly. It was only at this time, for example, that kings began to grant charters of title to lands not yet conquered.(31) A corresponding change, with the opposite sign, is in evidence on the Islamic side, especially on the Middle March, the pressure point which felt the full brunt of the Castilian thrust. Thus the Muslim governor of Calatrava expressed horror when Alfonso VI devastated the region and cut down all the trees.(32) Dominique Urvoy has suggested that in areas where contact with Christian Spain was frequent, particularly the Middle and Upper Marches in the period following the collapse of the Caliphate, the pressure emanating from the north caused a generalized need for the revitalization of religious life among Muslims. In the Middle March this pressure was felt and sublimated in two ways. First, it [65] produced heterodox figures such as al-Talamanqi (from Talamanca), who was accused of Kharijism, and ibn Shaqqal-Layl, a student of eastern Sufi mysticism. Second, Urvoy also associates the particularly rich development of Islamic law (fiqh) in the Middle March with its strategic location, implying that another reaction to pressure was a retreat into legal formalism and rigidity.(33)

In this section my concern has been to indicate some of the ways in which political and cultural confrontation were shaped by the presence of the frontier -- many frontiers -- first, a stabilized one, then a boundary in more or less constant flux and motion; and then to show that the frontier was not only a real entity, but a set of perceptions which influenced attitudes and action on both sides. Further aspects of the frontier phenomenon, such as its social repercussions, its economic ramifications, and its role in cultural diffusion, will be dealt with in appropriate sections below.

4. Dynamics of Settlement and Growth: al-Andalus

Comparison of the ecological adjustments made by Muslims and Christians in the high middle ages is made difficult by the disparity of available evidence. Generally, data on settlement, land-use patterns, and the habits and customs of everyday rural society is much more detailed for Christian Spain than for al-Andalus. On the other hand, the Arabs spawned a well-defined agronomic and geographical literature which provides information, particularly regarding crop dispersal and the acclimization of new crops, totally lacking for the northern kingdoms.

Nevertheless, a comparison is valid. Both people exploited irrigation agriculture, dry-farming, arboriculture, and herding. Not only the balance among the four agrarian subsectors, but the scale of agriculture generally and its relation to the rest of the economy, differed substantially from south to north, in accord with ecological realities and preferences and in response to differing socio-economic factors. Yet certain analogous processes took place on both sides of the line: clearance of land at the expense of forest, the diffusion of new crops and techniques, the use of stream water for irrigation, the persistence of Roman practices.

Roman Spain, it is well to bear in mind, was agriculturally distinguished for the large-scale production of cereal grains, olives, and grapes, of which the former two were typically grown in large units to increase the profitability of these crops for export. Irrigation was practiced, and the [66] continuity of its practice in certain zones, such as the Valencian huerta, from Roman times to the present is proved. Nevertheless, the agricultural economy was geared to dry-farming of high-profit export crops on latifundia, and irrigated vegetable gardens played no major role in this system. Nor does stockherding appear to have played a significant economic role, although the Celtiberian tribes of the mountainous hinterland practiced transhumant herding of sheep and goats, and cattle were raised in the lush lowland meadows of the Guadalquivir basin.(34)

In contrast to this picture, the pattern of agriculture that emerged in al-Andalus over a four-hundred-year period included:

(1) the steadily increasing predominance of irrigation agriculture and consequently of crops dependent upon artificial water supply;

(2) the initial association of this kind of agriculture with foci of Arab settlement in lowland river basins;

(3) the relegation of the other agricultural sectors (dry-farming, arboriculture, herding) mainly to non-Arab peoples;

(4) an increase, over Roman times, in the economic significance of sheepherding; and

(5) a corollary of all of these-a progressive and general retreat of wheat cultivation, a movement to which many signs point but for which proof is inferential.

The balance among agrarian sectors in Islamic Spain was related to, and its contours partially determined by, ethnic cleavages along ecological lines, whereby the Arabs reserved for themselves and their Neo-Muslim or Christian tenants the fertile lowlands as areas for the development of hydraulic agriculture; the Berbers maintained a pastoral and arboricultural economy in the mountains; and cereal dry-farming was continued by the indigenous population, whether Christian or Islamized. The division of agricultural sectors along ethnic lines, clearly delineated at first but tending to become blurred over time, only serves to underscore the fact that the agricultural regime typified in the Andalusi aeronomical treatises of the eleventh and twelfth centuries was a phenomenon explicable not merely in economic terms alone but as the result of complex processes of acculturation and cultural diffusion. The association of irrigation with Arabs, the increasing tendency to rely on this kind of agriculture to support the expanding urban economies of the great Andalusi cities, must indeed, given the numerical insignificance of Arabs in the population, lead to the conclusion that a vast movement of acculturation [67] had taken place, and that people whose ancestors had been dry-farmers became irrigators through the learning of new techniques and, perhaps more importantly, by acquiring through emulation of the dominant group's life-styles, different dietary and culinary tastes, supportive of a shift to irrigation agriculture.

The problem is further complicated by the fact that the ecological cleavages may not have been as neat as once supposed. It is generally agreed that Berbers occupied three foci of settlement, encompassing much of al-Andalus and nearly all of what is now Portugal: (1) the southern mountains from the Sierra Nevada and the Serranía de Ronda in the east, to the Niebla-Algarve region in the west, with a very dense nucleus to the north of Córdoba in the Sierra Morena; (2) the northwest, including Mérida, the Tajo and Mondego valleys, with centers in Talavera, Coría, Medellín, Astorga, and Coimbra, communicating with another nucleus in the upper Duero region; and (3) the entire mountainous region of the Middle and Upper Marches, and particularly the mountainous hinterland of

Valencia, including the whole of the present province of Teruel.(35) Recent studies have demonstrated that the Berber impact was even greater. Pierre Guichard has demonstrated that much of the Valencian lowlands, all of which were irrigated and which were previously thought to have been densely settled by Arabs, in fact included numerous Berber settlements, a conclusion supported by the configurations highly suggestive of Berber tribal settlement in the huertas of Gandia and Murcia. Then Jaime Oliver Asín, in a dramatic essay on Castilian place names, has recently demonstrated the permeation of zones well to the north of the line of stabilized settlement by Berber nuclei, probably Christian and Latin-speaking, but with similar forms of social and agrarian organization as their Muslim relations.(36)

Not only was Berber settlement even more widespread than previously imagined, but the Berbers appear to have occupied niches once believed wholly organized according to Arab norms. This is not really surprising because, although North African Berbers were adept olive cultivators and practiced transhumant herding, they also practiced irrigation, both by stream flow, in the small upland valleys in the Rif and Atlas mountains, in lowland plains (for example, around Marrakesh), and in the desert oases of the Sahara.

Arab settlement was densest in the valleys of the great rivers, the Guadalquivir (which was not, in fact, a region where gravity-flow irrigation [68] in canals was much practiced) and the Ebro, where canal irrigation was characteristic. Other Arabic nuclei settled in regions later associated with verdant irrigated huertas (the jund of Damascus in the Granada region, that of Egypt in Murcia) but their effect upon the agricultural regime is not clear. The indigenous population, who had mainly been involved in dry-farming and arboriculture doubtless continued in their former pursuits, those who became tenants of Arab landlords being in a position to learn new agrarian technologies.

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