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(509 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Talavera de la Reina is a city located 89 kilometers (55 miles) northwest of Toledo, at the confluence of the Alberche and Tagus rivers, in the center of the Iberian Peninsula. Neolithic remains have been found in the area, and there were Iberic and Celtic settlements on the site. The city was founded in pre-Roman times. Its first Latin name was Caesarobriga (182 b.c.e.), changed in time to Ebora, a name with Celtic roots. In Roman times the city was an important agricultural and ceramics center.The Muslims arrived in 712, putting an end to the Visigothic kingdom. The city’s Ara…

Abulafia, Me'ir ben Ṭodros ha-Levi

(695 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Me’ir ben Ṭodros ha-Levi Abulafia, known as Ramah, was born in  in the second half of the twelfth century. The Abulafias, of Andalusian origin, were one of the most distinguished families in the local Jewish community. Me’ir’s father, Ṭodros, was well versed in talmudic scholarship. Me’ir received a very thorough education; besides halakha, he learned Arabic and became familiar with the best poetic and philosophic traditions of al-Andalus. He married the daughter of one of Toledo’s foremost Jewish courtiers (see Court Jews), Joseph ibn Shoshan, the treasurer of Alfonso VIII.…


(1,131 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Tortosa (Lat. Dertusa or Dertosa , Ar. Ṭurṭūsha) is a commercial town in the northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula, near the Mediterranean estuary of the Ebro River, in today’s province of Tarragona, in Catalonia. Jews were living in Tortosa long before the Muslim conquest, for it was one of the oldest Jewish communities in Iberia, as evidenced by a sixth-century inscription in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek on the gravestone of a Jewish woman named Meliosa. After the Islamic conquest, when Christians from the Frankish kingdom reached as far as Tarragona, …

Phinehas ha-Levi

(377 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Phinehas ha-Levi, author of secular Hebrew poems, was probably born in Catalonia, but spent some time in Toledo in the second half of the thirteenth century. He has been identified in different ways, but all are difficult to demonstrate, and we cannot be very sure about any detail of his life. He is known because of his relationship with Ṭodros ben Judah ha-Levi Abulafia, the courtier of Alfonso the Sage (el Sabio), who apparently hosted him in his home. We learn from Ṭodros’s dīwān that the two poets were friends but competed to win the favor of the illustrious courtier Don Isaac ben Zadok. …

Obadiah ha-Sefardi

(174 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Nothing is known about the life or exact dates of Obadiah ha-Sefardi, a medieval Iberian translator of linguistic works. His most important work was doubtless the translation from Arabic into Hebrew of Jonah ibn Janāḥ’s Kitāb al-Mustalḥaq (Book of Complement; Heb. Sefer ha-Hassaga - Book of Criticism) which tried to complete, but in a critical way, the work of Judah Ḥayyūj on the weak and geminated verbs. Obadiah’s translation has come down to us in two manuscripts, both of which were used for the critical edition of the Hebrew version of Ibn Janāḥ’s bo…


(240 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
What little is known about the poet Adonim is found in Gate 3 of the Taḥkemoni of Judah al-Ḥarīzī, which recounts the history of Hebrew poetry in Spain: “No songs are as illumined by charm’s beam as those of Rabbi Adonim,” and the speaker says: “Oh, the gleam of the poetry of Rabbi Adonim, wisdom’s hoard: he is Learning’s Tabernacle, built socket by board.” In both cases the poet called Adonim is included with other poets of the second half of the eleventh century.The Hebrew name Adonim seems to be equivalent to the name Dunash, possibly of Berber origin (see Berber Jews ), bu…


(2,818 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
The city of Toledo (Ar. Ṭulayṭula)  is located in the central part of the Iberian Peninsula, about 72 kilometers (45 miles) south-southwest of Madrid. The first settlements on the site antedated by several centuries the arrival of the Romans, who rebuilt the former Carpetan oppidum in the second century B.C.E., giving it the Latin name Toletum. The old city sits on a hill encircled on three sides by the Tagus River. It was relatively small, but the circus and some other remains show that it was gaining splendor during the Roman presence. …

Nahum ben Jacob ha-Ma‘aravi

(302 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Nahum ben Jacob ha-Maʿaravi was a Hebrew poet and translator in the thirteenth century. Nothing is known about his life. His name suggests that he was born in the Maghreb. Apparently he traveled from one place to the other, probably spent some time in Castile, and finally established himself in Fez.As a poet, Nahum left his name in the acrosticon of some liturgical poems in the Sephardi style. They are, above all, strophic poems, dealing with such themes as Creation and penitence. Yonah David published thirteen poems attributed to Nahum in 1974. Two of them are particularly beautiful muwashs…

Ibn Ferruziel, Joseph ha-Nasi (Cidellus, Cidiello)

(467 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Joseph ibn Ferruziel or Ferrizuel (d. ca. 1145), born into a family that had originated in al-Andalus, was physician to King Alfonso VI (d. 1109) of Castile, the conqueror of Toledo, and one of his most notable Jewish courtiers (see Court Jews). Ferruziel enjoyed the confidence of the Christian monarch, and received several properties from him after the conquest of Toledo in 1085. As nasi of the Jewish communities in the Castilian kingdom, he exercised considerable responsibility and political power. His surname, Cidellus or Cidiello (Sp. little cid; cf. Ar. sayyid, chief) was probab…


(1,039 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Valencia is an important port on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The city was founded by the Romans in 138 B.C.E. with the Latin name of Valentia.  After the Muslim conquest in 714, it was known in Arabic as Balansiya (some scholars read this form of the name in a kharja preserved by Moses ibn Ezra: Hebrew series XIX).The town was of relatively minor importance during the Umayyad period, but in 1010 it became the capital of one of the taifa kingdoms that emerged on the disruption of the caliphate, ruled by two freedmen of the ʿĀmirids, al-Mub…


(549 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Guadix (Ar. Wādī Āsh) is a small city in northeastern Granada Province, less than 64 kilometers (40 miles) from the city of Granada, on the left bank of the river Guadix, a subtributary of the Guadiana Menor. In Roman times it was called Acci (Accitum); two Roman legions were garrisoned there to guard the surrounding mountains. In the second century it was the seat of one of the first bishops of the Peninsula. Asenjo Sedano maintains that a Jewish community was already established in the city in the second or third century, or at least before the Council of Elvira.After the Muslim conquest in…


(709 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Ronda (Ar. Runda) is a small Andalusian city about 105 kilometers (65 miles) northwest of Malaga. It is situated in a very mountainous area 701 meters (2,300 feet) above sea level and is divided in two by the river Guadalevín, which carves out a steep canyon. The old Celtic settlement of Arunda had commercial contacts with the Phoenicians and Greeks, and then was under Roman rule. For more than one and a half centuries the city was part of the Visigothic kingdom. Some remains from this time show that there were Jews living there, but very little is known about them; for ins…

Ibn Sadrāy, Abū Bakr

(178 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Abū Bakr ibn Sadrāy, a politician and writer during the period of the taifas (party kingdoms) in the eleventh century, was secretary and vizier of Abū Marwān ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Razīn, king of the small taifa of Albarracin or al-Sahla (r. 1045–1103) in Aragon, who became a tributary of El Cid. Ibn Sadrāy was considered one of the best viziers of al-Andalus. Henri Pérès suggested that he was Jewish, based on his name, but this is not fully confirmed in the sources (Wasserstein). Although none of his writings has been preserved, the Nafḥ al-Ṭīb by the North African anthologist al-Maqqarī (1…


(1,906 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Saragossa is a city on the river Ebro, in Aragon, in the northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula. It began as a Celtiberian village on which the Carthaginians built a military post called Salduie. In Roman times it was called Caesaraugusta, in honor of the emperor Augustus. The Muslims reduced the name to Saraqusṭa when they took the city in 714. The Christians called it Zaragoza.1. Muslim SaraqusṭaDuring the emirate of Cordova, Saragossa resisted an attack by Charlemagne in 777 and became the most important city of the Upper March (Ar. al-thaghr al-aʿlā) of Muslim Spain. During the…


(581 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Tarragona is a port city on the Mediterranean coast of southern Catalonia. The ancient Iberic settlement and port were used by Phoenician merchants. In Roman times, Tarraco was one of the most important cities in the Iberian Peninsula, first as the capital of Hispania Citerior and later of Hispania Tarraconensis.With the decline of Rome, the city suffered many attacks from the north. During the Visigothic period it lost its importance, with a much smaller population and just a few Jews. In 713 Tarragona was occupied by Muslim troops. Situated on the border with the Christian Nort…

Jeshua ben Joseph ha-Levi

(217 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Jeshua ben Joseph ha-Levi was a talmudist born in Tlemcen, Algeria. Around 1467, while still a young man, he left Algeria for Spain and settled in Toledo. There, at the request of his patron, Vidal ben Lavi, and several other members of the local community, he wrote a work on the methodology of the Mishna and Talmud. Known as Halikhot ʿOlam, it was printed in Lisbon around 1490, again in Constantinople in 1510, and in numerous later editions. A Latin translation, Clavis Talmudica, by the Christian Hebraist Constantin l’Empereur, was published in Leiden in 1634. The work was c…

Ibn Muhājir, Abraham (Abū Iṣḥāq) Ben Meʾir

(340 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Abraham ben Meʾir ibn Muhājir was a member of the highly esteemed Ibn Muhājir family of Seville. He lived there in the latter part of the eleventh century and the beginning of the twelfth. Ohev ibn Muhājir, mentioned by Abraham Ibn Da'ud as a poet, and Joseph ben Meʾir ibn Muhājir were probably his brothers. Like Meʾir, their father, Ohev and Joseph both had the title of nasi. Another relative of the same family was Abū Sulaymān David, a well-known poet. The whole family was apparently known by the until now unexplained name of Ibn Shortmeqash.An expert physician and astronomer, Abraham i…

Ibn Ḥasan, Jekuthiel ben Isaac

(311 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Jekuthiel ibn Ḥasan was a Jewish communal leader, statesman, philanthropist, and patron of the arts who served in the Muslim court of the Banū Tujīb in Saragossa during the period of the party kings (Ar. mulūk al-ṭawā’if). He may have been a member of the Ibn Qapron family from Cordova, and it seems very likely that he studied philosophy in addition to traditional Jewish learning; he even apparently wrote some poetry. One of the young Jewish poets and scholars he supported was Solomon ibn Gabirol. The esteem between the two men was mutual and very deep. Ibn Gabirol praised hi…

Ibn Migash, Me'ir ben Joseph

(313 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Meʾir ibn Migash (12th century) was the son of the well-known talmudist Joseph ibn Migash. Following the Sephardi tradition, he was named for his grandfather, who had lived in Seville in the eleventh century. Meʾir was a disciple of his father, studying with him alongside his cousin, also named Meʾir. Although he never attained the same level of knowledge as his father, he was the last rav of the talmudic academy of Lucena. The arrival of the Almohads meant the end of the city’s prosperous Jewish community (as lamented in the famous elegy by Abraham ibn Ezra), and m…

Albalia, Barukh ben Isaac

(330 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Albalia, Barukh ben Isaac (1077-1126), member of a well-known Andalusi family, was son of Isaac Albalia, an astrologer at the palace of the Taifa king al-Muʿṭamid of Seville (r. 1069-1090). Barukh was born in Seville, and studied with his father, as did Joseph ibn Ṣaddīqq. After his father's death he went at the age of seventeen to Lucena and studied with Isaac b. Jacob al-Fāsi for nine years, the same as Joseph Ibn Migash. After al-Fāsī's death he became dayyan and head of the talmudic academy in Cordova.Albalia was the uncle and teacher of Abraham ibn Da'ud, and a friend of the …


(3 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
see SaragossaAngel Saénz-Badillos

Ṭodros ben Judah ha-Levi Abulafia

(707 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
The courtier and poet Ṭodros ben Judah ha-Levi Abulafia (1247-1306) was a member of the distinguished Abulafia (Abū 'l-‘afiya) family, which came to Toledo from Burgos. Among its members were the poet and talmudist Me’ir Abulafia, the religious leader of the Toledo community; Ṭodros ben Judah ha-Levi Abulafia, known as “the Rav”; and his son Joseph ben Ṭodros Abulafia.Ṭodros ben Judah Abulafia was the best and most prolific Hebrew author in Iberia during the reigns of Alfonso the Wise and Sancho IV. The culture of Toledo was still strongly arabized during his lifetime, and he…
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