Pisa raids the Balearic Islands in 1114

Muslim pirates based in the Balearic islands were a major problem for Christian traders in the eleventh and twelfth century. In 113, Pope Pascal II issued a papal bull in favour of a crusade against the islands, and the Pisans, with their allies from Genoa and Barcelona, were able to seize Ibiza and Majorca. This account of the invasion comes from Ibn Kardabus.

In the year 508 (began 7 June 1114) the Pisans and Genoese combined, and built 300 ships and went to Yabisa (Ibiza) in the region of Mayurqa (Majorca). They overran it and took prisoners and booty. Then they went to the island of Majorca. The governor prior to the arrival of the enemy in these districts had been al-Murtada of al-Andalus, who declared himself independent there on the collapse of the Umayyads in al-Andalus, when others were doing the same. When he died [in 1094], one of his eunuchs took over, called Mubashir, with the honorific title Nasir al-Daula. He was by origin from Qal`at Hamir (Castelldasens) in the jurisdiction of Larida (Lerida). He had been captured as a youth and castrated by the enemy. Al-Murtada sent an envoy to “Rome” [probably, the Christian court at Barcelona] for various reasons, and the envoy was favourably impressed by the intelligence and the noble quality of the lad Mubashir, whom he ransomed. [The envoy] presented him to al-Murtada, who was pleased with him, and made him one of his close courtiers. [Al-Murtada] found in him the ability to serve kings that he was looking for. He was lofty in his thoughts and of a praiseworthy character, blessed with many virtues and magnanimity. When the enemy descended on him, he manned his defences until he died (God have mercy upon him!); his decision to fight the enemy was not approved of. He was succeeded by his relative, the general Abu’l-Rabi’a Sulaiman b. Labun [Burabe in the Christian sources], who fought fiercely until the enemy overcame him and took possession of the town [i.e. Palma].

During the siege, Nasir al-Daula (that is, the eunuch Mubashir) had written to the Commander of the Muslims ['Ali b. Yusuf b. Tashufin the Almoravid], calling upon his support and assistance. He despatched his letter with an officer, Abu ‘Abd-Allah b. Maimun, who happen to be there as captain of a corvette. The enemy realised nothing until one night the corvette slipped out fully equipped from the shipyard. They immediately set off in pursuit and followed it for about ten miles, but it was concealed by the darkness. When the enemy gave up all hope of overtaking it, they returned on their tracks in shame. Ibn Maimum reached the Amir of the Muslims with his letter. He immediately ordered 300 ships to be constructed and brought together in a month’s time. These orders were put into effect. They all set sail from there in haste, and at the same time Ibn Maimun was given an appointment by the Amir al-Muslimin.

When the enemy heard of the departure of this fleet, they cleared out of the island and left, happy with the captives and riches that they carried away. When the squadron arrived, they found the city completely devastated, blackened by fires and covered in a deep gloom. Ibn Taqirtas, commander of the fleet, together with his Almoravids, fighters for the faith and all kinds of people, restored the city and brought back those who had fled to the mountains; they made it their home again, restored it and resettled it. The fleet left for its own country and returned to its home base.

As the enemy left for their own country they were hit by storm winds and heavy seas, which carried four ships to the coast at Daniyya (Denia). The admiral Abu’l-Saddad repaired there and the enemy [ships] fled before him; one of them sunk in front of him and the other three were overtaken.

This text was first published in Christians and Moors in Spain, edited by Colin Smith (Aris & Phillips: 1989-92). This three volume set can be purchased through Oxbow Books. We thank Aris & Phillips for their permission to republish this text.

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