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Abduction Leads to Slavery in the Iberian Frontier

“Slavery was the invariable result of captivity because those so taken were considered to be spoils of war to be used or sold to the profit of the captor.”

Ransoming Captives in Crusader Spain: The Order of Merced on the Christian-Islamic,
Dr. James William Brodman, (The University of Pennsylvania Press), 1986.


Commonplace Capture

Capture threatened everyone in Iberia across the Christian-Muslim border from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries. Abduction became so widespread that by the twelfth century, captives knew their religious enemy would probably treat them as a slave. It didn’t matter which side the captive came from, the Christian north or Muslim south.

So, why would your enemy abduct you? Most likely you were

  1. Captured in a formal battle, or
  2. Abducted during a border raid, or
  3. Taken by pirates.

Abduction Leads to Slavery – Historical Records

If you overlook the obvious exaggeration given to Medieval chroniclers, here are a few records of captives taken:

  • In a raid against Toledo in 1145, Murabit Sultan Tashufin killed three hundred of its Christian defenders and sent the rest to Morocco.
  • In 1182, Castilian King Alfonso VIII took over two thousand Muslim captives and 2,775 dinars in ransoms.
  • Men were not the only ones taken captive. In one of his raids against Lisbon in 1189, the Muwahhid caliph Ya’qub al-Mansur left with three thousand female and child captives.
  • Muslim chronicles tell us the exalted Muwahhid caliph Ya’qub captured up to twenty-four thousand Leonese and Castilian soldiers at Alarcos in 1195.
  • According to the thirteenth-century chronicler Pero Marín, Muslims captured travelers in the open countryside in what appeared to be a random pattern.
  • As Islamic territory in Spain shrank the Balearics pirate attacks from African ports became more ferocious. Pirates, whether working independently or for Muslim sultans and emirs targeted, Christian shipping and ports.

Christians or Muslims near the wild west frontier borderlands in Iberia lived in perpetual danger of capture.

Abduction Leads to Slavery—Two soldiers hurry along two captives with their hands tied behind their backs.
The Stuttgart Psalter, created at Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 800-850.
Stuttgart Wüttembergische Landesbibliothek, Cod. bibl. fol. 23, f.78v.

Source of Painting at top of article:
La Rendición de Granada (The Capitulation of Granada), Francisco Pradilla Ortiz (1882)

Published inHistory

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