Fraxinetum: An Islamic Frontier State in Tenth-Century Provence


The primary focus of this article is a reconsideration of Fraxinetum as an Islamic frontier state in tenth-century Provence. Traditional scholarship about Fraxinetum has interpreted the Muslim presence in Provence within the context of piracy. The interpretation of Fraxinetum as a pirate base centers largely on the interpretation of primary documents and the replication of the arguments of the Latin chroniclers within modern scholarship. Seeking to challenge the view that the Muslims in Francia were merely bandits, through a reassessment of primary sources and an analysis of some nontextual evidence, this article demonstrates that Fraxinetum was the political, military, and economic center of an Islamic frontier state in Provence that was populated largely by ghāzīs or mujāhidīn (Islamic frontier warriors) from al-Andalus. Reconceptualizing Fraxinetum as an Islamic frontier state should not be understood to mean that Muslim activity in Provence was centrally administered, but intends to convey that jihād, as well as certain economic motivations, played a crucial role in this frontier military settlement and, as such, needs to be adequately understood. This will allow scholars to comprehend more fully the nature of Fraxinetum, providing additional insight into the Muslim presence in Provence, and contributing to the understanding of the phenomenon of Islamic frontier states more broadly during the tenth century.