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I have read this book and used it extensively in research together with 'The Templar Revelation' and 'Holy Blood and Holy Grail'. It is a fascinating work of medieval POSSIBILITIES. The author is at pains to point out both the scarcity of reliable medieval docummentary evidence which hinders all medieval research, and he therefore admits to the speculative nature of much of what he writes. So at least one of your reviewers should take note thst there is no such thing in medieval research as absolute certainty. Having said that, the author's speculations about the possibilty of a Jewish princedom in France at that time are truly worth considering. Given the historical context of Moslem expansion, Jewish international and trans-continental trading networks 'the Radanites', the Caliphate at Baghdad as the centre of Jewish life and culture, later joined by the Caliphate at Cordoba, and the similar deveopments in Jewish Spain, to have a powerful Jewish presence in the Pyrenees makes a lot of sense. It opens up many cans of worms with regard to the Church's real influence in Europe at this time, its inability to trade without Moslem acquiescence through Jewish mediation to name just one. It ultimately begs the question of whether the Albigensian crusade supposedly directed against some poor pacifist Christian sect wasnt in fact directed to exterminate the Jewish presence in the Pyrenees by a vengeful Church. Wonderful, absolutely unique book, much food for thought.
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This book should be read by everyone interested in Medieval French History and/or the "chansons de geste". It solves the scholarly mystery of why Charlemagne, a strictly Christian/Roman Catholic monarch, had such a good relationship with the Jews of the Carolingian Empire to the continuing fulminations of the ecclesiastical authorities. The author uses sources not generally referred to by European Medievalists, such as the famed Cairo Genitza and synagogic correspondences from Byzantium and Kairouan. The chansons provide useful accompaniement to this volume, and it is absolutely fascinating how "al Makhir" became "Aimeri" became "Thierry" became "Heimrich". The clan of the Narbonnese was celebrated by every one of the surviving chansons de geste, and the mystery now is: who was "Garin de Montglane", perhaps GAON OF MARSEILLES? The mystery of the illustration on the cover of the Penguin Paperbacks edition of Wolfram von Eschenbach/s "Willehalm" is now expalined -but see it for yourself; Wolfram knew of whom he was speaking. In the Sidney Painter translation of Einhard's "Life of Charlemagne" (1994 ed.Univ of Michigan Ann Arbor Paperback)the translator remarks on Einhard's curious "ommission" of the archbishopric of Narbonne in the Emperor's will (page 64 footnoted #83), claining the contemporary account is wrong; I beg to differ as there may not have *been* an archbishop there at the time-if it were the seat of the Jewish Principality. I always hoist a toast to St Guillaume de Gellone on his Feast Day, May 28th, and his "monastery" is now located in upstate New York and available for tours since the last Century; it is the CLOISTERS. Thank you Dr. Zuckerman.
Laurence Gardner's above-cited book helps us understand what went on here: on p. 185, it reads "after their defeat by Charles Martel in the 730s, the Islamic Moors retreated to the city of Narbonne in the South of France, which became their base for further military resistance. This posed a difficult problem for Pepin the Short, who duly sought assistance from the Jews of Narbonne. He finally gained their support - but at a price. The Jews agreed to deal with the problem if Pepin guaranteed the setting up of a Jewish kingdom within the territory of Burgundy - a kingdom that would have at its head a recognized descendant of the Royal House of David."
"Pepin agreed and the Jews defeated the Moors from within the city. The Jewish kingdom of Septimania (the Midi) was then established in 768, from Nimes to the Spanish frontier, with Narbonne as its capital. The previous governor of the region was the Merovingian, Theuderic IV (Thierry) who had been ousted from power in Neustria and Burgundy by Charles Martel in 737. Theuderic (known to the Moors as Makir Theodoric) was married to Pepin the Short's sister Alda. It was their son, Count Guilhelm de Toulouse, who then acceded to the new throne as the King of Septimania in 768. Guilhelm was not only of Merovingian lineage, BUT WAS A RECOGNIZED POTENTATE OF JUDAH, HOLDING THE DISTINCTION OF ISAAC IN the patriarchy." (also ours)
"Pepin's son, Charles, was the ruler who became known as Charlemagne the Great. As King of the Franks from 771 and Emperor of the West from 800, Charlemagne was pleased to confirm Guilhelm's entitlement to dynastic sovereignty in Septimania. The appointment was also upheld by the Caliph of Baghdad and, reluctantly, by Pope Stephen in Rome.Read more ›
Prof. Zuckerman appears to be ignorant, perhaps intentionally so, of certain concrete facts which render his hypotheses invalid. First, the father of William of Toulouse (aka Guillaume de Gellone) was the Burgundian Count Thierry (Theodoric) of Autun, who had no ancestral roots or ties to Southern France whatsoever and who was never the Count of Narbonne. Second, Makhir Natronai ben Habibi, the "Resh Galuta" or Exilarch of the Jews did not flee Baghdad nor arrive on French soil until 771, when Thierry of Autun was forty-one years old and his second son, William, was in his teen years. Could Prof. Zuckerman truly not be aware of these facts, or has he specifically chosen not to be aware of them?