Tuesday, April 25, 2023 – Kenneth Baxter Wolf (Pomona College): How Not to Read the Earliest Latin Life of Muhammad
The Istoria de Mahometh is arguably the earliest Latin “biography” of Muhammad, written in Iberia sometime between the end of the eighth and the beginning of the ninth centuries. As one would expect, it is pejorative from beginning to end. In 857 Eulogius of Córdoba copied the Istoria into his Liber apologeticus martyrum, the second of two works that he wrote in defense of the so-called “Córdoban Martyrs.” Because the author of the Istoria is unknown, Eulogius has borne the brunt of modern scholarly criticism for perpetrating such an “ignorant” account of Muhammad’s career.
But such an assessment ignores the subtleties of the text and the context within which it was recycled by Eulogius. This micro-study of the Istoria de Mahometh suggests the need for more nuance across the board when approaching medieval Christian views of Islam.