The Wolf King: Ibn Mardanish and the Construction of Power in Al-Andalus (Hardcover)
The Wolf King explores how political power was conceptualized, constructed, and wielded in twelfth-century al-Andalus, focusing on the eventful reign of Muhammad ibn Sad ibn Ahmad ibn Mardanīsh (r. 1147-1172). Celebrated in Castilian and Latin sources as el rey lobo/rex lupus and denigrated by Almohad and later Arabic sources as irreligious and disloyal to fellow Muslims because he fought the Almohads and served as vassal to the Castilians, Ibn Mardanīsh ruled a kingdom that at its peak constituted nearly half of al-Andalus and served as an important buffer between the Almohads and the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon.
Through a close examination of contemporary sources across the region, Abigail Krasner Balbale shows that Ibn Mardanīsh's short-lived dynasty was actually an attempt to integrate al-Andalus more closely with the Islamic East--particularly the Abbasid caliphate. At stake in his battles against the Almohads was the very idea of the caliphate in this period, as well as who could define righteous religious authority. The Wolf King makes effective use of chronicles, chancery documents, poetry, architecture, coinage, and artifacts to uncover how Ibn Mardanīsh adapted language and cultural forms from around the Islamic world to assert and consolidate power--and then tracks how these strategies, and the memory of Ibn Mardanīsh more generally, influenced expressions of kingship in subsequent periods.