The Ornament of the World

by María Rosa Menocal
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Victorious in Exile Summary

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Last Updated on April 9, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 323

In 1041, the army of Granada quashed the rebellion of Yadir, having experienced great success, defeating Almeria and Seville only years earlier. The military commander and grand vizier of Granada, Samuel, wrote a poem to commemorate the victory.

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Menocal explains that after the fall of the caliphate, many city-states, or taifas, saw the potential for advancement and growth. One of the most transformational figures was Samuel (Shmeul in Hebrew and Ishmael in Arabic), also known as the David of his age and Ibn Nagrila. In 1013, he and his family escaped the increasing violence of Cordoba for the port city of Malaga, where they could support themselves through the spice trade. Samuel, however, moved inland to Granada and quickly rose to the rank of vizier and head of the Granada Jewish community (or nagid) due to his skill in writing. In this position, he began building up the Alhambra. His son, Joseph, who anthologized Samuel’s writing, is believed to be responsible for building ornate gardens next to the Alhambra. Though these gardens and many Jewish palaces are lost to time, Samuel’s writing changed the form and style of poetry across Europe.

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Latest answer posted May 9, 2020, 4:08 pm (UTC)

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Given the displacement of so many from Cordoba, many new and hybridized art forms were emerging as those influenced by Cordoban culture began to interact with new groups. Still, these historical transformations did not simply appear once Cordoba fell. A century earlier, a Jewish immigrant to Cordoba, Dunash ben Labrat of Baghdad, had suggested that Hebrew could be poetic, not just a language of prayer. This move was met with openness within the Jewish community, who also began to question what poetry was for. They realized that poetry might be secular or religious, or a contradiction of both, leading to a revolution in what Hebrew could be used for. By the end of Samuel’s time, many were speaking and singing Hebrew verses, not just using it as a language of prayer.

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