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AMRAM BEN ISAAC IBN SHALBIB (or SHALIB):

Ambassador of Alfonso VI., of Leon and Castile, in the eleventh century. The position occupied by the Jews in Christian Spain toward the end of the eleventh century may be gathered from a statement made by Alfonso VI. in the presence of his Moslem adversaries. "The Jews," he said, "furnish our viziers, chancellors, and most of the officers of the army, and we can not do without them" ("Abd al-WaḦid al-Marrakoshi," ed. Dozy, p. 93). This statement is substantiated by the fact that Alfonso actually employed a Jewish diplomatist, to whom Arab authors give the name of Ibn Shalbib (or Shalib). The records relating to his history are defective and divergent, and agree on one point only, that in 1085 he acted as Alfonso's ambassador to Almu'tamid, the last Abbasid calif who resided in Seville. Ibn Shalbib is probably identical with Amram ben Isaac, whom Leo Africanus (Fabricius, "Bibliotheca, Græca," 2d ed., 1790-1811, xiii. 295) connects with the same affair. One author (Ibn al-Labbana) relates that Ibn Shalbib came to Seville, accompanied by a number of knights, to demand the tribute due to Alfonso. Another makes him the bearer of a message to the prince asking him for a residence for Alfonso's wife, Al-Zahra, who was the daughter of the Arab prince Amram. Ibn Shalbib had to pay with his life for the arrogant manner in which he delivered his message. The circumstances of his death are, however, very uncertain. While, according to the first report, he was nailed to a stake, the second states that Almu'tamid brained him with a heavy inkstand. Ibn al-Athir ("Chronicon," x. 92 et seq.) also mentions the embassy, but without disclosing the name of the messenger. Concerning Ibn Shalbib's death he gives a third version; viz., that the prince struck his face till his eyes protruded. His companions also, with the exception of three who escaped, were put to death. However uncertain the details of the embassy, it undoubtedly had far-reaching consequences; for Almu'tamid sent to Yusuf ibn Tashfin, the founder of the Almoravid dynasty in Africa, asking his assistance against Alfonso, whose revenge he feared. This marks the beginning of the Almoravid conquest of Spain. Ibn Shalbib's repute as a skilful physician can not be substantiated from Arabic sources, as his name is not to be found in Ibn Abi Oseibia's or similar works.

Bibliography:
  • Grätz, Gesch. d. Juden, vi. 421 et seq.
H. Hir.
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