Patronage Was the Traditional Princely Activity
The wealth of the taifa [petty] kings [of Moorish Spain] enabled them to indulge the activity for which they are best remembered, the patronage of literature, learning and art. Of course, other factors alongside wealth were influential in this context. Patronage was the traditional princely activity, shedding lustre on the patron and his court. Competition grew up between courts: which prince could attract the most gifted poets or the most learned scholars, commission the most lavish palace, lay out the most elegant gardens? We should also reckon with the pressure of the distant past. Ibn Ghalib of Cordoba (d. 1044 [C.E.]) wrote a work called “Contentment of the soul in the contemplation of the ancient remains found in al-Andalus.” Contentment for the antiquarian perhaps, but not necessarily for the ruler. Near Seville there still stood the fourth largest amphitheatre of the Roman world.… By what monuments was an eleventh-century ruler to be remembered? There was also the pressure of a more recent past. ‘Abd al-Rahman III‘s palace outside Cordoba might have been razed to the ground, but everyone still remembered its splendor. Emulation of the past was a spur to princely patronage in the eleventh century. There was a sense too in which the passing of the [Umayyad] caliphate released provincial energies. Cultural as well as political life had been centralized in the tenth century. In the eleventh, the removal of that heavy hand which had sought to direct artistic endeavor towards Cordoba released a surge of creative energy in the provinces. By a happy chance the conditions were propitious for a flowering of the arts in Spanish Islam such as had never occurred before and was never to occur again.
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