By Hussein Fancy
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Extra info for The Mercenary Mediterranean: Sovereignty, Religion, and Violence in the Medieval Crown of Aragon
2 In these four earlier studies, however, the identity of the jenets has been a matter of confusion. For Andrés Giménez Soler, writing in 1905, their origin seemed obvious: they were Zanāta Berbers from North Africa. 3 In 1927, when Faustino Gazulla wrote a second study of the jenets, he followed his predecessor on the matter of origin. A significant entanglement, however, arises from this etymological claim. To say that the jenets were Zanāta Berbers—a broad ethnic category—is only slightly more revealing than calling them North African.
95 Thus, in the period of the Muslim uprisings in Murcia and Valencia— which is to say, when jenets first begin to appear in the records of the Crown of Aragon—Abū Yūsuf had transferred a large body of volunteer and salaried Zanāta and Arab troops onto the Iberian Peninsula. 96 According to Ibn Khaldūn, the Marīnid attack began with a vanguard of five thousand cavalry soldiers, whom he simply calls “the Zanāta,” under the command of Abū Ya‘qūb, the sultan’s son. The expedition ravaged the frontier, and in these raids, Ibn Khaldūn adds, the Zanāta knights distinguished themselves: “The Zanāta once more showed their clear- sightedness and determination; their zeal was roused.
30 In other words, etymologies and etiologies 21 even if the Berber Zanāta inspired the term, it does not follow that the thirteenth-century jenets were Zanāta. To press this point as far as it goes: the etymology upon which Giménez Soler relied in fact reﬂects this ambiguity precisely. 31 In only one other case has an Arabic word with the letter zāy entered into Castilian with a c or Catalan with an s. 32 What the curious initial letter might suggest is that the path from the Arabic Zanāta to jinete and genet was indirect, passing through some intermediary language.