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Fraxinet or Fraxinetum (Arabic: Farakhshanit‎ or Farachsa, from Latin fraxinus: "ash tree", fraxinetum: "ash forest") was the site of a tenth-century fortress established by Saracen pirates at modern La Garde-Freinet, near Saint-Tropez, in Provence. The modern Massif des Maures ("plateau of Moors") takes its name from the Saracens of Fraxinet.

In about 889 a ship carrying twenty Berber adventurers from Pechina near Almería in what was then called Al-Andalus anchored in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez in Provence. They were called muwallad, that is, former slaves who spoke both Latin (Mozarabic?) and Arabic.[1]

The region around Fraxinet was known in Arabic as Djabal al-Qilâl (mountain of the many peaks) and is, strangely enough, depicted on Arab maps of the period as an island. This area controlled by Fraxinet included St-Tropez, its gulf and hinterland, as well as Ramatuelle and its peninsula.[2] Ibn Hawqal recorded that the area was richly cultivated by its Muslim inhabitants, and they have been credited with a number of agricultural and fishing innovations for the region. Ship wrecks in the area indicate that Fraxinet may have been a centre of trade as much as of piracy.[3]

Christian sources, especially Liudprand[4], depict the Moors of Fraxinet as brigands. From their base, they raided the surrounding area, reaching as far as Piedmont in Northern Italy and effectively controlling the Alpine passes between France and Italy. An outpost was probably established on the St Bernard Pass road near the modern Saint-Maurice, ancient Agaunum, in southwest Switzerland.

In 931 King Hugh of Italy, along with some Byzantine ships (ref. needed), attacked Fraxinetum. The Byzantines were able to overcome the Saracen ships with Greek fire, while Hugh's troops entered the town. However, in 941 Hugh allowed the Saracens of Fraxinetum to harass the Alpine passes for his own political ends in his struggle with Berengar of Ivrea.[5]

It was assumed by Emperor Otto I that the Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba, Abd-ar-Rahman III, was sovereign over Fraxinetum, and he sent John of Gorze as ambassador in 953 to demand the cessation of the pirates' activities. A return embassy from the Caliph was made by the Mozarab bishop Recemund. It is unlikely, however, that the pirates regarded Fraxinetum as part of the Caliph’s territory.[6]

The Saracens were defeated at the Battle of Tourtour by William I of Provence. They were expelled from Fraxinetum in 975 by an alliance of Rotbold II of Provence and Arduin Glaber.


See also

Emirate of Bari


  1. ^ Description of annular gourd at Qantara website
  2. ^ P. Sénac, "Contribution a l'étude des incursions Musulmanes dans l'Occident Chrétien: la localisation du Ğabal al-Qilāl" Revue de l'Occident Musulman et de la Méditerranée, 31 (1981) 7–14
  3. ^ Qantara site, especially note 4
  4. ^ Antapodosis, Books I and V
  5. ^ Liudprand, V, 16-17; R. Hitchcock, Mozarabs in Medieval and Early Modern Spain (Franham: Ashgate, 2008), p. 42
  6. ^ K. Versteegh, “The Arab Presence in France and Switzerland in the 10th Century” Arabica XXXVII (1990) pp. 363–364


  • "Note sur le Fraxinet des Maures", Annales du Sud-Est varois, tome XV, 1990, pp. 19-23.
  • Mohammed Arkoun, «Histoire de l'Islam et des musulmans en France du Moyen-Age à nos jours», Albin Michel, 2006
  • Philippe Sénac, «Islam et chrétiens du Midi (XIIe-XIVe siècle)», Les Cahiers de Fanjeaux, n° 18, Toulouse : Privat, 1983, 435 p.

External links



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