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Interactive video lesson plan for: Samuel HaNagid - A Prince of Jews - Extra History

Activity overview:

Forced to flee from his home in Cordoba, Samuel HaNagid made a new name for himself in the kingdom of Granada. He picked his allies carefully and rose to the position of vizier, an unheard of honor for a Jew in a Muslim kingdom. His fame as a poet, a leader, and a patron of Judaic studies spread across the Mediterranean.
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Born in the waning days of the grand Umayyad caliphate of medieval Spain, Samuel HaNagid grew up in the multicultural art scene of Cordoba. He wrote poetry in the Bedouin tradition, a break from the tradition of purely religious Hebrew poetry that had held sway in the Jewish community for centuries. His familiarity with arts and letters served him well when unrest forced him to flee to a new kingdom in Granada, where a muslim vizier recognized his high level of education and appointed him a tax collector. When the vizier died, Samuel took over his responsibilities but the king refused to give him the title, even though he had earned the title of "nagid" (leader or prince) from the Jewish community in Babylonia. He allied himself with a young prince named Badis, and when the time came for succession, he helped Badis get the throne in exchange for which he was finally appointed vizier in full. In the turbulent world of ta'ifa Iberia, Samuel found himself spending most of his time fighting wars to protect the kingdom. He passed away after decades of service, and his young son Joseph attempted to fill the role in his stead. Though Joseph managed to navigate the increasingly volatile waters of Granadan politics for ten years, his rivals eventually succeeded in stirring an anti-Semitic riot against him. Joseph and the Jewish community in Granada were massacred, and the only lasting remnant of Samuel's life's work was the poetry his son had copied out and immortalized in his memory.

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