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Onneca Fortúnez

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Onneca / Iñiga
Infanta of Pamplona
Born 848/850
Died aft. 890
Spouse Abdullah of Córdoba (m. 862/863)
Aznar Sánchez de Laron (m. 882/883)
Issue Muhammad
Fatima the Younger
Toda, Queen of Pamplona
Sancha, Queen of Pamplona
Full name
Birth name: Onneca / Iñiga
Arabic name: Durr (در)
House House of Íñiguez
Father Fortún Garcés of Pamplona
Mother Auria

Onneca Fortúnez or Iñiga Fortúnez[1][2] (c. 848 – after 890)[3] was a Basque[4] princess from the Kingdom of Pamplona, later known as the Kingdom of Navarre. She was the daughter of Fortún Garcés of Pamplona and his wife Auria. At the time of Onneca's birth, which occurred between 848 and 850, the Iberian Peninsula was largely under the domination of the Muslim Umayyad dynasty. Only the northern kingdoms of Asturias and Pamplona remained under Christian rule, perpetuating the Hispano-Roman Visigothic traditions. Onneca was a member of the Íñiguez dynasty, named after her great-grandfather Íñigo Arista, who founded the Kingdom of Pamplona.[5]

Information about Onneca's life is limited. Biographical details about her come from two main sources: the Roda Codex and the accounts of Muslim Andalusi historians, who refer to Onneca by the Arabic name Durr (در), meaning "pearl". Her marriage created family ties between the Christian and Muslim ruling families of the Iberian peninsula, initially leading to close collaboration between the Christian House of Íñiguez and the Muslim Umayyads.[6] The political effects resulting from Onneca's marriages continued to be felt long after her death, which occurred at an unknown date.

Marriage to Emir Abdullah[edit]

The Iberian peninsula in the early 10th century:
  Territories of the Banu Qasi

Onneca's father Fortún Garcés, the then heir to the throne of Pamplona, was captured in 860 in the town of Milagro during a punitive expedition led by Muhammad I, the Muslim emir of Córdoba, against the small Kingdom of Pamplona. The expedition resulted in the devastation of the Christian kingdom's territory and the seizure of three castles by the Muslim forces. Fortun Garcés, nicknamed al-Anqar (الأنقر) by the Muslims because he was one-eyed, was taken to Córdoba where he was detained for two decades in gilded captivity.[7] Onneca accompanied or followed her father to Córdoba, where she was wedded to Muhammad I's son Abdullah around 862/863. It is not known when or how she came to Córdoba. She may have been captured with her father, or sent to join her father at the emir's court at a later date. Onneca was presumably still a teenager when she bore Abdullah a son named Muhammad in 864.[3] As Abdullah's wife, Onneca became known as Durr.[8] According to some sources, she converted to Islam.[9][10]

In addition to Muhammad, Onneca bore Abdullah two daughters: al-Baha' and Fatima the Younger.[11] Abdullah became emir in 888, and Onneca's son Muhammad was named heir to the throne. However, Muhammad was assassinated by his younger half-brother al-Mutarrif on 28 January 891. There is disagreement among historians as to whether al-Mutarrif acted on his own or at the instigation of his father Abdullah. Al-Mutarrif himself was beheaded in 895 under orders of his father. As a result, Muhammad's son Abd-ar-Rahman, who was born three weeks prior to his father's assassination, was the one who succeeded his grandfather Abdullah as emir of Córdoba. Known in the West as Abd-ar-Rahman III, he later elevated himself to the position of caliph.[12]

Onneca was thus the paternal grandmother of Abd-ar-Rahman III, who inherited from her as well as from his mother Muzna hailing from the Pyrenees (probably a Basque) European facial features such as blue eyes and light reddish hair that he attempted to alter (notably through hair coloring) in order to look more typically Arab.[2][4]

Marriage to Aznar Sánchez de Laron[edit]

In about 880, after two decades in Córdoba, Onneca abandoned her Muslim family,[13] and returned with her father to Pamplona, to which he would shortly succeed. Shortly after her return, Onneca married her first cousin Aznar Sánchez de Laron. Together they had a son and two daughters, probably born between 880 and 890: Sancho, Toda and Sancha. Their son Sancho Aznar is only known from the Roda Codex genealogies and may have died young.[3] Their daughters Toda and Sancha would both become queens consort of Pamplona by marrying into the Jiménez dynasty, which came to power in 905 after displacing Onneca's father Fortún Garcés from the throne. Toda married Sancho I Garcés, thus uniting the royal houses of Íñiguez and Jiménez.[14] Toda's sister Sancha was wedded to Sancho I Garcés' brother and successor Jimeno Garcés, and was later killed in France by her son García Jiménez.[15]

Alternative chronology[edit]

The Roda Codex, the sole source for Onneca's Christian marriage, places this union with her cousin Aznar Sánchez de Laron before her marriage, as a widow, to Abdullah of Córdoba. Based on this, French historian Évariste Lévi-Provençal developed a chronology for Onneca's life that placed her birth date around 835. Lévi-Provençal believed that Onneca did not accompany her father when he returned to Pamplona in 882, either because she had already died, or because she had converted to Islam and chose to remain in Abdullah's harem.[10] However, such a chronology is problematic since it implies that Onneca's children by Aznar were born before or only shortly after her father's capture in 860, thus making Onneca's daughter Toda Aznárez a sexagenarian at the time of her son García Sánchez I's birth (which is known to have occurred in either 919 or 922[16]), and nearly a centenarian at the time of her 958 visit to Cordoba. Therefore, most historians addressing the question have concluded that the Roda Codex was in error with regard to the order of Onneca's two marriages. In a more substantive departure from the Roda genealogy, historian Alberto Cañada Juste suggests that the chronological challenges are overwhelming, and posits that the Roda genealogy has confused two namesake princesses, that it was not Onneca Fortúnez, widow of Aznar Sánchez of Laron, who went to Córdoba and became grandmother of Abd ar-Rahman III, but instead was her aunt, Onneca Garcés, widow of Aznar Galíndez II, Count of Castile.[17]


Onneca's historical importance stems from the fact that she provided an important genealogical link between the Muslim caliphs of Córdoba and the Christian kings of Pamplona,[6] as well as between the first two royal dynasties of Pamplona.[18][19]

Family tree[edit]

The following family tree shows the relationship between Onneca and her immediate relatives. Solid lines indicate descent, while horizontal dashed lines indicate marriage. The names of the three dynasties to which Onneca was directly related are in big capital letters: the Íñiguez dynasty into which she was born and married, the Umayyad dynasty into which she married, and the Jiménez dynasty into which her two Christian daughters married.[18][19][20]

See also[edit]