History of Ben Gabirol

On Calle Alcazabilla, beside the terrace of the Restaurant El Pimpi and under a tree, there is a bronze statue of a man who seems to be sad. The statue represents Ben Gabirol, also known as Solomon ibn Gabirol. He was a Jewish poet born in Malaga in 1021. The statue was made by an American sculptor, Reed Armstrong, in 1970. This poet was also a philosopher know for his Platonic views.

Ben Gabirol was orphaned at an early age, so he was brought to Zaragoza, where he was educated. His poetic talent soon became apparent and he was given the protection of Yekutiel ben Isaac, the Jewish vizier of the king Mundir II. Unfortunately in 1039 there was a rebellion against Mundir II, led by Abd Allah ibn Hakam, and Yekutiel was assassinated. So Gabirol went to Granada, to look for another protector.

In Granada he was protected at first by Semuel ibn Nagrela, the vizier of Badis ibn Habus, the king of Granada. Unfortunately Nagrela and Gabirol had bad relations after a while, so Gabirol went back to Zaragoza. There he had problems with the Jewish community and so he had to leave Zaragoza in 1045.

Gabirol wrote many religious poems, some with mystic tendencies. He blended traditional Jewish thought with neoplatonic philosophy. He also wrote in the Arab language, and one of his most famous works was translated into Latin and now known as Fons Vitae. His writings also touched on ethics and morality. He died in 1058 in Valencia.