For a long time, Hebrew literature was essentially a part of a religious tradition. This, however, changed in the tenth century CE, when in Muslim Spain ( al- Andalus) Jewish poets began to compose secular Hebrew poetry and inaugurated the 'Golden Age of Hebrew Andalusian1 poetry' which reached its apogee under the Party kings (Muluk al-tawa' if) in the eleventh century2. The existence of several courts resulted in a competition that stimulated cultural life3. This emancipation of Hebrew literature can be explained by the special position the Jews occupied in al-Andalus, as compared with the other regions of the diaspora.
This special position was the result of several historical factors. In the first place, the relationship between the Muslim rulers and the Jewish community was a good one. The Jews, who had been living on the Iberian peninsula from the first century, had welcomed and even helped the Muslim conquerors in the eighth century. They saw them as their liberators since they had been oppressed by the Visigoth rulers. A second peculiarity was that Jews were not confined to certain professions but were to be found in all walks of life: among them were wage labourers, artisans, merchants and landowners. There were even exclusively Jewish cities such as Lucena and Granada. But perhaps most important for the development of Hebrew literature was the fact that there were Jews serving in high offices at Muslim courts. They often acted as Maecenases for Jewish scholarship and art.____________________