Spain History - Moor Period - Part II - Caliphate (756-10319

It was to take another 480 years before the last Moor stronghold at Granada was finally taken thus bringing to an end the Moorish rule in the Peninsular. The last strong ruler in the 10th Century being Al-Mansur the power was passed to the effeminate Hasham II who wore a veil and makeup. For obvious reasons he had no offspring and he named Sanchuelo the son of Al-Mansur as his heir. Sanchuelo proved to be totally debauched and revolts by the people became the habit of the time. By 1031 the once powerful Al-Andulus had become 20 feuding Kingdoms but they still managed to maintain local control over their own populations. The strongest being Seville, Granada, Córdoba, Almeria, Zaragoza, Badajoz and Toledo. However, this period was to see a curious emergence in culture with each ruler vying to produce the most notable poets and finest books. In social life the moral codes were discarded and the love of wine and sexual excesses led to poets recording absolute debauchery. Even the fighting of battles was often engaged by mercenaries who in some cases could be their Christian enemies. Borders between states were often changing and place names often denote the frontier as at any one given time by adding the ending, de la Frontera. It was during this period that the town of Silves, in the south west portion in what is now Portugal, developed as a Moorish seat of culture and learning in the Peninsular. Silves became known for its magnificent palaces and in the works of poets of the time they wrote about the stylish living which included imported wild animals that were kept in the gardens of the palaces.

One stronger ruler was Hakam in Córdoba. He did not ignore the increasing power enjoyed by the Christian rulers in the north so he sent an army to deal with the problem under the ambitious and able Mohammed ibi-abi-Amir who was later to become a ruler and known as Al-Mansur. In a period covering 20 years he led 57 expeditions into the territory and in 997 he took Santiago de Compostela and destroyed the shrine founded in 899 with the exception of the tomb, leaving it out of pity to a gallant defending priest. The bells and the doors of the shrine were removed and reinstalled in the Great Mosque in Córdoba. The power of Córdoba as a seat of power finished with the death of its last ruler Hisham III (1027-1031).

When the town of Toledo was taken by King Alfonso II the Moor leader in Seville decided to take positive action and contacted their tribe brothers in North Africa. He approached the dark-skinned tribe of Almoravids who readily accepted a chance to fight in the name Allah. An invasion army of Almoravids landed at Algeciras in the south and marched to meet King Alfonso at Badajoz in 1086. In very short time the King fled to save his life having been beaten in battle. The Almoravids took control of the most of the southern peninsular and governed it from their capital at Marrakech. They used a different style of rule based on strict fundamentalism to the Koran. They viewed priests as libertines, fornicators and sodomites and as can be imagined there was a flood to the north of persecuted southern inhabitants. They also showed little respect for buildings, and for example when they captured Segovia they pointlessly destroyed 36 of its Roman arches.

The map of states of the peninsular by 1150 had changed with a significant shrinkage of the part controlled by the Moors. Their area was to the south of a shaky line drawn between Lisbon and a little to the north of Castelló de la Plana on the Mediterranean coast above Valencia. The original Moors inhabitants began to find the fanatical rule of the Almoravids to be overbearing and began to revolt. The future for the Almoravids was decided for them when another fanatical tribe in the Atlas Mountains, the Almohades, conquered Marrakech and then flooded into the Peninsular. Once again the Moors became united as rulers but showed less tolerance to other religions than they had previously enjoyed. Once again the cultural side of Moorish living was revived. Schools were created in philosophy, medicine, surgery, mathematics, poetry, literature and architecture. The impressive minaret La Giralda at the mosque in Seville was built during this revival and the Alcazar was commenced in 1181.

The conflict between the Moors and the Christians continued their now traditional win and lose situation with King Alfonso VIII of Castille being defeated at Alarcos in 1195 and later the Moors suffered a heavy defeat in 1212 at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. After further losses which included the area of Murcia in 1243 and that of Valencia in 1245, they then lost Portugal in 1249 and the Balearic Islands. This followed later with Córdoba and Seville falling to King Ferdinand III of Castille. He accepted that the Moors retained their kingdom of Granada but as vassals to his throne.

To sum up at this stage it would be correct to say that the Moors (mainly Berber-Hispanic Muslims) inhabited two-thirds of the peninsular for 375 years. They then occupied for a further 160 years about half of the Peninsular reduced to the small kingdom of Granada (Málaga, Almeria, and regional areas), for the ultimate period of 244 years - the fall of this Kingdom is covered in The Re-conquest Period.


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