The Muslim Conquest of the Iberian Peninsula: Causes and Impact

Classified in History

Written at on English with a size of 4.93 KB.

The Arrival of the Muslims

The arrival of the Muslims on the Iberian Peninsula in the early 8th century is related to a civil war between the Visigoths when different factions fought to succeed to the throne. One of the opposing sides, formed by the opponents of King Rodrigo, decided to seek the help of Muslims who were in North Africa.
In 711, in response to this request for help, a Muslim army entered the Iberian Peninsula. In the same year, led by Tariq and Musa, it conquered King Rodrigo and began a rapid conquest of the Spanish territory.Tariq landed in Gibraltar in 711 at the head of an army of thousands of soldiers who were, for the most part, Berbers from North Africa.

The Battle of Guadalete

The Muslims easily defeated the Visigoths in the Battle of Guadalete (711). Tariq then decided to call Musa, the governor of North Africa, to complete the conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom.

Muslim Expansion

Muslim expansion took place rapidly. In just four years they dominated most of the Iberian Peninsula, except for the mountainous areas of the north. The conquered territory was called al-Andalus.

Defeat and Withdrawal

The Muslims tried to continue their conquest of Europe, but were defeated by the Franks in Poitiers. After this defeat, they withdrew to the Iberian Peninsula.

Causes of Rapid Muslim Expansion

The weakness of the Visigothic monarchy, immersed in a series of civil wars. In addition, there were frequent sacking expeditions by the Vascones, contributing to a climate of general insecurity.The indifference of the population, who offered no resistance to the new rulers. The peasants lived in very precarious conditions, so had no incentives to defend the Visigothic monarchy.

Muslim Settlement

Relatively few Muslims settled in the Peninsula after the conquest. Some of them were Arabs and Syrians, who occupied the best lands, and the rest were Berbers, who settled in the poorest lands.
Meanwhile, the Hispano-Roman peasant population remained, and many people converted to Islam. Christians who abandoned their religion during the Muslim rule of the Peninsula and converted to Islam are known as muladis. On the other hand, Christians who lived in Muslim territory and kept their religion are called Mozarabs.

The Political Organisation (711–1031)

Al-Andalus gradually obtained greater independence from Islam throughout the 8th and 10th centuries. There were three phases in the political evolution of this stage

The Muslims only settled in the richest agricultural regions, such as the Guadalquivir and Ebro valleys, and on the east coast. In poorer areas such as the mountain ranges of northern Spain, there was much less pressure from the conquerors, so the Christians were able to organise enclaves of resistance.
These Christian areas fought to secure their enclaves during the 8th century and later began a phase of expansion that led them to the River Duero. In response, the Muslims carried out expeditions against Christian territories. They departed from Córdoba to plunder the fields and obtain booty. These expeditions included those conducted by Abd al-Rahman III during his time as caliph (929–961) and Almanzor, who was the prime minister of the caliph Hixam II. In al-Andalus, economic activity was intense and benefited from the urban nature of society, as well as a rise in trade. Gold and silver coins circulated in the Andalusian souks, facilitating trade with the East and West. Córdoba reproduced the splendour of Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Important scientists and thinkers who promoted the development of mathematics, medicine, astronomy, music and poetry came together in this city. As a result, Córdoba became the most cultured city in western Europe.
The best evidence of the city’s cultural splendour was the art of the Caliphate period, which found its greatest expression in the mosque of Córdoba and civil buildings such as the palace of Medina Azahara. The mosque of Córdoba was built in several phases between the 8th and 10th centuries. The haram or prayer hall is of particular interest. It is formed of naves separated by horseshoe arches supported by slender columns. In turn, these rows of arches support a second line of round arches held up by pillars. This system was inspired by Roman aqueducts.The mihrab, the most sacred part, was created by artists from the Middle East. These influences are seen in the decoration and on the dome. The city and palace of Medina Azahara were built near Córdoba on the orders of caliph Abd al-Rahman III, to be the caliph’s residence and  seat of government. Their luxurious decor is intended to reflect the splendour of the Andalusian court. Muslim craftsmen excelled in making decorative objects for the rich, in which they showed their mastery. They include animal-shaped sculptures made in glazed ceramic or in bronze, and carved ivory caskets, like the Pyxis of Zamora.

Entradas relacionadas: