The description Moors
has referred to several
historic and modern populations of Muslim
(and earlier non-Muslim) people of Berber
descent from North Africa
, some of whom came to conquer and
occupy the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. The North Africans
termed it Al
Andalus, comprising most of what is now Spain and Portugal.
not distinct or self-defined people, but the appellation was
applied by medieval and early modern Europeans primarily to
Berbers, but also Arabs, and Muslim Iberians The Moors? Ross Brann, Cornell
Andalusi Arabic sources, as opposed to later
Mudejar and Morisco
sources in Aljamiado and medieval Spanish texts, neither refer to
individuals as Moors nor recognize any such group, community or
Africans from Mali and Niger who had been absorbed into the
as 1911, mainstream scholars observed that "The term
has no real ethnological value."
In the Spanish language
, the term
for Moors is Moro
; in Portuguese
the word is mouro
There seems to have been some confusion about the relationship of
the word moro
to the word moreno
(which means brown), both from Greek maúros
, i.e. black
. However, the two words have different
The Andalusian Moors of the late
era inhabited the Iberian Peninsula after the Moorish
conquests of the Rashidun
Caliphates, and the final Umayyad conquest of Hispania
rule stretched at times as far as modern-day Mauritania, West African
countries, and the Senegal
Earlier, the Classical
interacted (and later conquered) parts of Mauretania
, a state which covered northern
portions of modern Morocco and much of north western and central
Algeria during the classical period. The people of the region were
noted in Classical literature
as the Mauri
The term Mauri
, or variations thereof, was later used by
traders and explorers of the 16th to
18th centuries to designate ethnic Berber and Arab groups speaking
groups inhabit Mauritania and parts of Algeria, western Sahara, Morocco, Niger and Mali and to those
in India. and Sri Lanka. Mauri was the genesis of the name of
the ancient kingdom of Mauretania, which gave its name to the
modern Islamic Republic of Mauritania. In the Philippines, some residents use a variation of the term to
designate some Muslim populations, the Moros.
Speakers of European languages
have historically designated a number of ethnic groups "Moors". In
modern Iberia, the term continues to be associated with those of
Europe. Some consider it pejorative
racist. Moor is sometimes used in a wider context to describe any
person from North Africa
. The Spanish
use the term and think of it as neutral in local sayings such as
"no hay moros en la costa
" (literally, "There are no Moors
on the coast", meaning "the coast is clear").
, the word maurus
) means coming
, a Roman province on the
north western fringe of Africa. In the Medieval Romance languages
(such as Portuguese
), the root
appeared in such forms as
, and mor
Derivatives are found in today's versions of the languages. Through
, the root has always
referred to various things. Moreno
, from the Latin root, can mean
"tanned" in Spain and Portugal. In Cuba and other
Spanish-speaking countries, as in
Portuguese speaking Brazil, it can mean
"black person" or a "mulatto" .
Also in Spanish, morapio
is a humorous name for "wine", specially that which has not been
"baptized" or mixed with water, i.e., pure unadulterated wine. By
extension, Moor was also used to refer generally to dark skinned
persons as far back as the time of William Shakespeare
, such as in his play
usage, moro ("Moor") came to have an even broader usage,
applied to moro of Mindanao in the Philippines, and the moriscos of
is also used to describe all things dark, as in
"Moor", "moreno", etc.. It has been the bases of such European
surnames as Moore, Mauro, Moura,
Milanese Duke Ludovico Il
Moro was so-called because of his dark complexion.
"Mouro" may also refer to an enchanted
, in Portugal and Spain, the word deriving from celtic
root *MRVOS, (gaulish: marvos), meaning dead or supernatural being,
who comb their long blond hair with a golden comb. From this celtic
root the name moor is also given to unbaptised children meaning not
Christian. In Basque
means moor and also refers to a mythical people.
In Northern Portugal, moura
also means "stone".
'The Moor' is often referred to in Othello
Although the Moors
came to be associated with Muslims, the
pre-dates Islam. It derives from the small Numidian Kingdom of Maure of the 3rd century BCE in what is now northern
central and western part of Algeria and a part
of northern Morocco.
name came to be applied to people of the entire region. "They were
called Maurisi by the Greeks," wrote Strabo
"and Mauri by the Romans." During that age, the Maure or Moors were
trading partners of Carthage, the independent city state founded by Phoenicians. During the second Punic war between Carthage and Rome, two Moorish
Numidian kings took different sides,
Syphax with Carthage, Masinissa with the Romans, decisively so at
Thereafter, the Moors
entered into treaties with Rome. Under King Jugurtha
collateral violence against merchants
brought war. Juba
, a later king, was a
friend of Rome. Eventually, the region was incorporated into the
as the provinces of
; the area
around Carthage already being the province of Africa
. Roman rule was beneficial and
effective enough so that these provinces became fully integrated
into the empire.
During the Christian era, two prominent Berber churchmen were
and St. Augustine
. After the fall of Rome
, the Germanic kingdom
of the Vandals
ruled much of the area. A century later they
were displaced by Byzantine
Neither Vandal nor Byzantine exercised an effective rule, the
interior being under Moorish Berber control. For over 50 years, the
Berbers resisted Arab
armies from the east.
Especially memorable was that led by Kahina
the Berber prophetess of the Awras, during 690–701. Yet by the 92nd
after the Hijra
, the Arab Muslims
had prevailed across North Africa.
The Moors of Iberia
In 711 CE, the now Islamic Moors conquered Visigothic Christian
. Under their leader, a general
, they brought most of Iberia under Islamic rule in an
eight-year campaign. They moved northeast across the Pyrenees Mountains but were defeated by the Frank Charles Martel at
the Battle of Poitiers in 732
The Moorish state fell into civil conflict
in the 750s. The Moors ruled in North Africa and in the
peninsula for several decades, except for areas in the
northwest (such as Asturias, where they were defeated at the battle of Covadonga) and the largely Basque regions in the
Though the number of original "Moors" remained
small, many native Iberian inhabitants converted
. According to Ronald Segal, some 5.6 million of
Iberia's 7 million inhabitants were Muslim by 1200 CE, virtually
all of them native inhabitants. The persecution and forced
conversion to Catholicism
the Muslim population during the time of the Christian Reconquista
in the second part of the 15th
century caused a mass exodus. This is considered the main reason
why the number of Muslims had shrunk to a relatively small fraction
of the total population by 1500.
In a process of decline, the Al Andalus had broken up into a number
of Islamic-ruled fiefdoms
, or taifas
, which were partly consolidated under the
, a small
northwestern Christian Iberian kingdom, initiated the Reconquista
(the "reconquest") soon after the Islamic conquest in the 8th
century. Christian states based in the north and west slowly
extended their power over the rest of Iberia.. The Navarre, Galicia, León, Portugal, Aragón, Catalonia or Marca
Hispanica, and Castile
began a process of expansion and internal consolidation during the
next several centuries under the flag of Reconquista.
In 1212, a coalition of Christian kings under the leadership of
Alfonso VIII of Castile
drove the Muslims from Central Iberia. The Portuguese side of the
ended in 1249
conquest of the Algarve
الغرب — Al-Gharb
) under Afonso III
, the first Portuguese
monarch to claim the title King of Portugal and the
However, the Moorish Kingdom of
continued for three more centuries in the southern
Iberia. This kingdom is known in modern times for
magnificent architectural works such as the Alhambra palace. On January 2, 1492, the leader of the last
Muslim stronghold in Granada surrendered to armies of a recently united
Christian Spain (after the
marriage of Ferdinand II of
Aragon and Isabella I of
Castile, the Catholic
The remaining Muslims and Jews were forced to
leave Spain, or convert to Roman Catholic Christianity or be killed
for not doing so. In 1480, Isabella and Ferdinand instituted the
Inquisition in Spain
, as one of
many changes to the role of the church instituted by the monarchs.
The Inquisition was aimed mostly at Jews and Muslims who had
overtly converted to Christianity but were thought to be practicing
their faiths secretly — called respectively marranos
Inquisition also attacked heretics who rejected Roman Catholic
orthodoxy, including alumbras
practiced a personal mysticism or spiritualism. They represented a
significant portion of the peasants in some territories, such as
Aragon, Valencia or Andalusia.
In the years from 1609 to 1614, they were
systematically expelled by the government. Henri Lapeyre has
estimated that this affected 300,000 out of an estimated total of 8
million inhabitants of the peninsula.. However many of them were
converted to Christianity and settled permanently. This is clearly
indicated by a "high mean proportion of ancestry from North African
(10.6%)" that "attests to a high level of religious conversion
(whether voluntary or enforced), driven by historical episodes of
social and religious intolerance, that ultimately led to the
integration of descendants.".
meantime, the tide of Islam had rolled not just to Iberia, but also
eastward, through India, the
Malayan peninsula, and Indonesia up to the Philippines .
This was one of the major islands of an
which the Spaniards had
reached during their voyages westward from the New World
. By 1521, the ships of Magellan and other Spanish explorers had
reached that island archipelago, which they named Las Islas de Filipinas, after Philip II
In Mindanao, the Spaniards named the kris
-bearing people as Moros
or 'Moors'. Today in the Philippines, this ethnic group of people
in Mindanao, who are generally Muslims
, are called 'Moros'. This
identification of Islamic people as Moros
persists in the
modern Spanish language
Spain, and as Mouros
in the modern Portuguese language
. See Reconquista
, and Maure
According to historian Richard
, 'the number of
who settled in Iberia was very small.
"Moorish" Iberia does at least have the merit of reminding us that
the bulk of the invaders and settlers were Moors, i.e Berbers
from Algeria and Morocco.' Aline Angoustures
says that the
Berbers were about 900,000 and the Arabs about 90,000 in
Beside its usage in historical context, Moor
) is used to designate an ethnic group speaking the
inhabit Mauritania and parts of Algeria, Western Sahara, Tunisia, Morocco, Niger and Mali.
Niger and Mali, these peoples are also known as the Azawagh
, after the Azawagh
region of the
In modern, colloquial Spanish
sometimes pejorative term "Moro" refers to any Arab . Similarly, in
modern, colloquial Portuguese
the term "Mouro" is primarely used as a designation for North
Africans and secondarily as a derogatory and ironic term by
to refer to
the inhabitants of the southern parts of the country: (the Alentejo
Philippines, a former Spanish
colony, many residents call the local Muslim population in the
Southern islands Moros.
They also self-identify
that way (see Muslim Filipino
term was introduced by the Spanish colonizers. Within the context of
Portuguese colonization, in
Lanka (Portuguese Ceylon), Muslims of Arab origin are called Moors
(see Sri Lankan
The initial rule of the Moors in the Iberian peninsula under this
Caliphate of Córdoba
generally regarded as tolerant in its acceptance of Christians,
Muslims and Jews
living in the same territories.
The Caliphate of Córdoba collapsed in 1031 and the Islamic
territory in Iberia fell under the rule of the Almoravid dynasty
. This second stage
inaugurated an era of Moorish rulers guided by a version of Islam
that left behind the tolerant practices of the past.
Moorish architecture is a
term used to describe the articulated Islamic architecture of North Africa and parts of Spain and Portugal where the Moors were dominant from 711–1492. The best surviving
examples are La Mezquita in Cordoba and the Alhambra palace (mainly 1338–1390), and also the Giralda in 1184. Other notable
examples include the ruined palace city of Medina
Azahara (936–1010), the church (former mosque) San Cristo
de la Luz in Toledo, the
Aljafería in Saragossa and baths at for example Ronda and
Shomarka Keita, a biological anthropologist
University, has claimed that populations in Carthage circa 200
BC and northern Algeria 1500 BC were very diverse.
group, they plotted closest to the populations of Northern Egypt
and intermediate to Northern Europeans and tropical Africans. Keita
claimed that "the data supported the comments from ancient authors
observed by classicists: everything from fair-skinned blonds to
peoples who were dark-skinned 'Ethiopian' or part Ethiopian in
appearance." Modern evidence showed a similar diversity among
present North Africans. Moreover, this "diversity" of phenotypes
and peoples was probably due to in
differentiation, not foreign influxes. Of course
foreign influxes certainly had an impact but they did not replace
the indigenous Berber population.
The Y chromosome
p49a,f TaqI Haplotype
V, which corresponds to Y haplogroup E1b1b1b
(M81) —formerly E3b1b, E3b2
and colloquially referred to as the "Berber marker"— has been found
among 68.9% of modern Berbers in North
and as high as 80% in one group. It is believed to be
about 5,600 years old, and to have arrived with the Neolithic
expansion from the Near East
. M81 is not found in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This haplotype has also been observed in as high as 40% of one
small group of Andalusians tested. Generally it appears at much
lower frequencies among Iberian populations, and lower as distance
from North Africa increases.
Y DNA haplogroup E1b1b
(formerly E3b) predominates among North African populations; its
E1b1b1b subgroup (M81) is identified especially with Berbers. The
Vb subtype of p49a,f Haplotype V, apparently corresponding to
E3b1b, has been found to occur in two-thirds of the Haplotype V
Southern Iberians, that is, in about a quarter of all Andalusians
tested. The frequency of Vb is at its highest among Berbers, and
was found to decline rapidly from West to East among North Africans
sampled. It is uncommon in France and Italy.
A 2006 mitochondrial DNA study of 12th to 13th century Islamic
remains from Priego de Cordoba, Spain, indicates a higher
proportion (4%) of sub-Saharan African lineages. This is attributed
only partially to the period of Moorish occupation; researchers
believe that more ancient migrations from Africa to Europe were
Quietus, a Roman general, governor of Iudaea in 117. Originally a Berber prince, his
military ability won him the favor of Trajan,
who even designated him as his successor. During the emperor's
Parthian campaign, the numerous Jewish
inhabitants of Babylonia revolted and were
relentlessly suppressed by Quietus, who was rewarded by being
appointed governor of Judea. Restlessness in Palestine caused
Trajan to send his favorite, as a legate of consular rank, to
Judea, where he continued his sanguinary course.
- Macrinus, 164–218, a Berber officer,
prefect of the Praetorian Guard under Caracalla. In 217–218, he became the first Roman
emperor who was not a senator.
- Gildo, a Berber chieftain who instigated a
rebellion against the Roman Empire in 398.
- Tariq ibn Ziyad, Berber general who defeated the Visigoths and conquered Hispania in 711.
- Al-Mansur, reigned 754–775, second
Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate; his mother was a
- Abd ar-Rahman
I, founder of the Umayyad Emirate of
Córdoba in 756; along with its succeeding Caliphate of Córdoba, the dynasty
Spain for three centuries.
- Abbas Ibn Firnas, 810–887,
Berber inventor and
aviator who invented an
early parachute and made the first attempt
at controlled flight with a hang glider.
- Maslamah Ibn Ahmad
al-Majriti, died 1007, Andalusian writer believed to have been
the author of the Encyclopedia of the
Brethren of Purity and the Picatrix.
- Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi
physician and surgeon who established the discipline of
surgery as a profession with his
Al-Tasrif in 1000.
Ishāq Ibrāhīm al-Zarqālī (Arzachel), 1028–1087, Andalusian astronomer and
engineer who invented the equitorium and
universal latitude-independent astrolabe,
compiled the first almanac, and compiled a
Zij later used as a basis for the
Tables of Toledo.
- Ibn Bajjah (Avempace), died 1138,
Andalusian physicist and
polymath whose theory of motion, including
the concept of a reaction force,
influenced the development of classical mechanics.
- Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar), 1091–1161,
Andalusian physician and polymath who discovered the existence of
parasites and pioneered experimental surgery.
- Muhammad al-Idrisi, circa
geographer and polymath who drew the Tabula Rogeriana, the most accurate
world map in pre-modern times.
- Ibn Tufail, circa 1105–1185, Arabic writer and polymath who wrote
Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, the
first philosophical novel.
- Ibn Rushd (Averroes), 1126–1198,
philosopher and polymath who wrote the The Incoherence of the
Incoherence and the most extensive Aristotelian commentaries, and established
the school of Averroism.
- Ibn al-Baitar, died 1248, Andalusian botanist and
pharmacist who compiled the most extensive pharmacopoeia and botanical compilation in
- Ibn Battuta, 1304–1368, a Berber
traveller who was the most prolific explorer in pre-modern times,
travelling 73,000 miles across much of the Old
- Ibn Khaldun, a pioneer of the
social sciences and forerunner of
historiography and economics, who wrote the
Muqaddimah in 1377.
al-Hasan ibn Alī al-Qalasādī, 1412–1486, Moorish mathematician who took
the first steps toward the introduction of algebraic symbolism.
- Othello, the fictitious hero in the
eponymous play by William
Shakespeare, published in 1604. The character of Othello was a
mercenary who served in the war between Venice and Cyprus, who
married the daughter of a Venetian nobleman.
- Estevanico, also referred to as
"Stephen the Moor", was an explorer in the service of Spain of what
is now the southwest of the United States.
- This section's bibliographical information is not fully
provided. If you know these sources and can provide full
information, you can help Wikipedia by completing it.
- Jan Carew, Rape of Paradise
- David Brion Davis, "Slavery: Black, White, Muslim,
- Herodotus, The Histories
- Shomark O.Y. Keita, "Genetic Haplotyes in North Africa"
- Shomark O.Y. Keita, "Craniometric Data from North Africa
- Shomark O.Y. Keita, "Further Craniometric Data from North
- Shomark O.Y. Keita, "Bernal vs. Snowden"
- Bernard Lewis, "The Middle East"
- Bernard Lewis, "The Muslim Discovery of Europe"
- Bernard Lewis, "Race and Slavery in Islam"
- Stanley Lane-Poole, Turkey (1888)
- Stanley Lane-Poole, The Barbary Corsairs (1890)
- Stanley Lane-Poole, The History of the Moors in
- J.A. Rogers, Nature Knows no Color
- Ronald Segal, "Islam's Black Slaves"
- Ivan van Sertima, The
Golden Age of the Moor
- Frank Snowdon, "Before Color Prejudice"
- Frank Snowdon, "Blacks in Antiquity"
- David M. Goldenberg, "The Curse of Ham"
- Lucotte and Mercier, various genetic studies
- Eva Borreguero. "The Moors Are Coming, the Moors Are Coming!
Encounters with Muslims in Contemporary Spain". Islam and
Christian-Muslim relations, 2006, vol. 17, no4, pp. 417–432.
Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University,
- "The Moors" by Ross Brann, published on New York