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The Umayyad conquest of Hispania (711718) began as an army of the Umayyad Caliphate consisting largely of Berber, inhabitants of Northwest Africa recently converted to Islam, invaded the Christian Visigothic Kingdom located on the Iberian peninsulamarker (Hispania). Under the authority of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I of Damascusmarker, and commanded by Tariq ibn Ziyad, they disembarked in early 711, at Gibraltarmarker, and campaigned their way northward. Tariq's forces were reinforced the next year by those of his superior, the Emir Musa ibn Nusair.

During the eight–year campaign, most of the Iberian Peninsulamarker was brought under Muslim occupation, save for remote areas in the northwest (Galiciamarker and Asturiasmarker) and largely Basque regions in the Pyreneesmarker. The conquered territory, under the Arabic name al-Andalusmarker, became part of the expanding Umayyad empire.

The invaders subsequently moved northeast across the Pyrenees, but were defeated by the Frank Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours (Poitiersmarker) in 732. Muslim control of territory in what became Francemarker was intermittent and ended in 975.

Though Muslim armies dominated the peninsula for centuries afterward, Pelayo of Asturias's victory at the Battle of Covadonga in 722 preserved at least one Christian principality in the north. This battle later assumed major symbolic importance for Spanish Christians as the beginning of the Reconquista.


Precisely what happened in Iberia in the early 8th century is subject to much uncertainty. There is one contemporary Christian source, the Chronicle of 754 (which ends on that date), regarded as reliable but often vague. There are no contemporary Muslim accounts. What Muslim information there is comes from later compilations, which are much coloured by the writers' sense of what was proper, and by contemporary politics — the most prominent such compilation is that of Al-Maqqari, which dates from the 17th century. This paucity of sources means that any specific or detailed claims need to be regarded with caution.

What are available are a number of stories that might more properly be described as legends. The manner of King Roderic's ascent to the throne is unclear; there are accounts of dispute with the son of his predecessor Wittiza, and accounts that Wittiza's family fled to Tangiermarker and solicited help from there. Numismatic evidence suggests some division of royal authority, with several coinages being struck. There is also a story of one Julian, count of Ceuta, whose daughter was raped by Roderic and who also sought help from Tangier. However, these stories probably date from several hundred years later .

As to the initial nature of the expedition, historical opinion takes four directions: (1) that a force was sent to aid one side in a civil war in the hope of plunder and a future alliance; (2) that it was a reconnaissance force sent to test the military strength of the Visigothic kingdom; (3) that it was the first wave of a full–scale invasion; (4) that it was an unusually large raiding expedition with no direct strategic intentions.


What is clear is that in the early 8th century, a modest army estimated at some 10,000–15,000 combatants led by one Tariq Ibn Ziyad crossed from North Africa. Ibn Abd-el-Hakem reports, one and a half century later, that "the people of Andalus did not observe them, thinking that the vessels crossing and recrossing were similar to the trading vessels which for their benefit plied backwards and forwards." It defeated the Visigothic army, led by King Roderic, in a decisive battle in 712 and went on to take control of most of Iberia. The Chronicle of 754 states that 'the entire army of the Goths, which had come with him fraudulently and in rivalry out of hopes of the Kingship, fled'. This is the only contemporary account of the battle, and the paucity of detail led many later historians to invent their own. The location of the battle is not totally clear, but was probably the Guadalete Rivermarker.

Roderic and the great majority of the Visigothic elite are believed to have been killed. Such a crushing defeat would have left the Visigoths largely leaderless and disorganized. In this regard, the ruling Visigoth population is estimated at a mere 150,000–200,000 people out of an estimated one million total population , something which facilitated the nearly instant demise of the Visigothic kingdom. The survivors fled north to Écijamarker, near Sevillemarker. The resulting power vacuum, which may have indeed caught Tariq completely by surprise, would have aided immensely the Muslim conquest.

The conquering army was made up mainly of Berbers, who had themselves only recently come under Muslim influence and were probably only lightly Islamised. It is probable that this army represented a continuation of a historic pattern of large–scale raids into Iberia dating to the pre–Islamic period, and that actual conquest was not originally planned. Both the Chronicle and later Muslim sources speak of raiding activity in previous years, and Tariq's army may have been present for some time before the decisive battle. It has been proposed that the fact that the army was led by a Berber, and that the Ummayad Governor of North Africa, Musa ibn Nusayr, only arrived the following year, supports this possibility — the governor had not stooped to lead a mere raid, but hurried across once the unexpected triumph became clear. The Chronicle of 754 states that many townspeople fled to the hills rather than defend their cities, which might support the view that this was expected to be a temporary raid rather than a permanent change of government.


The conquest led to a period of several hundred years in which the Iberian peninsula was Al-Andalusmarker, dominated by Muslim rulers, and with only a handful of small Christian states surviving in the mountainous north. In 756 Abd ar-Rahman I, a survivor of the recently overthrown Umayyad Dynasty, seized power in the province, founding an independent dynasty that survived until the 11th century. Muslim domination lasted longer: until the defeat of the Almohads in the 13th century, after which the Christian Reconquista became irresistible.


As discussed above, much of the traditional narrative of the Conquest is more legend than reliable history. Some of the key events and the stories around them are outlined below.

  • 6th century – Visigothic noblemen had grown into territorial lords.
  • 612 – Royal decree issued enjoining all Jews to be baptized under penalty of banishment and confiscation of property.
  • 710 – Tariq ibn Ziyad (Malluk?) with 400 men and 100 horses landed on the tiny peninsula of the European continent now called isle of Tarifamarker after his name. The Rock of Gibraltar was named after him. The name comes out of a mispronunciation of Jabl Tariq, which means "Tariq's Mountain." The location believed to have been where Tariq Ibn Ziyad landed after crossing the narrow strait. The strait is also named after him.
  • 711 – Musa ibn Nusair, Governor of North Africa, dispatched his Berber freedman Tariq ibn Ziyad into the Iberian Peninsula encouraged by the success of Tarif and the dynastic trouble in the Visigoth Kingdom of Hispania.
  • July 19, 711 – Tariq ibn Ziyad, with 7,000 men, and Julian, count of Ceuta, with 12,000 men, confronted King Roderick, with 25,000 men, by the Barbate River (now called Salado River) on the shore of a lagoon. Roderick's army was utterly routed.
  • June 712 – Syriansmarker rushed to Hispania and attacked towns and strongholds avoided by Tariq ibn Ziyad.
  • February 715 – Musa ibn Nusair, Governor of Ifriqiya, entered Damascusmarker with the Visigoth kings and princes and for the first time hundreds of western royalty and thousands of European captives were seen offering homage to the commander of the Muslims in Damascus. Musa the Conqueror of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula died in Hejaz, while performing the Hajj. His son Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa was announced first Amir of Andalus and married the widow of King Roderick, Egilona Balthes. Sevillemarker became the capital.
  • 717–18 – Lured by the rich treasures of convents and churches of France and encouraged by the internal dissension between the chief officers of the Merovingian court and the dukes of Aquitainemarker, Al-Hurr ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Thaqafi invaded Septimaniamarker.
  • 719 – Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani, 4th Amir, transferred the seat of Governor from Seville to Córdobamarker.
  • 721 – Battle of Toulouse An Umayyad army besieging the city of Toulouse, and led by the governor of Al-Andalus, Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani is crushed by the Frankish army led by Duke Odo of Aquitaine.
  • Spring 732 – Emir Abd Al-Rahman ibn Abdullah Al-Ghafiqi advanced through the western Pyrenees, crossed it, and vanquished Duke Odo of Aquitaine on the banks of the Garonnemarker. Toursmarker was a sort of religious capital for Gaul, the resting-place of the body of St. Martin, the apostle of Gaul.
  • October 732 – Battle of Tours (Balat Al Shuhada`). Abd Al–Rahman Al–Ghafiqi, the Arab leader, met Charles Martel, Mayor at the Merovingian court. After seven days of waiting anxiously to join the battle, Abd Al–Rahman Al–Ghafiqi took the initiative in the attack. Charles' army hewed the attackers down with their swords. Among the victims was Abd Al-Rahman Al–Ghafiqi. Under cover of night the Muslims had quietly vanished, and Charles came off victorious.
  • 734–42 – Open revolt from Moroccomarker to Al–Qayrawanmarker spread to the Iberian peninsula. Mudaris and Yemenismarker agreed on choosing alternately one of their numbers each year to rule Al–Andalus.
  • Governor Yusuf ibn 'Abd al–Rahman al-Fihri, a Mudarite and descendant of Uqbah ibn Nafiaa`, refused to give turn to the Yemenite candidate and ruled for nine years, 747–56.
  • 755 – Advent of the Umayyad Abd Al-Rahman Al Dakhel, "Saqr Quraysh". In late 755, he landed on the southern coast, in Granadamarker, and was on his way to conquer al–Andalus.

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