The Rise of Muslim Spain

Muslim expansionism reached Spain in 711 A.D. when Moorish troops (mainly Berbers from Morocco) invaded a nearly defenceless Hispania at Gibraltar. There was little resistance and they quickly took the Spanish capital of Toledo and within a few years had control of nearly the entire Iberian Peninsula.

Initially Spain became part of the Emirate of Damascus and the territories were divided up between the different groups of Moorish invaders. Eventually in 756 A.D. Abd al-Rahman I established the independent Emirate of al-Andalus, based in Cordoba and controlled most of the peninsula.

However, in the North the indigenous Spanish, along with some of the defeated Visigoths, formed the Christian Kingdom of Asturias whose capital was the city of Leon. The Christians used the conflict of interests between the different Muslim groups to their advantage and began expanding their territories. At this point the Leones’ believed that all of Hispania was theirs by right. Meanwhile, the Basques defended their territories against the Franks who went on to take control of Catalonia.

The 10th Century saw the Frankish Empire in decline and the County of Barcelona, under Count Borell II, declared its independence. At the same time the Kingdom of Navarra, had also started to expand and get stronger. It was because of the growth of the other Christian kingdoms, combined with the divisions within his own kingdom, that King Sancho I of Leon saw himself obliged to give up on the idea of ruling the whole of Spain.

Just as the Christian Kingdoms of the North seemed to be regaining control things changed in al-Andalus. Abd al- Rahman III came to power and fought back. This gave rise to the so called golden age of al-Andalus which became one of the World's most important powers, a cultural leader and patron of the arts and sciences.


Medieval History