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Old January 31st, 2010, 12:10 PM   #1

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How did the Moors conquer Spain?


In Spring, 711, Tariq b. Ziyad landed in southerrn Spain with an army of 7000 men. Initially, apparently expecting greater resistance he stayed along the coast, but in July he met and routed King Roderic's much larger army. By fall, he took Toledo with only token resistance. So began several centuries of Moorish domination in Southern Spain. My question was why could an army take a country of 5,000,000 inhabitants with so little resistance?

I have some ideas of my own, but before I throw them out I'd like to hear some other ideas on the subject.

One comment is that pirate raids from the Barbary coast had pillaged towns in Spain in the previous few years with little resistance. Because Tariq stayed close to the coast initially I've long held the opinion that he intended little more than a pirate raid on a grand scale. But both Arab and Spanish chroniclers tell a different story.
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Old January 31st, 2010, 12:17 PM   #2

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Re: How did the Moors conquer Spain?


I've read that a Romano-Gothic nobleman named Julianus was able to stir public opinion against King Roderic, and it was Julianus who first invited the Moors to invade. I'm not sure if there is much truth to this tradition, though...
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Old January 31st, 2010, 12:38 PM   #3
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Re: How did the Moors conquer Spain?


From "Moorish Spain", by Richard Fletcher, with reference to the Moorish conquest of Spain:

"...the surviving narratives were composed several centuries after the events which they describe...."

"...the chroniclers did not attempt to sift the grains of scientific historical truth from the spoil-heaps of legend."

This being so, how can we hope to develop any credible hypotheses?
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Old January 31st, 2010, 12:50 PM   #4

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Re: How did the Moors conquer Spain?


There was strife and turmoil in the ruling elite in Visigothic Spain between the followers of Witza and Roderick and some moors were even invited into by Witza's supporters. So I guess it is the old divide and conquer. Sounds like the Visigoths were predivided.

And I used Britannica and not Wikipedia for the research thank you very much!
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Old January 31st, 2010, 03:10 PM   #5

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Re: How did the Moors conquer Spain?


Well, I have this quote from [ii]A History of Medieval Spain[/i]

Quote:
Rather than accept Rodrigo as king, Witiza's family reportedly sent envoys to Africa seeking Muslim assistance.

A mysterios personage known as Count Julian also figures in the events preceding the Muslim conquest. He is mentioned by all the Arabic chroniclers, but not by the early Christian ones. Modern authors have variously identified him as . . .[list of possibles]
The quote is in Chapter 1, an introductory module, and I've read it in the last week. I haven't read the book cover to cover in years.

Roderic had succeeded to the throne only months earlier. The Visigothic custom was for various warlords to come together and name (elect, fight over) a new king after the old one had died/been killed. So lack of support for Roderic was one of the ideas I had in mind.

An important factor was that Roderic was away in Vasco country fighting rebellious Basques when Tariq landed. It took him 2-3 months to get there. But still, he had a much larger army than Tariq and they were routed. Roderic was killed.

The book goes on to say

Quote:
The circumstances that led to the Muslim invasion of the peninsula a year after Witiza's death are involved in extraordinary confusion. In later accounts of the conquest, it is not always possible to separate truth from legend. [b]Although Witiza's son Akhila was proclaimed as king, his opponents controlled the royal city of Toledo and recognized Rodrigo.
Toledo? But when Tariq went to Toledo, the archbishop and nobles all absconded with their gold. Toledo offered no resistance. Whether Akhila was king or Roderic made little difference.

But it is obvious that the Spaniards were unhappy with Visigothic rule. The Basques were revolting, if you can believe the ETA has been active that long. The Jews were mad. In 616 Sisebut had outlawed them. They had been exiled or forcibly converted to Christianity. Then laws were passed against circumcision with severe and sadistic penalties prescribed for assisting in a circumcision ceremony.

So the people didn't back Roderic, the nobles saved their own booty, and many, including some nobles went over to the side of the Moors.

I still can't figure why Tariq was able to rout Roderic's army.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 01:56 AM   #6
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Re: How did the Moors conquer Spain?


There is a fairly recent book, "Plague and the End of Antiquity", that might be of interest to you. I haven't seen the book, but at the link below you can search inside, where on p. 154 the text, part of a chapter devoted to Spain, mentions an Arabic source claiming that half the population of Spain had been wiped out by plague and various invasions during the years 707-709, with following comments about epidemiological plausibility.

[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Plague-End-Antiquity-Pandemic-541-750/dp/052171897X/ref=pd_sim_b_5#noop"]Amazon.com: Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541-750 (9780521718974): Lester K. Little: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51WdKQguY2L.@@AMEPARAM@@51WdKQguY2L[/ame]
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Old February 1st, 2010, 06:34 AM   #7

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Re: How did the Moors conquer Spain?


The Arab chroniclers tended to write the story up in dramatic mode for a Hollywood movie.

I can't find the source, but it is said that when Tariq landed near Jabal Tariq (still the name of Gibraltar in Arabic), he burned his ships so that his soldiers could not return and flee. I'm sceptical of this one because Tariq seemed so cautious initially in other ways.

b. al-Quitiyya claimed that Tariq boiled down the Spanish dead, then let the prisoners escape and spread fantastic stories among the panicking Spaniards.

Apparently several Arab chroniclers have told the story that Witiza's son Akhila or "Count Julian" or both facilitated the invasion. But none of the early Christian chroniclers mention it according to A History of Medieval Spain. One possible identification of the enigmatic "Julian" is a Visigothic prince who ruled some towns on the North African coast.

I wonder what Hollywood would do with all this stuff? Anyone looking for a good subject for a histerical novel?
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Old February 1st, 2010, 04:11 PM   #8

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Re: How did the Moors conquer Spain?


Here is the conspiracy theory. Ignacio Olague has written a monograph that takes the need for Witiza's family or "Count Julian" out of the picture. His thesis begins with a timetable for the Visigothic invasion of North Africa from Spain. I haven't checked his details, but it seems correct enough and he gives his sources.

He then claims that ibn-Tariq is actually a Visigoth warlord. True to Spanish Orthography, the author spells the name Taric, and claims that the -ic ending is a "son of" type ending in Gothic names (true enough) and that Taric merely means "son of Tar."

Here is an excerpt which I have translated. I didn't want to cut and paste any more of this. Or translate it! But I think it gives the general drift in a pretty short cut.

La Revolucion Islamica en Occidente by Ignacio Olague
The following quote is from near the end of chapter 1.
Quote:
Dadas estas circunstancias cabe la pregunta: ¿Estaban en condiciones los árabes para invadir España en el año 711, cuando necesitarían aún más de un siglo para asegurar sus bases del norte de África? Averiguarlo no ha interesado a los historiadores. Han encontrado muy natural que hayan atravesado el Estrecho de Gibraltar y conquistado la Península Ibérica en un avemaría; es decir, 584.192 kilómetros cuadrados, la región más montañosa de Europa, en unos tres años. Era tanto más maravilloso el milagro ya que con minuciosidad suma nos indican las crónicas musulmanas el número de los invasores. Siete mil hombres bastaron a Taric para despachurrar al ejército de Roderico en la batalla de Guadalete. . .
La victoria de Taric abrió de par en par las puertas de la Península Ibérica a los asiáticos, que la ocuparon sin mayores dificultades. Tuvo entonces lugar una mutación formidable, como en el teatro un cambio de decoración. Latina, se convierte España en árabe; cristiana, adopta el Islam; monógama, sin protesta de las mujeres, se transforma en polígama. Como si hubiera repetido el Espíritu Santo el acto de Pentecostés, despiertan un buen día los españoles hablando la lengua del Hedjaz. Llevan otros trajes, gozan de otras costumbres, manejan otras armas. No es una broma, ya que todos los autores están de acuerdo en el ínfimo número de los cristianos llamados mozárabes que vivieron bajo la dominación musulmana. Los invasores eran veinticinco mil. ¿Qué había sido de los españoles? . . .
Por fin desembarca en el litoral andaluz un Omeya. Pertenece a la familia más renombrada de la Meca. Sus padres han gobernado el Imperio Musulmán. Es un puro semita, pero nos lo describen con los rasgos siguientes: era alto, con los ojos azules, el pelo rojizo, la tez blanca; en una palabra, tenía el tipo de un germano.
******************************
Given all this, the question arises: Were the Arabs in any position to invade Spain in 711, when they needed more than a century to secure their bases in North Africa? Historians have shown no interest in researching this. They have found it perfectly natural the Arabs crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and conquered the Iberian Peninsula in a Hail Mary; that is, 584,192 square miles of the most mountainous region of Europe, in about three years. It was all the more miraculous as the chroniclers tell us in detail invaders. Seven thousand men were enough for Taric to rout Roderico's army at the Battle of Guadelete. . .
Tariq's victory opened the doors of the Iberian Peninsula to the Asians, who occupied it without difficulty. A formidable mutation then occurred, like a change of scene in the theater. Formerly Latin, Spain becomes Arab; formerly Christian, she adopts Islam; monogamous, she changes to polygamous with no protest from the women. As if the Holy Spirit of Pentecost repeated that miracle, one fine day the Spanish people wake up speaking the language of the Hejaz. They wear other clothes, have different customs, handle other weapons. It is not a joke, as all authors agree on the very low number of so-called Mozarabic Christians living under Muslim rule. There were 25,000 invaders. What had become of the Spaniards? . . .
Finally one Umayyad general landed on the Andalusian coast. He belongs to the most renowned family of Mecca. His parents have ruled the Muslim empire. He is a pure Semite, but is described as tall, with blue eyes, red hair, fair skin; in short he had German characteristics.
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Old February 17th, 2010, 01:08 PM   #9

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Re: How did the Moors conquer Spain?


Why did almost 800 hundred years later the Spain managed to conquer millions and millions (I don't know the estimated number) of people in south and central America and with far less men than Tariq did?

I would not say that there were a couple of events that are to blame. By my opinion we have to look at a series of events, starting with the decline of Roman empire. Years after this event Europe was in regression in military, economy and demography.
In this time specially after 632 ad, the Arabs were progressing in all those spheres.
So my point is, that Tariq was the executioner, but I believe that he was not the cause.
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Old February 17th, 2010, 01:21 PM   #10

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Re: How did the Moors conquer Spain?


Quote:
Originally Posted by BorisGrasic View Post
Why did almost 800 hundred years later the Spain managed to conquer millions and millions (I don't know the estimated number) of people in south and central America and with far less men than Tariq did?

I would not say that there were a couple of events that are to blame. By my opinion we have to look at a series of events, starting with the decline of Roman empire. Years after this event Europe was in regression in military, economy and demography.
In this time specially after 632 ad, the Arabs were progressing in all those spheres.
So my point is, that Tariq was the executioner, but I believe that he was not the cause.
Interesting comparison, but I don't think the Conquistadores went in with an army of 7000 and defeated a much larger army similarly armed and trained. In addition, it took years to conquer all of South and Central America. Small pox took a very great toll on the Indians.

Nor do I believe that there was a single factor involved in Tariq's rapid conquest of Spain. There was treachery on the part of Rodrigo's "allies." He'd been out fighting the Basques. Apparently his lieutenants threw open the gates of Toledo to Tariq, and there's even the clear possibility that his enemies had sent for Tariq to support them in getting rid of Rodrigo.
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