When did Classical Culture end on the Iberian peninsula?

Theodoric

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,820
#1
Admittedly, I have less of an understanding of the common classes. But of all places in Europe, it seems that classical culture (mostly derived from the Romans, but Greek elements too) largely continued on unchanged despite regime changes (Visigoths, and then the Andalusian Arabs). But even under the Kingdom of Al-Andalus, it seems Roman architecture, language, literature, and philosophy were still very heavily in use throughout most of the Middle Ages and invested in - in some cases, to see greater heights than they ever did under the Romans: cities of half a million, libraries with hundreds of thousands of books, etc... It wasn't until at least 1086 AD (when the Almoravids invaded) when an upper-class regime actually seriously considered squashing and replacing the culture (which they saw as sinful) rather than investing in it. Although I don't know how successful the Almoravids were in their task.

Has anyone studied enough about medieval Iberia to know about when classical culture had died off? It seems that it happened sometime after 1086, and before 1492.
 
Likes: Slavon
Nov 2010
7,648
Cornwall
#2
Admittedly, I have less of an understanding of the common classes. But of all places in Europe, it seems that classical culture (mostly derived from the Romans, but Greek elements too) largely continued on unchanged despite regime changes (Visigoths, and then the Andalusian Arabs). But even under the Kingdom of Al-Andalus, it seems Roman architecture, language, literature, and philosophy were still very heavily in use throughout most of the Middle Ages and invested in - in some cases, to see greater heights than they ever did under the Romans: cities of half a million, libraries with hundreds of thousands of books, etc... It wasn't until at least 1086 AD (when the Almoravids invaded) when an upper-class regime actually seriously considered squashing and replacing the culture (which they saw as sinful) rather than investing in it. Although I don't know how successful the Almoravids were in their task.

Has anyone studied enough about medieval Iberia to know about when classical culture had died off? It seems that it happened sometime after 1086, and before 1492.
I don't really get involved in this sort of speculation about a sort of mythical 'classical culture' but I'll just make a few points

I wouldn't try and link Roman culture with Caliphal culture - both great in their own way but I wouldn't say the one was really a continuation of the other (though others do write about such things).

Visigoths - they did inherit the Roman Empire in Iberia, though it was a bit of trouble establishing. They tried hard and sort of thought they were Roman, especially with their strong Catholicism. But they just weren't and everything just started breaking apart bit by bit. My take is that the Goths had been migrating in one form or another for centuries and actually landing on a large Kingdom to govern for themselves was something they weren't really cut out for. The brutality/rebellions, rivalry, odd systems didn't really slot into the existing 'Empire'. I believe the brutality and oppression of Visigothic rule made the arabic takeover 'easy', if you like. Indeed many of the Visigoths in the regions (and also in the capital for the best part of a century) maintained their properties and status having converted to islam.

Arabic rule - Omeya initially, never ever united world-wide after the fall of the Omeyas. There was never a Kingdom of Al Andalus to be honest. There was an Emirate, a Caliphate, a split into numerous (30+) taifas (or kingdoms) and then a province of the Almoravid and then Almohad empires. The Caliphal period (largely 10th century) is commonly renowned as your cultural zenith, with Alhaken's library etc.

The Almoravids are a fairly interesting case. Never ever to be described as 'upper class' - Yusuf Ibn Tashufin still lived off camel milk and used common clothes in his old age, and berber societies are very 'democratic' - cue the almost universal hatred and rivalry with the hierarchical arabic-descent dynasties. They are interesting because they were fundamental, but still permitted Christians and Jews to function in their lands. There were surprisingly cultured (I've recently got a book on it) but when you look deep all the art, all the architecture, all the 'culture' if you like was by subjects from 'Al Andalus'. It's a fairly cliched summary but the Almoravids did sort of suck up and take in what the decadent Spanish muslims had to offer and it spread back through their hierarchies in Morocco.

This perceived decline in fundamental standards led ultimately to Ibn Tumart, El Mahdi, founding the Almohads, who were the real deal in fundamentalism. He preached far and wide about the failings of the later Almoravid leaders, outraged that the Emirs wife was seen inpublic without a veil (bad habits from Al Andalus) and publicly mocking them for those bizarre veils and black and white robes the men wore. They imprisoned him but should really, in the grand scheme of things, executed him. Which they never did, due to strict Almoravid obedience of their law. His Almohads would signal the end of the Almoravids

The Almohads were brutal, fundamentalist, ruthless. They forbade any religion other than Islam in all their lands - from Lisbon to Tortosa to Tripoli in Libya to the South Moroccan coast. It was under them that the famous jewish learning center at Lucena was shut and all the jews emigrated from Al Andalus to Toledo (if only they could see the future eh?). With a few odd contrasts (they employed Christian mercenaries when suited) this became condition of the people under the Almohad Empire. the payoff of course is that it was said that under the great Caliph Yaqub Al Mansur a woman could walk alone from the Moroccan coast to Tripoli in Libya in complete safety. Obviously a bit metaphorical but you get the idea.

Yet the Almohads - also berbers though largely Masmuda/Zanata descent, not Sinhaya like the Almoravids - were responsible for fantastic architecture, most notably the great mosques in Rabat, Marrakesh and Sevilla (with Giralda). The architect here was also Andalusian- but the Almohads didn't fall into the same trap as the Almoravids. They eventually more or less self-destructed, splintered, initiated by a loss of prestige at Las Navas de Tolosa.

The fall of the Almohads led the way clear to large Christianisation of Iberia, at the expense of the now completely weakened remnants of Al Andalus. Eventually of course, with the onset of what we might call Christian fundamentalism in the next few centuries, everything arabic, greek, hebrew was mostly destroyed (books) or built over