When was the golden age of the Moors in Spain?

Mar 2013
Escandinavia y Mesopotamia
By the time Cordoba peaked, Constantinople was a pity recovering from a very traumatic period.
Ehm? No. Muslim Cordoba did peak in 1000 CE or so? Right? – Then Constantinople was hardly a “pity recovering from a very traumatic period”, rather it was an apogee of Byzantine Empire under the Macedonian Dynasty, and Constantinople was a prestigious and wealthy capital during that time.

Constantinople had about half million (or 1 million) population from the timeline of 400-630 CE. Then due to the exhaustion of Byzantine-Sasanian war in 602-628, they lost the whole Middle East to Rashidun Caliphate soon after, and then the number of population of Constantinople fell. During the 800s Constantinople again regained the former number once again with 0,5-1 million, and it lasted until 1204-5 where it dropped down to 50.000 due to the Latin Sack.

Half million (or 1 million) population in Constantinople for 5-6 centuries (400-630 and 800s-1200) sounds pretty good, and much better than what Muslim Cordoba achieved.

Too early, Cid, too early. The results of the impressive economic development of feudal Europe were still to be seing by that time.
Europe anno 1200 was of course more developed than Europe anno 1000. - Europe anno 1000 was more developed than it was during the time of Plato. So “dark-age-sunk” is not quite a term that should be used to label 11 th century’s Europe.

Hyperbole at its best. For example, hospitals were first developed in ancient Egypt. But hospitals as we know them, with separate sections for specialities, were developed in the Islamic world. They even developed mental hospitals first.
That depends on what you use as criterium for a “hospital”. Hospital as we know it today are from Byzantium according to David C. Lindberg and Timothy S. Miller when emphasizing that it was a place to help and find a cure to the patients rather than a place just to die in.

Here is what David C. Lindberg states in “The Beginnings of Western Science” on page 348:

I have also a third academic source, but I think this is sufficient for now.

A careful reading of most of this "Byzantine" breaking advances you posted are like that.

"Preservation of classical texts". That was a common Byzantine limitation, too overwhelmed by their past they were unable to improve and do better. Muslims took this classical background and pushed ahead, there's nothing in the Byzantine Empire as the mind of Ibn-Khaldun, for example.
Then just check John Philoponus and Isidore of Militus eventual. And when Byzantines managed to come with the first criticism of Aristotle’s physics by introducing the Theory of Imputus, or when the Byzantines made sundial device with complex small gears, or when they invent the counterweight trebuchet then Byzantines hardly “were unable to improve and do better”.

Ibn Khaldun was born and died in Hafsid Sultanate and Mamluk Sultanate. It is safe to say that the Byzantine Empire’s contribution to science surpassed both these two sultanates even if you lumped them together.

In terms of military the idea is ironic, considering the Byzantines lost 70% of their empire to the Arabs by the 8th century, and were destroyed by a Islamic power.
So what? All empire lost and gains. – Rashidun Caliphate only lasted for about 30 years. Umayyad? Only about 100 years before it escaped to Spain, which lasted for about 200 years before it also fell. Abbasid? Practically 50 years before the fragmentation.

Byzantine Empire did a better job here as they lasted as a “vast” empire for about 240 years before it shrunk. From 800-1200 they even played important role and were still there unlike the other Caliphates/Sultanates which often had only about 100-200 years of span before they fell.

Here the timeline and territorial area of Byzantium:

Frankly, Byzantines are doing a much better job than any of these various Islamic states did in Eurasia in MIddle Ages.

That was the wish of the Byzantines. They were happy to survive in a corner of their empire, regularly punished by their much powerful Caliphal neighbours, also paying tribute with regularity. Only after the fragmentation of the Caliphate they could rise again.
Frankly, this is rubbish. True, from 636-717 Byzantium was in defensive mostly. After 717 the direction pretty much shifted in BOTH directions:


It appears to me that it is rather Byzantines(ONE state) that are punishing and assaulting (various) caliphates and sultanates that replaced each others in their short lived span of life. And even when the Caliphate was in one piece (Umayyad) in 717 they were completely shattered by Byzantium.

And during the Macedonian Dynasty and Komnenian Dynasty it was Byzantium that were constantly in offensive in most of its time.

Hyperbole at its best.
I think it is rather you who are making hyperbole and distorting it by lumping together all Muslim caliphates/sultanates in ONE ENTITY and then concluding that they did better than Byzantine Empire which was ONE STATE by the way.

Comparing whole "Islamic world" with Byzantine Empire is like comparing the whole Christian Europe with Fatimid Caliphate.

Brazil has won 5 world cups, they had Pele, Garrincha, Zico, and Ronaldo Lima. But you know what? Brazil is nothing in comparison to Europe. Because Europe has won 11 world cup (lumping together Germany, Italy, France, England and Spain). Europe has also produced much more top-class players: Eusebio, C. Ronaldo, Di Stefano, Butrageuno, Puskas, Cryff, Zidane, Baggio, Rossi, Totti, Beckenbauer, Muller, Bobby Charlton and Ian Rush.

Most debaters with knowledge on football/soccer would easily realize the above comparison is crappy because I am comparing one country(Brazil) with a whole continent(Europe).

So, why are you comparing the entire Muslim world in Middle Ages with Byzantine Empire? - Select ONE caliphate/sultanate around Eurasia, and then let me show you how Byzantine Empire dwarfs them when taking into consideration their military, scientific and cultural achivements.


Last edited:


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
I'd prefer the next dates for the OP:

929 - Proclamation of the Caliphate by Abd-al-Rahman III

1085 - Fall of Toledo

At the beginning of this period, the situation of Al-Andalus was very well balanced, the caliphates of Abd-al-Rahman III and Al-Hakam II are almost free of mistakes (... almost). With Almanzor (not a caliph himself), the military power of Al-Andalus peaked higher than ever. It was probably the most powerful state west of Byzantium. The Taifa period saw a political and military decline, still not catastrophic. Instead, culture even peaked higher than during the Caliphate. This is particularly true for the 12th century, but then the situation became really dared.

The first realy deadly blow for Muslim Iberia was the fall of Toledo in 1085, which broke them just in the middle of the spine.
I agree with this.

The only point I would make is that 'muslim Spain' was not a tangible entity, not a unified force except in the periods mentioned above. Like the Christian kingdoms they were often to be found fighting among themselves. Let's not forget how mutually antagonistic were the Taifas of Badajoz, Sevilla and Granada prior to inviting the Almoravids in.

Also of course the fall of Toledo was not military, it was ceded (after years of harrassment) and it's ruler was dumped on Valencia as a reward, with all the history that led to!

If any point is a real turning point - though it was long in the making - it is the death of Abd Al Malik (Almanzor's first son) and the accession of Sanchuelo, soon to be executed along with his last supporter, the Conde de Carrion. That was the end of any form of unity in Al Andalus, except that imposed under repression by foreign empires, the Almoravids and Almohads.
May 2016
Abbasid? Practically 50 years before the fragmentation.
The Abbasid Caliphate fragmentation started after the assassination of al-Mutawakkil (861), the life-span of its vast territory was for 160 years. The Abbasids continued, with later foreign interruption in 945 and that of the Seljuk, to rule quite a large area more or less independently before the Mongol sack. While it was not as extensive as the former domain, by the 10th century they projected their authority over Persia, most of Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, Hijaz, and northeastern/western Arabia. And even manged to push back the newly founded and overly aggressive expansionist Saffarids.

The Abbasids in the 10th century:

The Abbasids under al-Muqtadir in 930 after annexing Tulunid territory (in the reign of his predecessor al-Muktafi):

Last edited:
Nov 2013

This does beg the question; if Granada was so formidable, why would Castille have (however nominally) been able to subjugate them as early as 1248? Even if it wasn't necessarily their call, it still seems odd that the Mudejar (among other) rebellions failed....against a CAstille that wasn't all that organised yet.

High medieval Castille frankly does not strike me as being as organised (or for that matter powerful) as the Castille of say 1480.

Emergence of Granada - the collapse - gradual as it was - of the Almohad Empire led to huge parts of Al Andalus falling to greedy Portugal, Castille and Aragon. What remained was a rump state under Al Nasr, allied with Castilla - and participating in the fall of Sevilla - called the Nazari kingdom of Granada. Because they built the Alhambra and other beautiful alcazars for us today and lasted over 250 years, this is what people today think of with the daft phrase 'moorish Spain'. Whilst always tributary and 'ally' to Castilla, there were periodic battles and disputes, meaning quite a colourful 200 years or so. Fairly sizeable in geography, blessed with many dozens of mountain fortresses, good economy and high population, it was considerable nation. Although it would be silly to compare it to the Almohad Empire it has to be remembered that it took the huge might of the combined forces of Ferdinand and Isobel 10 years and considerable grief to finally conquer it (1482-1492). Although the surrender was on terms of preserving religion etc, soon rabid Catholicism took over and following 2 rebellions all moriscos were finally expelled in 1609-12 - even though many of them had roots back to Visigothic and hispano-roman Hispania - unlike all the immigrants populating the Chritian states and re-populating muslim ones!
Last edited:


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
This does beg the question; if Granada was so formidable, why would Castille have (however nominally) been able to subjugate them as early as 1248? Even if it wasn't necessarily their call, it still seems odd that the Mudejar (among other) rebellions failed....against a CAstille that wasn't all that organised yet.

High medieval Castille frankly does not strike me as being as organised (or for that matter powerful) as the Castille of say 1480.
If we go back to the reign of Almanzor - he had developed the Caliphal armies to be totally professional, mainly berber and slav 'foreigners'. All local towns, leaders, anyone who might conceivably cause trouble had the ability to keep local troops removed, everything was done by the Caliphal army. The chaos caused at the collapse of the Caliphate was tremendous, with civil wars between former troop factions, but each local Taifa was left with little in the way of military structure and tradition. They were no match for the heavily feudal Christian states, who had been forced to develop very strong defence mechanisms to try and protect from the devastions of Almanzor. Without invasions from the Almoravids and Almohads and also the constant wars and civil wars between Christians, the whole situtaion would have changed hundreds of years earlier than 1492. As an example of the weakness of the Taifas, when Cordoba ceded to Castilla, it was said it could only raise '100 lances' - sad shadow of earlier glory. The larger Taifas - Sevilla, Granada, Badojoz etc could neither resist Christians nor Almoravids!

Granada was subjugated to Castille very early as you know, even sending troops to assist in the siege of Sevilla. In the early days Granada was well run with strong monarchs. But for around the last 150 years it was a almost constant political mess of rival factions, at times including the Merinids from Morocco. Granada was also a strong ally of Pedro El Cruel - he didn't have too many! From time to time they would decide not to pay the tribute to Castilla and little rebellions/wars would break out, Teba and La Higuerela spring to mind as examples, before treaty was restored.

Unlike everywhere else muslim, Granada came out of the collapse of the Almohad Empire in a relatively strong position. Quite large, with a coastline and booming trade, large-ish population and an army of a kind as well as local miltias now built up. Whilst armed, feudal Castilla was a lot stronger it had many enemies - rare was the time it was allied with other Christian states, all of whom were trying to take land off each other - prior to the arrival of Ferdinand and Isobel. This is another reason to have Granada as an ally.

Ferdinand and Isobel made a religious and political decision to annexe Granada and ultimately create a wholly Catholic state - in the name of 'power' basically. By 1482 they were very strong and had eliminated a lot of the dissent in the nobility, soon to put down rebellions in Galicia and Catalonia too. They could raise strong forces.

Advantages for Granada in the War of 1482-92:

1) Every town was on a hill with a fortress, with it's own local militia as well as any Granadino forces. Some of these could not be accessed by the artillery of Ferdinand. And there were lots of them, still visible today
2) Mobile cavalry
3) Complacency of the Christians - EG the 'disaster of the Axarquia')
4) Campaigning (with one unremarkable exception) could only be done in season - by autumn roads were impassible and supplies impossible. Then start again next year
5) Defensive sierras - most notably the Serrania de Ronda - surround the Kingdom
6) Supplies from North Africa or Turkey, prior to the loss of the ports

Disadvantages for Granada

1) Mindless political and miltary quarrels, most notably by the treacherous Boabdil, also El Zagal, undermining Muley Hacen
2) Heavy artillery had been invented and Ferdinand had a lot of it, bringing in experts from Italy. Prior to this the whole enterprise might not be possible
3) Defending militia/troops almost always were defending their own villages/towns and therefore their own wives and children. When the choice is to surrender honourably or face death and enslavement this gave the Christian troops a massive advantage over muslim defenders - direct cause of many a surrender, EG Alora or Velez Malaga
4) Once Malaga was lost and the Almeria ports surrendered/ceded to Ferdinand there was no supply route for a huge population in Granada and the end was nigh

I've been fortunate enough to go to many of these places which in many cases are fairly unchanged and it's a sort of living history