The Moors were the Muslim conquerors of the Iberian Peninsula who began the conquest of southern Iberia in the leadership of Berber Tariq bin Ziyad in 711. The Moors then went on to gain control of most of the Iberian Peninsula and establish a long-lasting Muslim rule in the region.
The Muslim rule in Iberia lasted in one way or the other from 711 until the 15th century when the last stronghold in the region fell to the hands of neighbouring Christian kingdoms. The Moorish era gave birth to a unique culture in the region which was a vibrant blend of the East and the West, contributing significantly to the beginning of the golden period of Islamic culture and later also to the birth of European Renaissance.
Map showing areas under Muslim Rule during the period of Moorish conquests of Europe
Beginning of Moorish History
By the end of the 7th century, the influence of the newly-born Islamic caliphate had reached North Africa where the Muslim armies wrested control from the Byzantine Empire. As a result, Islam came to have a definite influence on the region.
By early 8th century, the Moors in North Africa effectively came under the administration of the Omayyad Caliphate. This provided the impetus for a Moorish conquest of Iberia as a way of expanding the influence of the Caliphate. The key campaign in this regard began in 711 under Tariq bin Ziyad.
Tariq defeated the main army of the Visigoth kingdom that covered most of the Iberia at the time. Following this vital victory, Muslim armies would continue their conquest northwards all the way until the borders of the Frankish territories until their advance was definitively halted by a number of defeats, most notably the 732 Battle of Poitiers.
Instable Moorish Rule
Although backed by unprecedented battlefield success, the Moors also had to face civil wars and fissures from within. The first of these came when Berber Moors revolted against their Arab Omayyad overlords in 739. However, the Omayyad Caliphate, later limited to Iberia alone, was able to reassert authority and create a centralised base of power under Abdul Rehman I and his successors.
This largely kept the entire Moorish territory in Iberia under the banner of a central Caliphate and so remained the case until 1031 when the Cordoba Caliphate collapsed. This immediately resulted in a period of infighting and civil warfare, dividing Moorish rule into many small sub-parts at a time when their neighbouring Christian kingdoms were becoming more united and stronger.
The End of Moorish Rule
Following a period of civil warfare, the Moorish territories in Iberia were reunited once again under the Almohad dynasty in 1153. This again led to a consolidation of Moorish power that was, however, short-lived. Christian kingdoms in northern Iberia were becoming stronger while Almohad rule also weakened over time.
By the early 13th century, Moors had lost north and central Iberian territories while they lost their foothold in western Iberian region of modern-day Portugal by the middle of the century. The final blow came in 1492 when the last stronghold of the Moors, the Kingdom of Granada, was surrendered to the Catholic monarchs of Spain after battlefield losses. This marked the end of the Moorish rule in the entire Iberian Peninsula.