What was the Moorish Conquest of Europe

The Moorish Conquest of Western Europe took place during the 8th century. By the end of the 7th century, Arab Muslims had rapidly expanded their might from the deserts of Arabia all the way until North Africa in the west. In early 8th century, Moors crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and began the conquest of Iberian Peninsula.

Within a few decades, the Moors had occupied most of the southern Iberia and made significant encroachments into northern Iberian territories, coming into direct conflict with the Franks to the north east. This conquest laid the basis for Moorish rule in modern-day Spain which lasted for nearly 800 years.

Beginning of the Moorish Conquest of Europe

The Moorish conquest of Europe properly began in 711. In this year, a Berber commander Tariq bin Ziyad led a small army of Moors across the Strait of Gibraltar. At the time, Iberia was part of the Hispanic kingdom of the Visigoths. Tariq and his force was able to defeat a sizable Visigoth army under a usurper king Roderic.

This was followed by an eight-year campaign by Tariq and his army which brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Moorish rule. This conquest laid the basis for the subsequent Moorish rule in Western Europe which was to last many centuries.

The Moorish Conquest Quick Facts:

  • Spanish whites of Spain known as the Visigothic mixed with the Arab, African Moors
  • Muslim armies joined forces and were collectively called Saracens or Moors
  • The Combined Saracens and Moors armies almost conquered all of Europe
  • Charles Mantel led a counter attack from Paris in France which Stopped Moorish Expansion
  • The Moorish Period of expansion in Europe lasted for around 700 years
Conquest of Spain by the Moors

The Moorish Conquest of Spain and Europe lasted around 700 years

Moorish Rule in Europe

Following Tariq’s lightning campaign, more Moorish and Arab military commanders were sent from North Africa and Damascus to directly take charge of the situation. The Moorish military continued to push northwards and eastwards into Iberia. Although Moors were mostly successful during the early decades of the conquest, they suffered a few decisive setbacks which set the extent of their campaigning into northern regions of Iberia.

Notable among such setbacks was the Battle of Tours which took place in 732 and where a Frankish army routed the Moorish army. Once most of Iberia was under direct Moorish control, Omayyad rulers attempted to centralise their rule over Iberian territories. This took a definite form when Abd ar Rehman I escaped the persecution of Omayyad at the hands of Abbasids and reached Iberia where he united the Muslim-ruled Iberian territories into a single entity.

Emirate and Caliphate of Cordoba

Abd ar Rehman laid the basis of the Emirate of Cordoba in 756 which essentially united all Moorish territories in Iberia and at the same time, remained independent of the mainstream Muslim Caliphate in Arabia. The Emirate of Cordoba consolidated the Muslim territories and centralised authority whereas the Emir in Cordoba directly controlled the realm.

This led to a stability in the outlook of Moorish Iberia and helped the Moors effectively thwart any armed thrusts from their Christian neighbours to the north. In 1031, the Caliphate of Cordoba collapsed which divided Moorish territory into nearly two dozen minor states. During this time, a sizable portion of Moorish regions in the north were lost to the rising Christian kingdoms.

Conclusion of the Moorish Conquest of Europe

After the Caliphate of Cordoba, the Almohad dynasty from North Africa was able to unite the remaining Moorish territories into a single entity in 1153. However, this consolidation was short-lived. By 13th century, most Muslim regions save the Emirate of Granada had fallen into the hands of Christian kingdoms. The end of Granada came about in 1492 and with it, the Moorish control in Europe effectively came to an end.

Interesting Moorish Conquest Facts:

  • Only the bravery of Charles Mantel and his soldiers stopped a complete Moorish takeover of Europe
  • The battle of Tours was also called the Battle of Poitiers as the battle took place near both towns
  • The battle of Tours was one of the most important battles in the History of Medieval Europe
  • In 709 AD the Moorish Muslim armies had amassed at the Straits of Gibraltar ready to invade
  • Prior to the Moors invasion of Europe they had managed to conquer all of Africa
  • The Moors conquered the Spanish city of Ceuta in 711 and began their invasion of Europe
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