Moors

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Moors,

nomadic people of the northern shores of Africa, originally the inhabitants of Mauretania. They were chiefly of Berber and Arab stock. In the 8th cent. the Moors were converted to Islam and became fanatic Muslims. They spread SW into Africa (see MauritaniaMauritania
, officially Islamic Republic of Mauritania, republic (2005 est. pop. 3,087,000), 397,953 sq mi (1,030,700 sq km), NW Africa. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean in the west, on Western Sahara in the northwest and north, on Algeria in the northeast, on Mali in the east
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) and NW into Spain. Under Tarik ibn ZiyadTarik ibn Ziyad
, fl. 711, Berber leader of the Muslim invaders of Spain. When the heirs of the Visigothic king, Witiza, requested help from the Moors of N Africa against the usurper Roderick, Tarik, with his Moorish army, crossed (711) from Africa to Gibraltar (originally named
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 they crossed to Gibraltar in 711 and easily overran the crumbling Visigothic kingdom of RoderickRoderick
, d. 711?, last Visigothic king in Spain (710–711?). After the death of King Witiza, a group of nobles chose Roderick, duke of Baetica, as successor to the king. Having defeated Witiza's son, Roderick established himself on the throne.
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. They spread beyond the Pyrenees into France, where they were turned back at Tours by Charles MartelCharles Martel
[O.Fr.,=Charles the Hammer], 688?–741, Frankish ruler, illegitimate son of Pepin of Heristal and grandfather of Charlemagne. After the death of his father (714) he seized power in Austrasia from Pepin's widow, who was ruling as regent for her grandsons, and
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 (732). In 756, Abd ar-Rahman IAbd ar-Rahman I,
d. 788, first Umayyad emir of Córdoba (756–88). The only survivor of the Abbasid massacre (750) of his family in Damascus, he fled from Syria and eventually went to Spain.
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 established the Umayyad dynasty at Córdoba. This emirate became under Abd ar-Rahman III the caliphate of Córdoba. The court there grew in wealth, splendor, and culture. The regent al-MansurMansur, al-
(Muhammad ibn Abi-Amir al-Mansur billah), 914–1002, Moorish regent of Córdoba, known in Spanish as Almanzor. He became steward to Princess Subh, wife of the caliph Hakim II, and under her patronage and by clever manipulation he rose to become (978) royal
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 in the late 10th cent. waged bitter warfare with the Christians of N Spain, where, from the beginning, the Moorish conquest had met with its only opposition. The cities of the south, Toledo, Córdoba, and Seville, speedily became centers of the new culture and were famed for their universities and architectural treasures (see Moorish art and architectureMoorish art and architecture,
branch of Islamic art and architecture developed in the westernmost lands of the Muslims, known as the Maghreb: N Africa and Spain. The Great Mosque at Al Qayrawan in Tunisia is the prototype of western Islamic religious edifices.
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). With the exception of brief periods, there was, however, no strong central government; the power was split up among dissenting local leaders and factions. The caliphate fell in 1031, and the AlmoravidsAlmoravids
, Berber Muslim dynasty that ruled Morocco and Muslim Spain in the 11th and 12th cent. The Almoravids may have originated in what is now Mauritania. The real founder was Abd Allah ibn Yasin, who by military force converted a number of Saharan tribes to his own
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 in 1086 took over Moorish Spain, which was throughout the whole period closely connected in rule with Morocco. Almoravid control slowly declined and by 1174 was supplanted by the AlmohadsAlmohads
, Berber Muslim dynasty that ruled Morocco and Spain in the 12th and 13th cent. It had its origins in the puritanical sect founded by Ibn Tumart, who stirred up (c.1120) the tribes of the Atlas Mts. area to purify Islam and oust the Almoravids.
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. These successive waves of invasion had brought into Spain thousands of skilled Moorish artisans and industrious farmers who contributed largely to the intermittent prosperity of the country. They were killed or expelled in large numbers (to the great loss of Spain) in the Christian reconquest, which began with the recovery of Toledo (1085) by Alfonso VIAlfonso VI,
1030–1109, Spanish king of León (1065–1109) and Castile (1072–1109). He inherited León from his father, Ferdinand I. Defeated by his brother Sancho II of Castile, he fled to the Moorish court of Toledo.
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, king of León and Castile. The great Christian victory (1212) of Navas de Tolosa prepared the way for the downfall of the Muslims. Córdoba fell to Ferdinand IIIFerdinand III,
1199–1252, Spanish king of Castile (1217–52) and León (1230–52), son of Alfonso IX of León and Berenguela of Castile. At the death (1217) of her brother, Henry I of Castile, Berenguela renounced her right of succession in
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 of Castile in 1236. The wars went on, and one by one the Moorish strongholds fell, until only Granada remained in their hands. Málaga was taken (1487) after a long siege by the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella, and in 1492 Granada was recovered. Many of the Moors remained in Spain; those who remained faithful to Islam were called Mudejares, while those who accepted Christianity were called MoriscosMoriscos
[Span.,=Moorish], Moors converted to Christianity after the Christian reconquest (11th–15th cent.) of Spain. The Moors who had become subjects of Christian kings as the reconquest progressed to the 15th cent. were called Mudéjares.
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. They were allowed to stay in Spain but were kept under close surveillance. They were persecuted by Philip II, revolted in 1568, and in the Inquisition were virtually exterminated. In 1609 the remaining Moriscos were expelled. Thus the glory of the Moorish civilization in Spain was gradually extinguished. Its contributions to Western Europe and especially to Spain were almost incalculable—in art and architecture, medicine and science, and learning (especially ancient Greek learning).

Bibliography

See S. Lane-Poole, The Moors in Spain (1886, repr. 1967).

Moors

 

(1) In antiquity, the name given by the Romans to the indigenous population of Mauretania.

(2) In medieval Western Europe, the name of the Muslim population of the Iberian Peninsula and the western part of northern Africa (chiefly the urban dwellers), who spoke local dialects of Arabic. Some of the people inhabiting present-day Mauritania are called Moors.