Córdoba, Caliphate of

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Córdoba, Caliphate of


a feudal state on the Iberian Peninsula, whose capital was the city of Córdoba. It emerged from the Córdoba Emirate, founded in A.D. 756 by the Umayyad Abd-al-Rahman I, who fled to Spain to escape persecution by the Abbasids. By the end of the ninth century the emirate had virtu-ally disintegrated into separate feudal estates. Abd-al-Rahman III restored the political unity of the state, proclaiming himself caliph in 929. Like their predecessors, the Córdoba emirs, the rulers of the caliphate fought numerous wars against the Iberian Christian states of Asturias and Navarre. The caliphate was a centralized tyranny. The hajib (chamberlain) was the head of the state bureaucracy and the most important official after the caliph.

The caliphate was dominated by the great landed aristocracy, both Arab-Berbers and some Visigoths, who had either adopted Islam (Arabic, muwallads; Spanish, renegados) or remained Christian (Mozarabs). The large merchants also occupied a prominent place in the state. The peasantry were the basic producers, with slave labor playing a significant role in agricultural production on large noblemen’s estates. The dominant form of exploitation was the share-cropping lease, under which the peasant’s portion did not exceed one-third of the harvest. In exacting dues the tax was calculated on the basis of the standing crop. Urban artisans and small tradesmen suffered from tax farming. The Mozarab and Jewish urban lower classes, on whom the rulers of the communities imposed the heaviest tax burdens, were increasingly exploited. The rigid control established by Abd-al-Rahman III and intensified under Hajib al-Mansur aggravated the hard lot of the laboring population and at the same time helped the ruling elite to weaken temporarily the resistance of the popular masses. In the Córdoba Emirate of the eighth and ninth centuries the struggle of the popular masses had taken the form of armed uprisings, for example, the uprisings in Toledo and Córdoba in 814 and in Córdoba in 829 and 854.

The caliphate, especially in the period of its greatest flowering (tenth century), was economically one of the foremost states in Europe, with an advanced agriculture and highly developed handicraft production in state workshops, in which slave labor was widely employed. Shipbuilding and mining were also important. The number and population of towns grew significantly.

The development of trade and the caliphate’s growing international importance led to the widening of diplomatic ties. Embassies were sent to Byzantium in 945 and 955, and Germany in 955 and 969.

A brilliant and unique culture and learning developed in the caliphate. Its scholars were instrumental in preserving the traditions of classical learning in Europe. The policy of religious toleration, which the rulers of the caliphate pursued until about 1010, fostered the participation of both Muslims and non-Muslims in the development of learning and culture.

The beginning of the llth century saw the onset of feudal decline; between 1009 and 1031 there were six caliphs, none of whom exercised real power. In 1031 the last caliph, Hisham III, was overthrown and expelled from Córdoba, and the caliphate disintegrated into many small emirates.

The most important rulers of the caliphate were Abd-al-Rahman III (ruled in 912–961, emir prior to 929); al-Hakam II (961–976); Hajib Muhammad ibn Abu Amir al-Mansur (Almanzor in medieval European sources), actual ruler (976–1002) of the caliphate after the death of al-Hakam II; and al-Muzaffar (1002–08), the son of al-Mansur.


Krachkovskii, I. lu. Arabskaia kul’tura v Ispanii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.
Léi-Provençal, E. Arabskaia kul’tura v Ispanii. Moscow, 1967. (Translated from French.)
Codera, F. Estudios críticos de historia drabe-espanola, vols. 1–3. Zaragoza, 1903–17.
Gonzàles Palencia, A. Historia de la España Musulmana, 4th ed. Barcelona-Buenos Aires, 1940.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.