SPAIN - PREHISTORY - MUSLIM IBERIA
In the 8th century, nearly all the Iberian Peninsula was
quickly conquered (711–718) by mainly Berber Muslims (see
Moors) from North Africa. These conquests were part of the
expansion of the Islamic Umayyad Empire. Only three small
areas in the mountains of northern Spain managed to cling
to their independence, Asturias, Navarra and Aragon.
Interior of the Mezquita in Córdoba, a Muslim mosque until
the Recon quest, after which it became a Christian
cathedral Under Islam, Christians and Jews were recognized
as "peoples of the book", and were free to practice their
religion, but faced some discriminations.
Conversion to Islam proceeded at a steadily increasing
pace, starting with the aristocracy, as it offered an
escape from the limitations and humiliations of their
shimmy status. By the 11th century Muslims were believed
to have outnumbered Christians in Al-Andalus.
The Muslim community in Spain was itself diverse and beset
by social tensions. The Berber people of North Africa had
provided the bulk of the armies and clashed with the Arab
leadership from the Middle East. Over time, large Moorish
populations became established, especially in the
Guadalquivir River valley, the coastal plain of Valencia,
and (towards the end of this period) in the mountainous
region of Granada.
Cordoba, Muslim Spain's capital, was viewed as the richest
and most sophisticated city of medieval Europe.
Mediterranean trade and cultural exchange flourished.
Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the
Middle East and North Africa. Muslim and Jewish scholars
played a major part in reviving and expanding classical
Greek learning in Western Europe.
Spain's Romanized cultures interacted with Muslim and
Jewish cultures in complex ways, giving Spain a
distinctive culture. Outside the cities, the land
ownership system from Roman times remained largely intact
as Muslim leaders rarely dispossessed landowners, and new
crops and techniques led to a remarkable expansion of
However, by the 11th century, Muslim holdings had
fractured into rival Taifa kingdoms. The arrival of the
North African Muslim ruling empires of the Almoravids and
the Almohads restored unity upon Muslim holdings, with a
stricter, less tolerant application of Islam, but
ultimately, after some initial successes in invading the
north, proved unable to resist the increasing military
strength of the Christian states.
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