Friday, 30 October 2009
A bit more about the Moors...
The name of the Moors derives from the ancient Berber tribe of the Mauri and their kingdom, Mauretania, which became a Roman province after its last king Bocchus II willed it to Octavian in 33 BC. Mauretania lay in present day Morocco and Western Algeria. The name of Mauri was applied by the Romans to all non-romanised natives of North Africa still ruled by their own chiefs.
In 711, under their leader Tariq ibn-Ziyad, (from whom we have the name “Gibraltar”), the Moors brought most of Spain and Portugal under Islamic rule in an eight-year campaign. On the eve of the battle, Tariq is alleged to have roused his troops with the following words:
"My brethren, the enemy is before you, the sea is behind; whither would ye fly? Follow your general; I am resolved either to lose my life or to trample on the prostrate king of the Romans."
Surprisingly quickly, Iberia came under their domination. They attempted to move northeast across the Pyrenees but were defeated by the Frank Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732. However, with the notable exception of the north west (which was occupied only briefly)and the Basque regions, the Moors ruled Iberia, especially in Al-Andalus where they were to remain a presence until the fall of Granada in 1492.
The north of Iberia (the former "Duchy of Gallaecia") even though nominally conquered, was not the most ideal place for the Moors, who just sent a military force and collected taxes. As had the Romans before them, the Moors did not bother the Astures and Cantabri. But the relative peace was not to last. The Berbers in the north did not like the lands they were given and a rebellion broke out(perhaps they didn’t care for the weather). They repressed by the forces in several battles until the rebellion stopped, but then the Berbers turned against the Astures, claiming higher taxes and setting punishment patrols against their villages. This forced the Astures to start a guerrilla war.
The Moors were driven out of Galicia in 739 by Alfonso I of Asturias. From then on, the kingdom was known as the Kingdom of Asturias until 924, when it became the Kingdom of León. “Almanzor", as we have seen, perhaps recognising the increasing power wielded by those who claimed St. James as their own saint, raised the growing settlement of Compostela to the ground and took back with him the bells and doors of the church. But although he destroyed the shrine, he did nothing to remove the relics. This was not an attempt at invasion per se; it was more of a punitive expedition. As far as Al Mansur was concerned, the north west was getting a bit too big for its boots.