Moors of Spain Part I – The Spread of Islam to Spain in the 8th Century

Moors {{PD-1923}} – published anywhere before 1923 and public domain in the U.S

“Written” by Celeste McMillan

If you have already read The Vital Sacrifice, then you know that I am Teresa McMillan’s mother.  Back in college, I was very was very keen about social justice which lead me to my first career in law.  As an attorney, I passionately fought for my client’s rights.  Teresa’s friend, Tina, was fond of my passion in the legal world which led her to become the powerhouse attorney that she is.  However, that career is behind me now as you know and now I am an interior designer.

One thing that I have consistently been passionate about since college and all throughout law school and even until this day is history.  You have seen that I am passionate about our family history but I am also interested in history in general.  My family originally came from the Dominican Republic and moved to New York.  My mom and dad then moved us to Wisconsin when I was very young but I always yearned to go back to New York so when I had the opportunity to do so for college, I did.  After having Teresa, I became interested in my family bloodline and because I have a Spanish grandmother, I’ve always been fascinated with Spanish culture.

One particular part of Spanish history that has always intrigued me was that of the Moors in Spain.  I was first introduced to them while watching the film El Cid when I was young girl.  I always wondered who the dark villains were that Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, played by the gorgeous Charleston Heston, fought back in order to unify Spain.  I later found out that they were an invading Moorish army but I always wondered, who were the Moors?

What I discovered is that since antiquity, Spain had been ruled by various groups including the Celts, Iberians, Phoenicians, Romans and the Visigoths.  Spain experienced a great deal of civilization during its Roman presence in the region.  But, as you know, every great nation falls; thus, Romans were eventually overtaken by the Visigoths.  The Visigoth control of the region began to weaken when its king Wittiza passed away.  His son Agila was next in line to be his successor; however these plans were thwarted by a Duke named Roderick.  He usurped power and named himself king and there was nothing that Agila or the people of Spain could do about it.  This political move inevitably gained Roderick many internal enemies who were more than happy to do whatever they could to remove him from power.

Roderick, King of Spain {{PD-1923}} – published anywhere before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.

It was this factionalism that made Spain ripe for invaders.  Roderick was unaware of or at least unconcerned about the anger brewing in his country toward him as a result of his takeover.  As he was going about his usual tasks of trying to pacify Spain, particularly the remote northern regions, he was totally blind-sighted by the raiders coming in from the south.  In 711 A.D., Tangiers’ governor Tariq Ibn Ziyad raised a small army of Berbers who were recent converts to Islam over the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain.  His intention was to spread the growing Islamic Berber influence into the fertile lands of Spain extending the region known as the Magreb.  The Magreb primarily consisted of dry, harsh terrain that was hard to cultivate, so Spain’s fertile lands were very desirable.

Tariq Ibn Zayid, image courtesy of Creative Commons – Flickr

The success of Tariq’s campaign was made possible by exploiting the political unrest of the region.  One man in particular who despised King Roderick was Count Julian whose daughter was allegedly raped by the king.  Out of sheer revenge, it is believed that Julian helped Tariq’s soldiers safely enter the lands of Spain.   The Visigoths under King Roderick put up a fight against the invaders but to no avail.  Even though Roderick and his soldiers outnumbered the Moors, the lack of unity among them made them no match against Tariq and his united invading force.  From this point on, Tariq defeated King Roderick and his army and continued across the Iberian peninsula gaining momentum as his army grew from reinforcements from North Africa.  He took over lands of Spain from south to north, forcing its locals to accept the new religion of Islam or pay taxes if they remained loyal to their former religions.


Leave a reply below or join the private discussion by becoming a member on LE Blog’s Facebook group.  Don’t forget to check out upcoming series about the Moors which include the spread of their influence and their eventual fall during the Reconquista.

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Disclaimer:   These blog articles are attributed to characters found in the novel, The Vital Sacrifice, and this blog is a fictitious representation of the characters in the book speaking on what interests them based on their role in the novel.  These blog articles are post-publication characterizations and are meant to entertain niche audiences who may be interested in purchasing or have already purchased this novel.

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