Umayyad conquest of Hispania

The Umayyad conquest of Hispania (711–718) commenced when an army of the Umayyad Caliphate consisting largely of Moors, the Muslim inhabitants of Northwest Africa, invaded Visigothic Christian Hispania (Portugal and Spain) in the year 711. Under the authority of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I at Damascus, and led by the Berber general Tariq ibn Ziyad, they landed at Gibraltar on April 30 and worked their way northward. Tariq's forces were joined the next year by those of his superior, the Emir Musa ibn Nusair. During the eight-year campaign, most of the Iberian Peninsula was brought under Muslim occupation save for small areas in the northwest (Galicia and Asturias) and largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees. The conquered territory, under the Arabic name al-Andalus, became part of the expanding Umayyad empire.

Caliph Al-Walid I paid great attention to the expansion of an organized military, building the strongest navy in Ummayad era, it was this tactic that supported the ultimate expansion to Spain. His reign is considered as the apex of Islamic power. Valladolid is an industrial city and it is a municipality in north-central Spain, upon the Rio Pisuerga and within the Ribera del Duero region. It is the capital of the province of Valladolid and of the autonomous community of Castile and Leon, therefore is part of the historical region of Castile. The name "Valladolid" is linked with the Arabic name for the city بلد الوليد meaning The City of Al- Walid

The invaders subsequently moved northeast across the Pyrenees, but were defeated by the Frank, Charles Martel, at the Battle of Tours in 732. Muslim control of French territory was intermittent and ended in 975. Meanwhile, the Christian Reconquista, or reconquest, of the Iberian Peninsula began with Pelayo's victory at the Battle of Covadonga in 722.

Precipitating events

With the rise of Roderic to the throne of the Visigoths in Hispania, and with the subsequent death, in 710, of the previous king, Wittiza, in captivity, the relatives and partisans of the latter had fled to Ceuta (Septa), on the northern shore of North Africa. Ceuta was also a haven for Arians and Jews who had fled forced conversions at the hands of the Catholic bishops, who held great sway with the Visigothic monarchy.

The count of Ceuta was one Julian, whom the Muslims called Ilyan. Though he may have technically been Roderic's vassal, in light of Ceuta's vulnerable location Julian was necessarily on good terms with the Muslim conquerors of North Africa. After taking control of the surrounding area of the Maghreb, Musa ibn Nusair had established his governor, Tariq ibn Ziyad, at Tangier with a Moorish army of 1,700 men.

Julian and his family were also on increasingly good terms with the family of Wittiza. Both sought power in the Visgothic kingdom. Indeed, a number of historians have concluded that a Visigothic civil war was in progress. King Roderic, however, was too powerful for his Visigothic rivals to topple on their own; therefore, Julian sought the help of Musa.

Musa was initially skeptical of the venture, perhaps fearing a Visigothic trap but most likely doubting that much could be gained in return for the probable risks from such an alliance. In July 710, after perhaps securing approval from Caliph Al-Walid I in Damascus, Musa authorized a tiny raid to test the southern coastline of Hispania. When that probe, led by Tarif ibn Malluk, proved satisfactory, plans were made for a larger-scale action.

As to the intended nature of that action, historical opinion takes three directions: (1) that a supplementary force was sent to aid one side in a civil war in the hope of plunder and a future alliance; (2) that a reconnaissance force was sent to test the military strength of the Visigothic kingdom; (3) that an initial invasion force was sent as the first wave of a total invasion.


Wherever the truth may lie as to Musa's motives, the action commenced in the spring of 711. At that time Roderic was campaigning against the Basques and Franks near the north Hispanic town of Pamplona. Sailing by night, Tariq secretly crossed the Strait of Hercules on April 30 with some 1,700 men. Ibn Abd-el-Hakem reports that "the people of Andalus did not observe them, thinking that the vessels crossing and recrossing were similar to the trading vessels which for their benefit plied backwards and forwards." Tariq and his men marched up as far as Cartagena on the coast.

Roderic marched south and met Tariq on July 19, 711 at the Battle of the Rio Barbate, or the Battle of Guadalete, in the Province of Cadiz. Roderic's army of around 25,000 men was defeated by Tariq's force of approximately 7,000, largely due to a reversal of fortune when the wings commanded by Roderic's relatives Sisbert and Osbert deserted or switched sides.

Roderic is believed to have died in the battle, though his exact fate is unknown. The great majority of Roderic's court was also believed killed. In any event, the defeat left the Visigoths disorganized and leaderless as the survivors fled north to Écija, near Seville. The resulting power vacuum, which may have caught Tariq completely by surprise, helped make possible the Moorish takeover of the Iberian Peninsula.


  • 6th century - Visigothic noblemen had grown into territorial lords.
  • 612 - Royal decree issued enjoining all Jews to be baptized under penalty of banishment and confiscation of property.
  • 710 - Tarif ibn Malluk with 400 men and 100 horses landed on the tiny peninsula of the European continent now called isle of Tarifa after his name.
  • 711 - Musa ibn Nusair, Governor of North Africa, dispatched his Berber freedman Tariq ibn Ziyad into the Iberian Peninsula encouraged by the success of Tarif and the dynastic trouble in the Visigoth Kingdom of Hispania.
  • July 19, 711 - Tariq ibn Ziyad, with 7,000 men, and Julian, count of Ceuta, with 12,000 men, confronted King Roderick, with 25,000 men, by the Barbate River (now called Salado River) on the shore of a lagoon. Roderick's army was utterly routed.
  • June 712 - Syrians rushed to Hispania and attacked towns and strongholds avoided by Tariq ibn Ziyad.
  • February 715 - Musa ibn Nusair, Governor of Ifriqiya, entered Damascus with the Visigoth kings and princes and for the first time hundreds of western royalty and thousands of European captives were seen offering homage to the commander of the Muslims in Damascus. Musa the Conqueror of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula died in Hejaz, while performing the Hajj. His son Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa was announced first Amir of Andalus and married the widow of King Roderick, Egilona Balthes. Seville became the Capital.
  • 717-718 - Lured by the rich treasures of convents and churches of France and encouraged by the internal dissension between the chief officers of the Merovingian court and the dukes of Aquitaine, Al-Hurr ibn Abd Al-Rahman Al-Thaqafi invaded Septimania.
  • 719 - Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani, 4th Amir, transferred the seat of Governor from Seville to Córdoba.
  • Spring 732 - Emir Abd Al-Rahman ibn Abdullah Al-Ghafiqi advanced through the western Pyrenees, crossed it, and vanquished Duke Odo of Aquitaine on the banks of the Garonne. Tours was a sort of religious capital for Gaul, the resting-place of the body of St. Martin, the apostle of Gaul.
  • October 732 - Battle of Tours (Balat Al Shuhada`). Abd Al-Rahman Al-Ghafiqi, the Arab leader, met Charles Martel, Mayor at the Merovingian court. After seven days of waiting anxiously to join the battle, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Ghafiqi took the initiative in the attack. Charles' army hewed the attackers down with their swords. Among the victims was Abd Al-Rahman Al-Ghafiqi. Under cover of night the Muslims had quietly vanished, and Charles came off victorious.
  • 734-742 - Open revolt from Morocco to Al-Qayrawan spread to the Iberian peninsula. Mudaris and Yemenis agreed on choosing alternately one of their numbers each year to rule Al-Andalus.
  • Governor Yusuf ibn 'Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri, a Mudarite and descendant of Uqbah ibn Nafiaa`, refused to give turn to the Yemenite candidate and ruled for nine years, 747-756.
  • 755 - Advent of the Umayyad Abd Al-Rahman Al Dakhel, "Saqr Quraysh". In late 755, he landed on the southern coast, in Granada, and was on his way to conquer al-Andalus.

See also

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