From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
For the terrain type, see: Heath (habitat). For the figure in heraldry, see Maure. For the archaic racial category see Moors (race).

The Moors were the medieval Muslim inhabitants of al-Andalus (the Iberian Peninsula including the present day Spain and Portugal) and the Maghreb, whose culture is often called "Moorish".

Juba II king of Mauretania
Juba II king of Mauretania


Origins of the name

The name derives from the old Berber ("barbarian") tribe of the Mauri and their kingdom, Mauretania. It became a Roman province after its last king Bocchus II willed it to Caesar Augustus in 33 BC. Mauretania lay in present-day Morocco and Western Algeria, and must not be confused with the country of Mauritania, which lies more to the south. The name of Mauri was applied by the Romans to all African natives of North Africa who were still ruled by their own chiefs, until the 3rd century AD. The Islamic conquest of Iberia was undertaken by the Moors of the Umayyad caliphate in 711. The Arab Umayyad dynasty of Damascus was transplanted to Muslim Spain, and was responsible for the incorporation of much of the culture and architecture from the old Umayyad capital. The soldiers of the first wave of invasions were mostly Berbers.

Moorish Empire

In AD 711, some Moors invaded Visigoth Christian Spain. Under their Berber leader Tariq ibn-Ziyad, they landed at Gibraltar on April 30 and brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic Sharia rule in an eight-year campaign. They attempted to move northeast across the Pyrenees Mountains toward France, but were defeated by the Frankish Christian Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732. The Moors ruled in North Africa, Spain and Portugal (except for small areas in the northwest and largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees) for several decades.

The Moorish state suffered civil conflict in the 750s. The country broke up into a number of mostly Islamic fiefdoms which were consolidated under the Caliphate of Cordoba. Christian states based in the north and west slowly extended their power over Spain. Galicia, León, Navarre, Aragon, Catalonia or Marca Hispanica, Portugal and Castile became Christian again in the next several centuries. In 1212 a coalition of Christian kings under the leadership of Alfonso VIII of Castile drove the Muslims from Central Spain. The Moorish Kingdom of Granada thrived for three more centuries. This kingdom is known in modern times for such architectural gems as the Alhambra. On January 2, 1492, Boabdil, the leader of the last Muslim stronghold in Granada, surrendered to armies of a recently-united Christian Spain. The remaining Muslims were forced to leave Spain or convert to Christianity. These descendants of the Muslims were named moriscos. They were an important part of the peasantry in some territories, like Aragon, Valencia, and Andalusia, until their systematic expulsion in the years from 1609 to 1614. Henri Lapeyre has estimated that this affected 300,000 out of a total of 8 million inhabitants at the time. Most of the expelled moriscos went to Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, influencing cultural development there; others became corsairs; a significant number from Andalusia passed themselves off as Gypsies who were entering the country at that time. This mix of cultures gave birth to Flamenco music (Arabic: Fellah Mengu, peasant without land)[1].

Present-day Moors

In modern usage, Moor or Moorish (Spanish: moro, French: maure) is used to designate people whose native tongue is the Hassaniya dialect of Arabic. These Moors live mainly in Western Sahara and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, from which the latter country derives its name.

Ethnically, the Moors are divided into two main groups: White Moors and Black Moors. White Moors (Arabic: البيضان, transliterated: al-bīḍānī) are nomads of Arabo-Berber origin with relatively fair skin colour. Black Moors (Arabic: السودان) are thought to be descendents of slaves of the White Moors who have adopted the customs and language of their former masters. The Black Moors do not identify themselves with other black populations elsewhere. According to some reports slavery is still practiced in parts of Mauritania and elsewhere. Slavery being officially abolished today, most Black Moors live an independent life, although some remain underprivileged and repressed.

In Europe, the descendants of the Moors can still be found in most parts of Spain, Portugal, and Southern Italy.

See also

Personal tools