A history of Moorish Spain (part 4)


ABD AR-RAHMAN II died peacefully in Cordoba in 852AD and was succeeded by his son Muhammad I. While his father experienced a successful reign Emir Muhammad’s reign was less glorious. In 861 the region was again attacked by Norsemen or Vikings who travelled up the Guadalquivir and attacked Cordoba, and in 867 the region suffered a year long drought followed by a plague.

In 880 there was a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in Cordoba followed a year later by a huge magnitude 7.2 quake near Cadiz (10 times more violent than the recent Christchurch quake) which destroyed many towns and villages.



If this was not enough the Christian King Ordońo I and then his successor Alfonso III, or Alfonso the Great, or Emperor of Spain, or Prince of all Galicia as he also liked to be known continued to wrest from Moorish Umayyad control further lands to the north including Old Castile, Lusitania and Estremadura.

There were constant internal Arab revolts which lead to the new free city now known as Badajoz being set up in 875 by a rebel officer Ibn Marwan because Muhammed was unable to quell the revolt. Muhammed died in 886 and was succeeded by his son Al-Mundhir who ruled for just two years before being murdered.

His younger brother Abdullah ibn Muhammad a little too conveniently ascended the throne instead. There were rumours he had killed his brother to claim the throne.

During Emir Abdullah ibn Muhammad’s 24 year reign civil war continued with the kingdoms of Jaen and Granada lost, then won back, then lost again to a man called Umar Ibn Hafsun.

These were bloody times and captured Christians were massacred but Moslems were pardoned. The Emirs son Muhammed who was next in line to be Emir was assassinated by Al-Mutarrif another of Emir Abdullah’s sons on suspicion of helping the rebel Umar Ibn Hafsun.

Al-Mutarrif in turn was then executed in 895 apparently on his fathers’ orders. Abdullah died in 912, and his grandson, Mohammed’s son became the new Emir Abd ar-Rahman III.

I don’t suppose there were many family choices left but history shows it was an inspired choice.

Abd ar-Rahman III grew up in the harem of his Christian mother Muzayna; she was concubine to his father Muhammed.

Mixed marriages and unions were common, and Abd ar-Rahman III had blonde hair, blue eyes but dyed his beard black, he was in fact only 1/4 Arab.

In his youth the grandson was the Emirs favourite who allowed him to live in his own tower and to sit on the throne on festive occasions, things his own sons were not allowed to do.

Before the Emir died in 912 he passed him his ring as a symbol of power and he became the new Emir ruling for almost 50 years from Cordoba. He was also known as al- Nasir (defender of the faith!) Historians regard him as one of the greatest monarchs of the Moorish era.

Abd ar-Rahman III decided to first ignore the threat from the Christians to the north and instead confront the Arab rebels to the south and east. In 913 an army was sent to capture and destroy the Ecija fortress held by the rebel Umar Ibn Hafsun midway between Seville and Cordoba.

The fortifications were destroyed leaving just enough standing to house a new governor and his troops.

Ecija was formerly a huge Roman town called Astigi and was one of the best preserved until all the archaeological remains were bulldozed in 1998 on the orders of a Mayor Pernia to make way for a municipal car park. Abd ar-Rahman III’s military success was followed the next year by Elvira, Jaen and Malaga all being retaken. More about Abd ar-Rahman III and his 49 year rule another time cos my head hurts!



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