sábado, 14 de enero de 2012

The Middle Ages in Murcia. The Muslim rule

Versión en español

Muslims exercised political power in the Region de Murcia for 530 years. This long period began in 713, with the signing of the treaty that gave rise to the vassal kingdom of the Visigoth Count Theodemir (Tudmir, in Arabic). It ended in 1243, when the taifa kingdom of Murcia became a protectorate of the kingdom of Castile.

The history of these more than 500 years in Murcia can be structured into the following stages:
  • 713-779 (approx.) Kingdom of Tudmir
  • 756-929 Independent Emirate
  • 929-1031 Caliphate of Córdoba
  • 1012-1091 First taifas
  • 1091-1147 Almoravid domain
  • 1147-1172 Second taifa (reign of Ibn Mardanis, the Wolf King)
  • 1172-1228 Almohad domain
  • 1228-1243 Third taifa (reign of Ibn Hud)
  • 1243-1266 Castilian protectorate, Mudejar revolts (1264), final conquest (1266) and integration into the crown of Castile.
During the kingdom of Tudmir Murcia enjoyed relative peace and prosperity, regardless of the troubled history of the rest of Al-Andalus (Muslim Iberia).

Its disappearance in about 779 was accompanied by long civil conflicts, mainly among people of Yemeni ascent and those of mudari ethnicity, of Arab origin. The population was basically made up of muladíes, the former hispano-roman-visigoths inhabitants converted to Islam.

These conflicts between Muslim aristocracies, whether Arab, Syrian or Yemeni, Berbers and muladíes were very frequent in the emirate independent of Damascus founded by the Umayyad Abd ar-Rahman I (756-788) in 756. The capital of the emirate was in Cordoba.

Following the riots in the kora (province) of Tudmir and the improvement in control over it, the Emir Abd ar-Rahman II (822-852) decided to build a new capital in the province, Mursiya, the present city of Murcia, in 825.

About a century later, in 929, the Emir Abd ar-Rahman III (929-961) proclaimed himself Caliph. That broke the last spiritual ties that bounded Al-Andalus with the caliphate of Baghdad and gave rise to the Caliphate of Córdoba.

During a period of barely one hundred never to be forgotten years, economy, trade, culture and thought and military power boomed. Córdoba became the largest city in Western Europe, with its splendour comparable only to that of Byzantium, which at that time was beginning a second golden age.

What nowadays is the Region de Murcia benefited greatly from the waterworks for irrigation and water storage carried out by Muslims. Thanks to them, agriculture and animal husbandry developed. Cartagena, destroyed by the Visigoth king Suintila when he drove the Byzantines out, was rebuilt and trade and industry (e.g., silk) developed also. Mursiya finally began to prosper and became an important city of the Caliphate.

In the surroundings of Sucina, numerous excavated archaeological remains from this period evidence the existence of many farms, often dating back to others of Roman origin. They were generally dispersed and scattered around the countryside.

The Caliphate of Cordoba about the year 1000
Almanzor died in 1002, after exercising dictatorial power in the name of the caliph Hixen II (976-1009) for about 30 years. Almanzor, a brilliant military mind, had repeatedly defeated the Christian kingdoms of the north, which feared him. As an energetic and unscrupulous politician he was able to control the disruptive forces existing in Al-Andalus. After his death, the power of Cordoba began its decline and civil wars started again. Many regions separated to form Muslim independent kingdoms, politically unstable and often pitted against each other. They were called the first taifa kingdoms.

The caliphate would not disappear definitely until 1034, but in 1012 the current Region of Murcia was divided between three separate kingdoms, Denia, Murcia and Almeria, of varying duration and with rapidly changing borders. In fact, the taifa of Murcia was truly independent only in the late XI century and for a short time.

Political map of Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands in 1037 showing the taifas and the Christian states
This civil war situation benefited only the Christian kingdoms that began to move south and take part in the conflicts of the Muslims. They supported those most suitable to their interests at all times, encouraging new conflicts and charging for their services.

In the year 1085 the king of Castile and Leon, Alfonso VI (1072-1109), took over Toledo, the capital of one of the most powerful taifas, and also former capital of the Visigothic kingdom. In 1086, García Jiménez, a knight in the service of Alfonso VI, took over the strategic fortress of Aledo, located southwest of the current Region of Murcia. From there they hindered trade and communication between Levante and Andalucía through the Guadalentín river valley.

Muslim power seemed to collapse and to disappear quickly from the Iberian Peninsula. In view of this desperate situation, the king of the taifa of Seville sought help from the new emerging power in North Africa, a berber ethnic people known as Almoravids.

In 1086 Almoravids crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in their support and defeated Alfonso VI in the battles of Sagrajas (1086), Consuegra and Uclés. Aledo was abandoned by the Castilians in 1092, after withstanding three sieges. Almoravids succeeded in unifying the Taifas and Muslim Spain was under his sole power. In a few years the situation had been completely reversed.

Only Valencia resisted for some years. El Cid, another Castilian knight, was able to conquer this taifa in 1094. El Cid died in 1099 but Jimena, his widow, kept the enclave in Christian hands until 1102 when, faced with the difficulty of continuing its defence, it was decided to leave.

The Almoravid Empire about 1100
Almoravid rule lasted little more than half a century. During this period, they showed religious intransigence and earned the enmity of much of the population. Almoravids faced Christian pressure in the North, and that of a new group, the Almohads, in the South, in their African domains. Uprisings throughout Al-Andalus began to take place and Almoravid power disintegrated in the second taifa kingdoms.

About 1145, Almohads crossed to the mainland and set out to conquer the taifas, most of which had fallen ten years later, in 1155.

The anti-Almohad resistence was led by the taifa of Murcia that had been formed in 1147. Its king, Ibn Mardanis (1147-1171), called the Wolf King in Christian chronicles, was an Almoravid. Supported by the Castilians, during his reign of a quarter of a century, he came to dominate much of Al-Andalus. His military successes were accompanied by economic ones and Murcia became the principal Muslim city of the Iberian Peninsula. Its prosperity was based on agriculture, which benefited from new developed water infrastructures, and on some industries such as ceramics, exported to Europe.

In the long term Ibn Mardanis resistance could not prevent Almohads seizing the greater part of his kingdom. The Wolf King died in 1171, while Murcia was besieged for a third time. His successor pacted in 1172 to surrender the city and to integrate the remains of the taifa in the Almohad empire.

Once reunited Al-Andalus, Almohads were able to devote themselves to the Christian kingdoms. The Castilian King Alfonso VIII suffered a serious defeat at the Battle of Alarcos (1195). Almohads had become a bigger threat than the Almoravids had once been.

The Almohad Empire about 1200
After a few years Christians were able to organize a crusade in which Castilian, Navarrese, Aragonese, Catalan, Portuguese and some foreigners took part. On July 16, 1212 Almohads suffered a crucial defeat by the army commanded by Alfonso VIII at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.

Although they still maintained their power for some years, they were so weakened that soon, and for the third time, their dominions broke into new taifas.

The third taifa of Murcia started in 1228, when Ibn Hud (1228-1237), who had rebelled against the Almohads, succeeded in occupying the city. As had happened less than a century before to Ibn Mardanis, Ibn Hud managed to extend his kingdom over much of Andalusia, with the support of Castile, who had a de facto relationship of vassalage. But his successes were more ephemeral.

Castile and Leon, finally united under the scepter of Fernando III el Santo (the Saint), entered waterspout in Andalusia. The Christian reconquest of Cordoba (1236), held by Ibn Hud, marked the beginning of rebellions everywhere. Ibn Hud ended up being murdered in 1237.

The successors of Ibn Hud entered into a pact with Fernando III in 1243 to formally accept the vassalage to Castile. Murcians could so face pressures from Aragon in the north and from Granada in the south. Castile and Leon had a corridor to the Mediterranean Sea.

The occupation, including the conquest of Lorca and Mula rebel towns, was conducted in 1244 by the heir to the throne, the future Alfonso X el Sabio (the Wise).

Full integration of the kingdom of Murcia in the Castile crown only happened twenty years later, after quashing a revolt of the Mudéjares (Muslims who lived in the Christian kingdoms) in 1264. The final conquest of the region, which stretched north to the present city of Alicante, ended in 1266, with the support of Jaime I of Aragon, who was Alfonso X’s father in law.

The Iberian Peninsula about 1250
Related links
Atlas Histórico Digital de la Región de Murcia
Región de Murcia Digital. Historia de la Región de Murcia. Edad Media
Wikipedia (Spanish and English editions)
The Dark Ages in Murcia. Visigoths and Byzantines
The Dark Ages in Murcia. The kingdom of Theodemir

Jenny Gómez, for the correctness of English translation.
Alfredo Vílchez, Phd in History, for reviewing the text.
Paco Moreno, for the original text.

All pictures got from Wikipedia and GeaCron.

1 comentario:

Mari Carmen dijo...

Muy interesante la página. ¡Felicidades!
Un cordial saludo.