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The Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711 and called the territory Al-Andalus, an area which at its peak included what is today Gibraltar, most of Spain and Portugal, and parts of Southern France. There was also a Moorish presence in what is now Southern Italy, primarily in Sicily. They occupied Mazara on Sicily in 827 and in 1224 were expelled to the settlement of Lucera, which was destroyed in 1300. The religious difference of the Moorish Muslims led to a centuries-long conflict with the Christian kingdoms of Europe, called in Spain the Reconquista. The fall of Granada in 1492 saw the end of Muslim rule in Iberia.
The term "Moors" has also been used in Europe in a broader sense to refer to Muslims, especially those of Arab or Berber descent, whether living in Spain or North Africa. During the colonial era the Portuguese introduced the names "Ceylon Moors" and "Indian Moors", in Sri Lanka. The Bengali Muslims were called Moors. Moors are not a distinct or self-defined people. Medieval and early modern Europeans applied the name to Arabs, Berbers, Muslim Europeans and Sub-Saharan Africans.
The Moors came from the North African country of Morocco and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to get into the Iberian Peninsula. The Moors were initially of Arab and Berber descent at the time of the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in the early 8th century, but later came to include people of mixed heritage, and Iberian Christian converts to Islam were known by the Arabs as Muwalladun or Muladi.
In the languages of Europe, a number of associated ethnic groups have been historically designated as "Moors". In the modern Iberian Peninsula, "Moor" is sometimes colloquially applied to any person from North Africa, but some people consider this usage of the term pejorative, whether in the Spanish version "moro", or in the Portuguese version "mouro".
The Romans interacted with (and later conquered) parts of Mauretania, a state that covered modern Morocco, western Algeria, and the Spanish cities Ceuta and Melilla during the classical period. The people of the region were noted in Classical literature as Mauri, which means "Moors" when translated from Latin to English. It is often common in modern times to apply the appellation of "Moor" or "Moors" to North Africans, especially Moroccans, although some find this derogatory.
In the Medieval Romance languages (such as Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian), the Latin word took such forms as mouro, moro, moir, mor and maur. From denoting a specific Berber people in western Libya, the name acquired more general meaning in the Romance languages during the medieval period, partly developing a general meaning of "Muslim", partly (much like "Saracens") taking a religious meaning of "infidels" in the context of the Crusades and the Reconquista.
Beside its usage in historical context, Moor and Moorish (Italian and Spanish: moro, French: maure, Portuguese: mouro, Romanian: maur) is used to designate an ethnic group speaking the Hassaniya Arabic dialect. They inhabit Mauritania and parts of Algeria, Western Sahara, Tunisia, Morocco, Niger and Mali. In Niger and Mali, these peoples are also known as the Azawagh Arabs, after the Azawagh region of the Sahara.
In Spain, modern colloquial Spanish use of the term "Moro" is derogatory for Moroccans in particular and North Africans in general. Similarly, in modern, colloquial Portuguese, the term "Mouro" was primarily used as a designation for North Africans and secondarily as a derogatory and ironic term by northern Portuguese to refer to the inhabitants of the southern parts of the country (Lisbon, Alentejo and Algarve). However, this designation has gained more acceptance in the south.
In the Philippines, a former Spanish colony, many modern Filipinos call the large, local Muslim minority concentrated in Mindanao and other southern islands Moros. The word is a catch-all term, as Moro may come from several distinct ethno-linguistic groups such as the Maranao. The term was introduced by Spanish colonisers, and has since appropriated by Filipino Muslims as an endonym, with many self-identifying as members of the Bangsamoro ("Moro Nation").
Moreno can mean dark-skinned in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and the Philippines. Also in Spanish, morapio is a humorous name for "wine", especially that which has not been "baptized" or mixed with water, i.e., pure unadulterated wine. Among Spanish speakers, moro ("Moor") came to have a broader meaning, applied to both Filipino Moros from Mindanao, and the moriscos of Granada. Moro refers to all things dark, as in "Moor", moreno, etc. It was used as a nickname; for instance, the Milanese Duke Ludovico Sforza was called Il Moro because of his dark complexion.
In Portugal and Spain, mouro (feminine, moura) may refer to supernatural beings known as enchanted moura, where "moor" implies 'alien' and 'non-Christian'. These beings were siren-like fairies with golden or reddish hair and a fair face. They were believed to have magical properties. From this root, the name moor is applied to unbaptized children, meaning not Christian. In Basque, mairu means moor and also refers to a mythical people.
Within the context of Portuguese colonization, in Sri Lanka (Portuguese Ceylon), Muslims of Arab origin are called Ceylon Moors not to be confused with "Indian Moors" of Sri Lanka (see Sri Lankan Moors). Sri Lankan Moors (combination of "Ceylon Moors" and "Indian Moors") are 12% of the population. The Ceylon Moors (unlike the Indian Moors) in Sri Lanka are descendants of Arab traders who settled there in the mid-6th century. When the Portuguese arrived in the early 16th century, they labelled all the Muslims in the island as Moors as they saw some of them resembling the Moors in North Africa. The Sri Lankan government to this day identifies the Muslims in Sri Lanka as "Sri Lankan Moors" sub-categorised into "Ceylon Moors" and "Indian Moors".
The Goan Muslims — a minority community who follow Islam in the western Indian coastal state of Goa — are commonly referred as Moir (Konkani: मैर) by Goan Catholics and Hindus.[a] Moir is derived from the Portuguese word mouro (Moor).
Over the course of the late 600s-early 700s, the Muslim caliphate, established after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, underwent a period of rapid expansion. In 647, 40,000 Arabs forced the Byzantine governor to submit and pay tribute, but failed to permanently occupy the region. After an interlude during which the Muslims fought a civil war, the invasions resumed in 665, seizing Byzantine North Africa up to Bugia over the course of a series of campaigns, which took until 689. A Byzantine counterattack largely expelled the Arabs, but left the region vulnerable. Intermittent war over the inland provinces of Norrth Africa continued for the next two decades. Further civil war delayed the continuation of full-scale further conquest, but an Arab assault took Carthage and held it against a Byzantine counterattack once this began.
Although a Christian and pagan Berber rebellion pushed out the Arabs temporarily, the Romanized urban population preferred the Arabs to the Berbers and welcomed a renewed and final conquest which left North Africa in Muslim hands by 698, save only Ceuta. Over the next decades, the Berber and urban populations of North Africa gradually converted to Islam, although for separate reasons. The Arab language was also adopted. Initially, the Arabs required only the subordination of these peoples rather than their assimilation, a process which took a considerable time. The groups that inhabited the Maghreb following this process became known collectively as Moors. Although the Berbers would later expel their Arab overlords from the Maghreb and form temporarily independent states, that failed to dislodge the usage of the collective term.
In 711 CE, the now Islamic Moors of Arab and Berber descent came from the North African country of Morocco and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to get into the Iberian Peninsula and in a series of raids conquered Visigothic Christian Hispania. Their general, Tariq ibn-Ziyad, brought most of Iberia under Islamic rule in an eight-year campaign. They moved northeast across the Pyrenees Mountains, but were defeated by the Frank Charles Martel at the Battle of Poitiers in 732.
The Moorish state fell into civil conflict in 739 that lasted until 743, the conflict is known as the Berber Revolt. The Berbers revolted against the Arab aristocracy due to the oppression of them by the Arab ruling class. The Moors ruled in North Africa and in most of the Iberian peninsula for several centuries and the Umayyad Arab aristocracy ruled all the way from Damascus to Spain. Ibn Hazm the Moor polymath mentions how many of the Moor Caliphs in the Umayyad and Córdoba caliphates themselves had fair hair and light eyes. Ibn Hazm mentions not only did he prefer blondes, but also mentions how there was much shown interest in blondes in Al-Andalus amongst the rulers and regular Muslims. He specifically says this about the Moor Córdoba rulers:
All the Caliphs of the Banu Marwan (God have mercy on their souls!), and especially the sons of al-Nasir, were without variation or exception disposed by nature to prefer blondes. I have myself seen them, and known others who had seen their forebears, from the days of al-Nasir's reign down to the present day; every one of them has been fair-haired, taking after their mothers, so that this has become a hereditary trait with them; all but Sulaiman al-Zafir (God have mercy on him!), whom I remember to have had black ringlets and a black beard. As for al-Nasir and al-Hakam al-Mustansir (may God be pleased with them!), I have been informed by my late father, the vizier, as well as by others, that both of them were blond and blue-eyed. The same is true of Hisham al-Mu'aiyad, Muhammad al-Mahdi, and `Abd al-Rahman al-Murtada (may God be merciful to them all!); I saw them myself many times, and had the honour of being received by them, and I remarked that they all had fair hair and blue eyes.
The language spoken in the parts of the Iberian Peninsula under Muslim rule was Andalusian Arabic, a variety of the Arabic language; the language became extinct after the Expulsion of the Moriscos, but Arabic influence can be found in the Spanish language of today. The Muslims were resisted in parts of the Iberian Peninsula in areas of the northwest (such as Asturias, where they were defeated at the battle of Covadonga) and the largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees. Though the number of Moorish colonists was small, many native Iberian inhabitants converted to Islam. According to Ronald Segal, by 1000, some 5,000,000 of Iberia's 7,000,000 inhabitants, most of them descended from indigenous Iberian converts, were Muslim. There were also Sub-Saharan Africans who had been absorbed into Al-Andalus to be used as soldiers and slaves. The Berber and Sub-Saharan African soldiers were known as "tangerines" because they were imported through Tangier.
The Asturias, a small northwestern Christian Iberian kingdom, initiated the Reconquista (the Reconquest) soon after the Islamic conquest in the 8th century. Christian states based in the north and west slowly extended their power over the rest of Iberia. The Navarre, the Galicia, the León, the Portugal, the Aragón, the Marca Hispánica, and the Castile began a process of expansion and internal consolidation during the next several centuries under the flag of Reconquista.
In 1212, a coalition of Christian kings under the leadership of Alfonso VIII of Castile drove the Muslims from Central Iberia. The Portuguese side of the Reconquista ended in 1249 with the conquest of the Algarve (Arabic الغرب – Al-Gharb) under Afonso III. He was the first Portuguese monarch to claim the title "King of Portugal and the Algarve".
The Moorish Kingdom of Granada continued for three more centuries in southern Iberia. On January 2, 1492, the leader of the last Muslim stronghold in Granada surrendered to the armies of a recently united Christian Spain (after the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragón and Isabella I of Castile, the Catholic Monarchs). They forced the remaining Jews to leave Spain, convert to Roman Catholic Christianity or be killed for not doing so. To exert social and religious control, in 1480, Isabella and Ferdinand agreed to allow the Inquisition in Spain. Granada's Muslim population rebelled in 1499. The revolt lasted until early 1501, giving the Castilian authorities an excuse to void the terms of the Treaty of Granada (1491). In 1501, Castilian authorities delivered an ultimatum to Granada's Muslims: they could either convert to Christianity or be expelled.
The Inquisition was aimed mostly at Jews and Muslims who had overtly converted to Christianity but were thought to be practicing their faiths secretly. They were respectively called marranos and moriscos. However, in 1567 King Philip II directed Moriscos to give up their Arabic names and traditional dress, and prohibited the use of the Arabic language. In reaction, there was a Morisco uprising in the Alpujarras from 1568 to 1571. In the years from 1609 to 1614, the government expelled Moriscos. The historian Henri Lapeyre estimated that this affected 300,000 out of an estimated total of 8 million inhabitants.
Many Muslims converted to Christianity and remained permanently in Iberia. This is indicated by a "high mean proportion of ancestry from North African (10.6%)" that "attests to a high level of religious conversion (whether voluntary or enforced), driven by historical episodes of social and religious intolerance, that ultimately led to the integration of descendants."
In the meantime, the tide of Islam had rolled not just to Iberia, but also eastward, through India, the Malayan peninsula, and Indonesia up to the Philippines. This was one of the major islands of an archipelago which the Spaniards had reached during their voyages westward from the New World. By 1521, the ships of Magellan had reached that island archipelago, which they named Las Islas Filipinas, after Philip II of Spain. In Mindanao, the Spaniards named the kris-bearing people as Moros or 'Moors'. Today in the Philippines, this ethnic group of people in Mindanao, who are generally Muslims, are called 'Moros'. This identification of Islamic people as Moros persists in the modern Spanish language spoken in Spain, and as Mouros in the modern Portuguese language. See Reconquista, and Maure.
According to historian Richard A. Fletcher, "the number of Arabs who settled in Iberia was very small. 'Moorish' Iberia does at least have the merit of reminding us that the bulk of the invaders and settlers were Moors, i.e., Berbers from Algeria and Morocco."
The initial rule of the Moors in the Iberian peninsula under this Caliphate of Córdoba is regarded as tolerant in its acceptance of Christians, Muslims and Jews living in the same territories. The Caliphate of Córdoba collapsed in 1031 and the Islamic territory in Iberia fell under the rule of the Almohad dynasty in 1153. This second stage inaugurated an era of Moorish rulers guided by a version of Islam that left behind the tolerant practices of the past.
"Batalla del Puig" (c. 1410-1420), depicting a battle from the Reconquista
Moors in Spain playing chess, from the Book of Games
The Moors request permission from James I of Aragón
Christian and Moor playing lutes, 13th century
Riyad the Moor receiving a letter from Shanul in Hadith Bayad wa Riyad
Muhammad XII of Granada, last Muslim sultan in Spain
Leo Africanus, born in Granada
Depiction of three Moorish knights found on Alhambra's Ladies Tower
The first Muslim conquest of Sicily and parts of southern Italy lasted 75 years (827–902); the language spoken in Sicily under Muslim rule was Siculo-Arabic. By 827, Sicily was almost entirely in control of the Aghlabids with the exception of some minor strongholds in the rugged interior until 909 when it was then replaced by Shiite Fatimids. Four years later, the Fatimid governor was ousted from Palermo when the island declared its independence under Emir Ahmed ibn-Kohrob.
In 1038, a Byzantine army under George Maniaces crossed the strait of Messina. This included a corps of Normans which saved the situation in the first clash against the Muslims from Messina. After another decisive victory in the summer of 1040, Maniaces halted his march to lay siege to Syracuse. Despite his conquest of the latter, Maniaces was removed from his position, and the subsequent Muslim counter-offensive reconquered all the cities captured by the Byzantines.
The Norman Robert Guiscard, son of Tancred, invaded Sicily in 1060. The island was split between three Arab emirs, and the Christian population in many parts of the island rose up against the ruling Muslims. One year later, Messina fell, and in 1072, Palermo was taken by the Normans. The loss of the cities, each with a splendid harbor, dealt a severe blow to Muslim power on the island. Eventually all of Sicily was taken. In 1091, Noto in the southern tip of Sicily and the island of Malta, the last Arab strongholds, fell to the Christians.
Islamic authors would marvel at the tolerance of the Norman kings of Sicily. Ibn al-Athir wrote: "They [the Muslims] were treated kindly, and they were protected, even against the Franks. Because of that, they had great love for King Roger."
Many repressive measures were introduced by Frederick II to please the popes who were intolerant of Islam in the heart of Christendom. This resulted in a rebellion by Sicilian Muslims, which in turn triggered organized resistance and systematic reprisals and marked the final chapter of Islam in Sicily. The Muslim problem characterized Hohenstaufen rule in Sicily under Henry VI and his son Frederick II. The complete eviction of Muslims and the annihilation of Islam in Sicily was completed by the late 1240s when the final deportations to Lucera took place.
Moorish architecture is the articulated Islamic architecture of North Africa and parts of Spain and Portugal where the Moors were dominant between 711 and 1492. The best surviving examples are La Mezquita in Córdoba and the Alhambra palace in Granada (mainly 1338–1390), and also the Giralda in Seville (1184). Other notable examples include the ruined palace city of Medina Azahara (936–1010), the church (former mosque) San Cristo de la Luz in Toledo, the Aljafería in Saragossa and baths at for example Ronda and Alhama de Granada.
Moors—or more frequently their heads, often crowned—appear with some frequency in medieval European heraldry. The term ascribed to them in Anglo-Norman blazon (the language of English heraldry) is maure, though they are also sometimes called moore, blackmoor, blackamoor or negro. Maures appear in European heraldry from at least as early as the 13th century, and some have been attested as early as the 11th century in Italy, where they have persisted in the local heraldry and vexillology well into modern times in Corsica and Sardinia.
Armigers bearing moors or moors' heads may have adopted them for any of several reasons, to include symbolizing military victories in the Crusades, as a pun on the bearer's name in the canting arms of Morese, Negri, Saraceni, etc., or in the case of Frederick II, possibly to demonstrate the reach of his empire. The arms of Pope Benedict XVI feature a moor's head, crowned and collared red, in reference to the arms of Freising, Germany. In the case of Corsica and Sardinia, the blindfolded moors' heads in the four quarters have long been said to represent the four Moorish emirs who were defeated by Peter I of Aragon in the 11th century, the four moors' heads around a cross having been adopted to the arms of Aragon around 1281–1387, and Corsica and Sardinia having come under the dominion of the king of Aragon in 1297. In Corsica, the blindfolds were lifted to the brow in the 18th century as a way of expressing the island's newfound independence.
The use of Moors (and particularly their heads) as a heraldic symbol has been deprecated in modern North America, where racial stereotypes have been influenced by a history of Trans-Atlantic slave trade and racial segregation, and applicants to the College of Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism are urged to use them delicately to avoid creating offensive images.
Populations in Carthage circa 200 BC and northern Algeria 1500 BC were diverse. As a group, they plotted closest to the populations of Northern Egypt and intermediate to Northern Europeans and tropical Africans: "the data supported the comments from ancient authors observed by classicists: everything from fair-skinned blonds to peoples who were dark-skinned 'Ethiopian' or part Ethiopian in appearance." Modern evidence shows a similar diversity among present North Africans. Moreover, this diversity of phenotypes and peoples was probably due to in situ differentiation, not foreign influxes. Foreign influxes are thought to have had an impact on population make-up, but did not replace the indigenous Berber population.
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