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The Reconquista 'Reconquest'; also known as Arabic: الاسترداد trans. al-Istirdād, [æl ɪstɪrˈdæːd], 'the Recapturing') is a centuries-long period in the Middle Ages in which several Christian kingdoms succeeded in reconquering the Iberian Peninsula from the Islamic kingdoms collectively known as Al-Andalus.
When used as a historical period in traditional Spanish and Portuguese historiography, the term Reconquista has often been used to refer to a period extending from 718 (or 722 according to other sources) to 1492, when the last remaining Islamic state in Iberia, the Emirate of Granada, was defeated. During that period Christian kingdoms gradually took control over the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim kingdoms and with the fall of the Granadian emirate, the entire Iberian Peninsula was brought under Christian rule, while native Mozarabic Christian practices held for centuries in Muslim-ruled territory were first suppressed as early as 1080, by Alfonso VI of Castile, as Roman-rite Christian kingdoms advanced south.
Twentieth-century Spanish historiography stressed the existence of a continuous phenomenon by which Iberian kingdoms opposed and reconquered the Muslim kingdoms understood as a common enemy. However, despite the above claim of its beginning in the Battle of Covadonga (718, or 722), the ideology of Reconquest started to take shape at the end of the 9th century.
A landmark was set by the Christian Prophetic Chronicle (883-884), a document stressing the Christian and Muslim cultural and religious divide in Iberia and the necessity to drive the Muslims out. However, Christian and Muslim rulers commonly became divided and fought amongst themselves. Co-existence and alliances were as prevalent as frontier skirmishes and raids, especially in the eighth and ninth centuries. Blurring distinctions even further were the mercenaries from both sides who simply fought for whoever paid the most.
The Crusades which started late in the eleventh century only exacerbated the religious ideology of reconquest, confronted at that time with a similarly staunch ideology found on the Muslim actors strong in Al-Andalus: the Almoravids and, more, the Almohads. In fact previous documents (10-11th century) are mute on any idea of 'reconquest'. Propaganda accounts of Muslim-Christian hostility came into being to support that idea: most notably, the Chanson de Roland, a highly mythical contemporary French re-creation of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass (778) dealing with the Iberian Saracens, and taught as true in the French educational system until not long ago.[when?]
In 711, Muslim Moors, mainly North African Berber soldiers with some Arabs, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and began their conquest of the Christian Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania. After their conquest of the Visigothic kingdom's Iberian territories, the Muslims crossed the Pyrenees and took control of Septimania in 719, the last province of the Visigothic kingdom to be occupied. From their stronghold of Narbonne, they launched raids into the Duchy of Aquitaine.
At no point did the invading Islamic armies exceed 60,000 men. But those armies established an Islamic rule that would last hundreds of years in much of the Iberian Peninsula and 781 years in Granada.
After the establishment of a local Emirate, Caliph Al-Walid I, ruler of the Umayyad caliphate, removed many of the successful Muslim commanders. Tariq ibn Ziyad, the first governor of the newly conquered province of Al-Andalus, was recalled to Damascus and replaced with Musa bin Nusair, who had been his former superior. Musa's son, Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa, apparently married Egilona, Roderic's widow, and established his regional government in Seville. He was suspected of being under the influence of his wife, accused of wanting to convert to Christianity, and of planning a secessionist rebellion. Apparently a concerned Al-Walid I ordered Abd al-Aziz's assassination. Caliph Al-Walid I died in 715 and was succeeded by his brother Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik. Sulayman seems to have punished the surviving Musa bin Nusair, who very soon died during a pilgrimage in 716. In the end Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa's cousin, Ayyub ibn Habib al-Lakhmi became the emir of Al-Andalus.
The conquering generals were necessarily acting very independently, due to methods of communication available. Successful generals in the field and in a very distant province would also gain the personal loyalty of their officers and warriors and their ambitions were probably always watched by certain circles of the distant government with a certain degree of concern and suspicion. Old rivalries and perhaps even full-fledged conspiracies between rival generals may have had influence over this development. In the end, the old successful generals were replaced by a younger generation considered more loyal by the government in Damascus.
A serious weakness amongst the Muslim conquerors was the ethnic tension between Berbers and Arabs. The Berbers were indigenous inhabitants of North Africa who only recently had been converted to Islam; they had provided most of the soldiery of the invading Islamic armies but sensed Arab discrimination against them. This latent internal conflict jeopardized Muslim unity.
After the Islamic Moorish conquest of nearly all of the Iberian Peninsula in 711-718 and the establishment of the emirate of Al-Andalus, an Umayyad expedition suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Toulouse and were halted for a while on their way north. Odo of Aquitaine had married his daughter to Uthman ibn Naissa, a rebel Berber and lord of Cerdanya (maybe of all current Catalonia too), in an attempt to secure his southern borders in order to fend off Charles Martel´s attacks on the north. However, a major punitive expedition led by Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, the latest emir of Al-Andalus, defeated and killed Uthman, and the Muslim governor mustered an expedition north across the western Pyrenees, looted areas up to Bordeaux and defeated Odo in the Battle of the River Garonne in 732. A desperate Odo turned to his archrival Charles Martel for help, who led the Frankish and leftover Aquitanian armies against the Muslims and beat them at the Battle of Tours in 732, killing Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi the emir chose to press forward into Gaul. But Europeans defeated the Moors at the Battle of Tours in 732; this proved to be the high water mark of the Islamic conquests in western Europe and of the expansion of Al-Andalus. Moorish rule began to recede, but it would remain in parts of the Iberian peninsula for another 760 years.
The year 722 saw the first Asturian victory against the Muslims. In late summer, a Muslim army overran much of Pelayo's territory, forcing him to retreat deep into the mountains. Pelayo and a few hundred men retired into a narrow valley at Covadonga. There, they could defend against a broad frontal attack. From here, Pelayo's forces routed the Muslim army, inspiring local villagers to take up arms. Despite further attempts, the Muslims were unable to conquer Pelayo's mountain stronghold. Pelayo's victory at Covadonga is hailed as the beginning of the Reconquista.
A drastic increase of taxes by the new emir Anbasa ibn Suhaym Al-Kalbi had provoked several rebellions in Al-Andalus, which a series of succeeding weak emirs were unable to suppress. Around 722 a military expedition was sent into the north to suppress Pelayo's rebellion, but his forces prevailed in the Battle of Covadonga. This battle was considered by the Muslims as little more than a skirmish, while the Battle of Toulouse (721), with at death toll of maybe tens of thousands, was mourned for centuries as a large scale tragedy by the Iberian Muslims. However for Pelayo, the Christian victory secured his independent rule. The precise date and circumstances of this battle are unclear. Among the possibilities is that Pelayo's rebellion was successful because the greater part of the Muslim forces were gathering for an invasion of the Frankish empire.
During the first decades, Asturian control over the different areas of the kingdom was still weak, and for this reason it had to be continually strengthened through matrimonial alliances with other powerful families from the north of the Iberian Peninsula. Thus, "Ermesinda, Pelayo's daughter, was married to Alfonso, Peter of Cantabria's son. Alphonse's children, Froila and Adosinda, married Munia, a Basque from Alava, and Silo, a local chief from the area of Pravia, respectively." 
After Pelayo's death in 737, his son Fafila was elected king. Fafila, according to the chronicles, was killed by a bear during a trial of courage.
Pelayo's dynasty in Asturias survived and gradually expanded the kingdom's boundaries until all of northwest Iberia was included by roughly 775. However, credit is due not to him but to his successors. Alfonso I (king from 739-757) rallied Galician support when driving the Moorish army out of Galicia and an area of that was to become Leon. The reign of Alfonso II from (791-842) saw further expansion of the northwest kingdom towards the south and, for a short time, it almost reached Lisbon.
It was not until Alfonso II that the kingdom was firmly established with Alfonso's recognition as king of Asturias by Charlemagne and the Pope. During his reign, the holy bones of St. James the Great were declared to have been found in Galicia, at Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims from all over Europe opened a channel of communication between the isolated Asturias and the Carolingian lands and beyond.
The emirate's greatest failing was its inability to eradicate Christian resistance in the Basque country and the Cantabrian mountains. The two resistances, Basque Navarre and Cantabrian Asturias, despite their small size,demonstrated an ability to maintain their independence. The resistance in the Cantabrian mountains soon spread to Galicia in the north-west, where the occupying Moorish army was expelled and the territory was incorporated into Asturias. Because the Umayyad rulers based in Córdoba were unable to extend their power into Frankish territory, they decided to consolidate their power within the Iberian peninsula. Muslim forces made periodic incursions deep into Asturias but failed to make any lasting gains against the strengthened Christian kingdom.
After the Umayyad conquest of the Iberian heartland of the Visigothic kingdom, the Muslims crossed the Pyrenees and peacefully took control of Septimania in 719. From its stronghold of Narbonne, they tried to conquer Aquitaine but suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Toulouse (721).
After halting their advance north, ten years later, Odo of Aquitaine married his daughter to Uthman ibn Naissa, a rebel Berber and lord of Cerdanya (maybe of all current Catalonia too), in an attempt to secure his southern borders in order to fend off Charles Martel´s attacks on the north. However, a major punitive expedition led by Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, the latest emir of Al-Andalus, defeated and killed Uthman, and the Muslim governor mustered an expedition north across the western Pyrenees, looted areas up to Bordeaux and defeated Odo in the Battle of the River Garonne in 732. A desperate Odo turned to his archrival Charles Martel for help, who led the Frankish and leftover Aquitanian armies against the Muslims and beat them at the Battle of Tours in 732, killing Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi
After expelling the Muslims from Narbonne in 759 and driving their forces back over the Pyrenees, the Carolingian king Pepin the Short conquered Aquitaine in a ruthless eight year war. Charlemagne followed his father by subduing Aquitaine by creating counties, taking the Church as his ally and appointing counts of Frankish or Burgundian stock, like his loyal William of Gellone, making Toulouse his base for expeditions against Al-Andalus.
Charlemagne decided to organize a regional subkingdom in order to keep the Aquitanians in check and to secure the southern border of the Carolingian Empire against Muslim incursions. In 781, his three year-old son Louis was crowned king of Aquitaine, under the supervision of Charlemagne´s trustee William of Gellone, and was nominally in charge of the incipient Spanish March.
Meanwhile, the takeover of Al-Andalus by Abd ar-Rahman I in 756 was not unopposed. Certain local Muslim wālis decided to oppose him, but instead of appealing to the distant Caliph, they decided to enlist the nearby Christian Franks. According to Ali ibn al-Athir, a Kurdish historian of the 12th century, Charlemagne received the envoys of Sulayman al-Arabi, Husayn, and Abu Taur at the Diet of Paderborn in 777. These rulers of Zaragoza, Girona, Barcelona, and Huesca were enemies of Abd ar-Rahman I, and in return for Frankish military aid against him offered their homage and allegiance.
Charlemagne, seeing an opportunity, agreed upon an expedition and crossed the Pyrenees in 778. Near the city of Zaragoza Charlemagne received the homage of Sulayman al-Arabi. However the city, under the leadership of Husayn, closed its gates and refused to submit. Unable to conquer the city by force, Charlemagne decided to retreat. On the way home the rearguard of the army was ambushed and destroyed by Basque forces at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. The Song of Roland, a highly romanticized account of this battle, would later become one of the most famous chansons de geste of the Middle Ages.
Around 788 Abd ar-Rahman I died, and was succeeded by Hisham I. In 792 Hisham proclaimed a jihad, advancing in 793 against the Kingdom of Asturias and the Franks. In the end his efforts were turned back by William of Gellone, Count of Toulouse.
Barcelona, a major city, became a potential target for the Franks in 797, as its governor Zeid rebelled against the Umayyad emir of Córdoba. An army of the emir managed to recapture it in 799 but Louis, at the head of an army, crossed the Pyrenees and besieged the city for two years until the city finally capitulated on December 28, 801.
The main passes were Roncesvalles, Somport and Junquera. Charlemagne established across them the vassal regions of Pamplona, Aragon and Catalonia (which was itself formed from a number of small counties, Pallars, Gerona, and Urgell being the most prominent) respectively.
Four small realms pledged allegiance to Charlemagne at the start of the 9th century (not for long): Pamplona (to become Navarre) and the counties of Aragon, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza. Pamplona´s first king was Iñigo Arista, who allying with his Muslim kinsmen the Banu Qasi rebelled against Frankish overlordship, and overcame a Frankish expedition in 824 that led to the setup of the Kingdom of Pamplona. It was not until Queen Ximena in the 9th century that Pamplona was officially recognised as an independent kingdom by the Pope. Aragon, founded in 809 by Aznar Galíndez, grew around Jaca and the high valleys of the Aragon River, protecting the old Roman road. By the end of the 10th century, Aragon was annexed by Navarre. Sobrarbe and Ribagorza were small counties and had little significance to the progress of the Reconquista.
The Catalan counties protected the eastern Pyrenees passes and shores. They were under the direct control of the Frankish kings and were the last remains of the Spanish Marches. Catalonia included not only the southern Pyrenees counties of Girona, Pallars, Urgell, Vic and Andorra but also some which were on the northern side of the mountains, such as Perpignan and Foix.
In the late 9th century under Count Wilfred, Barcelona became the de facto capital of the region. It controlled the other counties' policies in a union, which led in 948 to the independence of Barcelona under Count Borrel II, who declared that the new dynasty in France (the Capets) were not the legitimate rulers of France nor, as a result, of his county.
These states were small and, with the exception of Navarre, did not have the capacity for attacking the Muslims in the way that Asturias did, but their mountainous geography rendered them relatively safe from being conquered. Their borders remained stable for two centuries.
In a situation of constant conflict, warfare and daily life were strongly interlinked during this period. Small, lightly equipped armies reflected how the society had to be on the alert at all times. These forces were capable of moving long distances in short times, allowing a quick return home after sacking a target. Battles which took place were mainly between clans, expelling intruder armies or sacking expeditions.
In the context of the relative isolation of the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe, and the contact with Moorish culture, geographical and cultural differences implied the use of military strategies, tactics and equipment that were markedly different from those found in the rest of western Europe during this period.
Medieval Iberian armies mainly comprised two types of forces: cavalry (mostly nobles, but including commoner knights from 10th century on) and infantry, or peones (peasants). Infantry only went to war if needed, which was not common.
Iberian cavalry tactics involved knights approaching the enemy and throwing javelins, before withdrawing to a safe distance before commencing another assault. Once the enemy formation was sufficiently weakened, the knights charged with thrusting spears (lances did not arrive in Hispania until the 11th century). There were three types of knights: royal knights, noble knights (caballeros hidalgos) and commoner knights (caballeros villanos). Royal knights were mainly nobles with a close relationship with the king, and thus claimed a direct Gothic inheritance. Royal knights were equipped in the same manner as their Gothic predecessors—braceplate, kite shield, a long sword (designed to fight from the horse) and as well as the javelins and spears, a Visigothic axe. Noble knights came from the ranks of the infanzones or lower nobles, whereas the commoner knights were not noble, but were wealthy enough to afford a horse. Uniquely in Europe, these horsemen comprised a militia cavalry force with no feudal links, being under the sole control of the king or the count of Castile because of the "charters" (or fueros). Both noble and common knights wore leather armour and carried javelins, spears and round-tasselled shields (influenced by Moorish shields), as well as a sword.
The peones were peasants who went to battle in service of their feudal lord. Poorly equipped, with bows and arrows, spears and short swords, they were mainly used as auxiliary troops. Their function in battle was to contain the enemy troops until the cavalry arrived and to block the enemy infantry from charging the knights.
Typically armour was made of leather, with iron scales; full coats of chain mail were extremely rare and horse barding completely unknown. Head protections consisted of a round helmet with nose protector (influenced by the designs used by Vikings who attacked during the 8th and 9th centuries) and a chain mail headpiece. Shields were often round or kidney-shaped, except for the kite-shaped designs used by the royal knights. Usually adorned with geometric designs, crosses or tassels, shields were made out of wood and had a leather cover.
Steel swords were the most common weapon. The cavalry used long double-edged swords and the infantry short, single-edged ones. Guards were either semicircular or straight, but always highly ornamented with geometrical patterns. The spears and javelins were up to 1.5 metres long and had an iron tip. The double-axe, made of iron and 30 cm long and possessing an extremely sharp edge, was designed to be equally useful as a thrown weapon or in close combat. Maces and hammers were not common, but some specimens have remained, and are thought to have been used by members of the cavalry.
Finally, mercenaries were an important factor, as many kings did not have enough soldiers available. Norsemen, Flemish spearmen, Frankish knights, Moorish mounted archers and Berber light cavalry were the main types of mercenary available and used in the conflict.
This style of warfare remained dominant in the Iberian Peninsula until the late 11th century, when couched lance tactics entered from France, although the traditional horse javelin-shot techniques continued to be used. In the 12th and 13th centuries, soldiers typically carried a sword, a lance, a javelin, and either bow and arrows or crossbow and darts. Armor consisted of a coat of mail over a quilted jacket, extending at least to the knees, a helmet or iron cap, and braces protecting the arms and thighs, either metal or leather. Shields were round or triangular, made of wood, covered with leather, and protected by an iron band; the shields of knights and nobles would bear the family's coat of arms. Knights rode in both the Muslim style, a la jineta (i.e. the equivalent of a modern jockey's seat), a short stirrup strap and bended knees allowed for better control and speed, or in the French style, a la brida, a long stirrup strap allowed for more security in the saddle (i.e. the equivalent of the modern cavalry seat, which is more secure) when acting as heavy cavalary. Horses were occasionally fitted with a coat of mail as well.
In the High Middle Ages, the fight against the Moors in the Iberian Peninsula became linked to the fight of the whole of Christendom. The Reconquista was originally a mere war of conquest. It only later underwent a significant shift in meaning toward a religiously justified war of liberation (see the Augustinian concept of a Just War). The papacy and the influential Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy not only justified the acts of war but actively encouraged Christian knights to seek armed confrontation with Moorish "infidels" instead of with each other. From the 11th century onwards indulgences were granted: In 1064 Pope Alexander II allegedly promised the participants of an expedition against Barbastro (Tagr al-Andalus, Aragon) a collective indulgence 30 years before Pope Urban II called the First Crusade. The legitimacy of such a letter establishing a grant of indulgence has been disputed at length by historians, notably by Ferreiro. Papal interest in Christio-Muslim relations in the peninsular are not without precedent - Popes Leo IV (847-855), John VIII (872-882) and John XIX (1024–33) are all known to have displayed substantial interest in the region. Whilst there is little evidence to invalidate the letter as a whole, both the recipient(s) of the letter and whether such a letter actually nominates Barbastro as the first 'crusade' are still a matter of dispute.[by whom?] Neither is there evidence to support the contention that the Cluniacs publicised the letter throughout Europe. It was addressed to the clero Vulturnensi. The name has been associated with the castle of Volturno in Campania but even this is not concrete. Baldwin, for example, stipulates that the name is simply "garbled" and that it was intended for a French bishopric. Not until 1095 and the Council of Clermont did the Reconquista amalgamate the conflicting concepts of a peaceful pilgrimage and armed knight-errantry.
But the papacy left no doubt about the heavenly reward for knights fighting for Christ (militia Christi): in a letter, Urban II tried to persuade the reconquistadores fighting at Tarragona to stay in the Peninsula and not to join the armed pilgrimage to conquer Jerusalem since their contribution for Christianity was equally important. The pope promised them the same rewarding indulgence that awaited the first crusaders.
Later military orders like the Order of Santiago, Montesa, Order of Calatrava and the Knights Templar were founded or called to fight in Iberia. The Popes called the knights of Europe to the Crusades in the peninsula. After the so-called Disaster of Alarcos, French, Navarrese, Castilian, Portuguese and Aragonese armies united against the Muslim forces in the massive battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212). The big territories awarded to military orders and nobles were the origin of the latifundia in today's Andalusia and Extremadura, in Spain, and Alentejo, in Portugal.
The Kingdom of Asturias was located in the Cantabrian Mountains, a wet and mountainous region in the north of the Iberian Peninsula.
By the end of the 15th century there had been a myriad of autonomous Christian kingdoms and principalities. The first Christian power was Asturias. The kingdom was established by a nobleman, Pelagius (Pelayo), who had returned to his country after the Battle of Guadalete in 711 where he was elected leader of the Asturians and founded the Kingdom of Asturias. However, Pelayo's kingdom initially was little more than a gathering point for the existing guerilla forces. During the first decades, the Asturian dominion over the different areas of the kingdom was still lax, and for this reason it had to be continually strengthened through matrimonial alliances with other powerful families from the north of the Iberian Peninsula. Thus, Ermesinda, Pelayo's daughter, was married to Alfonso, Dux Peter of Cantabria's son. Alphonse's son Fruela married Munia, a Basque princess from Álava, while his daughter Adosinda married Silo, a local chief from the area of Flavionavia, Pravia.
During the reign of King Alfonso II (791–842), the kingdom was firmly established. He is believed to have initiated diplomatic contacts with the kings of Pamplona and the Carolingians, thereby gaining official recognition of his crown from the Pope and Charlemagne. Alfonso II also expanded his realm westwards conquering Galicia. There, the bones of St. James the Great were proclaimed to have been found in Compostela (from Latin campus stellae, literally "the star field") inside Galicia. Pilgrims came from all over Europe creating the Way of Saint James, a major pilgrimage route linking the Asturias with the rest of Christian Europe.
Alfonso's military strategy was typical of Iberian warfare at the time. Lacking the means needed for wholesale conquest of large territories, his tactics consisted of raids in the border regions of Vardulia. With the plunder he gained further military forces could be paid, enabling him to raid the Moorish cities of Lisbon, Zamora, and Coimbra. He also crushed a Basque uprising, during which he captured the Alavite Munia; their grandson is reported to be Alfonso II.
During Alfonso II's reign a series of Muslim raids caused the transfer of Asturian capital to Oviedo.
Despite numerous battles, neither the Umayyads nor the Asturians had sufficient forces to secure control over these northern territories. Under the reign of Ramiro, famed for the legendary Battle of Clavijo, the border began to slowly move southward and Asturian holdings in Castile, Galicia, and León were fortified and an intensive programme of repopulation of the countryside begun in those territories. In 924 the Kingdom of Asturias became the Kingdom of León.
The Kingdom of Pamplona was one of the important Christian powers of Iberia during the Reconquista. The kingdom was formed when local leader Íñigo Arista led a revolt against the regional Frankish authority and was elected or declared King in Pamplona (traditionally in 824), establishing a kingdom inextricably linked at this stage to their kinsmen the muwallad Banu Qasi of Tudela.
Although relatively weak up until the early 11th century under the Sancho III (1004–1035), Navarre took up a more active Christian role after the accession to the throne of the Jimenez lineage (905). The Kingdom of Pamplona (after 12th century, Navarre), was a Christian kingdom extending after the 13th century (and briefly in the early 11th century) at either side of the Pyrenees alongside the Atlantic Ocean.
Throughout the early history of the Navarrese kingdom, there were frequent skirmishes with the Carolingian Empire, from which it maintained its independence, a key feature of its history until 1513. The reign of Sancho the Great not only expanded the Navarese territories when they absorbed Castile, Leon, and what was to be Aragon in addition to other small counties which would also unite and become the Principality of Catalonia, but it also helped form the Galician independence as well as getting overlordship on Gascony. The conquest of Leon did not consume Galicia, as the Leonese king retreated and was left to temporary independence. Galicia was conquered soon after (it was conquered by Sancho's son Ferdinand around 1038). However, this small period of independence meant that it was fashioned as its own kingdom and the subsequent kings named their titles as king of Galicia and León, instead of merely king of León, even though Galicia was never to be independent again.
Alfonso III of Asturias repopulated the strategically important city León and established it as his capital. From his new capital, King Alfonso began a series of campaigns to establish control over all the lands north of the Douro. He reorganized his territories into the major duchies (Galicia and Portugal) and major counties (Saldaña and Castile), and fortified the borders with many castles. At his death in 910 the shift in regional power was completed as the kingdom became the Kingdom of León. From this power base, his heir Ordoño II was able to organize attacks against Toledo and even Seville. The Caliphate of Córdoba was gaining power, and began to attack León. Navarre and king Ordoño allied against Abd-al-Rahman but were defeated in Valdejunquera, in 920. For the next 80 years, the Kingdom of León suffered civil wars, Moorish attack, internal intrigues and assassinations, and the partial independence of Galicia and Castile, thus delaying the reconquest, and weakening the Christian forces. It was not until the following century that the Christians started to see their conquests as part of a long-term effort to restore the unity of the Visigothic kingdom.
The only point during this period when the situation became hopeful for Leon was the reign of Ramiro II. King Ramiro, in alliance with Fernán González of Castile and his retinue of caballeros villanos, defeated the Caliph in Simancas in 939. After this battle, when the Caliph barely escaped with his guard and the rest of the army was destroyed, King Ramiro obtained 12 years of peace, but had to give González the independence of Castile as a payment for his help in the battle. After this defeat, Moorish attacks abated until Almanzor began his campaigns.
It was Alfonso V in 1002 who finally regained the control over his domains. Navarre, though attacked by Almanzor, remained.
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Ferdinand I of León was the leading king of the mid-11th century. He conquered Coimbra and attacked the taifa kingdoms, often demanding the tributes known as parias. Ferdinand's strategy was to continue to demand parias until the taifa was greatly weakened both militarily and financially. He also repopulated the Borders with numerous fueros. Following the Navarrese tradition, on his death in 1064 he divided his kingdom between his sons. His son Sancho II of Castile wanted to reunite the kingdom of his father and attacked his brothers, with a young noble at his side: Rodrigo Díaz (later known as El Cid Campeador). Sancho was killed in the siege of Zamora by the traitor Bellido Dolfos (also known as Vellido Adolfo) in 1072. His brother Alfonso VI took over León, Castile and Galicia.
Alfonso VI the Brave gave more power to the fueros and repopulated Segovia, Ávila and Salamanca. Then, once he had secured the Borders, King Alfonso conquered the powerful Taifa kingdom of Toledo in 1085. Toledo, which was the former capital of the Visigoths, was a very important landmark, and the conquest made Alfonso renowned throughout the Christian world. However, this "conquest" was conducted rather gradually, and mostly peacefully, during the course of several decades. It was not until after sporadic and consistent population resettlements had taken place that Toledo was decisively conquered. Alfonso VI was first and foremost a tactful monarch who chose to understand the kings of taifa and employed unprecedented diplomatic measures to attain political feats before considering the use of force. He adopted the title Imperator totius Hispaniae ("Emperor of all Hispania", referring to all the Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula, and not just the modern country of Spain). Alfonso's more aggressive policy towards the Taifas worried the rulers of those kingdoms, who called on the African Almoravids for help.
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The quest against the Moors did not keep the Christian kingdoms from battling among themselves or allying with Muslim kings. Some Moorish kings had Christian-born wives or mothers.
Also some Christian champions like El Cid were contracted by Taifa kings to fight against their neighbours. Indeed, El Cid's first battle experience was gained fighting for a Muslim state against a Christian state, at the Battle of Graus in 1063, where he and other Castilians fought on the side of al-Muqtadir, Muslim sultan of Zaragoza, against the forces of Ramiro I of Aragon. There is even an instance of a Crusade being declared against another Christian king in Iberia. Following the disastrous defeat of Alfonso VIII, King of Castile, at Alarcos, Kings Alfonso IX, of Kingdom of León, and Sancho VII, of Navarre, entered an alliance with the Almohads and invaded Castile in 1196. By the end of the year Sancho VII had dropped out of the war under Papal pressure. Early in 1197, at the request of Sancho I, King of Portugal, Pope Celestine III declared a Crusade against Alfonso IX, and released his subjects from their responsibilities to the king, declaring "the men of his realm shall be absolved from their fidelity and his dominion by authority of the apostolic see." Together the Kings of Portugal, Castile, and Aragon invaded León. In the face of this onslaught combined with pressure from the Pope, Alfonso IX was finally forced to sue for peace in October 1197.
In the late years of Al-Andalus, Castile had the might to conquer the remains of the kingdom of Granada, but the kings preferred to claim the tribute of the Muslim parias. The trade of Granadan goods and the parias were a major means by which African gold entered medieval Europe.
The Reconquista was a process not only of war and conquest, but also repopulation. Christian kings took their own people to locations abandoned by the Berbers, in order to have a population capable of defending the borders. The main repopulation areas were the Douro Basin (the northern plateau), the high Ebro valley (La Rioja) and central Catalonia.
The repopulation of the Douro Basin took place in two distinct phases. North of the river, between the 9th and 10th centuries, the "pressure" (or presura) system was employed. South of the Douro, in the 10th and 11th centuries, the presura led to the "charters" (forais or fueros). Fueros were used even south of the Central Range.
The presura referred to a group of peasants who crossed the mountains and settled in the abandoned lands of the Douro Basin. Asturian laws promoted this system with laws, for instance granting a peasant all the land he was able to work and defend as his own property. Of course, Asturian and Galician minor nobles and clergymen sent their own expeditions with the peasants they maintained. This led to very feudalised areas, such as León and Portugal, whereas Castile, an arid land with vast plains and harsh climate only attracted peasants with no hope in Biscay. As a consequence, Castile was governed by a single count, but had a largely mostly non-feudal territory with many free peasants. Presuras also appear in Catalonia, when the count of Barcelona ordered the Bishop of Urgell and the count of Gerona to repopulate the plains of Vic.
During the 10th century and onwards, cities and towns gained more importance and power, as commerce reappeared and the population kept growing. Fueros were charters documenting the privileges and usages given to all the people repopulating a town. The fueros provided a means of escape from the feudal system, as fueros were only granted by the monarch. As a result, the town council was dependent on the monarch alone and had to help their lord (auxilium). The military force of the towns became the caballeros villanos. The first fuero was given by count Fernán González to the inhabitants of Castrojeriz in the 940 s. The most important towns of medieval Iberia had fueros or forais. In Navarre, fueros were the main repopulating system. Later on, in the 12th century, Aragon also employed the system; for example, the fuero of Teruel, which was one of the last fueros, in the early 13th century.
From the mid-13th century on no more charters were granted, as the demographic pressure had disappeared and other means of repopulation were created. While presuras allowed Castile to have the only nonfeudal peasants in Europe other than Scandinavians and Frisians, fueros remained as city charters until the 18th century in Aragon, Valencia and Catalonia and until the 19th century in Castile and Navarre. Fueros had an immense importance for those living under them, who were prepared to go to war to defend their rights under the charter. In the 1800s the abolition of the fueros in Navarre would be one of the causes of the Carlist Wars. In Castile disputes over the system contributed to the war against Charles I (Castilian War of the Communities).
The 9th century saw the Berbers return to Africa in the aftermath of their revolts. During this period, many governors of large cities distant from the capital (Córdoba) planned to establish their independence. Then, in 929 the Emir of Córdoba (Abd-ar-Rahman III), the leader of the Umayyad dynasty, declared himself Caliph, independent from the Abbasids in Baghdad. He took all the military, religious and political power and reorganised the army and the bureaucracy.
After regaining control over the dissident governors, Abd-ar-Rahman III tried to conquer the remaining Christian kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula, attacking them several times and forcing them back beyond the Cantabric range. His Christian subjects were largely left in peace, however.
Christian political forces then accused Abd-ar-Rahman III of pederasty with a Christian boy who was later canonized Saint Pelagius of Cordova for his refusal of Abd-ar-Rahman's advances. As part of a pattern of portraying Islamic morality as inferior, the story provided political strength and popular support to the Reconquista for centuries.
Later Abd-ar-Rahman's grandson became a puppet in the hands of the great Vizier Almanzor (al-Mansur, "the victorious"). Almanzor waged several campaigns attacking and sacking Burgos, Leon, Pamplona, Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela before his death in 1002.
Between Almanzor's death and 1031, Al-Andalus suffered many civil wars which ended in the appearance of the Taifa Kingdoms. The taifas were small kingdoms, established by the city governors establishing their long wished-for independence. The result was many (up to 34) small kingdoms each centered upon their capital, and the governors, not subscribing to any larger-scale vision of the Moorish presence, had no qualms about attacking their neighbouring kingdoms whenever they could gain advantage by doing so. This split into the taifa states caused Islamic presence to be greatly weakened in the face of the strengthening Christian kingdoms to the north. When Alfonso VI brought Toledo under his authority in 1085. Mortified by the concept of being surrounded by the enemy taifa rulers sent a desperate appeal to the Berber chieftain Yusuf b. Tashufin leader of the Almoravids.
The Almoravids were a Muslim militia, their ranks mainly composed of Berber and African Moors, and unlike the previous Muslim rulers, they were not so tolerant towards Christians and Jews. Their armies entered the Iberian peninsula on several occasions (1086, 1088, 1093) and defeated King Alfonso at the Battle of Sagrajas in 1086, but initially their purpose was to unite all the Taifas into a single Almoravid Caliphate. Their actions halted the southward expansion of the Christian kingdoms. Their only defeat came at Valencia in 1094, due to the actions of El Cid.
Meanwhile, Navarre lost all importance under King Sancho IV, for he lost Rioja to Sancho II of Castile, and nearly became the vassal of Aragon. At his death, the Navarrese chose as their king Sancho Ramirez, King of Aragon, who thus became Sancho V of Navarre and I of Aragon. Sancho Ramírez gained international recognition for Aragon, uniting it with Navarre, expanding the borders south, conquering Wasqat Huesca deep in the valleys in 1096 and building a fort, El Castellar, 25 km away from Saraqustat Zaragoza.
Catalonia came under intense pressure from the taifas of Zaragoza and Lérida, and also from internal disputes, as Barcelona suffered a dynastic crisis which led to open war among the smaller counties; but by the 1080s, the situation calmed, and the dominion of Barcelona over the smaller counties was restored.
After a brief period of disintegration (second Taifa period), the rising power in North Africa, the Almohads, took over most of Al-Andalus. But they would be decisively defeated at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) by a Christian coalition, losing almost all the remaining lands of Al-Andalus in the following decades. By 1252 only the Kingdom of Granada remained as sovereign Muslim state in the Iberian peninsula.
Ferdinand and Isabella completed the Reconquista with a war against the Emirate of Granada that started in 1482 and ended with Granada's complete annexation in early 1492. The Moors in Castile previously numbered "half a million within the realm." By 1492 some 100,000 had died or been enslaved, 200,000 had emigrated, and 200,000 remained in Castile. Many of the Muslim elite, including Granada's former Emir Muhammad XII, who had been given the area of the Alpujarras mountains as a principality, found life under Christian rule intolerable and emigrated to Tlemcen in North Africa.
During the Islamic administration, Christians and Jews were allowed to retain their religions by paying a tax (jizya). Penalty for not paying it was imprisonment. During the time of the Almoravids and especially the Almohads some were treated badly, in contrast to the policies of the earlier Umayyad Caliphs and later Emirs.
The new Christian hierarchy demanded heavy taxes from non-Christians and gave them rights, such as in the Treaty of Granada (1491) only for Moors in recently Islamic Granada. It expelled the Jews. In 1496 the Alhambra decree under Archbishop Hernando de Talavera dismissed the Treaty of Granada and now the Muslim population of Granada was forced to convert or be expelled. In 1502, Queen Isabella I declared conversion to Catholicism compulsory within the Kingdom of Castile. King Charles V did the same to Moors in the Kingdom of Aragon in 1526, forcing conversions of its Muslim population during the Revolt of the Germanies. These policies were not only religious in nature but also effectively seized any wealth of the exiled.
Most of the descendants of those Muslims and Jews who submitted to compulsory conversion to Christianity rather than exile during the early periods of the Inquisition, the Moriscos and Conversos respectively, were later expelled from Spain, when the Inquisition was at its height, and Portugal. The expulsion was carried out more severely in Eastern Spain (Valencia and Aragon), due to local animosity towards Muslims and Moriscos where they were seen as economic rivals by the citizenry. A major Morisco revolt happened in 1568, and the final Expulsion of the Moriscos from Castile in 1609, and from Aragon in 1610.
Because some Muslims and Jews shared ancestors in common with some Christians, it was difficult to expel all of those with any non-Christian ancestors from Castile or Aragon. However the Crowns, with the techniques of the Spanish Inquisition, killed, imprisoned, or expelled the converso "Moriscos" and Marranos. Those descended from Muslims or Jews practicing at the time of the Reconquista's close were perpetually suspected of various crimes against the Spanish state including continued practice of Islam or Judaism, and any survivors were finally all expelled by the close of the next century.
The many advances and retreats created several social types:
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Real, legendary, and fictional episodes from the Reconquista are the subject of much of medieval Galician-Portuguese literature, Spanish literature, and Catalan literature, such as the cantar de gesta.
Some noble genealogies show the close relations (although not very numerous) between Muslims and Christians. For example, Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir, whose rule is considered to have marked the peak of power for Moorish Al-Andalus Iberia, married Abda, daughter of Sancho Garcés II of Navarra, who bore him a son, named Abd al-Rahman, and commonly known in pejorative sense as Sanchuelo (Little Sancho, in Arabic: Shanjoul). After his father's death, Sanchuelo/Abd al-Rahman, as a son of a Christian princess, was a strong contender to take over the ultimate power in Muslim al-Anadalus. A hundred years later, King Alfonso VI of Castile, considered among the greatest of the Medieval Spanish kings, designated as his heir his son (also a Sancho) by the refugee Muslim princess Zaida of Seville.
It has also been proposed that the war left the Iberian kingdoms with deep economic crises, leading to the expulsion of the Jews (who had lived in the Iberian Peninsula for over ten centuries) in order to confiscate their funds and property. It can be questioned due to the Portuguese Reconquista that had ended in 1249, and both the Castillian and Portuguese kingdoms that may have begun profiting from maritime expansion along Africa before the Jews and Moors were expelled. The huge wealth from the Americas was still to arrive as Columbus' first voyage and the surrender of Granada were both in 1492.
The Reconquista was a war with long periods of respite between the adversaries, partly for pragmatic reasons, and also due to infighting among the Christian kingdoms of the North spanning over seven centuries. Some populations practiced Islam or Christianity as their own religion during these centuries, so the identity of contenders changed over time.
Earlier Christians fighting the Moors, such as Pelayo, could plausibly be described as natives opposing foreign invasion and conquest; however, by the time most parts of Muslim Iberia were (re)conquered by Christian forces, the Muslim population there was centuries old, and much of it undoubtedly composed of converted Iberians rather than migrants from other Muslim lands. Granada at the time of its conquest in 1492 was as thoroughly Arab and Muslim a city as were Cairo or Damascus at the time.
Moreover, the ease with which the Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula was directly and immediately continued by the exploits of conquistadors beyond the Atlantic clearly shows that for Spaniards at the time, conquest of non-Christian territory and its transformation into a Catholic, Spanish-speaking land were legitimate, whether or not a claim of prior possession of the land could be advanced.
Nevertheless, the expression "Reconquista" continues to be used to designate this historical period by most historians and scholars in Spain and Portugal, as well as internationally.
Currently, the festivals of moros y cristianos (Castilian), moros i cristians (Catalan), mouros e cristãos (Portuguese) and mouros e cristiáns (Galician), these meaning "Moors and Christians", recreate the fights as colorful parades with elaborate garments and lots of fireworks, especially on the central and southern towns of the Land of Valencia, like Alcoi, Ontinyent or Villena.
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