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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Yusuf and the Almoravide conquest

_Moslem Spain_

[Sidenote: The _taifa_ states and the rise of Seville.]

With the dethronement of Hisham III in 1031 the caliphate broke up into a number of states called _taifas_, from an Arabic word meaning "tribe," or "people." Down to the close of the eleventh century there were many of these states,--twenty-three at one time,--but the most important were those of Cordova, Seville, M?laga, Granada, Almer?a, Denia and the Balearic Islands, Saragossa, Toledo, and Badajoz. The rulers were usually Slavic or Berber generals of the latter-day armies of the caliphate and their descendants. Each desired to make himself sole caliph, and so an internecine strife was waged almost continuously, especially in the south. Seville soon forged ahead of its regional rivals, and was by far the most important _taifa_ of the century. Like several of the others it had been founded as a republic (as early as 1023), but its skilful ruler, Abul Cassim Mohammed of the Abbadite family, soon made himself absolute, while retaining the forms of a republic. In order to overcome his most powerful neighbors he pretended that Hisham II had reappeared, availing himself of a mat-maker who resembled the dead caliph. The stratagem was so successful that Carmona, Valencia, Denia, Tortosa, and even the republic of Cordova recognized the pseudo-Hisham, whereupon the crafty Sevillian proceeded to conquer large parts of the _taifa_ states of M?laga

and Granada. His successors were equally fortunate, and by the end of the third quarter of the century the greater part of Moslem Spain, especially in the west and south, had acknowledged the rule of the lord of Seville. Seville, too, had become every bit as noteworthy an intellectual centre as Cordova had been under the caliphs.

[Sidenote: Yusuf and the Almoravide conquest.]

The Christian kings of Castile and Le?n had meanwhile profited by the wars of the _taifa_ states to make conquests or to reduce many of the _taifas_ to the payment of tribute. Even Seville was tributary to a Christian king. This inclined many of the Moslem princes, realizing their own helplessness, to invite a newly-risen Mohammedan power in northwestern Africa to come to their aid. The rulers of the _taifas_ recognized that their own authority might be endangered by the entry of their coreligionists, but their feelings were well expressed in the words attributed to the ruler of Seville: "I would rather be a camel-driver in Africa than a swineherd in Castile." The African people referred to were a branch of the Berbers who had dwelt apart in the Sahara Desert. Converted at length to the Moslem faith, they became fanatically religious, taking to themselves the name "Almoravides" (religious men), and launching themselves forth to the conquest of all northwestern Africa. The African empire of the Almoravides was already an accomplished fact when their emperor, Yusuf, was invited to help the Spanish Moslems under a promise that he would not deprive the _taifa_ rulers of their states. In 1086 Yusuf entered Spain, and encountered the army of Alfonso VI of Le?n at Zalaca, near Badajoz. Yusuf was completely successful, and the Christian peril was rolled back, but no counter-conquests of moment were made. Yusuf himself returned to Africa. Four years later the Moslem princes had need of Yusuf, and once again he came to avert the threatening danger. By this time popular opinion, reinforced by the intrigues of the Moslem priesthood, desired the establishment of Yusuf's authority in Spain; the restoration of a single rule, it was believed, would check the Christian kings, and bring peace and prosperity. By 1091 Yusuf had reduced all of the _taifa_ princes except the king of Saragossa, and the latter was subjected by Yusuf's successor. Thus the unity of Moslem Spain was again accomplished.[18]

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