Moorish Conquest of Hispania

711 to 732
Moorish Berbers — versus — Visigoths and Franks

In 711 A.D. a wave of Berber Moors crossed the straight of Gibralter and swept into Hispania. The Visigoth kingdom, which had held sway on the Iberian Peninsula for almost 300 years, was divided by a recent civil war, and had neither the leadership, nor unity to resist the invasion. Stories of treachery by disgruntled Jews and exiled enemies of Roderic, the Visigoth king, abounded. It was even said that Count Julian, a fierce rival of the Visigoth king, had invited the Moors to help overthrow the hated Roderic, and that several important towns, including Toledo, had turned in favor of the conquerors. In any case, the Visigoth resistance was utterly inadequate, and after making a desperate stand at the Guadalete River, the national government collapsed. Several towns resisted the invaders and were besieged, but there was no further organized resistance from the Visigoths, and within a few years the Moors had swept over most of the Iberian Peninsula.

moor conquest
There were a few notable Visigoth heroes however. Theodomir was a Visigoth knight who heroically fended off an army of Moors, but ultimately surrendered his town on favorable terms. Pelistes was a valiant noble who tried in vain to hold the town of Cordova, but was ultimately captured. More significant was Pelayo, who led a band of Visigoths and native Iberians north where they held out for several years in mountain fastnesses. This band of Christian refugess grew over the years, and about 10 years after the Moorish invasion successfully defended themselves from Moorish incursions at the Battle of Covadonga. This small Christian stronghold in the northern mountains eventually grew into the kingdoms of Asturias, Leon, and Castile, and Pelayo is credited with laying the seed of the Christian Reconquest of Spain.

Although the Moors met with no significant Visigoth resistance, when they ventured into territory north of the Pyrenees they encountered the more formidable Franks. Their first defeat at the hands of the Franks was delivered by Odo, the Duke of Aquitaine, who rescued the city of Toulouse from a desperate seige in 721. The Moors were so severely defeated in this action that they did not make another attempt to invade Gaul for ten years. When a new Moorish governor came to power in 730 however, he raised another army and prepared for a new invasion of Gaul, with the obvious ambition of conquering all of civilized Europe for the Mohammedans. The Moslem army invaded Gaul in 732, took the city of Bordeaux by storm, and obliterated Odo's army of Franks at the battle of Garonne River. Odo escaped and sought the help of Charles Martel, the hero of the battle of Tours. This battle, which is considered on of the most significant in western history, was very hard fought and was reputed to have lasted for several days, but ended in a complete victory for the Christians and the death of the Moorish commander.

The Battle of Tours effectively ended the Moslem incursions into Gaul. The following decade saw the fall of the Umayyad dynasty altogether, and the establishment of a Moorish dynasty in Cordova independent of the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad. During the following fifty years, the tables turned, when a large army of Franks under Charlemagne crossed the Pyrenees into Hispania and attacked Moslem kingdoms in the region. The depredations of the Franks against the Moors ended only in 778 when a rebellion in Saxony caused Charlemagne to recall his army, but by that time, the impulse of the Moors in Spain to carry their conquests into the Frankish dominions of Gauls was permanently checked.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Guadalete   Moors victory
Fought July 19 to 26, 711, between 90,000 Spaniards, under Roderic, and 12,000 Moslems, with a numerous force of African auxiliaries, under Tarik. On the fourth day the Moslems suffered a severe repulse, leaving 16,000 dead on the field, but the defection of Count Julian, with a large part of the King's forces, revived their courage, and finally the Christians were routed and dispersed. Roderic fled from the field, but was drowned in crossing the Guadalquivir. This victory marks the fall of the Gothic monarchy, and the beginning of the Moorish domination in Spain. Also called the Battle of Xeres.
Siege of Merida   Moors victory
This place was besieged in 712 by 18,000 Moors, under Musa. After a defeat in the open plain before the city, the Spaniards made a long and obstinate defense, which cost the besiegers many lives, but in the end they were forced by famine to surrender.
Battle of Covadonga (grananda ) Spaniards victory
Fought 717 near Covadonga between less than 1000 Christian Goths and Romans under Pelayo, and a much larger body of Moors under Al Kamah. The Christians drew the Moslems into an ambush and decisively routed the Moors. The Moors withdrew and left Pelayo in his mountain fastness, which became the foundation of the Christian kingdom of Austria.
Battle of Toulouse   Franks victory
Fought June 9, 721 between a Frankish army led by Odo, the Duke of Aquitaine, and the Moors, led by the Umayyad governor. The Moors besieged Toulouse, the largest city in the region but Odo returned with an army and launched a surprise attack on the unprepared Moors and nearly annihilated them.
Battle of Tours   Franks victory
Fought 732, between the Franks, under Charles Martel, and the Saracens, under Abderrahman Ibu Abdillah. The battle lasted several days—according to the Arab chroniclers, two, while the Christian accounts say seven—and ended in the fall of Abderrahman, when the Saracens, discouraged by the death of their leader, owned defeat, and fled, losing heavily in the pursuit.

Short Biography
Tariq ibn Ziyad Berber general who defeated the Visigoths at the Battle of Gaudalete.
Musa bin Nusair Umayyad governor of North Africa who organized and directed the Moslem invasion of the Iberian peninsula.
Roderic Last king of Visigoth Spain. Died at the Battle of Guadalete.
Pelayo Visigoth hero who survived Moorish conquest in 711 and founded the Christian kingdom of Asturias.
Theodomir Visigoth general who used a ruse in order to make peace with the Moorish conquerors.
Bernardo del Carpio Legendary Spanish hero during the era of Charlemagne who battled both Moors and Franks.
Charles Martel Frankish King who defeated the Moors at the Battle of Tours.
Pelistes Gothic Knight who defended Cordova after the fall of the Visigoths at Guadalete.
Odo of Aquitaine Duke of Aquitaine who defeated the Moors at Toulouse in 721, but ten years later, was defeated.
Abdul Rahman Governor of Andalusia who led an army into Gaul, but was defeated by Martel at Tours.

Story Links
Book Links
Moorish Invasion  in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott
The Moorish Conquest  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
The Conquest  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
Merovings and Carlovings  in  France: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
Mohammed and the Mohammedans  in  The Story of the Middle Ages  by  Samuel B. Harding
Beginnings of Spain  in  Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain  by  Charles F. Horne
Spain Under the Moors  in  Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain  by  Charles F. Horne
Roderick and the Saracens  in  Barbarian and Noble  by  Marion Florence Lansing
Sluggard Kings  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
Conquest of Spain by the Arabs  in  The Story of Europe  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Defeat of the Saracens—Rise of the Carolingians  in  The Story of Europe  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Enchanted Palace  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Battle of Guadalete  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Pelistes, the Defender of Cordova  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Stratagem of Theodomir  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Cave of Covadonga  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Invasion from Africa  in  Spain: A History for Young Readers  by  Frederick A. Ober
Charles Martel Repels the Mohammedans at Tours  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan
Tours  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood

Image Links

Charles Martel at Tours
 in Famous Men of the Middle Ages

Charles Martel defeats the Moors
 in The Story of the Middle Ages

The Franks at Tours Searching the Arab Camp
 in Greatest Nations - Germany
Charles martel
Charles martel
 in Back Matter
Charles Martel at Tours
Charles Martel at Tours
 in Back Matter

Tarik laying his conquests at the feet of Musa
 in Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain

Because of the heavy blows Duke Charles showered upon the saracens he was called Charles the Hammer
 in The Story of France

Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours
 in European Hero Stories