James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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the barbarians, saw that the time of its
triumph had come, and prepared to enjoy
the splendour of the Church, triumphant
after the days of sacrifice and persecution.
In a short time the proud Gothic princes
had learned to scan anxiously the faces of
the prelates of their realm, when impor-
tant decisions were hanging in the balance,
and exchanged profound communications
with learned bishops upon doubtful points
of Christian dogma.

Social conditions in Spain had in no
way deteriorated under Gothic rule. The
victors, indeed, claimed two-thirds of the
country for themselves ; but the serfs
who had to till the land for them found
_ . their masters just and kind at

heart, if rough in manners,
. g k and their rule greatly preferable

to the scourge of the corrupt
Roman landowners. Moreover, a third
of the arable land was left to the Spaniards,
who were, thus far, in free and undisputed
possession, and were by degrees admitted
to share the privileges and responsibilities
of the Goths. After the schism in the
Church had been healed, property began
steadily to pass into the hands of the


clergy, to the ultimate benefit of the
vastly preponderating native population.
In some exceptional cases taxation seems
to have been excessively high ; but, as a
general rule, the kings were satisfied with
the gifts of their free subjects and with the
income accruing from the royal domains.
It is reasonable to suppose that this

improvement in social con-
st dd ditions brought about an
oHhe (Joths im P rovement in tne morals of

the rising Spanish generations.
The example of the Gothic peoples also
exercised a great influence. The testimony
even of their opponents ascribes to them
from the outset all the virtues of the
Germanic national character faithful-
ness, uprightness, and social purity ; the
strong contrast which they formed to the
Roman corruption may be deduced from
the fact that in the mouth of the Goths the
word " Roman," by which they denoted
all native Spaniards, was a synonym for
liar and cheat. The simple morality of
the Goths was also manifested in their
legal code, the " lex visigotarum," issued to
Goths and Spaniards under Chindasvinth
(641-649) and Reccesvinth (649-672) ;
this was founded upon the Roman civil
law, but was free from hair-splitting and

Only a small fraction of the Spanish popu-
lation resisted the Gothic rule namely,
those highlanders in the north who had
not been properly subjugated even under
the Romans, and who continued to
make occasional incursions from the
Asturian and Biscayan mountains. The
Goths never subdued them completely,
though Christianity gradually took root
among them. In the struggle between
Christianity and Islam they still had an
important part to play in history.

Though the native population gradually
adjusted itself to existing conditions,
there was another people who refused
to be assimilated, and remained as a

foreign and deleterious body in
How the , ~ , , . c

Jews the organism of Gothic Spain.

Grew Rich ^ w T e have alread y observed
the Jews who were expelled
from Italy under Domitian came, for
the most part, to Spain, and there, as
elsewhere, speedily enriched themselves
through financial affairs. The Goths
found them settled in every town, and
ready, even under the new government,
to continue a business that contributed
but little to the social prosperity. It


seems that the Arian Goths, who were at
first looked upon with suspicion by the
Christian Spaniards, made friendly ad-
vances to the Jews, who were in a position
similar to their own. Many Gothic
princes were not ashamed, when they
were pressed for money, to turn to Jewish
usurers ; the Arian kings also raised no
obstacles to the suspicious operations of
the chosen people, and contented them-
selves with the imposition of a tax on
Jews, which formed a considerable part of
the royal revenue.

As usual in such cases, the Jews, from
a financial, became a political, power.
As long as the Jews were allowed only to
accumulate hoards of coin there was a
natural limit to the activities even of the
most grinding usurer ; but when they
were allowed to possess real property, and
to make slaves of free men, then the
unprofitable and ruinous methods of
Jewish capitalism gained unbounded scope.
Especially disgraceful was the trade in
slaves and castrated children which
Jewish speculators carried on with the
Arab settlements. Under King Egiza
p .... (687-701) the situation had

p ' 1C * become unbearable, and led
ower catastrophe. The king

the Jews , r , .

attempted to bring over the
Jewish capitalists to the Christian Church
by the promise of nobility and immunity
from taxation, while the refractory were
expelled from the country. But it was
discovered that the new converts were
plotting a revolt with those who had
emigrated to Mauretania, a movement
which the numbers and wealth of the
Jews made extremely dangerous ; re-
course was then had to measures of the
greatest severity. There is no possible
doubt that the Jews, as a result of these
events, had an important share in the
conquest of Spain by the Arabs.

It is, perhaps, idle to inquire how a
country and a nation would have deve-
loped if an irruption from without had
not given a different direction to all its
striving after progress ; but we may, at
least, conclude that, had it escaped the
Saracen invasion, Spain, like the rest of
Western Europe, would have fallen under
the feudal system. Signs already be-
tokened an unavoidable breach between
the royal house and the nobility. The
nobles attempted to limit the ancient
right of the people freely to elect their
king, so as to increase the influencs of


the upper classes. The clergy strength-
ened their temporal power, and the
stronger among the kings endeavoured
to make their position hereditary. Under
the corrupting influence of the Roman
element in the population even the high
morality of the Gothic people gradually
degenerated. Before our gaze is unfolded
a long series of wars unscrupulously waged,
treaties disgracefully concluded.

In France absolute monarchy had finally
won the day, while in Germany and
Italy total disruption and confusion were
the result. Spain, too, it seems, would
here have had a worthy task to accom-
plish in the recreation of European civilisa-
tion. But fate willed that it should exert
an influence, extraordinary, though tran-
sitory, of quite another nature on the his-
tory of human civilisation. The fact that
the greater part of Spain was conquered
by the followers of Islam, and that the old
population was not thereby destroyed,
produced a brilliant complexity of Roman
and Oriental civilisation at the period
when feudal chivalry was at the height
of its development in the rest of Europe.
The Gothic kingdom was torn
f e * mn ' ng by internal dissensions when the
, ^ . first Arab bands cast longing

glances across the strait towards
smiling Andalusia, which promised a prize
far surpassing any that the wild mountains
of Mauretania had to offer. The Arabic
general, Musa ben Noseir, had begun the
subjection of the district of Mauretania in
the year 697, and had, in the main, com-
pleted his task after several years of war-
fare. But his greatest success consisted in
the fact that he had inspired a portion of
the warlike Berber tribe with enthusiasm
for Islam, and had enlisted them under his
standard. He had thus created a reserve
force, which was to be of the greatest
importance in every further undertaking,
for upon it Spanish Islam depended for a
century, the position of Islam in Spain
being untenable without Mauretania.

The rulers of the Gothic kingdom, who
possessed some settlements on the African
side of the strait, do not seem to have
recognised the danger which thus threa-
tened them, although Musa had pushed
forward a strong force under his lieu-
tenant, Tarik, as far as Tangier, and had
wrested this town from their grasp. It
is clear that certain Gothic nobles first
aroused in Musa the idea of an invasion
of Spain. It would, however, have been

quite possible for the Goths, if they had
forgotten their internal differences, to
have prevented the landing of the Arabs.
The town of Ceuta, perhaps the last
remnant of the Byzantine possessions in
Africa, repelled all Musa's attacks, and
an Arab fleet was utterly defeated by the
Gothic navy under Theodomir in 709.
_~ _ ., Unfortunately, the approach

The Gothic c -, , J i ,, r> *u-

-, . of danger found the Gothic

Empire in -^ . .... , .

~ , . Empire in confusion. The king,

L/ontusion 7-3 u i. j

Witiza, who had reigned since
the year 701, was by no means equal to
his responsibilities, and in his efforts to
restrain the threatening advance of feu-
dalism, had rushed into the extremes of
cruelty to which weak rulers are prone.
Among other crimes, he caused the duke
Theodefred of Cordova to be blinded, and
thereby created an implacable enemy in
his son Roderick, who apparently took
refuge with the mountaineers in the
north. Roderick succeeded in collecting
a body of Spanish and Gothi: adherents
and in overthrowing Witiza in 710. But a
breach in the Gothic nation was thus
brought about which could never be

The downfall of Witiza was not merely
the removal of a man unworthy of rule;
a number of important families who
had been his supporters lost their power
at the same time. Many ambitious nobles
considered the new occupant of the throne
a usurper, and thought they had an equal
right to the crown. In their blind rage
they grasped at the first hand which
offered help. Emissaries of the defeated
faction, among them Witiza's brother,
Oppas, the Archbishop of Seville, betook
themselves to Musa's camp, and invited
him to fight against Roderick. The Arab
chroniclers narrate romantic occurrences,
such as are born of the popular imagina-
tion, which is ever ready to surround the
fall of a mighty kingdom with the glamour
of legend and fable ; the fact is, that
G . . the feudal system, with its
insatiable lust for power and
dominion, a spirit that was

With Arabs . . , ' a i.

destined to flourish so long in
the rest of Europe, was in this country
the ultimate cause of these events.
Musa at once sent a small force under
Tarik across the strait by way of trial.
Tarik found the representations of the
Gothic conspirators true, the country rich
and but weakly defended. After his
return Musa placed under his command



an army of 12,000 men, which was after-
wards increased to 17,000. He took no
part in the campaign himself, and appar-
ently desired Tarik to do nothing more
than gain a firm footing in Andalusia,
whereupon he proposed to follow with the
main army and to conclude the struggle.
In pursuance of this plan, most of the
. . Arabs remained in Africa, and

,/* . , the Berbers formed the majority
Victories in t ~> ., , TTTI J ''

A j i of Tank s troops. When he
Andalusia , , , . ,, , ,,

landed, in the year 711, at that

rock fortress which since then has borne the
name of Tarik's rock (Gibraltar), he met
with only slight resistance, as King Roderick
had made practically no preparations for
defence. With the help of his Gothic allies,
Tarik was able to lay waste Southern
Andalusia at his leisure.

At length, the Gothic levies and their
Spanish subjects were assembled. In
numbers Roderick's army was considerably
superior to that of Tarik ; and when the
armies met in a bloody battle at Xeres de
la Frontera, the mailed cavalry of the
Goths might have won the victory had
not the treachery of Witiza's adherents
thrown their ranks into confusion. Thus
the fate of the kingdom was decided in one
great battle in July i()-26ih, 711. The
Goths fled in utter rout ; their king dis-
appeared in the confusion, and was never
seen again. The victorious Arabs had no
intention of handing over the crown to
Witiza's faction, but took possession of
Spain in the caliph's name. Musa, whose
jealousy was excited by Tarik's brilliant
victory, came over immediately, and
completed the subjugation of the country.

The history of Islam in Spain appears
to be one wild confusion when considered
in detail ; but when regarded from a
sufficiently comprehensive point of view,
it resolves itself without difficulty into
certain periods and stages, which follow
naturally upon one another. After the
conquest of the country and the failure of
s . the invaders' attempts to push

of* Saracen nortnwar d into France, Spain
r m ' became a member of the Saracen

empire - . .

r-mpire ; but its most remote

member, and one destined by its position
and geographical characteristics to be
independent. In fact, the country speedily
severed its connection with the central
power, and became an independent and
miniature caliphate, its organisation
being based on the lines of the caliph's
empire. The second period coincides


with the greatest prosperity of this
Spanish caliphate.

The feudal tendencies peculiar to
kingdoms founded on conquest soon
manifested themselves. The component
parts of the Spanish kingdom kept strug-
gling for greater independence, and, at
length, the caliphate became but the
shadow of its earlier greatness, while on
the north Christian provinces increased in
strength, and threatened the small and
helpless provinces of Islam with total
destruction. Then we see how closely
Islam bound Southern Spain to Africa.
Twice was the Mohammedan power saved
from destruction by the rulers of Morocco,
who, seemingly at least, restored the unity
of the Saracen possessions. When this help
was at last withdrawn, a Moorish kingdom
held out for centuries in the mountains of
Granada, and succumbed at last to the
united attacks of the Christian rulers.
The last and saddest period begins with
the fall of Granada ; it comprises the vain
attempts to convert the Moors to Chris-
tianity and the despairing revolt of the
Moriscos, and it ends with the complete
expulsion of the Moors from
oMh Spain. Parallel with the pro-

. e gress thus outwardly mani-

Moors ? , j ,, c

tested, there runs a course of

development below the surface. From
the original mixture of populations
there is formed the Moorish people, who
finally appear as an ethnological unity,
although, in the course of history, they
are continually receiving accessions of
fresh blood. As we rarely have an oppor-
tunity in historical times for observ-
ing so closely the formation of new people,
the rise of the Moors demands our closest
attention. Especially do we see how a
common spiritual belief - - in this case
Islam can serve as a temporary bond of
union until separate groups have coalesced,
and differences of language and physique
have been modified or have disappeared.
The work of unification was finally accom-
plished by the Arab language.

The native Spaniards who remained in
the country formed the main stock
of the population ; they themselves were
a product of the blending of Iberians,
Kelts and Romans. Many Goths also
remained, and if converted to Islam, con-
tinued to enjoy a portion of their property
and influence ; for example, the feudal
lords of Murcia sprang from an ancient
Gothic family ; and upon the fall of the


caliphate, an independent Moorish state
arose in Aragon, with Saragossa as its
capital, the rulers of which could also
boast of Gothic descent. Elsewhere the
Arabs simply took the place of the Gothic
lords, and were careful not to disturb
the tributary native population. Simi-
larly, in the towns, the Spanish inhabi-
tants were, for the most part, allowed to

The Arabs formed the new Spanish
nobility. They were the real exponents
. of the beliefs of Islam and of the policy of
conquest connected therewith ; but they
were not, in any sense, a united body,
fighting on behalf of one faith. No
matter how far they pushed their brilliant
campaigns, to their new homes they
brought their racial feuds and family
quarrels, and they drew swords upon their
own brethren almost more cheerfully than
upon the enemies of their faith, being
ever ready to avenge old blood-feuds or
recent insults. Especially noticeable is
the hostility which appears und^r many
names between the pure-blooded Bedouins
of Upper Arabia, who generally appear as
the Kaisite, or Mahadit, party,

Battle 10US and the Party f the J emeniteS '
a s or Kelbites, which comprised

the peasants and town popula-
tion. Spain saw many a murderous
battle of this kind, such as the famous
struggle at Secunda in 741, when the
Kelbites were defeated. It was chiefly
owing to these battles that the Arab ele-
ment, which had at first preponderated,
gradually began to lose ground, not alto-
gether to the advantage of civilisation
in Moorish Spain.

The Arabs had no meais of replacing
the men they lost ; but exactly the
opposite was the case with the other race,
the Berbers, whose rude power had really
brought about the conquest of Spain and
who settled side by side with the Arabs
in the newly won territory. Repeatedly
Spanish Islam became indebted to this
people for its salvation, and such assistance
invariably coincided with the immigra-
tion of a large body of Berbers into
Spain. The higher civilisation derived
no advantage from them. Intellectual
development suffered, in fact, irremediably
through the growing influence of the
bigoted, fanatical Berbers.

The close connection with Africa, whence
came th'S strong infusion of Berber
blood, with its unfavourable results, also

occasioned the immigration of a con-
siderable number of negroes, who entered
the country as the slaves or bodyguard
of the princes, and were gradually
absorbed into the new population as
it was being formed. They certainly enter
into the composition of that motley
and brilliant picture of the Moorish period
M in Spain which imagination

Kind to ? 6aSily -depict 8 ; but their

influence upon the morals of

the Moors , , , , , .,

the nation cannot be described

as favourable. The main body of the
Moorish population lived in the south
of Spain, a region where the overflowing
abundance of Nature's gifts tends to
enervate even the most vigorous race.

In Carthaginian and Roman times the
inhabitants of Andalusia were the most
unwarlike and the most easily conquered
of all the peoples in the peninsula ; during
the period of Islam they retained this
unenviable reputation. The rulers of the
country could not rely upon the inhabi-
tants, and were, therefore, obliged to
organise their armies round a strong
nucleus of foreign troops ; similarly, at an
earlier period the Turdetani had enlisted
Celtiberian warriors in their service.
These soldiers, who were of most diverse
origin, contributed an additional element
to the mixture of nationalities. During the
period of the caliphate we find numerous
" Slavs " in the service of the monarchs.
Although all troops enlisted from the north
of Europe were known generally by
this name, yet we are apparently here
concerned with those Slavonic prisoners
of war who were taken in large numbers
during the conquest and colonisation of
Eastern Germany, and were transferred
south by the Jews in course of trade.
The Jewish traffic in slaves is mentioned
by Germanic authorities of the period.
Many of these northern soldiers made
their permanent homes in Spain under the
Moors, and intermingled with the rest of
the population. Finally, the .
Jews, whose lucrative activity
has been mentioned above,
intermarried but little or not at
all with the Moors of Islam ; but their num-
bers and character made them important in
another way. They had come in a body
into Spain from Morocco in the wake
of the Arabs. Those native Jews who had
survived the earlier persecutions wel-
comed the conquerors with open arms.
They had every reason for doing so : the


Jews in
the Wake
of Arabs


era of the Moors in Spain was destined
to be for the Jew a period of prosperity,
both in the good and bad sense of the word.
In the first period of Islam rule the
different streams of population flowed
in parallel or transverse directions almost
without intermingling. The conquest of
the country was quickly accomplished

, after Musa reinforced Tarik's
The Caliph 3 Berber force with the main

strength of the Arab army.
Generally speaking, the victors
behaved with great moderation, thanks
to the commands of the caliph and also
to the presence of Gothic deserters in
their ranks. Musa and Tarik were guilty
of acts of aggression, and were speedily
recalled. Subsequently the governors,
who set up their residence in Cordova,
were changed constantly.

The Arabs, who had had the least share
in the fighting, succeeded in gaining for
themselves the lion's share of the booty.
They divided the rich province of Anda-
lusia among themselves, and established
themselves as the dominant landed class.
Very few of them settled in the towns.,
where Christian and Mohammedan
Spaniards lived side by side with the Jews
in peace. The Berbers, who had borne
the main brunt of the war, received the
barren portions of the country, the high
tablelands of the interior, the northern
frontier whence they were speedily
obliged to beat a partial retreat and
the bare mountains in the south. The
Arabs were, for the moment, fairly well
satisfied : Musa's army had been largely
composed of Jemenites and the old "De-
fenders," the ancient companions in arms
of Mahomet, who had fallen into disrepute
at the caliph's court, and now found a
refuge in Spain. But this was altered when
a fresh wave of Arab immigrants swept
into the peninsula.

A terrible revolt of the Berber popula-
tion in Africa, in the year 741, obliged
the caliph Hischam to despatch
Arabian troops, under the

, -

rebes; he also sent Kaisite

Arabs from Syria, whose racial hatred of
Jemenites and Defenders had often been
displayed with portentous result, and after
the bloody Battle of the Meadow had
risen to fiercer heat. The African Arabs,
who were also Jemenites for the most
part, received the army of relief with deep
mistrust ; many towns elosed their gates

against the force, and the contingents of
indigenous Arabs joined the army much
against their will. Kolthum then attacked
the Berber army, and was defeated and

His nephew, Baldsch, flung himself
into Ceuta with 7,000 Syrian cavalry in
the hope of escaping to Spain. He had
failed to take into account the racial
hatred of the Spanish Arabs. Abdalmelik,
who was then governor of Spain, was a
fanatical " Defender," and coolly allowed
the Arabs to be reduced to the extremities
of starvation by the Berbers who besieged
them. An unexpected occurrence gave
the hard-pressed men breathing space.
The news of the revolt of the African
Berbers had gone abroad in Spain, and
the Berbers of that country, who were
disregarded or despised by the Arabs,
were stirred to a state of restlessness,
which was further encouraged by sectarian
fanatics. At length the outbreak came.
The entire north of Spain took up arms.
At this terrible crisis Abdalmelik resolved
to call in the help of Baldsch and his
Syrians. A promise was extorted from that
half-starved army that they
* would leave Spain when they

had conquered the enemy : they
Dissensions i? f ,

were brought across, fed
and clothed, and after several bloody
battles the Berbers were completely
crushed. Then, however, the inevitable
dissensions among the Arabs broke out.
A quarrel took place on the subject of the
return to Africa. Baldsch seized Abdal-
melik, and had him put to death in a
shameful manner. Thereupon the Spanish
Arabs took up arms, and made common
cause with the Berbers. Baldsch gained
a victory over them, but died of his wounds
in 742. The war continued until the arrival
of a new governor put an end to hostilities.
The new immigrants obtained lands in
Murcia, Granada, Malaga, Seville and
Jaen. Henceforward, the old animosity
between Syrians and Jemenites constantly
broke out. Bloody battles were fought,
and for a long period these internal
dissensions were the predominant feature
in the Internal history of Mohammedan
Spain. By degrees, however, the spirit
of party died away under the influence of
a new environment, and nothing remained
to fight for. The work of reconciliation
was completed by the closer fusion of the





Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 3 of 55)