Early in the eighth century Moorish soldiers crossed over from Africa
to the Iberian peninsula. The man chosen to lead them was General Tarik Ibn
Ziyad. In 711, the bold Tarik, in command of an army of 10,000 men, crossed the
straits and disembarked near a rock promontory which from that day since has borne his
name--Djabal Tarik (`Tarik's Mountain'), or Gibraltar. In August 711, Tarik won
paramount victory over the opposing European army. On the eve of the battle, Tarik is
alleged to have roused his troops with the following words:
"My brethren, the enemy is before you, the sea is behind; whither would ye
fly? Follow your general; I am resolved either to lose my life or to trample on the
prostrate king of the Romans."
Wasting no time to relish his victory, Tarik pushed on with his dashing and seemingly
tireless Moorish cavalry to the Spanish city of Toledo. Within a month's time, General
Tarik ibn Ziyad had effectively terminated European dominance of the Iberian
peninsula. Musa ibn Nusayr, Arab governor of North Africa, joined Tarik in Spain and
helped complete the conquest of Iberia with an army of 18,000 men. The two
commanders met in Talavera, where the Moors were given the task of subduing the northwest
of Spain. With vigor and speed they set about their mission, and within three months
they had swept the entire territory north of the Ebro River as far as the Pyrenees
Mountains and annexed the turbulent Basque country.
In the aftermath of these brilliant struggles, thousands of Moors flooded into the
Iberian peninsula. So eager were they to come that some are said to have floated
over on tree-trunks. Tarik himself, at the conclusion of his illustrious military
career, retired to the distant East, we are informed, to spread the teachings of Islam.
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