This is episode 39 called Towards the Caliphate of Córdoba and in this episode you will learn:
- The victorious Cordoban campaign of Muez as a punitive expedition against León and Pamplona
- The Pamplonese conquest of La Rioja in 923, including Nájera, along the incorporation of the County of Aragon
- The destructive punitive campaign of 924 against Pamplona (and to extend Umayyad authority in al-Andalus) and how Sancho Garcés I of Pamplona minimized the potential damage
- Why Abd al-Rahman III’s campaigns against the Christian north didn’t involve conquests and colonizations
- The death of Ordoño II and the brief succession of Fruela II, followed by a succession crisis and civil war in the Kingdom of León
- The death of Sancho Garcés I of Pamplona, first ruler of the Jimena dynasty, and his successor and six-year-old son García Sánchez
- The brutal Umayyad campaigns against the Hafsunids and the fall of Bobastro, representing the near end of the fitna of the Emirate of Córdoba
- The external and domestic reasons that explain the proclamation of the Caliphate of Córdoba in 929
- The surrender of Mérida, Badajoz and Toledo, leaving only Zaragoza as the last city that had yet to really submit to Abd al-Rahman III’s authority
- The Umayyad-Fatimid rivalry and the Umayyad intervention in North Africa between the 920s and the 950s
- The abdication of Alfonso IV of León, followed by a civil war between Ramiro II of León and other members of the royal dynasty
- A reflection on the nature of the proclamation of the Caliphate of Córdoba
I’m David Cot, host of The History of Spain Podcast, and this is episode 39 called Towards the Caliphate of Córdoba. In this episode you will learn about the events that led to the proclamation of the Caliphate of Córdoba and what was happening in the Kingdom of León and Pamplona during this period. Don’t miss an episode, subscribe to the podcast!
We left the previous episode with the reimposition of Umayyad authority in much of al-Andalus, thanks to the smart carrot and stick approach of the great Emir Abd al-Rahman III. The popular Muladi rebel Umar ibn Hafsun had died, and his descendants were just ruling a fraction of what their father had ruled. The marches and the Balearic Islands were still autonomous, but what matters is that Abd al-Rahman III averted the destruction of the Emirate of Córdoba. In the Christian north, the Kingdom of Asturias evolved into the Kingdom of León, and the first aceifa the Emir launched against Castile resulted in a total disaster, with the General of the army Ahmad ibn Abi Abda beheaded. At the same time, Sancho Garcés was ruling the Kingdom of Pamplona and trying to expand it into the region of La Rioja of the Banu Qasi with the help of Ordoño II of León.
So, after this recap, let’s continue the narrative with the Leonese victory at San Esteban de Gormaz. The following year Ordoño II of León and Sancho Garcés I of Pamplona launched a joint attack against La Rioja, and although it was basically a show of force, Pamplona annexed Viguera, an important town to control the road network of the area. Because of this provocation and the humiliation suffered at San Esteban de Gormaz, Abd al-Rahman III responded with a punitive campaign in 920 led by the Emir himself, and at the same time it was an opportunity to partly reassert Umayyad authority in the Upper March. The Emir sent messengers across al-Andalus and especially in the marches to encourage Muslims to volunteer for yihad and to punish those Christians who had dared to attack the dar al-Islam, and many did join the Cordoban forces. The first stop of the large Umayyad army was Toledo, followed by Guadalajara and the strategic town of Medinaceli in Soria, making a feint to make the Christians believe that the Umayyad armies would go to the Upper March or would attack Navarre. From Medinaceli, the Umayyad hosts marched into Álava and Castile and destroyed Osma and San Esteban de Gormaz without opposition.
Since the campaign was going really well, the Emir didn’t want to conclude the expedition, that’s why the Muslim army then advanced towards Pamplona. The Emir first paid a visit to the last Banu Qasi lord of Tudela, to order him to attack a Pamplonese castle, and the Umayyad troops in the meantime recaptured Calahorra. The army of Ordoño of León joined that of Sancho of Pamplona to confront together Abd al-Rahman, and they did so 25 km southwest of Pamplona, in what was called the Junquera valley, that’s why this battle is remembered as the Battle of Valdejunquera. The Muslim forces decisively defeated the Christian coalition, and according to Arab chronicles 500 Christian nobles and knights were executed in the aftermath. The countryside was ravaged, while the Christian chronicles reveal that two bishops were captured and had to be ransomed. The Christian chronicles also blame several counts of the fragmented County of Castile for the defeat, because they didn’t respond to the call to arms of King Ordoño II. It’s likely that the counts of Castile didn’t participate because they didn’t like to see how La Rioja was an area of expansion for Pamplona instead of Castile, but that costed them some time in jail. The victory was celebrated throughout al-Andalus and the mosques incited a mobilization and holy war against the enemies of Allah.
This campaign known as the campaign of Muez had been a punitive expedition, not a campaign of conquest. Even though Sancho Garcés lost his recent acquisitions, he would soon recover and expand them. In 923 the Kingdom of Pamplona, with the loyal aid of León, conquered the entire region of La Rioja, including Arnedo, Calahorra, and the important stronghold of Nájera. Only a quick intervention from Córdoba prevented the fall of Tudela, the former bastion of the Banu Qasi. Sancho Garcés I fortified and repopulated La Rioja with Basque Christians and he founded the Monastery of San Martín de Albelda, which would become the cultural center of La Rioja in the 10th century. Moreover, he named his heir García Sánchez King of Nájera, and Nájera would actually become the capital of his realm when his father passed away, that’s why from then on the Kingdom of Pamplona is also called Kingdom of Nájera-Pamplona. With the incorporation of the County of Aragon at the same time, the Kingdom of Pamplona had greatly expanded under the Jimena dynasty. Meanwhile, Ordoño II of León launched raids against the province of Guadalajara, that’s east to Madrid. Ordoño and Sancho were such good friends that Ordoño married a daughter of Sancho, although this marriage would be childless.
But someone was unhappy about this Christian expansion. Emir Abd al-Rahman III was both astonished and furious, because he thought that the campaign of Muez would be enough to restrain the ambitions and audacity of Sancho and Ordoño. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see how Abd al-Rahman III again personally led an aceifa against them in 924. This time he decided to come with a very large army, with both mercenaries and fervent Islamic volunteers, to make sure the Muslims would eclipse the Kingdom of Pamplona. His only target wasn’t Pamplona, he also took advantage of this campaign to make a show of strength in places that hadn’t yet acknowledged Umayyad authority. I’m talking about the provinces of Murcia and Valencia, that still had some dissidents, all the way up to Tortosa, the stronghold that protected al-Andalus from attacks from Old Catalonia. The Banu Tujib clan of Zaragoza also joined Abd al-Rahman III in this expedition, and when the Muslim troops returned to Córdoba the Berber Banu Di-l’Nun clan submitted too.
The Emir barely found opposition in his way to the Basque capital, which the Muslims found abandoned because Sancho Garcés ordered a mass evacuation to the nearby forests and hills, where the Muslims wouldn’t dare to penetrate for fear of being ambushed. Abd al-Rahman walked around Pamplona, you know, just having a good time with his subjects, and then he ordered the destruction of all the houses and the Church of Pamplona. Obviously, the Umayyad army also burned the countryside and confiscated crops, destroyed and looted other towns, and captured people to sell them into slavery back in Córdoba. King Sancho Garcés I, with the aid of the Counts of Castile and Álava, was only able to harass the Muslim army with hit-and-run tactics, but he knew very well that he had no chance to defeat them in a meeting engagement. The only good thing is that the organized evacuations minimized the potential damage that the Cordoban forces could have inflicted, at least in terms of human losses. But imagine how impotent Sancho Garcés must have felt, how sorrowful the Pamplonese king must have felt to see the Muslims troops destroying his homeland.
There are two other things to highlight about this campaign. One is that, again, this was not an expedition of conquest, no new territory was taken and colonized. The fundamental objective of Abd al-Rahman’s campaigns against the Christian north was to destabilize them to keep them in check and prevent them from threatening the frontier. It was more profitable to keep these territories in the dar al-harb, the House of War,to make yihad and take booty and slaves, and the duty to make yihad was even more important after Abd al-Rahman adopted the title of Caliph. The military expeditions of Abd al-Rahman III show the military hegemony of al-Andalus during this period, but despite that, the hegemony was not that disproportionate. I say that in the sense that times had changed a lot in the 10th century if we compare the geopolitical situation of the Peninsula in the 8th century for instance. Christian kingdoms now occupied more lands and they had more resources and manpower, therefore the Christian states were more threatening than two or one centuries before. And although usually the campaigns of Abd al-Rahman against the Christians have been interpreted as aggressions, they were rather a reaction to the aggressions of the Christians of León, Castile and Pamplona. The inability to reverse the territorial losses may have to do with the tensions between Córdoba and local dynasties and the increasing urbanization of al-Andalus. In the end, why would a Muslim settle in an isolated and poor area, vulnerable to Christian raids?
Going back to my point, the other thing worth highlighting is that you may have also noticed how I haven’t mentioned the intervention of the Kingdom of León in this case. Unfortunately for Sancho, his best friend Ordoño couldn’t come to his aid, because he was dead. Although Ordoño II had male descendants, his brother and last son alive of Alfonso III, Fruela II, succeeded him. Remember that Fruela II was governing Asturias as a vassal of León, but for some reason he managed to occupy the Leonese throne, maybe because of the pact the three brothers had made to depose their father Alfonso III. As an interesting fact, his wife was a Banu Qasi, another example of the permeability of religious lines in the borderlands. His reign was super brief, it only lasted a year and he only had time to execute some of his cousins, a decision considered unjust in the chronicles. He died supposedly from leprosy, which was interpreted as a divine punishment for that action.
The death of Fruela II provoked a succession crisis and a brief period that’s very confusing. To make things worse this chaos is only detailed in the Arab chronicles, and it’s only implicit in the Leonese ones. Remember that in 910 the sons of Alfonso III partitioned the kingdom of his father and probably agreed to rule León following an order based on age. However, now that they were all dead, this represented a problem for the sons of Ordoño II and Fruela II. According to Arab chronicles, Fruela’s son Alfonso Fróilaz may have succeeded him, but if that was the case, he was immediately challenged by the sons of Ordoño II and expelled from León. This led to a civil war, between the supporters of Ordoño’s eldest son, Sancho, and the supporters of his younger brother Alfonso. Sancho had the backing of the Galician nobility thanks to his wife, and the Portuguese nobility thanks to his brother Ramiro, who was himself married to a Portuguese noblewoman. Alfonso on the other hand initially only had the support of his father-in-law Sancho Garcés I of Pamplona. In a battle, Alfonso was defeated, but he decided to take refuge in Astorga and make an alliance with his cousin and namesake, Alfonso Fróilaz. The two Alfonsos managed to defeat Sancho, but they all reached an accord to stabilize and partition the kingdom, like their fathers had done in 910. Alfonso, son of Ordoño II, became Alfonso IV of León and was recognized as having the supremacy over the other members of the dynasty, but Sancho ruled as King of Galicia until his death in 929, Alfonso Fróilaz ruled Asturias, and the youngest brother, Ramiro, ruled Viseu and Coimbra.
In Pamplona, the first king of the Jimena dynasty died in 925, like Fruela II. His 20 years of reign had been pretty brilliant, despite the defeats that the Emir inflicted on him. With the aid of the Kingdom of Asturias and later León, Sancho Garcés I managed to defeat several times the Muslim warlords of the Upper March, including the elimination of the last fearsome Banu Qasi, and he had expanded his realm with the annexation of La Rioja. Moreover, he arranged the dynastic union of Pamplona and the County of Aragon and several marriages with the Kings of León and a count of Castile. He was remembered in the chronicles as a fighter for the liberation of the Christians and a champion against the Muslims, with the same Neo-Gothic spirit as the Astur-leonese kings, although we have seen that it’s an exaggeration to call him a champion against the Muslims. Nonetheless, it’s true that both Sancho I and Ordoño II were warrior kings that kept the war against Abd al-Rahman III tied, that’s why it’s not surprising to find in the Arabic chronicles that their deaths were celebrated with joy in al-Andalus. The only male descendant of Sancho Garcés, García Sánchez, was recognized as King of Nájera-Pamplona despite only being six years-old, which indicates how consolidated the Jimenos were in the Pamplonese throne. The uncle of García Sánchez acted as regent, until he died in 931 and that provoked a crisis that I’m going to talk about in another episode.
Back in Córdoba, the Emir could ignore the northern Christians for the time being and instead focus his efforts on crushing the Hafsunids, the descendants of Umar. These campaigns were very bitter, very violent, brutal I would say. We have testimonies telling us how the mercenaries of the Emir massacred rebels in their homes, how they razed the crops and burned villages, how they destroyed Christian churches and substituted them for mosques, or how they executed several ringleaders of the revolt. A very smart systematic policy of the Emir was the destruction of fortresses, to force people to move from the mountains to the plains, and take hostages to bring them to Córdoba. In 919 the hajib Badr had encircled Bobastro and the eldest son of Ibn Hafsun, Jafar, was forced to sue for peace. The following year Jafar was assassinated in a conspiracy, while his brother Suleyman became Lord of Bobastro, the stronghold of the Hafsunids. Even the Emir Abd al-Rahman had recognized him as Lord of Bobastro, but apparently that wasn’t enough for Suleyman and the rebellion started again. The next years were marked by annual campaigns where the Cordoban forces managed to progress in the conquest of fortresses loyal to the Hafsunids. In 926 Suleyman was captured, killed and dismembered. Historian Ibn Hayyan wrote: “The limbs were taken to him separately and he wrote to the caliph that they had come to him separately along the cursed head, and he was ordered to recompose the corpse and hoist it at the door of the Azuda of the Alcázar of Córdoba, crucified, which was done in a lumber. It was a great victory that made the Muslims happy and reconstituted the faith”.
Nonetheless, resistance still continued for two more years, because another son of Umar ibn Hafsun was alive. In any case, in January 928 resistance couldn’t continue and the last Hafsunid surrendered Bobastro. Since this son had surrendered, Abd al-Rahman III pardoned him and gave him a good post in the army. Despite that, the Emir wanted to enjoy such a happy event and tell the world that he had finally crushed the son of a bitch who had dared to threaten the existence of the Umayyad dynasty. That’s why when the Umayyad troops took Bobastro he ordered the corpse of Umar ibn Hafsun to be disinterred. His body was displayed crucified in front of the royal palace of Córdoba, along the corpses of Suleyman and another son of the rebel. Crucifixion was a common exemplary punishment against rebels in the Islamic world, but you know, disinterring corpses to do that was grotesque even by the standards of the day. But that’s what happened to those who betrayed him: they could be menaced by lions, tortured, beheaded, or crucified dead or alive. Maybe without such ferociousness Abd al-Rahman III could have never accomplished the task of unifying al-Andalus and converting it into one of the most prosperous kingdoms of the contemporary world.
Apart from all that, Bobastro was completely destroyed, a symbolic demonstration of the complete victory of the Umayyads against a rebellion that had been a pain in the ass for around 50 years. Not only that, the victory at Bobastro also represented the victory of the central government over the local elites and the consolidation of a new Islamic society over the Visigothic past of the conquered peoples and the factional and tribal politics of the Arabs and Berbers. Emir Abd al-Rahman III, soon Caliph, was saying to all those who were thinking about rebelling that you don’t fuck with the Umayyads, at least as long as he was alive. On that same year, there were other campaigns to continue the imposition of Umayyad authority throughout al-Andalus, including the administrative capital of the Lower March, Mérida. Mérida is actually a good example of the typical combination of force and diplomacy of the Emir, because he sent a military expedition to persuade the Berber ruler of the city to negotiate. The deal was that the governor would settle in Córdoba and receive a pension, while a new governor of the Umayyad family would be installed in the Alcazaba of Mérida with a garrison of 3,000 men. By 929 it was clear that it was only a matter of time before all al-Andalus bended the knee and accepted Umayyad authority.
That’s one of the reasons why on January 16, 929 one of the most extraordinary events of the history of Muslim Spain occurred. Abd al-Rahman III assumed the title of Caliph, Commander of the Faithful, and the regnal title of al-Nasir li-Din Allah, meaning Defender of God’s Faith. When Abd al-Rahman III assumed the Cordoban throne, he ruled a fragmented emirate, but many believed that the young Emir would usher in an age of glory, triumph and unity. The proclamation of the Caliphate of Córdoba proved them right, and there are numerous internal and external reasons that explain why Abd al-Rahman decided to claim once again the title of Caliph. First of all, let me remind you what does Caliph mean. The Caliph was the successor of the Prophet Muhammad, in both a political and religious sense, and the caliph was the legitimate ruler of the entire Muslim community. When Abd al-Rahman I declared the Emirate of Córdoba in 756, he didn’t dare to oppose the Abbasids, because the general feeling was that there could only be one caliph in Islam, and to claim so you needed to control the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina.
However, by the early 10th century things had changed. Since the very beginning, the Abbasid Caliphate never had control over the entire Muslim community, because they didn’t control al-Andalus or the Maghreb. But in the second half of the 9th century, the Abbasid dynasty had progressively lost control over their domains. Central Asia, Iran, Syria, Egypt, and modern Tunisia were all effectively independent, and only parts of Arabia and Mesopotamia were under direct Abbasid rule. Everyone knew that the Abbasids were only a shadow of their former self, much like it had happened in the Emirate of Córdoba around this time too, but the difference is that the Umayyads had recovered their power in al-Andalus. A Shiite sect known as the Qarmatians sacked Mecca and Medina just a year after Abd al-Rahman III became Caliph of Córdoba, so what legitimacy did the Abbasids have if they couldn’t protect the main sacred cities of Islam?
So that’s one reason, the weakness of the Abbasid Caliphate. The second reason is the proclamation of the Shia Fatimid Caliphate in North Africa in 909. The founder of the Fatimids was Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah, a leader of a Shiite movement who claimed descent from the Prophet’s daughter Fatima. The problem was that the Fatimid Caliphate had universal pretensions, since they claimed that they would enforce the ideas of equality and justice of the Prophet, a message similar to that of the Abbasids when they deposed the Umayyads. Their example demonstrated that there could be two caliphs at the same time, so why shouldn’t the Umayyads claim the title too? Didn’t the Umayyads have more legitimacy than the others, considering that the Umayyads had ruled the entire Muslim community between 661 and 750? The need to declare the Caliphate of Córdoba was only made more obvious when the Fatimids started to conquer parts of Maghreb, an area of influence of the Umayyads. If the Sunni Umayyads were to confront the Shia Fatimids, they needed an equal title, and the decadent Abbasids couldn’t protect the Islamic orthodoxy, but maybe the revitalized Umayyads could. From a domestic perspective, one reason to declare the Caliphate of Córdoba was the need to justify Umayyad rule with an ideology, much like the Astur-leonese monarchy had done with the Neo-Gothic ideology, and with that increase the prestige of the dynasty and reinforce Umayyad authority. Another domestic reason is that it represented a warning to all the Spanish Muslims who hadn’t yet submitted to Abd al-Rahman’s rule, a public declaration to warn them that they would be the next ones to either bend the knee or perish.
In fact, Caliph Abd al-Rahman III soon extended his authority in the Marches and Morocco. In the summer of 929 Badajoz, the most important city of the Lower March, was besieged. The descendants of the Muladi rebel Ibn Marwan tried to resist, but they had to accept similar terms to those seen in the case of Mérida, and the same happened in the Portuguese regions of Algarve and Beja. I find funny the very honest reason that the lord of Ossónaba, in what’s now Faro, Portugal, gave to the Caliph to excuse his lack of loyalty: “I did not know that I was obliged to be submissive and obey the Caliph of Córdoba because of his remoteness, but since he was capable of leading an army here, I accepted without reticence to be submissive to him and pay tribute.” It was very smart to force the rebels to move to Córdoba while rewarding them, and that allowed the Caliph to send governors and troops loyal only to him. Sometimes though Abd al-Rahman pardoned completely a regional lord and recognized him in the post, with the obligation to send periodical tributes and participate in the military expeditions. Then, as soon as Badajoz fell, al-Nasir turned his attention to Toledo. The governor of Toledo had pledged his loyalty in 920, but Abd al-Rahman wasn’t satisfied with only nominal authority. The Toledans had traditionally shown their will to maintain their cherished autonomy, but famine forced them to seek terms. Despite the fact that they resisted the siege for 2 years, al-Nasir conceded the general pardon and offered them very favorable conditions, like the exemption of certain tributes. Now the Caliph only had to establish his authority more firmly in the Upper March.
On the other hand, the Caliphate of Córdoba projected its power in the Western Mediterranean and North Africa too, and we need to understand that in the context of the Umayyad-Fatimid rivalry. The Fatimids were very ambitious, they weren’t satisfied with only ruling Tunisia, that’s why they soon launched the invasion of Algeria and Morocco, destroying in their way the Rustamids of Tahert, allies of the Umayyads. Compared to al-Andalus, Morocco remained a very underdeveloped region. There had been very little Arab colonization and the country was almost exclusively Berber and rural, with many living as pastoral nomads. Tribal allegiances and rivalries determined the politics of Morocco, and only Fez and Sijilmasa were relevant urban centers. The political fragmentation of Morocco prevented it from becoming a threat, but if the Fatimids controlled Morocco then the Umayyads would be in danger. Moreover, the Fatimids built a great navy to raid the Andalusi coast and they also patronaged missionaries and spies to spread Shia Islam and their influence, including missionaries to challenge the Sunni Islam and Maliki orthodoxy of al-Andalus or the embassy to forge an alliance with Umar ibn Hafsun as early as 910.
The attitude of both the Fatimid Caliphate and the Umayyads of Córdoba was antebellum, it was a pre-war and Cold War-like attitude, but neither had yet enough resources for a direct confrontation, and for now they could only build large networks of espionage to know what was going on in the lands of their rival. Abd al-Rahman III had to counteract the dangerous soft power of the Fatimid Caliphate patronizing missionaries to consolidate the Sunni orthodoxy in the Caliphate of Córdoba and spread it in Morocco too. Al-Nasir couldn’t have projected its influence without forming and strengthening his alliances with local Moroccan tribes, including the Berbers of the Zenata confederation and a branch of the decadent Idrisids. To do so, the Caliphate of Córdoba had to spend huge amounts of money to buy loyalties, and as we will see the Umayyad intervention in North Africa would have profound and fatal consequences for the Caliphate of Córdoba decades later. But that was unforeseeable at that time, as there were more immediate issues, like the Fatimids. The first direct threat came when the Fatimids attacked Nekor, a city controlled by Umayyad vassals. The city was conquered and three sons of Nekor’s ruler fled to Córdoba, where they were received warmly. However, as soon as they heard that Fatimid control was very weak, they hurried back to Nekor and reconquered it. Abd al-Rahman III claimed this victory as his own and spread the news across al-Andalus, and in fact Nekor is a good example because most military confrontations between the Umayyads and the Fatimids occurred through Berber allies. Later in 922 a Fatimid army attacked Sijilmasa and Fez, but the then Emir Abd al-Rahman III couldn’t do much, because he had yet to complete the pacification of al-Andalus. Nonetheless, al-Nasir knew very well that the Fatimids were a political, religious and economic threat, so the Umayyads started improving the Umayyad navy and the fortifications of the southern coast of Spain.
When the Umayyads had consolidated more firmly their authority in al-Andalus and the Fatimids suffered a series of military setbacks in Morocco, the Umayyads began to establish their presence across the Strait of Gibraltar with the conquest of Melilla in 927 and the conquest of Ceuta in 931. Interestingly, Spain still holds these two coastal enclaves to this day, but anyway, to do so the Caliph needed diplomacy and a great fleet, which by the way allowed him to reassert Umayyad authority in the Balearic Islands too. However, the conquest of Ceuta and Melilla weren’t a prelude to a full-scale conquest of Morocco. The Caliph only wanted to build a network of alliances to prevent the Fatimids from threatening Spain, since Ceuta was the most convenient port for the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, as the Muslim conquest of 711 had proved. These Umayyad conquests were also a way to establish a buffer zone and a protectorate over northern and central Morocco, as later even the Fatimid governor of Fez switched sides. Moreover, the Umayyad intervention in North Africa secured the recruitment of Berber soldiers and the inflow of gold and ivory from sub-Saharan Africa. The title Caliph allowed Abd al-Rahman III to mint gold dinars and the gold of Africa made that possibility a reality for the first time for the Umayyads of Córdoba, an indication of the wealth and prestige of the Caliphate of Córdoba.
In the meantime, in the Kingdom of León a new civil war started in 931. According to the Christian Chronicle of Sampiro, King Alfonso IV decided to enter monastic life because his wife had died and he was deeply affected, so he sent a message to his younger brother Ramiro telling him that he would abdicate and subject himself to him. Ramiro travelled from present-day northern Portugal to Zamora with his army, but as soon as he arrived, Alfonso IV seems to have realized that his sudden religious devotion was ephemeral. He abandoned the monastery he was in and took Simancas and León, taking advantage of the absence of his brother Ramiro, who was in Zamora preparing an expedition to aid the Toledans against Abd al-Rahman III. Ramiro was forced to only send some auxiliary troops in Toledo, although al-Nasir conquered Toledo in 932 anyway, while the bulk of the army laid siege on León. Ramiro eventually took the capital and Asturias, since Alfonso Fróilaz and two more sons of Fruela II had supported Alfonso IV or at least took advantage of the situation to show disobedience. Alfonso IV and the sons of Fruela II were arrested and blinded in 932, to make sure that Ramiro II could rule securely and without competitors as one of the greatest monarchs of the Kingdom of León.
THE VERDICT: In today’s verdict I want to discuss the nature of the proclamation of the Caliphate of Córdoba. The nature of this proclamation was defensive and reactionary, not a bold movement that preluded the conquest of Fatimid and Abbasid territories. A good question would be, why the Umayyads of Córdoba didn’t have the ambition to restore the Umayyad Caliphate? I understand that al-Andalus was in the edge of the dar al-Islam, far from Arabia, I understand that it was probably impossible to achieve so, but I still find strange to see no action to even attempt large-scale conquests after al-Andalus was pacified. Why didn’t the Caliphate of Córdoba have a greater power projection, considering that it had a strong economy and that there was a substantial demographic growth? Was it because al-Nasir preferred to focus his efforts on building stronger foundations for centralized rule and there weren’t enough men to both prevent new revolts and launch large-scale conquests? Was it because a conquest was not optimal, from an economic standpoint? Was it just because the Caliphal army and navy of Abd al-Rahman weren’t that great as an offensive military force? Or maybe because the Andalusi population was largely demilitarized, with few people eager to serve in the army and therefore few men to conquer anything? Or are there other, less obvious causes to the lack of offensives against the Fatimid Caliphate? I leave these questions open, but I think it’s an interesting discussion that has barely been discussed in historiography. And with that, The Verdict ends.
The next episode is another fundamental episode to listen to, focused on the economy of al-Andalus from the Muslim conquest to the first Taifa period. To end this episode, let me remind you that the podcast has a website, thehistoryofspain.com, that has a fantastic store with merchandising, history books, travel guides, books and materials to learn Spanish, and more. If you love the podcast, you may want to support it by becoming a patron or making a donation, but there are other non-financial ways to support the show, like reviewing the podcast or spreading the word. Please subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, YouTube and more and follow the social media accounts of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. I hope you enjoyed the episode and thank you for listening!
A HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL SPAIN. Joseph F. O’Callaghan
CALIPHS AND KINGS, 796-1031. Roger Collins
KINGDOMS OF FAITH. Brian A. Catlos
MUSLIM SPAIN AND PORTUGAL. Hugh Kennedy
‘ABD AL-RAHMAN III. THE FIRST CORDOBAN CALIPH. Maribel Fierro
HISTORIA DE LA ESPAÑA. ESPAÑA MUSULMANA (711-1031). Ramón Menéndez Pidal
HISTORIA DE ESPAÑA VI. ESPAÑA CRISTIANA (711-1038). Ramón Menéndez Pidal
HISTORIA DE ESPAÑA. AL-ANDALUS: MUSULMANES Y CRISTIANOS (SIGLOS VIII-XIII). Editorial Planeta
HISTORIA DE ESPAÑA. ÉPOCAS MEDIEVALES. Eduardo Manzano Moreno
HISTORIA DE ESPAÑA DE LA EDAD MEDIA. Vicente Ángel Álvarez Palenzuela
HISTORIA DEL REINO DE NAVARRA. José Lacarra