Jump to content

Emirate of Córdoba

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Emirate of Córdoba
إمارة قرطبة (Arabic)
Imārat Qurṭubah
Emirate of Córdoba in 929 (green)
Emirate of Córdoba in 929 (green)
Common languagesAndalusian Arabic, Berber, Mozarabic, Medieval Hebrew
Sunni Islam (official), Judaism, Roman Catholicism
GovernmentIslamic absolute monarchy
• Abd al-Rahman I proclaimed emir of Córdoba
15 May 756
• Abd al-Rahman III proclaimed caliph of Córdoba[1]
16 January 929
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Umayyad Caliphate
Caliphate of Córdoba
Today part ofPortugal

The Emirate of Córdoba (Arabic: إمارة قرطبة, romanizedImārat Qurṭubah) or Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba[2][3][4] was a medieval Islamic kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula.

The territories of the emirate in southern, central, and eastern Iberia, located in what the Muslims called al-Andalus, had come under Muslim rule since the conquest of Visigothic Hispania by the Umayyad Caliphate in 711-719. After the caliphate was overthrown by the Abbasid Revolution in 750, the Umayyad prince Abd al-Rahman I fled the former capital of Damascus and established an independent emirate in southern Iberia in 756.

The provincial capital of Córdoba (Arabic: قرطبة Qurṭuba) was made the capital, and within decades grew into one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the Mediterranean Region. After initially recognizing the legitimacy of the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, in 929 emir Abd al-Rahman III declared the independence of the Caliphate of Córdoba, proclaiming himself as caliph.


Roderic was the Visigothic king who ruled Hispania. The Umayyad Caliphate had previously conducted small raids on the southern tip of Iberia against the Visigoths, but full-scale conquest did not begin until April of 711, when an army led by Tariq ibn Ziyad crossed the narrow channel that separated southern Hispania from North Africa; the area is today known as Gibraltar, from the Arabic Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), meaning "mountain of Ṭāriq".

After crossing into Hispania, Tariq's troops clashed with Roderic's army at the banks of a river, probably Guadalete. Visigothic forces were defeated, and Roderic was killed, leaving an open path into Hispania, and by extension, Western Europe. After the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711–718, the Iberian Peninsula was established as a province (wilāya) of the Umayyad Caliphate. The rulers of this province established their capital in Córdoba and received the administrative titles wāli or emīr.[5]

In 756, Abd al-Rahman I, a prince of the deposed Umayyad royal family, refused to recognize the authority of the Abbasid Caliphate and became an independent emir of Córdoba. He had been on the run for six years after the Umayyads had lost the position of caliph in Damascus in 750 to the Abbasids. Intent on regaining a position of power, he defeated the existing Muslim rulers of the area who had defied Umayyad rule and united various local fiefdoms into an independent emirate.[6] However, this first unification of al-Andalus (including Toledo, Zaragoza, Pamplona, and Barcelona) under Abd al-Rahman still took more than twenty-five years to complete.

For the next century and a half, his descendants continued as emirs of Córdoba, with nominal control over the rest of al-Andalus and sometimes even parts of western Maghreb, but with real control always in question, particularly over the marches along the Christian border, their power varying depending on the competence of the individual emir. For example, the power of emir Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Umawi (c. 900) did not extend beyond Córdoba itself.

In 818, the inhabitants of the al-Rabad suburb of Córdoba rose against [es] Al-Hakam II. After the suppression of the revolt, the inhabitants were expelled. Some settled in Fez or Alexandria. Others ended forming the emirate of Crete in the 820s.

Upon the ascent to the throne of Abd al-Rahman III, in 912, the political decline of the emirate was obvious. Abd al-Rahman III rapidly restored Umayyad power throughout al-Andalus and extended it into western North Africa as well. In 929, to impose his authority and end the riots and conflicts that ravaged the Iberian peninsula, he proclaimed himself caliph of Córdoba, elevating the emirate to a position of prestige not only in comparison to the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad but also the Shiʿite Fatimid caliph in Tunis, with whom he was competing for control of North Africa. The Emirate of Córdoba gradually lost power and in 1492, Granada was taken by the Christians, and Muslim influence dissolved.[7]


Under Umayyad rule, Arabization and Islamization progressed significantly in al-Andalus. In the long-term, these were to comprise the two major aspects of Andalusi identity and eventually characterized most of the population.[8] As elsewhere in the historic Islamic world, Jews and Christians were considered by Muslims to be People of the Book who took on the status of dhimmis or "protected non-Muslims". In exchange for the state's protection, they were required to pay a tax called the jizya. Their religious practices were tolerated but conspicuous displays of faith, such as bells and processions, were discouraged.[9]

In matters of Islamic religion, the ulama (religious scholars) and the fuqaha (judges) played the most important social role.[8] In the 9th century, both the Maliki and the Hanafi legal schools of thought (or maddhabs) were common, but the Umayyads themselves promoted the former. Malikism eventually became another core characteristic of Andalusi identity and its spread contributed to the Islamization of the country.[8]

The adoption of the Arabic language was wide-reaching phenomenon of long-term importance. It was spearheaded by the promotion of Classical Arabic as an administrative and literary language, followed by the development of a native vernacular Andalusi Arabic.[8] In the 9th century, Romance languages continued to be spoken in rural lower classes but Arabic had become the language of the middle and upper classes. By the end of the century, even the Christian population was so widely Arabized that their clergy were required to translate religious texts into Arabic.[10]: 104 


Al-Andalus was subject to eastern cultural influences, with Abd ar-Rahman I likely having an interest in Syrian culture.[11] During the reign of Abd al-Rahman II the culture of Baghdad became fashionable, and his reign is considered a high point of culture and patronage during the Emirate period.[11][10]: 89–99  The emir sent emissaries to the Abbasid and Byzantine courts to bring back books on subjects such as Islamic religious scholarship, Arabic grammar, poetry, astrology, medicine, and other sciences.[10]: 94  Abbas ibn Firnas was among the most notable poets and polymaths of this period who brought back technical and scientific knowledge back with him from the east.[10]: 94–95  In high society, both men and women were expected to learn adab, a kind of etiquette common to al-Andalus and other Islamic societies at the time. Women, such as royal concubines, were sometimes sent abroad to be trained in adab and other forms of culture.[10]: 89–95  The musician Ziryab was a "major trendsetter of his time" creating trends in fashion, hairstyles, and hygiene. His students took these trends with them throughout Europe and North Africa.[12] He also founded an academy for arts, music, and fashion which lasted for several generations.[10]: 97  Abd ar-Rahman II also established a workshop that produced official embroidered textiles known as tiraz, a custom that also existed in the east.[11][10]: 91 


The columns and two-tiered arches in the oldest section of the Great Mosque of Cordoba in Spain, founded in 785

Upon rising to power, Abd ar-Rahman I initially resided in several palace-villas on the outskirts of Cordoba, most notably one called ar-Ruṣāfa.[13] Ar-Ruṣāfa may have originally been a Roman villa or a Roman-Visigothic estate which was taken over and adapted by a Berber chieftain named Razin al-Burnusi who accompanied the original Muslim invasion by Tariq ibn Ziyad earlier that century.[14] After a failed plot against him in 784, Abd ar-Rahman I moved his residence definitively to the site of the Alcázar in the city.[13] He and his successors built and continuously developed the Alcázar into the official royal residence and seat of power in Al-Andalus.[13] Abd ar-Rahman II was responsible for improving the water supply for both the city and the palace gardens.[15] He may have also built the Albolafia and other norias (waterwheels) along the Guadalquivir River.[a]

In 785, Abd ar-Rahman I founded the Great Mosque of Cordoba, one of the most important monuments of the architecture of the western Islamic world. The mosque was notable for its vast hypostyle hall composed of rows of columns connected by double tiers of arches (including horseshoe arches on the lower tier) composed of alternating red brick and light-colored stone. The mosque was subsequently expanded by Abd ar-Rahman II in 836, who preserved the original design while extending its dimensions. The mosque was again embellished with new features by his successors Muhammad I, Al-Mundhir, and Abdallah. One of the western gates of the mosque, known as Bab al-Wuzara' (today known as Puerta de San Esteban), dates from the 9th century expansion and is often noted as an important prototype of later Moorish architectural forms and motifs.[20][21][22][23]

The palaces and the Great Mosque in Cordoba were linked via a high covered passage (sabbat) which was raised over the street between them, allowing the caliph direct access to the maqsurah area of the mosque via a corridor behind the qibla wall. The first sabbat was built by the Umayyad emir Abdallah (r. 888–912) for security reasons and was later replaced by al-Hakam II when the latter expanded the mosque.[21]: 70 [24][25][26]: 21 

The original Great Mosque of Seville,[b] also known as the Ibn Addabas Mosque, was either built or enlarged by Abd ar-Rahman II c. 830.[21][27] It is now occupied by the Collegiate Church of the Divine Savior (Iglesia Colegial del Salvador), which preserves minor remains of the mosque.[21] In Mérida, following a violent revolt, Abd ar-Rahman II also built a fortress, now known as the Alcazaba of Mérida, which was later re-used by the Knights of Santiago and remains standing today.[21]

List of rulers[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The present-day Albolafia's origin is uncertain and historians differ on the most likely date of its construction. While one hypothesis attributes it the 9th century around the time of Abd ar-Rahman II,[16] other hypotheses have attributed its origin to the 10th century,[17] the 12th century under the Almoravids,[18] or to the 14th century under the Castilians.[19]
  2. ^ Not to be confused with the later Almohad Great Mosque (12th century) which was subsequently converted into the Seville Cathedral.


  1. ^ Azizur Rahman, Syed (2001). The Story of Islamic Spain. Goodword Books. p. 129. ISBN 978-81-87570-57-8. [Emir Abdullah died on] 16 Oct., 912 after 26 years of inglorious rule leaving his fragmented and bankrupt kingdom to his grandson 'Abd ar-Rahman. The following day, the new sultan received the oath of allegiance at a ceremony held in the "Perfect salon" (al-majils al-kamil) of the Alcazar.
  2. ^ Catlos, Brian A. (2018). Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain. New York: Basic Books. pp. 36 (and after). ISBN 9780465055876.
  3. ^ Albarrán, Javier (2018). "Al-Andalus". In Fitz, Francisco García; Monteiro, João Gouveia (eds.). War in the Iberian Peninsula, 700–1600. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-77886-2.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Hugh (1996). Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-87040-1.
  5. ^ Catlos (2018). Kingdoms of Faith. C. Hurst & Co. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-78738-003-5.
  6. ^ Barton, 37.
  7. ^ Bouchard, Constance Brittain, Chief Consultant. (Distinguished Professor of Medieval History, University of Akron) “Knights in History and Legend” Firefly Books Ltd.. 2009. ISBN 978-1-55407-480-8. Page 202
  8. ^ a b c d García Sanjuán, Alejandro (2017). "al- Andalus, political history". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three. Brill. ISBN 9789004161658.
  9. ^ Fred J. Hill et al., A History of the Islamic World 2003 ISBN 0-7818-1015-9, p.73
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Catlos, Brian A. (2018). Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 9780465055876.
  11. ^ a b c M. Bloom, Jonathan; S. Blair, Sheila, eds. (2009). "Córdoba". The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195309911.
  12. ^ 1001 inventions & awesome facts from Muslim civilization. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic. 2012. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-4263-1258-8.
  13. ^ a b c Marçais, Georges (1954). L'architecture musulmane d'Occident. Paris: Arts et métiers graphiques. pp. 153–154.
  14. ^ Forcada, Miquel (2019). "The garden in Umayyad society in al-Andalus". Early Medieval Europe. 27 (3): 349–373. doi:10.1111/emed.12347. S2CID 202373296.
  15. ^ M. Bloom, Jonathan; S. Blair, Sheila, eds. (2009). "Córdoba". The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195309911.
  16. ^ Headworth, H. G. (2004). "Early Arab Water Technology in Southern Spain". Water and Environment Journal. 18 (3): 161–165. doi:10.1111/j.1747-6593.2004.tb00519.x. S2CID 108444717.
  17. ^ Miranda, Adriana de (2007). Water Architecture in the Lands of Syria: The Water-wheels. L'Erma di Bretschneider. p. 55. ISBN 9788882654337.
  18. ^ "Albolafia (2 o 2) - Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs | Virtual Tour". alcazardelosreyescristianos.cordoba.es. Retrieved 2021-02-20.
  19. ^ Córdoba de la Llave, Ricardo (1997). "La noria fluvial en la provincia de Córdoba. Historia y tecnología". Meridies. 4. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Departamento de Ciencias de la Antigüedad y Edad Media, Universidad de Córdoba: 149–190.
  20. ^ Marçais, Georges (1954). L'architecture musulmane d'Occident. Paris: Arts et métiers graphiques. pp. 134–182.
  21. ^ a b c d e Barrucand, Marianne; Bednorz, Achim (1992). Moorish architecture in Andalusia. Taschen. pp. 39–49. ISBN 3822876348.
  22. ^ Dodds, Jerrilynn D. (1992). "The Great Mosque of Córdoba". In Dodds, Jerrilynn D. (ed.). Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. pp. 11–26. ISBN 0870996371.
  23. ^ Bloom, Jonathan M. (2020). Architecture of the Islamic West: North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, 700–1800. Yale University Press. pp. 17–21. ISBN 9780300218701.
  24. ^ Fatima (7 October 2014). "El sabat de la Mezquita". Arte en Córdoba (in European Spanish). Retrieved 2020-10-06.
  25. ^ "The andalusi Alcazar". ArqueoCordoba. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  26. ^ Arnold, Felix (2017). Islamic Palace Architecture in the Western Mediterranean: A History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190624552.
  27. ^ Wunder, Amanda (2017). Baroque Seville: Sacred Art in a Century of Crisis. Penn State Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-271-07941-7.