04 May 2007

The Moors in Spain

Recently I was asked what inspired my latest story, Lord Sancho. The main character is of Moorish decent living in Spain. How did I come up with this? Researching history. I wanted my hero, a black man, to have a solid foot in the past, so I turned to the Moors.

"Moor" in medieval times referred to Muslims living in western Mediterranean and western Sahara. Generally Moors were made up of Arabs, Berbers and North African peoples. The word "Moor" comes from the Greek word mauros meaning "dark" or "very dark."

In the 8th century, Spain was raided by troops led by Tariq ibn-Ziyad. Once the Visigoth king Roderick was killed in 711, the gates for the Moorish occupation were opened. They spread through the land and by 718, the Moors dominated the entire peninsula. Their advance northward into the rest of Europe was stopped by the Franks under the command of Charles Martel in 732.

For the next 700 years, the Moors would influence the culture and society of Spain. Many married local woman, as they did not bring their own women with them. This mix of race and culture changed the face and heart of Spain.

The Moors brought a wealth of information and changes in the land called al-Andalus, modern day Andalusia. They brought irrigation systems to the dry plains and created thriving gardens that produced pomegranates, oranges, lemons, artichokes, cumin, coriander, bananas, almonds, saffron, sugar-cane, cotton, rice, figs, grapes, peaches, apricots and rice. The Moors are also responsible for introducing glasswork, glazed tiles (azulejos), silk weaving and other fine crafts along with making important scientific advances, such as those in theoretical and practical astronomy. Mathematics, the numbers we use today, were from the Arabic Moors. Much of society and culture of modern times can be traced back to occupation and influence of the Moorish culture in Spain.

Due to internal politics and troubles, the Moorish kingdom broke apart in organization in 1212. Smaller (and fragile) kingdoms feuded among each other, marking the beginning of the end of the Moorish occupation of Spain. A "Holy War" took hold and pitted the Muslim Moors against the Christians. This was fueled by the Crusades taking place, to "recapture" the Holy Lands (Jerusalem) from Muslim rule, and stop the advance of Muslim occupation into Christian lands.

In 1492, the kingdom of Granada was captured by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella’s troops, thus the final defeat of the Moors. Those Moors who refused to abandon their religious beliefs were killed or exiled. It was not the strength of Christianity that finally defeated the Moors. Much like that which caused the fall of the Roman Empire, it was the disorganization and internal strife within the ranks that spelled the end to the Moorish occupation of Spain. Their influences and stamp upon the culture, people and land will never be forgotten.

Marianne LaCroix
LORD SANCHO - Available now from The Dark Castle Lords
SEA HAWK'S MISTRESS - Coming July 18 from Ellora's Cave