Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to those parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Arab Muslims, at various times in the period between 711 and 1492. As a political domain or domains, it successively constituted a province of the Umayyad Caliphate, initiated by the Caliph Al-Walid I (711-750); the Emirate of Córdoba (c. 750-929); the Caliphate of Córdoba (929-1031); and the Caliphate of Córdoba's taifa (successor) kingdoms. In succeeding centuries, al-Andalus became a province of the Berber dynasties of the Almoravids and Almohads, subsequently fragmenting into a number of minor states, most notably the Emirate of Granada.



  • For four or five centuries, Islam was the most brilliant civilization in the Old World. (...) At its higher level the golden age of Muslim civilization was both an immense scientific success and a exceptional revival of ancient philosophy. These was not its only triumphs; literature was another: but they eclipse the rest. First, science: it was there that the Saracens (...) made the most original contributions. These, in brief, were nothing less than trigonometry and algebra (with its significantly Arab name). (...) Equally distinguished were Islam's mathematical geographers, its atronomical observatories and instruments (...). The Muslims also deserve high marks for optics, for chemistry (...) and for pharmacy. More than half the remedies and healings aids used by the West came from Islam (...). Muslim medical skill was incontestable. (...) In the field of philosophy, what took place was rediscovery - a return, essentially of the peripatetic philosophy. The scope of this rediscovery, however, was not limited to copying and handling on, valuable as that undoubtely was. It also involved continuing, elucidating and creating.
  • It was under the influence of the arabs and Moorish revival of culture and not in the 15th century, that a real renaissance took place. Spain, not Italy, was the cradle of the rebirth of Europe. After steadily sinking lower and lower into barbarism, it had reached the darkest depths of ignorance and degradation when cities of the Saracenic world, Baghdad, Cairo, Cordova, and Toledo, were growing centers of civilization and intellectual activity. It was there that the new life arose which was to grow into new phase of human evolution. (...) It was under their successors at Oxford School (that is, successors to the Muslims of Spain) that Roger Bacon learned Arabic and Arabic Sciences. Neither Roger Bacon nor later namesake has any title to be credited with having introduced the experimental method. Roger Bacon was no more than one of apostles of Muslim Science and Method to Christian Europe; and he never wearied of declaring that knowledge of Arabic and Arabic Sciences was for his contemporaries the only way to true knowledge.
    • Robert Briffault, The Making of Humanity , G. Allen & Unwin ltd., 1919, p.188-201
  • Many of the traits on which modern Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open borders, the techniques of academic research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, various types of medicine, hospitals, all came from this great city of cities. Medieval Islam was a religion of remarkable tolerance for its time, allowing Jews and Christians the right to practise their inherited beliefs, and setting an example which was not, unfortunately, copied for many centuries in the West. The surprise (...) is the extent to which Islam has been a part of Europe for so long, first in Spain, then in the Balkans, and the extent to which it has contributed so much towards the civilisation which we all too often think of, wrongly, as entirely Western. Islam is part of our past and our present, in all fields of human endeavour. It has helped to create modern Europe. It is part of our own inheritance, not a thing apart.
  • Spain, under Arab rule, became the most civilized country in the world.
    • Max Dimont, The Amazing Adventures of the Jewish People, Behrman House, 1995, p.81
  • I have to deplore the systematic manner in which the literature of Europe has continued to put out of sight our obligations to the Muhammadans. Surely they cannot be much longer hidden. Injustice founded on religious rancour and national conceit cannot be perpetuated forever. (...) The Arab has left his intellectual impress on Europe. He has indelibly written it on the heavens as any one may see who reads the names of the stars on a common celestial globe. Our obligations to the Spanish Moors in the arts of life are even more marked than in the higher branches of sciences.
    • John William Draper, A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, Harper & brothers, 1863, p.356
  • I want to see the gardens and palace of the Alcazar where the Moorish Kings used to live. It is as perfect an architecture as the Egyptian, Greek or Gothic and just as beautiful, maybe more beautiful and it is well built for it looks as new as if it had just been done. We have to thanks these Moors for our greatest sciences, they did the big work for us, they started them, Algebra, Chemistry, Astronomy. They are our masters.
    • Thomas Eakins, in Vistas de España, Mary Elizabeth Boone, Yale University Press, 2007, p.77
  • During the almost 1000 years that science was dormant in Europe, the Arabs, who by the 9th century had extended their sphere of influence as far as Spain, became the custodians of science and dominated biology, as they did other disciplines.
  • There was [in Spain] a civilization in many respects admirable. It was eminent for industry, science, art and poetry; its annals are full of romantic interests; it was in some respects superior to the Christian system which supplanted it; in many ways it contributed largely to the progress of the human race. (...) Yet because of the fundamental defect that between the Christians Spaniards and his Mussulman conqueror there could be no political fusion, this brilliant civilization was doomed.
    • John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England (1889),Kessinger Publishing, 2004, p.11
  • Science and knowledge, especially that of philosophy, came from the Arabs into the West.
  • The Arabian epoch (...) was the most cultured, the most intellectual and in every way best and happiest epoch in Spanish history. It was followed by the period of the persecutions with its unceasing atrocities.
    • Adolf Hitler, Secret Conversations, 1941-1944, Farrar, Straus and Young, 1953, p.493
  • Only in the Roman Empire and in Spain under Arab domination has culture been a potent factor. Under the Arab, the standard attained was wholly admirable; to Spain flocked the greatest scientists, thinkers, astronomers, and mathematicians of the world, and side by side there flourished a spirit of sweet human tolerance and a sense of purist chivalry. Then with the advent of Christianity, came the barbarians.
    • Adolf Hitler, Secret Conversations, 1941-1944, Farrar, Straus and Young, 1953, p.542
  • The most powerful influence exercised by the Arabs on general natural physics was that directed to the advances of chemistry; a science for which this race created a new era.(...) Besides making laudatory mention of that which we owe to the natural science of the Arabs in both the terrestrial and celestial spheres, we must likewise allude to their contributions in separate paths of intellectual development to the general mass of mathematical science.
  • That period was a very dreamland of culture. Under enlightened caliphs, the Arabs in Spain developed a civilization which, during the whole of the middle ages up to the Renaissance, exercised pregnant influence upon every department of human knowledge. (...) Yet this Spanish-Arabic period bequeathed to us such magnificent tokens of architectural skill, of scientific research, and of philosophic thought, that far from regarding it as a fancy's dream, we know it to be one of the corner-stone of civilization.
    • Gustav Karpeles, Jewish Literature and Other Essays (1895), Kessinger Publishing, 2003, p.147
  • The significant contribution to mathematics we owe to the Arabs was to absorb Greek and Hindu mathematics, preserve it, and ultimately, through events we have yet to look in, transmit it to Europe. (...) In Spain the Arabs were constantly attacked and finally conquered in 1492 by the Christians; this ended the mathematical and scientific activity in the region.
    • Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times, Oxford University Press, 1990, p.197
  • Above all, the great role of the Arabs and Jews was as the transmitters of Aristotelian thought. It was especially the Spanish Arabs who brought the texts of the great Greek philosopher to the countries of the West, and this contribution marks the period of Scholasticism's maturity. From the point of view of this transmission as well as from the point of view of philosophic activity, Arabic Spain merits first place in the world of medieval Eastern philosophy.
    • Julián Marías, History of Philosophy (1941), Courrier Dover, 1967, p.153
  • I must be content to say that immeasurably the strongest stimulation that began to awaken Christendom from its medieval nightmare came from the brilliant civilization which liberal Arabs and Persians had now created in Spain, Sicily and the east. It was because the Normans settled in Sicily that they were civilized so rapidly; it was because the Albigensians, or the people of the south of France, were the nearest neighbours of the Arabs of Spain that they rose to a high civilization. The full truth about the reawakening of Europe at this stage is so fatal to the legend of Christian inspiration that history is only now daring to tell it.
    • Joseph McCabe, The Social Record of Christianity (1935), Book Tree, 2000, p.61
  • It must be owned (...) that all the knowledge, whether of physic, astronomy, philosophy, or mathematics, which flourished in Europe from the tenth century, was originally derived from them; and that the Spanish Saracens, in a more particular manner, may be looked upon as the fathers of European philosophy.
  • Christianity destroyed for us the whole harvest of ancient civilization, and later it also destroyed for us the whole harvest of Mohammedan civilization. The wonderful culture of the Moors in Spain, which was fundamentally nearer to us and appealed more to our senses and tastes than that of Rome and Greece, was trampled down (—I do not say by what sort of feet—) Why? Because it had to thank noble and manly instincts for its origin—because it said yes to life, even to the rare and refined luxuriousness of Moorish life! ... The crusaders later made war on something before which it would have been more fitting for them to have grovelled in the dust -- a civilization beside which even that of our nineteenth century seems very poor and very "senile".
  • The rapidity of the progress made by Islam in the sciences, arts, industry, and commerce, and all the refinements of civilized life, is almost as amazing as the rapidity of its conquest.
  • Spain under the Omayyad caliphs (...) developed the most brilliant civilization in the Europe of the period, with achievements in science, the arts, and literature far beyond anything the nascent northern or Italian states could offer, or even the decadent Byzantines.
    • Fletcher Pratt, The Battles that Changed History (1956), Courier Dover Publications, 2000, p.93
  • In order to a better understanding of the character of the Spanish Arabs, or Moors, who exercised an important influence on that of their Christian neighbours, the present chapter will be devoted to a consideration of their previous history in the Peninsula, where they probably reached a higher degree of civilization than in any other part of the world.
    • William H. Prescott, History of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic, of Spain, Richard Bentley, t.1, 1842, p.338
  • Europe was darkened at sunset, Cordova shone with public lamps; Europe was dirty, Cordova built a thousand baths; Europe was covered with vermine, Cordova changed its undergarments daily; Europe lay in mud, Cordovas streets were paved; Europes palaces had smoke-holes in the ceiling, Cordovas arabesques were exquisite; Europes nobility could not sign its name, Cordovas children went to school; Europes monks could not read the baptismal service, Cordovas teachers created a library of Alexandrian dimensions.
    • Victor Robinson, The Story of Medicine (1932), Kessinger Publishing, 2005, p.164
  • It was, however, from Spain, and not from Arabia, that a knowledge of eastern mathematics first came into western Europe. The Moors had established their rules in Spain in 747, and by the tenth or eleven century had attained a high degree of civilisation.
    • W. W. Rouse Ball, A Short Account of the History of Mathematics (1888), Courier Dover, 1960, p.164
  • Contacts with the Mohammedans in Spain, and to a lesser extent in Sicily, made the West aware of Aristotle; also of Arabic numerals, algebra, and chemistry. It was this contact that began the revival of learning in the eleventh century, leading to the Scholastic philosophy. It was later, from the thirteenth century onward, that the study of the Greek enabled men to go direct to the works of Plato and Aristotle and other Greeks writers of antiquity. But if the Arabs had not preserved the tradition, the men of the Renaissance might not have suspected how much was to be gained by the revival of classical learning.
  • Our use of the phrase 'The Dark Ages' to cover the period from 600 to 1000 marks our undue concentration on Western Europe. [...] From India to Spain, the brilliant civilisation of Islam flourished. What was lost to Christendom at this time was not lost to civilisation, but quite the contrary. [...] To us it seems that West-European civilisation is civilisation, but this is a narrow view.
  • Clearly it is we who were the barbarians when we went to harass the East with our crusades. What is more, we owe what is noble in our own way of life to these crusades and to the Moors of Spain.
    • Stendhal, Love (1822), Penguin Classics, 1975, p.175
  • These Moors cultivated the sciences with success, and taught Spain and Italy for five centuries.
    • Voltaire, A Philosophical Dictionary, J. and H. L. Hunt, 1843, p.172


  • In one sense the word 'Moor' means the Mohammedan Berbers and Arabs of north-western Africa, with some Syrians, who conquered most of Spain in the eighth century and dominated the country for hundreds of years, leaving behind some magnificent examples of their architecture as a lasting memorial of their presence. These so-called 'Moors' were far in advance of any of the peoples of northern Europe at that time, not only in architecture but also in literature, science, technology, industry, and agriculture; and their civilization had a permanent influence on Spain. They were Europids, unhybridized with members of any other race. The Berbers were (and are) Mediterranids, probably with some admixture from the Cromagnid subrace of ancient times. The Arabs were Orientalids, the Syrians probably of mixed Orientalid and Armenoid stock.
    • John Baker, Race, Oxford University Press, 1974, p.226
  • The noble Moor of Spain is anything but a pure Arab of the desert, he is half a Berber (from the Aryan family) and his veins are so full of Gothic blood that even at the present day noble inhabitants of Morocco can trace their descent back to Teutonic ancestors.
  • Who were these conquerors, who had so quickly and so completely overturned the strongest western European monarchy of their day ? It is customary to refer to these stirrings events as 'Arab' or the 'Islamic' invasion and conquest of spain. But only in a very limited sense was it either Arab or Islamic : it was mainly Berber. The Berbers were, as they still are, the indigenous inhabitants of northwest Africa, the Maghrib.
  • 'Moorish' Spain does at least have the merit of reminding us that the bulk of the invaders and settlers were Moors, i.e. Berbers from northwest Africa.
  • The Andalusians themselves were of varied origins. The numerically tiny Arab elite had intermarried with other people, including local Iberians, ever since they arrived. Berbers were still the most numerous of the conquerors, while the Jewish community was also large and influential. The descendants of African and European slaves were fully integrated; but the most numerous Muslim community stemmed from local Iberians. By the 11th century these had fused together to form y new Andalusian people.


  • We analyzed Y chromosome haplotypes, which provide the necessary phylogeographic resolution, in 1140 males from the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands. Admixture analysis based on binary and Y-STR haplotypes indicates a high mean proportion of ancestry from North African (10.6%) (...) with wide geographical variation, ranging from zero in Gascony to 21.7% in Northwest Castile. (...) Some mtDNA studies find evidence of the characteristic North African haplogroup U6 within the Iberian Peninsula. Although the overall absolute frequency of U6 is low (2.4%), this signals a possible current North African ancestry proportion of 8%–9%, because U6 is not a common lineage in North Africa itself. (...) This might suggest that initial admixture involved movement of approximately equal numbers of males and females. (...) Immigration events from the Middle East and North Africa over the last two millennia, followed by introgression driven by religious conversion and intermarriage, seem likely to have contributed a substantial proportion of the patrilineal ancestry of modern populations of Spain, Portugal, and the Balearic Islands.

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Last modified on 8 April 2014, at 23:32