Medieval Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Iberian Peninsula, Sicily and Malta

The Moors were Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during the Middle Ages.

Depiction of Moors in Iberia. Taken from the Tale of Bayad and Riyad


  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • "Moor" derived from the Greek word mauros (plural mauroi), and means "black" or "very dark," which in Latin became Mauro (plural Mauri). The Latin word for black was niger not mauro, or in Latin fusco for “very dark.” In some cases Moors were described as fuscus.
  • 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.
  • '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.
  • 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.
  • Moor : in English usage, a Moroccan or, formerly, a member of the Muslim population of Spain, of mixed Arab, Spanish, and Berber origins, who created the Arab Andalusian civilization and subsequently settled as refugees in North Africa between the 11th and 17th centuries. By extension (corresponding to the Spanish moro), the term occasionally denotes any Muslim in general, as in the case of the Moors of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) or of the Philippines. The word derives from the Latin Mauri, first used by the Romans to denote the inhabitants of the Roman province of Mauretania, comprising the western portion of modern Algeria and the northeastern portion of modern Morocco. Modern Mauritanians are also sometimes referred to as Moors (as with the French maure); the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, however, lies in the large Saharan area between Morocco and the republics of Senegal and Mali.
  • The Moors were simply Maghrebis, inhabitants of the maghreb, the western part of the Islamic world, that extends from Spain to Tunisia, and represents a homogeneous cultural entity.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Moor : The Moors are ethnically a very hybrid race with more Arab than Berber blood. A common mistake is to regard them as a black race, as indicated by the old English phrase “ Black-a-Moor, ” i.e. black as a Moor. They are a white race, though often sunburnt and bronzed for generations, and both their children and those who have lived in the cities might pass anywhere as Europeans. The typical Moors of Morocco are a handsome race, with skin the colour of coffee-and-milk, with black eyes and black silky hair, and the features of Europeans. They wear a full beard, and are characterized by a marked dignity of demeanour... The Moors are an intellectual people, courteous in manner and not altogether unlettered; but they are cruel, revengeful and bloodthirsty. Among the pirates who infested the Mediterranean none were worse than the Moors. They are fanatical Mahommedans, regarding their places of worship as so sacred that the mere approach of a Jew or a Christian is forbidden.
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