Almoravid Conquest of Muslim Spain
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Almoravid Muslims (originally
allied with the emirs of Seville, Granada, Badajoz, and
Málaga) vs. Castile and Léon
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Spain
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Originally an alliance to
oppose Castile and Léon, the action evolved into an
Almoravid war of conquest.
OUTCOME: Southern Iberia fell under Almoravid
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
As Alfonso VI (1030–1109), king of Castile and Léon,
grew strong in the late 11th century, the emirs of Seville,
Granada, Málaga, and Badajoz forged an alliance with the
Almoravids, a Muslim Berber sect based in North Africa.
The alliance was a gamble, because it put the Almoravids
in a position from which they might dominate their allies,
but the emirs believed that the threat posed by Alfonso
was even greater.
In June 1086 Almoravid forces under the leadership
of Yusuf ibn-Tashfin (d. 1106) landed at Algeciras, Spain,
where they rendezvoused with armies from Seville,
Granada, and Málaga. From Algeciras the combined forces
marched north toward Badajoz. At Zallaqa, near Badajoz,
Alfonso (allied with Aragonese troops) engaged the
Almoravid forces and their allies on October 23, 1088.
The battle was one-sided because much-needed Aragonese
reinforcements were delayed. For the moment, then, the
Almoravids had triumphed, and Yusuf ibn-Tashfin,
Almoravid leader, returned in triumph to North Africa.
Soon after this victory, however, the great military leader
of Spanish Christians, El Cid (c. 1043–1099), successfully
counterattacked the Muslim positions. Yusuf ibn-Tashfin
returned to Spain in June 1089, but he was soon forced to
retreat to Morocco. After regrouping and refitting his forces
there, he returned again to Spain and scored victories in
Málaga and Granada by 1091, this time against the emirs, his
former allies. When Yusuf attacked Seville, the emirs called
on their former enemy, Alfonso, for aid. He responded but
failed to prevent the fall of Seville to the Almoravids in
November 1091. Three years later Badajoz was conquered as
well. Except for Valencia, where El Cid was triumphant, the
Almoravids held all of southern Spain by 1094.
See also CID’S CONQUEST OF VALENCIA, THE.
Further reading: Olivia Remie Constable, ed., Medieval
Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish
Sources (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
1997); Bernard F. Reilly, The Medieval Spains (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1993).