In 711 Iberia was invaded by a Muslim army commanded by
ibn Ziyad. The last Visigothic king, Rodrigo, tried to
invasion but was defeated. The Muslims advanced to Córdoba
then to Toledo, the Visigothic capital. The last
the Visigoths was made at Mérida, which fell in June 713
long siege. In the spring of 714, a Muslim army commanded
ibn Nusair marched to Saragossa and then to León and
Évora, Santarém, and Coimbra fell by 716. Thus, within
years, the Muslims had conquered and occupied the entire
peninsula. Only a wedge of wet, mountainous territory in
extreme northwest called Astúrias remained under Christian
In Lusitania land was divided among Muslim troops.
bad crops and a dislike for the wet climate put an end to
short-lived Muslim colonization along the Douro River.
preferred the dry country below the Tagus River because it
more familiar, especially the Algarve, an area of
Portugal where the Muslim imprint remains the strongest.
Muslim aristocracy settled in towns and revived urban
others fanned out across the countryside as small farmers.
Visigothic peasants readily converted to Islam, having
superficially Christianized. Some Visigothic nobles
practice Christianity, but most converted to Islam and
confirmed by the Muslims as local governors. Jews, who
always an important element in the urban population,
exercise a significant role in commerce and scholarship.
Al Andalus, as Islamic Iberia was known, flourished for
years, under the Caliphate of Córdoba. Nothing in Europe
approached Córdoba's wealth, power, culture, or the
its court. The caliphs founded schools and libraries; they
cultivated the sciences, especially mathematics; they
arabesque decoration into local architecture; they
mines; they developed commerce and industry; and they
irrigation systems, which transformed many arid areas into
orchards and gardens. Finally, the Muslim domination
more than 600 Arabic words into the Portuguese language.
The Golden Age of Muslim domination ended in the
century when local nobles, who had become rich and
began to carve up the caliphate into independent regional
city-states (taifas), the most important being the
emirates of Badajoz, Mérida, Lisbon, and Évora. These
struggles provided an opportunity for small groups of
Christians, who had taken refuge in the mountainous
the peninsula, to go on the offensive against the Muslims,
beginning the Christian reconquest of Iberia.
Data as of January 1993