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Muslim Conquest of Spain – Battle of Guadalete

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The Muslim Conquest of Spain

The Battle of Guadalete was an important battle that led the way for the Muslim conquest of Spain.

Most people don’t understand the importance of this battle.

This is the battle that caused the reign of the Muslim people over Spain, holding the country and region for centuries.

How could this one battle change the course of Europe’s history?

What if this mistake wasn’t made, and the Visigothic kingdom was still standing?

We will not know, because they were defeated by the Muslims in 711.

The timeline and period of the Muslim Conquest of Spain

This was overall, an unstable time period for Europe.

The fall of the Roman empire in the west caused a huge vacuum and many new kingdoms were established.

The way most kingdoms were established was mostly on other fallen kingdoms in the medieval period.

The Goths were Germanic people with an interesting past, previously causing some trouble to the Roman empire.

They finally moved to the Iberian peninsula and established their kingdom.

The Visigothic Kingdom was established in 418 and ended in the year 718 – 720.

In 711 the Muslim conquest of Spain began and within seven years, they conquered the Iberian peninsula.

It became one of the great Muslim civilizations; reaching its summit with the Umayyad caliphate of Cordovain the tenth century.

The center of the Muslim rule was Andulusia.

Muslim rule declined and ended in 1492 when Granada was conquered.

The Visigothic Period

The Visigothic Kingdom was strong and well established with strong central power.

This kingdom was run by many houses with a good amount of power across Spain.

On the kingdom sat a younger ruler named Wittiza.

He was very well respected, and he had previous experience of ruling with his father.

This was a peaceful time, even though there were border attacks from the Byzantium and the Francs along with some slight inside conflicts, everything else was relatively good.

Then out of nowhere in the year around 710, the young king was thrown off the Throne. The exact reasons aren’t well known, and there is a chance that he was murdered.

He was placed by King Roderic, who reigned for two years from 710 to 712.

Roderic is also known as the last king of the Visigoths.

Roderic was crowned king, but there was an opposition to Roderic being throned as the king.

Another king was crowned, a man called Achila, who also had a claim to the kingdom.

A serious risk of civil war was going to advance but there was also another threat.

The beginning of the Muslim Invasion of Spain

There are two alternative stories about why the Muslims invaded Spain.

It could be either one of them, or it could be a combination of both.

The plea for help

In the year 711, an oppressed Christian chief, went to the governor of North Africa, a man called Musa ibn Nusair, to ask for help to overthrow King Roderik.

Musa was a Muslim and a representative of the Islamic Empire at the time.

Musa responded by sending his finest general, Tariq bin Ziyad, with an army of 7000 troops.

Expansion of the Islamic Empire

There is no doubt that Tariq invaded Spain, but it could be because the Muslims wanted to expand their empire at the time.

They started with small attacks to see how would the border hold up and if they should plan a full-scale Muslim conquest of Spain.

Because of the instability of the Kingdom of Visigoths, Tariq crossed and conquered a good portion of territory from the southern border of Spain.

Knowing that an intruder was crossing to conquer his borders, King Roderic was getting ready and began recruiting troops to defend his kingdom.

The interesting part is that even his internal enemies, the Athila, gave him troops to help the defense of their Kingdom.

The other nobles helped here as well, and all houses got together to fight the Muslim invaders.

When Roderic gathered his troops he was ready to move south to meet with the enemy to stop the Muslim conquest of Spain.

By the sources combined with the analytics, Roderic had around 25,000 – 35,000 troops while the Caliphate had around 6,000 – 14,000 troops.

Most of the troops Roderic had were not so ready for battle, they had no training and little experience.

This can be a factor in the battle and their loss but what really happened?

The Battle of Guadalete

Battle of Guadalete was believed to be held around 711 but some sources suggest 712.

The Visigoths and the Muslims met near the Guadalete river and their forces faced off.

Everything was ready and the battle was about to begin.

The Visigoths were split into 3 separate legions.

The middle legion was Roderic’s.

He led the charge into the enemy – having the numbers advantage it was a normal thing to do.

However, the right and left legions did not engage in the Battle of Guadalete.

The generals betrayed Roderic and pulled their troops out.

Roderic was betrayed and he and his troops were killed by the units of Umayyad and their Berber mounted troops.

After this, the nobles who betrayed their king made a deal with the Umayyad but it was too late.

Because of this, the Muslim conquest of Spain was a success.

The Muslims now wanted to continue with their conquest of Spain, as they knew there was instability inside the kingdom which made things easier for the Muslims to invade.

So the Caliphate sent more troops to Tariq to continue the invasion.

After the first victory, the Muslim conquest of Spain was well underway, with the army continuing to conquer most of Spain and Portugal with little difficulty, and in fact with little opposition.

By 720 Spain was largely under Muslim control.

The Visigothic generals and nobles made a huge mistake, and the army of the Caliphate advanced into Spain conquering almost all of it and destroying the kingdom of the Goths in 718 – 720.

Muslim Conquest of Spain

Cite this article as: Hayden Chakra, "Muslim Conquest of Spain – Battle of Guadalete," in About History, October 8, 2020, https://about-history.com/muslim-conquest-of-spain/.
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