The Reconquista, Spanish and Portuguese for Reconquest is a period of around 750 years in which several Christian kingdoms slowly expanded themselves over the Iberian Peninsula at the expense of the Muslim Moorish states of Al-Andalus.

In 711 around 12 000 Arabs and Berbers loyal to the Damascus-based Umayyad caliphate crossed the Gibraltar under the command of Tariq ibn Ziyad. It is not clear if there was a single large raid or several small ones. The king of the Visigoths, Rodericgathered and his army marched south to deal with the raiders were defeated and probably killed at the Battle of Guadalete by Tariq ibn Ziyad. Most of the Visigothic nobility also fell in the battle, which created a sudden power vacuum leaving the kingdom widely disorganized. Taking advantage of this situation, the Muslims escalated their efforts into an invasion. Several cities may have surrendered peacefully including Cordoba and some of the Jews welcomed the Muslims. The Moors (Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during The Middle Ages) established a local Emirate subordinate to Caliph Al-Walid I. The conquered were largely allowed to keep their property and social status but most of the local rulers in key positions were replaced by Arab Muslims.

Begging of the Reconquista

The beginning of the Reconquista is traditionally dated to c. 718 when Pelayo, a Visigothic nobleman, led a rebellion against Munuza, a local Muslim governor. Becoming a leader, he gathered all support he could find, including Duke Pedro of Cantabria, one of his most important allies. At this period the Moorish army crossed the Pyrenees, begging an invasion into south France. They were stopped by Odo the Great, Duke of Aquitaine, in the Battle of Toulouse in 721. Around 722 the Emir sent a military expedition to deal with the rebellion resulting in the Battle of Covadonga, leading to a victory for Pelayo. After the battle he took over the city of Leon and founded the small Kingdom of Asturias. He married his son and heir Favila to Duke Pedro’s daughter, thus starting a royal dynasty. This new kingdom was located in the Cantabrian Mountains, a wet and mountainous region in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. Alfonso II (791-842) started raiding the border regions of Vardulia and with the gained plunder he paid more military forced. That enabled him to raid the Moorish cities of Lisbon, Zamora and Coimbra. He also managed to crush the Basque uprising. Despite numerous battles, neither the Umayyads nor the Asturians managed to occupy territories. Under the reign of Ramiro, famed for the legendary Battle of Clavijo, the border began to slowly move southward and not only that Asturian holdings in Castile, Galicia, and Leon were fortified but also an intensive program of repopulation of the countryside begun in those territories. In 924, the Kingdom of Asturias became the Kingdom of Leon. After a failed invasion of Muslim Spain in 778, the kingdom created an area free from both Moorish and Frankish rule. Four states appeared: the Kingdom of Pamplona (latter Navarre) and the counties of Aragon Sobrarbe and Ribagorza. The Kingdom of Pamplona was controlling the Roncesvalles pass, Aragon protected the old Roman road and the Catalonian counties were protecting the eastern Pyrenees passes. The last were under direct control of the Franks. In 801 Charlemagne captured Barcelona and established Frankish control over the Spanish March, the region between the Pyrenees and the Ebro River. Asturian kings, presenting themselves as the heirs to the Visigoths, used the dissensions within the Moorish ranks and expended their holdings in the late 9th century.

The Caliphate of Cordoba

In 929 the Emir of Córdoba, Abd-ar-Rahman III, the leader of the Umayyad dynasty, declared himself Caliph, independent from the Abbasids in Baghdad. After regaining control over the dissident governors, Abd-ar-Rahman III tried to conquer the remaining Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula, attacking them several times and forcing them back beyond the Cantabric range. His Christian subjects were largely left in peace, however. But Christians played it smart, accusing Abd-ar-Rahman III of the abuse of a Christian boy who was later canonized as Saint Pelagius of Cordova. This became a rallying cry for subsequent generations of Christian soldiers. This is reputed to have provided much political strength and popular support to the Reconquista for centuries. Later, the grandson of Abd-ar-Rahman became a puppet in the hands of the great Vizier Almanzor. Almanzor waged several campaigns attacking Burgos, Leon, Pamplona, Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela before his death in 1002. After his death in 1031, many civil wars broke out, which ended in the appearance of the Taifa kingdoms. These were small kingdoms established by the city governors who were in the need of establishing their independence. There were up to 34 small kingdoms each centered upon their capital. At this period while the Moorish unity was broken, the Christian lands of the northern Spain were briefly united under Sancho III Garces (Sancho the Great) who greatly expanded the borders of Navarre. He created the kingdom of Aragon in 1035 and his successors pursued the Christian reclamation of the peninsula. Alfonso I of Aragon captured the former Moorish capital of Zaragoza in 1118. Alfonso II of Aragon and Alfonso VIII of Castile concluded the Pact of Cazorla, an agreement where the task of reconquering the Moorish kingdom of Valencia was reserved to the Aragonese crown, but in return Aragon had to give up all claims to other Moorish territory in the peninsula.

Muslim Defeat

In 18 July 1195 Alfonso VIII was defeated at the Battle of Alarcos by the caliph AbūYūsufYaʿqūb al-Manṣūr. After this Alfonso VIII appealed to other Christian leaders and in 1212 got support from the Pope Innocent III, who declared a Crusade against the Almohads. The Castilian forces, with the help of the armies of Aragon, Navarre and Portugal, managed to chase the Almohad emir of Morocco, Muḥammad al-Nāṣir, on 16 July 1212 at Las Navas de Tolosa. With this, the last serious Islamic threat for the Christian hegemony in Spain was removed and the way was now opened to the conquest of Andalusia. The last king of Leon, Alfonso X, was succeeded by his son Ferdinand III in 1230 who was already king of Castile, so Castile and Leona were reunited. A series of campaigns against Andalusia began with the capture of Cordoba in 1236 and culminated with the surrender of Sevilla in 1248. Ferdinand at first expelled the Moorish inhabitants but the Andalusian economy collapsed so he was forced to stop. He established a new Moorish kingdom of Granda under Castilian supervisory. The Moors there were forced to pay to Castile annual tribute, but the Moorish culture experienced a rebirth in Christian Spain. In Toledo, city known as a crossroad of Christian, Arab and Jewish thoughts, Alfonso X established the Escuela de Traductores (School of Translators), an institution that made Arabic works available to the Christian West.

At the same period James I of Aragon was active in the Reconquest. He occupied Balearics in 1235; he captured Valencia in 1238 and carefully preserved the agricultural economy of the Moors. In 1249 Alfonso III of Portugal captured Faro. By the 13th century the Reconquista was brought to an end. The last significant Muslim incursion in Iberia ended with the Battle of Rio Salado in 1340, where Portuguese and Castilian army defeated the armies of Marīnid sultanAbū al-ḤasanʿAlī.
In 1469 the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabela I of Castile, The Catholic Monarch, united the Spanish crown. They completed the conquest of Granada in 1492.