MOORS: How Spain Was Conquered By Group Of Africans: Who Were They? • illuminaija

MOORS: How Spain Was Conquered By Group Of Africans: Who Were They?


MOORS: How Spain Was Conquered By Group Of Africans: Who Were They?

It will come as a surprise to even the most ardent learners of African and world history when they find out that the term ‘Moors’ does not refer to an exact group of people but rather as a summary reference for peoples scattered over across the Mediterranean and in the Gulf region.

What ‘Moor’ stood for widened over time so that between the 6th and 15th century, both the peoples of the former Roman colony of Mauretania and Middle Easterners, including Arabs, were called Moors by the Europeans of the Mediterranean.

The Byzantine scholar, Procopius, in Book IV of History of the Wars, taught us the visible difference between the Vandals who had settled in North Africa and the people who were native to the land. He noted that the Vandals were not “black-skinned like the Maurusioi (Moors)”.

In A.D. 711, a group of North African Muslims led by the Berber general, Tariq ibn-Ziyad, captured the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal). Known as al-Andalus, the territory became a prosperous cultural and economic center where education and the arts and sciences flourished.

Over time, the strength of the Muslim state diminished, creating inroads for Christians who resented Moorish rule. For centuries, Christian groups challenged Muslim territorial dominance in al-Andalus and slowly expanded their territory. 


This culminated in 1492, when Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I won the Granada War and completed Spain’s conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Eventually, the Moors were expelled from Spain.

Recorded history identifies ‘Moors’, Μαυρούσιοι in Greek (Maurusioi), as early as the first century through the work of the geographer Strabo, as he described the dark-skinned people who inhabited the lands south of Europe. The famous Roman statesman Tacitus also wrote of rebellious ‘Moors’ in his Annals.

However, the point must be made that the Moorish army that crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in the 7th century and obliterated the opposition on the Iberian peninsula consisted of both Arabs and Berbers. 

MOORS: How Spain Was Conquered By Group Of Africans: Who Were They?

The latter, of course, is also an umbrella term for various North African ethnic groups who had been so christened by the Greeks as the “barbarians” (barbaroi).

The Maghreb region, at the end of the 6th century, had effectively fallen under Arabic control and influence. By the middle of the 7th century, North Africa had been incorporated into the Islamic and indeed, the Arab world.

Fletcher literally described the invaders of Iberia as “a Berber army under Arab leadership”. It is then even hard to call those Moors a uniquely African people although the facts are open to a variety of interpretations.

One of the most famous mentions of Moors is in Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Its titular character is a Moor who serves as a general in the Venetian army. 

In Shakespeare’s time, the port city of Venice was ethnically diverse, and the Moors represented a growing interchange between Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

MOORS: How Spain Was Conquered By Group Of Africans: Who Were They?

Despite his military prowess, Othello is also portrayed as exotic, hypersexual, and untrustworthy—“a lascivious Moor” who secretly marries a white woman—reflecting historic stereotypes of black people.

More recently, the term has been coopted by the sovereign citizen movement in the United States. Members of Moorish sovereign citizen groups claim they are descended from Moors who predated white settlers in North America, and that they are part of a sovereign nation and not subject to U.S. laws. 


It’s proof of the ongoing allure of “Moor” as a seemingly legitimate ethnic designation—even though its meaning has never been clear.

In short, it is a little more effective for historical purposes to see the Moors as the Europeans saw them. They were the Islamized, darker-skinned peoples who were considered alien to Europe.


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