Spain History – The First Christian States Part 1

Spain History – The First Christian States Part 1

The state of which we have the most information and which, at least according to tradition, was the first to arise, is the Asturian, born in Oviedo’s Asturias and commonly regarded as a restoration of the Visigothic monarchy. Its first organizer and king would have been the Visigoth Pelayo, a noble already persecuted by Witiza and then protected by Rodrigo, who, sheltered in the mountains of Cangas de Onís, defeated the Muslim troops in Covadonga between 721 and 725, in a clash., without a doubt, of a short time – one of the many mountain ambushes that must have taken place in that alpine area at the time – but which legend transformed, like the winning hero, into a real symbol.

According to Shoefrantics.com, the territorial expansions began with Alfonso I (739-57), when the Berbers abandoned the north of the peninsula and fell back on Coimbra and Coria: then Galicia, Liébana, Bardulia, perhaps the city of León, were occupied or conquered; daring raids were carried out in the surrounding territories; and only due to the impossibility of presiding over and populating it was the vast almost desert area which now separated the new Christian dominions from the Muslim ones not permanently occupied. Then, an arrest in the reconquest march led, on the one hand, to a series of civil wars between monarch and nobility and, on the other, the strengthening of the Arab state by ‛Abd ar-Raḥmān. However, the war was resumed with renewed ardor by Alfonso II the impossibility of garrisoning it and populating it, the vast, almost desert area that now separated the new Christian dominions from the Muslim ones was not permanently occupied. Then, an arrest in the reconquest march led, on the one hand, to a series of civil wars between monarch and nobility and, on the other, the strengthening of the Arab state by ‛Abd ar-Raḥmān. However, the war was resumed with renewed ardor by Alfonso II the impossibility of garrisoning it and populating it, the vast, almost desert area that now separated the new Christian dominions from the Muslim ones was not permanently occupied. Then, an arrest in the reconquest march led, on the one hand, to a series of civil wars between monarch and nobility and, on the other, the strengthening of the Arab state by ‛Abd ar-Raḥmān. However, the war was resumed with renewed ardor by Alfonso IIel Casto (791-842), who in his raids not only reached the Tagus, but also brought his court further south, in Oviedo; he was in relations with Charlemagne; with the help of Aquitaine he managed to curb the impetus of the Muslims who, if they came to occupy Oviedo, were unable or unwilling to keep their conquests and suffered various defeats, such as the disastrous one of Lutos (794); finally, in his expeditions he freed many Mozarabs, with whom he began the repopulation of the country, which was essential to advance the conquest. And later the resistance to Arab attacks, to which the Norman raids on the coasts were added, and the policy of repopulation continued during their reigns Ramiro I (842-50) and especially Ordoño I (850-66) and Alfonso III el Magno(866-910): because, if the Christian state was again shaken by dynastic struggles and by the revolt of the Galicians, who had risen against the Asturians, nevertheless its sovereigns were able to compensate for their weakness with that of the enemy, who too had become the prey of serious upheavals. Thus, the southern frontier, carried on the Duero, was defended with the construction of the fortresses of Zamora, Simancas, San Esteban de Gormaz and Osma, which formed a robust line; the eastern one was protected from the assaults of Mūsà of Zaragoza with a daring expedition that reached Albelda and led to the victory of Clavijo (860), and from Muslim raids, in general, with a series of castles, which then gave the region its name of Castile. Within these borders León (856), Astorga, Túy, Amaya (860), Oporto, Braga, Viseo, Lamego, perhaps Burgos (882-84); beyond, the zone of influence reached Coimbra, Salamanca, Toledo; the capital was carried further south, to León.

Then, to the vigorous Muslim counteroffensive led by ‛Abd ar-Raḥmān III, who in his raids came to take Burgos, Ordoño II (914-24), who in a raid plundered the territories of Mérida, opposed valid resistance, but was not always lucky, because, having won the caliph in San Esteban de Gormaz (917), he was defeated in the clash of Valdejunquera (920); and especially Ramiro II (931-51), who defeated the Muslims in the battle of Simancas (939), the first of European resonance, and was able to repopulate the region bathed by the Tormes. The situation changed in the following years. Already during the last days of the reign of Ramiro II the separatist revolt that broke out in the county of Castile under the direction of Fernán Gonzáles (circa 923-circa 970), the hero of Castilian legend and poetry, had assumed serious proportions, and supported by ‛ Abd ar-Raḥmàn III; and moreover it had allowed the latter to take possession of Medinaceli (Soria), the key to the state. During the reigns of Ordoño III (951-56), of Sancho Iel Craso (956-66), of Ordoño IV (958), the monarchy fell prey to dynastic and civil struggles, in which the Castilian count played a large part, who then became completely independent; and anarchy grew under Ramiro III (966-82) and Bermudo II el Gotoso(982-99), when, following the example of the Castilian one, the other counts also tried to become autonomous from the sovereign, the Normans renewed their attacks, and al-Manṣūr, called to his aid by Bermudo and became the true ruler of the state, to the attempts made by the monarch to free himself from his tyranny, he responded by putting the whole country to fire and sword and destroying Santiago de Compostela, which had risen around the tomb of the Apostle, already discovered at the time of Alfonso II and become the destination of ‘impressive pilgrimages. However, even in such tragic years the state managed to save itself from destruction, and thanks to ‛Abd ar-Raḥmān and al-Mansūr, who intervened in the disputes ensuring the triumph of this or that opponent, and limited themselves to making vassals the monarchs and reduce their dominions. Particularly characteristic is what happened to Sancho I, who had a doctor from ‛Abd ar-Raḥmān who took care of his health and was supported by him against the aspirations to the throne of Ordoño III; then it seems that he went to Cordoba together with the queen of Navarre, his grandmother.

Spain History - The First Christian States Part 1

Comments are closed.