Deciphering Secrets MOOCs: Resurgent Christian Kingdoms (711-1212 CE)

Deciphering Secrets MOOCs: Resurgent Christian Kingdoms (711-1212 CE)


With the collapse of the Visigothic Kingdom at the hands of Islamic invaders in 711, Christians regrouped to the north. And there a series of new independent Christian kingdoms were founded. Let’s investigate the Christian Kingdom of Castile and Leon and the origins of the Reconquest. It was a blending of Asturias Leon and Castile these collections of people. Castile and the Castilians were born from ancient origins and out of necessity to protect northern Spain from the Islamic armed intrusions. According to noteworthy historian Stanley Payne, because of the depopulation and devastation that prevailed for a century in the Douro Valley, one of the few ways in which Muslim armies could strike directly at the heartland of Asturias Leon was by traveling up the Ebro Valley. along the old Roman Road Northwest from Zaragoza. To guard against invasion from this direction – the Asturian marquis built a series of castles and fortified villages in the mountains above the upper Ebro where the route could be sealed off. This territory in the modern provinces of Santander, Burgos, and Alava was known ancient times as Bardulia (after the Celtic-Iberian tribe that had inhabited the region). By the time of the beginning of the ninth century it was beginning to be called the land of castles In manner the Kingdom of Castile is a creation of two worlds. An independent-minded Asturian Leonese community based out of Leon and an equally autonomous group, but heavily influenced one centered around Burgos. What about the origins of the Reconquest Well here we should look to King Pelayo and Saint James the Apostle. The Asturians were shaped by the legendary King Pelayo who ruled from 718 to 737 CE. And who’s remembered as the first Christian nobleman to lead what would become known as the rRconquest or Reconquista the effort to retake Iberia from Islamic civilization. At the Battle of Covadonga, Pelayo is said to have won the spectacular battle. However, the historian Thomas Glick clarifies that the historical accuracy of the reported clash may have been overstated. He offers: “The richly embroidered account of the skirmish as it appears in the Chronicle of Alfonso the Third reports the death of 25,000 Muslim soldiers. Their ranks broken by divine intervention which caused their missiles to fly back against them.” The account given by Arabic chronicles is scarcely more accurate. Describing Pelayo’s “band of thirty wild donkeys.” But nevertheless they did give him credit and noted that Pelayo was an ancestor of the Banu Alfonso (Alfonso’s tribe) the traditional enemies of al-Andalus. This Christian initiative which had its mythical elements was also closely associated with King Alfonso the Second “The Chaste” who ruled during the latter parts of the 8th and beginning parts of the 9th century and discovery of the Sepulcher of Saint James the Apostle –Santiago de Compostella — in the vicinity at the Galician village of Iria Flavia. Here, the patron saint of Spain, Saint James the Apostle, would transformed into the mythical saint who will protect and lead armies to fight back Muslim aggression. He was no longer Saint James the Apostle in name, but he was also known as “Saint James the Moor Slayer”. By the 9th and 10th century there was some initial consolidation of northern Christian kingdoms, and this was due in part to the rule of Alfonso the Second “The Chaste”. The challenge that the king encounter was one of culture and regional dynamics. The Castilians had increasingly become their own people, their own culture, with regional counts to administer local districts. However, back in Asturias-Leon — that culture had stayed itself and it was identified more as a frontier society that was as Stanley Payne notes: “Ruder, more militant ,more egalitarian, and more self-reliant.” Thus, there really was a kind of marriage of convenience. Yes, they were all Christians. Yes, they spoke a similar version of Spanish, but they weren’t distinct communities. By 1035, another northern Christian kingdom was rising to prominence as well — the Kingdom Navarre. Its King Sancho the Third, Also known as “The Great”, successfully extended authority from Pamplona and into Castile when he pushed the rival Leonese out of the region. The “Cid”, or Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, was Sancho’s most important military leader. The first king of an autonomous Castile, was King Ferdinand the First who ruled from 1035 to 1065. who temporally unified Leon and Castile. Under this consolidated leadership, Castile and Leon became the largest of the Christian kingdoms and extended from Galicia, to the west, to across northern Spain to the Rioja. But just as there was conflict and political fragmentation in the Islamic world, northern Spain experienced similar trends. And there was in a sense, an Anti-Reconquest. Christian kingdoms, and the royal noble families who controlled them, routinely fought each other for political control and sometimes found Islamic kingdoms to be convenient allies. As Americo Castro highlights in “The Spanish People”. He states: Historians missed the important of the so-called Reconquest in failing to see it as simultaneously as and quote-unquote Anti-Reconquest. It is hardly proper to characterize as civil the quarrels among the Christians: these were wars between independent states, each interested in prospering at the expense of its neighbors. Thus Sancho the Great of Navarre attacked Vermudo the Third, the king of Leon, and left large portions of Galicia utterly desolate. Between 1029 and 10:30, King Vermudo was forced to take refuge in the mountains of the north Much as the Christians had done 300 years before in the face of Muslim onslaught. Castilians and Navarrase fought fiercely at Atapuerca in 1054. Castilians and Leonese hated each other for centuries without respite. Rivalry between Castilians and Aragonese in the 14th and 15th centuries kept them from driving the Moors out of their last stronghold, the Kingdom of Granada. So in this sense, not until the end of the 15th century did Spanish manage unite fully around the persons of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel. Thus, Spanish medieval history can mean only hold itself together as a complex web of human relationships the cross religious boundaries. Among the most prominent splits among the Christians during the 11th century was that between King Sancho the Second and Prince Alfonso the Sixth. Carla and William Phillips described the complexities of these Christian relations as follows: “King Sancho II Castillo embarked on an aggressive policy and seized Galicia and Leon from his brothers, but he died at the hands of an assassin while laying siege to his sister’s town to Zamora. Alfonso of Leon, who had gone into exile and Muslim Toledo, then succeeded Sancho as Alfonso the Sixth of Castile. The highlight of Alfonso VI’s reign was the conquest of Toledo where he had previously sought shelter. After a long siege ,Alfonso’s forces entered the city in 1085 and made it part of Castile. Again, what we see is this dynamic where Christian communities, and Christian kings and nobles, were fighting each other for control as they simultaneously tried to fight the Reconquest. Thus, we do see a real Anti-Reconquest. At the end of this period what we notice is the supremacy of the Castilians and perhaps this is why we speak Castilian Spanish today more prominently than other versions of Spanish. At the end of the 11th century the Castilians were supreme among all the Christian communities. Why? Because they had recaptured Toledo in 1085 and were pushing further south The lose of Muslim Toledo was a crucial victory for Castile. Not only had they been effective in pushing Muslims further south but the Caliphate of Cordoba had collapsed. Now Spain was populated by both independent christian kingdoms to the north and a broad collection of party kingdoms, or Taifas, to the south which were Islamic. Bruised and battered the Spanish Muslims appealed to North Africa for help. And it signaled an arrival of more fundamentalist and fearsome Islamic rulers. First the Almoravids who ruled from 1040 to 1147 and thereafter the Almohads who ruled from 1121 to 1269. During this crucial era Spain would encounter some of its most difficult times in terms of positive coexistence. Two prominent battles that came to define the Reconquest occurred at this time. The victory of the aAmohads over Castilian King Alfonso the Eighth at the Battle of Alarcos in 1195 and the subsequent victory at the combined Christian kingdoms at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. This was at the height of the Reconquest. After 1212, the Islamic kingdoms to the south would never recover. And they would slowly be and begin to roll back further into southern Spain leaving us only with the Nasrids of Granada.

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