1902 Encyclopedia > Almoravides


ALMORAVIDES, a family of Mahometan princes who reigned in Africa and in Spain between 1073 and 1147 A.D. This appellation was derived from the sect of AlMorabethun (Dedicated to the service of God), which arose about the middle of the 11th century, among a poor ignorant tribe of Berbers inhabiting the mountains of Atlas, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. At the request of a sheik of Lamtouna, who had acquired some taste for learning by travelling in the East, Abdallah-ben-Yazim, an Arabian of extraordinary erudition, consented to instruct the people in the truths of Islam. Tho enthusiasm of Abdallah created a like zeal in the hearts of his ignorant hearers ; and by the energy and novelty of his discourses he so inflamed the minds of his disciples that they compelled those whom persuasion could not move to embrace the new religion. Thus Abdallah found himself at the head of a numerous sect, who soon began to regard him as their leader both in temporal and spiritual matters. Under the name of Almorabethun or Almoravides, they overran the country of Daza, lying between the desert of Sahara and the ancient Getulia, and ultimately extended their conquests from the shores of the Mediterranean to the frontiers of Nigritia. Abdallah died on the field of battle in the year 1058. He was succeeded by Abu-Bekr-Ibn-Omar, a man whose abilities were scarcely equal to the difficulties of the position in which he was placed. In 1072 he was supplanted by Yussef-Ibn-Tashfyn, to whom he had entrusted the government on setting out for Atlas to quell an insurrection of the Berbers. Yussef completely established the Almoravide power in Al-Magreb in 1073. On the invitation of Mohammed of Seville, he crossed to Algeciras in 1086, and at once marched against Alphonso VI., the most powerful prince in Christendom. They met in the plains of Zalaca (23d Oct. 1086), and Alphonso was defeated with terrible slaughter. The news of Yussef's success induced many of the Arabs of Spain to enlist under his victorious banner. In a third expedition to Spain (1091), he attacked Mohammed, and after a protracted siege became master of Seville. This conquest was followed by the subjugation of Almeria, Denia, Xativa, and Valencia. The acquisition of the Balearic Isles was the completion of this vast empire, which extended from the Ebro and the Tagus to the frontiers of Soudan. Although Marocco was his capital, he frequently visited his Spanish dominions ; and on the last occasion, having assembled the governors of the province at Cordova, he appointed Ali, the youngest of his sons, as his successor. He then returned to Marocco, where he died at a very advanced age, 1106 A.D. (500 of the Hegira), after a reign of forty years.

Few kings have received so noble a heritage as that to which Ali succeeded. The first years of his reign were prosperous, though disturbed by the Almohades, who were preparing the way for the destruction of the Almoravides. Ali was at last obliged to recall from Spain his son Tashfyn, who was using his utmost endeavours to oppose the victorious career of Alphonso of Aragon, surnamed the Fighter. But the valour of Tashfyn was of little avail against the rising power of the Almohades: disaster followed disaster; and when, in 1143, he succeeded to the throne, hut a moiety of the kingdom remained. It was in vain that he received succours from Spain, the troops from that soft climate being little fitted for service in the wild regions of Atlas. Driven from Tlemecen, he sought refuge in Oran ; but Abd-el-Mumen appeared before its walls, and by threats so intimidated the inhabitants that Tashfyn was compelled to attempt escape on horseback, with his favourite wife behind him ; but being closely pursued, he urged his horse over a precipice, and with his wife was dashed to pieces. With Tashfyn expired the domination of the Almoravides ; for although they still remained in possession of the city of Marocco, their power was completely broken. IshakIbrahim, the son of Tashfyn, was taken and put to death at Alcazar in 1147, on the surrender of Marocco by treachery, and with him the dynasty of the Almoravides became extinct. The remnant of the sect, driven from Spain, took refuge in the Balearic Islands, but it was finally suppressed in 1208. (For the history of the Arabians in Spain, see the works of Cardonne, Conde, St Hilaire, D'Herbelot, AI-Makkari, and Dozy.)

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