By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 2nd 2018)
The Power and the Glory
By 718 the Berber and Umayyad presence in Spain was established, although fighting continued. The last Visigoth King of Hispania, Rodéric, had usurped the throne and underestimated his Visigoth enemies to concentrate on countering the Muslim threat, but many Visigoths and others joined the Berber cause.
Tariq ibn Ziyad led the first Islamic forces over the Straits of Gibraltar and the Rock itself and into Spain with just 7000 followers, yet he inflicted the decisive defeat of the Visigoths at the Battle of Guadalete. Although fighting continued it established the Umayyad presence in Spain and all but ended Visigoth rule in Spain.
Keen to get his share of the glory ibn Ziyad’s former master, Musa ibn Nusayr, joined the invasion, taking Seville. The pair consolidated Umayyad power and continued the expansion into southern France too, but the treasures seized in the campaign exacted a high price. They argued over the spoils. It would cost ibn Nusayr dear.
The Harder He Fell
Ibn Ziyad later brought about the downfall of his ‘benefactor’ and it came through the conquest of the Visigoths. They rowed fiercely over the spoils. And that provided an opportunity for another – the brother of the Caliph Al-Walid I, and later Caliph Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik.
Both ibn Ziyad and ibn Nusayr were summoned back by the Caliph. Ibn Nusayr ignored it temporarily, reasoning that the Visigoths were weakened and had to be defeated totally before they could regroup. He was right, but it had an effect.
Ibn Nusayr soon fell out of favour, due in part to ibn Ziyad, as they disputed who had secured some treasures. Ibn Nusayr was in fact a pivotal figure in Moroccan and Spanish history. He extended Islamic rule to the Bay of Biscay – ibn Ziyad pushed further. He had been summoned back by the Caliph, Al-Walid I, along with ibn Ziyad, but had ignored the summons in order to complete the defeat of the Visigoths. When he obeyed the summons the Caliph was ill. Al-Walid I’s brother and successor had wanted ibn Nusayr to delay his entry into Damascus, but the Emir ignored him. The subsequent death of Al-Walid I proved disastrous.
The new Caliph, Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik bore a huge grudge. Ibn Nusayr had thwarted his plans over treasures – he later seized what he wanted – and prevented the ambitious al-Malik from stealing the glory of his conquests. Al-Malik’s revenge was swift.
Ibn Nusayr’s son Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa, had played an important role in the conquest of Spain. However, he had married the defeated King Rodéric’s wife Egilona and her influence contributed to problems. She demanded that his subjects show deference to him. He was attacked in a conspiracy to kill him and was in fact assassinated despite seeking sanctuary in a mosque. His head delivered to the Caliph in front of ibn Nusayr.
Ibn Musa had been considered too lenient in his terms of surrender imposed on defeated Christians. He allowed defeated Visigoths to keep their faith and much more, demanding little more than the tax – and soon became suspected of being a Christian. He was assassinated soon after ibn Nusayr’s fall from grace. After ibn Nusayr’s fall, another son Abd Allah ibn Musa was executed on the orders of Sulayman.
Ibn Musa died in poverty a consequence of his disgrace, but history has been kinder to him. Al-Andalus and also the conquest of the Berbers owed much to him and clearly affected the course of history.