The Islamization of Spain in William Rowley and Mary Pix: The Politics of Nation and Gender.
Comparative Drama 2002, Fall-Wntr
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The sustained Muslim presence in Spain between 711 and 1492 provides a fascinating example of intercultural dynamics that has never ceased to engage the imagination of many authors. One episode in particular, the Islamic invasion and conquest of 711, was in its very swiftness so hard to explain that it has puzzled everyone for centuries. Historians nowadays explain it away more as the result of the weakness of the Gothic Christian kingdom than the strength of the invading North Africans. Mostly this weakness appears to have been connected to the ancient elective system of succession, which was challenged by certain parties. (1) Garcia de Cortazar and Gonzalez Vega have described how after the death of King Witiza in 710 his sons did not accept the election of a new king in the person of Roderick, earl of Betica. (2) The "Witizan" faction started negotiations with the North African Muslims for their help against Roderick through a Christian mediator, Julian, governor of the North African town of Ceuta, and in July 711 the Muslim leader Tariq, landing with his troops near Gibraltar, defeated and killed Roderick in Guadalete. (3) Four months later, the North Africans had occupied Toledo, the capital, in central Spain, and then continued to advance northward. By 725 they had reached the French town of Carcasonne. (4) They encountered little organized resistance until close to the end of the century, at Roncesvalles. (5) Thus the history of the Muslim invasion of Spain started with fragmentation, division, and civil war, while the slow recovery of lands from Islam for the tiny Christian pockets of resistance demanded the painful efforts of many generations until at last victory was achieved with Ferdinand and Isabella's conquest of Granada in 1492. Between the mythic separation and loss of the kingdom and the myth-building reunion of the Reconquista stood eight centuries of frontier friction and cultural symbiosis. During the Middle Ages the Iberian Peninsula was a privileged place where three great cultures came together. Muslims, Jews, and Christians shared a cultural continuum torn by sporadic though intense strife. Not surprisingly, this long period has proved to be an endless source of rich inspiration for writers of all backgrounds to the present time. (6)