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Almanzor

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Almanzor

Statue of Almanzor in Calatañazor, Spain

Abu Aamir Muhammad bin Abdullah ibn Abi Aamir, al-Hajib al-Mansur (Arabic: أبو عامر محمد بن عبد الله بن أبي عامر الحاجب المنصور‎) (c. 938 – August 8, 1002), better known as Almanzor, was the de facto ruler of Muslim Iberia (al-Andalus) in the late 10th to early 11th centuries. His rule marked the peak of power for al-Andalus.

Contents

  • Origins 1
  • Campaigns 2
  • Consequences 3
  • In fiction 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6

Origins

Almanzor was born Muhammad ibn Abi Aamir, into a noble Arab family in Medinet-üs Salim. He arrived at the Court of Córdoba as a student studying law and literature. He subsequently became manager of the estates of Prince Hisham II.

In a few years Almanzor had worked his way from this humble position to considerable heights of influence, eliminating his political rivals in the process. Caliph al-Hakam II died in 976 and Ibn Abi Amir was instrumental in securing the succession of the young Hisham II, aged twelve, to the throne. Almanzor exercised strong influence over Subh, the mother and regent of the young Hisham II. Two years later he became hajib (a title similar to that of vizier in the Muslim East or Chancellor in Western Europe). During the following three years Almanzor consolidated his power with the building of a new palace on the outskirts of Córdoba, al-Madina az-Zahira, while at the same time completely isolating the young Caliph, who became a virtual prisoner in Medina Azahara. Following al-Hakam's death, Almanzor had al-Hakam's library of "ancient science" books destroyed.[1]

Campaigns

The Caliphate of Córdoba c. 1000, at the apogee of al-Mansur's rule
Almanzor campaigns

In 981, upon his return to Córdoba from the Battle of Torrevicente, in which he crushed his last remaining rival (and father-in-law), Ghalib al-Nasiri, he assumed the title of al-Mansur bi-llah, [the] Victorious by God. In Christian Spain he was referred to as Almanzor.

Almanzor's hold on power within al-Andalus was now absolute. Purportedly in order to conceal his usurpation of the Caliph's authority,[2] Almanzor dedicated himself to annual military invasions of the Christian states of the peninsula. He organized and took part in 57 campaigns, and was victorious in all of them. To wage warfare on this scale against the Christian states, he brought in many Berber mercenaries, which upset the political order over time.

Although Almanzor mainly fought against León and the Castile, he also sacked Barcelona in 985,[3] Leon in 988 and Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in 997, taking the cathedral bells to be melted down into lanterns for the Great Mosque of Cordoba.[4][5] Almanzor knew the magnitude of the devotion to Saint James' sepulcher, and ordered his generals to protect the tomb and all sacred objects that they encountered.

Almanzor also waged several campaigns against the Kingdom of Navarra, including his longest, in which he defeated a Castilian army at the Battle of Cervera.

He married Abda, daughter of Sancho Garcés king of Navarra, who bore him a son by the name of Abd al-Rahman. He was commonly known as Sanchuelo (Little Sancho, in Arabic: Shanjoul).

Consequences

The consequence of his victories in the north was to prompt the Christian rulers of the Peninsula into an alliance against him (c. 1000). He was succeeded by his son Abd al-Malik al-Muzaffar, who continued to rule al-Andalus as hajib until his death in 1008.

After Abd al-Malik, his ambitious half brother Abd al-Rahman Sanchuelo took over. He however tried to take the Caliphate for himself from Hisham, as al-Mansur had effectively made the caliph a figurehead ruler. This plunged the country into a civil war, and the Caliphate disintegrated into rival Taifa kingdoms. This proved disastrous for Muslim Iberia as, being divided, the Christian Kingdoms were able to conquer the Taifas one by one.

Almanzor peak in central Spain is named after him.

In fiction

Almanzor is a major character in the historical novel The Long Ships (Red Orm) by the Swedish author Frans Gunnar Bengtsson. Three chapters of the book take place in Muslim Iberia under Almanzor's rule, depicted from the point of view of Scanian Vikings who are captured by Moors while on a raid into Iberia, serving as galley slaves. Later they become mercenaries in Almanzor's bodyguard and finally manage to escape back to Denmark after participating in the conquest and sacking of Santiago de Compostella. In the book Almanzor is represented as being driven to his ceaseless harrying of the infidel out of guilt for having imprisoned his religious superior; the young Caliph.

Almanzor is the main character in the Syrian drama series Rabee' Qurtuba (Arabic: ربيع قرطبة‎), which translates as Cordoban Spring. This Arabic-language series follows Almanzor's life story from beginning to end, although it is anachronistic in parts.

See also

References

  1. ^ Ann Christy, Christians in Al-Andalus:711–1000, (Curzon Press, 2002), 142.
  2. ^ 15th Edition Encyclopaedia Britannica, pages 407-408, vol. 15 macropaedia
  3. ^ Roger Collins, Caliphs and Kings, 796-1031, (Blackwell Publishing, 2012), 191.
  4. ^ Roger Collins, Early Medieval Spain:Unity in Diversity, 400–1000, (St.Martin's Press, 1995), 195.
  5. ^ Joel L. Kraemer, Maimonides: The life and world of one of civilization's greatest minds, (Doubleday Publishing, 2008), 32.
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