The conquest of Crete by the Cordoba

Sack of Thessalonica by Arab corsairs (904) (Madrid Skylitzes)


Por twice in the history of Al Andalus groups expelled him take refuge in distant lands, independent states founded and dedicated to piracy. The last occurred in the early seventeenth century following the intent of the Spanish Catholic monarchy to erase any human remains of one Al Andalus, when a handful of Extremadura Hornachos Moors expelled from their land seized the fortress of Rabat and founded a republic pirate who terrorized the coasts and waters of the Atlantic Europe over a century. The first is in contrast to the mere beginning of Al Andalus when after the rebellion of the suburb of Saqunda a portion of those expelled by the Emir Alhakam I went to the eastern end of the Mediterranean, Byzantine took the island of Crete and founded an independent emirate whose economic base was based on the slave proceeds of their activities pirates that plagued throughout its area of ​​influence of the sea, the Aegean mainly.

The story began right in front of the newly built at that time Mosque of Cordoba, so newly built that the minaret was still walking with a scaffold for end caps. Exactly at the suburb of Saqunda Cordoba, grown craftsman growing neighborhood across the bridge over the Guadalquivir from the Grand Mosque, defendant within the river meander that embraces the city, over the second half of the eighth century and will welcome the flood of immigrants from the surrounding countryside attracted by the magnet of wealth and stability already associated with the city since the first Umayyad, Rahman I, the conquer and settle in which it was capital of the new state, Al Andalus.

The set's first consolidated as the second Umayyad, Hisham, primarily with the budding deepening Islamization by adopting malikismo, Mediní freshly calved by Anas ibn Malik in distant Arabia, official right and Abbasid dissident, as legal backbone of the new state, and was exposed to the danger of disintegration times Alhakam I. The scheme served Ibn Jaldún to articulate the life cycle of empires. By Gonzalez Ferrin (1), in his bold theory, is at this time when we could talk about conquest, When you really start to Islamize emiral power structures, Arabic language becomes civilization and create the foundation for social and economic differentiation. The Saqunda Faubourg riots (805 and 818), as Toledo (797), he had to quell the third Umayyad enroll in this process and although doubts about the idiosyncrasies of the saqundinos has created much controversy among historians the most accepted version is that they were essentially muladíes (which Maribel Ferro niega while agreeing purely socioeconomic spirit of revolt, pg. 213), native who faced an aristocracy trivial, false, as advocated Ferrin, the de origen really oriental, increasingly eager, Alfaquis captained by claiming tax exemption to Muslims, Fight, for, pure and class. And the repression of the last (818) brutal, final. Aside from the countless crucifixions (sources speak of 300) and total devastation suburb, whose sun never, even now, occupied again, it is estimated that one quarter of the population was expelled from Cordoba borders of Al Andalus.

Yellow Silhouetted in the Faubourg areas that have been excavated Saqunda


So we have in the 818 a 20.000 saqundinas Cordoba families leaving the country. Most responded to the call of Idris, specular myth character Rahman I in the Maghreb, Finally rod like a race Umayyad dynasty massacred and begetter prevailing in distant lands, I had just found Fez, where they created a populous and prosperous suburb which is still known as the of the Andalusians. The rest are boarded and headed Pendant Alexandria. The reasons for this choice are unknown, but there are reports that in the Mediterranean city formed a thriving community that soon, taking advantage of a cyclical confusion in the city politically and militarily dominating over. Data from these facts are very confusing and are mainly due to al-Nuwairi XIV century Egyptian historian. Alerted the caliph Al-Ma'mun dogged governor of Egypt, 'Abdullah ibn Tahir to the reconquered, thing that finally made. Nuwairi the bla de 15.000 Cordoba who were forced to board with the ban on land at any port under Abbasid rule. The current Greek historians are inclined to consider that they were directed specifically to Crete by the Abbasid authorities after several previous incursions, in line with the western advance on Sicily.

Playa de Matala, possible landing site

The fact is that taking advantage of the economic weakness of the Byzantine Empire became, seems easily, her. Their leader was called Abu al-Sea Ballutí, original de Fahs to Ballut, the Plain of Acorns, the current Pedroche Valley. It was the year 827. It is known that previous landings had been made in different parts recognition south coast, but the final should have been done in the Gulf of Messara, probably on the beach of Matala, natural outlet of the important Roman city of Gortys (Gortina), capital of the island, and now a famous resort which has many Roman tombs carved into the cliff dramatically and for years served as a refuge for several colonies of hippies. After destroying all the defenses that their path to prevent a possible defense, among other monumental Roman city of Gortyn, moved to the north coast where they founded a port city well walled and surrounded by a moat, I would give name: Rabdh al-Khandaq, Moat Fortress, as the most common translation. With that name, Italianate in Candia, be known until the early twentieth century that after the Enosis with Greece would be changed Heraklion.

Ruins of the Roman city of Gortyn, destroyed by the invaders

El Ballutí, The Acorn, established an independent emirate inherited and developed from that port Corsair industry and slave trade that ravaged the eastern Mediterranean for nearly a century and a half. Exactly until 961 that the Byzantine general Nicephorus Phocas the emperor's service Romans managed to conquer.

The conquest of Crete was a tremendous blow to Byzantium, that its reconquest always considered a top priority. Gonzalez Ferrin (1) considers that the embassy sent by the emperor Theophilus a Abderraman II in 840 was a veiled way of asking the Emir if the conquest of Crete by Andalusian Crete was making Al Andalus.


The circumstances of the invasion, landing site, stages of conquest and founding of urban centers remain quite dark. The limited data available to historians come from indirect sources, Byzantine and Arab fundamentally much later Egyptian. The professor of the University of Crete T. And. Detorakis, in its History of Crete (2) diez pages dedicated to this step. The teacher begins incurring unfortunate blunders when analyzing the situation of Al Andalus in the early ninth century, presumably mistaking the fiefdoms of more than two centuries later, talking about that then existed several Muslim states competing with each other. It also considered the leader of the Arab invaders of Crete, to that call as the Andalusian sources Balluti, but only by name, Abu Hafs, confusedly as leader, leader of Córdoba. Later, citing the chronicler Baladura he wrote at the end of the century, calls the The Andalusian, adding that later became known as The Cretan. Greek sources call Apohapsis.

librorOtherwise Detorakis Professor provides a wealth of information, probably the most comprehensive to be had when you wrote the book. Firstly explains the ease of the conquest of an entire island in the hands of the Byzantine Empire by a band of adventurers for the delicate time spent headquarters after the revolt Constantinople Thomas the Slav (821), but do not connect, as seems to be the general opinion, with Sicily occurred around the same time. Or be a widespread assault against Byzantium Islamic enemy on several fronts. Also interesting are the questions raised about the conquest itself, the destruction of major cities, to avoid undesirable rearguard, established relations with the natives and the choice of a place as main settlement center. The circumstances of the founding of its capital also have doubts, and it is not known if previously elected a center inhabited or not. The fact is that it is beyond doubt that this place started charging from the historical significance of the Cordoba strongly fortify it and build a port. The very process of its fortification was the one who gave the name to the city Rabdh al Khandaq (resulting systematic and perhaps wrongly Fortress Moat), whereby, bristling stakes, line surrounding the defensive wall. This name in Hellenized and Latinized Chandax in Candia was the only one who was known not only to the city but the entire island until the early twentieth century, after Enosis with Greece, was rebaptized as Haraklion (2). The Arabic name leads me to some questions, whenever the term normally RABDH translates as the fortress Castillo. I never found it used with that meaning, but always as suburb, Spanish word it must further. So I do not know why we can not actually think it refers to is the Suburb of Saqunda (Rabdh the-Saqunda), they came from all invaders. In fact, the emir that expelled him became known in later chronicles as Alhakam al-Rabadhí, the del Arrabal. It is likely then that the name Cordoba exiles gave him the city which they founded was a tribute to his lost homeland: The Pit Arrabal. For the same reason that New York is called the city founded by English settlers in the Hudson Bay, or New Granada in many American cities.

mapa creta
Map of Crete

It is not known if the castle built by the Venetians and then closing the port it was on an earlier Arab origin, but the chances are high, because that port was virtually the only economic engine domination arabocretense throughout and would be essential for his defense.

castillo heraclion
Puerto de Heraklion. In the background the Venetian fortress


Today there is nothing to remember the presence of those in the city of Cordoba and much less in the rest of the island, since it seems that this capital and its hinterland were its only permanent settlement areas. The walls were torn down and remade by the Byzantines after the conquest and later torn down again by the Venetians who extended the fence and the city, building the mighty walls that still surround. But the original perimeter scar Arab city persists in the calles Handakos y Dedalou, that meet at the plaza Liontaria, which looks the beautiful Venetian source must take the place of the old Arab wall door and the main street of the city, which descends from it to the port remained the same under Byzantine rule, Venetian, Turkish and even now, renamed 25 August. We also know nothing of the relations with the natives and if there were conversions to Islam among them. Mandatory should not have been given that non-Muslims were required to pay a tax, the kharadj, which does not seem to be willing to give the invaders. Otherwise we do not know anything about the type of language spoken, you, as seems to happen in Cordoba, dialect normally used as a common language hispanorromano and Arabic as the official language and prestige. Neither is known about the activities, arising out of the industry to which they dedicated corsair. It does seem that should engage to some extent in agriculture, either directly or by using native labor, because some crops undergo have been introduced to the island by them: sugarcane, which had already been successfully implemented on the coast south of Al Andalus, cotton and mulberry. And above all el olivo, which were so abundant on the island and where it is assumed that the oil industry emerged first in the world to the sixth millennium. Coming from elsewhere oiler would be strange if they had not taken advantage of this capability.

Heraklion Arab Coins

Historical Museum of Heraklio

As for the archaeological remains stored in the museums can be visited only the Historical Museum, since Archaeological Museum remains closed indefinitely and only exhibited in a couple of rooms the star pieces of Minoan culture. But I guess that among the 15.000 which has in its collection some time will esla of Cordoba. The coins in the picture show the thinning of a guide specializing in Cretan art. So, in the first the only thing that shows the time of the conquest is a small collection of coins minted on the island by the Moorish dynasty and some ceramic pieces clear lineage Abbasid. These coins have been used to establish the sequence gaps of the emirs who ruled the island. But a few carefully crafted graphic also explain the evolution of the urban area and ideal reconstruction Arab walls.


Evolution of the near Heraklion. Top Arab town. Venetian laampliación Down

plaza de los leones
Venetian fountain square and Lions, taking the place of the door of the Arab wall

Interestingly, the teacher pointing Detorakis is the refutation of the current historiography taken so far by some legend that the Arabs destroyed along with the Roman city of Gortys (Gortyna) Monastery San Tito, the disciple of Paul of Tarsus who was bishop of the city, built by Justinian and located at the entrance of it and it is now known that his downfall was caused by a earthquake.

san tito
Monastery of Agios Titos in Gortina, work of Justinian, which was respected by the Arabs

But what gives us the details of the teacher's book series of raids and attacks on the neighboring islands and the mainland who carried out the privateers Cordoba and collect Byzantine chronicles, sometimes by themselves and others in charge of the famous Leo of Tripoli, who participated in the terrible sack of Thessalonica in 904. There are many tales of successive looting of Lesbos, Gulf of Corinth, the Adriatic and so on to complete almost all Byzantine domains. This period of dominance of the Eastern Mediterranean Cordoba state will privateer carrying Henry Pirenne his classical theory, very contested today, Middle Ages that really began with the closure of the Mare Nostrum Christian navigation.


Similarly we have abundant information that gives us the Detorakis teacher book about the many unsuccessful attempts Imperial Navy carried out to recover the island, often ended in resounding defeats, until it was finally conquered by General Nicephorus Phocas, commissioned directly by the emperor commanded the largest fleet ever assembled by the Byzantine state, after a year's siege of the capital (960-61). A legend tells that the conquest was made possible by the use of a dirty trick by quarterback, when after seeking permission to Arabs to breed horses on the island and it is awarded by those camouflaged troops landed equine caregivers. Needless to say this is that, of a legend and that the facts were far bloodier. After the capture of al-Khandaq Rabdh were captured all the inhabitants who survived and sold as slaves. Major, including the last emir Abd al Aziz al-Qurtubi, the Cordovan, Greek chronicles that call Kurupen, Numan and his son were taken to court to be displayed as a trophy in the triumphal procession the victorious general was held in Constantinople. Another son of the Emir, Anemas, embraced the Christian faith and was a faithful servant of the emperor until the end of his days as he died years later in a battle against the Russians.

Seals Niceforos would become Emperor after the death of Romans two years later and interestingly would be to provide a Alhakam II artisans and materials for decoration of the mihrab of the Mosque of Cordoba.

As always in these cases, Nicephorus Phocas first thing done in the conquered city was to build a temple. And the general trend usually leverage previous temples they dedicate the conquered to their worship or at least their solar. So it is very likely that the strategists build the St. Titos Church (Agios Titos) on the city's main mosque Arabic, completely depopulated and Muslims. In fact with a simple test using the sophisticated means of digital mapping network provides us today we can see that the current axial directionality Orthodox Church, and it also came to be used as a mosque by the Turks until they leave, is approximately focused towards Mecca. Fell Original destroyed by the earthquake 1856 and was rebuilt as a clear Ottoman style to continue serving for Islamic worship. Two other candidates temples, Agios Markos and Agios Petros. Passing the first foundation Venetian, without knowledge that was built on a former Byzantine Orthodox Church. Other, the ruins of the monastery of Agios Petros, I have not managed to find out the date of its foundation, but its axial direction is far from the canonical Islamic.

vista de heraklio
Churches alguns situation that could have occupied Arab mosques solar
  • (1) Emilio Gonzalez Ferrin: General History of Al-Andalus. Almuzara 2007
  • (2) T. And. Detorakis, History of Crete (Heraklion,1994), I searched unsuccessfully in Athens and Heraklion major bookstores and ultimately found in the Historical Museum Store.
  • (3) On Wikipedia entry to Heraklion appears strange theory that the word come from the Latin Candia candida, During medieval given initially by sailors and merchants Italian, since in the island of Crete became the first Arab sugarcane crops within Europe, sugar for its whiteness was called “Candida”; thereby, by metonymy called “Candida” the “Candia” the entire island of Crete; in modern Spanish name is called Candia.
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  1. Manuel Friend, Your article is the lemon pear. You put lights on a forgotten episode of Cordoba and certainly a big interest.
    Now who dares to write something after your text?
    thanks 🙂

  2. Hello Manuel, This issue was thoroughly discussed by Claudio Sanchez Albornoz in his book “Spain, a enigmatic historical”

    • Are you sure, Esteban? I zampa the tome I enterito ago 30 years and still have my notes. A visuada to them I have not clarified anything, so I've linked directly to it and find that Don Nicolas only makes a brief reference to the topic when speaking Aragonese Mediterranean expansionism on page 437 the 2nd volume of the edition (2ª) Sudamericana, Buenos Aires, 1962 , to support their idea that the Spanish nation has particular characteristics and clearly detectable since well before the painters of Altamira.
      Says historian essentialist:
      Great adventure of Peter and the Catalans! Adventure?? Yes, I was. The man and the people continued the Hispanic tradition. The Iberians leventinos had fought on all sides of the Mediterranean, centuries BC; Livy then recorded the adventurous spirit of all peninsular; and elevations Cordoba Al-Hakam I and he expelled from Spain, conquered after, a little beyond Sicily, Alexandria and Crete. And ends the paragraph …. Confirm the magnificent unity of all Hispanics temperamental, from Cape Creus to St. Vincent and Cape St. Vincent to the Palos!

      In the end, Nicolás things…

  3. I think you're right and I was wrong to book. It is in

    “Muslim Spain: according to Islamic and medieval Christian authors”
    in its third edition of the pag 162 a la 166
    Also writes something on “Essays on the history of Spain” page of the 26 a la 31


  4. I mean, in magazines Fair Dos Hermanas, the author Antonio García Montoya, news has been rescuing as Andalusi settlement in Tunisia, the capture of Alexandria and the conquest of Crete. All this is linked to the occupation of strategic points to facilitate trade in al-Andalus in the Middle East. Do not forget that the Abbasids were irreconcilable enemies of the Umayyad. Ignacio also rescued Olagüe, and his theories on conquering not P. Iberian Arabs who now seem to be in fashion. Comprobad dates and see how it is published by him before Emilio Gonzalez Ferrin.
    A greeting.

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