The Moors

Twelve centuries ago the Muslims were very powerful. They ruled over all the lands at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and over the northern lands of Africa. They had even crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and conquered Spain. They might have spread from Spain over all Europe if Charles the Hammer, the ruler of the Franks, had not stopped them at the famous Battle of Tours in 732.

   The Muslims of North Africa and Spain were called Moors. They were a mixture of a people who had lived in North Africa earlier and Arabs who had conquered them. They spoke Arabic.

   For several centuries the Moors ruled Spain. Their rule was by no means a "dark age" for Spain. Much of their governing was mild and just. And in those days the Arabs led the world in such subjects as mathematics, astronomy, and grammar. They had saved much of the learning of the Greeks by writing it in their own language. Our way of writing numbers came to us from the Arabs. So did many common words, among them algebra, alchemy, al­cohol, cotton, coffee, and sherbet.

   Many products of the East were brought into Europe by the Moors. Perhaps the most important was paper. Ships carried the products of Spain to Africa and Asia.

   The Moors built cities in Spain. One was Cordova. A thousand years ago Cordova was one of the world's largest cities. It had 3,000 Mohammedan churches, or mosques, 300 public baths, a great university, and many beautiful palaces. More than 10,000 weavers made beautiful Moorish carpets, curtains, and shawls. Granada was another famous Moorish city. In that city stood the Alhambra, the famous Moorish palace. The Moors were great storytellers. The Amer­ican writer, Washington Irving, included some of their stories in a book called Tales of the Alhambra.

   The Moors were finally driven out of Spain. They lost their last foothold, Granada, in 1492 just before Columbus set sail on his famous voyage. If Granada had not fallen, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella might not have been willing to help Columbus.