Caliph of Córdoba

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Exterior of La Mezquita
The interior of the Great Mosque in Cordoba, now a Christian cathedral. The mosque, known as the Mezquita in Spanish, is one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture pioneered by the Umayyad dynasty of Spain.

The Caliph of Cordoba (خليفة قرطبة) ruled the Iberian peninsula (Al-Andalus) and North Africa from the city of Cordoba, from 929 to 1031. This period was characterized by remarkable success in trade and culture; many of the masterpieces of Islamic Spain were constructed during his reign, including the famous Great Mosque of Córdoba. The title Caliph (خليفة) was claimed by Abd-ar-Rahman III on January 16, 929; he was previously known as the Emir of Córdoba (أمير قرطبة). All Caliphs of Córdoba were members of the Umayyad dynasty; the same dynasty held the title Emir of Córdoba and had ruled over roughly the same territory since 756. The Caliph's rule coincided with the height of Muslim presence on the Iberian peninsula, although it was practically finished in 1010, with the fitna (civil war within Islam) which started between the descendants of the last legitimate Caliph, Hisham II, and the successors of his prime minister (hayib), Almanzor. An additional strain was monetary as the Caliph's Empire was most likely exhausted by its expensive military efforts. The Caliph officially existed until 1031, when it fractured into a number of independent taifas.

The Umayyad dynasty[edit]

Abd-ar-Rahman I became Emir of Córdoba six years after his dynasty, the Umayyad, lost the position of Caliph of Damascus in 750. Abd-ar-Rahman I was on the run from his enemies for six years before arriving in Spain. Intent on regaining a position of power, he defeated the existing Islamic rulers of the area and united various local fiefdoms into an emirate.

Rulers of the Emirate were content to use the title emir or sultan until the 10th century, when Abd-ar-Rahman III was faced with the threat of invasion by the Fatimids, a rival Islamic empire based in Cairo. Partially to help in his fight against the invading Fatimids, who claimed the Caliphate in opposition to the generally recognized Abbasidian Caliph of Baghdad, Rahman III claimed the title of Caliph himself. This move helped Rahman III gain prestige with his subjects and the title was retained even after the Fatimids were repulsed.

After the battle of Melilla in 927, the Omeyas controlled the triangle formed by Algeria, Siamese, and the Atlantic Ocean. The Caliph's power extended itself toward the north and, until 950, the Holy Roman Empire exchanged ambassadors with Córdoba. A few years before, Hugh of Italy demanded safeguards for his merchant boats in the Mediterranean. In the north of the Iberian peninsula, the small Christian kingdoms, such as the Marca Hispanica, the Kingdom of Navarre, and Aragon had difficulty resisting the power of the Caliphate. They sought a truce with the Caliph, who didn't miss his opportunity to enlarge the territory in exchange for peace. In 985, the Moors sacked Barcelona and in 997 Santiago de Compostela.

The last Caliph of Córdoba was Hisham III (1027–1031). At his death in 1031, the territories he controlled, which had by then shrunk mainly to possessions on the Iberian Peninsula, fractured into a number of independent taifas. These fiefdoms continued until they were gradually pushed out by Christian forces during the Reconquista, unable to effectively resist as independent factions.


The Caliph founded a library which contained 400,000 volumes. The Caliph became famous for his philosophy, translating books from ancient Greece such as Aristotle's works and the Jew (whose work paved the way for Aquinas's reconciliation of the ancient Aristotelian philosophy with Christianity) were some of these famous thinkers, although the majority were known for their groundbreaking achievements in medicine, mathematics, and astronomy.

Rulers of Cordoba[edit]

Umayyad Emirs of Córdoba[edit]

Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba[edit]

Non-Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba: the Hammudid dynasty[edit]

The Umayyad dynasty returned to power[edit]