Judar Pasha

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Judar Pasha
BornCuevas del Almanzora, Crown of Castile
Battles/warsBattle of Tondibi

Judar Pasha (Arabic: جؤذر باشا‎) was a Spanish military leader and the conqueror of the Songhai Empire.

Born as Diego de Guevara in Cuevas del Almanzora[1] (Crown of Castile), Judar[2] had been captured by Muslim slave-raiders as a baby. As a young boy he joined the service of Moroccan Sultan Ahmad I al-Mansur Saadi. Like many of Ahmad's officers, Judar was a eunuch, having been castrated as a boy by his owners.

In 1590, Ahmad I made Judar a pasha and appointed him the head of an invasion force against the Songhai Empire of what is now Mali. In October of that year, Judar set out from Marrakesh with a force of 1,500 light cavalry and 2,500 arquebusiers and light infantry. He also carried eight English cannon in his supply train, and assembled eighty Christian bodyguards for his personal detail.

After an arduous crossing of the Sahara desert, Judar razed the desert salt mines of Taghaza and advanced on the Songhai capital of Gao.

Meanwhile, Songhai ruler Askia Ishaq II assembled a force of more than 40,000 men and moved north against the Moroccans; the two armies met at Tondibi in March 1591. Despite their far inferior numbers, the Moroccan gunpowder weapons easily carried the day, resulting in a rout of the Songhai troops. Judar sacked Gao and then moved on to the trading centers of Djenné and Timbuktu.[3]

According to Martin Meredith, "To quell resistance in Timbuktu, the Moroccans sent leading scholars to Marrakesh in chains. The wealth of Timbuktu, Gao, and Jenne was also stripped. Huge quantities of gold dust were shipped across the desert. When Judar Pasha returned to Morocco in 1599, his caravan included thirty camel-loads of gold valued by an English merchant at £600,000."[4]

Despite Judar's gains, sporadic battles continued with the Songhai army, leading to his replacement several years after his victory. Judar was subsequently put to death in December 1606 on the orders of Mulay Abd Allah, son of Mullay al-Shaykh in the course of struggles over the Moroccan throne. This was mainly set up by the Battle of Tondibi.[5]


  1. ^ Fernández Manzano 2012, p. 323
  2. ^ While Judar is the common spelling, this is based on an assumed pronunciation by French translators of the Arabic texts Tarikh al-Sudan and Tarikh al-fattash which do not give the vowels. The name is pronounced Jawdar in the Tadhkirat an-Nisian and in the most recent English translation of the Tarikh al-Sudan by J. O. Hunwick (cited below).
  3. ^ John Coleman DeGraft-Johnson, African Glory: The Story of Vanished Negro Civilizations, Black Classic Press, London, 1954, ISBN 0933121-03-2, pp. 113-116
  4. ^ Meredith, Martin (2014). The Fortunes of Africa. New York: PublicAffairs. p. 156. ISBN 9781610396356.
  5. ^ Hunwick 1999, p. 234


  • Davidson, Basil (1995), Africa in History: themes and outlines, New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-02-042791-3.
  • Hunwick, John O. (1999), Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Sadi's Tarikh al-Sudan down to 1613 and other contemporary documents, Leiden: Brill, ISBN 90-04-11207-3.
  • Fernández Manzano, Reynaldo; Ismaïl Diadie; Azucena Fernández Manzano (2012), "La música de los "arma", andalusí, de la curva del Níger", Música Oral del Sur (in Spanish), Junta de Andalucía: Centro de Documentación Musical (9): 321–337, ISSN 1138-8579

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