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Tariq ibn Ziyad

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Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād
طارق بن زياد
AllegianceUmayyad Caliphate
Battles/warsConquest of Hispania
 • Battle of Guadalete
Other workGovernor of Tangier
Governor of Al-Andalus

Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād (Arabic: طارق بن زياد‎), also known simply as Tarik in English, was a Berber Umayyad commander who initiated the Muslim Umayyad conquest of Visigothic Hispania (present-day Spain and Portugal) in 711–718 AD. He led a large army and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from the North African coast, consolidating his troops at what is today known as the Rock of Gibraltar. The name "Gibraltar" is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), meaning "mountain of Ṭāriq", which is named after him.


Medieval Arabic historians give contradictory data about Ṭāriq's origins and nationality. Some conclusions about his personality and the circumstances of his entry into al-Andalus are surrounded by uncertainty.[1] The vast majority of modern sources state that Ṭāriq was a Berber mawla of Musa ibn Nusayr, the Umayyad governor of Ifriqiya.[1][2][3][4]


The Moorish Castle's Tower of Homage, symbol of the Muslim rule in Gibraltar

According to Ibn Abd al-Hakam (803–871), Musa ibn Nusayr appointed Ṭāriq governor of Tangier after its conquest in 710-711 [5] but an unconquered Visigothic outpost remained nearby at Ceuta, a stronghold commanded by a nobleman named Julian, Count of Ceuta.

After Roderic came to power in Spain, Julian had, as was the custom, sent his daughter, Florinda la Cava, to the court of the Visigothic king for education. It is said that Roderic raped her, and that Julian was so incensed he resolved to have the Muslims bring down the Visigothic kingdom. Accordingly, he entered into a treaty with Ṭāriq (Mūsā having returned to Qayrawan) to secretly convoy the Muslim army across the Straits of Gibraltar, as he owned a number of merchant ships and had his own forts on the Spanish mainland.[citation needed]

On or about April 26, 711, the army of Ṭāriq, composed of recent converts to Islam, was landed on the Iberian peninsula (in what is now Spain) by Julian.[a] They debarked at the foothills of a mountain which was henceforth named after him, Gibraltar (Jabal Tariq).[6]

Ṭāriq's army contained about 7,000 soldiers, composed largely of Berber stock but also Arab troops.[7] Roderic, to meet the threat of the Umayyads, assembled an army said to number 100,000.[8] Most of the army was commanded by, and loyal to, the sons of Wittiza, whom Roderic had brutally deposed.[9] Ṭāriq won a decisive victory when Roderic was defeated and killed on July 19 at the Battle of Guadalete.[1][10] This led Musa ibn Nusayr to assemble 18,000 (mostly Arab) troops to plan a second invasion, and within a few years Ṭāriq and Musa had captured two-thirds of the Iberian peninsula from the Visigoths.[11][12]

Ṭāriq split his army into four divisions, which went on to capture Córdoba under Mughith al-Rumi, Granada, and other places, while he remained at the head of the division which captured Toledo. Afterwards, he continued advancing towards the north, reaching Guadalajara and Astorga.[1] Ṭāriq was de facto governor of Hispania until the arrival of Mūsā a year later.

Both Ṭāriq and Musa were simultaneously ordered back to Damascus by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I in 714, where they spent the rest of their lives.[10] The son of Musa, Abd al-Aziz, who took command of the troops of al-Andalus, was assassinated in 716.[2] In the many Arabic histories written about the conquest of southern Spain, there is a definite division of opinion regarding the relationship between Ṭāriq and Musa bin Nusayr. Some relate episodes of anger and envy on the part of Mūsā that his freedman had conquered an entire country. Others do not mention, or play down, any such bad blood. On the other hand, another early historian, al-Baladhuri, writing in the 9th century, merely states that Mūsā wrote Ṭāriq a "severe letter" and that the two were later reconciled.[13]


The 16th-century historian Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari, in his The Breath of Perfume, attributes a long speech by Ṭāriq to his troops before the Battle of Guadalete.[14][15][16]


  1. ^ There is a legend that Ṭāriq ordered that the ships he arrived in be burnt, to prevent any cowardice. This is first mentioned over 400 years later by the geographer al-Idrisi, fasc. 5 p. 540 of Arabic text (Arabic: فٱمر بإحراق المراكب‎), vol. 2 p. 18 of French translation. Apart from a mention in the slightly later Kitāb al-iktifa fī akhbār al-khulafā (English translation in Appendix D of Gayangos, The History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain), this legend was not sustained by other authors.


  1. ^ a b c d Molina 2000, p. 242.
  2. ^ a b Abun-Nasr 1993, p. 71.
  3. ^ Kennedy 1996, p. 6.
  4. ^ Nicolle 2009, p. 64.
  5. ^ Alternatively, he was left as governor when Mūsā's son Marwan returned to Qayrawan. Both explanations are given by Ibn Abd al-Hakam, p. 41 of Spanish translation, p. 204 of Arabic text.
  6. ^ Molina 2000, p. 243.
  7. ^ Akhbār majmūa, p. 21 of Spanish translation, p. 6 of Arabic text.
  8. ^ Akhbār majmūa p. 8 of Arabic text, p. 22 of Spanish translation.
  9. ^ According to some sources, e.g., al-Maqqari p. 269 of the English translation, Wittiza's sons by prior arrangement with Ṭāriq deserted at a critical phase of the battle. Roger Collins takes an oblique reference in the Mozarab Chronicle par. 52 to mean the same thing.
  10. ^ a b Reilly 2009, p. 52.
  11. ^ Rogers, Clifford J. (2010). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-533403-6.
  12. ^ Esposito, John L. (2000-04-06). The Oxford History of Islam. Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-19-988041-6.
  13. ^ p. 365 of Hitti's English translation.
  14. ^ Falk, Avner (2010). Franks and Saracens: Reality and Fantasy in the Crusades. p. 47.
  15. ^ McIntire, E. Burns, Suzanne, William (2009). Speeches in World History. p. 85.
  16. ^ Charles Francis Horne (1917). The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East: With Historical Surveys of the Chief Writings of Each Nation... VI: Medieval Arabia. Parke, Austin, and Lipscomb. pp. 241–242.


Primary sources

  • Pascual de Gayangos y Arce, The History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain. vol. 1. 1840. English translation of al-Maqqari.
  • al-Baladhuri, Kitab Futuh al-Buldan, English translation by Phillip Hitti in The Origins of the Islamic State (1916, 1924).
  • Anon., Akhbār majmūa fī fath al-andalūs wa dhikr ūmarā'ihā. Arabic text edited with Spanish translation: E. Lafuente y Alcantara, Ajbar Machmua, Coleccion de Obras Arabigas de Historia y Geografia, vol. 1, Madrid, 1867.
  • Anon., Mozarab Chronicle.
  • Ibn Abd al-Hakam, Kitab Futuh Misr wa'l Maghrib wa'l Andalus. Critical Arabic edition of the whole work published by Torrey, Yale University Press, 1932. Spanish translation by Eliseo Vidal Beltran of the North African and Spanish parts of Torrey's Arabic text: "Conquista de Africa del Norte y de Espana", Textos Medievales #17, Valencia, 1966. This is to be preferred to the obsolete 19th-century English translation at: Medieval Sourcebook: The Islamic conquest of Spain
  • Enrique Gozalbes Cravioto, "Tarif, el conquistador de Tarifa", Aljaranda, no. 30 (1998) (not paginated).
  • Muhammad al-Idrisi, Kitab nuzhat al-mushtaq (1154). Critical edition of the Arabic text: Opus geographicum: sive "Liber ad eorum delectationem qui terras peragrare studeant." (ed. Bombaci, A. et al., 9 Fascicles, 1970–1978). Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples. French translation: Jaubert, P. Amédée, trans. & ed. (1836–1840). Géographie d'Édrisi traduite de l'arabe en français d'après deux manuscrits de la Bibliothèque du roi et accompagnée de notes (2 Vols). Paris: L'imprimerie Royale.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link).
  • Ibn Taghribirdi, Nujum al-zahira fi muluk Misr wa'l-Qahira. Partial French translation by E. Fagnan, "En-Nodjoum ez-Zâhîra. Extraits relatifs au Maghreb." Recueil des Notices et Mémoires de la Société Archéologique du Département de Constantine, v. 40, 1907, 269–382.
  • Ibn Khallikan, Wafayāt al-aʿyān wa-anbāʾ abnāʾ az-zamān. English translation by M. De Slane, Ibn Khallikan's Biographical dictionary, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, 1843.
  • Ibn Idhari, Kitāb al-bayān al-mughrib fī ākhbār mulūk al-andalus wa'l-maghrib. Arabic text ed. G.S. Colin & E. Lévi-Provençal, Histoire de l'Afrique du Nord et de l'Espagne intitulée Kitāb al-Bayān al-Mughrib, 1948.

Secondary sources

External links

New title Governor of Al-Andalus
Succeeded by
Musa ibn Nusayr