Córdoba in the X century
Between the years 711 and 716, the Muslims occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula, except from the mountainous areas in Cantabria and the Pyrenees, and their presence remained for eight centuries. Shortly afterwards, Córdoba became the capital of al-Andalus, name for the territory occupied by the Muslims in the peninsula, which depended upon the province of Ifriquiyya (north of Africa). Between the years 711 and 756, the governor or emir of Córdoba owed submission to the Umayyad caliph from Damascus (the period of the Dependent Emirate). However, in the year 750, the Umayyads were overthrown by the Abbasids, who thought had more rights to lead the Islamic world as prophet Mohammed’s successors, and they killed all the members of the Umayyad family. The only survivor of the slaughter, Abd al-Rahman I (“the emigrated”),escaped and arrived in the south of Spain in 756, establishing an Umayyad emirate independent from the new Abbasid caliphs (who established their capital in Bagdad). The situation changed in 929, when Abd al-Rahman III, emir since 912, established the independent caliphate. His proclamation seek to establish his independence from both the Abbasids and the Fatimid caliphate of Egypt. The caliphate (929-1031) meant a time of great splendor of its capital, Córdoba, at a political, economic, demographic and cultural level.
Politically speaking, Abd al-Rahman III and his son and successor al-Hakam II achieved to consolidate not only their independence from oriental caliphates, but from the Christian kingdoms of the north of the peninsula, keeping most of its territory under their power, in spite of the Christian progress in the Reconquest. When Al-Hakam died in the year 976, a young kid, Hisham I, took over, but he was dominated by the dictator Almanzor and his sons. In spite of the theft of the effective power of the caliph, Almanzor kept at bay the Christian advances in the Reconquest. The stability of the caliphate remained until the year 1010, when the civil war (fitna) broke out between the supporters of the legitimate caliph and different usurpers, who tried to take control of the throne. The caliphate existed officially until the year 1031, when it was abolished, thus creating a fragmentation of the Umayyad State in numerous kingdoms known as “taifas”.
The economy of the Caliphate was based on a considerable economic capability -based on a very important trade-, a traditional and well developed industry and agricultural techniques which were more developed than in any other part of Europe. The economy was based on the coin, whose minting had an important role in its financial splendor. The gold coin from Córdoba became the most important one of the time, probably imitated by the Carolingian Empire. Thus, the Caliphate was the first commercial and urban economy in Europe after the disappearance of the Roman Empire.
Demographically, Córdoba, "the Pearl of the West", became the most important capital in the world since the Roman Empire, over other capitals of European States –it reached 250,000 inhabitants in 935 and 450,000 in the year 1000, although some historians say 1,000,000 inhabitants–, as well as being a financial, cultural, artistic and commercial centre of high order.
Lastly, the cultural development of Córdoba became really important at the time, a golden period, especially after Caliph al-Hakam II came to power, who was thought to have founded a library with up to 400,000 volumes. Maybe this triggered the acknowledgement of postulates from classical philosophy -both Greek and Latin- by the intellectuals of the time, such as Ibn Masarra, Aben Tofain, Averroes and the Jew Maimonides, although the thinkers were especially outstanding in Medicine, Philosophy, Mathematics and Astronomy.
If you are not sure what to do in Córdoba, we recommend you visit the Archaeological Site of Medina Azahara hiring one of our guided tours. Choose to do high quality sightseeing with qualified staff. Do not hesitate, ArtenCórdoba is the best option.
Text: Jesús Pijuán.