Biography of Almanzor (939-1002)

Vizier of al - Andalus called Muhammad ibn Abu Amhir, born in the year 939 and died in the year 1002. Known by Christians as Almanzor, transliteration of his nickname Al - Mansur ("the victorious"), was one of the greatest warriors of the middle ages, whose military worth and his unyielding lust for power caused the first crisis in the caliphal power, to impose the dynasty formed to her around, the lineage of the amiridas, in the Government of Córdoba.

The beginnings of Almanzor and the first raids

There are different theories about their place of origin, that is speculation, even today day, about whether was Almohad or Slavic. The main source for the knowledge of his life lies in scattered news that the Muslim chronicler Ibn Idhârî offers on their military campaigns. Indeed, the first time that his name appears on the chronic is towards the year 960, while Cordoba studying law, theology and philosophy, which showed as a scholar and knowledgeable man in the study of the Quran. Approximately during the time it was adopted under the auspices of Galib Abu Temman al-Nasir, a European Slav whose military worth had brought him a singular position during the reign of al-Hakam II. The 16 of August of the year 977, Almanzor married Isma, the daughter of Galib, with what the union between the family of Galib and amirida warlord was strengthened even more. Under the guidance of his father-in-law, Almanzor ensured their first weapons and learned to fight and to direct the cordoban armies.

The Castilian Chronicles set the date of the 977 as the first time that an incursion of Almanzor came to the Douro, specifically to Baños de Ledesma. The following year, another new expedition reached Cuellar. The first interventions of Almanzor were aimed at preserving the important enclave of Gormaz, strategic fortress located in the vicinity of the Duero which had been conquered by Galib the count Fernán González in the year 960 and which had been rebuilt by the cordoban towards the year 965. However, Gormaz returned to be reconquered by the count of Castile Garci Fernández in the year 978. Cordoba reaction was expected, since in the 979 Almanzor attacked and looted Sepulveda and Ledesma, which inflicted severe damage to the population Christian despite the fact that the ultimate objective, recover Gormaz, failed to comply.

The ascension to power of Córdoba

At the same time had Almanzor who return to Córdoba, since the death of the Caliph Al - Hakam II (977) had left the realm devoid of direction. Following the appointment of the new Caliph, Hisham II, all factions of cordoban advisers went to play, sour and deftly, a violent struggle for power during the minority of the Caliph. One faction was led by Galib, the father-in-law of Almanzor, party in which both fought. However, Almanzor began to take advantage of the extraordinary popularity of their victories against the Christians had brought him to be eliminated, one by one and including his own father-in-law, all rivals in power. To carry out such a policy, Almanzor was welcome and even, with the help of the Aurora, mother of the new Caliph sultana, which has led to much of the historians to suspect that both maintained a romantic relationship. Both were directly responsible of the Caliphate Government, while the own Hisham II was locked up at the fabulous Palace of Madinat al - Zahira (Madinat Al-Zahra) and entertained with concupiscentes and splendid pleasures.

Arcade of Horseshoe, at Medina Azahara (Córdoba).

After that, Almanzor was appointed emir of al - Andalus, who amounted in practice to be Governor general, appointment that was not well seen not by his father-in-law, Galib, or by other more powerful military of the time: Abd al-Rahman ibn Matiyo, the Governor of Toledo. The climate of conspiracy they breathed in all areas of Cordoba policy led to Almanzor to surround himself with his own people: appointed his son, Abd al - Malik, Governor of the upper border of the Duero and formed his personal guard by military Berbers, Slavic, and even African Nubian black slave, suspicious of all Arabs which was on its way. The policy undertaken was, however, the satisfaction of Cordoba village, he/she saw how military power gave way to a smaller collection of taxes due to revenues from the spoils of war. The situation of Almanzor continued being privileged in the following years, especially in the 981 he/she could, finally, retrieve the fortaleza de Gormaz, military action that had a double objective: contain the Christians of the North and monitor their own enemies, as he/she was ibn Mutarif of Toledo and Galib, sought refuge in his lordship of Madinat-Salim (current Medinaceli).

The victorious campaigns against the infidel

When Galib died at the end of the year 981, Almanzor decided to punish Christian peoples, who had supported ibn Mutarif and the latter in its claims against the amirida. Thus, between the years 981 and 997, Almanzor became the most terrible nightmare of the inhabitants of the North of Spain, since campaigns, effected by means of fast and deadly raids on horseback, resulted in a resonant cordobesas victories. Months before his death, Galib had tried, with the help of the Garci Fernández conde de Castilla and Navarra troops (according to Muslim Chronicles), retrieve Gormaz, but the garrison of soldiers loyal to Almanzor had resisted the onslaught. This angry reaction was swift: he/she took control of Medinaceli after the death of Galib, and from there began their victorious raids. After defeating the count Garci Fernández in the battle of Tarancuena (981), in the year 982 took Zaragoza, taking more than nine thousand prisoners, as well as attack, one year later, Simancas and Roa. The Christian armies of Ramiro III of Leon and Garci Fernández were again defeated in the battle that presented to the latter city. The 984 it swept away Zamora and Astorga, while only the unusual strength of a brutal storm saved the city of León from falling into the hands of the amirida. Two years later it penetrated to Sepúlveda and the 987 destroyed Coimbra, city that he/she rebuilt seven years later, colonizing it with settlers Mozarabs. Finally, in the 989 took Atienza, Osma and Montemayor. However, one of the most famous victories, if not the most, Cordoba military took place in 997, when he/she sacked the city of Santiago de Compostela and made more than forty thousand prisoners, who forced to transport to shoulder, from Galicia to Cordoba, the bells of the Cathedral of the apostle. After the sacking of the biggest centre of pilgrimage of Christianity, after Rome, the same Almanzor composed these verses:

"Never great or terrible thing could amedentrarme. I have searched me the dangers, and bear have reached generosity and nobility.And I have not had another or auxiliary companion to my good mood, alljaties Spears and destructive swords.I have subjugated the peoples of all the manors and I fought for glory to not find with whom to fight.My works have ended with greater grandeur and splendour the building's glory started Abd al - Malik and Amir.Yo, in short, have praised more and more with new coats of arms the old of my lineage who parent children have come in inheritance from Maafir."

The conspiracies of Córdoba and Castilla

Almanzor returned to Cordoba in the year 989, and did so in praise of crowds. After their victories in the North, had adopted the title of al - Mansur bi'Allah ("the victorious wing"), greatly increasing their power. In the words of Ibn Idhârî: "with this title did is appoint him, thus ending of arrogate to itself all the attributes of the royalty". The situation in the North had been stabilized, since the leader, in another example of his political intelligence, encouraged various conspiracies in the Christian kingdoms, such as which dethroned Ramiro III and placed his cousin Bermudo IIin the Leonese throne. While relative calm settled in Cordoba in the golden years of his Government (called by the historiography as "amirida dictatorship"), the truth is that a conspiracy was about to remove him from power. Hisham II, already major, felt a deep revulsion for the position occupied by the lover of his mother, which led him to hatch a conspiracy by other opponents helped the dictatorship, between those who returned to found the toledano ibn Mutarif. To bring to fruition its plot, Hisham II persuaded the youngest son of Almanzor, Abdallah ibn Amir (nicknamed Piedraseca by his surly, sullen character), visibly upset by the favoritism that his father paid his older brother, Abd al-Malik, become Commander in Chief of the armies of Almanzor. When path of the famous expedition to Santiago, the suspicion of the father on the child action was confirmed, Almanzor returned to Córdoba, where found in negotiation with Hixem ibn Mutarif conspirator. After that, ibn Mutarif was deposed and Madinat al - Zahira monitoring was redoubled, becoming a golden for the imprisoned Caliph prison. His son Abdallah took refuge in Medinaceli under the consent of Garci Fernández, but a spectacular RAID of Almanzor forced the Earl to surrender the fugitive stem in the hands of his father, who, ignoring his promise, just he/she had in his hands to the conspirator finally run it. Despite this, their situation in Cordoba began to wane, especially when the sultana Aurora, business woman in the Caliphate Government, sensed the power of Almanzor threatened to replace its privileged position. To this end, took a new favorite in the person of Ziri ibn Atiya, Berber Governor of the Maghreb, increasing opposition to the increasingly discussed emir.

Castillo de Medinaceli (Soria).

Almanzor found solace in another plot, this time held in the County of Castile. Apparently, the wife of count Garci Fernández, a Princess of FOB origin called Ava, had engaged in negotiations with Almanzor to replace, head of the County Government, to her husband by his son, Sancho García. Even though that plot details are preferably based on literary texts (such as the legend of the seven Infantes de Lara or the Romance of the Countess traitor), the truth is that evidence that at least counties Lantarón and cherry, as well as part of the region of la Bureba, not supported count Garci Fernández in his last battle against Almanzor there iswhich occurred in the year 995 and that the count was killed. Thus, there is some doubt about a possible intervention by Almanzor in the ascent to the throne of count Sancho García, since its policy with respect to the kingdoms of the North was always based on encouraging internal dissensions.

The decline of the Warrior: Calatañazor

The last years of Almanzor were prey to serious problems, both internal and external. Towards the end of the first Millennium wanted to transmit to his son Abd al - Malik all titles and charges that he/she held, but suffered the negative response of Hisham II as the Sultana Aurora, which based its contempt for the military in the military strength of the Berbers of Ziri ibn Atiya. After suffered despair, Almanzor decided to return to their northern campaigns, hoping that a few victories returned him the prestige lost after years of dark conspiracies. However, the reorganization of the Christian armies had been spectacular: in the year 1000 were already about to deliver a final blow in the vicinity of the city of Burgos of Cervera. The count of Castile, Sancho García, had forgotten the plots that had brought him to power and chose to ally with the King of Navarre, Sancho Garcés, in order to form a large army to put an end to the Cordoba military. Some troops and other rivals eventually found on the outskirts of the Soria town of Calatañazor, where, after a short but intense battle, wounds received in combat caused the death of the powerful warlord amirida, the 6th of August in the year 1002. As a result, it was not witness to the struggles that his son Abd al - Malik had to maintain in Cordoba to maintain the power of amirida, and also witnessed the beginning of the decline of caliphal power, which had been in his figure in the of the impressive victorious of Allah, one of the highlights milestones in the Islamic domination of the peninsula.(See battle of Calatañazor).

Castillo of Calatañazor (Soria).


-PÉREZ DE URBEL, j.-history of the County of Castile. III vols. Madrid, 1969.

-SÁNCHEZ ALBORNOZ, C.-origins of the Spanish nation. The Kingdom of Asturias. Madrid, SARPE (brief ed.), 1982.