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Almoravid dynasty

The Almoravids (Berber: ???????? Im?ab?en, Arabic: ?????????? Al-Mur?bi??n) were a Berber dynasty of Morocco, who formed an empire in the 11th-century that stretched over the western Maghreb and Al-Andalus. Their capital was Marrakesh, a city which they founded in 1062 CE. The dynasty originated amongst the Lamtuna and the Gudala, which were nomadic Berber tribes of the Sahara traversing the territory between southern Morocco, the Niger river and the Senegal river.[1]

The Almoravids were crucial in avoiding a precipitated fall of Al-Andalus to the Iberian Christian kingdoms, when they decisively beat a coalition of the Castilian and Aragonese armies at the Battle of Sagrajas. This enabled them to control an empire that stretched 3,000 kilometers north to south. However, the rule of the dynasty was relatively short-lived and the Almoravids fell - at the height of their power - when they failed to quell the Masmuda-led rebellion initiated by Ibn Tumart. As a result, their last king Ishaq ibn Ali was killed in Marrakesh in April 1147 CE by the Almohads who replaced them as a ruling dynasty both in Morocco and Al-Andalus.


The term "Almoravid" comes from the Arabic "al-Murabitun" (?????????) which is the plural form of "al-Murabit" literally meaning "One who is tying" but figuratively means "one who is ready for battle at a fortress". The term is related to the notion of Ribat, a frontier monastery-fortress, through the root r-b-t (??? "Rabat": to tie or ???? "Raabat": to encamp).[2][3]

It is uncertain exactly when or why the Almoravids acquired that appellation. al-Bakri, writing in 1068, before their apogee, already calls them the al-Murabitun, but does not clarify the reasons for it. Writing three centuries later, Ibn Abi Zar suggested it was chosen early on by Abdallah Ibn Yasin[4] because, upon finding resistance among the Gudala Berbers of Adrar (Mauritania) to his teaching, he took a handful of followers to erect a makeshift ribat (monastery-fortress) on an offshore island (possibly Tidra island, in Arguin bay).[5] Ibn Idhari wrote that the name was suggested by Ibn Yasin in the "persevering in the fight" sense, to boost morale after a particularly hard-fought battle in the Draa valley c. 1054, in which they had taken many losses. Whichever explanation is true, it seems certain the appellation was chosen by the Almoravids for themselves, partly with the conscious goal of forestalling any tribal or ethnic identifications.

It has also been suggested that the name might be related to the ribat of Waggag ibn Zallu in the village of Aglu (near present-day Tiznit), where the future Almoravid spiritual leader Abdallah ibn Yasin got his initial training. The 13th-century Moroccan biographer Ibn al-Zayyat al-Tadili and Qadi Ayyad before him in the 12th-century, note that Waggag's learning center was called Dar al-Murabitin (The house of the Almoravids), and that might have inspired Ibn Yasin's choice of name for the movement.[6][7]

Contemporaries frequently referred to them as the al-mulathimun ("the veiled ones", from litham, Arabic for "veil"). The Almoravids veiled themselves below the eyes (see tagelmust), a custom they adapted from southern Sanhaja Berbers (as can still be seen among the modern Tuareg people), but unusual further north. Although practical for the desert dust, the Almoravids insisted on wearing the veil everywhere, as a badge of "foreignness" in urban settings, partly as a way of emphasizing their puritan credentials. It served as the uniform of the Almoravids, and under their rule, sumptuary laws forbade anybody else from wearing the veil, thereby making it the distinctive dress of the ruling class (the later Almohads made a point of mocking the Almoravid veil as symbolic of effeminacy and decadence.)


The Berber peoples of the Maghreb in the early Middle Ages could be roughly classified into three major groups - the Zenata across the north, the Masmuda concentrated in central Morocco and the Sanhaja, clustered in two areas - the western part of the Sahara and the hills of the eastern Maghreb.[8][9] The eastern Sanhaja included the Kutama Berbers, who had been the base of the Fatimid rise in the early 10th C., and the Zirid dynasty who ruled Ifriqiya as vassals of the Fatimids after the latter moved to Egypt in 972. The western Sanhaja were divided into several tribes - the Gazzula and the Lamta in the Draa valley and the foothills of the Anti-Atlas range, further south, encamped in the western Sahara desert, were the Massufa, the Lamtuna and the Banu Warith, and most southerly of all, the Gudala (or Judala), in littoral Mauritania down to the borderlands of the Senegal river.

The western Sanhaja had been converted to Islam sometime in the 9th C. They were subsequently united in the 10th C., and with the zeal of neophyte converts launched several campaigns against the "Sudanese" (pagan black peoples of sub-Saharan Africa).[10] Under their king Tinbarutan ibn Usfayshar, the Sanhaja Lamtuna erected (or captured) the citadel of Awdaghust, a critical stop on the trans-Saharan trade route. After the collapse of the Sanhaja union, Awdagust passed over to the Ghana empire and the trans-Saharan routes were taken over by the Zenata Maghrawa of Sijilmassa. The Maghrawa also exploited this disunion to dislodge the Sanhaja Gazzula and Lamta out of their pasturelands in the Sous and Draa valleys. Around 1035, the Lamtuna chieftain Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Tifat (alias Tarsina), tried to reunite the Sanhaja desert tribes, but his reign lasted less than three years.

Around 1040, Yahya ibn Ibrahim, a chieftain of the Gudala (and brother-in-law of the late Tarsina), went on pilgrimage to Mecca. On his return, he stopped by Kairouan in Ifriqiya, where he met Abu Imran al-Fasi, a native of Fes and a jurist and scholar of the Sunni Maliki school. At this time, Ifriqiya was in ferment, the Zirid ruler al-Muizz ibn Badis, was openly contemplating breaking with his Shi'ite Fatimid overlords in Cairo, and the jurists of Kairouan were agitating for him to do so. Absorbing this heady atmosphere, Yahya and Abu Imran fell into conversation on the state of the faith in their western homelands, and Yahya expressed his disappointment on the lack of religious education and negligence of Islamic law among his southern Sanhaja people. With Abu Imran's recommendation, Yahya ibn Ibrahim made his way to the ribat of Waggag ibn Zelu in the Sous valley of southern Morocco, to seek out a Maliki teacher for his people. Waggag assigned him one of his residents, Abdallah ibn Yasin.

Abdallah ibn Yasin was a Gazzula Berber, and probably a convert rather than a born Muslim. His name can be read as "son of Ya Sin" (the title of the 36th Sura of the Qur'an), suggesting he had obliterated his family past and was "re-born" of the Holy Book.[11] Ibn Yasin certainly had the ardor of a puritan zealot, his creed was mainly characterized by a rigid formalism and a strict adherence to the dictates of the Qur'an, and the Orthodox tradition.[12] (chroniclers like al-Bakri allege Ibn Yasin's own learning was superficial.) Ibn Yasin's initial meetings with the Gudala people went poorly. With more ardor than depth, Ibn Yasin's arguments were disputed by his audience. He responded to questioning with charges of apostasy and handed out harsh punishments for the slightest deviations. The Gudala soon had enough and expelled him almost immediately after the death of his protector, Yahya ibn Ibrahim, sometime in the 1040s.

Ibn Yasin, however, found a more favorable reception among the neighboring Lamtuna people.[12] Probably sensing the useful organizing power of Ibn Yasin's pious fervor, he was invited by the Lamtuna chieftain Yahya ibn Umar al-Lamtuni to preach to his people. The Lamtuna leaders, however, kept Ibn Yasin on a careful leash, forging a more productive partnership between them. Invoking stories of the early life of the Prophet Muhammad, Ibn Yasin preached that conquest was a necessary addendum to Islamicization, that it was not enough to merely adhere to God's law, but necessary to also destroy opposition to it. And, in Ibn Yasin's ideology, anything and everything outside of Islamic law could be characterized as "opposition". Tribalism, in particular, was singled out as an obstacle. Again, it was not enough to merely ask or urge his audiences to put aside their blood loyalties and ethnic differences, and embrace the equality of all Muslims under the Sacred Law, it was necessary to make them do so. For the Lamtuna leadership, this new ideology dovetailed with their long desire to refound the Sanhaja union and recover their lost dominions. In the early 1050s, the Lamtuna, under the joint leadership of Yahya ibn Umar and Abdallah ibn Yasin - soon calling themselves the al-Murabitin (Almoravids) - set out on campaign to bring their neighbors over to their cause.


Northern Africa
From the year 1053, the Almoravids began to spread their religious way to the Berber areas of the Sahara, and to the regions south of the desert. After winning over the Sanhaja Berber tribe, they quickly took control of the entire desert trade route, seizing Sijilmasa at the northern end in 1054, and Aoudaghost at the southern end in 1055. Yahya ibn Umar was killed in a battle in 1057,[13] but Abdullah ibn Yasin, whose influence as a religious teacher was paramount, named his brother Abu Bakr ibn Umar as chief. Under him, the Almoravids soon began to spread their power beyond the desert, and subjected the tribes of the Atlas Mountains. They then came in contact with the Berghouata, a Berber tribal confederation, who followed a "heresy" founded by Salih ibn Tarif, three centuries earlier. The Berghouata resisted, and it was in battle with them that Abdullah ibn Yasin was killed in 1059, in a village called "Krifla" located near Rommani, Morocco. They were, however, completely conquered by Abu Bakr ibn Umar, and adopted Islam as a religion. Abu Bakr married a noble and wealthy woman, Zaynab an-Nafzawiyyat, that would become very influential in the development of the dynasty.[14] Zainab was the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Houara (a Masmuda tribe), who is said to be from Kairouan in origin.[14]

In 1061, Abu Bakr ibn Umar made a division of the power he had established, handing over the more-settled parts to his cousin Yusuf ibn Tashfin, as viceroy, resigning to him also his favourite wife Zainab. For himself, he reserved the task of suppressing the revolts which had broken out in the desert, but when he returned to resume control, he found his cousin too powerful to be superseded. In November 1087,[15] Abu Bakr was killed in battle by a poisoned arrow, while fighting in the historic region of the Sudan.[15]

Yusuf ibn Tashfin had in the meantime brought what is now known as Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauretania into complete subjection. In 1062 he founded the city of Marrakech. In 1080, he conquered the kingdom of Tlemcen (in modern-day Algeria) and founded the present city of that name, his rule extending as far east as Oran.[16]

Ghana Empire
The Almoravids conquered the Ghana Empire sometime around 1075 CE.[17] According to Arab tradition, the ensuing war pushed Ghana over the edge, ending the kingdom's position as a commercial and military power by 1100, as it collapsed into tribal groups and chieftaincies, some of which later assimilated into the Almoravids while others founded the Mali Empire. However, the Almoravid religious influence was gradual and not heavily involved in military strife, as Almoravids increased in power by marrying among the nation's nobility. Scholars such as Dierk Lange attribute the decline of ancient Ghana to numerous unrelated factors, only one of which can be likely attributable to internal dynastic struggles that were instigated by Almalvorid influence and Islamic pressures, but devoid of any military conversion and conquest.[18]

Southern Iberia
In 1086 Yusuf ibn Tashfin was invited by the taifa Muslim princes of the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus) to defend their territories from Alfonso VI, King of León and Castile. In that year, Yusuf ibn Tashfin crossed the straits to Algeciras, and defeated Castile at the Battle of az-Zallaqah (Battle of Sagrajas). He was prevented from following up his victory by trouble in Africa, which he chose to settle in person.

He returned to Iberia in 1090, avowedly for the purpose of annexing the taifa states of Iberia. He was supported by the bulk of Iberian peoples, who were discontent with the heavy taxation imposed upon them by their spend-thrift rulers. Their religious teachers, as well as others in the east, (most notably, al-Ghazali in Persia and al-Tartushi in Egypt, who was himself an Iberian by birth, from Tortosa), detested taifa rulers for their religious indifference. The clerics issued a fatwa (a non-binding legal opinion) that Yusuf had good moral and religious right, to dethrone the rulers, whom he saw as heterodox. By 1094, Yusuf had annexed most major taifas, with the exception of the one at Zaragoza. Yusuf did not reconquer much from the Christian kingdoms, except Valencia, but he did slow down the reconquesta by uniting al-Andalus.

After friendly correspondence with the caliph at Baghdad, whom he acknowledged as Amir al-Mu'minin ("Commander of the Faithful"), Yusuf ibn Tashfin in 1097 assumed the title of Amir al Muslimin ("Commander of the Muslims"). He died in 1106, when he was reputed to have reached the age of 100.

The Almoravid power was at its height at Yusuf's death, and the Moorish empire then included all North-West Africa as far as Algiers, and all of Iberia south of the Tagus, with the east coast as far as the mouth of the Ebro, and included the Balearic Islands.


Three years afterwards, under Yusuf's son and successor, Ali ibn Yusuf, Sintra and Santarém were added, and Iberia was again invaded in 1119 and 1121, but the tide had turned, the French having assisted the Aragonese to recover Zaragoza. In 1138, Ali ibn Yusuf was defeated by Alfonso VII of León, and in the Battle of Ourique (1139), by Afonso I of Portugal, who thereby won his crown. Lisbon was recovered by the Portuguese in 1147.

According to some scholars Ali ibn Yusuf was a new generation of leadership that had forgot the desert life for the comforts of the city.[19] Under the combined action of his Christian foes in Iberia and the agitation of Almohads (the Muwahhids) in Morocco. After Ali ibn Yusuf's death in 1143, his son Tashfin ibn Ali lost ground rapidly before the Almohads, and in 1146 he was killed by a fall from a precipice while attempting to escape after a defeat near Oran.

His two successors were Ibrahim ibn Tashfin and Ishaq ibn Ali, but their reigns were short. The conquest of the city of Marrakech by the Almohads in 1147 marked the fall of the dynasty, though fragments of the Almoravids (the Banu Ghaniya), continued to struggle in the Balearic Islands, and finally in Tunisia.

Family names such as Morabito, Murabito and Mirabito are common in western Sicily, the Aeolian Islands and southern Calabria in Italy. These names may have appeared in this region as early as the eleventh century, when Robert Guiscard and the Normans conquered the Muslim emirate of Sicily. In addition to southern Italy, there are also sizable populations of Mourabit (also spelled Morabit, Murabit or Morabet) in modern-day Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Mauritania.

Military organization

Abdallah ibn Yassin imposed very strict disciplining measures on his forces for every breach of his laws.[20] The Almoravids' first military leader, Yahya ibn Umar al-Lamtuni, gave them a good military organization.[16] Their main force was infantry, armed with javelins in the front ranks and pikes behind, which formed into a phalanx;[16][21] and was supported by camelmen and horsemen on the flanks.[16][21] They also had a flag carrier at the front who guided the forces behind him; when the flag was upright the combatants behind would stand and when turned down, they would sit.[21]

al-Bakri reports that, while in combat, the Almoravids did not pursue those who fled in front of them.[21] Their fighting was tense and they did not retreat when disadvantaged by an advancing opposing force and preferred death over defeat.[21] These characteristics were possibly unusual at the time.[21]

Praetorian prefecture of Africa

The praetorian prefecture of Africa (Latin: praefectura praetorio Africae) was a major administrative division of the Eastern Roman Empire, established after the reconquest of northwestern Africa from the Vandals in 533-534 by Emperor Justinian I. It continued to exist until the late 580s, when it was replaced by the Exarchate of Africa.


In 533, the Roman army under Belisarius defeated and destroyed the Vandal Kingdom that had existed in the former Roman territories of Northern Africa. Immediately after the victory, in April 534, the emperor Justinian published a law concerning the administrative organization of the newly acquired territories. The old provinces of the Roman Diocese of Africa had been mostly preserved by the Vandals, but large parts, including all of Mauretania Tingitana, much of Mauretania Caesariensis and large parts of the interior of Numidia and Byzacena, had been lost to the inroads of the Amazigh tribes, collectively called the Mauri (Moors). Nevertheless, Justinian restored the old administrative division, but raised the overall governor at Carthage to the supreme administrative rank of praetorian prefect.

From the aforesaid city, with the aid of God, seven provinces with their judges shall be controlled, of which Tingi, Carthage, Byzacium, and Tripoli, formerly under the jurisdiction of proconsuls, shall have consular rulers; while the others, that is to say, Numidia, Mauritania, and Sardinia shall, with the aid of God, be subject to governors.
—Codex Iustinianus, I.XXVII

Indeed, Justinian's intent was to, in the words of the historian J.B. Bury, "wipe out all traces of the Vandal conquest, as if it had never been".[1] The churches were restored to the Chalcedonian clergy, and the remaining Arians suffered persecution. Even the land ownership was reverted to the status prior to the Vandalic conquest, but the scarcity of valid property titles after 100 years of Vandal rule created an administrative and judicial chaos. The military administration was headed by the new post of magister militum Africae, with a subordinate magister peditum and four regional frontier commands (Tripolitania, Byzacena, Numidia, and Mauretania) under duces. This organization was only gradually established, as the Romans pushed the Mauri back and regained these territories.[2]

The Moorish Wars

When the Romans landed in Africa, the Moors maintained a neutral stance, but after the quick Roman victories, most of their tribes pledged loyalty to the Empire. The most significant tribes were the Leuathae in Tripolitania, and the Frexi in Byzacena. The Frexi and their allies were led by Antalas, while other tribes in the area followed Cutzinas. The Aurasii (the tribes of the Aurčs Mountains) in Numidia were ruled by Iaudas, and the Mauretanian Moors were led by Mastigas and Masuna.[3]

First Moorish uprising: After Belisarius departed for Constantinople, he was succeeded as magister militum Africae by his domesticus (senior aide), the eunuch Solomon from Dara. The tribes of Mauri living in Byzacena and Numidia almost immediately rose up, and Solomon set out with his forces, which included allied Moorish tribes, against them. The situation was so critical that Solomon was also entrusted with civil authority, replacing the first prefect, Archelaus, in the autumn of 534. Solomon was able to defeat the Mauri of Byzacena at Mamma, and again, decisively, at the battle of Mt. Bourgaon in early 535. In the summer, he campaigned against Iabdas and the Aurasii, who were ravaging Numidia, but failed to achieve any result. Solomon then set about erecting forts along the borders and the main roads, hoping to contain the raids of the Moors.

Military mutiny: In the Easter of 536 however, a large-scale military revolt broke out, caused by dissatisfaction of the soldiers with Solomon. Solomon, together with Procopius, who worked as his secretary, was able to escape to Sicily, which had just been conquered by Belisarius. Solomon's lieutenants Martinus and Theodore were left behind, the first to try to reach the troops at Numidia, and the second to hold Carthage.[4] Upon hearing about the mutiny, Belisarius, with Solomon and 100 picked men, set sail for Africa. Carthage was being besieged by 9,000 rebels, including many Vandals, under a certain Stotzas. Theodore was contemplating capitulation, when Belisarius appeared. The news of the famous general's arrival were sufficient for the rebels to abandon the siege and withdraw westwards. Belisarius, although able to muster only 2,000 men, immediately gave pursuit and caught up and defeated the rebel forces at Membresa. The bulk of the rebels however was able to flee, and continued to march towards Numidia, where the local troops decided to join them.[5] Belisarius himself was forced to return to Italy, and Justinian appointed his cousin Germanus as magister militum to deal with the crisis.

Germanus managed to win over many of the rebels to his side by appearing conciliatory and paying their arrears. Eventually, in the spring of 537, the two armies clashed at Scalae Veteres, resulting in a hard-won victory for Germanus. Stotzas fled to the tribesmen of Mauretania, and Germanus spent the next two years in re-establishing discipline in the army. Finally, Justinian judged the situation to have been stabilized enough, and in 539 Germanus was replaced by Solomon. Solomon carried on Germanus' work by pruning out of the army those of suspect loyalties and strengthening the network of fortifications. This careful organization enabled him to strike successfully against the Aurasii, evicting them from their mountain strongholds, and firmly establish Roman rule in Numidia and Mauretania Sitifensis.[6]

Second Moorish uprising and the revolt of Guntharic: Africa enjoyed peace and prosperity for the next few years, until the arrival of the great plague ca. 542, during which the people of the province suffered greatly. At the same time, the arrogant behaviour of some Roman governors alienated the Mauri leaders, such as Antalas at Byzacena, and provoked them to rise up and raid Roman territory. So it was that during a battle with the Mauri at Cillium in Byzacena in 544, the Romans were defeated and Solomon himself killed.[7][8] Solomon was succeeded by his nephew, Sergius, who as dux of Tripolitania had been largely responsible for the Moorish uprising. Sergius was both unpopular and of limited abilities, while the Mauri, joined by the renegade Stotzas, gathered together under the leadership of Antalas.[9] The Moors, aided by Stotzas, were able to enter and sack the coastal city of Hadrumetum by trickery. A priest named Paulus was able to retake the city with a small force without help from Sergius, who refused to march forth against the Moors. Despite this setback, the rebels roamed the provinces at will, while the rural population fled to the fortified cities and to Sicily.[10]

Justinian then sent Areobindus, a man of senatorial rank and husband to his niece Praejecta, but otherwise undistinguished, with a few men to Africa, not to replace Sergius, but to share command with him. Sergius was entrusted with the war in Numidia, while Areobindus undertook to subdue Byzacena. Areobindus sent out a force under the able general John against Antalas and Stotzas. Because Sergius did not come to their aid as requested, the Romans were routed at Thacia, but not before John mortally wounded Stotzas in single combat. The effects of this disaster at least forced Justinian to recall Sergius and restore unity of command in the hands of Areobindus.[11] Soon after, in March 546, Areobindus was overthrown and murdered by Guntharic, the dux Numidiae, who had come into negotiations with the Moors and intended to set himself up as an independent king. Guntharic himself was overthrown by loyal troops under the Armenian Artabanes in early May. Artabanes was elevated to the office of magister militum Africae, but was soon recalled to Constantinople.[12]

The man Justinian sent to replace him was the talented general John Troglita, whose exploits are celebrated in the epic poem Iohannis, written by Flavius Cresconius Corippus. Troglita had already served in Africa under Belisarius and Solomon, and had a distinguished career in the East, where he had been appointed dux Mesopotamiae. Despite his numerically weak forces, he managed to win over several Moorish tribes, and in early 547 he decisively defeated Antalas and his allies, and drove them from Byzacena. As Procopius recounts:

And this John, immediately upon arriving in Libya, had an engagement with Antalas and the Moors in Byzacium, and conquering them in battle, slew many; and he wrested from these barbarians all the standards of Solomon, and sent them to the emperor—standards which they had previously secured as plunder, when Solomon had been taken from the world.
—Procopius, De Bello Vandalico II.XXVIII

A few months later, however, the tribe of the Leuathae, in Tripolitania, rose up, and inflicted a severe defeat upon the imperial forces in the plain of Gallica. The Leuathae were joined by Antalas, and the Moors once again raided freely as far as Carthage.[13] Early in the next year John mustered his forces, and together by several allied Moorish tribes, including the former rebel Cutzinas, utterly defeated the Moors at the battle of the Fields of Cato, killing seventeen of their leaders and putting an end to the revolt that had plagued Africa for almost 15 years.

Peace restored

For the next decades, Africa remained tranquil, allowing it to recover. Peace might not have lasted as long, had not Troglita perceived that the complete eviction of the Mauri from the interior of the provinces, and the complete restoration of the province to its ancient bounds was impossible. Instead, he opted to accommodate himself with the Moors, promising them autonomy in exchange for becoming the Empire's foederati.[14] The loyalty of these dependent princes of the various Moorish tribes was secured by means of annual pensions and gifts, and the peace was kept by a strong network of fortifications, many of which still survive to the present day.

The only interruption to the province's tranquility was a brief Moorish revolt of 563. It was caused by the unwarranted murder of the aged tribal leader Cutzinas, when he came to Carthage to receive his annual pension, by the magister militum, John Rogathinus. His sons and dependents rose up, until an expeditionary force under the tribune Marcian, nephew of the Emperor, succeeded in restoring the peace.[15]

During the reign of Justin II (565–578), great care was shown to Africa. Under the prefect Thomas, during the period 565–570 the network of fortifications was further strengthened and expanded, the administration reformed and decentralized, and largely successful efforts were made to proselytize the Garamantes of the Fezzan and the Gaetuli, living to the south of Mauretania Caesariensis.[16] At the same time, Africa was one of the more tranquil regions of the Empire, which was being assaulted on all sides, which allowed for troops to be transferred from the province to the East.[17]

Conflict with the kingdom of Garmules

In Mauretania, between the Roman outpost of Septum and the province of Caesariensis, various small Moorish kingdoms, which also ruled over Romanized urban populations, had been established ever since the arrival of the Vandals. Little information exists about them, but these were never subdued by the Vandals, and claimed continuity from the Roman Empire, their leaders styling themselves with titles such as imperator, like the chieftain Masties at Arris, or, in the case of king Masuna of Altava (modern Ouled Mimoun, Algeria), rex gentium Maurorum et Romanorum. By the early 530s, an autonomous Roman-Moorish "kingdom" had been established by Garmules, with its capital at Altava. When Belisarius defeated the Vandals, he too had acknowledged Roman suzerainty, but soon, taking advantage of the Moorish revolts, he renounced it. In the late 560s, he launched raids into Roman territory, and although he failed to take any significant town, three successive generals (the praetorian prefect Theodore and the magister militum Theoctistus in 570, and Theoctistus' successor Amabilis in 571) are recorded by John of Biclaro to have been killed by Garmules' forces.[18] His activities, especially when regarded together with the simultaneous Visigoth attacks in Spania, presented a clear threat to the province's authorities; Garmules was not the leader of a mere semi-nomadic tribe, but of a fully-fledged barbarian kingdom, with a standing army. Thus the new emperor, Tiberius II Constantine, re-appointed Thomas as praetorian prefect, and the able general Gennadius was posted as magister militum with the clear aim of reducing Garmules' kingdom. Preparations were lengthy and careful, but the campaign itself, launched in 577–78, was brief and effective, with Gennadius utilizing terror tactics against Garmul's subjects. Garmules was defeated and killed, and the coastal corridor between Tingitana and Caesariensis secured.[19]

Establishment of the Exarchate

Gennadius remained in Africa as magister militum for a long time (until the early 590s), and it was he who became the first exarchus of Africa,[20][21] when Emperor Maurice established the exarchate in the late 580s, uniting civil and military authority in his hands. The exarchate extended over North Africa, the imperial possessions in Spain, the Balearic Islands, Sardinia, and Corsica. It prospered greatly, and under Heraclius, African forces overthrew the tyrant Phocas in 610. The exarchate was a practically autonomous entity from the 640s on, and survived until the fall of Carthage to the Arabs in 698.


  • 1. Extract from Encyclopedia Universalis on Almoravids
  • 2. Nehemia levtzion, "Abd Allah b. Yasin and the Almoravids", in: John Ralph Willis, Studies in West African Islamic History, p. 54
  • 3. P.F. de Moraes Farias, "The Almoravids: Some Questions Concerning the Character of the Movement", Bulletin de l’IFAN, series B, 29:3-4 (794-878), 1967
  • 4. Ibn Abi Zar, p81
  • 5. Ibn Abi Zar's account in translated in N. Levtzion and J.F.P. Hopkins, 2000, editors, Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History, University of Ghana, p.239ff. For tentative identification of the ribat, see Moraes Farias (1967)
  • 6. Ibn al-Zayyat (1220). ?????? ??? ????? ???? ?????? [Looking to know the men of Sufism]. pp. 89.
  • 7. Qadi Ayyad (12th-century). ????? ??????? ?????? ??????? ?????? ????? ???? ????. [Biographies of Eminent Maliki Scholars]. pp. 839–840.
  • 8. ?Abd al-W??id Dhann?n ??h? (1998). The Muslim conquest and settlement of North Africa and Spain. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-00474-8. (online at Google Books)
  • 9. Mones (1988: p.119; 1992: p.228)
  • 10. Lewicki (1988:p.160-61; 1992: p.308-09)
  • 11. M.Brett and E. Fentress (1996)The Berbers Oxford: Blackwell, p.100; Revealingly, the 36th Sura begins the salutation "You are one of messengers" and the imperative duty to set people "on the straight path". Ibn Yasin's choice of name was probably not a coincidence.
  • 12. a b Shillington, Kevin (2005). History of Africa. 175 5th Avenue, New York, NY, USA: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-333-59957-0.
  • 13. Shillington 90
  • 14. a b Ibn Abi Zar p87
  • 15. a b Ibn Abi Zar, p89
  • 16. a b c d Encyclopćdia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
  • 17. Muslim Societies in African History (New approaches to African History) David Robinson
  • 18. Lange, Dierk (1996). "The Almoravid expansion and the downfall of Ghana", Der Islam 73, pp. 122-159
  • 19. North Africa, Islam and the Mediterranean World: From the Almoravids to the Algerian War (History & Society in the Islamic World) pg 59 By Julia Ann Clancy-Smith
  • 20. al-Bakri, pp.169-172
  • 21. a b c d e f al-Bakri, p166

  • 1. Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 139
  • 2. Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 140
  • 3. Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 142, note 52
  • 4. Procopius, BV II.XIV
  • 5. Procopius, BV II.XV
  • 6. Procopius, BV II.XIX-XX
  • 7. Procopius, BV II.XXI
  • 8. Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 145
  • 9. Procopius, BV II.XXII
  • 10. Procopius, BV II.XXIII
  • 11. Procopius, BV II.XXIV
  • 12. Procopius, BV II.XXV-XXVIII
  • 13. Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 147
  • 14. Moderan (2003), p.816
  • 15. Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 148
  • 16. El Africa Bizantina, p. 38
  • 17. El Africa Bizantina, p. 44
  • 18. PLRE IIIa, p. 504
  • 19. El Africa Bizantina, pp. 45-46
  • 20. PLRE IIIa, pp. 509–511
  • 21. The African exarchate is mentioned for the first time in 591. (El Africa Bizantina, p. 47)

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