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Lisbon in al-Andalus

Updated: 22 hours ago

Before being Lisbon, it was the Olissipo of the Romans and the Al Uxbuna of the Muslims. In 714, taking advantage of a civil war of the Visigoths, Moorish troops led by Tárique invaded the Iberian Peninsula, Lisbon was taken by Moors from North Africa.

Until the middle of the 11th century, Muslim Lisbon was, in the urban context of Al-Andalus, a lesser city, with little political relevance and modest urban dimension in relation to what it would be in the last two centuries of Muslim rule.

Three factors explain the secondary position that characterised the city between the 8th and 11th centuries, the major part of the Muslim domination of the city.

  1. The position of geographical periphery pushed Lisbon outside the sphere of interest and attention of the Emirate and Caliphal power that had its headquarters in Cordoba. Its extreme physical size confirmed the macrocephaly of Cordoba as the centre of Islamic power in Iberia.

  2. At this time, coastal cities were unsafe places due to the constant looting and pillaging carried out by the Norman piracy that dominated the Atlantic seas. In 844, Viking attacks on cities in the Muslim south, such as Lisbon and Seville, created insecurity, which hindered Lisbon's urban development in this period, when the Viking dominated the Atlantic.

  3. The whole of Al-Andalus was home to a vast Mozarabic population, that is, Christians who lived in the bosom of Islam, and Lisbon would be one of the urban centres where this population would have been larger. This reality of a multicultural Lisbon lasted until the 12th century, and was noted by Sigurd the Viking (the one who went to Jerusalem), who attacked Sintra and Lisbon in 1109, describing the inhabitants of the city as half-Christian and half-pagan, that is, Muslim.

These three factors help to understand the secondary role played by the city until the beginning of the 11th century, the moment when the political variables in the government of al-Andalus change and the city starts an upward trend in terms of political relevance and urban dimension that will end with the siege of 1147.

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