What does “Reinos de Taifas” mean?
The “Taifas” or “Reinos de Taifas” were independent kingdoms dispersed across the Iberian Peninsula after the Umayyad Caliphate was abolished in the tenth century. These were autonomous towns with all the infrastructure needed to defend themselves. The popular expression “Reinos de Taifas” is used to refer to the fact that these kingdoms were excessively and thus inefficiently organised.
History of the Reinos de Taifas
When the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba was abolished in the year 1031, there was a division of the territory into small kingdoms called “Taifas” (which translates from Arabic as “camp” or “faction”).
The sovereigns of these kingdoms used to compete with one another regarding military action, as they were searching for power and prestige by promoting their local products, culture and art. For this reason, this period was one of the most splendid and fruitful in the history of the Iberian Peninsula regarding culture, literature and art.
Among many others, this was the era of the great Arabian poet, Ibn Zaydun and his beloved Wallada. The couple died on the same day that the Almoravid Muslims entered the city of Cordoba in 1091.In this year many of the Taifas (Cordoba, Seville, and Jaén among others) surrendered to these Muslims coming from the North of Africa. During this period of instability, the kings of the taifas hired mercenaries to fight against the other Muslim rulers, the Almoravids from Northern Africa, and the Catholic Kings in the North of the peninsula. One of the mercenaries who fought in these battles was the famous Spanish nobleman and military leader “El Cid”, revered for his military prowess.
However, the Muslim fragmentation in so many kingdoms, as well as destructive internal battles, led to the submission of these “taifas” to the Catholic kings, who also demanded payment of an annual tribute.
After the fall of the Almoravid Empire (1085-1144), there was a second period of taifas (until 1172). Al-Andalus (the territory ruled by Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula) was politically fragmented again, analogous to when the Caliphate was abolished. The Almohads were another tribe arriving from the North of Africa, intended to reconquer the territory to return to Muslim unity in the Iberian Peninsula. They ruled until The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 when the Christians defeated the Muslims. Once again the territories were divided into the “Reinos de Taifas”. However, the ever-changing leadership never impeded the dominance of the “Reinos de Taifas” concerning the economy, art and culture.
King Almutamid of Seville (1069-1090) found a way to pay the tributes to the Catholic Kings and thus guaranteed a more or less peaceful cohabitation. Some Muslim kings sent money or women as means to pay these tributes, but Almutamid decided to offer one of his most precious goods: the olive oil obtained from the best trees in the provinces of Cordoba and Jaen. His olive oil was considered to be liquid gold. Thanks to him, trading was promoted with the other Christian kingdoms and other taifas including the taifa of Zaragoza, which was very important by then, with the famous El Cid fighting for them from 1081 to 1086.
Text written by Blanca Navarro Gavilán – PhD, BA History at the University of Cordoba
Text translated by Cristina Ayuso – BA. Translation & Interpreting at the University of Granada