The text below attempts to unravel the part played by Tariq ibn Ziyad - and the Rock of Gibraltar itself - in the history of the Moorish conquest of Iberia.
The Main Protagonists
Walid was the Caliph of the Umayyads from 705 to 715 AD. He was based in Damascus and his huge empire spread from the Caucasus right through Arabia and along the whole of North Africa to its western shores.
Ruins of the tombs of the Caliphs in Damascus where Al-Walid was probably buried ( 19th century print - Unknown )
Musa ibin Nusayr
Musa was Al-Walid's military governor of Ifrikaya - the North African provinces of his empire. He had been sent to North Africa in order to suppress the local Berber population. However, rather than impose Islam by force, he tended to use diplomacy. The end result was that many Berbers converted to Islam and quite a few actually entered his army. The mountain opposite Gibraltar on the African coast called Djebal Musa takes its name from him.
Djebel Musa from Gibraltar ( Unknown )
Tariq ibn Ziyad
Tariq - often referred to just as Tarik - was a general in Musa's army. Some say that in the early 8th century he was appointed governor of Tangier but they may be confusing him with his boss. He is reputed to have been a freedman of Musa. Others say he was a Persian from Hamadan yet others that he was not a freedman at all but a member of the Sandif tribe. The name of Gibraltar is said to derive from Gebal Tariq (see LINK) - the Mountain of Tariq.
Tariq ibn Ziyad
Tarif ibn Malik abu Zarah
Tarif, another Berber, is unfortunately often confused with Tariq who in certain texts is erroneously called Taric Abazara. To make matters worse Tarif actually served under Tariq as a military commander. The name of the Spanish town of Tarifa is said to derive from his. Some argue that the English word for Tariff comes from Tarifa. Others lay the blame on the Arabic 'tar'if' meaning to 'notify' or 'announce'.
Known as Ilyan in arabic, he was the Governor of Ceuta which was the one place in Africa still held by the Visigoths. He was also the Lord of Consuegra and Algeciras. Modern histories have him down as a Vandal rather than a Visigoth. ( see LINK )
Julian's Ceuta on the left, Gibraltar on the right ( 15th century - Piri Reis )
Count Julian's daughter, also known as la Cava. In some accounts she appears as Julian's wife.
Florinda ( 1850s - Frans Xaver Winterhalter - detail )
Witizia was King of the Visigoths whose death in 709 AD at the ripe old age of 27 led to a power struggle in which Roderick, Count of Baetia, ended up as King.
Aqila, or Aguila was the King of the Northern areas of the Visigoth Spain after Witizia's death. He may or may not have been Witizia's son. His relationship with Roderick to his south seems to have been good - until the death of his father.
Gold coin of the Aguila II era
Oppa - also known as Obba is a myth-shrouded individual with multiple possible histories. Some suggest he was one of Witizia's sons which sounds highly unlikely as the king was far too young when he died to have had a son plying his trade as a bishop while he was alive, others that he was Witizia's brother or half-brother. He appears in the literature as bishop - or perhaps archbishop - of either Toledo or Seville and his name is also given as Sindared. In some accounts he was declared King of Toledo by the opponents of both Roderick and Aqila.
Also known as Luderick and as Rodrigo in Spanish. He became King of the southern areas of Visigothic Spain after the death of Witizia. His capital was in Toledo. Before that there is some evidence that he was known as the Duke of Baetica.
The story goes that after the death of Witizia the nobles simply refused to back Aqila to take over the whole and elected Roderick to rule the southern area from Toledo. Another version has it that on the King's death it became a three way battle between Roderick, Aquila and Oppa . Roderick won.
Visigothic Capital of Toledo ( San Martin de Abelda Codex )
Also known by countless variations of this spelling. A Visigothic Count and ally of Roderick. He controlled much of the area around Murcia at the time of the Arab invasion. He seems to have been one of the first of the Goths to confront Tariq.
The Three Story Tellers
1. Ajbar Muchmua - 11th Century
Also known as Akhbar Madjmua, this is the title of a volume of collected stories by an anonymous author which tells, among other things, about the conquest of Iberia by Tariq ibn Ziyad. The quote below is taken from a translation by Emilio Lafuente y Alcantara's Colleccion de Obras Arabicas.
In the year 697 Al-Walid named Musa bin Nusayr - a client of the Omayyads . . as governor of Ifrikaya. Musa had once been a slave but had been made a freeman. He was sent there with just a few volunteers and no soldiers whatsoever.
When he arrived in Egypt, however, he commissioned a company of soldiers stationed there and moved onward towards Ifrikaya. The leader of his vanguard was Tariq ibn Ziyad and with him he fought his way through Berber country conquering their towns until he arrived in Tangier the principal fortress of the territory and capital of the area . . .
Musa then turned his attention to those coastal cities that were governor by people loyal to the King of Spain. The capital city was Ceuta and its leader was an infidel called Julian. Musa tried to take Ceuta but found Julian's force too strong for him and he returned to Tangier and ordered his people to slash and burn the surrounding countryside but to no avail as ships were able to come and go from Spain and with food and supplies as well as fresh troops . . .
Meanwhile the king of Spain - Witizia - died and was succeeded by his two sons, Oppa and Sisiberto, but these two were not deemed acceptable by the people and they elected instead an infidel by the name of Roderick, a bold and vigorous man who was not of royal blood but a leader and a nobleman.
It was at the time the custom for the grandees of Spain to send their sons and daughters , to the Royal Palace in Toledo which was then the principal fortress and capital of the Kingdom. There they would serve the king who would look after their education until they were old enough to marry.
When Rodrigo was declared king Julian sent his daughtr to Toledo who was violated by Rodrigo. She wrote to her father about what had happened but he kept his council;
'By the faith of the Mesiah', he exclaimed ' I will destroy his Kingdom and will open an abyss under his feet.'
Julian immediately contacted Musa, and made a pact with him to surrender those cities under his command with advantageous conditions for himself and for his followers. Once this had been agreed upon, Julian made Musa aware of the situation in Spain and urged him to try and conquer the country.
In 709 AD Musa wrote to Al-Walid about Julian's suggestion. His answer was as follows;
'Send a few troops to that country so that they can explore it and obtain more precise information about it - but do not expose Muslims to the hazards of rough seas.'
Musa replied that what was involved was not a sea but a narrow straits which allowed anybody on one side of it to appreciate what was happening on the other. Al-Walid was not convinced;
'Even so, send people to explore so you can inform yourself properly.'
So it was the Musa sent across one of his freedman by the name of Tarif - whose surname was abu Zarah - together with 400 men including 100 cavalry in four ships. They arrived at a place called the Isla de Andalus which was a Christian arsenal and a place where they launched their ships. Because he disembarked here, the place is now known as the Island of Tarif.
He waited until his men were ready and then marched against Algeciras where he captured more captives and booty than neither his followers nor Musa had ever seen before and returned safe and sound. All this happened in the year 710 AD.
When the Muslims learned of all this, they were anxious to move quickly. Musa appointed as his commander Tarik ibn Ziyad - a freedman of his and a Persian from Hamadan , although others say that he was not a freedman but a member of the Berber Sandif tribe. He put him in charge of 7000 Muslims for the most part made up of Berbers and Freedmen and very few Arabs.
The infantry and the cavalry were ferried across the straits in instalments on four boats, which were the only ones they had at their disposal. The entire army eventually disembarked on a very strong mountain which was situated by the sea shore.
When the King of Spain heard the news about Tarif's raid he realised the situation was a serious one. He had been away from his Court fighting in Pamplona. Tarik had already landed his troops when the King decided to move south collecting on the way an army of about 100 000 men - or so they say.
When Tarik heard the news he wrote to Musa asking him for more troops and giving him the news that he had taken Algeciras and the lake ( el Lago de Janda ) but that the King of Spain was about to attack him with an army that he couldn't match.
Since Tarik's departure, Musa had ordered the construction of new ships and now had quite a few available. He now used them to send him another 5000 which meant that Tarik's army was now 12 000 strong. Tarik had also captured quite a few important people and with Julian's help as a spy he was able to pinpoint those places which were defensively weak.
When Rodrigo together with the cream of the Spanish nobility and the sons of their Kings approached the Muslims and noted their numbers and their dispositions they held a conference in which they told each other that;
'This son of a bitch has made himself owner of our Kingdom without even being of royal blood. He is one of our inferiors. These people don't want to establish themselves in our country. The only thing they want is booty and once they get it they will march away and leave us. Let us put them to flight immediately and the son of the bitch will be defeated.'
Convinced that they were right, Rodrigo placed Sisiberto on the right and Oppas. Both were sons of Rodrigo's predecessor, Witizia and both were part of the conspiracy against him. With roughly 100 000 troops . . . . . Rodrigo confronted Tarik - who had remained in Algeciras - in a place called el Lago ( de Janda ). They fought savagely despite the fact that although the right and left wings under the command of Sisiberto and Oppas fled the field of battle leaving the centre to resist as best he could.
Rodrigo was defeated and his troops were massacred by their enemies. The King had disappeared as the Muslims were only able to find his white horse with its saddle made of gold encrusted with rubies and emeralds as well as a mantle woven with gold thread with borders made of pearls and rubies. . . . God only knows what happened to him as nobody ever heard of him again, neither dead nor alive . . .
2. Ahmed Ibn Mohammed Al-Makkari - 16th/17th Century ( see LINK )
Algerian Historian whose greatest work was The Breath of Perfume from the Branch of Green Andalusia and Memorials of its Vizier Lisan ud-Din ibn ul-Khattib. The quote below is take from Pascual de Gayangos' translation.
No sooner did Ilyan, the Lord of Ceuta, arrive safely in his dominions, than he see the Amir Musa Ibn Nosseyr, and proposed to him the conquest of Andalus, which he described as a country of great excellence and blessings; he told him that it was a land abounding in productions of all kinds, rich in grain of all sorts, plentiful in waters renowned for their sweetness and clearness; he proceeded afterwards to draw the picture of the inhabitants, whom he affirmed to be enervated by long peace, and destitute of arms.
This account awakened the ambition of the Amir, who, after a mature deliberation on the proposition made to him, came to the following agreement with Ryan - that he should desert the cause which he was then defending and pass over to the Moslems, and that by way of proving his enmity towards his own countrymen, professing the same religion as himself, he should first of all make an incursion into their country.
This Ilyan immediately put into execution, and, collecting some troops in the districts subject to his rule, he embarked in two vessels and landed on the coast of Algesiras, whence he overran the country, and after killing and making a number of captives he and his companions returned safe to Africa, loaded with spoil, on the following day.
No sooner did the news of this first expedition, which took place at the close of the year ninety become known in Africa, than a great many Moslems flocked under the banners of Ilyan and trusted him. As for the Amir Musa, he wrote informing him of what Ryan proposed to him to undertake against Andalus, and asking his leave to try the conquest, and the answer of the Khalif was conceived in the following terms.
Let the country be first explored by light troops, to overrun it and bring thee news of what it contains; be prudent, and do not allow the Moslems to be lost in an ocean of dangers and horrors.
To which Musa replied - It is not an ocean, but only a narrow channel, whose shores are everywhere distinct to the eye.
Never mind, answered Al-walid, even if it be so, let the country be first explored.
Accordingly Musa sent a freedman of his, a Berber, whose name was Tarif abu Zarah with four hundred foot and one hundred horsemen, with instructions to make an incursion into Andalus. Tarif and his small army embarked in four vessels, and landed on an island situated opposite to another island close to Andalus, and known by the name of Jezirah Al-khadhrd (the green island), where the Arabs of the present days keep their ships and their naval stores, it being their principal port to cross over to Africa.
In this island, which has since taken the name of Tarif, on account of his landing on it, the Berber general stayed a whole day, until all his men were with him - he then moved on and made several inroads into the main land, which produced a rich spoil and several captives, who were so hand- some that Musa and his companions had never seen the like of them.
This took place in the month of Ramadhan of the year ninety-one ( 71AD ) and when it was made known every one wished to go to Andalus. The number of troops that accompanied Tarif in this expedition is not satisfactorily ascertained. Some authors make it amount to one thousand men; others give him only half that number, as above stated.
But we must observe that the whole of these accounts are very doubtful, since there are not wanting historians who make Tarif a different person from Abu Zar'ah, as these words of one of them seem to purport - Tarif returned from this expedition loaded with spoil, and bringing a great number of captives; another incursion was made by a Sheikh of the Berbers, whose name was Abu Zar'ah, who landed with one thousand men of his nation on the island of Algeciras, and finding that the inhabitants had deserted the island he set fire to their houses and fields, and burnt also a church very much venerated amongst them. He then put to the sword such of its inhabitants as he met, and, making a few prisoners, returned safe to Africa.
But we believe the former account to be the most credible, since it is confirmed by Ar-razi and other historians, who make these two captains to be one and the same person, and call him Abu Zar'ah Tarif Ibn Malik Al-mughaferi for such were his name and patronymic.
But to proceed. Ilyan went a second time to Musa Ibn Nosseyr, and apprised him of the happy result of the inroad he had made in Andalus, as well as that of Tarif Abu Zar'ah, and how they had both been crowned with success.
He at the same time instigated him to undertake the conquest of the country more at large: he told him what captives they had brought him, and the good tidings about the fertility and wealth of the land. When Musa heard of it he praised God for the victory he had granted his servants, and strengthened himself in his intention of invading Andalus; to this effect he called a freed slave of his, to whom he had on different occasions entrusted important commands in his armies, and whose name was Tarik Ibn Zeyad Ibn 'Abdillah, a native of Hamdan, in Persia, although some pretend that he was not a freedman of Musa Ibn Nosseyr, but a free-born man of the tribe of Sadif, while others make him a mauli of Lahm.
It is even asserted that some of his posterity who lived in Andalus rejected with indignation the supposition of their ancestor having ever been a liberated slave of Musa Ibn Nosseyr. Some authors, and they are the greatest number, say that he was a Berber, but, as we intend to form a separate article about Tarik, we shall leave the discussion of this and other points for another place, confining ourselves at present to the relation of the historical events as we find them recorded by the best Andalusian writers.
To this Tarik, therefore, whether a liberated slave of Musa, or a freeman of the tribe of Sadf, the Arabian governor of Africa committed the important trust of conquering the kingdom of Andalus, for which end he gave him the command of an army of seven thousand men, chiefly Berbers and slaves, very few only being genuine Arabs.
To accompany and guide Tarik in this expedition Musa again sent Ilyan, who provided four vessels from the ports under his command, the only places on the coast where vessels were at that time built. Everything being got ready, a division of the army crossed that arm of the sea which divides Andalus from Africa, and landed with Tarik at the foot of the mountain which afterwards received his name, on a Saturday, in the month of Sha'ban of the year ninety-two (711 AD ). . . and the four vessels were sent back, and crossed and re-crossed until the rest of Tarik's men were safely put on shore.
. . . Another account makes the number of men embarked on this occasion amount to twelve thousand, all but sixteen, a number consisting almost entirely of Berbers, there being but few Arabs amongst them; but the same writer agrees that Ilyan transported this force at various times to the coast of Andalus in merchant vessels, (whence collected it is not known,) and that Tarik was the last man on board.
Various historians have recorded two circumstances concerning Tarik's passage and his landing on the coast of Andalus, which we consider worthy of being transcribed. They say that while he was sailing across that arm of the sea which separates Africa from Andalus he saw in a dream the prophet Mohammed, surrounded by Arabs of the Muhajirin and Anssdr, who with unsheathed swords and bended bows stood close by him, and that he heard the Prophet say, Take courage, O Tarik! and accomplish what thou art destined to perform; and that having looked round him he saw the messenger of God, (upon whom be the peace and salutation of his Lord!) who with his companions was entering Andalus.
Warriors of Islam ( 13th century - Unknown )
Tarik then awoke from his sleep, and, delighted with this good omen, hastened to communicate the miraculous circumstance to his followers, who were much pleased and strengthened. Tarik himself was so much struck by the apparition that from that moment he never doubted of victory.
The same writers have preserved another anecdote, which sufficiently proves the mediation of the Almighty in permitting that the conquest of Andalus should be achieved by Tarik. Directly after his landing on the rock Musa's freedman brought his forces upon the plain, and began to overrun and lay waste the neighbouring country. While he was thus employed, an old woman from Algesiras presented herself to him, and among other things told him what follows:
Thou must know, O stranger! that I had once a husband who had the knowledge of future events; and I have repeatedly heard him say to the people of this country that a foreign general would come to this island and subject it to his arms. He described him to me as a man of prominent forehead, and such, I see, is thine; he told me also that the individual designated by the prophecy would have a black mole covered with hair on his left shoulder. Now, if thou hast such a mark on thy body, thou art undoubtedly the person intended.
When Tarik heard the old woman's reasoning, he immediately laid his shoulder bare, and the mark being found, as predicted, upon the left one, both he and his companions were filled with delight at the good omen.
Ibnu Hayyan's account does not materially differ from those of the historians from whom we have quoted. He agrees in saying that Ryan, Lord of Ceuta, incited Musa Ibn Nosseyr to make the conquest of Andalus; and that this he did out of revenge, and moved by the personal enmity and hatred he had conceived against Roderick.
He makes Tarik's army amount only to seven thousand, mostly Berbers, which, he says, crossed in four vessels provided by Ilyan. According to his account Tarik landed on a Saturday, in the month of Sha'ban of the year ninety two, and the vessels that brought him and his men on shore were immediately sent back to Africa, and never ceased going backwards and forwards until the whole of the army was safely landed on the shores of Andalus.
On the other side, Ibnu Khaldun reckons the army under the orders of Tarik at three hundred Arabs, and ten thousand Berbers. He says that before starting on his expedition Tarik divided his army into two corps, he himself taking the command of one, and placing the other under the immediate orders of Tarif landed at the foot of the rock now called Jebal-l-fatah (the mountain of the entrance), and which then received his name, and was called Jebal-Tarik (the mountain of Tarik); while his companion Tarif landed on the island afterwards called after him Jezir ah-Tarif (the island of Tarif).
In order to provide for the security of their respective armies, both generals selected, soon after their landing, a good encampment, which they surrounded with walls and trenches, for no sooner had the news of their landing spread than the armies of the Goths began to march against them from all quarters.
Map showing the Straits and relative positions of Tangier, Tarifa and Gibraltar ( 1700s - Berge )
The precise date of Tarik's invasion has been differently stated. Some historians, as Ibnu Khaldun, content themselves with giving the year, viz., ninety-two (beginning 28th October, 710 AD); others have fixed the month and the day in which this memorable event is supposed to have taken place.
Ibnu-l-khattib places it on Monday, five days before the end of Rejeb (25th Rejeb) of the year ninety-two ( 20th June, 711); Ibnu Hayyan on a Saturday of the month of Sha'ban: others say on the twenty- fourth of Rejeb; Adh-dhobi on the eighth day of the same month. There are not wanting authors who place it at the beginning of the year ninety-three; but those who fix it in ninety-two are most in number.
God only knows the truth of the case. But, to continue our narrative, no sooner did Tarik set his foot in Andalus than he was attacked by a Goth named Tudmir (Theodomir), to whom Roderic had entrusted the defence of that frontier. Theodomir, who is the same general who afterwards gave his name to a province of Andalus, called Beldd Tudmir (the country of Theodomir), having tried, although in vain,to stop the impetuous career of Tarik's men, dispatched immediately a messenger to his master, apprising him how Tarik and his followers had landed in Andalus.
He also wrote him a letter, thus conceived - This our land has been invaded by people whose name, country, and origin are unknown to me. I cannot even tell thee whence they came - whether they fell from the skies, or sprang from the earth.
When this news reached Roderick, who was then in the country of the Bashkans ( Basques) to the defence of his kingdom making war in the territory of Banbilonah (Pamplona) where serious disturbances had occurred, he guessed directly that the blow came from Ilyan. Sensible, however, of the importance of this attack made upon his dominions, he left what he had in hand, and, moving towards the south with the whole of his powerful army, arrived in Cordova, which is placed in the centre of Andalus.
There he took up his abode in the royal castle, which the Arabs called after him Roderick's castle . . In this palace Roderic took up his residence for a few days, to await the arrival of the numerous troops which he had summoned from the different provinces of his kingdom.
They say that while he was staying in Cordova he wrote to the sons of Wittiza to come and join him against the common enemy; for although it is true, as we have already related, that Roderick had usurped the throne of their father and persecuted the sons, yet he had spared their lives - since these two sons of Wittiza are the same who, when Tarik attacked the forces of King Roderick on the plains of Guadalete, near the sea, turned back and deserted their ranks, owing to a promise made them by Tarik to restore them to the throne of their father if they helped him against Roderick.
However, when Roderic arrived in Cordova, the sons of Wittiza were busily engaged in some distant province collecting troops to march against the invaders, and he wrote to them to come and join him with their forces, in order to march together against the Arabs; and, cautioning them against the inconvenience and danger of private feuds at that moment, engaged them to join him and attack the Arabs in one mass.
The sons of Wittiza readily agreed to Roderick's proposition, and collecting all their forces came to meet him, and encamped not far from the village of Shakandah, on the opposite side of the river, and on the south of the palace of Cordova. There they remained for some time, not daring to enter the capital or to trust Roderick, until at last, having ascertained the truth of the preparations, and seeing the army march out of the city and him with it, they entered Cordova, united their forces to his, and marched with him against the enemy, although, as will be seen presently, they were already planning the treachery which they afterwards committed.
Others say that the sons of Wittiza did not obey the summons sent them by the usurper Roderick; on the contrary, that they joined Tarik with all their forces: but which of these reports is the true one God only knows.
However, it seems to have been ascertained that all the princes of the Goths came to join Roderick in this expedition, although it is equally true that he was deserted by some of his noblemen on the field of battle. But much obscurity prevails in the writings of the historians who have recorded theevents of those early times.
Even the name of the Gothic monarch at the time of Tarik's invasion has been spelt in different ways, for we find it written thus - Rudheric, and Ludheric; although the latter is more commonly used. It is also stated that he was a descendant from Isbahdn (Hispan) - but this is contrary to the accounts of Ibnu Hayyan and others, who say that he was not of royal blood.
When Tarik received the news of the approach of Roderick's army, which is said to have amounted to nearly one hundred thousand men, provided with all kinds of forcements. weapons and military stores, he wrote to Musa for assistance, saying that he had taken Algeciras, a port of Andalus, thus becoming by its possession the master of the passage into that country; that he had subdued its districts as far as the bay; but that Roderick was now advancing against him with a force which it was not in his power to resist, except it was God Almighty's will that it should be so.
Musa, who since Tarik's departure for this expedition had been employed in building ships, and had by this time collected a great many, sent by them a reinforcement of five thousand Moslems, which, added to the seven thousand of the first expedition, made the whole forces amount to twelve thousand men, eager for plunder and anxious for battle.
Ilyan, Lord of Ceuta, who had become a tributary of the Moslems, was also sent with his army and the people of his states to accompany this expedition, and to guide it through the passes in the country, and gather intelligence for them.
Meanwhile Roderick was drawing nearer to the Moslems, with all the forces of the barbarians, their lords, their knights, and their bishops; but the hearts of the great people of the kingdom being against him, they used to see each other frequently, and in their private conversations they uttered their sentiments about Roderick in the following manner:
This wretch has by force taken possession of the throne to which he is not justly entitled, for not only he does not belong to the royal family, but he was once one of our meanest menials; we do not know how far he may carry his wicked intentions against us. There is no doubt but that Tarik's followers do not intend to settle in this country; their only wish is to fill their hands with spoil and then return.
Let us then, as soon as the battle is engaged, give way, and leave the usurper alone to fight the strangers, who will soon deliver us from him; and, when they shall be gone, we can place on the throne him who most deserves it.
In these sentiments all agreed, and it was decided that the proposed plan should be put into execution; the two sons of Wittiza, whom Roderic had appointed to the command of the right and left wings of his army, being at the head of the conspiracy, in the hope of gaining the throne of their father.
When the armies drew nearer to each other, the princes began to spin the web of their treason; and for this purpose a messenger was sent by them to Tarik, informing him how Roderick, who had been a mere menial and servant to their father, had, after his death, usurped the throne; that the princes had by no means relinquished their rights, and that they implored protection and security for themselves.
They offered to desert, and pass over to Tarik with the troops under their command, on condition that the Arab general would, after subduing the whole of Andalus, secure to them all their father's possessions, amounting to three thousand valuable and chosen farms, the same that received after this the name of Safdyd-l-moluk (the royal portion).
This offer Tarik accepted; and, having agreed to the conditions, on the next day the sons of Wittiza deserted the ranks of the Gothic army in the midst of battle, and passed over to Tarik, this being no doubt one of the principal causes of the conquest.
Roderic arrived on the banks of the Guadalete (Waddi-Lek) with a formidable army. Roderic en-camps on the army, which most historians compute at one hundred thousand cavalry ; although Ibnu Khaldun makes it amount to forty thousand men only. Roderick brought all his treasures and military stores in carts: he himself came in a litter, placed between two mules, having over his head an awning richly set with pearls, rubies, and emeralds.
On the approach of this formidable tempest the Moslems did not lose courage, but prepared to meet their adversary . . . Tarik mounted his horse, and his men did the same; and they all passed that night in constant watch for fear of the enemy.
On the following morning, when day dawned, both armies prepared for battle; each general formed his cavalry and his infantry, and, the signal being given, the armies met with a shock similar to that of two mountains dashing against each other. . . .
Tarik plunged into the ranks of the enemy until he reached the king, and wounded him with his sword on the head and killed him on his throne and when Roderic's men saw their king fall and his body guard dispersed, the rout became general and victory remained to the Moslems. The rout of the Christians was complete,
3. Maurice Harvey - Late 20th century
British Historian and at the time of writing the author of the latest general history of Gibraltar in English. Quotes below are taken from his book Gibraltar - A History.
It was the usurpation of the throne by Roderick in 709, that led to the (Visigoth's) downfall for the dispossessed Aquila appealed to Count Julian, the Vandal governor of Saepta ( Ceuta ) for military aid to recover his throne. It was not, however, Julian who was instrumental in ridding Spain of the Visigoths, for a far more powerful and explosive movement was taking place in North Africa at the end of the seventh century - the invasion of Islam. . .
The difficult country of the Maghreb was eventually subdued and in 681 the Arab forces arrived at the gates of Count Julian's fief at Saepta. . . . The first Islamic approach . . . had been little more than a reconnaissance in force but nearly 30 years later in 707 a much larger army under Musa ibn Nusayr took effective control of the entire north African littoral - at about the same time as Julian was being asked to intervene in Spain.
Not surprisingly. Julian, who was obviously keen to move the Arabs onto other pastures, suggested that they might care to undertake the invasion themselves. Although Musa was initially less than enthusiastic, he nevertheless in 710, authorised a reconnaissance of the Spanish coast in the vicinity of Gibraltar and set in motion a conquering force which was not to turn back until it was defeated by Charles Martel at Poitiers . . .
. . There is much conjecture attaching to the early history of Gibraltar and archaeological evidence is almost non-existent. . . although small Arab expeditions may have crossed the sea in the early years of the eighth century, it is clear that in the summer of 710 a raiding party crossed from Tangier to Mellaria. Subsequently named Tarifa, it is said to be the origin of the modern word 'Tariff' on account of the customs duties levied by the Moors at the port. .
The Straits of Gibraltar ( 1705 unknown )
It was the assurances engendered by this initial sortie which led to Musa sending a far more formidable force across the Straits the following year. This was led by Tarik ibn Zeyad variously described as a freedman of Musa, probably an Algerian, but certainly a Berber. Tarik had about 7000 mainly Berber troops of which about 500 were cavalry and the rest infantry, auxiliaries may have brought the total force up to about 12 000.
He did not use the Tarifa route which the Visigoths may have anticipated and there is evidence that he went to some lengths to conceal his intentions. Legend maintains that he landed on Mons Calpe which he named Djebal-Tarik (Gibraltar) on the 27th April 711 but there is no clear evidence of where he actually disembarked. Later sources suggest that he made an initial landing which was repulsed and went to another part of the coast.
It is known that he had only four merchant ships and had to ferry his troops across in relays which could have taken up to fourteen days. It may be assumed therefore that his point of entry was sufficiently far from Portus Alba ( Algeciras ), where the Visigoths had a garrison, to avoid an early confrontation and ideally out of sight of observers from the port.
This would seem to preclude anywhere within the Bay of Gibraltar, although the initial landing referred to, which may have been a feint, could have been near Carteia. The most likely conclusion is that Tarik sailed round the Rock to the east and landed somewhere north of the Isthmus . . . most tellingly of all, the landing would have been screened from the Visigoth garrison. ( see LINK )
. . . it is conceivable, even probable, that Tarik put an observation party onto the Rock to keep him informed of the enemy's movements . . . There are reports that he built a fort on the rock although no signs of this remain or indeed of any walls or fortifications from that period.
Thus the bestowal of his name on the rock must be largely symbolic. . . There is however, another possibility that the name could have a spiritual derivation more in keeping with the times. The Arab word Tariek means path, in which case Djebel Tariq could be defined as 'The Mountain of the Path - of Islam. . . . Tarik made rapid headway after his initial successes, defeating Roderick in July near the town of Medina Sidonia in an unusually long battle for the period of seven days . . .