The People of Gibraltar
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 1 - The Visigoths and Islam


Visigothic Kingdom in 700 A.D

The Visigoths gradually occupied the entire Iberian Peninsula from the early 5th century onwards until the day when Tariq and his friends decided to come over and push them right back almost to where they had been when they first arrived in Iberia. As regards Gibraltar, however, the following is almost certainly true as far as I can make out.
H.T. Norris – Early Islamic Settlement in Gibraltar – 1961 – P39The peninsula of Gibraltar appears to have been almost uninhabited until the 8th century A.D. Carteya, a Punic port . . . was the chief city in the Bay in classical times.
George Hills – The Rock of Contention – 1974 P 19There is at present a total lack of evidence of any use by Carthaginians, Romans or Visigoths of Calpe as such. . . from the 5th to the 8th century there was contact across the Strait, but the Gibraltar area did not have, nor would it have, major importance.
All Goths by the way, were apparently Arian Christians from the 4th century onwards – until King Reccared I converted to Catholicism in the late 7th century.

The Conversion of Gothic King Reccared I (Antonio Muñoz Degrain)


On this page Alcantara’s introduces three of the main characters of the accepted opening story of medieval Gibraltar – Musa Ibn Nosayr, Count Julian and Tarik ibn Zeyad. The different versions given for Julian’s name is not unusual. The same goes for Musa (Nosseyr) and for Tarik (Tariq ibn Ziyad).

Count Julian
Ibn Abd al Hakem (803-871) Conquest of Spain - J. H. Jones Trans 1858 P18
It is also said that Musa lbn Nosseyr marched out of lfrikiya (Tunisia, western Tunisia and Algeria) upon an expedition into Tangiers . . . On the arrival of his cavalry in the nearest province of Sus, he subdued its inhabitants, and made them prisoners yielding him obedience. . . Afterwards Musa deposed the viceroy whom he had placed over Tangiers, and appointed Tarik Ibn Zeyad governor. He, then, returned to Cairwan, Tarik with his female slave of the name of Umm-Hakim setting out for Tangiers. Tarik remained some time in this district, waging a holy war.

“Umm Hakim, in white robes and a black net face veil, seated before the Prophet, tells Muhammad that Abû Bakr would like to give his daughter Aishah in marriage to him”

Aishah married Muhammed and Abu Bakr became his father in law – and the first convert to Islam. The Umm Hakim in the painting is obviously not the same one as Tarik’s girl. But there could have been some connection here with various associated myths concerning Tarik which I will discuss later. Alcantara’s flattering description of the Emir’s character would certainly be undermined when he later met his “officer in command” Tariq ibn Ziyed in Toledo and where his prudence, mildness and generosity went out of the proverbial window. I will also come back to this later

Musa Ibn Nosayr whipping Tariq in Toledo

Ibn Abd al Hakem (803-871) Conquest of Spain - John Harris Jones Trans.1858 P18/19
The governor of the straits between this district and Andalus, was a foreigner called llyan, (Julian) Lord of Septa (Ceuta). He was also the governor of a town called Alchadra, situated on the same side of the straits of Andalus as Tangier. llyan was a subject of Roderic the Lord of Andalus, who use, to reside in Toledo. Tarik put himself in communication with llyan, and treated him kindly, until they made peace with each other.

Roderick – The last King of the Visigoths (Unknown – Museo del Prado)

“Alchadra” is often identified as “Algeciras” (Al-Jazīra al-Khaḍrā) which unfortunately is not on the same side of straits as Tangier and would in any case be an anachronism as “Algeciras” only got its name after the Islamic conquest. Whether it was then called Port Alba or Julia Traducta is apparently a matter of conjecture.

I would also take with a large pinch of salt, Alcantara’s suggestion that Count Julian owed his allegiance to Constantinople rather than Visigothic Spain:
Ajbar Machmua (c1100) Trans - E.F.Lafuente y Alcantara - 1867 P150Dice Mr. Dozy que Julián era exarca do África, o de este parte de África; o lo que es lo mismo, que tenía este cargo o nombre del Emperador de Constantinopla, do donde podría deducirse, y deduce en efecto este sabio orientalista, que Julián era griego, y no español, y que aquel territorio de Ceuta no pertenecía a los godos, sino a los emperadores. 
Todos los historiadores o lo que es lo mismo, que tenía este cargo o nombre del Emperador de Constantinopla de donde podría deducirse, y deduce en efecto este sabio orientalista, que Julián era griego, y no español, y que aquel territorio de Ceuta no pertenecía a los godos, sino a los emperadores. Todos los historiadores arábigos afirman claramente lo contrario, y además hay algunos datos, que, aunque no de una manera terminante, contradicen esta opinión.
As regards Tariq, as all Gibraltarian schoolchildren know, this is the man who is supposed to have given his name to their home town - Tariq’s mountain or in Romanised Arabic - Gebel Tariq.

Gebel Tariq in the distance (Mid-19th century )

Oddly enough there is very little information available as to who Tarik was or where he came from. The following are the only quotes I have been able to find so far:
Al Makkarí – Mohammedan Dynasties . . . Vol 1 - 1640
He (Musa) also appointed his freedman Tarik Ibn Ziyad, the Berber, whom some authors make of the tribe of Sadf to be governor of Tangiers and the neighbouring districts.
John Shakespear – History Mahometan Empire – 1816 P54
Tarik, son of Ziyad, according to some, or son of Amtu, as related by others. . . Ibn Bashkuval relates that he was more eloquent than can be described; and his knowledge of government . . . was sufficiently proved by his conquest and rule of Spain till the arrival of his superior, Musa.
Hmmm!. . The last two quotes were written by the same author - John Shakespear.
Ibn Juzayy (14th Century) Travels of Ibn BattutaFrom it (Gibraltar) began the great conquest and at it disembarked Tariq Ibn Ziyad, the freedman of Musa Ibn Nusayr.


To read the booklet without any interruptions from me - click on the link below:

711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar - J.J. Alcantara

To read the rest of my commentary click on the appropriate link below:

711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 1 - The Visigoths and Islam
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 2 - Tarik and Gibraltar
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 3 - Tarik’s Mountain
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 4 - Tarik Invades
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 5 - Covadonga
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 6 - Vikings and Almoravids
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 7 - Yusuf Ibn Tashfin
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 8 - Abd al-Mu’min
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 9 - Madinat-al-Fath
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 10 - Moorish Wall, Aqueduct and Town
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 11 - Abd al-Mu’min Revisited
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 12 - The First Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 13 - Christian Gibraltar and the Second Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 14 - La Giralda and the Third Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 15 - Abu al-hasan
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 16 - The Tower of Homage
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 17 - The Line Wall and the Shrine
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 18 - The Mosque, St Mary the Crowned and Rio Salado
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 19 - Siege of Algeciras and Ibn Battuta
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 20 - Southern Defences and Moorish Baths
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 21 - The Nuns’ Well
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 22 - The Gatehouse
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 23 - The 6th and 7th Sieges
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 24 - The 8th Siege – Castilian Gibraltar