Tuesday 23 January 2018

Visigothic Kingdom of Europe - Arian Kingdom of Hispania

After Alaric II's(King of Visigoths) death in 502 CE, his illegitimate son Gesalec took power until he was deposed by Theodoric the Great, ruler of the Ostrogothic Kingdom, who invaded and defeated him at Barcelona. Gesalic fled and regrouped, but was defeated again at Barcelona, and was captured and killed.


Theodoric, installed his grandson Amalaric (511–531), the son of Alaric II, as king. Amalaric, however, was still a child and power in Spain remained under the Ostrogothic general and regent, Theudis. Only after Theoderic's death (526) did Amalaric obtain control of his kingdom. His rule did not last long, as in 531, Amalaric was defeated by the Frankish king Childebert I and then murdered at Barcelona.

Illustration of Amalaric

Theudis became king of the Visigoths from 531 CE  until 548 CE. He expanded Visigothic control over the southern regions. In 541, Theudis had to confront the Franks under Chlothar I and Childebert I, who had penetrated as far as Zaragoza, which they besieged for forty-nine days, but the Franks lifted their siege when they learned the city was protected by the relics of Saint Vincent of Saragossa. He was murdered after a failed invasion of Africa.

Saint Vincent of Saragossa

Visigothic Spain suffered a civil war under King Agila I (549–554), which prompted the Roman/Byzantine emperor Justinian I to send an army and carve out the small province of Spania for the Byzantine Empire along the coast of southern Spain. Agila was eventually killed, and his enemy Athanagild (552–568) became the new king.

Justinian I

Athanagild (d. 568 CE) became the king of the Visigoths in 552 CE. He attacked the Byzantines, but he was unable to dislodge them from southern Spain, and was obliged to formally acknowledge the suzerainty of the Empire. His queen, Goiswintha, gave him two daughters — Brunhilda and the murdered Galswintha — who were married to two Merovingian brother-kings: Sigebert I of Austrasia and Chilperic, king of the Neustrian Franks.


The next Visigothic king was Liuvigild (569 – April 21, 586). He was an effective military leader and consolidated Visigothic power in Spain. Liuvigild campaigned against the Romans in the south in the 570s and he took back Cordova after another revolt. He pacified northern Spain, but was unable to completely conquer these peoples.

Statue of Liuvigild

When Liuvigild established his son Hermenegild as joint ruler, a civil war ensued between them. Hermenegild became the first Visigothic king to convert to Nicene Christianity due to his ties with the Romans, but he was defeated in 584 and killed in 585.

First Council of Nicaea 
By the end of his reign, Liuvigild had united the entire Iberian peninsula, including the Suebic Kingdom. Liuvigild established amicable terms with the Franks through royal marriages, and they remained at peace throughout most of his reign. Liuvigild also founded new cities, such as Reccopolis and Victoriacum (Vitoria), the first barbarian king to do so.

Sunday 7 January 2018

Decline of Abbasid Caliphate

With the Buyid dynasty on the wane, a vacuum was created that was eventually filled by the dynasty of Oghuz Turks known as the Seljuqs. By 1055, the Seljuqs had wrested control from the Buyids and Abbasids, and took any remaining temporal power. When the amir and former slave Basasiri took up the Shia Fatimid banner in Baghdad in, the caliph al-Qa'im was unable to defeat him without outside help. Toghril Beg, the Seljuq sultan, restored Baghdad to Sunni rule and took Iraq for his dynasty.

Al-Azhar Mosque, Cairo, Egypt

Once again, the Abbasids were forced to deal with a military power that they could not match, though the Abbasid caliph remained the titular head of the Islamic community. The succeeding Seljuq sultans Alp Arslan and Malikshah, as well as their vizier Nizam al-Mulk, took up residence in Persia, but held power over the Abbasids in Baghdad. When the dynasty began to weaken in the 12th century, the Abbasids gained greater independence once again.

Nizam al-Mulk, vizier of Seljuq

Al-Mustarshid Billah (1092 – 29 August 1135) became the 29th Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad from 1118 to 1135. Al-Mustarshid achieved more independence as a ruler while the Seljuq Sultan Mahmud II was engaged in war in the East. In 1122, al-Mustarshid deposed and imprisoned his vizier Amid al-dawla Jalal al-Din Hasan ibn Ali. Mahmud II then imposed Ahmad ibn Nizam al-Mulk as his vizier. He sent an army to take Wasit but was defeated near Baghdad and imprisoned in his palace (1126).

Modern Day Baghdad

While the Abbasid Caliph al-Mustarshid was the first caliph to build an army capable of meeting a Seljuk army in battle, he was nonetheless defeated in 1135 and assassinated. He was succeeded by his son Al-Rashid. To avenge his father's death, he insulted the Sultan Mas'ud's envoy who came to demand a heavy largess. Mas'ud hastened to the rebellious capital and laid siege to it. Baghdad, resisted the attack; but in the end the caliph, hopeless of success, escaped to Mosul.

Mustansiriya University, Baghdad, Iraq

In 1136, the Abbasid sultan's power restored, a council was held, the caliph Al-Rashid deposed, and his uncle Al-Muqtafi, appointed as the new caliph. He was the first Abbasid Caliph to regain the full military independence of the Caliphate, with the help of his vizier Ibn Hubayra. After nearly 250 years of subjection to foreign dynasties, he successfully defended Baghdad against the Seljuqs in the siege of Baghdad (1157), thus securing Iraq for the Abbasids.

Zumurrud Khatun Tomb, an Abbasid era mosque, Baghdad

The reign of al-Nasir (r. 1180 CE - 1225 CE), 34th Abbasid Caliph brought the caliphate back into power throughout Iraq, based in large part on the Sufi futuwwa organizations that the caliph headed. Al-Mustansir built the Mustansiriya School, in an attempt to eclipse the Seljuq-era Nizamiyya built by Nizam al-Mulk. Besides his occasional conquests, he consistently held Iraq from Tikrit to the Persian Gulf without interruption. 

Bandar Abbas, Iran, Persian Gulf

In 1206, Genghis Khan established a powerful Mongol Empire of central Asia. During the 13th century, this Empire conquered most of the Eurasian land mass, including both China in the east and much of the old Islamic caliphate (as well as Kievan Rus') in the west. Hulagu Khan's destruction of Baghdad in 1258 is traditionally seen as the approximate end of the Golden Age.

Hulagu Khan

In the 1258 siege of Baghdad, Mongols feared that a supernatural disaster would strike if the blood of Al-Musta'sim, a direct descendant of Muhammad's uncle Al-‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, and the last reigning Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, was spilled. So, Hulagu had Al-Musta'sim wrapped in a carpet and trampled to death by horses on 20 February 1258. The Caliph's immediate family was also executed, with the lone exceptions of his youngest son who was sent to Mongolia, and a daughter who became a slave in the harem of Hulagu.

Mongol siege of Baghdad, 1258
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