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Feudal Spanish - (711-1350 AD)
DBA 104

In 711 AD the Visigothic King Rodrigo was defeated by Tariq and his invading Berber army at the Battle of Guadelete, marking the end of a more or less unified Visigothic Spain and the beginning of the Feudal Spanish period. What remained of the Gothic Kingdom, a federation of four non-Gothic tribes (the Galicians, Asturians, Cantabrians and Basques), evolved into the kingdom of Asturias in the north. Meanwhile, Berber armies led by Tarik and Musa proceeded to conquer most of the Iberian peninsula in just five years, forcing Asturias into tributary status. During this period, Spain was generically referred to as Al-Andalus, which is a derivation of "Vandalusie" ("the land of the Vandals"), the gothic name for south/central Spain.

From 714 to 756, Al-Andalus was within the political sway of the Umayyad caliphs of Damascus, with designated governors in North Africa. The Muslim capital was moved from Seville to Cordova, and Muslim Spain was known as the Emirate of Cordova (a.k.a Cordoba). Confrontations between the Berbers and their overlords, the Umayyad Arabs, resulted in a Berber uprising, which was suppressed by the arrival of a large Syrian contingent. That political instability allowed the Kingdom of Asturias to assert its political independence following a victory at the battle of Covadona (718 or 722 AD).

In the early eighth century, Abd-ar-Rahman survived the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate and assume control as an independent emir of Cordova. Abd-ar-Rahman launched a Muslim invasion across the Pyrenees into France where he was defeated and killed by Charles "The Hammer" Martel and his Frankish army at Tours (near Poiters) in 732 AD. Despite this set-back, Umayyad rulers continued to dominate Muslim Spain (756-929 AD), overcoming a period of internal uprisings by the Muladis (i.e. native hispanics who converted to Islam) and the "autonomous inclinations" of northern border cities such as Toledo, Merida and Zaragoza.

In 750 AD, King Alfonso I of Asturias occupied Galicia, which had been abandoned during the Berber/Muladi uprisings. Alfonso II (791-842 AD) continued the movement southward, seizing strongholds and establishing settlements south of the Deuro River. Wilfredo "the Hairy" (873-898 AD) seized Barcelona and established himself as an independent County. In the Northwest, Sancho I (905-926 AD) established a Basque kingdom of Navarre.

Despite these encroachments, Abd-er-Rahman III assumed the title of Caliph in 929 AD, and Muslim Cordova was at its peak of power and influence. Thereafter, however, Rahman's armies suffered defeats at Simancus, Osma and Talavera (930-950 AD) to Ramiro III, the King of Leon.

By 1000 AD, Christian Spain was comprised of several competing feudal kingdoms such as Asturias, Galicia, Castile, Leon, Navarre, and independent counties such as Aragon, Barcelona and Catalonia. They faced a fierce rival in al-Mansur (a.k.a., Almanzor), who effectively controlled the Caliphate as military dictator (978-1002 AD). In 981 AD, al-Mansur defeated King Ramillo III of Leon at Reuda, forcing Leon to pay tribute. During this period, Sancho III of Navarre gained the ascendancy among the Christian kings and counts, subjecting both Aragon and Castile to his rule (1000-1033 AD). Of his sons, Fernando I received the throne of Castile from his father and forced the Muslims of Toledo, Seville and Badajoz to pay tribute.

El Cid Constant conflict and economic strains caused considerable unrest among the various ethnic groups of Muslim Spain. By 1031 AD, internal politics forced the split-up of the Caliphate of Cordova into several smaller Muslim kingdoms (or taifas) that were roughly equivalent in size and resources with the Christian kingdoms of the north. Thereafter followed the period of the "Reconquista", or Christian expansion southward into Muslim held territories. It was during this period that Rodrigo Diaz Vivar (a.k.a., "El Cid") (at right) made his name as a Spanish warlord (1043-1099 AD), establishing himself as Count of Valencia before he died. It was a period also marked by occasional conflict between the feudal Christian Kings and considerable accomodation with local Muslim rulers.

Significant gains by the Christians, led primarily by Alfonso VI, King of Castile (1065-1109), were partially reversed when the Almoravids led by Yusef Ibn Tashufin arrived from North Africa in 1086, and proceeded to rule Muslim Spain until 1146 AD. Despite suffering territorial loses, Alfonso was able to unite the Kingdoms of Castile and Leon. Similarly, Alfonso I of Aragon was able to seize Saragossa in 1118 AD.

In 1139 AD, Portugal was recognized as an independent kingdom. In 1267, Portugal and Castile fixed their respective boundaries by treaty, with Portugal extending its borders all the way to the southern coast.

In 1146 AD, the Almohads arrived from West Africa and displaced the Almoravids as leaders of Muslim Spain. They were able to hold Christian expansion in check, defeating the Castilians at Alarcos in 1195 AD, and for a time, Leon broke off again as an independent kingdom.

Under King Peter (1196-1213), Aragon involved itself in the Albigensian Crusade in SW France, suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of Count Raymond of Toulouse. As a result, leadership of the "reconquista" was left firmly in the hands of Castile.

In 1212, Pope Innocent III proclaimed a crusade in Spain against the Almohads. An allied army was raised led by the Kings of Castille, Aragon, Navarre and Portugal and three French bishops. The Almohads had drawn up their army blocking a narrow valley. According to legend, St. Isidore the Laborer showed King Alfonso of Castille a secret path around the trap. Following the path, the Christian army was able to deploy on the level plain of Las Navas de Tolosa, where they proceeded to destroy the Muslim army. The heavy defeat splintered Muslim Al-Andalus into six warring states, which were eventually picked off one by one. Ferdinand III of Castile (1217-1252) proceeded to occupy Cordoba (1236), Murcia/Catagena (1243), Seville (1248); and his son took Cadiz in 1262.

Hemmed in by Castile in the West, Aragon expanded eastward. James I (the Conquerer) of Aragon (1213-1276) occupied the Baleric Islands (1229-1238), seized the Muslim city of Valencia (1238), and married his heir, Peter III to Constance, daughter of King Manfred of Sicily, thus opening the door for Peter to become King of Sicily in 1282. Peter was unable to hold his claim to Sicily, which was subsequently ruled by another Aragonese claimant/dynasty from 1296 until the 15th century. However, Aragon was able to incorporate Majorca (1249) and conquer the island of Sardinia from Genoa.

In 1257, Alfonso X the Wise of Castile-Leon petitioned the Pope to be named Holy Roman Emperor, but was ignored and then subsequently diposed by his nobles, who passed the throne to his son Sancho IV.

A futile attempt by the Muslims to reverse the Christian tide with reenforcements from North Africa was decisively beaten in 1340 at the battle of the River Salado. This battle effectively marks the end of the main "reconquista" period since Christian efforts after 1340 AD to drive out the remaining Muslims were minimal and they were able to hold onto the coastal Nazarene kingdom of Granada until 1492.


Beginning with the Kingdom of Asturias, the Feudal Spanish fought with the Muslim Umayyids (Andalusians #103) and Berbers (#125) for control of Al Andalus. Once the Christian Kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Navarre and others were well established, they found themselves defending their northern frontier (the "Spanish March") from the over acquisitive Carolingians (Later Franks) (102a). The Albinsengen Crusade saw Aragonese troops pitted against the Feudal French (137). Having reconquered most of Spain, the Feudal Spanish took over 200 years to drive the Muslims out of their last toehold in Granada (155).

Although not listed as an official "enemy", it was common for the early Spanish kings and warlords such as El Cid to take on their fellow Christians monarchs in intra-kingdom spats that were generally fairly small in scale (e.g., the taking of a frontier castle).


3x3Kn Your typical noble cavalry and retainers serving their feudal obligation. There were also four Military Orders of Knights in feudal Iberia: Avis or Aviz, Alcantara in 1156, and Calatrava in 1158, and Santiago (or the Order of St. James of the Sword) in 1164. A fifth military order, Montesa, was formed in 1312 following the breakup of the Templars and saw little action.
1x4Cb or 2Ps


The Feudal Spanish are a fairly balanced army with a heavy punch of Knights, a speedy pair of Light Horse, a solid core of foot, and sufficient Psiloi to turn bad going to their advantage. The Spanish are slower, however, than their Andalusian and Berber opponents and will need their Knights to overwhelm the Muslim cavalry and foot. The Feudal Spanish have no obvious advantages over the Later Frankish or Feudal French and must rely on strong tactics, careful use of terrain, and/or good die to win. The Spanish Light Horse and Crossbow option can play useful roles in slowing up the more numerous Frankish and French Knights.


A stone tower or stronghold, a medieval tent(s), a wall section, or typical baggage all make an appropriate camp. If you are whimsical and don't mind that it's slightly non-period, you might consider modeling your camp on Cervantes' Man of La Mancha, with the obsessed knight Don Quixote astride the broken down nag Rozinante, tilting with lance at a windmill, which he thinks is a dragon, while his faithful sidekick Sancho watches sorrowfully from his pack mule. A more historical camp might feature the three Bishops of Narbonne, Borbeaux, and Nantes, who accompanied the crusading army at Las Nevas de Talosa.

Other Resources

The De Bellis Bookstore features the following titles related to feudal Spain and the reconquista:

The following websites may also be of interest to the Feudal Spanish gamer:

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Last Updated: April 30, 1999

Questions, comments, suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.