Culture Of The Moors


The Moors In Europe

By Runoko Rashidi

It would not be inaccurate to say that the Moors helped reintroduce Europe to civilization.  But just who were the Moors of antiquity anyway?  As early as the Middle Ages, and as early as the seventeenth century, “The Moors were,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “commonly supposed to be mostly black or very swarthy, and hence the word is often used for negro.”  Dr. Chancellor Williams stated that “The original Moors, like the original Egyptians, were Black Africans.”

At the beginning of the eighth century Moorish soldiers crossed over from Africa into Spain, Portugal, and France, where their swift victories became the substance of legends.  To the Christians of early Europe there was no question regarding the ethnicity of the Moors, and numerous sources support the view that the Moors were a black-skinned people.  Morien, for example, is the adventure of a heroic Moorish knight supposed to have lived during the days of King Arthur.  Morien is described as “all black: his head, his body, and his hands were all black.”  In the French epic known as the Song of Roland the Moors are described as “blacker than ink.”

William Shakespeare used the word Moor as a synonym for African. Christopher Marlowe used African and Moor interchangeably.  Arab writers further buttress the Black identity of the Moors.  The powerful Moorish emperor Yusuf ben-Tachfin is described by an Arab chronicler as “a brown man with wooly hair.”

Black soldiers, specifically identified as Moors, were actively recruited by Rome, and served in Britain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Romania.  St. Maurice, patron saint of medieval Europe, was only one of many Black soldiers and officers under the employ of the Roman Empire.




Medieval Sourcebook:
Las Siete Partidas: Laws on Jews, & Moors In Europe In The Year

[Marcus Introduction] Las siete partidas, the Seven-Part Code, is one of the most remarkable law codes of medieval times. The code, written in the Castilian vernacular, was compiled about 1265, under the supervision of Alfonso X, the Wise (1252-1284), of Castile. Its laws, however, did not go into effect until 1348, and then only with certain reservations From Castile they spread to all of Spain and thence into the Spanish possessions in the Philippines, Porto Rico, Florida, and Louisiana. The sources of this code are largely Visigothic, later Roman, and Church law, all of which were hostile to the Jew. This hostility did not, however, deter the Castilian state from protecting scrupulously the Jewish religion as well as the person and property of the Jews. The Jews and Moors, national minorities, were too numerous and too important to be mistreated as yet by the new Castilian state.


Jews who live with Christian women are guilty of great insolence and boldness, for which reason we decree that all Jews who, hereafter, may be convicted of having done such a thing shall be put to death. For if Christians who commit adultery with married women deserve death on that account, much more do Jews who have sexual intercourse with Christian women, who are spiritually the wives of Our Lord Jesus Christ because of the faith and the baptism which they receive in His name; nor do we consider it proper that a Christian woman who commits an offense of this kind shall escape without punishment. Wherefore we order that, whether she be a virgin, a married woman, a widow, or a common prostitute Who gives herself to all men, she shall suffer the same penalty which we mentioned in the last law in the Title concerning the Moors, to which a Christian woman is liable who has carnal intercourse with a Moor [i.e., confiscation of property, scourging, or death].


A Jew shall not purchase, or keep as a slave, a Christian man or woman, and if anyone violates this law the Christian shall be restored to freedom and shall not pay any portion of the price given for him, although the Jew may not have been aware when he bought him, that he was a Christian; but if he knew that he was such when he purchased him, and makes use of him afterwards as a slave, he shall be put to death for doing so. Moreover, we forbid any Jew to convert a captive to his religion, even though said captive may be a Moor, or belong to some other barbarous race. If anyone violates this law we order that the said slave who has become a Jew shall be set at liberty, and removed from the control of the party to whom he or she belonged. If any Moors who are the captives of Jews become Christians, they shall at once be freed, as is explained in the Fourth Partida of this book, in the Title concerning Liberty, in the laws which treat of this subject [but Christians, including the Church, were allowed to own Christian slaves].


Moors & Arabs



by Yvonne Clark

When the Romans entered West Africa in 46 B.C., they saw Africans and called them Maures, from the Greek adjective Mauros, meaning dark or black.  It is from Mauros and the Latin term Marues that the word Moor is derived.  Since the inhabitants of North Africa were black, the Romans and later the Europeans called them Moors.  It is no coincidence that the land inhabited by the Moors was called Mauritania and Morocco, meaning “Land of the Blacks.”

In the beginning of the seventh century, the Arab prophet, Muhammad, began to preach the word of Islam. Consumed with religious fervor, the Arabs sought to spread Islam and conquer the world.  By 708, the Arabs had overrun North Africa.  Consequently, Moors in large numbers accepted Arabic as the national language and converted to their conqueror’s religion, Islam.  Interestingly, hundreds of years later, Africans who had been enslaved by Europeans would again convert to their conqueror’s religion, Christianity.

After the fall of the Roman Empire (fifth century), Spain was held by a barbaric white tribe, the Visigoths.  Though they were Christians, their brand of Christianity was cruel and unjust.  For this reason, Spain’s Jews, serfs, and slaves looked favorably upon the arrival of a new civilization in which they would be able to live free of persecution.

Tarik, a great African chief, was given the rank of general in the Arab army and sent to raid Spain.  On April 30, 711, Tarik landed on the Spanish Coast with 7,000 troops.  His troops consisted of 300 Arabs and 6,700 native Africans (Moors).  An ancient source, Ibn Husayn (ca. 950, recorded that these troops were “Sudanese”, an Arabic word for Black people.

The Moors were unstoppable, and Visigothic Spain ceased to be.  The few resisting Visigoths fled to the caves of the Cantabrian Mountains. Later in the century, the cave dwellers would venture out of the Cantabrian Mountains and reclaim parts of northern Spain.

The Moors of Africa were the real conquerors.  When the Arabs arrived, the hardest part of the job had been done.  Instead of treating the Moors fairly, the Arab chiefs assigned themselves the most fertile regions.  The dissatisfied Moors were not long in coming to blows with the Arabs.  (The History of Spain by Louis Bertrand and Sir Charles Petrie – published by Eyre & Spottiswood, London, 1945, page 36). Ultimately, the Moors acquired two-thirds of the peninsula, which they named Al-Andulus.

Al -Andulus was obliged to pay tribute to the Arab Caliph (King) of Damascus.  As Al-Andulus acquired its own identity, its bond with the Caliph began to weaken.  In 756, Al-Andulus proclaimed itself an independent state.  Thus, its only links to the Arabs would be the Islamic faith and the Arabic language.

The Moorish architectural remains in Cordoba, Seville, and Granada prove conclusively that these cities were more prosperous and artistically more brilliant than any Christian cities in Europe at the time.  The Moors of Al-Andulus held the torch of leaning and civilization when the rest of Europe was plunged in barbaric ignorance.

If Moorish Spain had been an accomplishment of the Arabs it would have been called Arab or Arabic Spain.  Instead it bears the name of its creators, the Moors, i.e., Moorish Spain.  Moorish culture was black in origin, bright in Achievement, and powerful in its influence on the rest of Europe.


Yvonne Clark is a researcher and public lecturer currently residing in Los Angeles, California.  She had recently returned from an educational tour of Bahia, Brazil, and has done extensive research on Moorish Spain.  Ms. Clark may be contacted at




 To the earlier Greeks, the Moors were “a black or dark people” (Mauros) and to the Romans, Maurus, a black wooly-haired people, known synonymously as Ethiops, Niger (Negro) and Afer (African).


As late as the 5th Century A. D. Procopius, a Roman historian, called the people of Morocco “black.”


In the ‘Chanson of Roland’ (Song of Roland) written after the Moors invaded France in 718 A.D., the invaders are described (verses 145 and 146) as “blacker than ink with large noses and ears” and with “nothing white except the teeth.” (Moriaen. Arthurian Romance No. 4, PP. 29, 39, 41, 103. 1907. Trans. by J. L. Watson).


The Chanson of Roland states that the Moorish army was 50,000 strong and led by Marganice, Emperor of Ethiopia and Carthage. Their most valiant figure is Abisme (that is, Abyssinian), who (verse 126) is described as “black as melted pitch.” In this epic, the Moors are called Sarrazins, in English, Saracens.


In the official coat of arms of Aragon, which has four Moorish kings killed in battle by Pedro VIII, king of Aragon, on November 18, 1096, all the Moors are shown as jet-black. (Biblioteca de escritores aragoneses. Blancas. Comentarios de las cosas de Aragon. Seccion histor. 3, p. 110. 1878.)


Pietro Tacca in his monument to Ferdinand I erected at Leghorn, 1620, has four Moors in chains, which were modeled from originals, one of whom is instantly recognizable as a so Negro. (Raymond M. La Sculpture Florentine, XVIe siecle, pp. 182-3 1900).


Pitch black Negro troops played an important part in the Moorish conquest of Spain especially under Abderrahman I. (757-787), who founded the independent kingdom of Cordova. (Troupes noires. Revue de Paris, p. 62. July 1909 (pp. 61-80). A rival Moorish leader “brought from Africa a great number of Negroes from which he formed a redoubtable regiment of cavalry in 1016” and took over the Caliphate. (Troupes noires. Revue de Paris, p. 62. July 1909 (pp. 61-80).


In 1086, Yusuf ben Tachfln, who is described by Moorish historian Ali ibn Abd Allah as as “dark” and “wooly-haired,” (Roudh ci Kartas, p. 304.) and who was probably a Nigerian, brought in an army composed largely of “pure Negroes” (11. Ency. Brit. Vol. 21 (See SPAIN—Almoravides). Ibn El-Athair. Op. cit. pp. 525 Also pp. 457-60, 462. Scott, S. P. Hist. of the Moorish Empire, p. 622. 1904.)


Another Moor, Yakub el-Mansur, recorded as “the son of a Negro woman,” (Roudh el Kartas, p. 304.) invaded Iberia in 1194 and made himself master of almost the whole of it. The guards of these Moorish kings were specially chosen for their size Negroes, “jet-black and of immense strength, recruited from the Atlas, Tumbuctoo, and Nigeria.” (Scott. S. P.History of the Moorish Empire, p. 668. 1904.)



There were white Moors, especially because of their part Berber ancestry and after they had lived in Europe for centuries and had been ‘whitened’ by mating with Europeans.


The mixed racial make-up of the Moors is confirmed by their own writing: the Moorish historian Ali ibn Abd Allah, writing in the 1300s, (recall that the Moors were only finally expelled from Spain in 1452) said that a Moorish Sultan of the time , Mohammed ben Idriss is described as “blond” while Abou el-Hassan el Said had as mother “a Nubian slave . . . dark and of mixed blood,” (‘Aoudh ci Kartas’, by Ali ibn Abd Allah, translated by Beaumier pp. 25, 61, 190, 257, 288, 367).


The favorite wife of Yusuf ibn Tachfin, was a white Christian captive, called Fadh-el-Hassen, or ‘Perfection of Beauty’. (Roudh ci Kartas, p. 224) She was the mother of his frizzy-haired son and successor, Ali.


Abu Hassan Au, “The Black Sultan” whose mother was a Negro slave, had as his favorite wife, Shams-ed-Douha (The Morning Sun), a beautiful white captive. (Scott-O’Connor, V. C. Vision of Morocco, pp. 99-100. 1923).


Of the three Moorish kings killed in the battle of Alcazar in 1578, two were mulattoes and one, an unmixed Negro, Mulai Mohammed “the Negro.” (Chenier L. Recherches Hist. sur les Maures, V 3, p. 328. 1787. (Muley Moharnet qui fut surnomme’ le Negre parce qu’il ‘etait fils d’une Negresse).


Even more interesting is how the Moors described their European foes: Sa-id of Andalusia (1029-1071) wrote the following of his White Iberian  opponents:


(T)hey “are nearer animals than men . . . They are by nature unthinking and their manners crude. Their bellies protrude; their color is white and their hair is long. In sharpness and delicacy of spirit and in intellectual perspicacity, they are nil. Ignorance, lack of reasoning power and boorishness are common among them.” (Kitab Tabakat al Umaxn (Blachere K. p. 36. 1935).



There are two sources of illustrations of Moors available to scholars. The first is those pictures drawn from the European side, and then those drawn from the Moorish side. From both these sources, the mixed racial origins of the Moors are apparent.


One of the most quoted European sources is the famous “Games Book” of Alfonso X, the King of Castile (Northern Spain). Although this book was made primarily to illustrate chess and other games, it contains some interesting insights into the racial make-up of both Moors and Spaniards of the time.





Coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI

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The coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI

The coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI was designed by then Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo (who later was created a Cardinal) soon after the papal election. The coat of arms consists of a shield and external ornaments.

A red shield mantled in gold and with a gold scallop shell; the right (for the bearer of the shield, the left for the viewer) part of the mantle has a moor’s head in its natural colour (brown) wearing a red crown and red collar; the left part of the mantle has a walking bear in its natural colour (brown) carrying a red pack tied with black bandsShield


The shape of the shield varies from artist to artist. In the official rendering of the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI the shape chosen is that of a chalice. In heraldry, the herald and the person granted arms also have considerable leeway in the contents of the shield. By long-standing tradition this was the only place within the papal coat of arms that changed from pope to pope.

Moor of Freising

The Moor‘s head is an heraldic charge associated with Freising, Germany. The origins of the Moor’s head or caput ethiopicum in Freising is not entirely known. Typically facing to the viewer’s left (dexter in heraldic terms), it appeared on the coat of arms of the old principality of Freising as early as 1316. While there are several variations on Moor’s heads in heraldry, the one used by Freising and adopted by Benedict XVI is always crowned and collared. Generally, in this form, the lips, crown, and collar are always red, while the face and hair are brown and the eyes, white. If an earring is shown, it is shown gold. Some theories of its original reference include:


The Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship -The Longest Unbroken Treaty in U.S. History


The United States of America was one of the first Western nations to have a peace and trading treaty with one of the maritime Islamic nations on the continent of Africa. What’s more is that it is and remains one of the finest examples of Americaninternational diplomacy which happened during the tenure of United States Ambassadors Thomas Jefferson and John Adams Jr. In 1786, it became known as the Moroccan – American Treaty of Friendship. It was a treaty in which Moroccan Sultan Muhammad III did not mind signing, in spite of the economic and civic troubles which were plaguing but declining in his nation.


Sultan Mohammad III was looked upon as being one of the most open minded Barbary rulers of any nation of Africa. It was also under Sultan Mohammad III, that the United States of America was recognized as a separate nation in 1777. In addition to that, Sultan Mohammad III saw America (along with some European nations) as Christian powers which could be lucrative maritime trading partners and a regular source of income which would make him less – dependent on services from a standing professional army to collect tax money and enforce authority.


On December 20, 1777, Sultan Muhammad III issued out a proclamation which announced that all sailing vessels under the American flag could enter freely at any port located in the nation of Morocco. The orders, however, had to be given to the corsairs to allow Americans and European states without treaties to enter its ports and receive full privileges as those who held treaties with Morocco. And it was because of this treaty that America Republic became equal with other countries that had treaties with the Sultan.


Did Africans Come to Americas With Columbus?

Sep 20, 2010 – 10:59 AM

Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

Christopher Columbus is shown being greeted by Native Americans upon his arrival in the New World. New research suggests Africans may have accompanied the explorer on his ocean voyage.


(Sept. 20) — Look at any historical painting or etching of Christopher Columbus and his crew arriving in the New World, and you’ll probably see a group of mustachioed Mediterranean types standing around in baggy pants. But new research suggests those pictures, as well as numerous historical accounts, might have left out another ethnic group that accompanied the explorer on his voyage across the ocean blue: Africans.


Using DNA tests, archaeologists believe they have identified at least two people of African descent buried at the site of the first European colony in the Americas, La Isabela, which was founded (and swiftly abandoned) by Columbus in the late 15th century


“Many African-Americans are today taught that their story in the Americas began with slavery, which really only kicked off in the mid-16th century,” Hannes Schroeder, an expert in bioarchaeology at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for GeoGenetics, and part of an international team examining the La Isabela remains, told AOL News. “If our results can be confirmed, they would show that Africans were there with Europeans at the very beginning and, in a sense, would be put on par with Europeans in that part of history.”


La Isabela — on the north coast of what is now the Dominican Republic — was established by Columbus in 1493 on his second trip to the New World. His 17-ship armada dropped off 1,500 men (including Franciscan friars, farmers and craftsman) together with the livestock and agricultural equipment that would help them tame the land. Unfortunately, while Columbus may have been a great navigator, he was a lousy urban planner. La Isabela was surrounded by infertile land and sat in the firing line of hurricanes blowing in from the north and west. Famine, tropical disease and unfriendly locals killed some 1,200 colonists in the first two years. And in 1498, the colony was permanently abandoned.


While tragic, the pioneers’ high fatality rate has left rich pickings for archaeologists interested in the lives and origins of the first modern Americans. Forty-nine skeletons were excavated from La Isabela’s packed graveyard by an Italian-Dominican team working under the auspices of the Museo del Hombre Dominicano between 1983 and 1991, and now — with the help of modern technology — those bones are starting to give up their secrets.


Professor T. Douglas Price from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of Schroeder’s colleagues, recently attempted to pin down the 49 settlers’ birthplaces by analyzing the carbon, oxygen and strontium isotope ratios in their tooth enamel. These elemental signatures are locked in tooth enamel during childhood and vary depending on the diet, climate, altitude and local geology of a person’s homeland. Last year, Price noted that the isotopic ratios in seven of the skeletons suggested they could have African origins.


La Isabela, once thought of as a solely European colony, was suddenly looking like a more multicultural venture.

To try to firm up those findings, premolar teeth were pulled from the suspected African skeletons and passed on to Schroeder. He dissected the teeth and analyzed their mitochondrial DNA (small loops of genetic material found in most cells, which are passed from mother to child) to determine the individuals’ haplotypes (clusters of genetic markers that tend to differ between human populations).


Schroeder discovered that two of the seven carried haplotypes most frequently found in sub-Saharan Africans. He says it’s possible that the bodies could have belonged to Spaniards with African ancestors, as “these haplotypes also occur at low frequency in North Africa, and as there was an exchange of people between Spain and North Africa with the Moorish invasion a few hundred years earlier.” However, Schroeder says that he personally finds it “unlikely that one of these haplotypes could have made it to Spain and then over to the Caribbean. If they’re authentic, then it points to sub-Saharan Africa.”


Schroeder accepts there could be another explanation for the presence of African haplotypes: contamination. “These remains were excavated in the 1980s and have been extensively handled by all kinds of people,” he says. It’s possible that a Dominican with sub-Saharan ancestors, for example, could have touched the teeth and left a trace of his own DNA. And although teeth are dense and relatively nonporous, unlike spongy rib bones, Schroeder says, “it has previously been shown that they can be contaminated.” Of course, contamination could also explain why Schroeder found African DNA segments in only two of the seven bodies initially identified by Price. Perhaps someone of European origin extensively handled the teeth of the five other skeletons and marked them with their own non-African DNA signature. To overcome the contamination question, Schroeder and his colleagues hope to head to La Isabela early next year and excavate several dozen fresh, untouched skeletons. And this time, they’ll make sure that anyone handling the bones wears gloves.


Of course, no matter what the archaeologists discover at La Isabela, there’s one crucial question that Schroeder knows he’ll never be able to answer. “Even if we did find out that there were Africans at La Isabela, we still won’t know their status,” he says. “They might have been slaves, free men or sailors. Given the historical context and the fact that the slave trade was under way at the time, it suggests they were slaves, but we will never be able to say for certain.”