The old and the new

Monday, September 25th, 2006

In The old and the new, Wretchard looks at the Reconquista of the Iberian peninsula from the Moors:

The Reconquista, viewed from today, more than five hundred years after its conclusion exhibits what is to modern eyes a strange reversal of roles. The Muslims were the cosmopolitans facing essentially backward tribesmen who sought shelter in the rugged terrain of the Iberian Peninsula. The Muslims had the contemporary New York and the Christians possessed the contemporary Afghanistan. Time after time the Caliphate launched punitive expeditions only to watch their efforts reversed as they left. The Christian kingdoms eventually enlisted demography into their arsenal of weapons. They would depopulate certain areas in order to create buffer zones against the Caliphs; and whenever they seized a town or city from the Moors they would immediately populate it with their own peoples to prevent its recovery.

In its last stages the Reconquista became a literal Crusade involving all of European Christendom, a movement which had its own heroic figures, theorists and goals. Again the symmetry is striking. It is the Muslims who are infidels; and the Christians who create their own military-religious orders to defeat them.

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