Overview of the unit
1. The jewel of al-Andalus
In this section, we return to the city of Cordova as the capital of al-Andalus in the tenth century. We learn about the growth of the city near the River Guadalquivir. We also become acquainted with its key sites, including the city quarters, the places of worship, the bazaar, and the surrounding countryside.
2. Cities—old and new
The text helps us to compare Cordova with other important cities that existed at this time, such as Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad and Constantinople. We are made aware of both old and new cities that acted as centres of civilisation in the past. We also find out about the links that existed between these cities.
3. Fortresses of safety
In some periods and regions, cities became places of safety where people could trade, produce craftwork and study different fields of knowledge. In this section, we examine how cities made it possible for their inhabitants to follow ways of life that were not possible elsewhere.
4. Places of danger
People living in cities could not always expect to be safe. In the past, cities were exposed to plague, fire, invasions and other disasters. In the text, we explore some of these dangers, and what impact such misfortunes had for the lives of people who lived in these places.
3.1 The jewel of al-Andalus
The years roll by as we stand on the ancient bridge of Cordova. One amir after another tries to defend the northern borders of al-Andalus from the neighbouring Christian kingdoms. There are also many revolts by Arab, Berber and Christian groups in al-Andalus.
The capital of al-Andalus
And what of Cordova itself? Let us walk from the bridge to the town once again to find out for ourselves. What a surprise awaits us! Cordova has changed from a small town to a thriving capital of al-Andalus.
The town has grown considerably in size, attracting people from other towns and villages who have made the city their new home. More Arabs and Berbers have emigrated from the Maghrib to Cordon. New houses and streets have appeared outside the walls of the city, making Cordon grow in all directions.
Some people say that the city now has 200,000 inhabitants. Others disagree and put the number at 500,000. Some even say a million! We can never know for sure, for no. one has counted all the people who live in Cordova in the tenth century.
The city is divided into different areas or quarters, each bounded by wall which separates it from neighbouring areas. Each quarter has bazaars, storehouses and inns, public baths and workshops. Houses are built very close to one another along narrow, winding streets. Bay windows with wooden lattice screens jut out from the house, almost touching the ones on the opposite buildings.
At night, the gates of the walls are shut to prevent strangers from entering the quarters. The streets are well paved and lit by lamps fixed to the doors and corners of the houses. At sunrise, streets come to life once again, with water carriers bringing water to the houses, and peasants arriving with fresh fruit and vegetables from their fields,
Places of worship
A vast network of narrow lanes and alleys criss-cross the quarters and somehow find their way to the main centres of the city. Here we find the caliph’s palace and the main bazaar. We also find a large mosque that stands on the site of the mosque- cathedral we visited earlier. Some Cordovans boast that it is the biggest mosque in all the Muslim lands.
There are other places of worship in Cordova, such as Christian churches and jewish synagogues. Gardens, public baths and fountains are to be found everywhere in the city.
Then comes the tenth century, a time of peace and progress. Al-Andalus is ruled by Abd al-Rahman III, a descendant of the Umayyad prince. He has proclaimed himself a caliph, since he no longer fears the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad.
The bazaar is another major centre of gathering in the city. Merchants sell goods such as beautiful silks and other fabrics, bottles of perfumes, and various types of spices. he markets are filled with interesting sights and sounds. The clash and clatter of the coppersmith’s workshop leads suddenly to the muffled quiet of the cloth merchant’s area.
Cardova has become an attractive place for traders. The river traffic has built up, with boats and ships heavy with goods and merchandise sailing up and down the river. The river is deep enough or cargo ships to sail all the way to the city, linking Cordova to the Mediterranean Sea and the rest of the Mediterranean lands.
Surrounding Cordova are large areas of land with estates, farms and villages. Most of this land is owned .by wealthy landowners who live in villas near the city. Wheat, barley, olives and grapes are the main crops grown on these farms. New crops have also been introduced by Arab and Berber fanners, such as rice, sugar-cane, cotton and oranges. A wide range of crops are sold in the markets of Cordova.
The tenth century is an exciting time to live in Cordova. Cordova has grown from a small market town to one of the largest cities in European and Muslim lands. It has become the shining jewel of al-Andalus.
The centre of Cordova is bounded by a wall whose sides have different lengths. One of the smaller sides of the wall runs along the river. Near the ancient Roman Bridge, we find a large waterwheel that draws water from the river for use in the caliph’s palace.
What kind of city was Cordova the tenth century?
WORDS TO LOOK UP
- 8th century CE: Cordova becomes capital of al-Andalus
- 912-961 CE: The reign of Abd aI-Rahman Ill
Draw a street, map of Cordova in the tenth century, showing the main sites. Compare this map with that on page 112. What similarities and differences do you notice?
Cordova was the capital of al-Andalus and a centre of civilisanon in
Mediterranean region in the tenth century.
In the tenth century Cairo and Cordova were two capitals of Muslim empires that were to be found in the Maghrib. Make a table that lists the cities of Cordova and Cairo in the tenth century.
City planners in Muslim countries are faced with an important question how to allow for new construction while preserving a city’s history? Discuss some of the ways in which this question can be addressed.
Imagine your town or city as it might be a hundred years in the future. In what ways do you think the streets and buildings will have changed? What changes would you like to see hap pen?
3.2 Cities old and new
Cordova in the tenth century is a famous city in the Mediterranean world, known for its grand palaces, mosques and markets. There are other cities in this region, both old and new, which are also great centres of civilisation.
Rome is an ancient city in the Italian peninsula that was once the capital of the ancient Roman empire. At one time, this empire was the largest in the world, spreading over many parts of the continents we now call Europe, Asia and Africa. Rome in the tenth century is now the centre of a large region in Europe known as the Holy Roman Empire.
This region is made up of several kingdoms which are led by Christian rulers. These rulers accept the Pope as the head of the Christian church. The Pope lives in Rome and appoints archbishops for various areas.
Cairo is one of the youngest cities in the tenth century. It has been recently built by the fourth Fatimid caliph Imam al-Muizz. It is a palace-city in which stands the famous mosque of al-Azhar.
Within a short period of time, Cairo has become an important capital. It contains some of the best centres of learning in Muslim lands, as well as the largest libraries with books from ancient and recent times. Scholars from lands as far as Persia, Central Asia and al-Andalus come to study in Cairo.
Another ancient city is Damascus which became the capital of the Umayyads in the seventh century. When the Arabs captured Damascus they did not destroy the existing buildings and places of worship. Instead, they used many ideas from the works of the Greeks, Romans and I3yzantines. They combined these ideas to create new styles of buildings, such as the Umayyad mosque in Damascus.
WORDSTO LOOK UP
•Al-Aqsa • Miraj
•AI-Aqsa • Miraj
• Al-Azhar • Pope
- 324 CE: Founding of Constantinople by Emperor Constantine.
- 762 CE: Founding of Baghdad by Caliph al-Mansur.
- 969 CE: Founding of Cairo by Imam al-Muizz.
Cities in the Middle Ages were important centres. of civilization. Links between cities in Muslim and neighboring lands allowed for the exchange of goods, skills and ideas.
Constantinople is built at a site where modern Europe meets Asia. It is the capital of the Byzantine empire which was founded by the Roman emperor Constantine in the fifth century. The great Roman empire became divided into two parts. Rome remained the capital of the western half of the empire while the eastern half became the Byzantine empire, with Constantinople as its capital.
Since Constantinople is located midway between lands now called Europe and Asia, it has become an important stopping place for travellers making long journeys between these two continents.
Jerusalem is an ancient city in Palestine which is ruled by the Abbasids. It is considered a holy city by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. It is an important centre of pilgrimage for people of all these faiths.
The Jews pray at the site where the ancient temple of Solomon once stood. For the Christians, the place where they believe Jesus was crucified is very important. The Muslims pray at the al-Aqsa mosque where Prophet Muhammad is said to have risen to heaven, on the night, of miraj. People of all these three communities can be found living in Jerusalem today.
Baghdad is a new city, compared to Jerusalem and Damascus. It was built in the eighth century by the Abbasids as their new capital. Baghdad is known as the round city because of its unique circular design. It stands on the banks of the River Tigris, in a region which is green and fertile. Baghdad has grown into one of the largest cities in the tenth century, known for its magnificent palaces and mosques, its busy bazaars, and its great centres of learning.
There are other cities in Muslim and Christian lands that are also well known. Some are important for religious reasons, as centres of pilgrimage. Others are great seats of power where the caliphs or emperors have built their palaces. and from where they rule the rest of their empires. Yet others are famous as trading centres, being located at places where busy trade routes meet. Among these cities, Cordova has become a great centre of culture and learning in the tenth century.
Look at a modern map of the world. Try to find the six cities identified here. In which countries are these cities located? Try to find out more information about each of them.
What are some of the issues that historic cities all over the world are facing today? What are some ways in which these issues can be addressed?
A hundred years from now, what we consider new in our towns and cities will have become old. How should we understand what we mean by new and old? Does it matter that this difference should be made ?
3.3 Fortresses of safety
We have seen Cordova grow before our very eyes. From a small market town, it has become a wealthy and powerful city. Cities have always been important centres of civilisation.
However, cities cannot exist by themselves but depend on the countryside for their survival. In the tenth century, the vast majority of the people live in the countryside, but there are a growing number of people who are beginning to live in cities like Cordova. There are both benefits and, dangers of living in large cities in the middle Ages.
Protection and security
Some cities, like Cordova, have become centres of power. This is the place where the caliph or the emperor lives, and from where he rules the rest of his empire. These cities are usually well protected. Cordova has a strong wall built around its centre and troops who guard the city. Inside the city, the rulers try to ensure that there is law and order.
People feel more safe from invaders in cities than they do in small towns and villages where there is little protection. Living in peace and security, city dwellers can concentrate on their activities, rather than struggling to survive.
Centres of trading
Centres of trading Cities like Cordova have become’ rich centres of trading. Cordova has some of the largest markets in the Mediterranean world where all kinds of goods are bought and sold. Traders and merchant have been attracted to Cordova because of its big and busy markets.
Peasants from the countryside also flock to Cordova because they can easily sell their surplus or extra crops. Some of them wish to be free from their lords and to live in cities where they can lead an easier life
Points of connection
Many cities are connected to one another by road, river or sea. Cordova is an important site where many routes meet, acting as a gateway to Europe. Safe, well marked roads between cities make travel and trade easier, helping soldiers, merchants and scholars to journey quickly from place to place.
As travel between cities increases, rulers and merchant are encouraged to build more ships and find better methods of navigation.
A life of ease
For the wealthy, life in the cities offers a comfortable environment. There tire many wealthy people in Cordova who pay for the fine buildings, gardens and fountains. They are served by a large number of slaves who do all the work for them. For some of the poor as well, life in the cities may be a little easier than the back-breaking labour of tilling the soil and harvesting the crops in the fields.
In some cities like Cordova, people of different cultures and faiths live together. In some periods and places cities create many chances for people of different backgrounds to exchange ideas and learn about one another. Centres of learning may be set up where scholars can study and teach important subjects.
Connections between cities leads to a greater exchange of ideas and an increase in learning. Scholars may also find support from rulers and nobles who live in these centres.
What kind of life did people lead in the cities of the Middle Ages ?
Write an essay that explores what the everyday life of people might have been like in a city in the past.
Only a minority of people lived in cities in the Middle Ages. Their way of life was different to that of people living in the countryside.
In what ways have cities changed from what they were in the past? Which changes have led to a better way of life for people, and which ones have made people’s lives worse?
In many countries around the world, the population of people living in cities is growing. Discuss how modern cities with large populations can be adapted to give people a better standard of living.
Think of some of the problems that people living fifty years from now will experience, both in cities and the countryside. What can we do now to avoid these problems developing in the future?
3.4 Places of danger
Cities in the Middle Ages can be fortresses of safety, protecting their inhabitants from invaders. However, cities can also become dangerous places in these times. They may become targets for conquering armies. They may be destroyed by fires or suffer from famine or plague. Cities built near large rivers may also be damaged by flooding. For the people of the tenth century, it can be difficult living in cities or the countryside.
Cities can become overcrowded, leading to many problems. One of the biggest dangers in the Middle Ages is the fear of plague. Many cities in these times do not have proper sewage systems or ways to remove waste. People also keep chickens, sheep, goats, pigs and other animals in their courtyards.
Dangerous diseases carried by rats and other animals can spread rapidly from one person to another. Thousands of people may die when there is a plague. The people of this time have not as yet discovered how to control infectious diseases.
Targets for invaders
Cities which are seats of power can easily become a targets for invaders. If these invaders are strong enough they can lay siege to the city, cut it off from vital sources of food water. After several months, the people in the city may find that they are running out of their store of precious water and food. The rulers may be forced to surrender, followed by the invaders looting and destroying the city.
Another fear is that of fire. In some of the Mediterranean lands, the houses are built of stone while in other parts, they are cc4nsrructed from wood. In the Middle Ages, most houses are also built close to one another. The people cook their meals on open stoves using coal or wood. At night, their houses are lit by candles or oil lamps.
Wooden buildings can easily catch fire, spreading rapidly to other buildings. Large parts of a city may be destroyed when the fire cannot be quickly put out.
Cities cannot survive on their own without the people who live in the countryside, Much of the food that comes from the surrounding farms. When the crops fail due to pests, floods or drought, people living in the cities may face famine. In these times, the food becomes very expensive, and the poor are the first to suffer.
A few rulers are wise and order some of the grain to be saved in store-houses every year when there is plenty of food. During times of famine, stored grain can become very precious. However, when a drought lasts for several years, even the stored grain may run out.
In small villages, the people live close together and everyone knows their neighbours. The villagers may look after one another in difficult times. In large cities people are strangers to one another. Some people may have no one to care for them when they are in difficulties. They may turn to crime to make their ends meet.
When rulers cannot keep law and order in their cities, crime and violence may increase. People may find themselves caught up as victims of thieves and robbers.
When the people are led by a ruler whom they do not respect, cities can become hives of plotting and – scheming. Dissatisfied groups may plot to overthrow the ruler, leading to riots and rebellions.
During these times, innocent people may become victims as the ruler tries to restore peace in the city. Cordova has often faced riots in. the past in which many people have been killed and their properties destroyed.
In the Middle Ages, cities can become both fortresses of peace or terrible places of suffering. Cordoba has been both of these at different times and for different groups of people. Like other cities, it has seen happy and troubled times.
What kind of dangers did people face in medieval cities?
WORDS TO LOOK UP
Continue the essay from the activity on the previous page. Imagine that the inhabitants of the city suffer a disaster; How are their lives affected?
Cites in The past faced many dangers, from both natural and human causes A major disaster could lead to great upheaval in the lives of the inhabitants
Find out more about great cities that suffered from invasions and other disasters in the Middle Ages. For example, read about the siege of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258, the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, or the great fire of London in 1666.
Cities are more dangerous today than they were in the Middle Ages. To what extent do you agree with this statement?
What are some of the ways in which modern cities can be made into safer places?
Review of Unit 3
1. The jewel of al-Andalus
What kind of city was Cordova during the time of Abd al-Rahman Ill?
What were some of the main features of Cordon that visitors in the tenth century would have noticed?
Why do you think Cordova was chosen as the capital of al-Andalus?
Why did people choose to live in Cordon as its importance grew in the region?
2. Cities-old and new
What other cities in the Mediterranean region were important in this period, and why were they important?
To what extent was the importance of cities based on how old they were in the Middle Ages?
If you were living in medieval times, which city would you choose to live in, and why?
What kinds of links arose between the cities in the Mediterranean region?
3. Fortresses of safety
Where did the majority of the people live in ‘the Middle Age? Why was this the case?
What were some of the advantages of living in the cities in this period?
What were some of the reasons for people of different religions, cultures -and backgrounds to live together in cities?
In what ways did the city and the countryside connect with one another?
4. Places of danger
What were some of the main dangers that cities in the Middle Ages faced? Why was it difficult for people in those times to defend themselves against disasters such as invasions, plagues and famine?
What was the immediate impact of these calamities on the lives of the inhabitants?
- What kinds of changes might have occurred in the life of the people over a longer period?