Morisco Revolt

Morisco Revolt

The Morisco Revolt occurred in 1568. It was a rebellion by the remnants of the community of Muslim converts to Christianity in Granada against the Kingdom of Castile.

The defeat of Muslim Spain

During the Reconquista, many Muslims in Spain were driven out to other Muslim countries. Others continued to live there as Mudéjares, especially in the area of Granada.

The Muslims who remained in Spain were promised religious tolerance, but in the early 1500s, were all forced to convert to Christianity, and became known as Moriscos. The Moriscos continued to speak the Arabic language (or the Berber language of North Africa) and to wear Moorish dress.

Despite their public conversion, the Moriscos were distrusted by the "Old Christian" population from northern Spain, who considered them insincere converts and secret Muslims. In fact many continued to practice Islam in secret. The Moriscos suffered increasing intolerance and persecution in the Spanish Inquisition.

The Ottoman threat

In the mid-16th century, Ottoman Turkey emerged as the dominant Muslim power in the Mediterranean Sea. There were increasing clashes between Turkey and Castile. Philip II of Spain feared that the Moriscos of Granada might aid a potential Turkish invasion of Spain. The Ottoman court planned an armed intervention in favor of the Moriscos, but the Ottoman Sultan, Selim the Grim, was influenced to invade Cyprus instead because of its vinyards.

The reaction of the Spanish crown

In 1567, Philip II issued a royal decree ending all toleration of "Moorish" ways. He banned the speaking of Arabic or Berber, banned Moorish dress, required Moriscos to adopt Christian names, and ordered the destruction of all books and documents in Arabic script. Morisco children would be educated exclusively by Catholic priests. This decree broke earlier pledges of toleration.

It is alleged that Philip issued this decree with the intent of provoking rebellion, so the Moriscos could be destroyed or expelled. This may be true, or Philip may have wanted to ensure the loyalty of the Moriscos by complete assimilation.

The rebellion

The increasing persecution of the remaining Morisco population of Granada, led to the outbreak of armed rebellion. The revolt was planned by Ferag ben Ferag, descended from the royal house of Granada, and Diego Lopez Ben Abu. They carefully ascertained the dispositions of the inhabitants of the Alpujarra mountains, where the best stand could be made against the royal forces, solicited aid from the kings of North Africa, and persuaded the local bandits to embrace their cause.

On Christmas Eve 1568, representatives of the Moriscos of Granada, the Alpujarras, and elsewhere clandestinely assembled at the Vale de Lecrin. They acclaimed Fernando de Valor as their king, under the name Aben Humeya, and repudiated Christianity.

The insurrection was led by Aben Humeya, and took the form of guerrilla warfare against the Castilian forces in the Alpujarras.

To suppress the revolt, Philip sent his illegitimate half-brother Don Juan de Austria, with a large force of Spanish and Italian troops. The rebels were defeated in 1571.

The aftermath: the expulsion of the Moriscos

After the suppression of the revolt, Philip ordered the dispersal of the Moriscos of Granada to other areas. Philip expected that this would break down the Morisco community and facilitate their assimilation into the Christian population. Instead, the measure worsened the situation. The Granadine Moriscos were scattered across Castile, influencing the local Moriscos who had been become more integrated. Conflict between Moriscos and Christians increased, leading to the final expulsion of the Moriscos by Philip III in 1609.

People of the war

Among those who fought in the war there was El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, the son of a Conquistador and an Inca princess, who became a captain.

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