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Post nº10 | Why were anthropological values so important during the Arab period?

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

The Arab conquest of the Iberian Peninsula came after the 711s. The inhabitants of the conquered cities adopted the religion of the victors. This conversion to Islam offered slaves the possibility of freeing themselves. Islam, the Arabic language and culture, gained importance even if, simultaneously, there were revolts on the part of the Hispano-Roman populations allied with Christian lords. Conversion to Islam may explain the shift to updating anthropological values on the surface of the site, which was followed by a process of building.

Let us look, once again, at the example of Lisbon (called Aschbouna in the Arab period). According to historian Irisalva Moita, “the urbanization that appeared with the Romans was then reinforced by the Muslims. The latter enhance the potential of this site by building a fortified city according to the canons of Islamic planning”. Thus, the Arabs undertook a recovery of previous cultures by updating the urban space. Arab rule lasted from 714 to 1147, in the form of a walled city. We can distinguish several successive stages, in the updating of the urban structure during the Arab period, such as:

• The reconstruction of previously existing fortified structures;

• The formation of the Almedina district;

• The installation of the Muslim aristocracy on the southern slope of the São Jorge hill. In the 8th century, the so-called Moura wall, which surrounds the city, separated the fortified castle or Alcáçova from the Alfama district;

• The creation of the quarters of Alfella, in Arabic "what has been enlarged", and Alfungera, meaning the "place where water is abundant", or "source", to the east of Alcáçova;

• The construction of the main gate called the “Iron Gate”, located in front of the Mosque entrance;

• The foundation of a cemetery located at the height of the “Sea Gate”, to the east of the city;

• The reconstruction of the public baths district, at the same location as the old Roman baths, near the “Alfama gate”;

Source: © 2021 by Isabel Marcos | During the Arabic occupation, the territory underwent recovery that was allocated to the “main pole of the living”. P – “Political”; R – “Religious”; Pe – “People”

Aschbouna is now divided into two centres, Political and Religious, both located on the hill of São Jorge, inside the city walls. To the north is the Political domain (the Alcaçova Castle), the place allocated to the “military” and “administrative” classes. To the south is the Arab village of Almedina. In its centre, was located the main mosque, the religious domain and space of the “priestly” class, also dedicated to education. Around it was the Production domain, space of both the class of “traders” and of “producers”.

At the time of the Reconquest by the Portuguese, in 1147, Aschbouna and the surrounding villages abounded with all kinds of resources: wheat fields, vineyards, vegetable gardens, olive groves, fruit trees, hunting, beehives, fish and seafood, natural salt. Gold, iron and silver were also found in these areas (hence mines and processing industries), especially in the Sintra region. According to historians, Aschbouna was richer than the Indian Sea.

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