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guadiana river map


What was it about the Extremadura that attracted people in the first place? As previously stated the Guadianna River basin, although marginally navigable,was of sufficient flow to maintain crops. Sizable migrations of native Iberians followed this waterway inland as early as 1500 B.C.. In 711 A.D. seven million Hispano-Romans lived in al Andalus. By 912 A.D. 2.8 million indigenous Muslims existed there. By 1100 A.D. the number had risen to 5.6 million indigenous Muslims. The Moors put the Guadianna’s fair supply of water to good use in order to irrigate land that would otherwise lay useless.

The Guadianna River flows for 840 kilometers (about 500 miles) starting at a point just eighty miles west of the Mediterranean coastal city of Valencia. Its path cuts almost directly westward until it reaches Badajoz at which point it turns southward and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The watershed of the Guadianna covers 69,000 square kilometers (33,000 square miles). The Extremadura principality was a basin principality not unlike Toledo or Zarragossa.

The conquering Islamic policy of allowing the conquered people to continue farming their land was a boon to agricultural Spain. Likewise, it was a boon for the urban areas due to leasing arrangements made by wealthy Muslim landholders. This practice also allowed inexpensive produce to reach city dwellers.

Badajoz had a population of about 20,000 people during the Aftasid Dynasty. The roads that the Romans had built were no longer the busy byways that they had been. However, they were still used as a trading route starting at Lisbon (modern Portugal) and followed an eastward path to Badajoz, Merida, Manzares, Albacete and finally Barcelona.


“Andalusi merchants circulated freely throughout the Middle East: a Jewish trader from Badajoz was active in Palestine and Syria.”


[“Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages”, Thomas F. Glick, Princeton University Press, 1979, Page 131]


In 1065 the taifa of Badajoz included modern Extremadura plus Portugal Algarve; Leira, Coria, Santarem, Sintra, Lisbon, Badajoz, Merida, Setabul and Evora. The products of this taifa included wheat, olives and vines; which all were more well suited than the Extremadura’s less intensive garden agriculture. Leather was a year-round supplementary product as was its source, stock raising. The mountainous area surrounding Badajoz was more suitable for a pastoral system than a purely agricultural one.

Fishing was a major component of some urban areas. Cordova imported 20,000 dinar worth of sardines per day. Badajoz’ year round fishing industry was limited to two commercial fish species called “Tunny” and “Turtata.” These were found in the waters of the Guadianna upstream to Badajoz and Merida. In the spring and fall migrations of three additional species of fish left the sea and followed the river basin inland; “al Shulah” ran upstream in the spring, “Sardines” and “Burah” ran upstream in the fall.

The heavy mining areas south of Badajoz (towards Cadiz) did not extend inland far enough to be a major product of the principality of Badajoz. However, silver was mined just west of Badajoz in the area of Beja, which was located in the Badajoz principality.

Deforestation was becoming prevalent in some areas of Christian Spain due to ship building and the need for timbers in the mining industry. The Extremadura not only escaped a majority of this lumber industry but also had a climate that allowed oak to grow.

Badajoz’ strategic location seems to presage its fate. After the several aforementioned sieges, by both Muslims and Christians, Badajoz remained relatively safe until the political strife of the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. Badajoz’ location made it ripe for siege by the British during the Napoleonic Peninsular war (1812) and then again during the Spanish Civil War when Franco’s Nationals defeated Badajoz’ majority of Republicans (1939). Both of these more recent sieges resulted in massacre and heavy bloodshed to both the military and civilian population.


Tomorrow: “Citations”

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