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The term taifa in the history of Iberia refers to an independent Muslim-ruled city-state with its supporting surrounding region, an emirate or petty kingdom, of which a number formed in Spain (called "Al-Andalus" by the Arabs) after the final collapse of the Umayyad caliphate of Córdoba in 1031.
On two occasions, the taifas called North African warriors to fight Christian kings. The fanatically religious Almoravids, invited after the fall of Toledo, 1085 and the Almohads, after the fall of Lisbon in 1147. These Islamic radicals, popularly known in history as the Moors, didn't help the taifas but conquered them and founded their own empires.
There was a second period when taifas arose, toward the middle of the 12th century, when the Almoravid rulers were in decline.
During their heyday, in the 11th century and again in the mid 12th century, Taifa emirs competed among themselves, not only militarily but also with prestige. They tried to recruit the most famous poets and artisans.
As the native Muslim population of Spain was only five percent of the population, the taifas were militarily weak. They were often defeated by the northern Christian kingdoms, but since they usually lacked manpower, the capitulations stated that the taifas should pay a yearly tribute, the parias . Taifas often hired Christian mercenaries to fight their neighbours. Even Christians like the Cid Campeador could be hired.
The major taifas were:
- Granada (the last remaining one, until 1492)
- Toledo, lost in 1085
- Batalyaws (Badajoz)
There were as many as twenty-one taifas at one time. Other taifas included:
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