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Early History of Morocco

Morocco has been the home of the Berbers since the second millennium B.C. In A.D. 46, Morocco was annexed by Rome as part of the province of Mauritania.  In Roman times Morocco was roughly coextensive with the province of Mauretania Tingitania.


In the 3d century A.D. four bishoprics were created in the province. Jewish colonies were also established during Roman rule.  Christianity turned up in the 3rd century AD, and again the Berbers asserted their traditional dislike of centralised authority by following Donatus (a Christian sect leader who claimed that the Donatists alone constituted the true church).

The Vandals were the earliest of barbarian peoples to take the area as the Roman Empire declined. The Vandals overran this portion of the declining empire in the 5th century.

The Arabs first swept into Morocco c.685, bringing with them Islam. Christianity was all but extirpated, but the Jewish colonies by and large retained their religion. Many Moroccans served in the Arab forces that invaded Spain in the early 8th cent. Later, Berber-Arab conflict fragmented the region. The Berbers joined them in invading Spain in 711, but then they revolted against the Arabs, resenting their secondary status.

Morocco became an independent state in 788 under the royal line founded by Idris I. After 900 the country again broke into small tribal states. Warfare between the Fatimids of Tunisia and the Umayyads of Spain for control of the region intensified the already-existing political anarchy, which ended only when the Almoravids overran (c.1062) Morocco and established a kingdom stretching from Spain to Senegal.

In 1086, Berbers took control of large areas of Moorish Spain until they were expelled in the 13th century. The Almohads, who succeeded (c.1174) the Almoravids, at first ruled both Morocco and Spain, but the Merinid dynasty (1259–1550), after some triumphs, was limited to Morocco. Rarely, however, was the country completely unified, and conflict between Arabs and Berbers was incessant.

The land was rarely unified and was usually ruled by small tribal states. Conflicts between Berbers and Arabs were chronic. Portugal and Spain began invading Morocco, which helped to unify the land in defense.

Spain and Portugal, after expelling the Moors (i.e., persons from Morocco) from the Iberian Peninsula, attacked the Moroccan coast.

Beginning with the capture of Ceuta in 1415, Portugal took all the chief ports except Melilla and Larache, both of which fell to Spain. The Christian threat stimulated the growth of resistance under religious leaders, one of whom established (1554) the Saadian, or first Sherifian, dynasty. At the battle of Ksar el Kebir (1578) the Saadian king decisively defeated Portugal. In 1660, Morocco came under the control of the Alawite dynasty.

The present ruling dynasty, the Alawite, or second Sherifian, dynasty, recaptured many European-held strongholds. Morocco, like the other Barbary States, was, from the 17th to the 19th cent., a base for pirates preying upon the Mediterranean trade.

It is a sherif dynasty—descended from the prophet Muhammad—and rules Morocco to this day. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Morocco was one of the Barbary States, the headquarters of pirates who pillaged Mediterranean traders.

European powers showed interest in colonizing the country beginning in 1840, and there were frequent clashes with the French and Spanish.

Last Updated on Monday 4th August 2008