Salobrena was a small town, situated on a lofty and rocky hill in the midst of a beautiful and fertile vega shut up on three sides by mountains and opening on the fourth to the Mediterranean. It was protected by strong walls and a powerful castle, and, being deemed impregnable, was often used by the Moorish kings as a place of deposit for their treasures. They were accustomed also to assign it as a residence for such of their sons and brothers as might endanger the security of their reign. Here the princes lived in luxurious repose: they had delicious gardens, perfumed baths, a harem of beauties at their command—nothing was denied them but the liberty to depart: that alone was wanting to render this abode an earthly paradise.
Such was the delightful place appointed by El Zagal for the residence of his brother, but, notwithstanding its wonderful salubrity, the old monarch had not been removed thither many days before he expired. There was nothing extraordinary in his death: life with him had long been glimmering in the socket, and for some time past he might rather have been numbered with the dead than with the living. The public, however, are fond of seeing things in a sinister and mysterious point of view, and there were many dark surmises as to the cause of this event. El Zagal acted in a manner to heighten these suspicions: he caused the treasures of his deceased brother to be packed on mules and brought to Granada, where he took possession of them, to the exclusion of the children of Abul Hassan. The sultana Zoraya and her two sons were lodged in the Alhambra, in the Tower of Comares. This was a residence in a palace, but it had proved a royal prison to the sultana Ayxa la Horra and her youthful son Boabdil. There the unhappy Zoraya had time to meditate upon the disappointment of all those ambitious schemes for herself and children for which she had stained her conscience with so many crimes.
The corpse of old Muley was also brought to Granada—not in state becoming the remains of a once-powerful sovereign, but transported on a mule, like the corpse of the poorest peasant. It received no honor or ceremonial from El Zagal, and appears to have been interred obscurely to prevent any popular sensation; and it is recorded by an ancient and faithful chronicler of the time that the body of the old monarch was deposited by two Christian captives in his osario or charnel-house.* Such was the end of the turbulent Muley Abul Hassan, who, after passing his life in constant contests for empire, could scarce gain quiet admission into the corner of a sepulchre.
* Cura de los Palacios, c. 77.
No sooner were the populace well assured that old Muley Abul Hassan was dead and beyond recovery than they all began to extol his memory and deplore his loss. They admitted that he had been fierce and cruel, but then he had been brave; he had, to be sure, pulled this war upon their heads, but he had likewise been crushed by it. In a word, he was dead, and his death atoned or every fault; for a king recently dead is generally either a hero or a saint.
In proportion as they ceased to hate old Muley they began to hate his brother. The circumstances of the old king's death, the eagerness to appropriate his treasures, the scandalous neglect of his corpse, and the imprisonment of his sultana and children,—all filled the public mind with gloomy suspicions, and the epithet of Fratricide was sometimes substituted for that of El Zagal in the low murmurings of the people.
As the public must always have some object to like as well as to hate, there began once more to be an inquiry after their fugitive king, Boabdil el Chico. That unfortunate monarch was still at Cordova, existing on the cool courtesy and meagre friendship of Ferdinand, which had waned exceedingly ever since Boabdil had ceased to have any influence in his late dominions. The reviving interest expressed in his fate by the Moorish public, and certain secret overtures made to him, once more aroused the sympathy of Ferdinand: he advised Boabdil again to set up his standard within the frontiers of Granada, and furnished him with money and means for the purpose. Boabdil advanced but a little way into his late territories; he took up his post at Velez el Blanco, a strong town on the confines of Murcia: there he established the shadow of a court, and stood, as it were, with one foot over the border, and ready to draw that back upon the least alarm. His presence in the kingdom, however, and his assumption of royal state gave life to his faction in Granada. The inhabitants of the Albaycin, the poorest but most warlike part of the populace, were generally in his favor: the more rich, courtly, and aristocratical inhabitants of the quarter of the Alhambra rallied round what appeared to be the most stable authority and supported the throne of El Zagal. So it is in the admirable order of sublunary affairs: everything seeks its kind; the rich befriend the rich, the powerful stand by the powerful, the poor enjoy the patronage of the poor, and thus a universal harmony prevails.
OF THE CHRISTIAN ARMY WHICH ASSEMBLED AT THE CITY OF CORDOVA.
Great and glorious was the style with which the Catholic sovereigns opened another year's campaign of this eventful war. It was like commencing another act of a stately and heroic drama, where the curtain rises to the inspiring sound of martial melody and the whole stage glitters with the array of warriors and the pomp of arms. The ancient city of Cordova was the place appointed by the sovereigns for the assemblage of the troops; and early in the spring of 1486 the fair valley of the Guadalquivir resounded with the shrill blast of trumpet and the impatient neighing of the war-horse. In this splendid era of Spanish chivalry there was a rivalship among the nobles who most should distinguish himself by the splendor of his appearance and the number and equipments of his feudal followers. Every day beheld some cavalier of note, the representative of some proud and powerful house, entering the gates of Cordova with sound of trumpet, and displaying his banner and device renowned in many a contest. He would appear in sumptuous array, surrounded by pages and lackeys no less gorgeously attired, and followed by a host of vassals and retainers, horse and foot, all admirably equipped in burnished armor.
Such was the state of Don Inigo Lopez de Mendoza, duke of Infantado, who may be cited as a picture of a warlike noble of those times. He brought with him five hundred men-at-arms of his household armed and mounted "a la gineta" and "a la guisa." The cavaliers who attended him were magnificently armed and dressed. The housings of fifty of his horses were of rich cloth embroidered with gold, and others were of brocade. The sumpter mules had housings of the same, with halters of silk, while the bridles, head-pieces, and all the harnessing glittered with silver.
The camp equipage of these noble and luxurious warriors was equally magnificent. Their tents were gay pavilions of various colors, fitted up with silken hangings and decorated with fluttering pennons. They had vessels of gold and silver for the service of their tables, as if they were about to engage in a course of stately feasts and courtly revels, instead of the stern encounters of rugged and mountainous warfare. Sometimes they passed through the streets of Cordova at night in splendid cavalcade, with great numbers of lighted torches, the rays of which, falling upon polished armor and nodding plumes and silken scarfs and trappings of golden embroidery, filled all beholders with admiration.*
* Pulgar, part 3, cap. 41, 56.
But it was not the chivalry of Spain alone which thronged the streets of Cordova. The fame of this war had spread throughout Christendom: it was considered a kind of crusade, and Catholic knights from all parts hastened to signalize themselves in so holy a cause. There were several valiant chevaliers from France, among whom the most distinguished was Gaston du Leon, seneschal of Toulouse. With him came a gallant train, well armed and mounted and decorated with rich surcoats and panaches of feathers. These cavaliers, it is said, eclipsed all others in the light festivities of the court: they were devoted to the fair, but not after the solemn and passionate manner of the Spanish lovers; they were gay, gallant, and joyous in their amours, and captivated by the vivacity of their attacks. They were at first held in light estimation by the grave and stately Spanish knights until they made themselves to be respected by their wonderful prowess in the field.
The most conspicuous of the volunteers, however, who appeared in Cordova on this occasion was an English knight of royal connection. This was the Lord Scales, earl of Rivers, brother to the queen of England, wife of Henry VII. He had distinguished himself in the preceding year at the battle of Bosworth Field, where Henry Tudor, then earl of Richmond, overcame Richard III. That decisive battle having left the country at peace, the earl of Rivers, having conceived a passion for warlike scenes, repaired to the Castilian court to keep his arms in exercise in a campaign against the Moors. He brought with him a hundred archers, all dextrous with the longbow and the cloth-yard arrow; also two hundred yeomen, armed cap-a-pie, who fought with pike and battle-axe—men robust of frame and of prodigious strength. The worthy padre Fray Antonio Agapida describes this stranger knight and his followers with his accustomed accuracy and minuteness.
"This cavalier," he observes, "was from the far island of England, and brought with him a train of his vassals, men who had been hardened in certain civil wars which raged in their country. They were a comely race of men, but too fair and fresh for warriors, not having the sunburnt, warlike hue of our old Castilian soldiery. They were huge feeders also and deep carousers, and could not accommodate themselves to the sober diet of our troops, but must fain eat and drink after the manner of their own country. They were often noisy and unruly also in their wassail, and their quarter of the camp was prone to be a scene of loud revel and sudden brawl. They were, withal, of great pride, yet it was not like our inflammable Spanish pride: they stood not much upon the "pundonor," the high punctilio, and rarely drew the stiletto in their disputes, but their pride was silent and contumelious. Though from a remote and somewhat barbarous island, they believed themselves the most perfect men upon earth, and magnified their chieftain, the Lord Scales, beyond the greatest of their grandees. With all this, it must be said of them that they were marvellous good men in the field, dextrous archers and powerful with the battle-axe. In their great pride and self-will they always sought to press in the advance and take the post of danger, trying to outvie our Spanish chivalry. They did not rush on fiercely to the fight, nor make a brilliant onset like the Moorish and Spanish troops, but they went into the fight deliberately and persisted obstinately and were slow to find out when they were beaten. Withal, they were much esteemed, yet little liked, by our soldiery, who considered them stanch companions in the field, yet coveted but little fellowship with them in the camp.
"Their commander, Lord Scales, was an accomplished cavalier, of gracious and noble presence and fair speech: it was a marvel to see so much courtesy in a knight brought up so far from our Castilian court. He was much honored by the king and queen, and found great favor with the fair dames about the court, who, indeed, are rather prone to be pleased with foreign cavaliers. He went always in costly state, attended by pages and esquires, and accompanied by noble young cavaliers of his country, who had enrolled themselves under his banner to learn the gentle exercise of arms. In all pageants and festivals the eyes of the populace were attracted by the singular bearing and rich array of the English earl and his train, who prided themselves in always appearing in the garb and manner of their country, and were, indeed, something very magnificent, delectable, and strange to behold."
The worthy chronicler is no less elaborate in his description of the masters of Santiago, Calatrava, and Alcantara and their valiant knights, armed at all points and decorated with the badges of their orders. These, he affirms, were the flower of Christian chivalry: being constantly in service, they became more steadfast and accomplished in discipline than the irregular and temporary levies of the feudal nobles. Calm, solemn, and stately, they sat like towers upon their powerful chargers. On parades they manifested none of the show and ostentation of the other troops; neither in battle did they endeavor to signalize themselves by any fiery vivacity or desperate and vainglorious exploit: everything with them was measured and sedate, yet it was observed that none were more warlike in their appearance in the camp or more terrible for their achievements in the field.
The gorgeous magnificence of the Spanish nobles found but little favor in the eyes of the sovereigns. They saw that it caused a competition in expense ruinous to cavaliers of moderate fortune, and they feared that a softness and effeminacy might thus be introduced incompatible with the stern nature of the war. They signified their disapprobation to several of the principal noblemen, and recommended a more sober and soldier-like display while in actual service.
"These are rare troops for a tourney, my lord," said Ferdinand to the duke of Infantado as he beheld his retainers glittering in gold and embroidery, "but gold, though gorgeous, is soft and yielding: iron is the metal for the field."
"Sire," replied the duke, "if my men parade in gold, Your Majesty will find they fight with steel." The king smiled, but shook his head, and the duke treasured up his speech in his heart.
It remains now to reveal the immediate object of this mighty and chivalrous preparation, which had, in fact, the gratification of a royal pique at bottom. The severe lesson which Ferdinand had received from the veteran Ali Atar before the walls of Loxa, though it had been of great service in rendering him wary in his attacks upon fortified places, yet rankled sorely in his mind, and he had ever since held Loxa in peculiar odium. It was, in truth, one of the most belligerent and troublesome cities on the borders, incessantly harassing Andalusia by its incursions. It also intervened between the Christian territories and Alhama and other important places gained in the kingdom of Granada. For all these reasons King Ferdinand had determined to make another grand attempt upon this warrior city, and for this purpose had summoned to the field his most powerful chivalry.
It was in the month of May that the king sallied from Cordova at the head of his army. He had twelve thousand cavalry and forty thousand foot-soldiers armed with crossbows, lances, and arquebuses. There were six thousand pioneers with hatchets, pickaxes, and crowbars for levelling roads. He took with him also a great train of lombards and other heavy artillery, with a body of Germans skilled in the service of ordnance and the art of battering walls.
It was a glorious spectacle (says Fray Antonio Agapida) to behold this pompous pageant issuing forth from Cordova, the pennons and devices of the proudest houses of Spain, with those of gallant stranger knights, fluttering above a sea of crests and plumes—to see it slowly moving, with flash of helm and cuirass and buckler, across the ancient bridge and reflected in the waters of the Guadalquivir, while the neigh of steed and blast of trumpet vibrated in the air and resounded to the distant mountains. "But, above all," concludes the good father, with his accustomed zeal, "it was triumphant to behold the standard of the faith everywhere displayed, and to reflect that this was no worldly-minded army, intent upon some temporal scheme of ambition or revenge, but a Christian host bound on a crusade to extirpate the vile seed of Mahomet from the land and to extend the pure dominion of the Church."
HOW FRESH COMMOTIONS BROKE OUT IN GRANADA, AND HOW THE PEOPLE UNDERTOOK TO ALLAY THEM.
While perfect unity of object and harmony of operation gave power to the Christian arms, the devoted kingdom of Granada continued a prey to internal feuds. The transient popularity of El Zagal had declined ever since the death of his brother, and the party of Boabdil was daily gaining strength; the Albaycin and the Alhambra were again arrayed against each other in deadly strife, and the streets of unhappy Granada were daily dyed in the blood of her children. In the midst of these dissensions tidings arrived of the formidable army assembling at Cordova. The rival factions paused in their infatuated brawls, and were roused to a temporary sense of the common danger. They forthwith resorted to their old expedient of new-modelling their government, or rather of making and unmaking kings. The elevation of El Zagal to the throne had not produced the desired effect; what, then, was to be done? Recall Boabdil el Chico and acknowledge him again as sovereign? While they were in a popular tumult of deliberation Hamet Aben Zarrax, surnamed El Santo, rose among them. This was the same wild, melancholy man who had predicted the woes of Granada. He issued from one of the caverns of the adjacent height which overhangs the Darro, and has since been called the Holy Mountain. His appearance was more haggard than ever, for the unheeded spirit of prophecy seemed to have turned inwardly and preyed upon his vitals. "Beware, O Moslems," exclaimed he, "of men who are eager to govern, yet are unable to protect. Why slaughter each other for El Chico or El Zagal? Let your kings renounce their contests, unite for the salvation of Granada, or let them be deposed."
Hamet Aben Zarrax had long been revered as a saint—he was now considered an oracle. The old men and the nobles immediately consulted together how the two rival kings might be brought to accord. They had tried most expedients: it was now determined to divide the kingdom between them, giving Granada, Malaga, Velez Malaga, Almeria, Almunecar, and their dependencies to El Zagal, and the residue to Boabdil el Chico. Among the cities granted to the latter Loxa was particularly specified, with a condition that he should immediately take command of it in person, for the council thought the favor he enjoyed with the Castilian monarchs might avert the threatened attack.
El Zagal readily agreed to this arrangement: he had been hastily elevated to the throne by an ebullition of the people, and might be as hastily cast down again. It secured him one half of a kingdom to which he had no hereditary right, and he trusted to force or fraud to gain the other half hereafter. The wily old monarch even sent a deputation to his nephew, making a merit of offering him cheerfully the half which he had thus been compelled to relinquish, and inviting him to enter into an amicable coalition for the good of the country.
The heart of Boabdil shrank from all connection with a man who had sought his life, and whom he regarded as the murderer of his kindred. He accepted one half of the kingdom as an offer from the nation, not to be rejected by a prince who scarcely held possession of the ground he stood on. He asserted, nevertheless, his absolute right to the whole, and only submitted to the partition out of anxiety for the present good of his people. He assembled his handful of adherents and prepared to hasten to Loxa. As he mounted his horse to depart, Hamet Aben Zarrax stood suddenly before him. "Be true to thy country and thy faith," cried he; "hold no further communication with these Christian dogs. Trust not the hollow-hearted friendship of the Castilian king; he is mining the earth beneath thy feet. Choose one of two things: be a sovereign or a slave—thou canst not be both."
Boabdil ruminated on these words; he made many wise resolutions, but he was prone always to act from the impulse of the moment, and was unfortunately given to temporize in his policy. He wrote to Ferdinand, informing him that Loxa and certain other cities had returned to their allegiance, and that he held them as vassal to the Castilian Crown, according to their convention. He conjured him, therefore, to refrain from any meditated attack, offering free passage to the Spanish army to Malaga or any other place under the dominion of his uncle.*
* Zurita, lib. 20, c. 68.
Ferdinand turned a deaf ear to the entreaty and to all professions of friendship and vassalage. Boabdil was nothing to him but as an instrument for stirring up the flames of civil war. He now insisted that he had entered into a hostile league with his uncle, and had consequently forfeited all claims to his indulgence; and he prosecuted with the greater earnestness his campaign against the city of Loxa.
"Thus," observes the worthy Fray Antonio Agapida, "thus did this most sagacious sovereign act upon the text in the eleventh chapter of the evangelist St. Luke, that 'a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.' He had induced these infidels to waste and destroy themselves by internal dissensions, and finally cast forth the survivor, while the Moorish monarchs by their ruinous contests made good the old Castilian proverb in cases of civil war, 'El vencido vencido, y el vencidor perdido' (the conquered conquered, and the conqueror undone)."*
* Garibay, lib. 40, c. 33.
HOW KING FERDINAND HELD A COUNCIL OF WAR AT THE ROCK OF THE LOVERS.
The royal army on its march against Loxa lay encamped one pleasant evening in May in a meadow on the banks of the river Yeguas, around the foot of a lofty cliff called the Rock of the Lovers. The quarters of each nobleman formed as it were a separate little encampment, his stately pavilion, surmounted by his fluttering pennon, rising above the surrounding tents of his vassals and retainers. A little apart from the others, as it were in proud reserve, was the encampment of the English earl. It was sumptuous in its furniture and complete in all its munitions. Archers and soldiers armed with battle-axes kept guard around it, while above the standard of England rolled out its ample folds and flapped in the evening breeze.
The mingled sounds of various tongues and nations were heard from the soldiery as they watered their horses in the stream or busied themselves round the fires which began to glow here and there in the twilight—the gay chanson of the Frenchman, singing of his amours on the pleasant banks of the Loire or the sunny regions of the Garonne; the broad guttural tones of the German, chanting some doughty "krieger lied" or extolling the vintage of the Rhine; the wild romance of the Spaniard, reciting the achievements of the Cid and many a famous passage of the Moorish wars; and the long and melancholy ditty of the Englishman, treating of some feudal hero or redoubtable outlaw of his distant island.
On a rising ground, commanding a view of the whole encampment, stood the ample and magnificent pavilion of the king, with the banner of Castile and Aragon and the holy standard of the cross erected before it. In this tent there assembled the principal commanders of the army, having been summoned by Ferdinand to a council of war on receiving tidings that Boabdil had thrown himself into Loxa with a considerable reinforcement. After some consultation it was determined to invest Loxa on both sides: one part of the army should seize upon the dangerous but commanding height of Santo Albohacen in front of the city, while the remainder, making a circuit, should encamp on the opposite side.
No sooner was this resolved upon than the marques of Cadiz stood forth and claimed the post of danger in behalf of himself and those cavaliers, his companions-in-arms, who had been compelled to relinquish it by the general retreat of the army on the former siege. The enemy had exulted over them as if driven from it in disgrace. To regain that perilous height, to pitch their tents upon it, and to avenge the blood of their valiant compeer, the master of Calatrava, who had fallen upon it, was due to their fame: the marques demanded, therefore, that they might lead the advance and secure that height, engaging to hold the enemy employed until the main army should take its position on the opposite side of the city.
King Ferdinand readily granted his permission, upon which the count de Cabra entreated to be admitted to a share of the enterprise. He had always been accustomed to serve in the advance, and now that Boabdil was in the field and a king was to be taken, he could not content himself with remaining in the rear. Ferdinand yielded his consent, for he was disposed to give the good count every opportunity to retrieve his late disaster.
The English earl, when he heard there was an enterprise of danger in question, was hot to be admitted to the party, but the king restrained his ardor. "These cavaliers," said he, "conceive that they have an account to settle with their pride; let them have the enterprise to themselves, my lord: if you follow these Moorish wars long, you will find no lack of perilous service."
The marques of Cadiz and his companions-in-arms struck their tents before daybreak; they were five thousand horse and twelve thousand foot, and marched rapidly along the defiles of the mountains, the cavaliers being anxious to strike the blow and get possession of the height of Albohacen before the king with the main army should arrive to their assistance.
The city of Loxa stands on a high hill between two mountains on the banks of the Xenil. To attain the height of Albohacen the troops had to pass over a tract of rugged and broken country and a deep valley intersected by those canals and watercourses with which the Moors irrigated their lands: they were extremely embarrassed in this part of their march, and in imminent risk of being cut up in detail before they could reach the height.
The count de Cabra, with his usual eagerness, endeavored to push across this valley in defiance of every obstacle: he, in consequence, soon became entangled with his cavalry among the canals, but his impatience would not permit him to retrace his steps and choose a more practicable but circuitous route. Others slowly crossed another part of the valley by the aid of pontoons, while the marques of Cadiz, Don Alonso de Aguilar, and the count de Urena, being more experienced in the ground from their former campaign, made a circuit round the bottom of the height, and, winding up it, began to display their squadrons and elevate their banners on the redoubtable post which in their former siege they had been compelled so reluctantly to abandon.
HOW THE ROYAL ARMY APPEARED BEFORE THE CITY OF LOXA, AND HOW IT WAS RECEIVED; AND OF THE DOUGHTY ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE ENGLISH EARL.
The advance of the Christian army upon Loxa threw the wavering Boabdil el Chico into one of his usual dilemmas, and he was greatly perplexed between his oath of allegiance to the Spanish sovereigns and his sense of duty to his subjects. His doubts were determined by the sight of the enemy glittering upon the height of Albohacen and by the clamors of the people to be led forth to battle. "Allah," exclaimed he, "thou knowest my heart: thou knowest I have been true in my faith to this Christian monarch. I have offered to hold Loxa as his vassal, but he has preferred to approach it as an enemy: on his head be the infraction of our treaty!"
Boabdil was not wanting in courage; he only needed decision. When he had once made up his mind he acted vigorously; the misfortune was, he either did not make it up at all or he made it up too late. He who decides tardily generally acts rashly, endeavoring to make up by hurry of action for slowness of deliberation. Boabdil hastily buckled on his armor and sallied forth surrounded by his guards, and at the head of five hundred horse and four thousand foot, the flower of his army. Some he detached to skirmish with the Christians, who were scattered and perplexed in the valley, and to prevent their concentrating their forces, while with his main body he pressed forward to drive the enemy from the height of Albohacen before they had time to collect there in any number or to fortify themselves in that important position.
The worthy count de Cabra was yet entangled with his cavalry among the water-courses of the valley when he heard the war-cries of the Moors and saw their army rushing over the bridge. He recognized Boabdil himself, by his splendid armor, the magnificent caparison of his steed, and the brilliant guard which surrounded him. The royal host swept on toward the height of Albohacen: an intervening hill hid it from his sight, but loud shouts and cries, the din of drums and trumpets, and the reports of arquebuses gave note that the battle had begun.
Here was a royal prize in the field, and the count de Cabra unable to get into the action! The good cavalier was in an agony of impatience; every attempt to force his way across the valley only plunged him into new difficulties. At length, after many eager but ineffectual efforts, he was obliged to order his troops to dismount, and slowly and carefully to lead their horses back along slippery paths and amid plashes of mire and water where often there was scarce a foothold. The good count groaned in spirit and sweat with mere impatience as he went, fearing the battle might be fought and the prize won or lost before he could reach the field. Having at length toilfully unravelled the mazes of the valley and arrived at firmer ground, he ordered his troops to mount, and led them full gallop to the height. Part of the good count's wishes were satisfied, but the dearest were disappointed: he came in season to partake of the very hottest of the fight, but the royal prize was no longer in the field.
Boabdil had led on his men with impetuous valor, or rather with hurried rashness. Heedlessly exposing himself in the front of the battle, he received two wounds in the very first encounter. His guards rallied round him, defended him with matchless valor, and bore him bleeding out of the action. The count de Cabra arrived just in time to see the loyal squadron crossing the bridge and slowly conveying their disabled monarch toward the gate of the city.
The departure of Boabdil made no difference in the fury of the battle. A Moorish warrior, dark and terrible in aspect, mounted on a black charger, and followed by a band of savage Gomeres, rushed forward to take the lead. It was Hamet el Zegri, the fierce alcayde of Ronda, with the remnant of his once-redoubtable garrison. Animated by his example, the Moors renewed their assaults upon the height. It was bravely defended, on one side by the marques of Cadiz, on another by Don Alonso de Aguilar, and as fast as the Moors ascended they were driven back and dashed down the declivities. The count de Urena took his stand upon the fatal spot where his brother had fallen; his followers entered with zeal into the feelings of their commander, and heaps of the enemy sunk beneath their weapons—sacrifices to the manes of the lamented master of Calatrava.
The battle continued with incredible obstinacy. The Moors knew the importance of the height to the safety of the city; the cavaliers felt their honors staked to maintain it. Fresh supplies of troops were poured out of the city: some battled on the height, while some attacked the Christians who were still in the valley and among the orchards and gardens to prevent their uniting their forces. The troops in the valley were gradually driven back, and the whole host of the Moors swept around the height of Albohacen. The situation of the marques de Cadiz and his companions was perilous in the extreme: they were a mere handful, and, while fighting hand to hand with the Moors who assailed the height, were galled from a distance by the crossbows and arquebuses of a host that augmented each moment in number. At this critical juncture King Ferdinand emerged from the mountains with the main body of the army, and advanced to an eminence commanding a full view of the field of action. By his side was the noble English cavalier, the earl of Rivers. This was the first time he had witnessed a scene of Moorish warfare. He looked with eager interest at the chance-medley fight before him, where there was the wild career of cavalry, the irregular and tumultuous rush of infantry, and where Christian and Moor were intermingled in deadly struggle. The high blood of the English knight mounted at the sight, and his soul was stirred within him by the confused war-cries, the clangor of drums and trumpets, and the reports of arquebuses. Seeing that the king was sending a reinforcement to the field, he entreated permission to mingle in the affray and fight according to the fashion of his country. His request being granted, he alighted from his steed: he was merely armed "en blanco"—that is to say, with morion, back-piece, and breast-plate—his sword was girded by his side, and in his hand he wielded a powerful battle-axe. He was followed by a body of his yeomen armed in like manner, and by a band of archers with bows made of the tough English yew tree. The earl turned to his troops and addressed then briefly and bluntly, according to the manner of his country. "Remember, my merry men all," said he, "the eyes of strangers are upon you; you are in a foreign land, fighting for the glory of God and the honor of merry old England!" A loud shout was the reply. The earl waved his battle-axe over his head. "St. George for England!" cried he, and to the inspiring sound of this old English war-cry he and his followers rushed down to the battle with manly and courageous hearts.* They soon made their way into the midst of the enemy, but when engaged in the hottest of the fight they made no shouts nor outcries. They pressed steadily forward, dealing their blows to right and left, hewing down the Moors and cutting their way with their battle-axes like woodmen in a forest; while the archers, pressing into the opening they made, plied their bows vigorously and spread death on every side.
* Cura de los Palacios.
When the Castilian mountaineers beheld the valor of the English yeomanry, they would not be outdone in hardihood. They could not vie with them in weight or bulk, but for vigor and activity they were surpassed by none. They kept pace with them, therefore, with equal heart and rival prowess, and gave a brave support to the stout Englishmen.
The Moors were confounded by the fury of these assaults and disheartened by the loss of Hamet el Zegri, who was carried wounded from the field. They gradually fell back upon the bridge; the Christians followed up their advantage, and drove them over it tumultuously. The Moors retreated into the suburb, and Lord Rivers and his troops entered with them pell-mell, fighting in the streets and in the houses. King Ferdinand came up to the scene of action with his royal guard, and the infidels were driven within the city walls. Thus were the suburbs gained by the hardihood of the English lord, without such an event having been premeditated.*
* Cura de los Palacios, MS.
The earl of Rivers, notwithstanding he had received a wound, still urged forward in the attack. He penetrated almost to the city gate, in defiance of a shower of missiles that slew many of his followers. A stone hurled from the battlements checked his impetuous career: it struck him in the face, dashed out two of his front teeth, and laid him senseless on the earth. He was removed to a short distance by his men, but, recovering his senses, refused to permit himself to be taken from the suburb.
When the contest was over the streets presented a piteous spectacle, so many of their inhabitants had died in the defence of their thresholds or been slaughtered without resistance. Among the victims was a poor weaver who had been at work in his dwelling at this turbulent moment. His wife urged him to fly into the city. "Why should I fly?" said the Moor—"to be reserved for hunger and slavery? I tell you, wife, I will await the foe here, for better is it to die quickly by the steel than to perish piecemeal in chains and dungeons." He said no more, but resumed his occupation of weaving, and in the indiscriminate fury of the assault was slaughtered at his loom.*
* Pulgar, part 3, c. 58.
The Christians remained masters of the field, and proceeded to pitch three encampments for the prosecution of the siege. The king, with the great body of the army, took a position on the side of the city next to Granada; the marques of Cadiz and his brave companions once more pitched their tents upon the height of Santo Albohacen; but the English earl planted his standard sturdily within the suburb he had taken.
CONCLUSION OF THE SIEGE OF LOXA.
Having possession of the heights of Albohacen and the suburb of the city, the Christians were enabled to choose the most favorable situations for their batteries. They immediately destroyed the stone bridge by which the garrison had made its sallies, and they threw two wooden bridges across the river and others over the canals and streams, so as to establish an easy communication between the different camps.
When all was arranged a heavy fire was opened upon the city from various points. They threw not only balls of stone and iron, but great carcasses of fire, which burst like meteors on the houses, wrapping them instantly in a blaze. The walls were shattered and the towers toppled down by tremendous discharges from the lombards. Through the openings thus made they could behold the interior of the city—houses tumbling or in flames, men, women, and children flying in terror through the streets, and slaughtered by the shower of missiles sent through the openings from smaller artillery and from crossbows and arquebuses.
The Moors attempted to repair the breaches, but fresh discharges from the lombards buried them beneath the ruins of the walls they were mending. In their despair many of the inhabitants rushed forth into the narrow streets of the suburbs and assailed the Christians with darts, scimetars, and poniards, seeking to destroy rather than defend, and heedless of death in the confidence that to die fighting with an unbeliever was to be translated at once to Paradise.
For two nights and a day this awful scene continued, when certain of the principal inhabitants began to reflect upon the hopelessness of the conflict: their king was disabled, their principal captains were either killed or wounded, their fortifications little better than heaps of ruins. They had urged the unfortunate Boabdil to the conflict; they now clamored for a capitulation. A parley was procured from the Christian monarch, and the terms of surrender were soon adjusted. They were to yield up the city immediately, with all their Christian captives, and to sally forth with as much of their property as they could take with them. The marques of Cadiz, on whose honor and humanity they had great reliance, was to escort them to Granada to protect them from assault or robbery: such as chose to remain in Spain were to be permitted to reside in Castile, Aragon, or Valencia. As to Boabdil el Chico, he was to do homage as vassal to King Ferdinand, but no charge was to be urged against him of having violated his former pledge. If he should yield up all pretensions to Granada, the title of duke of Guadix was to be assigned to him and the territory thereto annexed, provided it should be recovered from El Zagal within six months.
The capitulation being arranged, they gave as hostages the alcayde of the city and the principal officers, together with the sons of their late chieftain, the veteran Ali Atar. The warriors of Loxa then issued forth, humbled and dejected at having to surrender those walls which they had so long maintained with valor and renown, and the women and children filled the air with lamentations at being exiled from their native homes.
Last came forth Boabdil, most truly called El Zogoybi, the Unlucky. Accustomed, as he was, to be crowned and uncrowned, to be ransomed and treated as a matter of bargain, he had acceded of course to the capitulation. He was enfeebled by his wounds and had an air of dejection, yet, it is said, his conscience acquitted him of a breach of faith toward the Castilian sovereigns, and the personal valor he had displayed had caused a sympathy for him among many of the Christian cavaliers. He knelt to Ferdinand according to the forms of vassalage, and then departed in melancholy mood for Priego, a town about three leagues distant.
Ferdinand immediately ordered Loxa to be repaired and strongly garrisoned. He was greatly elated at the capture of this place, in consequence of his former defeat before its walls. He passed great encomiums upon the commanders who had distinguished themselves, and historians dwelt particularly upon his visit to the tent of the English earl. His Majesty consoled him for the loss of his teeth by the consideration that he might otherwise have lost them by natural decay, whereas the lack of them would now be esteemed a beauty rather than a defect, serving as a trophy of the glorious cause in which he had been engaged.
The earl replied that he gave thanks to God and to the Holy Virgin for being thus honored by a visit from the most potent king in Christendom; that he accepted with all gratitude his gracious consolation for the loss of his teeth, though he held it little to lose two teeth in the service of God, who had given him all—"A speech," says Fray Antonio Agapida, "full of most courtly wit and Christian piety; and one only marvels that it should have been made by a native of an island so far distant from Castile."
CAPTURE OF ILLORA.
King Ferdinand followed up his victory at Loxa by laying siege to the strong town of Illora. This redoubtable fortress was perched upon a high rock in the midst of a spacious valley. It was within four leagues of the Moorish capital, and its lofty castle, keeping vigilant watch over a wide circuit of country, was termed the right eye of Granada.
The alcayde of Illora was one of the bravest of the Moorish commanders, and made every preparation to defend his fortress to the last extremity. He sent the women and children, the aged and infirm, to the metropolis. He placed barricades in the suburbs, opened doors of communication from house to house, and pierced their walls with loopholes for the discharge of crossbows, arquebuses, and other missiles.
King Ferdinand arrived before the place with all his forces; he stationed himself upon the hill of Encinilla, and distributed the other encampments in various situations so as to invest the fortress. Knowing the valiant character of the alcayde and the desperate courage of the Moors, he ordered the encampments to be fortified with trenches and palisadoes, the guards to be doubled, and sentinels to be placed in all the watch-towers of the adjacent heights.
When all was ready the duke del Infantado demanded the attack: it was his first campaign, and he was anxious to disprove the royal insinuation made against the hardihood of his embroidered chivalry. King Ferdinand granted his demand, with a becoming compliment to his spirit; he ordered the count de Cabra to make a simultaneous attack upon a different quarter. Both chiefs led forth their troops—those of the duke in fresh and brilliant armor, richly ornamented, and as yet uninjured by the service of the field; those of the count were weatherbeaten veterans, whose armor was dented and hacked in many a hard-fought battle. The youthful duke blushed at the contrast. "Cavaliers," cried he, "we have been reproached with the finery of our array: let us prove that a trenchant blade may rest in a gilded sheath. Forward! to the foe! and I trust in God that as we enter this affray knights well accoutred, so we shall leave it cavaliers well proved." His men responded by eager acclamations, and the duke led them forward to the assault. He advanced under a tremendous shower of stones, darts, balls, and arrows, but nothing could check his career; he entered the suburb sword in hand; his men fought furiously, though with great loss, for every dwelling had been turned into a fortress. After a severe conflict they succeeded in driving the Moors into the town about the same time that the other suburb was carried by the count de Cabra and his veterans. The troops of the duke del Infantado came out of the contest thinned in number and covered with blood and dust and wounds; they received the highest encomiums of the king, and there was never afterward any sneer at their embroidery.
The suburbs being taken, three batteries, each furnished with eight huge lombards, were opened upon the fortress. The damage and havoc were tremendous, for the fortifications had not been constructed to withstand such engines. The towers were overthrown, the walls battered to pieces; the interior of the place was all exposed, houses were demolished, and many people slain. The Moors were terrified by the tumbling ruins and the tremendous din. The alcayde had resolved to defend the place until the last extremity: he beheld it a heap of rubbish; there was no prospect of aid from Granada; his people had lost all spirit to fight and were vociferous for a surrender; with a reluctant heart he capitulated. The inhabitants were permitted to depart with all their effects, excepting their arms, and were escorted in safety by the duke del Infantado and the count de Cabra to the bridge of Pinos, within two leagues of Granada.
King Ferdinand gave directions to repair the fortifications of Illora and to place it in a strong state of defence. He left as alcayde of the town and fortress Gonsalvo de Cordova, younger brother of Don Alonso de Aguilar. This gallant cavalier was captain of the royal guards of Ferdinand and Isabella, and gave already proofs of that prowess which afterward rendered him so renowned.
OF THE ARRIVAL OF QUEEN ISABELLA AT THE CAMP BEFORE MOCLIN, AND OF THE PLEASANT SAYINGS OF THE ENGLISH EARL.
The war of Granada, however poets may embroider it with the flowers of their fancy, was certainly one of the sternest of those iron conflicts which have been celebrated under the name of "holy wars." The worthy Fray Antonio Agapida dwells with unsated delight upon the succession of rugged mountain-enterprises, bloody battles, and merciless sackings and ravages which characterized it; yet we find him on one occasion pausing in the full career of victory over the infidels to detail a stately pageant of the Catholic sovereigns.
Immediately on the capture of Loxa, Ferdinand had written to Isabella, soliciting her presence at the camp that he might consult with her as to the disposition of their newly-acquired territories.
It was in the early part of June that the queen departed from Codova with the princess Isabella and numerous ladies of her court. She had a glorious attendance of cavaliers and pages, with many guards and domestics. There were forty mules for the use of the queen, the princess, and their train.
As this courtly cavalcade approached the Rock of the Lovers on the banks of the river Yeguas, they beheld a splendid train of knights advancing to meet them. It was headed by that accomplished cavalier the marques-duke de Cadiz, accompanied by the adelantado of Andalusia. He had left the camp the day after the capture of Illora, and advanced thus far to receive the queen and escort her over the borders. The queen received the marques with distinguished honor, for he was esteemed the mirror of chivalry. His actions in this war had become the theme of every tongue, and many hesitated not to compare him in prowess with the immortal Cid.*
* Cura de los Palacios.
Thus gallantly attended, the queen entered the vanquished frontier of Granada, journeying securely along the pleasant banks of the Xenil, so lately subject to the scourings of the Moors. She stopped at Loxa, where she administered aid and consolation to the wounded, distributing money among them for their support according to their rank.
The king after the capture of Illora had removed his camp before the fortress of Moclin, with an intention of besieging it. Thither the queen proceeded, still escorted through the mountain-roads by the marques of Cadiz. As Isabella drew near to the camp the duke del Infantado issued forth a league and a half to receive her, magnificently arrayed and followed by all his chivalry in glorious attire. With him came the standard of Seville, borne by the men-at-arms of that renowned city, and the prior of St. Juan with his followers. They ranged themselves in order of battle on the left of the road by which the queen was to pass.
The worthy Agapida is loyally minute in his description of the state and grandeur of the Catholic sovereigns. The queen rode a chestnut mule, seated in a magnificent saddle-chair decorated with silver gilt. The housings of the mule were of fine crimson cloth, the borders embroidered with gold, the reins and head-piece were of satin, curiously embossed with needlework of silk and wrought with golden letters. The queen wore a brial or regal skirt of velvet, under which were others of brocade; a scarlet mantle, ornamented in the Moresco fashion; and a black hat, embroidered round the crown and brim. The infanta was likewise mounted on a chestnut mule richly caparisoned: she wore a brial or skirt of black brocade and a black mantle ornamented like that of the queen.
When the royal cavalcade passed by the chivalry of the duke del Infantado, which was drawn out in battle array, the queen made a reverence to the standard of Seville and ordered it to pass to the right hand. When she approached the camp the multitude ran forth to meet her with great demonstrations of joy, for she was universally beloved by her subjects. All the battalions sallied forth in military array, bearing the various standards and banners of the camp, which were lowered in salutation as she passed.
The king now came forth in royal state, mounted on a superb chestnut horse and attended by many grandees of Castile. He wore a jubon or close vest of crimson cloth, with cuisses or short skirts of yellow satin, a loose cassock of brocade, a rich Moorish scimetar, and a hat with plumes. The grandees who attended him were arrayed with wonderful magnificence, each according to his taste and invention.
These high and mighty princes (says Antonio Agapida) regarded each other with great deference as allied sovereigns, rather than with connubial familiarity as mere husband and wife. When they approached each other, therefore, before embracing, they made three profound reverences, the queen taking off her hat and remaining in a silk net or caul, with her face uncovered. The king then approached and embraced her, and kissed her respectfully on the cheek. He also embraced his daughter the princess, and, making the sign of the cross, he blessed her and kissed her on the lips.*
* Cura de los Palacios.
The good Agapida seems scarcely to have been more struck with the appearance of the sovereigns than with that of the English earl. He followed (says he) immediately after the king, with great pomp and, in an extraordinary manner, taking precedence of all the rest. He was mounted "a la guisa," or with long stirrups, on a superb chestnut horse, with trappings of azure silk which reached to the ground. The housings were of mulberry powdered with stars of gold. He was armed in proof, and wore over his armor a short French mantle of black brocade; he had a white French hat with plumes, and carried on his left arm a small round buckler banded with gold. Five pages attended him, apparelled in silk and brocade and mounted on horses sumptuously caparisoned; he had also a train of followers bravely attired after the fashion of his country.
He advanced in a chivalrous and courteous manner, making his reverences first to the queen and infanta, and afterward to the king. Queen Isabella received him graciously, complimenting him on his courageous conduct at Loxa, and condoling with him on the loss of his teeth. The earl, however, made light of his disfiguring wound, saying that "our Blessed Lord, who had built all that house, had opened a window there, that he might see more readily what passed within;"* whereupon the worthy Fray Antonio Agapida is more than ever astonished at the pregnant wit of this island cavalier. The earl continued some little distance by the side of the royal family, complimenting them all with courteous speeches, his horse curveting and caracoling, but being managed with great grace and dexterity, leaving the grandees and the people at large not more filled with admiration at the strangeness and magnificence of his state than at the excellence of his horsemanship.**
* Pietro Martyr, Epist. 61.
* *Cura de los Palacios.
To testify her sense of the gallantry and services of this noble English knight, who had come from so far to assist in their wars, the queen sent him the next day presents of twelve horses, with stately tents, fine linen, two beds with coverings of gold brocade, and many other articles of great value.
Having refreshed himself, as it were, with the description of this progress of Queen Isabella to the camp and the glorious pomp of the Catholic sovereigns, the worthy Antonio Agapida returns with renewed relish to his pious work of discomfiting the Moors.
The description of this royal pageant and the particulars concerning the English earl, thus given from the manuscript of Fray Antonio Agapida, agree precisely with the chronicle of Andres Bernaldez, the curate of Los Palacios. The English earl makes no further figure in this war. It appears from various histories that he returned in the course of the year to England. In the following year his passion for fighting took him to the Continent, at the head of four hundred adventurers, in aid of Francis, duke of Brittany, against Louis XI. of France. He was killed in the same year (1488) in the battle of St. Alban's between the Bretons and the French.
HOW KING FERDINAND ATTACKED MOCLIN, AND OF THE STRANGE EVENTS THAT ATTENDED ITS CAPTURE.
"The Catholic sovereigns," says Fray Antonio Agapida, "had by this time closely clipped the right wing of the Moorish vulture." In other words, most of the strong fortresses along the western frontier of Granada had fallen beneath the Christian artillery. The army now lay encamped before the town of Moclin, on the frontier of Jaen, one of the most stubborn fortresses of the border. It stood on a high rocky hill, the base of which was nearly girdled by a river: a thick forest protected the back part of the town toward the mountain. Thus strongly situated, it domineered, with its frowning battlements and massive towers, all the mountain-passes into that part of the country, and was called "the shield of Granada." It had a double arrear of blood to settle with the Christians: two hundred years before, a master of Santiago and all his cavaliers had been lanced by the Moors before its gates. It had recently made terrible slaughter among the troops of the good count de Cabra in his precipitate attempt to entrap the old Moorish monarch. The pride of Ferdinand had been piqued by being obliged on that occasion to recede from his plan and abandon his concerted attack on the place; he was now prepared to take a full revenge.
El Zagal, the old warrior-king of Granada, anticipating a second attempt, had provided the place with ample ammunitions and provisions, had ordered trenches to be digged and additional bulwarks thrown up, and caused all the old men, the women, and the children to be removed to the capital.
Such was the strength of the fortress and the difficulties of its position that Ferdinand anticipated much trouble in reducing it, and made every preparation for a regular siege. In the centre of his camp were two great mounds, one of sacks of flour, the other of grain, which were called the royal granary. Three batteries of heavy ordnance were opened against the citadel and principal towers, while smaller artillery, engines for the discharge of missiles, arquebuses, and crossbows, were distributed in various places to keep up a fire into any breaches that might be made, and upon those of the garrison who should appear on the battlements.
The lombards soon made an impression on the works, demolishing a part of the wall and tumbling down several of those haughty towers which, from their height, had been impregnable before the invention of gunpowder. The Moors repaired their walls as well as they were able, and, still confiding in the strength of their situation, kept up a resolute defence, firing down from their lofty battlements and towers upon the Christian camp. For two nights and a day an incessant fire was kept up, so that there was not a moment in which the roaring of ordnance was not heard or some damage sustained by the Christians or the Moors. It was a conflict, however, more of engineers and artillerists than of gallant cavaliers; there was no sally of troops nor shock of armed men nor rush and charge of cavalry. The knights stood looking on with idle weapons, waiting until they should have an opportunity of signalizing their prowess by scaling the walls or storming the breaches. As the place, however, was assailable only in one part, there was every prospect of a long and obstinate resistance.
The engineers, as usual, discharged not merely balls of stone and iron to demolish the walls, but flaming balls of inextinguishable combustibles designed to set fire to the houses. One of these, which passed high through the air like a meteor, sending out sparks and crackling as it went, entered the window of a tower which was used as a magazine of gunpowder. The tower blew up with a tremendous explosion; the Moors who were upon its battlements were hurled into the air, and fell mangled in various parts of the town, and the houses in its vicinity were rent and overthrown as with an earthquake.
The Moors, who had never witnessed an explosion of the kind, ascribed the destruction of the tower to a miracle. Some who had seen the descent of the flaming ball imagined that fire had fallen from heaven to punish them for their pertinacity. The pious Agapida himself believes that this fiery missive was conducted by divine agency to confound the infidels—an opinion in which he is supported by other Catholic historians.*
* Pulgar, Garibay; Lucio Marino Siculo, Cosas Memoral. de Hispan., lib.20.
Seeing heaven and earth, as it were, combined against them, the Moors lost all heart: they capitulated, and were permitted to depart with their effects, leaving behind all arms and munitions of war.
The Catholic army (says Antonio Agapida) entered Moclin in solemn state, not as a licentious host intent upon plunder and desolation, but as a band of Christian warriors coming to purify and regenerate the land. The standard of the cross, that ensign of this holy crusade, was borne in the advance, followed by the other banners of the army. Then came the king and queen at the head of a vast number of armed cavaliers. They were accompanied by a band of priests and friars, with the choir of the royal chapel chanting the canticle "Te Deum laudamus." As they were moving through the streets in this solemn manner, every sound hushed excepting the anthem of the choir, they suddenly heard, issuing as it were from under ground, a chorus of voices chanting in solemn response "Benedictum qui venit in nomine Domini."* The procession paused in wonder. The sounds rose from Christian captives, and among them several priests, who were confined in subterraneous dungeons.
* Marino Siculo.
The heart of Isabella was greatly touched. She ordered the captives to be drawn forth from their cells, and was still more moved at beholding, by their wan, discolored, and emaciated appearance, how much they had suffered. Their hair and beards were overgrown and shagged; they were wasted by hunger, half naked, and in chains. She ordered that they should be clothed and cherished, and money furnished them to bear them to their homes.*
* Illescas, Hist. Pontif., lib. 6, c. 20, xA4 1.
Several of the captives were brave cavaliers who had been wounded and made prisoners in the defeat of the count de Cabra by El Zagal in the preceding year. There were also found other melancholy traces of that disastrous affair. On visiting the narrow pass where the defeat had taken place, the remains of several Christian warriors were found in thickets or hidden behind rocks or in the clefts of the mountains. These were some who had been struck from their horses and wounded too severely to fly. They had crawled away from the scene of action, and concealed themselves to avoid falling into the hands of the enemy, and had thus perished miserably and alone. The remains of those of note were known by their armor and devices, and were mourned over by their companions who had shared the disaster of that day.*
* Pulgar, part 3, cap. 61.
The queen had these remains piously collected as the relics of so many martyrs who had fallen in the cause of the faith. They were interred with great solemnity in the mosques of Moclin, which had been purified and consecrated to Christian worship. "There," says Antonio Agapida, "rest the bones of those truly Catholic knights, in the holy ground which in a manner had been sanctified by their blood; and all pilgrims passing through those mountains offer up prayers and masses for the repose of their souls."
The queen remained for some time at Moclin, administering comfort to the wounded and the prisoners, bringing the newly-acquired territory into order, and founding churches and monasteries and other pious institutions. "While the king marched in front, laying waste the land of the Philistines," says the figurative Antonio Agapida, "Queen Isabella followed his traces as the binder follows the reaper, gathering and garnering the rich harvest that has fallen beneath his sickle. In this she was greatly assisted by the counsels of that cloud of bishops, friars, and other saintly men which continually surrounded her, garnering the first fruits of this infidel land into the granaries of the Church." Leaving her thus piously employed, the king pursued his career of conquest, determined to lay waste the Vega and carry fire and sword to the very gates of Granada.
HOW KING FERDINAND FORAGED THE VEGA; AND OF THE BATTLE OF THE BRIDGE OF PINOS, AND THE FATE OF THE TWO MOORISH BROTHERS.
Muley Abdallah el Zagal had been under a spell of ill-fortune ever since the suspicious death of the old king his brother. Success had deserted his standard, and with his fickle subjects want of success was one of the greatest crimes in a sovereign. He found his popularity declining, and he lost all confidence in his people. The Christian army marched in open defiance through his territories, and sat down deliberately before his fortresses; yet he dared not lead forth his legions to oppose them, lest the inhabitants of the Albaycin, ever ripe for a revolt, should rise and shut the gates of Granada against his return.
Every few days some melancholy train entered the metropolis, the inhabitants of some captured town bearing the few effects spared them, and weeping and bewailing the desolation of their homes. When the tidings arrived that Illora and Moclin had fallen, the people were seized with consternation. "The right eye of Granada is extinguished," exclaimed they; "the shield of Granada is broken: what shall protect us from the inroad of the foe?" When the survivors of the garrisons of those towns arrived, with downcast looks, bearing the marks of battle and destitute of arms and standards, the populace reviled them in their wrath, but they answered, "We fought as long as we had force to fight or walls to shelter us; but the Christians laid our town and battlements in ruins, and we looked in vain for aid from Granada."
The alcaydes of Illora and Moclin were brothers; they were alike in prowess and the bravest among the Moorish cavaliers. They had been the most distinguished in those tilts and tourneys which graced the happier days of Granada, and had distinguished themselves in the sterner conflicts of the field. Acclamation had always followed their banners, and they had long been the delight of the people. Yet now, when they returned after the capture of their fortresses, they were followed by the unsteady populace with execrations. The hearts of the alcaydes swelled with indignation; they found the ingratitude of their countrymen still more intolerable than the hostility of the Christians.
Tidings came that the enemy was advancing with his triumphant legions to lay waste the country about Granada. Still El Zagal did not dare to take the field. The two alcaydes of Illora and Moclin stood before him. "We have defended your fortresses," said they, "until we were almost buried under their ruins, and for our reward we receive scoffings and revilings: give us, O king, an opportunity where knightly valor may signalize itself—not shut up behind stone walls, but in the open conflict of the field. The enemy approaches to lay our country desolate: give us men to meet him in the advance, and let shame light upon our heads if we be found wanting in the battle!"
The two brothers were sent forth with a large force of horse and foot; El Zagal intended, should they be successful, to issue forth with his whole force, and by a decisive victory repair the losses he had suffered. When the people saw the well-known standards of the brothers going forth to battle, there was a feeble shout, but the alcaydes passed on with stern countenances, for they knew the same voices would curse them were they to return unfortunate. They cast a farewell look upon fair Granada and upon the beautiful fields of their infancy, as if for these they were willing to lay down their lives, but not for an ungrateful people.
The army of Ferdinand had arrived within two leagues of Granada, at the bridge of Pinos, a pass famous in the wars of the Moors and Christians for many a bloody conflict. It was the pass by which the Castilian monarchs generally made their inroads, and was capable of great defence from the ruggedness of the country and the difficulty of the bridge. The king, with the main body of the army, had attained the brow of a hill, when they beheld the advance guard, under the marques of Cadiz and the master of Santiago, furiously attacked by the enemy in the vicinity of the bridge. The Moors rushed to the assault with their usual shouts, but with more than usual ferocity. There was a hard struggle at the bridge; both parties knew the importance of that pass.
The king particularly noted the prowess of two Moorish cavaliers, alike in arms and devices, and whom by their bearing and attendance he perceived to be commanders of the enemy. They were the two brothers, the alcaydes of Illora and Moclin. Wherever they turned they carried confusion and death into the ranks of the Christians, but they fought with desperation rather than valor. The count de Cabra and his brother Don Martin de Cordova pressed forward with eagerness against them, but, having advanced too precipitately, were surrounded by the foe and in imminent danger. A young Christian knight, seeing their peril, hastened with his followers to their relief. The king recognized him for Don Juan de Aragon, count of Ribargoza, his own nephew, for he was illegitimate son of the duke of Villahermosa, illegitimate brother of King Ferdinand. The splendid armor of Don Juan and the sumptuous caparison of his steed rendered him a brilliant object of attack. He was assailed on all sides and his superb steed slain under him, yet still he fought valiantly, bearing for a time the brunt of the fight and giving the exhausted forces of the count de Cabra time to recover breath.
Seeing the peril of these troops and the general obstinacy of the fight, the king ordered the royal standard to be advanced, and hastened with all his forces to the relief of the count de Cabra. At his approach the enemy gave way and retreated toward the bridge. The two Moorish commanders endeavored to rally their troops and animate them to defend this pass to the utmost: they used prayers, remonstrances, menaces, but almost in vain. They could only collect a scanty handful of cavaliers; with these they planted themselves at the head of the bridge and disputed it inch by inch. The fight was hot and obstinate, for but few could contend hand to hand, yet many discharged crossbows and arquebuses from the banks. The river was covered with the floating bodies of the slain. The Moorish band of cavaliers was almost entirely cut to pieces; the two brothers fell, covered with wounds, upon the bridge they had so resolutely defended. They had given up the battle for lost, but had determined not to return alive to ungrateful Granada.
When the people of the capital heard how devotedly they had fallen, they lamented greatly their deaths and extolled their memory: a column was erected to their honor in the vicinity of the bridge, which long went by the name of "the Tomb of the Brothers."
The army of Ferdinand now marched on and established its camp in the vicinity of Granada. The worthy Agapida gives many triumphant details of the ravages committed in the Vega, which was again laid waste, the grain, fruits, and other productions of the earth destroyed, and that earthly paradise rendered a dreary desert. He narrates several fierce but ineffectual sallies and skirmishes of the Moors in defence of their favorite plain; among which one deserves to be mentioned, as it records the achievements of one of the saintly heroes of this war.
During one of the movements of the Christian army near the walls of Granada a battalion of fifteen hundred cavalry and a large force of foot had sallied from the city, and posted themselves near some gardens, which were surrounded by a canal and traversed by ditches for the purpose of irrigation.
The Moors beheld the duke del Infantado pass by with his two splendid battalions—one of men-at-arms, the other of light cavalry armed "a la gineta." In company with him, but following as a rear-guard, was Don Garcia Osorio, the belligerent bishop of Jaen, attended by Francisco Bovadillo, the corregidor of his city, and followed by two squadrons of men-at-arms from Jaen, Anduxar, Ubeda, and Baeza.* The success of last year's campaign had given the good bishop an inclination for warlike affairs, and he had once more buckled on his cuirass.
* Pulgar, part 3, cap. 62.
The Moors were much given to stratagem in warfare. They looked wistfully at the magnificent squadrons of the duke del Infantado, but their martial discipline precluded all attack: the good bishop promised to be a more easy prey. Suffering the duke and his troops to pass unmolested, they approached the squadrons of the bishop, and making a pretended attack, skirmished slightly and fled in apparent confusion. The bishop considered the day his own, and, seconded by his corregidor Bovadillo, followed with valorous precipitation. The Moors fled into the "Huerta del Rey," or Orchard of the King; the troops of the bishop followed hotly after them.
When the Moors perceived their pursuers fairly embarrassed among the intricacies of the garden, they turned fiercely upon them, while some of their number threw open the sluices of the Xenil. In an instant the canal which encircled and the ditches which traversed the garden were filled with water, and the valiant bishop and his followers found themselves overwhelmed by a deluge.* A scene of great confusion succeeded. Some of the men of Jaen, stoutest of heart and hand, fought with the Moors in the garden, while others struggled with the water, endeavoring to escape across the canal, in which attempt many horses were drowned.
Fortunately, the duke del Infantado perceived the snare into which his companions had fallen, and despatched his light cavalry to their assistance. The Moors were compelled to flight, and driven along the road of Elvira up to the gates of Granada.* Several Christian cavaliers perished in this affray; the bishop himself escaped with difficulty, having slipped from his saddle in crossing the canal, but saving himself by holding on to the tail of his charger. This perilous achievement seems to have satisfied the good bishop's belligerent propensities. He retired on his laurels (says Agapida) to his city of Jaen, where, in the fruition of all good things, he gradually waxed too corpulent for his corselet, which was hung up in the hall of his episcopal palace, and we hear no more of his military deeds throughout the residue of the holy war of Granada.**
* *"Don Luis Osorio fue obispo de Jaen desde el ano de 1483, y presidio in esta. Iglesia hasta el de 1496 in que murio en Flandes, a donde fue acompanando a la princesa Dona Juana, esposa del archiduque Don Felipe."—"Espana Sagrada," por Fr. M. Risco, tom. 41, trat. 77, cap. 4.
King Ferdinand, having completed his ravage of the Vega and kept El Zagal shut up in his capital, conducted his army back through the Pass of Lope to rejoin Queen Isabella at Moclin.
The fortresses lately taken being well garrisoned and supplied, he gave the command of the frontier to his cousin, Don Fadrique de Toledo, afterward so famous in the Netherlands as the duke of Alva. The campaign being thus completely crowned with success, the sovereigns returned in triumph to the city of Cordova.
ATTEMPT OF EL ZAGAL UPON THE LIFE OF BOABDIL, AND HOW THE LATTER WAS ROUSED TO ACTION.
No sooner did the last squadron of Christian cavalry disappear behind the mountains of Elvira and the note of its trumpets die away upon the ear than the long-suppressed wrath of Muley el Zagal burst forth. He determined no longer to be half a king, reigning over a divided kingdom in a divided capital, but to exterminate by any means, fair or foul, his nephew Boabdil and his faction. He turned furiously upon those whose factious conduct had deterred him from sallying upon the foe: some he punished by confiscations, others by banishment, others by death. Once undisputed monarch of the entire kingdom, he trusted to his military skill to retrieve his fortunes and drive the Christians over the frontier.
Boabdil, however, had again retired to Velez el Blanco, on the confines of Murcia, where he could avail himself, in case of emergency, of any assistance or protection afforded him by the policy of Ferdinand. His defeat had blighted his reviving fortunes, for the people considered him as inevitably doomed to misfortune. Still, while he lived El Zagal knew he would be a rallying-point for faction, and liable at any moment to be elevated into power by the capricious multitude. He had recourse, therefore, to the most perfidious means to compass his destruction. He sent ambassadors to him representing the necessity of concord for the salvation of the kingdom, and even offering to resign the title of king and to become subject to his sway on receiving some estate on which he could live in tranquil retirement. But while the ambassadors bore these words of peace they were furnished with poisoned herbs, which they were to administer secretly to Boabdil, and if they failed in this attempt they had pledged themselves to despatch him openly while engaged in conversation. They were instigated to this treason by promises of great reward, and by assurances from the alfaquis that Boabdil was an apostate whose death would be acceptable to Heaven.
The young monarch was secretly apprised of the concerted treason, and refused an audience to the ambassadors. He denounced his uncle as the murderer of his father and his kindred and the usurper of his throne, and vowed never to relent in hostility to him until he should place his head on the walls of the Alhambra.
Open war again broke out between the two monarchs, though feebly carried on in consequence of their mutual embarrassments. Ferdinand again extended his assistance to Boabdil, ordering the commanders of his fortresses to aid him in all enterprises against his uncle, and against such places as refused to acknowledge him as king; and Don Juan de Bonavides, who commanded in Lorca, even made inroads in his name into the territories of Almeria, Baza, and Guadix, which owned allegiance to El Zagal.
The unfortunate Boabdil had three great evils to contend with—the inconstancy of his subjects, the hostility of his uncle, and the friendship of Ferdinand. The last was by far the most baneful: his fortunes withered under it. He was looked upon as the enemy of his faith and of his country. The cities shut their gates against him; the people cursed him; even the scanty band of cavaliers who had hitherto followed his ill-starred banner began to desert him, for he had not wherewithal to reward nor even to support them. His spirits sank with his fortune, and he feared that in a little time he should not have a spot of earth whereon to plant his standard nor an adherent to rally under it.
In the midst of his despondency he received a message from his lion-hearted mother, the sultana Ayxa la Horra. It was brought by the steadfast adherent to their fortunes, Aben Comixa. "For shame," said she, "to linger timorously about the borders of your kingdom when a usurper is seated in your capital! Why look abroad for perfidious aid when you have loyal hearts beating true to you in Granada? The Albaycin is ready to throw open its gates to receive you. Strike home vigorously—a sudden blow may mend all or make an end. A throne or a grave!—for a king there is no honorable medium."
Boabdil was of an undecided character, but there are circumstances which bring the most wavering to a decision, and when once resolved they are apt to act with a daring impulse unknown to steadier judgments. The message of the sultana roused him from a dream. Granada, beautiful Granada, with its stately Alhambra, its delicious gardens, its gushing and limpid fountains sparkling among groves of orange, citron, and myrtle, rose before him. "What have I done," exclaimed he, "that I should be an exile from this paradise of my forefathers—a wanderer and fugitive in my own kingdom, while a murderous usurper sits proudly upon my throne? Surely Allah will befriend the righteous cause; one blow, and all may be my own."
He summoned his scanty band of cavaliers. "Who is ready to follow his monarch unto the death?" said he; and every one laid his hand upon his scimetar. "Enough!" said he; "let each man arm himself and prepare his steed in secret for an enterprise of toil and peril; if we succeed, our reward is empire."
HOW BOABDIL RETURNED SECRETLY TO GRANADA, AND HOW HE WAS RECEIVED.—SECOND EMBASSY OF DON JUAN DE VERA, AND HIS PERILS IN THE ALHAMBRA.
"In the hand of God," exclaimed an old Arabian chronicler, "is the destiny of princes; he alone giveth empire. A Moorish horseman, mounted on a fleet Arabian steed, was one day traversing the mountains which extended between Granada and the frontier of Murcia. He galloped swiftly through the valleys, but paused and looked out cautiously from the summit of every height. A squadron of cavaliers followed warily at a distance. There were fifty lances. The richness of their armor and attire showed them to be warriors of noble rank, and their leader had a lofty and prince-like demeanor." The squadron thus described by the Arabian chronicler was the Moorish king Boabdil and his devoted followers.
For two nights and a day they pursued their adventurous journey, avoiding all populous parts of the country and choosing the most solitary passes of the mountains. They suffered severe hardships and fatigues, but suffered without a murmur: they were accustomed to rugged campaigning, and their steeds were of generous and unyielding spirit. It was midnight, and all was dark and silent as they descended from the mountains and approached the city of Granada. They passed along quietly under the shadow of its walls, until they arrived near the gate of the Albaycin. Here Boabdil ordered his followers to halt and remain concealed. Taking but four or five with him, he advanced resolutely to the gate and knocked with the hilt of his scimetar. The guards demanded who sought to enter at that unseasonable hour. "Your king!" exclaimed Boabdil; "open the gate and admit him!"
The guards held forth a light and recognized the person of the youthful monarch. They were struck with sudden awe and threw open the gates, and Boabdil and his followers entered unmolested. They galloped to the dwellings of the principal inhabitants of the Albaycin, thundering at their portals and summoning them to arise and take arms for their rightful sovereign. The summons was instantly obeyed: trumpets resounded throughout the streets—the gleam of torches and the flash of arms showed the Moors hurrying to their gathering-places; by daybreak the whole force of the Albaycin was rallied under the standard of Boabdil, and Aben Comixa was made alcayde of the fortress. Such was the success of this sudden and desperate act of the young monarch, for we are assured by contemporary historians that there had been no previous concert or arrangement. "As the guards opened the gates of the city to admit him," observes a pious chronicler, "so God opened the hearts of the Moors to receive him as their king."*
In the morning early the tidings of this event roused El Zagal from his slumbers in the Alhambra. The fiery old warrior assembled his guard in haste and made his way, sword in hand, to the Albaycin, hoping to come upon his nephew by surprise. He was vigorously met by Boabdil and his adherents, and driven back into the quarter of the Alhambra. An encounter took place between the two kings in the square before the principal mosque; here they fought hand to hand with implacable fury, as though it had been agreed to decide their competition for the crown by single combat. In the tumult of this chance-medley affray, however, they were separated, and the party of El Zagal was ultimately driven from the square.
The battle raged for some time in the streets and places of the city, but, finding their powers of mischief cramped within such narrow limits, both parties sallied forth into the fields and fought beneath the walls until evening. Many fell on both sides, and at night each party withdrew into its quarter until the morning gave them light to renew the unnatural conflict. For several days the two grand divisions of the city remained like hostile powers arrayed against each other. The party of the Alhambra was more numerous than that of the Albaycin, and contained most of the nobility and chivalry; but the adherents of Boabdil were men hardened and strengthened by labor and habitually skilled in the exercise of arms.
The Albaycin underwent a kind of siege by the forces of El Zagal; they effected breaches in the walls, and made repeated attempts to carry it sword in hand, but were as often repulsed. The troops of Boabdil, on the other hand, made frequent sallies, and in the conflicts which took place the hatred of the combatants arose to such a pitch of fury that no quarter was given on either side.
Boabdil perceived the inferiority of his force; he dreaded also that his adherents, being for the most part tradesmen and artisans, would become impatient of this interruption of their gainful occupations and disheartened by these continual scenes of carnage. He sent missives, therefore, in all haste to Don Fadrique de Toledo, who commanded the Christian forces on the frontier, entreating his assistance.
Don Fadrique had received instructions from the politic Ferdinand to aid the youthful monarch in all his contests with his uncle. He advanced with a body of troops near to Granada. The moment Boabdil discerned, from the towers of the Albaycin, the Christian banners and lances winding round the base of the mountain of Elvira, he sallied forth to meet them, escorted by a squadron of Abencerrages under Aben Comixa. El Zagal, who was equally on the alert, and apprised that the Christian troops came in aid of his nephew, likewise sallied forth and drew up his troops in battle array. Don Fadrique, wary lest some treachery should be intended, halted among some plantations of olives, retained Boabdil by his side, and signified his wish that Aben Comixa would advance with his squadron and offer battle to the old king. The provocation was given, but El Zagal maintained his position. He threw out some light parties, however, which skirmished with the Abencerrages of Aben Comixa, after which he caused his trumpets to sound a recall, and retired into the city, mortified, it is said, that the Christian cavaliers should witness these fratricidal discords between true believers.
Don Fadrique, still distrustful, drew off to a distance, and encamped for the night near the bridge of Cabillas.
Early in the morning a Moorish cavalier with an escort approached the advance guard, and his trumpets sounded a parley. He craved an audience as an envoy from El Zagal, and was admitted to the tent of Don Fadrique. El Zagal had learnt that the Christian troops had come to aid his nephew, and now offered to enter into an alliance with them on terms still more advantageous than those of Boabdil. The wary Don Fadrique listened to the Moor with apparent complacency, but determined to send one of his most intrepid and discreet cavaliers, under the protection of a flag, to hold a conference with the old king within the very walls of the Alhambra. The officer chosen for this important mission was Don Juan de Vera, the same stanch and devout cavalier who in times preceding the war had borne the message from the Castilian sovereigns to old Muley Abul Hassan demanding arrears of tribute. Don Juan was received with great ceremony by the king. No records remain of his diplomatic negotiations, but they extended into the night, and, it being too late to return to camp, he was sumptuously lodged in an apartment of the Alhambra. In the morning one of the courtiers about the palace, somewhat given to jest and raillery, invited Don Juan to a ceremony which some of the alfaquis were about to celebrate in the mosque of the palace. The religious punctilio of this most discreet cavalier immediately took umbrage at what he conceived a banter. "The servants of Queen Isabella of Castile," replied he, stiffly and sternly, "who bear on their armor the cross of St. Jago, never enter the temples of Mahomet but to level them to the earth and trample on them."
The Moslem courtier retired somewhat disconcerted by this Catholic but not very courteous reply, and reported it to a renegado of Antiquera. The latter, eager, like all renegados, to show devotion to his newly-adopted creed, volunteered to return with the courtier and have a tilt of words with the testy diplomatist. They found Don Juan playing a game of chess with the alcayde of the Alhambra, and took occasion to indulge in sportive comments on some of the mysteries of the Christian religion. The ire of this devout knight and discreet ambassador began to kindle, but he restrained it within the limits of lofty gravity. "You would do well," said he, "to cease talking about what you do not understand." This only provoked light attacks of the witlings, until one of them dared to make some degrading and obscene comparison between the Blessed Virgin and Amina, the mother of Mahomet. In an instant Don Juan sprang to his feet, dashed chess-board and chess-men aside, and, drawing his sword, dealt, says the curate of los Palacios, such a "fermosa cuchillada" (such a handsome slash) across the head of the blaspheming Moor as felled him to the earth. The renegado, seeing his comrade fall, fled for his life, making the halls and galleries ring with his outcries. Guards, pages, and attendants rushed in, but Don Juan kept them at bay until the appearance of the king restored order. On inquiring into the cause of the affray he acted with proper discrimination. Don Juan was held sacred as an ambassador, and the renegado was severely punished for having compromised the hospitality of the royal palace.
The tumult in the Alhambra, however, soon caused a more dangerous tumult in the city. It was rumored that Christians had been introduced into the palace with some treasonable design. The populace caught up arms and ascended in throngs to the Gate of Justice, demanding the death of all Christian spies and those who had introduced them. This was no time to reason with an infuriate mob, when the noise of their clamors might bring the garrison of the Albaycin to back them. Nothing was left for El Zagal but to furnish Don Juan with a disguise, a swift horse, and an escort, and to let him out of the Alhambra by a private gate. It was a sore grievance to the stately cavalier to have to submit to these expedients, but there was no alternative. In Moorish disguise he passed through crowds that were clamoring for his head, and, once out of the gate of the city, gave reins to his horse, nor ceased spurring until he found himself safe under the banners of Don Fadrique.
Thus ended the second embassy of Don Juan de Vera, less stately but more perilous than the first. Don Fadrique extolled his prowess, whatever he may have thought of his discretion, and rewarded him with a superb horse, while at the same time he wrote a letter to El Zagal thanking him for the courtesy and protection he had observed to his ambassador. Queen Isabella also was particularly delighted with the piety of Don Juan and his promptness in vindicating the immaculate character of the Blessed Virgin, and, besides conferring on him various honorable distinctions, made him a royal present of three hundred thousand maravedis.*
* Alcantara, Hist. Granad., vol. 3, c. 17, apud De Harro, Nobiliario Genealogico, lib. 5, cap. 15.
The report brought by this cavalier of affairs in Granada, together with the preceding skirmishings between the Moorish factions before the walls, convinced Don Fadrique that there was no collusion between the monarchs: on returning to his frontier post, therefore, he sent Boabdil a reinforcement of Christian foot-soldiers and arquebusiers, under Fernan Alvarez de Sotomayor, alcayde of Colomera. This was as a firebrand thrown in to light up anew the flames of war in the city, which remained raging between the Moorish inhabitants for the space of fifty days.
HOW KING FERDINAND LAID SIEGE TO VELEZ MALAGA.
Hitherto the events of this renowned war have been little else than a succession of brilliant but brief exploits, such as sudden forays, wild skirmishes among the mountains, and the surprisals of castles, fortresses, and frontier towns. We approach now to more important and prolonged operations, in which ancient and mighty cities, the bulwarks of Granada, were invested by powerful armies, subdued by slow and regular sieges, and thus the capital left naked and alone.
The glorious triumphs of the Christian sovereigns (says Fray Antonio Agapida) had resounded throughout the East and filled all heathenesse with alarm. The Grand Turk, Bajazet II., and his deadly foe, the grand soldan of Egypt, suspending for a time their bloody feuds, entered into a league to protect the religion of Mahomet and the kingdom of Granada from the hostilities of the Christians. It was concerted between them that Bajazet should send a powerful armada against the island of Sicily, then appertaining to the Spanish Crown, for the purpose of distracting the attention of the Castilian sovereigns, while at the same time great bodies of troops should be poured into Granada from the opposite coast of Africa.
Ferdinand and Isabella received timely intelligence of these designs. They resolved at once to carry the war into the sea-board of Granada, to possess themselves of its ports, and thus, as it were, to bar the gates of the kingdom against all external aid. Malaga was to be the main object of attack: it was the principal seaport of the kingdom, and almost necessary to its existence. It had long been the seat of opulent commerce, sending many ships to the coasts of Syria and Egypt. It was also the great channel of communication with Africa, through which were introduced supplies of money, troops, arms, and steeds from Tunis, Tripoli, Fez, Tremezan, and other Barbary powers. It was emphatically called, therefore, "the hand and mouth of Granada." Before laying siege to this redoubtable city, however, it was deemed necessary to secure the neighboring city of Velez Malaga and its dependent places, which might otherwise harass the besieging army.
For this important campaign the nobles of the kingdom were again summoned to take the field with their forces in the spring of 1487. The menaced invasion of the infidel powers of the East had awakened new ardor in the bosoms of all true Christian knights, and so zealously did they respond to the summons of the sovereigns that an army of twenty thousand cavalry and fifty thousand foot, the flower of Spanish warriors, led by the bravest of Spanish cavaliers, thronged the renowned city of Cordova at the appointed time.
On the night before this mighty host set forth upon its march an earthquake shook the city. The inhabitants, awakened by the shaking of the walls and rocking of the towers, fled to the courts and squares, fearing to be overwhelmed by the ruins of their dwellings. The earthquake was most violent in the quarter of the royal residence, the site of the ancient palace of the Moorish kings. Many looked upon this as an omen of some impending evil; but Fray Antonio Agapida, in that infallible spirit of divination which succeeds an event, plainly reads in it a presage that the empire of the Moors was about to be shaken to its centre.
It was on Saturday, the eve of the Sunday of Palms (says a worthy and loyal chronicler of the time), that the most Catholic monarch departed with his army to render service to Heaven and make war upon the Moors.* Heavy rains had swelled all the streams and rendered the roads deep and difficult. The king, therefore, divided his host into two bodies. In one he put all the artillery, guarded by a strong body of horse, and commanded by the master of Alcantara and Martin Alonso, senior of Montemayor. This division was to proceed by the road through the valleys, where pasturage abounded for the oxen which drew the ordnance.
* Pulgar, Cronica de los Reyes Catholicos.
The main body of the army was led by the king in person. It was divided into numerous battalions, each commanded by some distinguished cavalier. The king took the rough and perilous road of the mountains, and few mountains are more rugged and difficult than those of Andalusia. The roads are mere mule-paths straggling amidst rocks and along the verge of precipices, clambering vast craggy heights, or descending into frightful chasms and ravines, with scanty and uncertain foothold for either man or steed. Four thousand pioneers were sent in advance, under the alcayde de los Donceles, to conquer in some degree the asperities of the road. Some had pickaxes and crowbars to break the rocks, others had implements to construct bridges over the mountain-torrents, while it was the duty of others to lay stepping-stones in the smaller streams. As the country was inhabited by fierce Moorish mountaineers, Don Diego de Castrillo was despatched with a body of horse and foot to take possession of the heights and passes. Notwithstanding every precaution, the royal army suffered excessively on its march. At one time there was no place to encamp for five leagues of the most toilsome and mountainous country, and many of the beasts of burden sank down and perished on the road.
It was with the greatest joy, therefore, that the royal army emerged from these stern and frightful defiles, and came to where they looked down upon the vega of Velez Malaga. The region before them was one of the most delectable to the eye that ever was ravaged by an army. Sheltered from every rude blast by a screen of mountains, and sloping and expanding to the south, this lovely valley was quickened by the most generous sunshine, watered by the silver meanderings of the Velez, and refreshed by cooling breezes from the Mediterranean. The sloping hills were covered with vineyards and olive trees; the distant fields waved with grain or were verdant with pasturage; while round the city were delightful gardens, the favorite retreats of the Moors, where their white pavilions gleamed among groves of oranges, citrons, and pomegranates, and were surrounded by stately palms—those plants of southern growth bespeaking a generous climate and a cloudless sky.
In the upper part of this delightful valley the city of Velez Malaga reared its warrior battlements in stern contrast to the landscape. It was built on the declivity of a steep and insulated hill, and strongly fortified by walls and towers. The crest of the hill rose high above the town into a mere crag, inaccessible on every other side, and crowned by a powerful castle, which domineered over the surrounding country. Two suburbs swept down into the valley from the skirts of the town, and were defended by bulwarks and deep ditches. The vast ranges of gray mountains, often capped with clouds, which rose to the north, were inhabited by a hardy and warlike race, whose strong fortresses of Comares, Canillas, Competa, and Benamargosa frowned down from cragged heights.