CHRONICLE OF THE CONQUEST OF GRANADA
By Washington Irving
from the mss. of FRAY ANTONIO AGAPIDA
Author's Revised Edition
I..........Of the Kingdom of Granada, and the Tribute which it Paid to the Castilian Crown. II.........Of the Embassy of Don Juan de Vera to Demand Arrears of Tribute from the Moorish Monarch. III........Domestic Feuds in the Alhambra—Rival Sultanas—Predictions concerning Boabdil, the Heir to the Throne—How Ferdinand Meditates War against Granada, and how he is Anticipated. IV.........Expedition of the Muley Abul Hassan against the Fortress of Zahara. V..........Expedition of the Marques of Cadiz against Alhama. VI.........How the People of Granada were Affected on Hearing of the Capture of the Alhama; and how the Moorish King sallied forth to Regain it. VII........How the Duke of Medina Sidonia and the Chivalry of Andalusia Hastened to the Relief of Alhama. VIII.......Sequel of the Events at Alhama. IX.........Events at Granada, and Rise of the Moorish King, Boabdil el Chico. X..........Royal Expedition against Loxa. XI.........How Muley Abul Hassan made a Foray into the Lands of Medina Sidonia, and how he was Received. XII........Foray of Spanish Cavaliers among the Mountains of Malaga. XIII.......Effects of the Disasters among the Mountains of Malaga. XIV........How King Boabdil el Chico Marched over the Border. XV.........How the Count de Cabra sallied forth from his Castle in Quest of King Boabdil. XVI........The Battle of Lucena. XVII.......Lamentations of the Moors for the Battle of Lucena. XVIII......How Muley Abul Hassan Profited by the Misfortunes of his Son Boabdil. XIX........Captivity of Boabdil el Chico. XX.........Of the Treatment of Boabdil by the Castilian Sovereigns. XXI........Return of Boabdil from Captivity. XXII.......Foray of the Moorish Alcaydes, and Battle of Lopera. XXIII......Retreat of Hamet el Zegri, Alcayde of Ronda. XXIV.......Of the reception at Court of the Count de Cabra and the Alcayde de los Donceles. XXV........How the Marques of Cadiz concerted to Surprise Zahara, and the Result of his Enterprise. XXVI.......Of the Fortress of Alhama, and how Wisely it was Governed by the Count de Tendilla. XXVII......Foray of Christian Knights into the Territory of the Moors. XXVIII.....Attempt of El Zagal to Surprise Boabdil in Almeria. XXIX.......How King Ferdinand Commenced another Campaign against the Moors, and how he Laid Siege to Coin and Cartama. XXX........Siege of Ronda. XXXI.......How the People of Granada invited El Zagal to the Throne, and how he Marched to the Capital. XXXII......How the Count de Cabra attempted to Capture another King, and how he Fared in his Attempt. XXXIII.....Expedition against the Castles of Cambil and Albahar. XXXIV......Enterprise of the Knights of Calatrava against Zalea. XXXV.......Death of Muley Abul Hassan. XXXVI......Of the Christian Army which Assembled at the City of Cordova. XXXVII.....How Fresh Commotions broke out in Granada, and how the People undertook to Allay them. XXXVIII....How King Ferdinand held a Council of War at the Rock of the Lovers. XXXIX......How the Royal Army appeared Before the City of Loxa, and how it was Received; and of the Doughty Achievements of the English Earl. XL.........Conclusion of the Siege of Loxa. XLI........Capture of Illora. XLII.......Of the Arrival of Queen Isabella at the Camp before Moclin; and of the Pleasant Sayings of the English Earl. XLIII......How King Ferdinand Attacked Moclin, and of the Strange Events that attended its Capture. XLIV.......How King Ferdinand Foraged the Vega; and of the Battle of the Bridge of Pinos, and the Fate of the two Moorish Brothers. XLV........Attempt of El Zagal upon the Life of Boabdil, and how the Latter was Roused to Action. XLVI.......How Boabdil returned Secretly to Granada, and how he was Received.—Second Embassy of Don Juan de Vera, and his Perils in the Alhambra. XLVII......How King Ferdinand laid Siege to Velez Malaga. XLVIII.....How King Ferdinand and his Army were Exposed to Imminent Peril before Velez Malaga. XLIX.......Result of the Stratagem of El Zagal to Surprise King Ferdinand. L..........How the People of Granada Rewarded the Valor of El Zagal. LI.........Surrender of the Velez Malaga and Other Places. LII........Of the City of Malaga and its Inhabitants.—Mission of Hernando del Pulgar. LIII.......Advance of King Ferdinand against Malaga. LIV........Siege of Malaga. LV.........Siege of Malaga continued.—Obstinacy of Hamet el Zegri. LVI........Attack of the Marques of Cadiz upon Gibralfaro. LVII.......Siege of Malaga continued.—Stratagems of Various Kinds. LVIII......Sufferings of the People of Malaga. LIX........How a Moorish Santon Undertook to Deliver the City of Malaga from the Power of its Enemies. LX.........How Hamet el Zegri was Hardened in his Obstinacy by the Arts of a Moorish Astrologer. LXI........Siege of Malaga continued.—Destruction of a Tower by Francisco Ramirez de Madrid. LXII.......How the People of Malaga expostulated with Hamet el Zegri. LXIII......How Hamet el Zegri Sallied forth with the Sacred Banner to Attack the Christian Camp. LXIV.......How the City of Malaga Capitulated. LXV........Fulfilment of the Prophecy of the Dervise.—Fate of Hamet el Zegri. LXVI.......How the Castilian Sovereigns took Possession of the City of Malaga, and how King Ferdinand signalized himself by his Skill in Bargaining with the Inhabitants for their Ransom. LXVII......How King Ferdinand prepared to Carry the War into a Different Part of the Territories of the Moors. LXVIII.....How King Ferdinand Invaded the Eastern Side of the Kingdom of Granada, and how He was Received by El Zagal. LXIX.......How the Moors made Various Enterprises against the Christians. LXX........How King Ferdinand prepared to Besiege the City of Baza, and how the City prepared for Defence. LXXI.......The Battle of the Gardens before Baza. LXXII......Siege of Baza.—Embarrassments of the Army. LXXIII.....Siege of Baza continued.—How King Ferdinand completely Invested the City. LXXIV......Exploit of Hernan Perez del Pulgar and Other Cavaliers. LXXV.......Continuation of the Siege of Baza. LXXVI......How Two Friars from the Holy Land arrived at the Camp. LXXVII.....How Queen Isabella devised Means to Supply the Army with Provisions. LXXVIII....Of the Disasters which Befell the Camp. LXXIX......Encounters between the Christians and Moors before Baza, and the Devotion of the Inhabitants to the Defence of their City. LXXX.......How Queen Isabella arrived at the Camp, and the Consequences of her Arrival. LXXXI......Surrender of Baza. LXXXII.....Submission of El Zagal to the Castilian Sovereigns. LXXXIII....Events at Granada subsequent to the Submission of El Zagal. LXXXIV.....How King Ferdinand turned his Hostilities against the City of Granada. LXXXV......The Fate of the Castle of Roma. LXXXVI.....How Boabdil el Chico took the Field, and his Expedition against Alhendin. LXXXVII....Exploit of the Count de Tendilla. LXXXVIII...Expedition of Boabdil el Chico against Salobrena.—Exploit of Hernan Perez del Pulgar. LXXXIX.....How King Ferdinand Treated the People of Guadix, and how El Zagal Finished his Regal Career. XC.........Preparations of Granada for a Desperate Defence. XCI........How King Ferdinand conducted the Siege cautiously, and how Queen Isabella arrived at the Camp. XCII.......Of the Insolent Defiance of Tarfe the Moor, and the Daring Exploit of Hernan Perez del Pulgar. XCIII......How Queen Isabella took a View of the City of Granada, and how her Curiosity cost the Lives of many Christians and Moors. XCIV.......The Last Ravage before Granada. XCV........Conflagration of the Christian Camp.—Building of Santa Fe. XCVI.......Famine and Discord in the City. XCVII......Capitulation of Granada. XCVIII.....Commotions in Granada. XCIX.......Surrender of Granada. C..........How the Castilian Sovereigns took Possession of Granada.
Although the following Chronicle bears the name of the venerable Fray Antonio Agapida, it is rather a superstructure reared upon the fragments which remain of his work. It may be asked, Who is this same Agapida, who is cited with such deference, yet whose name is not to be found in any of the catalogues of Spanish authors? The question is hard to answer. He appears to have been one of the many indefatigable authors of Spain who have filled the libraries of convents and cathedrals with their tomes, without ever dreaming of bringing their labors to the press. He evidently was deeply and accurately informed of the particulars of the wars between his countrymen and the Moors, a tract of history but too much overgrown with the weeds of fable. His glowing zeal, also, in the cause of the Catholic faith entitles him to be held up as a model of the good old orthodox chroniclers, who recorded with such pious exultation the united triumphs of the cross and the sword. It is deeply to be regretted, therefore, that his manuscripts, deposited in the libraries of various convents, have been dispersed during the late convulsions in Spain, so that nothing is now to be met of them but disjointed fragments. These, however, are too precious to be suffered to fall into oblivion, as they contain many curious facts not to be found in any other historian. In the following work, therefore, the manuscript of the worthy Fray Antonio will be adopted wherever it exists entire, but will be filled up, extended, illustrated, and corroborated by citations from various authors, both Spanish and Arabian, who have treated of the subject. Those who may wish to know how far the work is indebted to the Chronicle of Fray Antonio Agapida may readily satisfy their curiosity by referring to his manuscript fragments, carefully preserved in the Library of the Escurial.
Before entering upon the history it may be as well to notice the opinions of certain of the most learned and devout historiographers of former times relative to this war.
Marinus Siculus, historian to Charles V., pronounces it a war to avenge ancient injuries received by the Christians from the Moors, to recover the kingdom of Granada, and to extend the name and honor of the Christian religion.*
* Lucio Marino Siculo, Cosas Memorabiles de Espana, lib. 20.
Estevan de Garibay, one of the most distinguished Spanish historians, regards the war as a special act of divine clemency toward the Moors, to the end that those barbarians and infidels, who had dragged out so many centuries under the diabolical oppression of the absurd sect of Mahomet, should at length be reduced to the Christian faith.*
* Garibay, Compend. Hist. Espana, lib. 18, c. 22.
Padre Mariana, also a venerable Jesuit and the most renowned historian of Spain, considers the past domination of the Moors a scourge inflicted on the Spanish nation for its iniquities, but the conquest of Granada the reward of Heaven for its great act of propitiation in establishing the glorious tribunal of the Inquisition! No sooner (says the worthy father) was this holy office opened in Spain than there shone forth a resplendent light. Then it was that, through divine favor, the nation increased in power, and became competent to overthrow and trample down the Moorish domination.*
* Mariana, Hist. Espana, lib. 25, c. 1.
Having thus cited high and venerable authority for considering this war in the light of one of those pious enterprises denominated crusades, we trust we have said enough to engage the Christian reader to follow us into the field and stand by us to the very issue of the encounter.
NOTE TO THE REVISED EDITION.
The foregoing introduction, prefixed to the former editions of this work, has been somewhat of a detriment to it. Fray Antonio Agapida was found to be an imaginary personage, and this threw a doubt over the credibility of his Chronicle, which was increased by a vein of irony indulged here and there, and by the occasional heightening of some of the incidents and the romantic coloring of some of the scenes. A word or two explanatory may therefore be of service.*
* Many of the observations in this note have already appeared in an explanatory article which at Mr. Murray's request, the author furnished to the London Quarterly Review.
The idea of the work was suggested while I was occupied at Madrid in writing the Life of Columbus. In searching for traces of his early life I was led among the scenes of the war of Granada, he having followed the Spanish sovereigns in some of their campaigns, and been present at the surrender of the Moorish capital. I actually wove some of these scenes into the biography, but found they occupied an undue space, and stood out in romantic relief not in unison with the general course of the narrative. My mind, however, had become so excited by the stirring events and romantic achievements of this war that I could not return with composure to the sober biography I had in hand. The idea then occurred, as a means of allaying the excitement, to throw off a rough draught of the history of this war, to be revised and completed at future leisure. It appeared to me that its true course and character had never been fully illustrated. The world had received a strangely perverted idea of it through Florian's romance of "Gonsalvo of Cordova," or through the legend, equally fabulous, entitled "The Civil Wars of Granada," by Ginez Perez de la Hita, the pretended work of an Arabian contemporary, but in reality a Spanish fabrication. It had been woven over with love-tales and scenes of sentimental gallantry totally opposite to its real character; for it was, in truth, one of the sternest of those iron conflicts sanctified by the title of "holy wars." In fact, the genuine nature of the war placed it far above the need of any amatory embellishments. It possessed sufficient interest in the striking contrast presented by the combatants of Oriental and European creeds, costumes, and manners, and in the hardy and harebrained enterprises, the romantic adventures, the picturesque forays through mountain regions, the daring assaults and surprisals of cliff-built castles and cragged fortresses, which succeeded each other with a variety and brilliancy beyond the scope of mere invention.
The time of the contest also contributed to heighten the interest. It was not long after the invention of gunpowder, when firearms and artillery mingled the flash and smoke and thunder of modern warfare with the steely splendor of ancient chivalry, and gave an awful magnificence and terrible sublimity to battle, and when the old Moorish towers and castles, that for ages had frowned defiance to the battering-rams and catapults of classic tactics, were toppled down by the lombards of the Spanish engineers. It was one of the cases in which history rises superior to fiction.
The more I thought about the subject, the more I was tempted to undertake it, and the facilities at hand at length determined me. In the libraries of Madrid and in the private library of the American consul, Mr. Rich, I had access to various chronicles and other works, both printed and in manuscript, written at the time by eyewitnesses, and in some instances by persons who had actually mingled in the scenes recorded and gave descriptions of them from different points of view and with different details. These works were often diffuse and tedious, and occasionally discolored by the bigotry, superstition, and fierce intolerance of the age; but their pages were illumined at times with scenes of high emprise, of romantic generosity, and heroic valor, which flashed upon the reader with additional splendor from the surrounding darkness. I collated these various works, some of which have never appeared in print, drew from each facts relative to the different enterprises, arranged them in as clear and lucid order as I could command, and endeavored to give them somewhat of a graphic effect by connecting them with the manners and customs of the age in which they occurred. The rough draught being completed, I laid the manuscript aside and proceeded with the Life of Columbus. After this was finished and sent to the press I made a tour in Andalusia, visited the ruins of the Moorish towns, fortresses, and castles, and the wild mountain-passes and defiles which had been the scenes of the most remarkable events of the war, and passed some time in the ancient palace of the Alhambra, the once favorite abode of the Moorish monarchs. Everywhere I took notes, from the most advantageous points of view, of whatever could serve to give local verity and graphic effect to the scenes described. Having taken up my abode for a time at Seville, I then resumed my manuscript and rewrote it, benefited by my travelling notes and the fresh and vivid impressions of my recent tour. In constructing my chronicle I adopted the fiction of a Spanish monk as the chronicler. Fray Antonio Agapida was intended as a personification of the monkish zealots who hovered about the sovereigns in their campaigns, marring the chivalry of the camp by the bigotry of the cloister, and chronicling in rapturous strains every act of intolerance toward the Moors. In fact, scarce a sally of the pretended friar when he bursts forth in rapturous eulogy of some great stroke of selfish policy on the part of Ferdinand, or exults over some overwhelming disaster of the gallant and devoted Moslems, but is taken almost word for word from one or other of the orthodox chroniclers of Spain.
The ironical vein also was provoked by the mixture of kingcraft and priestcraft discernible throughout this great enterprise, and the mistaken zeal and self-delusion of many of its most gallant and generous champions. The romantic coloring seemed to belong to the nature of the subject, and was in harmony with what I had seen in my tour through the poetical and romantic regions in which the events had taken place. With all these deductions the work, in all its essential points, was faithful to historical fact and built upon substantial documents. It was a great satisfaction to me, therefore, after the doubts that had been expressed of the authenticity of my chronicle, to find it repeatedly and largely used by Don Miguel Lafuente Alcantara of Granada in his recent learned and elaborate history of his native city, he having had ample opportunity, in his varied and indefatigable researches, of judging how far it accorded with documentary authority.
I have still more satisfaction in citing the following testimonial of Mr. Prescott, whose researches for his admirable history of Ferdinand and Isabella took him over the same ground I had trodden. His testimonial is written in the liberal and courteous spirit characteristic of him, but with a degree of eulogium which would make me shrink from quoting it did I not feel the importance of his voucher for the substantial accuracy of my work:
"Mr. Irving's late publication, the 'Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada,' has superseded all further necessity for poetry and, unfortunately for me, for history. He has fully availed himself of all the picturesque and animating movement of this romantic era, and the reader who will take the trouble to compare his chronicle with the present more prosaic and literal narrative will see how little he has been seduced from historic accuracy by the poetical aspect of his subject. The fictitious and romantic dress of his work has enabled him to make it the medium of reflecting more vividly the floating opinions and chimerical fancies of the age, while he has illuminated the picture with the dramatic brilliancy of coloring denied to sober history."*
* Prescott's Ferdinand and Isabella, vol. ii. c. 15.
In the present edition I have endeavored to render the work more worthy of the generous encomium of Mr. Prescott. Though I still retain the fiction of the monkish author Agapida, I have brought my narrative more strictly within historical bounds, have corrected and enriched it in various parts with facts recently brought to light by the researches of Alcantara and others, and have sought to render it a faithful and characteristic picture of the romantic portion of history to which it relates.
A CHRONICLE OF THE CONQUEST OF GRANADA.
OF THE KINGDOM OF GRANADA, AND THE TRIBUTE WHICH IT PAID TO THE CASTILIAN CROWN.
The history of those bloody and disastrous wars which have caused the downfall of mighty empires (observes Fray Antonio Agapida) has ever been considered a study highly delectable and full of precious edification. What, then, must be the history of a pious crusade waged by the most Catholic of sovereigns to rescue from the power of the infidels one of the most beautiful but benighted regions of the globe? Listen, then, while from the solitude of my cell I relate the events of the conquest of Granada, where Christian knight and turbaned infidel disputed, inch by inch, the fair land of Andalusia, until the Crescent, that symbol of heathenish abomination, was cast down, and the blessed Cross, the tree of our redemption, erected in its stead.
Nearly eight hundred years were past and gone since the Arabian invaders had sealed the perdition of Spain by the defeat of Don Roderick, the last of her Gothic kings. Since that disastrous event one portion after another of the Peninsula had been gradually recovered by the Christian princes, until the single but powerful and warlike territory of Granada alone remained under the domination of the Moors.
This renowned kingdom, situated in the southern part of Spain and washed on one side by the Mediterranean Sea, was traversed in every direction by sierras or chains of lofty and rugged mountains, naked, rocky, and precipitous, rendering it almost impregnable, but locking up within their sterile embraces deep, rich, and verdant valleys of prodigal fertility.
In the centre of the kingdom lay its capital, the beautiful city of Granada, sheltered, as it were, in the lap of the Sierra Nevada, or Snowy Mountains. Its houses, seventy thousand in number, covered two lofty hills with their declivities and a deep valley between them, through which flowed the Darro. The streets were narrow, as is usual in Moorish and Arab cities, but there were occasionally small squares and open places. The houses had gardens and interior courts, set out with orange, citron, and pomegranate trees and refreshed by fountains, so that as the edifices ranged above each other up the sides of the hills, they presented a delightful appearance of mingled grove and city. One of the hills was surmounted by the Alcazaba, a strong fortress commanding all that part of the city; the other by the Alhambra, a royal palace and warrior castle, capable of containing within its alcazar and towers a garrison of forty thousand men, but possessing also its harem, the voluptuous abode of the Moorish monarchs, laid out with courts and gardens, fountains and baths, and stately halls decorated in the most costly style of Oriental luxury. According to Moorish tradition, the king who built this mighty and magnificent pile was skilled in the occult sciences, and furnished himself with the necessary funds by means of alchemy.* Such was its lavish splendor that even at the present day the stranger, wandering through its silent courts and deserted halls, gazes with astonishment at gilded ceilings and fretted domes, the brilliancy and beauty of which have survived the vicissitudes of war and the silent dilapidation of ages.
* Zurita, lib. 20, c. 42.
The city was surrounded by high walls, three leagues in circuit, furnished with twelve gates and a thousand and thirty towers. Its elevation above the sea and the neighborhood of the Sierra Nevada crowned with perpetual snows tempered the fervid rays of summer, so that while other cities were panting with the sultry and stifling heat of the dog-days, the most salubrious breezes played through the marble halls of Granada.
The glory of the city, however, was its Vega or plain, which spread out to a circumference of thirty-seven leagues, surrounded by lofty mountains, and was proudly compared to the famous plain of Damascus. It was a vast garden of delight, refreshed by numerous fountains and by the silver windings of the Xenil. The labor and ingenuity of the Moors had diverted the waters of this river into thousands of rills and streams, and diffused them over the whole surface of the plain. Indeed, they had wrought up this happy region to a degree of wonderful prosperity, and took a pride in decorating it as if it had been a favorite mistress. The hills were clothed with orchards and vineyards, the valleys embroidered with gardens, and the wide plains covered with waving grain. Here were seen in profusion the orange, the citron, the fig, and the pomegranate, with great plantations of mulberry trees, from which was produced the finest silk. The vine clambered from tree to tree, the grapes hung in rich clusters about the peasant's cottage, and the groves were rejoiced by the perpetual song of the nightingale. In a word, so beautiful was the earth, so pure the air, and so serene the sky of this delicious region that the Moors imagined the paradise of their Prophet to be situated in that part of the heaven which overhung the kingdom of Granada.
Within this favored realm, so prodigally endowed and strongly fortified by nature, the Moslem wealth, valor, and intelligence, which had once shed such a lustre over Spain, had gradually retired, and here they made their final stand. Granada had risen to splendor on the ruin of other Moslem kingdoms, but in so doing had become the sole object of Christian hostility, and had to maintain its very existence by the sword. The Moorish capital accordingly presented a singular scene of Asiatic luxury and refinement, mingled with the glitter and the din of arms. Letters were still cultivated, philosophy and poetry had their schools and disciples, and the language spoken was said to be the most elegant Arabic. A passion for dress and ornament pervaded all ranks. That of the princesses and ladies of high rank, says Al Kattib, one of their own writers, was carried to a height of luxury and magnificence that bordered on delirium. They wore girdles and bracelets and anklets of gold and silver, wrought with exquisite art and delicacy and studded with jacinths, chrysolites, emeralds, and other precious stones. They were fond of braiding and decorating their beautiful long tresses or confining them in knots sparkling with jewels. They were finely formed, excessively fair, graceful in their manners, and fascinating in their conversation; when they smiled, says Al Kattib, they displayed teeth of dazzling whiteness, and their breath was as the perfume of flowers.
The Moorish cavaliers, when not in armor, delighted in dressing themselves in Persian style, in garments of wool, of silk, or cotton of the finest texture, beautifully wrought with stripes of various colors. In winter they wore, as an outer garment, the African cloak or Tunisian albornoz, but in the heat of summer they arrayed themselves in linen of spotless whiteness. The same luxury prevailed in their military equipments. Their armor was inlaid and chased with gold and silver. The sheaths of their scimetars were richly labored and enamelled, the blades were of Damascus bearing texts from the Koran or martial and amorous mottoes; the belts were of golden filigree studded with gems; their poniards of Fez were wrought in the arabesque fashion; their lances bore gay bandaroles; their horses were sumptuously caparisoned with housings of green and crimson velvet, wrought with silk and enamelled with gold and silver. All this warlike luxury of the youthful chivalry was encouraged by the Moorish kings, who ordained that no tax should be imposed on the gold and silver employed in these embellishments; and the same exception was extended to the bracelets and other ornaments worn by the fair dames of Granada.
Of the chivalrous gallantry which prevailed between the sexes in this romantic period of Moorish history we have traces in the thousand ballads which have come down to our day, and which have given a tone and coloring to Spanish amatory literature and to everything in Spain connected with the tender passion.
War was the normal state of Granada and its inhabitants; the common people were subject at any moment to be summoned to the field, and all the upper class was a brilliant chivalry. The Christian princes, so successful in regaining the rest of the Peninsula, found their triumphs checked at the mountain-boundaries of this kingdom. Every peak had its atalaya, or watch-tower, ready to make its fire by night or to send up its column of smoke by day, a signal of invasion at which the whole country was on the alert. To penetrate the defiles of this perilous country, to surprise a frontier fortress, or to make a foray into the Vega and a hasty ravage within sight of the very capital were among the most favorite and daring exploits of the Castilian chivalry. But they never pretended to hold the region thus ravaged; it was sack, burn, plunder, and away; and these desolating inroads were retaliated in kind by the Moorish cavaliers, whose greatest delight was a "tala," or predatory incursion, into the Christian territories beyond the mountains.
A partisan warfare of this kind had long existed between Granada and its most formidable antagonists, the kingdoms of Castile and Leon. It was one which called out the keen yet generous rivalry of Christian and Moslem cavaliers, and gave rise to individual acts of chivalrous gallantry and daring prowess; but it was one which was gradually exhausting the resources and sapping the strength of Granada. One of the latest of its kings, therefore, Aben Ismael by name, disheartened by a foray which had laid waste the Vega, and conscious that the balance of warfare was against his kingdom, made a truce in 1457 with Henry IV., king of Castile and Leon, stipulating to pay him an annual tribute of twelve thousand doblas or pistoles of gold, and to liberate annually six hundred Christian captives, or in default of captives to give an equal number of Moors as hostages,—all to be delivered at the city of Cordova.*
* Garibay, Compend., 1.17, c. 3.
The truce, however, was of a partial nature, with singular reservations. It did not include the Moorish frontier toward Jaen, which was to remain open for the warlike enterprises of either nation; neither did it prohibit sudden attacks upon towns and castles, provided they were mere forays, conducted furtively, without sound of trumpet or display of banners or pitching of camps or regular investment, and that they did not last above three days.*
* Zurita, Anales de Aragon, 1. 20, c. 42; Mariana, Hist. de Espana 1. 25, c. 1; Bleda, Coron. de los Moros, l. 5, c. 3.
Aben Ismael was faithful in observing the conditions of the truce, but they were regarded with impatience by his eldest son, Muley Abul Hassan, a prince of a fiery and belligerent spirit, and fond of casing himself in armor and mounting his war-horse. He had been present at Cordova at one of the payments of tribute, and had witnessed the scoffs and taunts of the Christians, and his blood boiled whenever he recalled the humiliating scene. When he came to the throne in 1465, on the death of his father, he ceased the payment of the tribute altogether, and it was sufficient to put him into a tempest of rage only to mention it.
"He was a fierce and warlike infidel," says the pious Fray Antonio Agapida; "his bitterness against the holy Christian faith had been signalized in battle during the lifetime of his father, and the same diabolical spirit of hostility was apparent in his ceasing to pay this most righteous tribute."
OF THE EMBASSY OF DON JUAN DE VERA TO DEMAND ARREARS OF TRIBUTE FROM THE MOORISH MONARCH.
The flagrant want of faith of Muley Abul Hassan in fulfilling treaty stipulations passed unresented during the residue of the reign of Henry the Impotent, and the truce was tacitly continued without the enforcement of tribute during the first three years of the reign of his successors, Ferdinand and Isabella of glorious and happy memory, who were too much engrossed by civil commotions in their own dominions, and by a war of succession waged with them by the king of Portugal, to risk an additional conflict with the Moorish sovereign. When, however, at the expiration of the term of truce, Muley Abul Hassan sought a renewal of it, the pride and piety of the Castilian sovereigns were awakened to the flagrant defalcation of the infidel king, and they felt themselves called upon, by their dignity as monarchs and their religious obligations as champions of the faith, to make a formal demand for the payment of arrearages.
In the year of grace 1478, therefore, Don Juan de Vera, a zealous and devout knight, full of ardor for the faith and loyalty to the Crown, was sent as ambassador for the purpose. He was armed at all points, gallantly mounted, and followed by a moderate but well-appointed retinue: in this way he crossed the Moorish frontier, and passed slowly through the country, looking round him with the eyes of a practised warrior and carefully noting its military points and capabilities. He saw that the Moor was well prepared for possible hostilities. Every town was strongly fortified. The Vega was studded with towers of refuge for the peasantry: every pass of the mountain had its castle of defence, every lofty height its watch-tower. As the Christian cavaliers passed under the walls of the fortresses, lances and scimetars flashed from their battlements, and the Moorish sentinels darted from their dark eyes glances of hatred and defiance. It was evident that a war with this kingdom must be a war of posts, full of doughty peril and valiant enterprise, where every step must be gained by toil and bloodshed, and maintained with the utmost difficulty. The warrior spirit of the cavaliers kindled at the thoughts, and they were impatient for hostilities; "not," says Antonio Agapida, "from any thirst for rapine and revenge, but from that pure and holy indignation which every Spanish knight entertained at beholding this beautiful dominion of his ancestors defiled by the footsteps of infidel usurpers. It was impossible," he adds, "to contemplate this delicious country, and not long to see it restored to the dominion of the true faith and the sway of the Christian monarchs."
Arrived at the gates of Granada, Don Juan de Vera and his companions saw the same vigilant preparations on the part of the Moorish king. His walls and towers were of vast strength, in complete repair, and mounted with lombards and other heavy ordnance. His magazines were well stored with the munitions of war; he had a mighty host of foot-soldiers, together with squadrons of cavalry, ready to scour the country and carry on either defensive or predatory warfare. The Christian warriors noted these things without dismay; their hearts rather glowed with emulation at the thoughts of encountering so worthy a foe. As they slowly pranced through the streets of Granada they looked round with eagerness on the stately palaces and sumptuous mosques, on its alcayceria or bazar, crowded with silks and cloth of silver and gold, with jewels and precious stones, and other rich merchandise, the luxuries of every clime; and they longed for the time when all this wealth should be the spoil of the soldiers of the faith, and when each tramp of their steeds might be fetlock deep in the blood and carnage of the infidels.
The Moorish inhabitants looked jealously at this small but proud array of Spanish chivalry, as it paraded, with that stateliness possessed only by Spanish cavaliers, through the renowned gate of Elvira. They were struck with the stern and lofty demeanor of Don Juan de Vera and his sinewy frame, which showed him formed for hardy deeds of arms, and they supposed he had come in search of distinction by defying the Moorish knights in open tourney or in the famous tilt with reeds for which they were so renowned, for it was still the custom of the knights of either nation to mingle in these courteous and chivalrous contests during the intervals of war. When they learnt, however, that he was come to demand the tribute so abhorrent to the ears of the fiery monarch, they observed that it well required a warrior of his apparent nerve to execute such an embassy.
Muley Abul Hassan received the cavalier in state, seated on a magnificent divan and surrounded by the officers of his court, in the Hall of Ambassadors, one of the most sumptuous apartments of the Alhambra. When De Vera had delivered his message, a haughty and bitter smile curled the lip of the fierce monarch. "Tell your sovereigns," said he, "that the kings of Granada, who used to pay tribute in money to the Castilian crown, are dead. Our mint at present coins nothing but blades of scimetars and heads of lances."*
* Garibay, 1. 40, c. 29; Conde, Hist. Arab., p. 4, c. 34.
The defiance couched in this proud reply was heard with secret satisfaction by Don Juan de Vera, for he was a bold soldier and a devout hater of the infidels, and he saw iron war in the words of the Moorish monarch. Being master, however, of all points of etiquette, he retained an inflexible demeanor, and retired from the apartment with stately and ceremonious gravity. His treatment was suited to his rank and dignity: a magnificent apartment in the Alhambra was assigned to him, and before his departure a scimetar was sent to him by the king, the blade of the finest Damascus steel, the hilt of agate enriched with precious stones, and the guard of gold. De Vera drew it, and smiled grimly as he noticed the admirable temper of the blade. "His Majesty has given me a trenchant weapon," said he: "I trust a time will come when I may show him that I know how to use his royal present." The reply was considered a compliment, of course: the bystanders little knew the bitter hostility that lay couched beneath.
On his return to Cordova, Don Juan de Vera delivered the reply of the Moor, but at the same time reported the state of his territories. These had been strengthened and augmented during the weak reign of Henry IV. and the recent troubles of Castile. Many cities and strong places contiguous to Granada, but heretofore conquered by the Christians, had renewed their allegiance to Muley Abul Hassan, so that his kingdom now contained fourteen cities, ninety-seven fortified places, besides numerous unwalled towns and villages defended by formidable castles, while Granada towered in the centre as the citadel.
The wary Ferdinand, as he listened to the military report of Don Juan de Vera, saw that the present was no time for hostilities with a warrior kingdom so bristled over with means of defence. The internal discords of Castile still continued, as did the war with Portugal: under these circumstances he forbore to insist upon the payment of tribute, and tacitly permitted the truce to continue; but the defiance contained in the reply of Muley Abul Hassan remained rankling in his bosom as a future ground of war; and De Vera's description of Granada as the centre of a system of strongholds and rock-built castles suggested to him his plan of conquest—by taking town after town and fortress after fortress, and gradually plucking away all the supports before he attempted the capital. He expressed his resolution in a memorable pun or play upon the name of Granada, which signifies a pomegranate. "I will pick out the seeds of this pomegranate one by one," said the cool and crafty Ferdinand.
NOTE.—In the first edition of this work the author recounted a characteristic adventure of the stout Juan de Vera as happening on the occasion of this embassy; a further consultation of historical authorities has induced him to transfer it to a second embassy of De Vera's, which the reader will find related in a subsequent chapter.
DOMESTIC FEUDS IN THE ALHAMBRA—RIVAL SULTANAS—PREDICTIONS CONCERNING BOABDIL, THE HEIR TO THE THRONE—HOW FERDINAND MEDITATES WAR AGAINST GRANADA, AND HOW HE IS ANTICIPATED.
Though Muley Abul Hassan was at peace in his external relations, a civil war raged in his harem, which it is proper to notice, as it had a fatal effect upon the fortunes of the kingdom. Though cruel by nature, he was uxorious and somewhat prone to be managed by his wives. Early in life he had married his kinswoman, Ayxa (or Ayesha), daughter of his great-uncle, the sultan Mohammed VII., surnamed El Hayzari, or the Left-handed. She was a woman of almost masculine spirit and energy, and of such immaculate and inaccessible virtue that she was generally called La Horra, or the Chaste. By her he had a son, Abu Abdallah, or, as he is commonly named by historians, Boabdil. The court astrologers, according to custom, cast the horoscope of the infant, but were seized with fear and trembling as they regarded it. "Allah Akbar! God is great!" exclaimed they; "he alone controls the fate of empires. It is written in the book of fate that this child will one day sit upon the throne, but that the downfall of the kingdom will be accomplished during his reign." From that time the prince had been regarded with aversion by his father, and the prediction which hung over him and the persecutions to which he became subjected procured him the surname of El Zogoybi, or the Unfortunate. He grew up, however, under the protection of his valiant-hearted mother, who by the energy of her character long maintained an undisputed sway in the harem, until, as her youth passed away and her beauty declined, a formidable rival arose.
In one of the forays of the Moorish chivalry into the Christian territories they had surprised a frontier fortress commanded by Sancho Ximenes de Solis, a noble and valiant cavalier, who fell in bravely defending it. Among the captives was his daughter Isabella, then almost in her infancy, who was brought to Granada, delicately raised, and educated in the Moslem faith.* Her Moorish captors gave her the name of Fatima, but as she grew up her surpassing beauty gained her the surname of Zoraya, or the Morning Star, by which she has become known in history. Her charms at length attracted the notice of Muley Abul Hassan, and she soon became a member of his harem. Some have spoken of her as a Christian slave whom he had made his concubine; but others, with more truth, represent her as one of his wives, and ultimately his favorite sultana; and indeed it was often the case that female captives of rank and beauty, when converted to the faith of Islam, became united to the proudest and loftiest of their captors.
* Cronica del Gran Cardinal, cap. 71.
Zoraya soon acquired complete ascendancy over the mind of Muley Abul Hassan. She was as ambitious as she was beautiful, and, having become the mother of two sons, looked forward to the possibility of one of them sitting on the throne of Granada. These ambitious views were encouraged, if not suggested, by a faction which gathered round her inspired by kindred sympathies. The king's vizier, Abul Cacim Vanegas, who had great influence over him, was, like Zoraya, of Christian descent, being of the noble house of Luque. His father, one of the Vanegas of Cordova, had been captured in infancy and brought up as a Moslem.* From him sprang the vizier, Abul Cacim Vanegas, and his brother, Reduan Vanegas, likewise high in rank in the court of Muley Abul Hassan, and they had about them numerous and powerful connections, all basking in court favor. Though Moslems in faith, they were all drawn to Zoraya by the tie of foreign and Christian descent, and sought to elevate her and her children to the disparagement of Ayxa la Horra and her son Boabdil. The latter, on the other hand, were supported by the noble and once-potent family of the Abencerrages and by Aben Comixa, alcayde of the Alhambra; and between these two factions, headed by rival sultanas, the harem of Muley Abul Hassan became the scene of inveterate jealousies and intrigues, which in time, as will be shown, led to popular commotions and civil wars.**
* Cura de los Palacios, Hist. de los Reyes Catol., cap. 56.
* *It is to be noted that several historians have erroneously represented Zoraya as the mother of Boabdil, instead of Ayxa la Horra, and the Abencerrages as the opponents of Boabdil, instead of his strenuous adherents. The statement in the text is according to the most reliable authorities.
While these female feuds were threatening Muley Abul Hassan with trouble and disaster at home, his evil genius prompted him to an enterprise which involved him in tenfold danger from abroad. The reader has already been apprised of a singular clause in the truce existing between the Christians and the Moors, permitting hasty dashes into each other's territories and assaults of towns and fortresses, provided they were carried on as mere forays and without the parade of regular warfare. A long time had elapsed, however, without any incursion of the kind on the part of the Moors, and the Christian towns on the frontiers had, in consequence, fallen into a state of the most negligent security. In an unlucky moment Muley Abul Hassan was tempted to one of these forays by learning that the fortress of Zahara, on the frontier between Ronda and Medina Sidonia, was but feebly garrisoned and scantily supplied, and that its alcayde was careless of his charge. This important post was built on the crest of a rocky mountain, with a strong castle perched above it upon a cliff, so high that it was said to be above the flight of birds or drift of clouds. The streets and many of the houses were mere excavations wrought out of the living rock. The town had but one gate, opening to the west and defended by towers and bulwarks. The only ascent to this cragged fortress was by roads cut in the rock, so rugged in many places as to resemble broken stairs. In a word, the impregnable security of Zahara had become so proverbial throughout Spain that a woman of forbidding and inaccessible virtue was called a Zaharena. But the strongest fortress and sternest virtue have weak points, and require unremitting vigilance to guard them: let warrior and dame take warning from the fate of Zahara.
EXPEDITION OF MULEY ABUL HASSAN AGAINST THE FORTRESS OF ZAHARA.
In the year of our Lord one thousand four hundred and eighty-one, and but a night or two after the festival of the most blessed Nativity, the inhabitants of Zahara were sunk in profound sleep the very sentinel had deserted his post, and sought shelter from a tempest which had raged for three nights in succession, for it appeared but little probable that an enemy would be abroad during such an uproar of the elements. But evil spirits work best during a storm. In the midst of the night an uproar rose within the walls of Zahara more awful than the raging of the storm. A fearful alarm-cry, "The Moor! the Moor!" resounded through the streets, mingled with the clash of arms, the shriek of anguish, and the shout of victory. Muley Abul Hassan, at the head of a powerful force, had hurried from Granada, and passed unobserved through the mountains in the obscurity of the tempest. While the storm pelted the sentinel from his post and bowled round tower and battlement, the Moors had planted their scaling-ladders and mounted securely into both town and castle. The garrison was unsuspicious of danger until battle and massacre burst forth within its very walls. It seemed to the affrighted inhabitants as if the fiends of the air had come upon the wings of the wind and possessed themselves of tower and turret. The war-cry resounded on every side, shout answering shout, above, below, on the battlements of the castle, in the streets of the town; the foe was in all parts, wrapped in obscurity, but acting in concert by the aid of preconcerted signals. Starting from sleep, the soldiers were intercepted and cut down as they rushed from their quarters, or if they escaped they knew not where to assemble or where to strike. Wherever lights appeared the flashing scimetar was at its deadly work, and all who attempted resistance fell beneath its edge.
In a little while the struggle was at an end. Those who were not slain took refuge in the secret places of their houses or gave themselves up as captives. The clash of arms ceased, and the storm continued its howling, mingled with the occasional shout of the Moorish soldiery roaming in search of plunder. While the inhabitants were trembling for their fate, a trumpet resounded through the streets summoning them all to assemble, unarmed, in the public square. Here they were surrounded by soldiery and strictly guarded until daybreak. When the day dawned it was piteous to behold this once-prosperous community, who had laid down to rest in peaceful security, now crowded together without distinction of age or rank or sex, and almost without raiment, during the severity of a wintry storm. The fierce Muley Abul Hassan turned a deaf ear to all their prayers and remonstrances, and ordered them to be conducted captives to Granada. Leaving a strong garrison in both town and castle, with orders to put them in a complete state of defence, he returned, flushed with victory, to his capital, entering it at the head of his troops, laden with spoil and bearing in triumph the banners and pennons taken at Zahara.
While preparations were making for jousts and other festivities in honor of this victory over the Christians, the captives of Zahara arrived—a wretched train of men, women, and children, worn out with fatigue and haggard with despair, and driven like cattle into the city gates by a detachment of Moorish soldiery.
Deep was the grief and indignation of the people of Granada at this cruel scene. Old men, who had experienced the calamities of warfare, anticipated coming troubles. Mothers clasped their infants to their breasts as they beheld the hapless females of Zahara with their children expiring in their arms. On every side the accents of pity for the sufferers were mingled with execrations of the barbarity of the king. The preparations for festivity were neglected, and the viands which were to have feasted the conquerors were distributed among the captives.
The nobles and alfaquis, however, repaired to the Alhambra to congratulate the king; for, whatever storms may rage in the lower regions of society, rarely do any clouds but clouds of incense rise to the awful eminence of the throne. In this instance, however, a voice rose from the midst of the obsequious crowd, and burst like thunder upon the ears of Abul Hassan. "Woe! woe! woe! to Granada!" exclaimed the voice; "its hour of desolation approaches. The ruins of Zahara will fall upon our heads; my spirit tells me that the end of our empire is at hand." All shrank back aghast, and left the denouncer of woe standing alone in the centre of the hall. He was an ancient and hoary man in the rude attire of a dervise. Age had withered his form without quenching the fire of his spirit, which glared in baleful lustre from his eyes. He was (say the Arabian historians) one of those holy men termed santons who pass their lives in hermitages in fasting, meditation, and prayer until they attain to the purity of saints and the foresight of prophets. "He was," says the indignant Fray Antonio Agapida, "a son of Belial, one of those fanatic infidels possessed by the devil who are sometimes permitted to predict the truth to their followers, but with the proviso that their predictions shall be of no avail."
The voice of the santon resounded through the lofty hall of the Alhambra, and struck silence and awe into the crowd of courtly sycophants. Muley Abul Hassan alone was unmoved: he eyed the hoary anchorite with scorn as he stood dauntless before him, and treated his predictions as the ravings of a maniac. The santon rushed from the royal presence, and, descending into the city, hurried through its streets and squares with frantic gesticulations. His voice was heard in every part in awful denunciation: "The peace is broken! exterminating war is commenced. Woe! woe! woe to Granada! its fall is at hand! desolation will dwell in its palaces; its strong men will fall beneath the sword, its children and maidens be led into captivity. Zahara is but a type of Granada!"
Terror seized upon the populace, for they considered these ravings as the inspirations of prophecy. Some hid themselves in their dwellings as in a time of general mourning, while some gathered together in knots in the streets and squares, alarming each other with dismal forebodings and cursing the rashness and cruelty of the king.
The Moorish monarch heeded not their murmurs. Knowing that his exploit must draw upon him the vengeance of the Christians, he now threw off all reserve, and made attempts to surprise Castellan and Elvira, though without success. He sent alfaquis also to the Barbary powers, informing them that the sword was drawn, and inviting the African princes to aid him with men and supplies in maintaining the kingdom of Granada and the religion of Mahomet against the violence of unbelievers.
While discontent exhaled itself in murmurs among the common people, however, it fomented in dangerous conspiracies among the nobles, and Muley Abul Hassan was startled by information of a design to depose him and place his son Boabdil upon the throne. His first measure was to confine the prince and his mother in the Tower of Comares; then, calling to mind the prediction of the astrologers, that the youth would one day sit on the throne of Granada, he impiously set the stars at defiance. "The sword of the executioner," said he, "shall prove the fallacy of those lying horoscopes, and shall silence the ambition of Boabdil."
The sultana Ayxa, apprised of the imminent danger of her son, concerted a plan for his escape. At the dead of the night she gained access to his prison, and, tying together the shawls and scarfs of herself and her female attendants, lowered him down from a balcony of the Alhambra to the steep rocky hillside which sweeps down to the Darro. Here some of her devoted adherents were waiting to receive him, who, mounting him on a swift horse, spirited him away to the city of Guadix, in the Alpuxarras.
EXPEDITION OF THE MARQUES OF CADIZ AGAINST ALHAMA.
Great was the indignation of King Ferdinand when he heard of the storming of Zahara, though the outrage of the Moor happened most opportunely. The war between Castile and Portugal had come to a close; the factions of Spanish nobles were for the most part quelled. The Castilian monarchs had now, therefore, turned their thoughts to the cherished object of their ambition, the conquest of Granada. The pious heart of Isabella yearned to behold the entire Peninsula redeemed from the domination of the infidel, while Ferdinand, in whom religious zeal was mingled with temporal policy, looked with a craving eye to the rich territory of the Moor, studded with wealthy towns and cities. Muley Abul Hassan had rashly or unwarily thrown the brand that was to produce the wide conflagration. Ferdinand was not the one to quench the flames. He immediately issued orders to all the adelantados and alcaydes of the frontiers to maintain the utmost vigilance at their several posts, and to prepare to carry fire and sword into the territories of the Moors.
Among the many valiant cavaliers who rallied round the throne of Ferdinand and Isabella, one of the most eminent in rank and renowned in arms was Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, marques of Cadiz. As he was the distinguished champion of this holy war, and commanded in most of its enterprises and battles, it is meet that some particular account should be given of him. He was born in 1443 of the valiant lineage of the Ponces, and from his earliest youth had rendered himself illustrious in the field. He was of the middle stature, with a muscular and powerful frame, capable of great exertion and fatigue. His hair and beard were red and curled, his countenance was open and magnanimous, of a ruddy complexion and slightly marked with the small-pox. He was temperate, chaste, valiant, vigilant; a just and generous master to his vassals; frank and noble in his deportment toward his equals; loving and faithful to his friends; fierce and terrible, yet magnanimous, to his enemies. He was considered the mirror of chivalry of his times, and compared by contemporary historians to the immortal Cid.
The marques of Cadiz had vast possessions in the most fertile parts of Andalusia, including many towns and castles, and could lead forth an army into the field from his own vassals and dependants. On receiving the orders of the king he burned to signalize himself by some sudden incursion into the kingdom of Granada that should give a brilliant commencement to the war, and should console the sovereigns for the insult they had received in the capture of Zahara. As his estates lay near to the Moorish frontiers and were subject to sudden inroads, he had always in his pay numbers of adalides, or scouts and guides, many of them converted Moors. These he sent out in all directions to watch the movements of the enemy and to procure all kinds of information important to the security of the frontier. One of these spies came to him one day in his town of Marchena, and informed him that the Moorish town of Alhama was slightly garrisoned and negligently guarded, and might be taken by surprise. This was a large, wealthy, and populous place within a few leagues of Granada. It was situated on a rocky height, nearly surrounded by a river, and defended by a fortress to which there was no access but by a steep and cragged ascent. The strength of its situation and its being embosomed in the centre of the kingdom had produced the careless security which now invited attack.
To ascertain fully the state of the fortress the marques despatched secretly a veteran soldier who was highly in his confidence. His name was Ortega de Prado, a man of great activity, shrewdness, and valor, and captain of escaladors (soldiers employed to scale the walls of fortresses in time of attack). Ortega approached Alhama one moonless night, and paced along its walls with noiseless step, laying his ear occasionally to the ground or to the wall. Every time he distinguished the measured tread of a sentinel, and now and then the challenge of the night-watch going its rounds. Finding the town thus guarded, he clambered to the castle: there all was silent. As he ranged its lofty battlements between him and the sky he saw no sentinel on duty. He noticed certain places where the wall might be ascended by scaling-ladders, and, having marked the hour of relieving guard and made all necessary observations, he retired without being discovered.
Ortega returned to Marchena, and assured the marques of Cadiz of the practicability of scaling the castle of Alhama and taking it by surprise. The marques had a secret conference with Don Pedro Enriques, adelantado of Andalusia, Don Diego de Merlo, commander of Seville, Sancho de Avila, alcayde of Carmona, and others, who all agreed to aid him with their forces. On an appointed day the several commanders assembled at Marchena with their troops and retainers. None but the leaders knew the object or destination of the enterprise, but it was enough to rouse the Andalusian spirit to know that a foray was intended into the country of their old enemies, the Moors. Secrecy and celerity were necessary for success. They set out promptly with three thousand genetes or light cavalry and four thousand infantry. They chose a route but little travelled, by the way of Antiquera, passing with great labor through rugged and solitary defiles of the sierra or chain of mountains of Arrecife, and left all their baggage on the banks of the river Yeguas, to be brought after them. This march was principally in the night; all day they remained quiet; no noise was suffered in their camp, and no fires were made, lest the smoke should betray them. On the third day they resumed their march as the evening darkened, and, forcing themselves forward at as quick a pace as the rugged and dangerous mountain-roads would permit, they descended toward midnight into a small deep valley only half a league from Alhama. Here they made a halt, fatigued by this forced march, during a long dark evening toward the end of February.
The marques of Cadiz now explained to the troops the object of the expedition. He told them it was for the glory of the most holy faith and to avenge the wrongs of their countrymen at Zahara, and that the town of Alhama, full of wealthy spoil, was the place to be attacked. The troops were roused to new ardor by these words, and desired to be led forthwith to the assault. They arrived close to Alhama about two hours before daybreak. Here the army remained in ambush, while three hundred men were despatched to scale the walls and get possession of the castle. They were picked men, many of them alcaydes and officers, men who preferred death to dishonor. This gallant band was guided by the escalador Ortega de Prado at the head of thirty men with scaling-ladders. They clambered the ascent to the castle in silence, and arrived under the dark shadow of its towers without being discovered. Not a light was to be seen, not a sound to be heard; the whole place was wrapped in profound repose.
Fixing their ladders, they ascended cautiously and with noiseless steps. Ortega was the first that mounted upon the battlements, followed by one Martin Galindo, a youthful esquire full of spirit and eager for distinction. Moving stealthily along the parapet to the portal of the citadel, they came upon the sentinel by surprise. Ortega seized him by the throat, brandished a dagger before his eyes, and ordered him to point the way to the guard-room. The infidel obeyed, and was instantly despatched, to prevent his giving an alarm. The guard-room was a scene rather of massacre than combat. Some of the soldiery were killed while sleeping, others were cut down almost without resistance, bewildered by so unexpected an assault: all were despatched, for the scaling party was too small to make prisoners or to spare. The alarm spread throughout the castle, but by this time the three hundred picked men had mounted the battlements. The garrison, startled from sleep, found the enemy already masters of the towers. Some of the Moors were cut down at once, others fought desperately from room to room, and the whole castle resounded with the clash of arms, the cries of the combatants, and the groans of the wounded. The army in ambush, finding by the uproar that the castle was surprised, now rushed from their concealment, and approached the walls with loud shouts and sound of kettle-drums and trumpets to increase the confusion and dismay of the garrison. A violent conflict took place in the court of the castle, where several of the scaling party sought to throw open the gates to admit their countrymen. Here fell two valiant alcaydes, Nicholas de Roja and Sancho de Avila, but they fell honorably, upon a heap of slain. At length Ortega de Prado succeeded in throwing open a postern through which the marques of Cadiz, the adelantado of Andalusia, and Don Diego de Merlo entered with a host of followers, and the citadel remained in full possession of the Christians.
As the Spanish cavaliers were ranging from room to room, the marques of Cadiz, entering an apartment of superior richness to the rest, beheld, by the light of a silver lamp, a beautiful Moorish female, the wife of the alcayde of the castle, whose husband was absent attending a wedding-feast at Velez Malaga. She would have fled at the sight of a Christian warrior in her apartment, but, entangled in the covering of the bed, she fell at the feet of the marques, imploring mercy. That Christian cavalier, who had a soul full of honor and courtesy toward the sex, raised her from the floor and endeavored to allay her fears; but they were increased at the sight of her female attendants pursued into the room by the Spanish soldiery. The marques reproached his soldiers with unmanly conduct, and reminded them that they made war upon men, not on defenceless women. Having soothed the terrors of the females by the promise of honorable protection, he appointed a trusty guard to watch over the security of their apartment.
The castle was now taken, but the town below it was in arms. It was broad day, and the people, recovered from their panic, were enabled to see and estimate the force of the enemy. The inhabitants were chiefly merchants and tradespeople, but the Moors all possessed a knowledge of the use of weapons and were of brave and warlike spirit. They confided in the strength of their walls and the certainty of speedy relief from Granada, which was but about eight leagues distant. Manning the battlements and towers, they discharged showers of stones and arrows whenever the part of the Christian army without the walls attempted to approach. They barricadoed the entrances of their streets also which opened toward the castle, stationing men expert at the crossbow and arquebuse. These kept up a constant fire upon the gate of the castle, so that no one could sally forth without being instantly shot down. Two valiant cavaliers who attempted to lead forth a party in defiance of this fatal tempest were shot dead at the very portal.
The Christians now found themselves in a situation of great peril. Reinforcements must soon arrive to the enemy from Granada: unless, therefore, they gained possession of the town in the course of the day, they were likely to be surrounded and beleaguered, without provisions, in the castle. Some observed that even if they took the town they should not be able to maintain possession of it. They proposed, therefore, to make booty of everything valuable, to sack the castle, set it on fire, and make good their retreat to Seville.
The marques of Cadiz was of different counsel. "God has given the citadel into Christian hands," said he; "he will no doubt strengthen them to maintain it. We have gained the place with difficulty and bloodshed; it would be a stain upon our honor to abandon it through fear of imaginary dangers." The adelantado and Don Diego de Merlo joined in his opinion, but without their earnest and united remonstrances the place would have been abandoned, so exhausted were the troops by forced marches and hard fighting, and so apprehensive of the approach of the Moors of Granada.
The strength and spirits of the party within the castle were in some degree restored by the provisions which they found. The Christian army beneath the town, being also refreshed by a morning's repast, advanced vigorously to the attack of the walls. They planted their scaling-ladders, and, swarming up, sword in hand, fought fiercely with the Moorish soldiery upon the ramparts.
In the mean time, the marques of Cadiz, seeing that the gate of the castle, which opened toward the city, was completely commanded by the artillery of the enemy, ordered a large breach to be made in the wall, through which he might lead his troops to the attack, animating them in this perilous moment by assuring them that the place should be given up to plunder and its inhabitants made captives.
The breach being made, the marques put himself at the head of his troops, and entered sword in hand. A simultaneous attack was make by the Christians in every part—by the ramparts, by the gate, by the roofs and walls which connected the castle with the town. The Moors fought valiantly in their streets, from their windows, and from the tops of their houses. They were not equal to the Christians in bodily strength, for they were for the most part peaceful men, of industrious callings, and enervated by the frequent use of the warm bath; but they were superior in number and unconquerable in spirit; old and young, strong and weak, fought with the same desperation. The Moors fought for property, for liberty, for life. They fought at their thresholds and their hearths, with the shrieks of their wives and children ringing in their ears, and they fought in the hope that each moment would bring aid from Granada. They regarded neither their own wounds nor the death of their companions, but continued fighting until they fell, and seemed as if, when they could no longer contend, they would block up the thresholds of their beloved homes with their mangled bodies. The Christians fought for glory, for revenge, for the holy faith, and for the spoil of these wealthy infidels. Success would place a rich town at their mercy; failure would deliver them into the hands of the tyrant of Granada.
The contest raged from morning until night, when the Moors began to yield. Retreating to a large mosque near the walls, they kept up so galling a fire from it with lances, crossbows, and arquebuses that for some time the Christians dared not approach. Covering themselves, at length, with bucklers and mantelets* to protect them from the deadly shower, the latter made their way to the mosque and set fire to the doors. When the smoke and flames rolled in upon them the Moors gave up all as lost. Many rushed forth desperately upon the enemy, but were immediately slain; the rest surrendered themselves captives.
* Mantelet—a movable parapet, made of thick planks, to protect troops when advancing to sap or assault a walled place.
The struggle was now at an end: the town remained at the mercy of the Christians; and the inhabitants, both male and female, became the slaves of those who made them prisoners. Some few escaped by a mine or subterranean way which led to the river, and concealed themselves, their wives and children, in caves and secret places, but in three or four days were compelled to surrender themselves through hunger.
The town was given up to plunder, and the booty was immense. There were found prodigious quantities of gold and silver, and jewels and rich silks and costly stuffs of all kinds, together with horses and beeves, and abundance of grain and oil and honey, and all other productions of this fruitful kingdom; for in Alhama were collected the royal rents and tributes of the surrounding country: it was the richest town in the Moorish territory, and from its great strength and its peculiar situation was called the key to Granada.
Great waste and devastation were committed by the Spanish soldiery; for, thinking it would be impossible to keep possession of the place, they began to destroy whatever they could not take away. Immense jars of oil were broken, costly furniture shattered to pieces, and magazines of grain broken open and their contents scattered to the winds. Many Christian captives who had been taken at Zahara were found buried in a Moorish dungeon, and were triumphantly restored to light and liberty; and a renegado Spaniard, who had often served as guide to the Moors in their incursions into the Christian territories, was hanged on the highest part of the battlements for the edification of the army.
HOW THE PEOPLE OF GRANADA WERE AFFECTED ON HEARING OF THE CAPTURE OF ALHAMA, AND HOW THE MOORISH KING SALLIED FORTH TO REGAIN IT.
A moorish horseman had spurred across the Vega, nor reined his panting steed until he alighted at the gate of the Alhambra. He brought tidings to Muley Abul Hassan of the attack upon Alhama. "The Christians," said he, "are in the land. They came upon us, we know not whence or how, and scaled the walls of the castle in the night. There have been dreadful fighting and carnage in its towers and courts; and when I spurred my steed from the gate of Alhama the castle was in possession of the unbelievers."
Muley Abul Hassan felt for a moment as if swift retribution had come upon him for the woes he had inflicted upon Zahara. Still, he flattered himself that this had only been some transient inroad of a party of marauders intent upon plunder, and that a little succor thrown into the town would be sufficient to expel them from the castle and drive them from the land. He ordered out, therefore, a thousand of his chosen cavalry, and sent them in all speed to the assistance of Alhama. They arrived before its walls the morning after its capture: the Christian standards floated upon its towers, and a body of cavalry poured forth from its gates and came wheeling down into the plain to receive them.
The Moorish horsemen turned the reins of their steeds and galloped back for Granada. They entered its gates in tumultuous confusion, spreading terror and lamentation by their tidings. "Alhama is fallen! Alhama is fallen!" exclaimed they; "the Christians garrison its walls; the key of Granada is in the hands of the enemy!"
When the people heard these words they remembered the denunciation of the santon. His prediction seemed still to resound in every ear, and its fulfilment to be at hand. Nothing was heard throughout the city but sighs and wailings. "Woe is me, Alhama!" was in every mouth; and this ejaculation of deep sorrow and doleful foreboding came to be the burden of a plaintive ballad which remains until the present day.*
* The mournful little Spanish romance of "Ay de mi Alhama!" is supposed to be of Moorish origin, and to embody the grief of the people of Granada on this occasion.
Many aged men, who had taken refuge in Granada from other Moorish dominions which had fallen into the power of the Christians, now groaned in despair at the thoughts that war was to follow them into this last retreat, to lay waste this pleasant land, and to bring trouble and sorrow upon their declining years. The women were more loud and vehement in their grief, for they beheld the evils impending over their children, and what can restrain the agony of a mother's heart? Many of them made their way through the halls of the Alhambra into the presence of the king, weeping, and wailing, and tearing their hair. "Accursed be the day," cried they, "that thou hast lit the flame of war in our land! May the holy Prophet bear witness before Allah that we and our children are innocent of this act! Upon thy head, and upon the heads of thy posterity, until the end of the world, rest the sin of the desolation of Zahara!"*
* Garibay, lib. 40, c. 29.
Muley Abul Hassan remained unmoved amidst all this storm; his heart was hardened (observes Fray Antonio Agapida) like that of Pharaoh, to the end that through his blind violence and rage he might produce the deliverance of the land from its heathen bondage. In fact, he was a bold and fearless warrior, and trusted soon to make this blow recoil upon the head of the enemy. He had ascertained that the captors of Alhama were but a handful: they were in the centre of his dominions, within a short distance of his capital. They were deficient in munitions of war and provisions for sustaining a siege. By a rapid movement he might surround them with a powerful army, cut off all aid from their countrymen, and entrap them in the fortress they had taken.
To think was to act with Muley Abul Hassan, but he was prone to act with too much precipitation. He immediately set forth in person with three thousand horse and fifty thousand foot, and in his eagerness to arrive at the scene of action would not wait to provide artillery and the various engines required in a siege. "The multitude of my forces," said he, confidently, "will be sufficient to overwhelm the enemy."
The marques of Cadiz, who thus held possession of Alhama, had a chosen friend and faithful companion-in-arms, among the most distinguished of the Christian chivalry. This was Don Alonso de Cordova, senior and lord of the house of Aguilar, and brother of Gonsalvo of Cordova, afterward renowned as grand captain of Spain. As yet, Alonso de Aguilar was the glory of his name and race, for his brother was but young in arms. He was one of the most hardy, valiant, and enterprising of the Spanish knights, and foremost in all service of a perilous and adventurous nature. He had not been at hand to accompany his friend Ponce de Leon, marques of Cadiz, in his inroad into the Moorish territory, but he hastily assembled a number of retainers, horse and foot, and pressed forward to join the enterprise. Arriving at the river Yeguas, he found the baggage of the army still upon its banks, and took charge of it to carry it to Alhama. The marques of Cadiz heard of the approach of his friend, whose march was slow in consequence of being encumbered by the baggage. He was within but a few leagues of Alhama when scouts came hurrying into the place with intelligence that the Moorish king was at hand with a powerful army. The marques of Cadiz was filled with alarm lest De Aguilar should fall into the hands of the enemy. Forgetting his own danger and thinking only of that of his friend, he despatched a well-mounted messenger to ride full speed and warn him not to approach.
The first determination of Alonso de Aguilar when he heard that the Moorish king was at hand was to take a strong position in the mountains and await his coming. The madness of an attempt with his handful of men to oppose an immense army was represented to him with such force as to induce him to abandon the idea; he then thought of throwing himself into Alhama to share the fortunes of his friend; but it was now too late. The Moor would infallibly intercept him, and he should only give the marques the additional distress of beholding him captured beneath his walls. It was even urged upon him that he had no time for delay if he would consult his own safety, which could only be ensured by an immediate retreat into the Christian territory. This last opinion was confirmed by the return of scouts, who brought information that Muley Abul Hassan had received notice of his movements, and was rapidly advancing in quest of him. It was with infinite reluctance that Don Alonso de Aguilar yielded to these united and powerful reasons. Proudly and sullenly he drew off his forces, laden with the baggage of the army, and made an unwilling retreat toward Antiquera. Muley Abul Hassan pursued him for some distance through the mountains, but soon gave up the chase and turned with his forces upon Alhama.
As the army approached the town they beheld the fields strewn with the dead bodies of their countrymen, who had fallen in defence of the place, and had been cast forth and left unburied by the Christians. There they lay, mangled and exposed to every indignity, while droves of half-famished dogs were preying upon them and fighting and howling over their hideous repast.* Furious at the sight, the Moors, in the first transports of their rage, attacked those ravenous animals: their next measure was to vent their fury upon the Christians. They rushed like madmen to the walls, applied scaling-ladders in all parts without waiting for the necessary mantelets and other protections—thinking by attacking suddenly and at various points to distract the enemy and overcome them by the force of numbers.
* Pulgar, Cronica.
The marques of Cadiz, with his confederate commanders, distributed themselves along the walls to direct and animate their men in the defence. The Moors in their blind fury often assailed the most difficult and dangerous places. Darts, stones, and all kinds of missiles were hurled down upon their defenceless heads. As fast as they mounted they were cut down or dashed from the battlements, their ladders overturned, and all who were on them precipitated headlong below.
Muley Abul Hassan stormed with passion at the sight: he sent detachment after detachment to scale the walls, but in vain; they were like waves rushing upon a rock, only to dash themselves to pieces. The Moors lay in heaps beneath the wall, and among them many of the bravest cavaliers of Granada. The Christians also sallied frequently from the gates, and made great havoc in the irregular multitude of assailants.
Muley Abul Hassan now became sensible of his error in hurrying from Granada without the proper engines for a siege. Destitute of all means to batter the fortifications, the town remained uninjured, defying the mighty army which raged and roamed before it. Incensed at being thus foiled, Muley Abul Hassan gave orders to undermine the walls. The Moors advanced with shouts to the attempt. They were received with a deadly fire from the ramparts, which drove them from their works. Repeatedly were they repulsed, and repeatedly did they return to the charge. The Christians not merely galled them from the battlements, but issued forth and cut them down in the excavations they were attempting to form. The contest lasted throughout a whole day, and by evening two thousand Moors were either killed or wounded.
Muley Abul Hassan now abandoned all hope of carrying the place by assault, and attempted to distress it into terms by turning the channel of the river which runs by its walls. On this stream the inhabitants depended for their supply of water, the place being destitute of fountains and cisterns, from which circumstance it is called Alhama "la seca," or "the dry."
A desperate conflict ensued on the banks of the river, the Moors endeavoring to plant palisades in its bed to divert the stream, and the Christians striving to prevent them. The Spanish commanders exposed themselves to the utmost danger to animate their men, who were repeatedly driven back into the town. The marques of Cadiz was often up to his knees in the stream fighting hand to hand with the Moors. The water ran red with blood, and was encumbered with dead bodies. At length the overwhelming numbers of the Moors gave them the advantage, and they succeeded in diverting the greater part of the water. The Christians had to struggle severely to supply themselves from the feeble rill which remained. They sallied to the river by a subterraneous passage, but the Moorish crossbowmen stationed themselves on the opposite bank, keeping up a heavy fire upon the Christians whenever they attempted to fill their vessels from the scanty and turbid stream. One party of the Christians had, therefore, to fight while another drew water. At all hours of the day and night this deadly strife was maintained, until it seemed as if every drop of water were purchased with a drop of blood.
In the mean time the sufferings of the town became intense. None but the soldiery and their horses were allowed the precious beverage so dearly earned, and even that in quantities that only tantalized their wants. The wounded, who could not sally to procure it, were almost destitute, while the unhappy prisoners shut up in the mosques were reduced to frightful extremities. Many perished raving mad, fancying themselves swimming in boundless seas, yet unable to assuage their thirst. Many of the soldiers lay parched and panting along the battlements, no longer able to draw a bowstring or hurl a stone; while above five thousand Moors, stationed upon a rocky height which overlooked part of the town, kept up a galling fire into it with slings and crossbows, so that the marques of Cadiz was obliged to heighten the battlements by using the doors from the private dwellings.
The Christian cavaliers, exposed to this extreme peril and in imminent danger of falling into the hands of the enemy, despatched fleet messengers to Seville and Cordova, entreating the chivalry of Andalusia to hasten to their aid. They sent likewise, imploring assistance from the king and queen, who at that time held their court in Medina del Campo. In the midst of their distress a tank or cistern of water was fortunately discovered in the city, which gave temporary relief to their sufferings.