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The Romance of Spanish History by  John S.C. Abbott
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THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE MOORS AND THE CHRISTIANS

(From 821, A.D. to 1118 A.D.)

Peril of the Moorish Monarchy.—Growth of the Christian Kingdoms.—Invasion of the Norman Pirates.—Death of Mohammed.—Moorish Insurrections.—The Reign of Caliphs.—Luxury of the Moorish Monarchs.—Splendors of Zarah.—Griefs of Abderaman.—The Challenge.—Battle of Soria.—Scenes of Anarchy.—Decline of Moorish Power.—Perfidy of Yussef.—His Conquest of Moorish Spain.

[81] ABDERAMAN II ascended the throne of his detested father. His right to the sceptre was disputed by his uncle; but after a short yet sanguinary conflict, the king quelled all opposition. This constant recurrence of civil war to settle the right of succession induced the king to convene all the members of the royal family, and, with their united consent, to proclaim a law that the crown of Spain should henceforth be hereditary with the children of the sovereign, according to their primogeniture, and that, if there were no children, the crown should descend to the next nearest of kin.

Many and formidable foes began now to press the Moorish monarchy. The Franks from Gaul were crowding down into Catalonia. The little Christian kingdom of Asturias was steadily extending its domain. Navarre had become a Christian kingdom. The province of Aragon struck for independence. Thus nearly the whole of Northern Spain had risen in armed opposition to the Moors. At the same time the Normans, in fifty-four vessels, spread ter- [82] ror along all the coasts of the peninsula. Wherever booty invited they landed, plundering towns and churches, committing to the flames every thing which they could not remove, gratifying their passions without restraint, and putting to the sword indiscriminately men, women, and children. Demons could not have perpetrated crimes more atrocious. They even attacked the city of Lisbon, continuing an incessant assault for thirteen days; and they would probably have captured the city, had not art army been hastily dispatched by the king, which drove the pirates to their boats. They, however, re-embarking, continued their ravages along the coast, landing at every defenseless point where booty could be obtained. They boldly ascended the Guadalquiver, plundering and burning on both shores, and, advancing as far as Seville, destroyed the greater part of the city. Their reputation for fiend-like ferocity was such that neither Spaniard nor Moor ventured to annoy them on their retreat.

The forays of these Norman pirates became so formidable that the Moorish sovereign constructed lines of fortresses from the principal sea-ports to his capital, with facilities for rapid communication and transmission of intelligence between them. But, notwithstanding all these difficulties and perils, Abderaman II., with administrative ability rarely equaled, checked internal rebellion, repelled foreign foes, and promoted the prosperity of his kingdom by encouraging all the arts of elegance and of industry. He furnished the poor with employment, embellished his capital with edifices of great architectural beauty, paved the streets, constructed baths and aqueducts, and encouraged learning in all its branches by inviting to his court men of distinguished intellectual attainments from all lands. He [83] devoted the most careful attention to the education of his sons, providing them with tutors of the greatest distinction, while, at the same time, he minutely superintended their studies himself.

In accordance with the religion of Mohammed, Abderaman crowded his harem with the most voluptuous beauties of his kingdom. He died, universally regretted, in the year 852, leaving forty-five sons and forty daughters. His son, Mohammed I., ascended the throne. But he did not inherit his father's genius. The Christian realm of Asturias during his reign made rapid advances. By constant encroachments, gaining step by step, the Christians wrested from the Moors, Leon, Old Castile, Estremadura, and a considerable portion of Lusitania. The reign of Mohammed I. presented but a constant series of disasters. His armies were defeated by the Christians. Civil war devastated his whole kingdom, calling into requisition his utmost energies to quell rebellion. Drought, and consequent famine, caused the death of thousands; an earthquake overwhelmed several of his cities, burying multitudes beneath the ruins, and another invasion of the Normans spread dismay throughout all his coasts.

One summer evening, Mohammed, surrounded with luxury, was sitting in one of the bowers of his garden, conversing with several of the members of his court.

"How happy," exclaimed one of his courtiers, "is the condition of kings! The pleasures of life were created expressly for them. Delightful gardens, splendid palaces, boundless wealth, all the instruments of luxury—in short, every thing has been granted them by the decrees of fate."

"The path of kings," replied the monarch, "is indeed, in appearance, strewed with flowers; but thou seest not that [84] these roses have their thorns And is it not the destiny of the mightiest prince to leave the world as naked as the poorest peasant? Our lives are in God's hands. But to the good the end of this life is the commencement of everlasting bliss."

He retired to rest, and his lifeless body was found in the bed in the morning. In the darkness of the night, from a stroke of apoplexy, his spirit took its flight to the eternal world.

Almoudhir, the eldest son of the departed king, succeeded to the throne. But unanticipated rebellion was immediately developed, and the banners of revolt were unfurled from the battlements of Huesca, Saragossa, and Toledo. Marching at the head of his troops to suppress this rebellion, he fell upon the field of battle, and the sceptre of the Moorish kingdom passed into the hands of his brother Abdalla. But his own son headed a revolt against him. He was, however, defeated in a bloody battle, and his indignant father threw him, a captive, covered with wounds, into a dungeon, where he miserably perished. Still the rebels, under a renowned chieftain, Calib, maintained themselves against all the power of the crown. From their head-quarters at Toledo they not unfrequently sent into the field an army of sixty thousand men.

During the whole of the reign of Abdalla this insurgent chieftain maintained his independence and his attitude of defiance. Abdalla was a virtuous prince, and his reign was beneficent. Upon his death, in the year 912, he set aside his own son, a dissolute young man, to whom he was unwilling to intrust the happiness of his people, and placed upon the throne Abderaman III., the child of that rebel son of the king who had perished in a dungeon. The vir- [85] tues of the new sovereign were so conspicuous in the eyes of the Mohammedans that they invested him with the sacred attributes of the caliph. He thus became the Pope of the Mohammedan Church of Spain, wielding the sceptre of both temporal and spiritual power. With great vigor the sovereign gathered up his strength to exterminate the audacious rebellion with which the kingdom had so long been distracted. After a long series of desperate and bloody battles he was successful, and the whole of Moorish Spain became subject to his sway.

Abderaman now turned his arms against the Christians of Leon and Asturias. Ramiro II., then king of the Christians, advanced to Madrid in. the year 932, wrested the city from the Moors, and almost entirely demolished it. In revenge, Abderaman sent an army into Galicia, where he inflicted most terrible reprisals, plundering, ravaging, burning, slaying, and leading away into endless slavery many thousand captives. The Christians, no less ferocious than the Moslems, thus exasperated, rushed down the valley .of the Ebro, through the heart of Aragon, as far as Saragossa, and laid siege to the city. They would have destroyed the place utterly, had not the governor capitulated, and joined his conquerors, acknowledging himself a feudatory of the King of Leon. At length the two hostile armies met, in great strength, on the plains which spread out between Zamora and Salamanca. The Christians under Ramiro were one hundred thousand strong. The Moors, under Abderaman, numbered eighty thousand. The battle which ensued was one of the most ferocious which had been fought for ages between the Moors and the Christians. Abderaman was defeated with terrible loss. During the continuation of the conflict, which was waged, with occasional lulls, for several [86] years, the Christians gradually gained strength, and extended their sway.

The luxury of these Moorish monarchs, who gleaned the resources of an empire to give splendor to the crown, who doomed millions to destitution that a fairy-like sumptuousness might surround their thrones, was very conspicuous in the city of Zarah, which Abderaman built two miles from the city of Cordova, in honor of one of his favorite wives. The city was reared at the base of a mountain, from whence crystal streams meandered through all its streets, now spouting in jets of spray, now lingering and slumbering in mirrored basins. The houses, all built upon the same model, were surrounded by gardens and terraces, where trees from all climes spread their foliage, and where all shrubs of beauty and all flowers of fragrance were blended in the highest artistic skill. The statue of Zarah, the king's beautiful favorite, was placed over the principal gate.

But all the other glories of the city were eclipsed by the fairy-like palace reared for the favorite of the harem. The roof was supported by four thousand pillars of variegated marble. The floors and walls were of the same material, highly polished. The ceiling glittered with gold, and with burnished steel incrusted with the most precious gems. Countless crystal lustres illumined these apartments with almost celestial brilliance, the light flashing from mirrors, gems, and fountains, in a combination of splendor which a dream of fairy-land could hardly outvie.

This palace was embowered in the midst of a garden, where the resources of Eastern and Western art were exhausted in multiplying the devices of luxury and delight. One is tempted to feel that such descriptions must be exaggerated, and that such recitals are merely Oriental tales. [87] But these facts are well attested by many Arabian writers, and by travellers of unquestionable veracity.

But the marble walls of Zarah could not shut out disappointment and grief from those gilded saloons and voluptuous gardens. The human heart there, as everywhere else, experienced the doom that man is born to mourn. Abderaman's eldest son, Abdalla, grew up but to develop vice in its most hateful forms. The sorrowing father set him aside from the inheritance, and assigned the crown to his second son, Alhakem. Abdalla formed a conspiracy to assassinate his brother. The father, believing that there was no safety for Alhakem but in the death of Abdalla, ordered the guilty prince to be put to death. Alhakem plead for the life of his brother.

"Thy humane request," replied the king, "becomes thee well. Were I a private individual, it should be granted. But as a king I owe, both to my successors and to my people, an example of justice. I deeply lament the fate of my son. I shall lament it through life. But neither thy tears nor my grief shall save him."

The wretched youth was suffocated in the cell of his prison. But public opinion did not sustain the father in his severity. The conscience of the king soon condemned him for his extreme rigor, and he was seldom after seen to smile. Haggard and woe-stricken, he wandered through the saloons of his palaces, exciting the pity even of the humblest of his courtiers. A few verses still remain, penned by the king, in which he gives utterance to his grief. The following is a free translation:

"The sorrows of a troubled heart will vent themselves in sighs.

Can we be happy while the tempest rages?

It has scattered my flowery vines,

and how then can I be happy over the sparkling cup?

Glory crowned my youth, but now she abandons me.

The keen blasts of affliction have withered all my joys.

My days of sunshine are past.

Dark night approaches, with gloom which no morn will ever dissipate."

[88] The reign of Abderaman III. has been considered the most brilliant period in the history of the Moorish dominion in Spain. The kingdom made great strides in wealth; public works of much grandeur were constructed; a powerful navy was created, and all the arts of industry, fostered by the crown, rapidly advanced. But at the same time the Christian kingdom in the north-western part of Spain was also increasing in wealth, population, and power.


[Illustration]

THE CHIVALRIC ENCOUNTER.

Abderaman III. died in the year 961, and was succeeded by Alhakem II. Ile was a young man of superior abilities, remarkably studious in his tastes, averse to war, and seeking for himself and for his subjects the joys of tranquillity. Ike wrote personally to distinguished authors in all lands, and accumulated an immense library. During nearly the whole of his reign there was a truce between the Moors and the Christians of Castile and Leon. After a reign of twelve years, illustrated by many virtues, Alhakem died, and his son, Hixem II., ascended the throne. The regency was intrusted to a Moor by the name of Almansor, who, by the sagacity and vigor of his administration, gained great renown. He was very anxious to check the growth of the Christians, and waged incessant war against them. At one time the two armies met near the walls of Leon. As the soldiers on both sides were drawn out, in immense masses, in battle array, a Christian knight, magnificently mounted, and glittering with coats of mail, rode from the [91] Spanish ranks and challenged any Moorish knight to meet him in single combat.

After a short delay a Moor rode upon the plain. The conflict was soon terminated, as the spear of the Christian transfixed the Moor, and he fell lifeless from his horse. The victorious knight stripped his vanquished foe of his arms and, leading by the bridle the splendid steed of the Moor, returned to the Christian camp with these trophies of his victory. He was greeted with enthusiastic shouts, which burst from the Christian lines.

Again mounting a fresh horse, he advanced from the ranks of his friends, and again challenged the whole Moorish army to send him a combatant. Another Moslem rode out to meet him, and encountered the fate of his predecessor. The triumphant shouts of the Christians caused the Moslems almost to foam with rage. A third time the conquering knight appeared. There was now delay in the Moorish camp, that their most powerful warrior might be selected.

"Shy do ye loiter?" shouted the Christian knight. "I am ready to meet you all, one by one. And, if that does not please you, come two at once."

An Andalusian chief, mounted upon an Arabian charger, now left the ranks, and advanced to encounter the knight. He also fell, stricken by a mortal blow, and was conveyed by his victor, a fainting, dying captive, into the Spanish camp. A fourth time he returned, and threw his challenge into the face of the whole Moslem host.

There was no one who ventured now to accept it. The knight rode to and fro, with many a jeer and taunt, till Almansor, the regent, exclaimed,

"I can bear this dishonor no longer. Hear his insult- [92] ing bravadoes. If there is no one else who will accept his challenge, I will go myself."

One of the most renowned of the Moorish generals said, "I will go," and, spurring his horse, galloped out upon the plain. The Christian, haughty in chivalric and ancestral pride, keenly eyed his antagonist for a moment, and said,

"Who and what art thou?"

"This spear," exclaimed Mustapha, shaking his lance, "is my title of nobility."

The duel immediately commenced. It was long and fiercely contested. But this time the fortune of war decided against the Christian. By a skillful thrust, the Moor, who was the better mounted of the two, pierced the armor of his antagonist, and the victor in three conflicts now reeled from his saddle and fell, severely wounded, to the ground. The Moor cut off his head, and returned with the spoils to Almansor.

With shouts which rent the skies, the two armies now rushed upon each other. Both parties fought with all the courage which implacable rage could inspire. At the close of a bloody day each claimed the victory, and each retired, exhausted and bleeding, from the tremendous blows it had received. Campaign succeeded campaign, fruitful in all the miseries of war, and, in general, disastrous to the Christians. The Moors captured several important cities, wrested from the Christians wide portions of their territory, and overran and laid waste the whole of Galicia. The bells of the churches were sent to Cordova to be melted into lamps for the Moslem mosques. Still the march of the Moors was, in general, one of plunder rather than of conquest. As they retired with their booty, the Christians, issuing from their mountain fastnesses, returned to their homes, [93] rebuilding their demolished cities and planting again their devastated fields.

There were now three independent governments of the Christians in the north of Spain: that of Leon, of Navarre, and of Castile. These governments were generally in alliance when pressed by the Moors, but were almost invariably fighting against each other when not menaced with Moslem invasion. Almansor, encouraged by his wonderful successes, made preparation for the utter extermination of these Christian powers, and for the extension of the Moslem sway over entire Spain. The Christians, thus imperilled, entered into an alliance to resist the foe.

In two immense armies, the Moors ascended the upper waters of the Douro in the mountainous heart of Spain. At a short distance from the city of Soria Almansor came in sight of the encampment of the allied army of the Christians. Their tents spread far and wide over the plain, indicating the presence of a much more formidable force than the Moors had expected to encounter. The battle commenced at break of day, and ceased not until the last ray of evening twilight had disappeared. The conflict extended over a region so extensive that neither of the generals was fully conscious of the successes or the disasters which had attended his battalions.

Almansor retired to his tent, anxious to hear from his lieutenants the results of the day. One after another came in with the most dismal tidings of the slaughter which had been effected in their ranks. The loss was so appalling that Almansor, chagrined beyond expression, ordered an immediate midnight retreat. The Moorish chieftain was so heart-stricken by this blow, that on the retreat, refusing all consolation and even nourishment, he pined away and [94] died. With the death of this illustrious prince, the Moorish sway in Spain began rapidly to decline. In a despotic government, where there is no constitution and no written laws, every thing depends upon the character of the sovereign. As there are no established institutions to fall back upon, the loss of a sagacious and energetic ruler is fatal to the State unless it so happen that another strong man succeed him. Hixem, the nominal sovereign, was so imbecile that his name is rarely mentioned. Almansor had thus far been the real monarch of the realm. Soon conspiracies began to be organized. Rival chieftains plotted to eject the impotent Hixem from the throne, and to grasp his sceptre.

A Moorish general, at the head of a successful insurrection, seized the king, thrust him into an obscure fortress, where he was incarcerated in a dungeon, and the report was circulated that he was dead. Even his funeral was solemnized, a dead body, strongly resembling the person of the king, being placed in the coffin. The usurper, Mohammed, had hardly taken possession of the palaces of Cordova ere another chieftain, Suleyman, leading an army of Moors from Africa, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, purchased the co-operation of the Christians by promising to surrender to them some of the northern fortresses, overthrew the usurper in a bloody and decisive battle, and entering Cordova in triumph, took possession of the throne. Mohammed fled, rallied another army, returned to Cordova defeated his rival in a sanguinary fight, and again grasped the sceptre, which had been by violence wrested from his hands. But soon again Suleyman appeared at the head of another vast army, and, encamping before the walls of Cordova, laid siege to the city.

[95] In the midst of these scenes of confusion and blood, Hixem escaped from his dungeon, and, like an apparition from the dead, presented himself before his party. The fickle people, who had before despised him, now rushed to his banner. They seized Mohammed, cut off his head, and threw it into the camp of Suleyman. The insurgent chieftain still pressed the siege against Hixem. By aid of recruits from Africa he stormed the city. Hixem was slain in the horrible tumult, and again Suleyman ascended the throne. After maintaining his hold upon the palaces of Cordova for a few months by the energies of his bloody sabre, another Moorish chieftain from Africa, by the name of Ali, greedy for the dignity and the spoils of sovereignty, marched upon Cordova, took Suleyman a captive, cut off his head, and seized the crown.

But a few months passed away ere the officers of the household of Ali drowned him in his bathing-tub, and their leader, Alcassem, snatched up the falling diadem. He had but just placed it upon his brow, when conspirators, with their gleaming poniards, rushed into his palace, and Alcassem, after seeing all his guard struck down, escaped with the utmost difficulty from the city in disguise. Abderaman V. now grasped the sceptre of that Moorish empire of Spain, which civil war and anarchy were rapidly crumbling into fragments. He endeavored to promote some reforms. The exasperated nobles broke into his palace, pierced him with more sabre-thrusts than could be counted, and, wiping their bloody weapons, placed the sceptre in the hands of one of their number, Mohammed II.

After a reign of seventeen months, Mohammed II. was poisoned, and by a part of the chieftains the crown was offered to Yahia. He accepted it, and marching to crush the [96] insurgents who rose against his sway, was drawn into an ambuscade and slain. The city of Cordova chose Hixem III. as their sovereign. He was a very worthy man in private life, and manifested no little nervousness in view of accepting so perilous a gift as the Moorish crown. The Christians were now making rapid encroachments. They had over-run the whole of the north of what is now called Portugal, and were crowding down even into New Castile. Hixem III., instead of remaining in Cordova, where he would be almost sure to encounter assassination, placed himself at the head of his armies, and marched to the north to assail the Christians.

For three years there was a struggle, not very fiercely waged, in which neither party gained any decisive advantage. At length the king, leaving his troops, returned to Cordova. The mob rose against him, and parading the streets with banners and arms, demanded his deposition. The king, not unwilling so easily to escape from the perils of royalty, renounced the throne and retired to private life, where he was left to die in peace. His memory, however, is cherished in the Moorish annals with great veneration, and he is eulogized by all pens as one of the most humane and unselfish of kings.

The Moorish kingdom in Spain was now effectually broken into fragments. The governors of the different provinces assumed the sovereignty over their several domains, and thus the realm was filled with petty kings, often contending against each other. In the short space of thirty years the Moorish kingdom had fallen beyond redemption. The Christians, who had been driven into an obscure corner of the country, were now in possession of two-thirds of the peninsula. History can hardly present a parallel to a fall so sudden and so astounding.

[97] The governors of each of the leading cities of Spain assumed independence, and each one became a petty king, extending his sway from his fortress over the immediately adjacent villages. The inhabitants of Cordova chose for their king Gehwan, a chief of much renown for political sagacity and military power. Instructed by the calamities which had overwhelmed his predecessors, Gehwan selected a council of the most respectable citizens, and took no important step without their concurrence. He assumed the position merely of president of the council, casting his single vote with the rest, and thus his government assumed the character of a republic. Though he resided in the gorgeous palaces of the caliphs, he laid aside very much of the pomp of royalty. His undivided energies were devoted to the promotion of the comfort and the elevation of the people; but all his efforts to induce the governors of the other cities, who had assumed the independence of kings, to take the oath of allegiance to him, were unavailing.

The alliances, battles, annexations, and partitions which ensued among these rival kings are no longer worthy of record. For a season they filled Spain with woe, and made life to millions a burden. The King of Seville had twenty-five towns subject to his jurisdiction. Emulating the splendor of the caliphs, he surrounded his throne with all the pageantry he could command, and filled his harem with eight hundred of the most beautiful females to be found in his dominions. Gradually, with his arms, he overran all the south of Andalusia. Granada was annexed to his domain. Flushed with this military success, be resolved to extend his sway over the renowned city of Cordova. The King of Cordova was then fighting against the King of [98] Toledo, a city on the Tagus one hundred and fifty miles north, in the heart of New Castile.

The arms of Cordova had just encountered a disastrous defeat, and the victorious battalions of Toledo were besieging the ancient Moorish capital. From a bed of sickness and pain Mohammed, the King of Cordova, arose, and, flying to Seville, implored the aid of its king. With the most hypocritical avowal of friendship, Almoateded, the King of Seville, sent an army, which, uniting with the citizens of Cordova, utterly routed the beleaguering foe. Almoateded, thus introduced into the city as a friend, seized all the important posts, and thrusting the king and his son into a dungeon, proclaimed himself sovereign of Cordova. The royal captives soon died in grief and despair. The fickle people received the usurper with acclamations. He dazzled them by his magnificence, and purchased their favor with immense largesses. The whole of Andalusia, with Cordova for its capital, thus passed under the sway of Almoateded. But man is born to mourn, and the conqueror in his pride has no protection against earth's calamities. Death entered the palace, and a beautiful, idolized daughter of the king was borne to the tomb. The bereavement broke the heart of the father, and, after a few months of gloom and tears, his body was deposited in the grave by the side of that of his child.

Mohammed, the son and successor of Almoateded, added Murcia and Valencia to the realms which he had inherited from his father. Thus the kingdom of Andalusia became far more powerful than that of any other of the petty Moorish kings of Spain. It embraced a domain about two hundred and fifty miles in length, and one hundred and seventy in width, containing about one million inhabitants.

[99] The Christian kings in the north, led by the most powerful of their number, Alfonso, King of Leon, availing themselves of these conflicts among the Moors, pressed down into New Castile, conquering and annexing, until they arrived before the walls of Toledo. After a siege of three years, the city was compelled to capitulate. On the 25th of May, 1085, Alfonso, the Christian king, took possession of the ancient capital of his Gothic ancestors. The Moors. had held the city 374 years. The Christians had now regained more than two-thirds of the whole territory of Spain. All of New Castile was now in their hands, and both banks of the Tagus to the ocean. The Moorish kings of Badajoz, of Saragossa, and of several other cities, were compelled to pay tribute to the Christians.

All the Moorish kings were terrified. The sovereign of Andalusia endeavored to form a coalition of all the Moslem cities against the Christians. But those who were within easy reach of the armies of Alfonso were afraid to invite the attack of a foe so formidable, and who had already destroyed the thrones of so many of their brethren. In this dilemma, Mohammed, the Andalusian king, assembled two or three of the neighboring potentates at Seville, and, after anxious deliberation, it was decided to appeal for aid to a celebrated Moorish conqueror in Africa, who, with legions apparently invincible, had overrun nearly all the northern provinces of that continent. The fierce chieftain, whose scimeter they were thus summoning to their aid, had trampled remorselessly upon all those states which had been swept by his wolfish bands. The son of Mohammed ventured to remonstrate with his father against inviting into his realms a despot so powerful and so unscrupulous.

"This Yussef," said he, "who has subdued all whom he [100] has approached, will serve us as he has served the people of Almagreb and Mauritania. He will expel us from our country and assume the sovereignty for himself."

"Anything," rejoined the father, "rather than that Andalusia should become the prey of the Christians. Dost thou wish that the Mussuhnans should curse me? I would rather be the driver of Yussef's camels, than be a king tributary to these Christians dogs. But my trust is in Allah."

At the head of a mighty armament, Yussef, leaving to a regent the care of his vast empire in Africa, landed on the coast of Spain. Alfonso, King of Leon, was besieging the city of Saragossa, in the heart of Aragon, when be received tidings of the disembarkation. Yussef encamped his army on the banks of the Guadiana, upon an extensive plain between Badajoz and Merida. In accordance with the Moslem custom, he sent a message to the Christian king, commanding him either to embrace the faith of the Prophet or to pay a heavy annual tribute.

Alfonso took the letter from the envoy, read it deliberately, and then, tearing it into fragments, trampled it beneath his feet. Turning to the messenger, he said,

"Go tell thy master what thou hast seen. Tell him not to hide himself on the field of battle, and I will soon meet him face to face."

Descending rapidly the valley of the Tagus, with a numerous army, Alfonso crossed to the valley of the Guadiana, and in April, 1086, arrived in sight of the Moorish banners. A terrible battle ensued. Both armies fought with valor and skill equal to their renown. At the close of the bloody day nearly fifty thousand lay dead upon the plain. Each army had suffered equally, and neither, was prepared to renew the strife on the morrow. Alfonso was [101] severely wounded, and in the night ordered a retreat, which the foe did not attempt to disturb. Yussef, probably disappointed in encountering a more formidable foe than he had expected to meet, soon after returned to Africa, entrusting the command of his army to Syr, one of the most able of his generals. New Moorish recruits were sent over from Africa, while the Christians replenished their diminished ranks, and for several campaigns the billows of war surged to and fro with no decisive results.

At length Yussef, despairing of conquering the Christians, resolved to annex to his African empire all the Moorish kingdoms in Spain. He landed again in person, in command of a powerful army. He first seized Menada, then Malaga, and now, totally regardless of the rights of the Andalusian king, Ali, traversed his realms with the strides of a conqueror. In his despair, Mohammed sent to the Christian king, Alfonso, soliciting an alliance. But before any effectual aid could reach him, Seville was captured by Yussef, and Mohammed, with all his family, were sent in chains to Africa. The king, in this his terrible fall, displayed great fortitude and resignation.

"My children," said he, "let us learn submissively to bear our griefs. In this life joys are but loaned us, to be resumed when Heaven wills. Sorrow and gladness succeed each other; but the truly noble heart rises superior to the reverses of fortune."

With inhumanity which must forever disgrace the character of Yussef, the King of Andalusia was thrown into a prison at Agmat, where he lingered in extreme penury and suffering for four years, until he died. His children, in utter destitution, were thrown loose upon the world, and even his daughters were compelled to earn their daily [102] bread by the labor of their own hands. One after another, nearly all the petty kingdoms of Moorish Spain fell into the hands of the conqueror, they having maintained themselves about sixty years.

For some years after the accession of Yussef there was peace between the Christians and the Moors. Toledo became the prominent fortress of the Christian powers. The Christians in Spain, disregarding their foes near at home, devoted all their energies to the Crusades for the recovery of the Holy Land. Yussef adopted Cordova as the capital of his Spanish possessions. He died at Morocco, at the advanced age of ninety-seven in the year 1106. He was succeeded by his son Ali, a young man but twenty-three years of age.

Moorish Spain was now but a province, or rather a subject kingdom, of the great African empire. One of the first acts of Ali was to visit Cordova and declare war against the Christians. He entrusted the command of the army to his brother Temim. Again wretched Spain was devastated by the sweep of hostile armies. There were battles and sieges and conflagrations, with violence and woe in every form the imagination can conceive. Though with many ebbs and floods, the tide of fortune gradually set in favor of the Christians. Saragossa, in the year 1118, fell into their hands, and, with the loss of that important city, the whole of Northern Spain was forever freed from the dominion of the Moors.


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