Home  |  Authors  |  Books  |  Stories  |  What's New  |  How to Get Involved 
   T h e   B a l d w i n   P r o j e c t
     Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children                 @mainlesson.com
Search This Site Only
 
 
The Romance of Spanish History by  John S.C. Abbott
Table of Contents


 

 

THE MOORISH INVASION

(From 673 A.D. to 821 A.D.)

Conflict between Wamba and Paulus.—Reign of Wamba, and his singular Fate. —Conspiracy of the Jews.—The Reign of Roderic.—Invasion of the Saracens. —Death of Roderic.—Triumph of the Moorish Invasion.—Conflicts of the Caliphs.—Damascus against Bagdad.—Civil War in Spain.—Invasion of Gaul by the Moors.—Charles Martel, and the Battle of Tours.—Moorish Splendor in Cordova.—The Moorish Monarchy.

[59] WAMBA calmly but resolutely assembled his forces, and marched to encounter Paulus, the vainglorious boaster. He divided his army into three bodies, one of which was conveyed by sea, and the other two proceeded by different land-routes towards the Pyrenees. Crushing all opposition before him, he advanced to the very walls of Narbonne. Paulus, humiliated by defeat, left a portion of his troops to defend the city and fled to Nismes, there to make his last stand. Duke Wittimer was intrusted with the defense of Narbonne. The royal troops, with Gothic ferocity, speedily scaled the walls of the city, cut down all opposition, and the streets ran red with blood. Wittimer, having been seized in a church, to which he had fled as a sanctuary, was publicly scourged as a rebel.

Narbonne being thus reduced, the monarch advanced, with determined strides, to Nismes. Here Paulus was strongly intrenched with the bravest of his troops. The assault was terrible, but for a whole day no impression could be made upon the defenses. As night came, both [60] besiegers and besieged, still grasping their arms, threw themselves upon the ground for repose. With the earliest dawn of the morning the strife was renewed. Paulus, who, notwithstanding his braggart spirit, was by no means a coward, viewed from a tower the dense columns of the enemy preparing for the assault. With the following harangue he endeavored to animate his desponding troops:

"Old Wamba has triumphed only where he met little resistance. He finds that be has now to deal with solid walls, and with hearts still more impregnable than those walls, and he begins to discover big natural cowardice. He has brought his whole force against us. Let us now rush upon them, and destroy the handful of men we see before us, and we can march unopposed from Nismes to Toledo."

But the soldiers could not be induced to make a sally. They preferred to fight behind their ramparts, replying to Paulus, "These Goths are no cowards." For five hours the battle raged, the besieged defending themselves with all the fury of despair. But at length the gates were set on fire, the walls scaled, and, after a short but terrific struggle in the streets, the troops of Wamba remained in undisturbed possession of the city. There was but little mercy shown the insurgents. The avenger pursued them everywhere, and the streets were clogged with the gory bodies of the dead. Paulus, in disguise, hid in the immense vaults beneath the amphitheatre. There he crouched, through the long night, enduring pangs more bitter than death.

In the morning, Wamba, who had pitched his tent at some distance from the walls, entered the gates, and gave orders that no more blood should be shed. The inhabitants who survived crowded around him in abject submis- [63] sion, imploring pardon. Paulus was discovered, dragged from his retreat, and led into the presence of his conqueror. His courage had now vanished entirely, and, in utter humiliation, he prostrated himself at the feet of Wamba, pleading for life.

"Thy life and those of thy companions," said Wamba, " I have promised to spare, though ye deserve not the indulgence."

He then condemned Paulus and his surviving generals to have their heads shaven, and to be consigned to perpetual confinement in one of the monasteries of Toledo. After devoting some time to the reparation of the ruins of Nismes, and having pacified the whole of Gothic Gaul, deposing some governors and appointing others, Wamba returned to Toledo. His entrance into his capital was in imitation of the old Roman triumphs. A large number of captives preceded him, their chins and heads shaven, their feet bare, and clothed in the coarsest garments, made of camel's hair. Paulus occupied a conspicuous position, having a leathern crown placed derisively upon his brow, and being surrounded with mock homage. After enduring for hours the jeers of the populace, and all the mental anguish which insult and contempt could inflict, he was sent to pass the remainder of his days in the cells of a cloister.


[Illustration]

THE TRIUMPH OF WAMBA AND TEH HUMILIATION OF PAULUS.

Tranquillity being thus secured, Wamba devoted all his energies to the promotion of the welfare of his subjects. The prosperity of Spain was greatly advanced during his vigorous and sagacious sway. Education was encouraged, purity of religion countenanced, and all the arts of industry fostered. The foresight of the monarch was so remarkable that, in anticipation of the invasion of the Saracens, he had a large fleet constructed for the defense of the [64] Spanish coasts. The wisdom of this caution was soon manifest. The fleet was just equipped for battle when, in the year 677, a powerful army of the Saracens, crowding one hundred and seventy barques, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar from Africa, and attempted to effect a landing in Spain. These fierce barbarians, called Arabs in their Oriental haunts, but taking the name of Saracens and Moors in Europe, had already overrun nearly the whole of Northern Africa, holding many nations in subjection by the terror of their arms. But the fleet of Wamba advanced to meet them, and the wolfish assailants were driven back to Africa with great slaughter.

The end of Wamba was curious indeed, and singularly illustrative of the superstitions of that day. From the beginning of the fifth century the custom had prevailed that, when any one was dying, he should assume the tonsure and the monkish habit, thus devoting himself to the service of God as a priest for the remainder of his life. This became gradually the universal custom, so that a man would be deemed infamous, and an infidel, who should neglect to make this preparation, sanctified by the Church, to meet God in judgment. From these vows there was no release, so that, if one chanced to recover, the vows made under such solemn circumstances could not be annulled. If the dying man were too far gone to take the monastic vow for himself, his friends assumed the obligation for him, and, though in a state of perfect insensibility, his head was shaven, he was clothed in the monastic robes, and the rite was considered equally binding as if it had been assumed at his own request. Of course, under ordinary circumstances, both the dying and their friends were very careful not to assume these vows unless it were very evident that death was at hand.

[65] Wamba, in the midst of all the vigor of his administration, wielding, with almost unparalleled energy and sagacity the sceptre of empire, had a severe fainting-fit, in which he appeared to all to be dying. In great alarm his friends gathered around him, expecting every moment to see him breathe his last. His head was hastily shorn, the monastic garb placed upon him, and he was invested with all the sacredness of the priesthood. He however revived, and in twenty-four hours was as well as ever. But the irretrievable deed was done. The king was a monk, and from those monkish vows there was no escape but at the peril of his soul. Indeed, had he disregarded them, the whole Christian world would have regarded him as an apostate, stained with the most awful perjury of which a mortal soul could be guilty. Wamba, piously inclined, doubtless regarded the event as providential, as indicative of the divine will. We hear no murmurs from his lips. Submissively he entered the cloister, and passed the remainder of his days in solitude, fastings, penance, and prayer.

A council was convened in Toledo of clerical fathers and nobles of the laity, and Ervigius, whom Wamba had nominated, was declared king. But the affections of the people still lingered around Wamba. To court favor, Ervigius granted unconditional pardon to all who had taken up arms against Wamba in the rebellion of Duke Paulus, and remitted all taxes due to the treasury. To secure the crown in his family, he united his daughter in marriage with Ejica, a brother of Wamba. When he died, after an inglorious reign of five years, Ejica succeeded to the throne. There were at that time in Spain many Jews who, though they had, through compulsion, received the rite of baptism, still, in heart, held to the faith of their fathers, and, [66] groaning under the oppression they endured, longed for deliverance. They were, of course, eager to engage in any enterprises of rebellion which promised them relief.

The Jews were accused, and probably with reason, of entering into a conspiracy with their brethren in Africa, who, in confederacy with the Saracens, agreed to invade Spain, and, by overthrowing the Gothic power there, were to establish the Saracenic sway, under which the Jews were to enjoy toleration. Alarmed by the whisperings of danger which reached his ears, the king summoned a council. The bishops, appointed by him, and regarded as officers of his Government, were of course submissive to his will. By this council it was decreed that any baptized Jew who should relapse should be consigned to perpetual slavery, and that the children of the Jews, when seven years of age, should be taken from them, and educated under the protection of Christians appointed for that purpose. After an energetic but intolerant reign of about thirteen years, Ejica died, and his son, Witiza, received the diadem.

The new king was one of those monsters of depravity who have occasionally appeared upon almost every throne, converting the palace into a harem of debauchery which neither Sodom nor Gomorrah could outvie. He was unblushing in his vices, filling his saloons with concubines; and it is recorded that he became so lost to all sense of shame that he even published an edict authorizing all his subjects, ecclesiastical as well as lay, to take as many concubines as they could obtain. The remonstrances of the Pope he rejected with contempt. The utter dissoluteness of his life is indicated by the innumerable and incredible stories to his disadvantage with which the ancient annals are filled. He placed his own creatures in episcopal [67] chairs, vice rather than virtue constituting a recommendation. It is recorded that he murdered the Duke of Biscay with his own hand, that he put out the eyes of the Duke of Cordova, and that finally one of the sons of this duke raised a rebellion, and, by the aid of a Gallic alliance, dethroned Witiza, and, having torn out his eyes, threw the wretched tyrant into a dungeon, where he perished no one knows when or how.

In the year 709 Roderic ascended the Gothic throne of Spain. The sons of Witiza repaired to Africa, and engaged the co-operation of the Saracens to wrest the throne from Roderic. The Goths had now become greatly enervated by luxury; a voluptuous climate, and a fertile soil requiring but little labor. There were also in Spain the two numerous classes of Jews and slaves, eager to join any invading host whose banners promised emancipation. On the 30th of April, 711, the Saracens landed, in great force, at the foot of the rock of Gibraltar, then called Calpe. This embarkation led to results which occupy a very prominent place in the history of Spain. The governor of this province of Andalusia, terrified by the apparition, wrote to Roderic for help.

"A horde of Africans," said he, "have just landed on our coasts, so strange in appearance that one might take them as much for inhabitants of the sky as of the earth. They suddenly assailed me. I resisted as well as I could their entrance into the country, but their number and impetuosity have prevailed. In spite of my efforts, they are now encamped on our soil. Send me more troops without a moment's delay. Collect all who can bear arms. So urgent is the occasion that I consider even your own presence necessary."

[68] The king immediately dispatched a large cavalry force to the aid of his general. Tarik, the leader of the Saracens, as an indication of his confidence, and to prevent his followers from thinking of retreat, burned his ships. The Christians and the Moors soon met again upon the field of battle. The Christians were again vanquished, and the Moorish horsemen swept the country in all directions, gratifying their passions of lust and cruelty, and plundering without restraint. Roderic was now thoroughly alarmed, and, at the head of his whole force, amounting to ninety thousand men, marched to meet the invaders. He first caught sight of their banners as they were drawn up in challenge of battle, upon the western banks of the Guadalette, about six miles from Cadiz. The Saracen army consisted of but thirty thousand men, but they were all picked soldiers, veterans in war, and accustomed to victory.

In the earliest dawn of the morning, with clash of weapons, and whoops of war which rent the skies, the two armies rushed upon each other. Through the long hours of one of the hottest of July days, until the sun sank below the horizon, the battle was waged with unabated fury, neither party gaining any decided advantage. Night alone separated the combatants. As soon as the light of another morning appeared, the warriors sprang to their arms, and renewed the fight. Again, through the hours of another summer's day, with crash of armor and cry of onset, the bloody surges of battle swept to and fro, till the gloom of another night rendered it impossible to distinguish friend from enemy. The exhausted hosts slept upon their arms, but to renew the battle with increasing frenzy as soon as the rays of the third morning appeared in the east. It was nearly noon of this third day ere the battle was decided.

[69] Tarik, recognizing the Gothic king by his pompous surroundings, called upon a few of his most resolute warriors to follow him, and, plunging through the thickest of the enemy's squadrons, cut down Roderic with his own scimeter. The Christians, whose diminished ranks were already wavering, now turned and fled. The victory of the Moors was complete. Thus ended the monarchy of the Goths in Spain, after one of the longest-fought battles recorded in history. The native tribes of Spain had first passed under the dominion of all-conquering Carthage. The Roman legions next took possession of the peninsula. After the lapse of a few centuries the Goths drove the Romans from the land, and established the Gothic kingdom in Spain. And now their dominion is at an end, and the Moorish sway commences.

Theodomir, with the fragments of the Gothic army, fled to the mountains of Granada, and, for a time, kept up a sort of guerrilla warfare which merely annoyed the foe without checking his career of conquest. The Crescent of the Moslem was soon floating victorious over the towers of Malaga, Cordova, and Toledo. Tarik, having made a triumphant entrance into the capital of Spain, exultingly took possession of the 'royal palace, where, it is said, he found twenty-five crowns of gold, each of which had decorated the brow of some one of the Gothic kings who had preceded him.

Damascus was at this time the Mohammedan capital, where the Caliph Walid was enthroned, who extended the sceptre, both of temporal and spiritual power, over the whole Moslem world. Muza was the governor, or emir, as he was called, who reigned over the subjugated provinces of Northern Africa. From his ports he had sent the expedi- [70] tion into Spain, under the command of Tarik, who was one of his generals. The marvellous renown which Tarik was gaining by his conquest alarmed the jealousy of Muza, and he hastened in person to Spain to assume the command and reap himself the harvest of glory.

He landed upon the peninsula with a large re-enforcement, and, seeking to outdo his successful general, immediately laid siege to Seville, which in one month he reduced. Thence entering Lusitania, he advanced in a career of unchecked conquest until he arrived before the almost impregnable battlements of the ancient city of Merida. Here the Goths, behind ramparts which ages had reared and strengthened, made a desperate stand. The conflict was long, and very bloody, but at length the city capitulated, and the Crescent supplanted the Cross upon the towers of this renowned capital of Old Spain. Among the hostages surrendered upon this occasion there was the widow of Roderic. The head of that unfortunate king had already been sent to Damascus as one of the trophies of victory.

From Merida, Muza hastened to Toledo, where he established his court, and devoted himself to the consolidation of his power over the vast kingdom his arms had won. But there was a feud daily growing more bitter between Muza and Tarik, which at last became so unrelenting, each being sustained by his troops, that the strife reached the ears of the caliph, and he summoned them both to appear before his throne in Damascus. This summons was a terrible disappointment to Muza, for, intoxicated with success, he had formed the ambitious plan of conquering Gaul, Italy, and Germany; of marching down the valley of the Danube, subduing and plundering, to the Euxine Sea; thence to advance to Constantinople, and overthrow the [71] Greek Empire there. He was not, however, sufficiently strong to resist the imperial mandate, and relinquishing, for a time, all these visions of glory, he intrusted the command of Spain to his oldest son, Abdelasis, and sadly turned his steps, through his African provinces, towards Syria.

He returned, however, with the pomp of a conqueror. Many thousand captives followed in his train, among whom there appeared four hundred Gothic nobles splendidly apparelled. He also conveyed in his army-chests enormous treasure to propitiate his master. It was near the close of the year 714 when Muza approached Damascus. But Walid was then upon the bed of death, and in a few days after the arrival of Muza he was conveyed to the tomb. Suleyman, a brother of the departed caliph, ascended the Moslem throne. He, being bitterly hostile to Muza, cast him into prison, ordered him to be scourged, and inflicted upon him a fine, prodigious in those days, amounting to four hundred thousand dollars.

Suleyman then sent secret orders to Spain for the deposition and death of Abdelasis, who had married the widow of Roderic, and who was energetically bringing the whole of the peninsula into subjection to his sway. The unsuspecting prince was poniarded by assassins as he was assisting at morning prayers in the mosque at Seville. His head was cut off and sent to the caliph, in proof that his commission had been faithfully executed. Suleyman inhumanly exhibited the gory trophy to Muza, asking him if he recognized the features. The grief-stricken father uttered a cry of anguish, and soon sank into his grave. Sad as was his fate, it is the general testimony of the historians of that day that he merited no pity. In his conquering career, he had proved a monster of rapacity and cruelty, [72] and he was plotting still more awful inflictions of woe upon the nations.

Upon the assassination of Abdelasis, the Arab chiefs chose Ayub, a nephew of Muza, as governor, or emir, of Spain. He was eminently a just and merciful man, and his sway was alike acceptable to Christian and Moslem. But the caliph was indignant that the sheiks should assume the power of appointing the emir, and he immediately deposed Ayub and appointed Alhaur to the vice-royal dignity. The rapacity of the new governor was boundless. It was a prominent object of his administration to extort money from the province, not only to enrich himself; but that, by transmitting vast sums to the caliph, he might retain his favor. But at length complaints so loud and bitter were uttered by both Spaniards and Moors that Alhaur was replaced by Alsama.

The new emir, gathering a large army, of which he took the command, crossed the Pyrenees, captured Narbonne, and, advancing to Toulouse, laid siege to the city. The garrison made a vigorous sortie from the walls, and, aided by re-enforcements from a distance, after a bloody battle repelled the Moors. The emir himself; a large number of his sheiks, and many thousands of his soldiers, were left dead upon the plain. The shattered army, under the efficient leadership of Abderaman, a lieutenant of the emir, effected a retreat to Narbonne. Here Abderaman was chosen emir, and the choice was confirmed by the home Government. Emir now succeeded emir in rapid succession, and, as a general rule, oppression, outrage, and violence filled the land.

After a lapse of years, Abderaman, who had conducted the retreat from Gaul, and who, after temporarily occupy- [73] ing the post of emir, had been deposed, was reinstated in that office. He made preparations, such as had never been formed before, for the invasion and the conquest of Gaul. It was his intention to carry the banner of the Prophet in triumph through Europe; and all Europe was in dismay in view of a menace so terrible, accompanied by a force which, apparently, there was no power in Christendom able to resist.

He commenced his march across the Pyrenees with such an armament as had not been seen since the days of Attila. An army of fiends could not perpetrate greater atrocities than marked their progress. There was no conceivable outrage which these barbaric hordes did not inflict upon suffering humanity. The blaze of dwellings, the blood of the slain, the shrieks of matrons and maidens accompanied their steps. They speedily took possession of all the provinces of Southern and Central France, advancing even to the banks of the Loire. It is not known how numerous they were, but, according to some accounts, the bannered host amounted to three hundred thousand.

The renowned Charles Martel, mayor of the Franks, gathered throughout Northern Gaul, Belgium, and Germany a select army, though by no means equal to that of the Saracens, and offered them battle on the extended plain between Tours and Poitiers, both of which cities were in possession of the foe. The date of this important battle is not with certainty known, though it was probably in the year 733. The battle was long and bloody, equal desperation being displayed by both parties. But at length the tide of victory set in favor of the Franks. But the darkness of night now enveloped the combatants, and, repairing to their tents, they slept upon their arms.

[74] When the morning dawned the Franks prepared to renew the struggle. The white tents of the Arabs still covered the plain, extending as far as the eye could reach. But they were silent and solitary. The victory of the Franks proved far more signal than they had imagined. The leader of the Saracens, Abderaman, was slain, and the slaughter of his troops had been enormous. Historians assert, probably with much exaggeration, that three hundred thousand of the Franks and the Saracens were left dead upon the field. In the darkness of the night the thinned and bleeding battalions of the foe stole from their tents, and silently commenced a precipitate retreat. They indulged in no delay for refreshment or repose until their drooping banners disappeared through the southern defiles of the Pyrenees. Christendom was thus saved from the ravages of the Moslem; and throughout all Christian Europe the churches were thronged with worshippers returning thanks to Heaven for their almost miraculous deliverance. It is impossible now to conceive of the enthusiasm which this marvellous victory excited throughout Christendom. It was from this renowned battle that Charles acquired the title of Martel, or the Hammer.

Abdelmelic was appointed to succeed Abderaman, and was ordered by the caliph immediately to invade Gaul anew, that the dishonor which had befallen the Moslem arms might be retrieved. He made the attempt, but the Frank "Hammer" fell upon him with such sturdy blows that his hosts were dispersed, and in wildest route, hotly pursued, fled through the defiles of the mountains. With these disasters the hopes of the Saracens for the conquest of Gaul were terminated.

The Moors established their capital at Cordova. A few [75] Christians had fled to the extreme northern province of Asturias, washed by the Bay of Biscay, where they were essentially unmolested, simply because they were not worth the trouble of subduing in the midst of their mountain fastnesses. For twenty years there was civil war among the Moors, emir contending against rival emir, and the Moors were consumed and weakened by their own swords. The mass of those called Christians in those days had even less of the spirit of piety than the irreligious masses of those who are merely nominal Christians now. There were then, as now, many sincere followers of Jesus Christ, possessing his spirit. But the multitude of the people denominated Christians merely because they belonged to a nation called Christian were, in intelligence and virtue, but slightly, if at all, superior to the Moors.

The Spanish people now consisted of an amalgamation and a conglomerate of the aboriginal Spanish tribes, the Greek colonists, the Carthaginians and Roman conquerors, and of the innumerable Gothic rations, Vandals, Huns, Alans, Suevi, and Visigoths, who had in successive waves surged over the land.

While the Moors were engaged in their domestic broils, sweeping the wretched realm with incessant storms of battle, desolating provinces with fire and blood, the Christians in Asturias were gradually increasing in numbers, concentrating their strength, and planting the germs of a new kingdom, which in its growth was destined to expel the Moors from Spain. Alphonso I., an elected sovereign of this little band, enlarged his domains by invading and annexing a large portion of the adjacent provinces of Galicia and Leon.

The civil war which had distracted the Moors in Spain pervaded the whole Moslem world. About the middle of [76] the eighth century there were two rival caliphs struggling against each other with the most implacable ferocity. The Mohammedans of Arabia rallied around Ali; those of Syria sustained Moavias. From this conflict is to be dated the schism which still separates the Turks from the Persians. The caliphs of Damascus and the caliphs of Bagdad long waged against each other inexorable war.

About forty years had now elapsed since the conquest of the peninsula by the Moors, and during that time twenty different emirs had swayed the sceptre of Moslem power in Spain. Bagdad was now struggling against Damascus; and Spain was the theatre of unspeakable horrors, as two emirs there, each at the head of a powerful army, were fighting for the supremacy. Some of the more judicious of the sheiks, conscious of the ruin which this strife must secure, formed the plan to break away entirely from both the caliphs and to establish an independent monarchy in Spain. There was a fugitive prince, named Abderaman, who had escaped from the general massacre of his kindred in Damascus, and, through the wildest adventures, had reached Mauritania, in Northern Africa. A deputation was sent to offer him the crown. The heroic prince, though fully informed of the difficulties and perils he must encounter, promptly accepted the proposal.

"Noble deputies," said he, "I will unite my destiny with yours. I will go and fight with you. I fear neither adversity nor the dangers of war. If I am young, misfortune, I hope, has proved me, and never yet found me wanting."

In the year 755, Abderaman, accompanied by seven hundred and fifty Moorish horsemen, young men who had enthusiastically espoused his cause, landed on the coast of [77] Andalusia. He was received with general acclamations, and his march to Seville was a continued triumph. An army of twenty thousand now surrounded his banner. He advanced to Cordova, the Moorish capital. A terrific battle was fought beneath its walls, and Cordova capitulated. A few more conflicts terminated the strife, and in less than a year Abderaman was in undisputed possession of Spain. He devoted himself with great energy to the promotion of the welfare of Spain, and especially to the beautifying of his capital of Cordova. He introduced the palm into the peninsula, and the amiability of his character is indicated by the exclamation he is said to have uttered when he first contemplated one of those Oriental trees in the garden of his palace.

"Beautiful palm," said he, "thou art, like me, a stranger here. But the western breezes kiss thy branches, thy roots strike into a fertile soil, and thy head rises into a pure sky. Like me, too, wouldst thou weep, if thou hadst the same cares. But thou fearest not the chances of evil to which I am exposed. Beautiful palm, thou canst not regret thy country."

Though the Moorish monarchy was now established, peace was of but short duration. Conspiracies and insurrections succeeded each other without intermission. But the royal arms were victorious, and, as the years advanced, the royal authority became more confirmed and extended. But a new foe suddenly appeared, menacing the Moorish king with peril greater than had as yet assailed him.

The feeble Christian nation, cooped up in the mountains of Asturias, Leon, and Catalonia, sent an embassage to Charlemagne, urging him to co-operate with them in driving the Moors from Spain. They offered to recognize his [78] feudal supremacy should success crown their efforts. Charlemagne dispatched a powerful army, in two columns, through the defiles of the Pyrenees. The renowned monarch of the Franks, whose fame was filling the world, in person headed the division which penetrated Navarre. Pampeluna surrendered at his summons. Levelling the walls with the ground, he advanced to Saragossa, where he effected a junction with the other wing of his army, and the whole country from the Ebro to the Pyrenees acknowledged his supremacy. It is not improbable that he might have pressed on in his career of conquest until the whole of the peninsula had been brought into subjection to his sway, had not a revolt of the Saxons arrested him, and compelled him to retrace his steps.

As Charlemagne retired, the troops of Abderaman advanced, and again took possession of the country thus vacated by the foe. Under the reign of Abderaman, Spain consisted of six great provinces—Toledo, Merida, Saragossa, Valencia, Granada, and Murcia. The king, as advancing years admonished him that the close of his reign drew nigh, summoned the governors of these provinces, and other leading men, in council, and secured the nomination of his youngest and best-beloved son as his successor. By the virtues of his reign he merited the surname of The Just, which was conferred upon him. From all Spain the Mohammedans made annual pilgrimages to Cordova, as the Oriental Moslems were accustomed to repair to Mecca. He commenced a magnificent mosque, the remains of which, more than six hundred feet long and two hundred feet wide, and supported by three hundred columns of alabaster, jasper, and marble, still excite the admiration of every visitor. To this grand edifice there were twenty-four doors [79] of bronze, covered with golden sculpture. The mosque was illumined every night by five thousand lamps. Abderaman, uniting in his own person both the civil and sacerdotal authority, regulated the ceremonies of the Mohammedan religion, which were celebrated at Cordova with the utmost pomp and magnificence.

Though the Moorish sovereign sagaciously refrained from persecuting the Christians, he was the unrelenting foe of their faith. He encouraged marriages between the Moors and the Spaniards, and in various indirect ways successfully opposed the advancement of Christianity. It is said that he so far brought the Christians of Asturias into subjection to his sway, as to compel them to pay him abundant tribute. It is a fact illustrative of the mental darkness and the social immorality of those times that a hundred beautiful Christian girls composed a portion of this tribute. After a brilliant reign of thirty years, Abderaman died, A.D. 788, and his son Hixem succeeded to the crown.

Though nearly all Spain hailed with acclamations the elevation of Hixem to the throne, his two elder brothers revolted, and at the head of an army of fifteen thousand men attempted the deposition of the king. After a few battles the rebellion was crushed, and the royal authority was effectually established. This success inspired the young monarch with new ambition, and be organized two expeditions, one for the entire subjugation of the Christians in Asturias, and the other for the conquest of Gaul. In both enterprises he was unsuccessful. The Christians drove his troops, thoroughly beaten, out from their mountainous domain, and the army which penetrated Gaul, after advancing as far as Narbonne, plundering without mercy, met one of the armies of Charlemagne, before whom they [80] were compelled to retreat precipitately, though they carried with them across the Pyrenees an immense amount of booty.

These signal defeats proved a salutary lesson to Hixem, and he now devoted himself to the arts of peace. He thus won the gratitude of his subjects, and died universally lamented, after a reign of but seven years, A.D. 796. His son Alhakem succeeded him. A fierce tempest instantly burst upon the young sovereign. His two uncles, with immense resources, rose in stern revolt, claiming the rights of primogeniture. At the same time the Franks invaded the northern provinces of his kingdom. The rebellious uncles were soon crushed. But the Spaniards of Asturias joined the Franks, and a long and bloody war ensued, with varying success. Alhakem gradually developed a character of the most debasing licentiousness, and the most pitiless cruelty. Tortured with the apprehension of assassination, the slightest suspicion doomed the suspected to death. Blood flowed in torrents, and the frown of the king caused all Cordova to tremble. He died, universally execrated, A.D. 821.


 Table of Contents  |  Index  | Previous: Roman and Gothic Spain  |  Next: The Conflict Between Moors and Christians
Copyright (c) 2000-2017 Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.