EXULTING over his victory over the Moors, the Marquis of Cadiz pined for greater triumphs. He fixed
his eye on Malaga, the great seaport on the Mediterranean, where the foreign trade of the
Moors was carried on. This would be a nobler prize than Alhama.
Malaga was divided from Antequera, where the marquis mustered his force, by a ridge of
lofty and rugged mountains, cut at intervals by rocky valleys and the beds of dead rivers,
which were the only passes. On either side of these valleys and gulches cliffs rose,
sometimes with very steep sides; from these cliffs great pieces of rock and bowlders,
detached by storm or earthquake, had rolled down, parŽtially blocking the path at their
base. It was over this difficult road that Ponce de Leon led his men to the attack of
Malaga. It was a road almost impassable for cavalry.
He had hoped to get through the mountains and to reach the plain on which Malaga stands
before the Moors discovered his purpose; but it seems they were informed of it before he
set out; for on the second night, as his army in close file was slowly and painfully
working its way through a narrow pass, man and horse stumbling over the rough stones, and
sometimes tumbling into clefts by the road-side, lights flashed out on the top of the
heights above the pass, and a shower of stones and darts rained upon the Christians. In a
little while they found they could neither advance nor retreat, for the narrow pass was
blocked in front of them and behind them with the bodies of the soldiers who had been
killed by the stones and darts.
 When day dawned they found that they were caught in a trap. They were being slowly cut off
by an enemy at whom they could not strike back.
A guide pretended to show them another pass through the range, but it was no better than
the first. The Moors were still above them on the top of crags, pelting them with boulders
and fragments of rock. After vainly trying to find a safe road in any direction, the army
scattered, and every man sought safety for himself. Numbers of them were lost and perished
miserably in the rocks; some fell over precipices, some were killed, others made prisoners
by the Moors. And so ended the wretched expedition against Malaga.
But though the Moors won the day, they had cares enough from another source to prevent
their being extravagantly happy. Muley Abul Hassan had two wives. One, Ayesha, was of his
own kin, and was the wife of his youth. She had a son named Boabdil, who at the time of
the rupture with the Christians was grown up. The other wife, Zoraya, had been a
Christian, taken prisoner in battle; she was surpassingly beautiful, and became the
sultan's favorite. She had two sons, who were babies; but she hoped they would grow up to
succeed their father, while Ayesha, who was jealous of Zoraya, determined that her son
Boabdil should succeed.
When Muley Abul Hassan returned baffled from Albama, he was received at Granada with
groans and curses. The old dervish went round predicting disaster more shriekingly than
ever. The king, wearied with the clamor, went with Zoraya to a country-house in search of
peace. He had only spent a few hours there when, just at nightfall, he heard a strange
sound rising from Granada like the gathering of a storm. Presently a messenger, who had
ridden at wild speed, told him that a rebellion had broken out in the city, and that the
people had proclaimed his son, Boabdil, king in his stead.
As full of fight as ever, the king put himself at the head
 of his guards, and with his vizier, Abul Cacim, tried to break into the Alhambra, but was
driven back and chased out of the city.
"God is great," said he; "let us bow to what is written in the book of fate."
So he rode off to a castle where he had friends, and left his son on the throne at
Granada. Just to show that he was not dead, he headed a foray into the territory of the
Duke of Medina Sidonia, and carried off booty and cattle.
This set the Granadans to murmuring at the sloth of their new king, Boabdil, whom they
called The Little; and the king's mother, Ayesha, who had spurred him to seize his
father's throne, joining in reproaching him for his sluggishness, he resolved to do
something for glory. He called his men to arms, nine thousand of them in all, and among
them the flower of the Moorish chivalry. His mother girded on his cimeter with her own
hands, and when his wife cried at the parting, the fierce old woman rebuked her:
"Why dost thou weep? These tears become not the daughter of a warrior, nor the wife of a
king. Believe me, there often lurks more danger for a monarch within the strong walls of a
palace than within the frail curtains of a tent."
Boabdil sallied forth from Granada in grand array. His horse was black and white; on his
breast he wore a steel corselet with gold nails, and on his head a steel casque richly
engraved. On his back he bore a shield; over his saddle hung a cimeter of Damascus, and in
his hand he carried a long lance. But the troops, who admired his fine appearance, were
rather taken aback when a fox ran out of a thicket and scurried through the ranks of the
army, pressing close to the king without being touched by any of the missiles which were
thrown at it. Like the Spaniards, the Moors were superstitious. They marched swiftly,
however, and presently, having been reinforced by Ali Atar, Boabdil's father-in-law, a
veteran of nearly ninety, who
 had spent his life in fighting the Christians, they came to a stand over against the
Christian town of Lucena.
They had been seen coming. On the night of April 20th, 1483, as Don Diego de Cordova,
Count of Cabra, was going to bed, his watchman brought him word that the beacon-fires were
lit on the mountain-tops. He knew what this meant. There was no rest that night in his
castle of Vaena, or in the town adjoining. By daylight the count marched forth at the head
of fifteen hundred men, taking the direction of the frontier. Word soon reached him that
Lucena was the place threatened, and he made for it with all speed. When he got there he
found the Moors gone. They had collected such a quantity of plunŽder that they had started
homeward to divide it. Ninety-year-old Ali wanted to burn Lucena and slay all the people;
but the soldiers preferred saving their booty to fighting.
The Count of Cabra, not paying the least heed to those who warned him that the Moors were
six or seven times as numerous as his force, and who wanted him to wait for
reinforcements, spurred after them. He found them in a valley near a little stream which
the heavy rain had swollen into a torrent. They were eating their dinner with great
"By Santiago," said the count, "if we had waited for reinforcements the Moors would have
And he flung his cavaliers on the enemy. It is not easy to understand the battle, or how
fifteen hundred Christians could overcome nine thousand Moors. I suppose the latter were
badly handled, and that Boabdil did not understand the business of war. Many of the Moors
thought they had got what they wanted, and that the best thing was to go home. As the
battle began a dense fog settled on the field, and it seems to have confused the Moors
more than the Christians. The former fought with their backs to the torrent I have
mentioned; when they were pushed they backed into the torrent, lost their footing, and
 were drowned. In this and other ways the battle was lost.
King Boabdil fell back with the others; his horse being shot, he was on foot. Afraid that
his grand costume would attract shots or arrows, he hid in a clump of willows, where he
remained until a Spanish cavalier detected him. He cried for quarter, saying that he was a
man of family and would pay a rich ransom. A quarrel then arose between the soldiers as to
whose prisoner he was; but the Count of Cabra happening to ride up, the king surrendered
to him, without, however, saying who he was. The count accepted him, put a red band round
his neck to signify that he was a prisoner, and sent him off under escort to his quarters.
It was not till three days afterwards that the count knew that his prisoner was the King
On the day after the battle the Moorish people of Loxa, who had been straining their eyes
all day for the return of the king and his army, saw one horseman approaching on the
borders of the Xenil. When he reached the city his horse, which had carried him swiftly so
far, fell dead. The rider's face was so sad that at first no one dared accost him. At last
an old man asked:
"How fares it with the king and the army?"
"There they lie!" answered the horseman, pointing to the hills. "All lost! all dead!"
And he mounted another horse, while the people wailed; he shook his head and rode on and
on to Granada. There he told his wretched story to the people; and still riding on and on,
he did not draw rein till he stood at the Gate of Justice, in the Alhambra.
The wife of Boabdil flung herself on the ground, weeping, and had to be carried to her
apartments; but the stern old mother shed never a tear. She only said:
"It is the will of Allah."
The minstrels came with their lutes to sing and play for the harem, but their song was
attuned to the sorrows of the hour. They sang:
 "Beautiful Granada! Why is the Alhambra so lorn and desolate? The orange and myrtle still
breathe their perfumes into its silken chambers; the nightingale still sings within its
groves; its marble halls are still refreshed with the plash of fountains and the gush of
liquid rills. Alas! alas! The countenance of the king no longer shines within these halls.
The light of the Alhambra is set forever."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics