Copyright
Albert Frederick Calvert.

Southern Spain online

. (page 2 of 13)
Online LibraryAlbert Frederick CalvertSouthern Spain → online text (page 2 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


traffic can pass. It is amazingly dark in the summer,
when awnings are drawn right across it from roof to
roof, and penetrating into it from the sunny plaza, it is
a little time before you can accustom your eyes to the
" shadow. Here are the best shops, the banks, and those
elegant and ostentatious casinos, where the aristocracy
and leisured class lounge and smoke, and survey at
their ease the unceasing procession of passers by.

13



Southern Spain

There are caf6s here of a different sort, some of which
are frequented by the bull-fighters and their admirers.
Here too may be seen in all his glory that peculiar
type of Andalusian, the " Majo," a curious blend of
the English " masher " the " sporting man " and the
" troubadour " ! The people sit in the caf(^s to see
the others pass, and the others walk down the street to
see the people in the cafes. This is a form of amuse-
ment and exercise common on the Continent, and
acclimatized already at our English seaside towns.
Selling lottery tickets is a great industry in the Sierpes,
the sale of tickets for the next Corrida de toros even
more so. The boot-blacking saloons remind the
American visitor of his native land. For his delecta-
tion the New Tork Herald is displayed in the windows
of the few booksellers. There is nothing about this
gay little thoroughfare to remind us of the past. The
history of Seville is more easily recoverable by the
fancy, when you are seated by the Guadalquivir, in
sight of the Torre del Oro, on the spot perhaps where
George Borrow, in an unwonted fit of hysteria, wept
over the beauty of the scene before him.

Phoenician, Carthaginian, Roman, Vandal, Goth,
and Moor — the city has known them all and outlived
them all. There seems to have been a settlement of
the Turdetani here, before the first Phoenicians came.
The name at all events was bestowed by the Tyrian
traders, if it is really derived from " sephela," a plain.
Then came the Carthaginians, whom the Spaniards

14



The Pearl of Andalusia

accuse of having corrupted the pure and simple-
minded natives. The city became known to the little
world of civilization, and was spoken of by Grecian
geographers as " Ispola " and " Hispalis." The
terrible Hamilcar reduced the greater part of Spain to
the Punic yoke. He and his successor Hasdrubal
filled Andalusia with their massive ungainly fortresses.
Salambo, the Semitic Venus, was worshipped on the
banks of the Guadalquivir. From time to time, we
doubt not, human sacrifices stained the altars of Baal.
One wonders if the descendants of the Carthaginians
became identified with the other great Semitic people,
and passed as Jews. Certainly it is otherwise a little
difficult to account for the presence in Spain of the
Israelites in such numbers at a very early period.

The Carthaginians fought hard for the province of
Baetica, but Punic force and fraud were alike power-
less before the sword of Scipio. The dominion of the
province of Iberia passed to Rome. When the con-
quering hero turned his face homewards to claim his
triumph, he was mindful of his warworn veterans.
For them the journey back to Italy was too long and
wearisome ; they were content to die in the land they
had conquered. Outside Hispalis a place of rest and
refreshment was found for them in the village ol
Sancios. Scipio laid there the foundation of a colony,
bestowed it on his veterans, and named it Italica, in
memory of their fatherland. And thus was founded
the first Latin-speaking settlement outside Italy. It

15



Southern Spain

lies — all that remains of it — on the slopes of the hills
that bound the prospect westwards.

Hispalis, not overshadowed by its new neighbour,
flourished under the Roman sway. Julius Caesar
besieged the city, which was garrisoned by Pompey's
partisans, and inscribed the date of its capture in the
calendar of the Republic (August 9, b.c. 45). His
fleet, they say, lay in the river between the Torre del
Oro and the Palace of San Telmo. The townsfolk
were devoted to him, and he renamed the place
Julia Romula. As a Roman colony the town had a
senate and consuls, ediles and censors. The wall
Cassar built endured intact until the time of Juan II.,
so that monarch wrote in his Chronicle.

While its Punic physiognomy was hard to efface,
Seville soon became in spirit a Latin town. All
Andalusia was in course of time thoroughly Roman-
ized. Seneca, Lucan, the JEYuj as most of us remember,
were Spaniards — if Spaniards could be said, as yet, to
have existed.

Then came the era of persecutions, the establish-
ment of Christianity and the disappearance of Astarte
and Baal from the forum and the temple — to be
worshipped, perhaps, for a little while longer in the
recesses of the mountains, where Islam lingered in
after times. Presently came the Vandals, and their
fury having spent itself, they made Seville their
capital, though they did noi: give their name, as some
have thought, to Andalusia. When they passed

16



The Pearl of Andalusia

over — a whole nation — to Africa, the barbarous Suevi
took possession of their old camping-ground. The
Suevian king, Recchiarus, became a Catholic, at the
persuasion of Sabinus, Bishop of Seville, in the
year 448. We next hear of him murdering the
Byzantine ambassador Censorius, in this city, and of
being defeated and slain by the Visigoths in 456.
Now comes an interregnum of seventy-five years.
The Suevi were expelled from Seville, but their con-
querors did not occupy the town. It must have been
governed by its Catholic bishops, who are spoken of
as miracles of wisdom and sanctity. Under Theudis
the Gothic king, Seville again rose to the rank of a
capital — or at any rate shared the dignity with Toledo.
Here Theudis was assassinated, and his son and
successor Theudisel also, a few months later. The
latter sovereign is described as a detestably wicked
person. He was of course an Aryan, and gave a
shocking example of his hard-hearted incredulity.
Among the hills where lies Italica is a village called
San Juan de Aznalfarache. Near this in the sixth
century was a tank which was miraculously filled once a
year, when the Catholics resorted to it to baptize their
catechumens. Theudisel had the tank, when it was
dry, thoroughly investigated, and, satisfied that it was
fed by no spring, had a lid fastened over it and sealed
with his own seal. But next Easter it was full of
water ! Not to be bafiled, the king dug a ditch to the
depth of twenty-five feet all round the tank, but found

17 3



Southern Spain

no trace of a spring. He would perhaps have gone
on digging for years had not his nobles rid the world
of so sceptical a monarch.

We come now to the days of good King Leovgild,
who consolidated the Visigothic monarchy and warred
successfully against the Greeks and barbarous Suevi.
His son, Ermengild, being sent to govern Seville, was
converted by Leander, the bishop of the city, to the
Catholic faith. The prince thought he could give no
better proof of his zeal for his new creed than by
revolting against his father. A bloody war resulted.
Ermengild was worsted and was shut up in Seville,
while his father occupied Italica and pressed him
closely. The rebels capitulated and were treated
leniently. The prince afterwards headed a second
revolt against his father, was captured and executed.
He has been enrolled among the saints of the
Catholic Church.

It is quite conceivable that a man of fanatical
temperament should feel himself called upon to effect
the conversion of his fellows to what he believes to be
the true faith, even at the cost of his kinsfolk's
blood ; but unfortunately for the Visigothic prince, his
interests so coincided with his principles that worldly
people not unnaturally suggest that the desire to wear
his father's crown had as much to do with his action
as the desire to convert his father's subjects.

When Spain from Aryan became Catholic, Seville be-
came the Metropolitan See, and Leander its Archbishop.



The Pearl of Andalusia

He was succeeded in that office by his brother Isidore,
a much better man than he, and renowned as a
doctor of the Church and writer on things generally.
But by the end of the seventh century the primacy
had passed to Toledo, and before the next century
was fourteen years old the last of the Visigoths had
reigned over Spain.

After the victory over Roderic near Jerez, Tarik, the
Moorish commander, marched straight upon Toledo.
The reduction of Seville he left to his superior officer,
Musa. The citizens offered, it is said, a stout resist-
ance, and then retired to Beja, on the other side of the
Guadiana. During the absence of the Moorish com-
mander they recovered the city, only to be dispossessed
and finally subjugated by his son, the famous Abd-el-
Aziz, the Abdalasis of Spanish story. Thenceforward
for 536 years Seville was known as Ishbiliyah, one of
the fairest cities of Islam.

When Musa was recalled to Damascus his son re-
mained beside the Guadalquivir (as the river Baetis had
now come to be called). He espoused, according to
tradition, Roderic's widow, Exilona, who, legend says,
had originally been a Moorish princess. For a brief
period he dwelt in splendour in the old Acropolis, near
where the Convent of La Trinidad now stands. But
his enemies had been busy far away at the khalifa's
court. While he was in the act of prayer in the mosque
he had built adjacent to his palace, the messenger of
death appeared. Exilona was left a second time a widow,

19



Southern Spain

and to the aged Musa was shown, months later, the
lifeless head of his valiant son. Under Abd-el-Aziz's
immediate successors the seat of government of the
latest province of the Moslem Empire was transferred
from Seville to Cordova. From all parts of the East,
but especially from Syria, men came flocking to
Andalusia. Quarrels arose as to the partition of the
conquered land between the Berbers, who had composed
the hordes of Tarik and Musa, and the new Saracen
settlers. Finally it was decreed that each tribe or
nationality should be allotted that region which bore
the most resemblance to its original place of abode.
Under this arrangement Ishbiliyah was assigned to the
people of Homs, the ancient Emesa, a Syrian town on
the Orontes. (We are reminded of the parallel between
Macedon and Monmouth.) But in the course of time
the original derivation of the Spanish Moslems was
half forgotten, and the classification was rather into
pure-blooded Arabs and Muwallads or half-breeds.

Here at Seville the young Abd-er-Rahman arrived,
to restore the empire of his forefathers, the Umeyyas,
and under these walls the horde of the Abbassides was
cut to pieces. Yet despite the prosperity she enjoyed
under the Western Khalifate, the city murmured against
Cordova, and more than once essayed to throw off the
yoke. In Abdullah's reign (888-912) a chief named
Ibrahim Ibn Hajjaj assumed semi-regal state at
Ishbiliyah. When he rode forth he was attended by
five hundred cavaliers, and he ventured to wear the

20



SEVILLE THE ACEITE GATE



The Pearl of Andalusia

tiraz, the official insignia of the amirs. He was a liberal
patron of the arts and letters. "In all the West,"
exclaimed a delighted bard, " I found no noble man but
Ibrahim, and he was nobility itself ! When you have
once lived within his shadow, to live elsewhere is
misery," Such flattery did not delude Ibrahim into
too great a confidence in his own power. He readily
submitted to the great khalifa, Abd-ur-Rahman III., by
whom the city was greatly favoured. The channel of
the Guadalquivir was narrowed and deepened, the palm-
tree introduced from Africa, and the city adorned with
gardens and fine edifices. The splendour of the court
of Cordova was reflected on Seville, which became
famous as a seat of learning. In those days flourished
Ahmed Ben Abdallah, surnamed "El Beji," or "The
Sage," the author of an Encyclopaedia of Sciences which
was long esteemed a piece of marvellous erudition.
Some strange and unexpected figures about this
time flit across the stage of Andalusian history. The
Northmen, or " Majus " as they were called by the
Arabs, appeared in the year 844 oflF Lisbon. After
spreading dismay through Lusitania they sailed their
long ships southwards to Cadiz, and disembarked.
They vanquished the khalifa's troops in three pitched
battles, and penetrating into Seville sacked the rich
city from end to end. Luckily they remained but a
day and a night, and after sustaining several desperate
attacks from the inhabitants of the country, with
varying results, they retired overland to Lisbon, where

21



Southern Spain

they re-embarked. They came again fifteen years
later, and this time sailed up the Guadalquivir, burnt
the principal mosque, and threw down the Roman
walls. Then they made sail for the eastern coasts of
Spain, where they were attacked and routed by the
Saracen fleet. An army of demons must these strange
uncouth pirates have seemed to the Andalusians, who
knew not whence they came nor to what race of men
they belonged.

On the break-up of the Western Khalifate in 1009,
the shrewd and powerful kadi, Mohammed Ben
Abbad, secured the sovereignty of the city for himself
and his descendants. He contrived to give his
usurpation the appearance of legality. He espoused
the cause of an impostor who personated the deposed
khalifa, Hisham, and pretended to govern the city in
his name. His power once firmly established, Ben
Abbad disposed of his puppet, and announced that
the khalifa was dead and had designated him his
lawful successor. For the second time Seville rose to
the rank of an independent State.

The dynasty of Abbad, emulous of the glories of
Cordova, outshone all the other rulers of Spain in
elegance and culture. The city was adorned with
beautiful gardens and buildings. Learning was held
in honour, and the amir disputed the palm with a
swarm of fellow-poets. Walking one day with his
courtiers, on these very banks of the Guadalquivir, the
Amir Mut'adid-billah observed the water lying glassy

22



The Pearl of Andalusia

beneath the waving light. He improvised a line
comparing the surface of the stream to a cuirass, and
called on the poet Aben Amr to complete the verse.
This the laureate found some difficulty in doing, and
to his chagrin he was anticipated by a girl of the
people standing by, who contributed these lines :

" A strong cuirass, magnificent in combat,
Like water frozen over."

The amir, far from resenting this intrusion of a
bystander into the royal circle, bade the girl draw
nearer and asked her name. She said that her name
was Romikiwa and that she was the slave of Romiya.
The prince then asked if she were married. The
maiden replied that she was not. " It is well," said
Mut'adid-billah, " for I propose to buy you and to
marry you." It is to be presumed that Romiya had
no objection to offer to this plan.

This monarch, the son of the first Abbadite amir,
could do other things than make verses. He was a
mighty warrior in Islam, and kept a kind of garden
planted with the skulls of his enemies, in the
contemplation of which he took great delight. With
a view to adding to his collection he made extensive
conquests in what are now the provinces of Ciudad
Real, Badajoz, and Alemtejo, and undertook successful
expeditions against Cordova and Ronda. It was the
misfortune of his son and successor, Mote'mid, to
be the contemporary of those great and vigorous

23



Southern Spain

Castilian kings, Fernando el Magno and Alfonso VI.
Conscious of the weakness of his little State, the Amir
of Ishbiliyah neglected no means of humouring his
powerful neighbour. Fernando sent an armed mission
to his court to demand the body of the holy martyr,,
Justa. But though Mote'mid eagerly extended all
the assistance in his power, no trace of the relics could
be obtained. The mission would have been obliged
to return empty-handed had not St. Isidore (the
brother of St. Leander) appeared in a dream to one of
the Christian envoys and commanded him to convey
his remains to Leon, instead of St. Justa's. The
venerable prelate's body was discovered at Italica and
carried off to the north, fragrant with balsamic odours
and wrapped in costly silks. Mote'mid loudly
lamented the loss of the remains. " Oh ! venerable
brother," he was heard to exclaim, " dost thou then
leave me .'' Thou knowest what has passed between
me and thee, and the love I bear thee. I pray thee tO'
forget me never." Very remarkable words indeed, to
fall from the lips of a Mohammedan sovereign in
reference to a Catholic saint.

In truth the Spanish Moslems of that day were
sadly wanting in zeal for their religion. " In those
days," writes an Arab chronicler, " men of virtue and
principle were rare among the people of Mohammed.
The majority scrupled not to drink wine and to give
themselves up to every kind of dissipation. The
conquerors of Andalusia disputed about their slaves

24



SEVILLE A COURTYARD



The Pearl of Andalusia

and singing girls, passing their time in debauchery and
pleasures, wasting the treasure of the State on amuse-
ment, and oppressing the people with exactions and
tributes that they might buy the friendship of the
tyrant Alfonso with costly presents. So things went
on among the quarrelsome Mussulman chiefs, until,
the conquerors and the conquered alike prostrated and
the kings and captains having lost their pristine worth,
the warriors became cowards, the people vegetated in
misery and dejection, the whole of society became
corrupt, and the lifeless, soulless body of Islam was
only a decaying carcase. The Moslems who did not
bow beneath the yoke of Alfonso consented to pay
him annual tributes, constituting themselves in this
manner mere tax collectors for the Christian king on
their own territories. Meanwhile the affairs of Islam
were directed by Jews, who obtained the offices of
wizir, hagib, and khatib, reserved in another age to
the most illustrious of the citizens. The Christians
devastated the beautiful land of Andalusia, and carried
off captives and booty, burning villages and threatening
the towns."

In pursuance of his policy of conciliation, Mote'mid
gave his daughter Zayda in marriage to Alfonso VI.,
her dowry being all the towns Mut'adid had conquered
in New Castile. Lucas of Tuy says the damsel was
taken " quasi pro uxore ut prgemissam est." But this
ambiguous union did not avert a serious rupture
between the sovereigns a year or two later. When

25 4



Southern Spain

the Castilian king sent two ambassadors to Seville to
collect his tribute, one of them, a Jew, conducted
himself so haughtily that the exasperated Moslems
stabbed him to death, letting the Christians escape
without serious injury. This outrage meant war.
Mote'mid cast about him for an ally. No help was to
be found in Spain, and with inward misgivings, no
doubt, the Abbadite amir called on the Almoravides of
Africa to uphold the cause of Islam. Warned of the
danger of this course, Mote'mid is said to have replied,
" Better be a camel driver in the African desert than a
swineherd in Castile." The Almoravides came and
routed the Christians. They returned to Africa, and
then came again, this time reducing all the petty
Mussulman States beneath their sway. In 1091
Ishbiliyah became a mere provincial centre, the seat of
a Berber governor. Mote'mid was sent in chains to
Africa, where he died four years later.

The Almoravide rule was of scant duration. Fifty-
five years later all Andalusia was annexed to the empire
of the Almohades. The third sovereign of the new
dynasty dealt what seemed a decisive blow to the allied
Christians at Alarcos in the year 1195. But the con-
querors knew not how to follow up their victory. The
Spaniards rallied, and in 12 12 was fought the battle of
" Las Navas de Tolosa." The Mussulmans were
totally defeated, and left, it is said, six hundred thousand
dead upon the field. Yet the knell of Ishbiliyah had
not yet sounded. The authority of the Almohade

26



The Pearl of Andalusia

khalifas was nominally recognized in the city sixteen
years longer. In 1228 the last of the race of Abd-ul-
Mumin to rule in Spain was expelled by the famous
Ben Hud, who was himself slain by his rival Al Ahmar,
the founder of the Nasrite dynasty of Granada, ten years
later. In their despair the people of Seville turned
once more to the African Almohades. But no new
army of Ghazis crossed the strait to do battle with
the Unbeliever. The Andalusians were left to fight
their last fight unassisted. Cordova had fallen before
St. Ferdinand, and the Sevillians provoked his anger by
the murder of one of their chiefs who was devoted to
his interests. At the eleventh hour the defence was
entrusted — strangely enough for a Mohammedan com-
munity — to a junta composed of six persons. Their
names are worth being recorded : Abu Faris Ben Hafs,
Sakkaf, Ben Shoayb, Yahya Ben Khaldun, Ben Khiyar,
and Abu Bekr Ben Sharih.

Thus driven to bay, the Moors offered a determined
resistance. They were attacked not only by the
Castilians, but by their own co-religionists ; for Al
Ahmar, the new Amir of Granada, was serving with his
followers under the banner of Ferdinand. The siege
lasted fifteen months. A fleet was brought round from
the shores of Biscay under the command of Admiral
Ramon Bonifaz. The Moorish ships were dispersed
and the chain which the defenders had stretched
across the river broken. The besieged were thus
cut off from their magazines in the suburb of Triana.

27



Southern Spain

Meanwhile all the outlying posts had been taken by the
Castilians, and the Moors were driven to take refuge
within the walls. Only when threatened with famine
did the garrison ask tor terms. They offered to
capitulate if they were allowed to destroy their prin-
cipal mosque to save it from profanation. The Infante
Alfonso replied that if a single brick was displaced, the
whole population would be put to the sword. The
terms finally accorded the besieged were, for that age,
not ungenerous. A limited number of families were
to be allowed to remain in the city, the lives and pro-
perty of these and of the rest were to be respected, and
the means of transport to Africa and other parts of the
peninsula were to be provided for those who were to
leave. Probably only a few thousand Moors remained
in Seville. Abu Faris, magnanimously declining an
honourable post offered him by the conqueror, retired
to Barbary. Thither he was followed by thousands of
his fellow-townsmen, while others accepted Al Ahmar's
invitation to settle at Granada.

Ferdinand took possession of the city on December
22, 1248. He took up his residence at the Alcazar,
and allotted houses and lands to his officers, not for-
getting even his Moorish auxiliaries. Among his first
cares was the purification of the mosque and its conversion
into a Christian church. It is interesting to note that
the first of his knights to mount the Giralda Tower was
a Scotsman named Lawrence Poore.

Seville had remained in the power of the Mussulmans

28



SEVILLE THE TORRE DEL ORO AND THE CATHEDRAL



The Pearl of Andalusia

five hundred and thirty-six years. We, who see all
Spain Spanish and remember it was so at the beginning,
are apt to look on the Moorish occupation as a mere
episode or interlude in the history of the country. It
is difficult to realize that the sway of the Crescent
lasted in Seville for as long a period as has passed with
us since the death of King Edward III.

Yet there are few monuments remaining to-day to
commemorate a civilization which endured five
centuries. The Moors have left their impress, it is
true, in a scarcely definable way on the city, the
physiognomy of which is more Oriental than that of
Granada, a later seat of Mohammedan empire. But
this is in great part due to the men who lived under
the Christian kings, who had caught the spirit of the
Moors and perpetuated their traditions of art and
culture. Here we have no such mighty memorials of
the vanished race as the Mezquita or the Alhambra.
Still, a few memorials of that far-off age there are ;
and we will go in search of them.

Here on the quays of the Guadalquivir rises a
polygonal tower of three storeys, poetically termed the
" Torre del Oro." But here we find no Danae await-
ing a rescuer, but only the harbour master and his
assistants. When the Almohades ruled in Seville a
great iron chain was drawn across the river, and a
tower built on either side to support it. The tower
on the Triana side has long since disappeared, but the


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryAlbert Frederick CalvertSouthern Spain → online text (page 2 of 13)