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surged over the city. The Moorish inhabitants,
strengthening their forces with the aid of Christians
and Jews, invited Ibrahim Ibn Humushk to lead them
to the expulsion of the new sectaries. The invaders
took refuge in the Kasba, and sought relief from




Africa, whence an army was despatched. This force
was beaten by Humushk, and the Granadines secured
the assistance of the Sultan of Murcia and Valencia,
whose troops attacked the Kasba, which was held
by the Almohades. On the arrival of a second
army, they made a sally and inflicted severe losses
upon the soldiers of the sultan and his Christian allies.
After this success, the Almohades endeavoured to
pacify the unruly among their neighbours. Their
governor, Sidi Abu Abrahim Ishak, was a tactful and
benevolent leader. He improved the city, built a
palace for himself, and made the Kasba a stronger
fortress. The power of the Almohades was, however,
insecure. Ben Hud, a potent chieftain, who had
gained a strip of territory on the coast, now discerned
that the hour was ripe for an assault upon Cordova,
Jaen, and Granada. His domination was not
permanent. Mohammed al Ahmar, uniting with the
foes of Ben Hud, held Seville for a brief space,
and then drove his rival to Almeria, where he was
murdered in 1237.

Granada now came under the sway of Al Ahmar,
and in the hour of his triumph he was proclaimed
monarch of a large part of southern Spain. For two
hundred and fifty years the State founded by him
resisted the Christian hosts. Granada rose to the
zenith of power and prosperity. Its first sultan was a
man of high character, courteous, dignified, and astute.
He reigned long, and spent himself in affairs of

113 ^5

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government and in military enterprises, though he
used every means to maintain peace.

Al Ahmar's last expedition was undertaken against
the Spanish forces and the governors of Guadix and
Malaga (their allies) when he was eighty years of age,
and failing in strength through illness. A fall from
his horse brought him to his end. He expired in the
arms of his ally, the Infante Don Felipe, and under
cover of darkness his body was borne to Granada,
where it was entombed in the burial ground of

The sovereignty now descended to Al Ahmar's son,
named Mohammed II., who ascended the throne in
1273. He was renowned for his wisdom in the law,
and during his reign of twenty-nine years he proved a
worthy son of a great father.

During his negotiations with Alfonso X. at Seville,
Mohammed was the victim of an artifice of Queen
Violante. Upon being asked by the queen a favour,
he yielded in accordance with the chivalric notions of
the time, but his chagrin was deep when he learned
that he had agreed to a year's truce to the rebels
within his dominion. Smarting under this device, he
made plans for the annihilation of his foes. Now the
friend of the Spaniards against the African, now the
ally of his own co-religionists, Mohammed's career was
one of strife. He died in 1302, able to boast that he
had not lost a particle of the soil bequeathed to him
by his father. Mohammed III. was, like his father, a




forceful sovereign. He applied himself rigorously to
the government of his territory, often spending the
whole twenty-four hours in affairs of State. In 1306
he seized Ceuta, and brought a number of the
conquered to Granada. But reverses came when the
governor of Almeria rebelled and joined hands with
the King of Aragon, Meanwhile the Castilians
attacked Algeciras, and Mohammed, between two foes,
was brought to bay. He extricated himself from
danger by yielding four fortresses and paying a heavy
sum. But his troubles were not at an end. Returning
to Granada, he was surrounded by conspirators in
his palace, and forced to yield the throne to his
brother, Abu-1-Juyyush Muley Nasr. Humiliated
and defeated, Mohammed retired to Almunecar, where
he lived in seclusion.

Nasr's first coup after seizing the throne was
a successful attack upon Don Jaime at Almeria.
Unfortunately a conspiracy was fomented by his
nephew Abu-1-Walid. Nasr, who seems to have had
a fit of apoplexy, was thought to be dead when
Mohammed III. was brought back to Granada. He
was, however, alive upon the return of the lawful
sovereign ; and on the authority of some historians
he ordered that his rival should be put to death,
while other writers assert that Mohammed was again
banished to Almunecar.

Soon after, Nasr was assailed by the followers of
Abu-1-Walid, and forced to yield. As a solatium he


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was allowed to rule over the town of Guadix, whither
he retired. Al Khattib relates that Nasr was a
philosopher, and versed in the sciences of astronomy
and mathematics.

Abu-1-Walid was an implacable foe of the Christians.
His assault on Gibraltar was frustrated ; but he gained
a signal victory over the Castilians in 13 19, when the
princes Pedro and Juan were killed. Following up
this success, he marched upon the towns of Martos
and Baza, and ravaged the country. It was at the
latter town that artillery was first used in Spain.

Hailed with joy, the victorious Abu-1-Walid returned
to Granada bearing the spoils of war. Among the
captives was a maiden of unusual beauty, whom he
had wrested from an inferior officer. This act so
incensed the chieftain that three days after he stabbed
his ruler outside the Alhambra. Dying from the
wound, Abu-1-Walid exacted an oath of fealty from
the eminent and powerful to his eldest son, Mulai
Mohammed Ben Ismail. This command was fulfilled
before the sultan's minister disclosed the death of his
royal master.

The boy king, Mohammed IV., was soon busy
quelling factions in his State, and repelling the African
army, which took in turn Marbella, Algeciras, and
Ronda. He also defeated the Castilians in several
desperate encounters, but lost the day at Gibraltar.

Mohammed IV., who was assassinated at Gibraltar
by his allies the Moroccans, was succeeded in 1333




by his brother Yusuf I. This king was a hater
of warfare ; he sought the peaceful reform of the
community rather than the expansion of his kingdom.
Under his rule Granada prospered and the condition
of the people was bettered. Yusuf I. was disturbed in
the tranquillity of his noble palace at Malaga by
the appeals of the African potentates for his aid in
reconquering Spain. Compelled to join the invaders,
he sustained a severe disaster at the Salado, and was
forced to acquire peace at the cost of yielding Algeciras.
He was murdered by a madman in 1358.

Mohammed V. was the next sovereign. He was a
worthy son of his high-principled father, Yusuf; but
fate decreed that his reign should not prove peaceful,
for soon after his accession, his younger brother Ismail
conspired with certain officers of state and made an
attempt to gain the throne. Upon a night in August,
1360, about one hundred conspirators climbed the
walls of the Kasba and after killing the wizir,
proclaimed Ismail as sultan. Mohammed, who was
without the palace at the time, essayed to enter ; but
he was received with a flight of arrows, and mounting
a horse he galloped away to Guadix. Here he was
welcomed, and from this town he sped to Marbella,
thence to Africa, where he received the aid of
Abu-1-Hasan. With troops lent to him he returned to
Spain, hoping to crush the usurper. But Abu-1-Hasan
capriciously ordered the return of his soldiers, and
Mohammed retreated to Ronda with a few adherents.


Southern Spain

Dissension had arisen meanwhile between Isma'd
and Abu Said, one of the chief conspirators, who was
burning to take the reins of government in his own
hands. Ismail was besieged by Abu Said, and upon
venturing out of his palace was slain.

Fresh trouble arose in Granada, for Pedro of Castile
came to the assistance of the lawful ruler. But
Mohammed, witnessing the ravage of the district by
the Christian army, was far from receiving the invader
with open arms. " For no empire in the world would
I sacrifice my country," cried the sultan. Thereupon
the King of Castile retired, and Abu Sai'd, mistaking
the reason of his return to Seville, went thither to beg
his alliance. The story of the sultan's murder, at the
instigation of Pedro the Cruel, has often been told.
Abu Said was done to death at Seville, and the
resplendent ruby which was taken from him was
presented to the Black Prince of England, and is still
preserved among the regalia of England.

Mohammed then returned to his capital. With
the exception of a rebellion under Ali Ben Nasr, he
passed twenty years of peace. Granada became a
more thriving city, and under the sultan's clement
administration, it was the resort of traders of all nations
and the centre of culture in the south. According
to Mendoza, the inhabitants of Granada numbered
about 420,000 in the reign of Mohammed V.,
but it is probable that the number was wildly over-



Trit?.\ or , H \t



Yusuf II. followed Mohammed V, He was
suspected of favouring the Christians. He certainly
released all the captives of that faith, and restored
them to their own country. This act appears to have
incited his son Mohammed to rise against the throne.
Yusuf was at first disposed to relinquish his sovereignty,
for he was a lover of peace ; but on the advice of an
ambassador from Morocco he raised an army and
advanced on Murcia.

At this period the King of Castile was Enrique III.,
an incapable monarch in defiance of whose orders Don
Martin de la Barbuda, the Master of Calatrava, headed
an advance into the kingdom of Yusuf. The force


was, however, entirely routed by the Moors. Soon
after (1395) Yusuf, the pacific sovereign, was dead —
the victim, it is said, of a poisoned potion, in the form
of a tonic sent him by the Sultan of Fez.

The first exploit of Yusuf's son Mohammed was a
visit to Toledo, with twenty-five mounted attendants,
where he appeared before Enrique III. and besought a
renewal of the truce. The armistice was disregarded
by the governor of Andalusia, who invaded the
Moorish dominions, till Mohammed, in reprisal,
seized the citadel of Ayamonte. At Jijena he was
defeated, and was forced to plead for peace. He was
at the point of death, when the idea seized him to
secure the government of Granada for his son by
the assassination of his brother. The governor of
Salobrena was commanded to put to death the prince


Southern Spain

whom he had in his keeping. The doomed man
asked leave to finish the game of chess in which he
was engaged, and before either player could cry
" Checkmate," the news came that the prince's brother
was dead and that he had been declared sultan.
Yusuf III. was faced with difficulties immediately
upon his accession. Antequera fell into the hands of
the Castilians, led by the Infante Fernando. The
defenders were slain, and only about two thousand of
the townsmen outlived the rigours of the siege. The
survivors were allowed to settle in Granada, and they
gave the name of Antequeruela to the suburb.

When the natives of Gibraltar revolted, and declared
allegiance to Fez, the sultan of that State sent his
brother Abu Said to secure the town. Abu Sa'ld,
being left to the mercy of the enemy, was seized and
brought to Granada, where he was shown a letter from
the ruler of Fez desiring that he might be despatched.
With this request the generous Yusuf refused to
comply. He released his captive and furnished him
with money and troops with which he left for Africa.
The brother who had planned his death was hurled
from the throne, and till Abu SaTd's death Granada
did not want an ally.

In rapid succession sultans now flit across the lurid
page of Granada's history. It is a gloomy tale of
incessant civil strife and of unsuccessful warfare with
the Christians. Rulers are expelled from their thrones
by pretenders who themselves fall victims to the




poignards of their partisans. Sovereigns purchase
their disputed crowns by selling the honour and
independence of their country to the foreigner. To
trace the miserable vicissitudes of the careers — we
cannot call them reigns — of Mohammed VII.,
Mohammed VIII., Yusuf IV., and Said Ben Ismail,
would be to weary and disgust you with a nation
whose stubborn fight against overwhelming odds
should command our respect.

The last act in the protracted drama began with the
accession of Mulai Hasan in the year 1465. With
his famous reply to the Castilian ambassadors who
demanded tribute, " Here we manufacture only iron
spear-heads for our enemies," the final campaign
began. Every incident of that war has been made
familiar to us Anglo-Saxons by the pen of Prescott.
In his pages long ago most of us read of the taking of
Zahara by the Moors and of the brilliant surprise of
the fortress of Alhama by the gallant Marquis of
Cadiz. We have not forgotten the wailing of the
Moors, " Ay de mi, Alhama ! " nor the domestic
revolution that followed when the old sultan was
hurled from his throne by his son Boabdil. Poor
Boabdil, on whom the blame of all his country's
disasters has been laid by historians. Christian and
Arab ! Weak or foolhardy, the " Little King " fought
like a Trojan against Ferdinand and Isabella for his
country, and against his father and his uncle for his
crown, at one and the same time. He was taken

121 '^

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prisoner by Ferdinand and is said to have signed a treaty-
surrendering his dominions to the Catholic Sovereigns.
This is rendered improbable by his comparatively
generous treatment at the end of the war, when he had
resisted the Spaniards to the uttermost, and fought
them many times after his release from captivity.
Desperate deeds of valour were done on both sides,
though the strategy of the Spanish commanders does
not appear to have been of a very high order, since,
with the whole of Spain at their back, it took them
eleven years to conquer a small kingdom distracted by
three rival rulers. The old sultan retired from the
contest, as finally did his brother, the brave Zaghal.
When the Christians were preparing a final assault on the
doomed city, Boabdil rode out from the Alhambra, for
the last time, on the morning of the memorable 2nd of
January, 1492. Ferdinand with a brilliant cavalcade
awaited him on the banks of the Genii. The keys
were handed over, a hurried exchange of formal
courtesies, and the last ruler of the Spanish Moors
passed away into exile and obscurity. The rays of the
wintry sun glinted on the great silver cross which was
hoisted on the Torre de la Vela in token that the reign
of Mohammed was for ever at an end in Spain.

Yes, at an end. On that morning, Ferdinand and
Isabella accomplished the task begun by Pelayo at
Covadonga, seven hundred and seventy-four years
before. The Moorish dominion in Spain had endured
little short of eight centuries. It was as if the




descendants of Harold Godwin were to arise and
overthrow the existing English monarchy. But what
is most remarkable is that the petty State of Granada
had survived the break-up of the great Moorish
empire in the west by two hundred and fifty years.
Such a race deserved a manlier if not a more beautiful
monument than the Alhambra.

What followed the extinction of the Nasrid monarchy
is not pleasant reading. The rights and privileges
guaranteed the conquered were soon swept aside.
The mild Archbishop de Talavera, the humane
Tendilla, were superseded in the government of the
city by fanatics more after Isabella's heart. Systematic
persecution of the luckless Moslems ensued. They
revolted, and their revolt was quenched with their
own blood. They were intimidated, browbeaten,
imprisoned, condemned, and burned. Their language,
costume, and creed were banned. They were ordered
to embrace Christianity under pain of death, and
forbidden to quit the country. They appealed to
Egypt, but it is a long way from the banks of the
Genii to those of the Nile. Finally (and one hears
of it with relief) they were all expelled from the
country. As a race they perished utterly. The art,
the civilization, which they had learnt on Spanish soil,
they left buried in Spanish ground, and it was a long
time before it was disinterred.

The price Spain paid for national unity was a heavy
one, but it was worth it. When we turn to Turkey,


Southern Spain

can anyone say that a united Spain would have been
possible, with the fairest of her provinces and cities
and the whole of her southern seaboard in possession
of a people alien in race, tongue and creed ?

With Oriental people, the history of the palace is
the history of the State. At Granada every traveller
turns instinctively towards the Alhambra as the point
of supreme interest. The famous pile is to the city
what the Mezquita is to Cordova — not quite, perhaps,
since Granada contains more than one building of
intrinsic interest.

The Alhambra has been so often described (by the
present writer among others) that it is not easy to say
anything new in regard to it, or even to avoid identity
of language with other writers in the description of
certain of its parts. Yet it would be impossible to
give any account of Granada without some notice of
this famous building. To begin with, I must impress
on those about to visit it for the first time that the
Alhambra is not a single palace, but properly speaking
is the name given to a fortified eminence lying to the
south-east of the city, and including two palaces, a
citadel, and a multitude of private residences. In its
nature it may be compared with the Acropolis of
Athens and the far-distant Castle of Bamborough.
The name, as most people are aware, is derived
from Kalat al hamra — " the Red Castle," to adopt a
translation which I have never seen disputed. (While
not pretending to rank as an Arabist, I have not failed




to notice that an infinite number of words put forward
as Arabic by writers on the Spanish Moors are
unintelligible to Syrian and Egyptian Arabs, and,
which is more to the point, to many Hindu students
of Arabic.) In shape the hill has been cleverly
compared by Ford to a grand piano. Rearward it
abuts on the Cerro del Sol ("the Mountain of the
Sun "), to which Washington Irving alludes so often.

To the south of the Alhambra hill lies another and
a narrower spur, which is crowned near the town end
by the Vermilion Towers, or Torres Bermejas ; on the
north-east rises the hill of the Generalife, laid out in
gardens. The townward extremity of the Alhambra is
washed at the foot by the river Darro, and is crowned
by the Torre de la Vela, of which more anon.

To reach the Alhambra you ascend from the Plaza
Nueva in the heart of the town by the steep and
narrow Calle Gomeres. This street is laid out to
attract and cater for tourists, who are greeted here
with a civility and cordiality not always conspicuous
in the rest of the town. Half-way up the toilsome
ascent you will probably be waylaid by a theatrically-
attired personage who will accost you in bad French
with the information that he is the chief of the gipsies.
The costume he wears was given to his father or
grandfather by Fortuny — one of the rare examples of
artists condescending to manufacture the picturesque.
The chief will endeavour to engage you in conversation,
and will offer you his photograph at fifty centimes a


Southern Spain

copy. If you have a camera he will allow you to take
his portrait for a consideration. It seems incredible
that a human being could be so much of a nuisance
and yet remain in good health and spirits.

The dragon having been successfully circumvented,
you enter the Hesperides, or in other words, the
charming Alamedas of the Alhambra. These groves
occupy the deep depression between the famous hill
and the Vermilion Towers. They are planted with
magnificent elms, sent hither, I believe, from England
by the Duke of Wellington. They have thriven well
in Spanish soil, and harbour a colony of nightingales
and other singing-birds, unusually numerous for this
land of passion, where wines are rich and birds are
rare. The " bulbul," as certain writers love to call it,
sings very sweetly in these leafy retreats, a statement
some travellers who persist in coming at the wrong
season will not hesitate to contradict. I must admit
that the bird is as elusive as the " alpengluh," or as
the hunter's moon at Tintern. It is always cool here
on the slope of the Alhambra. Even the fierce rays
of the Andalusian sun cannot penetrate the thick
leafage. Rills bubbling forth from the red sides of
the hill, or tumbling over its edge, keep the roots of
the trees perennially moist and feed a dense under-
growth. On summer afternoons this is the only spot
in Granada where you may sit in comfort. Meanwhile,
up and down in quick succession pass the sandalled
water-carriers hurrying to fill their skins with the



precious fluid and to dispense it in the scorched,
thirsty town below. " Agua-a-ah ! " Their prolonged
nasal drawling cry comes back to me as I write,
and I seem to hear the rapid patter of their feet
and to see the light cutting chequers on the shadow
of the trees. A great man is the water-carrier, loved
and respected by all the people of southern Spain.
We who live in the humid sea-girt North can little
understand the longing for clear, cool water, the
reverence for its dispensers, that must ever be felt in
the South, How constantly wells are referred to in
the Bible : " As the hart panteth after the water
brooks," "With joy shall ye draw waters from the
wells of salvation." How significant are these beautiful
passages for those that have journeyed to the South !

Reluctantly withdrawing from this delightful spot,
you must climb the hill to the right of the entrance —
there is a winding path to the summit. Here you
find the Torres Bermejas — a group of exceedingly
ancient and not very dilapidated towers, used as a
military prison. They date, it is believed, from the
days before the Zirite dynasty, but you will not be
tempted to examine them attentively, for the purlieus
are of the most uninviting description. The adjoining
cottages are peopled by rascally-looking men and
slatternly women, who would be better, one would
think, inside than just outside a gaol.

In ancient days an embattled wall connected these
towers with the opposite point of the Alhambra,


Southern Spain

closing the mouth of the valley, which was not then
the pleasaunce it is now, but an arid ravine used as the
burial ground of the fortress. The entrance to the
valley is now through the Puerta de las Granadas,
built by order of Charles V. Taking the path to the
left, we soon reach the fountain in the Renaissance
style, erected in 1 545 by Pedro Machuca, by order of
the Conde de Tendilla. It is ornamented with the
imperial shield and the heads of the three river-gods.
Genii, Darro, and Beiro. The medallions represent
Alexander the Great, Hercules slaying the hydra,
Phryxus and Helle, and Daphne pursued by Apollo.
The laurels growing out of the distressed damsel's
head give her the appearance of a Sioux brave, A
few steps beyond we reach the famous Puerta de la
Justicia, so called because within it the Moorish sultans
or their kadis administered justice — or it may have
been merely law. This entrance is formed by two
towers of reddish brick, placed back to back, and
united by an upper storey. We look at once for the
hand and key so often referred to by Irving, and
distinguish them with difficulty — the first over the
outermost horseshoe arch, the latter over the middle
arch. Opinion is divided as to the meaning of these
symbols. The key is supposed by some to signify the
power of God to unlock the gate of Heaven to the
true believer, while the hand appears to have been
regarded as a talisman against the evil eye. A winding
corridor leads through the gate into the citadel, past an




inscription celebrating the Conquest in 1492, and an
altar now enclosed within a sort of cupboard.

This gate is placed at right angles to the wall which
girdles the hill and runs along its edge, following all
its inequalities of level. It is in fairly good preserva-
f-ion, but the rampart walk has disappeared here and

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Online LibraryAlbert Frederick CalvertSouthern Spain → online text (page 8 of 13)