J H Mann.

A history of Gibraltar and its sieges online

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Jacob. This king captured Ceuta (1308), and died in a.h.
709-10 (1309). Then came Abu Sa'id Othman, who reigned
until a.h. 731 (a.d. 1330). It was during his rule over the
Merines that the next event in the history of Gibraltar to
which we shall direct the reader's attention came to pass. For
this purpose we return to the authority of the Moorish
historian and industrious compiler which we have so often
quoted. These are the histories of the first regular siege of



^j^^T was whilst the Fortress was in the possession of
the Merines of Africa, as before stated, that the
Castilians, in a.h. 708 (1308-9) profiting by the
absence of part of the African garrison, invested
Gibraltar, and made themselves masters of it without much
difficulty.* Another Moslem historian writes of this matter
thus: "In the year 709 (beginning June, a.d. 1309), the
King of Castile, Herando (Ferdinand IV.), laid siege to
Algeciras. He remained before that city from the 21st day
of Safar to the end of Shaban, when, desparing of reducing
that place, he raised the siege, though not without making
himself master of Gibraltar."

The Christian accounts of this affair are more complete
than either of the above, and inform us of its history with
great minuteness. We condense from Bell's version of Ayala
the following description of the causes and results of the matter
in question. Mohammed IV. of Granada made a truce for
the nonce with the Christians, and when this expired the
latter were eager for new wars.

As soon as Ferdinand IV. was enabled by the termination
of his truce (1309) with Mohammed IV., Abu Abdallah of
Granada, to direct his arms against the infidels, he laid siege
to Algeciras. Finding the besieged received continued suc-

* Al-makkari, vol. ii. p. 355.


cours from Gibraltar, the king determined to get possession of
the Rock, for which purpose he detached Alonzo Perez de
Guzman to deprive the enemy of this support. " Accompa-
nied by numerous great personages, to assist as well with their
council as their arms, Guzman resolved on a simultaneous
attack on all sides ; and leaving the Archbishop of Seville and
Don Juan Nunez to attack on the north front, he landed the
remainder of the forces, and, gaining the heights that command
the castle, immediately assaulted it. On this occasion was
erected the tower of Don Alonzo (so named from Alonzo de
Guzman, and not from the eleventh Castilian king of that
name), and with such diligence and strength was it con-
structed, being furnished with wide and substantial walls, on
which were placed two battering engines, that immense stones
were immediately discharged against the Calahorra, against the
walls of the castle, and against the town beyond it in which
was the chief population. Although by these means the
houses, the town, and the numerous defences were battered to
the ground, the Moors were not intimidated. Only eleven
hundred in number, and straitened on all sides, they continued
to repair the works, defending the place most gallantly, and
retarded the victory a whole month. At length, after a sangui-
nary and obstinate contest, they were obliged to surrender,
stipulating only that they should be allowed their liberty, and
be transported to Africa. Thus ended, in the year 1309, the
first siege of Gibraltar."

Don Alonzo hastened to communicate this pleasing intelli-
gence to the king, that he might personally take possession of
a place of the strength of which he seemed to be altogether
ignorant; for on entering it, says Ayala, and observing the
pecuharity of its situation, with uplifted hands he gave thanks
to Providence for the reduction under his dominion of a Rock


and Castle so important, and almost impregnable. He rebuilt
the walls and strengthened the fortifications, made provision
for the reception of shipping in a harbour which he armed if
he did not found it j for this king seems to have been among
the first to see the importance of Gibraltar as a naval station.
This was very considerable, even in that early time, and we
have a hint of one of its chief claims to consideration in the
charter of privileges which the king granted to the town,
whereby he allowed anchorage dues to be paid to it the same
as in the port of Seville, excepting only " galleys or armed
vessels that navigate in the service of God against the enemies
of the holy Faith." Free of toll or anchorage dues lay in the
port of Gibraltar the galleys of the knights of Rhodes — free as
the king's own ships. The port must have been of inesti-
mable service to these knights, and their great galleys lay
safely under the walls of the town, or within the old Mole,
which was guarded by the strong tower that Ferdinand IV.,
among the other additions which he made, built at the
extremity of the Mole.

Further, of the charter of King Ferdinand, the first Chris-
tian owner of the Fortress of Gibraltar, Ayala, with other
documents, quotes at length a declaration of Alfonso XL,
citing a similar one by his father, Ferdinand IV., which is
dated 1310, and grants freedom from toll, excise, watching,
castle-service, &c., to all inhabitants of Gibraltar, also from
customs. " Moreover we order and direct that all those who
shall proceed to Gibraltar and shall be inhabitants and dwellers
therein, whether swindlers, thieves, murderers, or other evil-
doers whatsoever, or women escaped from their husbands, or
in any other manner, shall be freed or secured from the punish-
ment of death ; and that those who shall live and dwell in the
town or its territory shall neither be threatened nor have



injury done to them ; not being traitors to their lord, breakers
of the king's peace, or one who shall have carried off his lord's
wife, for these shall not be protected, but punished as they
deserve." Moors, taken beyond the range of a cross-bow
from the town, were to belong to the captor, the king's dues
being paid ; if captured within that distance, but one-third of
the value of the captive was to belong to the captor, ^' accord-
ing to the custom of other castle warriors in our kingdoms."
The place was made a free port for all. Christians, Moors, or
Jews, to buy and sell in, free of charge. All malefactors,
except traitors, who resided a year and a day in the town,
were to be pardoned and freed from justice, except for crimes
committed in Gibraltar.

Ferdinand IV. gave the charge of his new acquisition, the
key of Spain, into the hands of Alfonso Ferdinand de Mendoza,
who thus became the first Christian governor of Gibraltar, and
with it supplied that captain with a garrison of three hundred
men, besides those who did " duty in the watch-towers;" also
furnished them with ample pay, and even provision for their
children. The seal which the fortress now employs was
granted by this monarch, and is in itself significant of the
opinion which he held about it, to wit, a castle of three towers,
embattled, and having a key pendant at its gate, to indicate at
once the strength of the place, and its relationship to the rest
of the king's dominions. Many privileges, besides those we
have quoted, were granted to the place for the public service ;
thus, a share in the royal tunny fisheries, one-third of the
profit of the salt pans in the neighbourhood, and rents of
shops, furnished a revenue.

The perilous nature of the lives which had to be led by
folks in Gibraltar, subject as they were to attacks by the
Moors, who were at hand both by land and sea, are now-a-


(lays hard to appreciate in fulness^ but might have been esti-
mated but a few generations since, w^hen descents on the
Spanish coasts were by no means uncommon and almost,
barring rescue, invariably led to slavery, if not death, in Africa.
Gibraltar itself was open to attack and possession by the
Corsairs at a much later date than that which is commonly
supposed to include the duration of their anomalous power.

The Moors seem to have had an impression that Gibraltar had
been surrendered by Mohammed, or its retention connived at by
him. When it was captured in 1309 by Ferdinand, the siege of
Algeciras was soon afterwards abandoned ; as well on account
of the difficulty of taking the place, as of the terms of the
Moorish king, who offered the towns of Belmar and Quesada,
and one hundred thousand crowns if Ferdinand would relinquish
the siege. We may readily understand that Gibraltar, being
in the Spaniards' hands, Algeciras was of comparatively minor
importance to the holders of the more powerful fortress. Also,
there was to be considered the uncertainty of getting posses-
sion of Algeciras, even at an immense cost of money and blood.
Ferdinand therefore agreed to these terms of the Moslem
monarch, and abandoned the siege of Algeciras. It is alleged
that this surrender of territory and money to the Christians
reacted against the Moorish king, insomuch as his brother,
Nas'r, conspired against him, and he was compelled to abdicate
by a tumult in the city, in the course of which it is noteworthy
that the historian refers especially to the destruction of books
at the gutting of the house of the Wizir Abu Abdillah,
"which was attacked by the mob, and gutted of all its valuable
contents, besides the treasures which he had amassed in books,
jewels, weapons, &c., which God alone could estimate."
This story does not support the account given by Ayala, who
makes the dethronement of Mohammed to have happened in


April, 1309, and the siege of Algeciras to have been begun by
Ferdinand IV., in a.h. 709, i.e. after June 10 in that year,
and, consequently, not in the reign of Mohammed III., but in
that of his dethroner and brother Nas'r ; it was not until the
February of 13 11 the rumour spread that Mohammed was
dead, and his body thrown into a fish-pond in the garden of
the palace. This was after an attempt at rebellion by Abii
Sa'id, a descendant of the founder of the Nasserite dynasty in
Cordova, who proclaimed his son, Abu-1-Walid Ismail, as king
(February i8th, 1310). In November, 1310, Nas'r had a fit
of apoplexy, and his death was rumoured to have followed
this attack, so the friends of Mohammed III. persuaded him
to claim the crown again (November, 13 10), but they were
unfortunately hasty for themselves, for " on entering Granada,
what was their astonishment to hear that Nas'r had recovered
from his illness. This led to closer confinement for Moham-
med ; his death, and the rumours to which we have referred
of the mode of disposing of his body. It appears, however,
from a further statement of the author to whom we now
refer, that he did not die, by whatever means, until January,
26, 1 3 14. We have next to consider the second siege of
Gibraltar, which took place in the year 13 15, under the com-
mand of Abd-1-Walid, or Ismail Ben Ferag, another zealous
Mohammedan wiio strove in vain to retard the advance of the
Christian power into the lands of his people. He succeeded
Nas'r on the throne of Granada in 13 13, and was nephew of
that monarch.

To show how these great changes came about is so impor-
tant that we shall be excused if we trace them by other aid
than the above.



NOTHER account of these transactions is more
complete than the above. The advances of the
Christians into the Andalusian territory had been
continuous and successful. In 1293 Sancho IV.,
King of Castile, laid siege — so far had the progress of recovery
been carried — to Tarifa ; assaulting it by sea and land, and
with machines of many kinds : he entered the place by force of
arms, slew a great number of the inhabitants, and appointed
Alfonso Perez de Guzman governor of the city. This is, we
believe, the first appearance in the neighbourhood of Gibraltar
of one of the family to which this commander belonged,
a family which thereafter distinguished itself through many
generations, and held the Rock and Fortress almost indepen-
dently of the Spanish kings, keeping for centuries their grasp
firmly upon them, and resisting attempts of more than one kind
to relax that hold. Of this matter we shall see more presently.
Juan of Castile, brother of Sancho IV.— following in a
reverse mode the practice of Count Julian against King
Roderic — having a quarrel with his brother, crossed over to
Africa and made a friend of Abu Jacob Ben Jusef before-
named, and induced him to send five thousand horse and a pro-
portion of foot soldiers to recapture Tarifa, which he assured his
new ally would be an easy matter.* In this, however, he

* Condcj part iv. c» xii.


was mistaken, notwithstanding that Juan set the son of Alfonso
Perez de Guzman enchained before the walls of the city,
threatening his death if it was not surrendered. But, as the
Moorish historian wrote, with a grim approval of such forti-
tude, which is chivalric from the pen of an enemy : " The
Alcalde uttered no word of reply. He silently unbound his
sword from his girdle, threw It down to the prince for the ful-
filment of his threat, and retired from the wall. Then the
Moslemah, furious at the contempt thus expressed, struck ofF
the head of the youth, and, placing It on one of their machines,
cast It on the walls, that the father might not be able to doubt
his loss." The Spanish story is, that Juan of Castile stabbed
the lad with his own hand. Before such constancy as this
the Moors and their Christian allies retired defeated to
Algeclras. The capture of Tarlfa had been made from the
Moors of Africa, In whose hands it had been placed under
circumstances which have been already described. When
Sancho IV. obtained possession of the place, his ally,
Mohammed II., of Granada, claimed restitution to himself of
the conquest, notwithstanding that it had been ceded to Abu
Jusef by Mohammed I., and held as an appanage to the
African dominion since that time. Sancho replied to this
simple request that the place was his by conquest, and that, if
ancient rights were to be alleged against the chances of war,
he might claim the whole of Granada. Upon this, quarrels
came about between the failing people of Granada and their
growing Christian neighbours ; Incursions followed from both
sides, and Sancho took Quesada ; " but he did not long
enjoy his triumph and the fruits of his cruelty, seeing that
God the Omnipotent cast him into Gehennah no long time
thereafter j" and the Granadians reconquered the fortresses he
had captured on their frontier, repeopling them with Moslems



where Sancho had expelled the inhabitants of that faith.
Among these places was Alcabdat.

The capture of Tarifa discouraged Abu Jacob for the time
in his Andalusian enterprises, so that he shortly after treated
with Mohammed and sold him Algeciras itself, which thus
returned to the kingdom of Granada ; he also endeavoured to
buy back Tarifa from the son of Sancho IV., who would, it
is alleged, have sold it, but for the interposition of the queen
and the De Guzmans. He then attacked the troops of the
latter, defeated them with great loss (a.d. 1299), and besieged
Tarifa again, but, notwithstanding his energetic efforts, without
success. He attacked Jaen soon after this with like fortune.
He died while still in the enjoyment of good health, " and in
the act of prayer with infinite quietude and tranquillity ; no
mark of suffering on his countenance, save only on the eye-
lashes there was a trace of weeping, as when one hath shed
abundant tears."

The sons of Mohammed H. were Mohammed HI. — Abn
Abdillah, Feraz or Ferag, who conspired against the last, and
Nas'r, who has been before mentioned. Abu Jusef Jacob
Ben Abd-1-hac was lord of Almagreb at this time — the victor
of the Almohades, who made incursions to Andalus as before
stated, and died at Algeciras in 1286. Then came Abu
Jacob Jusef, who voyaged with his father into Andalus and
took the strong places of which we have already written.
The Castilian kings were Alfonso X., Sancho IV., and
Ferdinand IV. In 1302 Nas'r rebelled against Mohammed III.,
and was defeated. In the same year the King of Granada
proposed to buy Tarifa of Ferdinand IV., or to change it for
another place. These proposals were refused. In 1305
Mohammed, bent probably on retaliating upon the African
Moors some of their ravages in Granada, sent Feraz Ben


Nas'r to Africa with a powerful army, which assembled at
Algeciras, besieged and took Ceuta, with a great treasure
which was concealed there (Conde). Next year Jusef Ben
Jacob, of the Beni Merines, was assassinated in a mysterious
manner, and Abdallah Ben Jusef succeeded him. In 1309
the siege of Algeciras, which led to the capture of Gibraltar
by Ferdinand IV., took place, and Mohammed attempted its
relief while Sulieman Aben Rabie, in alliance with James II.
of Arragon, recaptured Ceuta from Mohammed III. The
King of Castile, moreover, captured Gibraltar; and his neigh-
bour of Granada, being thus hardly pressed, came to the terms
with Ferdinand which placed Algeciras in safety for the time,
and left the Rock in his hands.

The rebellion of Nas'r, accompanied by that tumult in
Granada which more than one historian laments, because
of the destruction of books which accompanied it, and the
abdication of Mohammed III., were followed by the acces-
sion of Nas'r, a much more vigorous sovereign than his
brother, whose offers for peace with Ferdinand IV. were
rejected haughtily. Nas'r, arming himself against the King
of Barcelona (Arragon), caused the latter to raise the siege of
Almeria, which was on the point of surrendering (1309) ; the
rebellion of Abd-1-Sa'id further disturbed the new occupant
of the Granadian throne ; this was ineffectual, but the false
step of Mohammed III. in returning to the city of Granada
on the news of Nas'r's death, and the conduct of the father of
the former rebel, showed how unsafe was the new dominion,
troubled as it was externally by the warlike acts of Ferdinand IV.

From the last, however, the Moslem power was soon to
be delivered. He died before Malaga, and when about to
besiege that fortress. There is a picturesque legend of the
death of this king, which deserves attention from the students


of the history of Gibraltar and its neighbourhood, or biographers
of the famous men who have been connected with it. He
might well be called the Taric of the Christian hold, as he
was the Christian founder of the place.

The legend is that two brothers of the family of Carvazal
were condemned to death by him, on account of an accusation
that they had murdered one of their own friends. The
accused declared themselves wholly innocent of the crime,
made the most strenuous efforts, and used the utmost entreaties
to avert their doom. Ferdinand paid no heed to this defence,
but ordered immediate execution of his sentence. As the
brothers were being led from his presence, to fall beneath
the sword, they, with one voice and in terrible words, sum-
moned the alleged false judge to the tribunal of God, and
averred that he would appear there within thirty days of their
own departure. Dying, they persisted in declaring their
innocence, and repeated the awful call ; the king thence-
forth has been called " The Summoned," because, actually
dying within the period thus indicated, men believed that he
departed in obedience to the voices of the dead."^

The stage of life was thus cleared of Mohammed and
Ferdinand, Nas'r and Alfonso reigned in their steads, both,
now — at least, legally. Nas'r — as to whom there was not
wanting charges that he had pushed, or caused to be pushed,
Mohammed into the palace fish-pond — set up a gorgeous
mausoleum in his honour, with a tear-invoking inscription of
the most pathetic and laudatory kind. Thus he was described
as the virtuous Sultan, one of the excellent kings, wise in the
fear of God, amiable, austere, humble, the hand of justice,
path of confidence, light of the state, portal of the law,

* Mariana accounts for the death of this king by his having over-eaten himself.



friend of humanity and religion, illustrious, defender of his
people, clement king and prince of the Moslemah ; and, with
a finer irony, " the irresistible conqueror of the unbelievers.
May God sanctify his spirit, and refresh his sepulchre with
the delicious cup of benignity, and exalt him to the highest
mansions of the just." ! [Conde.)

There was no peace in Spain, notwithstanding these changes
and the youth and energy of Nas'r, who was, at his accession
twenty-three years of age. Three years after that event, he
sought the friendship of Pedro, Prince of Castile, who was
expected to succeed Ferdinand IV., solicitations which were
fortunate for a brief while. In a.h. 713, or a.d. 1312-13,
Feraz Ben Nas'r, Wali of Malaga, an almost independent
prince, father of Abu Sa'id, who was called Abd-1-Walid,
fomented rebellions in the State, and the latter begun
war against the king, his uncle, took some castles, among
them that which " stands in front of the Alhambra," and the
Alcazar of Granada; he besieged Nas'r in the Alhambra; how-
ever the latter besought aid of Pedro of Castile, who was then
at Cordova.* He entreated this prince to come without
delay to his aid. " Pedro," says the Moorish historian,
'' began to march for that purpose, but not swiftly enough for
Nas'r, was compelled to yield, give up his kingdom, and
behold in that misfortune a repetition of what had befallen his
brother by his own means." He retired to Gaudix, which was
restored to him, and died there A.H. 722, a.d. 1321. Pedro
continued his journey, and captured Rute from the Moors.

The conqueror of Nas'r was a man of great note for us,
for he reigned twelve years, and besieged Gibraltar. His full

* Of Pedro of Castile we shall hear curiously in reference to Gibraltar, and the
manner of his death.


Style is thus given by the authorities : Ismail, the son of Feraz
Ben Nas'r Ben Ismail Ben Mohammed Ahmed Ben Moham-
med Ben Hasain Ben Acail El Ansari El Chazezi, called
Abd-1-Walid and Abu-1-Sa'id, son of the Wali of Malaga, and
nephew, by a sister, of Nas'r. He is sometimes described as
Ismail Ben Feraz. Apart from warlike qualities Ismail was
a strict follower of the Mahommedan law. When tired of
hearing the disputes of the theologians attached to his court
(polemics seem to have been rife in the Granadian palaces) he
is reported to have said that to believe the omnipotence of
God required no reasoning ; as to his own arguments, " They
are here, said he, laying his hand upon his sword." He
enforced the prohibition against wine, much increased the
taxes on Christians in his domains, and compelled them to
wear a distinct costume.

It was in the year of the Hegira 716, a.d. 1315, that Ismail
learnt how the King of Castile was sending a large convoy of
stores to Gaudix, where Nas'r then resided and kept up friendly
relations with his fellow ruler, Alfonso XL, who, since 1312,
had succeeded to the throne of Castile. Now, whether this
despatch of provisions was contrary to treaty, or otherwise the
cause of uneasiness to Ismail, is uncertain to us ; but it appears
that he determined to waylay and destroy its escort, a stout
body of mail-clad Spaniards. His troops, however, being sent
for this purpose, caught a Tartar, and were defeated utterly.
This fight is called the Battle of Fortuna, and so far added by
its success to the courage of the victors (never remiss against
the Moors), that they attacked a line of fortresses on the fron-
tier, and did a prodigious deal of harm to the fields and
vineyards of their enemies. Upon this, Ismail Ben Feraz
called out the strength of his kingdom (a.d. 1315) and deter-
mined to ruin the marauders, who, however, so soon as they


learnt what was on the way, retired homewards " with the
prey they had taken. "

Ismail Ben Feraz, averse to let his troops return without
doing something, determined to try to recover " that key of
his kingdom," as the Moors already called it, the Rock of
Taric, and the Fortress upon it, to wit, Gibraltar. He was
also bent on recapturing Ceuta, thus hoping once more to
unite the Pillars of Hercules to the realm of a single king.
The latter place was in the hands of the Merine lord of
Almagreb, Suleiman. Ismail accordingly despatched, said

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Online LibraryJ H MannA history of Gibraltar and its sieges → online text (page 11 of 21)