Romance of Spanish History - John S. C. Abbott
Contentions of African and Spanish Moors.—The Kingdoms of Castile, Leon, and Portugal.—Navarre becomes a Kingdom.—Degeneracy of the Christians.—Illustrious Moors.—Terrible Battle of Toloza.—Cordova wrested from the Moors. —The Moorish Kingdom of Granada.—Capture of Seville.—Granada tributary to Castile.—General Embroilment.—Illustrative Anecdotes.—Decisive Battle of Tarifa.—Declension of the Moors.—The Three Peters.—Desolate Condition of the World.
The Spanish Moors and the African Moors were now devouring each other. They had never pleasantly commingled, for the Africans were far more uncultivated and savage than their brethren of the peninsula. The fierce warriors of the desert regarded with contempt the domestic habits and luxurious indulgences of the inhabitants of Spain. There were at this time several rival chieftains struggling for the sovereignty in Africa, and the whole Moorish empire there was in such a state of distraction that the affairs of Spain were for a time quite forgotten. Alfonso, King of Aragon, defiantly made a tour through Andalusia, plundering and destroying. He carried his victorious banners even to the shores of the Mediterranean. The Moors ventured not to meet him in the open field, but shut themselves up in their fortresses. Alfonso, in accordance with the savage customs of the times, carried back with him, as trophies of his triumph, a large number of prisoners, whom he settled in the vicinity of Saragossa. At length Alfonso, who had acquired a sort of imperial authority over the several smaller Christian kingdoms of Spain, died.
About the same time Abdelmumen, one of the rival kings in Africa, obtained the entire ascendency in that country. He formed the plan of reconquering Spain. Proclaiming a holy war, he summoned the children of the Prophet in all lands to rally for the defense and the extension of the Mohammedan faith. All the fierce tribes of Western and Northern Africa were immediately on the march. He had assembled an enormous force, consisting, it is said, of one hundred thousand horse and three hundred thousand foot, on the African side of the Straits of Gibraltar, and was upon the eve of crossing to the Spanish coast, when death summoned him to the world of spirits.
His son Yussef, who succeeded to the throne, for some unknown reason dismissed the army, and for several years devoted himself to the arts of peace. But in the year 1170, with a formidable military array, he crossed the straits, and brought the whole of Moorish Spain into subjection to his sway. Thus the Moors of Spain and of Africa were again united under one common empire. For nearly a century the Moors and the Spaniards had been engaged in almost constant warfare, with no very decisive advantage gained by either party. There had now arisen in the northern and central portions of Spain several small Christian kingdoms, among the most prominent of which were Leon, Castile, and Aragon. These kingdoms were almost constantly engaged in wars against each other. By uniting, they could easily have driven the Moors out of Spain. But the slightest victory over the common foe led to a conflict between themselves for the spoil.
The kings of Castile and Leon united their forces, and wrested the whole of the region now called Portugal from the Moors, and placed over it, as count and governor, the son of the French Duke of Burgundy, who had married the daughter of Alphonso VI. of Castile. About the year 1145 this realm assumed the dignity of a kingdom, taking the name of Portugal from its prominent harbor of Oporto. Navarre also emerged into a kingdom, about as large as the State of Massachusetts, extending across the Pyrenees into France. All these kingdoms, called Christian, were devouring each other, when not struggling against the Moors. Though there were doubtless, at this time, individuals somewhat enlightened in the Christian faith, and living in obedience to the precepts of our Saviour, still the masses of the people were in heart heathen. Christianity was to them merely a superstition, requiring certain external observances, while it exerted no perceptible influence over their lives. The degraded masses, at scarcely one remove from barbarism, were Christians in the same sense in which the crew of an English man-of-war or the rank and file of a French or Austrian army are Christians.
In the wars between the Moors and the Christians we can discern but very little evidence of any moral principle on either side. Indeed many of the Moorish princes give more indication of the spirit of Christ than many of those princes who assumed the Christian name. But Christianity must bear the reproach of having those called Christians who compose the heathenism of a Christian land, or who defend "The Church" simply as an instrument of superstition with which to extend the sway of pride and power.
Among the Moors there were some men of high moral worth and intellectual culture, who deserve honorable notice. One of these, Averroes, was a fine Greek scholar. He translated the works of Aristotle into Arabic, and wrote valuable commentaries upon them. As a philosopher, a physician, and a man of literary accomplishments, he attained wide-spread renown. Though nominally a Mohammedan, he had no faith in the Moslem delusion. Some of his observations upon the religion of the Prophet excited the hostility of the Moslem priests, and he was arraigned as a heretic before their Inquisition. The punishment inflicted was worthy of the darkest days of the Papal Church. He was sentenced to do homage at the door of the mosque, while every true Mussulman, who came there to pray for his conversion, was to spit in his face. He bore patiently the infliction, merely repeating the words, "Let me die the death of the philosopher."
One incident may be mentioned illustrative of the character of the Spanish kings of that day. Yacub, who succeeded Yussef in the sovereignty of the Moorish empire in Africa, landed in Spain with an immense army and invaded Valencia. Alfonso, king of Castile, hastened to meet him. To resist this formidable invasion, he had entered into an alliance both with the King of Leon and of Navarre. But before the arrival of his allies he attacked the Moors, and was thoroughly beaten by them, with the loss of twenty thousand men. On his disastrous retreat, he met his allies advancing to his aid. In his exasperation, he reproached them so insultingly for not arriving sooner that they both, in high dudgeon, withdrew their troops, and commenced a march back to their own kingdoms. Whereupon the King of Castile, though retreating before the pursuing Moors, made a ferocious and deadly assault upon the columns both of the Kings of Leon and of Navarre. Fortunately for him, his clergy interfered to arrest these measures of madness, and, in view of the tremendous peril impending, secured a reconciliation. The united force then turned upon the foe, and the tide of Moorish invasion was thus arrested.
By the marriage, which soon followed, of the son of the King of Leon with the daughter of the King of Castile, the two crowns became united in their son Fernando. In the year 1211, Mohammed of Africa, son of Yacub, invaded Spain with an enormous army, which, joined by the Spanish Moors, amounted, it is said, to six hundred thousand men. The King of Castile, Alfonso the Noble, applied to all the courts of Christian Europe for aid. Pope Innocent III. proclaimed a crusade, and lavished indulgences upon all those who should engage in this Holy War. From all parts of Europe the crusaders flocked to Toledo, in the heart of Castile, the headquarters of the Christian armies. Sixty thousand troops from Italy and France were soon assembled there, in conjunction with the Castilian forces. Aragon, Navarre, and Portugal also dispatched large armies to the scene of conflict.
In July 1212, these two immense armies met at Toloza, on the southern declivity of the mountains which separate Andalusia from Castile. Of the memorable battle which ensued, detailed accounts are given by four eye-witnesses. The Christians, in preparation for the dreadful strife, passed two days in religious exercises. Hymns were chanted, banners blessed, prayers offered, and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper administered. On the morning of the 15th, the Christians, who had been advantageously posted upon the summits of the mountains, descended into the plains, where the Moors were assembled in tumultuous masses which could not well be counted. The right wing was led by the King of Navarre, the left by the King of Aragon, and the centre by the King of Castile.
For many hours the result of the battle was doubtful, as over the vast plain nearly two hundred thousand horsemen and more than half a million of foot-soldiers, with spear and arrow and battle-axe, rushed upon each other, and, with clash of weapon and shriek of onset, writhed in the death-grapple. Mohammed stood upon a mound commanding a view of the field. He was surrounded by a powerful reserve, and also protected by a vast iron chain. As the afternoon wore away, it was manifest that the Christians were gaining the victory. The plain was covered with the dead, and the Moors were flying in all directions. The three divisions of the Christian army, combining, rushed impetuously upon the eminence where Mohammed in the midst of a dense mass of his troops, was almost franticly endeavoring to restore the lost battle. One of his staff rushed to his side, leading a mule of remarkable strength and fleetness.
"Prince of the faithful," said be, "how long wilt thou remain here? Dost thou not perceive that thy Mussulmans flee? The will of Allah be done. Mount this mule, which is fleeter than the bird of heaven, or even the arrow which strikes it. Never yet did she fail her rider. Away! for on thy safety depends that of us all."
Mohammed, accompanied by a few of his followers, was soon beyond the sight and the sound of the dreadful carnage, which surged over the field until the last ray of light disappeared. The victors took possession of the tents of the Mohammedans, with all the riches they contained. The prelates, who in great numbers had accompanied the army, chanted Te Deums in gratitude for the greatest victory the Christians had gained over the Moors since the days of Charles Martel. The Moors admit that they lost in this decisive battle one hundred and sixty thousand men. The Christians claim that they slew two hundred thousand. From this battle is to be dated the ruin of the Moslem Empire in Spain.
The allies returned in triumph to Toledo. The Moorish Emperor fled to Morocco, where he sought solace for his military disgrace in abandoning himself to licentious pleasures. But a few months elapsed ere he died, probably of poison. Yussef, who succeeded him, was a boy but eleven years of age. The Moorish governor of Spain availed himself of the weak reigns which ensued to usurp independence of the African Empire. Ferdinand III., King of Leon and Castile, a kingdom which thus united embraced nearly one-third of Spain, pressed the Moors severely, and rapidly encroached upon their territory of Andalusia.
The city of Cordova possessed a sacred character in the eyes of the Mohammedans. Here rose the domes and minarets of their renowned mosque, and here their caliphs had swayed the sceptre of both temporal and spiritual power. Bitter was the chagrin of the Moors when this renowned capital, in the year 1234, fell into the bands of the Christians. Mohammedan Spain was now in a deplorable state. The Moors of Africa were so weakened by bloody civil feuds that they could no longer send expeditions across the straits, and the Spanish Moors were seriously threatened with expulsion from the peninsula.
Granada became now the capital of the Moslem power, and nearly all the Mohammedans, abandoning the provinces which the Christians had wrested from them, assembled on The plains of Granada, and combining their strength, resisted for two and a half centuries all the efforts of the Christians to drive them from their strongholds.
Mohammed Ben Alhamar was the founder of this celebrated kingdom of Granada. He was, in all respects, an illustrious man—an energetic warrior, and yet a lover of the arts of peace. He was fond of that splendor which dazzles the eyes of an unlettered people, singularly sagacious and comprehensive in his views, impartial in the administration of justice, and anxious to secure the good-will of his subjects by the beneficence of his reign.
The little kingdom of Granada, into which the vast Moorish empire of Spain had dwindled, was two hundred miles long and forty wide, containing about as much territory as the State of Massachusetts. But by the constitution of the government every male inhabitant was a soldier, and the defense of his country was one of the most imperative duties enjoined upon the Moor by his religion. Fernando, the King of Castile, with a well-appointed army, invaded Granada and laid siege to the strong fortress of Jaen, which commanded the frontiers. The Moorish king marched to the relief of his fortress, but was utterly routed and driven back behind the ramparts of Granada. For a year Fernando prosecuted the siege, and just as the fortress was falling into his hands, Ben Alhamar, conscious that the next step would be the siege of his capital, and that he could not make successful resistance, adopted the following extraordinary measure.
He proceeded alone, and in disguise, to the camp of Ferdinando, obtained and interview with him, and then, announcing his name, offered to become the vassal of the Castilian crown, and kissed the hand of the Christian king in token of feudal homage. Fernando was capable of appreciating the confidence which the Moor had reposed in his honor. He embraced him as a friend and an ally, and the two kings sat side by side in friendly communion, adjusting the measures of their future policy. Jaen was surrendered to Fernando, an annual tribute was also to be paid to him, and a stipulated number of Moorish horsemen to be furnished him whenever he called for their services. The Moorish king was also bound, like other feudatories, to attend the Cortes of the Christian kingdom. In return, Ben Alhamar was allowed to retain his possessions unmolested, and was placed on the footing of cordial friendship with the Castilian king. But for this arrangement Ben Albamar's kingdom would have been overrun, and he would have been driven into exile.
The King of Castile was soon in possession of both sides of the Guadalquiver from Jaen to the mouth. In the capture of Seville, which was held by Moors from Africa, Ben Alhamar was compelled to aid the King of Castile in person, with six hundred horsemen. After fifteen months of blood, famine, and misery, Seville surrendered, A.D. 1248. By the treaty of capitulation, the Moorish inhabitants were allowed to leave the city if they wished, taking with them their property. Three hundred thousand abandoned the city, most of whom took refuge with their brethren of Granada. In the month of December Fernando made a triumphal entry into the magnificent city of Seville. In gorgeous procession he entered the grand mosque, which the Christian prelate immediately purified and, in the celebration of a pontifical high mass, dedicated to the service of the Papal Church. Soon after this all the Mohammedans were expelled from the rich and beautiful provinces of Valencia and. Seville. The Moorish king received them kindly in Granada, assigning to them lands, and exempting them from taxation for several years.
Alhamar was overwhelmed with grief. He was compelled to purchase the existence of his own kingdom by aiding the Christians to wage war against his own countrymen. All the other Moorish kingdoms of Spain were now absorbed by the Christians, and Granada alone remained, having lost its independence in feudal vassalage to Fernando of Castile. Conscious that the strength of a kingdom consists in the prosperity and wealth of its citizens, with much sagacity Alhamar devoted himself to the promotion of the welfare of his subjects. He established hospitals for the sick, houses of entertainment for travellers, schools and colleges. Roads, bridges, and warehouses were constructed, and all the arts of industry were encouraged. Christians and Mohammedans were treated with equal justice; and with untiring diligence all the departments of the administration were watched, that equal justice might be meted out to all.
This Moorish king, six hundred years ago, administered his absolute government, if reliance can be placed in the testimony of ancient annals, upon the principles subsequently avowed in the Declaration of American Independence. In the eye of the law all men were regarded as equal, and alike entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The taxes were necessarily heavy; but they were borne without a murmur, for they were imposed with the strictest impartiality. Men are ever willing to surrender a portion of their natural liberty, if all surrender alike. But when one portion of the community is entitled to privileges which are withheld from another, then an irrepressible conflict is excited, which invariably leads to insurrection and blood.
While Fernando lived there was peace between him and Alhamar, his feudal vassal, and the little Moorish kingdom of Granada enjoyed eminent prosperity. After the death of Fernando, the crown passed to his son, Alfonso. In the year 1252 the Moors who remained in Algarve openly revolted against the Christian king. The King of Granada was immediately summoned, in obedience to his feudal obligations, to aid in quelling the rebellion. Instead of obeying the summons, by advice of his council he joined the rebels, and called upon all the Moors, whether in his own territories or in other parts of Spain, to rise to the assistance of their brethren in Algarve. A general war was promptly commenced, introduced by terrible massacres. In a decisive battle at Alcada Real, the Moors were utterly routed. The insurgent Moors were then driven from Algarve, and sought refuge among the mountains of Granada. The Portuguese laid claim to the vacated province, and, by treaty stipulations with Alfonso, it was surrendered to them.
Alfonso, thus triumphant, commenced his march upon the provinces of Granada. Alhamar, in consternation, sued for peace. The Castilian king was magnanimous, and, to spare the feelings of the Moor, allowed him to pay an annual tribute to his liege lord, instead of furnishing a supply of troops. It is probable that Alfonso was the more inclined to this moderation, from the fear that Alhamar might appeal to the African Moors for aid.
But soon revolt broke out in the court of Alfonso, who, with vain ambition, was lavishing immense sums in the hope of attaining the imperial crown of Germany. Don Felipe, the king's brother, was at the head of this revolution, and, in the sternness of the strife which ensued, he applied to the Moors for aid, both to Alhamar of Granada and to Yussef of Morocco. The rebels were however defeated, and, being driven from Castile, they took refuge in the Moorish cities. But in the mean time several of the governors of the cities of Granada rebelled against their king, and, affirming the right of secession, grasped their swords to establish independence. Thus was Spain involved in inextricable embroilment, Christians and Moors all blended together, and fighting with ferocity which threatened the entire depopulation of the southern kingdoms. In the midst of these scenes of tumult and blood Alhamar died, in his tent, surrounded by his warriors, both Christian and Moors. Don Felipe and many other Castilian nobles stood in tears around the royal couch as the Moorish monarch bowed his head to the sway of the king of terrors.
The son of Alhamar, with the title of Mohammed IL, succeeded to the throne of Granada. A truce was agreed to, as all parties were thoroughly exhausted and impoverished. The domains of the Moors and the Christians were alike filled with widows and orphans, smouldering ruins and trampled fields. Mohammed II., a man of highly cultivated mind and polished manners, visited the Christian king in his court at Seville. The royal Moor was received with great distinction, and quite charmed the inmates of the palace by his fascinating address and his remarkable powers of conversation.
Soon after Mohammed returned to Granada he renewed the conflict with his insubordinate governors, and applied for assistance to Yussef of Morocco. The African king soon crossed the straits with a large army, and, as the King of Castile encouraged the revolted governors, war again, in all its brutal and insane barbarity, flamed over the mountains and through the valleys of woe-stricken Spain. The Christians met with several severe defeats, and the Moors ravaged their territory even up to the walls of Cordova. The Infante, Don Sancho, archbishop of Toledo, was taken prisoner. Both the Spanish and the African Moors claimed the illustrious prize. In the midst of their hot contention, a Moorish horseman spurred his steed between the two contending parties and thrust his lance through the heart of the captive, exclaiming:
"Allah forbid that so many brave men should cut one another's throats for the sake of a dog."
This incident led to a compromise. The Africans took the head and the Spanish Moors the right hand of the prince, and with these gory trophies each party seemed satisfied. But suddenly the tide of battle turned in favor of the Christians. The Moors were routed in a hard-fought and bloody conflict, and were driven back into Granada. The King of Castile also swept the straits with a fleet, and prevented any supplies from being sent across from Africa to the peninsula. The King of Aragon also sent his forces to aid the King of Castile. Under these circumstances, the Moors again sued for peace, and there was another short respite from the horrors of war.
Mohammed II. improved this short interval of leisure in enlarging and embellishing his capital. The gorgeous palace of the Alhambra, which his father commenced, rose in majestic proportions which still astonish axed delight every beholder. From the whole civilized world men of genius and culture were welcomed to the sumptuous saloons of the Moor, and Granada became for a time the most intellectual and refined city, not only of Spain, but of Europe. But in that day it seems to have been impossible for any people long to remain at peace. War was the normal state both of Christians and Moors. Every man was ready to grapple his brother-man by the throat, if there were any chance that he might thus wrench from him either gold or power.
Again there arose the most serious complications. Sancho, an energetic Christian prince, conspired against his father, Alfonso, King of Castile. The King of Morocco, hoping to subserve his own interests, listened to the supplications of the father for aid. The King of Granada, for the same reason, espoused the cause of the son. The Cross waved defiantly against the Cross, and Crescent challenged Crescent on the field of blood. The Pope at Rome now interfered, and threatened to hurl the thunderbolt of ex-communication upon the head of Sancho if he should persevere in his unnatural rebellion. But providentially at this moment, in the year 1284, Alfonso died, and thus Sancho became legitimate king. Yussef, however, and Mohammed still continued the struggle, it being the great object of the African king to bring Granada into subjection to his sway.
Thus the weary years rolled on, years of war and woe. Whenever the Christians were not fighting the Moors, they were fighting each other. In the Moorish kingdom there was also an interminable succession of conspiracies, rebellions, and insurrections, and the scimiter of the Moslem ever dripped with blood. The rock of Gibraltar about this time fell into the hands of the Christians. The passion of love blended its romance with these tragedies of war. In the year 1323, Ismael, then King of Granada, in ravaging the frontiers of Castile, sacked and destroyed the city of Martos. Among the captives there was a young maiden of extraordinary loveliness. A fierce conflict arose among the Moslem chieftains for the possession of the prize. As in the fury of their quarrel they were about to cut her in pieces, Mohammed, a young prince of the royal house of Granada, succeeded in rescuing her.
The beautiful Christian maiden had inspired him with the most ardent passion. But the king, as soon as he saw her, became equally enamored, and, in the exercise of absolute power, wrested her from Mohammed and consigned her to his harem. The wrong fired the bosom of Mohammed with implacable fury, and he formed a conspiracy for the assassination of the king. The enraged young prince took his station at one of the gates of the Alhambra, and approaching the king, when leaving the palace, as if to salute him, plunged a poniard into his bosom. The assassin, protected by his companions, effected his escape. The king, drenched in his heart's blood, was borne into his palace and placed upon a couch, where he immediately died.
The tidings flew through the streets, and Granada was shrouded in gloom, for Ismael was much beloved by his people. The tumult of the times was, however, such that most of the assassins escaped punishment. Mohammed IV., son of Ismael, succeeded to the throne. He was a man of energy, and fought bravely to repel the Moors from Africa and the Christians from Castile. One incident illustrates a generous trait in his character. In a combat under the walls of Baena, the king hurled his lance through the body of a Christian knight. As the royal lance was of great value, being incrusted with jewels, some of the king's attendants rushed forward to regain it. But the king arrested them, saying,
"Let the poor wretch alone! If he should not die of his wound, let him, at least, have something to pay for his cure."
The Moors, under this energetic king, regained many of their lost fortresses, and among others, that of Gibraltar. At length Mohammed IV. was assassinated, by some of his own chiefs, when engaged in hunting. His brother Yussef was immediately raised to the throne. This prince developed great sagacity and rare administrative skill. He immediately procured a truce of four years with Alfonso, King of Castile. These years were devoted to strengthening the kingdom, and to the cultivation of all the arts both of peace and war. As soon as the truce expired, hostilities were resumed.
Yussef applied to the African Moors for aid, and an immense army was sent across from Morocco to the shores of Andalusia. The Christians attempted to intercept the fleet, but they were overpowered, and their own fleet was annihilated. At length a fleet came from Genoa to the aid of Castile. But Providence seemed to favor the Moors, for a tempest so disabled this armament that all the ships which were not sunk by the gale fell into the hands of the foe. The King of Portugal in person led an army to the support of Alfonso. The Moors, both African and Spanish, were besieging the city of Tarifa, an important place, situated upon the coast, about forty miles from the rock of Gibraltar. The annals of that day estimate the army of the Moors at four hundred and sixty thousand men. This is doubtless an exaggeration, but it is certain that the Moors vastly out-numbered the Christians.
It was in the month of October, 1340, when the combined army of Portugal and Castile, numbering but sixty thousand men, arrived in sight of the camp of the besiegers encompassing Tarifa. The two Christian kings, in preparation for a desperate and decisive conflict, visited the confessional, and partook of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Alfonso was to engage the African, and the King of Portugal was to direct his forces against the Spanish Moors. At an early hour in the morning the horrid scene of carnage commenced. As the storm of war swept the plain, at one time the person of Alfonso was in great danger. A vast mass of Moors came rushing like a whirlwind, and encircled the eminence upon which the king stood, surrounded by his guard. Alfonzo, rallying his guard around him, prepared immediately to penetrate the dense columns of gleaming swords and glittering spears.
"Do not forget," said he, "that your king is here; that he is about to witness your valor, and you his."
But the Archbishop of Toledo seized the bridle of the king's horse, and entreated him not thus to peril his own life, since his death would necessarily doom the whole army to destruction. At that critical moment troops from another part of the field arrived, and the Moors were driven back. The bloody strife continued hour after hour, with no decisive advantage gained on either side. But soon after the sun had passed the meridian the Moors began to give way. A scene of slaughter almost unparalleled now ensued. The whole Moorish camp, with all its treasures, and even the royal harem, fell into the hands of the victors. The Christians claim that they killed on that day of blood, two hundred thousand Moors. It is certain that the slaughter was enormous, and that mourning was sent into almost every family in Granada. The wreck of the Moorish army fled to Gibraltar, and the Africans crossed to their own country. Soon after this, the Christians succeeded in destroying the African fleet.
Alfonso, flushed with victory, was in a career of conquest, assailing fortress after fortress of the Moors, when Yussef sued for peace. A truce of ten years was assented to, Yussef paying the heavy penalty of surrendering Algeziras to the Christians, in addition to the fortresses which they had already captured. Yussef was also compelled to humble himself by doing homage to Alfonso. Before the truce expired Alfonso laid siege to Gibraltar, the possession of which fortress would enable him to command the approaches into Granada. Just as the garrison were reduced to the last extremity, and were on the point of surrendering, the heroic Castilian king was seized by a contagious disease in his camp, and suddenly passed from his tumultuous life into the silence and solitude of the grave. Yussef speedily followed him, being stabbed by a madman as he was at prayers in the mosque.
Yussef the Moor developed, to a very remarkable degree, the character of a truly religious man. Indeed, Christianity was then so corrupted that it is difficult to assign to the Christians in general any superiority in moral excellence over the Moors. Yussef ordered that daily prayers should be offered in public, and appointed stated days for the explanation of the Koran to the people. Every Mussulman was required to be present at these religious exercises. That no one might have an excuse for neglecting this worship, he commanded that no house should be built at a distance of more than six miles from some mosque unless twelve habitations were to be reared at the same time, when a mosque was to be erected in the midst of them.
The laws were very severe; fornication and adultery, with murder, being punished with death. For the first offense of theft, the culprit lost his right hand; for the second, his right foot; for the third, his left hand; and for the fourth, his left foot. The soldier who fled from the field of battle, unless assailed three to one, was punished with death. The humane command was issued, that of captives taken in war, the sick and the aged, women and children, and those consecrated to God in a religious life, were not to be massacred, unless taken with arms in their hands.
Soon after the battle of Tarifa, which proved so disastrous to the Moors, the Christians marched to the attack of the strong fortress of Algeziras, which was the principal arsenal and military depot of Granada. In the defense of this city by the Moors, in the year 1342, cannon were used; and it is said that this is the first authentic account which history gives of the employment of these destructive engines of war. The battle of Cressy, where they were again used by the English, was fought four years later.
Peter, called the Cruel, was now King of Castile, and Mohammed V. King of Granada. There was a revolt in the Moorish court, and Abu Saib usurped the throne. Mohammed, disguised as a female slave, fled from his palace, and effected his escape to Africa. A series of sanguinary campaigns ensued, which deluged Granada in blood. Both of the claimants for the throne appealed to the King of Castile for aid. Peter espoused the cause of Mohammed, and Abu Saib was driven to such an extremity that he adopted the chivalric resolve of visiting in person the Court of Peter, and throwing himself upon his magnanimity. But Peter had no soul to appreciate this chivalry. He seized the Moorish prince, robbed him of his treasure, led him half naked, seated upon an ass, through the streets of the city, cut off the heads of all his followers in his presence, and then the infamous Castilian king, with his own spear, pierced the heart of Saib. The Moslem sovereign, as he expired, reproachfully exclaimed,
"Oh, Peter, Peter, what a deed for a cavalier!"
Three Peters at this time occupied the principal Christian thrones of Spain. The character of Peter the Cruel, of Castile, is sufficiently indicated by his treatment of Abu Saib. His whole career was that of unmitigated brutality. Peter IV. of Aragon was a merciless executioner, sending, upon the slightest irritation, his most devoted friends to the scaffold. Peter I. of Portugal has attained renown in the pages of romance for his passion for the beautiful Inez of Castro. Her assassination by three Portuguese lads inflamed his soul with the spirit of a demon. He swept blindly, with fire and death, those portions of his realms in which the assassins dwelt. Two of the assassins, whom he succeeded in capturing, he exposed to the most exquisite torture, and then tore out their quivering hearts while they were yet living. He took from the grave the body of his murdered mistress, clothed it in robes of state, and placed the imperial crown upon the livid and wasting brow. The grandees of the court were then summoned, and compelled w do homage to this revolting mockery of royalty.
This sad world has never perhaps experienced a darker period than that at which we have now arrived. Charles the Bad swayed his gory sceptre over terrified Navarre. The whole of Spain groaned beneath the rod of unrelenting tyranny. Anarchy desolated France. Richard II. was commencing his turbulent reign in England. Italy and Germany were agitated, as with earthquake throes, by the contentions between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. Two rival popes claimed the tiara, and two rival emperors were struggling for the Germanic crown. The ferocious hordes of Tamerlane were sweeping the plains of Asia. The whole world, through man's crime, seemed but an arena of tears and blood.