Child's History of Spain - John Bonner

Abderrahman's Successors

A.D. 788-862

Arderrahman the First was succeeded by his son Hisham, who reigned eight years, and he by his son Hacam, who reigned twenty-six years.

The first was an excellent young man, who ruled his people justly and established schools all over the country. It had been foretold of him by an astrologer that he would reign eight years, and no more; and sure enough, in the eighth year of his reign he died. The people mourned him, for they had loved him as much as they had hated his father. He was famous for kind deeds; constantly visited the sick, sent food to the needy, and prayed with the devout who were confined to their houses by inclement weather or illness.

His son Hacam was a very different person. He loved nothing so much as pleasure—hunting, wine-drinking, gayety, and frolic. He counted some of the most beautiful women in Spain among his wives. When he died he left forty sons. His way of life gave offence to truly religious Moslems—the students of the college at Cordova, who were extremely devout, having been converted from Christianity, were especially incensed at the loose behavior of the head of the Church. It may give you some idea of the singular manners of the time to hear that these students followed the Caliph in the streets, jeering him and throwing stones at him.

Hacam only laughed at them; but when they concocted a plot for his overthrow, he showed that he was of the blood of Abderrahman. He swooped down upon the plotters at the head of his Mamelukes, caught the leaders, and crucified them. Three or four years afterwards, in 806, they formed another plot, and the plotters met the same fate. Then, after a time, the nobles of Toledo broke out in revolt, and declared that they would make an end of Hacam, as they had made an end of so many emirs before Abderrahman. They raised quite an army, and prepared to take the field against an unworthy follower of Mahomet.

Hacam sent his young son, whose name was Abderrahman, like his grandfather, and who was only fifteen years old, to deal with the rebels, giving him private instructions how to act. The boy got into the castle of Toledo—you can still see the ruins of its walls—and invited the nobles and chief people of the place, to the number of a thousand or more, to a banquet, at which he proposed to discuss with them the causes of their discontent. They came, and were directed to walk through the castle ditch round the main tower of the banquet hall. They were so numerous and made such a fine show that a crowd collected to see them enter the castle.

After a time the on-lookers were surprised that the banqueters did not come out of the castle. Some one said that they had doubtless gone out by the back door.

"Not so," said a physician, who was watching; "I have been at the back door for some time, and no one has gone out that way."



Next day it was discovered that the guests, as they walked through the ditch in narrow file, had been struck down by Mamelukes and their bodies thrown into a pit. The date of the massacre was long remembered in Toledo by the name of the Day of the Foss. It kept the Toledans quiet for many a long year.

Hacam's last years were spent in private. You will read in the histories that he was as melancholy and as wretched as his grandfather. But I notice that he wrote poetry, and was passionately fond of music, which seems to imply that he was not always sad. There are legends that he gloried in putting people to death in order to exult over their dying agonies. But this and other stories were probably started by fanatic Moslems, who hated him because he was not as bigoted as they. At the time of his death the Moors of Spain had got over the liberal toleration with which they began their empire. They had got the taste of persecution into their mouths.

The students of the college, who were crazy enthusiasts on religion, would have liked to crucify him. Once they roused the mob and attacked the palace with fury. Hacam, aroused by the noise, bade his page perfume his hair and beard with civet. When the page hesitated, in a moment of such peril, the Caliph cried:

"Proceed, fellow! How shall the rebels identify my head among the rest except by its sweet odor?"

Then swiftly sending a force of cavalry by a round-about way to the quarter from which the mob had come, he ordered the houses set on fire. The rioters turning to rescue their belongings from the flames, the palace gates were opened and a swarm of Mamelukes poured forth, while the cavalry charged them under cover of the smoke. Thus caught between two foes the mob was crushed with frightful slaughter, and, by way of a lesson, Hacam burned down that part of the city in which they lived, and exiled the survivors to Africa. The students he spared. One of them, who was brought before him, was asked why he had rebelled against his sovereign.

"Because it was the will of God," said the fanatic.

"He who commands thee to hate me," said Hacam, "commands me to pardon thee. Go and live."

Hacam was succeeded by one of his forty sons, Abderrahman the Second. He came to the throne in 822, and reigned till 852. Throughout the thirty years religious feuds glowed and grew hotter and hotter. I will tell you of them in the next chapter. The king did not take much interest in them, and after the severe lesson his father Hacam had given the fanatics, they did not fly to arms as quickly as formerly.

Abderrahman spent his time in works of art and beauty. He built mosques and palaces and bridges; he laid out fine gardens, and watered them by means of aqueducts leading from mountain springs. His court was splendid. He gave handsome rewards to poets and musicians, and gathered the brightest of them round him. His wife Tarub is the first Moorish queen who figures in history. She seems to have been a woman of mind, though she did love necklaces and bags of silver, and was not particular how she got them.

Church affairs Abderrahman left to a bigoted priest named Tahya, who ruled the Moslems with a rod of iron, and punished neglect of religious duty severely. He does not seem to have troubled the Christians much unless they made themselves offensive; but whenever a Moslem omitted his daily prayers Tahya made an example of him.

Abderrahman's best friend and chief associate was a Persian named Ziriab, who was a musician and a singer. It was said that he knew a thousand songs by heart, and the king was so fond of hearing him sing them that he would spend all day by Ziriab's side, would share his meals with him, and was never tired of giving him houses and pensions and presents of value.

Ziriab was more than a musician; he was a wit and a wise observer of mankind. He gave his master advice which generally proved to be sound. He was also a man of taste, and he undertook to reform the manners of the Moors. He set new fashions in dress, and taught the Moorish nobles to cut their hair. He persuaded the court to cease drinking out of metal cups, and to use glasses instead. He abolished linen table-cloths, and covered dinner tables with leather cloths—which does not give me a high opinion of his notions of cleanliness. Linen sheets he declared to be an abomination, and advised people to sleep on leather instead. He invented fricassees and forcemeat; lie introduced asparagus into Spain. He did not rest till he had changed the fashions of the Moors in almost all their ways of living. And for these services the people admired him almost as much as the king did. Though he was the favorite, he did not inspire envy in his lifetime, and I think you can remember him with pleasure.

Abderrahman's thirty years' reign was a period of peace and comfort for the Spaniards. Taught by the king's example, the nobles in many places irrigated their land by bringing water to it in leaden pipes from great distances, and the consequence was improved harvests. They were stimulated to pursue this work by a drought which occurred in 846, and which of course was followed by famine and pestilence; those who had neglected their water supply starved in great numbers, while those who had aqueducts reaped the usual harvest.

In the year 852—the memorable year when the Danish or Norman sea rovers ravaged the coasts of England, France, and Germany, and captured the cities they could reach, including the City of London—King Abderrahman the Second ascended to the terrace of his palace to breathe the evening air. His eye was offended by a row of Christian corpses, mutilated, and swinging by the neck to a gibbet. He ordered them cut down and decently buried, and his cheek flushed as he thought of the bigotry of his fellow-believers. The flush rose and deepened till his whole face turned purple. He staggered and fell, and when the physicians came they declared that the king had died of apoplexy.