« VorigeDoorgaan »
Rome, despoiled the Queen of Nations, and penetrated from the Danube to the shores of the Atlantic. Secluded from the rest of the world by the Pyrenean mountains, the successors of Alaric had slumbered in a long peace. The walls of the cities were mouldering into dust, and the yout! hud abandoned the exercise of arms. The wealthy and fertile kingdom of Spain tempted the ambition and avarice of the victorious Saracens, who had now extended their conquests along the whole northern coast of Africa.
The Spanish historians and the voice of tradition ascribe the first invasion of the Moors to the forcible violation of Florinda by Roderick, the Gothic king of Spain. Florinda, whom the Moors call Cava, was the daughter of Count Julian, one of the king's principal lieutenants, who, when the crime was perpetrated, was engaged in the defence of Ceuta, a town on the African side of the strait. In his indignation at the ingratitude of his sovereign, Count Julian forgot the duties of a Christian and a patriot. He formed an alliance with Musa, the Moorish leader, and invited him to the invasion of Spain. The memory of Florinda became detestable to the Spaniards from this circumstance, and Cervantes informs us that they never bestowed that name upon any human female, but reserved it for their dogs.
The history of this invasion is adorned by the most highly colored romantic fictions, among which we are tempted to select the following. About a mile from the city of Toledo stood an ancient tower, of magnificent structure, though much dilapidated by time. Underneath was a large cave, cut out of the solid rock,
and closed by a massy iron gate with many
att many blocks Above the gate some Greek letters were engraved, which, although abbreviated, and of doubtful meaning, were thus interpreted : “ The king who opens this cave, and can discover the wonders, will know many good and evil things.” Several of the Spanish sovereigns desired to know the mystery of this tower ; but, when they opened the gate, so tremendous a noise arose in the cave, that all were terrified, and some lost their lives. At last, King Don Roderick, led on by his evil fortune, opened the tower.
He discovered a spacious and magnificent hall, in the middle of which stood a bronze statue of most ferocious appearance, holding a battle-axe in his hands. With this he struck the floor violently, causing the terrific sounds which had frightened away every other visitant. At the approach of Roderick, the statue ceased his blows, and the king proceeded to examine the wonders of the place. On the left of the statue, he saw written on the wall these words: “Unhappy king! thou hast entered within these walls in an evil hour!” On the right, “ By strange nations thou shalt be dispossessed, and thy subjects foully degraded.” On the shoulders of the statue he read, “I call upon the Arabs”; and upon his breast, “I do my office." At the entrance of the hall was a round bowl, from which a great noise, like the fall of waters, proceeded. Nothing else was to be seen.
The king, sorrowful, and greatly affected, had scarcely turned to leave the cavern, when the statue recommenced its blows upon the ground. Roderick ordered his attendants not to disclose what they had
seen, and directed that the gate of the cavern should be blocked up with earth, that no memory might remain of so portentous and ill-boding a prodigy. The ensuing midnight, they heard dreadful sounds from the cave, like the noise of a battle, the ground shook with a tremendous roar, and the old tower fell with a terrible crash into a heap of ruins.
In the year 710, an army of five hundred Moors and Arabs, under a leader named Tarif, crossed the strait from Africa and landed at a spot now occupied by the town of Tarifa. They were received in a friendly manner at the castle of Julian, and, after acquiring a rich spoil, returned in safety. In the ensuing spring, a stronger force, of five thousand men, embarked under the command of Tarik, a dauntless and skilful soldier. They landed on that famous rock, which, from the name of their leader, was called Gebel Tarik, or the Mountain of Tarik, now corrupted into Gibraltar. Roderick had slumbered over the first invasion, but he was awakened by the magnitude of the second. He despatched his lieutenant, Edeco, with a body of select troops against the invaders; but the Goths were unable to withstand the martial enthusiasm of the Moslem fanatics. Roderick was aroused to a complete sense of his danger by the defeat of his lieutenant, and took the field in person, at the head of one hundred thousand men. The army of Tarik was increased, by new arrivals from Africa, to twelve thousand Moslems, and to these were joined a promiscuous crowd of Christian malecontents.
About two leagues from Cadiz stood the town of Xeres, destined to be famous for two things, the best wine,
and the most fatal battle in Spain. Here the two armies met in an encounter which was to decide the fate of the Gothic monarchy. Roderick appeared at the head of his troops, encumbered with a flowing robe of gold and silver embroidery, his head crowned with a diadem of pearls, and reclining on a car of ivory drawn by white mules. The battle commenced with slings, darts, javelins, and lances. The combatants then took to their swords ; and the shouts and cries of both armies, with the noise of the Moorish drums and Gothic trumpets, seemed to shake the earth. Notwithstanding the intrepidity of the Moslems, they seemed fainting under the weight of multitudes, and the plain of Xeres was overspread with their dead bodies. “ My brothers," said Tarik, “ the enemy is before you,
the sea is behind! Whither would you fly? Follow your general ! I am resolved either to lose
my life, or trample on the prostrate king of the Visigoths !”
The renewed exertions of the Moslems were seconded in the crisis of the battle by the treachery of Oppas, the archbishop, who suddenly went over to the enemy with a large train of followers. The Goths, struck with panic at this unexpected turn of affairs, gave way, and took to flight. Roderick, seeing the battle lost, leaped from his chariot, and mounted Orelia, the fleetest of his horses. The rout and dispersion of his army were complete. What became of the king never was known. His diadem, his robes, and his steed were found on the banks of the Guadalete, a little stream which skirted the field of battle ; but Rod. erick was never seen afterwards. A belief was cur
rent among tho Spaniards, that he fled to a hermit's cell, concealing his disgrace, and eluding the search of the enemy,
in the disguise of an anchorite. It is more probable that he was drowned in the river.
The battle of Xeres put an end to the glory, the name, and the empire of the Goths in Spain. The victorious Musa spread his conquests to the North over Castile and Leon. The terrified cities opened their gates, and surrendered their treasures, on his approach. The celebrated table, of one single solid emerald, en. circled with three rows of fine pearls, and supported by three hundred and sixty-five feet of gems and massy gold, acquired by the Goths among the spoils of Rome, was presented by Musa to the sovereign of Damascus. Spain, which, in a mere savage and disorderly state, had resisted, for two centuries, the arms of the Romans, was overrun in a few months by the Moorish conquerors. This kingdom, which had been succes. sively tinctured with Punic, Roman, and Gothic blood, adopted, in a few generations, the institutions and manners of the Arabs. The scanty remnant of the Christians, who rejected their yoke, became almost lost to the view of history. After the disastrous day of Xeres, and the reduction of Seville and Merida, a band of fugitives still cherished the flame of liberty in the Asturian valleys. In a life of poverty and freedom, their former virtues revived ; and, in many a bloody encounter, they asserted against the fanatics of Arabia their descent from the hardy warriors of the North. Amidst their trackless retreats, they preserved with care and affection their ancient laws and customs; and, under the guidance of Pelagius or Don Pelayo, they at
pean sc rapidity social left bel Linhs. had be
ander and me