The works of Washington Irving, one of the earliest of the great American writers, need little introduction. He was a man of varied interests and enormous talent able to write entertaining and enduring fiction including the iconic ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and the wonderful collection of travelogue and fantasy that is ‘Tales from the Alhambra.’ His ability as an historian cannot be underestimated and he was able to leave posterity a canon of outstanding books on subjects ranging from the early days of exploration in his homeland, to this book, ‘The Conquest of Granada,’ about the history of Spain—a country in which he worked while living in the famous Alhambra of Granada. The period of Spanish history this book concentrates on is fascinating. The Islamic world, both in the form of the Ottoman Turks and the Moors of North Africa, made enormous inroads into ‘Christian’ Europe over hundreds of years. Before this Islamic tide finally abated it had to be turned back at Tours—almost at the gates of Paris—by Charles Martel in AD 732 and would besiege Vienna in 1529 and 1683. Large tracts of land fell under their control and nowhere was more successfully or enduringly settled than Spain in the form of the jewel that was Al-Andalus. A series of campaigns in the last years of the 14th century known as the ‘Reconquista’ saw the Catholic monarchs, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon finally bring about the fall of the Nasrid dynasty’s hold on the emirate of Granada. Irving’s work is an acknowledged classic and is essential reading for all those interested in the epic struggle between the sword and cross and the scimitar and crescent.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
In the morning early the rumour went throughout the city that the sacred banner had disappeared from the tower of Gibralfaro, and all Malaga was roused to witness the sally that was to destroy the unbelievers. Hamet descended from his stronghold, accompanied by his principal captain, Ibrahim Zenete, and followed by his Gomeres. The dervise led the way, displaying the white banner, the sacred pledge of victory. The multitude shouted “Allah Akbar!” and prostrated themselves before the banner as it passed. Even the dreaded Hamet was hailed with praises, for in their hopes of speedy relief through the prowess of his arm the populace forgot everything but his bravery. Every bosom in Malaga was agitated by hope and fear: the old men, the women, and children, and all who went not forth to battle mounted on tower and battlement and roof to watch a combat that was to decide their fate.<br>
Before sallying forth from the city the dervise addressed the troops, reminding them of the holy nature of this enterprise, and warning them not to forfeit the protection of the sacred banner by any unworthy act. They were not to pause to make spoil nor to take prisoners: they were to press forward, fighting valiantly, and granting no quarter. The gate was then thrown open, and the dervise issued forth, followed by the army. They directed their assaults upon the encampments of the master of Santiago and the master of Alcántara, and came upon them so suddenly that they killed and wounded several of the guards. Ibrahim Zenete made his way into one of the tents, where he beheld several Christian striplings just starting from their slumber. The heart of the Moor was suddenly touched with pity for their youth, or perhaps he scorned the weakness of the foe.<br>
He smote them with the flat instead of the edge of the sword. “Away, imps!” cried he, “away to your mothers!” The fanatic dervise reproached him with his clemency. “I did not kill them,” replied Zenete, “because I saw no beards!”<br>
The alarm was given in the camp, and the Christians rushed from all quarters to defend the gates of the bulwarks. Don Pedro Puerto Carrero, senior of Moguer, and his brother, Don Alonzo Pacheco, planted themselves with their followers in the gateway of the encampment of the master of Santiago, and bore the whole brunt of battle until they were reinforced. The gate of the encampment of the master of Calatrava was in like manner defended by Lorenzo Saurez de Mendoza. Hamet was furious at being thus checked where he had expected a miraculous victory.<br>
He led his troops repeatedly to the attack, hoping to force the gates before succour should arrive: they fought with vehement ardour, but were as often repulsed, and every time they returned to the assault they found their enemies doubled in number. The Christians opened a cross-fire of all kinds of missiles from their bulwarks; the Moors could effect but little damage upon a foe thus protected behind their works, while they themselves were exposed from head to foot. The Christians singled out the most conspicuous cavaliers, the greater part of whom were either slain or wounded. Still, the Moors, infatuated by the predictions of the prophet, fought desperately and devotedly, and they were furious to revenge the slaughter of their leaders. They rushed upon certain death, endeavouring madly to scale the bulwarks or force the gates, and fell amidst showers of darts and lances, filling the ditches with their mangled bodies.<br>
Hamet el Zegri raged along the front of the bulwarks seeking an opening for attack. He gnashed his teeth with fury as he saw so many of his chosen warriors slain around him. He seemed to have a charmed life, for, though constantly in the hottest of the fight amidst showers of missiles, he still escaped uninjured. Blindly confiding in the prophecy of victory, he continued to urge on his devoted troops. The dervise too ran like a maniac through the ranks, waving his white banner and inciting the Moors by howlings rather than by shouts. “Fear not! the victory is ours, for so it is written!” cried he. In the midst of his frenzy a stone from a catapult struck him in the head and dashed out his bewildered brains.<br>
When the Moors beheld their prophet slain and his banner in the dust, they were seized with despair and fled in confusion to the city. Hamet el Zegri made some effort to rally them, but was himself confounded by the fall of the dervise. He covered the flight of his broken forces, turning repeatedly upon their pursuers and slowly making his retreat into the city.<br>
The inhabitants of Malaga witnessed from their walls with trembling anxiety the whole of this disastrous conflict. At the first onset, when they beheld the guards of the camp put to flight, they exclaimed, “Allah has given us the victory!” and they sent up shouts of triumph. Their exultation, however, was soon turned into doubt when they beheld their troops repulsed in repeated attacks. They could see from time to time some distinguished warrior laid low and others brought back bleeding to the city. When at length the sacred banner fell and the routed troops came flying to the gates, pursued and cut down by the foe, horror and despair seized upon the populace.<br>
As Hamet entered the gates he heard nothing but loud lamentations: mothers whose sons had been slain shrieked curses after him as he passed; some in the anguish of their hearts threw down their famishing babes before him, exclaiming, “Trample on them with thy horse’s feet, for we have no food to give them, and we cannot endure their cries.” All heaped execrations on his head as the cause of the woes of Malaga.<br>
The warlike part of the citizens also, and many warriors who with their wives and children had taken refuge in Malaga from the mountain-fortresses, now joined in the popular clamour, for their hearts were overcome by the sufferings of their families.<br>
Hamet el Zegri found it impossible to withstand this torrent of lamentations, curses, and reproaches. His military ascendancy was at an end, for most of his officers and the prime warriors of his African band had fallen in this disastrous sally. Turning his back, therefore, upon the city and abandoning it to its own counsels, he retired with the remnant of his Gomeres to his stronghold in the Gibralfaro.