Al-Makkari and Tariq - Musa and Al-Walid
Roderick and Suleyman - Florinda and Ibnu Hayyan
One of the problems in deciphering what happened during the beginning of the Moorish conquest of Spain via Gibraltar is that fact is so impenetrably intertwined with myth and legend - and pure fiction - that it is sometimes impossible to tell what actually happened and what was simply the creation of some Moorish or Visigothic writer's vivid imagination. Nevertheless one can take it as given that the following six stories can definitely be listed under the title of 'Legends and Myths'.
The Legend of the Crossing of the Straits - A-Makkari - 17th Century ( see LINK )
Various historians have recorded two circumstances concerning Tarik's passage and his landing on the coast of Andalus, which we consider worthy of being transcribed. They say that while he was sailing across that arm of the sea which separates Africa from Andalus he saw in a dream the prophet Mohammed . . . and that he heard the Prophet say,
Take courage, O Tarik! and accomplish what thou art destined to perform; and that having looked round him he saw the messenger of God, - upon whom be the peace and salutation of his Lord! - who with his companions was entering Andalus.
Tarik then awoke from his sleep, and, delighted with this good omen, hastened to communicate the miraculous circumstance to his followers, who were much pleased and strengthened. Tarik himself was so much struck by the apparition that from that moment he never doubted of victory.
Rough Seas in the Straits of Gibraltar ( 1635 - Peeters )
The Legend of the Woman from Algeciras - Al-Makkari - 17th Century
The same writers have preserved another anecdote, which sufficiently proves the mediation of the Almighty in permitting that the conquest of Andalus should be achieved by Tarik. Directly after his landing on the rock Musa's freedman brought his forces upon the plain, and began to overrun and lay waste the neighbouring country. While he was thus employed, an old woman from Algeciras presented herself to him, and among other things told him what follows:
Thou must know, O stranger! that I had once a husband who had the knowledge of future events; and I have repeatedly heard him say to the people of this country that a foreign general would come to this island and subject it to his arms. He described him to me as a man of prominent forehead, and such, I see, is thine; he told me also that the individual designated by the prophecy would have a black mole covered with hair on his left shoulder. Now, if thou hast such a mark on thy body, thou art undoubtedly the person intended.
When Tarik heard the old woman's reasoning, he immediately laid his shoulder bare, and the mark being found, as predicted, upon the left one, both he and his companions were filled with delight at the good omen.
The Legend of Tarik's speech to his troops before the battle of Guadalete - Al-Makkari
Tarik assembled his men, comforted them by his words, and after rendering the due praises to the Almighty God, and returning thanks for what had already been accomplished, proceeded to implore his mighty help for the future. He then encouraged the Moslems, and kindled their enthusiasm with the following address
From an old print ( Unknown )
Whither can you fly - the enemy is in your front, the sea at your back? By Allah! there is no salvation for you but in your courage and perseverance. Consider your situation - here you are on this island like so many orphans cast upon the world; you will soon be met by a powerful enemy, surrounding you on all sides like the infuriated billows of a tempestuous sea, and sending against you his countless warriors, drowned in steel, and provided with every store and description of arms. What can you oppose to them?
You have no other weapons than your swords, no provisions but those that you may snatch from the hands of your enemies; you must therefore attack them immediately, or otherwise your wants will increase, the gales of victory may no longer blow in your favour, and perchance the fear that lurks in the hearts of your enemies may be changed into indomitable courage.
Banish all fear from your hearts, trust that victory shall be ours, and that the barbarian king will not be able to withstand the shock of our arms. Here he comes to make us the masters of his cities and castles, and to deliver into our hands his countless treasures; and if you only seize the opportunity now presented, it may perhaps be the means of your becoming the owners of them, besides saving yourselves from certain death.
Do not think that I impose upon you a task from which I shrink myself, or that I try to conceal from you the dangers attending this our expedition. No: you have certainly a great deal to encounter, but know that if you only suffer for awhile, you will reap in the end an abundant harvest of pleasures and enjoyments.
And do not imagine that while I speak to you I mean not to act as I speak, for as my interest in this affair is greater, so will my behaviour on this occasion surpass yours. You must have heard numerous accounts of this island, you must know how the Grecian maidens, as handsome as Huris, their necks glittering with innumerable pearls and jewels, their bodies clothed with tunics of costly silks sprinkled with gold, are waiting your arrival, reclining on soft couches in the sumptuous palaces of crowned lords and princes.
You know well that the Khalif 'Abdu-l-malek Ibnu-l-walid has chosen you, like so many heroes, from among the brave; you know that the great lords of this island are willing to make you their sons and brethren by marriage, if you only rush on like so many brave men to the fight, and behave like true champions and valiant knights; you know that the recompenses of God await you if you are prepared to uphold his words, and proclaim his religion in this island; and, lastly, that all the spoil shall be yours, and of such Moslems as may be with you.
Bear in mind that God Almighty will select, according to this promise, those that distinguish themselves most among you, and grant them due reward, both in this world and in the future; and know likewise that I shall be the first to set you the example, and to put in practice what I recommend you to do; for it is my intention, on the meeting of the two hosts, to attack the Christian tyrant Roderick and kill him with my own hand, if God be pleased.
When you see me bearing against him, charge along with me; if I kill him, the victory is ours; if I am killed before I reach him, do not trouble yourselves about me, but fight as if I were still alive and among you, and follow up my purpose; for the moment they see their king fall, these barbarians are sure to disperse.
If, however, I should be killed, after inflicting death upon their king, appoint a man from among you who unites both courage and experience, and may command you in this emergency, and follow up the success. If you attend to my instructions, we are sure of the victory."
When Tarik had thus addressed his soldiers, and exhorted them to fight with courage, and to face the dangers of war with a stout heart,—when he had thus recommended them to make a simultaneous attack upon Roderick's men, and promised them abundant reward if they routed their enemies, their countenances were suddenly expanded with joy, their hopes were strengthened, the gales of victory began to blow on their side, and they all unanimously answered him -
"We are ready to follow thee, O Tarik! we shall all, to one man, stand by thee, and fight for thee; nor could we avoid it were we otherwise disposed—victory is our only hope of salvation."Tariq duly won the Battle of Guadalete - but to add an extera veneer to the story, according to legend - or so Frederick George Stephens tells us in his History of Gibraltar and its Sieges - Rodericks used a special 'Royal Car' during the Battle in which:
The wheels were made of the bones of elephants, and the axle-tree was of fine silver, and the perch was of fine gold. It was drawn by two horses, who were of great size, and gentle; and upon the car was pitched a tent, so large that it covered the whole car, and it was of fine cloth of gold, upon which were wrought all the great feats in arms which had been achieved until that time; and the pillar of the tent was of gold, and many stones of great value were set in It, which sent forth such splendour, that by night there was no need of any other light therein.
And the car and the horses bore the same adornments as the king, and these were full of jewels the largest that could be found. And in the middle of the car there was a seat placed against the pillar of the tent; and this seat was of great price, insomuch that the value of it cannot be summed up, so many and so great were the stones which were set in It; and it was wrought so subtly, and of such rare workmanship, that they who saw it marvelled thereat. And upon this seat the king was seated, being lifted up so high that all in the host, little or great, might behold him. And in this manner it was appointed that the king should go to war"
The Legend of Umm-Hakim and Moslem Cannibalism - Ibn Abd-el-Hakem - 10th Century
The news of Tariq and those who were with him, as well as of the place where they were, reached the people of Andalus. Tariq going along with his companions, marched over a bridge of mountains to a town called Cartagena. He went in the direction of Cordoba. Having passed by an island in the sea, he left behind his female slave of the name of Umm-Hakim, and with her a division of his troops. That island was then called Umm-Hakim.
When the Moslems settled in the island they found no other inhabitants there, than vinedressers. They made them prisoners. After that they took one of the vinedressers, slaughtered him, cut him in pieces, and boiled him, while the rest of his companions looked on. They also boiled meat in other cauldrons. When the meat was cooked they threw away the flesh of that man which they had boiled; no one knowing that it had been thrown away; and they ate the meat which they had boiled, while the rest of the vinedressers were spectators.
These did not doubt but that the Moslems ate the flesh of their companion; the rest being afterwards sent away, informed the people of Andalus that the Moslems feed on Human flesh . .
Tariq haranguing his troops. In some versions Tariq burns his boats - but not in Al-Makkari's. The woman in the centre of the picture represents Umm-Hakim ( 2009 - Fareed Suheimat )
The Legend of the Roderick and the Padlocked House - Al-Makkari - 17th Century
Some time previous to the invasion of the Arabs, which, as is well known, was the cause of the overthrow of the Gothic dynasty and of the entire conquest of Andalus, a king of the Goths, Roderick by name, ascended the throne. Now this king, being young and fond of adventure, once assembled his Wizirs, great officers of the state, and members of his council, and spoke to them thus:—
I have been thinking a long time about this house with its seven-and-twenty padlocks, and I am determined to have it opened, that I may see what it contains, for I am sure it is a mere jest."
It may be so, O King! answered one of the Wizirs; "but honesty, prudence, and policy demand that thou shouldst not do it; and that, following the example of thy father, of thy grandfather, and of thy ancestors - none of whom ever wished to dive into this mystery,- thou shouldst add a new padlock to the gate.
When the Wizir had done speaking, Roderic replied, - No:
I am led by an irresistible impulse, and nothing shall make me change my resolution. I have an ardent wish to penetrate this mystery, and my curiosity must be satisfied.
O King! answered the Wizard, "if thou doest it under a belief that treasures are concealed in it, let us hear thy estimation of them, and we will collect the sum among ourselves and deposit it in thy royal treasure, rather than see ourselves and thee exposed to frightful calamities and misery.
But Roderic being a man of undaunted spirit, stout of heart, and strong of determination, was not easily persuaded. He remained deaf to the entreaties of his counsellors and proceeded immediately towards the palace, and when he arrived at the gate, which, as we have already observed, was furnished with several locks, each of them having its key hanging to it, the gate was thrown open, and nothing else was to be seen but a large table made of gold and silver and set with precious stones, upon which was to be read the following inscription;
This is the table of Suleyman, son of Daud, (upon whom be peace!)
Another object, besides the table, was to be seen in another apartment of the palace, provided, also with a very strong padlock, which being removed allowed Roderick to look into it. But what was his astonishment on entering the apartment when nothing was to be seen but the urn, and inside it a roll of parchment and a picture representing in the brightest colours several horsemen looking like Arabs, dressed in skins of animals, and having, instead of turbans, locks of coarse hair; they were mounted on fleet Arabian steeds, bright scimitars hung by their sides, and their right hands were armed with spears.
Roderic ordered his attendants to unroll the parchment, when lo! what did he see but the following inscription written in large letters upon it;
Whenever this asylum is violated, and the spell contained in this urn broken, the people painted on this urn shall invade Andalus, overturn the throne of its kings, and subdue the whole country.
They say that when Roderic read this fatal prognostic he repented of what he had done, and was impressed with a strong belief of his impending ruin. He was not mistaken, for tidings soon reached him of an army of Arabs, which the emperor of the East sent against him.
This is the enchanted palace and the picture to which Roderick is said to have alluded afterwards, on the day of the battle of Guadalete, when, as he was advancing upon the Moslems, he saw for the first time before his eyes the very men whose representations were upon the parchment. . . .
Battle of Guadalete ( 19th century - Salvador Martinez Cubells )
Of this more will be said hereafter. But whether this account is a true one or not, God only knows, for we find it related in various ways by the historians, as we shall have further occasion to observe when we come to treat about the famous table of Suleyman and other particulars connected with this case, and that we shall do by taking our information from the best and purest sources.
Florinda's letter to her Father - Al-Makkari
Would it had pleased the Almighty, my dearest father ! that the ground had opened and swallowed me up, rather than I had ever lived to see myself reduced to this wretched necessity of writing, to give you the knowledge of a disgrace, which will cause in your breast an eternal disquiet ! the innumerable tears, which have all blotted and almost effaced this whole letter, will let you understand the violence I do myself in writing to you such unwelcome news :
but I apprehend, that, if I should defer it one single moment, I might leave room to doubt, whether at the same time when my body was defiled, my foul was not likewise stained with an indelible blemish. Who can ever put an end to our misfortunes, except you repair the insult which has been done to us? shall we stay till time makes public what is, at present, a secret, when we shall be covered with an opprobrious name more insupportable than death itself?
O wretched, and most deplorable destiny ! in a word, my dear father! your daughter ! your blood ! this branch of the royal stock, who, like an innocent lamb, was recommended to the care of a ravenous wolf, has been violated by king Roderic ! If you forget not what you owe to your illustrious blood, you will revenge the affront offered it, by destroying the tyrant, who has so basely stained it. Remember that you are count Julian, and that I am Cava, your only daughter!
The Legend of the Table of Suleyman - Al-Makkari
About the end of the month . . . Musa left Merida to go to Toledo, and when Tarik was informed of his arrival he went out to receive him with his principal officers, and met him in the district of Talavera.
. . . Musa's reception of his freedman was both unnatural and unjust,—that he reprimanded him severely for advancing contrary to his orders into the heart of the country, and manifested in public all the envy and animosity he had conceived against him. They say, also, that the moment Tarik perceived his master he alighted from his horse, out of respect, and to do him honour, but that Musa struck him with his whip, reproached him with his disobedience, and upbraided him before all the army for acting against his orders.
He then took Tarik with him to Toledo, where he summoned him to produce all the spoil gained from the enemy at the taking of that town, and especially the famous table of Suleyman, son of David, for which he seemed to wish more eagerly than for any other article found at the time of the conquest.
We have already said something on this inestimable jewel, descriptions of which are to be met with in almost every book on the history or geography of Andalus. These, however, are not all alike, since by some the materials of the table are said to be pure gold, by others green emerald. Some describe it as being made of gold and silver, and having round it a row of pearls, another of rubies, and a third of emeralds, and being, besides, strewed with innumerable precious gems; others make its substance to be solid emerald, and pretend that it had three hundred and sixty- five feet; others again say that it was all set with a variety of precious stones, and incrusted with all sorts of aromatic woods, and that the whole was covered with inscriptions in Greek.
But as that trustworthy and accurate historian, Ibnu Hayyan, has preserved a description of this table, as well as an account of its origin, we- shall refer to him. His words are as follows -
The celebrated table which Tarik found at Toledo, although attributed to Suleyman, and named after him, never belonged to that Prophet, according to the barbarian authors, who give it the following origin. They say that in the time of their ancient kings it was customary amongst them for every man of estimation and wealth to bequeath, before dying, some of his property to the churches. From the money so collected the priests caused tables to be made of pure gold and silver, besides thrones and huge stands, for the priests, deacons, and attendants to carry the gospels when taken out atpublic processions, or to ornament the altars on great festivals.
By means of such bequests this table was wrought at Toledo, and was afterwards emulously increased and embellished by each succeeding monarch, the last trying always to surpass his predecessors in magnificence, until it became the most splendid and costly jewel that ever was made for such a purpose, and acquired great celebrity.
The fabric was of pure gold, set with the most precious pearls, rubies, and emeralds; around it was a row of each of those valuable stones, and the whole table was besides covered with jewels so large and bright that never did human eye behold anything comparable to it. Toledo being the capital of the kingdom, there was no jewel, however costly, no article, however precious, which could not be procured in it; this and other causes concurred to ornament and embellish that inestimable object.
When the Moslems entered Toledo it was found on the great altar of their principal church, and the fact of such a treasure having been discovered soon became public and notorious. Tarik soon perceived by the haste that his master Musa made to come from Africa, and his eagerness to demand from him the spoils acquired, that he was devoured by envy; he, accordingly, decided upon taking away one of the legs of the table, which he kept concealed, and which afterwards became, as we shall see, his principal argument against Musa, when in the presence of the Khalif the latter disputed with him the possession of this jewel, which he pretended to have found himself.
Arrived in Toledo, Musa asked Tarik to produce the table of Suleyman, and the order being instantly obeyed, it was brought to the presence of the Arabian general, who, seeing it with only three feet instead of four, immediately questioned Tarik respecting it.
Tarik answered, that he had found it thus; upon which Musa caused a foot of pure gold, handsomer than which none could be procured, to be wrought; and notwithstanding its great disparity, (the other three being made of emerald,) to be fixed to the table, which he laid carefully up until he should present it himself to the Khalif Al-walid as the fruit of the Andalusian conquest.
After this Musa is represented as having cast Tarik into prison, and as meditating his death, which he would have accomplished had not a messenger of the Khalif arrived in Andalus with orders to set him at liberty, and restore him to the command of the troops. However, it appears by Ibnu Hayyan's narrative that he soon restored to him his confidence and friendship; when, uniting their forces, they both proceeded to new conquests, and speedily subdued the remainder of Andalus. . . .
. . When Musa arrived in Damascus he found Suleyman very much prejudiced against him; that monarch received him angrily, reprimanded him severely, and cast upon him several imputations and charges, which he tried to answer as well as he could. He then asked him to produce the table, which being done, Suleyman said to him - Tarik pretends that it was he, not thou, who found it.
Certainly not, answered Musa, if ever Tarik saw this table, it was in my possession and nowhere else." Then Tarik, addressing the Khalif, requested him to question Musa about the leg that was wanting, and on Musa's answering that he had found it in that state, and that in order to supply the deficiency he had caused another leg to be made.
Tarik triumphantly produced from under his tunic the identical one, which at once convinced Suleyman of the truth of Tarik's assertion and Musa's falsehood . . . .Note. The confusion here lies with the name given to the table, which was one and the same as the one that appears in the legend of the Padlocked House. I suspect that the table was supposed to have belonged to the Biblical character Solomon and that the 'correct' name would have been Solomon's Table.
Sulayman bin Abd al-Malik also known as Suleyman or Suleiman he was Al Walid's younger brother and succeeded him as Caliph from 715 to 717 AD. No true liking exists of Sulayman - or of any other Moorish leader of antiquity - perhaps because human representation was against the principles of Islam and tended to be considered a form of idolatry ( Unknown )