Henry Coppée was an American writer and educationalist. He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. army and later became a professor of English at West Point and of English literature and history at Pennsylvania University. Apart from a series of elementary text books he also wrote a Great Commanders Series one of which was the History of the Conquest of Spain by the Arab-Moors which was published in 1881.
It is quite evident from this book that he must have visited Gibraltar and it is from it that the following quotes are taken.
Tarik Landing in Gibraltar - Attempts have been made to determine the exact spot of Tarik's landing; it is a puzzling, but fortunately an unimportant, question. Al Makkari 1 says: 'At the foot of the mountain which afterwards received his name'. Conde takes him to Jeziratu-l-Khadhra, 2 which, as we have seen, is the generic name of any green island or peninsula, but which has been supposed to be a small island in the bay of Gibraltar, immediately opposite the town of Algeciras.
The Green Island ( 1934 - Spanish Naval Map )
Captain Drinkwater, apparently without having made careful investigation of the matter 3 , thinks that he landed on the isthmus between Mons Calpe and the continent; 'that is, on the plain just behind the Rock, now called the neutral ground' exempt at present from either English or Spanish occupancy.
It is probable that so large a force landed at several points, and at intervals of time. If the weather was bad and the sea rough, they would naturally seek at once the shelter of the bay; but, in moderate weather and with ordinary precautions, they would seek the nearest points, and so it is probable that most of the troops went on shore at and between Europa and little Europa Point, and first deployed in what is now called the Alameda.
Europa and Europa Point as viewed from the sea ( 1797 G. B. Fisher )
These are conjectures; but on a small elevated flat, just above these points, 4 may still be seen the ruins of a Moorish tower. Very lately a portion of it was pulled down, and on one of its stones was found an inscription, disclosing the year 725 as the date of its completion. 5 This seems to have been a small citadel in case of a retreat, and a lookout for boats crossing from Africa.
Al Kortobi, striving to be more explicit, is more obscure. He informs us that Tarik 'cast anchor close to a mountain which received his name. When he was about to land he found some of the Rum posted on a commodious part of the coast where he intended to disembark, who made some show of resistance.
But Tarik, giving up that spot, sailed off from it at night, and went towards another part of the coast, which he contrived to render flat by means of oars, and by throwing over them the saddles of the horses, and in this way he managed to effect a landing unobserved by his enemies, and before they were aware of it.' (Gayangos)
The omen of the dream 6 had succeeded so well with the troops that another was not wanting. If Mohammed could point the way to Spain in a vision, they were not unwilling to have corroborative testimony as to the fitness and fortune of their leader. While Tarik was advancing inland from his place of landing, he was met by an old woman of Algeciras, who had been for a long time a widow.
Her husband, she said, had been skilful in predicting future events. She had often heard him say, when as yet there were no signs of a conquest, that Spain would be subjugated by a tall man, with a prominent forehead, and having upon his left shoulder a black hairy mole - among the Orientals a sign of good fortune. Tarik at once uncovered his person, and in the middle of his left shoulder was displayed the lucky protuberance. ( Al Makkari )
View of the Alameda Red Sands from Prince Edward's Gate - If the Moorish troops actually landed in this area as suggested by Coppée they would certainly not have been unobserved by the enemy on the other side of the Bay ( 1790 - George Bulteel Fisher ) (See LINK)
The polemic as to where exactly Tarik landed is covered more fully elsewhere. (See LINK) Keeping strictly to the text perhaps it would be helpful to note the following:
1. Coppeé's al-Makkari (see LINK) quotes are all taken from translations by the Spanish historian Pascual de Gayangos .
2. Jeziratu-l-Khadhra the island, can also be identified as al-Jazirah al-Khadra the name given by the arab invaders to the town of Algeciras itself.
3. A rare criticism of the John Drinkwater (see LINK) - historian of the Great Siege of Gibraltar - whose words were often taken by British historians of the era as gospel truth.
4. Nor was the castle (see LINK) anywhere near Europa and little Europa Point, but much further towards the northern extremity of the Rock.
5. The date of the inscription on the Moorish Castle is no longer thought to be correct. Perhaps a more realistic theory is that the present castle was built in the 14th century by the Merinid ruler of Morocco the Caliph Abu-l-hasan (see LINK) yet another conqueror of Gibraltar. It is thought that it was built over the ruins of the original keep built in the 12th century by the Almohad ruler Abd-al Mu'min founder of Medinat al Fath, (see LINKFMak) the original town of Gibraltar.
6. The dream mentioned in the passage is also dealt with in a separate article. (See LINK)
Tarik Landing in Gibraltar - A Romantic View - And now the traveller may cross with the Arab-Moors. Once more balanced, as were the Moslem chiefs, in the arms of wading Berbers and rocked in their rude boats . . . . and sets out on the track of Tarik. In front the island of Tarif; before him soon rises in elephantine proportions the famous Rock 'like a beacon spreading its rays over the seas and rising far above the neighbouring mountains: one would say that its face almost reaches the sky, and that its eyes are watching the stars in the celestial tracts.'
The 'famous' Rock (1830s - J.M.Van Braam )
Such it was to the Arabian poet, and since then it has been justly called 'a mountain of histories.' He passes Europa Point, and entering the bay soon finds behind the mole a safer harbour than that of Tarik's day. Within the narrow limits of the town at the western base of the mountain, and on the Alameda, he sees the camping ground of a portion of the Moslem army.
By zigzag paths he climbs the rock to the signal tower, and from its sharp elevation he looks out upon an exquisite picture of Nature and of History, a complete and living map of the famous strait. Far below at his feet lies Europa Point, with its light-house and batteries, jutting out, at the present day, rather in defiance than in greeting, to its sister promontory on the African shore; on his right is the beautiful bay of Gibraltar; around him are two continents, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and the five historic kingdoms of Andalusia, soon to be devastated and deluged with blood.
The Bay of Gibraltar from Spain ( 1860s Fritz Bamberger ) (See LINK)
Opposite, the town of Ceuta gleams white upon its seven hills, and Mons Abyle asserts its kinship with Mons Calpe. Nor is it only a map, but a beautiful, coloured map: the green and gray of the Spanish coast; the deep, deep blue of the midland sea; the lighter perspective blue of Africa in clearly defined outlines; all gently checkered, perhaps by the varying shadows of the fleecy clouds which are scudding under the sun.
As his enchanted gaze rests upon this wonderful panorama, it needs no vivid imagination to see the drama of the conquest unfolding: it is there under his very eye. The numerous vessels in bay and sea, crossing each other's track in sunlight and shade, are the fleet of Tarik, plying back and forth between Africa and Spain.
The drums and trumpets of the British band playing upon the Alameda, rising fitfully and faintly upon the ear, are pressed into the service of Fancy, as the clanging horns and atabals mustering the dark squadrons of the Arab-Moors. Centuries recede; the traveller stands on the rock of Tarik; he sees the coming of Tarik, and he keeps time, with pulse and foot, to the grand quickstep which is ushering Arabian civilization into degenerate Spain.
A degenerate Spain? Was there such thing as Spain in the Iberia of the Visigoths? Perhaps a final quote from Copée himself might help understand his comment.
I have followed those Spanish scholars who . . . have honestly attempted to repair the great wrong done by many historians in ignoring or maligning the Moslems of Spain. These were the principal motives which prompted me to write. . .