The People of Gibraltar
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 2 – Tarik and Gibraltar


Within just a few paragraphs, Alcantara effectively deals succinctly with yet another problem encountered by most historians dealing with this type of material – how to avoid having to explain large chunks of Spanish history in order to get to that of Gibraltar – and how to distinguish fact from fiction. I think he deals well with the first but rather less so with the second.

As regards Julian just about every author I have come across agrees on his role as the instigator, advisor and participant in this particular story. The difficulty is in determining exactly who he was and why he did so. Alcantara dismisses as legend the idea that Julian was getting his own back on his boss, the Visigothic king Rodrigo. In effect he is dismissing the old story about the Count having left his daughter Florinda under the tender care and protection of his king who had promptly raped her.

Juan de Mariana - Author of one of the first general histories of Spain
Juan de Mariana – History of Spain - Late 16th Century – P97
At that time, Count Reiquila governed that Province as Lieutenant, I believe to Count Julian, a man in such power, that besides it, he had the government of that part of Spain about the Streight of Gibraltar, whence, is a short cut into Africk. Besides all this, he held a great Estate of his own, about Consuegra, inferior to none in the Kingdom. 
It was the Custom of Spain, for the Sons of the Nobility to be bred up at Court, and attend upon the King, and their daughters upon the Queen: Among the latter, was a daughter of Count Julian, called Cava (Florinda), of singular Beauty. As she played . . . the King from a window perceiving, was so taken with her, he could think of nothing else . . . and having used all possible means to gain her consent . . . he ravished her . . . 

Florinda in the middle surrounded by friends with peeping-tom King Rodrigo hiding on the bushes on the left (1852 Franz Xaver Winterhalte)

The notion that the above is indeed a myth is well supported elsewhere in the literature.
Thomas James – History of the Herculean Straits . . . 1771 Vol 1 P26 
I am now come to treat of Gibraltar. . . and of the strange cause which introduced that barbarous multitude into Spain . . . in which recital we must not entirely rely on the story of king Roderic's deflowering count Julian's daughter, though undoubtedly that facilitated the descent. 
Historians relate this famous revolution in various ways . . . relying too much on (the) story of the beautiful Cava, assign no other cause: which letter is very erroneous from the beginning to the end . . . Mariana, though otherwise a great historian, yet carries the air of the marvellous in many places of his history, as well as in this story.
Thomas James mentions a 16th century Anglo-Welsh historian as his original source for the myth.

James Howell - Anglo-Welsh historian (Mid17th century)
James Howell – The King of Spain – Letter to Viscount Colchester Mid17th century
There reigned in Spain Don Rodrigo who kept his court then in Malaga. He employed the Conde Julian Ambassador to Barbary, who had a daughter (a young beautiful lady) that was maid of honour to the Queen. The King spying her one day refreshing herself under an arbor, fell enamoured with her and never left until he had deflowered her etc etc etc
Richard Ford – Handbook for Travellers in Spain - 1855 P285
'La Puerta de la Cava' - in Malaga - is connected by the vulgar with La Cava, Count Julian's daughter, whose violation by Don Roderick introduced the Moors into Spain, a questionable story at best; at all events La Cava is a corruption of Alcaba, the descent; and Cava herself is nothing but Cahba, which in Arabic signifies a lewd woman . . . That Don Julian . . . assisted the Moorish invasion is certain, but . . . his daughter is never mentioned, except in later ballads and sayings - 'Ay de España perdida por un gusto y por la Cava'
Ford was a born cynic. However, as modern Spanish historian Francisco Garcia Gomez has pointed out, it is rather odd that the gate should have been given an Arabic name before the Moors actually arrived in Spain.

Richard Ford dressed for Spain ( 1830s)
Frederick Sayer - History of Gibraltar - 1865 P3
A traditional tale is told that Eoderic having gained possession of Count Julian’s daughter by violence, the father, goaded by revenge, planned the invasion of Spain and the destruction of the Visigothic throne.
It certainly sounds like a myth but this is what – to quote him once again - a hard-nosed 19th century professional Arabist - had to say about it. 

Pasqual de Gayangos - Notes on Al Makkarí V I P 513
This fable, which has found its way into most of the sober histories of Spain, was first introduced by the Monk of Silos, a chronicler of the eleventh century. There can be no doubt that he borrowed it from the Arabs, but it seems hard to believe that it was altogether a tale of their invention.  
There are facts in it which an Arab could not have invented unless he drew them from Christian sources; and, as I shall show hereafter, the Arabs knew and consulted the writings of the Christians. If Ilyan was Roderic’s vassal, if he was his . . . captain of his body-guard, (which some of the Spanish historians have translated by Conde de las Esparleras!)—there is nothing improbable in his daughter being educated in the royal palace.
Most writers leave the story in because fable - or otherwise - “se non è vero, è ben trovato.”


Alcantara’s account of Tarif’s expedition is more or less the accepted one. But there are other versions that show the inherent difficulties of interpreting events which occurred well over a thousand years ago, written by people who may have had axes to grind and were not even there at the time. The following is a good example - a quote offered by a Muslim historian writing in Arabic in the mid15th century, quoting a 14th century Tunisian historian, the lot translated into English by a Spanish Arabist, the already mentioned Pasqual de Gayangos.
Al Makkari - History of Mohammedan Dynasties V I - 1620 - quoting Ibnu Khaldun - 14th c. Tunisian historian – Pascual de Gayangos translation.
 . . . before starting on his expedition Tarik divided his army into two corps, he himself taking the command of one, and placing the other under the immediate orders of Tarif An-naja’I, Tarik, with his men, landed at the foot of the rock now called Jebalu-l-fatah (the mountain of the entrance), and which then received his name, and was called Jebal-Tarik (the mountain of Tarik); while his companion Tarif landed on the island afterwards called after him Jezirah-Tarif (the island of Tarif). In order to provide for the security of their respective armies, both generals selected, soon after their landing, a good encampment, which they surrounded with walls and trenches . . .

Jezirah-Tarif  - Island of Tarifa (1812 – Edmund Hodges)

To make my point I think the following interpretation of Ibnu Khaldun’s passage is worth repeating.
Pasqual de Gayangos – Notes from Al Makkarí’s quote.
This passage . . . At first sight it would appear to invalidate the accounts of all the historians here quoted, since it purports that Tarif and Tarik invaded Spain at the same time; but, if attentively examined, it will be found not to contain sufficient evidence to impair the authority of other writers. He does not distinctly state that Tarif had not, previously to his joining Tarik, invaded Spain alone.  
Tarif, leading the van of the army, might have preceded him: such indeed appears to have been the case, for it is not to be supposed that the forces that preceded Tarik landed without a general at their head.
To complicate matters still further here is yet another version. 
Al Makkarí - - History of Mohammedan Dynasties V I - 1620 
Accordingly, Musa sent . . . Tarif Abu Zar’ah . . . to make an incursion into Andalus. Tarif and his small army . . . landed on an island situated opposite to another island close to Andalus, and known by the name of Jezirah Al-khadhra (The green island) . . . 

Southern Iberia in the 8th century
In this island, which has since taken the name of Tarif, on account of his landing on it, the Berber general stayed a whole day . . . he then moved on and made several inroads into the main land, which produced a rich spoil and several captives. . . Tarif returned . . . with spoil, and bringing a great number of captives.  
Another incursion was made by a Sheikh of the Berbers, whose name was Abu Zar’ah, who landed . . . on the island of Algeciras, and finding that the inhabitants had deserted the island he set fire to their houses and fields, and burnt also a church very much venerated amongst them. He then put to the sword such of its inhabitants as he met . . . returned safe to Africa.
There are also sources that make the kind of naming mistakes that have been perpetuated for decades, not to say centuries afterwards:
Crónicas de Alfonso XI - Possibly 14th centuryÉ por eso ha este nombre Gibraltar, que llaman los Moros Gebeltarif, que quiere decir, el monte ó la sierra de Tarif, ca cerca de aquel monte puso su real Tarif Abencied: é otros le llaman Gebelfat, que quiere decir, la sierra de la abertura, porque allí se comenzó abrir la conquista que los Moros ficieron en España. E teniendo cl. Rey Don Alfonso los Moros que estaban cercados . . . 
é aquel fué el primero logar do TarifAbencied en el tiempo del Rey Rodrigo pasó, é allí poso, por non facet daño en Algezira, que era del Conde Don Illan, que fué el malo, por cuyo consejo venían los Moros: 
Nevertheless, it seems that it is the account shown below that explains that the first trip across to test the waters was by Count Julian. He was trying to make Musa understand how easy it was to cross the Straits and pillage the southern Visigoths.
Abu Ja’far – From Appendix D of Al Makkari Vol 1 – 12th c -Page Xlii   
llyan in the meanwhile . . . called together his men, and, crossing the Straits in two vessels, landed at Jeziratu-l-Khadhra (Algeciras) whence he made incursions into the land, burning the houses and fields, killing, taking captives, and collecting considerable spoil; after which he and his companions retimed safe to Africa, their hands filled with booty. The news of this success soon spread . . . the result being that about three thousand Berbers, collected under the orders of Abri Zar’ah Tarif Ibn Mailik Al-mu’awi, (Tarif) crossed the sea, and landed on an island ever since called the island of Tarif.
A rare sighting incidentally, of Tarif’s full name. Tarif’s exploratory invasion out of the way, the scene is set for Tarik’s subsequent tour de force. 

TARIK’S INVASION (Continued - See next section)

To read the booklet without any interruptions from me - click on the link below:

711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar - J.J. Alcantara

To read the rest of my commentary click on the appropriate link below:

711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 1 - The Visigoths and Islam
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 2 - Tarik and Gibraltar
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 3 - Tarik’s Mountain
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 4 - Tarik Invades
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 5 - Covadonga
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 6 - Vikings and Almoravids
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 7 - Yusuf Ibn Tashfin
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 8 - Abd al-Mu’min
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 9 - Madinat-al-Fath
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 10 - Moorish Wall, Aqueduct and Town
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 11 - Abd al-Mu’min Revisited
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 12 - The First Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 13 - Christian Gibraltar and the Second Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 14 - La Giralda and the Third Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 15 - Abu al-hasan
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 16 - The Tower of Homage
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 17 - The Line Wall and the Shrine
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 18 - The Mosque, St Mary the Crowned and Rio Salado
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 19 - Siege of Algeciras and Ibn Battuta
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 20 - Southern Defences and Moorish Baths
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 21 - The Nuns’ Well
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 22 - The Gatehouse
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 23 - The 6th and 7th Sieges
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 24 - The 8th Siege – Castilian Gibraltar