The People of Gibraltar

711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 4 - Tarik Invades


As Alcantara did previously while dealing with an Islamic history that occurred prior to Tarik’s landing in Al-Andalus he does now by recording the more important events that happened after Tarik’s landing – all of which need doing even if they are only of indirect relevance to the history of Gibraltar.

Rodrigo’s response to Teodomiro’s letter was to call a meeting of his noblemen in which he expressed his dismay as follows.
Ajbar Machmua - 11th century
Este hijo de mala mujer se ha hecho dueño de nuestro reino sin ser de estirpe real, antes bien, que desear es ganar botín: conseguido esto, se marcharán y nos dejarán. Emprendamos la fuga en el momento de la pelea, y el hijo de la mala mujer será derrotado".
And if readers will forgive me for saying so, I have a strong feeling that the Spanish translation of the Arabic at the start of this passage should have been “Este hijo de puta” rather than the one given here. The bit about Rodrigo’s white horse is almost certainly a myth.
Ajbar Machmua – 11th century
Rodrigo desapareció, sin que se supiese lo que le había acontecido, pues los musulmanes encontraron solamente su caballo blanco, con su silla de oro, guarnecida de rubíes y esmeraldas, y un manto tejido de oro y bordado de perlas y rubíes. El caballo había caído en un lodazal, y el cristiano que había caído con él, al sacar el pie, se había dejado un botín en el lodo. Sólo Dios sabe lo que pasó, pues no se tuvo noticias de él, ni se le encontró vivo ni muerto.
There is also another much more gruesome story concerning the end of Roderick.
Anonymous Arabic writer - Gayangos – Al Makkarí Vol 1 - Appendix lxx
. . . the rout became general. After this Tarik took Ludherik’s head and sent it to his master, Musa, who dispatched one of his sons with it to the Khalif Al-walid.

Roderick on the left and Tarik on the right (From a medieval document)

And if all that were not enough, here is another myth that did the rounds that explains the cause of all that later trouble Roderick encountered with Tarik.
Abu Ja’far
Lodherick (Rodrick) . . . This monarch is the same under whose reign Andalus was invaded and subdued by the Arabs. One of the causes which is said to have contributed most efficaciously to that event is the following. There was at Toledo a palace the gate of which was secured with many locks, for every king who ruled over that country added a lock to the gate, and none ever dared to open it; 
Nor did anyone know what it contained . . . He then said, “I must have the gate of this palace opened, that I may see what is inside, but his counts and bishops said to him, “Do no such thing, O King! Do not innovate upon a custom which thy predecessors have hitherto kept most religiously.”

Front cover Cornica de Don Rodrigo, shows the king in front of a padlocked door with a bishop and several noblemen entreating him not to use his key to enter (1549 - Toledo)
But Ludherik replied, “No, I must have it opened, and see what it contains.” He then caused the gate to be thrown open, but he found nothing inside save a large roll of parchment, on which were portrayed figures of turbaned men mounted on generous steeds, having swords in their hands, and spears with fluttering pennons at the end.
The roll contained besides an inscription, purporting, “The men represented in this picture are the Arabs, the same who, whenever the locks of this palace are broken, will invade this island and subdue it entirely.” When Ludherik saw this, he repented of what he had done, and ordered the gate to be shut.
I would also suggest that the cannibal story is . . . wait for it . . . yet another myth. Here is a version heavily edited by me.
Abu Ja’farWhen Rodrigo marched his army to Cordova, he chose among his army a man of tried courage, experienced in the affairs and stratagems of war and ordered him to to go under some pretext to Tarik’s camp, and observe their numbers, looks, and general appearance. The man did as he commanded. Tarik, having been informed of this visit, put into practice the following stratagem. 
He ordered the flesh of the slain enemy to be cut into pieces and dressed as if it were to be served as a meal for his men. Tarik’s men did as they were ordered and cooked the flesh in large cauldrons. When Rodrigo’s messenger saw this, he was left in no doubt that the Moslems fed upon dead bodies. 
Tarik of course had quietly removed the human flesh, buried it during the night, and had replaced it with beef and mutton. When in the men were summoned to eat the next day, the messenger was also invited. The later returned to his master and told him what he had seen:“Your kingdom has been invaded by a nation of people who feed upon the flesh of the slain.”
Incidentally, as I suggested in a previous chapter, Tarik may have got more than a whipping from Musa:
Al Hakkam - 9th century
Musa Ibn Nosseyr seized Tarik lbn Amru, bound him with fetters, imprisoned him, and thought of putting him to death.

Another painting of Musa whipping Tarik in Toledo – although they might just as likely have met in Talavera – but was anybody living in Gibraltar? (Gibraltar for Kids website)

Nevertheless, Musa seems to have eventually come to his senses:
Al Makkarí V1
. . . Musa . . . 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.
And finally, if anybody wants to add yet another possible myth to their growing collection, the previously mentioned Visigothic Teodomiro – Duke and Governor of Aurariola - Orihuela – which included Murcia, Alicante, Albacete and the northern part of Almeria ended up being so admired by the all-conquering Islamic army that he was offered the governorship of Murcia. . . but that really is for another day.

Known in English as the pact of Tudmir (El Escorial)

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

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