In the mean time the besieged city began to suffer the distress of famine.
Continuing Spain Conquers Grenada,
our selection from Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada by Washington Irving published in 1829. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Spain Conquers Grenada.
Place: Grenada, Spain
They now shut themselves up gloomily within their walls; there were no longer any daring sallies from their gates. For a time they flattered themselves with hopes that the late conflagration of the camp would discourage the besiegers; that, as in former years, their invasion would end with the summer, and that they would again withdraw before the autumnal rains. The measures of Ferdinand and Isabella soon crushed these hopes. They gave orders to build a regular city upon the site of their camp, to convince the Moors that the siege was to endure until the surrender of Granada. Nine of the principal cities of Spain were charged with the stupendous undertaking; and they emulated each other with a zeal worthy of the cause. To this city it was proposed to give the name of Isabella, so dear to the army and the nation; but that pious Princess, calling to mind the holy cause in which it was erected, gave it the name of Santa Fe, or the “City of the Holy Faith,” and it remains to this day a monument of the piety and glory of the Catholic sovereigns.
In the mean time the besieged city began to suffer the distress of famine. Its supplies were all cut off; a cavalcade of flocks and herds, and mules laden with money, coming to the relief of the city from the mountains of the Alpujarras,* was taken by the Marquis of Cadiz and led in triumph to the camp, in sight of the suffering Moors. Autumn arrived, but the harvests had been swept from the face of the country; a rigorous winter was approaching, and the city was almost destitute of provisions. The people sank into deep despondency. They called to mind all that had been predicted by astrologers at the birth of their ill-starred sovereign, and all that had been foretold of the fate of Granada at the time of the capture of Zahara.
[* A mountainous region in the provinces of Granada and Almeria.]
Boabdil was alarmed by the gathering dangers from without and by the clamors of his starving people. He summoned a council, composed of the principal officers of the army, the alcaids of the fortresses, the xequis or sages of the city, and the alfaquis or doctors of the faith. They assembled in the great hall of audience of the Alhambra, and despair was painted in their countenances. Boabdil demanded of them what was to be done in their present extremity; and their answer was, “Surrender.” The venerable Abul Kazim Abdalmalek, governor of the city, represented its unhappy state: “Our granaries are nearly exhausted, and no further supplies are to be expected. The provender for the war-horses is required as sustenance for the soldiery; the very horses themselves are killed for food; of seven thousand steeds which once could be sent into the field, three hundred only remain. Our city contains two hundred thousand inhabitants, old and young, with each a mouth that calls piteously for bread.”
The xequis and principal citizens declared that the people could no longer sustain the labors and sufferings of a defense. “And of what avail is our defense,” said they, “when the enemy is determined to persist in the siege? — what alternative remains but to surrender or to die?”
The heart of Boabdil was touched by this appeal, and he maintained a gloomy silence. He had cherished some faint hope of relief from the Sultan of Egypt or the Barbary powers, but it was now at an end; even if such assistance were to be sent, he had no longer a seaport where it might debark. The counselors saw that the resolution of the King was shaken, and they united their voices in urging him to capitulate.
The valiant Musa alone arose in opposition: “It is yet too early,” said he, “to talk of a surrender. Our means are not exhausted; we have yet one source of strength remaining, terrible in its effects, and which often has achieved the most signal victories — it is our despair. Let us rouse the mass of the people; let us put weapons in their hands; let us fight the enemy to the very utmost, until we rush upon the points of their lances. I am ready to lead the way into the thickest of their squadrons; and much rather would I be numbered among those who fell in the defense of Granada than of those who survived to capitulate for her surrender!” The words of Musa were without effect. Boabdil yielded to the general voice; it was determined to capitulate with the Christian sovereigns; and the venerable Abul Kazim was sent forth to the camp empowered to treat for terms.
The old Governor was received with great distinction by Ferdinand and Isabella, who appointed Gonsalvo of Cordova and Fernando de Zafra, secretary to the King, to confer with him. All Granada awaited, in trembling anxiety, the result of his negotiations. After repeated conferences he at length returned with the ultimate terms of the Catholic sovereigns. They agreed to suspend all attack for seventy days, at the end of which time, if no succor should arrive to the Moorish King, the city of Granada was to be surrendered.
All Christian captives should be liberated without ransom. Boabdil and his principal cavaliers should take an oath of fealty to the Castilian crown, and certain valuable territories in the Alpujarra mountains should be assigned to the Moorish monarch for his maintenance. The Moors of Granada should become subjects of the Spanish sovereigns, retaining their possessions, their arms and horses, and yielding up nothing but their artillery. They should be protected in the exercise of their religion, and governed by their own laws, administered by cadis of their own faith, under governors appointed by the sovereigns. They should be exempted from tribute for three years, after which term they should pay the same that they had been accustomed to render to their native monarchs. Those who chose to depart for Africa within three years should be provided with a passage for themselves and their effects, free of charge, from whatever port they should prefer.
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