Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada/Chapter LX
HOW HAMET EL ZEGRI WAS HARDENED IN HIS OBSTINACY BY THE ARTS OF A MOORISH ASTROLOGER.
Among those followers of the santon that had effected their entrance into the city was a dark African of the tribe of the Gomeres, who was likewise a hermit or dervise and passed among the Moors for a holy and inspired man. No sooner were the mangled remains of his predecessor buried with the honors of martyrdom than this dervise elevated himself in his place and professed to be gifted with the spirit of prophecy. He displayed a white banner, which he assured the Moors was sacred, that he had retained it for twenty years for some signal purpose, and that Allah had revealed to him that under that banner the inhabitants of Malaga should sally forth upon the camp of the unbelievers, put it to utter rout, and banquet upon the provisions in which it abounded.* The hungry and credulous Moors were elated at this prediction, and cried out to be led forth at once to the attack; but the dervise told them the time was not yet arrived, for every event had its allotted day in the decrees of fate: they must wait patiently, therefore, until the appointed time should be revealed to him by Heaven. Hamet el Zegri listened to the dervise with profound reverence, and his example had great effect in increasing the awe and deference of his followers. He took the holy man up into his stronghold of Gibralfaro, consulted him on all occasions, and hung out his white banner on the loftiest tower as a signal of encouragement to the people of the city.
*Cura de los Palacios, cap. 84.
In the mean time, the prime chivalry of Spain was gradually assembling before the walls of Malaga. The army which had commenced the siege had been worn out by extreme hardships, having had to construct immense works, to dig trenches and mines, to mount guard by sea and land, to patrol the mountains, and to sustain incessant conflicts. The sovereigns were obliged, therefore, to call upon various distant cities for reinforcements of horse and foot. Many nobles also assembled their vassals and repaired of their own accord to the royal camp.
Every little while some stately galley or gallant caravel would stand into the harbor, displaying the well-known banner of some Spanish cavalier and thundering from its artillery a salutation to the sovereigns and a defiance to the Moors. On the land side also reinforcements would be seen winding down from the mountains to the sound of drum and trumpet, and marching into the camp with glistening arms as yet unsullied by the toils of war.
One morning the whole sea was whitened by the sails and vexed by the oars of ships and galleys bearing toward the port. One hundred vessels of various kinds and sizes arrived, some armed for warlike service, others deep freighted with provisions. At the same time the clangor of drum and trumpet bespoke the arrival of a powerful force by land, which came pouring in lengthening columns into the camp. This mighty reinforcement was furnished by the duke of Medina Sidonia, who reigned like a petty monarch over his vast possessions. He came with this princely force a volunteer to the royal standard, not having been summoned by the sovereigns, and he brought, moreover, a loan of twenty thousand doblas of gold.
When the camp was thus powerfully reinforced Isabella advised that new offers of an indulgent kind should be made to the inhabitants, for she was anxious to prevent the miseries of a protracted siege or the effusion of blood that must attend a general attack. A fresh summons was therefore sent for the city to surrender, with a promise of life, liberty, and property in case of immediate compliance, but denouncing all the horrors of war if the defence were obstinately continued.
Hamet again rejected the offer with scorn. His main fortifications as yet were but little impaired, and were capable of holding out much longer; he trusted to the thousand evils and accidents that beset a besieging army and to the inclemencies of the approaching season; and it is said that he, as well as his followers, had an infatuated belief in the predictions of the dervise.
The worthy Fray Antonio Agapida does not scruple to affirm that the pretended prophet of the city was an arch nigromancer, or Moorish magician, "of which there be countless many," says he, "in the filthy sect of Mahomet," and that he was leagued with the prince of the powers of the air to endeavor to work the confusion and defeat of the Christian army. The worthy father asserts also that Hamet employed him in a high tower of the Gibralfaro, which commanded a wide view over sea and land, where he wrought spells and incantations with astrolabes and other diabolical instruments to defeat the Christian ships and forces whenever they were engaged with the Moors.
To the potent spells of this sorcerer he ascribes the perils and losses sustained by a party of cavaliers of the royal household in a desperate combat to gain two towers of the suburb near the gate of the city called la Puerto de Granada. The Christians, led on by Ruy Lopez de Toledo, the valiant treasurer of the queen, took and lost and retook the towers, which were finally set on fire by the Moors and abandoned to the flames by both parties. To the same malignant influence he attributes the damage done to the Christian fleet, which was so vigorously assailed by the albatozas, or floating batteries, of the Moors that one ship, belonging to the duke of Medina Sidonia, was sunk and the rest were obliged to retire.
"Hamet el Zegri," says Fray Antonio Agapida, "stood on the top of the high tower of Gibralfaro and beheld this injury wrought upon the Christian force, and his proud heart was puffed up. And the Moorish nigromancer stood beside him. And he pointed out to him the Christian host below, encamped on every eminence around the city and covering its fertile valley, and the many ships floating upon the tranquil sea, and he bade him be strong of heart, for that in a few days all this mighty fleet would be scattered by the winds of heaven, and that he should sally forth under the guidance of the sacred banner and attack this host, and utterly defeat it, and make spoil of those sumptuous tents; and Malaga should be triumphantly revenged upon her assailants. So the heart of Hamet was hardened like that of Pharaoh, and he persisted in setting at defiance the Catholic sovereigns and their army of saintly warriors."