Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada/Chapter XCVI
FAMINE AND DISCORD IN THE CITY.
The besieged city now began to suffer the distress of famine. Its supplies were all cut off; a cavalgada of flocks and herds and mules laden with money, coming to the relief of the city from the mountains of the Alpuxarras, was taken by the marques 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.
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 alcaydes 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 the present extremity, and their answer was, "Surrender." The venerable Abul Casim, 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 defence. "And of what avail is our defence," 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 soldan 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 counsellors saw that the resolution of the king was shaken, and they united their voices in urging him to capitulate.
Muza alone rose in opposition. "It is yet too early," said he, "to talk of 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 defence of Granada than of those who survived to capitulate for her surrender."
The words of Muza were without effect, for they were addressed to broken-spirited and heartless men, or men, perhaps, to whom sad experience had taught discretion. They were arrived at that state of public depression when heroes and heroism are no longer regarded, and when old men and their counsels rise into importance. Boabdil el Chico yielded to the general voice: it was determined to capitulate with the Christian sovereigns, and the venerable Abul Casim was sent forth to the camp empowered to treat for terms.