Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada/Chapter XVI
THE BATTLE OF LUCENA.
The Moorish king had descried the Spanish forces at a distance, although a slight fog prevented his seeing them distinctly and ascertaining their numbers. His old father-in-law, Ali Atar, was by his side, who, being a veteran marauder, was well acquainted with all the standards and armorial bearings of the frontiers. When the king beheld the ancient and long-disused banner of Cabra emerging from the mist, he turned to Ali Atar and demanded whose ensign it was. The old borderer was for once at a loss, for the banner had not been displayed in battle in his time. "In truth," replied he, after a pause, "I have been considering that standard for some time, but I confess I do not know it. It cannot be the ensign of any single commander or community, for none would venture single-handed to attack you. It appears to be a dog, which device is borne by the towns of Baeza and Ubeda. If it be so, all Andalusia is in movement against you, and I would advise you to retire."
The count de Cabra, in winding down the hill toward the Moors, found himself on much lower ground than the enemy: he ordered in all haste that his standard should be taken back, so as to gain the vantage- ground. The Moors, mistaking this for a retreat, rushed impetuously toward the Christians. The latter, having gained the height proposed, charged upon them at the same moment with the battle-cry of "Santiago!" and, dealing the first blows, laid many of the Moorish cavaliers in the dust.
The Moors, thus checked in their tumultuous assault, were thrown into confusion, and began to give way, the Christians following hard upon them. Boabdil el Chico endeavored to rally them. "Hold! hold! for shame!" cried he; "let us not fly, at least until we know our enemy." The Moorish chivalry were stung by this reproof, and turned to make front with the valor of men who feel that they are fighting under their monarch's eye.
At this moment, Lorenzo de Porres, alcayde of Luque, arrived with fifty horse and one hundred foot, sounding an Italian trumpet from among a copse of oak trees which concealed his force. The quick ear of old Ali Atar caught the note. "That is an Italian trumpet," said he to the king; "the whole world seems in arms against Your Highness!"
The trumpet of Lorenzo de Porres was answered by that of the count de Cabra in another direction, and it seemed to the Moors as if they were between two armies. Don Lorenzo, sallying from among the oaks, now charged upon the enemy: the latter did not wait to ascertain the force of this new foe; the confusion, the variety of alarums, the attacks from opposite quarters, the obscurity of the fog, all conspired to deceive them as to the number of their adversaries. Broken and dismayed, they retreated fighting, and nothing but the presence and remonstrances of the king prevented their retreat from becoming a headlong flight. If Boabdil had displayed little of the talents of a general in the outset of his enterprise, he manifested courage and presence of mind amid the disasters of its close. Seconded by a small body of cavalry, the choicest and most loyal of his guards, he made repeated stand against the press of the foe in a skirmishing retreat of about three leagues, and the way was strewn with the flower of his chivalry. At length they came to the brook of Martin Gonzales (or Mingozales, as it is called by the Moorish chroniclers), which, swollen by recent rain, was now a deep and turbid torrent. Here a scene of confusion ensued. Horse and foot precipitated themselves into the stream. Some of the horses stuck fast in the mire and blocked up the ford; others trampled down the foot-soldiers; many were drowned and more carried down the stream. Such of the foot-soldiers as gained the opposite side immediately took to flight; the horsemen, too, who had struggled through the stream, gave reins to their steeds and scoured for the frontier.
The little band of devoted cavaliers about the king serried their forces to keep the enemy in check, fighting with them hand to hand until he should have time to cross. In the tumult his horse was shot down, and he became environed in the throng of foot-soldiers struggling forward to the ford and in peril from the lances of their pursuers. Conscious that his rich array made him a conspicuous object, he retreated along the bank of the river, and endeavored to conceal himself in a thicket of willows and tamarisks. Thence, looking back, he beheld his loyal band at length give way, supposing, no doubt, he had effected his escape. They crossed the ford, followed pell-mell by the enemy, and several of them were struck down in the stream.
While Boabdil was meditating to throw himself into the water and endeavor to swim across, he was discovered by Martin Hurtado, regidor of Lucena, a brave cavalier who had been captive in the prisons of Granada and exchanged for a Christian knight. Hurtado attacked the king with a pike, but was kept at bay until, seeing other soldiers approaching, Boabdil cried for quarter, proclaiming himself a person of high rank who would pay a noble ransom. At this moment came up several men of Vaena, of the troop of the count de Cabra. Hearing the talk of ransom and noticing the splendid attire of the Moor, they endeavored to secure for themselves so rich a prize. One of them seized hold of Boabdil, but the latter resented the indignity by striking him to the earth with a blow of his poniard. Others of Hurtado's townsmen coming up, a contest arose between the men of Lucena and Vaena as to who had a right to the prisoner. The noise brought Don Diego Fernandez de Cordova to the spot, who by his authority put an end to the altercation. Boabdil, finding himself unknown by all present, concealed his quality, giving himself out as the son of Aben Alnayer, a cavalier of the royal household.* Don Diego treated him with great courtesy, put a red band round his neck in sign of his being a captive, and sent him under an escort to the castle of Lucena where his quality would be ascertained, his ransom arranged, and the question settled as to who had made him prisoner.
*Garibay, lib. 40, cap 31.
This done, the count put spurs to his horse and hastened to rejoin the count de Cabra, who was in hot pursuit of the enemy. He overtook him at a stream called Reanaul, and they continued together to press on the skirts of the flying army during the remainder of the day. The pursuit was almost as hazardous as the battle, for had the enemy at any time recovered from their panic, they might, by a sudden reaction, have overwhelmed the small force of their pursuers. To guard against this peril, the wary count kept his battalion always in close order, and had a body of a hundred chosen lancers in the advance. The Moors kept up a Parthian retreat; several times they turned to make battle, but, seeing this solid body of steeled warriors pressing upon them, they again took to flight.
The main retreat of the army was along the valley watered by the Xenil and opening through the mountains of Algaringo to the city of Loxa. The alarm-fires of the preceding night had aroused the country; every man snatched sword and buckler from the wall, and the towns and villages poured forth their warriors to harass the retreating foe. Ali Atar kept the main force of the army together, and turned fiercely from time to time upon his pursuers: he was like a wolf hunted through the country he had often made desolate by his maraudings.
The alarm of this invasion had reached the city of Antiquera, where were several of the cavaliers who had escaped from the carnage in the mountains of Malaga. Their proud minds were festering with their late disgrace, and their only prayer was for vengeance on the infidels. No sooner did they hear of the Moor being over the border than they were armed and mounted for action. Don Alonso de Aguilar led them forth--a small body of but forty horsemen, but all cavaliers of prowess and thirsting for revenge. They came upon the foe on the banks of the Xenil where it winds through the valleys of Cordova. The river, swelled by the late rains, was deep and turbulent and only fordable at certain places. The main body of the army was gathered in confusion on the banks, endeavoring to ford the stream, protected by the cavalry of Ali Atar.
No sooner did the little band of Alonso de Aguilar come in sight of the Moors than fury flashed from their eyes. "Remember the mountains of Malaga!" cried they to each other as they rushed to combat. Their charge was desperate, but was gallantly resisted. A scrambling and bloody fight ensued, hand to hand and sword to sword, sometimes on land, sometimes in the water. Many were lanced on the banks; others, throwing themselves into the river, sank with the weight of their armor and were drowned; some, grappling together, fell from their horses, but continued their struggle in the waves, and helm and turban rolled together down the stream. The Moors were far greater in number, and among them were many warriors of rank; but they were disheartened by defeat, while the Christians were excited even to desperation.
Ali Atar alone preserved all his fire and energy amid his reverses. He had been enraged at the defeat of the army and the ignominious flight he had been obliged to make through a country which had so often been the scene of his exploits; but to be thus impeded in his flight and harassed and insulted by a mere handful of warriors roused the violent passions of the old Moor to perfect frenzy. He had marked Don Alonso de Aguilar dealing his blows (says Agapida) with the pious vehemence of a righteous knight, who knows that in every wound inflicted upon the infidels he is doing God service. Ali Atar spurred his steed along the bank of the river to come upon Don Alonso by surprise. The back of the warrior was toward him, and, collecting all his force, the Moor hurled his lance to transfix him on the spot. The lance was not thrown with the usual accuracy of Ali Atar: it tore away a part of the cuirass of Don Alonso, but failed to inflict a wound. The Moor rushed upon Don Alonso with his scimetar, but the latter was on the alert and parried his blow. They fought desperately upon the borders of the river, alternately pressing each other into the stream and fighting their way again up the bank. Ali Atar was repeatedly wounded, and Don Alonso, having pity on his age, would have spared his life: he called upon him to surrender. "Never," cried Ali Atar, "to a Christian dog!" The words were scarce out of his mouth when the sword of Don Alonso clove his turbaned head and sank deep into the brain. He fell dead without a groan; his body rolled into the Xenil, nor was it ever found or recognized.* Thus fell Ali Atar, who had long been the terror of Andalusia. As he had hated and warred upon the Christians all his life, so he died in the very act of bitter hostility.
*Cura de los Palacios.
The fall of Ali Atar put an end to the transient stand of the cavalry. Horse and foot mingled together in the desperate struggle across the Xenil, and many were trampled down and perished beneath the waves. Don Alonso and his band continued to harass them until they crossed the frontier, and every blow struck home to the Moors seemed to lighten the load of humiliation and sorrow which had weighed heavy on their hearts.
In this disastrous rout the Moors lost upward of five thousand killed and made prisoners, many of whom were of the most noble lineages of Granada; numbers fled to rocks and mountains, where they were subsequently taken.
Boabdil remained a prisoner in the state tower of the citadel of Lucena under the vigilance of Alonso de Rueda, esquire of the alcayde of the Donceles; his quality was still unknown until the 24th of April, three days after the battle. On that day some prisoners, natives of Granada, just brought in, caught a sight of the unfortunate Boabdil despoiled of his royal robes. Throwing themselves at his feet, they broke forth in loud lamentations, apostrophizing him as their lord and king.
Great was the astonishment and triumph of the count de Cabra and Don Diego Fernandez de Cordova on learning the rank of the supposed cavalier. They both ascended to the castle to see that he was lodged in a style befitting his quality. When the good count beheld in the dejected captive before him the monarch who had so recently appeared in royal splendor surrounded by an army, his generous heart was touched by sympathy. He said everything to comfort him that became a courteous and Christian knight, observing that the same mutability of things which had suddenly brought him low might as rapidly restore him to prosperity, since in this world nothing is stable, and sorrow, like joy, has its allotted term.
The action here recorded was called by some the battle of Lucena, by others the battle of the Moorish king, because of the capture of Boabdil. Twenty-two banners, taken on the occasion, were borne in triumph into Vaena on the 23d of April, St. George's Day, and hung up in the church. There they remain (says a historian of after times) to this day. Once a year, on the festival of St. George, they are borne about in procession by the inhabitants, who at the same time give thanks to God for this signal victory granted to their forefathers.*
*Several circumstances relative to the capture of Boabdil vary in
this from the first edition, in consequence of later light thrown
on the subject by Don Miguel Lafuente Alcantara in his History of
Granada. He has availed himself much of various ancient documents
relative to the battle, especially the History of the House of
Cordova by the abbot of Rute, a descendant of that family--a rare
manuscript of which few copies exist.
The question as to the person entitled to the honor and reward for having captured the king long continued a matter of dispute between the people of Lucena and Vaena. On the 20th of October, 1520, about thirty-seven years after the event, an examination of several witnesses to the fact took place before the chief justice of the fortress of Lucena, at the instance of Bartolomy Hurtado, the son of Martin, when the claim of his father was established by Dona Leonora Hernandez, lady in attendant on the mother of the alcayde of los Donceles, who testified being present when Boabdil signalized Martin Hurtado as his captor.
The chief honor of the day, and of course of the defeat and capture of the Moorish monarch, was given by the sovereign to the count de Cabra; the second to his nephew, Don Diego Fernandez de Cordova.
Among the curious papers cited by Alcantara is one existing in the archives of the House of Medina Celi, giving the account of the treasurer of Don Diego Fernandez as to the sums expended by his lord in the capture of the king, the reward given to some soldiers for a standard of the king's which they had taken, to others for the wounds they had received, etc.
Another paper speaks of an auction at Lucena on the 28th of April of horses and mules taken in the battle. Another paper states the gratuities of the alcayde of los Donceles to the soldiery--four fanegas, or about four hundredweight, of wheat and a lance to each horseman, two fanegas of wheat and a lance to each foot-soldier.