Tariq's Address to his Troops

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Address to his Troops  (1917) 
by Tariq ibn-Ziyad (attributed)
Extracted from The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 241–242, edited by Charles F. Horne. This is a translation (by someone in Horne's Arabic translation panel) of part of a history by the 16th century author al-Maqqari. This extract, often cited, does not include the warning on p. 238 of the printed book (download the whole book from other sites): "This speech does not, however, preserve the actual words of Tarik; it only presents the tradition of them as preserved by the Moorish historian Al Maggari, who wrote in Africa long after the last of the Moors had been driven out of Spain. In Al Maggari's day the older Arabic traditions of exact service had quite faded. The Moors had become poets and dreamers instead of scientists and critical historians." A period of 800 years separates the time of al-Maqqari from that of Tariq, during which no-one else reported this speech, which is why it is considered entirely fictitious.

Supposedly this speech was given prior to the Battle of Guadalete. Some Internet sites add that this was after Tariq ordered his troops to burn their boats to ensure they would fight to the death to conquer the territory, however that is not to be found in al-Maqqari or most other Arabic or Spanish sources. Those that do report the boats were burnt (e.g. al-Idrisi) do not report this or any other speech.

Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy. Remember that in this country you are more unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master. Your enemy is before you, protected by an innumerable army; he has men in abundance, but you, as your only aid, have your own swords, and, as your only chance for life, such chance as you can snatch from the hands of your enemy. If the absolute want to which you are reduced is prolonged ever so little, if you delay to seize immediate success, your good fortune will vanish, and your enemies, whom your very presence has filled with fear, will take courage. Put far from you the disgrace from which you flee in dreams, and attack this monarch who has left his strongly fortified city to meet you. Here is a splendid opportunity to defeat him, if you will consent to expose yourselves freelv to death. Do not believe that I desire to incite you to face dangers which I shall refuse to share with you. In the attack I myself will be in the fore, where the chance of life is always least.

Remember that if you suffer a few moments in patience, you will afterward enjoy supreme delight. Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you, or avenge you. You have heard that in this country there are a large number of ravishingly beautiful Greek maidens, their graceful forms are draped in sumptuous gowns on which gleam pearls, coral, and purest gold, and they live in the palaces of royal kings. The Commander of True Believers, Alwalid, son of Abdalmelik, has chosen you for this attack from among all his Arab warriors; and he promises that you shall become his comrades and shall hold the rank of kings in this country. Such is his confidence in your intrepidity. The one fruit which he desires to obtain from your bravery is that the word of God shall be exalted in this country, and that the true religion shall be established here. The spoils will belong to yourselves.

Remember that I place myself in the front of this glorious charge which I exhort you to make. At the moment when the two armies meet hand to hand, you will see me, never doubt it, seeking out this Roderick, tyrant of his people, challenging him to combat, if God is willing. If I perish after this, I will have had at least the satisfaction of delivering you, and you will easily find among you an experienced hero, to whom you can confidently give the task of directing you. But should I fall before I reach to Roderick, redouble your ardor, force yourselves to the attack and achieve the conquest of this country, in depriving him of life. With him dead, his soldiers will no longer defy you.