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Pelistes, The Defender Of Cordova
by [?]

No sooner had Tarik defeated the Christian army on the fatal field of Sidonia than he sent out detachments of horsemen in all directions, hoping to win the leading cities of Spain before the people should recover from their terror. One of these detachments, composed of seven hundred horse, was sent against Cordova, an ancient city which was to become the capital of Moslem Spain. This force was led by a brave soldier named Magued, a Roman or Greek by birth, who had been taken prisoner when a child and reared in the Arab faith. He now ranked next to Tarik in the arts and stratagems of war, and as a horseman and warrior was the model and admiration of his followers.

Among the Christian leaders who had fled from the field of the Guadalete was an old and valiant Gothic noble, Pelistes by name, who had fought in the battle front until his son sank in death and most of his followers had fallen around him. Then, with the small band left him, he rode in all haste to Cordova, which he hoped to hold as a stronghold of the Goths. But he found himself almost alone in the town, most of whose inhabitants had fled with their valuables, so that, including the invalids and old soldiers found there, he had but four hundred men with whom to defend the city.

A river ran south of the city and formed one of its defences. To its banks came Magued,–led, say some of the chronicles, by the traitor, Count Julian,–and encamped in a forest of pines. He sent heralds to the town, demanding its surrender, and threatening its defenders with death if they resisted. But Pelistes defied him to do his worst.

What Magued might have found difficult to do by force he accomplished by stratagem. A shepherd whom he had captured told him of the weakness of the garrison, and acquainted him with a method by which the city might be entered. Forcing the rustic to act as guide, Magued crossed the river on a stormy night, swimming the stream with his horses, each cavalier having a footman mounted behind him. By the time they reached the opposite shore the rain had changed to hail, whose loud pattering drowned the noise of the horses’ hoofs as the assailants rode to a weak place in the wall of which the shepherd had told them. Here the battlements were broken and part of the wall had fallen, and near by grew a fig-tree whose branches stretched towards the breach. Up this climbed a nimble soldier, and by hard effort reached the broken wall. He had taken with him Magued’s turban, whose long folds of linen were unfolded and let down as a rope, by whose aid others soon climbed to the summit. The storm had caused the sentries to leave their posts, and this part of the wall was left unguarded.

In a short time a considerable number of the assailants had gained the top of the wall. Leaping from the parapet, they entered the city and ran to the nearest gate, which they flung open to Magued and his force. The city was theirs; the alarm was taken too late, and all who resisted were cut down. By day-dawn Cordova was lost to Spain with the exception of the church of St. George, a large and strong edifice, in which Pelistes had taken refuge with the remnant of his men. Here he found an ample supply of food and obtained water from some secret source, so that he was enabled to hold out against the enemy.

For three long months the brave garrison defied its foes, though Magued made every effort to take the church. How they obtained water was what most puzzled him, but he finally discovered the secret through the aid of a negro whom the Christians had captured and who escaped from their hands. The prisoner had learned during his captivity that the church communicated by an underground channel with a spring somewhere without. This was sought for with diligence and at length found, whereupon the water supply of the garrison was cut off at its source, and a new summons to surrender was made.