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The Battle Of The Guadalete
by [?]

The legends just given are full of the pith of facts. Dread of Africa lay deep in the Spanish heart and gave point to these and other magical and romantic tales. The story of how the great conqueror, Mohammed, had come out from the deserts of Arabia and sent his generals, sword and Koran in hand, to conquer the world, had spread far to the east and the west, and brought terror wherever it came. From Arabia the Moslem hordes had swept through Egypt and along the African coast to the extremity of Morocco. They now faced Spain and coveted that rich and populous land. Well might the degenerate sons of the Goths fear their coming and strive to keep them out with talismans and spells.

Years before, in the days of good King Wamba, a great Mohammedan fleet had ravaged the Andalusian coast. Others came, not for conquest, but for spoil. But at length all North Africa lay under the Moslem yoke, and Musa Ibn Nasseyr, the conqueror of the African tribes, cast eyes of greed upon Spain and laid plans for the subjugation to Arab rule of that far-spreading Christian land.

Africa, he was told, was rich, but Spain was richer. Its soil was as fertile as that of Syria, its climate as mild and sweet as that of Araby the Blest. The far-famed mines of distant Cathay did not equal it in wealth of minerals and gems; nowhere else were such harbors, nowhere such highlands and plains. The mountain-ranges, beautiful to see, enclosed valleys of inexhaustible fertility. It was a land “plentiful in waters, renowned for their sweetness and clearness,”–Andalusia’s noble streams. Famous monuments graced its towns: the statue of Hercules at Cadiz, the idol of Galicia, the stately ruins of Merida and Tarragona. It was a realm the conquest of which would bring wealth and fame,–great glory to the sons of Allah and great treasure to the successors of the Prophet. Musa determined upon its invasion.

A traitor came to his aid. Count Julian was governor of Ceuta, a Spanish city on the African coast. His daughter Florinda was maid of honor to the queen of Don Roderic. But word from the daughter came to the father that she had suffered grievous injury at the hands of the king, and Count Julian, thirsting for revenge upon Roderic, offered to deliver Ceuta into the hands of the Arabian warrior and aid him in the conquest of Spain. To test the good faith of Julian, Musa demanded that he should first invade Andalusia himself. This he did, taking over a small force in two vessels, overrunning the coast country, killing many of its people, and returning with a large booty in slaves and plunder.

In the summer of 710 a Berber named Tarif was sent over to spy out the land, and in the spring of 711 the army of invasion was led over by Tarik Ibn Zeyad, a valiant chief, who had gained great glory in the wars with the Berber tribes. Who Tarik was cannot be told. He was of humble origin, probably of Persian birth, but possessed of a daring spirit that was to bring him the highest fame. He is described as a tall man, with red hair and a white complexion, blind of one eye, and with a mole on his hand. The Spanish historians call him Tarik el Tuerto, meaning either “one-eyed” or “squint-eyed.” Such was the man whom Musa sent to begin the conquest of Spain.

The army of invasion consisted of seven thousand men,–a handful to conquer a kingdom. They were nearly all Moorish and Berber cavalry, there being only three hundred Arabians of pure blood, most of whom were officers. Landing in Spain, for a time they found no one to meet them. Roderic was busy with his army in the north and knew naught of this invasion of his kingdom, and for two months Tarik ravaged the land at his will. But at length the Gothic king, warned of his danger, began a hasty march southward, sending orders in advance to levy troops in all parts of the kingdom, the rallying place being Cordova.