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The Stratagem Of Theodomir
by [?]

The defeat of the Guadalete seemed for the time to have robbed the Goths of all their ancient courage. East and west, north and south, rode the Arab horsemen, and stronghold after stronghold fell almost without resistance into their hands, until nearly the whole of Spain had surrendered to the scimitar. History has but a few stories to tell of valiant defence by the Gothic warriors. One was that of Pelistes, at Cordova, which we have just told. The other was that of the wise and valorous Theodomir, which we have next to relate.

Abdul-Aziz, Musa’s noble son, whose sad fate we have chronicled, had been given the control of Southern Spain, with his head-quarters in Seville. Here, after subduing the Comarca, he decided on an invasion of far-off Murcia, the garden-land of the south, a realm of tropic heat, yet richly fertile and productive. There ruled a valiant Goth named Theodomir, who had resisted Tarik on his landing, had fought in the fatal battle in which Roderic fell, and had afterwards, with a bare remnant of his followers, sought his own territory, which after him was called the land of Tadmir.

Hither marched Abdul-Aziz, eager to meet in battle a warrior of such renown, and to add to his dominions a country so famed for beauty and fertility. He was to find Theodomir an adversary worthy of his utmost powers. So small was the force of the Gothic lord that he dared not meet the formidable Arab horsemen in open contest, but he checked their advance by all the arts known in war, occupying the mountain defiles and gorges through which his country must be reached, cutting off detachments, and making the approach of the Arabs difficult and dangerous.

His defence was not confined to the hills. At times he would charge fiercely on detached parties of Arabs in the valleys or plains, and be off again to cover before the main force could come up. Long he defeated every effort of the Arab leader to bring on an open battle, but at length found himself cornered at Lorca, in a small valley at a mountain’s foot. Here, though the Goths fought bravely, they found themselves too greatly outnumbered, and in the end were put to panic-flight, numbers of them being left dead on the hotly contested field.

The handful of fugitives, sharply pursued by the Moorish cavalry, rode in all haste to the fortified town of Orihuela, a place of such strength that with sufficient force they might have defied there the powerful enemy. But such had been their losses in battle and in flight that Theodomir found himself far too weak to face the Moslem host, whose advance cavalry had followed so keenly on his track as to reach the outer walls by the time he had fairly closed the gates.

Defence was impossible. He had not half enough men to guard the walls and repel assaults. It would have been folly to stand a siege, yet Theodomir did not care to surrender except on favorable terms, and therefore adopted a shrewd stratagem to deceive the enemy in regard to his strength.

To the surprise of the Arab leader the walls of the town, which he had thought half garrisoned, seemed to swarm with armed and bearded warriors, far too great a force to be overcome by a sudden dash. In the face of so warlike an array, caution awoke in the hearts of the assailants. They had looked for an easy victory, but against such numbers as these assault might lead to severe bloodshed and eventual defeat. They felt that it would be necessary to proceed by the slow and deliberate methods of a regular siege.

While Abdul-Aziz was disposing his forces and making heedful preparations for the task he saw before him, he was surprised to see the principal gate of the city thrown open and a single Gothic horseman ride forth, bearing a flag of truce and making signals for a parley. A safe-conduct was given him, and he was led to the tent of the Moslem chief.