HOW KING FERDINAND LAID SIEGE TO VELEZ MALAGA.
Hitherto the events of this renowned war have been little else than a succession of brilliant but brief exploits, such as sudden forays, wild skirmishes among the mountains, and the surprisals of castles, fortresses, and frontier towns. We approach now to more important and prolonged operations, in which ancient and mighty cities, the bulwarks of Granada, were invested by powerful armies, subdued by slow and regular sieges, and thus the capital left naked and alone.
The glorious triumphs of the Christian sovereigns (says Fray Antonio Agapida) had resounded throughout the East and filled all heathenesse with alarm. The Grand Turk, Bajazet II., and his deadly foe, the grand soldan of Egypt, suspending for a time their bloody feuds, entered into a league to protect the religion of Mahomet and the kingdom of Granada from the hostilities of the Christians. It was concerted between them that Bajazet should send a powerful armada against the island of Sicily, then appertaining to the Spanish Crown, for the purpose of distracting the attention of the Castilian sovereigns, while at the same time great bodies of troops should be poured into Granada from the opposite coast of Africa.
Ferdinand and Isabella received timely intelligence of these designs. They resolved at once to carry the war into the sea- board of Granada, to possess themselves of its ports, and thus, as it were, to bar the gates of the kingdom against all external aid. Malaga was to be the main object of attack: it was the principal seaport of the kingdom, and almost necessary to its existence. It had long been the seat of opulent commerce, sending many ships to the coasts of Syria and Egypt. It was also the great channel of communication with Africa, through which were introduced supplies of money, troops, arms, and steeds from Tunis, Tripoli, Fez, Tremezan, and other Barbary powers. It was emphatically called, therefore, "the hand and mouth of Granada." Before laying siege to this redoubtable city, however, it was deemed necessary to secure the neighboring city of Velez Malaga and its dependent places, which might otherwise harass the besieging army.
For this important campaign the nobles of the kingdom were again summoned to take the field with their forces in the spring of 1487. The menaced invasion of the infidel powers of the East had awakened new ardor in the bosoms of all true Christian knights, and so zealously did they respond to the summons of the sovereigns that an army of twenty thousand cavalry and fifty thousand foot, the flower of Spanish warriors, led by the bravest of Spanish cavaliers, thronged the renowned city of Cordova at the appointed time.
On the night before this mighty host set forth upon its march an earthquake shook the city. The inhabitants, awakened by the shaking of the walls and rocking of the towers, fled to the courts and squares, fearing to be overwhelmed by the ruins of their dwellings. The earthquake was most violent in the quarter of the royal residence, the site of the ancient palace of the Moorish kings. Many looked upon this as an omen of some impending evil; but Fray Antonio Agapida, in that infallible spirit of divination which succeeds an event, plainly reads in it a presage that the empire of the Moors was about to be shaken to its centre.
It was on Saturday, the eve of the Sunday of Palms (says a worthy and loyal chronicler of the time), that the most Catholic monarch departed with his army to render service to Heaven and make war upon the Moors.* Heavy rains had swelled all the streams and rendered the roads deep and difficult. The king, therefore, divided his host into two bodies. In one he put all the artillery, guarded by a strong body of horse, and commanded by the master of Alcantara and Martin Alonso, senior of Montemayor. This division was to proceed by the road through the valleys, where pasturage abounded for the oxen which drew the ordnance.
*Pulgar, Cronica de los Reyes Catholicos.