New episode out now!
The Last Muslim King Of Spain, Part 2: Eye Of The Storm

May 23, 2022

The Last Muslim King Of Spain, Part 2: Eye Of The Storm
Play Episode

"Stop, stop! Don't kill him you fool, that's the Moorish King!"

Boabdil's path to the throne had not been easy. He had been pressured into overthrowing his father by his mother and was captured during his first battle.


After being forced to swear an oath of loyalty to The Christian King Ferdinand, many of his countrymen called him a traitor to Islam.

With an army of Christian muscle backing him, the 22 year old King marched back to reclaim his homeland.

The war-weary citizens of Granada had to pick a side. 

Should they support the Old King who defended Islam but bought destruction to their lands?
Or his son, who bought peace but at the price of their dignity?


Further Reading:

Attributions:

  • A big thanks to my generous Patrons!
    • If you notice improved audio, that's the new microphone!
    • Malcolm G
    • Tom G
    • Claudia K - Big thanks for The Alhambra quote reading.
  • Thanks Jack, for the Arabic translation of Boabdil's speech.
  • All images are public domain unless stated otherwise.
  • Paid Artlist.io license for 'Anthology Of Heroes Podcast' utilised for numerous sounds/music
  • The Ice Giants by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

Transcript

[0:02:03] elliot gates: Hello and welcome back to the anthology of Heroes podcast, the podcast sharing epic tales of heroism from across the ages. As usual, I'm your host, Elliot Gates, and you've tuned into part two of the story of King Boabdill and the final days of Islamic Spain, specifically the fall of Granada. The fall of Granada is a pivotal, historic moment. It's so important that historians use it to mark the end of what we call the Middle Ages, as the borders of Europe crystallize into the ones we recognize today. So I'd recommend listening to part one first, as it will help you get to know the many cuts the kingdom was bleeding out from and give a sense of gravity to what all this means in the scheme of world history. This episode is the fifth part of a six part miniseries telling the story of the reconquista, the so called Christian reconquest of Spain from the perspective of three men who lived hundreds of years apart. Our series began all the way back in the 8th century, when the Visigothic kingdom collapsed to Muslim Berbers who had invaded from northern Africa. That episode centered around Pelayo, a Christian noble who led a successful guerrilla war against the invaders. The next two episodes take place 400 or so years later and trace the rollercoaster life of Spanish national hero El CID. El CID lived at a pivotal time when the balance of power in Spain had begun to shift away from the Muslim kingdoms, with the Christian kingdoms from the north beginning to reconquer some of their lost territory. Which brings us to Boabdil. In part one of his story, we dived headfirst into all the problems the Islamic kingdoms had begun to experience by the 12th century. We followed the roots of Boabdil's family tree back to the very first rule of Granada, whose rise to power left him in charge of the last remaining Islamic kingdom in Spain. We watched as Boabdil’s ancestors became more and more isolated from the rest of the state, preferring to shelter in the beautiful gardens of the palace city. The Alhambra we learnt about the last few Islamic innovations that were churned out as a golden age of science, philosophy and math came to an end.

 

[0:03:44] elliot gates: And we checked in with a few people who experienced all this as it happened to try and understand the sorrow felt by the common man as their world changed forever. To reiterate on our main characters for today, and don't worry, there's not 15 Muhammads and 12 Sanchos like last time. We have Ferdinand and Isabella, the devoutly Catholic king and queen of a recently unified Spain. Ferdinand was the crown prince of Aragon and Isabella was the crown princess of Castile. And with their marriage, Spain was, for the first time in 700 or so years, almost entirely unified under Christian rule. To the very south of their lands, just north of modern day Morocco, was the state of Granada, the last remnant of the Islamic rule that once encompassed almost all of Spain. While all other Islamic kingdoms had disappeared, Granada had been allowed to continue on because of the tribute they paid to Christian powers in the north. Granada was, and always had been ruled by a family known as the Nasrids. Bitterly divided by factionalism and lust, the Nasrid family was about as friendly to each other as the Manson family. Abu'l-Hasan was the current patriarch and king of Granada. Warlike and paranoid, he had usurped power from his father and began raiding into Christian lands and refusing to pay tribute. With him came his colorful entourage at the forefront with his wife, Zoroya , a beautiful Christian slave girl turned queen. She had enchanted the old king into her sweet embrace and effectively became ruler. With each day, she wielded more and more power over her aging husband. But his old wife, Aisha , wasn't going anywhere without a fight.

 

[0:04:47] elliot gates: Rich, politically savvy and well connected, her one goal was to ensure her son, Boabdill, didn't lose his birthright to any of the king's children. Born through Zoraya, the king could keep his little play wife as long as he didn't try and mess with the succession. We also have the king's brother, El Zagal, a name translating to the brave. Tall, regal looking and shrewd, el Zagal had lost a civil war to his brother and was now holed up in Granada's important port city, Malaga, with his supporters. And then at the bottom of the pile, we have the star of the story, Boabdill. Small in stature, quiet and respectful, Boabdil has so far kept a low profile. He had done all he could to avoid his father's eye and keep his mother happy. Just a quick side note. My microphone boom arm broke halfway through recording this, so I had the thing resting on a water bottle. Professional, I know. So the next step will be back to normal. But in this one, you might hear a few clicks and bumps that I couldn't edit out. So sorry about that. Anyway, I'm excited. Let's get started.

 

[0:06:38] elliot gates: Part two of the story of Boabdill and the final days of Islamic Spain. In the 1480s, the king of Granada, Abu'l-Hasan, had grown dangerously paranoid and withdrawn, spending most of his time alone with his wife. A contemporary Arabic source talks of how he will delay his days with prostitutes and dancers. Little more than a puppet to his wife, he cut his soldier's pay, forcing many of them into near starvation. A recent flight had caused severe damage to Granada's production facilities. And perhaps hoping to recoup some of the lost costs he decided on a good old raid into one of the Christian border towns. The raid was in retaliation for a Christian raid, which was in retaliation for a Muslim raid and so on. As far back as anyone could remember. Raiding could be lucrative, but it ran the risk of drawing the attention of the Christian king or queen who owned the town. With the festivities of their marriage winding down, ferdinand and Isabella, who had recently become pregnant, were spoiling for a shot at proving their worth to the people and against a Muslim, well, that was too good an opportunity to pass up. The couple rushed south with speed, eager to put this infidel rebel in his place. Isabella, a woman who had always looked to her Bible for comfort, would have had no shortage of passages to encourage her. Jeremiah 51 20. Quote thou art my battle acts and weapons of war, and with thee I will break in peace of the nations and with thee I will destroy kingdoms. Once they arrived on scene, king Ferdinand took personal control of the army.

 

[0:08:09] elliot gates: Queen Isabella, against her best judgment, stood aside over the campaigning season. Ferdinand made acceptable progress, but ended up pulling back in haste due to winter. The end result was a stalemate. A few skirmishes won by the Christian kings, but no towns changed hands. Isabella, who insisted on accompanying her husband despite being eight months pregnant, really gave it to him. Pulling no punches, she let her husband know that his efforts were lackluster and she was not impressed. Remember, Isabella came from the richer and larger kingdom of Castile, so chances are a larger portion of the men, munitions and funding came from her. From now on, whenever possible, there would be two commanders. As both sides retreated to lick their wounds, the alhambra became a shadowy place. The alhambra was the sprawling palace within the city of Granada where the Nasrid family spent most of their time. Servants and courtiers went about their duties quietly, all working for a different Nasrid family member who was plotting against another. A rumor that the king was planning to disinherit Boabdil in favor of his children with his new wife, Zaraya, spurred his ex wife Ayesha, into action. The well connected ex queen had long known this was a possibility and had a contingency plan ready to go. Reaching out to her contacts, she started planning a coup with the powerful noble leaders who hated the old king as much as she did. The plan swapped the king with his legitimate son, Boabdill. From all the way down in Malaga,

 

[0:09:32] elliot gates: Al Zagal got word of this, and his agents within the palace worked to undermine Boabdil 's credibility as a leader. The young man was untested and meek. Instead, the noble should back himself. A tried and tested leader with years of experience in governance and warfare, the 22 year old Boabdill, now recently married with a child on the way, was waved around like a lottery ticket by his overbearing mother at every occasion. Did he want to be king? Who knows? I wouldn't. But the young prince was in the eye of the storm, and the few minutes he could get away and spend relaxing in the tranquil gardens of the  Alhambra would later be one of his few cherished memories. By 1482, Aisha had meticulously arranged her coup. El Zagal’s agents had been silenced and all plotters now agreed Boabdill should be king. In the small town of Guadix, south of Granada, the crowning took place. We don't have any contemporary descriptions of it but we can assume it would have been a rushed and modest affair. Barely before the new king had a chance to adjust his crown, he was whisked in front of his army and before he knew it he was marching towards Granada to turf out his father. When King Abu'l-Hasan was informed of his son's army marching towards the capital, he was actually in the midst of a celebration for his recent so-called victory against Ferdinand. Realizing he'd been out played, he and his retinue ran for the hills.

 

[0:10:52] elliot gates: He and his hated wife fled to Malaga where his brother El zagal took him in despite the fact that they were literally an open rebellion against him. Flanked by guards, king Abu Abdallah Muhammad XII Boabdil entered Grenada. The reception would have been subdued. Though the old king was unpopular, his son was a wild card. Few had seen him before and fewer knew him personally. Having lived his entire life in the comforts of the alarm bro, the city of Granada would have seemed as foreign as any other. The young man would have seen the concerned faces of his subjects and known his reign would not be an easy one. Boabdil was not a large man. He was about five foot four tall at 165 CM. His hair was either black or dark with a red tinge which was usually tucked neatly into his turban. But the feature he's most remembered for is his large, sad eyes and the melancholy looking expression that only seemed to leave him during court rituals when his training kicked in. Flanked by his guards, he would have looked more like a boy than a man. One writer noted that he, quote carried the inherited disaster of history on his shoulders. End quote. Boabdil took to the throne tentatively but slowly found his groove.

 

[0:11:51] elliot gates: It was tradition that the king attended to military affairs while the royal vizier handled civil matters. The vizier, therefore, wielded a lot of power and the man Boldly selected for the role served him loyally until the very end, which, as you'll see, is a common theme for people who met him. People genuinely liked him. They found him pleasant to be around. He was never arrogant or proud. He just tried to keep his head down and do a good job. The king's first concern was what to do about his father and uncle who were plotting on how they could slide back into power. For the time being, though, the deposed king and his brother continued their raids into the Christian territories and an uneasy status quo developed. So Boabdil took his army out and did a bit of a lap around the lands to get his face out there. And this was generally well received. A new young man in power, some new blood. Perhaps this was a shot in the arm the kingdom needed to get out of the funk it had fallen into in the last few decades. Confidence buoyed he decided to follow in the steps of his father. Pillaging Christian lands had always been popular.

 

[0:12:48] elliot gates: It was good propaganda, good pay, and, if timed well, good leverage. But you had to know your enemy. And Ferdinand and Isabella were a new variable. His father had fought them to a stalemate, and these Christian kingdoms had a tendency to turn on each other. So the new king took the plunge. With around 2000 troops, Boabdil led his army across the no man's land and into a wealthy border town. The mission was simple :destroy crops and carry back whatever plunder they could. But the Christians knew they were coming. They had very few troops at hand. So instead, the local commander hit a few drummers and bannermen in various places around the plains. When Boabdill's army was sighted, smoke signals were lit and all at once the men began to beat drums, blow trumpets and shake their banners. From a distance, it seemed as if the Christians fielded a huge army, one that was threatening to envelop them at any minute. A few of Boabdil’s commanders advised caution. Turn back, they said. We can fight them another day.

 

[0:13:54] elliot gates: Others insisted he should move forward, cross the river quickly and hold a defensive position. Boabdil's father in law advised a middle ground approach. Wait until night time, he told his son in law. We have a river in between us and them. And while that remains, we hold the advantage. But the young king ignored the advice. And wanting to free himself from this perceived threat of being surrounded, he ordered the river crossed. And so, cautiously, his army waded into the river. The banners of the Christians could still be seen in the hills, so surely it was advantageous to put a river between them. But as many of his men were midstream the river up to their necks, the real Christian army charged in from the other side into the action. From the hills, the garrison commander rocketed down the banks, quote Santiago! Santiago! on them! today is our day! Before the king could issue any order, the enemy was upon him. His panicked army fractured as half swam back to the shore while others, too deep in the water, tried to form up on the bank. As Boabdill kicked the spurs into his horse, the beast jolted but didn't move.

 

[0:14:51] elliot gates: He was stuck!  sinking into the boggy ground. His horse frantically screamed, trying to pull his feet free. In a matter of seconds, one of the Christian soldiers leaped into the shallows and charged towards the king. Boabdil, who had not even had a chance to draw a sword, froze. But at the last second, he was saved by a Christian soldier. Pushing the attacker to the ground, the man shouted to him, quote stop. Stop, you fool! Don't kill him! He's the king! Another soldier, too, after a second glance realized shouting with incredulity quote that's the Moorish king! The Christian defenders could not believe their luck. Their little sorti had captured them, the ultimate prize. With his army fleeing in all directions, the young king had no hope of resistance. Pulled from his horse, he was bound and tossed unceremoniously onto the back of a mule. Gleefully, the Christian forces sped away from the stream back into the hills.

 

[0:16:02] elliot gates: With dollar signs in their eyes, they dreamt of the reward they could expect from Ferdinand and Isabella. For their lucrative prize, the young king was taken to the house of a local lord who took pity on him. Boabdil stayed with the lord for a few weeks while he waited for the logistics of his voyage to Castile to be arranged. The lord treated Boabdil  well and the two men got to know each other through one of the lord's nobles, a man named hernando de baeza, who spoke Arabic. Before he was scheduled to leave, the lord sat down with a young king and in the same way an uncle may talk to his nephew. He gave him some advice. He told him that a wise man notices how quickly the human body changes over the course of one's life and does not trouble himself with it, as this metamorphosis is something he has no power to alter. In the same vein, a wise ruler should not dwell on what he had so recently that he has since lost. In other words, be in the moment and make do with the circumstances you find yourself in. This quote has always stuck out to me. How would these words have landed on the king? Would he be indignant? Who was this Christian? Nobody to tell him? The heir to the ancient Nasrat house how to behave?

 

[0:17:22] elliot gates: Or was it something he already knew? And perhaps these words came as a comfort around the inevitability of it all. By the time he left, the interpreter hernando de baeza had become very fond of Boabdill and with his lord's permission, agreed to accompany him to Castile. This man Hernandez would go on to be one of the most important primary sources on Boabdil's life. As Boabdil's entourage rolled north to the capital, ferdinand meticulously planned his next moves. He had his own thoughts on what to do with his royal prisoner but was keen to lay eyes on the man. He'd already received two letters, one from Aisha, Boabdil's implacable mother who begged him for a son's release. Dripping with respectful words that the woman clearly did not mean. Her petition came with some tempting concessions. If Ferdinand returned her son to her, she said, she'd send him a massive gold coins 300 high profile Christian prisoners and the family. The Nasrids would swear allegiance to him and would exchange bold son as a hostage, so they knew she meant it. She also cautioned against delay. If Ferdinand took too long to respond, the tribal lords who were loyal to Boabdill would side with his father, a sworn enemy of Castile. The letter laid out Ferdinand's options. He could have a loyal vassal or a sworn enemy.

 

[0:18:24] elliot gates: Closing the letter thoughtfully, Ferdinand opened the next one. This one was much shorter, and was from Boabdil's father, the deposed ex king of Grenada. It skipped the compliments and went straight to demands, telling Ferdinand bluntly that he should turn his wayward son over to him and they just see what happens. With no promise of loyalty or gold, this one probably went straight to the royal laboratories. One of the king's advisers agreed with Ayesha, but not out of sympathy for a position. Release the boy, he said. The kingdom can only have one king. Once he returns, they'll go back to fighting with each other and we can scrape up the remains. Once said, too exhausted to defend it, another man counted this argument. Keep the boy prisoner, he urged. Their prisoner, he argued, was young and popular. If we return him, they will have someone to rally around. The power of the Moors is nothing without the king they love, end quote. Hold onto the boy and watch the kingdom rot from the inside, he told Ferdinand. But before the king could decide, the sound of trumpets and drums announced the arrival of their new guest.

 

[0:19:45] elliot gates: Ferdinand was unwilling to meet Boabdil  in person initially, so the two spoke through letters. The Moorish king's letter to Ferdinand was him well, throwing himself at the feet of the monarch and saying, look, let me rule Granada in your name. Let's just roll back things to how it was a few generations back. I'll pay the vassal taxes and everything will be cool. And after a string of compliments and niceties that would have made even the most vain king blush, he finishes with, quote the greatest misfortune I've had while in this prison is to be forced to do something that, in my mind, I had done willingly before judging Boabdil too harshly for this, I guess what many of you would call cowardly or sycophantic groveling. Remember, the Nasrid dynasty was born through servitude to the Castilian crown. The state of Granada, since its creation in the 13th century, had always been, save for a few wars, vassals' servitude was the modus operandi for the kingdom. And apart from total war, there was no playbook for rules like Boabdil to follow. As Ferdinand mused over how to play this ace, he'd found up his sleeve. Isabella had heard enough and made the decision on both of their behalf. She decided that the young king would be released. And would you believe she did it out of a shared mother's love? Well, you shouldn't be. That's not true. Isabella looked over all of Aisha’s conditions and pretty much told her to double them.

 

[0:21:06] elliot gates: More gold, more prisoners, and then she could have her son back. Boabdil, of course, agreed. He was going nowhere until he did. With his prisoner's release pending, ferdinand was no longer able to put off meeting the Moorish king. Entering in the royal court, the two rules locked eyes for the first time. Ferdinand, the rising star of a unified Christian Spain, and Boabdil, the king of the last Islamic kingdom of Iberia, a relic of a time gone by. As Ferdinand shuffled uncomfortably, the more bowed deeply before him, to which he comfortably told his translator, you really don't need to do that. Rising, Boabdil then began a stream of incessant flattery to which Ferdinand cut off the translator mid center, saying, no, really, don't. You don't need to do that. With the awkward goodbye out of the way, Boabdil , with a sizable retinue of Spanish troops, headed south. Finally, he was going home. His cushy imprisonment had lasted about three years, during which time his father, Abdul Hassan, had not stood still. Knowing full well what the Muslim clerics would think of his son's oath of loyalty to Ferdinand, he managed to get a fatwa issued against Boabdil. A fatwa is a ruling or judgment given by a group of high ranking Muslim officials. Their ruling is based on the Islamic law as laid out in the Quran.

 

[0:22:27] elliot gates: A fatwa could be on any number of issues. But in this case, Abu'l-Hasan put forward that his son had committed many sins since he began his reign. And the jurists agreed. Nowhere in the Quran could they find anything to indicate Boabdil's actions were justified. The judgment was damning. Boabdil was found guilty of starting a civil war, violating the fidelity between father and son, but most seriously denigrating Islam. Sora 551 of the Quran was quoted all believers take neither Jews nor Christian as guardians, as they are guardians of each other. Whoever does so will be counted as one of them. End quote. So, waving around the fatwa and promising amnesty for all those who rebelled against him, Boabdil's father returned to the alarm and began his second reign. It would be even more chaotic and bloody than his first. As Boabdil 's entourage sheltered in one of the few cities still loyal to him, king Abu'l-Hasan’s war continued with the Christians. He and his brother El Zagal  again fell out with each other. While both sides still waged war with the Christians, they also fought each other. Now, in a civil war from his power base at the coastal city of Malaga, El Zagal convinced Boabdil's younger brother, a guy named Yusuf, that his birthright was to sit on the throne of Grenada.

 

[0:23:57] elliot gates: He told the teenage boy that with his years of military experience, he could help him oust his decrepit old father. The boy took the bait with no governing experience or political know-how, he was putty in the hands of the grizzled El Zagal who had no intention of helping young Yusuf set on the throne at all. The move was intended to bait his unhinged brother into doing something that he would regret. And it worked. When Abu'l-Hasan heard that his son had declared himself king he lost it and ordered assassins to track down the boy and murder him. When the assassins arrived,  El Zagal was nowhere to be found. He had hung out his nephew to try yosef seemed to have inherited his older brother's steady temperament and accepted his death with great courage. When the assassin arrived, the teenager greeted him calmly. He told the intruder that he knew of no Islamic law that permitted a father to murder his son. But if that was his father's decision, then so be it. He took a bath, changed into his best clothes and presented his neck to the assassin who dashed it open. A few months later the rebellion had peted out and one day Abu'l-Hasan ordered El Zagal to fetch his son, quipping that he had not seen him for many months. Now a very uncomfortable silence permeated through the royal court before El Zagal told the Moorish king your son is dead. You ordered him killed. At first the king seemed not to understand, waving the explanation away over and over and insisting that he bring a boy to him.

 

[0:25:12] elliot gates: Finally El zagal shakes his brother back to reality and he grabs him and says look, your son is dead and you won't see him again till the day of judgment. And this finally snaps the old man back to reality. The king screamed and sobbed. He raged, his brother telling him he should have known that the order was given an anger. He screamed that everything was his fault and he broke down, bashing his head over and over against the marble palace walls. A few days later, perhaps due to brain damage suffered during the incident he went blind and began suffering from seizures. Finally the demented old king died. Not long after the Triumvirate had lost its most vocal member. The tribal leaders of Grenada now had to decide who to throw their vote behind El Zagal, the pious, hard fighting brother of the late king. His wars against the Christian aggressors were admirable. But what was his endgame? Or his nephew Boabdill who had betrayed his father and many argued his faith too. But support for him was a vote for peace and in the war ravaged state some felt this trumped everything else. Sooner or later it would have to be Boabdill or El Zagal that would be crowned King of the Ashes. But first, a quick message from one of our friends of the show.

 

[0:25:58]: I hope you're relaxed and ready to listen to one of history's best researched and most relaxing podcasts anthology of heroes. I know Elliot has an outstanding episode lined up. You today. I'm Jackson, host of the History with Jackson Podcast, where we interview historians about their specialisms and recent work so you can learn all about the latest research. I really hope you enjoy the stellar episode that your host Elliot has lined up for you today. I know he will not disappoint, and I eagerly await the episode release. So in the meantime, I give to you anthology of Heroes.

 

[0:27:40] elliot gates: By 1485, El Zagal had his hands full fighting off the Christians to his north, west and eastern borders, while trying everything he could to keep Boabdil and his men pinned down in the south. He was an impressive commander, and his moniker, the Brave or the Bold, probably came out at this time. No doubt many look to him as the last hope of independence for their kingdom. If anyone was able to beat Ferdinand and Isabella, it was him. Tall, thin and serious looking, the 40 year old usurper had a regal heir to him, which contrasted sharply with his nephew's melancholy disposition. But even with his victory as Bold deal's supporters grew thanks to Ferdinand and Isabella, who published edicts proclaiming that all those who supported Boabdil would have peace from the Christian raids. Eventually, his supporters snuck him back into the city of Granada, and when El Zagal awoke the following morning, he learned that he was besieged within the Alhambra. Remember, the Alhambra is a small city within the city of Granada. Think Vatican City. In Rome, vicious street fighting broke out as supporters of both candidates battled it out, complete with catapults firing through the winding streets of the medina. While Ferdinand and Isabella likely rubbed their hands with glee at the thought of the imminent collapse of the kingdom, peace talks were brokered by the Ulama, the influential religious council who had previously issued the fatwa against Boabdil. We have no sources as to specifics of what was discussed, but in a surprising turn of events, Boabdil agreed to split the kingdom of Granada with his uncle. This was quite odd. Boabdil was undoubtedly in a stronger position. With the backing of Ferdinand Isabella, he would eventually have come out victorious.

 

[0:28:43] elliot gates: So why the agreement? Probably the Islamic jurist pressured the young king. Boabdil was never one to stand up well, to pressure from anyone in authority, be it his father, mother, King Ferdinand, or the Islamic rulers. His way of dealing with conflict was to avoid it entirely or to try and smooth over the issue. Elvigal, who was the favorite of the clergy, undoubtedly got the better end of this deal. Bold deal was relegated to the half of the kingdom that was poorer and harder to defend. Shrewdly. He made sure Boabdil was given command of places that the Christians always raided. He hedged his bets that Ferdinand and Isabella either would stop attacking the border fortresses as their man Boabdil  now held them, or that they would continue to attack them and weaken his rival. Either way, it was a win. For him, it was to be the latter. In frustrated correspondence with Boabdill, Ferdinand points out that as their vassal, he had no right to divide a state that he ruled on their behalf. Boabdil tried to placate them with his usual sycophantic flattery. He insisted he was still their man. But Ferdinand had heard enough.

 

[0:30:09] elliot gates: He hadn't banked on a truce between these two men. Out of all the possible options, his courtiers and he had theorized this was the worst one. Granada had stabilized and his vassalage payment was cut off. The very next year, his men stormed the fortress of Loja. I wanted to point out this engagement because during this, a brand new tactic graced the battlefield. The Spanish square, or Tercio, would go on to make Spain one of the most formidable European land powers in the coming century. It worked by combining three types of soldiers into one hybrid battle group, all working in unity. Shields were quickly becoming cumbersome and less useful on the battlefield. Now, as guns got cheaper and easier to use. So Spanish commanders began to experiment with a core group of gunners rimmed by pikemen or swordsmen, with four smaller, mobile groups of gunners on each corner. Guns at this time were very inaccurate and it took a long time to reload, so firing on Mass was really the only way to use them. Within this Terseo square, each line of gunmen would fire, retreat to the back and reload and move up with each round. The pikemen on the rims ensured they were protected from cavalry charges and the mobile corners of gunners could be broken off to harass and skirmish. This formation would be tested for the first few times against Boabdil's forces with promising results. The fearsome Burba cavalry that for years had been the bogeyman of the Spanish mainland had finally been checked.

 

[0:31:25] elliot gates: Loja, a small but well positioned fortress, fell in 1486. Boabdill, who was inside at the time, seems to have a hand in negotiating the surrender as most of the townsfolk were allowed to leave. A touching story says that during the siege, a weaver continued working as Loom while all the fighting raged around him. Once the surrender was given, he just kept on working. And when his neighbors came to grab him, saying, you know, what are you doing? We gotta go, he responded with, quote where do you want us to go? Why should we try to survive? To suffer hunger, to feel cold steel, to be persecuted as we have no friends? To take pity on our misfortune and make it right? I'd rather wait for an enemy who covets our goods and who will kill me so that I can be spared the suffering of my own people. I'd rather die here by steel than later in shackles. I always found this story to be such fitting symbolism for the final years of Granada. People like this weaver whose families have lived here for generations now, being told to pack up and go back to, I don't know, Africa. Wherever it is, you're not staying here. Boabdil was the last one out of the city and in what was becoming his trademark move, groveled before Ferdinand and begged for forgiveness.

 

[0:33:07] elliot gates: What was he playing at? Maybe the initial defense of Loja was the pliable young king being swept up in patriotic fever, being pumped up by his generals and his mother. It wouldn't be the first or the last time. Or maybe he was playing a high stakes game with Ferdinand saying whatever he needed to, sacrificing his honor to placate the Christian king and then as soon as he was free, just continue the fight. hernando de baeza, Bold's Christian translator turned friend, paints him as a man of honor, telling us over time when the two were chatting and Boabdil suddenly began speaking Spanish with him, Baeza was surprised and asked if King Widen speak Spanish more. Boabdil said, Sure, I can understand Spanish, but I do make mistakes sometimes and it's not becoming of a king to make mistakes, so I just stick to Arabic. This exchange really seemed to impress baeza, who made his thoughts clear. Quote I felt these were words of a great person and as God is my witness that in the three or four years that I knew him, he was indeed great and I really believe that if he had been Christian, he would have been one of the best that ever was. After Loja, Boabdil was again taken prisoner and released soon after. The terms of his release, though, were a death knell for any independent squinada wished to achieve. He was released again as a vassal. But now his lands were limited to a few hamlets around the Sierra Nevada mountain range. So the city of Granada and with it his alarm bros now officially belonged to Ferdinand and Isabella. He had no other options to take the deal, but he doesn't seem to have fully got exactly what this meant for him just yet. Boabdil is sent south at the head of a small army of Christian troops.

 

[0:34:22] elliot gates: Ferdinand had given him six months to flush out his brother's rebel forces from his new lands. Or he'd just go ahead and annex those two. They fight their way back to the capital, and the street fighting between his man and his uncle's men flares up again. And while Boabdil is keeping his uncle busy, ferdinand takes the opportunity to attack Malaga, the second city of the state and its last remaining port connecting it to the outside world. Malaga was the state's lifeline and it was a tough nut to crack. Its walls were gigantic and it was bristling with towers or motivated by professional soldiers loyal to El Zagal. The Catholic sources makes special mention of the bravery shown by its defenders, who repaired the walls under a hail of bullets and shells. Ferdinand continually offered surrender terms, but these guys wouldn't hear of it. The Christian forces, meanwhile, were being chewed up. Heavy rains had doused their spirits and the roads, meaning that big siege weapons they bought for the siege never arrived. With only light catapults, they were barely making a dent in the walls. Even the hard headed Queen Isabella tentatively approached her husband about calling off the siege. But Ferdinand waved her way. So for three and a half months it dragged on. El Zagal at least once tried to supply fresh troops, but they were stopped by Boabdil's forces.

 

[0:35:42] elliot gates: Meanwhile, Boadil was sending all these gorgeous silks horses and other treasures to Ferdinand, wanting to work his way back into his good graces and, I guess, earn his city back across the sea. In Africa, though, stories of the heroic defense of Malaga reached a Muslim holy man named Al Jarbi. Determined to do all he could, the hermit gathered 400 or so followers and paddled across the streets of Gibraltar. They ambushed a few guard towers and supply wagons, but they were captured pretty quickly. But for Al Jarbi, this was all part of the plan. He convinced his captors that he had insider information hinting that he knew a weakness in the walls of Malaga. Ferdinand's generals eagerly sat down with a man and tried to get him to spill the beans. But the hermit said that he would only talk to the King of Spain and no other. Although this was unusual, Ferdinand was desperate and agreed to meet the man. The two were scheduled to meet that evening, but that night Ferdinand ate a little too much for dinner. Tired and full, he fobbed off meeting the holy man and instead delegated a duke and duchess to keep him entertained for the night. The king would grant him an audience tomorrow, he said. Yawning. So the duke and duchess are introduced to the man, dressed simply in a long cloak. The couple barely even get their names out before the hermit draws a dagger from under his cloak and lunges at the man who he believed to be King Ferdinand.

 

[0:37:04] elliot gates: The duke is stabbed and collapsed before the assassin turns on his wife, slashing wildly at the woman that the man is restrained and killed by the royal guards. This was a very close call for Ferdinand, who orders a mystic to be chopped up into little pieces and catapulted into the city of Malaga. The defenders who had heard of this heroic plot collected all the pieces of the man they could find, sewed him back together and buried him with full honors. And with that, the last slim hope of Malaga faded away. Their food stores were dry, there was no water and there was no fish around the stores to eat. Right until now, the brave man of Malaga had refused terms. Now it was too late. In the last days of the siege, Boabdil had finally wrestled control of the capital back from his uncle, who again fled east with their favorite Nasrid. Now on the run, the doomed city begged for help from their new king, but nothing came. Boabdil knew it was coming. There will be no mercy for the citizens of Malaga. On 18 August 1487, with no food or water left, the city of Malaga surrendered. Malaga had been one of the first cities to be taken by the Muslim invasion in 711 Ad. For 776 years, it had been one of the most important seaports a lifeline that connected Spain to the rest of the Muslim world. And now it was gone.

 

[0:38:49] elliot gates: As the inhabitants had consistently refused to talk terms with Ferdinand, the aftermath of the siege was brutal. Apart from the wealthy oligarchy that had secured promises of safety, the entire population men, women and children were butchered or sold into slavery. An anonymous Muslim writer who was a contemporary to the event says, quote it fills your heart with sadness astounds the soul makes you weep tears of blood. In the face of such calamity, malaga's fall stirred something across the battle state. Farmers, craftsmen, soldiers and courtiers realized that during their lifetime they would witness the end of their world. For Boabdil's uncompromising uncle, the fall of Malaga finally marked the end of his turbulent career in politics. For the last two decades, he had fallen and risen again, buoyed by the support of Hardliners, who had refused all negotiations with the Christians. But this calamity was the end of him. The historical record gets spotted here, but it looks like he managed to scramble across to Africa with little more than the clothes on his back. He lived off charity of a local king until either Boabdil or Ferdinand's agents caught up with them. Once they found them, they pulled out both of his eyes as punishment for the dissent he created in Granada. For the rest of his days, El Zagal - the Brave shuffled around the market for fez. Dressed in rags with a grimy cloth covering his putrid eye sockets, he begged for scraps of moldy bread. With a wooden plank hung around his neck that read this is the ill fated king of the Andalusians. Boabdil had finally earned his bloody crown. His father was dead, his uncle penniless in exile.

 

[0:40:23] elliot gates: He was now the unquestioned ruler of the crumbling kingdom of Granada. And that is where we leave today's episode. I know, I know this was meant to be the conclusion, but the scope of the episode grew so substantially and I wanted to try my best and keep consistent with a release schedule. You give me an hour of your time or so every fortnight and I want to try and be respectful of that. If this was a monster one and a half hour episode, I probably wouldn't have enough runway to get the next one out on time. So please do join me in two weeks when the House of Cards finally collapses and we close our doors on the 700 year long story of the reconquista this has been Anthology of Heroes. Thanks for tuning in.