The Alhambra, by Washington Irving

Note to “The Arabian Astrologer”

Al Makkari, in his history of the Mahommedan dynasties in Spain, cites from another Arabian writer an account of a talismanic effigy somewhat similar to the one in the foregoing legend.

In Cadiz, says he, there formerly stood a square tower upwards of one hundred cubits high, built of huge blocks of stone, fastened together with clamps of brass. On the top was the figure of a man, holding a staff in his right hand, his face turned to the Atlantic, and pointing with the forefinger of his left hand to the Straits of Gibraltar. It was said to have been set up in ancient times by the Gothic kings of Andalus, as a beacon or guide to navigators. The Moslems of Barbary and Andalus considered it a talisman which exercised a spell over the seas. Under its guidance, swarms of piratical people of a nation, called Majus, appeared on the coast in large vessels with a square sail in the bow, and another in the stern. They came every six or seven years; captured every thing they met with on the sea; guided by the statue, they passed through the Straits into the Mediterranean, landed on the coasts of Andalus, laid every thing waste with fire and sword; and sometimes carried their depredations on the opposite coasts even as far as Syria.

At length, it came to pass in the time of the civil wars, a Moslem Admiral who had taken possession of Cadiz, hearing that the statue on top of the tower was of pure gold, had it lowered to the ground and broken to pieces; when it proved to be of gilded brass. With the destruction of the idol, the spell over the sea was at an end. From that time forward, nothing more was seen of the piratical people of the ocean, excepting that two of their barks were wrecked on the coast, one at Marsu-l-Majus (the port of the Majus), the other close to the promontory of Al-Aghan.

The maritime invaders mentioned by Al Makkari must have been the Northmen.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38