The Chronicle of Alfonso the Emperor

Glenn Edward Lipskey



[162] (I) Pious King, strong King, you whom the last danger of death awaits: Grant peace and a fluent style so that singing richly and with eloquence, I may describe the famous wars of these men.

(V) The learned doctors of old wrote of the battles of kings. We also must recount the illustrious campaigns of our Emperor, because of their considerable interest. If it please the Emperor, may the chronicler be duly allowed the right to describe the wars to come.

(X) The talent which serves him awaits thunderous inspiration. He seeks the warrior's prize at all times. Therefore, I shall speak to the subject which I have chosen: the imminent wars in which the pagan race is defeated.

(1)The Spanish and the French leaders joined forces. By sea and by land they seek out war with the Moors. The king of the Toledan Empire, the commander of all, was Alfonso, he who bears the title of Emperor.

[163] (5) Emulating the deeds of Charlemagne, with whom it is right to compare him, Alfonso was equal in rank and like him in military valour. Similar also was the glory of the wars they had waged. The evil pestilence of the Moors gave witness to this. Neither their swiftness by sea nor the safety of their own lands protected them.

(10) They cannot sink from sight. Nor can they raise themselves to the stars on high. Their lives were criminal. Proof of this was their own defeat. They did not know God: by right they perished. This race deserved to fall. Since it was Baal they worshiped, Baal was not to free them.

(15) Such a barbaric nation was self-destructive. They worship the months, and they attempt to announce the battles to come. The evil which they wrought was not to remain unpunished. Superior in number but inferior in divine protection they consumed themselves in wars. Not even did they show mercy to children.

(20) Like cattle the rest of their nation was sacrificed to the sword. Even those left behind were not saved. The fierce fate of heaven loosed itself upon these. So that a long interruption may not hinder us, let us return to the principal matter which we have begun.

(25) All the bishops of León and Toledo unsheathed both the divine and the human sword. They beseeched the young and the old to come forth strong and certain to do battle. They [164] pardon their sins, and they raise their voices to heaven.

(30) They promise the earthly prize and the divine reward to all. They offer silver, and with victory they promise all the gold that the Moors possess. Thus the bishops raised their voices with pious fervor, and thus they pledged the material rewards of battle.

(35) The mothers were hardly able to hold back their children. The Spanish people desired battle with the Moors and did not sleep day or night. They were like the deer that is pursued by dogs in the forest. Abandoning the springs of water, it runs at random through the mountains.

(40) The redeeming trumpet resounds throughout the land. The name of Almería the Cruel is known by all, and there is nothing sweeter to the ears. It is a word that has echoed through centuries. It is the incentive to youth, a choice dowry for the aged, a guide for the poor and a light to the young.

(45) The decisive ruin of the Almoravides is the law of the popes. This crusade brings good fortune to the French and a baneful death to the infidels. The fight also will produce peace for the French. Although for the Moors it will bring about the highest affliction. For the Spanish it is as welcome as the dew, and finally, fighting is now a custom. The promised prize is a share of the spoils of silver and gold.

[165] (50) It is a heavy cross, and glory is the guiding light of combat. It is the month of May, and the Galician forces go first at the command of Saint James, their protector. Like the stars in heaven a thousand arrows glitter, a thousand shields shine. All their arms are sharpened for battle.

(55) The people are armed and all don their helmets. The grating of iron joined with the neighing of horses thunders across the hills. The fountains are dried up everywhere. The grass vanishes as it is fed upon. The brightness of the moon grows dark in the great cloud of dust.

(60) The splendors of the heavens grow pallid compared with the brilliance of the weapons. The valiant Count Fernando Pérez follows this armed troop administering the Galician laws with royal care. His position had been strengthened by his tutoring of the Emperor's son. (1) If one were to see him, one would judge him already a king.

(65) He is famed for his royal nobility, and because he bears a count's lineage. Next comes the select order of knights from León. Carrying banners, like lions they burst forth. This group holds the highest place in the entire Spanish kingdom. It oversees the regal offices with noble bearing.

(70) According to this group's judgment, the laws of the country are enforced. With its aid fierce wars are fought. Like the lion it surpasses the other animals in beauty and in strength. Thus this city exceeds the other cities in [166] honor. There is an ancient law: The first battles belong to León.

(75) The golden insignia of the Emperor appears on its banners and on its arms. It is carried into battle as a protection against every evil. The Moslem people prostrate themselves at the sight of it. They are terrified and cannot fight back on the battlefield.

(80) As the wolf pursues the lamb, as the waves of the sea bear down upon the lion, thus this light annihilates the fleeing Mohammedans. The Court of Saint Mary has deliberated in prayer as was custom. The sins of the faithful have been forgiven. Candles are raised on all sides, and the flaming sword goes forth.

(85) This vital courage inspires all the land. The animals graze, and the grain is threshed constantly. Count Ramiro Fróilaz appears. He is admirable in his rank, prudent and kind, caring for the salvation of León, a distinguished figure born of royal blood.

(90) He is loved by Christ and observes the law with vigilance. At all times he obeys the order of the Emperor with heedful attention. He serves him with affection. He was the finest of all, strong in the practice of goodness and, talented with weapons, full of gentleness.

(95) He is influential in the council, famed for his just [167] governing and superior to all the bishops in respecting the laws. He surpasses his comrades in dealing death blows to kings. What more shall I say? In his justice he is superior. No one hesitates to serve such a count.

(100) With this daring leader León awaits fierce wars. Meanwhile, the daring Asturian chief measures his pace. He is neither hateful nor harsh with anyone. He is undefeated on sea and on land. He is powerful in his forces, not fearing the dangers of death.

(105) He is correct in his appearance, and he scorns death. He is dexterous in battle and no less competent in the hunt. Traversing the mountains, he knows where to find the springs of water. He disdains the waves of the sea as if they were the furrows in a field. No one equals him in surmounting opposition.

(110) This people constantly seeks the Savior's protection as they gallop from the northern shores. They join other comrades with the greatest speed. The illustrious Pedro Alfonso was their leader. He was not yet a consul, but he was equal to all in his own right.

(115) He is a burden to no one. He stands out among all as a virtuous man, and he is famed for his honor. He exceeds all of his peers in integrity. He is as handsome as Absalom, as strong as Samson, and he possesses the wisdom of Solomon. The Emperor made him a consul upon returning [168] from his campaign.

(120) He attained this honored title through his own merits. Pedro Alfonso was indeed respected by the Emperor among his nobles. His royal and pious wife María enhanced his distinction. She was the daughter of a count, and through her merits she became a countess. Shining like a jewel she will thus live on through the ages.

(125) Behind these march the thousand spears of Castile, all famed citizens and powerful through many centuries. Their camps shine like the stars in the heavens. They glittered with gold, and their battle equipment was of silver. There is no poverty among them, but rather a great wealth.

(130) Not one of them is weak, disgraceful nor a beggar. They are all strong and sure in battle. In their camps there are unexpected stores of meats and wines. They give an abundance of wheat spontaneously to whoever seeks it. Their weapons are as numerous as the lights of the stars.

(135) Their many horses are protected with armor of iron and cloth. The Castilian language resounds like a trumpet and a drum. They are very proud and ennobled by riches. The men of Castile were rebels for centuries. Fierce Castile waged strong wars.

(140) Castile hardly wished to bow to any ruler. It lived in rebellion while the sun shone down upon it. Through [169] good fortune the Emperor was able to subdue it at every turn. Only he could tame it like a young donkey, placing new laws on its unwavering neck.

(145) Intrepid Castile remains unyielding in its strength, and it marches to distant battles with the greatest speed. Terror is born among the Moors whom the king later crushed with the sword.

(150) Extremadura possesses legions, is overpowering and fearless. It reads the signs of what is to come, that the evil race will perish. Seeing these portents, Extremadura boldly unites with Castile. Were one to count the stars of the heavens, the waves of the ocean, the drops of rain and even the blades of grass in the fields,

(155) he could then number these people. Drinking much wine and supplied with an abundance of food, Extremadura can bear the burden of the campaign and scorn the summer's heat. Its troops cover the earth like a plague of locusts. The sky and the sea are not enough to contain them.

(160) They level the hIlls and they drain all the springs. When they rise up, they obscure the lights of the heavens. They are a fierce people, a strong people which does not fear the threat of death. Count Poncio, a noble lance, commands the group. He possessed the strength of Samson and the sword of Gideon.

[170] (165) Be was equal to Jonas, illustrious as a ship of the Lord. He was the leader of the people as the strong Hector was, as generous and true as the invincible Ajax. He yielded to no one. Never retreating from combat, he did not turn aside his sword, nor did he flee to the rearguard.

(170) Count Poncio forgets his wife and love when he does battle. He rejects the table while war is waged. Feasts are declined, for he revels more in wounding the enemy. When he brandishes his lance, the evil race falls without strength. Be never suffers from the ardors of battle.

(175) His strong arm wounds, his voice resounds and the enemy is brought to the ground. When Count Poncio gives counsel, he has the wisdom of Solomon. He prefers the sword to the feast. He himself calculates the months and prepares the food. He distributes the wine to his weary knights while removing his heavy helmet.

(180) He is death to the Moors. Almería was later a witness to this. This consul Poncio would prefer to be exiled during the campaign rather than put aside his sword. He always pleases the Emperor with such merit. He is enriched by the favor of the king because of the wars which he has won.

(185) Count Poncio overcomes all kingdoms with his supreme courage. Fernando Juanes joins all these men. He is distinguished in the art of war and is never defeated in combat. The King of Portugal feared being destroyed by him when he saw [171] him brilliantly directing the battle.

(190) Wherever Fernando appears and shows his face, he brings terror to all. With a single thrust of his sword be falls upon all his opponents. At close quarters no one can withstand the blow of his lance. He frequently defeated the Moors in fierce battles. Even if they were many, he would not hesitate to attack with only a few at his side.

(195) A1l who know of Fernando flee from him. So it was that he was present in such a long campaign with his noble sons. His wife gave birth to many who faithfully followed the steps of their father wounding the Moors with the sword. Unfailing is the father who commands such arms.

(200) All of Limia rose up and followed Fernando in the war. It is happy to join with so many peoples from the frontier. The king is overjoyed to receive so many knights. With splendor he welcomes this man so admirable in his rank. Herein arrives Alvaro, (2) the son of the powerful Rodrigo.

(205) It is he who brought death to many and governed Toledo. The father is honored through the son, and the son is exalted by his own actions. Strong indeed was Rodrigo, and he is not undeserving of the glory of his son. The latter was famed through his father, but is even more distinguished through his grandfather Alvaro. It is he who is known by all and not least by his enemies.

[172] (210) He was a city of goodness and a fortress of integrity for the wicked. I have heard that Alvar Fáñez subdued the Moslem people. Their garrisoned cities and castles were unable to resist him. He shattered the strong, and crushed that which had grown mighty.

(215) Without defiling the truth I confess what is most certain: If Alvaro had lived during the time of' Roland, he would hold the third place of importance after Oliver. The Moslem race would be under the yoke of the French, and beloved comrades would not lie defeated by death. No better lance ever existed under the heavens.

(220) It has been sung of Rodrigo, (3) often called "My Cid," that he never suffered defeat at the hands of his enemies. It was he who subdued the Moors and our own nobles also. He praised Alvaro and considered himself lesser in glory. However, I must confess a truth which time will not change:

(225) My Cid was the first and Alvaro the second. Valencia mourned the death of its friend Rodrigo. The servant of Christ could not thwart his demise. Oh Alvaro, the young men also mourn you, and tears adorn their faces. It was they whom you trained well and to whom you kindly gave arms.

(230) You favored the poor, and you inspired the powerful to even greater strength in combat. Having descended from such a noble family, behold Alvaro. He enrages the Moors with his virtue because he hates them. Navia sends forces and [173] Montenegro offers many. The land of Lugo lends the help of the sword also.

(235) There is no lack of knights because Lugo is rich and dispatches many. Everything is arranged, and the expenses are carefully prepared. They mount the mules, and they also take unsaddled horses. These are led by squires who carry their shields on their shoulders. Now they approach the camps, and they see their smoke.

(240) The king glimpses a cloud of dust that covers the entire land. He orders all of his guard to mount, and finally receives all these men with splendor. Martín, the son of Fernando, orders all the arms to be requisitioned from the houses. He will inflict severe reverses on the Moors.

(245) Hita rejoices because he is its governor. The countenance of Martín Fernández is clear and his body is strong. He is handsome, robust and noble. He has command of these troops, and when he raises his voice, the Moors flee in terror. He has armed handsome young men with resplendent weapons.

(250) Martín's camp resounds with a youthful tumult. Scorning death they grow bold. They enjoy war more than a friend enjoys a friend. With their banners unfurled they enter the tents of the king. They exhort the chiefs to war: "What are you doing here, idle ones?"

(255) After other auspicious events take place (which [174] are sworn to be true), all dismount and together they seek out the king in his ranks. On bended knee they say, "We wish you health, good. King." Then they all rest in the fields considering the reports. I do not wish to forget the famous Count Armengol.

(260) He shines like a star among his comrades in arms. He is loved by both the Moors and by the Christians. If I were to speak frankly, I could only compare him with kings. With his weapons held fast as was his practice, Count Armengol is sustained by the spirit of God.

(265) With a great following he came to the camp. Because of the power of his sword, he had many vassals there. Gutier Fernández arrived shortly thereafter. He himself was royal tutor. Sancho, the first-born son of our Emperor, was assigned to Gutier to be educated.

(270) He Instructs him with careful attention. He wishes him to surpass everyone. Gutier receives the highest honors. He approaches the battle in person with masses of troops. He nears combat, and swiftly the beloved son-in-law of the Emperor carries forth the royal standards.

(275) His name is García Ramírez. At that moment all of Pamplona arrives with Alava. Navarra is brilliant with the sword. Aided by all these regions, García, the son of King Ramiro, (4) rejoices in being secure in combat, although later he was defeated. With the arrival of King Garcia all of Spain [175] is happy.

(280) They receive him like a lord, for they know that he is favored in the eyes of the king. By no means is he unequal to kings. He is like a whirlwind to the enemy. The royal camps are filled with such assistance. Aided by so many columns, Spain raises her standards and occupies the outskirts of Andújar.

(285) Andújar tastes the first wines of sorrow. At the command of the majestic Emperor, it is surrounded. The castle is crushed, and Almería will also be leveled. Baal is called upon, and Baal is deaf to their cries. He denies his aid because he can give them none.

(290) Thus during a period of three months, all crops are lost. Likewise, the buildings on which they were laboring are destroyed. Their forces are exhausted, all of their food is consumed, and the hostages are handed over. They now seek peace treaties. They are no longer able to exist, so they and their possessions are delivered to the king.

(295) Baños, a certain noble castle, is surrendered. The famous castle of Bayona, with its crown humiliated by our forces, is given over to the arms of the noble Emperor. Baeza, another renowned city, witnesses these defeats and is struck with fear.

(300) Its ancient dignity is debased, and it bends its neck. Since it is incapable of rebelling, it is happy to [176] surrender. The rest of the Moorish castles nearby yield. They beg for the gift of life, and when it is granted, they comfort their weary bodies.

(305) Count Manrique de Lara is made governor of these cities. He is a celebrated warrior and a true friend of Christ. He is pleasing to all including the Emperor, so that he stands out among the Moors and the Christians. Illustrious in his fame, he is loved by all.

(310) Splendid and generous, he was mean with no one. He was distinguished in the art of war, and he had the mind of a sage. He rejoiced in battle and possessed a great knowledge of military affairs. He imitated his father, Count Pedro de Lara, in all that he did.

(315) He governed his own land for many years. His son followed in the steps of his father. For this reason he was enriched with honor in the flower of his youth and respected by the Emperor. It was his rule to be witness to the law and to be an evil plague to the Moors.

(320) When all these things were carried out, and when the time of the campaign had elapsed, the citizens returned victoriously to their city walls as their ancestors had done. However, the king wisely retained a few in the South.

(325) In the beginning of August the famous French ambassadors came by sea. Their arrival embittered many. Having [177] duly greeted the Emperor, they, the glory of their kingdom, spoke in the following manner: "Oh what a great honor it is for the noble French youth to greet you in a clear voice with all their sails unfurled.

(330) Your brother-in-law, Count Ramón Berenguer of Barcelona, an armed knight, awaits, as he promised, at the shores of the sea. He marches fiercely against the enemy. The people from Pisa accompany those from Genoa. William, the leader of Montpellier, powerful in his own right,

(335) [sic] follows these in a large and mighty vessel. They are perfectly armed and are prepared for a fierce war. They have remembered the alliance, for they now have arrived at the port. They also bring large stones for the destruction of the walls. These men lead a thousand ships, and they claim that already they may be too late.

(340) They are loaded with embellished arms and sweet foods. Once the battle begins, they will fight for the booty of gold. Surely they will kill our enemies without fail. Under their prudent leader, these spirited troops do not need the aid of anyone, if only they are aided by your forces."

(345) After the ambassadors had spoken, they were silent. When the Emperor had heard all this, he smiled to himself. But at these words, his powerful troops were troubled. One nearby soldier weeps and speaks to a comrade: "Until now, [178] wars have joined us with other wars on all sides.

(350) The Emperor sanctions the intentions of the ambassadors, but they bring only bitterness to our lives. The enemy is standing like pillars everywhere, and the long road of battle is sewn with many different thorns. None of the food or drink is left in the sacks. The sword of war pursues us at every turn.

(355) Oh glitter of coveted gold and gleam of money, would that you were not joined to our left side. For a bit of gold we will fall in the field under the sharp cutting-edge of the sword. Our women will take in other husbands, and our children will weep when others take their beds.

(360) The birds of the sky will tear at our flesh." Among the bishops who were present, the Asturian whose famous sword shines, witnessed this scene. He then comforted the troops more than the other bishops had done. He consoled those who were dispirited.

(365) With his right band raised and with a commanding voice, he brings silence. He says, "Sing the glory of heaven on high, and let there be peace on earth to the people who serve the Lord. Now each must confess well all of his sins. Know then that the merciful doors of paradise are open.

(370) I beseech you, believe in God who is truly God of Gods and Lord of Lords. He is the only one who has wrought miracles for us, and it is clear that from heaven. (5)

Notes for The Poem of Almería

1. Fernando II was the younger son of Alfonso VII and Queen Berengaria. After the death of the Emperor in 1157, Fernando received the crown of León along with Galicia and the cities of Toro, Zamora and Salamanca. Throughout his reign he dedicated much energy to the repopulation of the León-Extremadura frontier. The military orders of Calatrava, Alcántara and Santiago were established during his reign. Fernando's reconquest endeavors were similar to those of his father, Alfonso VII. He carried out many attacks on the Almohades, but all were without enduring results. Fernando II died January 22, 1188.

2. Alvaro Rodríguez was the grandson of Alvar Fáñez and the son of Rodrigo Álvarez. He governed Toledo for a short time, but neither he nor his father attained the fame and power of Alvar Fáñez.

3. The Cid, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, is the most renowned of all Spanish heroes and Spain's greatest warrior during the Middle Ages. He was born around 1043. His father was Diego Laínez and his mother, whose name is not known, descended from ranking Castilian aristocracy He married Jimena Díaz in 1074. His most famous enterprise was against Valencia which he conquered in 1094, and subsequently he gained control of extensive areas along the eastern coast of Spain. At length the Almoravides, whom he had beaten several times, marched on his forces at Cuenca and inflicted a severe defeat. Rodrigo died shortly after on June 10, 1099. Menédez Pidal, La España del Cid.

4. History offers much discrepancy concerning the identity and lineage of Ramiro of Monzón, Prince of Navara and father of King García Ramírez. Menéndez Pidal examines the divergence of historical opinion and concludes that this Ramiro was the grandson of King García of Atapuerca and the son of the king's illegitimate offspring, another Ramiro. Ramiro of Monzón died in 1116. La España del Cid, II, 563, 583, 817 and 822.

5. The copyist of MS I provides the following information in reference to this final lacuna: "Aquí faltan las ocho oxas desta historia, cuya falta vi con gran dolor y no menos sentimento del malbado [sic] que las cortó." The copyist of MS II simply states: "Deerat in exemplari." (There was something missing in the manuscript.)