Story of the Cid for Young People - C. D. Wilson

The Siege of Valencia


At this time certain news came to Valencia that the Almoravides were approaching, and that the son-in-law of the Miramamolin was at their head, for the chief himself, being sick, could not come. The people of Valencia rejoiced at this, and began to devise means by which they could take vengeance upon Abeniaf and all who had oppressed them. Abeniaf accordingly sent word to the Cid to come to his help. The Cid was then before Albarrazin, but he broke up his camp and came with his army to Juballa; and Abeniaf and the governors of Xativa and Carchayra came to him, and they again made a treaty to stand by each other. They also sent a letter to the leader of the Almoravides, in which they told him that the Cid had made a treaty with the king of Aragon, who had promised to help him; and that the Africans had better beware how they came toward Valencia, unless they were ready to do battle with eight thousand Christian horsemen, covered with iron, and the best warriors in the world. They did this, thinking to terrify the leader of the Moors, but he kept on his march in spite of the letter.

Now there was a garden near Valencia which had belonged to Abenalhazis, and the Cid asked Abeniaf to give it to him that he might have it for a resting place. In this the Cid had a cunning purpose, as he thought that when the Almoravides heard how this garden so near the city had been given him, they would think the people of Valencia had given it to him, and would conclude that the Valencians were more anxious for the friendship of the Cid than that of the Africans. So Abeniaf gave him the garden.

At last tidings came that the army of the Africans was indeed quite near, though they had been delayed by the sickness of their leader. At this news the sons of Aboegib and many of the people rejoiced; but Abeniaf was in great fear and began to excuse himself for having given the garden to the Cid, for the people had complained of this, and to say that he had granted it only for a few days for the Cid's comfort, and that he would leave it again whenever the people wished him to do so. He also said that since they were displeased with him he would break off his treaty with the Cid. Thus he thought he could deceive them and make peace; but they understood his motives, and they said they would not counsel with him, but would do whatever the sons of Aboegib advised. These men gave orders that the gates of the town should be fastened and watchmen set upon the walls and towers. Then Abeniaf increased the guard about his own person. And the war was renewed between the Cid and the people of Valencia.

The Almoravides had now come as far as Xativa, and the people of Valencia rejoiced as they thought they should now be delivered from the oppressions of the Cid. When the Cid heard these tidings, he left the garden and went to the place where his army was encamped, which was called Xarosa, and he was perplexed what to do, whether to depart or wait for the coming of the Africans; but he resolved to remain and see what would happen. Then he gave orders that the bridges over the river should be destroyed, and the canals that were used for irrigating that region should be opened, that the plain might be flooded, so that the Africans could only come by one way, which was a narrow pass.

The Almoravides had now approached as far as Algezira, and the people of Valencia went upon the walls and the towers to see them come. When night came, they remained still upon the walls, and they saw the great campfires of the Africans; and they resolved that as soon as the Almoravides were engaged in battle with the Cid they would come out and plunder his camp.

But that night there was the greatest rain storm that had ever been known in that country, and such a flood that at daybreak, when the people of Valencia looked from the wall to see the banners and the camp of the Africans, they could see nothing, and they were filled with anxiety and dread for several hours when they learned that the Almoravides had turned back and would not come to Valencia. The Africans were so dismayed by the rains and floods, to which they were not accustomed in their own country, that they thought they should be swept away, and that the hand of God was against them.

When the people of Valencia heard this, they held themselves as dead men, and they wandered about the streets like drunkards, and they smeared their faces with black, and seemed to have lost their senses. Then the Christians drew near to the walls, calling the Moors traitors, and saying, "Give up the town to the Cid, for ye cannot escape from him." But the Moors made no reply on account of their misery.

Then Abenalfarax took account of the food in the city to see how long it would hold out, and the Moors in the suburbs carried all their best goods into the city. When the Cid was certain that the Africans were not coming, he returned again to his garden and gave order to spoil the suburbs; and the Moors fled into the city with their wives and children. Then the Cid's followers pulled down all the houses except those that could be defended by arrows, and those that were too near the walls for them to pull down they set fire to at night. Then they began to dig in the foundations, and they found great wealth there and stores of garments and hoards of wheat.

Then the Cid drew nearer to the city and hemmed it all in with his army, and there was fighting every day, for often the Moors would come and fight hand to hand. While the city was thus besieged there came letters from the leader of the Africans saying that he had not turned back through fear, but for want of food, and also on account of the waters; but that he was still preparing with all diligence to deliver the city, and he bade them take courage and to hold out against the Cid. Then the Moors of Valencia took heart and joined the sons of Aboegib, and resolved that they would maintain the city. They also accused Abeniaf of having advised the Africans to retreat, as he had told them there was strife in the city between the different parties, so that Abeniaf had to guard himself carefully lest he be harmed.

The Cid now kept so close watch that no one dared go in or out of the city. And the Cid gave orders that the land all about the suburb Alcudia where his garden was should be tilled; for this was now become a great place like a city, and the Moors from other parts came there and dwelt safely; tents and shops were made there for all kinds of merchandise, and merchants in that place became rich. The Cid and his governor also administered justice there in such a way that none needed to complain.

News now came from Denia that the Africans had returned into their own country, and that the city had no hope of help from them; and the Valencians were greatly distressed at this message. Those who held the castles round about came to the Cid, offering their friendship and bringing tribute, desiring to be placed under his protection. These he received, and he ordered that they should send him cross-bowmen and foot-soldiers to fight against the city, and they dared not disobey. Thus Valencia was forsaken by all other Moorish people and had to depend upon itself, and it was attacked every day.

The trouble which had come upon the people of Valencia pleased Abeniaf well, for they had forsaken him and gone to the side of the sons of Aboegib; and he told the people that if they had done as he advised, they would have avoided these evils, and that the sons of Aboegib had not sense enough to counsel any one well. Thus he talked to all who came to him; and all classes of people took up what he said, and declared that Abeniaf had been right.

The Christians fought against them every day and pressed them closely, and food began to fail; and the people became more and more angry at the sons of Aboegib, and blamed them for all the evil that had come upon them. And the people asked Abeniaf to forgive them and protect them, and to devise means for their deliverance; but he said he would have nothing to do with them, except that he was one of them; that if they were in trouble, so was he; and that he would not give counsel to people who were divided among themselves, that they must all agree to one thing, either to forsake the advice of the sons of Aboegib, or to stand by it. He said that if they would agree to follow his counsel, he would see what could be done. Then they with one accord answered that they would trust him and obey him, for it had always been well with them when they followed his advice.

Then many of the men of Valencia made Abeniaf their chief and agreed to follow him; but many of the people held with the other party. Abeniaf said they must give him his appointment as their chief in writing and have it confirmed by the principal men of the town, and this was done. After this he made an offer to the Cid that they should pay him tribute, and that they should put the sons of Aboegib and their followers outside the walls; he advised that the Cid should come near and speak to the people of the town, that so long as they followed the sons of Aboegib he would never be friendly with them, and that they must put these men out and make Abeniaf chief.

This plan pleased the Cid, and he came and spoke to the people of the city. Abeniaf also daily urged the matter, but the people of the town said it was a hard matter to send the sons of Aboegib away. Thus the affair stood for three days. Then Abeniaf took counsel privately with the Cid and his knights how he might seize these sons of Aboegib. So one of the chief persons of Abeniaf's household went out with a great company of horse and foot to take these men; and when they knew this they took refuge in the house of a lawyer who was held in much honor by the Moors; and in this house, which was surrounded by a fortified wall, they thought they could defend themselves until their friends would come to their help. Then those who went to take them set fire to the outer gates of this house, and many of the rabble gathered to see what the trouble was. Those within went to the roof and threw down tiles upon the assailants. But the house was finally forced open, and the sons of Aboegib were taken and carried to prison, and at night they were conveyed to the Cid and lodged in his cave.

On the next day there was great stir in the city because of this deed. But Abeniaf, thinking he should now have all his desire, took horse and rode with all his company to see the Cid. He was met by the Bishop of Albarrazin and many of the chief knights and brought to the Cid, who embraced him and made much of him. The Cid asked him why he had not put on the robes of a king, for he was now indeed king; and the Cid made pretence as if he would have held his stirrups. And they stood talking awhile.

Now the Cid thought Abeniaf would not have come empty-handed, but would have brought some of the jewels he had taken from Yahia; but when he saw that he brought nothing, the Cid began to talk of terms, and to say that if he wished his friendship he must divide the rents of the town with him, as well as those from the castles. And to this Abeniaf agreed. Then the Cid demanded of him his son as hostage, that he might keep him in Juballa to make sure that he would fulfil the agreement. To this also Abeniaf acceded; and having appointed another meeting for the next day, he went back to the city very sorrowful, and regretting that he had sent the Almoravides away.

On the next day the Cid sent for him to come out and confirm their agreement; but Abeniaf sent word that he would not give him his son if he had to lose his head for it. The Cid wrote him a letter saying that their friendship was at an end, as he knew he could not rely upon him. Then the hatred between them became very great.

Now the Cid sent for the Moor who had taken the sons of Aboegib and ordered him to leave the town and go to the Castle of Alcala, which he at once did. And the Cid began to give great honor to the sons of Aboegib, and provided all that they needed, and promised to be their friend.

The Cid renewed his efforts to take the city, and by this time the price of bread was three times as great as it had been in the beginning. And the Cid drew near to the town so as to fight hand to hand with the people. Abeniaf now had grown proud and insolent, and when any went to him for justice he treated them evilly. He lived like a king, apart from other men, and had singers and dancers to amuse him. The people of the town were in great distress with the famine within and war without. Abeniaf also oppressed them in every way: he took the goods of those who died, and took from all others whatever he could lay hands on; and those who gave him nothing he had beaten and thrown into prison, till he could get something from them. People began to care nothing for their property; there was no flesh to eat; and if a beast died, its flesh would bring a great price by the pound. They grew so weak with hunger that when the Cid's men came near and threw stones over the walls with their hands there was no one with strength to drive them back.

Then the Cid made engines and placed them at the three gates of the town and battered the gates with these. And food grew dearer every day within the city, and those who could get them ate rats and mice and dogs and cats. Many men and women and children watched when the gates were open for a moment and crept out and gave themselves up to the Christians, who took many of them and sold them to the Moors in Alcudia, and the price of one of these slaves was a loaf of bread and a pitcher of wine; and many of them were so weakened by hunger that when food was given to them and they ate heartily they died. Others were sold to merchants who came there by the river from all parts.

Now Abeniaf thought that he would send to the king of Zaragoza and beseech him to help him. So a messenger was sent by night with a letter. But when he came to the king of Zaragoza, the king paid no attention to him, and he waited day by day for three weeks, not daring to depart without an answer lest Abeniaf should slay him. At last he began to cry aloud at the king's gate, until the king asked what the messenger was complaining about, and he was told that the man waited for an answer. Then the king wrote a letter saying that he could not make war with the Cid without asking King Alfonso; and he exhorted them to defend themselves as best they could while he procured horsemen from Alfonso, and that they should send him word from time to time how they came on.

So the messenger returned in great sorrow, lamenting to Abeniaf that the king had not given him a present as he had been promised, and that he thought the king of Zaragoza did not intend to help him. The famine now was so great that there was no food for sale, and Abeniaf searched everywhere for supplies, and when he found any that had been hidden, he took all except what would last for two weeks; and he gave out that the king of Zaragoza was coming to their help as soon as he could collect food for his army. This he said to keep the people quiet. Of the food which he captured he kept the most for himself and his guards, and he put enough on sale to last each person only for one day. Those who had any food left, buried it; many ate leather, and the poor ate dead bodies.

As the king of Zaragoza was the only hope of Abeniaf, he sent word to him every night of the great misery in the city; and the king replied that Alfonso had sent him horsemen under Garcia Ordonez, and that he would himself come after them. This letter was in the handwriting of the king, and he confirmed with great oaths that he would come to their deliverance. Certain of the king's chief men also wrote, telling Abeniaf that they would surely come. But another man sent a secret message, that all the king said was only to put them off.

Then the king of Zaragoza sent two messengers to the Cid with jewels and rich presents, beseeching him not to distress the people of Valencia so greatly, and asking that he would permit his messenger to enter the town to confer with Abeniaf. This the Cid would not allow, but secretly means were found by which a letter was sent into the city, which gave a dissembling promise of help. For the king of Zaragoza and the Cid were friends, and it was understood that the Cid should take Valencia and give it to the king, who should give him great treasures in return.