Spain Six

The History Of Spain To The Conquest Of Granada
Author: Hallam, Henry

Note To Book IV

The story of Cava, daughter of Count Julian, whose seduction by Roderic,
the last Gothic king, impelled her father to invite the Moors into Spain,
enters largely into the cycle of Castilian romance and into the grave
narratives of every historian. It cannot, however, be traced in extant
writings higher than the eleventh century, when it appears in the Chronicle of
the Monk of Silos. There are Spanish historians of the eighth and ninth
centuries; in the former, Isidore Bishop of Beja (Pacensis), who wrote a
chronicle of Spain; in the latter, Paulus Diaconus of Merida, Sebastian of
Salamanca, and an anonymous chronicler. It does not appear, however, that
these dwell much on Roderic's reign. (See Masdeu, Historia Critica de Espana,
vol. xiii. p. 882.) The most critical investigators of history, therefore,
have treated the story as too apocryphal to be stated as a fact. A sensible
writer in the History of Spain and Portugal, published by the Society for the
Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, has defended its probability, quoting a passage
from Ferreras, a Spanish writer of the eighteenth century, whose authority
stands high, and who argues in favor of the tradition from the brevity of the
old chroniclers who relate the fall of Spain, and from the want of likelihood
that Julian, who had hitherto defended his country with great valor, would
have invited the Saracens, except through some strong motives. This, if we
are satisfied as to the last fact, appears plausible; but another hypothesis
has been suggested, and is even mentioned by one of the early writers, that
Julian, being of Roman descent, was ill-affected to the Gothic dynasty, who
had never attached to themselves the native inhabitants. This I cannot but
reckon the less likely explanation of the two. Roderic, who became archbishop
of Toledo in 1208, and our earliest authority after the Monk of Silos, calls
Julian "vir nobilis de nobili Gothorum prosapia ortus, illustris in officio
Palatino, in armis exercitatus," &c. (See Schottus, Hispania Illustrata, ii.
63.) Few, however, of those who deny the truth of the story as it relates to
Cava admit the defection of Count Julian to the Moors, and his existence has
been doubted. The two parts of the story cohere together, and we have no
better evidence for one than for the other.

Southey, in his notes to the poem of Roderic, says, "The best Spanish
historians and antiquaries are persuaded that there is no cause for
disbelieving the uniform and concurrent tradition of both Moors and
Christians." But this is on the usual assumption, that those are the best who
agree best with ourselves. Southey took generally the credulous side, and his
critical judgment is of no superlative value. Masdeu, in learning and
laboriousness the first Spanish antiquary, calls the story of Julian's
daughter "a ridiculous tale, framed in the age of romance, when histories were
thrust aside (arrinconadas) and any love-tale was preferred to the most
serious truth." (Hist. Crit. de Espana, vol. x. p. 223.) And when, in another
passage (vol. xii. p. 6), he recounts the story at large, he says that the
silence of all writers before the monk of Silos "should be sufficient in my
opinion to expel from our history a romance so destitute of foundation, which
the Arabian romancers doubtless invented for their ballads."

A modern writer of extensive learning says, "This fable, which has found
its way into most of the sober histories of Spain, was first introduced by the
monk of Silos, a chronicler of the eleventh century. There can be no doubt
that he borrowed it from the Arabs, but it seems hard to believe that it was
altogether a tale of their invention. There are facts in it which an Arab
could not have invented, unless he drew them from Christian sources; and, as I
shall show hereafter, the Arabs knew and consulted the writings of the
Christians." (Gayangos, History of the Mohammedan Dynasties of Spain, vol. i.
p. 513.) It does not appear to be a conclusion from this passage that the
story is a fable. For if a chronicler of the eleventh century borrowed it
from the Arabs, and they again from Christian sources, we get over a good deal
of the chasm of time. But if writers antecedent to the monk of Silos have
related the Arabian invasion and the fall of Roderic without alluding to so
important a point as the treachery of a great Gothic noble, it seems difficult
to resist the inference from their silence.

Gayangos investigates in a learned note (vol. i. p. 537) the following
points: - By whom and when was the name of Ilyan, the Arabic form of Julian,
first introduced into Spanish history? Did such a man ever exist? What were
his country and religion? Was he an independent prince, or a tributary to the
Gothic monarchs? What part did he take in the conquest of Spain by the Arabs?

The account of Julian in the Chronicon Silense appears to Gayangos
indisputably borrowed from some Arabian authority; and this he proves by
several writers from the ninth century downwards, "all of whom mention, more
or less explicitly, the existence of a man living in Africa, and named Ilyan,
who helped the Arabs to make a conquest of Spain; to which I ought to add that
the rape of Ilyan's daughter, and the circumstances attending it, may also be
read in detail in the Mohammedan authors who preceded the monk of Silos." The
result of this learned writer's investigation is, that Ilyan really existed,
that he was a Christian chief, settled, not in Spain, but on the African
coast, and that he betrayed, not his country (except indeed as he was probably
of Spanish descent), but the interests of his religion, by assisting the
Saracens to subjugate the Gothic kingdom. ^a

[Footnote a: The Arabian writer whom Gayangos translates, one of late date,
speaks of Ilyan as governor of Ceuta, but tells the story of Cava in the usual
manner. The Goths may very probably have possessed some of the African coast;
so that the residence of Julian on that side of the straits would not be
incompatible with his being truly a Spaniard. Ilyan is evidently not a
European form of the name.]

The story of Cava is not absolutely overthrown by this hypothesis, though
it certainly may be the invention of some Christian or Arabian romancer. It
is perfectly true that of itself it contains no apparent improbability.
Injuries have been thus inflicted by kings, and thus resented by subjects.
But for this very reason it was likely to be invented; and the unwillingness
with which many seem to surrender so romantic a tale attests the probability
of its obtaining currency in an uncritical period. We must reject it as false
or not, according as we lay stress on the negative argument from the silence
of very early writers (an argument, strong even as it is, and which would be
insuperable if they were less brief and imperfect) and on the presumptions
adduced by Gayangos that Julian was not a noble Spaniard; but we cannot
receive this celebrated legend at any rate with more than a very sceptical
assent, not sufficient to warrant us in placing it among the authenic facts of

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