chapter  IV
8 Pages

The Empire 2. The Slav States and Hungary IV. SPAIN. PORTUGAL. THE TURKS

By1. Spain and Portugal

In Spain the respective situation of the Musulmans and the Christians was very different. There the two adversaries were far less unequally matched. They met face to face on a well-defined battlefield, and both adversaries, in the event of a reverse, could fall back and repair their losses before taking the field again. Under these conditions, that side would finally be victorious which was capable of the most long-continued aggression; that is, the poorest adversary would be victorious; in other words, the Spaniards. For it was not their faith alone that impelled them to make war. The fierce desire to possess the noble cities and the beautiful champaigns which, thanks to Musulman industry and agriculture, offered such an insolent contrast to their own rugged mountains, fanned their hatred of the infidel to a white heat. Their attack upon Islam was almost like an invasion of Barbarians, at all events in the beginning But these Barbarians were Christians, which prevented them from merging themselves in the conquered population, as the Germans had formerly merged themselves in the Latin population of the Empire. Race had nothing to do with the matter. The Turks, in the 10th and 11th centuries, became thoroughly assimilated, despite their Mongol origin, with the Semitic civilization of the Arabs of Baghdad. There is no reason to suppose that had the Spaniards been pagans, like the Turks, at the time of their first contact with Islam, they would not, like the Turks, have been converted. The material superiority of the superior civilizations was the most potent means of religious propaganda among the pagans. But when these civilizations came into contact with the adepts of an alien and exclusive faith, their very wealth and brilliance exasperated religious hostility until it became hatred, because that wealth and brilliance seemed an impiety, an offence against the true God. And then, pillage and devastation being justified in advance, the most brutal instincts could give themselves free vent without troubling men’s consciences. Duty, sentiment, and interest all combined to rally the Christians of Spain to the Holy War. It was a Holy War in the full meaning of the term, for its aim was not the conversion but the massacre or expulsion of the infidels. In the Spaniards there was no trace of that

tolerance which allowed the Catholic subjects of the Musulmans, the Mozarabs, to practise their religion unmolested. Their religious exclusivism was so complete that it was not softened by offers of abjuration, and they regarded the Moriscos (baptized Musulmans) with insurmountable suspicion. It was not enough to be a Christian; a man must be an “old Christian,” which really meant that he must be “of old Spanish stock”; so that nationality became the proof of orthodoxy, and national feeling, becoming confounded with faith, was imbued with its uncompromising spirit and its fervour.