Page 4, 1st November 1940

1st November 1940
Page 4
Page 4, 1st November 1940 — Col umn

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Locations: Toledo, Damascus


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Col umn




WHEN I was three years old my father brought home two handkerchiefs from Gibraltar. One had a picture of a bull-fight and the other a picture of the Rock. To my disappointment my brother received the former and 1 the latter. But from that day I was familiar with the appearance of the Promontory which the ancients believed to have been one of the pillars set up by Hercules when he iourneyed to the ends of the earth.

Beyond the Fretum Herculeum lay the fabled expanse of water bounding the Earth which was called Oceanus. One ancient people whose mariners were holder than the rest sailed out into it trusting in the protection of their sod, Melkarth, whom the Greeks identified with Hercules. The Carthaginian Hanno sailed to the mouth of the Congo and discovered the gorilla, thought to be a fabled beast till rediscovered in the nineteenth century. The Phoenicians sailed north of the "Pillars of Hercules " as well as south and brought back tin front Cornwall to mix. with copper and form the alloy, bronze.

Eighteen centuries after Carthage was destroyed Britain established herself on the northern " pillar " and when you see Gibraltar shrouded in the Atlantic mists you feel that you are at home; but when the Rock lies bathed-in a sky of southern blue, you are back in the old world in which Roman and Carthaginian, Moor and Christian fought.

THE shape of Gibraltar has always I filled Britons with a sense of their country's might. " It is," says Thackeray, " the very image of an enormous lion, crouched between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and set there to guard the passage for its British mistress." It is now a century and a half since Gibraltar stood its last siege. Whether the lion's tranquillity will be again disturbed we cannot say, but history has not granted him a quiet Life.

It was by way of Gibraltar that Islam first entered Europe. An old writer tells us that Count Julian who governed the little piece of Africa left to Christendom had a daughter called Florinda whom he sent to Toledo to be brought up at the Court of King Rodrigo. One day as she was bathing in the Tagus she was surprised and dishonoured by her sovereign. The injured girl suceeded in making known to her father the royal misdeed, and he • was the more inflamed since his own wife was a daughter of Witiza, a king whom Rodrigo had deposed. Julian resolved on vengeance, but did not immediately take action. But a little later when the king asked him for some hawks for hunting he replied: "I will send you a hawk such as you have never heard of before?' This was a cryptic allusion to his intention to let the Moors into Spain to avenge his daughter's seduction.

Julian showed Tarik, the governor of Tangier how he could enter Spain by sending his troops over in small parties so that they would not alarm the Spaniards. Tarik himself sailed with the last contingent and so began the Mussulman conquest of Spain.

THE story reads like a fairy-tale, but

may contain elements of truth. Spanish nobles then sent their children to the court of the Visigoth kings to learn such accomplishments as befitted their rank and sex. But "Julian," who may have been a Berber called Oulban, perhaps, had some other reason for preferring the friendship of Mesa, who ruled Ifrikia in the name of the Caliph at Damascus, to that of Rodrigo.

Nine hundred years later the expelled Moriscoes were sent back to Morocco from that same harbour by which their ancestors had entered Spain. But even under the Union Jack the hill of Tarik has remained the last outpost of Africa

in Europe. On its summit which the military authorities will no longer let you climb, has survived a troop of Barbary apes, the only wild monkeys to be found in Europe, though their state of savagery is now attenuated since their sustenance forms an item in the pay-books of the British War Office.

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