Posts Tagged ‘history of Granada’

Ha Nagid’s journal: 43

11 Marchehvan, 4794 (October, 1045)

One of the estates I acquired from Malaga was on the sea, with a beach only steps away from the main house. After Passover, I took my family with me to visit the property for the first time. It was one and a half days of easy travel almost directly south, through the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada’s snow-capped peaks. We arrived at the estate, perched on a small plateau, with olive orchards, orange orchards, and vineyards. The vineyards were on sandy soil that produce an extremely pleasant white wine. From the house, there is a path down an easy slope to a private beach with fine gray sand.

Rebecca and I lay on the warm sand, our shoulders touching, watching our children cavort in the small waves caressing the sand. The warmth of the sand and the soft smell of salt water and marine life soothed us. The place will become our family’s seaside retreat.


We entered the winter of 4799 (1050) with Seville still posing a threat. Mutadid, despite losing every direct confrontation with our forces, was still able to marshal fighting strength and resources. For the time being, however, we were at peace.

I have spent a significant portion of my adult life in service to King Badis. On many occasions, I was able to save the king’s life by smelling out, unearthing, and quelling plots against him. I have enhanced the king’s position and reputation by making Granada the largest and most powerful Taifa in Andalusia. I enabled, and even encouraged, Badis to indulge his every whim while I concentrated on making certain the kingdom functioned smoothly, and was in sound shape economically. I have done everything within my considerable power to encourage trade and commerce. I am writing this down because Joseph now has free access to my journals. I want him to understand that the real strength of Granada is, and will always be, based on strong and reliable financial resources. I know Joseph has no enthusiasm nor talent for war. I doubt he could bring himself to actually kill another human, or in fact even an animal, unless he was starving. That is no doubt a good thing in the eyes of the Lord. I hope he will be able to provide the level of support the kingdom requires from a Chief Vizier. I know he is more than capable of being an outstanding Financial Vizier. He must make certain he fills this role, if none other.

I understand and acknowledge King Badis is a despot. Any hint of disloyalty, even by the most highly placed tribal chief or vizier in his court, is answered with immediate and brutal execution, frequently by his own sword. I must be constantly on guard and mindful of the possibility of any adverse rumor about me reaching the ears of the king. This level of psychological pressure sometimes requires emotional release. I find this release by writing seditious poetry.

This evening, as we sat in my study, I handed Joseph a new poem. He read through it, looked up at me, then read it again, more carefully.

“Papa, this could get you killed.”

“Yes, I know, but I must allow these thoughts out. I want you to find a safe and secure place to put this poem, no copies to be made until after I am long gone. Will you do this for me?”

“Yes, of course, Papa. I have a secret place where I secure sensitive documents. I will add this one.”

“Good, now please read it aloud. I may want to edit it.”

The poem asked if my king made me bitter by criticizing some of my actions, then drew an analogy at me wanting to respond to him by talking about the difficulty in putting together the shards of a broken jug. We sat in silence for a time while I considered the words of the four line poem. The candles in the room flickered. Our shadows on the wall oscillated but we were both immobile. I finally nodded my head.

“No … it is what I wanted to say.”

I was oddly tired so I got up and moved to the couch to lay down. I had lost weight in the last couple of months. I knew my face was gaunt, my brow permanently furrowed. I rolled to my side on the couch and reached into a deep side pocket of my long brocade cloak. I was forced to kick impatiently in my efforts to free the tangle of the cloak from my legs but was finally able to extract two more sheets of folded paper, and extended them to Joseph.

“What is this?” he asked.

“More of the same. Read them aloud, if you will. They express thoughts you must take to heart. My time is fast approaching Joseph. These military campaigns take a huge amount of my energy and have now affected my health.”

I was overcome by a fit of coughing. Joseph jumped up to come to me, but I waved him back to his chair. After a few minutes, I took a deep slow breath before speaking.

“I’m sorry, Joseph. This cough does not improve. We are approaching the time when you will have to take over for me. It will fall to you to protect our family and our people.”

“Nonsense, Papa, you are still strong. You are just over tired. You need to sleep more. If you follow the instructions of your physicians, you will recover your health as you have always done. I pray every day to God he will help you regain your health and strength so you can continue to protect his people.”

I looked into my son’s eyes and saw he was seriously concerned about me. Another fit of coughing engulfed my body, jerking me forward with each expulsion of air. The cough produced no phlegm, but I felt as though I was coughing up the very tissues of my lungs. I willed myself to stop.

“Read the poems aloud, Joseph.”

Joseph unfolded the first paper. This five line poem talks about how a king can force a person to some action that could prove fatal to that person then rescuing you from the danger he forced on you.

“Papa, this is more dangerous than the first. God forbid the king ever sees or even hears about this. We must destroy these poems.”

“Yes, Joseph … I understand your anxiety.” I paused and took four deep breaths. “If as you say, you have a place to keep these well-hidden, nothing will happen. I must be able to rid my mind of these thoughts and writing them down is the best way for me to accomplish that. Go ahead and read the next one.”

Joseph just shook his head at my obstinacy and read the third poem aloud. It is another five lines speaking to the volatile nature of the king and how he can strike out at his most loyal friend when angered or in a sullen mood. How his moods are like the responses of a spoiled child.

Joseph refolded all three pages of poetry and put them inside his tunic next to the bare skin of his chest, then patted the tunic that concealed them.

“No one must see these; Papa I will guard them with my life.”

I held up my hand, engulfed with another fit of coughing.

“Do you … understand why … I have shared these thoughts with you, Joseph?”

“Yes, Papa, I understand, and I take these thoughts of yours to heart, as I do all you have taught me.”

“Good. If you want, after I am gone, you can add these to your anthologies and distribute them throughout the Diaspora. But only do so if you feel safe from recrimination.”

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