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An Historical and Descriptive Account of The City of Generations

Albert Frederick Calvert

208 pages
Library of Alexandria
There are spots that stand out in the ocean of time like islands unsubmerged. The flood of years has rolled onwards past and around them, and its billows have broken in vain against their shores. Such a spot is Toledo. It lifts its head above the ever-shifting waters of the ages, and looks forth unchanged, unchanging, across the sea of centuries—a last surviving beacon of the drowned mediæval world. Very old is the city. It has outgrown decay. Nor can we conceive it as changing. It has almost become a part of the everlasting hills on which it stands. The rock has grown into Toledo and Toledo into the rock. In a land where all is old, men marvel at the antiquity of this city. And when it was younger by centuries, the chroniclers, groping amid legends and fables the wildest and most extravagant, strove to penetrate the darkness of the ages and to discern the pale glimmerings of Toledo’s dawn. Here, surely, first trod the first man, thought the ancients, and here was already a city when God first placed His sun exactly over it in the yet-dark Heavens. If this was not so, said another chronicler, then beyond doubt Toledo’s seven hills were the first to appear above the waters of the Deluge, and Tubal, the grandson of Noah, established here a kingdom. So stories and traditions multiplied, each historian inventing a fresh one. These fables of the city’s founding are quaint, curious, and ingenious. Iberia and Hispania of course suggested persons, and so we find Iberia, daughter of King Hispan, and wife of a Persian captain, Pyrrhus, resorting in search of health to the banks of the Tagus, and her husband making a bower for her on these rocky steeps. Hercules, who is credited with the foundation of Seville, added the building of Toledo to his many labours. “Dismiss these far-fetched fables,” cries the learned prelate De Rada, “and admit that our city was founded by the Consuls Tolemon and Brutus, in the reign of Ptolemy Evergetes.” But another conjecture as absolutely baseless as the others! More interesting is the legend that the town was built by Jews flying from Nebuchadnezzar, by whom it was named Toledoth, “the city of generation.” Certain it is that Jews lived in Toledo at the earliest periods of its history, and played a great part, as we shall see, in its affairs. However picturesque may be these traditions and wonderings of the sages, we cannot resist the conclusion that the beginnings of this old capital of Spain were obscure and commonplace enough. Along the banks of the yellow Tagus savage tribesmen pastured their flocks and herds, and the more practical spirits among them recognised the advantages of the cliff above the river as a settlement. Doubtless mere temporary encampments succeeded each other here season after season, till some sentiment or necessity attached men permanently to the spot, and a rude cluster of huts was formed—the rough inception of our greatest towns. The Celtiberians hereabouts were known to the Romans as Carpetani (how ill these Latin forms seem to reproduce the uncouth designations which these primitive peoples really bore!) The Carthaginians were the first civilised nation to come in contact with them, and we hear of a Punic governor, Tago. It is impossible to resist the suspicion that his personality arose, Aphrodite-like, from the river Tagus. But a Moorish writer gives a plausible account of a revolt which arose among the Carpetani consequent on Tago’s assassination by Hasdrubal, the contemporary of Hannibal. This brought that great commander himself upon the scene. Before him the tribesmen were scattered like chaff before the wind.