The Portuguese Expedition to Abyssinia in 1541–1543/Chapter XXIII

The Portuguese Expedition to Abyssinia in 1541–1543  (1902)  by Miguel de Castanhoso, translated by R. S. Whiteway
Chapter XXII

Hakluyt Society second series no. X

Of how the Preste and the King of Zeila fought a Battle in which the Moors were defeated and the King slain.Edit

By early morning we were all in our ranks, and we said a prayer before the banner of the Holy Compassion (Sancta Misericordia), begging our Lord to have it [compassion] on [80] us, and give us vengeance on, and victory over, our enemies. After a general confession by a Mass priest, who absolved us, we arose and advanced against the enemy, we leading the van and that banner, or we following it [? e esta bandeyra ou nós com ella]. With us were two hundred and fifty Abyssinian horse and three thousand five hundred foot; in the rear came the Preste with another two hundred and fifty horse, and with all the rest of the foot. In this order we attacked the enemy, who also advanced in two battles, the King of Zeila in person in the van, with two hundred Turks, matchlockmen, six hundred horse and seven thousand foot. Those in the van attacked on both flanks; in the rear came his Captain, called Guança Grade, with six hundred horse and seven thousand foot, who like the van attacked heavily. The Portuguese, seeing that the Turks were defeating us, charged them, slaying many and driving the rest back; for the Portuguese horse, who were sixty, worked marvels, and the Abyssinians, ashamed to see them fight thus, threw themselves in so vigorously that they left a track as they went. When the King saw that his men were losing ground, he in person led them on, encouraging them, and with him was his son, a young man, helping him; they came so near that he was recognised by the Portuguese, who, seeing him close, fired at him with their matchlocks. As all things are ordered by the Lord God, He permitted that one ball should strike him in the breast, and he fell over his saddlebow and left the press; when his followers knew that he was wounded to the death, they lost heart and took to flight. When the Captain of [81] the Turks saw that the Moors were giving way, he determined to die; with bared arms, and a long broadsword in his hand, he swept a great space in front of him; he fought like a valiant cavalier, for five Abyssinian horsemen were on him, who could neither make him yield nor slay him. One of them attacked him with a javelin; he wrenched it from his hand, he houghed another's horse, and none dared approach him. There came up a Portuguese horseman, by name Gonçalo Fernandes, who charged him spear in rest and wounded him sorely; the Turk grasped it [the spear] so firmly, that before he could disengage himself the Moor gave him a great cut above the knee that severed all the sinews and crippled him; finding himself wounded, he drew his sword and killed him. All this while our men were pursuing the Moors, chiefly the Portuguese, as they could not glut their revenge; they mainly followed the Turks, as against them they were most enraged; of the two hundred not more than forty escaped, who returned to the King's wife. When she heard that her husband was dead, she fled with the three hundred horse of her guard and these forty Turks, taking with her all the treasure that her husband had captured from the Preste, which was not small. She escaped, as our people followed those on the battle-field and in the camp so relentlessly that they thought of nothing else; and they gave quarter to none, save women and children, whom they made captives. Among these were many Christian women, which caused the greatest possible pleasure and contentment: for some found sisters, others daughters, others their wives, and it was for them no small delight to see them delivered from such captivity. So great was their pleasure, that they came to kiss our feet and worship us; they gave us the credit of the battle, saying that through us they saw [82] that day. When the spoil, which was not small, had been collected, the Preste pitched his camp on the shore of the lake, for the country abounds in supplies. After the booty had been secured, there came to the Preste one of his Captains, by name Azemache Calite, a youth, with the head of the King of Zeila in his teeth, and he at full stretch of his horse with great pleasure; for this youth and the Barnaguais, who knew him [the King of Zeila] best, followed him, and this youth got up to him first and finished killing him, and cut off his head; he took his head so eagerly to the Preste on account of the promises he had made, which were great: if any Abyssinian brought the head, to marry him to his sister; if a Portuguese, to show him great favour. When the Preste received the Moor's head he enquired into the truth, and found that the Portuguese had mortally wounded him, and that this Captain did not merit his sister for bringing the head, as he did not kill him; thus he did not give his sister to that man, nor did he reward the Portuguese, as it was not known who wounded him; had he known, he would have fulfilled his promise. He ordered that the head of the late King of Zeila should be set on a spear, and carried round and shown in all his country, in order that the people might know that he was indeed dead who had wrought them such evils. It was first taken to the Queen, to be sent thence to the other places; and thus she was avenged by her pleasure for the sadness past. At this time the Portuguese who had been to Massowa arrived at the place where the Queen was; she determined in her satisfaction to join her son, and the Portuguese accompanied her; they were well received by the Preste, who supplied them with all necessaries, and made great festivities for the Queen. We remained in great pleasure, seeing each day the Abyssinians delighting in that victory, and in the liberty in which they found themselves. There died four Portu- [83] guese in the battle : João Correa, Francisco Vieyra, Francisco Fialho, and a Gallician.

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