The Ottoman Turks
As the architect of Spain's foreign policy, in which the defense of Christendom often coincided with the furthering of Aragon's Mediterranean interests, Fernando treated with an array of Islamic states ranging from Granada to the eastern Mediterranean. Of these, the expanding empire of the Ottoman Turks posed the greatest threat. During the initial years of Fernando's reign the danger seemed very grave. In 1480 the forces of Mehmet the Conqueror besieged the island of Rhodes defended by the Knights Hospitallers and, worse still, in August of that year captured the city of Otranto on the Italian mainland. Considering this a prelude to the conquest of Sicily, an Aragonese possession, of Naples, and perhaps of Rome itself, Fernando took the Hospitallers under his protection and sent them military and financial support. Spain further responded by dispatching to Italy two fleets, Castilian and Aragonese, to assist in the Christian counterattack. This aid, however, proved un-
necessary as the death of Mehmet compelled a Turkish withdrawal from Otranto in September 1481.
During these critical months, Spain's ascendancy over Islam in the West suddenly seemed precarious. Turkish advances rendered the sultanate of Granada more formidable and the allegiance of Fernando's Muslim subjects more uncertain. Fernando was anxious about the possibility of a Mudejar reaction to Ottoman successes. In December 1480 he wrote to his councillors and governor in Valencia and reminded them of the Turkish entry into Italy, suggesting that this Islamic threat to Christendom could have immediate and dire consequences at home. Noting the kingdom's proximity to Granada, the king fretted over the fact that it had such a large number of Muslim inhabitants who were well armed and had access to its castles and fortresses. Having had to postpone the crusade against Granada to counter the Turkish menace, Fernando determined at least to neutralize the Mudejars, test they "make some effort in our disservice and that of our Lord God and in damage of that kingdom." He therefore commanded that all the Muslims in the kingdom be disarmed and denied access to fortresses, which included removing from office any Muslims exercising custodianship (alcaydies ) over castles. All this was to be done so that "we may be without any fear of the said Moors."
However, Fernando added that his officials should act in this matter as they deemed best, without causing any "inconvenience or scandal." In effect, this meant that they could do very little. Although arms control could be effectively exercised in the royal cities and towns, where Muslims were either fined for bearing arms or granted license to do so, it was unfeasible on seigneurial lands. Documents from 1487 and 1502 describe the Mudejars as still armed to the teeth. As for the custodianship of castles, this probably was not a problem, for there is no evidence of Mudejar alcaydes . The more important question is whether there was a real need for these preventive measures. At this point there does not seem to have been any Mudejar activity even suggesting insurrection. Whatever pleasure or hope Valencia's Muslims might have derived from Islam's distant progress, Turkish advances in Italy had insufficient impact on the structure of power in Valencia to have given them any illusions as to the possible success of a revolt. Accordingly, Fernando's officials seem to have thought it best to keep only a cautious eye on the Mudejars without unnecessarily upsetting them by the application of a firm hand.
Fernando was not alone in his uneasiness over the Mudejars' intentions. In February 1481, having already ordered the religious houses of Valencia to pray for divine aid against the Turks, the jurates of the city of Valencia cautioned the king that necessity demanded the taking
of some action regarding the great number of Muslims residing in the kingdom. For them, the Mudejars' presence was a threat to the public peace. Despite the opinion of the seigneurs of Muslim vassals, who preferred maintenance of the status quo, the jurates urged Fernando to take measures to preserve the kingdom from "irreparable ruin." It is difficult to say what measures they had in mind. In any event, no further action was taken. Given the probable opposition of the barons, who were in a better position to know of the Mudejars' plans than were the more apprehensive jurates, the efficacy of any expedient would have been minimal.
The Turks continued to preoccupy Fernando throughout the 1480s. Rumors of the massing of Turkish armadas in 1484 and 1485 and the Turks' attack on Malta in 1488 moved him to strengthen Sicily's fortifications. The conflict between the Turks and Mamluk Egypt suggested to Fernando the utility of an alliance with the Mamluk sultan, Qa'it[*] Bay[*] . In 1488 Spain shipped wheat to Egypt—the revenues from its sale were to help finance the war against Granada—and, after the Mamluk victory over Turkish forces, Fernando proposed further aiding the Mamluks with a naval force of fifty caravels. This understanding between Fernando and Qa'it[*] Bay[*] lasted until the latter allied with the Ottoman Bayezit II in 1491.
Although himself fully capable of cutting across ideological boundaries to ally with Mamluk against Ottoman, Fernando still doubted that the fealty of his own Muslim subjects was of sufficient strength to counterbalance the political implications of their religious adherence to Islam. He was prone to lend credence to even the more farfetched stories of Mudejar anti-Christian activity. For instance, in 1480 he commanded an investigation into the matter of certain Aragonese Mudejars who had allegedly incited the Mamluk sultan to destroy Christian churches in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, Fernando can hardly be blamed for expressing concern over the information that reached him in 1487. It involved an Islamic alliance linking the Mudejars and the Turks to Granada as a reaction to the Nasrids' desperate situation. It was reported that for the past six years the Valencian aljamas had been sending financial aid in support of the war effort of the Nasrid sultan. For Fernando, already into his sixth year of grueling campaigning in Granada, this news must have been particularly galling. But that was not all. The Mudejars had dispatched to "the Turk" (Bayezit II) two envoys, one from Játiva, the kingdom's largest morería , and the other, a certain Pacoret, from Paterna. They were to inform Bayezit of the Catholic Monarchs' war against Granada and that if he did not send aid all would be lost. Specific suggestions were made as to how the Turks could be most effective. Bayezit was to
send "his people" to Valencia, and there, and in the other Spanish kingdoms, 200,000 Muslims would rise up in their favor and bring about the "damage and destruction of the Christians." The Moors of Valencia were preparing themselves for this eventuality. It was said that each Muslim had in his home more arms than were necessary for any one person.
The king's reaction was surprisingly restrained. He ordered three officials to find out if there was any truth in these rumors. Their conclusions were to be sent to Fernando in letters under closed seal, so that he himself could decide on suitable punishment for the Muslims and the morerías implicated. Again, as in 1480, there survive neither responses to the king's queries nor record of the punishment of Mudejar rebels.
That in both cases official inquiry produced no damning evidence against the Mudejars should not suggest that Fernando dwelled in a crusader's dream world filled with phantoms of Muslim conspirators. A distinction must be made here between intention and act. According to Fernando's informants, a Mudejar uprising was contingent on the entry of Ottoman forces into Spain. That Bayezit, his hands full in the East and in Egypt, was in no position to mount an invasion of the western Mediterranean, much less of Spain, and, thus, could not lend any substance to Mudejar plans, does not exonerate the Mudejars of the intention of rebellion under propitious circumstances. It is very much within the realm of possibility that Mudejar-Ottoman contact had, in fact, been established.
By 1487 Nasrid poetic appeals for assistance had reached both Mamluk and Ottoman courts. Also, the Egyptian chronicler Ibn Iyas[*] records that in A.H. 892 (A.D. 1486–1487) Nasrid ambassadors arrived in Cairo requesting that Qa'it[*] Bay[*] send an army against the Spanish Christians. Qa'it Bay responded with a message to Fernando, warning him that if he did not halt his attacks on Granada, reprisals would be inflicted on the clergy of Jerusalem and Christians would be denied access to the holy places. Bayezit, his interest aroused by the Nasrid appeal, dispatched the privateer Kemal Reis to the western Mediterranean on a mission of reconnaissance. Reis is thought to have made direct contact with Granadan Muslims somewhere along Spain's southeastern coast. He and his Ottoman corsairs based themselves in Bougie and Bône and on the island of Jirba, and from there conducted raids on Christian coasts and shipping. Reis was active in the area until 1495, when he was recalled to Istanbul by Bayezit.
Fernando's response to reports of a Mudejar embassy to the Turks (23 April 1487) after the arrival of the Nasrid ambassadors and poetry in the Mamluk and Ottoman courts, and probably not long after Kemal Reis sailed into western Mediterranean waters, gives to these reports
a ring of truth. Their veracity is supported further by their specific identification of the two Mudejar envoys. Fernando's informants had emphasized three points: (1) Mudejar financial aid to Granada; (2) a Mudejar appeal to the Ottomans that Granada was desperately in need of help against the Christian onslaught; and (3) Mudejar assurances of their rising in tandem with an Ottoman invasion. The central factor was the Mudejar preoccupation with Granada's fate. It was more than coincidental that the Mudejar embassy was sent within a year of the Nasrids' decision to take diplomatic initiatives in the hope of alleviating their grave situation. Communication between Valencian and Granadan Muslims was frequent, as they were closely linked by ties of kinship and commerce and often crossed each other's national borders with or without official license. Both groups realized that the Turks were Granada's only hope and acted accordingly. It is certainly possible that Mudejar envoys in conjunction with Granadan Muslims met with Kemal Reis somewhere along Spain's southeastern coast, perhaps near Almería, a city with which Valencian Muslims had close relations. In this scenario "the Turk" with whom the Mudejars made contact would have been Kemal Reis, not Bayezit II. An alternative to an Iberian rendezvous was a Maghriban one, perhaps at Reis's base in Bougie, which was more accessible than Istanbul. The Mudejars were certainly in touch with Ottoman corsairs by 1502. Earlier contacts, while there was still some hope for the Nasrids, do not seem improbable.
After this episode the spectre of a Mudejar-Ottoman conspiracy ceased to haunt Fernando. Once Granada was conquered the threat of a Turkish invasion in relief of the Nasrids was removed, and with it the possibility of an Ottoman-inspired Mudejar insurrection.