Muza, on returning to the East, is said to have drawn near to Damascus with a train of thirty waggons full of Spanish silver, gold, and precious stones. Tarik ben Ziyed, marching in triumph through the land, secured at Cordova, Amaya, and other towns and capitals, enormous store of "pearls, arms, dishes, silver, gold, and other jewels in unprecedented number." One object, in particular, is mentioned with insistency by nearly all the chronicles, both Mussulman and Christian. Quoting from the Pearl oJ Marvels of I bn Alwardi, this was "the table which had belonged to God's prophet, Solomon (health be to both of them). It was of green emeralds, and nothing fairer had been ever seen before. Its cups were golden and its plates of precious jewels, one of them specked with black and white." All manner of strange things are said about this table, though most accounts describe it as consisting of a single emerald. Perhaps it was of malachite, or of the bright green serpentine stone extracted formerly as well as nowadays from the Barranco de San Juan at Granada, and several other spots in Spain. Bayan Almoghreb says it was of gold mixed with a little silver and surrounded by three gold rings or collars; the first containing pearls, the second rubies, and the third emeralds. Al-Makkari describes it as "green, with its 365 feet and borders of a single emerald." Nor is it known for certain where this "table" fell into the hands of Tarik. Probably he found it in the principal Christian temple at Toledo - that is to say, the Basilica of Santa Maria. Ibn Alwardi says that in the aula regia, or palace of the Visigothic kings, the lancers of the Moorish general broke down a certain door, discovering "a matchless quantity of gold and silver plate," together with the "table." Doubtless this strong room was the same referred to in the following lines. "It was for ever closed; and each time that a Christian king began to reign he added to its door a new and powerful fastening. In this way as many as four and twenty padlocks were gathered on the door."
However, the most explicit and informative of all these ancient authors is Ibn Hayyan, who says; "The table had its origin in the days of Christian rulers. It was the custom in those times that when a rich man died he should bequeath a legacy to the churches. Proceeding from the value of these gifts were fashioned tables, thrones, and other articles of gold and silver, whereon the clergy bore the volumes of their gospel when they showed them at their ceremonies. These objects they would also set upon their altars to invest them with a further splendour by the ornament thereof. For this cause was the table at Toledo, and the [Visigothic] monarchs vied with one another in enriching it, each of them adding somewhat to the offerings of his predecessor, till it surpassed all other jewels of its kind and grew to be renowned exceedingly. It was of fine gold studded with emeralds, pearls, and rubies, in such wise that nothing similar had ever been beheld. So did the kings endeavour to increase its richness, seeing that this city was their capital, nor did they wish another to contain more splendid ornaments or furniture. Thus was the table resting on an altar of the church, and here the Muslims came upon it, and the fame of its magnificence spread far abroad."
Another chronicle affirms that Tarik found the "table" at a city called Almeida, now perhaps Olmedo. "He reached Toledo, and leaving a detachment there, advanced to Guadalajara and the [Guadarrama] mountains. These he crossed by the pass which took his name, and reached, upon the other side, a city called Almeida or The Table, for there had been discovered the table of Solomon the son of David, and the feet and borders of it, numbering three hundred and sixty-five, were of green emerald."
In any case this venerated jewel gave considerable trouble to its captors. When envious Muza followed up the march of Tarik, his lieutenant, he demanded from him all the spoil, and in particular the ever-famous table. Tarik surrendered this forthwith, but after slyly wrenching off a leg. Muza perceived the breakage, and inquired for the missing piece. " I know not," said the other; "'twas thus that I discovered it." Muza then ordered a new leg of gold to be made for the table, as well as a box of palm leaves, in which it was deposited. "This," says Ibn Hayyan, "is known to be one of the reasons why Tarik worsted Muza in the dispute they had before the Caliph as to their respective conquests." So it proved. Ibn Abdo-1-Haquem1 relates that Muza appeared before the Caliph Al-Walid and produced the table. Tarik interposed and said that he himself had taken it, and not the other leader. " Give it into my hands," the Caliph answered, "that I may see if any piece of it be wanting," and found, indeed, that one of its feet was different from the rest. "Ask Muza," interrupted Tarik, "for the missing foot, and if he answer from his heart, then shall his words be truth." Accordingly Al-Walid inquired for the foot, and Muza made reply that he had found the table as it now appeared; but Tarik with an air of triumph drew forth the missing piece which he himself had broken off, and said: "By this shall the Emir of the Faithful recognize that I am speaking truth; that I it was who found the table." And thereupon Al-Walid credited his words and loaded him with gifts.
Comparing the statements of these writers, we may be certain that the "table" was a kind of desk of Visigothic or, more probably, Byzantine workmanship, for holding the gospels on the feast-days of the national church. Probably, too, seeing that a palm-leaf box was strong enough to keep it in, its size was inconsiderable. Its value, on the statement of Ibn Abdo-1-Haquem, was two hundred thousand dinares.
1 Account of the Conquest of Spain, published, with an English translation and notes, by John Harris Jones. London, 1858.