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At the south-western point of Spain and Europe stands the important fortress of Gibraltar, which commands the passage from the Atlantic Ocean into the Mediterranean Sea. It is a very remarkable circumstance that Gibraltar, which is a part of Spain, and at so great a distance from England, is in the possession of Great Britain. It was captured by an English fleet, aided by a small band of Dutchmen, in the year 1704, one hundred and fifty years since ; and although repeated attempts have been made by the Spaniards, aided by the French, to take Gibraltar from the English, their endeavours have been unsuccessful.
The ancient Greeks and Romans called Gibraltarwhich was then known under the name of Mount Calpeand Mount Abyla—in Africa, opposite to Gibraltar—the Pillars of Hercules. The Greeks and Romans were not accustomed to navigate the ocean beyond the narrow sea which runs between those places.
The rock of Gibraltar is only about three miles long,
and in no part exceeds three-quarters of a mile in width ; between it and the main land is a low sandy neck of land, which is about half a mile broad where it joins Gibraltar, but it is wider towards the Spanish territory. The rock, the isthmus or neck of land, and the coast of Spain, form a bay, which is more than eight miles long and five miles wide, and is called the Bay of Gibraltar. This bay is an excellent harbour for shipping.
The most celebrated part of the rock, towards the south, is nearly fourteen hundred and forty feet above the level of the sea. The northern side of the rock, which faces Spain, is almost perpendicular, except a narrow passage towards the north-west.
In the early part of the eighth century, a Spanish nobleman, of great wealth and influence, whose daughter had been greatly insulted and injured by the king of Spain, induced the Saracens to send an army to conquer Spain. The forces landed on the isthmus near to the rock, and they were under the command of a general whose name was Tarif Ebn Zarca. He erected a castle on Mount Calpe, and changed its name to Gibel-Tarif, which Arabic designation signifies, the mountain of Tarif. From an inscription over the gate of this castle, it appears that it was erected in the year 725. The name of Gibel-Tarif has, by corruption, become changed to Gibraltar. Probably it was corrupted first by calling it GibalTar, and then the transition would be easy to call it Gibraltar.
The Saracens and Moors, followers of Mahomet, kept possession of Gibel-Tarif for about six hundred years, when it was taken by Ferdinand, king of Castile. It was, however, again taken by the Mahometans; and for several years there were fierce contests between them and the Spaniards for its possession. In the year 1462, the Spaniards finally ejected the Mahometans, and Gibraltar was held by Spain till the year 1704, when it was besieged and taken possession of by the English fleet, under Sir George Rooke, aided by 1800 English and Dutch, commanded by the Prince of Hesse d'Armstadt. Ever since then Gibraltar has been kept possession of by the British Crown. and it has been rendered so strong a fortress, that it is considered able to resist any warlike force that can be brought against it, provided the supply of food and of ammunition should not fail. The last attempt that was made to take Gibraltar was made in the year 1782. For nearly three years previously great preparations and efforts had been made to take Gibraltar. In the latter end of 1782, Gibraltar was besieged by the combined forces of France and Spain. On the land side was a besieging army of forty thousand soldiers ; and in the bay there was a mighty fleet, consisting of a vast assemblage of ships of war, battering ships, gun-boats, and other vessels. The cannonading on both sides was most awful. Red-hot shots were fired from the rock upon the shipping, and made dreadful havoc. Many of the ships took fire, and the besiegers were completely defeated. Soon after peace was concluded between England and Spain. Since then no attack has been made on this important fortress.
Gibraltar is an immense rock, consisting of different strata ; the principal of which consists of a gray dense mass, which mineralogists have called primary marble. In the rock there are many caverns; these, and other excavations made in the rocks, afford space for a large number of guns, which can be fired through apertures ; and the men are protected by the rock from the fire of besiegers.
The climate of Gibraltar during the greater part of the year is pleasant and healthy. Having the sea nearly round the island, the inhabitants feel less heat in the summer and less cold in the winter than is felt by the occupants of the adjacent countries. Heavy rains, high winds, tremendous thunder, and awful lightning, are common in December and January. The heat of the summer
is moderated by the refreshing westerly breeze from the | sea ; which, on account of its beneficial effects, is called “ The Doctor.” When the easterly wind prevails, persons of delicate constitutions suffer from its influence.
In Gibraltar, there exists a species of the ape tribe, which is not found in any other part of Spain, and is therefore supposed to have been brought from Barbary. Red-legged partridges are found in coveys; there are also some woodcocks, teal, and rabbits. Mosquitoes are troublesome at the latter end of the summer.
The scorpion, centipede, and other venomous reptiles, exist among the rocks and ruinous buildings.
The following account was, in substance, given of the monkeys, a few years since, by a correspondent of a popular periodical
“When I was at Gibraltar, the most amusing creatures in the garrison were the wild monkeys, that ran about in great numbers. People used to wonder where they came from, as they are not found in the neighbouring mountains of Spain. The soldiers and common people believe that the celebrated Saint Michael's Cave, which has its mouth near the top of the rock, and which penetrates to a depth which has not yet been ascertained, is continued under the sea across the Straits to Mount Abyla, or Ape's Hill, as the African mountain is called, which is just opposite to Gibraltar, and abounds with monkeys of the same kind. The distance between Gibraltar and Mount Abyla is about sixteen miles.
“It is more natural to suppose that when the Moors invaded Spain, and settled in Gibraltar, some monkeys were brought over by them; or that, at a more recent period, when the Spaniards held Ceuta, in the neighbourhood of Ape's Hill, they sent some monkeys to the garrison at Gibraltar ; that some of the monkeys escaped to the cliffs and caverns of the rock, and propagated their species.
“I scarcely ever returned from my walks--which were frequent in the summer evenings, without seeing many monkeys. Sometimes on turning a corner of the rock I have come suddenly on a large party of them, seated in a circle, like neighbours, met for the pleasure of an evening gossip. The rapidity with which they would decamp was astonishing. All that I had seen of the gambols of monkeys in England, was as nothing compared with the feats
of these. They would never stop or make any noise until they had reached a position where it was impossible for man to follow them ; but when once in safety, they would face about, mow, and chatter, and make the strangest grimaces. If I threw stones at them, they yould draw themselves into holes, or behind some projection of the rock. After the flight of the stone they would reappear, and scream and make faces.
“ In the months of May and June, I used often to surprise monkey parties when they had their young ones with them. The moment they saw me, the mothers would take up their little ones on their backs, and scamper up the rocks, never stopping until far beyond sight or reach. They never fled without their young ones.
“Some of these animals are always to be seen on the front of the rock; but their favourite resorts are upon the almost perpendicular cliffs, which afford no foot-hold for human beings. When the strong easterly gales blow, great numbers of the monkeys are to be seen crossing the ridges of the rock, travelling to the western and sheltered side of the rock. When the monkeys flee to the west, Gibraltar is a sad place to abide in. Then a mist rests on the top of the rock, and it is usual to say, Old Gib has got on his night-cap. The easterly winds are very pernicious at Gibraltar.
“ To botanists, Gibraltar presents an interesting field of observation. It contains many African as well as European specimens. It is said that not less than three hundred species of herbs grow on the Gibraltar rock.
Spain is a Popish country, and Protestants are not permitted to preach the Gospel there. The laws of Spain are intolerant and awfully cruel towards those who oppose the errors of the Romish church. This prevents the Protestant ministers of different communions in Gibraltar from doing much for the religious benefit of the Spaniards. We hope the time will come, when the unholy opposition of professedly Christian States to the spread of true religion will cease. Spain is awfully injured by the prevalence therein of Papistical domination.”