In my previous blogs, I’ve spoken about the Castillos.net website, which lists the various castles and fortifications in Spain. I was looking at that site recently and noted that there was a fortification high up on a hill above Velez Malaga called Benthomiz. You can see the remains of white towers on the hilltop of you look from Torres del Mar. As this was a few miles from where we were staying, it became an obsession of mine to see if I could get up there. I finally managed to convince Emma and her parents to take a trip in a hired car up some rickety roads in the hills above Velez Malaga.
Then the road ended and was replaced by a dirt track - there was no way the car could go any further, so we parked up and walked. After all, how far could it be? With each rise in the road, I thought we were going to reach the top of this hill. After walking over a mile in ever soaring temperatures, we rounded a corner and saw the top of the hill - a mile away!
At this point Emma and her parents wisely decided to stay in the shade while the intrepid, err stupid…, editor went forth. Despite being mid- spring, the temperatures were in the high twenties. The water I had was soon running short and I had to break my fast walking with rests in the shade. After about 3/4 an hour, I finally reached to summit.
While there was not much left at the top, just a few towers and some sections of wall, there was clear evidence of a large settlement comparable in size to Comares (which was mentioned in a previous blog). There were fragments of roof tiles everywhere, even though there was little remaining of the buildings. The walls had a stonework base topped with either stone or adobe. The original site has been dated to the Phoenician periond and there are remains of Roman baths at the site. It’s obvious why this site was chosen: it dominates the local landscape, and the views are breathtaking. So why did Comares survive as a village and Benthomiz become a forgotten ruin?
Benthomiz acted as a Moor base for raids against Christian supply columns during the Reconquista. It fell relatively early in the final campaigns against Granada, sometime in late 1487, and acted as a base for the Conquistadors in the siege for Velez Malaga and Malaga. However, it became a hotbed of rebellion in the Muslim revolt of 1569. The castle was assaulted and stormed, the lack of remains on the southern side of the hill made me suspect that’s where the main attack was launched. The adobe and stone walls weren’t particularly thick, perhaps 7m tall at most, so would not have stood up to cannon long. After the revolt, there was a mass explusion of Muslims, depopulating the area and ruining the local economy. Many villages were abandoned. On my climb up I’d noticed the remains of many old terraces, which presumably at one time had been tended by locals and people from the fortress.
I was very impressed with Benthomiz. This was a genuine moor fortress and there was enough left of the structure to get an idea of its original size. It had history too. The area it covered was pretty large, being a rough ‘L’ shape some 200m by 400m, with an inner fortress at the corner of the ‘L’. I could just about imagine it with its gleaming white walls and buldings, being as narrow as Comares. It also drove home to me how important fortresses are to campaigns, and how common low intensity warfare (such as raids) is in campaigns. If you ever are near Velez Malaga, and provided youare insane, I recommend taking a trip to Benthomiz. Go in the morning or evening and take plenty of water!