Online Library of Liberty

A collection of scholarly works about individual liberty and free markets. A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.

Advanced Search

Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 9 [1776]

0214 09 tp
Title Page
0214 09 toc
Original Table of Contents or First Page

Edition used:

Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 9.

Available in the following formats:
Facsimile PDF 20.7 MB This is a facsimile or image-based PDF made from scans of the original book.
Kindle 1.05 MB This is an E-book formatted for Amazon Kindle devices.
EBook PDF 1.81 MB This text-based PDF or EBook was created from the HTML version of this book and is part of the Portable Library of Liberty.
ePub 855 KB ePub standard file for your iPad or any e-reader compatible with that format
HTML 1.37 MB This version has been converted from the original text. Every effort has been taken to translate the unique features of the printed book into the HTML medium.
Simplified HTML 1.37 MB This is a simplifed HTML format, intended for screen readers and other limited-function browsers.

About this Title:

The ninth volume of a 12 volume set of Gibbon’s magesterial history of the end of the Roman Empire, one of the greatest works of history written during the Enlightenment.

Copyright information:

The text is in the public domain.

Fair use statement:

This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [a]
vol. ix
Edition: current; Page: [b] Edition: current; Page: [c] Edition: current; Page: [d]
Edition: current; Page: [i]







Edition: current; Page: [ii] Edition: current; Page: [iii]
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

Copyright, 1907,


Norwood Press

Edition: current; Page: [v]


  • List of Illustrations . . . . . . . . . page xi
  • Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . xii
  • CHAPTER L Description of Arabia and its Inhabitants — Birth, Character, and Doctrine of Mahomet — He preaches at Mecca — Flies to Medina — Propagates his religion by the Sword — Voluntary or reluctant Submission of the Arabs — His Death and Successors — The Claims and Fortunes of Ali and his Descendants
    • ad Description of Arabia . . . . . . . . . 1
    • The Soil and Climate . . . . . . . . . 3
    • Division of the Sandy, the Stormy, and the Happy Arabia . . 4
    • Manners of the Bedoweens, or Pastoral Arabs . . . . 5
    • The Horse . . . . . . . . . . . 6
    • The Camel . . . . . . . . . . . 7
    • Cities of Arabia . . . . . . . . . . 8
    • Mecca . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
    • Her Trade . . . . . . . . . . . 9
    • National Independence of the Arabs . . . . . . 10
    • Their domestic Freedom and Character . . . . . 14
    • Civil Wars and private Revenge . . . . . . . 16
    • Annual Truce . . . . . . . . . . 18
    • Their social Qualifications and Virtues . . . . . 18
    • Love of Poetry . . . . . . . . . . 19
    • Examples of Generosity . . . . . . . . 20
    • Ancient Idolatry . . . . . . . . . 22
    • The Caaba, or Temple of Mecca . . . . . . 23
    • Sacrifices and Rites . . . . . . . . . 25
    • Introduction of the Sabians . . . . . . . 26
    • The Magians . . . . . . . . . . 27
    • The Jews . . . . . . . . . . . 27
    • The Christians . . . . . . . . . . 28
    • 569-609 Birth and Education of Mahomet . . . . . 29
    • Deliverance of Mecca . . . . . . . . . 30
    • Qualifications of the Prophet . . . . . . . 32
    • One God . . . . . . . . . . . 35
    • Mahomet the Apostle of God, and the last of the Prophets . 38Edition: current; Page: [vi]
    • Moses . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
    • Jesus . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
    • The Koran . . . . . . . . . . . 41
    • Miracles . . . . . . . . . . . 44
    • Precepts of Mahomet — Prayer, Fasting, Alms . . . . 46
    • Resurrection . . . . . . . . . . 49
    • Hell and Paradise . . . . . . . . . 50
    • 609 Mahomet preaches at Mecca . . . . . . . 54
    • 613-622 Is opposed by the Koreish . . . . . . . 56
    • 622 And driven from Mecca . . . . . . . . 58
    • Received as Prince of Medina . . . . . . . 59
    • 622-632 His regal Dignity . . . . . . . . . 61
    • He declares War against the Infidels . . . . . . 62
    • His defensive Wars against the Koreish of Mecca . . . 65
    • 623 Battle of Beder . . . . . . . . . . 66
    • [625] Of Ohud . . . . . . . . . . . 68
    • 625 [627] The Nations, or the Ditch . . . . . . . 69
    • 623-627 Mahomet subdues the Jews of Arabia . . . . 69
    • 629 Submission of Mecca . . . . . . . . . 72
    • 629-632 Conquest of Arabia . . . . . . . . 74
    • 629, 630 First War of the Mahometans against the Roman Empire . 77
    • 632 Death of Mahomet . . . . . . . . . 80
    • His Character . . . . . . . . . . 83
    • Private life of Mahomet . . . . . . . . 86
    • His Wives . . . . . . . . . . . 88
    • And Children . . . . . . . . . . 90
    • Character of Ali . . . . . . . . . . 91
    • 632 Reign of Abubeker . . . . . . . . . 92
    • 634 Reign of Omar . . . . . . . . . . 93
    • 644 Reign of Othman . . . . . . . . . 94
    • Discord of the Turks and Persians . . . . . . 94
    • 655 Death of Othman . . . . . . . . . 96
    • 655-660 Reign of Ali . . . . . . . . . 97
    • 655, or 661-680 Reign of Moawiyah . . . . . . . 100
    • 680 Death of Hosein . . . . . . . . . . 101
    • Posterity of Mahomet and Ali . . . . . . . 104
    • Success of Mahomet . . . . . . . . . 107
    • Permanency of his Religion . . . . . . . 107
    • His Merit towards his Country . . . . . . . 109
  • CHAPTER LI The Conquest of Persia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain, by the Arabs or Saracens — Empire of the Caliphs, or Successors of Mahomet — State of the Christians, &c. under their Government
    • 632 Union of the Arabs . . . . . . . . . 111
    • Character of their Caliph . . . . . . . . 114
    • Their Conquests . . . . . . . . . . 116
    • Invasion of Persia . . . . . . . . . 119
    • 636 Battle of Cadesia . . . . . . . . . . 120
    • Foundation of Bassora . . . . . . . . . 123Edition: current; Page: [vii]
    • 637 Sack of Madayn . . . . . . . . . . 123
    • Foundation of Cufa . . . . . . . . . 125
    • 637-651 Conquest of Persia . . . . . . . . 127
    • 651 Death of the last King . . . . . . . . 129
    • 710 The Conquest of Transoxiana . . . . . . . 132
    • 632 Invasion of Syria . . . . . . . . . 135
    • Siege of Bosra . . . . . . . . . . 137
    • 633 Siege of Damascus . . . . . . . . . 139
    • 633 Battle of Aiznadin . . . . . . . . . 142
    • The Arabs return to Damascus . . . . . . . 144
    • 634 The City is taken by Storm and Capitulation . . . . 146
    • Pursuit of the Damascenes . . . . . . . . 149
    • Fair of Abyla . . . . . . . . . . 151
    • 635 Sieges of Heliopolis and Emesa . . . . . . . 153
    • 636 [634] Battle of Yermuk . . . . . . . . 157
    • 637 Conquest of Jerusalem . . . . . . . . 160
    • 638 Conquest of Aleppo and Antioch . . . . . . . 163
    • Flight of Heraclius . . . . . . . . . 166
    • End of the Syrian War . . . . . . . . 167
    • 633-639 The Conquerors of Syria . . . . . . . 168
    • 639-655 Progress of the Syrian Conquerors . . . . . 170
    • Egypt. Character and Life of Amrou . . . . . 172
    • 638 Invasion of Egypt . . . . . . . . . 173
    • The Cities of Memphis, Babylon, and Cairo . . . . 174
    • Voluntary Submission of the Copts or Jacobites . . . . 177
    • Siege and Conquest of Alexandria . . . . . . 179
    • The Alexandrian Library . . . . . . . . 182
    • Administration of Egypt . . . . . . . . 186
    • Riches and Populousness . . . . . . . . 188
    • 647 Africa. First invasion by Abdallah . . . . . . 192
    • The Prefect Gregory and his Daughter . . . . . 193
    • Victory of the Arabs . . . . . . . . . 194
    • 665-689 Progress of the Saracens in Africa . . . . . 197
    • 670-675 Foundation of Cairoan . . . . . . . 201
    • 692-698 Conquest of Carthage . . . . . . . . 203
    • 698-709 Final Conquest of Africa . . . . . . . 205
    • Adoption of the Moors . . . . . . . . 207
    • 709 Spain. First Temptations and Designs of the Arabs . . . 207
    • State of the Gothic Monarchy . . . . . . . 209
    • 710 The first Descent of the Arabs . . . . . . . 211
    • 711 Their second Descent and Victory . . . . . . 212
    • Ruin of the Gothic Monarchy . . . . . . . 214
    • 712, 713 Conquest of Spain by Musa . . . . . . 217
    • 714 Disgrace of Musa . . . . . . . . . 221
    • Prosperity of Spain under the Arabs . . . . . . 223
    • Religious Toleration . . . . . . . . . 226
    • Propagation of Mahometism . . . . . . . 226
    • Fall of the Magians of Persia . . . . . . . 227
    • 749 Decline and Fall of Christianity in Africa . . . . . 230
    • 1149 And Spain . . . . . . . . . . . 231
    • Toleration of the Christians . . . . . . . 232
    • Their Hardships . . . . . . . . . . 233
    • 718 The Empire of the Caliphs . . . . . . . . 234
    Edition: current; Page: [viii]
  • CHAPTER LII The Two Sieges of Constantinople by the Arabs — Their Invasion of France, and Defeat by Charles Martel — Civil War of the Ommiades and Abbassides — Learning of the Arabs — Luxury of the Caliphs — Naval Enterprises on Crete, Sicily, and Rome — Decay and Division of the Empire of the Caliphs — Defeats and Victories of the Greek Emperors
    • The Limits of the Arabian Conquest . . . . . . 236
    • 668-675 First Siege of Constantinople by the Arabs . . . . 237
    • 677 Peace and Tribute . . . . . . . . . 240
    • 716-718 Second Siege of Constantinople . . . . . . 242
    • Failure and Retreat of the Saracens . . . . . . 246
    • Invention and Use of the Greek Fire . . . . . . 247
    • 721 Invasion of France by the Arabs . . . . . . 250
    • 731 Expedition and Victories of Abderame . . . . . 252
    • 732 Defeat of the Saracens by Charles Martel . . . . . 254
    • They retreat before the Franks . . . . . . . 257
    • 746-750 Elevation of the Abbassides . . . . . . 258
    • 750 Fall of the Ommiades . . . . . . . . . 261
    • 755 Revolt of Spain . . . . . . . . . . 262
    • Triple Division of the Caliphate . . . . . . . 263
    • 750-960 Magnificence of the Caliphs . . . . . . 264
    • Its Consequences on private and public Happiness . . . 267
    • 754, &c. 813, &c. Introduction of Learning among the Arabians . 269
    • Their real Progress in the Sciences . . . . . . 272
    • Want of Erudition, Taste, and Freedom . . . . . 276
    • 781-805 Wars of Harun al Rashid against the Romans . . . 278
    • 823 The Arabs subdue the Isle of Crete . . . . . . 282
    • 827-878 And of Sicily . . . . . . . . . 284
    • 846 Invasion of Rome by the Saracens . . . . . . 286
    • 849 Victory and Reign of Leo IV. . . . . . . . 288
    • 852 Foundation of the Leonine City . . . . . . . 290
    • 838 The Amorian War between Theophilus and Motassem . . 291
    • 841-870 Disorders of the Turkish Guards . . . . . 295
    • 890-951 Rise and Progress of the Carmathians . . . . 297
    • 900 Their military Exploits . . . . . . . . 298
    • 929 They pillage Mecca . . . . . . . . . 299
    • 800-936 Revolt of the Provinces . . . . . . . 300
    • The independent Dynasties . . . . . . . . 301
    • 800-941 The Aglabites . . . . . . . . . 301
    • 829-907 The Edrisites . . . . . . . . . 301
    • 813-872 The Taherites . . . . . . . . . 302
    • 872-902 The Soffarides . . . . . . . . . 302
    • 874-999 The Samanides . . . . . . . . . 303
    • 868-905 The Toulonides . . . . . . . . . 303
    • 934-968 The Ikshidites . . . . . . . . . 303
    • 892-1001 The Hamadanites . . . . . . . . 304
    • 933-1055 The Bowides . . . . . . . . . 304
    • 936 Fallen State of the Caliphs of Bagdad . . . . . 305
    • [909-1171 The Fatimites . . . . . . . . . 307]
    • 960 Enterprises of the Greeks . . . . . . . . 307Edition: current; Page: [ix]
    • Reduction of Crete . . . . . . . . . 308
    • 963-975 The Eastern Conquests of Nicephorus Phocas, and John Zimisces . . . . . . . . . . . 309
    • Conquest of Cilicia . . . . . . . . . 309
    • Invasion of Syria . . . . . . . . . . 310
    • Recovery of Antioch . . . . . . . . . 310
    • Passage of the Euphrates . . . . . . . . 311
    • Danger of Bagdad . . . . . . . . . 312
    • [965 Cyprus recovered . . . . . . . . . . 313]
  • CHAPTER LIII State of the Eastern Empire in the Tenth Century — Extent and Division — Wealth and Revenue — Palace of Constantinople — Titles and Offices — Pride and Power of the Emperors — Tactics of the Greeks, Arabs, and Franks — Loss of the Latin Tongue — Studies and Solitude of the Greeks
    • Memorials of the Greek Empire . . . . . . . 314
    • Works of Constantine Porphyrogenitus [Ceremonies; Themes; Administration; Basilica; Geoponics; Encyclopædia] . . 314
    • Their Imperfections . . . . . . . . . 316
    • [Symeon Metaphrastes . . . . . . . . 317]
    • [Tactics of Leo and Constantine . . . . . . 318]
    • Embassy of Liutprand . . . . . . . . 319
    • The Themes, or Provinces of the Empire, and its Limits in every Age . . . . . . . . . . . . 320
    • General Wealth and Populousness . . . . . . 322
    • State of Peloponnesus: Sclavonians . . . . . . 323
    • Freemen of Laconia [Mainotes] . . . . . . . 325
    • Cities and Revenue of Peloponnesus . . . . . . 325
    • Manufactures — especially of Silk . . . . . . 326
    • Transported from Greece to Sicily . . . . . . 328
    • Revenue of the Greek Empire . . . . . . . 329
    • Pomp and Luxury of the Emperors . . . . . . 331
    • The Palace of Constantinople . . . . . . . 332
    • Furniture and Attendants . . . . . . . . 334
    • Honours and Titles of the Imperial Family . . . . 336
    • Offices of the Palace, the State, and the Army . . . . 338
    • Adoration of the Emperor . . . . . . . . 341
    • Reception of Ambassadors . . . . . . . . 342
    • Processions and Acclamations . . . . . . . 343
    • Marriage of the Cæsars with foreign Nations . . . . 345
    • Imaginary Law of Constantine . . . . . . . 346
    • 733 The first Exception . . . . . . . . . 346
    • 941 The second . . . . . . . . . . . 346
    • 943 The third . . . . . . . . . . . 347
    • 972 Otho of Germany . . . . . . . . . 348
    • 988 [989] Wolodomir of Russia [Kiev] . . . . . . 349
    • Despotic Power . . . . . . . . . . 349
    • Coronation Oath . . . . . . . . . . 350
    • Military Force of the Greeks, the Saracens, and the Franks . 351Edition: current; Page: [x]
    • Navy of the Greeks . . . . . . . . . 351
    • [902 Expedition against Crete . . . . . . . . 354]
    • Tactics and Character of the Greeks . . . . . . 355
    • Character and Tactics of the Saracens . . . . . 357
    • The Franks or Latins . . . . . . . . . 360
    • Their Character and Tactics . . . . . . . 362
    • Oblivion of the Latin Language . . . . . . . 364
    • The Greek Emperors and their Subjects retain and assert the Name of Romans . . . . . . . . . 366
    • Period of Ignorance . . . . . . . . . 367
    • Revival of Greek Learning . . . . . . . . 368
    • Decay of Taste and Genius . . . . . . . 371
    • Want of National Emulation . . . . . . . 373
  • Appendix . . . . . . . . . . . . 375
Edition: current; Page: [xi]


  • Cairo . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece
    • From a photograph.
  • Mahomet . . . . . . . . . . . page 30
    • From a rare print.
  • The Temple at Mecca . . . . . . . . 60
    • From a rare print.
  • Damascus . . . . . . . . . . . 146
    • From an old drawing by Dibdin.
  • Map of Western Asia . . . . . . . . 230
  • An Arab Horseman . . . . . . . . 280
    • From a painting by Adolph Schreyer.
Edition: current; Page: [xii]


In the revision of the proof sheets of Chapters L. to LIII. invaluable help has been received from Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole, who, in the case of the previous volumes also, has been untiringly kind in answering questions and making suggestions.

J. B. B.
Edition: current; Page: [1]



Description of Arabia and its Inhabitants — Birth, Character, and Doctrine of Mahomet — He preaches at Mecca — Flies to Medina — Propagates his Religion by the Sword — Voluntary or reluctant Submission of the Arabs — His Death and Successors — The Claims and Fortunes of Ali and his Descendants

After pursuing, above six hundred years, the fleeting Cæsars of Constantinople and Germany, I now descend, in the reign of Heraclius, on the eastern borders of the Greek monarchy. While the state was exhausted by the Persian war, and the church was distracted by the Nestorian and Monophysite sects, Mahomet, with the sword in one hand and the Koran in the other, erected his throne on the ruins of Christianity and of Rome. The genius of the Arabian prophet, the manners of his nation, and the spirit of his religion involve the causes of the decline and fall of the Eastern empire; and our eyes are curiously intent on one of the most memorable revolutions which have impressed a new and lasting character on the nations of the globe.1

In the vacant space between Persia, Syria, Egypt, and Edition: current; Page: [2] Æthiopia, the Arabian peninsula2 may be conceived as a triangle of spacious but irregular dimensions. From the northern point of Beles3 on the Euphrates, a line of fifteen hundred miles is terminated by the straits of Babelmandeb and the land of frankincense. About half this length4 may be allowed for the middle breadth from east to west, from Bassora to Suez, from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea.5 Edition: current; Page: [3] The sides of the triangle are gradually enlarged, and the southern basis presents a front of a thousand miles to the Indian Ocean. The entire surface of the peninsula exceeds in a fourfold proportion that of Germany or France; but the far greater part has been justly stigmatised with the epithets of the stony and the sandy. Even the wilds of Tartary are decked by the hand of nature with lofty trees and luxuriant herbage; and the lonesome traveller derives a sort of comfort and society from the presence of vegetable life. But in the dreary waste of Arabia, a boundless level of sand is intersected by sharp and naked mountains, and the face of the desert, without shade or shelter, is scorched by the direct and intense rays of a tropical sun. Instead of refreshing breezes, the winds, particularly from the south-west, diffuse a noxious and even deadly vapour; the hillocks of sand which they alternately raise and scatter are compared to the billows of the ocean; and whole caravans, whole armies, have been lost and buried in the whirlwind. The common benefits of water are an object of desire and contest; and such is the scarcity of wood that some art is requisite to preserve and propagate the element of fire. Arabia is destitute of navigable rivers, which fertilise the soil and convey its produce to the adjacent regions; the torrents that fall from the hills are imbibed by the thirsty earth; the rare and hardy plants, the tamarind or the acacia, that strike their roots into the clefts of the rocks, are nourished by the dews of the night; a scanty supply of rain is collected in cisterns and aqueducts; the wells and springs are the secret treasure of the desert; and the pilgrim of Mecca,6 after many a dry and sultry march, is disgusted by the taste of the waters, which have rolled over a Edition: current; Page: [4] bed of sulphur or salt. Such is the general and genuine picture of the climate of Arabia. The experience of evil enhances the value of any local or partial enjoyments. A shady grove, a green pasture, a stream of fresh water, are sufficient to attract a colony of sedentary Arabs to the fortunate spots which can afford food and refreshment to themselves and their cattle, and which encourage their industry in the cultivation of the palm-tree and the vine. The high lands that border on the Indian Ocean are distinguished by their superior plenty of wood and water; the air is more temperate, the fruits are more delicious, the animals and the human race more numerous; the fertility of the soil invites and rewards the toil of the husbandman; and the peculiar gifts of frankincense7 and coffee have attracted, in different ages, the merchants of the world. If it be compared with the rest of the peninsula, this sequestrated region may truly deserve the appellation of the happy; and the splendid colouring of fancy and fiction has been suggested by contrast and countenanced by distance. It was for this earthly paradise that nature had reserved her choicest favours and her most curious workmanship; the incompatible blessings of luxury and innocence were ascribed to the natives; the soil was impregnated with gold8 and gems, and both the land and sea were taught to exhale the odours of aromatic sweets. This division of the sandy, the stony, and the happy, so familiar to the Greeks and Latins, is unknown to the Arabians themselves; and it is singular enough that a country, whose language Edition: current; Page: [5] and inhabitants had ever been the same, should scarcely retain a vestige of its ancient geography. The maritime districts of Bahrein and Oman are opposite to the realm of Persia. The kingdom of Yemen displays the limits, or at least the situation, of Arabia Felix; the name Neged is extended over the inland space; and the birth of Mahomet has illustrated the province of Hejaz along the coast of the Red Sea.9

The measure of population is regulated by the means of subsistence; and the inhabitants of this vast peninsula might be out-numbered by the subjects of a fertile and industrious province. Along the shores of the Persian Gulf, of the ocean, and even of the Red Sea, the Ichthyophagi,10 or fish-eaters, continued to wander in quest of their precarious food. In this primitive and abject state, which ill deserves the name of society, the human brute, without arts or laws, almost without sense or language, is poorly distinguished from the rest of the animal creation. Generations and ages might roll away in silent oblivion, and the helpless savage was restrained from multiplying his race by the wants and pursuits which confined his existence to the narrow margin of the sea-coast. But in an early period of antiquity the great body of the Arabs had emerged from this scene of misery; and, as the naked wilderness could not maintain a people of hunters, they rose at once to the more secure and plentiful condition of the pastoral life. The same life is uniformly pursued by the roving Edition: current; Page: [6] tribes of the desert, and in the portrait of the modern Bedoweens we may trace the features of their ancestors,11 who, in the age of Moses or Mahomet, dwelt under similar tents, and conducted their horses and camels and sheep to the same springs and the same pastures. Our toil is lessened, and our wealth is increased, by our dominion over the useful animals; and the Arabian shepherd had acquired the absolute possession of a faithful friend and a laborious slave.12 Arabia, in the opinion of the naturalist, is the genuine and original country of the horse; the climate most propitious, not indeed to the size, but to the spirit and swiftness, of that generous animal. The merit of the Barb, the Spanish, and the English breed is derived from a mixture of Arabian blood;13 the Bedoweens preserve, with superstitious care, the honours and the memory of the purest race; the males are sold at a high price, but the females are seldom alienated; and the birth of a noble foal was esteemed, among the tribes, as a subject of joy and mutual congratulation. These horses are educated in the tents, among the children of the Arabs,14 with a tender Edition: current; Page: [7] familiarity, which trains them in the habits of gentleness and attachment. They are accustomed only to walk and to gallop; their sensations are not blunted by the incessant abuse of the spur and the whip; their powers are reserved for the moments of flight and pursuit; but no sooner do they feel the touch of the hand or the stirrup than they dart away with the swiftness of the wind; and, if their friend be dismounted in the rapid career, they instantly stop till he has recovered his seat. In the sands of Africa and Arabia the camel is a sacred and precious gift. That strong and patient beast of burthen can perform, without eating or drinking, a journey of several days;15 and a reservoir of fresh water is preserved in a large bag, a fifth stomach of the animal, whose body is imprinted with the marks of servitude. The larger breed is capable of transporting a weight of a thousand pounds; and the dromedary, of a lighter and more active frame, outstrips the fleetest courser in the race. Alive or dead, almost every part of the camel is serviceable to man; her milk is plentiful and nutritious; the young and tender flesh has the taste of veal;16 a valuable salt is extracted from the urine; the dung supplies the deficiency of fuel; and the long hair, which falls each year and is renewed, is coarsely manufactured into the garments, the furniture, and the tents of the Bedoweens. In the rainy seasons they consume the rare and insufficient herbage of the desert; during the heats of summer and the scarcity of winter, they remove their encampments to the sea-coast, the hills of Yemen, or the neighbourhood of the Euphrates, and have often extorted the dangerous licence of visiting the banks of the Nile and the villages of Syria and Palestine. The life of a wandering Arab is a life of danger and distress; and, Edition: current; Page: [8] though sometimes, by rapine or exchange, he may appropriate the fruits of industry, a private citizen in Europe is in the possession of more solid and pleasing luxury than the proudest emir who marches in the field at the head of ten thousand horse.

Yet an essential difference may be found between the hordes of Scythia and the Arabian tribes, since many of the latter were collected into towns and employed in the labours of trade and agriculture. A part of their time and industry was still devoted to the management of their cattle; they mingled, in peace and war, with their brethren of the desert; and the Bedoweens derived from their useful intercourse some supply of their wants and some rudiments of art and knowledge. Among the forty-two cities of Arabia,17 enumerated by Abulfeda, the most ancient and populous were situate in the happy Yemen; the towers of Saana18 and the marvellous reservoir of Merab19 were constructed by the kings of the Homerites; but their profane lustre was eclipsed by the prophetic glories of Medina20 Edition: current; Page: [9] and Mecca,21 near the Red Sea, and at the distance from each other of two hundred and seventy miles. The last of these holy places was known to the Greeks under the name of Macoraba; and the termination of the word is expressive of its greatness, which has not indeed, in the most flourishing period, exceeded the size and populousness of Marseilles. Some latent motive, perhaps of superstition, must have impelled the founders, in the choice of a most unpromising situation. They erected their habitations of mud or stone in a plain about two miles long and one mile broad, at the foot of three barren mountains; the soil is a rock; the water even of the holy well of Zemzem is bitter or brackish; the pastures are remote from the city; and grapes are transported about seventy miles from the gardens of Tayef. The fame and spirit of the Koreishites, who reigned in Mecca, were conspicuous among the Arabian tribes; but their ungrateful soil refused the labours of agriculture, and their position was favourable to the enterprises of trade. By the sea-port of Gedda, at the distance only of forty miles, they maintained an easy correspondence with Abyssinia; and that Christian kingdom afforded the first refuge to the disciples of Mahomet. The treasures of Africa were conveyed over the peninsula to Edition: current; Page: [10] Gerrha or Katif, in the province of Bahrein, a city built, as it is said, of rock-salt, by the Chaldæan exiles;22 and from thence, with the native pearls of the Persian Gulf, they were floated on rafts to the mouth of the Euphrates. Mecca is placed almost at an equal distance, a month’s journey, between Yemen on the right, and Syria on the left, hand. The former was the winter, the latter the summer, station of her caravans; and their seasonable arrival relieved the ships of India from the tedious and troublesome navigation of the Red Sea. In the markets of Saana and Merab, in the harbours of Oman and Aden, the camels of the Koreishites were laden with a precious cargo of aromatics; a supply of corn and manufactures was purchased in the fairs of Bostra and Damascus; the lucrative exchange diffused plenty and riches in the streets of Mecca; and the noblest of her sons united the love of arms with the profession of merchandise.23

The perpetual independence of the Arabs has been the theme of praise among strangers and natives; and the arts of controversy transform this singular event into a prophecy and a miracle, in favour of the posterity of Ismael.24 Some exceptions, that can neither be dissembled nor eluded, render this mode of reasoning as indiscreet as it is superfluous: the kingdom of Yemen has been successively subdued by the Abyssinians, the Persians, the sultans of Egypt,25 and the Edition: current; Page: [11] Turks;26 the holy cities of Mecca and Medina have repeatedly bowed under a Scythian tyrant; and the Roman province of Arabia27 embraced the peculiar wilderness in which Ismael and his sons must have pitched their tents in the face of their brethren. Yet these exceptions are temporary or local; the body of the nation has escaped the yoke of the most powerful monarchies; the arms of Sesostris and Cyrus, of Pompey and Trajan, could never achieve the conquest of Arabia; the present sovereign of the Turks28 may exercise a shadow of jurisdiction, but his pride is reduced to solicit the friendship of a people whom it is dangerous to provoke and fruitless to attack. The obvious causes of their freedom are inscribed on the character and country of the Arabs. Many ages before Mahomet,29 their intrepid valour had been severely felt by their neighbours in offensive and defensive war. The patient Edition: current; Page: [12] and active virtues of a soldier are insensibly nursed in the habits and discipline of a pastoral life. The care of the sheep and camels is abandoned to the women of the tribe; but the martial youth under the banner of the emir is ever on horseback and in the field, to practise the exercise of the bow, the javelin, and the scymetar. The long memory of their independence is the firmest pledge of its perpetuity, and succeeding generations are animated to prove their descent and to maintain their inheritance. Their domestic feuds are suspended on the approach of a common enemy; and in their last hostilities against the Turks the caravan of Mecca was attacked and pillaged by fourscore thousand of the confederates. When they advance to battle, the hope of victory is in the front; in the rear, the assurance of a retreat. Their horses and camels, who in eight or ten days can perform a march of four or five hundred miles, disappear before the conqueror; the secret waters of the desert elude his search; and his victorious troops are consumed with thirst, hunger, and fatigue, in the pursuit of an invisible foe, who scorns his efforts, and safely reposes in the heart of the burning solitude. The arms and deserts of the Bedoweens are not only the safeguards of their own freedom, but the barriers also of the happy Arabia, whose inhabitants, remote from war, are enervated by the luxury of the soil and climate. The legions of Augustus melted away in disease and lassitude;30 and it is only by a naval power that the reduction of Yemen has been successfully attempted. When Mahomet erected his holy standard,31 that kingdom was a province of the Persian empire; Edition: current; Page: [13] yet seven princes of the Homerites still reigned in the mountains; and the vicegerent of Chosroes was tempted to forget his distant country and his unfortunate master. The historians of the age of Justinian represent the state of the independent Arabs, who were divided by interest or affection in the long quarrel of the East: the tribe of Gassan was allowed to encamp on the Syrian territory; the princes of Hira were permitted to form a city about forty miles to the southward of the ruins of Babylon. Their service in the field was speedy and vigorous; but their friendship was venal, their faith inconstant, their enmity capricious: it was an easier task to excite than to disarm these roving Barbarians; and, in the familiar intercourse of war, they learned to see, and to despise, the splendid weakness both of Rome and of Persia. From Mecca to the Euphrates, the Arabian tribes32 were confounded by the Greeks and Latins under the general appellation of Saracens,33 a name which every Christian mouth has been taught to pronounce with terror and abhorrence.

The slaves of domestic tyranny may vainly exult in their Edition: current; Page: [14] national independence; but the Arab is personally free; and he enjoys, in some degree, the benefits of society, without forfeiting the prerogatives of nature. In every tribe, superstition, or gratitude, or fortune has exalted a particular family above the heads of their equals. The dignities of sheikh and emir invariably descend in this chosen race; but the order of succession is loose and precarious; and the most worthy or aged of the noble kinsmen are preferred to the simple, though important, office of composing disputes by their advice and guiding valour by their example. Even a female of sense and spirit has been permitted to command the countrymen of Zenobia.34 The momentary junction of several tribes produces an army; their more lasting union constitutes a nation; and the supreme chief, the emir of emirs, whose banner is displayed at their head, may deserve, in the eyes of strangers, the honours of the kingly name. If the Arabian princes abuse their power, they are quickly punished by the desertion of their subjects, who had been accustomed to a mild and parental jurisdiction. Their spirit is free, their steps are unconfined, the desert is open, and the tribes and families are held together by a mutual and voluntary compact. The softer natives of Yemen supported the pomp and majesty of a monarch; but, if he could not leave his palace without endangering his life,35 the active powers of government must have been devolved on his nobles and magistrates. The cities of Mecca and Medina present, in the heart of Asia, the form, or rather the substance, of a commonwealth. The grandfather of Mahomet and his lineal Edition: current; Page: [15] ancestors appear in foreign and domestic transactions as the princes of their country; but they reigned, like Pericles at Athens, or the Medici at Florence, by the opinion of their wisdom and integrity; their influence was divided with their patrimony; and the sceptre was transferred from the uncles of the prophet to a younger branch of the tribe of Koreish. On solemn occasions they convened the assembly of the people; and, since mankind must be either compelled or persuaded to obey, the use and reputation of oratory among the ancient Arabs is the clearest evidence of public freedom.36 But their simple freedom was of a very different cast from the nice and artificial machinery of the Greek and Roman republics, in which each member possessed an undivided share of the civil and political rights of the community. In the more simple state of the Arabs the nation is free, because each of her sons disdains a base submission to the will of a master. His breast is fortified with the austere virtues of courage, patience, and sobriety; the love of independence prompts him to exercise the habits of self-command; and the fear of dishonour guards him from the meaner apprehension of pain, of danger, and of death. The gravity and firmness of the mind is conspicuous in his outward demeanour; his speech is slow, weighty, and concise; he is seldom provoked to laughter; his only gesture is that of stroking his beard, the venerable symbol of manhood; and the sense of his own importance teaches him to accost his equals without levity and his superiors without awe.37 The liberty of the Saracens survived their conquests; the first caliphs indulged the bold and familiar language of their subjects; they ascended Edition: current; Page: [16] the pulpit to persuade and edify the congregation; nor was it before the seat of empire was removed to the Tigris that the Abbassides adopted the proud and pompous ceremonial of the Persian and Byzantine courts.

In the study of nations and men, we may observe the causes that render them hostile or friendly to each other, that tend to narrow or enlarge, to mollify or exasperate, the social character. The separation of the Arabs from the rest of mankind has accustomed them to confound the ideas of stranger and enemy; and the poverty of the land has introduced a maxim of jurisprudence which they believe and practise to the present hour. They pretend that, in the division of the earth, the rich and fertile climates were assigned to the other branches of the human family; and that the posterity of the outlaw Ismael might recover, by fraud or force, the portion of inheritance of which he had been unjustly deprived. According to the remark of Pliny, the Arabian tribes are equally addicted to theft and merchandise; the caravans that traverse the desert are ransomed or pillaged; and their neighbours, since the remote times of Job and Sesostris,38 have been the victims of their rapacious spirit. If a Bedoween discovers from afar a solitary traveller, he rides furiously against him, crying, with a loud voice, “Undress thyself, thy aunt (my wife) is without a garment.” A ready submission entitles him to mercy; resistance will provoke the aggressor, and his own blood must expiate the blood which he presumes to shed in legitimate defence. A single robber or a few associates are branded with their genuine name; but the exploits of a numerous band assume Edition: current; Page: [17] the character of a lawful and honourable war. The temper of a people, thus armed against mankind, was doubly inflamed by the domestic licence of rapine, murder, and revenge. In the constitution of Europe, the right of peace and war is now confined to a small, and the actual exercise to a much smaller, list of respectable potentates; but each Arab, with impunity and renown, might point his javelin against the life of his countryman. The union of the nation consisted only in a vague resemblance of language and manners; and in each community the jurisdiction of the magistrate was mute and impotent. Of the time of ignorance which preceded Mahomet, seventeen hundred battles39 are recorded by tradition; hostility was embittered with the rancour of civil faction; and the recital, in prose or verse, of an absolete feud was sufficient to rekindle the same passions among the descendants of the hostile tribes. In private life, every man, at least every family, was the judge and avenger of its own cause. The nice sensibility of honour, which weighs the insult rather than the injury, sheds its deadly venom on the quarrels of the Arabs; the honour of their women, and of their beards, is most easily wounded; an indecent action, a contemptuous word, can be expiated only by the blood of the offender; and such is their patient inveteracy that they expect whole months and years the opportunity of revenge. A fine or compensation for murder is familiar to the Barbarians of every age; but in Arabia the kinsmen of the dead are at liberty to accept the atonement, or to exercise with their own hands the law of retaliation. The refined malice of the Arabs refuses even the head of the murderer, substitutes an innocent to the guilty person, and transfers the penalty to the best and most considerable of the race by whom they have Edition: current; Page: [18] been injured. If he falls by their hands, they are exposed in their turn to the danger of reprisals; the interest and principal of the bloody debt are accumulated; the individuals of either family lead a life of malice and suspicion, and fifty years may sometimes elapse before the account of vengeance be finally settled.40 This sanguinary spirit, ignorant of pity or forgiveness, has been moderated, however, by the maxims of honour, which require in every private encounter some decent equality of age and strength, of numbers and weapons. An annual festival of two, perhaps of four, months was observed by the Arabs before the time of Mahomet, during which their swords were religiously sheathed, both in foreign and domestic hostility; and this partial truce is more strongly expressive of the habits of anarchy and warfare.41

But the spirit of rapine and revenge was attempered by the milder influence of trade and literature. The solitary peninsula is encompassed by the most civilised nations of the ancient world; the merchant is the friend of mankind; and the annual caravans imported the first seeds of knowledge and politeness into the cities and even the camps of the desert. Whatever may be the pedigree of the Arabs, their language is derived from the same original stock with the Hebrew, the Syriac, and the Chaldæan tongues; the independence of the tribes was marked by their peculiar dialects;42 but each, after Edition: current; Page: [19] their own, allowed a just preference to the pure and perspicuous idiom of Mecca. In Arabia as well as in Greece, the perfection of language outstripped the refinement of manners; and her speech could diversify the fourscore names of honey, the two hundred of a serpent, the five hundred of a lion, the thousand of a sword, at a time when this copious dictionary was entrusted to the memory of an illiterate people. The monuments of the Homerites were inscribed with an obsolete and mysterious character; but the Cufic letters, the groundwork of the present alphabet, were invented on the banks of the Euphrates; and the recent invention was taught at Mecca by a stranger who settled in that city after the birth of Mahomet. The arts of grammar, of metre, and of rhetoric were unknown to the freeborn eloquence of the Arabians; but their penetration was sharp, their fancy luxuriant, their wit strong and sententious,43 and their more elaborate compositions were addressed with energy and effect to the minds of their hearers. The genius and merit of a rising poet was celebrated by the applause of his own and the kindred tribes. A solemn banquet was prepared, and a chorus of women, striking their tymbals, and displaying the pomp of their nuptials, sung in the presence of their sons and husbands the felicity of their native tribe; that a champion had now appeared to vindicate their rights; that a herald had raised his voice to immortalise their renown. The distant or hostile tribes resorted to an annual fair, which was abolished by the fanaticism of the first Moslems: a national assembly that must have contributed to refine and harmonise the Barbarians. Edition: current; Page: [20] Thirty days were employed in the exchange, not only of corn and wine, but of eloquence and poetry. The prize was disputed by the generous emulation of the bards; the victorious performance was deposited in the archives of princes and emirs; and we may read in our own language the seven original poems which were inscribed in letters of gold and suspended in the temple of Mecca.44 The Arabian poets were the historians and moralists of the age; and, if they sympathised with the prejudices, they inspired and crowned the virtues, of their countrymen. The indissoluble union of generosity and valour was the darling theme of their song; and, when they pointed their keenest satire against a despicable race, they affirmed, in the bitterness of reproach, that the men knew not how to give nor the women to deny.45 The same hospitality which was practised by Abraham and celebrated by Homer is still renewed in the camps of the Arabs. The ferocious Bedoweens, the terror of the desert, embrace, without inquiry or hesitation, the stranger who dares to confide in their honour and to enter their tent. His treatment is kind and respectful; he shares the wealth or the poverty of his host; and, after a needful repose, he is dismissed on his way, with thanks, with blessings, and perhaps with gifts. The heart and hand are more largely expanded by the wants of a brother or a friend; but the heroic acts that could deserve the public applause must have surpassed the narrow measure of discretion and experience. A dispute had arisen, who, among citizens of Mecca, was entitled to the Edition: current; Page: [21] prize of generosity; and a successive application was made to the three who were deemed most worthy of the trial. Abdallah, the son of Abbas, had undertaken a distant journey, and his foot was in the stirrup when he heard the voice of a suppliant, “O son of the uncle of the apostle of God, I am a traveller, and in distress!” He instantly dismounted to present the pilgrim with his camel, her rich caparison, and a purse of four thousand pieces of gold, excepting only the sword, either for its intrinsic value or as the gift of an honoured kinsman. The servant of Kais informed the second suppliant that his master was asleep; but he immediately added, “Here is a purse of seven thousand pieces of gold (it is all we have in the house), and here is an order that will entitle you to a camel and a slave.” The master, as soon as he awoke, praised and enfranchised his faithful steward, with a gentle reproof that by respecting his slumbers he had stinted his bounty. The third of these heroes, the blind Arabah, at the hour of prayer, was supporting his steps on the shoulders of two slaves. “Alas!” he replied, “my coffers are empty! but these you may sell; if you refuse, I renounce them.” At these words, pushing away the youths, he groped along the wall with his staff. The character of Hatem is the perfect model of Arabian virtue;46 he was brave and liberal, an eloquent poet and a successful robber: forty camels were roasted at his hospitable feast; and at the prayer of a suppliant enemy he restored both the captives and the spoil. The freedom of his countrymen disdained the laws of justice; they proudly indulged the spontaneous impulse of pity and benevolence.

The religion of the Arabs,47 as well as of the Indians, consisted Edition: current; Page: [22] in the worship of the sun, the moon, and the fixed stars; a primitive and specious mode of superstition. The bright luminaries of the sky display the visible image of a Deity; their number and distance convey to a philosophic, or even a vulgar, eye the idea of boundless space: the character of eternity is marked on these solid globes, that seem incapable of corruption or decay: the regularity of their motions may be ascribed to a principle of reason or instinct; and their real or imaginary influence encourages the vain belief that the earth and its inhabitants are the object of their peculiar care. The science of astronomy was cultivated at Babylon; but the school of the Arabs was a clear firmament and a naked plain. In their nocturnal marches, they steered by the guidance of the stars; their names, and order, and daily station were familiar to the curiosity and devotion of the Bedoween; and he was taught by experience to divide in twenty-eight parts the zodiac of the moon, and to bless the constellations who refreshed with salutary rains the thirst of the desert. The reign of the heavenly orbs could not be extended beyond the visible sphere; and some metaphysical powers were necessary to sustain the transmigration of souls and the resurrection of bodies; a camel was left to perish on the grave, that he might serve his master in another life; and the invocation of departed spirits implies that they were still endowed with consciousness and power. I am ignorant, and I am careless, of the blind mythology of the Barbarians; of the local deities, of the stars, the air, and the earth, of their sex or titles, their attributes or subordination. Each tribe, each family, each independent warrior, created and changed the rites and the object of his fantastic worship; but the nation, in every age, has bowed to the religion, as well as to the language, of Edition: current; Page: [23] Mecca. The genuine antiquity of the Caaba ascends beyond the Christian era: in describing the coast of the Red Sea, the Greek historian Diodorus48 has remarked, between the Thamudites and the Sabæans, a famous temple, whose superior sanctity was revered by all the Arabians; the linen or silken veil, which is annually renewed by the Turkish emperor, was first offered by a pious king of the Homerites, who reigned seven hundred years before the time of Mahomet.49 A tent or a cavern might suffice for the worship of the savages, but an edifice of stone and clay has been erected in its place; and the art and power of the monarchs of the East have been confined to the simplicity of the original model.50 A spacious portico encloses the quadrangle of the Caaba, a square chapel, twenty-four cubits long, twenty-three broad, and twenty-seven high; a door and a window admit the light; the double roof is supported by three pillars of wood; a spout (now of gold) discharges the rain-water, Edition: current; Page: [24] and the well Zemzem is protected by a dome from accidental pollution. The tribe of Koreish, by fraud or force, had acquired the custody of the Caaba: the sacerdotal office devolved through four lineal descents to the grandfather of Mahomet; and the family of the Hashemites, from whence he sprung, was the most respectable and sacred in the eyes of their country.51 The precincts of Mecca enjoyed the rights of sanctuary; and, in the last month of each year, the city and the temple were crowded with a long train of pilgrims, who presented their vows and offerings in the house of God. The same rites, which are now accomplished by the faithful Musulmman, were invented and practised by the superstition of the idolaters. At an awful distance they cast away their garments; seven times, with hasty steps, they encircled the Caaba, and kissed the black stone; seven times they visited and adored the adjacent mountains; seven times they threw stones into the valley of Mina; and the pilgrimage was achieved, as at the present hour, by a sacrifice of sheep and camels, and the burial of their hair and nails in the consecrated ground. Each tribe either found or introduced in the Caaba their domestic worship; the temple was adorned, or defiled, with three hundred and sixty idols of men, eagles, lions, and antelopes; and most conspicuous was the statue of Hebal, of red agate, holding in his hand seven arrows, without heads or feathers, the instruments and symbols of profane divination. But this statue was a monument of Syrian arts; the devotion of the ruder ages was content with a pillar or a tablet; and the rocks of the desert were hewn into gods or altars, in imitation of the black stone52 of Mecca, Edition: current; Page: [25] which is deeply tainted with the reproach of an idolatrous origin. From Japan to Peru, the use of sacrifice has universally prevailed; and the votary has expressed his gratitude, or fear, by destroying or consuming, in honour of the gods, the dearest and most precious of their gifts. The life of a man53 is the most precious oblation to deprecate a public calamity: the altars of Phœnicia and Egypt, of Rome and Carthage, have been polluted with human gore; the cruel practice was long preserved among the Arabs; in the third century, a boy was annually sacrificed by the tribe of the Dumatians;54 and a royal captive was piously slaughtered by the prince of the Saracens, the ally and soldier of the emperor Justinian.55 A parent who drags his son to the altar exhibits the most painful and sublime effort of fanaticism; the deed, or the intention, was sanctified by the example of saints and heroes; and the father of Mahomet himself was devoted by a rash vow, and hardly ransomed for the equivalent of an hundred camels. In the time of ignorance, the Arabs, like the Jews and Egyptians, abstained from the taste of swine’s flesh;56 they Edition: current; Page: [26] circumcised57 their children at the age of puberty; the same customs, without the censure or the precept of the Koran, have been silently transmitted to their posterity and proselytes. It has been sagaciously conjectured that the artful legislator indulged the stubborn prejudices of his countrymen. It is more simple to believe that he adhered to the habits and opinions of his youth, without foreseeing that a practice congenial to the climate of Mecca might become useless or inconvenient on the banks of the Danube or the Volga.

Arabia was free; the adjacent kingdoms were shaken by the storms of conquest and tyranny, and the persecuted sects fled to the happy land where they might profess what they thought and practise what they professed. The religions of the Sabians and Magians, of the Jews and Christians, were disseminated from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea. In a remote period of antiquity, Sabianism was diffused over Asia by the science of the Chaldæans58 and the arms of the Assyrians. From the observations of two thousand years the priests and astronomers of Babylon59 deduced the eternal Edition: current; Page: [27] laws of nature and providence. They adored the seven gods or angels who directed the course of the seven planets and shed their irresistible influence on the earth. The attributes of the seven planets, with the twelve signs of the zodiac and the twenty-four constellations of the northern and southern hemisphere, were represented by images and talismans; the seven days of the week were dedicated to their respective deities; the Sabians prayed thrice each day; and the temple of the moon at Haran was the term of their pilgrimage.60 But the flexible genius of their faith was always ready either to teach or to learn; in the tradition of the creation, the deluge, and the patriarchs, they held a singular agreement with their Jewish captives; they appealed to the secret books of Adam, Seth, and Enoch; and a slight infusion of the gospel has transformed the last remnant of the Polytheists into the Christians of St. John, in the territory of Bassora.61 The altars of Babylon were overturned by the Magians; but the injuries of the Sabians were revenged by the sword of Alexander; Persia groaned above five hundred years under a foreign yoke; and the purest disciples of Zoroaster escaped from the contagion of idolatry, and breathed with their adversaries the freedom of the desert.62 Seven hundred years before the death of Mahomet, the Jews were settled in Arabia; and a far greater multitude was expelled from the Holy Land in the wars of Titus and Hadrian. The Edition: current; Page: [28] industrious exiles aspired to liberty and power: they erected synagogues in the cities and castles in the wilderness, and their Gentile converts were confounded with the children of Israel, whom they resembled in the outward mark of circumcision. The Christian missionaries were still more active and successful: the Catholics asserted their universal reign; the sects whom they oppressed successively retired beyond the limits of the Roman empire; the Marcionites and the Manichæans dispersed their phantastic opinions and apocryphal gospels; the churches of Yemen, and the princes of Hira and Gassan, were instructed in a purer creed by the Jacobite and Nestorian bishops.63 The liberty of choice was presented to the tribes: each Arab was free to elect or to compose his own private religion; and the rude superstition of his house was mingled with the sublime theology of saints and philosophers. A fundamental article of faith was inculcated by the consent of the learned strangers: the existence of one supreme God, who is exalted above the powers of heaven and earth, but who has often revealed himself to mankind by the ministry of his angels and prophets, and whose grace or justice has interrupted, by seasonable miracles, the order of nature. The most rational of the Arabs acknowledged his power, though they neglected his worship;64 and it was habit rather than conviction that still attached them to the relics of idolatry. The Jews and Christians were the people of the book; the Bible was already translated into the Arabic language,65 and the volume of the Edition: current; Page: [29] Old Testament was accepted by the concord of these implacable enemies. In the story of the Hebrew patriarchs, the Arabs were pleased to discover the fathers of their nation. They applauded the birth and promises of Ismael; revered the faith and virtue of Abraham; traced his pedigree and their own to the creation of the first man, and imbibed with equal credulity the prodigies of the holy text and the dreams and traditions of the Jewish rabbis.

The base and plebeian origin of Mahomet is an unskilful calumny of the Christians,66 who exalt instead of degrading the merit of their adversary. His descent from Ismael was a national privilege or fable; but, if the first steps of the pedigree67 are dark and doubtful, he could produce many generations of pure and genuine nobility: he sprung from the tribe of Koreish and the family of Hashem, the most illustrious of the Arabs, the princes of Mecca, and the hereditary guardians of the Caaba. The grandfather of Mahomet was Abdol Motalleb, the son of Hashem, a wealthy and generous citizen, who relieved the distress of famine with the Edition: current; Page: [30] supplies of commerce. Mecca, which had been fed by the liberality of the father, was saved by the courage of the son. The kingdom of Yemen was subject to the Christian princes of Abyssinia; their vassal Abrahah was provoked by an insult to avenge the honour of the cross; and the holy city was invested by a train of elephants and an army of Africans. A treaty was proposed; and in the first audience the grandfather of Mahomet demanded the restitution of his cattle. “And why,” said Abrahah, “do you not rather implore my clemency in favour of your temple, which I have threatened to destroy?” “Because,” replied the intrepid chief, “the cattle is my own; the Caaba belongs to the gods, and they will defend their house from injury and sacrilege.” The want of provisions, or the valour of the Koreish, compelled the Abyssinians to a disgraceful retreat; their discomfiture had been adorned with a miraculous flight of birds, who showered down stones on the heads of the infidels; and the deliverance was along commemorated by the era of the elephant.68 The glory of Abdol Motalleb was crowned with Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [31] domestic happiness, his life was prolonged to the age of one hundred and ten years, and he became the father of six daughters and thirteen sons. His best beloved Abdallah was the most beautiful and modest of the Arabian youth; and in the first night, when he consummated his marriage with Amina, of the noble race of the Zahrites, two hundred virgins are said to have expired of jealousy and despair. Mahomet, or more properly Mohammed, the only son of Abdallah and Amina, was born at Mecca, four years after the death of Justinian, and two months after the defeat of the Abyssinians,69 whose victory would have introduced into the Caaba the religion of the Christians. In his early infancy, he was deprived of his father, his mother, and his grandfather; his uncles were strong and numerous; and, in the division of the inheritance, the orphan’s share was reduced to five camels and an Æthiopian maid-servant. At home and abroad, in peace and war, Abu Taleb, the most respectable of his uncles, was the guide and guardian of his youth; in his twenty-fifth year, he entered into the service of Cadijah, a rich and noble widow of Mecca, who soon rewarded his fidelity with the gift of her hand and fortune. The marriage contract, in the simple style of antiquity, recites the mutual love of Mahomet and Cadijah; describes him as the most accomplished of the tribe of Koreish; and stipulates Edition: current; Page: [32] a dowry of twelve ounces of gold and twenty camels, which was supplied by the liberality of his uncle.70 By this alliance, the son of Abdallah was restored to the station of his ancestors; and the judicious matron was content with his domestic virtues, till, in the fortieth year of his age,71 he assumed the title of a prophet, and proclaimed the religion of the Koran.


According to the tradition of his companions, Mahomet72 was distinguished by the beauty of his person, an outward gift which is seldom despised, except by those to whom it has been refused. Before he spoke, the orator engaged on his side the affections of a public or private audience. They applauded his commanding presence, his majestic aspect, his piercing eye, his gracious smile, his flowing beard, his countenance that painted every sensation of the soul, and his gestures that enforced each expression of the tongue. In the familiar offices of life he scrupulously adhered to the grave and ceremonious politeness of his country; his respectful attention to the rich and powerful was dignified by his condescension and affability to the poorest citizens of Mecca; the frankness of his manner concealed the artifice of his Edition: current; Page: [33] views; and the habits of courtesy were imputed to personal friendship or universal benevolence. His memory was capacious and retentive, his wit easy and social, his imagination sublime, his judgment clear, rapid, and decisive. He possessed the courage both of thought and action; and, although his designs might gradually expand with his success, the first idea which he entertained of his divine mission bears the stamp of an original and superior genius. The son of Abdallah was educated in the bosom of the noblest race, in the use of the purest dialect of Arabia; and the fluency of his speech was corrected and enhanced by the practice of discreet and seasonable silence. With these powers of eloquence, Mahomet was an illiterate Barbarian; his youth had never been instructed in the arts of reading and writing;73 the common ignorance exempted him from shame or reproach, but he was reduced to a narrow circle of existence, and deprived of those faithful mirrors which reflect to our mind the minds of sages and heroes. Yet the book of nature and of man was open to his view; and some fancy has been indulged in the Edition: current; Page: [34] political and philosophical observations which are ascribed to the Arabian traveller.74 He compares the nations and the religions of the earth; discovers the weakness of the Persian and Roman monarchies; beholds, with pity and indignation, the degeneracy of the times; and resolves to unite, under one God and one king, the invincible spirit and primitive virtues of the Arabs. Our more accurate inquiry will suggest that, instead of visiting the courts, the camps, the temples of the East, the two journeys of Mahomet into Syria were confined to the fairs of Bostra and Damascus; that he was only thirteen years of age when he accompanied the caravan of his uncle; and that his duty compelled him to return as soon as he had disposed of the merchandise of Cadijah. In these hasty and superficial excursions, the eye of genius might discern some objects invisible to his grosser companions; some seeds of knowledge might be cast upon a fruitful soil; but his ignorance of the Syriac language must have checked his curiosity;75 and I cannot perceive, in the life or writings of Mahomet, that his prospect was far extended beyond the limits of the Arabian world. From every region of that solitary world, the pilgrims of Mecca were annually assembled by the calls of devotion and commerce: in the free concourse of multitudes, a simple citizen, in his native tongue, might study the political state and character of the tribes, the theory and practice of the Jews and Christians. Some useful strangers might be tempted, or forced, to implore the rights of hospitality; and the enemies of Mahomet have named the Jew, the Persian, and the Syrian monk, whom Edition: current; Page: [35] they accuse of lending their secret aid to the composition of the Koran.76 Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius; and the uniformity of a work denotes the hand of a single artist. From his earliest youth Mahomet was addicted to religious contemplation;77 each year, during the month of Ramadan, he withdrew from the world and from the arms of Cadijah; in the cave of Hera, three miles from Mecca,78 he consulted the spirit of fraud or enthusiasm, whose abode is not in the heavens, but in the mind of the prophet. The faith which, under the name of Islam,78a he preached to his family and nation is compounded of an eternal truth, and a necessary fiction, That there is only one God, and that Mahomet is the apostle of God.

It is the boast of the Jewish apologists that, while the learned nations of antiquity were deluded by the fables of polytheism, their simple ancestors of Palestine preserved the knowledge and worship of the true God. The moral attributes of Jehovah may not easily be reconciled with the standard of human virtue; his metaphysical qualities are Edition: current; Page: [36] darkly expressed; but each page of the Pentateuch and the Prophets is an evidence of his power; the unity of his name is inscribed on the first table of the law; and his sanctuary was never defiled by any visible image of the invisible essence. After the ruin of the temple, the faith of the Hebrew exiles was purified, fixed, and enlightened, by the spiritual devotion of the synagogue; and the authority of Mahomet will not justify his perpetual reproach that the Jews of Mecca or Medina adored Ezra as the son of God.79 But the children of Israel had ceased to be a people; and the religions of the world were guilty, at least in the eyes of the prophet, of giving sons, or daughters, or companions to the supreme God. In the rude idolatry of the Arabs, the crime is manifest and audacious; the Sabians are poorly excused by the pre-eminence of the first planet or intelligence in their celestial hierarchy; and in the Magian system the conflict of the two principles betrays the imperfection of the conqueror. The Christians of the seventh century had insensibly relapsed into a semblance of paganism; their public and private vows were addressed to the relics and images that disgraced the temples of the East; the throne of the Almighty was darkened by a cloud of martyrs, and saints, and angels, the objects of popular veneration; and the Collyridian heretics, who flourished in the fruitful soil of Arabia, invested the Virgin Mary with the name and honours of a goddess.80 The mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation appear to contradict the principle of the divine unity. In their obvious sense they introduce three equal deities, and transform the Edition: current; Page: [37] man Jesus into the substance of the son of God;81 an orthodox commentary will satisfy only a believing mind; intemperate curiosity and zeal had torn the veil of the sanctuary; and each of the Oriental sects was eager to confess that all, except themselves, deserved the reproach of idolatry and polytheism. The creed of Mahomet is free from suspicion or ambiguity; and the Koran is a glorious testimony to the unity of God. The prophet of Mecca rejected the worship of idols and men, of stars and planets, on the rational principle that whatever rises must set, that whatever is born must die, that whatever is corruptible must decay and perish.82 In the author of the universe, his rational enthusiasm confessed and adored an infinite and eternal being, without form or place, without issue or similitude, present to our most secret thoughts, existing by the necessity of his own nature, and deriving from himself all moral and intellectual perfection. These sublime truths, thus announced in the language of the prophet,83 are firmly held by his disciples, and defined with metaphysical precision by the interpreters of the Koran. A philosophic Atheist might subscribe the popular creed of the Mahometans:84 a creed too sublime Edition: current; Page: [38] perhaps for our present faculties. What object remains for the fancy, or even the understanding, when we have abstracted from the unknown substance all ideas of time and space, of motion and matter, of sensation and reflection? The first principle of reason and revelation was confirmed by the voice of Mahomet; his proselytes, from India to Morocco, are distinguished by the name of Unitarians; and the danger of idolatry has been prevented by the interdiction of images. The doctrine of eternal decrees and absolute predestination is strictly embraced by the Mahometans; and they struggle with the common difficulties, how to reconcile the prescience of God with the freedom and responsibility of man; how to explain the permission of evil under the reign of infinite power and infinite goodness.

The God of nature has written his existence on all his works, and his law in the heart of man. To restore the knowledge of the one, and the practice of the other, has been the real or pretended aim of the prophets of every age; the liberality of Mahomet allowed to his predecessors the same credit which he claimed for himself; and the chain of inspiration was prolonged from the fall of Adam to the promulgation of the Koran.85 During that period, some rays of prophetic light had been imparted to one hundred and twenty-four thousand of the elect, discriminated by their respective measure of virtue and grace; three hundred and thirteen apostles were sent with a special commission to recall their country from idolatry and vice; one hundred and four volumes have been dictated by the Holy Spirit; and six legislators of transcendent brightness have announced to Edition: current; Page: [39] mankind the six successive revelations of various rights, but of one immutable religion. The authority and station of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Christ, and Mahomet rise in just gradation above each other; but whosoever hates or rejects any one of the prophets is numbered with the infidels. The writings of the patriarchs were extant only in the apocryphal copies of the Greeks and Syrians;86 the conduct of Adam had not entitled him to the gratitude or respect of his children; the seven precepts of Noah were observed by an inferior and imperfect class of the proselytes of the synagogues;87 and the memory of Abraham was obscurely revered by the Sabians in his native land of Chaldæa; of the myriads of prophets, Moses and Christ alone lived and reigned; and the remnant of the inspired writings was comprised in the books of the Old and the New Testament. The miraculous story of Moses is consecrated and embellished in the Koran;88 and the captive Jews enjoy the secret revenge of imposing their own belief on the nations whose recent creeds they deride. For the author of Christianity, the Mahometans are taught by the prophet to entertain a high and mysterious reverence.89 “Verily, Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, is the apostle of God, and his word, which he conveyed unto Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from him: honourable in this world, and in the world to come; and one of those who approach Edition: current; Page: [40] near to the presence of God.”90 The wonders of the genuine and apocryphal gospels91 are profusely heaped on his head; and the Latin church has not disdained to borrow from the Koran the immaculate conception92 of his virgin mother. Yet Jesus was a mere mortal; and, at the day of judgment, his testimony will serve to condemn both the Jews, who reject him as a prophet, and the Christians, who adore him as the Son of God. The malice of his enemies aspersed his reputation and conspired against his life; but their intention only was guilty, a phantom or a criminal was substituted on the cross, and the innocent saint was translated to the seventh heaven.93 During six hundred years the gospel was the way of truth and salvation; but the Christians insensibly forgot both the laws and the example of their founder; and Mahomet was instructed by the Gnostics to accuse the Church, as well as the synagogue, of corrupting the integrity of the sacred text.94 The piety of Moses and of Edition: current; Page: [41] Christ rejoiced in the assurance of a future prophet, more illustrious than themselves; the evangelic promise of the Paraclete, or Holy Ghost, was prefigured in the name, and accomplished in the person, of Mahomet,95 the greatest and the last of the apostles of God.

The communication of ideas requires a similitude of thought and language; the discourse of a philosopher would vibrate, without effect, on the ear of a peasant; yet how minute is the distance of their understandings, if it be compared with the contact of an infinite and a finite mind, with the word of God expressed by the tongue or the pen of a mortal? The inspiration of the Hebrew prophets, of the apostles and evangelists of Christ, might not be incompatible with the exercise of their reason and memory; and the diversity of their genius is strongly marked in the style and composition of the books of the Old and New Testament. But Mahomet was contented with a character more humble, yet more sublime, of a simple editor: the substance of the Koran,96 according to himself or his disciples, is uncreated and eternal, subsisting in the essence of the Deity, and inscribed with a pen of light on the table of his everlasting decrees. A paper copy in a volume of silk and gems was brought down to the lowest heaven by the angel Gabriel, Edition: current; Page: [42] who, under the Jewish œconomy, had indeed been despatched on the most important errands; and this trusty messenger successively revealed the chapters and verses to the Arabian prophet. Instead of a perpetual and perfect measure of the divine will, the fragments of the Koran were produced at the discretion of Mahomet; each revelation is suited to the emergencies of his policy or passion; and all contradiction is removed by the saving maxim that any text of scripture is abrogated or modified by any subsequent passage. The word of God and of the apostle was diligently recorded by his disciples on palm-leaves and the shoulder-bones of mutton; and the pages, without order or connection, were cast into a domestic chest, in the custody of one of his wives. Two years after the death of Mahomet, the sacred volume was collected and published by his friend and successor Abubeker;97 the work was revised by the caliph Othman, in the thirtieth year of the Hegira; and the various editions of the Koran assert the same miraculous privilege of an uniform and incorruptible text. In the spirit of enthusiasm or vanity, the prophet rests the truth of his mission on the merit of his book, audaciously challenges both men and angels to imitate the beauties of a single page, and presumes to assert that God alone could dictate this incomparable performance.98 This argument is most powerfully addressed to a devout Arabian, whose mind is attuned to faith and rapture, whose ear is delighted by the music of sounds, and whose ignorance is incapable of comparing the productions of human genius.99 The harmony and copiousness of style will not reach, in a version, the European Edition: current; Page: [43] infidel; he will peruse, with impatience, the endless incoherent rhapsody of fable, and precept, and declamation, which seldom excites a sentiment or an idea, which sometimes crawls in the dust and is sometimes lost in the clouds. The divine attributes exalt the fancy of the Arabian missionary; but his loftiest strains must yield to the sublime simplicity of the book of Job, composed in a remote age, in the same country, and in the same language.100 If the composition of the Koran exceed the faculties of a man, to what superior intelligence should we ascribe the Iliad of Homer or the Philippics of Demosthenes? In all religions, the life of the founder supplies the silence of his written revelation: the sayings of Mahomet were so many lessons of truth; his actions so many examples of virtue; and the public and private memorials were preserved by his wives and companions. At the end of two hundred years, the Sonna, or oral law, was fixed and consecrated by the labours of Al Bochari, who discriminated seven thousand two hundred and seventy-five genuine traditions, from a mass of three hundred thousand reports of a more doubtful or spurious character. Each day the pious author prayed in the temple of Mecca, and performed his ablutions with the water of Zemzem; the pages were successively deposited on the pulpit and the sepulchre of the apostle; and the work has been approved by the four orthodox sects of the Sonnites.101

The mission of the ancient prophets, of Moses and of Jesus, had been confirmed by many splendid prodigies; and Mahomet Edition: current; Page: [44] was repeatedly urged, by the inhabitants of Mecca and Medina, to produce a similar evidence of his divine legation: to call down from heaven the angel or the volume of his revelation, to create a garden in the desert, or to kindle a conflagration in the unbelieving city. As often as he is pressed by the demands of the Koreish, he involves himself in the obscure boast of vision and prophecy, appeals to the internal proofs of his doctrine, and shields himself behind the providence of God, who refuses those signs and wonders that would depreciate the merit of faith and aggravate the guilt of infidelity. But the modest or angry tone of his apologies betrays his weakness and vexation; and these passages of scandal establish, beyond suspicion, the integrity of the Koran.102 The votaries of Mahomet are more assured than himself of his miraculous gifts, and their confidence and credulity increase as they are farther removed from the time and place of his spiritual exploits. They believe or affirm that trees went forth to meet him; that he was saluted by stones; that water gushed from his fingers; that he fed the hungry, cured the sick, and raised the dead; that a beam groaned to him; that a camel complained to him; that a shoulder of mutton informed him of its being poisoned; and that both animate and inanimate nature were equally subject to the apostle of God.103 His dream of a nocturnal journey is seriously described as a real and corporeal transaction. A mysterious animal, the Borak, conveyed him from the temple of Mecca to that of Edition: current; Page: [45] Jerusalem; with his companion Gabriel, he successively ascended the seven heavens, and received and repaid the salutations of the patriarchs, the prophets, and the angels, in their respective mansions. Beyond the seventh heaven, Mahomet alone was permitted to proceed; he passed the veil of unity, approached within two bow-shots of the throne, and felt a cold that pierced him to the heart, when his shoulder was touched by the hand of God. After this familiar though important conversation, he again descended to Jerusalem, remounted the Borak, returned to Mecca, and performed in the tenth part of a night the journey of many thousand years.104 According to another legend, the apostle confounded in a national assembly the malicious challenge of the Koreish. His resistless word split asunder the orb of the moon: the obedient planet stooped from her station in the sky, accomplished the seven revolutions round the Caaba, saluted Mahomet in the Arabian tongue, and, suddenly contracting her dimensions, entered at the collar, and issued forth through the sleeve, of his shirt.105 The vulgar are amused with these Edition: current; Page: [46] marvellous tales; but the gravest of the Musulman doctors imitate the modesty of their master, and indulge a latitude of faith or interpretation.106 They might speciously allege that, in preaching the religion, it was needless to violate the harmony of nature; that a creed unclouded with mystery may be excused from miracles; and that the sword of Mahomet was not less potent than the rod of Moses.

The polytheist is oppressed and distracted by the variety of superstition: a thousand rites of Egyptian origin were interwoven with the essence of the Mosaic law; and the spirit of the Gospel had evaporated in the pageantry of the church. The prophet of Mecca was tempted by prejudice, or policy, or patriotism, to sanctify the rites of the Arabians and the custom of visiting the holy stone of the Caaba. But the precepts of Mahomet himself inculcate a more simple and rational piety: prayer, fasting, and alms are the religious duties of a Musulman;107 and he is encouraged to hope that prayer will carry him halfway to God, fasting will bring him to the door of his palace, and alms will gain him admittance.108 I. According to the tradition of the nocturnal journey, the apostle, in his personal Edition: current; Page: [47] conference with the Deity, was commanded to impose on his disciples the daily obligation of fifty prayers. By the advice of Moses, he applied for an alleviation of this intolerable burthen; the number was gradually reduced to five; without any dispensation of business or pleasure, or time or place: the devotion of the faithful is repeated at daybreak, at noon, in the afternoon, in the evening, and at the first watch of the night; and, in the present decay of religious fervour, our travellers are edified by the profound humility and attention of the Turks and Persians. Cleanliness is the key of prayer: the frequent lustration of the hands, the face, and the body, which was practised of old by the Arabs, is solemnly enjoined by the Koran; and a permission is formally granted to supply with sand the scarcity of water. The words and attitudes of supplication, as it is performed either sitting, or standing, or prostrate on the ground, are prescribed by custom or authority, but the prayer is poured forth in short and fervent ejaculations; the measure of zeal is not exhausted by a tedious liturgy; and each Musulman, for his own person, is invested with the character of a priest. Among the Theists, who reject the use of images, it has been found necessary to restrain the wanderings of the fancy by directing the eye and the thought towards a kebla, or visible point of the horizon. The prophet was at first inclined to gratify the Jews by the choice of Jerusalem; but he soon returned to a more natural partiality; and five times every day the eyes of the nations at Astracan, at Fez, at Delhi, are devoutly turned to the holy temple of Mecca. Yet every spot for the service of God is equally pure; the Mahometans indifferently pray in their chamber or in the street. As a distinction from the Jews and Christians, the Friday in each week is set apart for the useful institution of public worship; the people is assembled in the mosch; and the imam, some respectable elder, ascends the pulpit, to begin the prayer and pronounce the sermon. But the Mahometan religion is destitute of priesthood or sacrifice;108a Edition: current; Page: [48] and the independent spirit of fanaticism looks down with contempt on the ministers and the slaves of superstition. II. The voluntary109 penance of the ascetics, the torment and glory of their lives, was odious to a prophet who censured in his companions a rash vow of abstaining from flesh, and women, and sleep, and firmly declared that he would suffer no monks in his religion.110 Yet he instituted, in each year, a fast of thirty days; and strenuously recommended the observance, as a discipline which purifies the soul and subdues the body, as a salutary exercise of obedience to the will of God and his apostle. During the month of Ramadan,111 from the rising to the setting of the sun, the Musulman abstains from eating, and drinking, and women, and baths, and perfumes; from all nourishment that can restore his strength, from all pleasure that can gratify his senses. In the revolution of the lunar year, the Ramadan coincides by turns with the winter cold and the summer heat; and the patient martyr, without assuaging his thirst with a drop of water, must expect the close of a tedious and sultry day. The interdiction of wine, peculiar to some orders of priests or hermits, is converted by Mahomet alone into a positive and general law;112 and a considerable portion of the globe has abjured, at his Edition: current; Page: [49] command, the use of that salutary though dangerous liquor. These painful restraints are, doubtless, infringed by the libertine and eluded by the hypocrite; but the legislator, by whom they are enacted, cannot surely be accused of alluring his proselytes by the indulgence of their sensual appetites.112a III. The charity of the Mahometans descends to the animal creation; and the Koran repeatedly inculcates, not as a merit, but as a strict and indispensable duty, the relief of the indigent and unfortunate. Mahomet, perhaps, is the only lawgiver who has defined the precise measure of charity: the standard may vary with the degree and nature of property, as it consists either in money, in corn or cattle, in fruits or merchandise; but the Musulman does not accomplish the law, unless he bestows a tenth of his revenue; and, if his conscience accuses him of fraud or extortion, the tenth, under the idea of restitution, is enlarged to a fifth.113 Benevolence is the foundation of justice, since we are forbid to injure those whom we are bound to assist. A prophet may reveal the secrets of heaven and of futurity; but in his moral precepts he can only repeat the lessons of our own hearts.

The two articles of belief and the four practical duties of Islam are guarded by rewards and punishments; and the faith of the Musulman is devoutly fixed on the event of the judgment and the last day. The prophet has not presumed to determine the moment of that awful catastrophe, though Edition: current; Page: [50] he darkly announces the signs, both in heaven and earth, which will precede the universal dissolution, when life shall be destroyed and the order of creation shall be confounded in the primitive chaos. At the blast of the trumpet, new worlds will start into being; angels, genii, and men will arise from the dead, and the human soul will again be united to the body. The doctrine of the resurrection was first entertained by the Egyptians;114 and their mummies were embalmed, their pyramids were constructed, to preserve the ancient mansion of the soul, during a period of three thousand years. But the attempt is partial and unavailing; and it is with a more philosophic spirit that Mahomet relies on the omnipotence of the Creator, whose word can reanimate the breathless clay, and collect the innumerable atoms that no longer retain their form or substance.115 The intermediate state of the soul it is hard to decide; and those who most firmly believe her immaterial nature are at a loss to understand how she can think or act without the agency of the organs of sense.

The re-union of the soul and body will be followed by the final judgment of mankind; and, in his copy of the Magian picture, the prophet has too faithfully represented the forms of proceeding, and even the slow and successive operations, of an earthly tribunal. By his intolerate adversaries he is upbraided for extending, even to themselves, the hope of salvation, for asserting the blackest heresy that every man who believes in God, and accomplishes good works, may expect in the last day a favourable sentence. Such rational indifference is ill adapted to the character of a fanatic; nor is it probable that a messenger from heaven should depreciate the value and Edition: current; Page: [51] necessity of his own revelation. In the idiom of the Koran,116 the belief of God is inseparable from that of Mahomet; the good works are those which he has enjoined; and the two qualifications imply the profession of Islam, to which all nations and all sects are equally invited. Their spiritual blindness, though excused by ignorance and crowned with virtue, will be scourged with everlasting torments; and the tears which Mahomet shed over the tomb of his mother, for whom he was forbidden to pray, display a striking contrast of humanity and enthusiasm.117 The doom of the infidels is common: the measure of their guilt and punishment is determined by the degree of evidence which they have rejected, by the magnitude of the errors which they have entertained; the eternal mansions of the Christians, the Jews, the Sabians, the Magians, and the idolaters are sunk below each other in the abyss; and the lowest hell is reserved for the faithless hypocrites who have assumed the mask of religion. After the greater part of mankind has been condemned for their opinions, the true believers only will be judged by their actions. The good and evil of each Musulman will be accurately weighed in a real or allegorical balance, and a singular mode of compensation will be allowed for the payment of injuries: the aggressor will refund an equivalent of his own good actions, for the benefit of the person whom he has wronged; and, if he should be destitute of any moral property, the weight of his sins will be loaded with an adequate share of the demerits of the sufferer. According as the shares of guilt or virtue shall preponderate, the sentence will be pronounced, Edition: current; Page: [52] and all, without distinction, will pass over the sharp and perilous bridge of the abyss; but the innocent, treading in the footsteps of Mahomet, will gloriously enter the gates of paradise, while the guilty will fall into the first and mildest of the seven hells. The term of expiation will vary from nine hundred to seven thousand years; but the prophet has judiciously promised that all his disciples, whatever may be their sins, shall be saved, by their own faith and his intercession, from eternal damnation. It is not surprising that superstition should act most powerfully on the fears of her votaries, since the human fancy can paint with more energy the misery than the bliss of a future life. With the two simple elements of darkness and fire we create a sensation of pain, which may be aggravated to an infinite degree by the idea of endless duration. But the same idea operates with an opposite effect on the continuity of pleasure; and too much of our present enjoyments is obtained from the relief, or the comparison, of evil. It is natural enough that an Arabian prophet should dwell with rapture on the groves, the fountains, and the rivers of paradise; but, instead of inspiring the blessed inhabitants with a liberal taste for harmony and science, conversation and friendship, he idly celebrates the pearls and diamonds, the robes of silk, palaces of marble, dishes of gold, rich wines, artificial dainties, numerous attendants, and the whole train of sensual and costly luxury, which becomes insipid to the owner, even in the short period of this mortal life. Seventy-two Houris, or black-eyed girls of resplendent beauty, blooming youth, virgin purity, and exquisite sensibility, will be created for the use of the meanest believer; a moment of pleasure will be prolonged to a thousand years, and his faculties will be increased an hundred-fold, to render him worthy of his felicity. Notwithstanding a vulgar prejudice, the gates of heaven will be open to both sexes; but Mahomet has not specified the male companions of the female elect, lest he should either alarm the jealousy of their former husbands or disturb their felicity by the suspicion of an everlasting Edition: current; Page: [53] marriage. This image of a carnal paradise has provoked the indignation, perhaps the envy, of the monks: they declaim against the impure religion of Mahomet; and his modest apologists are driven to the poor excuse of figures and allegories. But the sounder and more consistent party adhere, without shame, to the literal interpretation of the Koran; useless would be the resurrection of the body, unless it were restored to the possession and exercise of its worthiest faculties; and the union of sensual and intellectual enjoyment is requisite to complete the happiness of the double animal, the perfect man. Yet the joys of the Mahometan paradise will not be confined to the indulgence of luxury and appetite; and the prophet has expressly declared that all meaner happiness will be forgotten and despised by the saints and martyrs, who shall be admitted to the beatitude of the divine vision.118

The first and most arduous conquests of Mahomet119 were Edition: current; Page: [54] those of his wife, his servant, his pupil, and his friend;120 since he presented himself as a prophet to those who were most conversant with his infirmities as a man. Yet Cadijah believed the words, and cherished the glory, of her husband; the obsequious and affectionate Zeid was tempted by the prospect of freedom; the illustrious Ali, the son of Abu Taleb, embraced the sentiments of his cousin with the spirit of a youthful hero; and the wealth, the moderation, the veracity of Abubeker confirmed the religion of the prophet whom he was destined to succeed. By his persuasion, ten of the most respectable citizens of Mecca were introduced to the private lessons of Islam; they yielded to the voice of reason and enthusiasm; they repeated the fundamental creed: “there is but one God, and Mahomet is the apostle of God”; and their faith, even in this life, was rewarded with riches and honours, with the command of armies and the government of kingdoms. Three years were silently employed in the conversion of fourteen proselytes, the first-fruits of his mission; but in the fourth year he assumed the prophetic office, and, resolving to impart to his family the light of divine truth, he prepared a banquet, a lamb, as it is said, and a bowl of milk, for the entertainment of forty guests of the race of Hashem. “Friends and kinsmen,” said Mahomet to the assembly, “I offer you, and I alone can offer, the most precious of gifts, the treasures of this world and of the world to come. God has Edition: current; Page: [55] commanded me to call you to his service. Who among you will support my burthen? Who among you will be my companion and my vizir?”121 No answer was returned, till the silence of astonishment, and doubt, and contempt was at length broken by the impatient courage of Ali, a youth in the fourteenth year of his age. “O prophet, I am the man; whosoever rises against thee, I will dash out his teeth, tear out his eyes, break his legs, rip up his belly. O prophet, I will be thy vizir over them.” Mahomet accepted his offer with transport, and Abu Taleb was ironically exhorted to respect the superior dignity of his son. In a more serious tone, the father of Ali advised his nephew to relinquish his impracticable design. “Spare your remonstrances,” replied the intrepid fanatic to his uncle and benefactor; “if they should place the sun on my right hand and the moon on my left, they should not divert me from my course.” He persevered ten years in the exercise of his mission; and the religion which has overspread the East and the West advanced with a slow and painful progress within the walls of Mecca. Yet Mahomet enjoyed the satisfaction of beholding the increase of his infant congregation of Unitarians, who revered him as a prophet, and to whom he seasonably dispensed the spiritual nourishment of the Koran. The number of proselytes may be esteemed by the absence of eighty-three men and eighteen women, who retired to Æthiopia in the seventh year of his mission; and his party was fortified by the timely conversion of his uncle Hamza, and of the fierce and inflexible Omar, who signalised in the cause of Islam the same zeal which he had exerted for its destruction. Nor was the charity of Mahomet confined to the tribe of Koreish or the precincts of Mecca: on solemn festivals, in the days of pilgrimage, he frequented the Caaba, accosted the strangers of every tribe, and urged, both in private Edition: current; Page: [56] converse and public discourse, the belief and worship of a sole Deity. Conscious of his reason and of his weakness, he asserted the liberty of conscience, and disclaimed the use of religious violence;122 but he called the Arabs to repentance, and conjured them to remember the ancient idolaters of Ad and Thamud, whom the divine justice had swept away from the face of the earth.123

The people of Mecca was hardened in their unbelief by superstition and envy. The elders of the city, the uncles of the prophet, affected to despise the presumption of an orphan, the reformer of his country; the pious orations of Mahomet in the Caaba were answered by the clamours of Abu Taleb.123a “Citizens and pilgrims, listen not to the tempter, hearken not to his impious novelties. Stand fast in the worship of Al Lâta and Al Uzzah.”124 Yet the son of Abdallah was ever dear to the aged chief; and he protected the fame and person of his nephew against the assaults of the Koreishites, who had long been jealous of the pre-eminence of the family of Hashem. Their malice was coloured with the pretence of Edition: current; Page: [57] religion; in the age of Job, the crime of impiety was punished by the Arabian magistrate;125 and Mahomet was guilty of deserting and denying the national deities. But so loose was the policy of Mecca that the leaders of the Koreish, instead of accusing a criminal, were compelled to employ the measures of persuasion or violence. They repeatedly addressed Abu Taleb in the style of reproach and menace. “Thy nephew reviles our religion; he accuses our wise forefathers of ignorance and folly; silence him quickly, lest he kindle tumult and discord in the city. If he persevere, we shall draw our swords against him and his adherents, and thou wilt be responsible for the blood of thy fellow-citizens.” The weight and moderation of Abu Taleb eluded the violence of religious faction; the most helpless or timid of the disciples retired to Æthiopia; and the prophet withdrew himself to various places of strength in the town and country. As he was still supported by his family, the rest of the tribe of Koreish engaged themselves to renounce all intercourse with the children of Hashem, neither to buy nor sell, neither to marry nor to give in marriage, but to pursue them with implacable enmity, till they should deliver the person of Mahomet to the justice of the gods. The decree was suspended in the Caaba before the eyes of the nation; the messengers of the Koreish pursued the Musulman exiles in the heart of Africa; they besieged the prophet and his most faithful followers, intercepted their water, and inflamed their mutual animosity by the retaliation of injuries and insults. A doubtful truce restored the appearances of concord; till the death of Abu Taleb abandoned Mahomet to the power of his enemies, at the moment when he was deprived of his domestic comforts by the loss of his faithful and generous Cadijah. Abu Edition: current; Page: [58] Sophian, the chief of the branch of Ommiyah, succeeded to the principality of the republic of Mecca. A zealous votary of the idols, a mortal foe of the line of Hashem, he convened an assembly of the Koreishites and their allies, to decide the fate of the apostle. His imprisonment might provoke the despair of his enthusiasm; and the exile of an eloquent and popular fanatic would diffuse the mischief through the provinces of Arabia. His death was resolved; and they agreed that a sword from each tribe should be buried in his heart, to divide the guilt of his blood and baffle the vengeance of the Hashemites. An angel or a spy revealed their conspiracy; and flight was the only resource of Mahomet.126 At the dead of night, accompanied by his friend Abubeker, he silently escaped from his house; the assassins watched at the door; but they were deceived by the figure of Ali, who reposed on the bed, and was covered with the green vestment, of the apostle. The Koreish respected the piety of the heroic youth; but some verses of Ali, which are still extant, exhibit an interesting picture of his anxiety, his tenderness, and his religious confidence. Three days Mahomet and his companion were concealed in the cave of Thor, at the distance of a league from Mecca; and in the close of each evening they received from the son and daughter of Abubeker a secret supply of intelligence and food. The diligence of the Koreish explored every haunt in the neighbourhood of the city; they arrived at the entrance of the cavern; but the providential deceit of a spider’s web and a pigeon’s nest is supposed to convince them that the place was solitary and inviolate. “We are only two,” said the trembling Abubeker. “There is a third,” replied the prophet; “it is God himself.” No sooner was the pursuit abated than the two fugitives issued from the rock and mounted their camels; on the road to Medina, they were overtaken by the emissaries of the Koreish; Edition: current; Page: [59] they redeemed themselves with prayers and promises from their hands. In this eventful moment the lance of an Arab might have changed the history of the world. The flight of the prophet from Mecca to Medina has fixed the memorable era of the Hegira,127 which, at the end of twelve centuries, still discriminates the lunar years of the Mahometan nations.128

The religion of the Koran might have perished in its cradle, had not Medina embraced with faith and reverence the holy outcasts of Mecca. Medina, or the city, known under the name of Yathreb before it was sanctified by the throne of the prophet, was divided between the tribes of the Charegites128a and the Awsites, whose hereditary feud was rekindled by the slightest provocations: two colonies of Jews, who boasted a sacerdotal race, were their humble allies, and without converting the Arabs, they introduced the taste of science and religion, which distinguished Medina as the city of the Book. Some of her noblest citizens, in a pilgrimage to the Caaba, were converted by the preaching of Mahomet; on their return, they diffused the belief of God and his prophet, and the new alliance was ratified by their deputies in two secret and nocturnal interviews on a hill in the suburbs of Mecca. In the first, ten Charegites and two Edition: current; Page: [60] Awsites, united in faith and love, protested, in the name of their wives, their children, and their absent brethren, that they would for ever profess the creed, and observe the precepts, of the Koran. The second was a political association, the first vital spark of the empire of the Saracens.129 Seventy-three men and two women of Medina held a solemn conference with Mahomet, his kinsmen, and his disciples; and pledged themselves to each other by a mutual oath of fidelity. They promised in the name of the city that, if he should be banished, they would receive him as a confederate, obey him as a leader, and defend him to the last extremity, like their wives and children. “But, if you are recalled by your country,” they asked with a flattering anxiety, “will you not abandon your new allies?” “All things,” replied Mahomet with a smile, “are now common between us; your blood is as my blood, your ruin as my ruin. We are bound to each other by the ties of honour and interest. I am your friend, and the enemy of your foes.” “But, if we are killed in your service, what,” exclaimed the deputies of Medina, “will be our reward?” “Paradise,” replied the prophet. “Stretch forth thy hand.” He stretched it forth, and they reiterated the oath of allegiance and fidelity. Their treaty was ratified by the people, who unanimously embraced the profession of Islam; they rejoiced in the exile of the apostle, but they trembled for his safety, and impatiently expected his arrival. After a perilous and rapid journey along the sea-coast, he halted at Koba, two miles from the city, and made his public entry into Medina, sixteen days after his flight from Mecca. Five hundred of the citizens advanced to meet him; he was hailed with acclamations of loyalty and devotion; Mahomet was mounted on a she-camel, an umbrella shaded his head, and a turban was unfurled before him to supply the deficiency of a standard. His bravest disciples, who had been Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [61] scattered by the storm, assembled round his person; and the equal, though various, merit of the Moslems was distinguished by the names of Mohagerians and Ansars, the fugitives of Mecca, and the auxiliaries of Medina. To eradicate the seeds of jealousy, Mahomet judiciously coupled his principal followers with the rights and obligations of brethren; and, when Ali found himself without a peer, the prophet tenderly declared that he would be the companion and brother of the noble youth. The expedient was crowned with success; the holy fraternity was respected in peace and war, and the two parties vied with each other in a generous emulation of courage and fidelity. Once only the concord was slightly ruffled by an accidental quarrel: a patriot of Medina arraigned the insolence of the strangers, but the hint of their expulsion was heard with abhorrence, and his own son most eagerly offered to lay at the apostle’s feet the head of his father.


From his establishment at Medina, Mahomet assumed the exercise of the regal and sacerdotal office; and it was impious to appeal from a judge whose decrees were inspired by the divine wisdom. A small portion of ground, the patrimony of two orphans, was acquired by gift or purchase;130 on that chosen spot he built an house and a mosch, more venerable in their rude simplicity than the palaces and temples of the Assyrian caliphs. His seal of gold, or silver, was inscribed with the apostolic title; when he prayed and preached in the weekly assembly, he leaned against the trunk of a palm-tree; Edition: current; Page: [62] and it was long before he indulged himself in the use of a chair or pulpit of rough timber.131 After a reign of six years, fifteen hundred Moslems, in arms and in the field, renewed their oath of allegiance; and their chief repeated the assurance of protection, till the death of the last member or the final dissolution of the party. It was in the same camp that the deputy of Mecca was astonished by the attention of the faithful to the words and looks of the prophet, by the eagerness with which they collected his spittle, an hair that dropped on the ground, the refuse water of his lustrations, as if they participated in some degree of the prophetic virtue. “I have seen,” said he, “the Chosroes of Persia and the Cæsar of Rome, but never did I behold a king among his subjects like Mahomet among his companions.” The devout fervour of enthusiasm acts with more energy and truth than the cold and formal servility of courts.

In the state of nature every man has a right to defend, by force of arms, his person and his possessions; to repel, or even to prevent, the violence of his enemies, and to extend his hostilities to a reasonable measure of satisfaction and retaliation. In the free society of the Arabs, the duties of subject and citizen imposed a feeble restraint; and Mahomet, in the exercise of a peaceful and benevolent mission, had been despoiled and banished by the injustice of his countrymen. The choice of an independent people had exalted the fugitive of Mecca to the rank of a sovereign; and he was invested with the just prerogative of forming alliances and of waging offensive or defensive war. The imperfection of human rights was supplied and armed by the plenitude of divine power; the prophet of Medina assumed, in his new revelations, a fiercer and more sanguinary tone, which proves that his former moderation was the effect of weakness;132 the Edition: current; Page: [63] means of persuasion had been tried, the season of forbearance was elapsed, and he was now commanded to propagate his religion by the sword, to destroy the monuments of idolatry, and, without regarding the sanctity of days or months, to pursue the unbelieving nations of the earth. The same bloody precepts, so repeatedly inculcated in the Koran, are ascribed by the author to the Pentateuch and the Gospel. But the mild tenor of the evangelic style may explain an ambiguous text, that Jesus did not bring peace on the earth, but a sword: his patient and humble virtues should not be confounded with the intolerant zeal of princes and bishops, who have disgraced the name of his disciples. In the prosecution of religious war, Mahomet might appeal with more propriety to the example of Moses, of the judges, and the kings of Israel. The military laws of the Hebrews are still more rigid than those of the Arabian legislator.133 The Lord of Hosts marched in person before the Jews; if a city resisted their summons, the males, without distinction, were put to the sword; the seven nations of Canaan were devoted to destruction; and neither repentance nor conversion could shield them from the inevitable doom that no creature within their precincts should be left alive. The fair option of friendship, or submission, or battle was proposed to the enemies of Mahomet. If they professed the creed of Islam, they were admitted to all the temporal and spiritual benefits of his primitive disciples, and marched under the same banner to extend the religion which they had embraced. The clemency of the prophet was decided by his interest, yet he seldom trampled on a prostrate enemy; and he seems to Edition: current; Page: [64] promise that, on the payment of a tribute, the least guilty of his unbelieving subjects might be indulged in their worship, or at least in their imperfect faith. In the first months of his reign, he practised the lessons of holy warfare, and displayed his white banner before the gates of Medina; the martial apostle fought in person at nine battles or sieges;134 and fifty enterprises of war were achieved in ten years by himself or his lieutenants. The Arab continued to unite the professions of a merchant and a robber; and his petty excursions, for the defence or the attack of a caravan, insensibly prepared his troops for the conquest of Arabia. The distribution of the spoil was regulated by a divine law;135 the whole was faithfully collected in one common mass; a fifth of the gold and silver, the prisoners and cattle, the moveables and immoveables, was reserved by the prophet for pious and charitable uses; the remainder was shared in adequate portions by the soldiers who had obtained the victory or guarded the camp; the rewards of the slain devolved to their widows and orphans; and the increase of cavalry was encouraged by the allotment of a double share to the horse and to the man. From all sides the roving Arabs were allured to the standard of religion and plunder; the apostle sanctified the licence of embracing the female captives as their wives or concubines; and the enjoyment of wealth and beauty was a feeble type of the joys of paradise prepared for the valiant martyrs of the faith. “The sword,” says Mahomet, “is the key of heaven and of hell: a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms, is of Edition: current; Page: [65] more avail than two months of fasting or prayer: whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven; at the day of judgment his wounds shall be resplendent as vermillion, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim.” The intrepid souls of the Arabs were fired with enthusiasm; the picture of the invisible world was strongly painted on their imagination; and the death which they had always despised became an object of hope and desire. The Koran inculcates, in the most absolute sense, the tenets of fate and predestination, which would extinguish both industry and virtue, if the actions of man were governed by his speculative belief. Yet their influence in every age has exalted the courage of the Saracens and Turks. The first companions of Mahomet advanced to battle with a fearless confidence; there is no danger where there is no chance: they were ordained to perish in their beds; or they were safe and invulnerable amidst the darts of the enemy.136

Perhaps the Koreish would have been content with the flight of Mahomet, had they not been provoked and alarmed by the vengeance of an enemy who could intercept their Syrian trade as it passed and repassed through the territory of Medina. Abu Sophian himself, with only thirty or forty followers, conducted a wealthy caravan of a thousand camels; the fortune or dexterity of his march escaped the vigilance of Mahomet; but the chief of the Koreish was informed that the holy robbers were placed in ambush to await his return. He despatched a messenger to his brethren of Mecca and they were roused by the fear of losing their merchandise and their provisions, unless they hastened to his relief with the Edition: current; Page: [66] military force of the city. The sacred band of Mahomet was formed of three hundred and thirteen Moslems, of whom seventy-seven were fugitives, and the rest auxiliaries; they mounted by turns a train of seventy camels (the camels of Yathreb were formidable in war); but such was the poverty of his first disciples that only two could appear on horseback in the field.137 In the fertile and famous vale of Beder,138 three stations from Medina, he was informed by his scouts of the caravan that approached on one side; of the Koreish, one hundred horse, eight hundred and fifty foot, who advanced on the other. After a short debate, he sacrificed the prospect of wealth to the pursuit of glory and revenge; and a slight intrenchment was formed to cover his troops, and a stream of fresh water that glided through the valley. “O God,” he exclaimed as the numbers of the Koreish descended from the hills, “O God, if these are destroyed, by whom wilt thou be worshipped on the earth? — Courage, my children; close your ranks; discharge your arrows, and the day is your own.” At these words he placed himself, with Abubeker, on a throne or pulpit,139 and instantly Edition: current; Page: [67] demanded the succour of Gabriel and three thousand angels. His eye was fixed on the field of battle; the Musulmans fainted and were pressed; in that decisive moment the prophet started from his throne, mounted his horse, and cast a handful of sand into the air: “Let their faces be covered with confusion.” Both armies heard the thunder of his voice; their fancy beheld the angelic warriors;140 the Koreish trembled and fled; seventy of the bravest were slain; and seventy captives adorned the first victory of the faithful. The dead bodies of the Koreish were despoiled and insulted; two of the most obnoxious prisoners were punished with death; and the ransom of the others, four thousand drachms of silver, compensated in some degree the escape of the caravan. But it was in vain that the camels of Abu Sophian explored a new road through the desert and along the Euphrates; they were overtaken by the diligence of the Musulmans; and wealthy must have been the prize, if twenty thousand drachms could be set apart for the fifth of the apostle. The resentment of the public and private loss stimulated Abu Sophian to collect a body of three thousand men, seven hundred of whom were armed with cuirasses, and two hundred were mounted on horseback; three thousand camels attended his march; and his wife Henda, with fifteen matrons of Mecca, incessantly sounded their timbrels to animate the troops, and to magnify the greatness of Edition: current; Page: [68] Hobal, the most popular deity of the Caaba. The standard of God and Mahomet was upheld by nine hundred and fifty believers; the disproportion of numbers was not more alarming than in the field of Beder; and their presumption of victory prevailed against the divine and human sense of the apostle. The second battle was fought on Mount Ohud, six miles to the north of Medina;141 the Koreish advanced in the form of a crescent; and the right wing of cavalry was led by Caled, the fiercest and most successful of the Arabian warriors. The troops of Mahomet were skilfully posted on the declivity of the hill; and their rear was guarded by a detachment of fifty archers. The weight of their charge impelled and broke the centre of the idolaters; but in the pursuit they lost the advantage of their ground; the archers deserted their station; the Musulmans were tempted by the spoil, disobeyed their general, and disordered their ranks. The intrepid Caled, wheeling his cavalry on their flank and rear, exclaimed with a loud voice, that Mahomet was slain. He was indeed wounded in the face with a javelin; two of his teeth were shattered with a stone; yet, in the midst of tumult and dismay, he reproached the infidels with the murder of a prophet; and blessed the friendly hand that staunched his blood and conveyed him to a place of safety. Seventy martyrs died for the sins of the people; they fell, said the apostle, in pairs, each brother embracing his lifeless companion;142 their bodies were mangled by the inhuman females of Mecca; and the wife of Abu Sophian tasted the entrails of Hamza, the uncle of Mahomet. They might applaud their superstition and satiate their fury; but the Musulmans soon rallied in the field, and the Koreish wanted Edition: current; Page: [69] strength or courage to undertake the siege of Medina. It was attacked the ensuing year by an army of ten thousand enemies; and this third expedition is variously named from the nations, which marched under the banner of Abu Sophian, from the ditch which was drawn before the city, and a camp of three thousand Musulmans. The prudence of Mahomet declined a general engagement; the valour of Ali was signalised in single combat; and the war was protracted twenty days, till the final separation of the confederates. A tempest of wind, rain, and hail overturned their tents; their private quarrels were fomented by an insidious adversary; and the Koreish, deserted by their allies, no longer hoped to subvert the throne, or to check the conquests, of their invincible exile.143

The choice of Jerusalem for the first kebla of prayer discovers the early propensity of Mahomet in favour of the Jews; and happy would it have been for their temporal interest, had they recognised, in the Arabian prophet, the hope of Israel and the promised Messiah. Their obstinacy converted his friendship into implacable hatred, with which he pursued that unfortunate people to the last moment of his life; and, in the double character of an apostle and a conqueror, his persecution was extended to both worlds.144 The Kainoka dwelt at Medina, under the protection of the city: he seized the occasion of an accidental tumult, and summoned them to embrace his religion or contend with him in battle. “Alas,” replied the trembling Jews, “we are ignorant of the use of arms, but we persevere in the faith and worship of our fathers: Edition: current; Page: [70] why wilt thou reduce us to the necessity of a just defence?” The unequal conflict was terminated in fifteen days; and it was with extreme reluctance that Mahomet yielded to the importunity of his allies and consented to spare the lives of the captives. But their riches were confiscated; their arms became more effectual in the hands of the Musulmans; and a wretched colony of seven hundred exiles was driven with their wives and children to implore a refuge on the confines of Syria. The Nadhirites were more guilty, since they conspired in a friendly interview to assassinate the prophet. He besieged their castle three miles from Medina, but their resolute defence obtained an honourable capitulation; and the garrison, sounding their trumpets and beating their drums, was permitted to depart with the honours of war. The Jews had excited and joined the war of the Koreish: no sooner had the nations retired from the ditch, than Mahomet, without laying aside his armour, marched on the same day to extirpate the hostile race of the children of Koraidha.144a After a resistance of twenty-five days, they surrendered at discretion. They trusted to the intercession of their old allies of Medina; they could not be ignorant that fanaticism obliterates the feelings of humanity. A venerable elder, to whose judgment they appealed, pronounced the sentence of their death: seven hundred Jews were dragged in chains to the market-place of the city; they descended alive into the grave prepared for their execution and burial; and the apostle beheld with an inflexible eye the slaughter of his helpless enemies. Their sheep and camels were inherited by the Musulmans; three hundred cuirasses, five hundred pikes, a thousand lances, composed the most useful portion of the spoil. Six days’ journey to the north-east of Medina, the ancient and wealthy town of Chaibar was the seat of the Jewish power in Arabia; the territory, a fertile spot in the desert, was covered with plantations and Edition: current; Page: [71] cattle, and protected by eight castles, some of which were esteemed of impregnable strength. The forces of Mahomet consisted of two hundred horse and fourteen hundred foot: in the succession of eight regular and painful sieges, they were exposed to danger, and fatigue, and hunger; and the most undaunted chiefs despaired of the event. The apostle revived their faith and courage by the example of Ali, on whom he bestowed the surname of the Lion of God: perhaps we may believe that an Hebrew champion of gigantic stature was cloven to the chest by his irresistible scymetar; but we cannot praise the modesty of romance, which represents him as tearing from its hinges the gate of a fortress and wielding the ponderous buckler in his left hand.145 After the reduction of the castles, the town of Chaibar submitted to the yoke. The chief of the tribe was tortured in the presence of Mahomet, to force a confession of his hidden treasure; the industry of the shepherds and husbandmen was rewarded with a precarious toleration; they were permitted, so long as it should please the conqueror, to improve their patrimony, in equal shares, for his emolument and their own. Under the reign of Omar, the Jews of Chaibar were transplanted to Syria; and the caliph alleged the injunction of his dying master, that one and the true religion should be professed in his native land of Arabia.146

Five times each day the eyes of Mahomet were turned towards Mecca,147 and he was urged by the most sacred and Edition: current; Page: [72] powerful motives to revisit, as a conqueror, the city and the temple from whence he had been driven as an exile. The Caaba was present to his waking and sleeping fancy; an idle dream was translated into vision and prophecy; he unfurled the holy banner; and a rash promise of success too hastily dropped from the lips of the apostle. His march from Medina to Mecca displayed the peaceful and solemn pomp of a pilgrimage: seventy camels, chosen and bedecked for sacrifice, preceded the van; the sacred territory was respected, and the captives were dismissed without ransom to proclaim his clemency and devotion. But no sooner did Mahomet descend into the plain, within a day’s journey of the city, than he exclaimed, “They have clothed themselves with the skins of tigers;” the numbers and resolution of the Koreish opposed his progress; and the roving Arabs of the desert might desert or betray a leader whom they had followed for the hopes of spoil. The intrepid fanatic sunk into a cool and cautious politician: he waived in the treaty his title of apostle of God, concluded with the Koreish and their allies a truce of ten years, engaged to restore the fugitives of Mecca who should embrace his religion, and stipulated only, for the ensuing year, the humble privilege of entering the city as a friend and of remaining three days to accomplish the rites of the pilgrimage.148 A cloud of shame and sorrow hung on the retreat of the Musulmans, and their disappointment might justly accuse the failure of a prophet who had so often appealed to the evidence of success. The faith and hope of the pilgrims were rekindled by the prospect of Mecca; their swords were sheathed; seven times in the footsteps of the apostle they encompassed the Caaba; the Koreish had retired to the hills, and Mahomet, after the customary sacrifice, evacuated the city on the fourth day. The people was Edition: current; Page: [73] edified by his devotion; the hostile chiefs were awed, or divided, or seduced and both Caled and Amrou, the future conquerors of Syria and Egypt, most seasonably deserted the sinking cause of idolatry.149 The power of Mahomet was increased by the submission of the Arabian tribes: ten thousand soldiers were assembled for the conquest of Mecca, and the idolaters, the weaker party, were easily convicted of violating the truce. Enthusiasm and discipline impelled the march and preserved the secret, till the blaze of ten thousand fires proclaimed to the astonished Koreish the design, the approach, and the irresistible force of the enemy. The haughty Abu Sophian presented the keys of the city; admired the variety of arms and ensigns that passed before him in review; observed that the son of Abdallah had acquired a mighty kingdom; and confessed, under the scymetar of Omar, that he was the apostle of the true God. The return of Marius and Sylla was stained with the blood of the Romans; the revenge of Mahomet was stimulated by religious zeal, and his injured followers were eager to execute or to prevent the order of a massacre. Instead of indulging their passions and his own,150 the victorious exile forgave the guilt, and united the factions, of Mecca. His troops in three divisions marched into the city; eight and twenty of the inhabitants were slain by the sword of Caled; eleven men and six women were proscribed by the sentence of Mahomet; but he blamed the cruelty of his lieutenant; and several of the most Edition: current; Page: [74] obnoxious victims were indebted for their lives to his clemency or contempt. The chiefs of the Koreish were prostrate at his feet. “What mercy can you expect from the man whom you have wronged?” “We confide in the generosity of our kinsman.” “And you shall not confide in vain: Begone! you are safe, you are free.” The people of Mecca deserved their pardon by the profession of Islam; and, after an exile of seven years, the fugitive missionary was enthroned as the prince and prophet of his native country.151 But the three hundred and sixty idols of the Caaba were ignominiously broken;152 the house of God was purified and adorned; as an example to future times, the apostle again fulfilled the duties of a pilgrim; and a perpetual law was enacted that no unbeliever should dare to set his foot on the territory of the holy city.153

The conquest of Mecca determined the faith and obedience of the Arabian tribes;154 who, according to the vicissitudes Edition: current; Page: [75] of fortune, had obeyed or disregarded the eloquence or the arms of the prophet. Indifference for rites and opinions still marks the character of the Bedoweens; and they might accept, as loosely as they hold, the doctrine of the Koran. Yet an obstinate remnant still adhered to the religion and liberty of their ancestors, and the war of Honain derived a proper appellation from the idols, whom Mahomet had vowed to destroy, and whom the confederates of Tayef had sworn to defend.155 Four thousand Pagans advanced with secrecy and speed to surprise the conqueror; they pitied and despised the supine negligence of the Koreish, but they depended on the wishes, and perhaps the aid, of a people who had so lately renounced their gods and bowed beneath the yoke of their enemy. The banners of Medina and Mecca were displayed by the prophet; a crowd of Bedoweens increased the strength or numbers of the army, and twelve thousand Musulmans entertained a rash and sinful presumption of their invincible strength. They descended without precaution into the valley of Honain; the heights had been occupied by the archers and slingers of the confederates; their numbers were oppressed, their discipline was confounded, their courage was appalled, and the Koreish smiled at their impending destruction. The prophet, on his white mule, was encompassed by the enemies; he attempted to rush against their spears in search of a glorious death; ten of his faithful companions interposed their weapons and their breasts; three of these fell dead at his feet. “O my brethren,” he repeatedly cried with sorrow and indignation, “I Edition: current; Page: [76] am the son of Abdallah, I am the apostle of truth! O man, stand fast in the faith! O God, send down thy succour!” His uncle Abbas, who, like the heroes of Homer, excelled in the loudness of his voice, made the valley resound with the recital of the gifts and promises of God; the flying Moslems returned from all sides to the holy standard; and Mahomet observed with pleasure that the furnace was again rekindled; his conduct and example restored the battle, and he animated his victorious troops to inflict a merciless revenge on the authors of their shame. From the field of Honain he marched without delay to the siege of Tayef, sixty miles to the south-east of Mecca, a fortress of strength, whose fertile lands produce the fruits of Syria in the midst of the Arabian desert. A friendly tribe, instructed (I know not how) in the art of sieges, supplied him with a train of battering-rams and military engines, with a body of five hundred artificers. But it was in vain that he offered freedom to the slaves of Tayef; that he violated his own laws by the extirpation of the fruit-trees; that the ground was opened by the miners; that the breach was assaulted by the troops. After a siege of twenty days, the prophet sounded a retreat; but he retreated with a song of devout triumph, and affected to pray for the repentance and safety of the unbelieving city. The spoil of this fortunate expedition amounted to six thousand captives, twenty-four thousand camels, forty thousand sheep, and four thousand ounces of silver; a tribe who had fought at Honain, redeemed their prisoners by the sacrifice of their idols; but Mahomet compensated the loss by resigning to the soldiers his fifth of the plunder, and wished for their sake that he possessed as many head of cattle as there were trees in the province of Tehama. Instead of chastising the disaffection of the Koreish, he endeavoured to cut out their tongues (his own expression) and to secure their attachment by a superior measure of liberality: Abu Sophian alone was presented with three hundred camels and twenty ounces of silver; Edition: current; Page: [77] and Mecca was sincerely converted to the profitable religion of the Koran.

The fugitives and auxiliaries complained that they who had borne the burthen were neglected in the season of victory.155a “Alas,” replied their artful leader, “suffer me to conciliate these recent enemies, these doubtful proselytes, by the gift of some perishable goods. To your guard I entrust my life and fortunes. You are the companions of my exile, of my kingdom, of my paradise.” He was followed by the deputies of Tayef, who dreaded the repetition of a siege. “Grant us, O apostle of God! a truce of three years, with the toleration of our ancient worship.” “Not a month, not an hour.” “Excuse us at least from the obligation of prayer.” “Without prayer religion is of no avail.” They submitted in silence; their temples were demolished, and the same sentence of destruction was executed on all the idols of Arabia. His lieutenants, on the shores of the Red Sea, the Ocean, and the Gulf of Persia, were saluted by the acclamations of a faithful people; and the ambassadors who knelt before the throne of Medina were as numerous (says the Arabian proverb) as the dates that fall from the maturity of a palm-tree. The nation submitted to the God and the sceptre of Mahomet; the opprobrious name of tribute was abolished; the spontaneous or reluctant oblations of alms and tithes were applied to the service of religion; and one hundred and fourteen thousand Moslems accompanied the last pilgrimage of the apostle.156

When Heraclius returned in triumph from the Persian war, he entertained, at Emesa, one of the ambassadors of Mahomet, who invited the princes and nations of the earth to the Edition: current; Page: [78] profession of Islam. On this foundation the zeal of the Arabians has supposed the secret conversion of the Christian emperor; the vanity of the Greeks has feigned a personal visit to the prince of Medina, who accepted from the royal bounty a rich domain and a secure retreat in the province of Syria.157 But the friendship of Heraclius and Mahomet was of short continuance: the new religion had inflamed rather than assuaged the rapacious spirit of the Saracens; and the murder of an envoy afforded a decent pretence for invading, with three thousand soldiers, the territory of Palestine that extends to the eastward of the Jordan. The holy banner was entrusted to Zeid; and such was the discipline or enthusiasm of the rising sect that the noblest chiefs served without reluctance under the slave of the prophet. On the event of his decease, Jaafar and Abdallah were successively substituted to the command; and, if the three should perish in the war, the troops were authorised to elect their general. The three leaders were slain in the battle of Muta,158 the first military action which tried the valour of the Moslems against a foreign enemy. Zeid fell, like a soldier, in the foremost ranks; the death of Jaafar was heroic and memorable: he lost his right hand; he shifted the standard to his left; the left was severed from his body; he embraced the standard with his bleeding stumps, till he was transfixed to the ground with fifty honourable wounds. “Advance,” cried Abdallah, who stepped into the vacant place, “advance with confidence: either victory or paradise is our own.” The lance of a Roman decided the alternative; but the falling standard was rescued by Caled, the proselyte of Mecca: Edition: current; Page: [79] nine swords were broken in his hand; and his valour withstood and repulsed the superior numbers of the Christians. In the nocturnal council of the camp he was chosen to command: his skulful evolutions of the ensuing day secured either the victory or the retreat of the Saracens; and Caled is renowned among his brethren and his enemies by the glorious appellation of the Sword of God. In the pulpit, Mahomet described, with prophetic rapture, the crowns of the blessed martyrs; but in private he betrayed the feelings of human nature; he was surprised as he wept over the daughter of Zeid. “What do I see?” said the astonished votary. “You see,” replied the apostle, “a friend who is deploring the loss of his most faithful friend.” After the conquest of Mecca the sovereign of Arabia affected to prevent the hostile preparations of Heraclius; and solemnly proclaimed war against the Romans, without attempting to disguise the hardships and dangers of the enterprise.159 The Moslems were discouraged: they alleged the want of money, or horses, or provisions; the season of harvest, and the intolerable heat of the summer: “Hell is much hotter,” said the indignant prophet. He disdained to compel their service; but on his return he admonished the most guilty by an excommunication of fifty days. Their desertion enhanced the merit of Abubeker, Othman, and the faithful companions who devoted their lives and fortunes; and Mahomet displayed his banner at the head of ten thousand horse and twenty thousand foot. Painful indeed was the distress of the march; lassitude and thirst were aggravated by the scorching and pestilential winds of the desert; ten men rode by turns on the same camel; and they were reduced to the shameful necessity of drinking the water from the belly of that useful animal. In the midway, ten days’ journey from Medina and Damascus, they reposed Edition: current; Page: [80] near the grove and fountain of Tabuc. Beyond that place, Mahomet declined the prosecution of the war; he declared himself satisfied with the peaceful intentions, he was more probably daunted by the martial array, of the emperor of the East. But the active and intrepid Caled spread around the terror of his name; and the prophet received the submission of the tribes and cities from the Euphrates to Ailah at the head of the Red Sea. To his Christian subjects Mahomet readily granted the security of their persons, the freedom of their trade, the property of their goods, and the toleration of their worship.160 The weakness of their Arabian brethren had restrained them from opposing his ambition; the disciples of Jesus were endeared to the enemy of the Jews; and it was the interest of a conqueror to propose a fair capitulation to the most powerful religion of the earth.

Till the age of sixty-three years, the strength of Mahomet was equal to the temporal and spiritual fatigues of his mission. His epileptic fits, an absurd calumny of the Greeks, would be an object of pity rather than abhorrence;161 but he Edition: current; Page: [81] seriously believed that he was poisoned at Chaibar by the revenge of a Jewish female.162 During four years, the health of the prophet declined; his infirmities increased; but his mortal disease was a fever of fourteen days, which deprived him by intervals of the use of reason. As soon as he was conscious of his danger, he edified his brethren by the humility of his virtue or penitence. “If there be any man,” said the apostle from the pulpit, “whom I have unjustly scourged, I submit my own back to the lash of retaliation. Have I aspersed the reputation of a Musulman? let him proclaim my faults in the face of the congregation. Has any one been despoiled of his goods? the little that I possess shall compensate the principal and the interest of the debt.” “Yes,” replied a voice from the crowd, “I am entitled to three drachms of silver.” Mahomet heard the complaint, satisfied the demand, and thanked his creditor for accusing him in this world rather than at the day of judgment. He beheld with temperate firmness the approach of death; enfranchised his slaves (seventeen men, as they are named, and eleven women); minutely directed the order of his funeral; and moderated the lamentations of his weeping friends, on whom he bestowed the benediction of peace. Till the third day before his death, he regularly performed the function of public prayer. The choice of Abubeker to supply his place appeared to mark that ancient and faithful friend as his successor in the sacerdotal and regal office; but he prudently declined the risk and envy Edition: current; Page: [82] of a more explicit nomination. At a moment when his faculties were visibly impaired, he called for pen and ink, to write, or more properly to dictate, a divine book, the sum and accomplishment of all his revelations: a dispute arose in the chamber whether he should be allowed to supersede the authority of the Koran; and the prophet was forced to reprove the indecent vehemence of his disciples. If the slightest credit may be afforded to the traditions of his wives and companions, he maintained in the bosom of his family, and to the last moments of his life, the dignity of an apostle and the faith of an enthusiast; described the visits of Gabriel, who bid an everlasting farewell to the earth, and expressed his lively confidence not only of the mercy, but of the favour, of the Supreme Being. In a familiar discourse he had mentioned his special prerogative, that the angel of death was not allowed to take his soul till he had respectfully asked the permission of the prophet. The request was granted; and Mahomet immediately fell into the agony of his dissolution: his head was reclined on the lap of Ayesha, the best beloved of all his wives; he fainted with the violence of pain; recovering his spirits, he raised his eyes towards the roof of the house, and, with a steady look, though a faltering voice, uttered the last broken, though articulate, words: “O God! . . . pardon my sins. . . . Yes, . . . I come, . . . among my fellow-citizens on high;” and thus peaceably expired on a carpet spread upon the floor. An expedition for the conquest of Syria was stopped by this mournful event; the army halted at the gates of Medina; the chiefs were assembled round their dying master. The city, more especially the house of the prophet, was a scene of clamorous sorrow, or silent despair: fanaticism alone could suggest a ray of hope and consolation. “How can he be dead, our witness, our intercessor, our mediator with God? By God, he is not dead; like Moses and Jesus, he is wrapt in a holy trance, and speedily will he return to his faithful people.” The evidence of sense was disregarded; and Omar, unsheathing Edition: current; Page: [83] his scymetar, threatened to strike off the heads of the infidels who should dare to affirm that the prophet was no more. The tumult was appeased by the weight and moderation of Abubeker. “Is it Mahomet,” said he to Omar and the multitude, “or the God of Mahomet, whom you worship? The God of Mahomet liveth for ever, but the apostle was a mortal like ourselves, and, according to his own prediction, he has experienced the common fate of mortality.” He was piously interred by the hands of his nearest kinsman, on the same spot on which he expired;163 Medina has been sanctified by the death and burial of Mahomet; and the innumerable pilgrims of Mecca often turn aside from the way, to bow in voluntary devotion164 before the simple tomb of the prophet.165

At the conclusion of the life of Mahomet, it may perhaps be expected that I should balance his faults and virtues, that I should decide whether the title of enthusiast or impostor more properly belongs to that extraordinary man. Had I been intimately conversant with the son of Abdallah, the task would still be difficult, and the success uncertain: at the Edition: current; Page: [84] distance of twelve centuries, I darkly contemplate his shade through a cloud of religious incense; and, could I truly delineate the portrait of an hour, the fleeting resemblance would not equally apply to the solitary of Mount Hera, to the preacher of Mecca, and to the conqueror of Arabia. The author of a mighty revolution appears to have been endowed with a pious and contemplative disposition: so soon as marriage had raised him above the pressure of want, he avoided the paths of ambition and avarice; and, till the age of forty, he lived with innocence, and would have died without a name. The unity of God is an idea most congenial to nature and reason; and a slight conversation with the Jews and Christians would teach him to despise and detest the idolatry of Mecca. It was the duty of a man and a citizen to impart the doctrine of salvation, to rescue his country from the dominion of sin and error. The energy of a mind incessantly bent on the same object would convert a general obligation into a particular call; the warm suggestings of the understanding or the fancy would be felt as the inspirations of heaven; the labour of thought would expire in rapture and vision; and the inward sensation, the invisible monitor, would be described with the form and attributes of an angel of God.166 From enthusiasm to imposture the step is perilous and slippery; the demon of Socrates167 affords a memorable Edition: current; Page: [85] instance, how a wise man may deceive himself, how a good man may deceive others, how the conscience may slumber in a mixed and middle state between self-illusion and voluntary fraud. Charity may believe that the original motives of Mahomet were those of pure and genuine benevolence; but a human missionary is incapable of cherishing the obstinate unbelievers who reject his claims, despise his arguments, and persecute his life; he might forgive his personal adversaries, he may lawfully hate the enemies of God; the stern passions of pride and revenge were kindled in the bosom of Mahomet, and he sighed, like the prophet of Nineveh, for the destruction of the rebels whom he had condemned. The injustice of Mecca and the choice of Medina transformed the citizen into a prince, the humble preacher into the leader of armies; but his sword was consecrated by the example of the saints; and the same God who afflicts a sinful world with pestilence and earthquakes might inspire for their conversion or chastisement the valour of his servants. In the exercise of political government, he was compelled to abate of the stern rigour of fanaticism, to comply in some measure with the prejudices and passions of his followers, and to employ even the vices of mankind as the instruments of their salvation. The use of fraud and perfidy, of cruelty and injustice, were often subservient to the propagation of the faith; and Mahomet commanded or approved the assassination of the Jews and idolaters who had escaped from the field of battle. By the repetition of such acts, the character of Mahomet must have been gradually stained; and the influence of such pernicious habits would be poorly compensated by the practice of the personal and social virtues which are necessary to maintain the reputation of a prophet among his sectaries and friends. Edition: current; Page: [86] Of his last years, ambition was the ruling passion; and a politician will suspect that he secretly smiled (the victorious impostor!) at the enthusiasm of his youth and the credulity of his proselytes.168 A philosopher will observe that their cruelty and his success would tend more strongly to fortify the assurance of his divine mission, that his interest and religion were inseparably connected, and that his conscience would be soothed by the persuasion that he alone was absolved by the Deity from the obligation of positive and moral laws. If he retained any vestige of his native innocence, the sins of Mahomet may be allowed as an evidence of his sincerity. In the support of truth, the arts of fraud and fiction may be deemed less criminal; and he would have started at the foulness of the means, had he not been satisfied of the importance and justice of the end. Even in a conqueror or a priest, I can surprise a word or action of unaffected humanity; and the decree of Mahomet that, in the sale of captives, the mothers should never be separated from their children may suspend or moderate the censure of the historian.169

The good sense of Mahomet170 despised the pomp of royalty; the apostle of God submitted to the menial offices of the family; he kindled the fire, swept the floor, milked the ewes, and mended with his own hands his shoes and his Edition: current; Page: [87] woollen garment. Disdaining the penance and merit of a hermit, he observed, without effort or vanity, the abstemious diet of an Arab and a soldier. On solemn occasions, he feasted his companions with rustic and hospitable plenty; but in his domestic life many weeks would elapse without a fire being kindled on the hearth of the prophet. The interdiction of wine was confirmed by his example; his hunger was appeased with a sparing allowance of barley bread; he delighted in the taste of milk and honey; but his ordinary food consisted of dates and water. Perfumes and women were the two sensual enjoyments which his nature required and his religion did not forbid; and Mahomet affirmed that the fervour of his devotion was increased by these innocent pleasures. The heat of the climate inflames the blood of the Arabs; and their libidinous complexion has been noticed by the writers of antiquity.171 Their incontinence was regulated by the civil and religious laws of the Koran; their incestuous alliances were blamed; the boundless licence of polygamy was reduced to four legitimate wives or concubines; their rights both of bed and of dowry were equitably determined; the freedom of divorce was discouraged, adultery was condemned as a capital offence, and fornication, in either sex, was punished with an hundred stripes.172 Such were the calm and rational precepts of the legislator; but in his private conduct Mahomet indulged the appetites of a man and abused the claims of a prophet. A special revelation dispensed him from the laws which he had imposed on his nation; the female sex, without reserve, was abandoned to his desires; and this singular prerogative excited the envy, Edition: current; Page: [88] rather than the scandal, the veneration, rather than the envy, of the devout Musulmans. If we remember the seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines of the wise Solomon, we shall applaud the modesty of the Arabian, who espoused no more than seventeen or fifteen wives; eleven are enumerated who occupied at Medina their separate apartments round the house of the apostle, and enjoyed in their turns the favour of his conjugal society. What is singular enough, they were all widows, excepting only Ayesha, the daughter of Abubeker. She was doubtless a virgin, since Mahomet consummated his nuptials (such is the premature ripeness of the climate) when she was only nine years of age. The youth, the beauty, the spirit of Ayesha gave her a superior ascendant; she was beloved and trusted by the prophet; and, after his death, the daughter of Abubeker was long revered as the mother of the faithful. Her behaviour had been ambiguous and indiscreet; in a nocturnal march, she was accidentally left behind; and in the morning Ayesha returned to the camp with a man. The temper of Mahomet was inclined to jealousy; but a divine revelation assured him of her innocence: he chastised her accusers, and published a law of domestic peace that no woman should be condemned unless four male witnesses had seen her in the act of adultery.173 In his adventures with Zeineb, the wife of Zeid, and with Mary, an Egyptian captive,174 the amorous prophet forgot the interest of his reputation. At the house of Zeid, his freedman and adopted son, he beheld, in a loose undress, the beauty of Zeineb, and burst forth into an ejaculation of devotion and desire. The servile or grateful freedman understood the hint, and yielded, without hesitation, to the love of his benefactor. But, as the filial relation had excited some doubt and scandal, the angel Gabriel descended from Edition: current; Page: [89] heaven to ratify the deed, to annual the adoption, and gently to reprove the apostle for distrusting the indulgence of his God. One of his wives, Hafsa,174a the daughter of Omar, surprised him on her own bed in the embraces of his Egyptian captive; she promised secrecy and forgiveness; he swore that he would renounce the possession of Mary. Both parties forgot their engagements; and Gabriel again descended with a chapter of the Koran, to absolve him from his oath, and to exhort him freely to enjoy his captives and concubines without listening to the clamours of his wives. In a solitary retreat of thirty days, he laboured, alone with Mary, to fulfil the commands of the angel. When his love and revenge were satiated, he summoned to his presence his eleven wives, reproached their disobedience and indiscretion, and threatened them with a sentence of divorce both in this world and in the next: a dreadful sentence, since those who had ascended the bed of the prophet were for ever excluded from the hope of a second marriage. Perhaps the incontinence of Mahomet may be palliated by the tradition of his natural or preternatural gifts:175 he united the manly virtue of thirty of the children of Adam; and the apostle might rival the thirteenth labour176 of the Grecian Hercules.177 Edition: current; Page: [90] A more serious and decent excuse may be drawn from his fidelity to Cadijah. During the twenty-four years of their marriage, her youthful husband abstained from the right of polygamy, and the pride or tenderness of the venerable matron was never insulted by the society of a rival. After her death he placed her in the rank of the four perfect women, with the sister of Moses, the mother of Jesus, and Fatima, the best beloved of his daughters. “Was she not old?” said Ayesha, with the insolence of a blooming beauty; “has not God given you a better in her place?” “No, by God,” said Mahomet, with an effusion of honest gratitude, “there never can be a better! she believed in me, when men despised me; she relieved my wants, when I was poor and persecuted by the world.”178

In the largest indulgence of polygamy, the founder of a religion and empire might aspire to multiply the chances of a numerous posterity and a lineal succession. The hopes of Mahomet were fatally disappointed. The virgin Ayesha, and his ten widows of mature age and approved fertility, were barren in his potent embraces. The four sons of Cadijah died in their infancy. Mary, his Egyptian concubine, was endeared to him by the birth of Ibrahim. At the end of fifteen months the prophet wept over his grave; but he sustained with firmness the raillery of his enemies, and checked the adulation or credulity of the Moslems, by the assurance that an eclipse of the sun was not occasioned by the death of the infant. Cadijah had likewise given him four daughters, who were married to the most faithful of his disciples; the three eldest died before their father; but Fatima, who possessed his confidence and love, became the wife of her cousin Ali and the mother of an illustrious progeny. The merit and misfortunes of Ali and his descendants Edition: current; Page: [91] will lead me to anticipate, in this place, the series of the Saracen caliphs, a title which describes the commanders of the faithful as the vicars and successors of the apostle of God.179

The birth, the alliance, the character of Ali, which exalted him above the rest of his countrymen, might justify his claim to the vacant throne of Arabia. The son of Abu Taleb was, in his own right, the chief of the family of Hashem, and the hereditary prince or guardian of the city and temple of Mecca. The light of prophecy was extinct; but the husband of Fatima might expect the inheritance and blessing of her father; the Arabs had sometimes been patient of a female reign; and the two grandsons of the prophet had often been fondled in his lap and shown in his pulpit, as the hope of his age and the chief of the youth of paradise. The first of the true believers might aspire to march before them in this world and in the next; and, if some were of a graver and more rigid cast, the zeal and virtue of Ali were never outstripped by any recent proselyte. He united the qualifications of a poet, a soldier, and a saint; his wisdom still breathes in a collection of moral and religious sayings;180 and every antagonist, in the combats of the tongue or of the sword, was subdued by his eloquence and valour. From the first hour of his mission to the last rites of his funeral, the apostle was never forsaken by a generous friend, whom he delighted to Edition: current; Page: [92] name his brother, his vicegerent, and the faithful Aaron of a second Moses. The son of Abu Taleb was afterwards reproached for neglecting to secure his interest by a solemn declaration of his right, which would have silenced all competition and sealed his succession by the decrees of heaven. But the unsuspecting hero confided in himself; the jealousy of empire, and perhaps the fear of opposition, might suspend the resolutions of Mahomet; and the bed of sickness was besieged by the artful Ayesha, the daughter of Abubeker and the enemy of Ali.

The silence and death of the prophet restored the liberty of the people; and his companions convened an assembly to deliberate on the choice of his successor. The hereditary claim and lofty spirit of Ali were offensive to an aristocracy of elders, desirous of bestowing and resuming the sceptre by a free and frequent election; the Koreish could never be reconciled to the proud pre-eminence of the line of Hashem; the ancient discord of the tribes was rekindled; the fugitives of Mecca and the auxiliaries of Medina asserted their respective merits; and the rash proposal of choosing two independent caliphs would have crushed, in their infancy, the religion and empire of the Saracens. The tumult was appeased by the disinterested resolution of Omar, who, suddenly renouncing his own pretensions, stretched forth his hand, and declared himself the first subject of the mild and venerable Abubeker. The urgency of the moment and the acquiescence of the people might excuse this illegal and precipitate measure; but Omar himself confessed from the pulpit that, if any Musulman should hereafter presume to anticipate the suffrage of his brethren, both the elector and the elected would be worthy of death.181 After the simple inauguration of Edition: current; Page: [93] Abubeker, he was obeyed in Medina, Mecca, and the provinces of Arabia; the Hashemites alone declined the oath of fidelity; and their chief, in his own house, maintained, above six months, a sullen and independent reserve, without listening to the threats of Omar, who attempted to consume with fire the habitation of the daughter of the apostle. The death of Fatima and the decline of his party subdued the indignant spirit of Ali: he condescended to salute the commander of the faithful, accepted his excuse of the necessity of preventing their common enemies, and wisely rejected his courteous offer of abdicating the government of the Arabians. After a reign of two years, the aged caliph was summoned by the angel of death. In his testament, with the tacit approbation of the companions, he bequeathed the sceptre to the firm and intrepid virtue of Omar. “I have no occasion,” said the modest candidate, “for the place.” “But the place has occasion for you,” replied Abubeker; who expired with a fervent prayer that the God of Mahomet would ratify his choice and direct the Musulmans in the way of concord and obedience. The prayer was not ineffectual, since Ali himself, in a life of privacy and prayer, professed to revere the superior worth and dignity of his rival; who comforted him for the loss of empire by the most flattering marks of confidence and esteem. In the twelfth year of his reign, Omar received a mortal wound from the hand of an assassin; he rejected with equal impartiality the names of his son and of Ali, refused to load his conscience with the sins of his successor, and devolved on six of the most respectable companions the arduous task of electing a commander of the faithful. On this occasion Ali was again blamed by his friends182 for submitting Edition: current; Page: [94] his right to the judgment of men, for recognising their jurisdiction by accepting a place among the six electors. He might have obtained their suffrage, had he deigned to promise a strict and servile conformity, not only to the Koran and tradition, but likewise to the determinations of two seniors.183 With these limitations, Othman, the secretary of Mahomet, accepted the government; nor was it till after the third caliph, twenty-four years after the death of the prophet, that Ali was invested, by the popular choice, with the regal and sacerdotal office. The manners of the Arabians retained their primitive simplicity, and the son of Abu Taleb despised the pomp and vanity of this world. At the hour of prayer, he repaired to the mosch of Medina, clothed in a thin cotton gown, a coarse turban on his head, his slippers in one hand, and his bow in the other, instead of a walking staff. The companions of the prophet and the chiefs of the tribes saluted their new sovereign, and gave him their right hands as a sign of fealty and allegiance.

The mischiefs that flow from the contests of ambition are usually confined to the times and countries in which they have been agitated. But the religious discord of the friends and enemies of Ali has been renewed in every age of the Hegira, and is still maintained in the immortal hatred of the Persians and Turks.184 The former, who are branded with the appellation of Shiites or sectaries, have enriched the Mahometan creed with a new article of faith; and, if Mahomet be the Edition: current; Page: [95] apostle, his companion Ali is the vicar, of God. In their private converse, in their public worship, they bitterly execrate the three usurpers who intercepted his indefeasible right to the dignity of Imam and Caliph; and the name of Omar expresses, in their tongue, the perfect accomplishment of wickedness and impiety.185 The Sonnites, who are supported by the general consent and orthodox tradition of the Musulmans, entertain a more impartial, or at least a more decent, opinion. They respect the memory of Abubeker, Omar, Othman, and Ali, the holy and legitimate successors of the prophet. But they assign the last and most humble place to the husband of Fatima, in the persuasion that the order of succession was determined by the degrees of sanctity.186 An historian who balances the four caliphs with a hand unshaken by superstition will calmly pronounce that their manners were alike pure and exemplary; that their zeal was fervent, and probably sincere; and that, in the midst of riches and power, their lives were devoted to the practice of moral and religious duties. But the public virtues of Abubeker and Omar, the prudence of the first, the severity of the second, maintained the peace and prosperity of their reigns. The feeble temper and declining age of Othman were incapable of sustaining the weight of conquest and empire. He chose, and he was deceived; he trusted, and he was betrayed: the most deserving of the faithful became useless or hostile to his government, and his lavish bounty was productive only of ingratitude and discontent. The spirit of discord went forth in the provinces, their deputies assembled at Medina, and the Edition: current; Page: [96] Charegites,187 the desperate fanatics who disclaimed the yoke of subordination and reason, were confounded among the free-born Arabs, who demanded the redress of their wrongs and the punishment of their oppressors. From Cufa, from Bassora, from Egypt,188 from the tribes of the desert, they rose in arms, encamped about a league from Medina, and despatched a haughty mandate to their sovereign, requiring him to execute justice or to descend from the throne. His repentance began to disarm and disperse the insurgents; but their fury was rekindled by the arts of his enemies; and the forgery of a perfidious secretary was contrived to blast his reputation and precipitate his fall.189 The caliph had lost the only guard of his predecessors, the esteem and confidence of the Moslems: during a siege of six weeks his water and provisions were intercepted, and the feeble gates of the palace were protected only by the scruples of the more timorous rebels. Forsaken by those who had abused his simplicity, the helpless and venerable caliph expected the approach of death; the brother of Ayesha marched at the head of the assassins; and Othman, with the Koran in his lap, was pierced with a multitude of wounds. A tumultuous anarchy Edition: current; Page: [97] of five days was appeased by the inauguration of Ali; his refusal would have provoked a general massacre. In this painful situation he supported the becoming pride of the chief of the Hashemites; declared that he had rather serve than reign; rebuked the presumption of the strangers; and required the formal, if not the voluntary, assent of the chiefs of the nation. He has never been accused of prompting the assassin of Omar; though Persia indiscreetly celebrates the festival of that holy martyr. The quarrel between Othman and his subjects was assuaged by the early mediation of Ali; and Hassan, the eldest of his sons, was insulted and wounded in the defence of the caliph. Yet it is doubtful whether the father of Hassan was strenuous and sincere in his opposition to the rebels; and it is certain that he enjoyed the benefit of their crime. The temptation was indeed of such magnitude as might stagger and corrupt the most obdurate virtue. The ambitious candidate no longer aspired to the barren sceptre of Arabia: the Saracens had been victorious in the East and West; and the wealthy kingdoms of Persia, Syria, and Egypt were the patrimony of the commander of the faithful.

A life of prayer and contemplation had not chilled the martial activity of Ali; but in a mature age, after a long experience of mankind, he still betrayed in his conduct the rashness and indiscretion of youth. In the first days of his reign, he neglected to secure, either by gifts or fetters, the doubtful allegiance of Telha and Zobeir, two of the most powerful of the Arabian chiefs. They escaped from Medina to Mecca, and from thence to Bassora; erected the standard of revolt; and usurped the government of Irak, or Assyria, which they had vainly solicited as the reward of their services. The mask of patriotism is allowed to cover the most glaring inconsistencies; and the enemies, perhaps the assassins, of Othman now demanded vengeance for his blood. They were accompanied in their flight by Ayesha, the widow of the prophet, who cherished, to the last hour of her life, an implacable Edition: current; Page: [98] hatred against the husband and the posterity of Fatima. The most reasonable Moslems were scandalised that the mother of the faithful should expose in a camp her person and character; but the superstitious crowd was confident that her presence would sanctify the justice, and assure the success, of their cause. At the head of twenty thousand of his loyal Arabs and nine thousand valiant auxiliaries of Cufa, the caliph encountered and defeated the superior numbers of the rebels under the walls of Bassora. Their leaders, Telha and Zobeir, were slain in the first battle that stained with civil blood the arms of the Moslems. After passing through the ranks to animate the troops, Ayesha had chosen her post amidst the dangers of the field. In the heat of the action, seventy men who held the bridle of her camel were successively killed or wounded; and the cage or litter in which she sat was stuck with javelins and darts like the quills of a porcupine. The venerable captive sustained with firmness the reproaches of the conqueror, and was speedily dismissed to her proper station, at the tomb of Mahomet, with the respect and tenderness that was still due to the widow of the apostle. After this victory, which was styled the Day of the Camel, Ali marched against a more formidable adversary: against Moawiyah, the son of Abu Sophian, who had assumed the title of caliph, and whose claim was supported by the forces of Syria and the interest of the house of the Ommiyah. From the passage of Thapsacus, the plain of Siffin190 extends along the western bank of the Euphrates. On this spacious and level theatre, the two competitors waged a desultory war of one hundred and ten days. In the course of ninety actions or skirmishes, the loss of Ali was estimated at twenty-five, that of Moawiyah at forty-five, thousand soldiers; and the list of the slain was dignified with the names of five and twenty veterans who had fought at Beder Edition: current; Page: [99] under the standard of Mahomet. In this sanguinary contest, the lawful caliph displayed a superior character of valour and humanity. His troops were strictly enjoined to await the first onset of the enemy, to spare their flying brethren, and to respect the bodies of the dead and the chastity of the female captives. He generously proposed to save the blood of the Moslems by a single combat; but his trembling rival declined the challenge as a sentence of inevitable death. The ranks of the Syrians were broken by the charge of a hero who was mounted on a piebald horse, and wielded with irresistible force his ponderous and two-edged sword. As often as he smote a rebel, he shouted the Allah Acbar, “God is victorious;” and in the tumult of a nocturnal battle he was heard to repeat four hundred times that tremendous exclamation. The prince of Damascus already meditated his flight, but the certain victory was snatched from the grasp of Ali by the disobedience and enthusiasm of his troops. Their conscience was awed by the solemn appeal to the books of the Koran which Moawiyah exposed on the foremost lances; and Ali was compelled to yield to a disgraceful truce and an insidious compromise. He retreated with sorrow and indignation to Cufa; his party was discouraged; the distant provinces of Persia,190a of Yemen, and of Egypt were subdued or seduced by his crafty rival; and the stroke of fanaticism which was aimed against the three chiefs of the nation was fatal only to the cousin of Mahomet. In the temple of Mecca, three Charegites or enthusiasts discoursed of the disorders of the church and state: they soon agreed that the deaths of Ali, of Moawiyah, and of his friend Amrou, the viceroy of Egypt, would restore the peace and unity of religion. Each of the assassins chose his victim, poisoned his dagger, devoted his life, and secretly repaired to the scene of action. Their resolution was equally desperate; but the first mistook the person of Amrou and stabbed the deputy Edition: current; Page: [100] who occupied his seat; the prince of Damascus was dangerously hurt by the second; the lawful caliph in the mosch of Cufa received a mortal wound from the hand of the third. He expired in the sixty-third year of his age, and mercifully recommended to his children that they would despatch the murderer by a single stroke. The sepulchre of Ali191 was concealed from the tyrants of the house of Ommiyah;192 but, in the fourth age of the Hegira, a tomb, a temple, a city, arose near the ruins of Cufa.193 Many thousands of the Shiites repose in holy ground at the feet of the vicar of God; and the desert is vivified by the numerous and annual visits of the Persians, who esteem their devotion not less meritorious than the pilgrimage of Mecca.

The persecutors of Mahomet usurped the inheritance of his children; and the champions of idolatry became the supreme heads of his religion and empire. The opposition of Abu Sophian had been fierce and obstinate; his conversion was tardy and reluctant; his new faith was fortified by necessity and interest; he served, he fought, perhaps he believed; and the sins of the time of ignorance were expiated by the recent merits of the family of Ommiyah. Moawiyah, the son of Abu Sophian and of the cruel Henda, was dignified in his early youth with the office or title of secretary of the prophet; the judgment of Omar entrusted him with the Edition: current; Page: [101] government of Syria; and he administered that important province about forty years either in a subordinate or supreme rank. Without renouncing the fame of valour and liberality, he affected the reputation of humanity and moderation; a grateful people was attached to their benefactor; and the victorious Moslems were enriched with the spoils of Cyprus and Rhodes. The sacred duty of pursuing the assassins of Othman was the engine and pretence of his ambition. The bloody shirt of the martyr was exposed in the mosch of Damascus; the emir deplored the fate of his injured kinsman; and sixty thousand Syrians were engaged in his service by an oath of fidelity and revenge. Amrou, the conqueror of Egypt, himself an army, was the first who saluted the new monarch, and divulged the dangerous secret that the Arabian caliphs might be created elsewhere than in the city of the prophet.194 The policy of Moawiyah eluded the valour of his rival; and, after the death of Ali, he negotiated the abdication of his son Hassan, whose mind was either above or below the government of the world, and who retired without a sigh from the palace of Cufa to an humble cell near the tomb of his grandfather. The aspiring wishes of the caliph were finally crowned by the important change of an elective to an hereditary kingdom. Some murmurs of freedom or fanaticism attested the reluctance of the Arabs, and four citizens of Medina refused the oath of fidelity; but the designs of Moawiyah were conducted with vigour and address; and his son Yezid, a feeble and dissolute youth, was proclaimed as the commander of the faithful and the successor of the apostle of God.

A familiar story is related of the benevolence of one of the sons of Ali. In serving at table, a slave had inadvertently dropt a dish of scalding broth on his master; the heedless Edition: current; Page: [102] wretch fell prostrate, to deprecate his punishment, and repeated a verse of the Koran: “Paradise is for those who command their anger:” — “I am not angry:” — “and for those who pardon offences:” — “I pardon your offence:” — “and for those who return good for evil:” — “I give you your liberty, and four hundred pieces of silver.” With an equal measure of piety, Hosein, the younger brother of Hassan, inherited a remnant of his father’s spirit, and served with honour against the Christians in the siege of Constantinople. The primogeniture of the line of Hashem and the holy character of grandson of the apostle had centred in his person, and he was at liberty to prosecute his claim against Yezid the tyrant of Damascus, whose vices he despised, and whose title he had never deigned to acknowledge. A list was secretly transmitted from Cufa to Medina of one hundred and forty thousand Moslems, who professed their attachment to his cause, and who were eager to draw their swords so soon as he should appear on the banks of the Euphrates. Against the advice of his wisest friends, he resolved to trust his person and family in the hands of a perfidious people. He traversed the desert of Arabia with a timorous retinue of women and children; but, as he approached the confines of Irak, he was alarmed by the solitary or hostile face of the country, and suspected either the defection or ruin of his party. His fears were just: Obeidollah, the governor of Cufa, had extinguished the first sparks of an insurrection; and Hosein, in the plain of Kerbela,195 was encompassed by a body of five thousand horse, who intercepted his communication with the city and the river. He might still have escaped to a fortress in the desert that had defied the power of Cæsar and Chosroes, and confided in the fidelity of the tribe of Tai, which would have armed ten thousand warriors in his defence. In a conference with the chief of the enemy, he proposed the option of three honourable conditions: that he Edition: current; Page: [103] should be allowed to return to Medina, or be stationed in a frontier garrison against the Turks, or safely conducted to the presence of Yezid. But the commands of the caliph, or his lieutenant, were stern and absolute; and Hosein was informed that he must either submit as a captive and a criminal to the commander of the faithful or expect the consequences of his rebellion. “Do you think,” replied he, “to terrify me with death?” And, during the short respite of a night, he prepared with calm and solemn resignation to encounter his fate. He checked the lamentations of his sister Fatima, who deplored the impending ruin of his house. “Our trust,” said Hosein, “is in God alone. All things, both in heaven and earth, must perish and return to their Creator. My brother, my father, my mother, were better than me; and every Musulman has an example in the prophet.” He pressed his friends to consult their safety by a timely flight: they unanimously refused to desert or survive their beloved master; and their courage was fortified by a fervent prayer and the assurance of paradise. On the morning of the fatal day, he mounted on horseback, with his sword in one hand and the Koran in the other; his generous band of martyrs consisted only of thirty-two horse and forty foot; but their flanks and rear were secured by the tent-ropes, and by a deep trench which they had filled with lighted faggots, according to the practice of the Arabs. The enemy advanced with reluctance; and one of their chiefs deserted, with thirty followers, to claim the partnership of inevitable death. In every close onset or single combat, the despair of the Fatimites was invincible; but the surrounding multitudes galled them from a distance with a cloud of arrows, and the horses and men were successively slain: a truce was allowed on both sides for the hour of prayer; and the battle at length expired by the death of the last of the companions of Hosein. Alone, weary and wounded, he seated himself at the door of his tent. As he tasted a drop of water, he was pierced in the mouth with a dart; and his son and nephew, two beautiful Edition: current; Page: [104] youths, were killed in his arms. He lifted his hands to heaven, they were full of blood, and he uttered a funeral prayer for the living and the dead. In a transport of despair his sister issued from the tent, and adjured the general of the Cufians that he would not suffer Hosein to be murdered before his eyes: a tear trickled down his venerable beard; and the boldest of his soldiers fell back on every side as the dying hero threw himself among them. The remorseless Shamer, a name detested by the faithful, reproached their cowardice; and the grandson of Mahomet was slain with three and thirty strokes of lances and swords. After they had trampled on his body, they carried his head to the castle of Cufa, and the inhuman Obeidollah struck him on the mouth with a cane: “Alas!” exclaimed an aged Musulman, “on these lips have I seen the lips of the apostle of God!” In a distant age and climate the tragic scene of the death of Hosein will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader.196 On the annual festival of his martyrdom, in the devout pilgrimage to his sepulchre, his Persian votaries abandon their souls to the religious frenzy of sorrow and indignation.197

When the sisters and children of Ali were brought in chains to the throne of Damascus, the caliph was advised to extirpate the enmity of a popular and hostile race, whom he had injured beyond the hope of reconciliation. But Yezid preferred the counsels of mercy; and the mourning family was honourably dismissed to mingle their tears with their kindred Edition: current; Page: [105] at Medina. The glory of martyrdom superseded the right of primogeniture; and the twelve imams,198 or pontiffs, of the Persian creed are Ali, Hassan, Hosein, and the lineal descendants of Hosein to the ninth generation. Without arms or treasures or subjects, they successively enjoyed the veneration of the people and provoked the jealousy of the reigning caliphs; their tombs at Mecca or Medina, on the banks of the Euphrates or in the province of Chorasan, are still visited by the devotion of their sect. Their names were often the pretence of sedition and civil war; but these royal saints despised the pomp of the world, submitted to the will of God and the injustice of man, and devoted their innocent lives to the study and practice of religion. The twelfth and last of the Imams, conspicuous by the title of Mahadi or the Guide, surpassed the solitude and sanctity of his predecessors. He concealed himself in a cavern near Bagdad; the time and place of his death are unknown; and his votaries pretend that he still lives and will appear before the day of judgment to overthrow the tyranny of Dejal or the Antichrist.199 In the lapse of two or three centuries the posterity of Abbas, the uncle of Mahomet, had multiplied to the number of thirty-three thousand;200 the race of Ali might be equally prolific; the meanest individual was above the first and greatest of princes; and the most eminent were supposed to excel the perfection of angels. But their adverse fortune and the wide extent of the Musulman empire allowed an ample scope for every bold and artful impostor who claimed affinity with the holy seed; the sceptre of the Almohades in Spain Edition: current; Page: [106] and Afric, of the Fatimites in Egypt and Syria,201 of the Sultans of Yemen and of the Sophis of Persia,202 has been consecrated by this vague and ambiguous title. Under their reigns it might be dangerous to dispute the legitimacy of their birth; and one of the Fatimite caliphs silenced an indiscreet question by drawing his scymetar: “This,” said Moez, “is my pedigree; and these,” casting an handful of gold to his soldiers, “and these are my kindred and my children.” In the various conditions of princes, or doctors, or nobles, or merchants, or beggars, a swarm of the genuine or fictitious descendants of Mahomet and Ali is honoured with the appellation of sheiks, or sherifs, or emirs. In the Ottoman empire, they are distinguished by a green turban, receive a stipend from the treasury, are judged only by their chief, and, however debased by fortune or character, still assert the proud pre-eminence of their birth. A family of three hundred persons, the pure and orthodox branch of the caliph Hassan, is preserved without taint or suspicion in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and still retains, after the revolutions of twelve centuries, the custody of the temple and the sovereignty of their native land. The fame and merit of Mahomet would ennoble a plebeian race, and the ancient Edition: current; Page: [107] blood of the Koreish transcends the recent majesty of the kings of the earth.203

The talents of Mahomet are entitled to our applause, but his success has perhaps too strongly attracted our admiration. Are we surprised that a multitude of proselytes should embrace the doctrine and the passions of an eloquent fanatic? In the heresies of the church, the same seduction has been tried and repeated from the time of the apostles to that of the reformers. Does it seem incredible that a private citizen should grasp the sword and the sceptre, subdue his native country, and erect a monarchy by his victorious arms? In the moving picture of the dynasties of the East, an hundred fortunate usurpers have arisen from a baser origin, surmounted more formidable obstacles, and filled a larger scope of empire and conquest. Mahomet was alike instructed to preach and to fight, and the union of these opposite qualities, while it enhanced his merit, contributed to his success: the operation of force and persuasion, of enthusiasm and fear, continually acted on each other, till every barrier yielded to their irresistible power. His voice invited the Arabs to freedom and victory, to arms and rapine, to the indulgence of their darling passions in this world and the other; the restraints which he imposed were requisite to establish the credit of the prophet and to exercise the obedience of the people; and the only objection to his success was his rational creed of the unity and perfections of God. It is not the propagation but the permanency of his religion that deserves our wonder: the same pure and perfect impression which he engraved at Mecca and Medina is preserved, after the revolutions of twelve centuries, by the Indian, the African, and the Turkish proselytes of the Koran. If the Christian Edition: current; Page: [108] apostles, St. Peter or St. Paul, could return to the Vatican, they might possibly inquire the name of the Deity who is worshipped with such mysterious rites in that magnificent temple: at Oxford or Geneva, they would experience less surprise; but it might still be incumbent on them to peruse the catechism of the church, and to study the orthodox commentators on their own writings and the words of their Master. But the Turkish dome of St. Sophia, with an increase of splendour and size, represents the humble tabernacle erected at Medina by the hands of Mahomet. The Mahometans have uniformly withstood the temptation of reducing the object of their faith and devotion to a level with the senses and imagination of man. “I believe in one God, and Mahomet the apostle of God,” is the simple and invariable profession of Islam. The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol; the honours of the prophet have never transgressed the measure of human virtue; and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion. The votaries of Ali have indeed consecrated the memory of their hero, his wife, and his children; and some of the Persian doctors pretend that the divine essence was incarnate in the person of the Imams; but their superstition is universally condemned by the Sonnites; and their impiety has afforded a seasonable warning against the worship of saints and martyrs. The metaphysical questions on the attributes of God and the liberty of man have been agitated in the schools of the Mahometans as well as in those of the Christians; but among the former they have never engaged the passions of the people or disturbed the tranquillity of the state. The cause of this important difference may be found in the separation or union of the regal and sacerdotal characters. It was the interest of the caliphs, the successors of the prophet and commanders of the faithful, to repress and discourage all religious innovations: the order, the discipline, the temporal and spiritual ambition of the clergy Edition: current; Page: [109] are unknown to the Moslems; and the sages of the law are the guides of their conscience and the oracles of their faith. From the Atlantic to the Ganges, the Koran is acknowledged as the fundamental code, not only of theology but of civil and criminal jurisprudence; and the laws which regulate the actions and the property of mankind are guarded by the infallible and immutable sanction of the will of God. This religious servitude is attended with some practical disadvantage; the illiterate legislator had been often misled by his own prejudices and those of his country; and the institutions of the Arabian desert may be ill adapted to the wealth and numbers of Ispahan and Constantinople. On these occasions, the Cadhi respectfully places on his head the holy volume, and substitutes a dexterous interpretation, more apposite to the principles of equity and the manners and policy of the times.

His beneficial or pernicious influence on the public happiness is the last consideration in the character of Mahomet. The most bitter or most bigoted of his Christian or Jewish foes will surely allow that he assumed a false commission to inculcate a salutary doctrine, less perfect only than their own. He piously supposed, as the basis of his religion, the truth and sanctity of their prior revelations, the virtues and miracles of their founders. The idols of Arabia were broken before the throne of God; the blood of human victims was expiated by prayer and fasting and alms, the laudable or innocent arts of devotion; and his rewards and punishments of a future life were painted by the images most congenial to an ignorant and carnal generation. Mahomet was perhaps incapable of dictating a moral and political system for the use of his countrymen; but he breathed among the faithful a spirit of charity and friendship, recommended the practice of the social virtues, and checked, by his laws and precepts, the thirst of revenge and the oppression of widows and orphans. The hostile tribes were united in faith and obedience, and the valour which had been idly spent in domestic Edition: current; Page: [110] quarrels was vigorously directed against a foreign enemy. Had the impulse been less powerful, Arabia, free at home and formidable abroad, might have flourished under a succession of her native monarchs. Her sovereignty was lost by the extent and rapidity of conquest. The colonies of the nation were scattered over the East and West, and their blood was mingled with the blood of their converts and captives. After the reign of three caliphs the throne was transported from Medina to the valley of Damascus and the banks of the Tigris; the holy cities were violated by impious war; Arabia was ruled by the rod of a subject, perhaps of a stranger; and the Bedoweens of the desert, awakening from their dream of dominion, resumed their old and solitary independence.204

Edition: current; Page: [111]


The Conquest of Persia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain, by the Arabs or Saracens — Empire of the Caliphs, or Successors of Mahomet — State of the Christians, &c. under their Government

The revolution of Arabia had not changed the character of the Arabs: the death of Mahomet was the signal of independence; and the hasty structure of his power and religion tottered to its foundations. A small and faithful band of his primitive disciples had listened to his eloquence and shared his distress; had fled with the apostle from the persecution of Mecca or had received the fugitive in the walls of Medina. The increasing myriads, who acknowledged Mahomet as their king and prophet, had been compelled by his arms or allured by his prosperity. The polytheists were confounded by the simple idea of a solitary and invisible God; the pride of the Christians and Jews disdained the yoke of a mortal and contemporary legislator. Their habits of faith and obedience were not sufficiently confirmed; and many of the new converts regretted the venerable antiquity of the law of Moses, or the rites and mysteries of the Catholic church, or the idols, the sacrifices, the joyous festivals, of their pagan ancestors. The jarring interests and hereditary feuds of the Arabian tribes had not yet coalesced in a system of union and subordination; and the Barbarians were impatient of the mildest and most salutary laws that curbed their passions or violated their customs. They submitted with reluctance to the religious precepts of the Koran, the abstinence from wine, the fast of the Ramadan, and the daily repetition of five prayers; and the alms and tithes, which were collected for the Edition: current; Page: [112] treasury of Medina, could be distinguished only by a name from the payment of a perpetual and ignominious tribute. The example of Mahomet had excited a spirit of fanaticism or imposture, and several of his rivals presumed to imitate the conduct and defy the authority of the living prophet. At the head of the fugitives and auxiliaries, the first caliph was reduced to the cities of Mecca, Medina, and Tayef; and perhaps the Koreish would have restored the idols of the Caaba, if their levity had not been checked by a seasonable reproof. “Ye men of Mecca, will ye be the last to embrace and the first to abandon the religion of Islam?” After exhorting the Moslems to confide in the aid of God and his apostle, Abubeker resolved, by a vigorous attack, to prevent the junction of the rebels. The women and children were safely lodged in the cavities of the mountains: the warriors, marching under eleven banners, diffused the terror of their arms; and the appearance of a military force revived and confirmed the loyalty of the faithful. The inconstant tribes accepted, with humble repentance, the duties of prayer and fasting and alms; and, after some examples of success and severity, the most daring apostates fell prostrate before the sword of the Lord and of Caled. In the fertile province of Yemannah,1 between the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Persia, in a city not inferior to Medina itself, a powerful chief, his name was Moseilama, had assumed the character of a prophet, and the tribe of Hanifa listened to his voice. A female prophetess was attracted by his reputation: the decencies of words and actions were spurned by these favourites of heaven,2 Edition: current; Page: [113] and they employed several days in mystic and amorous converse. An obscure sentence of his Koran, or book, is yet extant;3 and, in the pride of his mission, Moseilama condescended to offer a partition of the earth. The proposal was answered by Mahomet with contempt; but the rapid progress of the impostor awakened the fears of his successor: forty thousand Moslems were assembled under the standard of Caled; and the existence of their faith was resigned to the event of a decisive battle. In the first action they were repulsed with the loss of twelve hundred men; but the skill and perseverance of their general prevailed: their defeat was avenged by the slaughter of ten thousand infidels; and Moseilama himself was pierced by an Ethiopian slave with the same javelin which had mortally wounded the uncle of Mahomet. The various rebels of Arabia, without a chief or a cause, were speedily suppressed by the power and discipline of the rising monarchy; and the whole nation again professed, and more steadfastly held, the religion of the Koran. The ambition of the caliphs provided an immediate exercise for the restless spirit of the Saracens; their valour was united in the prosecution of an holy war; and their enthusiasm was equally confirmed by opposition and victory.

Edition: current; Page: [114]

From the rapid conquests of the Saracens, a presumption will naturally arise that the first caliphs commanded in person the armies of the faithful, and sought the crown of martyrdom in the foremost ranks of the battle. The courage of Abubeker,4 Omar,5 and Othman6 had indeed been tried in the persecution and wars of the prophet; and the personal assurance of paradise must have taught them to despise the pleasures and dangers of the present world. But they ascended the throne in a venerable or mature age, and esteemed the domestic cares of religion and justice the most important duties of a sovereign. Except the presence of Omar at the siege of Jerusalem, the longest expeditions were the frequent pilgrimages from Medina to Mecca; and they calmly received the tidings of victory as they prayed or preached before the sepulchre of the prophet. The austere and frugal measure of their lives was the effect of virtue or habit, and the pride of their simplicity insulted the vain magnificence of the kings of the earth. When Abubeker assumed the office of caliph, he enjoined his daughter Ayesha to take a strict account of his private patrimony, that it might be evident whether he were enriched or impoverished by the service of the state. He thought himself entitled to a stipend of three pieces of gold, with the sufficient maintenance of a single camel and a black slave; but on the Friday of each week he distributed the residue of his own and the public money, first to the most worthy, and then to the most indigent, of the Moslems. The remains of his wealth, a coarse garment and five pieces of gold, were delivered to his successor, who lamented with a modest sigh his own inability to equal such an admirable model. Yet the abstinence and humility of Omar were not Edition: current; Page: [115] inferior to the virtues of Abubeker: his food consisted of barley-bread or dates; his drink was water; he preached in a gown that was torn or tattered in twelve places; and a Persian satrap, who paid his homage to the conqueror, found him asleep among the beggars on the steps of the mosch of Medina. Economy is the source of liberality, and the increase of the revenue enabled Omar to establish a just and perpetual reward for the past and present services of the faithful. Careless of his own emolument, he assigned to Abbas, the uncle of the prophet, the first and most ample allowance of twenty-five thousand drachms or pieces of silver. Five thousand were allotted to each of the aged warriors, the relics of the field of Beder, and the last and meanest of the companions of Mahomet was distinguished by the annual reward of three thousand pieces. One thousand was the stipend of the veterans who had fought in the first battles against the Greeks and Persians, and the decreasing pay, as low as fifty pieces of silver, was adapted to the respective merit and seniority of the soldiers of Omar. Under his reign and that of his predecessor, the conquerors of the East were the trusty servants of God and the people; the mass of the public treasure was consecrated to the expenses of peace and war; a prudent mixture of justice and bounty maintained the discipline of the Saracens, and they united, by a rare felicity, the despatch and execution of despotism with the equal and frugal maxims of a republican government. The heroic courage of Ali,7 the consummate prudence of Moawiyah,8 excited the emulation of their subjects; and the talents which had been exercised in the schools of civil discord were more usefully applied to propagate the faith and dominion of the prophet. In the sloth and vanity of the palace of Damascus, the succeeding princes of the house of Edition: current; Page: [116] Ommiyah were alike destitute of the qualifications of statesmen and of saints.9 Yet the spoils of unknown nations were continually laid at the foot of their throne, and the uniform ascent of the Arabian greatness must be ascribed to the spirit of the nation rather than the abilities of their chiefs. A large deduction must be allowed for the weakness of their enemies. The birth of Mahomet was fortunately placed in the most degenerate and disorderly period of the Persians, the Romans, and the Barbarians of Europe: the empires of Trajan, or even of Constantine or Charlemagne, would have repelled the assault of the naked Saracens, and the torrent of fanaticism might have been obscurely lost in the sands of Arabia.

In the victorious days of the Roman republic, it had been the aim of the senate to confine their counsels and legions to a single war, and completely to suppress a first enemy before they provoked the hostilities of a second. These timid maxims of policy were disdained by the magnanimity or enthusiasm of the Arabian caliphs. With the same vigour and success they invaded the successors of Augustus and those of Artaxerxes; and the rival monarchies at the same instant became the prey of an enemy whom they had been so long accustomed to despise. In the ten years of the administration of Omar, the Saracens reduced to his obedience thirty-six thousand cities or castles, destroyed four thousand churches or temples of the unbelievers, and edified fourteen hundred moschs for the exercise of the religion of Mahomet. One hundred years after his flight from Mecca, the arms and the reign of his successors extended from India to the Atlantic Ocean, over the various and distant provinces, Edition: current; Page: [117] which may be comprised under the names of I. Persia; II. Syria; III. Egypt; IV. Africa; and V. Spain. Under this general division, I shall proceed to unfold these memorable transactions; despatching, with brevity, the remote and less interesting conquests of the East, and reserving a fuller narrative for those domestic countries which had been included within the pale of the Roman empire. Yet I must excuse my own defects by a just complaint of the blindness and insufficiency of my guides. The Greeks, so loquacious in controversy, have not been anxious to celebrate the triumphs of their enemies.10 After a century of ignorance, the first annals of the Musulmans were collected in a great measure from the voice of tradition.11 Among the numerous productions of Arabic and Persian literature,12 our interpreters Edition: current; Page: [118] have selected the imperfect sketches of a more recent age.13 The art and genius of history have ever been unknown to the Asiatics;14 they are ignorant of the laws of criticism; and our monkish chronicles of the same period may be compared to their most popular works, which are never vivified by the spirit of philosophy and freedom. The Oriental library of a Frenchman15 would instruct the most learned mufti of the East; and perhaps the Arabs might not find in a single historian so clear and comprehensive a narrative of their own exploits, as that which will be deduced in the ensuing sheets.

Edition: current; Page: [119]

I. In the first year of the first caliph, his lieutenant Caled, the sword of God and the scourge of the infidels, advanced to the banks of the Euphrates, and reduced the cities of Anbar and Hira. Westward of the ruins of Babylon, a tribe of sedentary Arabs had fixed themselves on the verge of the desert; and Hira was the seat of a race of kings who had embraced the Christian religion and reigned above six hundred years under the shadow of the throne of Persia.16 The last of the Mondars was defeated and slain by Caled; his son was sent a captive to Medina; his nobles bowed before the successor of the prophet; the people was tempted by the example and success of their countrymen; and the caliph accepted as the first fruits of foreign conquest an annual tribute of seventy thousand pieces of gold.17 The conquerors, and even their historians, were astonished by the dawn of their future greatness: “In the same year,” says Elmacin, “Caled fought many signal battles; an immense multitude of infidels was slaughtered; and spoils, infinite and innumerable, were acquired by the victorious Moslems.”18 But the invincible Caled was soon transferred to the Syrian war; the invasion of the Persian frontier was conducted by less active, or less prudent, commanders; the Saracens were repulsed with loss in the passage of the Euphrates; and, though they chastised the insolent pursuit of the Magians, Edition: current; Page: [120] their remaining forces still hovered in the desert of Babylon.

The indignation and fears of the Persians suspended for a moment their intestine divisions. By the unanimous sentence of the priests and nobles, their queen Arzema was deposed: the sixth of the transient usurpers who had arisen and vanished in three or four years since the death of Chosroes and the retreat of Heraclius. Her tiara was placed on the head of Yezdegerd, the grandson of Chosroes; and the same era, which coincides with an astronomical period,19 has recorded the fall of the Sassanian dynasty and the religion of Zoroaster.20 The youth and inexperience of the prince, he was only fifteen years of age, declined a perilous encounter; the royal standard was delivered into the hands of his general Rustam; and a remnant of thirty thousand regular troops was swelled in truth, or in opinion, to one hundred and twenty thousand subjects, or allies, of the Great King. The Moslems, whose numbers were reinforced from twelve to thirty thousand, had pitched their camp in the plains of Edition: current; Page: [121] Cadesia;21 and their line, though it consisted of fewer men, could produce more soldiers than the unwieldy host of the infidels. I shall here observe what I must often repeat, that the charge of the Arabs was not like that of the Greeks and Romans, the effort of a firm and compact infantry: their military force was chiefly formed of cavalry and archers; and the engagement, which was often interrupted and often renewed by single combats and flying skirmishes, might be protracted without any decisive event to the continuance of several days. The periods of the battle of Cadesia were distinguished by their peculiar appellations. The first, from the well-timed appearance of six thousand of the Syrian brethren, was denominated the day of succour.22 The day of concussion might express the disorder of one, or perhaps of both, of the contending armies. The third, a nocturnal tumult, received the whimsical name of the night of barking, from the discordant clamours which were compared to the inarticulate sounds of the fiercest animals. The morning of the succeeding day determined the fate of Persia; and a seasonable whirlwind drove a cloud of dust against the faces of the unbelievers. The clangour of arms was re-echoed to the tent of Rustam, who, far unlike the ancient hero of his name, was gently reclining in a cool and tranquil shade, amidst the baggage of his camp and the train of mules that were laden with gold and silver. On the sound of danger he started from his couch; but his flight was overtaken by a valiant Arab, who caught him by the foot, struck off his head, hoisted it on a lance, and, instantly returning to the field of battle, carried slaughter and dismay among the Edition: current; Page: [122] thickest ranks of the Persians.23 The Saracens confess a loss of seven thousand five hundred men; and the battle of Cadesia is justly described by the epithets of obstinate and atrocious.24 The standard of the monarchy was overthrown and captured in the field — a leathern apron of a blacksmith, who, in ancient times, had arisen the deliverer of Persia; but this badge of heroic poverty was disguised and almost concealed by a profusion of precious gems.25 After this victory, the wealthy province of Irak26 or Assyria submitted to the caliph, and his conquests were firmly established by the speedy foundation of Bassora,27 a place which ever commands Edition: current; Page: [123] the trade and navigation of the Persians. At the distance of fourscore miles from the Gulf, the Euphrates and Tigris unite in a broad and direct current, which is aptly styled the river of the Arabs. In the midway, between the junction and the mouth of these famous streams, the new settlement was planted on the western bank; the first colony was composed of eight hundred Moslems; but the influence of the situation soon reared a flourishing and populous capital. The air, though excessively hot, is pure and healthy; the meadows are filled with palm-trees and cattle; and one of the adjacent valleys has been celebrated among the four paradises or gardens of Asia. Under the first caliphs, the jurisdiction of this Arabian colony extended over the southern provinces of Persia; the city has been sanctified by the tombs of the companions and martyrs; and the vessels of Europe still frequent the port of Bassora, as a convenient station and passage of the Indian trade.

After the defeat of Cadesia, a country intersected by rivers and canals might have opposed an insuperable barrier to the victorious cavalry; and the walls of Ctesiphon or Madayn, which had resisted the battering-rams of the Romans, would not have yielded to the darts of the Saracens. But the flying Persians were overcome by the belief that the last day of their religion and empire was at hand; the strongest posts were abandoned by treachery or cowardice; and the king, with a part of his family and treasures, escaped to Holwan at the foot of the Median hills. In the third month after the battle,28 Said, the lieutenant of Omar, passed the Tigris Edition: current; Page: [124] without opposition; the capital was taken by assault; and the disorderly resistance of the people gave a keener edge to the sabres of the Moslems, who shouted with religious transport, “This is the white palace of Chosroes, this is the promise of the apostle of God!” The naked robbers of the desert were suddenly enriched beyond the measure of their hope or knowledge. Each chamber revealed a new treasure, secreted with art or ostentatiously displayed; the gold and silver, the various wardrobes and precious furniture, surpassed (says Abulfeda) the estimate of fancy or numbers; and another historian defines the untold and almost infinite mass by the fabulous computation of three thousands of thousands of thousands of pieces of gold.29 Some minute though curious facts represent the contrast of riches and ignorance. From the remote islands of the Indian Ocean, a large provision of camphire30 had been imported, which is employed with a mixture of wax to illuminate the palaces of the East. Strangers to the name and properties of that odoriferous gum, the Saracens, mistaking it for salt, mingled the camphire in their bread and were astonished at the bitterness of the taste. One of the apartments of the palace was decorated with a carpet of silk, sixty cubits in length and as many in breadth; a paradise or garden was depictured on the ground; the flowers, fruits, and shrubs were imitated by the figures of the gold embroidery and the colours of the precious stones; and the ample square was encircled by Edition: current; Page: [125] a variegated and verdant border. The Arabian general persuaded his soldiers to relinquish their claim in the reasonable hope that the eyes of the caliph would be delighted with the splendid workmanship of nature and industry. Regardless of the merit of art and the pomp of royalty, the rigid Omar divided the prize among his brethren of Medina; the picture was destroyed; but such was the intrinsic value of the materials that the share of Ali alone was sold for twenty thousand drachms. A mule that carried away the tiara and cuirass, the belt and bracelets of Chosroes, was overtaken by the pursuers; the gorgeous trophy was presented to the commander of the faithful; and the gravest of the companions condescended to smile when they beheld the white beard, hairy arms, and uncouth figure of the veteran, who was invested with the spoils of the Great King.31 The sack of Ctesiphon was followed by its desertion and gradual decay. The Saracens disliked the air and situation of the place; and Omar was advised by his general to remove the seat of government to the western side of the Euphrates. In every age, the foundation and ruin of the Assyrian cities has been easy and rapid; the country is destitute of stone and timber, and the most solid structures32 are composed of bricks baked in the sun and joined by a cement of the native bitumen. The name of Cufa33 describes an habitation of reeds and earth; but the importance of the new capital was supported by the numbers, wealth, and spirit of a colony of veterans; and their licentiousness was indulged by the wisest caliphs, who Edition: current; Page: [126] were apprehensive of provoking the revolt of an hundred thousand swords: “Ye men of Cufa,” said Ali, who solicited their aid, “you have been always conspicuous by your valour. You conquered the Persian king and scattered his forces, till you had taken possession of his inheritance.” This mighty conquest was achieved by the battles of Jalula and Nehavend. After the loss of the former, Yezdegerd fled from Holwan, and concealed his shame and despair in the mountains of Farsistan, from whence Cyrus had descended with his equal and valiant companions. The courage of the nation survived that of the monarch; among the hills to the south of Ecbatana or Hamadan, one hundred and fifty thousand Persians made a third and final stand for their religion and country; and the decisive battle of Nehavend was styled by the Arabs the victory of victories. If it be true that the flying general of the Persians was stopped and overtaken in a crowd of mules and camels laden with honey, the incident, however slight or singular, will denote the luxurious impediments of an Oriental army.34

Edition: current; Page: [127]

The geography of Persia is darkly delineated by the Greeks and Latins; but the most illustrious of her cities appear to be more ancient than the invasion of the Arabs. By the reduction of Hamadan and Ispahan, of Caswin, Tauris, and Rei, they gradually approached the shores of the Caspian Sea; and the orators of Mecca might applaud the success and spirit of the faithful, who had already lost sight of the northern bear, and had almost transcended the bounds of the habitable world.35 Again turning towards the west and the Roman empire, they repassed the Tigris over the bridge of Mosul, and, in the captive provinces of Armenia and Mesopotamia, embraced their victorious brethren of the Syrian army. From the palace of Madayn their eastern progress was not less rapid or extensive. They advanced along the Tigris and the Gulf; penetrated through the passes of the mountains into the valley of Estachar or Persepolis; and profaned the last sanctuary of the Magian empire. The grandson of Chosroes was nearly surprised among the falling columns and mutilated figures, — a sad emblem of the past and present fortune of Persia:36 he fled with accelerated haste Edition: current; Page: [128] over the desert of Kirman, implored the aid of the warlike Segestans, and sought an humble refuge on the verge of the Turkish and Chinese power.37 But a victorious army is insensible of fatigue; the Arabs divided their forces in the pursuit of a timorous enemy; and the caliph Othman promised the government of Chorasan to the first general who should enter that large and populous country, the kingdom of the ancient Bactrians. The condition was accepted; the prize was deserved; the standard of Mahomet was planted on the walls of Herat, Merou, and Balch; and the successful leader neither halted nor reposed till his foaming cavalry had tasted the waters of the Oxus. In the public anarchy, the independent governors of the cities and castles obtained their separate capitulations; the terms were granted or imposed by the esteem, the prudence, or the compassion of the victors; and a simple profession of faith established the distinction between a brother and a slave. After a noble defence, Harmozan, the prince or satrap of Ahwaz and Susa, was compelled to surrender his person and his state to the discretion of the caliph; and their interview exhibits a portrait of the Arabian manners. In the presence, and by the command, of Omar, the gay Barbarian was despoiled of his silken robes embroidered with gold, and of his tiara bedecked with rubies and emeralds. “Are you now sensible,” said the conqueror to his naked captive, “are you now sensible of the judgment of God and of the different rewards of infidelity and obedience?” “Alas!” replied Harmozan, “I feel them too deeply. In the days of our common ignorance, we fought with the weapons of the flesh, and my nation was superior. God was then neuter: since he has espoused your quarrel, you have subverted our kingdom and religion.” Edition: current; Page: [129] Oppressed by this painful dialogue, the Persian complained of intolerable thirst, but discovered some apprehension lest he should be killed whilst he was drinking a cup of water. “Be of good courage,” said the caliph, “your life is safe till you have drunk this water.” The crafty satrap accepted the assurance, and instantly dashed the vase against the ground. Omar would have avenged the deceit, but his companions represented the sanctity of an oath; and the speedy conversion of Harmozan entitled him not only to a free pardon, but even to a stipend of two thousand pieces of gold. The administration of Persia was regulated by an actual survey of the people, the cattle, and the fruits of the earth;38 and this monument, which attests the vigilance of the caliphs, might have instructed the philosophers of every age.39

The flight of Yezdegerd had carried him beyond the Oxus and as far as the Jaxartes, two rivers40 of ancient and modern renown, which descend from the mountains of India towards the Caspian Sea. He was hospitably entertained by Tarkhan,41 Edition: current; Page: [130] prince of Fargana,42 a fertile province on the Jaxartes; the king of Samarcand, with the Turkish tribes of Sogdiana and Scythia, were moved by the lamentations and promises of the fallen monarch; and he solicited by a suppliant embassy the more solid and powerful friendship of the emperor of China.43 The virtuous Taitsong,44 the first of the dynasty of the Tang, may be justly compared with the Antonines of Rome; his people enjoyed the blessings of prosperity and peace; and his dominion was acknowledged by forty-four hordes of the Barbarians of Tartary. His last garrisons of Cashgar and Khoten maintained a frequent intercourse with their neighbours of the Jaxartes and Oxus; a recent colony of Persians had introduced into China the astronomy of the Magi; and Taitsong might be alarmed by the rapid progress and dangerous vicinity of the Arabs. The influence, and perhaps the supplies, of China revived the hopes of Yezdegerd and the zeal of the worshippers of fire; and he returned with an army of Turks to conquer the inheritance of his fathers. The fortunate Moslems, without unsheathing their swords, were the spectators of his ruin and death. The grandson of Chosroes was betrayed by his servant, insulted by the seditious inhabitants of Merou, and oppressed, defeated, and pursued by his Barbarian allies. He reached the banks of a river, and offered his rings and bracelets for an instant passage in a miller’s boat. Ignorant Edition: current; Page: [131] or insensible of royal distress, the rustic replied that four drachms of silver were the daily profit of his mill, and that he would not suspend his work unless the loss were repaid. In this moment of hesitation and delay, the last of the Sassanian kings was overtaken and slaughtered by the Turkish cavalry, in the nineteenth year of his unhappy reign.45 His son Firuz, an humble client of the Chinese emperor, accepted the station of captain of his guards; and the Magian worship was long preserved by a colony of loyal exiles in the province of Bucharia. His grandson inherited the regal name; but after a faint and fruitless enterprise he returned to China and ended his days in the palace of Sigan. The male line of the Sassanides was extinct; but the female captives, the daughters of Persia, were given to the conquerors in servitude or marriage; and the race of the caliphs and imams was ennobled by the blood of their royal mothers.46

After the fall of the Persian kingdom, the river Oxus divided the territories of the Saracens and of the Turks. This narrow boundary was soon overleaped by the spirit of the Arabs; the governors of Chorasan extended their successive inroads; and one of their triumphs was adorned with the buskin of a Turkish queen, which she dropped in her precipitate flight beyond the hills of Bochara.47 But Edition: current; Page: [132] the final conquest of Transoxiana,48 as well as of Spain, was reserved for the glorious reign of the inactive Walid; and the name of Catibah, the camel-driver, declares the origin and merit of his successful lieutenant. While one of his colleagues displayed the first Mahometan banner on the banks of the Indus,49 the spacious regions between the Oxus, the Jaxartes, and the Caspian Sea were reduced by the arms of Catibah to the obedience of the prophet and of the caliph.50 Edition: current; Page: [133] A tribute of two millions of pieces of gold was imposed on the infidels; their idols were burnt or broken; the Musulman chief pronounced a sermon in the new mosch of Carizme; after several battles, the Turkish hordes were driven back to the desert; and the emperors of China solicited the friendship of the victorious Arabs. To their industry the prosperity of the province, the Sogdiana of the ancients, may in a great measure be ascribed; but the advantages of the soil and climate had been understood and cultivated since the reign of the Macedonian kings. Before the invasion of the Saracens, Carizme, Bochara, and Samarcand were rich and populous under the yoke of the shepherds of the north.51 Edition: current; Page: [134] These cities were surrounded with a double wall; and the exterior fortification, of a larger circumference, enclosed the fields and gardens of the adjacent district. The mutual wants of India and Europe were supplied by the diligence of the Sogdian merchants; and the inestimable art of transforming linen into paper has been diffused from the manufacture of Samarcand over the Western world.52

II. No sooner had Abubeker restored the unity of faith and government than he despatched a circular letter to the Arabian tribes. “In the name of the most merciful God, to the rest of the true believers. Health and happiness, and the Edition: current; Page: [135] mercy and blessing of God, be upon you. I praise the most high God, and I pray for his prophet Mahomet. This is to acquaint you that I intend to send the true believers into Syria53 to take it out of the hands of the infidels. And I would have you know that the fighting for religion is an act of obedience to God.” His messengers returned with the tidings of pious and martial ardour, which they had kindled in every province; and the camp of Medina was successively filled with the intrepid bands of the Saracens, who panted for action, complained of the heat of the season and the scarcity of provisions, and accused, with impatient murmurs, the delays of the caliph. As soon as their numbers were complete, Abubeker ascended the hill, reviewed the men, the horses, and the arms, and poured forth a fervent prayer for the success of their undertaking. In person and on foot he accompanied the first day’s march; and, when the blushing leaders attempted to dismount, the caliph removed their scruples by a declaration that those who rode and those who walked, in the service of religion, were equally meritorious. His instructions54 to the chiefs of the Syrian army were inspired by the warlike fanaticism which advances to seize, and effects to despise, the objects of earthly ambition. “Remember,” Edition: current; Page: [136] said the successor of the prophet, “that you are always in the presence of God, on the verge of death, in the assurance of judgment, and the hope of paradise. Avoid injustice and oppression; consult with your brethren, and study to preserve the love and confidence of your troops. When you fight the battles of the Lord, acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not your victory be stained with the blood of women or children. Destroy no palm-trees, nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no fruit-trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat. When you make any covenant or article, stand to it, and be as good as your word. As you go on, you will find some religious persons who live retired in monasteries, and propose to themselves to serve God that way: let them alone, and neither kill them nor destroy their monasteries.55 And you will find another sort of people that belong to the synagogue of Satan, who have shaven crowns;56 be sure you cleave their skulls, and give them no quarter, till they either turn Mahometans or pay tribute.” All profane or frivolous conversation, all dangerous recollection of ancient quarrels, was severely prohibited among the Arabs; in the tumult of a camp, the exercises of religion were assiduously practised; and the intervals of action were employed in prayer, meditation, and the study of the Koran. The abuse, or even the use, of wine was chastised by fourscore strokes on the soles Edition: current; Page: [137] of the feet; and in the fervour of their primitive zeal many secret sinners revealed their fault and solicited their punishment. After some hesitation, the command of the Syrian army was delegated to Abu Obeidah, one of the fugitives of Mecca and companions of Mahomet; whose zeal and devotion were assuaged, without being abated, by the singular mildness and benevolence of his temper. But in all the emergencies of war the soldiers demanded the superior genius of Caled; and, whoever might be the choice of the prince, the sword of God was both in fact and fame the foremost leader of the Saracens. He obeyed without reluctance; he was consulted without jealousy; and such was the spirit of the man, or rather of the times, that Caled professed his readiness to serve under the banner of the faith, though it were in the hands of a child or an enemy. Glory and riches and dominion were indeed promised to the victorious Musulman; but he was carefully instructed that, if the goods of this life were his only incitement, they likewise would be his only reward.

One of the fifteen provinces of Syria, the cultivated lands to the eastward of the Jordan, had been decorated by Roman vanity with the name of Arabia;57 and the first arms of the Saracens were justified by the semblance of a national right. The country was enriched by the various benefits of trade; by the vigilance of the emperors it was covered with a line of forts; and the populous cities of Gerasa, Philadelphia, and Bosra58 were secure, at least from a surprise, by the solid structure of their walls. The last of these cities was Edition: current; Page: [138] the eighteenth station from Medina; the road was familiar to the caravans of Hejaz and Irak, who annually visited this plenteous market of the province and the desert; the perpetual jealousy of the Arabs had trained the inhabitants to arms; and twelve thousand horse could sally from the gates of Bosra, an appellation which signifies, in the Syriac language, a strong tower of defence. Encouraged by their first success against the open towns and flying parties of the borders, a detachment of four thousand Moslems presumed to summon and attack the fortress of Bosra. They were oppressed by the numbers of the Syrians; they were saved by the presence of Caled,59 with fifteen hundred horse; he blamed the enterprise, restored the battle, and rescued his friend, the venerable Serjabil, who had vainly invoked the unity of God and the promises of the apostle. After a short repose, the Moslems performed their ablutions with sand instead of water;60 and the morning prayer was recited by Caled before they mounted on horseback. Confident in their strength, the people of Bosra threw open their gates, drew their forces into the plain, and swore to die in the defence of their religion. But a religion of peace was incapable of withstanding the fanatic cry of “Fight, fight! Paradise, paradise!” that re-echoed in the ranks of the Saracens; and the uproar of the town, the ringing of bells,61 and the exclamations of the priests and Edition: current; Page: [139] monks increased the dismay and disorder of the Christians. With the loss of two hundred and thirty men, the Arabs remained masters of the field; and the ramparts of Bosra, in expectation of human or divine aid, were crowded with holy crosses and consecrated banners. The governor Romanus had recommended an early submission: despised by the people, and degraded from his office, he still retained the desire and opportunity of revenge. In a nocturnal interview, he informed the enemy of a subterraneous passage from his house under the wall of the city; the son of the caliph, with an hundred volunteers, were committed to the faith of this new ally, and their successful intrepidity gave an easy entrance to their companions. After Caled had imposed the terms of servitude and tribute, the apostate or convert avowed in the assembly of the people his meritorious treason. “I renounce your society,” said Romanus, “both in this world and the world to come. And I deny him that was crucified, and whosoever worships him. And I choose God for my Lord, Islam for my faith, Mecca for my temple, the Moslems for my brethren, and Mahomet for my prophet; who was sent to lead us into the right way, and to exalt the true religion in spite of those who join partners with God.”

The conquest of Bosra, four days’ journey from Damascus,62 encouraged the Arabs to besiege the ancient capital of Syria.63 At some distance from the walls, they encamped Edition: current; Page: [140] among the groves and fountains of that delicious territory,64 and the usual option of the Mahometan faith, of tribute, or of war, was proposed to the resolute citizens, who had been lately strengthened by a reinforcement of five thousand Greeks. In the decline as in the infancy of the military art, an hostile defiance was frequently offered and accepted by the generals themselves:65 many a lance was shivered in the plain of Damascus, and the personal prowess of Caled was signalised in the first sally of the besieged. After an obstinate combat, he had overthrown and made prisoner one of the Christian leaders, a stout and worthy antagonist. He instantly mounted a fresh horse, the gift of the governor of Palmyra, and pushed forwards to the front of the battle. “Repose yourself for a moment,” said his friend Derar, “and permit me to supply your place; you are fatigued with fighting with this dog.” “O Derar!” replied the indefatigable Saracen, “we shall rest in the world to come. He that labours to-day shall rest to-morrow.” With the same unabated ardour, Caled answered, encountered, and vanquished a second champion; and the heads of his two captives who refused to abandon their religion were indignantly hurled into the midst of the city. The event of some general Edition: current; Page: [141] and partial actions reduced the Damascenes to a closer defence; but a messenger, whom they dropped from the walls, returned with the promise of speedy and powerful succour, and their tumultuous joy conveyed the intelligence to the camp of the Arabs. After some debate it was resolved by the generals to raise, or rather to suspend, the siege of Damascus, till they had given battle to the forces of the emperor. In the retreat, Caled would have chosen the more perilous station of the rear-guard; he modestly yielded to the wishes of Abu Obeidah. But in the hour of danger he flew to the rescue of his companion, who was rudely pressed by a sally of six thousand horse and ten thousand foot, and few among the Christians could relate at Damascus the circumstances of their defeat. The importance of the contest required the junction of the Saracens who were dispersed on the frontiers of Syria and Palestine; and I shall transcribe one of the circular mandates which was addressed to Amrou the future conqueror of Egypt. “In the name of the most merciful God: from Caled to Amrou, health and happiness. Know that thy brethren the Moslems design to march to Aiznadin, where there is an army of seventy thousand Greeks, who purpose to come against us, that they may extinguish the light of God with their mouths; but God preserveth his light in spite of the infidels.66 As soon, therefore, as this letter of mine shall be delivered to thy hands, come with those that are with thee to Aiznadin, where thou shalt find us, if it please the most high God.” The summons was cheerfully obeyed, and the forty-five thousand Moslems who met on the same day, on the same spot, ascribed to the blessing of providence the effects of their activity and zeal.

About four years after the triumphs of the Persian war, the Edition: current; Page: [142] repose of Heraclius and the empire was again disturbed by a new enemy, the power of whose religion was more strongly felt than it was clearly understood by the Christians of the East. In his palace of Constantinople or Antioch, he was awakened by the invasion of Syria, the loss of Bosra, and the danger of Damascus. An army of seventy thousand veterans, or new levies, was assembled at Hems or Emesa, under the command of his general Werdan;67 and these troops, consisting chiefly of cavalry, might be indifferently styled either Syrians, or Greeks, or Romans: Syrians, from the place of their birth or warfare; Greeks, from the religion and language of their sovereign; and Romans, from the proud appellation which was still profaned by the successors of Constantine. On the plain of Aiznadin,68 as Werdan rode on a white mule decorated with gold chains and surrounded with ensigns and standards, he was surprised by the near approach of a fierce and naked warrior, who had undertaken to view the state of the enemy. The adventurous valour of Derar69 was inspired, and has perhaps been adorned, by the enthusiasm of his age and country. The hatred of the Christians, the love of spoil, and the contempt of danger were the ruling passions of the audacious Saracen; and the prospect of instant death could never shake his religious confidence, or ruffle the calmness of his resolution, or even suspend the frank and martial pleasantry of his humour. In the most hopeless enterprises, he Edition: current; Page: [143] was bold, and prudent, and fortunate: after innumerable hazards, after being thrice a prisoner in the hands of the infidels, he still survived to relate the achievements, and to enjoy the rewards, of the Syrian conquest. On this occasion, his single lance maintained a flying fight against thirty Romans, who were detached by Werdan; and, after killing or unhorsing seventeen of their number, Derar returned in safety to his applauding brethren. When his rashness was mildly censured by the general, he excused himself with the simplicity of a soldier. “Nay,” said Derar, “I did not begin first; but they came out to take me, and I was afraid that God should see me turn my back; and indeed I fought in good earnest, and without doubt God assisted me against them; and, had I not been apprehensive of disobeying your orders, I should not have come away as I did; and I perceive already that they will fall into our hands.” In the presence of both armies, a venerable Greek advanced from the ranks with a liberal offer of peace; and the departure of the Saracens would have been purchased by a gift to each soldier, of a turban, a robe, and a piece of gold; ten robes and an hundred pieces to their leader; one hundred robes and a thousand pieces to the caliph. A smile of indignation expressed the refusal of Caled. “Ye Christian dogs, you know your option: the Koran, the tribute, or the sword. We are a people whose delight is in war rather than in peace; and we despise your pitiful alms, since we shall be speedily masters of your wealth, your families, and your persons.” Notwithstanding this apparent disdain, he was deeply conscious of the public danger: those who had been in Persia, and had seen the armies of Chosroes, confessed that they never beheld a more formidable array. From the superiority of the enemy the artful Saracen derived a fresh incentive of courage: “You see before you,” said he, “the united force of the Romans, you cannot hope to escape, but you may conquer Syria in a single day. The event depends on your discipline and patience. Reserve yourselves till the evening. It was in Edition: current; Page: [144] the evening that the prophet was accustomed to vanquish.” During two successive engagements, his temperate firmness sustained the darts of the enemy, and the murmurs of his troops. At length, when the spirits and quivers of the adverse line were almost exhausted, Caled gave the signal of onset and victory. The remains of the Imperial army fled to Antioch, or Cæsarea, or Damascus; and the death of four hundred and seventy Moslems was compensated by the opinion that they had sent to hell above fifty thousand of the infidels. The spoil was inestimable: many banners and crosses of gold and silver, precious stones, silver and gold chains, and innumerable suits of the richest armour and apparel. The general distribution was postponed till Damascus should be taken; but the seasonable supply of arms became the instrument of new victories. The glorious intelligence was transmitted to the throne of the caliph, and the Arabian tribes, the coldest or most hostile to the prophet’s mission, were eager and importunate to share the harvest of Syria.70

The sad tidings were carried to Damascus by the speed of grief and terror; and the inhabitants beheld from their walls the return of the heroes of Aiznadin. Amrou led the van at the head of nine thousand horse; the bands of the Saracens succeeded each other in formidable review; and the rear was closed by Caled in person, with the standard of the black eagle. To the activity of Derar he entrusted the commission of patrolling round the city with two thousand horse, of scouring the plain, and of intercepting all succour or intelligence. The rest of the Arabian chiefs were fixed in their respective stations before the seven gates of Damascus; and the siege was renewed with fresh vigour and confidence. The art, the labour, the military engines, of the Greeks and Romans are seldom to be found in the simple, though successful, operations of the Saracens: it was sufficient for them to invest Edition: current; Page: [145] a city with arms rather than with trenches; to repel the sallies of the besieged; to attempt a stratagem or an assault; or to expect the progress of famine and discontent. Damascus would have acquiesced in the trial of Aiznadin, as a final and peremptory sentence between the emperor and the caliph; her courage was rekindled by the example and authority of Thomas, a noble Greek, illustrious in a private condition by the alliance of Heraclius71 The tumult and illumination of the night proclaimed the design of the morning sally; and the Christian hero, who affected to despise the enthusiasm of the Arabs, employed the resource of a similar superstition. At the principal gate, in the sight of both armies, a lofty crucifix was erected; the bishop, with his clergy, accompanied the march, and laid the volume of the New Testament before the image of Jesus; and the contending parties were scandalised or edified by a prayer that the Son of God would defend his servants and vindicate his truth. The battle raged with incessant fury; and the dexterity of Thomas,72 an incomparable archer, was fatal to the boldest Saracens, till their death was revenged by a female heroine. The wife of Aban, who had followed him to the holy war, embraced her expiring husband. “Happy,” said she, “happy art thou, my dear; thou art gone to thy Lord, who first joined us together, and then parted us asunder. I will revenge thy death, and endeavour to the utmost of my power to come to the place where thou art, because I love thee. Henceforth shall no man ever touch me more, for I have dedicated myself to the service of God.” Without Edition: current; Page: [146] a groan, without a tear, she washed the corpse of her husband, and buried him with the usual rites. Then grasping the manly weapons, which in her native land she was accustomed to wield, the intrepid widow of Aban sought the place where his murderer fought in the thickest of the battle. Her first arrow pierced the hand of his standard-bearer; her second wounded Thomas in the eye; and the fainting Christians no longer beheld their ensign or their leader. Yet the generous champion of Damascus refused to withdraw to his palace; his wound was dressed on the rampart; the fight was continued till the evening; and the Syrians rested on their arms. In the silence of the night, the signal was given by a stroke on the great bell; the gates were thrown open, and each gate discharged an impetuous column on the sleeping camp of the Saracens. Caled was the first in arms; at the head of four hundred horse he flew to the post of danger, and the tears trickled down his iron cheeks, as he uttered a fervent ejaculation: “O God! who never sleepest, look upon thy servants, and do not deliver them into the hands of their enemies.” The valour and victory of Thomas were arrested by the presence of the sword of God; with the knowledge of the peril, the Moslems recovered their ranks, and charged the assailants in the flank and rear. After the loss of thousands, the Christian general retreated with a sigh of despair, and the pursuit of the Saracens was checked by the military engines of the rampart.

After a siege of seventy days,73 the patience, and perhaps Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [147] the provisions, of the Damascenes were exhausted; and the bravest of their chiefs submitted to the hard dictates of necessity. In the occurrences of peace and war, they had been taught to dread the fierceness of Caled, and to revere the mild virtues of Abu Obeidah. At the hour of midnight, one hundred chosen deputies of the clergy and people were introduced to the tent of that venerable commander. He received and dismissed them with courtesy. They returned with a written agreement, on the faith of a companion of Mahomet, that all hostilities should cease; that the voluntary emigrants might depart in safety, with as much as they could carry away of their effects; and that the tributary subjects of the caliphs should enjoy their lands and houses, with the use and possession of seven churches. On these terms, the most respectable hostages, and the gate nearest to his camp, were delivered into his hands; his soldiers imitated the moderation of their chief; and he enjoyed the submissive gratitude of a people whom he had rescued from destruction. But the success of the treaty had relaxed their vigilance, and in the same moment the opposite quarter of the city was betrayed and taken by assault. A party of an hundred Arabs had opened the eastern gate to a more inexorable foe. “No quarter,” cried the rapacious and sanguinary Caled, “no quarter to the enemies of the Lord;” his trumpets sounded, and a torrent of Christian blood was poured down the streets of Damascus. When he reached the church of St. Mary, he was astonished and provoked by the peaceful aspect of his companions: their swords were in the scabbard, and they were surrounded by a multitude of priests and monks. Abu Obeidah saluted the general: “God,” said he, “has delivered the city into my hands by way of surrender, and has saved the believers the trouble of fighting.” “And am I not,” replied the indignant Caled, “am I not the lieutenant of the commander of the faithful? Have I not taken the city by storm? The unbelievers shall perish by the sword. Fall on.” The hungry and cruel Arabs would have obeyed the Edition: current; Page: [148] welcome command; and Damascus was lost, if the benevolence of Abu Obeidah had not been supported by a decent and dignified firmness. Throwing himself between the trembling citizens and the most eager of the Barbarians, he adjured them by the holy name of God to respect his promise, to suspend their fury, and to wait the determination of their chiefs. The chiefs retired into the church of St. Mary; and, after a vehement debate, Caled submitted in some measure to the reason and authority of his colleague; who urged the sanctity of a covenant, the advantage as well as the honour which the Moslems would derive from the punctual performance of their word, and the obstinate resistance which they must encounter from the distrust and despair of the rest of the Syrian cities. It was agreed that the sword should be sheathed, that the part of Damascus which had surrendered to Abu Obeidah should be immediately entitled to the benefit of his capitulation, and that the final decision should be referred to the justice and wisdom of the caliph.74 A large majority of the people accepted the terms of toleration and tribute; and Damascus is still peopled by twenty thousand Christians. But the valiant Thomas, and the free-born patriots who had fought under his banner, embraced the alternative of poverty and exile. In the adjacent meadow, a numerous encampment was formed of priests and laymen, of soldiers and citizens, of women and children: they collected with haste and terror their most precious moveables; and abandoned, with loud lamentations or silent anguish, their native homes and the pleasant banks of the Pharphar. The inflexible soul of Caled was not touched by the spectacle Edition: current; Page: [149] of their distress: he disputed with the Damascenes the property of a magazine of corn; endeavoured to exclude the garrison from the benefit of the treaty; consented, with reluctance, that each of the fugitives should arm himself with a sword, or a lance, or a bow; and sternly declared that, after a respite of three days, they might be pursued and treated as the enemies of the Moslems.


The passion of a Syrian youth completed the ruin of the exiles of Damascus. A nobleman of the city, of the name of Jonas,75 was betrothed to a wealthy maiden; but her parents delayed the consummation of his nuptials, and their daughter was persuaded to escape with the man whom she had chosen. They corrupted the nightly watchmen of the gate Keisan: the lover, who led the way, was encompassed by a squadron of Arabs; but his exclamation in the Greek tongue, “the bird is taken,” admonished his mistress to hasten her return. In the presence of Caled, and of death, the unfortunate Jonas professed his belief in one God, and his apostle Mahomet; and continued, till the season of his martyrdom, to discharge the duties of a brave and sincere Musulman. When the city was taken, he flew to the monastery, where Eudocia had taken refuge; but the lover was forgotten; the apostate was scorned; she preferred her religion to her country; and the justice of Caled, though deaf to mercy, refused to detain by force a male or female inhabitant of Damascus. Four days was the general confined to the city by the obligation of Edition: current; Page: [150] the treaty and the urgent cares of his new conquest. His appetite for blood and rapine would have been extinguished by the hopeless computation of time and distance; but he listened to the importunities of Jonas, who assured him that the weary fugitives might yet be overtaken. At the head of four thousand horse, in the disguise of Christian Arabs, Caled undertook the pursuit. They halted only for the moments of prayer; and their guide had a perfect knowledge of the country. For a long way the footsteps of the Damascenes were plain and conspicuous: they vanished on a sudden; but the Saracens were comforted by the assurance that the caravan had turned aside into the mountains, and must speedily fall into their hands. In traversing the ridges of the Libanus, they endured intolerable hardships, and the sinking spirits of the veteran fanatics were supported and cheered by the unconquerable ardour of a lover. From a peasant of the country, they were informed that the emperor had sent orders to the colony of exiles, to pursue without delay the road of the sea-coast and of Constantinople; apprehensive, perhaps, that the soldiers and people of Antioch must be discouraged by the sight and the story of their sufferings. The Saracens were conducted through the territories of Gabala76 and Laodicea, at a cautious distance from the walls of the cities; the rain was incessant, the night was dark, a single mountain separated them from the Roman army; and Caled, ever anxious for the safety of his brethren, whispered an ominous dream in the ear of his companion. With the dawn of day, the prospect again cleared, and they saw before them, in a pleasant valley, the Edition: current; Page: [151] tents of Damascus. After a short interval of repose and prayer, Caled divided his cavalry into four squadrons, committing the first to his faithful Derar, and reserving the last for himself. They successively rushed on the promiscuous multitude, insufficiently provided with arms, and already vanquished by sorrow and fatigue. Except a captive who was pardoned and dismissed, the Arabs enjoyed the satisfaction of believing that not a Christian of either sex escaped the edge of their scymetars. The gold and silver of Damascus was scattered over the camp, and a royal wardrobe of three hundred load of silk might clothe an army of naked Barbarians. In the tumult of the battle, Jonas sought and found the object of his pursuit; but her resentment was inflamed by the last act of his perfidy; and, as Eudocia struggled in his hateful embraces, she struck a dagger to her heart. Another female, the widow of Thomas, and the real or supposed daughter of Heraclius, was spared and released without a ransom; but the generosity of Caled was the effect of his contempt; and the haughty Saracen insulted, by a message of defiance, the throne of the Cæsars. Caled had penetrated above an hundred and fifty miles into the heart of the Roman province: he returned to Damascus with the same secrecy and speed. On the accession of Omar, the sword of God was removed from the command; but the caliph, who blamed the rashness, was compelled to applaud the vigour and conduct, of the enterprise.77

Another expedition of the conquerors of Damascus will equally display their avidity and their contempt for the riches of the present world. They were informed that the produce and manufactures of the country were annually collected in the fair of Abyla,78 about thirty miles from the city; that the Edition: current; Page: [152] cell of a devout hermit was visited at the same time by a multitude of pilgrims; and that the festival of trade and superstition would be ennobled by the nuptials of the daughter of the governor of Tripoli. Abdallah, the son of Jaafar, a glorious and holy martyr, undertook, with a banner of five hundred horse, the pious and profitable commission of despoiling the infidels. As he approached the fair of Abyla, he was astonished by the report of the mighty concourse of Jews and Christians, Greeks and Armenians, of natives of Syria and of strangers of Egypt, to the number of ten thousand, besides a guard of five thousand horse that attended the person of the bride. The Saracens paused: “For my own part,” said Abdallah, “I dare not go back; our foes are many, our danger is great; but our reward is splendid and secure, either in this life or in the life to come. Let every man, according to his inclination, advance or retire.” Not a Musulman deserted his standard. “Lead the way,” said Abdallah to his Christian guide, “and you shall see what the companions of the prophet can perform.” They charged in five squadrons; but, after the first advantage of the surprise, they were encompassed and almost overwhelmed by the multitude of their enemies; and their valiant band is fancifully compared to a white spot in the skin of a black camel.79 About the hour of sunset, when their weapons dropped from their hands, when they panted on the verge of eternity, they discovered an approaching cloud of dust, they heard the welcome sound of the tecbir,80 and they soon perceived the Edition: current; Page: [153] standard of Caled, who flew to their relief with the utmost speed of his cavalry. The Christians were broken by his attack, and slaughtered in their flight as far as the river of Tripoli. They left behind them the various riches of the fair: the merchandises that were exposed for sale, the money that was brought for purchase, the gay decorations of the nuptials, and the governor’s daughter, with forty of her female attendants. The fruits, provisions, and furniture, the money, plate, and jewels, were diligently laden on the backs of horses, asses, and mules; and the holy robbers returned in triumph to Damascus. The hermit, after a short and angry controversy with Caled, declined the crown of martyrdom, and was left alive in the solitary scene of blood and devastation.

Syria,81 one of the countries that have been improved by the most early cultivation, is not unworthy of the preference.82 The heat of the climate is tempered by the vicinity of the sea and mountains, by the plenty of wood and water; and the Edition: current; Page: [154] produce of a fertile soil affords the subsistence, and encourages the propagation, of men and animals. From the age of David to that of Heraclius, the country was overspread with ancient and flourishing cities: the inhabitants were numerous and wealthy; and, after the slow ravage of despotism and superstition, after the recent calamities of the Persian war, Syria could still attract and reward the rapacious tribes of the desert. A plain, of ten days’ journey, from Damascus to Aleppo and Antioch, is watered, on the western side, by the winding course of the Orontes. The hills of Libanus and Anti-Libanus are planted from north to south, between the Orontes and the Mediterranean, and the epithet of hollow (Cœlesyria) was applied to a long and fruitful valley, which is confined in the same direction by the two ridges of snowy mountains.83 Among the cities, which are enumerated by Greek and Oriental names in the geography and contest of Syria, we may distinguish Emesa or Hems, Heliopolis or Baalbec, the former as the metropolis of the plain, the latter as the capital of the valley. Under the last of the Cæsars, they were strong and populous: the turrets glittered from afar; an ample space was covered with public and private buildings; and the citizens were illustrious by their spirit, or at least by their pride; by their riches, or at least by their luxury. In the days of Paganism, both Emesa and Heliopolis were addicted to the worship of Baal, or the sun; but the decline of their superstition and splendour has been marked by a singular variety of fortune. Not a vestige remains of the temple of Emesa, which was equalled in poetic style to the summits of Mount Libanus,84 while the Edition: current; Page: [155] ruins of Baalbec, invisible to the writers of antiquity, excite the curiosity and wonder of the European traveller.85 The measure of the temple is two hundred feet in length, and one hundred in breadth; the front is adorned with a double portico of eight columns; fourteen may be counted on either side; and each column, forty-five feet in height, is composed of three massy blocks of stone or marble. The proportions and ornaments of the Corinthian order express the architecture of the Greeks; but, as Baalbec has never been the seat of a monarch, we are at a loss to conceive how the expense of these magnificent structures could be supplied by private or municipal liberality.86 From the conquest of Damascus the Saracens proceeded to Heliopolis and Emesa: but I shall decline the repetition of the sallies and combats which have been already shewn on a larger scale. In the prosecution of the war, their policy was not less effectual than their sword. By short and separate truces they dissolved the union of the enemy; accustomed the Syrians to compare their friendship with their enmity; familiarised the idea of their language, religion, and manners; and exhausted, by clandestine purchase, the magazines and arsenals of the cities which they Edition: current; Page: [156] returned to besiege. They aggravated the ransom of the more wealthy or the more obstinate; and Chalcis alone was taxed at five thousand ounces of gold, five thousand ounces of silver, two thousand robes of silk, and as many figs and olives as would load five thousand asses. But the terms of truce or capitulation were faithfully observed; and the lieutenant of the caliph, who had promised not to enter the walls of the captive Baalbec, remained tranquil and immovable in his tent till the jarring factions solicited the interposition of a foreign master. The conquest of the plain and valley of Syria was achieved in less than two years.87 Yet the commander of the faithful reproved the slowness of their progress, and the Saracens, bewailing their fault with tears of rage and repentance, called aloud on their chiefs to lead them forth to fight the battles of the Lord. In a recent action, under the walls of Emesa, an Arabian youth, the cousin of Caled, was heard aloud to exclaim, “Methinks I see the black-eyed girls looking upon me; one of whom, should she appear in this world, all mankind would die for love of her. And I see in the hand of one of them an handkerchief of green silk, and a cap of precious stones, and she beckons me, and calls out, Come hither quickly, for I love thee.” With these words, charging the Christians, he made havoc wherever he went, till, observed at length by the governor of Hems, he was struck through with a javelin.

It was incumbent on the Saracens to exert the full powers of their valour and enthusiasm against the forces of the emperor, who was taught by repeated losses that the rovers of the desert had undertaken, and would speedily achieve, a regular and permanent conquest. From the provinces of Europe and Asia, fourscore thousand soldiers were transported by sea and land to Antioch and Cæsarea; the light troops of the army consisted of sixty thousand Christian Arabs Edition: current; Page: [157] of the tribe of Gassan. Under the banner of Jabalah, the last of their princes, they marched in the van; and it was a maxim of the Greeks that, for the purpose of cutting diamond, a diamond was the most effectual. Heraclius withheld his person from the dangers of the field; but his presumption, or perhaps his despondency, suggested a peremptory order that the fate of the province and the war should be decided by a single battle. The Syrians were attached to the standard of Rome and of the cross; but the noble, the citizen, the peasant, were exasperated by the injustice and cruelty of a licentious host who oppressed them as subjects and despised them as strangers and aliens.88 A report of these mighty preparations was conveyed to the Saracens in their camp of Emesa; and the chiefs, though resolved to fight, assembled a council; the faith of Abu Obeidah would have expected on the same spot the glory of martyrdom; the wisdom of Caled advised an honourable retreat to the skirts of Palestine and Arabia, where they might await the succours of their friends and the attack of the unbelievers. A speedy messenger soon returned from the throne of Medina, with the blessings of Omar and Ali, the prayers of the widows of the prophet, and a reinforcement of eight thousand Moslems. In their way they overturned a detachment of Greeks, and, when they joined at Yermuk the camp of their brethren, they found the pleasing intelligence that Caled had already defeated and scattered the Christian Arabs of the tribe of Gassan. In the neighbourhood of Bosra, the springs of Mount Hermon descend in a torrent to the plain of Decapolis, or ten cities; and the Hieromax, a name which has been corrupted to Yermuk, is lost after a short course in the lake of Tiberias.89 The banks of this obscure stream were Edition: current; Page: [158] illustrated by a long and bloody encounter. On this momentous occasion, the public voice, and the modesty of Abu Obeidah, restored the command to the most deserving of the Moslems. Caled assumed his station in the front, his colleague was posted in the rear, that the disorder of the fugitives might be checked by his venerable aspect and the sight of the yellow banner which Mahomet had displayed before the walls of Chaibar. The last line was occupied by the sister of Derar, with the Arabian women who had enlisted in this holy war, who were accustomed to wield the bow and the lance, and who in a moment of captivity had defended, against the uncircumcised ravishers, their chastity and religion.90 The exhortation of the generals was brief and forcible; “Paradise is before you, the devil and hell-fire in your rear.” Yet such was the weight of the Roman cavalry that the right wing of the Arabs was broken and separated from the main body. Thrice did they retreat in disorder, and thrice were they driven back to the charge by the reproaches and blows of the women. In the intervals of action, Abu Obeidah visited the tents of his brethren; prolonged their repose by repeating at once the prayers of two different hours; bound up their wounds with his own hands, and administered the comfortable reflection that the infidels partook of their sufferings without partaking of their reward. Four thousand and thirty of the Moslems were buried in the Edition: current; Page: [159] field of battle; and the skill of the Armenian archers enabled seven hundred to boast that they had lost an eye in that meritorious service. The veterans of the Syrian war acknowledged that it was the hardest and most doubtful of the days which they had seen. But it was likewise the most decisive: many thousands of the Greeks and Syrians fell by the swords of the Arabs; many were slaughtered, after the defeat in the woods and mountains; many, by mistaking the ford, were drowned in the waters of the Yermuk; and, however the loss may be magnified,91 the Christian writers confess and bewail the bloody punishment of their sins.92 Manuel, the Roman general, was either killed at Damascus or took refuge in the monastery of Mount Sinai. An exile in the Byzantine court, Jabalah lamented the manners of Arabia and his unlucky preference of the Christian cause.93 He had once inclined to the profession of Islam; but, in the pilgrimage of Mecca, Jabalah was provoked to strike one of his brethren, and fled with amazement from the stern and equal justice of the caliph. The victorious Saracens enjoyed at Damascus a month of pleasure and repose; the spoil Edition: current; Page: [160] was divided by the discretion of Abu Obeidah; an equal share was allotted to a soldier and to his horse, and a double portion was reserved for the noble coursers of the Arabian breed.

After the battle of Yermuk the Roman army no longer appeared in the field; and the Saracens might securely choose among the fortified towns of Syria the first object of their attack. They consulted the caliph whether they should march to Cæsarea or Jerusalem; and the advice of Ali determined the immediate siege of the latter. To a profane eye, Jerusalem was the first or second capital of Palestine; but, after Mecca and Medina, it was revered and visited by the devout Moslems, as the temple of the Holy Land, which had been sanctified by the revelation of Moses, of Jesus, and of Mahomet himself. The son of Abu Sophian was sent with five thousand Arabs to try the first experiment of surprise or treaty; but on the eleventh day the town was invested by the whole force of Abu Obeidah. He addressed the customary summons to the chief commanders and people of Ælia.94 “Health and happiness to every one that follows the right way! We require of you to testify that there is but one God and that Mahomet is his apostle. If you refuse this, consent to pay tribute, and be under us forthwith. Otherwise I shall bring men against you who love death better than you do the drinking of wine or eating hogs’ flesh. Nor will I ever stir from you, if it please God, till I have destroyed those that fight for you, and made slaves of your children.” But the city was defended on every side by deep valleys and steep ascents; since the invasion of Syria, Edition: current; Page: [161] the walls and towers had been anxiously restored; the bravest of the fugitives of Yermuk had stopped in the nearest place of refuge; and in the defence of the sepulchre of Christ the natives and strangers might feel some sparks of the enthusiasm which so fiercely glowed in the bosoms of the Saracens. The siege of Jerusalem lasted four months; not a day was lost without some action of sally or assault; the military engines incessantly played from the ramparts; and the inclemency of the winter was still more painful and destructive to the Arabs. The Christians yielded at length to the perseverance of the besiegers. The patriarch Sophronius appeared on the walls, and by the voice of an interpreter demanded a conference. After a vain attempt to dissuade the lieutenant of the caliph from his impious enterprise, he proposed, in the name of the people, a fair capitulation, with this extraordinary clause, that the articles of security should be ratified by the authority and presence of Omar himself. The question was debated in the council of Medina; the sanctity of the place, and the advice of Ali, persuaded the caliph to gratify the wishes of his soldiers and enemies, and the simplicity of his journey is more illustrious than the royal pageants of vanity and oppression. The conqueror of Persia and Syria was mounted on a red camel, which carried, besides his person, a bag of corn, a bag of dates, a wooden dish, and a leathern bottle of water. Wherever he halted, the company, without distinction, was invited to partake of his homely fare, and the repast was consecrated by the prayer and exhortation of the commander of the faithful.95 But in this expedition or pilgrimage his power was exercised in the administration of justice; he reformed the licentious polygamy of the Arabs, relieved the tributaries from extortion and cruelty, and chastised the luxury of the Saracens by despoiling them of their rich silks and dragging them on their Edition: current; Page: [162] faces in the dirt. When he came within sight of Jerusalem, the caliph cried with a loud voice, “God is victorious. O Lord, give us an easy conquest;” and, pitching his tent of coarse hair, calmly seated himself on the ground. After signing the capitulation, he entered the city without fear or precaution; and courteously discoursed with the patriarch concerning its religious antiquities.96 Sophronius bowed before his new master, and secretly muttered, in the words of Daniel, “The abomination of desolation is in the holy place.”97 At the hour of prayer they stood together in the church of the Resurrection; but the caliph refused to perform his devotions, and contented himself with praying on the steps of the church of Constantine. To the patriarch he disclosed his prudent and honourable motive. “Had I yielded,” said Omar, “to your request, the Moslems of a future age would have infringed the treaty under colour of imitating my example.” By his command the ground of the temple of Solomon was prepared for the foundation of a mosch;98 and, during a residence of ten days, he regulated the present and future state of his Syrian conquests. Medina might be jealous lest the caliph should be detained by Edition: current; Page: [163] the sanctity of Jerusalem or the beauty of Damascus; her apprehensions were dispelled by his prompt and voluntary return to the tomb of the apostle.99

To achieve what yet remained of the Syrian war, the caliph had formed two separate armies: a chosen detachment, under Amrou and Yezid, was left in the camp of Palestine; while the larger division, under the standard of Abu Obeidah and Caled, marched away to the north against Antioch and Aleppo.100 The latter of these, the Berœa of the Greeks, was not yet illustrious as the capital of a province or a kingdom; and the inhabitants, by anticipating their submission and pleading their poverty, obtained a moderate composition for their lives and religion. But the castle of Aleppo,101 distinct from the city, stood erect on a lofty artificial mound: the sides were sharpened to a precipice, and faced with freestone; and the breadth of the ditch might be filled with water from the neighbouring springs. After a loss of three thousand men, the garrison was still equal to the defence; and Youkinna, their valiant and hereditary chief, had murdered his brother, an holy monk, for daring to pronounce the name of peace. In a siege of four or five months, the hardest of the Syrian war, great numbers of the Saracens were killed and wounded; their removal to the distance of a Edition: current; Page: [164] mile could not seduce the vigilance of Youkinna; nor could the Christians be terrified by the execution of three hundred captives, whom they beheaded before the castle-wall. The silence, and at length the complaints, of Abu Obeidah informed the caliph that their hope and patience were consumed at the foot of this impregnable fortress. “I am variously affected,” replied Omar, “by the difference of your success; but I charge you by no means to raise the siege of the castle. Your retreat would diminish the reputation of our arms, and encourage the infidels to fall upon you on all sides. Remain before Aleppo till God shall determine the event, and forage with your horse round the adjacent country.” The exhortation of the commander of the faithful was fortified by a supply of volunteers from all the tribes of Arabia, who arrived in the camp on horses or camels. Among these was Dames, of a servile birth, but of gigantic size and intrepid resolution. The forty-seventh day of his service he proposed, with only thirty men, to make an attempt on the castle. The experience and testimony of Caled recommended his offer; and Abu Obeidah admonished his brethren not to despise the baser origin of Dames, since he himself, could he relinquish the public care, would cheerfully serve under the banner of the slave. His design was covered by the appearance of a retreat; and the camp of the Saracens was pitched about a league from Aleppo. The thirty adventurers lay in ambush at the foot of the hill; and Dames at length succeeded in his inquiries, though he was provoked by the ignorance of his Greek captives. “God curse these dogs,” said the illiterate Arab, “what a strange barbarous language they speak!” At the darkest hour of the night, he scaled the most accessible height, which he had diligently surveyed, a place where the stones were less entire, or the slope less perpendicular, or the guard less vigilant. Seven of the stoutest Saracens mounted on each other’s shoulders, and the weight of the column was sustained on the broad and sinewy back of the gigantic slave. The foremost Edition: current; Page: [165] in this painful ascent could grasp and climb the lowest part of the battlements; they silently stabbed and cast down the sentinels; and the thirty brethren, repeating a pious ejaculation, “O apostle of God, help and deliver us!” were successively drawn up by the long folds of their turbans. With bold and cautious footsteps, Dames explored the palace of the governor, who celebrated, in riotous merriment, the festival of his deliverance. From thence returning to his companions, he assaulted on the inside the entrance of the castle. They overpowered the guard, unbolted the gate, let down the drawbridge, and defended the narrow pass, till the arrival of Caled, with the dawn of day, relieved their danger and assured their conquest. Youkinna, a formidable foe, became an active and useful proselyte; and the general of the Saracens expressed his regard for the most humble merit by detaining the army at Aleppo till Dames was cured of his honourable wounds. The capital of Syria was still covered by the castle of Aazaz and the iron bridge of the Orontes. After the loss of those important posts and the defeat of the last of the Roman armies, the luxury of Antioch102 trembled and obeyed. Her safety was ransomed with three hundred thousand pieces of gold; but the throne of the successors of Alexander, the seat of the Roman government in the East, which had been decorated by Cæsar with the titles of free, and holy, and inviolate, was degraded under the yoke of the caliphs to the secondary rank of a provincial town.103

Edition: current; Page: [166]

In the life of Heraclius, the glories of the Persian war are clouded on either hand by the disgrace and weakness of his more early and his later days. When the successors of Mahomet unsheathed the sword of war and religion, he was astonished at the boundless prospect of toil and danger; his nature was indolent, nor could the infirm and frigid age of the emperor be kindled to a second effort. The sense of shame, and the importunities of the Syrians, prevented his hasty departure from the scene of action; but the hero was no more; and the loss of Damascus and Jerusalem, the bloody fields of Aiznadin and Yermuk, may be imputed in some degree to the absence or misconduct of the sovereign. Instead of defending the sepulchre of Christ, he involved the church and state in a metaphysical controversy for the unity of his will; and, while Heraclius crowned the offspring of his second nuptials, he was tamely stripped of the most valuable part of their inheritance. In the cathedral of Antioch, in the presence of the bishops, at the foot of the crucifix, he bewailed the sins of the prince and people; but his confession instructed the world that it was vain, and perhaps impious, to resist the judgment of God. The Saracens were invincible in fact, since they were invincible in opinion; and the desertion of Youkinna, his false repentance and repeated perfidy, might justify the suspicion of the emperor that he was encompassed by traitors and apostates who conspired to betray his person and their country to the enemies of Christ. In the hour of adversity, his superstition was agitated by the omens and dreams of a falling crown; and, after bidding an eternal farewell to Syria, he secretly embarked with a few attendants and absolved the faith of his subjects.104 Constantine, his Edition: current; Page: [167] eldest son, had been stationed with forty thousand men at Cæsarea, the civil metropolis of the three provinces of Palestine. But his private interest recalled him to the Byzantine court; and, after the flight of his father, he felt himself an unequal champion to the united force of the caliph. His vanguard was boldly attacked by three hundred Arabs and a thousand black slaves, who, in the depth of winter, had climbed the snowy mountains of Libanus, and who were speedily followed by the victorious squadrons of Caled himself. From the north and south, the troops of Antioch and Jerusalem advanced along the sea-shore, till their banners were joined under the walls of the Phœnician cities: Tripoli and Tyre were betrayed; and a fleet of fifty transports, which entered without distrust the captive harbours, brought a seasonable supply of arms and provisions to the camp of the Saracens. Their labours were terminated by the unexpected surrender of Cæsarea:105 the Roman prince had embarked in the night;106 and the defenceless citizens solicited their pardon with an offering of two hundred thousand pieces of Edition: current; Page: [168] gold. The remainder of the province, Ramlah,107 Ptolemais or Acre, Sichem or Neapolis, Gaza, Ascalon, Berytus, Sidon, Gabala, Laodicea, Apamea, Hierapolis, no longer presumed to dispute the will of the conqueror; and Syria bowed under the sceptre of the caliphs seven hundred years after Pompey had despoiled the last of the Macedonian kings.108

The sieges and battles of six campaigns had consumed many thousands of the Moslems. They died with the reputation and the cheerfulness of martyrs; and the simplicity of their faith may be expressed in the words of an Arabian youth, when he embraced, for the last time, his sister and mother: “It is not,” said he, “the delicacies of Syria, or the fading delights of this world, that have prompted me to devote my life in the cause of religion. But I seek the favour of God and his apostle; and I have heard, from one of the companions of the prophet, that the spirits of the martyrs will be lodged in the crops of green birds, who shall taste the fruits, and drink of the rivers, of paradise. Farewell; we shall meet again among the groves and fountains which God has provided for his elect.” The faithful captives might exercise a passive and more arduous resolution; and a cousin of Mahomet is celebrated for refusing, after an abstinence of three days, the wine and pork, the only nourishment that was allowed by the malice of the infidels. The frailty of some weaker brethren exasperated the implacable spirit of fanaticism; and the father of Amer deplored, in pathetic strains, the apostacy and damnation of a son, who had renounced the promises of God and the intercession of the prophet, to occupy, with the priests and deacons, the lowest mansions of Edition: current; Page: [169] hell. The more fortunate Arabs, who survived the war and persevered in the faith, were restrained by their abstemious leader from the abuse of prosperity. After a refreshment of three days, Abu Obeidah withdrew his troops from the pernicious contagion of the luxury of Antioch, and assured the caliph that their religion and virtue could only be preserved by the hard discipline of poverty and labour. But the virtue of Omar, however rigorous to himself, was kind and liberal to his brethren. After a just tribute of praise and thanksgiving, he dropped a tear of compassion; and, sitting down on the ground, wrote an answer, in which he mildly censured the severity of his lieutenant: “God,” said the successor of the prophet, “has not forbidden the use of the good things of this world to faithful men, and such as have performed good works: therefore, you ought to have given them leave to rest themselves, and partake freely of those good things which the country affordeth. If any of the Saracens have no family in Arabia, they may marry in Syria; and, whosoever of them wants any female slaves, he may purchase as many as he hath occasion for.” The conquerors prepared to use, or to abuse, this gracious permission; but the year of their triumph was marked by a mortality of men and cattle; and twenty-five thousand Saracens were snatched away from the possession of Syria. The death of Abu Obeidah might be lamented by the Christians; but his brethren recollected that he was one of the ten elect whom the prophet had named as the heirs of paradise.109 Caled survived his brethren about three years; and the tomb of the Sword of God is shewn in the neighbourhood of Emesa. His valour, which founded in Arabia and Syria the empire of the caliphs, was fortified by the opinion of a special providence; and, as long as he wore a cap which had been blessed by Mahomet, Edition: current; Page: [170] he deemed himself invulnerable amidst the darts of the infidels.

The place of the first conquerors was supplied by a new generation of their children and countrymen: Syria became the seat and support of the house of Ommiyah; and the revenue, the soldiers, the ships, of that powerful kingdom were consecrated to enlarge on every side the empire of the caliphs. But the Saracens despise a superfluity of fame; and their historians scarcely condescend to mention the subordinate conquests which are lost in the splendour and rapidity of their victorious career. To the north of Syria, they passed Mount Taurus, and reduced to their obedience the province of Cilicia, with its capital Tarsus, the ancient monument of the Assyrian kings. Beyond a second ridge of the same mountains, they spread the flame of war, rather than the light of religion, as far as the shores of the Euxine and the neighbourhood of Constantinople. To the east, they advanced to the banks and sources of the Euphrates and Tigris:110 the long-disputed barrier of Rome and Persia was for ever confounded; the walls of Edessa and Amida, of Dara and Nisibis, which had resisted the arms and engines of Sapor or Nushirvan, were levelled in the dust; and the holy city of Abgarus might vainly produce the epistle of the image of Christ to an unbelieving conqueror. To the west, the Syrian kingdom is bounded by the sea; and the ruin of Aradus, a small island or peninsula on the coast, was postponed Edition: current; Page: [171] during ten years. But the hills of Libanus abounded in timber, the trade of Phœnicia was populous in mariners; and a fleet of seventeen hundred barks was equipped and manned by the natives of the desert. The Imperial navy of the Romans fled before them from the Pamphylian rocks to the Hellespont; but the spirit of the emperor, a grandson of Heraclius, had been subdued before the combat by a dream and a pun.111 The Saracens rode masters of the sea; and the islands of Cyprus, Rhodes, and the Cyclades were successively exposed to their rapacious visits. Three hundred years before the Christian era, the memorable though fruitless siege of Rhodes112 by Demetrius had furnished that maritime republic with the materials and the subject of a trophy. A gigantic statue of Apollo, or the sun, seventy cubits in height, was erected at the entrance of the harbour, a monument of the freedom and the arts of Greece. After standing fifty-six years, the colossus of Rhodes was overthrown by an earthquake; but the massy trunk and huge fragments lay scattered eight centuries on the ground, and are often described as one of the wonders of the ancient world. They were collected by the diligence of the Saracens, and sold to a Jewish merchant of Edessa, who is said to have laden nine hundred camels with the weight of the brass metal: an enormous weight, though we should include the Edition: current; Page: [172] hundred colossal figures113 and the three thousand statues which adorned the prosperity of the city of the sun.

III. The conquest of Egypt may be explained by the character of the victorious Saracen, one of the first of his nation, in an age when the meanest of the brethren was exalted above his nature by the spirit of enthusiasm. The birth of Amrou was at once base and illustrious: his mother, a notorious prostitute, was unable to decide among five of the Koreish; but the proof of resemblance adjudged the child to Aasi, the oldest of her lovers.114 The youth of Amrou was impelled by the passions and prejudices of his kindred: his poetic genius was exercised in satirical verses against the person and doctrine of Mahomet; his dexterity was employed by the reigning faction to pursue the religious exiles who had taken refuge in the court of the Œthiopian king115 yet he returned from this embassy a secret proselyte; his reason or his interest determined him to renounce the worship of idols; he escaped from Mecca with his friend Caled, and the prophet of Medina enjoyed at the same moment the satisfaction of embracing the two firmest champions of his cause. The impatience of Amrou to lead the armies of the faithful was checked by the reproof of Omar, who advised him not to seek power and dominion, since he who is a subject to-day may be a prince to-morrow. Yet his merit was not overlooked by the two first successors of Mahomet; they were indebted to his arms for the conquest of Palestine; and in all the battles and sieges of Syria he united with the temper of a chief the valour of an adventurous soldier. In a visit to Edition: current; Page: [173] Medina, the caliph expressed a wish to survey the sword which had cut down so many Christian warriors: the son of Aasi unsheathed a short and ordinary scymetar; and, as he perceived the surprise of Omar, “Alas,” said the modest Saracen, “the sword itself, without the arm of its master, is neither sharper nor more weighty than the sword of Pharezdak the poet.”116 After the conquest of Egypt, he was recalled by the jealousy of the caliph Othman; but, in the subsequent troubles, the ambition of a soldier, a statesman, and an orator emerged from a private station. His powerful support, both in council and in the field, established the throne of the Ommiades; the administration and revenue of Egypt were restored by the gratitude of Moawiyah to a faithful friend, who had raised himself above the rank of a subject; and Amrou ended his days in the palace and city which he had founded on the banks of the Nile. His dying speech to his children is celebrated by the Arabians as a model of eloquence and wisdom: he deplored the errors of his youth; but, if the penitent was still infected by the vanity of a poet, he might exaggerate the venom and mischief of his impious compositions.117

From his camp, in Palestine, Amrou had surprised or anticipated the caliph’s leave for the invasion of Egypt.118 The magnanimous Omar trusted in his God and his sword, which had shaken the thrones of Chosroes and Cæsar; but, Edition: current; Page: [174] when he compared the slender force of the Moslems with the greatness of the enterprise, he condemned his own rashness and listened to his timid companions. The pride and the greatness of Pharaoh were familiar to the readers of the Koran; and a tenfold repetition of prodigies had been scarcely sufficient to effect, not the victory, but the flight of six hundred thousand of the children of Israel. The cities of Egypt were many and populous; their architecture was strong and solid; the Nile, with its numerous branches, was alone an insuperable barrier; and the granary of the Imperial city would be obstinately defended by the Roman powers. In this perplexity, the commander of the faithful resigned himself to the decision of chance, or, in his opinion, of providence. At the head of only four thousand Arabs, the intrepid Amrou had marched away from his station of Gaza, when he was overtaken by the messenger of Omar. “If you are still in Syria,” said the ambiguous mandate, “retreat without delay; but if, at the receipt of this epistle, you have already reached the frontiers of Egypt, advance with confidence, and depend on the succour of God and of your brethren.” The experience, perhaps the secret intelligence, of Amrou had taught him to suspect the mutability of courts; and he continued his march till his tents were unquestionably pitched on Egyptian ground. He there assembled his officers, broke the seal, perused the epistle, gravely inquired the name and situation of the place, and declared his ready obedience to the commands of the caliph. After a siege of thirty days, he took possession of Farmah or Pelusium; and that key of Egypt, as it has been justly named, unlocked the entrance of the country, as far as the ruins of Heliopolis and the neighbourhood of the modern Cairo.

On the western side of the Nile, at a small distance to the east of the Pyramids, at a small distance to the south of the Delta, Memphis, one hundred and fifty furlongs in circumference, displayed the magnificence of ancient kings. Under the reign of the Ptolemies and Cæsars, the seat of government Edition: current; Page: [175] was removed to the sea-coast; the ancient capital was eclipsed by the arts and opulence of Alexandria; the palaces, and at length the temples, were reduced to a desolate and ruinous condition: yet in the age of Augustus, and even in that of Constantine, Memphis was still numbered among the greatest and most populous of the provincial cities.119 The banks of the Nile, in this place of the breadth of three thousand feet, were united by two bridges of sixty and of thirty boats, connected in the middle stream by the small island of Rouda, which was covered with gardens and habitations.120 The eastern extremity of the bridge was terminated by the town of Babylon and the camp of a Roman legion, which protected the passage of the river and the second capital of Egypt. This important fortress, which might fairly be described as a part of Memphis, or Misrah, was invested by the arms of the lieutenant of Omar: a reinforcement of four thousand Saracens soon arrived in his camp; and the military engines, which battered the walls, may be imputed to the art and labour of his Syrian allies. Yet the siege was protracted to seven months; and the rash invaders were encompassed and threatened by the inundation of the Nile.121 Their last assault was bold and successful: they Edition: current; Page: [176] passed the ditch, which had been fortified with iron spikes, applied their scaling-ladders, entered the fortress with the shout of “God is victorious!” and drove the remnant of the Greeks to their boats and the isle of Rouda. The spot was afterwards recommended to the conqueror by the easy communication with the gulf and the peninsula of Arabia: the remains of Memphis were deserted; the tents of the Arabs were converted into permanent habitations; and the first mosch was blessed by the presence of fourscore companions of Mahomet.122 A new city arose in their camp on the eastward bank of the Nile; and the contiguous quarters of Babylon and Fostat are confounded in their present decay by the appellation of old Misrah or Cairo, of which they form an extensive suburb. But the name of Cairo, the town of victory, more strictly belongs to the modern capital, which was founded in the tenth century by the Fatimite caliphs.123 It has gradually receded from the river,123a but the continuity of buildings may be traced by an attentive eye from the monuments of Sesostris to those of Saladin.124

Yet the Arabs, after a glorious and profitable enterprise, Edition: current; Page: [177] must have retreated to the desert, had they not found a powerful alliance in the heart of the country. The rapid conquest of Alexander was assisted by the superstition and revolt of the natives; they abhorred their Persian oppressors, the disciples of the Magi, who had burnt the temples of Egypt, and feasted with sacrilegious appetite on the flesh of the god Apis.125 After a period of ten centuries the same revolution was renewed by a similar cause; and, in the support of an incomprehensible creed, the zeal of the Coptic Christians was equally ardent. I have already explained the origin and progress of the Monophysite controversy, and the persecution of the emperors, which converted a sect into a nation and alienated Egypt from their religion and government. The Saracens were received as the deliverers of the Jacobite church; and a secret and effectual treaty was opened during the siege of Memphis between a victorious army and a people of slaves. A rich and noble Egyptian, of the name of Mokawkas, had dissembled his faith to obtain the administration of his province: in the disorders of the Persian war he aspired to independence; the embassy of Mahomet ranked him among princes; but he declined, with rich gifts and ambiguous compliments, the proposal of a new religion.126 The abuse of his trust exposed him to the resentment of Heraclius; his submission was delayed by arrogance and fear; and his conscience was prompted by interest to throw himself on the favour of the nation and the support of the Edition: current; Page: [178] Saracens. In his first conference with Amrou, he heard without indignation the usual option of the Koran, the tribute, or the sword. “The Greeks,” replied Mokawkas, “are determined to abide the determination of the sword; but with the Greeks I desire no communion, either in this world or in the next, and I abjure for ever the Byzantine tyrant, his synod of Chalcedon, and his Melchite slaves. For myself and my brethren, we are resolved to live and die in the profession of the gospel and unity of Christ. It is impossible for us to embrace the revelations of your prophet; but we are desirous of peace, and cheerfully submit to pay tribute and obedience to his temporal successors.” The tribute was ascertained at two pieces of gold for the head of every Christian;127 but old men, monks, women, and children of both sexes under sixteen years of age were exempted from this personal assessment; the Copts above and below Memphis swore allegiance to the caliph, and promised an hospitable entertainment of three days to every Musulman who should travel through their country. By this charter of security the ecclesiastical and civil tyranny of the Melchites was destroyed;128 the anathemas of St. Cyril were thundered from every pulpit; and the sacred edifices, with the patrimony of the church, were restored to the national communion of the Jacobites, who enjoyed without moderation the moment of triumph and revenge. At the pressing summons of Amrou, their patriarch Benjamin emerged from his desert; and, after the first interview, the courteous Arab affected to declare that he had never conversed with a Christian priest of more Edition: current; Page: [179] innocent manners and a more venerable aspect.129 In the march from Memphis to Alexandria, the lieutenant of Omar entrusted his safety to the zeal and gratitude of the Egyptians; the roads and bridges were diligently repaired; and, in every step of his progress, he could depend on a constant supply of provisions and intelligence. The Greeks of Egypt, whose numbers could scarcely equal a tenth of the natives, were overwhelmed by the universal defection; they had ever been hated, they were no longer feared; the magistrate fled from his tribunal, the bishop from his altar; and the distant garrisons were surprised or starved by the surrounding multitudes. Had not the Nile afforded a safe and ready conveyance to the sea, not an individual could have escaped who by birth, or language, or office, or religion was connected with their odious name.

By the retreat of the Greeks from the provinces of Upper Egypt, a considerable force was collected in the island of Delta: the natural and artificial channels of the Nile afforded a succession of strong and defensible posts; and the road to Alexandria was laboriously cleared by the victory of the Saracens in two and twenty days of general or partial combat. In their annals of conquest, the siege of Alexandria130 is perhaps the most arduous and important enterprise. The first trading city in the world was abundantly replenished with the means of subsistence and defence. Her numerous inhabitants fought for the dearest of human rights, religion and property; and the enmity of the natives seemed to exclude them from the common benefit of peace and toleration. The sea was continually open; and, if Heraclius had been awake to the public distress, fresh armies of Romans and Barbarians might have been poured into the harbour to save Edition: current; Page: [180] the second capital of the empire. A circumference of ten miles would have scattered the forces of the Greeks and favoured the stratagems of an active enemy; but the two sides of an oblong square were covered by the sea and the lake Maræotis, and each of the narrow ends exposed a front of no more than ten furlongs. The efforts of the Arabs were not inadequate to the difficulty of the attempt and the value of the prize. From the throne of Medina, the eyes of Omar were fixed on the camp and city: his voice excited to arms the Arabian tribes and the veterans of Syria; and the merit of an holy war was recommended by the peculiar fame and fertility of Egypt. Anxious for the ruin or expulsion of their tyrants, the faithful natives devoted their labours to the service of Amrou; some sparks of martial spirit were perhaps rekindled by the example of their allies; and the sanguine hopes of Mokawkas had fixed his sepulchre in the church of St. John of Alexandria. Eutychius the patriarch observes that the Saracens fought with the courage of lions; they repulsed the frequent and almost daily sallies of the besieged, and soon assaulted in their turn the walls and towers of the city. In every attack, the sword, the banner of Amrou glittered in the van of the Moslems. On a memorable day, he was betrayed by his imprudent valour: his followers who had entered the citadel were driven back; and the general, with a friend and a slave, remained a prisoner in the hands of the Christians. When Amrou was conducted before the prefect, he remembered his dignity and forgot his situation; a lofty demeanour and resolute language revealed the lieutenant of the caliph, and the battle-axe of Edition: current; Page: [181] a soldier was already raised to strike off the head of the audacious captive. His life was saved by the readiness of his slave, who instantly gave his master a blow on the face, and commanded him, with an angry tone, to be silent in the presence of his superiors. The credulous Greek was deceived: he listened to the offer of a treaty, and his prisoners were dismissed in the hope of a more respectable embassy, till the joyful acclamations of the camp announced the return of their general and insulted the folly of the infidels.131 At length, after a siege of fourteen months132 and the loss of three and twenty thousand men, the Saracens prevailed; the Greeks embarked their dispirited and diminished numbers, and the standard of Mahomet was planted on the walls of the capital of Egypt. “I have taken,” said Amrou to the caliph, “the great city of the West. It is impossible for me to enumerate the variety of its riches and beauty; and I shall content myself with observing that it contains four thousand palaces, four thousand baths, four hundred theatres or places of amusement, twelve thousand shops for the sale of vegetable food, and forty thousand tributary Jews. The town has been subdued by force of arms, without treaty or capitulation, and the Moslems are impatient to seize the fruits of their victory.”133 The commander of the faithful rejected with Edition: current; Page: [182] firmness the idea of pillage, and directed his lieutenant to reserve the wealth and revenue of Alexandria for the public service and the propagation of the faith. The inhabitants were numbered; a tribute was imposed; the zeal and resentment of the Jacobites were curbed, and the Melchites who submitted to the Arabian yoke were indulged in the obscure but tranquil exercise of their worship. The intelligence of this disgraceful and calamitous event afflicted the declining health of the emperor; and Heraclius died of a dropsy about seven weeks after the loss of Alexandria.134 Under the minority of his grandson, the clamours of a people, deprived of their daily sustenance, compelled the Byzantine court to undertake the recovery of the capital of Egypt. In the space of four years, the harbour and fortifications of Alexandria were twice occupied by a fleet and army of Romans. They were twice expelled by the valour of Amrou, who was recalled by the domestic peril from the distant wars of Tripoli and Nubia. But the facility of the attempt, the repetition of the insult, and the obstinacy of the resistance provoked him to swear that, if a third time he drove the infidels into the sea, he would render Alexandria as accessible on all sides as the house of a prostitute. Faithful to his promise, he dismantled several parts of the walls and towers, but the people was spared in the chastisement of the city, and the mosch of Mercy was erected on the spot where the victorious general had stopped the fury of his troops.

I should deceive the expectation of the reader, if I passed in silence the fate of the Alexandrian library, as it is described by the learned Abulpharagius. The spirit of Amrou was more curious and liberal than that of his brethren, and in Edition: current; Page: [183] his leisure hours the Arabian chief was pleased with the conversation of John, the last disciple of Ammonius, and who derived the surname of Philoponus from his laborious studies of grammar and philosophy.135 Emboldened by this familiar intercourse, Philoponus presumed to solicit a gift, inestimable in his opinion, contemptible in that of the Barbarians: the royal library, which alone, among the spoils of Alexandria, had not been appropriated by the visit and the seal of the conqueror. Amrou was inclined to gratify the wish of the grammarian, but his rigid integrity refused to alienate the minutest object without the consent of the caliph; and the well-known answer of Omar was inspired by the ignorance of a fanatic. “If these writings of the Greeks agree with the book of God, they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed.” The sentence was executed with blind obedience; the volumes of paper or parchment were distributed to the four thousand baths of the city; and such was their incredible multitude that six months were barely sufficient for the consumption of this precious fuel. Since the Dynasties of Abulpharagius136 have been given to the world in a Latin version, the tale has been repeatedly transcribed; and every scholar, with pious indignation, has deplored the irreparable shipwreck Edition: current; Page: [184] of the learning, the arts, and the genius of antiquity. For my own part, I am strongly tempted to deny both the fact and the consequences. The fact is indeed marvellous; “Read and wonder!” says the historian himself; and the solitary report of a stranger who wrote at the end of six hundred years on the confines of Media is overbalanced by the silence of two annalists of a more early date, both Christians, both natives of Egypt, and the most ancient of whom, the patriarch Eutychius, has amply described the conquest of Alexandria.137 The rigid sentence of Omar is repugnant to the sound and orthodox precept of the Mahometan casuists: they expressly declare that the religious books of the Jews and Christians, which are acquired by the right of war, should never be committed to the flames; and that the works of profane science, historians or poets, physicians or philosophers, may be lawfully applied to the use of the faithful.138 A more destructive zeal may perhaps be attributed to the first successors of Mahomet; yet in this instance the conflagration would have speedily expired in the deficiency of materials. I shall not recapitulate the disasters of the Alexandrian library, the involuntary flame that was kindled by Cæsar in his own defence,139 or the mischievous bigotry of the Christians who studied to destroy the monuments of idolatry.140 But, if we gradually descend from the age of the Edition: current; Page: [185] Antonines to that of Theodosius, we shall learn from a chain of contemporary witnesses that the royal palace and the temple of Serapis no longer contained the four, or the seven, hundred thousand volumes which had been assembled by the curiosity and magnificence of the Ptolemies.141 Perhaps the church and seat of the patriarchs might be enriched with a repository of books; but, if the ponderous mass of Arian and Monophysite controversy were indeed consumed in the public baths,142 a philosopher may allow, with a smile, that it was ultimately devoted to the benefit of mankind. I sincerely Edition: current; Page: [186] regret the more valuable libraries which have been involved in the ruin of the Roman empire; but, when I seriously compute the lapse of ages, the waste of ignorance, and the calamities of war, our treasures, rather than our losses, are the object of my surprise. Many curious and interesting facts are buried in oblivion: the three great historians of Rome have been transmitted to our hands in a mutilated state, and we are deprived of many pleasing compositions of the lyric, iambic, and dramatic poetry of the Greeks. Yet we should gratefully remember that the mischances of time and accident have spared the classic works to which the suffrage of antiquity143 had adjudged the first place of genius and glory; the teachers of ancient knowledge, who are still extant, had persued and compared the writings of their predecessors;144 nor can it fairly be presumed that any important truth, any useful discovery in art or nature, has been snatched away from the curiosity of modern ages.

In the administration of Egypt,145 Amrou balanced the demands of justice and policy; the interest of the people of the law, who were defended by God, and of the people of the alliance, who were protected by man. In the recent tumult of conquest and deliverance, the tongue of the Copts and the sword of the Arabs were most adverse to the tranquillity of the province. To the former, Amrou declared that faction and falsehood would be doubly chastised: by the punishment Edition: current; Page: [187] of the accusers, whom he should detest as his personal enemies, and by the promotion of their innocent brethren, whom their envy had laboured to injure and supplant. He excited the latter by the motives of religion and honour to sustain the dignity of their character, to endear themselves by a modest and temperate conduct to God and the caliph, to spare and protect a people who had trusted to their faith, and to content themselves with the legitimate and splendid rewards of their victory. In the management of the revenue he disapproved the simple but oppressive mode of capitation, and preferred with reason a proportion of taxes, deducted on every branch from the clear profits of agriculture and commerce. A third part of the tribute was appropriated to the annual repairs of the dykes and canals, so essential to the public welfare. Under his administration the fertility of Egypt supplied the dearth of Arabia; and a string of camels, laden with corn and provisions, covered almost without an interval the long road from Memphis to Medina.146 But the genius of Amrou soon renewed the maritime communication which had been attempted or achieved by the Pharaohs, the Ptolemies, or the Cæsars; and a canal, at least eighty miles in length, was opened from the Nile to the Red Sea. This inland navigation, which would have joined the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, was soon discontinued as useless and dangerous; the throne was removed from Medina to Damascus; and the Grecian fleets might have explored a passage to the holy cities of Arabia.147

Edition: current; Page: [188]

Of his new conquest, the caliph Omar had an imperfect knowledge from the voice of fame and the legends of the Koran. He requested that his lieutenant would place before his eyes the realm of Pharaoh and the Amalekites; and the answer of Amrou exhibits a lively and not unfaithful picture of that singular country.148 “O commander of the faithful, Egypt is a compound of black earth and green plants, between a pulverised mountain and a red sand. The distance from Syene to the sea is a month’s journey for an horseman. Along the valley descends a river, on which the blessing of the Most High reposes both in the evening and morning, and which rises and falls with the revolutions of the sun and moon. When the annual dispensation of Providence unlocks the springs and fountains that nourish the earth, the Nile rolls his swelling and sounding waters through the realm of Egypt; the fields are overspread by the salutary flood; and the villages communicate with each other in their painted barks. The retreat of the inundation deposits a fertilising mud for the reception of the various seeds; the crowds of husbandmen who blacken the land may be compared to a swarm of industrious ants; and their native indolence is quickened by the lash of the task-master and the promise of the flowers and fruits of a plentiful increase. Their hope is seldom deceived; but the riches which they extract from the wheat, the barley, and the rice, the legumes, the fruit-trees, and the cattle, are unequally shared between those who labour and those who possess. According to the vicissitudes of the seasons, the Edition: current; Page: [189] face of the country is adorned with a silver wave, a verdant emerald, and the deep yellow of a golden harvest.”149 Yet this beneficial order is sometimes interrupted; and the long delay and sudden swell of the river in the first year of the conquest might afford some colour to an edifying fable. It is said that the annual sacrifice of a virgin150 had been interdicted by the piety of Omar; and that the Nile lay sullen and inactive in his shallow bed, till the mandate of the caliph was cast into the obedient stream, which rose in a single night to the height of sixteen cubits. The admiration of the Arabs for their new conquest encouraged the licence of their romantic spirit. We may read, in the gravest authors, that Egypt was crowded with twenty thousand cities or villages;151 that, exclusive of the Greeks and Arabs, the Copts alone were found, on the assessment, six millions of tributary subjects,152 or twenty millions of either sex and of Edition: current; Page: [190] every age; that three hundred millions of gold or silver were annually paid to the treasury of the caliph.153 Our reason must be startled by these extravagant assertions; and they will become more palpable, if we assume the compass and measure the extent of habitable ground: a valley from the tropic to Memphis, seldom broader than twelve miles, and the triangle of the Delta, a flat surface of two thousand one hundred square leagues, compose a twelfth part of the magnitude of France.154 A more accurate research will justify a more reasonable estimate. The three hundred millions, created by the error of a scribe, are reduced to the decent revenue of four millions three hundred thousand pieces of gold, of which nine hundred thousand were consumed by the pay of the soldiers.155 Two authentic lists, of the present and of the twelfth century, are circumscribed within the respectable number of two thousand seven hundred villages and towns.156 After a long residence at Cairo, a French Edition: current; Page: [191] consul has ventured to assign about four millions of Mahometans, Christians, and Jews for the ample, though not incredible, scope of the population of Egypt.157

IV. The conquest of Africa, from the Nile to the Atlantic Ocean,158 was first attempted by the arms of the caliph Edition: current; Page: [192] Othman.159 The pious design was approved by the companions of Mahomet and the chiefs of the tribes; and twenty thousand Arabs marched from Medina, with the gifts and the blessing of the commander of the faithful. They were joined in the camp of Memphis by twenty thousand of their countrymen; and the conduct of the war was entrusted to Abdallah,160 the son of Said, and the foster-brother of the caliph, who had lately supplanted the conqueror and lieutenant of Egypt. Yet the favour of the prince and the merit of his favourite could not obliterate the guilt of his apostasy. The early conversion of Abdallah and his skilful pen had recommended him to the important office of transcribing the sheets of the Koran; he betrayed his trust, corrupted the text, derided the errors which he had made, and fled to Mecca to escape the justice, and expose the ignorance, of the apostle. After the conquest of Mecca, he fell prostrate at the feet of Mahomet; his tears and the entreaties of Othman extorted a reluctant pardon; but the prophet declared that he had so long hesitated to allow time for some zealous disciple to avenge his injury in the blood of the apostate. With apparent fidelity and effective merit, he served the religion which it was no longer his interest to desert: his birth and talents gave him an honourable rank among the Koreish; and, in a nation of cavalry, Abdallah was renowned as the boldest and most dexterous horseman of Arabia. At the head of forty thousand Moslems, he advanced from Egypt into the unknown countries of the West. The sands of Barca might be impervious to a Roman legion; but the Arabs were attended by their faithful camels; and the natives of the desert beheld without terror the familiar aspect of the soil and Edition: current; Page: [193] climate. After a painful march, they pitched their tents before the walls of Tripoli,161 a maritime city, in which the name, the wealth, and the inhabitants of the province had gradually centred, and which now maintains the third rank among the states of Barbary. A reinforcement of Greeks was surprised and cut in pieces on the sea-shore; but the fortifications of Tripoli resisted the first assaults; and the Saracens were tempted by the approach of the prefect Gregory162 to relinquish the labours of the siege for the perils and the hopes of a decisive action. If his standard was followed by one hundred and twenty thousand men, the regular bands of the empire must have been lost in the naked and disorderly crowd of Africans and Moors, who formed the strength, or rather the numbers, of his host. He rejected with indignation the option of the Koran or the tribute; and during several days the two armies were fiercely engaged from the dawn of light to the hour of noon, when their fatigue and Edition: current; Page: [194] the excessive heat compelled them to seek shelter and refreshment in their respective camps. The daughter of Gregory, a maid of incomparable beauty and spirit, is said to have fought by his side; from her earliest youth she was trained to mount on horseback, to draw the bow, and to wield the scymetar; and the richness of her arms and apparel was conspicuous in the foremost ranks of the battle. Her hand, with an hundred thousand pieces of gold, was offered for the head of the Arabian general, and the youths of Africa were excited by the prospect of the glorious prize. At the pressing solicitation of his brethren, Abdallah withdrew his person from the field; but the Saracens were discouraged by the retreat of their leader and the repetition of these equal or unsuccessful conflicts.

A noble Arabian, who afterwards became the adversary of Ali and the father of a caliph, had signalised his valour in Egypt, and Zobeir163 was the first who planted the scaling-ladder against the walls of Babylon. In the African war he was detached from the standard of Abdallah. On the news of the battle, Zobeir, with twelve companions, cut his way through the camp of the Greeks, and pressed forwards, without tasting either food or repose, to partake of the dangers of his brethren. He cast his eyes round the field: “Where,” said he, “is our general?” “In his tent.” “Is the tent a station for the general of the Moslems?” Abdallah represented with a blush the importance of his own life, and the temptation that was held forth by the Roman prefect. “Retort,” said Zobeir, “on the infidels their ungenerous attempt. Proclaim through the ranks that the head of Gregory shall be repaid with his captive daughter and the equal sum of one hundred thousand pieces of gold.”164 Edition: current; Page: [195] To the courage and discretion of Zobeir the lieutenant of the caliph entrusted the execution of his own stratagem, which inclined the long-disputed balance in favour of the Saracens. Supplying by activity and artifice the deficiency of numbers, a part of their forces lay concealed in their tents, while the remainder prolonged an irregular skirmish with the enemy, till the sun was high in the heavens. On both sides they retired with fainting steps; their horses were unbridled, their armour was laid aside, and the hostile nations prepared, or seemed to prepare, for the refreshment of the evening and the encounter of the ensuing day. On a sudden, the charge was sounded; the Arabian camp poured forth a swarm of fresh and intrepid warriors; and the long line of the Greeks and Africans was surprised, assaulted, overturned by new squadrons of the faithful, who, to the eye of fanaticism, might appear as a band of angels descending from the sky. The prefect himself was slain by the hand of Zobeir: his daughter, who sought revenge and death, was surrounded and made prisoner; and the fugitives involved in their disaster the town of Sufetula, to which they escaped from the sabres and lances of the Arabs. Sufetula was built one hundred and fifty miles to the south of Carthage: a gentle declivity is watered by a running stream, and shaded by a grove of Juniper trees; and, in the ruins of a triumphal arch, a portico, and three temples of the Corinthian order, curiosity may yet admire the magnificence of the Romans.165 After the fall of this opulent city, the provincials and Barbarians implored on all sides the mercy of the conqueror. His vanity or his zeal might be flattered by offers of tribute or professions of faith; but his losses, his fatigues, and the progress of an epidemical disease prevented a solid establishment; and the Saracens, after a campaign of fifteen months, retreated to the confines of Egypt, with the captives and the Edition: current; Page: [196] wealth of their African expedition. The caliph’s fifth was granted to a favourite, on the nominal payment of five hundred thousand pieces of gold;166 but the state was doubly injured by this fallacious transaction, if each foot-soldier had shared one thousand, and each horseman three thousand, pieces in the real division of the plunder. The author of the death of Gregory was expected to have claimed the most precious reward of the victory: from his silence it might be presumed that he had fallen in the battle, till the tears and exclamations of the prefect’s daughter at the sight of Zobeir revealed the valour and modesty of that gallant soldier. The unfortunate virgin was offered, and almost rejected, as a slave, by her father’s murderer, who coolly declared that his sword was consecrated to the service of religion; and that he laboured for a recompense far above the charms of mortal beauty or the riches of this transitory life.167 A reward congenial to his temper was the honourable commission of announcing to the caliph Othman the success of his arms. The companions, the chiefs, and the people were assembled in the mosch of Medina, to hear the interesting narrative of Zobeir; and, as the orator forgot nothing except the merit of his own counsels and actions, the name of Abdallah was joined by the Arabians with the heroic names of Caled and Amrou.168

Edition: current; Page: [197]

The Western conquests of the Saracens were suspended near twenty years, till their dissensions were composed by the establishment of the house of Ommiyah; and the caliph Moawiyah was invited by the cries of the Africans themselves. The successors of Heraclius had been informed of the tribute which they had been compelled to stipulate with the Arabs; but, instead of being moved to pity and relieve their distress, they imposed, as an equivalent or a fine, a second tribute of a similar amount. The ears of the Byzantine ministers were shut against the complaints of their poverty and ruin; their despair was reduced to prefer the dominion of a single master; and the extortions of the patriarch169 of Carthage, who was invested with civil and military power, provoked the sectaries, and even the Catholics, of the Roman province to abjure the religion as well as the authority of their tyrants. The first lieutenant170 of Moawiyah acquired a just renown, subdued an important city, defeated an army of thirty thousand Greeks, swept away fourscore thousand captives, and enriched with their spoils the bold adventurers of Syria and Egypt.171 But the title of conqueror of Africa is more justly Edition: current; Page: [198] due to his successor Akbah. He marched from Damascus at the head of ten thousand of the bravest Arabs; and the genuine force of the Moslems was enlarged by the doubtful aid and conversion of many thousand Barbarians. It would be difficult, nor is it necessary, to trace the accurate line of the progress of Akbah. The interior regions have been peopled by the Orientals with fictitious armies and imaginary citadels.172 In the warlike province of Zab or Numidia, fourscore thousand of the natives might assemble in arms; but the number of three hundred and sixty towns is incompatible with the ignorance or decay of husbandry;173 and a circumference of three leagues will not be justified by the ruins of Erbe or Lambesa, the ancient metropolis of that inland country. As we approach the sea-coast the well-known cities of Bugia174 and Tangier175 define the more certain limits of the Saracen victories. A remnant of trade still adheres to the commodious harbour of Bugia, which, in a more prosperous age, is said to have contained about twenty thousand houses; and the plenty of iron, which is dug from the adjacent mountains, might have supplied a braver people with the instruments of defence. The remote position and venerable antiquity of Tingi, or Tangier, have been decorated by the Greek and Arabian fables; but the figurative expressions of the latter, that the walls were constructed of brass, and that the roofs were covered with gold and silver, may be interpreted as the emblems of strength and opulence. The province of Mauritania Tingitana,176 Edition: current; Page: [199] which assumed the name of the capital, had been imperfectly discovered and settled by the Romans; the five colonies were confined to a narrow pale, and the more southern parts were seldom explored except by the agents of luxury, who searched the forests for ivory and the citron-wood,177 and the shores of the ocean for the purple shell-fish. The fearless Akbah plunged into the heart of the country, traversed the wilderness in which his successors erected the splendid capitals of Fez and Morocco,178 and at length penetrated to the verge of the Atlantic and the great desert. The river Sus descends from the western sides of Mount Atlas, fertilises, like the Nile, the adjacent soil, and falls into the sea at a moderate distance from the Canary, or Fortunate, islands. Its banks were inhabited by the last of the Moors, a race of savages, without laws, or discipline, or religion: they were Edition: current; Page: [200] astonished by the strange and irresistible terrors of the Oriental arms; and, as they possessed neither gold nor silver, the richest spoil was the beauty of the female captives, some of whom were afterwards sold for a thousand pieces of gold. The career, though not the zeal, of Akbah was checked by the prospect of a boundless ocean. He spurred his horse into the waves, and, raising his eyes to heaven, exclaimed with the tone of a fanatic: “Great God! if my course were not stopped by this sea, I would still go on, to the unknown kingdoms of the West, preaching the unity of thy holy name, and putting to the sword the rebellious nations who worship any other gods than thee.”179 Yet this Mahometan Alexander, who sighed for new worlds, was unable to preserve his recent conquests. By the universal defection of the Greeks and Africans, he was recalled from the shores of the Atlantic, and the surrounding multitudes left him only the resource of an honourable death. The last scene was dignified by an example of national virtue. An ambitious chief, who had disputed the command and failed in the attempt, was led about as a prisoner in the camp of the Arabian general. The insurgents had trusted to his discontent and revenge; he disdained their offers, and revealed their designs. In the hour of danger the grateful Akbah unlocked his fetters and advised him to retire; he chose to die under the banner of his rival. Embracing as friends and martyrs, they unsheathed their scymetars, broke their scabbards, and maintained an obstinate combat, till they fell by each other’s side on the last of their slaughtered countrymen.180 The third general or governor of Africa, Zuheir, avenged and encountered the fate of his predecessor. He vanquished the natives in many battles; he was overthrown by a powerful Edition: current; Page: [201] army which Constantinople had sent to the relief of Carthage.

It had been the frequent practice of the Moorish tribes to join the invaders, to share the plunder, to profess the faith, and to revolt to their savage state of independence and idolatry on the first retreat or misfortune of the Moslems. The prudence of Akbah had proposed to found an Arabian colony in the heart of Africa: a citadel that might curb the levity of the Barbarians, a place of refuge to secure, against the accidents of war, the wealth and the families of the Saracens. With this view, and under the modest title of the station of a caravan, he planted this colony in the fiftieth year of the Hegira. In its present decay, Cairoan181 still holds the second rank in the kingdom of Tunis, from which it is distant about fifty miles to the south:182 its inland situation, twelve miles westward of the sea, has protected the city from the Greek and Sicilian fleets. When the wild beasts and serpents were extirpated, when the forest, or rather wilderness, was cleared, the vestiges of a Roman town were discovered in a sandy plain; the vegetable food of Cairoan is brought from afar; and the scarcity of springs constrains the inhabitants to collect in cisterns and reservoirs a precarious supply of rain-water. These obstacles were subdued by the industry of Akbah: he traced a circumference of three Edition: current; Page: [202] thousand and six hundred paces, which he encompassed with a brick wall; in the space of five years, the governor’s palace was surrounded with a sufficient number of private habitations; a spacious mosch was supported by five hundred columns of granite, porphyry, and Numidian marble; and Cairoan became the seat of learning as well as of empire. But these were the glories of a later age; the new colony was shaken by the successive defeats of Akbah and Zuheir, and the Western expeditions were again interrupted by the civil discord of the Arabian monarchy.183 The son of the valiant Zobeir maintained a war of twelve years, a siege of seven months, against the house of Ommiyah. Abdallah was said to unite the fierceness of the lion with the subtlety of the fox; but, if he inherited the courage, he was devoid of the generosity, of his father.184

The return of domestic peace allowed the caliph Abdalmalek to resume the conquest of Africa; the standard was delivered to Hassan governor of Egypt, and the revenue of that kingdom, with an army of forty thousand men, was Edition: current; Page: [203] consecrated to the important service. In the vicissitudes of war, the interior provinces had been alternately won and lost by the Saracens. But the sea-coast still remained in the hands of the Greeks; the predecessors of Hassan had respected the name and fortifications of Carthage; and the number of its defenders was recruited by the fugitives of Cabes and Tripoli. The arms of Hassan were bolder and more fortunate; he reduced and pillaged the metropolis of Africa; and the mention of scaling-ladders may justify the suspicion that he anticipated, by a sudden assault, the more tedious operations of a regular siege. But the joy of the conquerors was soon disturbed by the appearance of the Christian succours. The prefect and patrician John, a general of experience and renown, embarked at Constantinople the forces of the Eastern empire;185 they were joined by the ships and soldiers of Sicily, and a powerful reinforcement of Goths186 was obtained from the fears and religion of the Spanish monarch. The weight of the confederate navy broke the chain that guarded the entrance of the harbour; the Arabs retired to Cairoan, or Tripoli; the Christians landed; the citizens hailed the ensign of the cross, and the winter was idly wasted in the dream of victory or deliverance. But Africa was irrecoverably lost: the zeal and resentment of the commander of the faithful187 prepared Edition: current; Page: [204] in the ensuing spring a more numerous armament by sea and land; and the patrician in his turn was compelled to evacuate the post and fortifications of Carthage. A second battle was fought in the neighbourhood of Utica: the Greeks and Goths were again defeated; and their timely embarkation saved them from the sword of Hassan, who had invested the slight and insufficient rampart of their camp. Whatever yet remained of Carthage was delivered to the flames, and the colony of Dido188 and Cæsar lay desolate above two hundred years, till a part, perhaps a twentieth, of the old circumference was repeopled by the first of the Fatimite caliphs. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, the second capital of the West was represented by a mosch, a college without students, twenty-five or thirty shops, and the huts of five hundred peasants, who, in their abject poverty, displayed the arrogance of the Punic senators. Even that paltry village was swept away by the Spaniards whom Charles the Fifth had stationed in the fortress of the Goletta. The ruins of Carthage have perished; and the place might be unknown, if some broken arches of an aqueduct did not guide the footsteps of the inquisitive traveller.189

The Greeks were expelled, but the Arabians were not yet masters of the country. In the interior provinces, the Moors Edition: current; Page: [205] or Berbers,190 so feeble under the first Cæsars, so formidable to the Byzantine princes, maintained a disorderly resistance to the religion and power of the successors of Mahomet. Under the standard of their queen Cahina the independent tribes acquired some degree of union and discipline; and, as the Moors respected in their females the character of a prophetess, they attacked the invaders with an enthusiasm similar to their own. The veteran bands of Hassan were inadequate to the defence of Africa; the conquests of an age were lost in a single day,191 and the Arabian chief, overwhelmed by the torrent, retired to the confines of Egypt, and expected, five years, the promised succours of the caliph. After the retreat of the Saracens, the victorious prophetess assembled the Moorish chiefs, and recommended a measure of strange and savage policy. “Our cities,” said she, “and the gold and silver which they contain, perpetually attract the arms of the Arabs. These vile metals are not the objects of our ambition; we content ourselves with the simple productions Edition: current; Page: [206] of the earth. Let us destroy these cities; let us bury in their ruins those pernicious treasures; and, when the avarice of our foes shall be destitute of temptation, perhaps they will cease to disturb the tranquillity of a warlike people.” The proposal was accepted with unanimous applause. From Tangier to Tripoli the buildings, or at least the fortifications, were demolished, the fruit-trees were cut down, the means of subsistence were extirpated, a fertile and populous garden was changed into a desert, and the historians of a more recent period could discern the frequent traces of the prosperity and devastation of their ancestors. Such is the tale of the modern Arabians. Yet I strongly suspect that their ignorance of antiquity, the love of the marvellous, and the fashion of extolling the philosophy of Barbarians has induced them to describe, as one voluntary act, the calamities of three hundred years since the first fury of the Donatists and Vandals. In the progress of the revolt Cahina had most probably contributed her share of destruction; and the alarm of universal ruin might terrify and alienate the cities that had reluctantly yielded to her unworthy yoke. They no longer hoped, perhaps they no longer wished, the return of their Byzantine sovereigns: their present servitude was not alleviated by the benefits of order and justice; and the most zealous Catholic must prefer the imperfect truths of the Koran to the blind and rude idolatry of the Moors. The general of the Saracens was again received as the saviour of the province; the friends of civil society conspired against the savages of the land; and the royal prophetess was slain in the first battle, which overturned the baseless fabric of her superstition and empire. The same spirit revived under the successor of Hassan; it was finally quelled by the activity of Musa192 and his two sons; but the number of the rebels may Edition: current; Page: [207] be presumed from that of three hundred thousand captives; sixty thousand of whom, the caliph’s fifth, were sold for the profit of the public treasury. Thirty thousand of the Barbarian youth were enlisted in the troops; and the pious labours of Musa, to inculcate the knowledge and practice of the Koran, accustomed the Africans to obey the apostle of God and the commander of the faithful. In their climate and government, their diet and habitation, the wandering Moors resembled the Bedoweens of the desert. With the religion, they were proud to adopt the language, name, and origin of Arabs; the blood of the strangers and natives was insensibly mingled; and from the Euphrates to the Atlantic the same nation might seem to be diffused over the sandy plains of Asia and Africa. Yet I will not deny that fifty thousand tents of pure Arabians might be transported over the Nile, and scattered through the Libyan desert; and I am not ignorant that five of the Moorish tribes still retain their Barbarous idiom, with the appellation and character of white Africans.193

V. In the progress of conquest from the north and south, the Goths and the Saracens encountered each other on the confines of Europe and Africa. In the opinion of the latter, the difference of religion is a reasonable ground of enmity and warfare.194

As early as the time of Othman195 their piratical squadrons had ravaged the coast of Andalusia;196 nor had they forgotten Edition: current; Page: [208] the relief of Carthage by the Gothic succours. In that age, as well as in the present, the kings of Spain were possessed of the fortress of Ceuta: one of the columns of Hercules, which is divided by a narrow strait from the opposite pillar or point of Europe.197 A small portion of Mauritania was still wanting to the African conquest; but Musa, in the pride of victory, was repulsed from the walls of Ceuta by the vigilance and courage of Count Julian, the general of the Goths. From his disappointment and perplexity Musa was relieved by an unexpected message of the Christian chief, who offered his place, his person, and his sword to the successors of Mahomet, and solicited the disgraceful honour of introducing their arms into the heart of Spain.198 If we inquire into the cause of his treachery, the Spaniards will repeat the popular Edition: current; Page: [209] story of his daughter Cava;199 of a virgin who was seduced, or ravished, by her sovereign; of a father who sacrificed his religion and country to the thirst of revenge. The passions of princes have often been licentious and destructive; but this well-known tale, romantic in itself, is indifferently supported by external evidence; and the history of Spain will suggest some motives of interest and policy, more congenial to the breast of a veteran statesman.200 After the decease or deposition of Witiza, his two sons were supplanted by the ambition of Roderic, a noble Goth, whose father, the duke or governor of a province, had fallen a victim to the preceding tyranny. The monarchy was still elective; but the sons of Witiza, educated on the steps of the throne, were impatient of a private station. Their resentment was the more dangerous, as it was varnished with the dissimulation of courts; their followers were excited by the remembrance of favours and the promise of a revolution; and their uncle Oppas, archbishop of Toledo and Seville, was the first person in the church, and the second in the state. It is probable that Julian was involved in the disgrace of the unsuccessful faction; that he had little to hope and much to fear from the new reign; and that the imprudent king could not forget or forgive the injuries which Roderic and his family had sustained. Edition: current; Page: [210] The merit and influence of the count rendered him an useful or formidable subject; his estates were ample, his followers bold and numerous; and it was too fatally shewn that, by his Andalusian and Mauritanian commands, he held in his hand the keys of the Spanish monarchy. Too feeble, however, to meet his sovereign in arms, he sought the aid of a foreign power; and his rash invitation of the Moors and Arabs produced the calamities of eight hundred years. In his epistles, or in a personal interview, he revealed the wealth and nakedness of his country; the weakness of an unpopular prince; the degeneracy of an effeminate people. The Goths were no longer the victorious Barbarians who had humbled the pride of Rome, despoiled the queen of nations, and penetrated from the Danube to the Atlantic ocean. Secluded from the world by the Pyrenean mountains, the successors of Alaric had slumbered in a long peace; the walls of the cities were mouldered into dust; the youth had abandoned the exercise of arms; and the presumption of their ancient renown would expose them in a field of battle to the first assault of the invaders. The ambitious Saracen was fired by the ease and importance of the attempt; but the execution was delayed till he had consulted the commander of the faithful; and his messenger returned with the permission of Walid to annex the unknown kingdoms of the West to the religion and throne of the caliphs. In his residence of Tangier, Musa, with secrecy and caution, continued his correspondence and hastened his preparations. But the remorse of the conspirators was soothed by the fallacious assurance that he should content himself with the glory and spoil, without aspiring to establish the Moslems beyond the sea that separates Africa from Europe.201

Edition: current; Page: [211]

Before Musa would trust an army of the faithful to the traitors and infidels of a foreign land, he made a less dangerous trial of their strength and veracity. One hundred Arabs,202 and four hundred Africans, passed over, in four vessels, from Tangier or Ceuta; the place of their descent on the opposite shore of the strait is marked by the name of Tarif their chief; and the date of this memorable event203 is fixed to the month of Ramadan, of the ninety-first year of the Hegira, to the month of July, seven hundred and forty-eight years from the Spanish era of Cæsar,204 seven hundred Edition: current; Page: [212] and ten after the birth of Christ. From their first station, they marched eighteen miles through an hilly country to the castle and town of Julian;205 on which (it is still called Algezire) they bestowed the name of the Green Island, from a verdant cape that advances into the sea. Their hospitable entertainment, the Christians who joined their standard, their inroad into a fertile and unguarded province, the richness of their spoil and the safety of their return, announced to their brethren the most favourable omens of victory. In the ensuing spring, five thousand veterans and volunteers were embarked under the command of Tarik, a dauntless and skilful soldier, who surpassed the expectation of his chief; and the necessary transports were provided by the industry of their too faithful ally. The Saracens landed206 at the pillar or point of Europe; the corrupt and familiar appellation of Gibraltar (Gebel al Tarik) describes the mountain of Tarik; and the intrenchments of his camp were the first outline of those fortifications which, in the hands of our countrymen, have resisted the art and power of the house of Bourbon. The adjacent governors informed the court of Toledo of the descent and progress of the Arabs; and the defeat of his lieutenant Edeco, who had been commanded to seize and bind the presumptuous strangers, admonished Roderic of the magnitude of the danger. At the royal summons the dukes and counts, the bishops and nobles of the Gothic monarchy, assembled at the head of their followers; Edition: current; Page: [213] and the title of King of the Romans, which is employed by an Arabic historian, may be excused by the close affinity of language, religion, and manners, between the nations of Spain. His army consisted of ninety or an hundred thousand men: a formidable power, if their fidelity and discipline had been adequate to their numbers. The troops of Tarik had been augmented to twelve thousand Saracens; but the Christian malcontents were attracted by the influence of Julian, and a crowd of Africans most greedily tasted the temporal blessings of the Koran. In the neighbourhood of Cadiz, the town of Xeres207 has been illustrated by the encounter which determined the fate of the kingdom; the stream of the Guadalete, which falls into the bay, divided the two camps, and marked the advancing and retreating skirmishes of three successive and bloody days. On the fourth day the two armies joined a more serious and decisive issue; but Alaric would have blushed at the sight of his unworthy successor, sustaining on his head a diadem of pearls, encumbered with a flowing robe of gold and silken embroidery, and reclining on a litter or car of ivory, drawn by two white mules. Notwithstanding the valour of the Saracens, they fainted under the weight of multitudes, and the plain of Xeres was overspread with sixteen thousand of their dead bodies. “My brethren,” said Tarik to his surviving companions, “the enemy is before you, the sea is behind; whither would ye fly? Follow your general: I am resolved either to lose my life or to trample on the prostrate king of the Romans.” Besides the resource of despair, he confided in the secret correspondence and nocturnal interviews of Count Julian with the sons and the Edition: current; Page: [214] brother of Witiza. The two princes and the archbishop of Toledo occupied the most important post; their well-timed defection broke the ranks of the Christians; each warrior was prompted by fear or suspicion to consult his personal safety; and the remains of the Gothic army were scattered or destroyed in the flight and pursuit of the three following days. Amidst the general disorder, Roderic started from his car, and mounted Orelia, the fleetest of his horses; but he escaped from a soldier’s death to perish more ignobly in the waters of the Baetis or Guadalquivir. His diadem, his robes, and his courser were found on the bank; but, as the body of the Gothic prince was lost in the waves, the pride and ignorance of the caliph must have been gratified with some meaner head, which was exposed in triumph before the palace of Damascus. “And such,” continues a valiant historian of the Arabs, “is the fate of those kings who withdraw themselves from a field of battle.”208

Count Julian had plunged so deep into guilt and infamy that his only hope was in the ruin of his country. After the battle of Xeres he recommended the most effectual measures to the victorious Saracen. “The king of the Goths is slain; their princes have fled before you, the army is routed, the nation is astonished. Secure with sufficient detachments the cities of Baetica; but in person, and without delay, march to the royal city of Toledo, and allow not the distracted Christians either time or tranquillity for the election of a new monarch.” Tarik listened to his advice. A Roman captive and proselyte, who had been enfranchised by the caliph himself, assaulted Cordova with seven hundred horse; he swam the river, surprised the town, and drove the Christians into Edition: current; Page: [215] the great church, where they defended themselves above three months. Another detachment reduced the sea-coast of Baetica, which in the last period of the Moorish power has comprised in a narrow space the populous kingdom of Grenada. The march of Tarik from the Baetis to the Tagus209 was directed through the Sierra Morena, that separates Andalusia and Castile till he appeared in arms under the walls of Toledo.210 The most zealous of the Catholics had escaped with the relics of their saints; and, if the gates were shut, it was only till the victor had subscribed a fair and reasonable capitulation. The voluntary exiles were allowed to depart with their effects; seven churches were appropriated to the Christian worship; the archbishop and his clergy were at liberty to exercise their functions, the monks to practise or neglect their penance; and the Goths and Romans were left in all civil and criminal cases to the subordinate jurisdiction of their own laws and magistrates. But, if the justice of Tarik protected the Christians, his gratitude and policy rewarded the Jews, to whose secret or open aid he was indebted for his most important acquisitions. Persecuted by the kings and synods of Spain, who had often pressed the alternative of banishment or baptism, that outcast nation embraced the moment of revenge; the comparison of their past and present state was the pledge of their fidelity; and the alliance between the disciples of Moses and of Mahomet was maintained till the final era of their common expulsion. From the royal seat of Toledo, the Arabian leader spread his conquests to the north, over the modern realms of Castile Edition: current; Page: [216] and Leon; but it is needless to enumerate the cities that yielded on his approach, or again to describe the table of emerald,211 transported from the East by the Romans, acquired by the Goths among the spoils of Rome, and presented by the Arabs to the throne of Damascus. Beyond the Asturian mountains, the maritime town of Gijon was the term212 of the lieutenant of Musa, who had performed, with the speed of a traveller, his victorious march, of seven hundred miles, from the rock of Gibraltar to the bay of Biscay. The failure of land compelled him to retreat; and he was recalled to Toledo, to excuse his presumption of subduing a kingdom in the absence of his general. Spain, which, in a more savage and disorderly state, had resisted, two hundred years, the arms of the Romans, was overrun in a few months by those of the Saracens; and such was the eagerness of submission and treaty that the governor of Cordova is recorded as the only chief who fell, without conditions, a prisoner into their hands. The cause of the Goths had been irrevocably judged in the field of Xeres; and, in the national dismay, each part of the monarchy declined a contest with the antagonist who had vanquished the united strength of the whole.213 That strength Edition: current; Page: [217] had been wasted by two successive seasons of famine and pestilence; and the governors, who were impatient to surrender, might exaggerate the difficulty of collecting the provisions of a siege. To disarm the Christians, superstition likewise contributed her terrors; and the subtle Arab encouraged the report of dreams, omens, and prophecies, and of the portraits of the destined conquerors of Spain, that were discovered on breaking open an apartment of the royal palace. Yet a spark of the vital flame was still alive; some invincible fugitives preferred a life of poverty and freedom in the Asturian valleys; the hardy mountaineers repulsed the slaves of the caliph; and the sword of Pelagius has been transformed into the sceptre of the Catholic kings.214

On the intelligence of this rapid success, the applause of Musa degenerated into envy; and he began, not to complain, but to fear, that Tarik would leave him nothing to subdue. At the head of ten thousand Arabs and eight thousand Africans, he passed over in person from Mauritania to Spain; the first of his companions were the noblest of the Koreish; his eldest son was left in the command of Africa; the three younger brethren were of an age and spirit to second the boldest enterprises of their father. At his landing in Algezire, he was respectfully entertained by Count Julian, who stifled his inward remorse, and testified, both in words and actions, that the victory of the Arabs had not impaired his attachment to their cause. Some enemies yet remained for the sword of Musa. The tardy repentance of the Goths had compared their own numbers and those of the invaders; the cities from which the march of Tarik had declined considered themselves as impregnable; and the bravest patriots defended the fortifications of Seville and Merida. They were successively besieged and reduced by the labour of Musa, who transported his camp from the Baetis to the Anas, from the Guadalquivir Edition: current; Page: [218] to the Guadiana. When he beheld the works of Roman magnificence, the bridge, the aqueducts, the triumphal arches, and the theatre of the ancient metropolis of Lusitania, “I should imagine,” said he to his four companions, “that the human race must have united their art and power in the foundation of this city; happy is the man who shall become its master!” He aspired to that happiness, but the Emeritans sustained on this occasion the honour of their descent from the veteran legionaries of Augustus.215 Disdaining the confinement of their walls, they gave battle to the Arabs on the plain; but an ambuscade rising from the shelter of a quarry, or a ruin, chastised their indiscretion and intercepted their return. The wooden turrets of assault were rolled forwards to the foot of the rampart; but the defence of Merida was obstinate and long; and the castle of the martyrs was a perpetual testimony of the losses of the Moslems. The constancy of the besieged was at length subdued by famine and despair; and the prudent victor disguised his impatience under the names of clemency and esteem. The alternative of exile or tribute was allowed; the churches were divided between the two religions; and the wealth of those who had fallen in the siege, or retired to Gallicia, was confiscated as the reward of the faithful. In the midway between Merida and Toledo, the lieutenant of Musa saluted the vicegerent of the caliph, and conducted him to the palace of the Gothic kings. Their first interview was cold and formal; a rigid account was exacted of the treasures of Spain; the character of Tarik was exposed to suspicion and obloquy; and the hero was imprisoned, reviled, and ignominiously scourged by the hand or the command of Musa. Yet so strict was the discipline, so Edition: current; Page: [219] pure the zeal, or so tame the spirit of the primitive Moslems that, after this public indignity, Tarik could serve and be trusted in the reduction of the Tarragonese province. A mosch was erected at Saragossa, by the liberality of the Koreish; the port of Barcelona was opened to the vessels of Syria; and the Goths were pursued beyond the Pyrenean mountains into their Gallic province of Septimania or Languedoc.216 In the church of St. Mary at Carcassonne, Musa found, but it is improbable that he left, seven equestrian statues of massy silver; and from his term or column of Narbonne he returned on his footsteps to the Gallician and Lusitanian shores of the ocean. During the absence of the father, his son Abdelaziz chastised the insurgents of Seville, and reduced, from Malaga to Valentia, the sea-coast of the Mediterranean: his original treaty with the discreet and valiant Theodemir217 will represent the manners and policy of the times. “The conditions of peace agreed and sworn between Abdelaziz, the son of Musa, the son of Nassir, and Theodemir, prince of the Goths. In the name of the most merciful God, Abdelaziz makes peace on these conditions: That Theodemir shall not be disturbed in his principality; nor any injury be offered to the life or property, the wives and children, the religion and temples, of the Christians: That Theodemir shall freely deliver his seven Edition: current; Page: [220] cities, Orihuela, Valentola, Alicant, Mola, Vacasora, Bigerra (now Bejar), Ora (or Opta), and Lorca: That he shall not assist or entertain the enemies of the caliph, but shall faithfully communicate his knowledge of their hostile designs: That himself, and each of the Gothic nobles, shall annually pay one piece of gold, four measures of wheat, as many of barley, with a certain proportion of honey, oil, and vinegar; and that each of their vassals shall be taxed at one moiety of the said imposition. Given the fourth of Regeb, in the year of the Hegira ninety-four, and subscribed with the names of four Musulman witnesses.”218 Theodemir and his subjects were treated with uncommon lenity; but the rate of tribute appears to have fluctuated from a tenth to a fifth, according to the submission or obstinacy of the Christians.219 In this revolution, many partial calamities were inflicted by the carnal or religious passions of the enthusiasts; some churches were profaned by the new worship; some relics or images were confounded with idols; the rebels were put to the sword; and one town (an obscure place between Cordova and Seville) was razed to its foundations. Yet, if we compare the invasion of Spain by the Goths, or its recovery by the kings of Castile and Arragon, we must applaud the moderation and discipline of the Arabian conquerors.

Edition: current; Page: [221]

The exploits of Musa were performed in the evening of life, though he affected to disguise his age by colouring with a red powder the whiteness of his beard. But in the love of action and glory his breast was still fired with the ardour of youth; and the possession of Spain was considered only as the first step to the monarchy of Europe. With a powerful armament by sea and land, he was preparing to repass the Pyrenees, to extinguish in Gaul and Italy the declining kingdoms of the Franks and Lombards, and to preach the unity of God on the altar of the Vatican. From thence, subduing the Barbarians of Germany, he proposed to follow the course of the Danube from its source to the Euxine Sea, to overthrow the Greek or Roman empire of Constantinople, and, returning from Europe to Asia, to unite his new acquisitions with Antioch and the provinces of Syria.220 But his vast enterprise, perhaps of easy execution, must have seemed extravagant to vulgar minds; and the visionary conqueror was soon reminded of his dependence and servitude. The friends of Tarik had effectually stated his services and wrongs: at the court of Damascus, the proceedings of Musa were blamed, his intentions were suspected, and his delay in complying with the first invitation was chastised by an harsher and more peremptory summons. An intrepid messenger of the caliph entered his camp at Lugo in Gallicia, and in the presence of the Saracens and Christians arrested the bridle of his horse. His own loyalty, or that of his troops, inculcated the duty of obedience; and his disgrace was alleviated by the recall of his rival, and the permission of investing with his two governments his two sons, Abdallah and Abdelaziz. His long triumph from Ceuta to Damascus displayed the spoils of Africa and the treasures of Spain; four hundred Edition: current; Page: [222] Gothic nobles, with gold coronets and girdles, were distinguished in his train: and the number of male and female captives, selected for their birth or beauty, was computed at eighteen, or even at thirty, thousand persons. As soon as he reached Tiberias in Palestine, he was apprised of the sickness and danger of the caliph, by a private message from Soliman, his brother and presumptive heir; who wished to reserve for his own reign the spectacle of victory. Had Walid recovered, the delay of Musa would have been criminal: he pursued his march, and found an enemy on the throne. In his trial before a partial judge, against a popular antagonist, he was convicted of vanity and falsehood; and a fine of two hundred thousand pieces of gold either exhausted his poverty or proved his rapaciousness. The unworthy treatment of Tarik was revenged by a similar indignity; and the veteran commander, after a public whipping, stood a whole day in the sun before the palace gate, till he obtained a decent exile, under the pious name of a pilgrimage to Mecca. The resentment of the caliph might have been satiated with the ruin of Musa; but his fears demanded the extirpation of a potent and injured family. A sentence of death was intimated with secrecy and speed to the trusty servants of the throne both in Africa and Spain; and the forms, if not the substance, of justice were superseded in this bloody execution. In the mosch or palace of Cordova, Abdelaziz was slain by the swords of the conspirators; they accused their governor of claiming the honours of royalty; and his scandalous marriage with Egilona, the widow of Roderic, offended the prejudices both of the Christians and Moslems. By a refinement of cruelty, the head of the son was presented to the father, with an insulting question, whether he acknowledged the features of the rebel? “I know his features,” he exclaimed with indignation: “I assert his innocence; and I imprecate the same, a juster fate, against the authors of his death.” The age and despair of Musa raised him above the power of kings; and he expired at Mecca of the anguish of a broken heart. Edition: current; Page: [223] His rival was more favourably treated; his services were forgiven; and Tarik was permitted to mingle with the crowd of slaves.221 I am ignorant whether Count Julian was rewarded with the death which he deserved indeed, though not from the hands of the Saracens; but the tale of their ingratitude to the sons of Witiza is disproved by the most unquestionable evidence. The two royal youths were reinstated in the private patrimony of their father; but on the decease of Eba the elder, his daughter was unjustly despoiled of her portion by the violence of her uncle Sigebut. The Gothic maid pleaded her cause before the caliph Hashem, and obtained the restitution of her inheritance; but she was given in marriage to a noble Arabian, and their two sons, Isaac and Ibrahim, were received in Spain with the consideration that was due to their origin and riches.

A province is assimilated to the victorious state by the introduction of strangers and the imitative spirit of the natives; and Spain, which had been successively tinctured with Punic, and Roman, and Gothic blood, imbibed, in a few generations, the name and manners of the Arabs. The first conquerors, and the twenty successive lieutenants of the caliphs, were attended by a numerous train of civil and military followers, who preferred a distant fortune to a narrow home; the private and public interest was promoted by the establishment of faithful colonies; and the cities of Spain were proud to commemorate the tribe or country of their Eastern progenitors. The victorious though motley bands of Tarik and Edition: current; Page: [224] Musa asserted, by the name of Spaniards, their original claim of conquest; yet they allowed their brethren of Egypt to share their establishments of Murcia and Lisbon. The royal legion of Damascus was planted at Cordova; that of Emesa at Seville; that of Kinnisrin or Chalcis at Jaen; that of Palestine at Algezire and Medina Sidonia. The natives of Yemen and Persia were scattered round Toledo and the inland country; and the fertile seats of Grenada were bestowed on ten thousand horsemen of Syria and Irak, the children of the purest and most noble of the Arabian tribes.222 A spirit of emulation, sometimes beneficial, more frequently dangerous, was nourished by these hereditary factions. Ten years after the conquest, a map of the province was presented to the caliph: the seas, the rivers, and the harbours, the inhabitants and cities, the climate, the soil, and the mineral productions of the earth.223 In the space of two centuries, the gifts of nature were improved by the agriculture,224 the manufactures, and the commerce of an industrious people; and the effects of their diligence have been magnified by the idleness of their fancy. The first of the Ommiades who reigned in Spain solicited the support of the Christians; and, in his edict of peace and protection, he contents himself with a modest imposition of ten thousand ounces of gold, ten thousand pounds of silver, ten thousand horses, as many mules, one thousand cuirasses, with an equal number of Edition: current; Page: [225] helmets and lances.225 The most powerful of his successors derived from the same kingdom the annual tribute of twelve millions and forty-five thousand dinars or pieces of gold, about six millions of sterling money:226 a sum which, in the tenth century, most probably surpassed the united revenues of the Christian monarchs. His royal seat of Cordova contained six hundred moschs, nine hundred baths, and two hundred thousand houses: he gave laws to eighty cities of the first, to three hundred of the second and third order; and the fertile banks of the Guadalquivir were adorned with twelve thousand villages and hamlets. The Arabs might exaggerate the truth, but they created and they describe the most prosperous era of the riches, the cultivation, and the populousness of Spain.227

Edition: current; Page: [226]

The wars of the Moslems were sanctified by the prophet; but, among the various precepts and examples of his life, the caliphs selected the lessons of toleration that might tend to disarm the resistance of the unbelievers. Arabia was the temple and patrimony of the God of Mahomet; but he beheld with less jealousy and affection the nations of the earth. The polytheists and idolaters who were ignorant of his name might be lawfully extirpated by his votaries;228 but a wise policy supplied the obligation of justice; and, after some acts of intolerant zeal, the Mahometan conquerors of Hindostan have spared the pagods of that devout and populous country. The disciples of Abraham, of Moses, and of Jesus were solemnly invited to accept the more perfect revelation of Mahomet; but, if they preferred the payment of a moderate tribute, they were entitled to the freedom of conscience and religious worship.229 In a field of battle, the forfeit lives of the prisoners were redeemed by the profession of Islam; the females were bound to embrace the religion of their masters, and a race of sincere proselytes was gradually multiplied by the education of the infant captives. But the millions of African and Asiatic converts, who swelled the native band of the faithful Arabs, must have been allured, rather than constrained, to declare their belief in one God and the apostle of God. By the repetition of a sentence and the loss of a foreskin, the subject or the slave, the captive or the criminal, arose in a moment the free and equal companion of the victorious Moslems. Every sin was expiated, every engagement Edition: current; Page: [227] was dissolved: the vow of celibacy was superseded by the indulgence of nature; the active spirits who slept in the cloister were awakened by the trumpet of the Saracens; and, in the convulsion of the world, every member of a new society ascended to the natural level of his capacity and courage. The minds of the multitude were tempted by the invisible as well as temporal blessings of the Arabian prophet; and charity will hope that many of his proselytes entertained a serious conviction of the truth and sanctity of his revelation. In the eyes of an inquisitive polytheist, it must appear worthy of the human and the divine nature. More pure than the system of Zoroaster, more liberal than the law of Moses, the religion of Mahomet might seem less inconsistent with reason than the creed of mystery and superstition which, in the seventh century, disgraced the simplicity of the gospel.

In the extensive provinces of Persia and Africa, the national religion has been eradicated by the Mahometan faith. The ambiguous theology of the Magi stood alone among the sects of the East: but the profane writings of Zoroaster230 might, under the reverend name of Abraham, be dexterously connected with the chain of divine revelation. Their evil principle, the demon Ahriman, might be represented as the rival, or as the creature, of the God of light. The temples of Persia were devoid of images; but the worship of the sun and of fire might be stigmatised as a gross and criminal idolatry.231 Edition: current; Page: [228] The milder sentiment was consecrated by the practice of Mahomet232 and the prudence of the caliphs; the Magians, or Ghebers, were ranked with the Jews and Christians among the people of the written law;233 and, as late as the third century of the Hegira, the city of Herat will afford a lively contrast of private zeal and public toleration.234 Under the payment of an annual tribute, the Mahometan law secured to the Ghebers of Herat their civil and religious liberties; but the recent and humble mosch was overshadowed by the antique splendour of the adjoining temple of fire. A fanatic Imam deplored, in his sermons, the scandalous neighbourhood, and accused the weakness or indifference of the faithful. Excited by his voice, the people assembled in tumult; the two houses of prayer were consumed by the flames, but the vacant ground was immediately occupied by the foundations of a new mosch. The injured Magi appealed to the sovereign of Chorasan; he promised justice and relief; when, behold! four thousand citizens of Herat, of a grave character and mature age, unanimously swore that the idolatrous fane had never existed; the inquisition was silenced, and their conscience was satisfied (says the historian Mirchond235) with this holy and meritorious perjury.236 Edition: current; Page: [229] But the greatest part of the temples of Persia were ruined by the insensible and general desertion of their votaries. It was insensible, since it is not accompanied with any memorial of time or place, of persecution or resistance. It was general, since the whole realm, from Shiraz to Samarcand, imbibed the faith of the Koran; and the preservation of the native tongue reveals the descent of the Mahometans of Persia.237 In the mountains and deserts, an obstinate race of unbelievers adhered to the superstition of their fathers; and a faint tradition of the Magian theology is kept alive in the province of Kirman, along the banks of the Indus, among the exiles of Surat, and in the colony, which, in the last century, was planted by Shaw Abbas at the gates of Ispahan. The chief pontiff has retired to Mount Elbourz, eighteen leagues from Edition: current; Page: [230] the city of Yezd; the perpetual fire (if it continue to burn) is inaccessible to the profane; but his residence is the school, the oracle, and the pilgrimage of the Ghebers, whose hard and uniform features attest the unmingled purity of their blood. Under the jurisdiction of their elders, eighty thousand families maintain an innocent and industrious life; their subsistence is derived from some curious manufactures and mechanic trades; and they cultivate the earth with the fervour of a religious duty. Their ignorance withstood the despotism of Shaw Abbas, who demanded with threats and tortures the prophetic books of Zoroaster; and this obscure remnant of the Magians is spared by the moderation or contempt of their present sovereigns.238

The northern coast of Africa is the only land in which the light of the gospel, after a long and perfect establishment, has been totally extinguished. The arts, which had been taught by Carthage and Rome, were involved in a cloud of ignorance; the doctrine of Cyprian and Augustine was no longer studied. Five hundred episcopal churches were overturned by the hostile fury of the Donatists, the Vandals, and the Moors. The zeal and numbers of the clergy declined; and the people, without discipline, or knowledge, or hope, submissively sunk under the yoke of the Arabian prophet. Within fifty years after the expulsion of the Greeks, a lieutenant of Africa informed the caliph that the tribute of the infidels was abolished by their conversion;239 and, though he sought to disguise his fraud and rebellion, his specious pretence was drawn from the rapid and extensive Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [231] progress of the Mahometan faith. In the next age an extraordinary mission of five bishops was detached from Alexandria to Cairoan. They were ordained by the Jacobite patriarch to cherish and revive the dying embers of Christianity.240 But the interposition of a foreign prelate, a stranger to the Latins, an enemy to the Catholics, supposes the decay and dissolution of the African hierarchy. It was no longer the time when the successor of St. Cyprian, at the head of a numerous synod, could maintain an equal contest with the ambition of the Roman pontiff. In the eleventh century, the unfortunate priest who was seated on the ruins of Carthage, implored the arms and the protection of the Vatican; and he bitterly complains that his naked body had been scourged by the Saracens, and that his authority was disputed by the four suffragans, the tottering pillars of his throne. Two epistles of Gregory the Seventh241 are destined to soothe the distress of the Catholics and the pride of a Moorish prince. The pope assures the sultan that they both worship the same God and may hope to meet in the bosom of Abraham; but the complaints that three bishops could no longer be found to consecrate a brother, announces the speedy and inevitable ruin of the episcopal order. The Christians of Africa and Spain had long since submitted to the practice of circumcision and the legal abstinence from wine and pork; and the name of Mozarabes242 (adoptive Arabs) was applied to their civil Edition: current; Page: [232] or religious conformity.243 About the middle of the twelfth century, the worship of Christ and the succession of pastors were abolished along the coast of Barbary, and in the kingdoms of Cordova and Seville, of Valencia and Grenada.244 The throne of the Almohades, or Unitarians, was founded on the blindest fanaticism, and their extraordinary rigour might be provoked or justified by the recent victories and intolerant zeal of the princes of Sicily and Castile, of Arragon and Portugal. The faith of the Mozarabes was occasionally revived by the papal missionaries; and, on the landing of Charles the Fifth, some families of Latin Christians were encouraged to rear their heads at Tunis and Algiers. But the seed of the gospel was quickly eradicated, and the long province from Tripolito the Atlantic has lost all memory of the language and religion of Rome.245


After the revolution of eleven centuries, the Jews and Christians of the Turkish empire enjoy the liberty of conscience, which was granted by the Arabian caliphs. During the first age of the conquest, they suspected the loyalty of the Catholics, whose name of Melchites betrayed their secret attachment to the Greek emperor, while the Nestorians and Edition: current; Page: [233] Jacobites, his inveterate enemies, approved themselves the sincere and voluntary friends of the Mahometan government.246 Yet this partial jealousy was healed by time and submission; the churches of Egypt were shared with the Catholics;247 and all the Oriental sects were included in the common benefits of toleration. The rank, the immunities, the domestic jurisdiction, of the patriarchs, the bishops, and the clergy, were protected by the civil magistrate; the learning of individuals recommended them to the employments of secretaries and physicians; they were enriched by the lucrative collection of the revenue; and their merit was sometimes raised to the command of cities and provinces. A caliph of the house of Abbas was heard to declare that the Christians were most worthy of trust in the administration of Persia. “The Moslems,” said he, “will abuse their present fortune; the Magians regret their fallen greatness; and the Jews are impatient for their approaching deliverance.”248 But the slaves of despotism are exposed to the alternatives of favour and disgrace. The captive churches of the East have been afflicted in every age by the avarice or bigotry of their rulers; and the ordinary and legal restraints must be offensive to the pride or the zeal of the Christians.249 About two hundred years after Mahomet, they were separated from their fellow-subjects by a turban or girdle of a less honourable colour; Edition: current; Page: [234] instead of horses or mules, they were condemned to ride on asses, in the attitude of women. Their public and private buildings were measured by a diminutive standard; in the streets or the baths, it is their duty to give way or bow down before the meanest of the people; and their testimony is rejected, if it may tend to the prejudice of a true believer. The pomp of processions, the sound of bells or of psalmody, is interdicted in their worship; a decent reverence for the national faith is imposed on their sermons and conversations; and the sacrilegious attempt to enter a mosch or to seduce a Musulman will not be suffered to escape with impunity. In a time, however, of tranquillity and justice, the Christians have never been compelled to renounce the Gospel or to embrace the Koran; but the punishment of death is inflicted upon249a the apostates who have professed and deserted the law of Mahomet. The martyrs of Cordova provoked the sentence of the cadhi by the public confession of their inconstancy, or their passionate invectives against the person and religion of the prophet.250

At the end of the first century of the Hegira, the caliphs were the most potent and absolute monarchs of the globe. Their prerogative was not circumscribed, either in right or in fact, by the power of the nobles, the freedom of the commons, the privileges of the church, the votes of a senate, or the memory of a free constitution. The authority of the companions Edition: current; Page: [235] of Mahomet expired with their lives; and the chiefs or emirs of the Arabian tribes left behind, in the desert, the spirit of equality and independence. The regal and sacerdotal characters were united in the successors of Mahomet; and, if the Koran was the rule of their actions, they were the supreme judges and interpreters of that divine book. They reigned by the right of conquest over the nations of the East, to whom the name of liberty was unknown, and who were accustomed to applaud in their tyrants the acts of violence and severity that were exercised at their own expense. Under the last of the Ommiades, the Arabian empire extended two hundred days’ journey from east to west, from the confines of Tartary and India to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. And, if we retrench the sleeve of the robe, as it is styled by their writers, the long and narrow province of Africa, the solid and compact dominion from Fargana to Aden, from Tarsus to Surat, will spread on every side to the measure of four or five months of the march of a caravan.251 We should vainly seek the indissoluble union and easy obedience that pervaded the government of Augustus and the Antonines; but the progress of the Mahometan religion diffused over this ample space a general resemblance of manners and opinions. The language and laws of the Koran were studied with equal devotion at Samarcand and Seville: the Moor and the Indian embraced as countrymen and brothers in the pilgrimage of Mecca; and the Arabian language was adopted as the popular idiom in all the provinces to the westward of the Tigris.252

Edition: current; Page: [236]


The two Sieges of Constantinople by the Arabs — Their Invasion of France, and Defeat by Charles Martel — Civil War of the Ommiades and Abbassides — Learning of the Arabs — Luxury of the Caliphs — Naval Enterprises on Crete, Sicily, and Rome — Decay and Division of the Empire of the Caliphs — Defeats and Victories of the Greek Emperors

When the Arabs first issued from the desert, they must have been surprised at the ease and rapidity of their own success. But, when they advanced in the career of victory to the banks of the Indus and the summit of the Pyrenees, when they had repeatedly tried the edge of their scymetars and the energy of their faith, they might be equally astonished that any nation could resist their invincible arms, that any boundary should confine the dominion of the successor of the prophet. The confidence of soldiers and fanatics may indeed be excused, since the calm historian of the present hour, who strives to follow the rapid course of the Saracens, must study to explain by what means the church and state were saved from this impending and, as it should seem, from this inevitable danger. The deserts of Scythia and Sarmatia might be guarded by their extent, their climate, their poverty, and the courage of the Northern shepherds; China was remote and inaccessible; but the greatest part of the temperate zone was subject to the Mahometan conquerors, the Greeks were exhausted by the calamities of war and the loss of their fairest provinces, and the barbarians of Europe might justly tremble at the precipitate fall of the Gothic monarchy. In this inquiry I shall unfold the events that rescued our Edition: current; Page: [237] ancestors of Britain, and our neighbours of Gaul, from the civil and religious yoke of the Koran; that protected the majesty of Rome, and delayed the servitude of Constantinople; that invigorated the defence of the Christians, and scattered among their enemies the seeds of division and decay.

Forty-six years after the flight of Mahomet from Mecca, his disciples appeared in arms under the walls of Constantinople.1 They were animated by a genuine or fictitious saying of the prophet, that, to the first army which besieged the city of the Cæsars, their sins were forgiven; the long series of Roman triumphs would be meritoriously transferred to the conquerors of New Rome; and the wealth of nations was deposited in this well-chosen seat of royalty and commerce. No sooner had the caliph Moawiyah suppressed his rivals and established his throne than he aspired to expiate the guilt of civil blood by the success and glory of his holy expedition;2 his preparations by sea and land were adequate Edition: current; Page: [238] to the importance of the object; his standard was entrusted to Sophian,3 a veteran warrior, but the troops were encouraged by the example and presence of Yezid, the son and presumptive heir of the commander of the faithful. The Greeks had little to hope, nor had their enemies any reasons of fear, from the courage and vigilance of the reigning emperor, who disgraced the name of Constantine, and imitated only the inglorious years of his grandfather Heraclius. Without delay or opposition, the naval forces of the Saracens passed through the unguarded channel of the Hellespont, which even now, under the feeble and disorderly government of the Turks, is maintained as the natural bulwark of the capital.4 The Arabian fleet cast anchor, and the troops were disembarked near the palace of Hebdomon, seven miles from the city. During many days, from the dawn of light to the evening, the line of assault was extended from the golden gate to the eastern promontory, and the foremost warriors were impelled by the weight and effort of the succeeding columns. But the besiegers had formed an insufficient estimate of the strength and resources of Constantinople. The solid and lofty walls were guarded by numbers and discipline; the spirit of the Romans was rekindled by the last danger of their religion and empire; the fugitives from the conquered provinces more successfully renewed the defence of Damascus and Alexandria; and the Saracens Edition: current; Page: [239] were dismayed by the strange and prodigious effects of artificial fire. This firm and effectual resistance diverted their arms to the more easy attempts of plundering the European and Asiatic coasts of the Propontis; and, after keeping the sea from the month of April to that of September, on the approach of winter they retreated fourscore miles from the capital, to the isle of Cyzicus, in which they had established their magazine of spoil and provisions. So patient was their perseverance, or so languid were their operations, that they repeated in the six following summers the same attack and retreat, with a gradual abatement of hope and vigour, till the mischances of shipwreck and disease, of the sword and of fire, compelled them to relinquish the fruitless enterprise. They might bewail the loss or commemorate the martyrdom of thirty thousand Moslems, who fell in the siege of Constantinople; and the solemn funeral of Abu Ayub, or Job, excited the curiosity of the Christians themselves. That venerable Arab, one of the last of the companions of Mahomet, was numbered among the ansars, or auxiliaries, of Medina, who sheltered the head of the flying prophet. In his youth he fought, at Bedar and Ohud, under the holy standard; in his mature age he was the friend and follower of Ali; and the last remnant of his strength and life was consumed in a distant and dangerous war against the enemies of the Koran. His memory was revered; but the place of his burial was neglected and unknown, during a period of seven hundred and eighty years, till the conquest of Constantinople by Mahomet the Second. A seasonable vision (for such are the manufacture of every religion) revealed the holy spot at the foot of the walls and the bottom of the harbour; and the mosch of Ayub has been deservedly chosen for the simple and martial inauguration of the Turkish sultans.5

Edition: current; Page: [240]

The event of the siege revived, both in the East and West, the reputation of the Roman arms, and cast a momentary shade over the glories of the Saracens. The Greek ambassador was favourably received at Damascus, in a general council of the emirs of Koreish; a peace, or truce, of thirty years was ratified between the two empires; and the stipulation of an annual tribute, fifty horses of a noble breed, fifty slaves, and three thousand pieces of gold, degraded the majesty of the commander of the faithful.6 The aged caliph was desirous of possessing his dominions, and ending his days, in tranquillity and repose; while the Moors and Indians trembled at his name, his palace and city of Damascus was insulted by the Mardaites, or Maronites, of Mount Libanus, the firmest barrier of the empire, till they were disarmed and transplanted by the suspicious policy of the Greeks.7 After the revolt of Arabia and Persia, the house of Ommiyah8 was reduced to the kingdoms of Syria and Egypt; their distress and fear enforced their compliance with the pressing demands of the Christians; and the tribute was increased to a slave, an horse, and a thousand pieces of gold, for each of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the solar year. But as Edition: current; Page: [241] soon as the empire was again united by the arms and policy of Abdalmalek, he disclaimed a badge of servitude not less injurious to his conscience than to his pride; he discontinued the payment of the tribute; and the resentment of the Greeks was disabled from action by the mad tyranny of the second Justinian, the just rebellion of his subjects, and the frequent change of his antagonists and successors. Till the reign of Abdalmalek, the Saracens had been content with the free possession of the Persian and Roman treasures, in the coin of Chosroes and Cæsar. By the command of that caliph, a national mint was established, both of silver and gold, and the inscription of the Dinar, though it might be censured by some timorous casuists, proclaimed the unity of the God of Mahomet.9 Under the reign of the caliph Waled, the Greek language and characters were excluded from the accounts of the public revenue.10 If this change was productive of the invention or familiar use of our present numerals, the Arabic or Indian cyphers, as they are commonly styled, a regulation of office has promoted the most important discoveries of arithmetic, algebra, and the mathematical sciences.11

Edition: current; Page: [242]

Whilst the caliph Waled sat idle on the throne of Damascus, while his lieutenants achieved the conquest of Transoxiana and Spain, a third army of Saracens overspread the provinces of Asia Minor, and approached the borders of the Byzantine capital. But the attempt and disgrace of the second siege was reserved for his brother Soliman, whose ambition appears to have been quickened by a more active and martial spirit. In the revolutions of the Greek empire, after the tyrant Justinian had been punished and avenged, an humble secretary, Anastasius or Artemius, was promoted by chance or merit to the vacant purple. He was alarmed by the sound of war; and his ambassador returned from Damascus with the tremendous news that the Saracens were preparing an armament by sea and land, such as would transcend the experience of the past, or the belief of the present, age. The precautions of Anastasius were not unworthy of his station or of the impending danger. He issued a peremptory mandate that all persons who were not provided with the means of subsistence for a three years’ siege should evacuate the city; the public granaries and arsenals were abundantly replenished; the walls were restored and strengthened; and the engines for casting stones, or darts, or fire were stationed along the ramparts, or in the brigantines of war, of which an additional number was hastily constructed. To prevent is safer, as well as more honourable, than to repel an attack; and a design was meditated, above the usual spirit of the Greeks, of burning the naval stores of the enemy, the cypress timber that had been hewn in Mount Libanus, and was piled along the seashore of Phœnicia, for the service of the Egyptian fleet. This Edition: current; Page: [243] generous enterprise was defeated by the cowardice or treachery of the troops who, in the new language of the empire, were styled of the Obsequian Theme.12 They murdered their chief, deserted their standard in the isle of Rhodes, dispersed themselves over the adjacent continent, and deserved pardon or reward by investing with the purple a simple officer of the revenue. The name of Theodosius might recommend him to the senate and people; but, after some months, he sunk into a cloister, and resigned, to the firmer hand of Leo the Isaurian, the urgent defence of the capital and empire. The most formidable of the Saracens, Moslemah the brother of the caliph, was advancing at the head of one hundred and twenty thousand Arabs and Persians, the greater part mounted on horses or camels; and the successful sieges of Tyana, Amorium, and Pergamus were of sufficient duration to exercise their skill and to elevate their hopes. At the well-known passage of Abydus, on the Hellespont, the Mahometan arms were transported, for the first time,13 from Asia to Europe. From thence, wheeling round the Thracian cities of the Propontis, Moslemah invested Constantinople on the land side, surrounded his camp with a ditch and rampart, prepared and planted his engines of assault, and declared, by words and actions, a patient resolution of expecting the return of seed-time and harvest, should the obstinacy of the Edition: current; Page: [244] besieged prove equal to his own. The Greeks would gladly have ransomed their religion and empire, by a fine or assessment of a piece of gold on the head of each inhabitant of the city; but the liberal offer was rejected with disdain, and the presumption of Moslemah was exalted by the speedy approach and invincible force of the navies of Egypt and Syria. They are said to have amounted to eighteen hundred ships; the number betrays their inconsiderable size; and of the twenty stout and capacious vessels, whose magnitude impeded their progress, each was manned with no more than one hundred heavy-armed soldiers. This huge armada proceeded on a smooth sea and with a gentle gale, towards the mouth of the Bosphorus; the surface of the strait was overshadowed, in the language of the Greeks, with a moving forest, and the same fatal night had been fixed by the Saracen chief for a general assault by sea and land. To allure the confidence of the enemy, the emperor had thrown aside the chain that usually guarded the entrance of the harbour; but, while they hesitated whether they should seize the opportunity or apprehend the snare, the ministers of destruction were at hand. The fire-ships of the Greeks were launched against them; the Arabs, their arms, and vessels were involved in the same flames, the disorderly fugitives were dashed against each other or overwhelmed in the waves; and I no longer find a vestige of the fleet that had threatened to extirpate the Roman name. A still more fatal and irreparable loss was that of the caliph Soliman, who died of an indigestion14 in his camp near Kinnisrin, or Chalcis in Syria, as he was preparing to lead Edition: current; Page: [245] against Constantinople the remaining forces of the East. The brother of Moslemah was succeeded by a kinsman and an enemy; and the throne of an active and able prince was degraded by the useless and pernicious virtues of a bigot. While he started and satisfied the scruples of a blind conscience, the siege was continued through the winter by the neglect rather than by the resolution of the caliph Omar.15 The winter proved uncommonly rigorous; above an hundred days the ground was covered with deep snow, and the natives of the sultry climes of Egypt and Arabia lay torpid and almost lifeless in their frozen camp. They revived on the return of spring; a second effort had been made in their favour; and their distress was relieved by the arrival of two numerous fleets, laden with corn, and arms, and soldiers; the first from Alexandria, of four hundred transports and galleys; the second of three hundred and sixty vessels from the ports of Africa. But the Greek fires were again kindled, and, if the destruction was less complete, it was owing to the experience which had taught the Moslems to remain at a safe distance, or to the perfidy of the Egyptian mariners, who deserted with their ships to the emperor of the Christians. The trade and navigation of the capital were restored; and the produce of the fisheries supplied the wants, and even the luxury, of the inhabitants. But the calamities of famine and disease were soon felt by the troops of Moslemah, and, as the former was miserably assuaged, so the latter was dreadfully Edition: current; Page: [246] propagated, by the pernicious nutriment which hunger compelled them to extract from the most unclean or unnatural food. The spirit of conquest, and even of enthusiasm, was extinct: the Saracens could no longer straggle beyond their lines, either single or in small parties, without exposing themselves to the merciless retaliation of the Thracian peasants. An army of Bulgarians was attracted from the Danube by the gifts and promises of Leo; and these savage auxiliaries made some atonement for the evils which they had inflicted on the empire, by the defeat and slaughter of twenty-two thousand Asiatics. A report was dexterously scattered that the Franks, the unknown nations of the Latin world, were arming by sea and land in the defence of the Christian cause, and their formidable aid was expected with far different sensations in the camp and city. At length, after a siege of thirteen months,16 the hopeless Moslemah received from the caliph the welcome permission to retreat. The march of the Arabian cavalry over the Hellespont and through the provinces of Asia was executed without delay or molestation; but an army of their brethren had been cut to pieces on the side of Bithynia, and the remains of the fleet was so repeatedly damaged by tempest and fire that only five galleys entered the port of Alexandria to relate the tale of their various and almost incredible disasters.17

Edition: current; Page: [247]

In the two sieges, the deliverance of Constantinople may be chiefly ascribed to the novelty, the terrors, and the real efficacy of the Greek fire.18 The important secret of compounding and directing this artificial flame was imparted by Callinicus, a native of Heliopolis in Syria, who deserted from the service of the caliph to that of the emperor.19 The skill of a chymist and engineer was equivalent to the succour of fleets and armies; and this discovery or improvement of the military art was fortunately reserved for the distressful period, when the degenerate Romans of the East were incapable of contending with the warlike enthusiasm and youthful vigour of the Saracens. The historian who presumes to analyse this extraordinary composition should suspect his own ignorance and that of his Byzantine guides, so prone to the marvellous, so careless, and in this instance so jealous, of the truth. From their obscure and perhaps fallacious hints, it should seem that the principal ingredient of the Greek fire was the naptha,20 or liquid bitumen, a light, tenacious, and inflammable oil,21 which springs from the earth and catches Edition: current; Page: [248] fire as soon as it comes in contact with the air. The naptha was mingled, I know not by what methods or in what proportions, with sulphur and with the pitch that is extracted from evergreen firs.22 From this mixture, which produced a thick smoke and a loud explosion, proceeded a fierce and obstinate flame, which not only rose in perpendicular ascent, but likewise burnt with equal vehemence in descent or lateral progress; instead of being extinguished, it was nourished and quickened, by the element of water; and sand, urine, or vinegar were the only remedies that could damp the fury of this powerful agent, which was justly denominated by the Greeks the liquid or the maritime fire. For the annoyance of the enemy it was employed with equal effect, by sea and land, in battles or in sieges. It was either poured from the rampart in large boilers, or launched in red-hot balls of stone and iron, or darted in arrows and javelins, twisted round with flax and tow, which had deeply imbibed the inflammable oil: sometimes it was deposited in fire-ships, the victims and instruments of a more ample revenge, and was most commonly blown through long tubes of copper, Edition: current; Page: [249] which were planted on the prow of a galley, and fancifully shaped into the mouths of savage monsters, that seemed to vomit a stream of liquid and consuming fire. This important art was preserved at Constantinople, as the palladium of the state; the galleys and artillery might occasionally be lent to the allies of Rome; but the composition of the Greek fire was concealed with the most jealous scruple, and the terror of the enemies was increased and prolonged by their ignorance and surprise. In the treatise of the Administration of the Empire the royal author23 suggests the answers and excuses that might best elude the indiscreet curiosity and importunate demands of the Barbarians. They should be told that the mystery of the Greek fire had been revealed by an angel to the first and greatest of the Constantines, with a sacred injunction that this gift of heaven, this peculiar blessing of the Romans, should never be communicated to any foreign nation; that the prince and subject were alike bound to religious silence under the temporal and spiritual penalties of treason and sacrilege; and that the impious attempt would provoke the sudden and supernatural vengeance of the God of the Christians. By these precautions, the secret was confined, above four hundred years, to the Romans of the East; and, at the end of the eleventh century, the Pisans, to whom every sea and every art were familiar, suffered the effects, without understanding the composition, of the Greek fire. It was at length either discovered or stolen by the Mahometans; and, in the holy wars of Syria and Egypt, they retorted an invention, contrived against themselves, on the heads of the Christians. A knight, who despised the swords and lances of the Saracens, relates, with heartfelt sincerity, his own fears, and those of his companions, at the sight and sound of the mischievous engine that discharged a torrent of the Greek fire, the feu Gregeois, as it is styled by the more early Edition: current; Page: [250] of the French writers. It came flying through the air, says Joinville,24 like a winged long-tailed dragon, about the thickness of an hogshead, with the report of thunder and the velocity of lightning; and the darkness of the night was dispelled by this deadly illumination. The use of the Greek, or, as it might now be called, of the Saracen, fire was continued to the middle of the fourteenth century,25 when the scientific or casual compound of nitre, sulphur, and charcoal effected a new revolution in the art of war and the history of mankind.26

Constantinople and the Greek fire might exclude the Arabs from the Eastern entrance of Europe; but in the West, on the side of the Pyrenees, the provinces of Gaul were threatened and invaded by the conquerors of Spain.27 The decline of Edition: current; Page: [251] the French monarchy invited the attack of these insatiate fanatics. The descendants of Clovis had lost the inheritance of his martial and ferocious spirit; and their misfortune or demerit has affixed the epithet of lazy to the last kings of the Merovingian race.28 They ascended the throne without power, and sunk into the grave without a name. A country palace, in the neighbourhood of Compiègne,29 was allotted for their residence or prison; but each year, in the month of March or May, they were conducted in a waggon drawn by oxen to the assembly of the Franks, to give audience to foreign ambassadors, and to ratify the acts of the mayor of the palace. That domestic officer was become the minister of the nation, and the master of the prince. A public employment was converted into the patrimony of a private family; the elder Pepin left a king of mature years under the guardianship of his own widow and her child; and these feeble regents were forcibly dispossessed by the most active of his bastards. A government, half savage and half corrupt, was almost dissolved; and the tributary dukes, the provincial Edition: current; Page: [252] counts, and the territorial lords were tempted to despise the weakness of the monarch and to imitate the ambition of the mayor. Among these independent chiefs, one of the boldest and most successful was Eudes, duke of Aquitain, who, in the southern provinces of Gaul, usurped the authority and even the title of king. The Goths, the Gascons, and the Franks assembled under the standard of this Christian hero; he repelled the first invasion of the Saracens; and Zama, lieutenant of the caliph, lost his army and his life under the walls of Toulouse.30 The ambition of his successors was stimulated by revenge; they repassed the Pyrenees with the means and the resolution of conquest. The advantageous situation which had recommended Narbonne31 as the first Roman colony was again chosen by the Moslems: they claimed the province of Septimania, or Languedoc, as a just dependence of the Spanish monarchy: the vineyards of Gascony and the city of Bordeaux were possessed by the sovereign of Damascus and Samarcand; and the south of France, from the mouth of the Garonne to that of the Rhone, assumed the manners and religion of Arabia.

But these narrow limits were scorned by the spirit of Abdalrahman, or Abderame, who had been restored by the caliph Hashem32 to the wishes of the soldiers and people of Spain. That veteran and daring commander adjudged to the obedience of the prophet whatever yet remained of France Edition: current; Page: [253] or of Europe; and prepared to execute the sentence, at the head of a formidable host, in the full confidence of surmounting all opposition, either of nature or of man. His first care was to suppress a domestic rebel, who commanded the most important passes of the Pyrenees: Munuza, a Moorish chief, had accepted the alliance of the duke of Aquitain; and Eudes, from a motive of private or public interest, devoted his beauteous daughter to the embraces of the African misbeliever. But the strongest fortresses of Cerdagne were invested by a superior force; the rebel was overtaken and slain in the mountains; and his widow was sent a captive to Damascus, to gratify the desires, or more probably the vanity, of the commander of the faithful. From the Pyrenees Abderame proceeded without delay to the passage of the Rhone and the siege of Arles. An army of Christians attempted the relief of the city; the tombs of their leaders were yet visible in the thirteenth century; and many thousands of their dead bodies were carried down the rapid stream into the Mediterranean sea. The arms of Abderame were not less successful on the side of the ocean. He passed without opposition the Garonne and Dordogne, which unite their waters in the gulf of Bordeaux; but he found, beyond those rivers, the camp of the intrepid Eudes, who had formed a second army, and sustained a second defeat, so fatal to the Christians that, according to their sad confession, God alone could reckon the number of the slain. The victorious Saracen overran the provinces of Aquitain, whose Gallic names are disguised, rather than lost, in the modern appellations of Périgord, Saintonge, and Poitou: his standards were planted on the walls, or at least before the gates, of Tours and of Sens; and his detachments overspread the kingdom of Burgundy, as far as the well-known cities of Lyons and Besançon. The memory of these devastations, for Abderame did not spare the country or the people, was long preserved by tradition; and the invasion of France by the Moors or Mahometans affords the groundwork of those fables which Edition: current; Page: [254] have been so wildly disfigured in the romances of chivalry and so elegantly adorned by the Italian muse. In the decline of society and art, the deserted cities could supply a slender booty to the Saracens; their richest spoil was found in the churches and monasteries, which they stripped of their ornaments and delivered to the flames; and the tutelar saints, both Hilary of Poitiers and Martin of Tours, forgot their miraculous powers in the defence of their own sepulchres.33 A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland: the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.34

From such calamities was Christendom delivered by the genius and fortune of one man. Charles, the illegitimate son of the elder Pepin, was content with the titles of mayor or duke of the Franks, but he deserved to become the father of a line of kings.35 In a laborious administration of twenty-four Edition: current; Page: [255] years, he restored and supported the dignity of the throne, and the rebels of Germany and Gaul were successively crushed by the activity of a warrior, who, in the same campaign, could display his banner on the Elbe, the Rhone, and the shores of the ocean. In the public danger, he was summoned by the voice of his country; and his rival, the duke of Aquitain, was reduced to appear among the fugitives and suppliants. “Alas!” exclaimed the Franks, “what a misfortune! what an indignity! We have long heard of the name and conquests of the Arabs: we were apprehensive of their attack from the East; they have now conquered Spain, and invade our country on the side of the West. Yet their numbers, and (since they have no buckler) their arms, are inferior to our own.” “If you follow my advice,” replied the prudent mayor of the palace, “you will not interrupt their march, nor precipitate your attack. They are like a torrent, which it is dangerous to stem in its career. The thirst of riches, and the consciousness of success, redouble their valour, and valour is of more avail than arms or numbers. Be patient till they have loaded themselves with the encumbrance of wealth. The possession of wealth will divide their counsels and assure your victory.” This subtle policy is perhaps a refinement of the Arabian writers; and the situation of Charles will suggest a more narrow and selfish motive of procrastination: the secret desire of humbling the pride, and wasting the provinces, of the rebel duke of Aquitain. It is yet more probable that the delays of Charles were inevitable and reluctant. A standing army was unknown under the first and second race; more than half the kingdom was now in the hands of the Saracens; according to their respective situation, the Franks of Neustria and Austrasia were too conscious or too careless of the impending danger; and the voluntary aids of the Gepidæ and Germans were separated by a long interval from the standard of the Christian general. No sooner had he collected his forces than he sought and found the enemy in the centre of France, between Tours Edition: current; Page: [256] and Poitiers. His well-conducted march was covered by a range of hills, and Abderame appears to have been surprised by his unexpected presence. The nations of Asia, Africa, and Europe advanced with equal ardour to an encounter which would change the history of the whole world. In the six first days of desultory combat, the horsemen and archers of the East maintained their advantage; but in the closer onset of the seventh day the Orientals were oppressed by the strength and stature of the Germans, who, with stout hearts and iron hands,36 asserted the civil and religious freedom of their posterity. The epithet of Martel, the Hammer, which has been added to the name of Charles, is expressive of his weighty and irresistible strokes: the valour of Eudes was excited by resentment and emulation; and their companions, in the eye of history, are the true Peers and Paladins of French chivalry. After a bloody field, in which Abderame was slain, the Saracens, in the close of the evening, retired to their camp. In the disorder and despair of the night, the various tribes of Yemen and Damascus, of Africa and Spain, were provoked to turn their arms against each other: the remains of their host was suddenly dissolved, and each emir consulted his safety by an hasty and separate retreat. At the dawn of day, the stillness of an hostile camp was suspected by the victorious Christians: on the report of their spies, they ventured to explore the riches of the vacant tents; but, if we except some celebrated relics, a small portion of the spoil was restored to the innocent and lawful owners. The joyful tidings were soon diffused over the Catholic world, and the monks of Italy could affirm and believe that three hundred and fifty, or three hundred and seventy-five, thousand of the Mahometans had been crushed by the hammer of Charles;37 while no more than fifteen hundred Christians Edition: current; Page: [257] were slain in the field of Tours. But this incredible tale is sufficiently disproved by the caution of the French general, who apprehended the snares and accidents of a pursuit, and dismissed his German allies to their native forests. The inactivity of a conqueror betrays the loss of strength and blood, and the most cruel execution is inflicted, not in the ranks of battle, but on the backs of a flying enemy. Yet the victory of the Franks was complete and final; Aquitain was recovered by the arms of Eudes; the Arabs never resumed the conquest of Gaul,38 and they were soon driven beyond the Pyrenees by Charles Martel and his valiant race.39 It might have been expected that the saviour of Christendom would have been canonised, or at least applauded, by the gratitude of the clergy, who are indebted to his sword for their present existence. But in the public distress the mayor of the palace had been compelled to apply the riches, or at least the revenues, of the bishops and abbots to the relief of the state and the reward of the soldiers. His merits were forgotten, his sacrilege alone was remembered, and, in an epistle to a Carlovingian prince, a Gallic synod presumes Edition: current; Page: [258] to declare that his ancestor was damned; that on the opening of his tomb the spectators were affrighted by a smell of fire and the aspect of a horrid dragon; and that a saint of the times was indulged with a pleasant vision of the soul and body of Charles Martel burning, to all eternity, in the abyss of hell.40

The loss of an army, or a province, in the Western world was less painful to the court of Damascus than the rise and progress of a domestic competitor. Except among the Syrians, the caliphs of the house of Ommiyah had never been the objects of the public favour. The life of Mahomet recorded their perseverance in idolatry and rebellion; their conversion had been reluctant, their elevation irregular and factious, and their throne was cemented with the most holy and noble blood of Arabia. The best of their race, the pious Omar, was dissatisfied with his own title; their personal virtues were insufficient to justify a departure from the order of succession; and the eyes and wishes of the faithful were turned towards the line of Hashem and the kindred of the apostle of God. Of these the Fatimites were either rash or pusillanimous; but the descendants of Abbas cherished, with courage and discretion, the hopes of their rising fortunes. From an obscure residence in Syria, they secretly despatched their agents and missionaries, who preached in the eastern provinces their hereditary indefeasible right; and Mohammed, the son of Ali, the son of Abdallah, the son of Abbas, the uncle of the prophet, gave audience to the deputies of Chorasan, and accepted their free gift of four hundred thousand pieces of gold. After the death of Mohammed, the oath of allegiance was administered in the name Edition: current; Page: [259] of his son Ibrahim to a numerous band of votaries, who expected only a signal and a leader; and the governor of Chorasan continued to deplore his fruitless admonitions and the deadly slumber of the caliphs of Damascus, till he himself, with all his adherents, was driven from the city and palace of Meru, by the rebellious arms of Abu Moslem.41 That maker of kings, the author, as he is named, of the call of the Abbassides, was at length rewarded for his presumption of merit with the usual gratitude of courts. A mean, perhaps a foreign, extraction could not repress the aspiring energy of Abu Moslem. Jealous of his wives, liberal of his wealth, prodigal of his own blood, and of that of others, he could boast with pleasure, and possibly with truth, that he had destroyed six hundred thousand of his enemies; and such was the intrepid gravity of his mind and countenance that he was never seen to smile except on a day of battle. In the visible separation of parties, the green was consecrated to the Fatimites; the Ommiades were distinguished by the white; and the black, as the most adverse, was naturally adopted by the Abbassides. Their turbans and garments were stained with that gloomy colour; two black standards, on pike-staves nine cubits long, were borne aloft in the van of Abu Moslem; and their allegorical names of the night and the shadow obscurely represented the indissoluble union and perpetual succession of the line of Hashem. From the Indus to the Euphrates, the East was convulsed by the quarrel of the white and the black factions; the Abbassides were most frequently victorious; but their public success was clouded by the personal misfortune of their chief. The court of Damascus, awakening from a long slumber, resolved to prevent the pilgrimage of Mecca, which Ibrahim had undertaken Edition: current; Page: [260] with a splendid retinue, to recommend himself at once to the favour of the prophet and of the people. A detachment of cavalry intercepted his march and arrested his person; and the unhappy Ibrahim, snatched away from the promise of untasted royalty, expired in iron fetters in the dungeons of Haran. His two younger brothers, Saffah42 and Almansor,43 eluded the search of the tyrant, and lay concealed at Cufa, till the zeal of the people and the approach of his eastern friends allowed them to expose their persons to the impatient public. On Friday, in the dress of a caliph, in the colours of the sect, Saffah proceeded with religious and military pomp to the mosch; ascending the pulpit, he prayed and preached as the lawful successor of Mahomet; and, after his departure, his kinsmen bound a willing people by an oath of fidelity. But it was on the banks of the Zab, and not in the mosch of Cufa, that this important controversy was determined. Every advantage appeared to be on the side of the white faction: the authority of established government; an army of an hundred and twenty thousand soldiers, against a sixth part of that number;43a and the presence and merit of the caliph Mervan, the fourteenth and last of the house of Ommiyah. Before his accession to the throne, he had deserved, by his Georgian warfare, the honourable epithet of the ass of Mesopotamia;44 and he might have been ranked among the greatest princes, had not, says Abulfeda, the eternal order decreed that moment for the ruin of his family: a decree against which all human prudence and fortitude must struggle in vain. The orders of Mervan Edition: current; Page: [261] were mistaken or disobeyed; the return of his horse, from which he had dismounted on a necessary occasion,45 impressed the belief of his death; and the enthusiasm of the black squadrons was ably conducted by Abdallah, the uncle of his competitor. After an irretrieveable defeat, the caliph escaped to Mosul; but the colours of the Abbassides were displayed from the rampart; he suddenly repassed the Tigris, cast a melancholy look on his palace of Haran, crossed the Euphrates, abandoned the fortifications of Damascus, and, without halting in Palestine, pitched his last and fatal camp at Busir on the banks of the Nile.46 His speed was urged by the incessant diligence of Abdallah, who in every step of the pursuit acquired strength and reputation; the remains of the white faction were finally vanquished in Egypt; and the lance, which terminated the life and anxiety of Mervan, was not less welcome perhaps to the unfortunate than to the victorious chief. The merciless inquisition of the conqueror eradicated the most distant branches of the hostile race: their bones were scattered, their memory was accursed, and the martyrdom of Hossein was abundantly revenged on the posterity of his tyrants. Fourscore of the Ommiades, who had yielded to the faith or clemency of their foes, were invited to a banquet at Damascus. The laws of hospitality Edition: current; Page: [262] were violated by a promiscuous massacre; the board was spread over their fallen bodies; and the festivity of the guests was enlivened by the music of their dying groans. By the event of the civil war the dynasty of the Abbassides was firmly established; but the Christians only could triumph in the mutual hatred and common loss of the disciples of Mahomet.47

Yet the thousands who were swept away by the sword of war might have been speedily retrieved in the succeeding generation, if the consequences of the revolution had not tended to dissolve the power and unity of the empire of the Saracens. In the proscription of the Ommiades, a royal youth of the name of Abdalrahman alone escaped the rage of his enemies, who hunted the wandering exile from the banks of the Euphrates to the valleys of Mount Atlas. His presence in the neighbourhood of Spain revived the zeal of the white faction. The name and cause of the Abbassides had been first vindicated by the Persians; the West had been pure from civil arms; and the servants of the abdicated family still held, by a precarious tenure, the inheritance of their lands and the offices of government. Strongly prompted by gratitude, indignation, and fear, they invited the grandson of the caliph Hashem to ascend the throne of his ancestors; and, in his desperate condition, the extremes of rashness and prudence were almost the same. The acclamations of the people saluted his landing on the coast of Andalusia; and, after a Edition: current; Page: [263] successful struggle, Abdalrahman established the throne of Cordova, and was the father of the Ommiades of Spain, who reigned above two hundred and fifty years from the Atlantic to the Pyrenees.48 He slew in battle a lieutenant of the Abbassides, who had invaded his dominions with a fleet and army: the head of Ala, in salt and camphire, was suspended by a daring messenger before the palace of Mecca;49 and the caliph Almansor rejoiced in his safety, that he was removed by seas and lands from such a formidable adversary. Their mutual designs or declarations of offensive war evaporated without effect; but, instead of opening a door to the conquest of Europe, Spain was dissevered from the trunk of the monarchy, engaged in perpetual hostility with the East, and inclined to peace and friendship with the Christian sovereigns of Constantinople and France. The example of the Ommiades was imitated by the real or fictitious progeny of Ali, the Edrissites of Mauritania, and the more powerful Fatimites of Africa and Egypt. In the tenth century, the chair of Mahomet was disputed by three caliphs or commanders of the faithful, who reigned at Bagdad, Cairoan, and Cordova, excommunicated each other, and agreed only in a principle of discord, that a sectary is more odious and criminal than an unbeliever.50

Edition: current; Page: [264]

Mecca was the patrimony of the line of Hashem, yet the Abbassides were never tempted to reside either in the birthplace or the city of the prophet. Damascus was disgraced by the choice, and polluted with the blood, of the Ommiades; and, after some hesitation, Almansor, the brother and successor of Saffah, laid the foundations of Bagdad,51 the Imperial seat of his posterity during a reign of five hundred years.52 The chosen spot is on the eastern bank of the Tigris, about fifteen miles above the ruins of Modain; the double wall was of a circular form; and such was the rapid increase of a capital, now dwindled to a provincial town, that the funeral of a popular saint might be attended by eight hundred thousand men and sixty thousand women of Bagdad and the adjacent villages. In this city of peace,53 amidst the riches of the Edition: current; Page: [265] East, the Abbassides soon disdained the abstinence and frugality of the first caliphs, and aspired to emulate the magnificence of the Persian kings. After his wars and buildings, Almansor left behind him in gold and silver about thirty millions sterling;54 and this treasure was exhausted in a few years by the vices or virtues of his children. His son Mahadi, in a single pilgrimage to Mecca, expended six millions of dinars of gold. A pious and charitable motive may sanctify the foundation of cisterns and caravanseras, which he distributed along a measured road of seven hundred miles; but his train of camels, laden with snow, could serve only to astonish the natives of Arabia, and to refresh the fruits and liquors of the royal banquet.55 The courtiers would surely praise the liberality of his grandson Almamon, who gave away four fifths of the income of a province, a sum of two millions four hundred thousand gold dinars, before he drew his foot from the stirrup. At the nuptials of the same prince, a thousand pearls of the largest size were showered Edition: current; Page: [266] on the head of the bride,56 and a lottery of lands and houses displayed the capricious bounty of fortune. The glories of the court were brightened rather than impaired in the decline of the empire; and a Greek ambassador might admire or pity the magnificence of the feeble Moctader. “The caliph’s whole army,” says the historian Abulfeda, “both horse and foot, was under arms, which together made a body of one hundred and sixty thousand men. His state-officers, the favourite slaves, stood near him in splendid apparel, their belts glittering with gold and gems. Near them were seven thousand eunuchs, four thousand of them white, the remainder black. The porters or door-keepers were in number seven hundred. Barges and boats, with the most superb decorations, were seen swimming upon the Tigris. Nor was the palace itself less splendid, in which were hung up thirty-eight thousand pieces of tapestry, twelve thousand five hundred of which were of silk embroidered with gold. The carpets on the floor were twenty-two thousand. An hundred lions were brought out, with a keeper to each lion.57 Among the other spectacles of rare and stupendous luxury, was a tree of gold and silver spreading into eighteen large branches, on which, and on the lesser boughs, sat a variety of birds made of the same precious metals, as well as the leaves of the tree. While the machinery affected spontaneous motions, the several birds warbled their natural harmony. Through this scene of magnificence, the Greek ambassador was led by the Edition: current; Page: [267] visir to the foot of the caliph’s throne.”58 In the West, the Ommiades of Spain supported, with equal pomp, the title of commander of the faithful. Three miles from Cordova, in honour of his favourite sultana, the third and greatest of the Abdalrahmans constructed the city, palace, and gardens of Zehra. Twenty-five years, and above three millions sterling, were employed by the founder: his liberal taste invited the artists of Constantinople, the most skilful sculptors and architects of the age; and the buildings were sustained or adorned by twelve hundred columns of Spanish and African, of Greek and Italian marble. The hall of audience was encrusted with gold and pearls, and a great bason in the centre was surrounded with the curious and costly figures of birds and quadrupeds. In a lofty pavilion of the gardens, one of these basons and fountains, so delightful in a sultry climate, was replenished not with water, but with the purest quicksilver. The seraglio of Abdalrahman, his wives, concubines, and black eunuchs, amounted to six thousand three hundred persons; and he was attended to the field by a guard of twelve thousand horse, whose belts and scymetars were studded with gold.59

In a private condition, our desires are perpetually repressed by poverty and subordination; but the lives and labours of millions are devoted to the service of a despotic prince, whose Edition: current; Page: [268] laws are blindly obeyed, and whose wishes are instantly gratified. Our imagination is dazzled by the splendid picture; and, whatever may be the cool dictates of reason, there are few among us who would obstinately refuse a trial of the comforts and the cares of royalty. It may therefore be of some use to borrow the experience of the same Abdalrahman, whose magnificence has perhaps excited our admiration and envy, and to transcribe an authentic memorial which was found in the closet of the deceased caliph. “I have now reigned above fifty years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: they amount of Fourteen: — O man! place not thy confidence in this present world!”60 The luxury of the caliphs, so useless to their private happiness, relaxed the nerves, and terminated the progress, of the Arabian empire. Temporal and spiritual conquest had been the sole occupation of the first successors of Mahomet; and, after supplying themselves with the necessaries of life, the whole revenue was scrupulously devoted to that salutary work. The Abbassides were impoverished by the multitude of their wants and their contempt of economy. Instead of pursuing the great object of ambition, their leisure, their affections, the powers of their mind, were diverted by pomp and pleasure; the rewards of valour were embezzled by women and eunuchs, Edition: current; Page: [269] and the royal camp was encumbered by the luxury of the palace. A similar temper was diffused among the subjects of the caliph. Their stern enthusiasm was softened by time and prosperity: they sought riches in the occupations of industry, fame in the pursuits of literature, and happiness in the tranquillity of domestic life. War was no longer the passion of the Saracens; and the increase of pay, the repetition of donatives, were insufficient to allure the posterity of those voluntary champions who had crowded to the standard of Abubeker and Omar for the hopes of spoil and of paradise.

Under the reign of the Ommiades, the studies of the Moslems were confined to the interpretation of the Koran, and the eloquence and poetry of their native tongue. A people continually exposed to the dangers of the field must esteem the healing powers of medicine or rather of surgery; but the starving physicians of Arabia murmured a complaint that exercise and temperance deprived them of the greatest part of their practice.61 After their civil and domestic wars, the subjects of the Abbassides, awakening from this mental lethargy, found leisure and felt curiosity for the acquisition of profane science. This spirit was first encouraged by the caliph Almansor, who, besides his knowledge of the Mahometan law, had applied himself with success to the study of astronomy. But, when the sceptre devolved to Almamon, the seventh of the Abbassides, he completed the designs of his grandfather, and invited the muses from their ancient seats. His ambassadors at Constantinople, his agents in Armenia, Syria, and Egypt, collected the volumes of Grecian science; at his command they were translated by the most skilful interpreters into the Arabic language; his subjects Edition: current; Page: [270] were exhorted assiduously to peruse these instructive writings; and the successor of Mahomet assisted with pleasure and modesty at the assemblies and disputations of the learned. “He was not ignorant,” says Abulpharagius, “that they are the elect of God, his best and most useful servants, whose lives are devoted to the improvement of their rational faculties. The mean ambition of the Chinese or the Turks may glory in the industry of their hands or the indulgence of their brutal appetites. Yet these dexterous artists must view, with hopeless emulation, the hexagons and pyramids of the cells of a bee-hive:62 these fortitudinous heroes are awed by the superior fierceness of the lions and tigers; and in their amorous enjoyments they are much inferior to the vigour of the grossest and most sordid quadrupeds. The teachers of wisdom are the true luminaries and legislators of a world which, without their aid, would again sink in ignorance and barbarism.”63 The zeal and curiosity of Almamon were imitated by succeeding princes of the line of Abbas; their rivals, the Fatimites of Africa and the Ommiades of Spain, were the patrons of the learned, as well as the commanders of the faithful; the same royal prerogative was claimed by their independent emirs of the provinces; and their emulation Edition: current; Page: [271] diffused the taste and the rewards of science from Samarcand and Bochara to Fez and Cordova. The visir of a sultan consecrated a sum of two hundred thousand pieces of gold to the foundation of a college at Bagdad, which he endowed with an annual revenue of fifteen thousand dinars. The fruits of instruction were communicated, perhaps at different times, to six thousand disciples of every degree, from the son of the noble to that of the mechanic; a sufficient allowance was provided for the indigent scholars; and the merit or industry of the professors was repaid with adequate stipends. In every city the productions of Arabic literature were copied and collected by the curiosity of the studious and the vanity of the rich. A private doctor refused the invitation of the sultan of Bochara, because the carriage of his books would have required four hundred camels. The royal library of the Fatimites consisted of one hundred thousand manuscripts, elegantly transcribed and splendidly bound, which were lent, with jealousy or avarice, to the students of Cairo. Yet this collection must appear moderate, if we can believe that the Ommiades of Spain had formed a library of six hundred thousand volumes, forty-four of which were employed in the mere catalogue. Their capital, Cordova, with the adjacent towns of Malaga, Almeria, and Murcia, had given birth to more than three hundred writers, and above seventy public libraries were opened in the cities of the Andalusian kingdom. The age of Arabian learning continued about five hundred years, till the great irruption of the Moguls, and was coeval with the darkest and most slothful period of European annals; but, since the sun of science has arisen in the West, it should seem that the Oriental studies have languished and declined.64

Edition: current; Page: [272]

In the libraries of the Arabians, as in those of Europe, the far greater part of the innumerable volumes were possessed only of local value or imaginary merit.65 The shelves were crowded with orators and poets, whose style was adapted to the taste and manners of their countrymen; with general and partial histories, which each revolving generation supplied with a new harvest of persons and events; with codes and commentaries of jurisprudence, which derived their authority from the law of the prophet; with the interpreters of the Koran and orthodox tradition; and with the whole theological tribe, polemics, mystics, scholastics, and moralists, the first or the last of writers, according to the different estimate of sceptics or believers. The works of speculation or science may be reduced to the four classes of philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, and physic. The sages of Greece were translated and illustrated in the Arabic language, and some treatises, now lost in the original, have been recovered in the versions of the East,66 which possessed and studied the writings of Aristotle and Plato, of Euclid and Apollonius, of Ptolemy, Hippocrates, and Galen.67 Among the ideal systems, which Edition: current; Page: [273] have varied with the fashion of the times, the Arabians adopted the philosophy of the Stagirite, alike intelligible or alike obscure for the readers of every age. Plato wrote for the Athenians, and his allegorical genius is too closely blended with the language and religion of Greece. After the fall of that religion, the Peripatetics, emerging from their obscurity, prevailed in the controversies of the Oriental sects, and their founder was long afterwards restored by the Mahometans of Spain to the Latin schools.68 The physics both of the Academy and the Lyceum, as they are built, not on observation, but on argument, have retarded the progress of real knowledge. The metaphysics of infinite or finite spirit have too often been enlisted in the service of superstition. But the human faculties are fortified by the art and practice of dialectics; the ten predicaments of Aristotle collect and methodise our ideas,69 and his syllogism is the keenest weapon of dispute. It was dexterously wielded in the schools of the Saracens, but, as it is more effectual for the detection of error than for the investigation of truth, it is not surprising that new generations of masters and disciples should still revolve in the same circle of logical argument. The mathematics are distinguished by a peculiar privilege that, in the course of ages, they may always advance and can never recede. But the ancient geometry, if I am not misinformed, Edition: current; Page: [274] was resumed in the same state by the Italians of the fifteenth century; and, whatever may be the origin of the name, the science of algebra is ascribed to the Grecian Diophantus by the modest testimony of the Arabs themselves.70 They cultivated with more success the sublime science of astronomy, which elevates the mind of man to disdain his diminutive planet and momentary existence. The costly instruments of observation were supplied by the caliph Almamon, and the land of the Chaldeans still afforded the same spacious level, the same unclouded horizon. In the plains of Sinaar, and a second time in those of Cufa, his mathematicians accurately measured a degree of the great circle of the earth, and determined at twenty-four thousand miles the entire circumference of our globe.71 From the reign of the Abbassides to that of the grandchildren of Tamerlane, the stars, without the aid of glasses, were diligently observed; and the astronomical tables of Bagdad, Spain, and Samarcand72 correct some minute errors, without daring to renounce the hypothesis Edition: current; Page: [275] of Ptolemy, without advancing a step towards the discovery of the solar system. In the Eastern courts, the truths of science could be recommended only by ignorance and folly, and the astronomer would have been disregarded, had he not debased his wisdom or honesty by the vain predictions of astrology.73 But in the science of medicine, the Arabians have been deservedly applauded.74 The names of Mesua and Geber, of Razis and Avicenna, are ranked with the Grecian masters; in the city of Bagdad, eight hundred and sixty physicians were licensed to exercise their lucrative profession;75 in Spain, the life of the Catholic princes was entrusted to the skill of the Saracens,76 and the school of Salerno, their legitimate offspring, revived in Italy and Europe the precepts of the healing art.77 The success of each professor must have been influenced by personal and accidental causes; but we may form a less fanciful estimate of their general knowledge of anatomy,78 botany,79 and chemistry,80 the threefold Edition: current; Page: [276] basis of their theory and practice. A superstitious reverence for the dead confined both the Greeks and the Arabians to the dissection of apes and quadrupeds; the more solid and visible parts were known in the time of Galen, and the finer scrutiny of the human frame was reserved for the microscope and the injections of modern artists. Botany is an active science, and the discoveries of the torrid zone might enrich the herbal of Dioscorides with two thousand plants. Some traditionary knowledge might be secreted in the temples and monasteries of Egypt; much useful experience had been acquired in the practice of arts and manufactures; but the science of chemistry owes its origin and improvement to the industry of the Saracens. They first invented and named the alembic for the purpose of distillation, analysed the substances of the three kingdoms of nature, tried the distinction and affinities of alcalis and acids, and converted the poisonous minerals into soft and salutary medicines. But the most eager search of Arabian chemistry was the transmutation of metals and the elixir of immortal health; the reason and the fortunes of thousands were evaporated in the crucibles of alchymy, and the consummation of the great work was promoted by the worthy aid of mystery, fable, and superstition.

But the Moslems deprived themselves of the principal benefits of a familiar intercourse with Greece and Rome, the knowledge of antiquity, the purity of taste, and the freedom of thought. Confident in the riches of their native tongue, the Arabians disdained the study of any foreign idiom. The Greek interpreters were chosen among their Christian subjects; Edition: current; Page: [277] they formed their translations, sometimes on the original text, more frequently perhaps on a Syriac version; and in the crowd of astronomers and physicians there is no example of a poet, an orator, or even an historian being taught to speak the language of the Saracens.81 The mythology of Homer would have provoked the abhorrence of those stern fanatics; they possessed in lazy ignorance the colonies of the Macedonians, and the provinces of Carthage and Rome: the heroes of Plutarch and Livy were buried in oblivion; and the history of the world before Mahomet was reduced to a short legend of the patriarchs, the prophets, and the Persian kings. Our education in the Greek and Latin schools may have fixed in our minds a standard of exclusive taste; and I am not forward to condemn the literature and judgment of nations of whose language I am ignorant. Yet I know that the classics have much to teach, and I believe that the Orientals have much to learn; the temperate dignity of style, the graceful proportions of art, the forms of visible and intellectual beauty, the just delineation of character and passion, the rhetoric of narrative and argument, the regular fabric of epic and dramatic poetry.82 The influence of truth and reason is of a less ambiguous complexion. The philosophers of Athens and Rome enjoyed the blessings, and asserted the rights, of civil and religious freedom. Their moral and political writings might have gradually unlocked the fetters of Eastern despotism, diffused a liberal spirit of inquiry and toleration, Edition: current; Page: [278] and encouraged the Arabian sages to suspect that their caliph was a tyrant and their prophet an impostor.83 The instinct of superstition was alarmed by the introduction even of the abstract sciences; and the more rigid doctors of the law condemned the rash and pernicious curiosity of Almamon.84 To the thirst of martyrdom, the vision of paradise, and the belief of predestination, we must ascribe the invincible enthusiasm of the prince and people. And the sword of the Saracens became less formidable, when their youth was drawn away from the camp to the college, when the armies of the faithful presumed to read and to reflect. Yet the foolish vanity of the Greeks was jealous of their studies, and reluctantly imparted the sacred fire to the barbarians of the East.85

In the bloody conflict of the Ommiades and Abbassides, the Greeks had stolen the opportunity of avenging their wrongs and enlarging their limits. But a severe retribution was exacted by Mohadi,86 the third caliph of the new dynasty, who seized in his turn the favourable opportunity, while a woman and a child, Irene and Constantine, were seated on the Byzantine throne. An army of ninety-five thousand Persians and Arabs was sent from the Tigris to the Thracian Bosphorus, under the command of Harun,87 or Aaron, the Edition: current; Page: [279] second son of the commander of the faithful. His encampment on the opposite heights of Chrysopolis, or Scutari, informed Irene, in her palace of Constantinople, of the loss of her troops and provinces. With the consent or connivance of their sovereign, her ministers subscribed an ignominious peace; and the exchange of some royal gifts could not disguise the annual tribute of seventy thousand dinars of gold, which was imposed on the Roman empire. The Saracens had too rashly advanced into the midst of a distant and hostile land; their retreat was solicited by the promise of faithful guides and plentiful markets; and not a Greek had courage to whisper that their weary forces might be surrounded and destroyed in their necessary passage between a slippery mountain and the river Sangarius. Five years after this expedition, Harun ascended the throne of his father and his elder brother;88 the most powerful and vigorous monarch of his race, illustrious in the West as the ally of Charlemagne, and familiar to the most childish readers as the perpetual hero of the Arabian tales. His title to the name of Al Rashid (the Just) is sullied by the extirpation of the generous, perhaps the innocent, Barmecides; yet he could listen to the complaint of a poor widow who had been pillaged by his troops, and who dared, in a passage of the Koran, to threaten the inattentive despot with the judgment of God and posterity. His court was adorned with luxury and science; but, in a reign of three-and-twenty years, Harun repeatedly visited his provinces from Chorasan to Egypt; nine times he performed the pilgrimage of Mecca; eight times he invaded the territories of the Romans; and, as often as they declined the payment of the tribute, they were taught to feel that a month of depredation was more costly than a year of submission. But, when the unnatural mother of Constantine Edition: current; Page: [280] was deposed and banished, her successor Nicephorus resolved to obliterate this badge of servitude and disgrace. The epistle of the emperor to the caliph was pointed with an allusion to the game of chess, which had already spread from Persia to Greece. “The Queen (he spoke of Irene) considered you as a rook and herself as a pawn. That pusillanimous female submitted to pay a tribute, the double of which she ought to have exacted from the Barbarians. Restore therefore the fruits of your injustice, or abide the determination of the sword.” At these words the ambassadors cast a bundle of swords before the foot of the throne. The caliph smiled at the menace, and drawing his scymetar, samsamah, a weapon of historic or fabulous renown,88a he cut asunder the feeble arms of the Greeks, without turning the edge or endangering the temper of his blade. He then dictated an epistle of tremendous brevity: “In the name of the most merciful God, Harun al Rashid, commander of the faithful, to Nicephorus, the Roman dog. I have read thy letter, O thou son of an unbelieving mother. Thou shalt not hear, thou shalt behold, my reply.” It was written in characters of blood and fire on the plains of Phrygia; and the warlike celerity of the Arabs could only be checked by the arts of deceit and the show of repentance. The triumphant caliph retired, after the fatigues of the campaign, to his favourite palace of Racca, on the Euphrates;89 but the distance of five hundred miles, and the inclemency of the season, encouraged his adversary to violate the peace. Nicephorus Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [281] was astonished by the bold and rapid march of the commander of the faithful, who repassed, in the depth of winter, the snows of Mount Taurus: his stratagems of policy and war were exhausted; and the perfidious Greek escaped with three wounds from a field of battle overspread with forty thousand of his subjects.90 Yet the emperor was ashamed of submission, and the caliph was resolved on victory. One hundred and thirty-five thousand regular soldiers received pay, and were inscribed in the military roll; and above three hundred thousand persons of every denomination marched under the black standard of the Abbassides. They swept the surface of Asia Minor far beyond Tyana and Ancyra, and invested the Pontic Heraclea,91 once a flourishing state, now a paltry town; at that time capable of sustaining in her antique walls a month’s siege against the forces of the East. The ruin was complete, the spoil was ample; but, if Harun had been conversant with Grecian story, he would have regretted the statue of Hercules, whose attributes, the club, the bow, the quiver, and the lion’s hide, were sculptured in massy gold. The progress of desolation by sea and land, from the Euxine to the isle of Cyprus, compelled the emperor Nicephorus to retract his haughty defiance. In the new treaty, the ruins of Heraclea were left for ever as a lesson and a trophy; and the coin of the tribute was marked with the image and superscription of Harun and his three Edition: current; Page: [282] sons.92 Yet this plurality of lords might contribute to remove the dishonour of the Roman name. After the death of their father, the heirs of the caliph were involved in civil discord, and the conqueror, the liberal Almamon, was sufficiently engaged in the restoration of domestic peace and the introduction of foreign science.


Under the reign of Almamon at Bagdad, of Michael the Stammerer at Constantinople, the islands of Crete93 and Sicily were subdued by the Arabs. The former of these conquests is disdained by their own writers, who were ignorant of the fame of Jupiter and Minos, but it has not been overlooked by the Byzantine historians, who now begin to cast a clearer light on the affairs of their own times.94 A band Edition: current; Page: [283] of Andalusian volunteers, discontented with the climate or government of Spain, explored the adventures of the sea; but, as they sailed in no more than ten or twenty galleys, their warfare must be branded with the name of piracy. As the subjects and sectaries of the white party, they might lawfully invade the dominions of the black caliphs. A rebellious faction introduced them into Alexandria;95 they cut in pieces both friends and foes, pillaged the churches and the moschs, sold above six thousand Christian captives, and maintained their station in the capital of Egypt, till they were oppressed by the forces and the presence of Almamon himself. From the mouth of the Nile to the Hellespont, the islands and sea-coasts, both of the Greeks and Moslems, were exposed to their depredations; they saw, they envied, they tasted the fertility of Crete, and soon returned with forty galleys to a more serious attack. The Andalusians wandered over the land fearless and unmolested; but, when they descended with their plunder to the sea-shore, their vessels were in flames, and their chief, Abu Caab, confessed himself the author of the mischief. Their clamours accused his madness or treachery. “Of what do you complain?” replied the crafty emir. “I have brought you to a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is your true country; repose from your toils, and forget the barren place of your nativity.” “And our wives and children?” “Your beauteous captives will supply the place of your wives, and in their embraces you will soon become the fathers of a new progeny.” The first habitation was their camp, with a ditch and rampart, in the bay of Suda; but an apostate monk led them to a more desirable position in the eastern parts; and the name of Candax, their fortress and colony, had been extended to the whole island, under the corrupt and Edition: current; Page: [284] modern appellation of Candia. The hundred cities of the age of Minos were diminished to thirty; and of these, only one, most probably Cydonia, had courage to retain the substance of freedom and the profession of Christianity. The Saracens of Crete soon repaired the loss of their navy; and the timbers of Mount Ida were launched into the main. During an hostile period, of one hundred and thirty-eight years, the princes of Constantinople attacked these licentious corsairs with fruitless curses and ineffectual arms.

The loss of Sicily96 was occasioned by an act of superstitious rigour. An amorous youth, who had stolen a nun from her cloister, was sentenced by the emperor to the amputation of his tongue. Euphemius97 appealed to the reason and policy of the Saracens of Africa; and soon returned with the Imperial purple, a fleet of one hundred ships, and an army of seven hundred horse and ten thousand foot. They landed at Mazara near the ruins of the ancient Selinus; but, after some partial victories, Syracuse98 was delivered by the Edition: current; Page: [285] Greeks, the apostate was slain before her walls, and his African friends were reduced to the necessity of feeding on the flesh of their own horses. In their turn they were relieved by a powerful99 reinforcement of their brethren of Andalusia; the largest and western part of the island was gradually reduced, and the commodious harbour of Palermo was chosen for the seat of the naval and military power of the Saracens. Syracuse preserved about fifty years the faith which she had sworn to Christ and to Cæsar. In the last and fatal siege, her citizens displayed some remnant of the spirit which had formerly resisted the powers of Athens and Carthage. They stood about twenty days against the batteringrams and catapultæ, the mines and tortoises, of the besiegers; and the place might have been relieved, if the mariners of the Imperial fleet had not been detained at Constantinople in building a church to the Virgin Mary. The deacon Theodosius, with the bishop and clergy, was dragged in chains from the altar to Palermo, cast into a subterraneous dungeon, and exposed to the hourly peril of death or apostacy. His pathetic, and not inelegant, complaint may be read as the epitaph of his country.100 From the Roman conquest to this final calamity, Syracuse, now dwindled to the primitive isle of Ortygia, had insensibly declined. Yet the relics were still Edition: current; Page: [286] precious; the plate of the cathedral weighed five thousand pounds of silver; the entire spoil was computed at one million of pieces of gold (about four hundred thousand pounds sterling); and the captives must out-number the seventeen thousand Christians who were transported from the sack of Tauromenium into African servitude. In Sicily the religion and language of the Greeks were eradicated; and such was the docility of the rising generation that fifteen thousand boys were circumcised and clothed on the same day with the son of the Fatimite caliph. The Arabian squadrons issued from the harbours of Palermo, Biserta, and Tunis; an hundred and fifty towns of Calabria and Campania were attacked and pillaged; nor could the suburbs of Rome be defended by the name of the Cæsars and Apostles. Had the Mahometans been united, Italy must have fallen an easy and glorious accession to the empire of the prophet. But the caliphs of Bagdad had lost their authority in the West; the Aglabites and Fatimites usurped the provinces of Africa; their emirs of Sicily aspired to independence; and the design of conquest and dominion was degraded to a repetition of predatory inroads.101

In the sufferings of prostrate Italy, the name of Rome awakens a solemn and mournful recollection. A fleet of Saracens from the African coast presumed to enter the mouth of the Tiber, and to approach a city which even yet, in her fallen state, was revered as the metropolis of the Christian world. The gates and ramparts were guarded by a trembling people; but the tombs and temples of St. Peter and St. Paul were left exposed in the suburbs of the Vatican and of the Ostian way. Their invisible sanctity had protected them against the Goths, the Vandals, and the Lombards; but the Arabs disdained both the gospel and the legend; and their Edition: current; Page: [287] rapacious spirit was approved and animated by the precepts of the Koran. The Christian idols were stripped of their costly offerings; a silver altar was torn away from the shrine of St. Peter; and, if the bodies or the buildings were left entire, their deliverance must be imputed to the haste, rather than the scruples, of the Saracens.102 In their course along the Appian way, they pillaged Fundi and besieged Gayeta; but they had turned aside from the walls of Rome, and, by their divisions, the Capitol was saved from the yoke of the prophet of Mecca. The same danger still impended on the heads of the Roman people; and their domestic force was unequal to the assault of an African emir. They claimed the protection of their Latin sovereign; but the Carlovingian standard was overthrown by a detachment of the Barbarians; they meditated the restoration of the Greek emperors; but the attempt was treasonable, and the succour remote and precarious.103 Their distress appeared to receive some aggravation from the death of their spiritual and temporal chiefs; but the pressing emergency superseded the forms and intrigues of an election; and the unanimous choice of Pope Leo the Fourth104 was the safety of the church and city. This pontiff was born a Roman; the courage of the first ages of the republic glowed in his breast; and, amidst the ruins of his country, he stood erect, like one of the firm and lofty columns that rear their heads above the fragments of the Edition: current; Page: [288] Roman forum. The first days of his reign were consecrated to the purification and removal of relics, to prayers and processions, and to all the solemn offices of religion, which served at least to heal the imagination, and restore the hopes, of the multitude. The public defence had been long neglected, not from the presumption of peace, but from the distress and poverty of the times. As far as the scantiness of his means and the shortness of his leisure would allow, the ancient walls were repaired by the command of Leo; fifteen towers, in the most accessible stations, were built or renewed; two of these commanded on either side the Tiber; and an iron chain was drawn across the stream, to impede the ascent of an hostile navy. The Romans were assured of a short respite by the welcome news that the siege of Gayeta had been raised and that a part of the enemy, with their sacrilegious plunder, had perished in the waves.

But the storm which had been delayed, soon burst upon them with redoubled violence. The Aglabite,105 who reigned in Africa, and had inherited from his father a treasure and an army: a fleet of Arabs and Moors, after a short refreshment in the harbours of Sardinia, cast anchor before the mouth of the Tiber, sixteen miles from the city; and their discipline and numbers appeared to threaten, not a transient inroad, but a serious design of conquest and dominion. But the vigilance of Leo had formed an alliance with the vassals of the Greek empire, the free and maritime states of Gayeta, Naples, and Amalfi; and in the hour of danger their galleys appeared in the port of Ostia, under the command of Cæsarius, the son of the Neapolitan duke, a noble and valiant youth, who had already vanquished the fleets of the Saracens. With Edition: current; Page: [289] his principal companions, Cæsarius was invited to the Lateran palace, and the dexterous pontiff affected to inquire their errand, and to accept, with joy and surprise, their providential succour. The city bands, in arms, attended their father at Ostia, where he reviewed and blessed his generous deliverers. They kissed his feet, received the communion with martial devotion, and listened to the prayer of Leo, that the same God who had supported St. Peter and St. Paul on the waves of the sea would strengthen the hands of his champions against the adversaries of his holy name. After a similar prayer, and with equal resolution, the Moslems advanced to the attack of the Christian galleys, which preserved their advantageous station along the coast. The victory inclined to the side of the allies, when it was less gloriously decided in their favour by a sudden tempest, which confounded the skill and courage of the stoutest mariners. The Christians were sheltered in a friendly harbour, while the Africans were scattered and dashed in pieces among the rocks and islands of an hostile shore. Those who escaped from shipwreck and hunger neither found nor deserved mercy at the hands of their implacable pursuers.106 The sword and the gibbet reduced the dangerous multitude of captives; and the remainder was more usefully employed, to restore the sacred edifices which they had attempted to subvert. The pontiff, at the head of the citizens and allies, paid his grateful devotion at the shrines of the apostles; and, among the spoils of this naval victory, thirteen Arabian bows of pure and massy silver were suspended round the altar of the fishermen of Galilee. The reign of Leo the Fourth was employed in the defence and ornament of the Roman state: the churches were renewed and embellished; near four thousand pounds of silver were consecrated to repair the losses of St. Peter; and his sanctuary was decorated with a plate of gold the weight of two hundred and sixteen pounds; embossed with the portraits of the pope Edition: current; Page: [290] and emperor, and encircled with a string of pearls. Yet this vain magnificence reflects less glory on the character of Leo than the paternal care with which he rebuilt the walls of Horta and Ameria; and transported the wandering inhabitants of Centumcellæ to his new foundation of Leopolis, twelve miles from the sea-shore.107 By his liberality a colony of Corsicans, with their wives and children, was planted in the station of Porto at the mouth of the Tiber; the falling city was restored for their use, the fields and vineyards were divided among the new settlers; their first efforts were assisted by a gift of horses and cattle; and the hardy exiles, who breathed revenge against the Saracens, swore to live and die under the standard of St. Peter. The nations of the West and North, who visited the threshold of the apostles, had gradually formed the large and populous suburb of the Vatican, and their various habitations were distinguished, in the language of the times, as the schools of the Greeks and Goths, of the Lombards and Saxons. But this venerable spot was still open to sacrilegious insult; the design of inclosing it with walls and towers exhausted all that authority could command or charity would supply; and the pious labour of four years was animated in every season, and at every hour, by the presence of the indefatigable pontiff. The love of fame, a generous but worldly passion, may be detected in the name of the Leonine city, which he bestowed on the Vatican; yet the pride of the dedication was tempered with Christian penance and humility. The boundary Edition: current; Page: [291] was trod by the bishop and his clergy, barefoot, in sackcloth and ashes; the songs of triumph were modulated to psalms and litanies; the walls were besprinkled with holy water; and the ceremony was concluded with a prayer that, under the guardian care of the apostles and the angelic host, both the old and the new Rome might ever be preserved pure, prosperous, and impregnable.108

The emperor Theophilus, son of Michael the Stammerer, was one of the most active and high-spirited princes who reigned at Constantinople during the middle age. In offensive or defensive war, he marched in person five times against the Saracens, formidable in his attack, esteemed by the enemy in his losses and defeats. In the last of these expeditions he penetrated into Syria, and besieged the obscure town of Sozopetra: the casual birth-place of the caliph Motassem, whose father Harun was attended in peace or war by the most favourite of his wives and concubines. The revolt of a Persian impostor employed at that moment the arms of the Saracen, and he could only intercede in favour of a place for which he felt and acknowledged some degree of filial affection. These solicitations determined the emperor to wound his pride in so sensible a part. Sozopetra was levelled with the ground, the Syrian prisoners were marked or mutilated with ignominious cruelty, and a thousand female captives were forced away from the adjacent territory. Among these a matron of the house of Abbas invoked, in an agony of despair, the name of Motassem; and the insults of the Greeks engaged the honour of her kinsman to avenge his indignity and to answer her appeal. Under the reign of Edition: current; Page: [292] the two elder brothers, the inheritance of the youngest had been confined to Anatolia, Armenia, Georgia, and Circassia; this frontier station had exercised his military talents; and, among his accidental claims to the name of Octonary,109 the most meritorious are the eight battles which he gained or fought against the enemies of the Koran. In this personal quarrel, the troops of Irak, Syria, and Egypt were recruited from the tribes of Arabia and the Turkish hordes: his cavalry might be numerous, though we should deduct some myriads from the hundred and thirty thousand horses of the royal stables; and the expense of the armament was computed at four millions sterling, or one hundred thousand pounds of gold. From Tarsus, the place of assembly, the Saracens advanced in three divisions along the high road of Constantinople: Motassem himself commanded the centre, and the vanguard was given to his son Abbas, who, in the trial of the first adventures, might succeed with the more glory, or fail with the least reproach. In the revenge of his injury, the caliph prepared to retaliate a similar affront. The father of Theophilus was a native of Amorium110 in Phrygia; the original seat of the Imperial house had been adorned with privileges and monuments; and, whatever might be the indifference of the people, Constantinople itself was scarcely of more value in the eyes of the sovereign and his court. The name of Amorium was inscribed on the shields of the Saracens; and their three armies were again united under the Edition: current; Page: [293] walls of the devoted city. It had been proposed by the wisest counsellors to evacuate Amorium, to remove the inhabitants, and to abandon the empty structures to the vain resentment of the Barbarians. The emperor embraced the more generous resolution of defending, in a siege and battle, the country of his ancestors. When the armies drew near, the front of the Mahometan line appeared to a Roman eye more closely planted with spears and javelins; but the event of the action was not glorious on either side to the national troops. The Arabs were broken, but it was by the swords of thirty thousand Persians, who had obtained service and settlement in the Byzantine empire. The Greeks were repulsed and vanquished, but it was by the arrows of the Turkish cavalry; and, had not their bow-strings been damped and relaxed by the evening rain, very few of the Christians could have escaped with the emperor from the field of battle. They breathed at Dorylæum, at the distance of three days; and Theophilus, reviewing his trembling squadrons, forgave the common flight both of the prince and people. After this discovery of his weakness, he vainly hoped to deprecate the fate of Amorium: the inexorable caliph rejected with contempt his prayers and promises; and detained the Roman ambassadors to be the witnesses of his great revenge. They had nearly been the witnesses of his shame. The vigorous assaults of fifty-five days were encountered by a faithful governor, a veteran garrison, and a desperate people; and the Saracens must have raised the siege if a domestic traitor had not pointed to the weakest part of the wall, a place which was decorated with the statues of a lion and a bull. The vow of Motassem was accomplished with unrelenting rigour; tired, rather than satiated, with destruction, he returned to his new palace of Samara, in the neighbourhood of Bagdad, while the unfortunate111 Theophilus implored the tardy and Edition: current; Page: [294] doubtful aid of his Western rival, the emperor of the Franks. Yet in the siege of Amorium above seventy thousand Moslems had perished; their loss had been revenged by the slaughter of thirty thousand Christians, and the sufferings of an equal number of captives, who were treated as the most atrocious criminals. Mutual necessity could sometimes extort the exchange or ransom of prisoners;112 but in the national religious conflict of the two empires peace was without confidence, and war without mercy. Quarter was seldom given in the field; those who escaped the edge of the sword were condemned to hopeless servitude or exquisite torture; and a Catholic emperor relates, with visible satisfaction, the execution of the Saracens of Crete, who were flayed alive, or plunged into caldrons of boiling oil.113 To a point of honour Motassem had sacrificed a flourishing city, two hundred thousand lives, and the property of millions. The same caliph descended from his horse and dirtied his robe to relieve the distress of a decrepit old man, who with his laden ass Edition: current; Page: [295] had tumbled into a ditch. On which of these actions did he reflect with the most pleasure, when he was summoned by the angel of death?114

With Motassem, the eighth of the Abbassides, the glory of his family and nation expired. When the Arabian conquerors had spread themselves over the East, and were mingled with the servile crowds of Persia, Syria, and Egypt, they insensibly lost the freeborn and martial virtues of the desert. The courage of the South is the artificial fruit of discipline and prejudice; the active power of enthusiasm had decayed, and the mercenary forces of the caliphs were recruited in those climates of the North, of which valour is the hardy and spontaneous production. Of the Turks115 who dwelt upon the Oxus and Jaxartes, the robust youths, either taken in war or purchased in trade, were educated in the exercises of the field and the profession of the Mahometan faith. The Turkish guards stood in arms round the throne of their benefactor, and their chiefs usurped the dominion of the palace and the provinces. Motassem, the first author of this dangerous example, introduced into the capital above fifty thousand Turks: their licentious conduct provoked the public indignation, and the quarrels of the soldiers and people induced the caliph to retire from Bagdad, and establish his own residence and the camp of his Barbarian favourites at Samara on the Tigris, about twelve leagues above the city of Peace.116 His son Motawakkel was a jealous and cruel Edition: current; Page: [296] tyrant; odious to his subjects, he cast himself on the fidelity of the strangers, and these strangers, ambitious and apprehensive, were tempted by the rich promise of a revolution. At the instigation, or at least in the cause, of his son, they burst into his apartment at the hour of supper, and the caliph was cut into seven pieces by the same swords which he had recently distributed among the guards of his life and throne. To this throne, yet streaming with a father’s blood, Montasser was triumphantly led; but in a reign of six months he found only the pangs of a guilty conscience. If he wept at the sight of an old tapestry which represented the crime and punishment of the son of Chosroes; if his days were abridged by grief and remorse, we may allow some pity to a parricide, who exclaimed, in the bitterness of death, that he had lost both this world and the world to come. After this act of treason, the ensigns of royalty, the garment and walking staff of Mahomet, were given and torn away by the foreign mercenaries, who in four years created, deposed, and murdered three commanders of the faithful. As often as the Turks were inflamed by fear, or rage, or avarice, these caliphs were dragged by the feet, exposed naked to the scorching sun, beaten with iron clubs, and compelled to purchase, by the abdication of their dignity, a short reprieve of inevitable fate.117 At length, however, the fury of the tempest was spent or diverted; the Abbassides returned to the less turbulent residence of Bagdad; the insolence of the Turks was curbed with Edition: current; Page: [297] a firmer and more skilful hand, and their numbers were divided and destroyed in foreign warfare. But the nations of the East had been taught to trample on the successors of the prophet; and the blessings of domestic peace were obtained by the relaxation of strength and discipline. So uniform are the mischiefs of military despotism that I seem to repeat the story of the prætorians of Rome.118

While the flame of enthusiasm was damped by the business, the pleasure, and the knowledge of the age, it burned with concentrated heat in the breasts of the chosen few, the congenial spirits, who were ambitious of reigning either in this world or in the next. How carefully soever the book of prophecy had been sealed by the apostle of Mecca, the wishes, and (if we may profane the word) even the reason, of fanaticism might believe that, after the successive missions of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mahomet, the same God, in the fulness of time, would reveal a still more perfect and permanent law. In the two hundred and seventy-seventh year of the Hegira, and in the neighbourhood of Cufa, an Arabian preacher, of the name of Carmath,119 Edition: current; Page: [298] assumed the lofty and incomprehensible style of the Guide, the Director, the Demonstration, the Word, the Holy Ghost, the Camel, the Herald of the Messiah, who had conversed with him in a human shape, and the representative of Mohammed the son of Ali, of St. John the Baptist, and of the angel Gabriel. In his mystic volume, the precepts of the Koran were refined to a more spiritual sense; he relaxed the duties of ablution, fasting, and pilgrimage; allowed the indiscriminate use of wine and forbidden food; and nourished the fervour of his disciples by the daily repetition of fifty prayers. The idleness and ferment of the rustic crowd awakened the attention of the magistrates of Cufa; a timid persecution assisted the progress of the new sect; and the name of the prophet became more revered after his person had been withdrawn from the world. His twelve apostles dispersed themselves among the Bedoweens, “a race of men,” says Abulfeda, “equally devoid of reason and of religion;” and the success of their preaching seemed to threaten Arabia with a new revolution. The Carmathians were ripe for rebellion, since they disclaimed the title of the house of Abbas and abhorred the worldly pomp of the caliphs of Bagdad. They were susceptible of discipline, since they vowed a blind and absolute submission to their imam, who was called to the prophetic office by the voice of God and the people. Instead of the legal tithes, he claimed the fifth of their substance and spoil; the most flagitious sins were no more than the type of disobedience; and the brethren were united and concealed by an oath of secrecy. After a bloody conflict, they prevailed in the province of Bahrein, along the Persian Gulf; far and wide, the tribes of the desert were subject to the sceptre, or rather to the sword, of Abu Said and his son Abu Taher; and these rebellious imams could muster in the field an hundred and seven thousand fanatics. The mercenaries Edition: current; Page: [299] of the caliph were dismayed at the approach of an enemy who neither asked nor accepted quarter; and the difference between them in fortitude and patience is expressive of the change which three centuries of prosperity had effected in the character of the Arabians. Such troops were discomfited in every action; the cities of Racca and Baalbec, of Cufa and Bassora, were taken and pillaged; Bagdad was filled with consternation; and the caliph trembled behind the veils of his palace. In a daring inroad beyond the Tigris, Abu Taher advanced to the gates of the capital with no more than five hundred horse. By the special order of Moctader, the bridges had been broken down, and the person or head of the rebel was expected every hour by the commander of the faithful. His lieutenant, from a motive of fear or pity, apprised Abu Taher of his danger, and recommended a speedy escape. “Your master,” said the intrepid Carmathian to the messenger, “is at the head of thirty thousand soldiers: three such men as these are wanting in his host:” at the same instant, turning to three of his companions, he commanded the first to plunge a dagger into his breast, the second to leap into the Tigris, and the third to cast himself headlong down a precipice. They obeyed without a murmur. “Relate,” continued the imam, “what you have seen: before the evening your general shall be chained among my dogs.” Before the evening, the camp was surprised and the menace was executed. The rapine of the Carmathians was sanctified by their aversion to the worship of Mecca: they robbed a caravan of pilgrims, and twenty thousand devout Moslems were abandoned on the burning sands to a death of hunger and thirst.120 Another year they suffered the pilgrims to proceed without interruption; but, in the festival of devotion, Abu Taher stormed the holy city and trampled on the most venerable relics of the Mahometan faith. Thirty thousand citizens and strangers were put to the sword; the sacred precincts Edition: current; Page: [300] were polluted by the burial of three thousand dead bodies; the well of Zemzem overflowed with blood; the golden spout was forced from its place; the veil of the Caaba was divided among these impious sectaries; and the black stone, the first monument of the nation, was borne away in triumph to their capital. After this deed of sacrilege and cruelty, they continued to infest the confines of Irak, Syria, and Egypt; but the vital principle of enthusiasm had withered at the root. Their scruples or their avarice again opened the pilgrimage of Mecca and restored the black stone of the Caaba; and it is needless to inquire into what factions they were broken, or by whose swords they were finally extirpated. The sect of the Carmathians may be considered as the second visible cause of the decline and fall of the empire of the caliph.121

The third and most obvious cause was the weight and magnitude of the empire itself. The caliph Almamon might proudly assert that it was easier for him to rule the East and the West than to manage a chess-board of two feet square;122 yet I suspect that in both those games he was guilty of many fatal mistakes; and I perceive that in the distant provinces the authority of the first and most powerful of the Abbassides was already impaired. The analogy of despotism invests the representative with the full majesty of the prince; the division and balance of powers might relax the habits of obedience, might encourage the passive subject to inquire into the origin and administration of civil government. He who is born in the purple is seldom worthy to reign; but the elevation of a private man, of a peasant perhaps, or a slave, Edition: current; Page: [301] affords a strong presumption of his courage and capacity. The viceroy of a remote kingdom aspires to secure the property and inheritance of his precarious trust; the nations must rejoice in the presence of their sovereign; and the command of armies and treasures are at once the object and the instrument of his ambition. A change was scarcely visible as long as the lieutenants of the caliph were content with their vicarious title; while they solicited for themselves or their sons a renewal of the Imperial grant, and still maintained on the coin, and in the public prayers, the name and prerogative of the commander of the faithful. But in the long and hereditary exercise of power, they assumed the pride and attributes of royalty; the alternative of peace or war, of reward or punishment, depended solely on their will; and the revenues of their government were reserved for local services or private magnificence. Instead of a regular supply of men and money, the successors of the prophet were flattered with the ostentatious gift of an elephant, or a cask of hawks, a suit of silk hangings, or some pounds of musk and amber.123

After the revolt of Spain from the temporal and spiritual supremacy of the Abbassides, the first symptoms of disobedience broke forth in the province of Africa. Ibrahim, the son of Aglab, the lieutenant of the vigilant and rigid Harun, bequeathed to the dynasty of the Aglabites the inheritance of his name and power. The indolence or policy of the caliphs dissembled the injury and loss, and pursued only with poison the founder of the Edrisites,124 who erected the kingdom and Edition: current; Page: [302] city of Fez on the shores of the western ocean.125 In the East, the first dynasty was that of the Taherites,126 the posterity of the valiant Taher, who, in the civil wars of the sons of Harun, had served with too much zeal and success the cause of Almamon the younger brother. He was sent into honourable exile, to command on the banks of the Oxus; and the independence of his successors, who reigned in Chorasan till the fourth generation, was palliated by their modest and respectful demeanour, the happiness of their subjects, and the security of their frontier. They were supplanted by one of those adventurers so frequent in the annals of the East, who left his trade of a brazier (from whence the name of Soffarides) for the profession of a robber. In a nocturnal visit to the treasure of the prince of Sistan, Jacob, the son of Leith,127 stumbled over a lump of salt, which he unwarily tasted with Edition: current; Page: [303] his tongue. Salt, among the Orientals, is the symbol of hospitality, and the pious robber immediately retired without spoil or damage. The discovery of this honourable behaviour recommended Jacob to pardon and trust; he led an army at first for his benefactor, at last for himself, subdued Persia, and threatened the residence of the Abbassides. On his march towards Bagdad, the conqueror was arrested by a fever. He gave audience in bed to the ambassador of the caliph; and beside him on a table were exposed a naked scymetar, a crust of brown bread, and a bunch of onions. “If I die,” said he, “your master is delivered from his fears. If I live, this must determine between us. If I am vanquished, I can return without reluctance to the homely fare of my youth.” From the height where he stood, the descent would not have been so soft or harmless: a timely death secured his own repose and that of the caliph, who paid with the most lavish concessions the retreat of his brother Amrou to the palaces of Shiraz and Ispahan. The Abbassides were too feeble to contend, too proud to forgive: they invited the powerful dynasty of the Samanides,128 who passed the Oxus with ten thousand horse, so poor, that their stirrups were of wood; so brave, that they vanquished the Soffarian army, eight times more numerous than their own. The captive Amrou was sent in chains, a grateful offering to the court of Bagdad; and, as the victor was content with the inheritance of Transoxiana and Chorasan, the realms of Persia returned for a while to the allegiance of the caliphs. The provinces of Syria and Egypt were twice dismembered by their Turkish slaves, of the race of Toulun and Ikshid.129 These Barbarians, in religion and manners Edition: current; Page: [304] the countrymen of Mahomet, emerged from the bloody factions of the palace to a provincial command and an independent throne: their names became famous and formidable in their time; but the founders of these two potent dynasties confessed, either in words or actions, the vanity of ambition. The first on his deathbed implored the mercy of God to a sinner, ignorant of the limits of his own power: the second, in the midst of four hundred thousand soldiers and eight thousand slaves, concealed from every human eye the chamber where he attempted to sleep. Their sons were educated in the vices of kings; and both Egypt and Syria were recovered and possessed by the Abbassides during an interval of thirty years. In the decline of their empire, Mesopotamia, with the important cities of Mosul and Aleppo, was occupied by the Arabian princes of the tribe of Hamadan. The poets of their court could repeat without a blush, that nature had formed their countenances for beauty, their tongues for eloquence, and their hands for liberality and valour; but the genuine tale of the elevation and reign of the Hamadanites exhibits a scene of treachery, murder, and parricide. At the same fatal period, the Persian kingdom was again usurped by the dynasty of the Bowides, by the sword of three brothers, who, under various names, were styled the support and columns of the state, and who, from the Caspian sea to the ocean, would suffer no tyrants but themselves. Under their reign, the language and genius of Persia revived, and the Arabs, three hundred Edition: current; Page: [305] and four years after the death of Mahomet, were deprived of the sceptre of the East.130

Rahdi, the twentieth of the Abbassides, and the thirty-ninth of the successors of Mahomet, was the last who deserved the title of commander of the faithful:131 the last (says Abulfeda) who spoke to the people, or conversed with the learned; the last who, in the expense of his household, represented the wealth and magnificence of the ancient caliphs. After him, the lords of the Eastern world were reduced to the most abject misery, and exposed to the blows and insults of a servile condition. The revolt of the provinces circumscribed their dominions within the walls of Bagdad; but that capital still contained an innumerable multitude, vain of their past fortune, discontented with their present state, and oppressed by the demands of a treasury which had formerly been replenished by the spoil and tribute of nations. Their idleness was exercised by faction and controversy. Under the mask of piety, the rigid followers of Hanbal132 invaded the pleasures Edition: current; Page: [306] of domestic life, burst into the houses of plebeians and princes, spilt the wine, broke the instruments, beat the musicians, and dishonoured, with infamous suspicions, the associates of every handsome youth. In each profession, which allowed room for two persons, the one was a votary, the other an antagonist, of Ali; and the Abbassides were awakened by the clamorous grief of the sectaries, who denied their title and cursed their progenitors. A turbulent people could only be repressed by a military force; but who could satisfy the avarice or assert the discipline of the mercenaries themselves? The African and the Turkish guards drew their swords against each other, and the chief commanders, the emirs al Omra,133 imprisoned or deposed their sovereigns, and violated the sanctuary of the mosch and harem. If the caliphs escaped to the camp or court of any neighbouring prince, their deliverance was a change of servitude, till they were prompted by despair to invite the Bowides, the sultans of Persia, who silenced the factions of Bagdad by their irresistible arms. The civil and military powers were assumed by Moezaldowlat, the second of the three brothers, and a stipend of sixty thousand pounds sterling was assigned by his generosity for the private expense of the commander of the faithful. But on the fortieth day, at the audience of the ambassadors of Chorasan, and in the presence of a trembling multitude, the caliph was dragged from his throne to a dungeon, by the command of the stranger, and the rude hands of his Dilemites. His palace was pillaged, his eyes were put out, and the mean Edition: current; Page: [307] ambition of the Abbassides aspired to the vacant station of danger and disgrace. In the school of adversity, the luxurious caliphs resumed the grave and abstemious virtues of the primitive times. Despoiled of their armour and silken robes, they fasted, they prayed, they studied the Koran and the tradition of the Sonnites; they performed with zeal and knowledge the functions of their ecclesiastical character. The respect of nations still waited on the successors of the apostle, the oracles of the law and conscience of the faithful; and the weakness or division of their tyrants sometimes restored the Abbassides to the sovereignty of Bagdad. But their misfortunes had been embittered by the triumph of the Fatimites, the real or spurious progeny of Ali. Arising from the extremity of Africa, these successful rivals extinguished in Egypt and Syria both the spiritual and temporal authority of the Abbassides; and the monarch of the Nile insulted the humble pontiff on the banks of the Tigris.

In the declining age of the caliphs, in the century which elapsed after the war of Theophilus and Motassem, the hostile transactions of the two nations were confined to some inroads by sea and land, the fruits of their close vicinity and indelible hatred. But, when the Eastern world was convulsed and broken, the Greeks were roused from their lethargy by the hopes of conquest and revenge. The Byzantine empire, since the accession of the Basilian race, had reposed in peace and dignity; and they might encounter with their entire strength the front of some petty emir, whose rear was assaulted and threatened by his national foes of the Mahometan faith. The lofty titles of the morning star, and the death of the Saracens,134 were applied in the public acclamations to Nicephorus Phocas, a prince as renowned in the camp as he was Edition: current; Page: [308] unpopular in the city. In the subordinate station of great domestic, or general of the East, he reduced the island of Crete, and extirpated the nest of pirates who had so long defied, with impunity, the majesty of the empire.135 His military genius was displayed in the conduct and success of the enterprise, which had so often failed with loss and dishonour. The Saracens were confounded by the landing of his troops on safe and level bridges, which he cast from the vessels to the shore. Seven months were consumed in the siege of Candia; the despair of the native Cretans was stimulated by the frequent aid of their brethren of Africa and Spain; and, after the massy wall and double ditch had been stormed by the Greeks, an hopeless conflict was still maintained in the streets and houses of the city. The whole island was subdued in the capital, and a submissive people accepted, without resistance, the baptism of the conqueror.136 Constantinople Edition: current; Page: [309] applauded the long-forgotten pomp of a triumph; but the Imperial diadem was the sole reward that could repay the services, or satisfy the ambition, of Nicephorus.

After the death of the younger Romanus, the fourth in lineal descent of the Basilian race, his widow Theophania136a successively married Phocas and his assassin John Zimisces, the two heroes of the age. They reigned as the guardians and colleagues of her infant sons; and the twelve years of their military command form the most splendid period of the Byzantine annals. The subjects and confederates, whom they led to war, appeared, at least in the eyes of an enemy, two hundred thousand strong; and of these about thirty thousand were armed with cuirasses.137 A train of four thousand mules attended their march; and their evening camp was regularly fortified with an enclosure of iron spikes. A series of bloody and undecisive combats is nothing more than an anticipation of what would have been effected in a few years by the course of nature; but I shall briefly prosecute the conquests of the two emperors from the hills of Cappadocia to the desert of Bagdad.138 The sieges of Mopsuestia and Tarsus in Cilicia first expressed the skill and perseverance of their troops, on whom, at this moment, I shall not hesitate to bestow the name of Romans. In the double city of Mopsuestia, which is divided by the river Sarus, two hundred thousand Moslems were predestined to death or slavery,139 a surprising degree of population, which must at Edition: current; Page: [310] least include the inhabitants of the dependent districts. They were surrounded and taken by assault; but Tarsus was reduced by the slow progress of famine; and no sooner had the Saracens yielded on honourable terms than they were mortified by the distant and unprofitable view of the naval succours of Egypt. They were dismissed with a safe-conduct to the confines of Syria; a part of the Christians had quietly lived under their dominion; and the vacant habitations were replenished by a new colony. But the mosch was converted into a stable; the pulpit was delivered to the flames; many rich crosses of gold and gems, the spoils of Asiatic churches, were made a grateful offering to the piety or avarice of the emperor; and he transported the gates of Mopsuestia and Tarsus, which were fixed in the wall of Constantinople, an eternal monument of his victory. After they had forced and secured the narrow passes of Mount Amanus, the two Roman princes repeatedly carried their arms into the heart of Syria. Yet, instead of assaulting the walls of Antioch, the humanity or superstition of Nicephorus appeared to respect the ancient metropolis of the East: he contented himself with drawing round the city a line of circumvallation; left a stationary army; and instructed his lieutenant to expect, without impatience, the return of spring. But in the depth of winter, in a dark and rainy night, an adventurous subaltern, with three hundred soldiers, approached the rampart, applied his scaling-ladders, occupied two adjacent towers, stood firm against the pressure of multitudes, and bravely maintained his post till he was relieved by the tardy, though effectual, support of his reluctant chief. The first tumult of slaughter and rapine subsided; the reign of Cæsar and of Christ was restored; and the efforts of an hundred thousand Saracens, of the armies of Syria and the fleets of Afric, were consumed without effect before the walls of Antioch. Edition: current; Page: [311] The royal city of Aleppo was subject to Seifeddowlat, of the dynasty of Hamadan, who clouded his past glory by the precipitate retreat which abandoned his kingdom and capital to the Roman invaders. In his stately palace, that stood without the walls of Aleppo, they joyfully seized a well-furnished magazine of arms, a stable of fourteen hundred mules, and three hundred bags of silver and gold. But the walls of the city withstood the strokes of their battering-rams; and the besiegers pitched their tents on the neighbouring mountain of Jaushan. Their retreat exasperated the quarrel of the townsmen and mercenaries; the guard of the gates and ramparts was deserted; and, while they furiously charged each other in the market-place, they were surprised and destroyed by the sword of a common enemy. The male sex was exterminated by the sword; ten thousand youths were led into captivity; the weight of the precious spoil exceeded the strength and number of the beasts of burthen; the superfluous remainder was burnt; and, after a licentious possession of ten days, the Romans marched away from the naked and bleeding city. In their Syrian inroads they commanded the husbandmen to cultivate their lands, that they themselves, in the ensuing season, might reap the benefit: more than an hundred cities were reduced to obedience; and eighteen pulpits of the principal moschs were committed to the flames, to expiate the sacrilege of the disciples of Mahomet. The classic names of Hierapolis, Apamea, and Emesa revive for a moment in the list of conquest: the emperor Zimisces encamped in the Paradise of Damascus, and accepted the ransom of a submissive people; and the torrent was only stopped by the impregnable fortress of Tripoli, on the sea-coast of Phœnicia. Since the days of Heraclius, the Euphrates, below the passage of Mount Taurus, had been impervious, and almost invisible, to the Greeks. The river yielded a free passage to the victorious Zimisces; and the historian may imitate the speed with which he overran the once famous cities of Samosata, Edessa, Martyropolis, Edition: current; Page: [312] Amida,140 and Nisibis, the ancient limit of the empire in the neighbourhood of the Tigris. His ardour was quickened by the desire of grasping the virgin treasures of Ecbatana,141 a well-known name, under which the Byzantine writer has concealed the capital of the Abbassides. The consternation of the fugitives had already diffused the terror of his name; but the fancied riches of Bagdad had already been dissipated by the avarice and prodigality of domestic tyrants. The prayers of the people, and the stern demands of the lieutenant of the Bowides, required the caliph to provide for the defence of the city. The helpless Mothi replied that his arms, his revenues, and his provinces had been torn from his hands, and that he was ready to abdicate a dignity which he was unable to support. The emir was inexorable; the furniture of the palace was sold; and the paltry price of forty thousand pieces of gold was instantly consumed in private luxury. But the apprehensions of Bagdad were relieved by the retreat of the Greeks; thirst and hunger guarded the desert of Mesopotamia; and the emperor, satiated with glory, and laden with Oriental spoils, returned to Constantinople, and displayed, in his triumph, the silk, the aromatics, and three hundred myriads of gold and silver. Yet the powers of the East had been bent, not broken, by this transient hurricane. Edition: current; Page: [313] After the departure of the Greeks, the fugitive princes returned to their capitals; the subjects disclaimed their involuntary oaths of allegiance; the Moslems again purified their temples, and overturned the idols of the saints and martyrs; the Nestorians and Jacobites preferred a Saracen to an orthodox master; and the numbers and spirit of the Melchites were inadequate to the support of the church and state. Of these extensive conquests, Antioch, with the cities of Cilicia and the isle of Cyprus, was alone restored, a permanent and useful accession to the Roman empire.142

Edition: current; Page: [314]


State of the Eastern Empire in the Tenth Century — Extent and Division — Wealth and Revenue — Palace of Constantinople — Titles and Offices — Pride and Power of the Emperors — Tactics of the Greeks, Arabs, and Franks — Loss of the Latin Tongue — Studies and Solitude of the Greeks

A ray of historic light seems to beam from the darkness of the tenth century. We open with curiosity and respect the royal volumes of Constantine Porphyrogenitus,1 which he composed, at a mature age, for the instruction of his son, and which promise to unfold the state of the Eastern empire, both in peace and war, both at home and abroad. In the first of these works he minutely describes the pompous ceremonies of the church and palace of Constantinople, according to his own practice and that of his predecessors.2 In the Edition: current; Page: [315] second he attempts an accurate survey of the provinces, the themes, as they were then denominated, both of Europe and Asia.3 The system of Roman tactics, the discipline and order of troops, and the military operations by land and sea are explained in the third of these didactic collections, which may be ascribed to Constantine or his father Leo.4 In the fourth, of the administration of the empire, he reveals the secrets of the Byzantine policy, in friendly or hostile intercourse with the nations of the earth. The literary labours of the age, the practical systems of law, agriculture, and history, might redound to the benefit of the subject and the honour of the Macedonian princes. The sixty books of the Basilics,5 the code and pandects of civil jurisprudence, were gradually framed in the three first reigns of that prosperous dynasty. The art of agriculture had amused the leisure, and exercised the pens, of the best and wisest of the ancients; and their chosen precepts are comprised in the twenty books of Edition: current; Page: [316] the Geoponics6 of Constantine. At his command, the historical examples of vice and virtue were methodised in fifty-three books,7 and every citizen might apply, to his contemporaries or himself, the lesson or the warning of past times. From the august character of a legislator, the sovereign of the East descends to the more humble office of a teacher and a scribe; and, if his successors and subjects were regardless of his paternal cares, we may inherit and enjoy the everlasting legacy.

A closer survey will indeed reduce the value of the gift, and the gratitude of posterity: in the possession of these Imperial treasures, we may still deplore our poverty and ignorance; and the fading glories of their authors will be obliterated by indifference or contempt. The Basilics will sink to a broken copy, a partial and mutilated version in the Greek language, of the laws of Justinian; but the sense of the old civilians is often superseded by the influence of bigotry; and the absolute prohibition of divorce, concubinage, and interest for money enslaves the freedom of trade and the happiness of private life. In the historical book, a subject of Constantine might Edition: current; Page: [317] admire the inimitable virtues of Greece and Rome; he might learn to what a pitch of energy and elevation the human character had formerly aspired. But a contrary effect must have been produced by a new edition of the lives of the saints, which the great logothete, or chancellor of the empire, was directed to prepare; and the dark fund of superstition was enriched by the fabulous and florid legends of Simon the Metaphrast.8 The merits and miracles of the whole calendar are of less account in the eyes of a sage than the toil of a single husbandman, who multiplies the gifts of the Creator and supplies the food of his brethren. Yet the royal authors of the Geoponics were more seriously employed in expounding the precepts of the destroying art, which has been taught since the days of Xenophon9 as the art of heroes and kings. Edition: current; Page: [318] But the Tactics of Leo and Constantine are mingled with the baser alloy of the age in which they lived. It was destitute of original genius; they implicitly transcribe the rules and maxims which had been confirmed by victories. It was unskilled in the propriety of style and method; they blindly confound the most distant and discordant institutions, the phalanx of Sparta and that of Macedon, the legions of Cato and Trajan, of Augustus and Theodosius. Even the use, or at least the importance, of these military rudiments may be fairly questioned: their general theory is dictated by reason; but the merit, as well as difficulty, consists in the application. The discipline of a soldier is formed by exercise rather than by study; the talents of a commander are appropriated to those calm though rapid minds, which nature produces to decide the fate of armies and nations: the former is the habit of a life, the latter the glance of a moment; and the battles won by lessons of tactics may be numbered with the epic poems created from the rules of criticism. The book of ceremonies is a recital, tedious yet imperfect, of the despicable pageantry which had infected the church and state since the gradual decay of the purity of the one and the power of the other. A review of the themes or provinces might promise such authentic and useful information as the curiosity of government only can obtain, instead of traditionary fables on the origin of the cities, and malicious epigrams on the vices of their inhabitants.10 Such information the historian would Edition: current; Page: [319] have been pleased to record; nor should his silence be condemned if the most interesting objects, the population of the capital and provinces, the amount of the taxes and revenues, the numbers of subjects and strangers who served under the Imperial standard, have been unnoticed by Leo the Philosopher and his son Constantine. His treatise of the public administration is stained with the same blemishes; yet it is discriminated by peculiar merit; the antiquities of the nations may be doubtful or fabulous; but the geography and manners of the Barbaric world are delineated with curious accuracy. Of these nations, the Franks alone were qualified to observe in their turn, and to describe, the metropolis of the East. The ambassador of the great Otho, a bishop of Cremona, has painted the state of Constantinople about the middle of the tenth century; his style is glowing, his narrative lively, his observation keen; and even the prejudices and passions of Liutprand are stamped with an original character of freedom and genius.11 From this scanty fund of foreign and domestic materials I shall investigate the form and substance of the Byzantine empire: the provinces and wealth, the civil government and military force, the character and literature, of the Greeks, in a period of six hundred years, from the reign of Heraclius to the successful invasion of the Franks or Latins.

Edition: current; Page: [320]

After the final division between the sons of Theodosius, the swarms of Barbarians from Scythia and Germany overspread the provinces, and extinguished the empire, of ancient Rome. The weakness of Constantinople was concealed by extent of dominion; her limits were inviolate, or at least entire; and the kingdom of Justinian was enlarged by the splendid acquisition of Africa and Italy. But the possession of these new conquests was transient and precarious; and almost a moiety of the Eastern empire was torn away by the arms of the Saracens. Syria and Egypt were oppressed by the Arabian caliphs; and, after the reduction of Africa, their lieutenants invaded and subdued the Roman province which had been changed into the Gothic monarchy of Spain. The islands of the Mediterranean were not inaccessible to their naval powers; and it was from their extreme stations, the harbours of Crete and the fortresses of Cilicia, that the faithful or rebel emirs insulted the majesty of the throne and capital. The remaining provinces, under the obedience of the emperors, were cast into a new mould; and the jurisdiction of the presidents, the consulars, and the counts was superseded by the institution of the themes,12 or military governments, which prevailed under the successors of Heraclius, and are described by the pen of the royal author. Of the twenty-nine themes, twelve in Europe and seventeen in Asia, the origin is obscure, the etymology doubtful or capricious, the limits were arbitrary and fluctuating; but some particular names that sound the most strangely to our ear were derived from the character and attributes of the troops that were maintained at the expense, and for the guard, of the respective divisions. The vanity of the Greek princes most eagerly grasped the shadow Edition: current; Page: [321] of conquest and the memory of lost dominion. A new Mesopotamia was created on the western side of the Euphrates; the appellation and prætor of Sicily were transferred to a narrow slip of Calabria; and a fragment of the duchy of Beneventum was promoted to the style and title of the theme of Lombardy. In the decline of the Arabian empire, the successors of Constantine might indulge their pride in more solid advantages. The victories of Nicephorus, John Zimisces, and Basil the Second revived the fame and enlarged the boundaries of the Roman name; the province of Cilicia, the metropolis of Antioch, the islands of Crete and Cyprus, were restored to the allegiance of Christ and Cæsar; one third of Italy was annexed to the throne of Constantinople; the kingdom of Bulgaria was destroyed; and the last sovereigns of the Macedonian dynasty extended their sway from the sources of the Tigris to the neighbourhood of Rome. In the eleventh century, the prospect was again clouded by new enemies and new misfortunes; the relics of Italy were swept away by the Norman adventurers; and almost all the Asiatic branches were dissevered from the Roman trunk by the Turkish conquerors. After these losses, the emperors of the Comnenian family continued to reign from the Danube to Peloponnesus, and from Belgrade to Nice, Trebizond, and the winding stream of the Meander. The spacious provinces of Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece were obedient to their sceptre; the possession of Cyprus, Rhodes, and Crete was accompanied by the fifty islands of the Ægean or Holy Sea;13 and the remnant of their empire transcends the measure of the largest of the European kingdoms.

Edition: current; Page: [322]

The same princes might assert with dignity and truth that of all the monarchs of Christendom they possessed the greatest city,14 the most ample revenue, the most flourishing and populous state. With the decline and fall of the empire, the cities of the West had decayed and fallen; nor could the ruins of Rome, or the mud walls, wooden hovels, and narrow precincts of Paris and London, prepare the Latin stranger to contemplate the situation and extent of Constantinople, her stately palaces and churches, and the arts and luxury of an innumerable people. Her treasures might attract, but her virgin strength had repelled, and still promised to repel, the audacious invasion of the Persian and Bulgarian, the Arab and the Russian. The provinces were less fortunate and impregnable; and few districts, few cities, could be discovered which had not been violated by some fierce Barbarian, impatient to despoil, because he was hopeless to possess. From the age of Justinian the Eastern empire was sinking below its former level; the powers of destruction were more active than those of improvement; and the calamities of war were embittered by the more permanent evils of civil and ecclesiastical tyranny. The captive who had escaped from the Barbarians was often stripped and imprisoned by the ministers of his sovereign: the Greek superstition relaxed the mind by prayer and emaciated the body by fasting; and the multitude of convents and festivals diverted many hands and many days from the temporal service of mankind. Yet the subjects of the Byzantine empire were still the more dexterous and diligent of nations; their country was blessed by nature with every advantage of soil, climate, and situation; and, in the support Edition: current; Page: [323] and restoration of the arts, their patient and peaceful temper was more useful than the warlike spirit and feudal anarchy of Europe. The provinces that still adhered to the empire were repeopled and enriched by the misfortunes of those which were irrecoverably lost. From the yoke of the caliphs, the Catholics of Syria, Egypt, and Africa retired to the allegiance of their prince, to the society of their brethren: the moveable wealth, which eludes the search of oppression, accompanied and alleviated their exile; and Constantinople received into her bosom the fugitive trade of Alexandria and Tyre. The chiefs of Armenia and Scythia, who fled from hostile or religious persecution, were hospitably entertained; their followers were encouraged to build new cities and to cultivate waste lands; and many spots, both in Europe and Asia, preserved the name, the manners, or at least the memory of these national colonies. Even the tribes of Barbarians, who had seated themselves in arms on the territory of the empire, were gradually reclaimed to the laws of the church and state; and, as long as they were separated from the Greeks, their posterity supplied a race of faithful and obedient soldiers. Did we possess sufficient materials to survey the twenty-nine themes of the Byzantine monarchy, our curiosity might be satisfied with a chosen example: it is fortunate enough that the clearest light should be thrown on the most interesting province, and the name of Peloponnesus will awaken the attention of the classic reader.

As early as the eighth century, in the troubled reign of the Iconoclasts, Greece, and even Peloponnesus,15 were overrun Edition: current; Page: [324] by some Sclavonian bands, who outstripped the royal standard of Bulgaria. The strangers of old, Cadmus, and Danaus, and Pelops, had planted in that fruitful soil the seeds of policy and learning; but the savages of the North eradicated what yet remained of their sickly and withered roots. In this irruption, the country and the inhabitants were transformed; the Grecian blood was contaminated; and the proudest nobles of Peloponnesus were branded with the names of foreigners and slaves. By the diligence of succeeding princes, the land was in some measure purified from the Barbarians; and the humble remnant was bound by an oath of obedience, tribute, and military service, which they often renewed and often violated. The siege of Patras was formed by a singular concurrence of the Sclavonians of Peloponnesus and the Saracens of Africa. In their last distress, a pious fiction of the approach of the prætor of Corinth revived the courage of the citizens. Their sally was bold and successful; the strangers embarked, the rebels submitted, and the glory of the day was ascribed to a phantom or a stranger, who fought in the foremost ranks under the character of St. Andrew the Apostle. The shrine which contained his relics was decorated with the trophies of victory, and the captive race was for ever devoted to the service and vassalage of the metropolitan church of Patras. By the revolt of two Sclavonian tribes in the neighbourhood of Helos and Lacedæmon, the peace of the peninsula was often disturbed. They sometimes insulted the weakness, and sometimes resisted the oppression, of the Byzantine government, till at length the approach of their hostile brethren extorted a golden bull to define the rights and obligations of the Ezzerites and Milengi, whose annual tribute was defined at twelve hundred pieces of gold. From these strangers the Imperial geographer has accurately distinguished a domestic and perhaps original race, who, in Edition: current; Page: [325] some degree, might derive their blood from the much-injured Helots. The liberality of the Romans, and especially of Augustus, had enfranchised the maritime cities from the dominion of Sparta; and the continuance of the same benefit ennobled them with the title of Eleuthero- or Free-Laconians.16 In the time of Constantine Porphyrogenitus they had acquired the name of Mainotes, under which they dishonour the claim of liberty by the inhuman pillage of all that is shipwrecked on their rocky shores. Their territory, barren of corn, but fruitful of olives, extended to the Cape of Malea; they accepted a chief or prince from the Byzantine prætor, and a light tribute of four hundred pieces of gold was the badge of their immunity rather than of their dependence. The freemen of Laconia assumed the character of Romans, and long adhered to the religion of the Greeks. By the zeal of the emperor Basil, they were baptised in the faith of Christ; but the altars of Venus and Neptune had been crowned by these rustic votaries five hundred years after they were proscribed in the Roman world. In the theme of Peloponnesus17 forty cities were still numbered, and the declining state of Sparta, Argos, and Corinth may be suspended in the tenth century, at an equal distance, perhaps, between their antique splendour and their present desolation. The duty of military service, either in person or by substitute, was imposed on the lands or benefices of the province; a sum of five pieces of gold was assessed on each of the substantial tenants; and the same capitation was shared among several heads of inferior value. On the proclamation of an Italian war, the Peloponnesians excused themselves by a voluntary oblation of one hundred pounds of gold (four thousand pounds sterling) and a thousand horses with their arms and trappings. The churches and monasteries Edition: current; Page: [326] furnished their contingent; a sacrilegious profit was extorted from the sale of ecclesiastical honours; and the indigent bishop of Leucadia18 was made responsible for a pension of one hundred pieces of gold.19

But the wealth of the province, and the trust of the revenue, were founded on the fair and plentiful produce of trade and manufactures; and some symptoms of liberal policy may be traced in a law which exempts from all personal taxes the mariners of Peloponnesus and the workmen in parchment and purple. This denomination may be fairly applied or extended to the manufactures of linen, woollen, and more especially of silk: the two former of which had flourished in Greece since the days of Homer; and the last was introduced perhaps as early as the reign of Justinian. These arts, which were exercised at Corinth, Thebes, and Argos, afforded food and occupation to a numerous people; the men, women, and children were distributed according to their age and strength; and, if many of these were domestic slaves, their masters, who directed the work and enjoyed the profit, were of a free and honourable condition. The gifts which a rich and generous matron of Peloponnesus presented to the emperor Basil, her adopted son, were doubtless fabricated in the Grecian looms. Danielis bestowed a carpet of fine wool, of a pattern which imitated the spots of a peacock’s tail, of a magnitude to overspread the floor of a new church, erected in the triple name of Christ, of Michael the archangel, and the prophet Elijah. She gave six hundred pieces of silk and linen, of various use and denomination: the silk was painted with the Tyrian dye, and adorned by the labours of the needle; Edition: current; Page: [327] and the linen was so exquisitely fine that an entire piece might be rolled in the hollow of a cane.20 In his description of the Greek manufactures, an historian of Sicily discriminates their price according to the weight and quality of the silk, the closeness of the texture, the beauty of the colours, and the taste and materials of the embroidery. A single, or even a double or treble, thread was thought sufficient for ordinary sale; but the union of six threads composed a piece of stronger and more costly workmanship. Among the colours, he celebrates, with affectation of eloquence, the fiery blaze of the scarlet, and the softer lustre of the green. The embroidery was raised either in silk or gold; the more simple ornament of stripes or circles was surpassed by the nicer imitation of flowers; the vestments that were fabricated for the palace or the altar often glittered with precious stones; and the figures were delineated in strings of Oriental pearls.21 Till the twelfth century, Greece alone, of all the countries of Christendom, was possessed of the insect who is taught by nature, and of the workmen who are instructed by art, to prepare this elegant luxury. But the secret had been stolen by the dexterity and diligence of the Arabs; the caliphs of the East and West scorned to borrow from the unbelievers their furniture and apparel; and two cities of Spain, Almeria and Lisbon, were famous for the manufacture, the use, and perhaps the exportation of silk. It was first introduced into Sicily by the Normans; and this emigration of trade distinguishes the victory of Roger from the uniform and fruitless hostilities of Edition: current; Page: [328] every age. After the sack of Corinth, Athens, and Thebes, his lieutenant embarked with a captive train of weavers and artificers of both sexes, a trophy glorious to their master and disgraceful to the Greek emperor.22 The king of Italy was not insensible of the value of the present; and, in the restitution of the prisoners, he exempted only the male and female manufacturers of Thebes and Corinth, who labour, says the Byzantine historian, under a Barbarous lord, like the old Eretrians in the service of Darius.23 A stately edifice, in the palace of Palermo, was erected for the use of this industrious colony;24 and the art was propagated by their children and disciples to satisfy the increasing demand of the Western world. The decay of the looms of Sicily may be ascribed to the troubles of the island and the competition of the Italian cities. In the year thirteen hundred and fourteen, Lucca alone, among her sister republics, enjoyed the lucrative Edition: current; Page: [329] monopoly.25 A domestic revolution dispersed the manufactures of Florence, Bologna, Venice, Milan, and even the countries beyond the Alps; and, thirteen years after this event, the statutes of Modena enjoin the planting of mulberry trees and regulate the duties on raw silk.26 The northern climates are less propitious to the education of the silk-worm; but the industry of France and England27 is supplied and enriched by the productions of Italy and China.

I must repeat the complaint that the vague and scanty memorials of the times will not afford any just estimate of the taxes, the revenue, and the resources of the Greek empire. From every province of Europe and Asia the rivulets of gold and silver discharged into the Imperial reservoir a copious and perennial stream.28 The separation of the branches from the trunk increased the relative magnitude of Constantinople; and the maxims of despotism contracted the state to the capital, the capital to the palace, and the palace to the royal person. A Jewish traveller, who visited the East in the twelfth century, is lost in his admiration of the Byzantine riches. “It is here,” says Benjamin of Tudela, “in the queen of cities, that the tributes of the Greek empire are annually deposited, and the lofty towers are filled with precious magazines of silk, purple, and gold. It is said that Constantinople pays each day to her sovereign twenty thousand pieces of gold; which are levied on the shops, taverns, and markets, on the merchants of Persia and Egypt, of Russia Edition: current; Page: [330] and Hungary, of Italy and Spain, who frequent the capital by sea and land.”29 In all pecuniary matters, the authority of a Jew is doubtless respectable; but, as the three hundred and sixty-five days would produce a yearly income exceeding seven millions sterling, I am tempted to retrench at least the numerous festivals of the Greek calendar. The mass of treasure that was saved by Theodora and Basil the Second will suggest a splendid though indefinite idea of their supplies and resources. The mother of Michael, before she retired to a cloister, attempted to check or expose the prodigality of her ungrateful son by a free and faithful account of the wealth which he inherited: one hundred and nine thousand pounds of gold, and three hundred thousand of silver, the fruits of her own economy and that of her deceased husband.30 The avarice of Basil is not less renowned than his valour and fortune: his victorious armies were paid and rewarded without breaking into the mass of two hundred thousand pounds of gold (about eight millions sterling) which he had buried in the subterraneous vaults of the palace.31 Such accumulation of treasure is rejected by the theory and practice of modern policy; and we are more apt to compute the national riches by the use and abuse of the public credit. Yet the maxims of antiquity are still embraced by a monarch formidable to his enemies; by a republic respectable to her allies; and both have attained their respective ends, of military power and domestic tranquillity.

Edition: current; Page: [331]

Whatever might be consumed for the present wants, or reserved for the future use, of the state, the first and most sacred demand was for the pomp and pleasure of the emperor; and his discretion only could define the measure of his private expense. The princes of Constantinople were far removed from the simplicity of nature; yet, with the revolving seasons, they were led by taste or fashion to withdraw to a purer air from the smoke and tumult of the capital. They enjoyed, or affected to enjoy, the rustic festival of the vintage; their leisure was amused by the exercise of the chase, and the calmer occupation of fishing; and in the summer heats they were shaded from the sun and refreshed by the cooling breezes from the sea. The coasts and islands of Asia and Europe were covered with their magnificent villas; but, instead of the modest art which secretly strives to hide itself and to decorate the scenery of nature, the marble structure of their gardens served only to expose the riches of the lord and the labours of the architect. The successive casualties of inheritance and forfeiture had rendered the sovereign proprietor of many stately houses in the city and suburbs, of which twelve were appropriated to the ministers of state; but the great palace,32 Edition: current; Page: [332] the centre of the Imperial residence, was fixed during eleven centuries to the same position, between the hippodrome, the cathedral of St. Sophia, and the gardens, which descended by many a terrace to the shores of the Propontis. The primitive edifice of the first Constantine was a copy or rival of ancient Rome; the gradual improvements of his successors aspired to emulate the wonders of the old world,33 and in the tenth century the Byzantine palace excited the admiration, at least of the Latins, by an unquestionable pre-eminence of strength, size, and magnificence.34 But the toil and treasure of so many ages had produced a vast and irregular pile; each separate building was marked with the character of the times and of the founder; and the want of space might excuse the reigning monarch who demolished, perhaps with secret satisfaction, the works of his predecessors. The economy of the emperor Theophilus allowed a more free and ample scope for his domestic luxury and splendour. A favourite ambassador, who had astonished the Abbassides themselves by his pride and liberality, presented on his return the model of a palace, which the caliph of Bagdad had recently constructed on the banks of the Tigris. The model was instantly Edition: current; Page: [333] copied and surpassed; the new buildings of Theophilus35 were accompanied with gardens, and with five churches, one of which was conspicuous for size and beauty; it was crowned with three domes, the roof, of gilt brass, reposed on columns of Italian marble, and the walls were encrusted with marbles of various colours. In the face of the church, a semi-circular portico, of the figure and name of the Greek sigma, was supported by fifteen columns of Phrygian marble, and the subterraneous vaults were of a similar construction. The square before the sigma was decorated with a fountain, and the margin of the bason was lined and encompassed with plates of silver. In the beginning of each season, the bason, instead of water, was replenished with the most exquisite fruits, which were abandoned to the populace for the entertainment of the prince. He enjoyed this tumultuous spectacle from a throne resplendent with gold and gems, which was raised by a marble staircase to the height of a lofty terrace. Below the throne were seated the officers of his guards, the magistrates, the chiefs of the factions of the circus; the inferior steps were occupied by the people, and the place below was covered with troops of dancers, singers, and pantomimes. The square was surrounded by the hall of justice, the arsenal, and the various offices of business and pleasure; and the purple chamber was named from the annual distribution of robes of scarlet and purple by the hand of the empress herself. The long series of the apartments was adapted to the Edition: current; Page: [334] seasons, and decorated with marble and porphyry, with painting, sculpture, and mosaics, with a profusion of gold, silver, and precious stones. His fanciful magnificence employed the skill and patience of such artists as the times could afford; but the taste of Athens would have despised their frivolous and costly labours: a golden tree, with its leaves and branches, which sheltered a multitude of birds, warbling their artificial notes, and two lions of massy gold, and of the natural size, who looked and roared like their brethren of the forest. The successors of Theophilus, of the Basilian and Comnenian dynasties, were not less ambitious of leaving some memorial of their residence; and the portion of the palace most splendid and august was dignified with the title of the golden triclinium.36 With becoming modesty, the rich and noble Greeks aspired to imitate their sovereign, and, when they passed through the streets on horseback, in their robes of silk and embroidery, they were mistaken by the children for kings.37 A matron of Peloponnesus,38 who had cherished the infant fortunes of Basil the Macedonian, was Edition: current; Page: [335] excited by tenderness or vanity to visit the greatness of her adopted son. In a journey of five hundred miles from Patras to Constantinople, her age or indolence declined the fatigue of an horse or carriage; the soft litter or bed of Danielis was transported on the shoulders of ten robust slaves; and, as they were relieved at easy distances, a band of three hundred was selected for the performance of this service. She was entertained in the Byzantine palace with filial reverence and the honours of a queen; and, whatever might be the origin of her wealth, her gifts were not unworthy of the regal dignity. I have already described the fine and curious manufactures of Peloponnesus, of linen, silk, and woollen; but the most acceptable of her presents consisted in three hundred beautiful youths, of whom one hundred were eunuchs;39 “for she was not ignorant,” says the historian, “that the air of the palace is more congenial to such insects than a shepherd’s dairy to the flies of the summer.” During her lifetime, she bestowed the greater part of her estates in Peloponnesus, and her testament instituted Leo, the son of Basil, her universal heir. After the payment of the legacies, fourscore villas or farms were added to the Imperial domain; and three thousand slaves of Danielis were enfranchised by their new lord, and transplanted as a colony to the Italian coast. From this example of a private matron, we may estimate the wealth and magnificence of the emperors. Yet our enjoyments are confined by a narrow circle; and, whatsoever may be its value, the luxury of life is possessed with more innocence and safety by the master of his own, than by the steward of the public, fortune.

In an absolute government, which levels the distinctions of Edition: current; Page: [336] noble and plebeian birth, the sovereign is the sole fountain of honour; and the rank, both in the palace and the empire, depends on the titles and officers which are bestowed and resumed by his arbitrary will. Above a thousand years, from Vespasian to Alexius Comnenus,40 the Cæsar was the second person, or at least the second degree, after the supreme title of Augustus was more freely communicated to the sons and brothers of the reigning monarch. To elude without violating his promise to a powerful associate, the husband of his sister, and, without giving himself an equal, to reward the piety of his brother Isaac, the crafty Alexius interposed a new and supereminent dignity. The happy flexibility of the Greek tongue allowed him to compound the names of Augustus and emperor (Sebastos and Autocrator), and the union produced the sonorous title of Sebastocrator. He was exalted above the Cæsar on the first step of the throne; the public acclamations repeated his name; and he was only distinguished from the sovereign by some peculiar ornaments of the head and feet. The emperor alone could assume the purple or red buskins, and the close diadem or tiara, which imitated the fashion of the Persian kings.41 It was an high Edition: current; Page: [337] pyramidal cap of cloth or silk, almost concealed by a profusion of pearls and jewels: the crown was formed by an horizontal circle and two arches of gold; at the summit, the point of their intersection, was placed a globe or cross, and two strings or lappets of pearl depended on either cheek. Instead of red, the buskins of the Sebastocrator and Cæsar were green; and on their open coronets or crowns the precious gems were more sparingly distributed. Beside and below the Cæsar, the fancy of Alexius created the Panhypersebastos and the Protosebastos, whose sound and signification will satisfy a Grecian ear. They imply a superiority and a priority above the simple name of Augustus; and this sacred and primitive title of the Roman prince was degraded to the kinsmen and servants of the Byzantine court. The daughter of Alexius applauds, with fond complacency, this artful gradation of hopes and honours; but the science of words is accessible to the meanest capacity; and this vain dictionary was easily enriched by the pride of his successors. To their favourite sons or brothers, they imparted the more lofty appellation of Lord or Despot, which was illustrated with new ornaments and prerogatives, and placed immediately after the person of the emperor himself. The five titles of 1. Despot; 2. Sebastocrator; 3. Cæsar; 4. Panhypersebastos; and, 5. Protosebastos; were usually confined to the princes of his blood; they were the emanations of his majesty; but, Edition: current; Page: [338] as they exercised no regular functions, their existence was useless, and their authority precarious.

But in every monarchy the substantial powers of government must be divided and exercised by the ministers of the palace and treasury, the fleet and army. The titles alone can differ; and in the revolution of ages, the counts and prefects, the prætor and quæstor, insensibly descended, while their servants rose above their heads to the first honours of the state. 1. In a monarchy, which refers every object to the person of the prince, the care and ceremonies of the palace form the most respectable department. The Curopalata,42 so illustrious in the age of Justinian, was supplanted Edition: current; Page: [339] by the Protovestiare, whose primitive functions were limited to the custody of the wardrobe. From thence his jurisdiction was extended over the numerous menials of pomp and luxury; and he presided with his silver wand at the public and private audience. 2. In the ancient system of Constantine, the name of Logothete, or accountant, was applied to the receivers of the finances: the principal officers were distinguished as the Logothetes of the domain, of the posts, the army, the private and public treasure; and the great Logothete, the supreme guardian of the laws and revenues, is compared with the chancellor of the Latin monarchies.43 His discerning eye pervaded the civil administration; and he was assisted, in due subordination, by the eparch or prefect of the city, the first secretary, and the keepers of the privy seal, the archives, and the red or purple ink which was reserved for the sacred signature of the emperor alone.44 The introductor and interpreter of foreign ambassadors were the great Chiauss45 and the Dragoman,46 Edition: current; Page: [340] two names of Turkish origin, and which are still familiar to the Sublime Porte. 3. From the humble style and service of guards, the Domestics insensibly rose to the station of generals; the military themes of the East and West, the legions of Europe and Asia, were often divided, till the great Domestic was finally invested with the universal and absolute command of the land forces.47 The Protostrator, in his original functions, was the assistant of the emperor when he mounted on horseback; he gradually became the lieutenant of the great Domestic in the field; and his jurisdiction extended over the stables, the cavalry, and the royal train of hunting and hawking. The Stratopedarch was the great judge of the camp; the Protospathaire48 commanded the guards; the Constable,49 the great Æteriarch,50 and the Acolyth51 were the separate chiefs of the Franks, the Barbarians, and the Varangi, or English, the mercenary strangers, who in the decay of the national spirit, formed the nerve of the Byzantine armies. 4. The naval powers were under the command of the great Duke; in his absence they obeyed the great Drungaire of the fleet; and, in his place, the Emir, or admiral, a name of Saracen extraction,52 Edition: current; Page: [341] but which has been naturalised in all the modern languages of Europe. Of these officers, and of many more whom it would be useless to enumerate, the civil and military hierarchy was framed. Their honours and emoluments, their dress and titles, their mutual salutations and respective pre-eminence, were balanced with more exquisite labour than would have fixed the constitution of a free people; and the code was almost perfect when this baseless fabric, the monument of pride and servitude, was for ever buried in the ruins of the empire.53

The most lofty titles and the most humble postures, which devotion has applied to the Supreme Being, have been prostituted by flattery and fear to creatures of the same nature with ourselves. The mode of adoration,54 of falling prostrate on the ground and kissing the feet of the emperor, was borrowed by Diocletian from Persian servitude; but it was continued and aggravated till the last age of the Greek monarchy. Excepting only on Sundays, when it was waved, from a motive of religious pride, this humiliating reverence was exacted from all who entered the royal presence, from the princes invested Edition: current; Page: [342] with the diadem and purple, and from the ambassadors who represented their independent sovereigns, the caliphs of Asia, Egypt, or Spain, the kings of France and Italy, and the Latin emperors of ancient Rome. In his transactions of business, Liutprand, bishop of Cremona,55 asserted the free spirit of a Frank and the dignity of his master Otho. Yet his sincerity cannot disguise the abasement of his first audience. When he approached the throne, the birds of the golden tree began to warble their notes, which were accompanied by the roarings of the two lions of gold. With his two companions, Liutprand was compelled to bow and to fall prostrate; and thrice he touched the ground with his forehead. He arose; but, in the short interval, the throne had been hoisted by an engine from the floor to the ceiling, the Imperial figure appeared in new and more gorgeous apparel, and the interview was concluded in haughty and majestic silence. In this honest and curious narrative, the bishop of Cremona represents the ceremonies of the Byzantine court, which are still practised in the Sublime Porte, and which were preserved in the last age by the dukes of Moscovy or Russia. After a long journey by the sea and land, from Venice to Constantinople, the ambassador halted at the golden gate, till he was conducted by the formal officers to the hospitable palace prepared for his reception; but this palace was a prison, and his jealous keepers prohibited all social intercourse, either with strangers or natives. At his first audience, he offered the gifts of his master, slaves, and golden vases, and costly armour. The ostentatious payment of the officers and troops displayed before his eyes the riches of the empire: he was entertained at a royal banquet,56 in which the ambassadors of the nations Edition: current; Page: [343] were marshalled by the esteem or contempt of the Greeks: from his own table, the emperor, as the most signal favour, sent the plates which he had tasted; and his favourites were dismissed with a robe of honour.57 In the morning and evening of each day, his civil and military servants attended their duty in the palace; their labour was repaid by the sight, perhaps by the smile, of their lord; his commands were signified by a nod or a sign; but all earthly greatness stood silent and submissive in his presence. In his regular or extraordinary processions through the capital, he unveiled his person to the public view; the rites of policy were connected with those of religion, and his visits to the principal churches were regulated by the festivals of the Greek calendar. On the eve of these processions, the gracious or devout intention of the monarch was proclaimed by the heralds. The streets were cleared and purified; the pavement was strewed with flowers; the most precious furniture, the gold and silver plate, and silken hangings were displayed from the windows and balconies, and a severe discipline restrained and silenced the tumult of the populace. The march was opened by the military officers at the head of their troops; they were followed in long order by the magistrates and ministers of the civil government: the person of the emperor was guarded by his eunuchs and domestics, and at the church door he was solemnly received by the patriarch and his clergy. The task of applause was not abandoned to the rude and spontaneous voices of the crowd. The most convenient stations were occupied by the bands of the blue and green Edition: current; Page: [344] factions of the circus;58 and their furious conflicts, which had shaken the capital, were insensibly sunk to an emulation of servitude. From either side they echoed in responsive melody the praises of the emperor; their poets and musicians directed the choir, and long life59 and victory were the burden of every song. The same acclamations were performed at the audience, the banquet, and the church; and, as an evidence of boundless sway, they were repeated in the Latin,60 Gothic, Persian, French, and even English language,61 by the mercenaries who sustained the real or fictitious character of those nations. By the pen of Constantine Porphyrogenitus this science of form and flattery has been reduced into a pompous and trifling volume,62 which the vanity of succeeding times might enrich with an ample supplement. Yet the calmer reflection of a prince would surely suggest that the same acclamations were applied to every character and every reign; and, if he had risen from a private rank, he might remember that his own voice had been the loudest and most eager in applause, at the very moment when he envied the Edition: current; Page: [345] fortune, or conspired against the life, of his predecessor.63

The princes of the North, of the nations, says Constantine, without faith or fame, were ambitious of mingling their blood with the blood of the Cæsars, by their marriage with a royal virgin, or by the nuptials of their daughters with a Roman prince.64 The aged monarch, in his instructions to his son, reveals the secret maxims of policy and pride; and suggests the most decent reasons for refusing these insolent and unreasonable demands. Every animal, says the discreet emperor, is prompted by nature to seek a mate among the animals of his own species; and the human species is divided into various tribes, by the distinction of language, religion, and manners. A just regard to the purity of descent preserves the harmony of public and private life; but the mixture of foreign blood is the fruitful source of disorder and discord. Such has ever been the opinion and practice of the sage Romans; their jurisprudence proscribed the marriage of a citizen and a stranger; in the days of freedom and virtue, a senator would have scorned to match his daughter with a king; the glory of Mark Anthony was sullied by an Egyptian wife;65 and the emperor Titus was compelled, by popular censure, to dismiss with reluctance the reluctant Bernice.66 This perpetual interdict was ratified by the fabulous sanction of the Edition: current; Page: [346] great Constantine. The ambassadors of the nations, more especially of the unbelieving nations, were solemnly admonished that such strange alliances had been condemned by the founder of the church and city. The irrevocable law was inscribed on the altar of St. Sophia; and the impious prince who should stain the majesty of the purple was excluded from the civil and ecclesiastical communion of the Romans. If the ambassadors were instructed by any false brethren in the Byzantine history, they might produce three memorable examples of the violation of this imaginary law: the marriage of Leo, or rather of his father, Constantine the Fourth, with the daughter of the king of the Chozars, the nuptials of the grand-daughter of Romanus with a Bulgarian prince, and the union of Bertha of France or Italy with young Romanus, the son of Constantine Porphyrogenitus himself. To these objections three answers were prepared, which solved the difficulty and established the law. I. The deed and the guilt of Constantine Copronymus were acknowledged. The Isaurian heretic, who sullied the baptismal font and declared war against the holy images, had indeed embraced a Barbarian wife. By this impious alliance he accomplished the measure of his crimes, and was devoted to the just censure of the church and of posterity. II. Romanus could not be alleged as a legitimate emperor; he was a plebeian usurper, ignorant of the laws, and regardless of the honour, of the monarchy. His son Christopher, the father of the bride, was the third in rank in the college of princes, at once the subject and the accomplice of a rebellious parent. The Bulgarians were sincere and devout Christians; and the safety of the empire, with the redemption of many thousand captives, depended on this preposterous alliance. Yet no consideration could dispense from the law of Constantine: the clergy, the senate, and the people disapproved the conduct of Romanus; and he was reproached, both in his life and death, as the author of the public disgrace. III. For the marriage of his own son with the daughter of Hugo, king of Italy, a Edition: current; Page: [347] more honourable defence is contrived by the wise Porphyrogenitus. Constantine, the great and holy, esteemed the fidelity and valour of the Franks;67 and his prophetic spirit beheld the vision of their future greatness. They alone were excepted from the general prohibition: Hugo king of France was the lineal descendant of Charlemagne;68 and his daughter Bertha inherited the prerogatives of her family and nation. The voice of truth and malice insensibly betrayed the fraud or error of the Imperial court. The patrimonial estate of Hugo was reduced from the monarchy of France to the simple county of Arles; though it was not denied that, in the confusion of the times, he had usurped the sovereignty of Provence and invaded the kingdom of Italy. His father was a private noble: and, if Bertha derived her female descent from the Carlovingian line, every step was polluted with illegitimacy or vice. The grandmother of Hugo was the famous Valdrada, the concubine, rather than the wife, of the second Lothair; whose adultery, divorce, and second nuptials had provoked against him the thunders of the Vatican. His mother, as she was styled, the great Bertha, was successively the wife of the count of Arles and the marquis of Tuscany: France and Italy were scandalised by her gallantries; and, till the age of threescore, her lovers, of every degree, were the zealous servants of her ambition. The example of maternal incontinence was copied by the king of Italy; and the three favourite concubines of Hugo were decorated with the classic Edition: current; Page: [348] names of Venus, Juno, and Semele.69 The daughter of Venus was granted to the solicitations of the Byzantine court; her name of Bertha was changed to that of Eudoxia; and she was wedded, or rather betrothed, to young Romanus, the future heir of the empire of the East. The consummation of this foreign alliance was suspended by the tender age of the two parties; and, at the end of five years, the union was dissolved by the death of the virgin spouse. The second wife of the emperor Romanus was a maiden of plebeian, but of Roman birth; and their two daughters, Theophano and Anne, were given in marriage to the princes of the earth. The eldest was bestowed, as the pledge of peace, on the eldest son of the great Otho, who had solicited this alliance with arms and embassies. It might legally be questioned how far a Saxon was entitled to the privilege of the French nation; but every scruple was silenced by the fame and piety of a hero who had restored the empire of the West. After the death of her father-in-law and husband, Theophano governed Rome, Italy, and Germany during the minority of her son, the third Otho; and the Latins have praised the virtues of an empress, who sacrificed to a superior duty the remembrance of her country.70 In the nuptials of her sister Anne, every prejudice was lost, and every consideration of dignity was Edition: current; Page: [349] superseded, by the stronger argument of necessity and fear. A Pagan of the North, Wolodomir, great prince of Russia, aspired to a daughter of the Roman purple; and his claim was enforced by the threats of war, the promise of conversion, and the offer of a powerful succour against a domestic rebel. A victim of her religion and country, the Grecian princess was torn from the palace of her fathers, and condemned to a savage reign and an hopeless exile on the banks of the Borysthenes, or in the neighbourhood of the Polar circle.71 Yet the marriage of Anne was fortunate and fruitful; the daughter of her grandson Jeroslaus was recommended by her Imperial descent; and the king of France, Henry I., sought a wife on the last borders of Europe and Christendom.72

In the Byzantine palace, the emperor was the first slave of the ceremonies which he imposed, of the rigid forms which regulated each word and gesture, besieged him in the palace, and violated the leisure of his rural solitude. But the lives and fortunes of millions hung on his arbitrary will; and the firmest minds, superior to the allurements of pomp and luxury, may be seduced by the more active pleasure of commanding their equals. The legislative and executive power were centred in the person of the monarch, and the last remains of the authority of the senate were finally eradicated Edition: current; Page: [350] by Leo the Philosopher.73 A lethargy of servitude had benumbed the minds of the Greeks; in the wildest tumults of rebellion they never aspired to the idea of a free constitution; and the private character of the prince was the only source and measure of their public happiness. Superstition riveted their chains; in the church of St. Sophia, he was solemnly crowned by the patriarch; at the foot of the altar, they pledged their passive and unconditional obedience to his government and family. On his side he engaged to abstain as much as possible from the capital punishments of death and mutilation; his orthodox creed was subscribed with his own hand, and he promised to obey the decrees of the seven synods, and the canons of the holy church.74 But the assurance of mercy was loose and indefinite: he swore, not to his people, but to an invisible judge, and, except in the inexpiable guilt of heresy, the ministers of heaven were always prepared to preach the indefeasible right, and to absolve the venial transgressions, of their sovereign. The Greek ecclesiastics were themselves the subjects of the civil magistrate; at the nod of a tyrant, the bishops were created, or transferred, or deposed, or punished with an ignominious death: whatever might be their wealth or influence, they could never succeed like the Latin clergy in the establishment of an independent republic; and the patriarch of Constantinople condemned, what he secretly envied, the temporal greatness of his Roman brother. Yet the exercise of boundless despotism is happily checked by the laws of nature and necessity. In proportion to his wisdom and virtue, the Edition: current; Page: [351] master of an empire is confined to the path of his sacred and laborious duty. In proportion to his vice and folly, he drops the sceptre too weighty for his hands; and the motions of the royal image are ruled by the imperceptible thread of some minister or favourite, who undertakes for his private interest to exercise the task of the public oppression. In some fatal moment, the most absolute monarch may dread the reason or the caprice of a nation of slaves; and experience has proved that whatever is gained in the extent, is lost in the safety and solidity, of regal power.

Whatever titles a despot may assume, whatever claims he may assert, it is on the sword that he must ultimately depend to guard him against his foreign and domestic enemies. From the age of Charlemagne to that of the Crusades, the world (for I overlook the remote monarchy of China) was occupied and disputed by the three great empires or nations of the Greeks, the Saracens, and the Franks. Their military strength may be ascertained by a comparison of their courage, their arts and riches, and their obedience to a supreme head, who might call into action all the energies of the state. The Greeks, far inferior to their rivals in the first, were superior to the Franks, and at least equal to the Saracens, in the second and third of these warlike qualifications.

The wealth of the Greeks enabled them to purchase the service of the poorer nations, and to maintain a naval power for the protection of their coasts and the annoyance of their enemies.75 A commerce of mutual benefit exchanged the gold of Constantinople for the blood of the Sclavonians and Turks, the Bulgarians and Russians: their valour contributed Edition: current; Page: [352] to the victories of Nicephorus and Zimisces; and, if an hostile people pressed too closely on the frontier, they were recalled to the defence of their country and the desire of peace by the well-managed attack of a more distant tribe.76 The command of the Mediterranean, from the mouth of the Tanais to the columns of Hercules, was always claimed, and often possessed, by the successors of Constantine. Their capital was filled with naval stores and dexterous artifices; the situation of Greece and Asia, the long coasts, deep gulfs, and numerous islands, accustomed their subjects to the exercise of navigation; and the trade of Venice and Amalfi supplied a nursery of seamen to the Imperial fleet.77 Since the time of the Peloponnesian and Punic wars, the sphere of action had not been enlarged; and the science of naval architecture appears to have declined. The art of constructing those stupendous machines which displayed three, or six, or ten ranges of oars, rising above, or falling behind, each other, was unknown to the ship-builders of Constantinople, as well as to the mechanicians of modern days.78 The Dromones79 or light galleys of the Byzantine empire were content with two tier of oars; each tier was composed of five and twenty Edition: current; Page: [353] benches; and two rowers were seated on each bench, who plied their oars on either side of the vessel. To these we must add the captain or centurion, who, in time of action, stood erect with his armour-bearer on the poop, two steersmen at the helm, and two officers at the prow, the one to manage the anchor, the other to point and play against the enemy the tube of liquid fire. The whole crew, as in the infancy of the art, performed the double service of mariners and soldiers; they were provided with defensive and offensive arms, with bows and arrows, which they used from the upper deck, with long pikes, which they pushed through the portholes of the lower tier. Sometimes, indeed, the ships of war were of a larger and more solid construction; and the labours of combat and navigation were more regularly divided between seventy soldiers and two hundred and thirty mariners. But for the most part they were of the light and manageable size; and, as the cape of Malea in Peloponnesus was still clothed with its ancient terrors, an Imperial fleet was transported five miles over land across the Isthmus of Corinth.80 The principles of maritime tactics had not undergone any change since the time of Thucydides: a squadron of galleys still advanced in a crescent, charged to the front, and strove to impel their sharp beaks against the feeble sides of their antagonists. A machine for casting stones and darts was built of strong timbers in the midst of the deck; and the operation of boarding was effected by a crane that hoisted baskets of armed men. The language of signals, so clear and copious in the naval grammar of the moderns, was imperfectly expressed by the various positions and colours of a commanding flag. In the darkness of the night the same orders to chase, to attack, to halt, to retreat, to break, to form, were conveyed by the lights of the leading Edition: current; Page: [354] galley. By land, the fire-signals were repeated from one mountain to another; a chain of eight stations commanded a space of five hundred miles; and Constantinople in a few hours was apprised of the hostile motions of the Saracens of Tarsus.81 Some estimate may be formed of the power of the Greek emperors, by the curious and minute detail of the armament which was prepared for the reduction of Crete. A fleet of one hundred and twelve galleys, and seventy-five vessels of the Pamphylian style, was equipped in the capital, the islands of the Ægean sea, and the sea-ports of Asia, Macedonia, and Greece. It carried thirty-four thousand mariners, seven thousand three hundred and forty soldiers, seven hundred Russians, and five thousand and eighty-seven Mardaites, whose fathers had been transplanted from the mountains of Libanus. Their pay, most probably of a month, was computed at thirty-four centenaries of gold, about one hundred and thirty-six thousand pounds sterling. Our fancy is bewildered by the endless recapitulation of arms and engines, of clothes and linen, of bread for the men and forage for the horses, and of stores and utensils of every description, inadequate to the conquest of a petty island, but amply sufficient for the establishment of a flourishing colony.82

Edition: current; Page: [355]

The invention of the Greek fire did not, like that of gunpowder, produce a total revolution in the art of war. To these liquid combustibles the city and empire of Constantinople owed their deliverance; and they were employed in sieges and sea-fights with terrible effect. But they were either less improved or less susceptible of improvement; the engines of antiquity, the catapultæ, balistæ, and battering-rams, were still of most frequent and powerful use in the attack and defence of fortifications; nor was the decision of battles reduced to the quick and heavy fire of a line of infantry, whom it were fruitless to protect with armour against a similar fire of their enemies. Steel and iron were still the common instruments of destruction and safety; and the helmets, cuirasses, and shields of the tenth century did not, either in form or substance, essentially differ from those which had covered the companions of Alexander or Achilles.83 But, instead of accustoming the modern Greeks, like the legionaries of old, to the constant and easy use of this salutary weight, their armour was laid aside in light chariots, which followed the march, till, on the approach of an enemy, they resumed with haste and reluctance the unusual incumbrance. Their offensive weapons consisted of swords, battleaxes, and spears; but the Macedonian pike was shortened a fourth of its length, and reduced to the more convenient measure of twelve cubits or feet. The sharpness of the Scythian and Arabian arrows had been severely felt; and the emperors lament the decay of archery as a cause of the public misfortunes, and recommend, as an advice and a command, that the military youth, till the age of forty, should assiduously practise the exercise of the bow.84 The bands, or regiments, Edition: current; Page: [356] were usually three hundred strong; and, as a medium between the extremes of four and sixteen, the foot-soldiers of Leo and Constantine were formed eight deep; but the cavalry charged in four ranks, from the reasonable consideration that the weight of the front could not be increased by any pressure of the hindmost horses. If the ranks of the infantry or cavalry were sometimes doubled, this cautious array betrayed a secret distrust of the courage of the troops, whose numbers might swell the appearance of the line, but of whom only a chosen band would dare to encounter the spears and swords of the Barbarians. The order of battle must have varied according to the ground, the object, and the adversary; but their ordinary disposition, in two lines and a reserve, presented a succession of hopes and resources most agreeable to the temper as well as the judgment of the Greeks.85 In case of a repulse, the first line fell back into the intervals of the second; and the reserve, breaking into two divisions, wheeled round the flanks to improve the victory or cover the retreat. Whatever authority could enact was accomplished, at least in theory, by the camps and marches, the exercises and evolutions, the edicts and books, of the Byzantine monarch.86 Whatever art could produce from the forge, the loom, or the laboratory was abundantly supplied by the riches of the prince and the industry of his numerous workmen. But neither authority nor art could frame the most important machine, the soldier himself; and, if the ceremonies of Constantine always suppose the safe and triumphal Edition: current; Page: [357] return of the emperor,87 his tactics seldom soar above the means of escaping a defeat and procrastinating the war.88 Notwithstanding some transient success, the Greeks were sunk in their own esteem and that of their neighbours. A cold hand and a loquacious tongue was the vulgar description of the nation; the author of the Tactics was besieged in his capital; and the last of the Barbarians, who trembled at the name of the Saracens or Franks, could proudly exhibit the medals of gold and silver which they had extorted from the feeble sovereign of Constantinople. What spirit their government and character denied, might have been inspired in some degree by the influence of religion; but the religion of the Greeks could only teach them to suffer and to yield. The emperor Nicephorus, who restored for a moment the discipline and glory of the Roman name, was desirous of bestowing the honours of martyrdom on the Christians, who lost their lives in an holy war against the infidels. But this political law was defeated by the opposition of the patriarch, the bishops, and the principal senators; and they strenuously urged the canons of St. Basil, that all who were polluted by the bloody trade of a soldier should be separated, during three years, from the communion of the faithful.89

These scruples of the Greeks have been compared with the tears of the primitive Moslems when they were held back from battle; and this contrast of base superstition and highspirited enthusiasm unfolds to a philosophic eye the history Edition: current; Page: [358] of the rival nations. The subjects of the last caliphs90 had undoubtedly degenerated from the zeal and faith of the companions of the prophet. Yet their martial creed still represented the Deity as the author of war;91 the vital though latent spark of fanaticism still glowed in the heart of their religion, and among the Saracens who dwelt on the Christian borders it was frequently rekindled to a lively and active flame. Their regular force was formed of the valiant slaves who had been educated to guard the person and accompany the standard of their lord; but the Musulman people of Syria and Cilicia, of Africa and Spain, was awakened by the trumpet which proclaimed an holy war against the infidels. The rich were ambitious of death or victory in the cause of God; the poor were allured by the hopes of plunder; and the old, the infirm, and the women assumed their share of meritorious service by sending their substitutes, with arms and horses, into the field. These offensive and defensive arms were similar in strength and temper to those of the Romans, whom they far excelled in the management of the horse and the bow; the massy silver of their belts, their bridles, and their swords displayed the magnificence of a prosperous nation, and, except some black archers of the South, the Arabs disdained the naked bravery of their ancestors. Instead of waggons, they were attended by a long train of camels, mules, and asses; the multitude of these animals, whom they bedecked with flags and streamers, appeared to swell the pomp and magnitude of their host; and the horses of the enemy were often disordered by the uncouth Edition: current; Page: [359] figure and odious smell of the camels of the East. Invincible by their patience of thirst and heat, their spirits were frozen by a winter’s cold, and the consciousness of their propensity to sleep exacted the most rigorous precautions against the surprises of the night. Their order of battle was a long square of two deep and solid lines: the first of archers, the second of cavalry. In their engagements by sea and land, they sustained with patient firmness the fury of the attack, and seldom advanced to the charge till they could discern and oppress the lassitude of their foes. But, if they were repulsed and broken, they knew not how to rally or renew the combat; and their dismay was heightened by the superstitious prejudice that God had declared himself on the side of their enemies. The decline and fall of the caliphs countenanced this fearful opinion; nor were there wanting, among the Mahometans and Christians, some obscure prophecies92 which prognosticated their alternate defeats. The unity of the Arabian empire was dissolved, but the independent fragments were equal to populous and powerful kingdoms; and in their naval and military armaments an emir of Aleppo or Tunis might command no despicable fund of skill and industry and treasure. In their transactions of peace and war with the Saracens, the princes of Constantinople too often felt that these Barbarians had nothing barbarous in their discipline; and that, if they were destitute of original genius, they had been endowed with a quick spirit of curiosity and imitation. The model was indeed more perfect than the copy; their ships, and engines, and fortifications were of a less skilful construction; and they confess, without shame, that the same God, who has given a tongue to the Arabians, Edition: current; Page: [360] had more nicely fashioned the hands of the Chinese and the heads of the Greeks.93

A name of some German tribes between the Rhine and the Weser had spread its victorious influence over the greatest part of Gaul, Germany, and Italy; and the common appellation of Franks94 was applied by the Greeks and Arabians to the Christians of the Latin church, the nations of the West, who stretched beyond their knowledge to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The vast body had been inspired and united by the soul of Charlemagne; but the division and degeneracy of his race soon annihilated the Imperial power, which would have rivalled the Cæsars of Byzantium and revenged the indignities of the Christian name. The enemies no longer feared, nor could the subjects any longer trust, the application of a public revenue, the labours of trade and manufactures in the military service, the mutual aid of provinces and armies, and the naval squadrons which were regularly stationed from the mouth of the Elbe to that of the Tiber. In the beginning of the tenth century, the family of Charlemagne had almost disappeared; his monarchy was broken into many hostile and independent states; the regal title was assumed by the most ambitious chiefs; their revolt was imitated in a long subordination of anarchy and discord; and the nobles of every province disobeyed their sovereign, oppressed their vassals, and exercised perpetual hostilities against their equals and neighbours. Their private wars, which overturned the fabric of government, fomented the martial spirit of the nation. In the system of modern Europe, the power of the Edition: current; Page: [361] sword is possessed, at least in fact, by five or six mighty potentates; their operations are conducted on a distant frontier by an order of men who devote their lives to the study and practice of the military art; the rest of the country and community enjoys in the midst of war the tranquillity of peace, and is only made sensible of the change by the aggravation or decrease of the public taxes. In the disorders of the tenth and eleventh centuries, every peasant was a soldier, and every village a fortification; each wood or valley was a scene of murder and rapine; and the lords of each castle were compelled to assume the character of princes and warriors. To their own courage and policy they boldly trusted for the safety of their family, the protection of their lands, and the revenge of their injuries; and, like the conquerors of a larger size, they were too apt to transgress the privilege of defensive war. The powers of the mind and body were hardened by the presence of danger and the necessity of resolution; the same spirit refused to desert a friend and to forgive an enemy; and, instead of sleeping under the guardian care of the magistrate, they proudly disdained the authority of the laws. In the days of feudal anarchy, the instruments of agriculture and art were converted into the weapons of bloodshed: the peaceful occupations of civil and ecclesiastical society were abolished or corrupted; and the bishop who exchanged his mitre for an helmet was more forcibly urged by the manners of the times than by the obligation of his tenure.95

The love of freedom and of arms was felt, with conscious pride, by the Franks themselves, and is observed by the Greeks Edition: current; Page: [362] with some degree of amazement and terror. “The Franks,” says the emperor Constantine, “are bold and valiant to the verge of temerity; and their dauntless spirit is supported by the contempt of danger and death. In the field and in close onset, they press to the front, and rush headlong against the enemy, without deigning to compute either his numbers or their own. Their ranks are formed by the firm connections of consanguinity and friendship; and their martial deeds are prompted by the desire of saving or revenging their dearest companions. In their eyes a retreat is a shameful flight, and flight is indelible infamy.”96 A nation endowed with such high and intrepid spirit must have been secure of victory, if these advantages had not been counterbalanced by many weighty defects. The decay of their naval power left the Greeks and Saracens in possession of the sea, for every purpose of annoyance and supply. In the age which preceded the institution of knighthood, the Franks were rude and unskilful in the service of cavalry;97 and in all perilous emergencies their warriors were so conscious of their ignorance that they chose to dismount from their horses and fight on foot. Unpractised in the use of pikes or of missile weapons, they were encumbered by the length of their swords, the weight of their armour, the magnitude of their shields, and, if I may repeat the satire of the meagre Greeks, by their unwieldy intemperance. Their independent spirit disdained the yoke of subordination, and abandoned the standard of their chief, if he attempted to keep the field beyond the term of their stipulation or service. On all sides they were open to the Edition: current; Page: [363] snares of an enemy, less brave, but more artful, than themselves. They might be bribed, for the Barbarians were venal; or surprised in the night, for they neglected the precautions of a close encampment or vigilant sentinels. The fatigues of a summer’s campaign exhausted their strength and patience, and they sunk in despair if their voracious appetite was disappointed of a plentiful supply of wine and of food. This general character of the Franks was marked with some national and local shades, which I should ascribe to accident rather than to climate, but which were visible both to natives and to foreigners. An ambassador of the great Otho declared, in the palace of Constantinople, that the Saxons could dispute with swords better than with pens; and that they preferred inevitable death to the dishonour of turning their backs to an enemy.98 It was the glory of the nobles of France that, in their humble dwellings, war and rapine were the only pleasure, the sole occupation, of their lives. They affected to deride the palaces, the banquets, the polished manners, of the Italians, who, in the estimate of the Greeks themselves, had degenerated from the liberty and valour of the ancient Lombards.99

Edition: current; Page: [364]

By the well-known edict of Caracalla, his subjects, from Britain to Egypt, were entitled to the name and privilege of Romans, and their national sovereign might fix his occasional or permanent residence in any province of their common country. In the division of the East and West an ideal unity was scrupulously preserved, and in their titles, laws, and statutes the successors of Arcadius and Honorius announced themselves as the inseparable colleagues of the same office, as the joint sovereigns of the Roman world and city, which were bounded by the same limits. After the fall of the Western monarchy, the majesty of the purple resided solely in the princes of Constantinople; and of these Justinian was the first, who, after a divorce of sixty years, regained the dominion of ancient Rome and asserted, by the right of conquest, the august title of Emperor of the Romans.100 A motive of vanity or discontent solicited one of his successors, Constans the Second, to abandon the Thracian Bosphorus and to restore the pristine honours of the Tiber: an extravagant project (exclaims the malicious Byzantine), as if he had despoiled a beautiful and blooming virgin, to enrich, or rather to expose, the deformity of a wrinkled and decrepit matron.101 But the sword of the Lombards opposed his settlement in Italy; he entered Rome, not as a conqueror, but as a fugitive, and, after a visit of twelve days, he pillaged, and for ever Edition: current; Page: [365] deserted, the ancient capital of the world.102 The final revolt and separation of Italy was accomplished about two centuries after the conquests of Justinian, and from his reign we may date the gradual oblivion of the Latin tongue. That legislator had composed his Institutes, his Code, and his Pandects in a language which he celebrates as the proper and public style of the Roman government, the consecrated idiom of the palace and senate of Constantinople, of the camps and tribunals of the East.103 But this foreign dialect was unknown to the people and soldiers of the Asiatic provinces, it was imperfectly understood by the greater part of the interpreters of the laws and the ministers of the state. After a short conflict, nature and habit prevailed over the obsolete institutions of human power: for the general benefit of his subjects, Justinian promulgated his novels in the two languages; the several parts of his voluminous jurisprudence were successively translated;104 the original was forgotten, the version was studied, and the Greek, whose intrinsic merit deserved indeed the preference, obtained a legal as well as popular establishment in the Byzantine monarchy. The birth and residence of succeeding princes estranged them from the Roman idiom: Tiberius by the Arabs,105 Edition: current; Page: [366] and Maurice by the Italians,106 are distinguished as the first of the Greek Cæsars, as the founders of a new dynasty and empire; the silent revolution was accomplished before the death of Heraclius; and the ruins of the Latin speech were darkly preserved in the terms of jurisprudence and the acclamations of the palace. After the restoration of the Western empire by Charlemagne and the Othos, the names of Franks and Latins acquired an equal signification and extent; and these haughty Barbarians asserted, with some justice, their superior claim to the language and dominion of Rome. They insulted the aliens of the East who had renounced the dress and idiom of Romans; and their reasonable practice will justify the frequent appellation of Greeks.107 But this contemptuous appellation was indignantly rejected by the prince and people to whom it is applied. Whatsoever changes had been introduced by the lapse of ages, they alleged a lineal and unbroken succession from Augustus and Constantine; and, in the lowest period of degeneracy and decay, the name of Romans adhered to the last fragments of the empire of Constantinople.108

Edition: current; Page: [367]

While the government of the East was transacted in Latin, the Greek was the language of literature and philosophy; nor could the masters of this rich and perfect idiom be tempted to envy the borrowed learning and imitative taste of their Roman disciples. After the fall of paganism, the loss of Syria and Egypt, and the extinction of the schools of Alexandria and Athens, the studies of the Greeks insensibly retired to some regular monasteries, and above all to the royal college of Constantinople, which was burnt in the reign of Leo the Isaurian.109 In the pompous style of the age, the president of that foundation was named the Sun of Science: his twelve associates, the professors in the different arts and faculties, were the twelve signs of the zodiac; a library of thirty-six thousand five hundred volumes was open to their inquiries; and they could shew an ancient manuscript of Homer, on a roll of parchment one hundred and twenty feet in length, the intestines, as it was fabled, of a prodigious serpent.110 But the seventh and eighth centuries were a period of discord and darkness; the library was burnt, the college was abolished, the Iconoclasts are represented as the foes of antiquity; and a savage ignorance and contempt of letters has disgraced the princes of the Heraclean and Isaurian dynasties.111

In the ninth century we trace the first dawnings of the Edition: current; Page: [368] restoration of science.112 After the fanaticism of the Arabs had subsided, the caliphs aspired to conquer the arts, rather than the provinces, of the empire: their liberal curiosity rekindled the emulation of the Greeks, brushed away the dust from their ancient libraries, and taught them to know and reward the philosophers, whose labours had been hitherto repaid by the pleasure of study and the pursuit of truth. The Cæsar Bardas, the uncle of Michael the Third, was the generous protector of letters, a title which alone has preserved his memory and excused his ambition. A particle of the treasures of his nephew was sometimes diverted from the indulgence of vice and folly; a school was opened in the palace of Magnaura; and the presence of Bardas excited the emulation of the masters and students. At their head, was the philosopher Leo, archbishop of Thessalonica; his profound skill in astronomy and the mathematics was admired by the strangers of the East; and this occult science was magnified by vulgar credulity, which modestly supposes that all knowledge superior to its own must be the effect of inspiration or magic. At the pressing entreaty of the Cæsar, his friend, the celebrated Photius,113 renounced the freedom of a secular and studious life, ascended the patriarchal throne, and was alternately excommunicated and absolved by the synods of the East and West. By the confession even of priestly hatred, no art or science, except poetry, was foreign to this universal scholar, who was deep in thought, indefatigable Edition: current; Page: [369] in reading, and eloquent in diction. Whilst he exercised the office of protospathaire, or captain of the guards, Photius was sent ambassador to the caliph of Bagdad.114 The tedious hours of exile, perhaps of confinement, were beguiled by the hasty composition of his Library, a living monument of erudition and criticism. Two hundred and fourscore writers, historians, orators, philosophers, theologians, are reviewed without any regular method: he abridges their narrative or doctrine, appreciates their style and character, and judges even the fathers of the church with a discreet freedom, which often breaks through the superstition of the times. The emperor Basil, who lamented the defects of his own education, entrusted to the care of Photius his son and successor Leo the Philosopher; and the reign of that prince and of his son Constantine Porphyrogenitus forms one of the most prosperous eras of the Byzantine literature. By their munificence the treasures of antiquity were deposited in the Imperial library; by their pens, or those of their associates, they were imparted in such extracts and abridgments as might amuse the curiosity, without oppressing the indolence, of the public. Besides the Basilics, or code of laws, the arts of husbandry and war, of feeding or destroying the human species, were propagated with equal diligence; and the history of Greece and Rome was digested into fifty-three heads or titles, of which two only (of embassies, and of virtues and vices) have escaped the injuries of time. In every station, the reader might contemplate the image of the past world, apply the lesson or warning of each page, and learn to admire, perhaps to imitate, the examples of a brighter Edition: current; Page: [370] period. I shall not expatiate on the works of the Byzantine Greeks, who, by the assiduous study of the ancients, have deserved in some measure the remembrance and gratitude of the moderns. The scholars of the present age may still enjoy the benefit of the philosophical common-place book of Stobæus, the grammatical and historical lexicon of Suidas, the Chiliads of Tzetzes, which comprise six hundred narratives in twelve thousand verses, and the commentaries on Homer of Eustathius, archbishop of Thessalonica, who, from his horn of plenty, has poured the names and authorities of four hundred writers. From these originals, and from the numerous tribe of scholiasts and critics,115 some estimate may be formed of the literary wealth of the twelfth century; Constantinople was enlightened by the genius of Homer and Demosthenes, of Aristotle and Plato; and in the enjoyment or neglect of our present riches, we must envy the generation Edition: current; Page: [371] that could still peruse the history of Theopompus, the orations of Hyperides, the comedies of Menander,116 and the odes of Alcæus and Sappho. The frequent labour of illustration attests not only the existence but the popularity of the Grecian classics; the general knowledge of the age may be deduced from the example of two learned females, the empress Eudocia, and the princess Anna Comnena, who cultivated, in the purple, the arts of rhetoric and philosophy.117 The vulgar dialect of the city was gross and barbarous: a more correct and elaborate style distinguished the discourse, or at least the compositions, of the church and palace, which sometimes affected to copy the purity of the Attic models.

In our modern education, the painful though necessary attainment of two languages, which are no longer living, may consume the time and damp the ardour of the youthful student. The poets and orators were long imprisoned in the barbarous dialects of our Western ancestors, devoid of harmony or grace; and their genius, without precept or Edition: current; Page: [372] example, was abandoned to the rude and native powers of their judgment and fancy. But the Greeks of Constantinople, after purging away the impurities of their vulgar speech, acquired the free use of their ancient language, the most happy composition of human art, and a familiar knowledge of the sublime masters who had pleased or instructed the first of nations. But these advantages only tend to aggravate the reproach and shame of a degenerate people. They held in their lifeless hands the riches of their fathers, without inheriting the spirit which had created and improved that sacred patrimony: they read, they praised, they compiled, but their languid souls seemed alike incapable of thought and action. In the revolution of ten centuries, not a single discovery was made to exalt the dignity or promote the happiness of mankind. Not a single idea has been added to the speculative systems of antiquity, and a succession of patient disciples became in their turn the dogmatic teachers of the next servile generation. Not a single composition of history, philosophy, or literature, has been saved from oblivion by the intrinsic beauties of style or sentiment, of original fancy, or even of successful imitation. In prose, the least offensive of the Byzantine writers are absolved from censure by their naked and unpresuming simplicity; but the orators, most eloquent118 in their own conceit, are the farthest removed from the models whom they affect to emulate. In every page our taste and reason are wounded by the choice of gigantic and obsolete words, a stiff and intricate phraseology, the discord of images, the childish play of false or unseasonable ornament, and the painful attempt to elevate themselves, to astonish the reader, and to involve a trivial meaning in the smoke of obscurity and exaggeration. Their prose is soaring to the vicious affectation of poetry: their poetry is sinking below the flatness and insipidity of prose. The tragic, epic, Edition: current; Page: [373] and lyric muses were silent and inglorious; the bards of Constantinople seldom rose above a riddle or epigram, a panegyric or tale; they forgot even the rules of prosody; and, with the melody of Homer yet sounding in their ears, they confound all measure of feet and syllables in the impotent strains which have received the name of political or city verses.119 The minds of the Greeks were bound in the fetters of a base and imperious superstition, which extends her dominion round the circle of profane science. Their understandings were bewildered in metaphysical controversy; in the belief of visions and miracles, they had lost all principles of moral evidence; and their taste was vitiated by the homilies of the monks, an absurd medley of declamation and scripture. Even these contemptible studies were no longer dignified by the abuse of superior talents; the leaders of the Greek church were humbly content to admire and copy the oracles of antiquity, nor did the schools or pulpit produce any rivals of the fame of Athanasius and Chrysostom.120

In all the pursuits of active and speculative life, the emulation of states and individuals is the most powerful spring of the efforts and improvements of mankind. The cities of Edition: current; Page: [374] ancient Greece were cast in the happy mixture of union and independence, which is repeated on a larger scale, but in a looser form, by the nations of modern Europe: the union of language, religion, and manners, which renders them the spectators and judges of each other’s merit;121 the independence of government and interest, which asserts their separate freedom, and excites them to strive for pre-eminence in the career of glory. The situation of the Romans was less favourable; yet in the early ages of the republic, which fixed the national character, a similar emulation was kindled among the states of Latium and Italy; and, in the arts and sciences, they aspired to equal or surpass their Grecian masters. The empire of the Cæsars undoubtedly checked the activity and progress of the human mind; its magnitude might, indeed, allow some scope for domestic competition; but, when it was gradually reduced, at first to the East, and at last to Greece and Constantinople, the Byzantine subjects were degraded to an abject and languid temper, the natural effect of their solitary and insulated state. From the North they were oppressed by nameless tribes of Barbarians, to whom they scarcely imparted the appellation of men. The language and religion of the more polished Arabs were an unsurmountable bar to all social intercourse. The conquerors of Europe were their brethren in the Christian faith; but the speech of the Franks or Latins was unknown, their manners were rude, and they were rarely connected, in peace or war, with the successors of Heraclius. Alone in the universe, the self-satisfied pride of the Greeks was not disturbed by the comparison of foreign merit; and it is no wonder if they fainted in the race, since they had neither competitors to urge their speed nor judges to crown their victory. The nations of Europe and Asia were mingled by the expeditions to the Holy Land; and it is under the Comnenian dynasty that a faint emulation of knowledge and military virtue was rekindled in the Byzantine empire.

Edition: current; Page: [375]


1.: GOLD IN ARABIA — (P. 4)

Gibbon states that no gold mines are at present known in Arabia, on the authority of Niebuhr. Yet gold mines seem to have existed in the Hijāz under the caliphate, for M. Casanova has described some gold dīnārs bearing the date 105 a.h. (723-4 ad) and inscriptions containing the words: “Mine of the commander of the Faithful in the Hijāz” (Casanova, Inventaire sommaire de la coll. des monnaies musulmanes de S. A. la Princesse Ismaīl, p. iv., v., 1896).

For this note I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. S. Lane-Poole.

2.: THE SABIANS — (P. 26, 27)

Vague and false ideas prevailed concerning Sabianism, until the obscure subject was illuminated by the labours of Chwolsohn and Petermann in the present century. Gibbon does not fall into the grosser, though formerly not uncommon, error of confusing the Sabians with the Sabaeans (of Yemen); the two names begin with different Arabic letters. But in his day the distinction had not been discovered between the true Sabians of Babylonia and the false Sabians of Harran. The first light on the matter was thrown by Norberg’s publication of the Sacred Book of the Sabians entitled Sidra Rabba, “Great Book,” which he edited under the name of the Book of Adam (or Codex Nasiraeus). But the facts about the two Sabianisms were first clearly established in Chwolsohn’s work, Ssabier und Ssabismus (1856).

This book is mainly concerned with an account of the false Sabians of Harran. It was in the 9th century ad that this spurious Sabianism was so named. The people of Harran, in order not to be accounted heathen by their Abbāsid lords, but that they might be reckoned among the unbelievers to whom a privileged position is granted by the Koran — Jews, Christians, and Sabians — as they could not pretend to be Christians or Jews, professed Sabianism, a faith to which no exact idea was attached. The religion, which thus assumed the Sabian name, was the native religion of the country, with Greek and Syrian elements super-imposed. It is to this spurious Sabianism, with its star-worship, that Gibbon’s description applies.

The true Sabianism sprang up in Babylonia in the 1st and 2nd centuries of the Christian era, and probably contains as its basis misunderstood gnostic doctrines. Its nature was first clearly explained by Petermann, who travelled for the purpose of studying it, and then re-edited the Sidra Rabba, which is written in a Semitic dialect known as Mandaean. There were two original principles: matter, and a creative mind (“the lord of glory”). This primal mental principle creates Hayya Kadmaya (“first life”), and then Edition: current; Page: [376] retires from the scene of operations; and the souls of very holy Sabians have the joy of once beholding the lord of glory, after death. The emanation Hayya Kadmaya is the deity who is worshipped; from him other emanations proceed. (For the ceremonies and customs of modern Sabians see M. Siouffi’s Etudes sur la religion des Soubbas, 1880. For a good account of the whole subject, Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole’s Studies in a Mosque, c. viii.)


The text of the treaty of Hudaibiya between Mohammad and the Koreish in ad 628, is preserved by Wākidī, and is thus translated by Sir W. Muir (Life of Mahomet, p. 346-7): —

“In thy name, O God! These are the conditions of peace between Mohammad, son of Abdallah, and Suhail, son of Amr [deputy of the Koreish]. War shall be suspended for ten years. Whosoever wisheth to join Mohammad or enter into treaty with him, shall have liberty to do so; and likewise whosoever wisheth to join the Koreish or enter into treaty with them. If one goeth over to Mohammad without the permission of his guardian, he shall be sent back to his guardian; but should any of the followers of Mohammad return to the Koreish, they shall not be sent back. Mohammad shall retire this year without entering the City. In the coming year Mohammad may visit Mecca, he and his followers, for three days, during which the Koreish shall retire and leave the City to them. But they may not enter it with any weapons, save those of the traveller, namely to each a sheathed sword.” This was signed by Abū Bekr, Omar, Abd ar-Rahmān, and six other witnesses.

As another example of the treaties of Mohammad, I take that which he concluded with the Christian prince of Aila, — the diploma securitatis, mentioned by Gibbon; who refrains from pronouncing an opinion as to its authenticity. It too is preserved by Wākidī and there is no fair reason for suspecting it. Here again I borrow the translation of Sir W. Muir (p. 428): —

“In the name of God the Gracious and Merciful! A compact of peace from God and from Mohammad the Prophet and Apostle of God, granted unto Yuhanna [John], son of Rubah, and unto the people of Aila. For them who remain at home and for those that travel by sea and by land there is the guarantee of God and of Mohammad, the Apostle of God, and for all that are with them, whether of Syria or of Yemen or of the sea-coast. Whoso contraveneth this treaty, his wealth shall not save him; it shall be the fair prize of him that taketh it. Now it shall not be lawful to hinder the men of Aila from any springs which they have been in the habit of frequenting, nor from any journey they desire to make, whether by sea or by land. The writing of Juhaim and Sharāhbil by command of the Apostle of God.”

4.: MOKAUKAS — (P. 88, 177)

Papyri discovered in Egypt throw some interesting light on the position of the Copt Mokaukas (al-Mukaukis), famous for his correspondence with Mohammad and for the part he played in the Saracen conquest. Mokaukas had been the subject of a monography by the Dutch orientalist de Goeje (1885), and had engaged the special attention of Ranke (Weltgeschichte, vol. v. p. 140 sqq.); but the investigation of Prof. J. Karabacek, the editor of the Mittheilungen from the collection of the Archduke Rainer’s papyri, Edition: current; Page: [377] puts new evidence at our disposal (Der Mokaukis von Aegypten; Mittheil., pt. i. p. 1 sqq.). The results briefly are: —

The proper name of Mokaukas (al-Mukaukis) was George, and he was the son of Menas Parkabios, an instance of a Copt with a double name (Greek and Coptic), of which there are constant examples in papyri. At this time Egypt had three eparchies, each under a dux; each eparchy was divided into several nomes under stratêgoi. The financial administration of the nome was in the hands of a pagarch. Sometimes the offices of the stratêgos and pagarch were united; and Mokaukas combined the double functions. But it seems that though he was always connected with the eparchy of Lower Egypt, he was not throughout his whole career pagarch of the same nome. For we find him at Alexandria as well as at Misr (Babylon). In ad 628 Hātib, the envoy of Mohammad, found him governor of Alexandria. In Bilādhurī he appears as governor first of Alexandria and afterwards of Misr. Eutychius and Elmacin represent him as an Āmil set by Heraclius over the taxes in Misr. There is no question that at the time of the Saracen invasion his official residence was Misr. Karabacek thinks that the name Mokaukis is a corruption of μεγαυχής, which might have been one of his titles, since we find applied to pagarchs such titles as μεγαλοπρεπέστατος, ἐνδοξότατος. But μεγαυχής seems a very unlikely titular epithet.

We can now see what is meant by the “prefects” mentioned by John of Nikiu (p. 559, 577), according to Zotenberg’s translation. Thus John’s Abākīrī can be identified with Ἅππα κν̂ρος, who is found in a papyrus as pagarch of Heracleopolis magna.

For the position of Mokaukas as head of the Copts see John of Nikiu.


The discrepancies in the original authorities (Greek and Arabic) for the Saracen conquests in the caliphates of Abū Bekr and Omar have caused considerable uncertainty as to the dates of such leading events as the battles of the Yermūk and Cadesia, the captures of Damascus and Alexandria, and have led to most divergent chronological schemes.

I. Conquest of Syria. Gibbon follows Ockley, who, after the false Wākidī, gives the following arrangement: —

ad 633. Siege and capture of Bosra. Siege of Damascus. Battle of Ajnādain (July).
ad 634. Capture of Damascus.
ad 635. Siege of Emesa.
ad 636. Battle of Cadesia. Battle of the Yermūk.
ad 637. Capture of Heliopolis and Emesa. Conquest of Jerusalem.
ad 638. Conquest of Aleppo and Antioch. Flight of Heraclius.

Clinton (Fasti Romani, ii. p. 173-5) has also adopted this scheme. But it must certainly be rejected. (1) Gibbon has himself noticed a difficulty concerning the length of the siege of Damascus, in connection with the battle of Ajnādain (see p. 146, n. 73). (2) The date given for that battle, Friday, July 13, ad 633 (Ockley, i. p. 65), is inconsistent with the fact that July 13 in that year fell on Tuesday. (3) The battle of the Yermūk took place without any doubt in August, 634. This is proved by the notice of Arabic authors that it was synchronous with the death of Abū Bekr; combined with the date of Theophanes (sub a.m. 6126), “Tuesday, the 23rd of Lous (that Edition: current; Page: [378] is, August),” which was the day after Abū Bekr’s death. The chronology of Theophanes is confused in this period; there is a discrepancy between the Anni Incarnationis and Indications on one hand, and the Anni Mundi on the other; and the Anni Mundi are generally a year wrong. So in this case, the Annus Mundi 6126 (= March 25, ad 633 to 634) ought to be 6127; the 23rd of Lous fell on Tuesday in 634, not in 633 or 635 or 636. There is no question about the reading Λώου, which appears in de Boor’s edition (p. 338) instead of the old corruption Ἰουλίου; it is in the oldest of the MSS., and is confirmed by the Latin translation.1 (4) The capture of Damascus in Gibbon’s chronology precedes the battle of the Yermūk. But it was clearly a consequence, as Theophanes represents, as well as the best Arabic authorities. Khālid who arrived from Irāk just in time to take part in the battle of the Yermūk led the siege of Damascus. See Tabarī, ed. Kosegarten, ii. p. 161 sqq. (5) The date of the capture of Damascus was Ann. Hij 13 according to Masūdī and Abū-l-Fidā, in winter (Tabarī); hence Weil deduces Jan. ad 635 (see Weil, i. p. 47).

On these grounds Weil revised the chronology, in the light of better Arabic sources. He rightly placed the battle of the Yermūk in Aug. 634, and the capture of Damascus subsequent to it. The engagement of Ajnādain he placed shortly before that of the Yermūk, on July 30, ad 634, but had to assume that Khālid was not present. As to the battle of Cadesia, he accepts the year given by Tabarī (tr. Zotenberg, iii., p. 400) and Masūdī (a.h. 14, ad 535) as against that alleged by the older authority Ibn Ishāk (ap. Masūdī) as well as by Abū-l-Fidā and others (op. cit. p. 71). Finlay follows this revision of Weil: —

ad 634. Battle of Ajnādain (July 30). Battle of the Yermūk (Aug. 23).
ad 635. Capture of Damascus (Jan.). Battle of Cadesia (spring).
ad 636. Capture of Emesa (Feb.). Capture of Madāīn.
ad 637-8. Conquest of Palestine.

As to the main points Weil is undoubtedly right. That the conquest of Syria began in ad 634 and not (as Gibbon gives) ad 633, is asserted by Tabarī2 and strongly confirmed by the notice in Χρονογρ. σύντομον of Nicephorus (p. 99, ed. de Boor): οἱ Σαρακηνοὶ ἤρξαντο τη̂ς τον̂ παντὸς ἐρημώσεως τῷ [Editor: Illegible Greek character]ρκς′ ἔτει ἰνδ. ζ′. Mr. Milne, in his History of Egypt under Roman Rule (1898), thinks that Mokaukas was prefect, perhaps of Augustamnica, p. 225. The Saracens began their devastation in a.m. 6126 = Ind. 7. a.m. 6126 is current from ad 633 March 25 to ad 634 March 25, and the 7th Indiction from ad 633 Sept. 1 to ad 634 Sept. 1; the common part is Sept. 1 ad 633 to March 25 ad 634; so that we are led to the date Feb., March 634 for the advance against the Empire. In regard to the capture of Damascus it seems safer to accept the date a.h. 14, which is assigned both by Ibn Ishāk and Wākidī (quoted by Tabarī, ed. Kosegarten, ii. p. 169), and therefore place it later in the year ad 635.

The weak point in Weil’s reconstruction would be the date for the battle of Ajnādain, as contradicting the natural course of the campaign marked out by geography, if it were certain that Ajnādain lay west of the Jordan, as is Edition: current; Page: [379] usually supposed (see map in this volume, where it is indicated in the commonly accepted position). The battle of the Yermūk on the east of the Jordan naturally preceded operations west of the Jordan. This has been pointed out by Sir W. Muir (Annals of the Early Caliphate, p. 206-7), who observes that the date ad 634 (before the Yermūk) “is opposed to the consistent though very summary narrative of the best authorities, as well as to the natural course of the campaign, which began on the east side of the Jordan, all the eastern province being reduced before the Arabs ventured to cross over to the well-garrisoned country west of the Jordan.” Muir accordingly puts the battle in ad 636.3 But there seems to be no certainty as to the geographical position of Ajnādain, and it must therefore be regarded as possible that it lay east of the Jordan, and was the scene of a battle either shortly before or shortly after the battle of the Yermūk. The reader may like to have before him the order of events in Tabarī; Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole has kindly supplied me with the references to the original text (ed. de Goeje): —

Abū Bekr sends troops into Syria (a.h. 13), i. 2079.

Khālid brings up reinforcements in time for the Yermūk, i. 2089.

Battle of the Yermūk, i. 2090 sqq.

Battle of Ajnādain (end of July, 634), i. 2126-7.

Battle of Fihl (Jan., Feb., 635), i. 2146.

Capture of Damascus (Aug., Sept., 635), i. 2146.

As to the date of the capture of Jerusalem, Weil does not commit himself; Muir places it at the end of ad 636 (so Tabarī, followed by Abū-l-Fidā, while other Arabic sources place it in the following year). Theophanes, under a.m. 6127, says: “In this year Omar made an expedition against Palestine; he besieged the Holy City, and took it by capitulation at the end of two years.” a.m. 6127 = March 634-635; but, as the Anni Mundi are here a year late (see above), the presumption is that we must go by the Anni Incarnationis and interpret the a.m. as March, 635-636. In that case, the capitulation would have taken place at earliest in March, 637 — if the two years were interpreted strictly as twelve months. But διετη̂ χρόνον might be used for two military years, 635 and 636; so that the notice of Theophanes is quite consistent with Sir Wm. Muir’s date. The same writer agrees with Weil in setting the battle of Cadesia in a.h. 14, with Tabarī, but sets it in Nov. 635, instead of near the beginning of the year. Nöldeke (in his article on Persian History in the Encyc. Brit.) gives 636 or 637 for Cadesia. Muir’s arrangement of the chronology is as follows: —

ad 634. April, the opposing armies posted near the Yermūk. May and June, skirmishing on the Yermūk. August (23), battle of the Yermūk.
ad 635. Summer, Damascus capitulated; battle of Fihl. November, battle of Cadesia.
ad 636 Spring, Emesa taken. Other Syrian towns, including Antioch, taken. Heraclius returns to Constantinople. Spring, battle of Ajnādain. End of the year, Jerusalem capitulates. Summer, siege of Madāīn begins.
ad 637. March, capture of Madāīn.
ad 638. Capture of Caesarea. Foundation of Basra and Kūfa.

II. Conquest of Egypt. Our Greek authorities give us no help as to the date of the conquest of Egypt, and the capture of Alexandria; and the Edition: current; Page: [380] Arabic sources conflict. The matter, however, has been cleared up by Mr. E. W. Brooks (Byz. Zeitschrift, iv. p. 435 sqq.), who has brought on the scene an earlier authority than Theophanes, Nicephorus, and all the Arabic histories, — John of Nikiu, a contemporary of the event. (For his work see above, vol. viii. Appendix 1.) This chronicler implies (Mr. Brooks has shown) that Alexandria capitulated on October 17, ad 641 (towards the end of a.h. 20). This date agrees with the notice of Abū-l-Fidā, who places the whole conquest within a.h. 20, and is presumably following Tabarī (here abridged by the Persian translator); and it is borne out by a notice of the 9th century historian Ibn Abd al Hakam (cp. Weil, i. p. 115, note). Along with the correct tradition that Alexandria fell after the death of Heraclius, there was concurrent an inconsistent tradition that it fell on the 1st of the first month of a.h. 20 (Dec. 21, ad 640); a confusion of the elder Heraclius with the younger (Heraclonas) caused more errors (Books, loc. cit. p. 437); and there was yet another source of error in the confusion of the first capture of the city with its recapture, after Manuel had recovered it, in ad 645 (loc. cit. p. 443).4 Mr. Brooks’ chronology is as follows: —

ad 639. Dec., Amru enters Egypt.
ad 640. c. July, battle of Heliopolis.
c. Sept. Alexandria and Babylon besieged.
ad 641. April 9, Babylon captured.
Oct. 17, Alexandria capitulates.

As to the digressive notice of Theophanes sub anno 6126, which places an invasion of Egypt by the Saracens in ad 638, it would be rash, without some further evidence, to infer that there was any unsuccessful attempt made on Egypt either in that year, or before ad 639.

6.: AUTHORITIES — (Ch. LII. sqq.)

Greek Sources

Photius was born at Constantinople about ad 820. He was related by blood to the Patriarch Tarasius, and by marriage to the Empress Theodora (wife of Theophilus). He had enjoyed an excellent training in grammar and philology, and devoted his early years to teaching, a congenial employment which he did not abandon after he had been promoted to the Patriarchate (ad 858). “His house was still a salon of culture, the resort of the curious who desired instruction. Books were read aloud and the master of the house criticised their style and their matter.”1 He was an indefatigable collector of books, and his learning probably surpassed that of any of the mediaeval Greeks (not excepting Psellus). For his historical importance and public career see vol. x. p. 331-2.

Of his profane works the most famous — which Gibbon singles out — was his Myriobiblon or Bibliotheca, written (before ad 858) for his brother Tarasius, who had been absent in the East and desired information about the books which had been read and discussed in the circle of Photius while he was away. It contains most valuable extracts from historians whose works Edition: current; Page: [381] are no longer extant, and the criticisms of Photius are marked by acuteness and independence. The Lexicon, compiled doubtless by a secretary or pupil, is a later work.2 There are about 260 extant letters (in Migne, P.G. vol. 102; and edition by Valettas, 1864).

A recent critic has said that the importance of Photius as a theologian has been often exaggerated.3 Of his theological writings only those pertaining to the controversy of the day need be mentioned here. In the treatise On the Mystagogia of the Holy Ghost he has put together all the evidence from scripture and the Fathers in favour of the Greek doctrine, but assigns more weight to theological argument than to authority. This is characteristic of the man. It is also to be observed (as Ehrhard remarks) that he does not attack the Roman church directly; but he appeals to previous Popes as supporters of the true view, in opposition to Jerome, Augustine, &c.

Two of the homilies of Photius have historical importance as sources for the Russian invasion of ad 860. They were edited by P. Uspenski in 1864, and with improved text by A. Nauck in Lexicon Vindobonense, p. 201-232 (1867); reprinted in Müller’s Frag. Hist. Gr. 5, p. 162 sqq.

The works of Photius (except the Lexicon) are collected in Migne’s Patr. Gr. vols. 101-104. The chief work on Photius is that of J. Hergenröther, in 3 volumes: Photius, Patriarch von Konstantinopel, sein Leben, seine Schriften, und das griechische Schisma (1867-9), a learned, thorough, and impartial work.

The Tactica of the Emperor Leo VI. contains a great deal that is merely a re-edition of the Strategicon ascribed to the Emperor Maurice. The general organisation, the drill, the rules for marching and camping, the arms, are still the same as in the 6th century. But there is a great deal that is new. A good account and criticism of the work will be found in Mr. Oman’s History of the Art of War, vol. 2, p. 184 sqq. “The reader is distinctly prepossessed in favour of Leo by the frank and handsome acknowledgment which he makes of the merits and services of his general, Nicephorus Phocas, whose successful tactics and new military devices are cited again and again with admiration. The best parts of his book are the chapters on organisation, recruiting, the services of transport and supply, and the methods required for dealing with the various Barbarian neighbours of the empire. . . . The weakest point, on the other hand, — as is perhaps natural, — is that which deals with strategy. . . . Characteristic, too, of the author’s want of aggressive energy, and of the defensive system which he made his policy, is the lack of directions for campaigns of invasion in an enemy’s country. Leo contemplates raids on hostile soil, but not permanent conquests. . . . Another weak point is his neglect to support precept by example; his directions would be much the clearer if he would supplement them by definite historical cases in which they had led to success” (ib. p. 184-5).

Zachariä von Lingenthal propounded4 the theory that the Leo to whom the title of the Tactics ascribes the authorship was not Leo VI. but Leo III., and that consequently the work belongs to the first half of the eighth century. But internal evidence is inconsistent with this theory.5 Besides the references to Nicephorus Phocas mentioned above, the author speaks of “our father the Emperor Basil,” and describes his dealings with the Slavs, 18, Edition: current; Page: [382] § 101; the Bulgarians who were still heathen in the reign of Leo the Iconoclast appear as Christians in this treatise, 18, § 42, 44, and 61; the capture of Theodosiopolis from the Saracens (under Leo VI., cp. Const. Porph., de Adm. Imp. c. 45, p. 199-200, ed. Bonn) is mentioned.

The most interesting chapters of the work are c. 18, which contains an account of the military customs of the nations with which the empire was brought into hostile contact (Saracens, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Slavs, Franks), and c. 19, on naval warfare (see below, Appendix 10). [The edition of Meursius used by Gibbon is reprinted in Migne’s Patr. Gr. 107, p. 671 sqq.]

Only a part of the two Books De Cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae which pass under the name of Constantine Porphyrogennetos is really due to that Emperor.

The first 83 chapters of Bk. I. represent the treatise on the Court Ceremonies which he complied by putting together existing documents which prescribed the order of the various ceremonies. The work is arranged as follows: Chaps. 1-37, religious ceremonies (thus chap. 1 gives the order of processions to the Great Church — St. Sophia; chap. 2, the ceremonies on Christmas Day; chap. 3, those on the Epiphany, &c., in the order of the calendar); chaps. 38-44, the ceremonies on great secular occasions, such as the coronation of the Emperor and the Empress; chaps. 45-59, ceremonies on the promotions of ministers and palace functionaries; chaps. 60-64, an Emperor’s funeral, and other solemnities; chaps. 65-83, palace banquets, public games, and other ceremonies.6

The remaining chapters of Bk. I. are an excrescence and were added at a later date. Chaps. 84-95 are an extract from the work of Peter the Patrician who wrote under Justinian I. (cp. headings to chaps. 84 and 95). Chap. 96 contains an account of the inauguration of Nicephorus Phocas, and chap. 97 perhaps dates from the reign of Tzimisces.

There are two Appendices to Bk. I. concerning the proceedings to be adopted when an Emperor goes forth on a military expedition. Both date from the reign of Constantine VII.; and the second (p. 455 sqq. ed. Bonn) is from the pen of Constantine himself.

The second Book is a much later compilation (perhaps put together in the early part of the eleventh century) in which some documents drawn up in the time of Constantine VII. have been incorporated. It professes (in the Preface, p. 516) to contain matters which had never been committed to writing. It contains the descriptions of many ceremonies; but written documents have been interpolated, contrary to the intention of the writer of the Preface. Thus chaps. 44 and 45 contain the returns of the expenses, &c., of naval armaments; chap. 50 contains a list of themes which belongs to the reign of Leo VI.; chap. 52, a separate treatise on the order of precedence at Imperial banquets composed by Philotheus protospatharius in ad 900; chap. 54 is a list of patriarchs and metropolitans drawn up by Epiphanius of Cyprus.

The Ceremonies are included in the Bonn ed. of the Byzantine writers (1829), with Reiske’s notes in a separate volume. On the composition of the work see A. Rambaud, L’empire grec au xme siècle, p. 128 sqq., also Krumbacher, Byz. Litt. p. 254-5; for the elucidation of the ceremonies, &c., D. Bieliaiev, Byzantina, vol. 2 (1893).

Edition: current; Page: [383]

The work on the Themes (in 2 Books, see above, p. 320 sqq.) was composed while Romanus I. was still alive, and after, probably not very long after, ad 934 (see Rambaud, L’empire grec au dixième siècle, p. 165). For an Armenian general Melias is mentioned, who was alive in 934, as recently dead; and the theme of Seleucia is noticed, which seems to have been formed after 934. For the contents of the book cp. below, Appendix 8.

The treatise on the Administration of the Empire is dealt with in a separate note below, Appendix 9.

George Codinus (probably 15th century) is merely a name, associated with three works: a short, worthless chronicle (ed. Bonn, 1843); an account of the offices of the Imperial Court and of St. Sophia, generally quoted as De Officiis (ed. Bonn, 1839); the Patria of Constantinople (ed. Bonn, 1843). But it is only with the third of these works that Codinus, whoever he was, can have any connection. The Chronicle is anonymous in the MSS., and there is no reason for ascribing it to Codinus. The De Officiis is likewise anonymous, and the attribution of it to Codinus was due to the blunder of an editor; it is a composition of the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th century. As for the Πάτρια Κωνσταντινοπόλεως, Codinus may have been connected with it in the capacity of a copyist. Later MSS. give the work under his name. But he was no more than a copyist. The other MSS. do not know him, and the original anonymous work belongs to the end of the tenth century7 — to the reign of Basil II.

The compilation, entitled the Πάτρια, consists of five distinct works: (1) on the founding of Constantinople and the origin of its various parts; (2) the topography of the city; (3) its works of art; (4) its buildings (churches, palaces, hospitals, &c.); (5) the building of St. Sophia. In the reign of Alexius Comnenus the compilation was arranged in sections on a topographical plan; and the famous “Anonymus,” edited by Banduri (in the Imperium Orientale, vol. i), is simply a copy of this Comnenian edition. The chief sources of the Patria are: (a) the Patria of Hesychius of Miletus; (b) Παραστάσεις σύντομοι χρονικαί, an anonymous work composed between the reigns of Leo III. and Theophilus; it has been edited recently (Munich, 1898) by Th. Preger, who is preparing an edition of the Patria, (c) an anonymous narrative concerning St. Sophia (source of the last part of the treatise); (d) a lost chronicle.

Eustathius, educated at Constantinople, became Archbishop of Thessalonica in 1175; he died c. 1193. Besides his famous commentaries on Homer, his commentary on Pindar, and his paraphrase of the geographical poem of Dionysius, he composed an account of the Norman siege of Thessalonica in ad 1185. This original work was published by L. F. Tafel in ad 1832 (Eustathii Opuscula, i. p. 267-307) and reprinted by Bekker at the end of the Bonn ed. of Leo Grammaticus. There are also extant various speeches (e.g. a funeral oration by the Emperor Manuel) which have been published by Tafel either in his edition of the lesser works of Eustathius or in his treatise De Thessalonica ejusque agro (1839). A collection of letters (some not by Eustathius but by Psellus) is also published by Tafel (Eustathii Op. p. 507 sqq.) and some others by Regel, Font. rer. Byz. i. (1892).

George Acropolites, born in 1217 at Constantinople, migrated to Nicaea at the age of eighteen, and studied there under the learned Nicephorus Edition: current; Page: [384] Blemmydes. He was appointed (1244) to the office of Grand Logothete, and instructed the young prince Theodore Lascaris who afterwards became Emperor. Unsuccessful as a general in the war with the Despot of Epirus (1257), he was made prisoner, and after his release he was employed by Michael Palæologus as a diplomatist. He represented the Greek Emperor at the Council of Lyons, for the purpose of bringing about a reunion of the Greek and Latin Churches. He died in 1282. His history embraces the period from 1203 to the recovery of Constantinople in 1261, and is thus a continuation of Nicetas. For the second half of the period treated it is not only a contemporary work, but the work of one who was in a good position for observing political events. [The Χρονικὴ συγγραϕή in its original form was published by Leo Allatius 1651, and is reprinted in the Venice and Bonn collections. An abridgment was published by Dousa in 1614. There is also, in a MS. at Milan, a copy of the work with interpolations (designated as such) by a contemporary of Acropolites (see Krumbacher, Gesch. der byz. Litt., p. 287; A. Heisenberg, Studien zur Textgeschichte des Georgios Akropolites, 1894).]

George Pachymeres (ad 1242-1310) carries us on from the point where Acropolites deserts us. He is the chief literary figure of the first fifty years of the restored Empire. His work in 13 Books begins at ad 1255 and comes down to 1308. His chief interest was in the theological controversies of the day, and there is far too much theology and disputation about dogma in his history; but this was what absorbed the attention of the men of his time. “Pachymeres, by his culture and literary activity, overtops his contemporaries, and may be designated as the greatest Byzantine Polyhistor of the 13th century. We see in him the lights and shadows of the age of the Palæologi. He is not wanting in learning, originality, and wit. But he does not achieve the independence of view and expression, which distinguishes a Photius or a Psellus.” Other works of Pachymeres are extant, but only his autobiography in hexameter verses need be mentioned here (it was suggested by Gregory Nazianzen’s περὶ ὲαυτον̂). It is worthy of note — as a symptom of the approaching renaissance — that Pachymeres adopted the Attic, instead of the Roman, names of the months. [The edition of Possinus, used by Gibbon, was reprinted in the Bonn collection, 1835.]

Nicephorus Gregoras (1295-c. 1359) of Heraclea in Pontus was educated at Constantinople, and enjoyed the teaching of Theodore Metochites, who was distinguished not only as a trusted councillor of the Emperor Andronicus, but as a man of encyclopaedic learning.8 Nicephorus won the favour of Andronicus, but on that Emperor’s deposition in 1328 his property was confiscated and he had to live in retirement. He came forth from his retreat to do theological battle with the pugnacious Barlaam of Calabria, who was forming a sort of school in Constantinople (see vol. xi. p. 119-120); and his victory in this controversy was rewarded by reinstatement in his property and offices. Subsequently he played a prominent part in the renewed attempts at reuniting the eastern and western churches. He fell into disfavour with Cantacuzenus and was banished to a monastery. His Roman History in 37 Books begins with the Latin capture of Constantinople in 1204, and reaches to 1359. But the greater part of this period, 1204-1320, Edition: current; Page: [385] is treated briefly in the first 7 Books, which may be regarded as an introduction to the main subject of his work, namely his own times (1320-1359). This history, like that of Pachymeres, is disproportionately occupied with theological disputation, and is, as Krumbacher says, “eine memoirenhafte Parteischrift im vollsten Sinne des Wortes.” In style, Gregoras essays to imitate Plato; for such base uses has Platonic prose been exploited. [Only Books 1-24 were accessible to Gibbon, as he complains (ed. Boivin, 1702). The remaining Books 25-37 (numbered 23-36) were first edited by Bekker in the Bonn ed. vol. 3, 1855. Among other works of Gregoras may be mentioned his funeral oration on Theodore Metochites, ed. by Meursius, 1618 (Th. Metochitae hist. Rom., liber singularis).]

For the Emperor Cantacuzenus and his history see vol. xi. cap. lxiii. and cp. vol. xi. p. 104, n. 21. [In the Bonn series, ed. by Schopen in 3 vols., 1828-32.]

Nicephorus Blemmydes was, beside George Acropolites, the most important literary figure at the court of the Emperor of Nicaea. He was born at Constantinople (c. 1198), and soon after the Latin Conquest migrated to Asia, and in Prusa, Nicaea, Smyrna, and Scamander he received a liberal education under the best masters of the day. He became proficient in logic, rhetoric, and mathematics, and studied medicine. He finally embraced a clerical career; he took an active part in the controversies with the Latins in the reign of John Vatatzes, and was a teacher of the young prince Theodore Lascaris. The extant (not yet published) correspondence of Theodore and Blemmydes testifies their friendly intimacy. But Blemmydes was an opinionated man; he was constantly offending and taking offence; and he finally became a monk and retired to a monastery at Ephesus which he built himself. He had the refusal of the Patriarchate in 1255, and he died c. 1272. His autobiography and his letters (monuments of pedantry and conceit) have importance for the history of his time. Besides theological, scientific, and other works, he composed an icon basilike (βασιλικός ανδριάς) for his royal pupil.9 [The autobiography (in two parts) has been edited by A. Heisenberg, 1896. An edition of the Letters is a desideratum.]

In the first quarter of the 14th century, a native of the Morea, certainly half a Frank, and possibly half a Greek, by birth, composed a versified chronicle of the Latin conquest of the Peloponnesus and its history during the 13th century. This work is generally known as the Chronicle of Morea.10 The author is thoroughly Grecised, so far as language is concerned; he writes the vulgar tongue as a native; but feels toward the Greeks the dislike and contempt of a ruling stranger for the conquered population. He may have been a Gasmul (Γασμον̂λος, supposed to be derived from gas (garçon) and mulus), as the offspring of a Frank father by a Greek mother was called. It is a thoroughly prosaic work, thrown into the form of wooden political verses; and what it loses in literary interest through its author’s lack of talent, it gains in historical objectivity. A long prologue relates the events of the first and the fourth crusades; the main part of the work embraces the history of the Principality of Achaea from 1205 to 1292. The book appealed to the Franks, not to the Greeks, of the Peloponnesus; and shows how Greek had become the language of the conquerors. It was freely Edition: current; Page: [386] translated into French soon after its composition; and this version (with a continuation down to 1304), which was made before the year 1341, is preserved (under the title “The Book of the Conquest of Constantinople and the Empire of Roumania and the country of the Principality of Morea”). J. A. Buchon was the first to edit both the Greek and the French; but he sought to show that the French was the original and the Greek the version. The true relation of the two texts has been established by the researches of Dr. John Schmitt (Die Chronik von Morea, 1889), who is now the chief authority on the work.

As an example of the style of this famous work, I quote a few lines from the description of the investiture of Geoffrey (Ντζεϕρές) Villehardouin with Morea.

  • Μὲ δακτυλίδιον χρυσὸν εὐθὑς τὸν ῥεβεστίζει (invests),
  • κ’ αϕον̂ τὸν ἐπαράδωσε κ’ ἐποɩ̂κε του τὸ ὁμάντζιο (homage),
  • τότε τὸν μετελάλησε καὶ λέγει πρὸς ἐκεɩ̂νον ·
  • “Μισὲρ Ντζεϕρὲ, ἀπὸ τον̂ νν̂ν ἄνθρωπος μ’ εɩ̂̓σαι λίζιος (liege),
  • ἀϕον̂ τὸν τόπον σου κρατεɩ̂ς ἀπὸ τὴν αὐθεντειάν μου ·
  • κ’ ἀρμόζει νὰ εɩ̂̓σαι εἰς ἐμὲ ἁληθινὸς εἰς πάντα
  • κ’ ἐγὼ πάλιν ν’ ἀποθαρρω̂ τὰ πάντα μου’ς ἐσένα ·
  • ἑπεὶ όϕείλω νὰ διαβω̂ ἑκεɩ̂σ’ εἰς τὴν Φραγκίαν,
  • παρακαλω̂ καὶ ὁρίζω σε διὰ τὴν ἐμὴν ἀγάπην,
  • τὸν τόπον, τὸν ἐκέρδισα ἐδω̂ εἰς τὸν Μωρέαν,
  • παράλαβε καὶ κράτειε τον, δι’ ἐμένα τὸν ϕυλάττῃς
  • εἰς τέτοιον τρόπον κ’ ἀϕορμὴν δίκαιός μου νἀσαι μπάϊλος (bailiff)
  • τον̂ νὰ κρατῃ̑ς τὴν αὐθεντειὰν ὤσπερ ἐγὼ αὐτός μου κ.τ.λ.”
  • . . . . . . . . . .
  • κ’ ὄσον ταɩ̂ς ἐκατεστησε ταɩ̂ς συμϕωνιαɩ̂ς ἐκείναις
  • ὁ Καμπανέσης ὤρθωσεν, ἐδιάβηκεν ἐκεɩ̂θεν ·
  • οὐδὲν ἠθέλησε ποσω̂ς μετ’ αὐτὸν νὰ ἐπάρῃ
  • μόνον δύο καβαλλαρίους καὶ δώδεκα σεργένταις.
  • μὲ κάτεργον (galley) ἐπέρασεν, ὑπάει11 τη̂ς Βενετἰας,
  • κ’ ἐδιάβη ὁλόρθα ’ς τὴν Φραγκιὰν ἐκεɩ̂σε ’ς τὴν Τζαμπάνια
  • κ’ ἔμεινεν ὁ μισὲρ Ντζεϕρὲς αὐθέντης εἰς τὸν τόπον.

[Of the Greek original there are two widely different redactions, of which one, preserved in a Paris MS., was published by Buchon in his Chroniques étrangères relatives aux expeditions françaises pendant le xiii. siècle, in 1840; the other, preserved in a Copenhagen MS., was published in the second volume of his Recherches historiques sur la principauté française de Morée et ses hautes baronies (1845), while in the first vol. of this latter work he edited the French text. A final edition, with the Paris and Copenhagen texts on opposite pages, by Dr. John Schmitt, is in preparation.]12

Slavonic Sources

The old Russian chronicle, which goes by the name of Nestor and comprises the history of Russia and the neighbouring countries from the middle of the ninth century to the year 1110, has come down in two redactions: (1) the Laurentian MS., written by Laurence of Souzdal in 1377, and (2) the Hypatian, written in the monastery of St. Hypatius at Kostroma in the 15th century. All other MSS. can be traced back to either of these two. Edition: current; Page: [387] In neither of them does the old chronicle stand alone; it is augmented by continuations which are independent.

The work was compiled apparently in the year 1114-1115,13 and it can be divided into two parts.14 (1) Caps. 1-12, without chronological arrangement. It is to this part alone that the title refers: “History of old times by the monk of the monastery of Theodosius Peshtcherski, of the making of Russia, and who reigned first at Kiev (cp. c. 6), and of the origin of the Russian land.” (2) The rest of the works, chaps. 13-89, is arranged in the form of annals. It falls into three parts, indicated by the compiler in cap. 13. (a) Caps. 14-36, from the year 852 to death of Sviatoslav, 972; (b) caps. 37-58, to the death of Jaroslav, 1054; (c) caps. 59-89, to the death of Sviatopolk, 1114.15

Sources of the chronicle:16 (1) George the monk, in an old Bulgarian translation of 10th century (cp. chap. 11; see also chaps. 24, 65). (2) A work ascribed to Methodius of Patara (3rd cent.): “On the things which happened from the creation and the things which will happen in the future” — also doubtless through a Slavonic translation.17 (3) Lives of the apostles of the Slavs, Cyril and Methodius. (4) The Bible. (5) The Palaia (collection of Bible-stories), in Slavonic form. (6) The Symbolum Fidei of Michael Syncellus in Slavonic version (c. 42). (7) Oral information indicated by the chronicler; communications of (a) the monk Jeremiah, who was old enough to remember the conversion of the Russians, c. 68; (b) Gurata Rogovich of Novgorod, c. 80; (c) John, an old man of ninety, from whose mouth the chronicler received many notices. (8) A relation of the murder of Boris and Gleb by their brother Sviatopolk; an account which does not agree with the biography of these saints by the monk Nestor, but does agree with the relation of the monk Jacob.18 (9) A paschal calendar in which there were a few notices entered opposite to some of the years. (10) Written and dated notices preserved at Kiev, beginning with ad 882, the year in which the centre of the Russian realm was transferred from Novgorod to Kiev. Srkulj conjectures that these notices were drawn up in the Norse language by a Norman who had learned to write in England or Gaul, and perhaps in Runic characters. (11) Local chronicles, cp. a chronicle of Novgorod, of the existence of which we are otherwise certified. (12) Possibly a relation of the story of Vasilko, c. 82.

The traditional view that the monk Nestor, who wrote the biography of Boris and Gleb, and a life of Theodosius of Peshtcherski (see vol. x, p. 73), was the author of the chronicle is generally rejected. Nestor lived in the latter part of the 11th century, and, as we do not know the date of his death, so far as chronology is concerned, he might have compiled the chronicle in 1115. But not only does the account of Boris and Gleb (as noticed above) Edition: current; Page: [388] not agree with Nestor’s biography of those sainted princes, but there are striking discrepancies between the chronicler’s and Nestor’s accounts of Theodosius. And, while the chronicler expressly says that he was an eyewitness, Nestor expressly says that he derived his information from others. It is very hard to get over this. There are two other candidates for the authorship: (1) Sylvester, abbot of St. Michael, who states, at the end of the Chronicle in the Laurentian MS., that he “wrote these books of annals” in ad 1116; as long as Nestor was regarded as the author, the word for wrote was interpreted as copied (though a different compound is usually employed in that sense), but Golubinski and Kostomarov have proposed to regard the abbot as the author and not a mere copyist; (2) the monk Basil who is mentioned in the story of Vasilko (c. 82), and speaks there in the first person: “I went to find Vasilko.” But this may be explained by supposing that the compiler of the chronicle has mechanically copied, without making the necessary change of person, a relation of the episode of Vasilko written by this Basil. The authorship of the chronicle is not solved; we can only say that the compiler was a monk of the Peshtcherski monastery of Kiev.

[For a minute study of Nestor the editions of the Laurentian (1846 and 1872) and the Hypatian (1846 and 1871) MSS. published by the Archæographical Commission must be used. For ordinary purposes the text of Miklosich (1860) is still convenient. Excellent French translation by L. Leger, Chronique dite de Nestor, 1884, with an index19 which is half a commentary.]

Latin and other Western Sources

Amatus of Salerno, monk of Monte Cassino and bishop of an unknown see, wrote about ad 1080 a history of the Norman conquest of southern Italy, taking as a model the Historia Langobardorum of Paul the Deacon. We do not possess the work in its original shape, but only in a faulty French translation, made perhaps c. 1300 ad, which has survived in a single MS. It was edited for the first time, and not well, by Champollion-Figeac in 1835 (L’Ystoire de li Normant et la Chronique de Robert Viscart, par Aimé, moine de Mont-Cassin), but has been recently edited by O. Delarc, 1892. The work is divided into 8 Books, and embraces the history of the Normans from their first appearance in Italy to ad 1078. “It is,” says Giesebrecht, “no dry monosyllabic annalistic account, but a full narrative of the conquest with most attractive details, told with charming naiveté. Yet Amatus does not overlook the significance of the events which he relates, in their ecumenical context. His view grasps the contemporary Norman conquest of England, the valiant feats of the French knights against the Saracens of Spain, and the influence of Norman mercenaries in the Byzantine empire. In beginning his work (which he dedicates to the Abbot Desiderius, Robert Guiscard’s intimate friend) he is conscious that a red thread runs through all these undertakings of the knight-errants and that God has some special purpose in His dealings with this victorious race.” [For criticism of the work, the most important study is that of F. Hirsch in Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte, 8, p. 205 sqq. (1868).]

Amatus was unknown to Gibbon, but he was a source of the most important works which Gibbon used. He was one of the sources of the poem of William of Apulia (begun c. ad 1099, finished by ad 1111), who also utilised the Annals of Bari. Now that we have Amatus (as well as the Annals of Edition: current; Page: [389] Bari) the value of William lies in the circumstance that he used also a lost biography of Robert Guiscard. [New ed. by Wilmans, in Pertz, Mon. ix. p. 239 sqq.]

Amatus was also a source of Geoffrey Malaterra, who wrote the history of the Normans in Sicily (up to 1099) at the instance of Count Roger (see above, Gibbon’s notes in chap. lvi.). [For the relation of this to the Anonymi Vaticani Historia Sicula, see A. Heskel, Die Hist. Sic. des Anon. Vat. und des Gaufredus Malaterra, 1891.]

Leo, monk and librarian of Monte Cassino, afterwards Cardinal-bishop of Ostia (died 1115), wrote a chronicle of his monastery, which he carried down to ad 1075. It is a laudable work, for which ample material (discreetly used by Leo) lay in the library of the monastery. [Ed. by Wattenbach in Pertz, Mon. vii. p. 574 sqq. Cp. Balzani, Le cronache Italiane nel medio evo, p. 150 sqq. (1884).] The work was continued (c. 1140) by the Deacon Peter, who belonged to the family of the Counts of Tusculum, as far as the year 1137. [Ed. Wattenbach, ib. p. 727 sqq.]

Other sources (Annales Barenses, Chron. breve Nortmannicum, &c.) are mentioned in the notes of chap lvi. It should be observed that there is no good authority for the name “Lupus protospatharius,” under which name one of the Bari chronicles is always cited. Contemporary Beneventane annals are preserved in (1) Annales Beneventani, in Pertz, Mon. iii. p. 173 sqq. and (2) the incomplete Chronicon of the Beneventane Falco (in Del Re’s Cronisti, vol i. p. 161 sqq.); both of which up to 1112 have a common origin. Cp. Giesebrecht, Gesch. der deutschen Kaiserzeit, iii. 1069.

The credibility of the history of Hugo Falcandus has been exhibited in some detail by F Hillger (Das Verhältniss des Hugo Falcandus zu Romuald von Salerno, 1878), and Gibbon’s high estimate seems to be justified. Gibbon is also right in rejecting the guess of Clément the Benedictine that the historian is to be identified with Hugo Foucault, Abbot of St. Denis (from 1186-1197). In the first place Foucault would never be Latinised as Falcandus. In the second place, the only plausible evidence for the identification does not bear examination. It is a letter of Peter of Blois to an abbot H. of St. Denys (Opera. ed. Giles, ep. 116, i. p. 178), in which Peter asks his correspondent to send him a tractatus quem de statu aut potius de casu vestro in Sicilia descripsistis. But this description does not apply to the Historia Sicula of Falcandus, and it has been shown by Schroter that the correspondent of Peter is probably not Hugo Foucault, but his successor in the abbacy, Hugo of Mediolanum. Schroter has fully refuted this particular identification, and has also refuted the view (held by Amari, Freeman, and others) that Falcandus was a Norman or Frank. On the contrary Falcandus was probably born in Sicily, which he knew well, especially Palermo, and when he wrote his history, he was living not north of the Alps (for he speaks of the Franks, &c., as transalpini, transmontani) but in southern Italy. He wrote his Historia Sicula, which reaches from 1154 to 1169, later than 1169, probably (in part at least) after 1181, for he speaks (p. 272, ed. Muratori) of Alexander III. as qui tunc Romanae praesidebat ecclesiae, and Alexander died in 1181 (F. Schroter, Über die Heimath des Hugo Falcandus, 1880). The letter to Peter of Palermo which is prefixed to the History as a sort of dedication seems to have been a perfectly independent composition, written immediately after the death of William the Good in November, 1189, and before the election of Tancred two months later. [Opera cit. of Schroter and Hillger; Freeman, Historical Essays, 3rd ser.; and cp. Holzach, Edition: current; Page: [390] op. cit. vol. x. p. 141, note 145; Del Re, preface to his edition (cp. vol. x. p. 141, note 145).]

Compared with Falcandus, Romuald, Archbishop of Salerno, is by no means so ingenuous. Although he does not directly falsify facts, his deliberate omissions have the effect of falsifying history; and these omissions were due to the desire of placing the Sicilian court in a favourable light. He is in fact a court historian, and his Annals clearly betray it. The tendency is shown in his cautious reserve touching the deeds and policy of the cruel and ambitious Chancellor Majo. Romuald was related to the royal family and was often entrusted with confidential and important missions. He was a strong supporter of the papacy, but it has been remarked that he entertained “national” ideas — Italy for the Italians, not for the trans-Alpines. He was a learned man and skilled in medicine. [Cp. vol. x. p. 126, n. 111; p. 128, n. 116.]

The name of the author of the Gesta Francorum was unknown even to those contemporary writers who made use of the work. Whatever his name was, he seems to have been a native of southern Italy; he accompanied the Norman crusaders who were led by Boemund, across the Illyric peninsula, and shared their fortunes till the end of 1098, when he separated from them at Antioch and attached himself to the Provençals, with whom he went on to Jerusalem. He was not an ecclesiastic like most authors of the age, but a knight. He wrote his history from time to time, during the crusade, according as he had leisure. It falls into eight divisions, each concluded by Amen; and these divisions seem to mark the various stages of the composition; they do not correspond to any artistic or logical distribution of the work. Having finished his book at Jerusalem, the author deposited it there — perhaps in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — where it could be, and was, consulted or copied by pilgrims of an inquiring turn of mind. The author was a pious and enthusiastic crusader, genuinely interested in the religious object of the enterprise; he entirely sinks his own individuality, and identifies himself with the whole company of his fellows. Up to the autumn of 1098 he is devoted to his own leader Boemund; but after c. 29 it has been noticed that the laudatory epithets which have hitherto attended Boemund’s name disappear, and, although no criticism is passed, the author thus, almost unintentionally, shows his dissatisfaction with the selfish quarrels between Boemund and Raymond, and has clearly ceased to regard Boemund as a disinterested leader. No written sources were used by the author of the Gesta except the Bible and Sibylline Oracles. [See the edition by H. Hagenmeyer, 1889, with full introduction and exegetical notes.]

Tudebod of Sivrai, who himself took part in the First Crusade, incorporated (before ad 1111) almost the whole of the Gesta in his Historia de Hierosolymitano itinere; and it used to be thought that the Gesta was merely an abridged copy of his work. The true relation of the two works was shown by H. von Sybel.

The Historia belli Sacri, an anonymous work, was compiled after ad 1131, from the Gesta and Tudebod The works of Raymond of Agiles and Radulf of Caen were also used. [Ed. in the Recueil, iii. p. 169 sqq.] The Expeditio contra Turcos, c. 1094, is also for the most part an excerpt from the Gesta.

Raymond of Agiles, in his Historia Francorum qui ceperunt Jerusalem, gives the history of the First Crusade from the Provençal side. It has been shown by Hagenmeyer (Gesta Francorum, p. 50 sqq.) that he made use of the Edition: current; Page: [391] Gesta; and Sybel, who held that the two works were entirely independent, remarks on the harmony of the narratives. Raymond is impulsive and gushing, he is superstitious in the most vulgar sense; but his good faith is undoubted, and he reproduces truly his impressions of events. In details he seems to be very accurate. (See the criticism of Sybel, Gesch. des ersten Kreuzzuges, ed. 2, p. 15 sqq., C. Klein, Raimund von Aguilers, 1892.)

Fulcher of Chartres accompanied the host of Robert of Normandy and Stephen of Blois through Apulia and Bulgaria to Nicaea. At Marash he went off with Baldwin against Edessa, and for events in Edessa he is the only eye-witness among the western historians; but from the moment when he begins to be of unique value for Edessa, he becomes of minor importance for the general course of the Crusade. After Godfrey’s death he accompanied Baldwin, the new king, to Jerusalem, and remained at his court. His work, which seems to have been written down as a sort of diary, from day to day or month to month, is of the highest importance for the kingdom of Jerusalem from the accession of Baldwin down to 1127, where it ends. Fulcher consulted the Gesta for the events of the First Crusade, of which he was not an eye-witness. (Cp. Sybel, op. cit. p. 46 sqq.; Hagenmeyer, op. cit. p. 58 sqq.)

Guibert (born ad 1153), of good family, became abbot of Nogent in 1104. In his Historia quae dicitur Gesta per Francos, he has thrown the Gesta Francorum into a literary form and added a good deal from other sources. The history of the First Crusade ceases with Bk. 6, and in Bk. 7 he has cast together a variety of notices connected with the kingdom of Jerusalem up to 1104. He had been present at the Council of Clermont, he was personally acquainted with Count Robert of Flanders, from whom he derived some pieces of information, and he had various connections throughout France which were useful to him in the composition of his book. He is conscious of his own importance, and proud of his literary style; he writes with the air of a well-read dignitary of the Church. (Cp. Sybel, op. cit. p. 33-4.)

Baldric, who became Archbishop of Dol in 1107, was of a very different character and temper from Guibert, and has been taken under the special protection of Sybel, who is pleased “to meet such a pure, peaceful, and cheerful nature in times so stern and warlike.” Baldric was opposed to the fashionable asceticism, he lived in literary retirement, enjoying his books and garden, taking as little a part as he could in the ecclesiastical strife which raged around, and exercising as mildly as possible his archiepiscopal powers. He died in 1130. His Historia Jerusalem, composed in 1108, is entirely founded on the Gesta, — the work, as he says, of nescio quis compilator (in the Prologue). See Sybel, op. cit. p. 35 sqq.

Of little value is the compilation of Robert the Monk of Reims, who (sometime in the first two decades of the 12th century) undertook the task of translating the Gesta into a better Latin style and adding a notice on the Council of Clermont. It has been shown by Sybel that there is no foundation for the opinion that Robert took part in the Crusade or visited the Holy Land; had he done so, he would certainly have stated the circumstance in his Prologue. (Sybel, op. cit. p. 44-6.)

Of Fulco, who wrote an account in hexameters of the events of the First Crusade up to the siege of Nicaea, we know nothing more than that he was a contemporary and was acquainted with Gilo who continued the work. His account has no historical value; he used the Gesta, but did not rifle that Edition: current; Page: [392] source in such a wholesale manner as Gilo of Toucy, his collaborator, who took up the subject at the siege of Nicaea. Gilo, who calls himself —

  • o nomine Parisiensis
  • incola Tuciaci non inficiandus alumnus,

was appointed in 1121 bishop of Tusculum, and composed his Libellus de via Hierosolymitana between 1118 and 1121. For the first four Books he used Robert the Monk and Albert of Aachen as well as the Gesta; for Bks. 5 and 6 he simply paraphrased the Gesta. (Cp. Hagenmeyer, op. cit. p. 74-6.) [Complete ed. in Migne, P.L. vol. 155.]

Radulf of Caen took no part in the Crusade, but he went to Palestine soon afterwards and stood in intimate relations with Tancred. After Tancred’s death he determined to write an account of that leader’s exploits, Gesta Tancredi in expeditione Hierosolymitana, which he dedicated to Arnulf, Patriarch of Jerusalem. For all that concerns Tancred personally his statements are of great value, but otherwise he has the position merely of a second-hand writer in regard to the general history of the First Crusade. The importance of his information about the capture of Antioch has been pointed out by Sybel. Hagenmeyer has made it probable that he used the Gesta. [Ed. in Muratori, Scr. rer. It., vol. 5, p. 285 sqq.; Recueil, iii. p. 603 sqq.]

The chronicle of Albert of Aachen contains one of the most remarkable of the narratives of the First Crusade. From this book, says Sybel, we hear the voice not of a single person, but of regiments speaking with a thousand tongues; we get a picture of western Europe as it was shaken and affected by that ecumenical event. The story is told vividly, uninterrupted by any reflections on the part of the author; who is profoundly impressed by the marvellous character of the tale which he has to tell; has no scruple in reporting inconsistent statements; and does not trouble himself much about chronology and topography. But the canon of Aachen, who compiled the work as we have it, in the third decade of the 12th century, is not responsible for the swing of the story. He was little more than the copyist of the history of an unknown writer, who belonged to the Lotharingian crusaders and settled in the kingdom of Jerusalem after the First Crusade. Thus we have, in Albert of Aachen, the history of the Crusade from the Lotharingian side. The unknown author probably composed his history some time after the events; Hagenmeyer has shown that he has made use of the Gesta. [The most important contribution to the criticism of Albert is the monograph of Kugler, Albert von Aachen, 1885, which is to be supplemented by Kühn’s article in the Neues Archiv, 12, p. 545 sqq., 1887.]

The Hierosolymita (or Libellus de expugnatione Hierosolymitana) of Ekkehard, of the Benedictine abbey of Aura near Kissingen, was published in the Amplissima Collectio of Martene and Durand (vol. 5, p. 511 sqq.), where it might have been consulted by Gibbon, but he does not seem to have known of it. Ekkehard went overland to Constantinople with a company of German pilgrims in 1101, sailed from the Imperial city to Joppa, remained six weeks in Palestine, and started on his return journey before the year was out. He became abbot of his monastery and died in 1125. His Chronicon Universale is a famous work and is the chief authority for German history from ad 1080 to the year of the author’s death. The Hierosolymita has the value of a contemporary work by one who had himself seen the Holy Land and the Greek Empire. [Edited in Pertz, Mon. vi. p. 265 sqq.; and Edition: current; Page: [393] by Riant in the Recueil, vol. 5, p. 1 sqq.; but most convenient is the separate edition of Hagenmeyer, 1877.]

Another contemporary writer on the First Crusade, who had himself visited Palestine, is Cafaro di Caschifelone, of Genoa. He went out with the Genoese squadron which sailed to the help of the Crusaders in 1100. He was at jerusalem at Easter 1101 and took part in the sieges of Arsuf and Caesarea in the same year. He became afterwards a great person in his native city, was five times consul, composed Annales Genuenses, and died in 1166. His work De Liberatione civitatum Orientis was not accessible to Gibbon; for it was first published in 1859 by L. Ansaldo (Cronaca della prima Crociata, in vol. i. of the Acts of the Società Ligure di storia patria). It was then edited by Pertz, Mon. xviii p. 40 sqq.; and in vol. v. of the Recueil des historiens des croisades. Contents: chaps. 1-10 give the events of the First Crusade before the author’s arrival on the scene; c 11 relates the arrival of the Genoese fleet at Laodicea, and the defeat of the Lombard Expedition in Asia Minor in 1101; chaps. 12-18 (in the edition of the Recueil) are an extract from the Annales Genuenses, inserted in this place by the editor Riant, and describing the events of the year, 1100-1101; chaps. 19-27 enumerate the towns of Syria and their distances from one another; describe the capture of Margat in 1140 by the Crusaders; a naval battle between the Genoese and Greeks; and the capture of Tortosa, Tripolis, and other places. The work seems never to have been completed.

For the authorship of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta regis Ricardi, see vol. x. p. 310, note 89. It remains to be added that in its Latin form the work is not an original composition, but is a very free elaboration of a French poem written by a Norman named Ambrose, in rhyming verses of seven syllables. In the prologue to the Latin work (p. 4, ed. Stubbs) the writer says nos in castris fuisse cum scripsimus; but we should expect him to mention the fact that he had first written his account in Franco-Gallic. Nicholas Trivet (at the beginning of the 14th cent ) distinctly ascribes the Itinerarium to Richard of London, Canon of the Holy Trinity (qui itinerarium regis prosa et metro scripsit);20 but the contemporary Chronicon Terrae Sanctae (see below) states that the Prior of the Holy Trinity of London caused it to be translated from French into Latin (ex Gallica lingua in Latinum transferri fecit).21 The natural inference is that Richard the Canon transformed the rhymed French of Ambrose into a Latin prose dress; but it is not evident why the name of Ambrose is suppressed. Nor is it quite clear whether Trivet, when he says prosa et metro, meant the French verse and the Latin prose, or whether metro refers to the Latin rhymes which are occasionally introduced (chiefly in Bk I.) in the Itinerarium. [Extracts from the Carmen Ambrosii are edited by F. Liebermann (1885) in Pertz, Mon. 27, 532 sqq. See Wattenbach, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen, ed. 6, ii. p. 316 ]

For the crusade of Richard I Ralph of Coggeshall’s Chronicon Anglicanum (ad 1066-1223) is an important authority, and it was the source of the account in Matthew Paris. Ralph, who was abbot of the Cistercian Monastery of Coggeshall, in Essex, died about 1228, was not in the Holy Land himself, but he obtained his information from eye-witnesses (e.g., from Hugh de Neville, who described for him the episode of Joppa in Aug., 1192, and from Anselm, the king’s chaplain). [Edited in the Rolls series by J. Stevenson, 1875.]

Another contemporary account of the Third Crusade is contained in the Edition: current; Page: [394] Chronicon Terrae Sanctae, ascribed without any reason to Ralph of Coggeshall, and printed along with his Chronicle in Martene and Durand, Ampl. Coll. vol. 5, and in the Rolls series (p. 209 sqq.). An independent narrative, derived apparently from a crusader’s journal,22 is incorporated in the Gesta Henrici II. et Ricardi I., which goes under the name of Benedict of Peterborough (who, though he did not compose the work, caused it to be compiled). [Edited by Stubbs in the Rolls series, 1867.] Material for Richard’s Crusade will also be found in other contemporary English historians, such as Ralph de Diceto, William of Newburgh, &c.

William of Tyre is the greatest of the historians of the Crusades and one of the greatest historians of the Middle Ages. He was born in Palestine in 1127 and became archbishop of Tyre in 1174. A learned man, who had studied ancient Latin authors (whom he often cites), he had the advantage of being acquainted with Arabic, and he used Arabic books to compose a history of the Saracens from the time of Mohammad (see his Prologue to the History of the Crusades). He was always in close contact with the public affairs of the kingdom of Jerusalem, political as well as ecclesiastical. He was the tutor of Baldwin IV., and was made Chancellor of the kingdom by that king. His great work (Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum) falls into two parts: (1) Books 1-15, to ad 1144: so far his narrative depends on “the relation of others” (Bk. 16, c. 1), and he has used (though he does not say so) the works of earlier writers (such as Fulcher of Chartres, and Albert of Aachen), as well as the memories of older men with whom he was acquainted; but his judgment is throughout entirely independent. (2) Books 16-23, to ad 1184: here he writes as a contemporary eye-witness, but he is careful and conscientious in informing himself, from every possible source, concerning the events which he relates; and he is remarkably cautious in his statements of facts. The miraculous seldom plays a part in his story; he is unfeignedly pious, but he seeks an earthly explanation of every earthly event.23 His history, along with the Book of the Assises, is the chief material for forming a picture of the Latin colonies in Palestine. Chronology, Sybel remarks, is the weak side of his work; and we may add that it is often spoiled by too much rhetoric. It was translated into French in the second quarter of the 13th century. [Included in the Recueil, Hist. Occ. vol. i. (1844).]

The work of William of Tyre was continued in French by Ernoul (squire of Balian, lord of Ibelin; he had taken part in the battle of Hittin and the siege of Jerusalem) down to 1229; and by Bernard (the Treasurer of St. Peter at Corbie) down to 1231. These continuations were continued by anonymous writers down to 1277; and the French translation of William along with the continuations was current as a single work under the title of the Chronique d’Outremer, or L’Estoire de Éracles24 [The Continuations were first critically examined and analysed by M. de Mas-Latrie,25 who edited the works of Ernoul and Bernard (1871). Edition of Guillaume de Tyr et ses Continuateurs, by P. Paris, 2 vols., 1879-80.]

It may be added here that the charters and letters pertaining to the Kingdom of Jerusalem have been edited under the title Regesta Regni Hierosolymitani, Edition: current; Page: [395] by Röhricht, 1893. The numismatic material has been collected and studied by M. G. Schlumberger: Numismatique de l’Orient Latin, 1878.

Marshal Villehardouin’s Conquest of Constantinople is, along with Nicetas, the main guide of Gibbon in his account of the Fourth Crusade. Gibbon thought, and it has been generally thought till late years, that this famous book, composed by one of the wisest and most moderate of the Crusaders, was a perfectly naīve and candid narrative, partial indeed to the conduct of the conquerors, but still — when allowance has been made for the point of view — a faithful relation of facts without an arrière pensée. But, though there are some, like his editor M. de Wailly, who still maintain the unblemished candour of Villehardouin as an author, recent criticism in the light of new evidence leaves hardly room for reasonable doubt that Villehardouin’s work was deliberately intended to deceive the European public as to the actual facts of the Fourth Crusade. There can be no question that Villehardouin was behind the scenes; he represents the expedition against Constantinople as an accidental diversion, which was never intended when the Crusade was organised; and therefore his candour can be rescued only by proving that the episode of Constantinople was really nothing more than a diversion. But the facts do not admit of such an interpretation. During the year which elapsed between the consent of the Venetian Republic to transport the Crusaders and the time when the Crusaders assembled at Venice (ad 1201-2), the two most important forces concerned in the enterprise — Venice and Boniface of Montferrat — had determined to divert the Crusade from its proper and original purpose. Venice had determined that, wherever the knights sailed, they should not sail to the place whither she had undertaken to transport them, namely to the shores of Egypt. For in the course of that eventful year she made a treaty with the Sultan of Egypt, pledging herself that Egypt should not be invaded. And on his part, Boniface of Montferrat had arranged with the Emperor Philip and Alexius that the swords of the Crusaders should be employed at Constantiople. (For all this see vol. x. p. 350-1, n. 51 and 53, and p. 354, n. 63.) On these facts, which were of the first importance, Villehardouin says not a word; and one cannot hesitate to conclude that his silence is deliberate. In fact, his book is, as has been said, an “official” version of the disgraceful episode. The Fourth Crusade shocked public opinion in Europe; men asked how such a thing had befallen, how the men who had gone forth to do battle against the infidels had been drawn aside from their pious purpose to attack Christian states. The story of Villehardouin, a studied suppression of the truth, was the answer. [Mm. Mas-Latrie and Riant take practically this point of view, which has been presented well and moderately by Mr. Pears in his Fall of Constantinople (an excellent work). M. J. Tessier, La diversion sur Zara et Constantinople (1884), defends Villehardouin. Cp. also L. Streit’s Venedig und die Wendung des vierten Kreuzzuges gegen Constantinopel. — Editions: by N. de Wailly, 3rd ed., 1882; E. Bouchet, 2 vols., 1891.]

Besides Gunther’s work, which Gibbon used (see vol. x. p 352, note 54), some new sources on the Fourth Crusade have been made accessible. The most important of these is the work of Robert de Clary, Li estoires de chiaus qui conquisent Constantinoble; which, being “non-official,” supplies us with the check on Villehardouin. [Printed by Riant in 1868 and again in 1871, but in so few copies that neither issue could be properly called an edition. Edited (1873) by Hopf in his Chroniques Gréco-romaines, p. 1 sqq.]

Another contemporary account is preserved, the Devastatio Constantinopolitana, by an anonymous Frank, and is an official diary of the Edition: current; Page: [396] Crusade. [Pertz, Mon. xvi. p. 9 sqq.; Hopf, Chron. Gréco-romaines, p. 86 sqq.]

The work of Moncada, which Ducange and Gibbon used for the history of the Catalan expedition, is merely a loose compilation of the original Chronicle of Ramon Muntaner, who was not only a contemporary but one of the most prominent members of the Catalan Grand Company. A Catalonian of good family, born at Peralada, in 1255, he went to reside at Valencia in 1276, witnessed the French invasion of Philip the Bold in 1285, and in 1300 set sail for Sicily and attached himself to the fortunes of Roger de Flor, whom he accompanied to the east. He returned to the west in 1308; died and was buried at Valencia about 1336. The account of the doings of the Catalans in the east is of course written from their point of view; and the adventurer passes lightly over their pillage and oppression. It is one of the most interesting books of the period. [Most recent edition of the original Catalan, by J. Corolen, 1886; conveniently consulted in Buchon’s French version, in Chroniques étrangères (1860). Monographs: A. Rubió y Lluch, La expedicion y dominacion de los Catalanes en oriente juzgedas por los Griegos, 1883, and Los Navarros en Grecia y el ducado Catalan de Atenas en la época de su invasion, 1886 (this deals with a later period).]

[To works on the Fourth Crusade may now be added W. Norden’s Der vierte Kreuzzug im Rahmen der Beziehungen des Abendlandes zu Byzanz, 1898.]

Oriental Sources

[Extracts from the writers mentioned below, and others, will be found in vol. iv. of Michaud’s Bibliothèque des Croisades (1829), translated and arranged by M. Reinaud.]

Imād ad-Dīn al-Kātib al-Ispahāni was born at Ispahan in ad 1125, and studied at Baghdad. He obtained civil service appointments, but fell into disfavour and was imprisoned; after which he went to Damascus, where Nūr ad-Dīn was ruling. He became the friend of Prince Saladin, and was soon appointed secretary of state under Nūr ad-Dīn, but after this potentate’s death his position was precarious, and he set out to return to Baghdad. But hearing of Saladin’s successes in Egypt he went back to Damascus and attached himself to his old friend. After Saladin’s death (ad 1193) he withdrew into private life. He wrote a history of the Crusades with the affected title: Historia Cossica [Coss was a contemporary of Mohammad] de expugnatione Codsica [that is, Hierosolymitana], of which extracts were published by Schultens; he also wrote a History of the Seljūks. See Wüstenfeld, Arabische Geschichtschreiber, no. 284.

Bahā ad-Dīn (the name is often corrupted to Bohadin) was born in 1145 at Mōsil, and became professor there in 1174 in the college founded by Kamāl ad-Dīn. In 1188 he made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and on his way back visited Damascus, where Saladin sent for him and offered him a professorship at Cairo. This he declined, but he afterwards took service under Saladin and was appointed judge of the army and to a high official post at Jerusalem. After Saladin’s death he was made judge of Aleppo, where he founded a college and mosque, and a school for teaching the traditions of the Prophet. He died in 1234. His biography of Saladin is one of the most important sources for the Third Crusade, and the most important source for the life of Saladin. [Edited with French translation in vol. iii. of the Recueil des historiens des Croisades, Hist. Or. (Here too will be found a notice of Edition: current; Page: [397] the author’s life by Ibn Khallikān.) Translation (unscholarly) published by the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1897.]

Abū-l-Hasan Alī Ibn al-Athīr was born ad 1160. He studied at Mōsil and was there when Saladin besieged it in 1186. He was in Syria about 1189, so that he saw something of the Third Crusade. But he was a man of letters and took little part in public affairs. He wrote (1) a history of the Atābegs of Mōsil and (2) a universal history from the creation of the world to ad 1231. The part of this second work bearing on the Crusades, from ad 1098 to 1190, will be found in the Recueil, Hist. Or. vol. i. p. 189 sqq.; and on the author’s life see ib. p. 752 sqq. The history of the Atābegs is published in the 2nd part of vol. ii.

Kamāl ad-Dīn ibn al-Adīm, born c. ad 1192, belonged to the family of the cadhis of Aleppo. Having studied at Baghdad and visited Damascus, Jerusalem, &c., he became judge of Aleppo himself, and afterwards vizier. When the Tartars destroyed the place in ad 1260, he fled to Egypt. He wrote a History of his native city, and part of this is the Récit de la première croisade et des quatorze années suivantes, published in Defrêmery, Mémoires d’histoire orientale, 1854. [Recueil des hist. des Croisades, Hist. Or. vol. iii. p. 577 sqq.]

Abū-l-Kāsim Abd ar-Rahmān (called Abū Shāma, “father of moles”) was born in Damascus ad 1202 and assassinated ad 1266. He wrote Liber duorum hortorum de historia duorum regnorum, a history of the reigns of Nūr ad-Dīn and Saladin, which is edited by Quatremère in vol. iv. of the Recueil des hist. des Croisades, Hist. Or.

Jalāl ad-Dīn (ad 1207-1298) was born at Hamāh in Syria and afterwards went to Egypt, where he was a witness of the invasion of Louis IX. He visited Italy (1260) as the ambassador of the Sultan Baybars to King Manfred. He was a teacher of Abū-l-Fidā, who lauds his wide knowledge. He wrote a history of the Ayyūbid lords of Egypt. The work which Reinaud used for Michaud’s Bibliothèque des Croisades is either part of this history or a separate work.

Abū-l-Fida, born at Damascus ad 1273, belonged to the family of the lords of Hamāh (a side branch of the Ayyūbids). He was present at the conquest of Tripolis in ad 1289 and at the siege of Acre (which fell ad 1291); and he joined in the military expeditions of his cousin Mahmūd II. of Hamāh. He took part also in the expeditions of the Egyptian Sultan, to whom he was always loyal. In ad 1310 he received himself the title of sultan, as lord of Hamāh. But in this new dignity, which he was reluctant to accept, he used to go every year to Cairo to present gifts to his liege lord. He died in ad 1332, having ruled Hamāh for eleven years. His great work, Compendium historiae generis humani, came down to ad 1329. (The first or pre-Mohammadan part has been edited with Lat. tr. by Fleischer in 1831; the second, or Life of Mohammad — ed. by Gagnier, 1723 — was translated into French by M. des Vergers, 1837.) The post-Mohammadan part of this work was edited by Reiske in 5 vols. under the title Annales Moslemici, with Lat. transl. (1789-1794); Gibbon had access to extracts in the Auctarium to the Vita Saladini of Schultens (1732). A résumé of Abū-l-Fidā’s account of the Crusades will be found in vol. i. of the Recueil, Hist. Or. [F. Wilken, Commentatio de bellorum cura ex Abulf. hist. 1798.]

Edition: current; Page: [398]

A large number of extracts from Armenian writers, bearing on the Crusades, are published with French translation by Dulaurier in the Recueil des historiens des Croisades, Doc. Arm. tome i. Among these is the Chronological Table (ad 1076-1307) of Haitum (p. 469 sqq.), who belonged to the family of the princes of Lampron, and became Count of Courcy (Gorigos). He became a monk of the Praemonstratensian order in 1305 and went to Cyprus. He visited Clement V. at Avignon, and Gibbon refers to the History of the Tartars, which he dictated, at the Pope’s request, in French to Nicolas Falconi, who immediately translated it into Latin. This work of “Haythonus” is extant in both forms. Among the other sources included in this collection of Dulaurier may be mentioned: a rhymed chronicle on the kings of Little Armenia, by Vahram of Edessa, of the 13th cent. (p. 493 sqq.); works of St. Narses of Lampron (born 1153); extracts from Cyriac (Guiragos) of Gantzac (born 1201-2), who wrote a history of Armenia26 from the time of Gregory Illuminator to 1269-70. There are also extracts from the chronicle of Samuel of Ani, which reached from the beginning of the world to 1177-8 (p. 447 sqq.), and from its continuation up to 1339-40: this chronicle was published in a Latin translation by Mai and Zohrab, 1818, which is reprinted in Migne’s Patr. Gr. 19, p. 599 sqq. But the best known of these Armenian authors is Matthew of Edessa, whose chronicle covers a century and three quarters (ad 963-1136). We know nothing of the author’s life, except that he flourished in the first quarter of the 12th century. His work is interesting as well as valuable; his style simple, without elegance and art; for he was a man without much culture and had probably read little. He depended much on oral information (derived from “old men”); but he has preserved a couple of original documents (one of them is a letter of the Emperor Tzimisces to an Armenian king, c. 16). He is an ardent Armenian patriot; he hates the Greeks as well as the Turks, and he is, not without good cause, bitter against the Frank conquerors. [French translation by Dulaurier (along with the Continuation by the priest Gregory to ad 1164), 1858, in the Bibliothèque hist. Arménienne. Extracts in the Recueil, p. 1 sqq.]

Modern Works. Finaly, History of Greece, vols. ii.-iv.; Hopf, Griechische Geschichte (in Ersch und Gruber, Enzyklopädie, sub Griechenland); Gregorovius Geschichte der Stadt Athen im Mittelalter, 1897; Ranke, Weltgeschichte, vol. 8. For military history, C. Oman, History of the Art of War, vol. 2, books iv. and v.

For the Normans: G. de Blasiis, La insurrezione pugliese e la conquista Normanna nel secolo xi., 1864; J. W. Barlow, The Normans in Southern Italy, 1886; O. Delarc, Les Normands en Italie, 1883; L. von Heinemann, Geschichte der Normannen in Unter-Italien und Sizilien, vol. i., 1893.

For the Crusades: F. Wilken, Geschichte der Kreuzzüge, 1807-32; Michaud, Histoire des Croisades (in 6 vols.), 1825 (Eng. tr. in 3 vols., by W. Robson, 1852); H. von Sybel, Geschichte des ersten Kreuzzuges, 1881 (ed. 2); B. von Kugler, Geschichte der Kreuzzüge, 1880, and Studien zur Gesch. des 2ten Kreuzzuges, 1866; Röhricht, Geschichte des Königreichs Jerusalem, 1898; H. Prutz, Kulturgeschichte der Kreuzzüge, 1883; Archer and Kingsford, The Crusades; G. Le Strange, Palestine under the Muslims, 1890. For the institutions and organisation of the Kingdom: G. Dodu, Hist. des institutions monarchiques dans le royaume latin de Jér., 1894.

Edition: current; Page: [399]

7.: SARACEN COINAGE — (P. 241)

The following account of the introduction of a separate coinage by the Omayyads is taken from Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole’s Coins and Medals, p. 164 sqq.

“It took the Arabs half a century to discover the need of a separate coinage of their own. At first they were content to borrow their gold and copper currency from the Byzantine Empire, which they had driven out of Syria, and their silver coins from the Sassanian kings of Persia, whom they had overthrown at the battles of Kadisia and Nehavend. The Byzantine gold served them till the seventy-sixth year of the Flight, when a new, but theologically unsound and consequently evanescent, type was invented, bearing the effigy of the reigning Khalif instead of that of Heraclius, and Arabic instead of Greek inscriptions. So, too, the Sassanian silver pieces were left unaltered, save for the addition of a governor’s name in Pehlvi letters. The Khalif ’Aly or one of his lieutenants seems to have attempted to inaugurate a purely Muslim coinage, exactly resembling that which was afterwards adopted, but only one example of this issue is known to exist, in the Paris collection, together with three other silver coins struck at Damascus and Merv between a.h. 60 and 70, of a precisely similar type. These four coins are clearly early and ephemeral attempts at the introduction of a distinctive Mohammadan coinage, and their recent discovery in no way upsets the received Muslim tradition that it was the Khalif ’Abd-El-Melik who, in the year of the Flight 76 (or, on the evidence of the coins themselves, 77), inaugurated the regular Muslim coinage which was thenceforward issued from all the mints of the empire, so long as the dynasty endured, and which gave its general character to the whole currency of the kingdoms of Islam. The copper coinage founded on the Byzantine passed through more and earlier phases than the gold and silver, but it always held [an] insignificant place in the Muslim currency. . . . ”

The gold and silver coins of ’Abd-El-Melik “both bear the same formulae of faith: on the obverse, in the area, ‘There is no god but God alone, He hath no partner’; around which is arranged a marginal inscription, ‘Mohammad is the apostle of God, who sent him with the guidance and religion of truth, that he might make it triumph over all other religions in spite of the idolaters,’ the gold stopping at ‘other religions.’ This inscription occurs on the reverse of the silver instead of the obverse, while the date inscription, which is found on the reverse of the gold, appears on the obverse of the silver. The reverse area declares that ‘God is One, God is the Eternal: He begetteth not, nor is begotten’; here the gold ends, but the silver continues, ‘and there is none like unto Him.’ The margin of the gold runs, ‘In the name of God: the Dînâr was struck in the year seven and seventy’; the silver substituting ‘Dirhem’ for ‘Dînâr,’ and inserting the place of issue immediately after the word Dirhem, e.g., ‘El-Andalus (i.e., Andalusia) in the year 116.’ The mint is not given on the early gold coins, probably because they were usually struck at the Khalif’s capital, Damascus.

“These original dînârs (a name formed from the Roman denarius) and dirhems (drachma) of the Khalif of Damascus formed the model of all Muslim coinages for many centuries; and their respective weights — 65 and 43 grains — served as the standard of all subsequent issues up to comparatively recent times. The fineness was about ·979 gold in the dînârs, and ·960 to ·970 silver in the dirhem. The Mohammadan coinage was generally Edition: current; Page: [400] very pure. . . . At first ten dirhems went to the dînâr, but the relation varied from age to age.”

Thus the dīnār of the Omayyad Caliphs, weighing on the average 65·3 grains of almost pure gold, was worth about 11s. 6d. In later times there were double dīnārs, and under the Omayyads there were thirds of a dīnār, which weighed less than half a dirhem.

As to a coin which Gibbon supposes (p. 241, note 9) to be preserved in the Bodleian Library, Mr. S. Lane-Poole kindly informs me that no such coin exists there. “The Wāsit coins there preserved were acquired long after Gibbon’s time and none has the date 88 a.h. There is a dirhem of that year in the British Museum weighing 44·6 grains. [S. Lane-Poole, Catalogue of Mohammadan Coins in the Bodleian Library, 1888; Catalogue of Oriental Coins in the British Museum, vol. i. no. 174 (1875).]”

8.: THE THEMES OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE — (P. 243, 315, 320 sqq.)

In the tenth century we find the Empire divided into a number of themes, each of which is governed by a stratêgos. Not only the title of the governor, but the word theme (θέμα, a regiment) shows their military origin. These themes existed in the eighth and ninth centuries; they originated in the seventh. In the latter part of the seventh century we find the empire consisting of a number of large military provinces, not yet called themes, but probably known as στρατηγίαι. We have no official list of them; but from literary notices we can reconstruct an approximate list of the provinces c. 700 ad:1

1. The Armeniacs.
2. The Anatolics.
3. The Opsikion.
4. The Marines.
5. Thrace.
6. The Helladics.
7. Italy.
8. Sicily.
9. Africa.

We have to consider first how this system originated, and secondly how it developed into the system of themes which we find two centuries later.

The identification of the stratêgoi of the seventh century with the magistri militum of the sixth century gives the clue to the origin of the thematic system. (This was pointed out in Bury’s Later Roman Empire, ii. 346-8.) The stratêgos of the Armeniacs is the magister militum of Armenia, instituted by Justinian; the stratêgos of the Anatolics is the magister militum per Orientem; the “count” of the Opsikians corresponds to the mag. mil. praesentalis;2 the stratêgos of Thrace is the mag. mil. per Thraciam; the stratêgos of the Helladics is probably the representative of the mag. mil. per Illyricum. The magistri militum of Africa and Italy remain under the title of exarchs. The maritime provinces arose probably, as M. Diehl attractively suggests, from the province of Caria, Cyprus, Rhodes, the Cyclades and Scythia, instituted by Justinian, and placed by him under a quaestor Justinianus.

Thus, what happened was this. In the seventh century the old system of dioceses and provinces was swept away. Its place was taken by the already existing division of the Empire into military provinces — the spheres of the magistri militum; and a new Greek nomenclature was Edition: current; Page: [401] introduced. The cause of the change was the extreme peril of the Empire from the Saracens. The needs of defence suggested a military organisation; when the frontier was reduced and every province was exposed to the attacks of the enemy, there was a natural tendency to unite civil and military power. In the west, the exarch of Africa and the exarch of Italy are the magistri militum who have got into their hands the power of the Praetorian prefects of Africa and Italy respectively; and in the same way in the east, the stratêgoi of Thrace, the Anatolics, the Armeniacs, and the Opsikians have each a parcel of the prerogatives of the Praetorian Prefect of the East.

During the eighth and ninth centuries the provinces came to be generally called themes, and the list was modified in several ways. (1) It was reduced by losses of territory; thus Africa was lost. (2) Some of the large provinces were broken up into a number of smaller. (3) Some small frontier districts, which were called clisurarchies (κλεισον̂ρα, a mountain pass), and had been dependent on one of the large districts, were raised to the dignity of independent themes. Thus the Bucellarian theme was formed in the north of Asia Minor between the Opsikian and the Armeniac themes. Then Paphlagonia was cut out as a separate province. The Thracesian theme was cut off the Anatolic. The Marine theme ultimately became three: the Cibyrrhaeot,3 the theme of Samos, and the Aegean Sea. The Helladic province was divided into three (at least): Hellas, Nicopolis, and the Peloponnesus. The Dalmatian towns were constituted into a separate district; a separate theme seems to have been formed out of Calabria and the Ionian islands; but these islands were subsequently detached and constituted as the theme of Cephallenia. In the east of Asia Minor: Colonea, Lycandos, Sebastea, &c. The Armeniac and Anatolic provinces were abridged by the creation of the themes of Charsianon and Cappadocia.

We can trace in the chronicles some changes of this kind which were carried out between the seventh and the tenth centuries But it is not till the beginning of the tenth century that we get any official list to give us a general view of the divisions of the Empire. The treatise on the themes by the Emperor Constantine (see above, p. 320 sqq.), composed about ad 934, is generally taken as the basis of investigation, and, when historians feel themselves called upon to give a list of the Byzantine themes, they always quote his. In my opinion this is a mistake. We possess better lists than Constantine’s, of a somewhat earlier date. Emperor though Constantine was, his list is not official; it is a concoction, in which actual facts are blended with unmethodical antiquarian research. His treatise is valuable indeed; but it should be criticised in the light of the official lists which we possess.

(1) The earliest list is one included in the Cletorologion of Philotheus (see above, p. 383): Const. Porph. De Cer. Bk. ii. c. 52, p. 713-14 and 727-8. The stratêgoi of the themes are enumerated with other officials in their order of precedence. The list used by Philotheus must date from the first years of the tenth century; it does not mention the themes of Langobardia and Sebastea, which existed before the death of Leo VI., but Cephallenia, which he created, appears in the enumeration.4

(2) The second list is a table of the salaries of the governors of themes Edition: current; Page: [402] Edition: current; Page: [403] and clisurae, in the reign of Leo VI., and is included in c. 50 of the Second Book of the De Cerimoniis. But its editor lived in the reign of Romanus I. For he speaks of the governors of Sebastea, Lycandos, Seleucia, Leontocomis, as having been at that time, that is in Leo’s reign, clisurarchs (ὡς ὣν τότε κλεισουράρχης). In other words, a list was used in which these four districts appeared as clisurarchies. Subsequently they were made themes (strategiai) and the editor brought them up to date. But the list on which he worked seems to be later than the list used by Philotheus, for it includes the theme of Langobardia.

(3) Incomplete enumerations of the themes, in the reign of Romanus I., are given by some Arabic writers, especially by Ibn Khordadbeh (see M. Rambaud, L’empire grec, p. 182).

(4) The Treatise on the Themes. We must criticise Constantine for including Sicily and Cyprus, which did not belong to the Empire, and at the same time omitting Dalmatia, where there was the semblance of a province. Constantine raises the Optimaton to the dignity of a theme, but apologises for doing so; it is only a quasi-theme. In this he was justified; for, though the Optimaton was not governed by a stratêgos but by a domesticus, and was not in a line with the other themes, it was a geographical province.

But the most serious matter that calls for criticism is Constantine’s inconsistency in stating definitely that Charsianon and Cappadocia are themes, and yet not enumerating them in his list. He discusses them under the heading of the Armeniac theme, but they should have headings of their own. This unaccountable procedure has led to the supposition that these two themes were temporarily merged in the Armeniac, out of which they had originally been evolved.

(5) A number of notices in the treatise de Administratione supply material for reconstructing a list of the themes c. ad 950-2.

(6) To these sources must be added, the seals of the various military and civil officers of the themes. M. Gustave Schlumberger’s important work, Sigillographie byzantine (1884), illustrates the lists.

Sardinia passed away from the empire in the 9th century, but it seems to have never formed a regular theme. We have however traces of its East-Roman governors in the 9th cent. A seal of Theodotus, who was “hypatos and dux of Sardinia,” has been preserved; and also seals of archons of Cagliari, with the curious style ΑΡΧΟΝΤΙ ΜΕΡΕΙΑΣ ΚΑΛΑΡΕΟΣ.

[Rambaud, L’empire grec au dixième siècle, p. 175 sqq.; Bury, Later Roman Empire, vol. ii. p. 339 sqq.; Diehl, L’origine du régime des thèmes dans l’empire byzantin (in Etudes d’histoire du moyen âge, dédiées à Gabriel Monod, 1896); Schlumberger, Sigillographie byzantine, passim (1884). All studies on the Byzantine themes are now susperseded by Professor H. Gelzer’s memoir, Die Genesis der byzantinischen Themenverfassung (in vol. xviii. of the Abhandlungen of the Kon. Sächsische Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften), 1899.]


The treatise of Constantine Porphyrogennetos on the Administration of the Roman Empire is one of the most interesting books of the Middle Ages, and one of the most precious for the early mediæval history of south-eastern Europe. The author wrote it as a handbook for the guidance of his son Edition: current; Page: [404] Romanus. Internal evidence allows us to infer the exact date of its composition. Chaps. 1-29 were composed between ad 948 and 950; chap. 45 was composed in 952. The work was probably published in 953.

In his preface1 Constantine promises his son instruction on four subjects. He will explain (1) which of the neighbouring nations may be a source of danger to the Empire, and what nations may be played off against those formidable neighbours; (2) how the unreasonable demands of neighbouring peoples may be eluded. (3) He will give a geographical and ethnographical description of the various nations and an account of their relations with the Empire; and (4) enumerate recent changes and innovations in the condition and administration of the Empire. This programme is followed. A summary of the contents of the book will probably interest readers of Gibbon, and it may be divided under these four heads.

I.: (Chaps. 1-12)

Chap. 1. Concerning the Patzinaks, and the importance of being at peace with them.
c. 2. The relations of the Patzinaks with the Russians (Ῥω̂ς).
c. 3. The relations of the Patzinaks with the Hungarians (Τον̂ρκοι).
c. 4. Conclusion, drawn from c. 3 and c. 4, that, if the Empire is on good terms with the Patzinaks, it need not fear Russian or Hungarian invasions, since the Russians and Hungarians cannot leave their countries exposed to the depredations of the Patzinaks.
c. 5. Relations of the Patzinaks with the Bulgarians.
c. 6. Relations of the Patzinaks with the Chersonites.
c. 7. The sending of Imperial ambassadors to the Patzinaks via Cherson.
c. 8. The route of Imperial ambassadors to the Patzinaks via the Danube and the Dnieper.
c. 9. The route of Russians coming by water from Russia to Constantinople. An account of the Dnieper waterfalls (cp. below, vol. x. Appendix 9).
c. 10. Concerning Chazaria. War can be made on the Chazars with the help of their neighbours the Uzes, or of the Alans.
c. 11. Concerning the forts of Cherson and Bosporus, and how the Alans can attack the Chazars.
c. 12. Black Bulgaria (i.e. Bulgaria on the Volga) can also attack the Chazars. [Thus there are three checks on the Chazars: the Uzes, the Alans, and the Eastern Bulgarians.]
c. 13a. The nations which march on the Hungarians.

II.: (c. 13)2

c. 13b. Showing how unreasonable requests on the part of Barbarian nations are to be met. Three such requests, which an Emperor must never grant, are dealt with: (1) for Imperial robes and crowns (of the kind called καμελαύκια); (2) for Greek fire; (3) for a bride of the Imperial family. The authority of Constantine the Great is in all cases to be quoted as a reason for refusal. For the exceptions to (3) see above, p. 347.

III.: (c. 14-46)

3P. 113, l. 6 to end; this piece ought to be a separate chapter.
c. 14. The genealogy of Mohammad.
c. 15. The race of the Fātimids.
c. 16. The date of the Hijra (ἔξοδος of the Saracens).
c. 17. An extract from the Chronicle of Theophanes on the death of Mohammad and his doctrine.
c. 18. Abū Bekr.
c. 19. Omar (at Jerusalem).
c. 20. Othmān.
c. 21, c. 22. Extracts from the Chronicle of Theophanes on the caliphates of Muāwia and some of his successors.
c. 23, c. 24. Iberia and Spain. (Quotations from old geographers.)
c. 25a. Extract from Theophanes on Aetius and Boniface (in the reign of Valentinian III.).
c. 25b. On the divisions of the Caliphate.3
c. 26. The genealogy of King Hugo of Burgundy (whose daughter married Romanus II.).
c. 27. The theme of Lombardy, its principates, and governments. (An account of Italy, containing strange mistakes and curious transliterations.)
c. 28. The founding of Venice.
c. 29. Dalmatia and the adjacent peoples. Gives an account of the Croats and Serbs; enumerates the coast cities of Dalmatia, names the islands off the coast, &c., &c.
c. 30. Account of the themes of Dalmatia. Historical and geographical information about the Croatian and Servian settlements.
c. 31. More about the Croatians (Χρωβάτοι).
c. 32. More about the Serbs (Σέρβλοι).
c. 33. The Zachlums.
c. 34. The Terbuniates and Kanalites.
c. 35. The people of Dioclea.
c. 36. The Paganoi or Arentans.
c. 37. The Patzinaks, their country, history, and social organisation.
c. 38. The Hungarians, their migrations.
c. 39. The Kabars (a tribe of the Khazars).
c. 40. The tribes of the Kabars and Hungarians. More about the Hungarians and their later history.
c. 41. Moravia and its prince Sphendoplok.
c. 42. Geography of the regions from Thessalonica to the Danube and Belgrade: of Hungary and the Patzinak land, as far as Sarkel (fort on the Don) and Russia; of Cherson and Bosporus. Also of Zichia, Papagia, Kazachia, Alania, Abasgia up to Soteriupolis [the lands between Chazaria and the Caucasus].
c. 43. The land of Taron, and its relations with Leo VI. and Romanus I.
c. 44. About Armenia and the principality of Manzikert.
c. 45. About the Iberians, and the history of their recent relations with the Empire.
c. 46. About the genealogy of the Iberians and the fort of Adrunutzion.
c. 47. About Cyprus and how it was repopulated.
c. 48a. Canon of the sixth General Council about Cyprus.

IV.: (c. 48-53)

4See Finlay, ii. 354 sqq., and R. Garnett, the Story of Gycia in the Eng. Hist. Review, vol. xii. p. 100 sqq. (1897), where it is made probable that this episode belongs not to the Byzantine, but to an earlier period of the history of Cherson, probably to 36-16 bc
c. 48b. Transition to part iv.
c. 48c. A note about the invention of Greek Fire.
c. 49. How the Slavs of the Peloponnese were made subject to the church of Patrae.
c. 50a. The Slavs of the Peloponnese; the Melingi and the Ezerites, and their tribute. Likewise concerning the Mainotes and their tribute.
c. 50b. Information concerning (1) changes in some of the themes, (2) the catapans or governors of the Mardaites, (3) the succession of Imperial chamberlains.
c. 51. Concerning the galleys (δρομώνια), first introduced by Leo VI., for Imperial excursions, instead of the old barges (ἀγράρια); concerning their crews; concerning the protospathars of the Phiale (a part of the Palace) to whom the superintendence of this Imperial yacht service was entrusted; and concerning some remarkable naval officers who distinguished themselves in the reigns of Leo VI., Romanus I., and Constantine VII.
c. 52. The tribute of horses imposed on the Peloponnesus in the reign of Romanus.
c. 53. A history of Cherson, beginning with the time of Diocletian. Contains the story of4 Gycia.

10.: THE BYZANTINE NAVY — (P. 248, 351 sqq.)

The history of the Byzantine sea-power has still to be written. The chief sources (up to the tenth century) are Leo’s Tactics, c. 19 (περὶ ναυμαχίας); the official returns of two expeditions to Crete in the tenth century, included in “Constantine’s” de Cerimoniis, ii. c. 44 and 45; and (on naval commands under Basil I. and Leo VI.) Constantine, De Adm. Inp. c. 51. The chief modern studies that treat the subject are: Gfrorer, Das byzantinische Seewesen (c. 22 in his Byzantinische Geschichten, Bd. ii. p. 401 sqq.); C. de la Roncière, Charlemagne et la civilisation maritime au ixe siècle (in Moyen Age, 2e sér. t. i. p. 201 sqq., 1897); C. Neumann, Die byzantinische Marine; Ihre Verfassung und ihr Verfall. Studien zur Geschichte des 10 bis 12 Jahrhunderts (in Hist. Zeitschrift, B. 45, p. 1 sqq. 1898). Add G. Schlumberger, Nicéphore Phocas, p. 52-66.

In the 6th century, after the fall of the Vandal kingdom, the Empire had no sea-foes to fear, and there was therefore no reason to maintain a powerful navy. The Mediterranean, though all its coasts were not part of the Empire, was practically once more an Imperial lake. This circumstance is a sufficient defence against the indictment which Gfrorer1 brought against Justinian for neglecting the navy. The scene changed in the second half of the seventh century, when the Saracens took to the sea. The Emperors had to Edition: current; Page: [407] defend their coasts and islands against a hostile maritime power. Consequently a new naval organisation was planned and carried out; and we must impute the merit of this achievement to the successors of Heraclius. We have indeed no notices, in any of our authorities, of the creation of the Imperial navies, but it is clear that the new system had been established before the days of Anastasius III. and Leo III. Under Basil I. and his son the naval organisation was remodelled and improved; the settlement of the Saracens in Crete, and their incursions in the Aegean, were facts which urgently forced the Emperors to look to their ships. From this time till the latter part of the eleventh century, the fleets of the Empire were the strongest in the Mediterranean.

There were two fleets, the Imperial and the Provincial (Thematic). Until the time of Basil, the Imperial fleet seems not to have been organised as a standing force. A system seems to have been established whereby, in case Constantinople itself were threatened, a squadron of vessels could be got together for its defence without much delay. This was managed by an arrangement with the shipowners of the capital; but as to the nature of this arrangement (it seems to have been a sort of “indenture” system) we have only some obscure hints.2 On the other hand, the several contingents of the provincial fleet, supplied by the themes of the Cibyrrhaeots, Samos, and the Aegean,3 were always ready for action, like the thematic armies. A standing Imperial fleet seems to have been created by Basil, and to him we may probably ascribe the institution of the Imperial Admiral (δρουγγάριος τω̂ν πλοΐμων).4 This admiral, the great Drungarios, was strictly commander of the Imperial fleet, but on occasions when the Imperial and Provincial fleets acted together he would naturally be the commander in chief. The admirals of the three divisions of the Provincial fleet had the title of drungarios, when they were first instituted.5 But they were promoted to the title of stratêgos, which they continued to hold, after Basil had raised the name drungarios to new honour by conferring it upon the commander of the Imperial fleet. There can be little doubt, it seems to me, that τὰ πλόιμα in this connection means the Imperial fleet, and not (as Gfrorer maintained) both the Imperial and Provincial fleets.6

The Imperial fleet in the tenth century was larger than the Provincial. Thus in the Cretan expedition of ad 902 — for which Gibbon gives the total figures (p. 354) — the contingents of the fleets were as follows: —

Imperial Fleet { 60 dromonds.
{ 40 pamphylians.
Provincial Fleet{ Cibyrrh. Theme { 15 dromonds.
{ 16 pamphylians.
{ Samos Theme { 10 dromonds.
{ 12 pamphylians.
{ Aegean Theme { 10 dromonds.
{ 7 pamphylians.
{ Total { 35 dromonds.
{ 35 pamphylians.
(Helladic Theme, 10 dromonds.)
Edition: current; Page: [408]

But, though the provincial squadrons formed a smaller armament, they had the advantage of being always prepared for war.

The causes of the decay of the Byzantine navy in the eleventh century have been studied by C. Neumann, in the essay cited above. He shows that the antimilitary policy of the emperors in the third quarter of that century affected the navy as well as the army (cp. above, vol. viii. p. 282, n. 67). But the main cause was the Seljūk conquest. It completely disorganised the themes which furnished the contingents of the Provincial fleet. In the 12th century the Emperors depended on the navy of Venice, which they paid by commercial privileges.

The dromonds or biremes were of different sizes and builds. Thus the largest size might be manned by a crew of 300 or 290. Those of a medium size might hold, like the old Greek triremes, about 200 men. There were still smaller ones, which, besides a hundred oarsmen who propelled them, contained only a few officers, steersmen, &c. (perhaps twenty in all). Then there were a special kind of biremes, distinguished by build, not by size, called Pamphylians, and probably remarkable for their swiftness. The Emperor Leo in his Tactics directs that the admiral’s ship should be very large and swift and of Pamphylian build.7 The pamphylians in the Cretan expedition of ad 902 were of two sizes: the larger manned by 160 men, the smaller by 130. The importance of these Pamphylian vessels ought, I think, to be taken in connection with the importance of the Cibyrrhaeot theme (see above, Appendix 8), which received its name from Pamphylian Cibyra. We may suspect that Cibyra was a centre of shipbuilding.

Besides the biremes, ships with single banks of oars were used, especially for scouting purposes. They were called galleys.8 The name dromond or “runner” was a general name for a warship and could be applied to the galleys9 as well as to the biremes; but in common use it was probably restricted to biremes, and even to those biremes which were not of Pamphylian build.

Gibbon describes the ξυλόκαστρον, an erection which was built above the middle deck of the largest warships, to protect the soldiers who cast stones and darts against the enemy. There was another wooden erection at the prow, which was also manned by soldiers, but it served the special purpose of protecting the fire-tube which was placed at the prow.

The combustible substances on which the Byzantines relied so much, and apparently with good reason, in their naval warfare, were of various kinds and were used in various ways; and the confusion of them under the common name of Greek or marine fire has led to some misapprehensions. The simplest fire weapon was probably the “hand tube” (χειροσίϕων),10 a tube full of combustibles, which was flung by the hand like a “squib” and exploded on board the enemy’s vessel. The marines who cast these weapons were the “grenadiers” of the Middle Ages.11 “Artificial fire” — probably Edition: current; Page: [409] in a liquid state — was also kept in pots (χύτραι), which may have been cast upon the hostile ships by engines. Such pots are represented in pictures of warships in an old Arabic MS. preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale, and reproduced by M. Schlumberger in his work on Nicephorus Phocas.12 But there was another, and more interesting, method of hurling “artificial fire.” This method anticipated the principle of later firearms: gunpowder was used to propel the missiles of destruction through a tube (σίϕων). This is the only reasonable inference from the two certain facts that gunpowder was one of the artificial explosives used by the Byzantines in their naval warfare (see above, p. 248, note 22), and that combustibles which exploded when they reached the enemy’s ships were propelled through tubes, which were managed by a gunner (siphonator). Thus the Byzantines just fell short of revolutionising warfare, by failing to apply their propelling powder to leaden missiles.


All unprejudiced investigators now admit the cogency of the evidence which shows that by the middle of the eighth century there was a very large Slavonic element in the population of the Peloponnesus1 The Slavonic settlements began in the latter half of the sixth century, and in the middle of the eighth century the depopulation caused by the great plague invited the intrusion of large masses. The general complexion of the peninsula was so Slavonic that it was called Sclavonia. The only question to be determined is, how were these strangers distributed, and what parts of the Peloponnesus were Slavised? For answering these questions, the names of places are our chief evidence. Here, as in the Slavonic districts which became part of Germany, the Slavs ultimately gave up their own language and exerted hardly any sensible influence on the language which they adopted; but they introduced new local names which survived. It was just the reverse, as has been well remarked by Philippson, in the case of the Albanese settlers, who in the fourteenth century brought a new ethnical element into the Peloponnesus. The Albanians preserved their own language, but the old local names were not altered.

Now we find Slavonic names scattered about in all parts of the Peloponnesus; but they are comparatively few on the Eastern side, in Argolis and Eastern Laconia. They are numerous in Arcadia and Achaia, in Elis, Messenia and Western Laconia. But the existence of Slavonic settlements does not prove that the old Hellenic inhabitants were abolished in these districts. In fact we can only say that a large part of Elis, the slopes of Taygetus, and a district in the south of Laconia, were exclusively given over to the Slavs. Between Megalopolis and Sparta there was an important town, which has completely disappeared, called Veligosti; and this region was probably a centre of Slavonic settlers.

See the impartial investigation of Dr. A. Philippson, Zur Ethnographie des Peloponnes in Petermann’s Mittheilungen, vol. 36, p. 1 sqq. and 33 sqq., 1890.

Edition: current; Page: [410]

The conversion and Hellenisation of the Slavs went on together from the ninth century, and, with the exception of the settlements in Taygetus and the Arcadian mountains, were completed by the twelfth century. At the time of the conquest of the Peloponnesus by Villehardouin, four ethnical elements are distinguished by Philippson: (1) Remains of the old Hellenes, mixed with Slavs, in Maina and Tzakonia, (2) Byzantine Greeks (i.e., Byzantinised Hellenes, and settlers from other parts of the Empire) in the towns. (3) Greek-speaking Slavo-Greeks (sprung from unions of Slavs and Greeks). (4) Almost pure Slavs in Arcadia and Taygetus. The 2nd and 3rd classes tend to coalesce and ultimately become indistinguishable (except in physiognomy).

The old Greek element lived on purest perhaps in the district between Mt. Parnon and the Sea — Eastern Laconia. The inhabitants came to be called Tzakones and the district Tzakonia; and they developed a remarkable dialect of their own. They were long supposed to be Slavs. See A. Thumb, Die ethnographische Stellung der Zakonen (Indogerm. Forschungen, iv. 195 sqq., 1894).

Fallmerayer, in harmony with his Slavonic theory, proposed to derive the name Morea from the Slavonic more, sea. This etymology defied the linguistic laws of Slavonic word-formation. Other unacceptable derivations have been suggested, but we have at last got back to the old mulberry, but in a new sense. ὁ Μορέας is formed from μορέα, “mulberry tree,” with the meaning “plantation or region of mulberry trees” (= μορεών). We find the name first applied to Elis, whence it spread to the whole Peloponnesus; and it is a memorial of the extensive cultivation of mulberries for the manufacture of silk. This explanation is due to the learned and scientific Greek philologist, M. G. N. Hatzidakês (Byz. Zeitsch. vol. 2, p. 283 sqq., and vol. 5, p. 341, sqq.).


As in this and the following chapter I shall display much Arabic learning, I must profess my total ignorance of the Oriental tongues, and my gratitude to the learned interpreters, who have transfused their science into the Latin, French, and English languages. Their collections, versions, and histories, I shall occasionally notice.


The geographers of Arabia may be divided into three classes: 1. The Greeks and Latins, whose progressive knowledge may be traced in Agatharchides (de Mari Rubro, in Hudson, Geograph. Minor. tom. i.), Diodorus Siculus (tom. i. l. ii. p. 159-167 [c. 48 sqq.], l. iii. p. 211-216 [c. 14 sqq.], edit. Wesseling), Strabo (l. xvi. p. 1112-1114 [c. 4, 1-4], from Eratosthenes; p. 1122-1132 [c. 4, 5 sqq.], from Artemidorus), Dionysius (Periegesis, 927-969), Pliny (Hist. Natur. v. 12, vi. 32), and Ptolemy (Descript. et Tabulæ Urbium, in Hudson, tom. iii.). 2. The Arabic writers, who have treated the subject with the zeal of patriotism or devotion: the extracts of Pocock (Specimen Hist. Arabum, p. 125-128), from the Geography of the Sherif al Edrissi, render us still more dissatisfied with the version or abridgment (p. 24-27, 44-56, 108, &c. 119, &c.) which the Maronites have published under the absurd title of Geographia Nubiensis (Paris, 1619); but the Latin and French translators, Greaves (in Hudson, tom. iii.) and Galland (Voyage de la Palestine par la Roque, p. 265-346), have opened to us the Arabia of Abulfeda, the most copious and correct account of the peninsula, which may be enriched, however, from the Bibliothèque Orientale of d’Herbelot, p. 120, et alibi passim. 3. The European travellers; among whom Shaw (p. 438-455) and Niebuhr (Description, 1773, Voyages, tom. i. 1776) deserve an honourable distinction; Busching (Géographie par Berenger, tom. viii. p. 416-510) has compiled with judgment; and d’Anville’s Maps (Orbis Veteribus Notus, and 1re Partie de l’Asie) should lie before the reader, with his Géographie Ancienne, tom. ii. p. 208-231. [Of European travellers since Niebuhr, we have the accounts of J. L. Burckhardt, Travels in Arabia, 1829; J. R. Wellsted, Travels in Arabia, 1838; W. G. Palgrave, Narrative of a year’s journey through central and eastern Arabia (ed. 2), 1868. For the Nejd: Lady Anne Blunt’s Pilgrimage to Nejd (1881). See also below, n. 21. The historical geography of Arabia has been treated by C. Forster (“The Hist. Geography of Arabia,” 1844).]


Abulfed. Descript. Arabiæ, p. 1. D’Anville, l’Euphrate et le Tigre, p. 19, 20. It was in this place [Bālis], the paradise or garden of a satrap [τὰ Βελέσυος βασίλεια], that Xenophon and the Greeks first passed the Euphrates (Anabasis, l. i. c. 10 [leg. c. 4, § 10], p. 29, edit. Wells).


[This measurement is not accurate. The distance is 900 miles. The “southern basis” is 1200 miles from Bāb al-Mandeb to Ras al-Hadd.]


Reland has proved, with much superfluous learning, 1. That our Red Sea (the Arabian Gulf) is no more than a part of the Mare Rubrum, the Ἐρυθρὰ θάλασσα of the ancients, which was extended to the indefinite space of the Indian Ocean. 2. That the synonymous words ἐρυθρός, αἰθίοψ, allude to the colour of the blacks or negroes (Dissert. Miscell. tom. i. p. 59-117).


In the thirty days, or stations, between Cairo and Mecca, there are fifteen destitute of good water. See the route of the Hadjees, in Shaw’s Travels, p. 477. [Cp. Burton’s work, cited below, n. 21.]


The aromatics, especially the thus or frankincense, of Arabia occupy the xiith book of Pliny. Our great poet (Paradise Lost, l. iv.) introduces, in a simile, the spicy odours that are blown by the north-east wind from the Sabæan coast:

  • —— Many a league,
  • Pleas’d with the grateful scent, old Ocean smiles.

(Plin. Hist. Natur. xii. 42.)


Agatharchides affirms that lumps of pure gold were found, from the size of an olive to that of a nut; that iron was twice, and silver ten times, the value of gold (de Mari Rubro, p. 60). These real or imaginary treasures are vanished; and no gold mines are at present known in Arabia (Niebuhr, Description, p. 124). [But see Appendix 1.]


Consult, peruse, and study the Specimen Historiæ Arabum of Pocock! (Oxon. 1650, in 4to). The thirty pages of text and version are extracted from the Dynasties of Gregory Abulpharagius, which Pocock afterwards translated (Oxon. 1663, in 4to); the three hundred and fifty-eight notes from a classic and original work on the Arabian antiquities. [Hijāz=barrier.]


Arrian remarks the Ichthyophagi of the coast of Hejaz (Periplus Maris Erythræi, p. 12), and beyond Aden (p. 15). It seems probable that the shores of the Red Sea (in the largest sense) were occupied by these savages in the time, perhaps, of Cyrus; but I can hardly believe that any cannibals were left among the savages in the reign of Justinian (Procop. de Bell. Persic. l. i. c. 19).


See the Specimen Historiæ Arabum of Pocock, p. 2, 5, 86, &c. The journey of M. d’Arvieux, in 1664, to the camp of the emir of Mount Carmel (Voyage de la Palestine, Amsterdam, 1718), exhibits a pleasing and original picture of the life of the Bedoweens, which may be illustrated from Niebuhr (Description de l’Arabie, p. 327-344), and Volney (tom. i. p. 343-385), the last and most judicious of our Syrian travellers. [Sachau (Reise in Syrien, 1883; quoted above, vol. iv. p. 121) is the most recent and trustworthy authority. Observe that “Bedoweens” is an incorrect form. Bedawi means an Arab of the desert, opposed to a villager, and the plural is Bedāwā, or Bidwān, never Bedawīn. The English plural would be Bedawis.]


Read (it is no unpleasing task) the incomparable articles of the Horse and the Camel, in the Natural History of M. de Buffon.


For the Arabian horses, see d’Arvieux (p. 159-173) and Niebuhr (p. 142-144). At the end of the thirteenth century, the horses of Neged were esteemed sure-footed, those of Yemen strong and serviceable, those of Hejaz most noble. The horses of Europe, the tenth and last class, were generally despised, as having too much body and too little spirit (d’Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 339); their strength was requisite to bear the weight of the knight and his armour.


[This is an exaggeration. Though treated with great consideration, it is not usual for the Arab horses to come into the tents.]


[A dromedary can go without water six days in summer, ten in winter.]


Qui carnibus camelorum vesci solent odii tenaces sunt, was the opinion of an Arabian physician (Pocock, Specimen, p. 88). Mahomet himself, who was fond of milk, prefers the cow, and does not even mention the camel; but the diet of Mecca and Medina was already more luxurious (Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 404). [Camel’s flesh is said to be very insipid.]


Yet Marcian of Heraclea (in Periplo, p. 16, in tom. i. Hudson, Minor. Geograph.) reckons one hundred and sixty-four towns in Arabia Felix. The size of the towns might be small — the faith of the writer might be large.


It is compared by Abulfeda (in Hudson, tom. iii. p. 54) to Damascus, and is still the residence of the Imam of Yemen (Voyages de Niebuhr, tom. i. p. 331-342). Saana [San ‘ā] is twenty-four parasangs from Dafar [Dhafār] (Abulfeda, p. 51), and sixty-eight from Aden (p. 53).


Pocock, Specimen, p. 57; Geograph. Nubiensis, p. 52. Meriaba, or Merab, six miles in circumference, was destroyed by the legions of Augustus (Plin. Hist. Nat. vi. 32), and had not revived in the fourteenth century (Abulfed. Descript. Arab. p. 58). [It was reached but not destroyed by the legions of Augustus. Its strong walls deterred Gallus from a siege. Their ruins still stand. See Arnaud, Journal Asiat. (7 sér.), 3, p. 3 sqq., 1874.]


The name of city, Medina, was appropriated, κατ’ ἐξοχήν, to Yatreb [Yathrib] (the Iatrippa of the Greeks), the seat of the prophet [al-Medīna, or, in full, Medīnat en-Nebī, “the city of the prophet”]. The distances from Medina are reckoned by Abulfeda in stations, or days’ journey of a caravan (p. 15), to Bahrein, xv.; to Bassora, xviii.; to Cufah, xx.; to Damascus or Palestine, xx.; to Cairo, xxv.; to Mecca, x.; from Mecca to Saana (p. 52), or Aden, xxx.; to Cairo, xxxi. days, or 412 hours (Shaw’s Travels, p. 477); which, according to the estimate of d’Anville (Mesures Itinéraires, p. 99), allows about twenty-five English miles for a day’s journey. From the land of frankincense (Hadramaut, in Yemen, between Aden and Cape Fartasch) to Gaza, in Syria, Pliny (Hist. Nat. xii. 32) computes lxv. mansions of camels. These measures may assist fancy and elucidate facts.


Our notions of Mecca must be drawn from the Arabians (d’Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale, p. 368-371. Pocock, Specimen, p. 125-128. Abulfeda, p. 11-40). As no unbeliever is permitted to enter the city, our travellers are silent; and the short hints of Thévenot (Voyages du Levant, part i. p. 490) are taken from the suspicious mouth of an African renegado. Some Persians counted 6000 houses (Chardin, tom. iv. p. 167). [For a description of Mecca, see Burckhardt, op. cit.; and Sir. R. Burton’s Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah, 1855-6; and, best of all, Snouck Hurgronje, Mekka, 1888. Gibbon was ignorant of the visit of Joseph Pitts, his captivity and his book, “Account of the religion and manners of the Mahometans” (3rd ed., 1731). For this, and other visits, see Burton, op. cit., Appendix.]


Strabo, l. xvi. p. 1110 [3, § 3]. See one of these salt houses near Bassora, in d’Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 6.


Mirum dictu ex innumeris populis pars æqua in commerciis aut in latrociniis degit (Plin. Hist. Nat. vi. 32). See Sale’s Koran, Sura. cvi. p. 503. Pocock, Specimen, p. 2. D’Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 361. Prideaux’s Life of Mahomet, p. 5. Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 72, 120, 126, &c.


A nameless doctor (Universal Hist. vol. xx. octavo edition) has formally demonstrated the truth of Christianity by the independence of the Arabs. A critic, besides the exceptions of fact, might dispute the meaning of the text (Gen. xvi. 12), the extent of the application, and the foundation of the pedigree.


It was subdued, ad 1173, by a brother of the great Saladin, who founded a dynasty of Curds or Ayoubites (Guignes, Hist. des Huns, tom. i. p. 425. D’Herbelot, p. 477).


By the lieutenant of Soliman I. (ad 1538), and Selim II. (1568). See Cantemir’s Hist. of the Othman empire, p. 201, 221. The Pasha, who resided at Saana, commanded twenty-one Beys, but no revenue was ever remitted to the Porte (Marsigli, Stato Militare dell’ Imperio Ottomanno, p. 124), and the Turks were expelled about the year 1630 (Niebuhr, p. 167, 168).


Of the Roman province, under the name of Arabia and the third Palestine, the principal cities were Bostra and Petra, which dated their era from the year 105, when they were subdued by Palma, a lieutenant of Trajan (Dion. Cassius, l. lxviii [c. 14]). Petra was the capital of the Nabathæans; whose name is derived from the eldest of the sons of Ismael (Gen. xxv. 12, &c. with the Commentaries of Jerom, Le Clerc, and Calmet). Justinian relinquished a palm country of ten days’ journey to the south of Ælah (Procop. de Bell. Persic. l. i. c. 19), and the Romans maintained a centurion and a custom-house (Arrian in Periplo Maris Erythræi, p. 11, in Hudson, tom. i.) at a place (λευκὴ κώμη, Pagus Albus Hawara) in the territory of Medina (d’Anville, Mémoire sur l’Egypte, p. 243). These real possessions, and some naval inroads of Trajan (Peripl. p. 14, 15), are magnified by history and medals into the Roman conquest of Arabia. [After Diocletian, Arabia was divided into two provinces; see above, vol. iii. p. 426, n. 6.]


Niebuhr (Description de l’Arabie, p. 302, 303, 329-331) affords the most recent and authentic intelligence of the Turkish empire in Arabia. [Harris’s Travels among the Yemen Rebels is the latest account (1894).]


Diodorus Siculus (tom. ii. l. xix. p. 390-393, edit. Wesseling [c. 94, sqq.]) has clearly exposed the freedom of the Nabathæan Arabs, who resisted the arms of Antigonus and his son.


Strabo, l. xvi. p. 1127-1129 [3, § 22 sqq.]; Plin. Hist. Natur. vi. 32. Ælius Gallus landed near Medina, and marched near a thousand miles into the part of Yemen between Mareb and the Ocean. The non ante devictis Sabææ regibus (Od. i. 29), and the intacti Arabum thesauri (Od. iii. 24), of Horace attest the virgin purity of Arabia. [The mistake of Gallus lay in not sailing directly to Yemen.]


See the imperfect history of Yemen in Pocock, Specimen, p. 55-66, of Hira, p. 66-74, of Gassan, p. 75-78, as far as it could be known or preserved in the time of ignorance. [The best authority is H. C. Kay, Hist. of the Yemen, 1892 (from Arabic sources, and chiefly Omāra, al-Khazraji, and al-Jannābi).]


The Σαρακηνικὰ ϕν̂λα, μυριάδες ταν̂τα καὶ τὸ πλεɩ̂στον αὐτ ω̂ν ἐρημονόμοι καὶ ἀδέσποτοι, are described by Menander (Excerpt. Legation. p. 149 [fr. 15, p. 220, ed. Müller]), Procopius (de Bell. Persic. l. i. c. 17, 19, l. ii. c. 10), and, in the most lively colours, by Ammianus Marcellinus (l. xiv. c. 4), who had spoken of them as early as the reign of Marcus.


The name which, used by Ptolemy and Pliny in a more confined, by Ammianus and Procopius in a larger, sense, has been derived, ridiculously from Sarah, the wife of Abraham, obscurely from the village of Saraka (μετὰ Ναβαταίους. Stephan. de Urbibus), more plausibly from the Arabic words which signify a thievish character, or Oriental situation (Holtinger, Hist. Oriental. l. i. c. i. p. 7, 8. Pocock, Specimen, p. 33, 35. Asseman. Bibliot. Orient. tom. iv. p. 567). Yet the last and most popular of these etymologies is refuted by Ptolemy (Arabia, p. 2, 18, in Hudson, tom. iv.), who expressly remarks the western and southern position of the Saracens, then an obscure tribe on the borders of Egypt. The appellation cannot therefore allude to any national character; and, since it was imposed by strangers, it must be found, not in the Arabic, but in a foreign language. [Sharki = Eastern: commonly used for Levantine.]


Saraceni . . . mulieres aiunt in eos regnare (Expositio totius Mundi, p. 3, in Hudson, tom. iii.). The reign of Mavia is famous in ecclesiastical story. Pocock, Specimen, p. 69, 83.


Μὴ ἐξεɩ̂ναι ἐκ τω̂ν βασιλείων [οὐ δύναται πάλιν ἐκ τω̂ν βασιλείων ἐξελθεɩ̂ν], is the report of Agatharchides (de Mari Rubro, p. 63, 64, in Hudson, tom. i.), Diodorus Siculus (tom. i. l. iii. c. 47, p. 215), and Strabo (l. xvi. p. 1124 [3, § 19]). But I much suspect that this is one of the popular tales or extraordinary accidents which the credulity of travellers so often transforms into a fact, a custom, and a law.


Non gloriabantur antiquitus Arabes, nisi gladio, hospite, et eloquentiâ (Sephadius, apud Pocock, Specimen, p. 161, 162). This gift of speech they shared only with the Persians; and the sententious Arabs would probably have disdained the simple and sublime logic of Demosthenes.


I must remind the reader that d’Arvieux, d’Herbelot, and Niebuhr represent, in the most lively colours, the manners and government of the Arabs, which are illustrated by many incidental passages in the life of Mahomet.


Observe the first chapter of Job, and the long wall of 1500 stadia which Sesostris built from Pelusium to Heliopolis (Diodor. Sicul. tom. i. l. i. p. 67). Under the name of Hycsos, the shepherd kings, they had formerly subdued Egypt (Marsham, Canon. Chron. p. 98-163, &c.). [Hycsos is supposed to mean “princes of the Shasu,” a name for the Bedouins of the Sinai peninsula. The name Hyksos comes from Manetho, ap. Joseph. c. Apion. i. 14. Another name for them (in Egyptian documents) is Mentu. See Chabas, Les pasteurs en Egypte, 1868; Petrie, History of Egypt, c. x.]


Or, according to another account, 1200 (d’Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale, p. 75). The two historians who wrote of the Ayam al Arab, the battles of the Arabs, lived in the ninth and tenth century. The famous war of Dahes and Gabrah was occasioned by two horses, lasted forty years, and ended in a proverb (Pocock, Specimen, p. 48).


The modern theory and practice of the Arabs in the revenge of murder are described by Niebuhr (Description, p. 26-31). The harsher features of antiquity may be traced in the Koran, c. 2, p. 20, c. 17, p. 230, with Sale’s Observations.


Procopius (de Bell. Persic. l. i. c. 16) places the two holy months about the summer solstice. The Arabians consecrate four months of the year — the first, seventh, eleventh, and twelfth; and pretend that in a long series of ages the truce was infringed only four or six times. (Sale’s Preliminary Discourse, p. 147-150, and Notes on the ninth chapter of the Koran, p. 154, &c. Casiri, Bibliot. Hispano-Arabica, tom. ii. p. 20, 21.)


Arrian, in the second century, remarks (in Periplo Maris Erythræi, p. 12) the partial or total difference of the dialects of the Arabs. Their language and letters are copiously treated by Pocock (Specimen, p. 150-154), Casiri (Bibliot. Hispano-Arabica, tom. i. p. 1, 83, 292, tom. ii. p. 25, &c.), and Niebuhr (Description de l’Arabie, p. 72-86). I pass slightly; I am not fond of repeating words like a parrot.


A familiar tale in Voltaire’s Zadig (le Chien et le Cheval) is related to prove the natural sagacity of the Arabs (d’Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 120, 121; Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 37-46); but d’Arvieux, or rather La Roque (Voyage de Palestine, p. 92), denies the boasted superiority of the Bedoweens. The one hundred and sixty-nine sentences of Ali (translated by Ockley, London, 1718) afford a just and favourable specimen of Arabian wit. [Metre and rhetoric were familiar to the early Arab poets.]


Pocock (Specimen, p. 158-161) and Casiri (Bibliot. Hispano-Arabica, tom. i. p. 48, 84, &c. 119, tom. ii. p. 17, &c.) speak of the Arabian poets before Mahomet; the seven poems of the Caaba have been published in English by Sir William Jones; but his honourable mission to India has deprived us of his own notes, far more interesting than the obscure and obsolete text. [Th. Nöldeke, Poesie der alten Araber, 1864; Lyall, Ancient Arabic Poetry, 1885; Fresnel, Lettres sur l’histoire des Arabes, 1836; Caussin de Perceval, Essai sur l’histoire des Arabes. The legend of the seven poems hung in the Kaaba has no foundation.]


Sale’s Preliminary Discourse, p. 29, 30.


D’Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 458. Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 118. Caab and Hesnus (Pocock, Specimen, p. 43, 46, 48) were likewise conspicuous for their liberality; and the latter is elegantly praised by an Arabian poet: “Videbis eum cum accesseris exultantem, ac si dares illi quod ab illo petis.”


Whatever can now be known of the idolatry of the ancient Arabians may be found in Pocock (Specimen, p. 89-136, 163, 164). His profound erudition is more clearly and concisely interpreted by Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 14-24); and Assemanni (Bibliot. Orient. tom. iv. p. 580-590) has added some valuable remarks. [On the state of Arabia and its religion before Islam, see Caussin de Perceval, Essai sur l’histoire des Arabes, vol. ii., and E. H. Palmer’s Introduction to his translation of the Koran (in the “Sacred Books of the East”).]


Ἱερὸν ἁγιώτατον ἴδρυται τιμώμενον ὑπὸ πάντων Ἀράβων περιττότερον (Diodor. Sicul. tom. i. l. iii. p. 211 [c. 44]). The character and position are so correctly apposite, that I am surprised how this curious passage should have been read without notice or application. Yet this famous temple had been overlooked by Agatharchides (de Mari Rubro, p. 58, in Hudson, tom. i.), whom Diodorus copies in the rest of the description. Was the Sicilian more knowing than the Egyptian? Or was the Caaba built between the years of Rome 650 [Agatharchides wrote his Historica in the 2nd cent. bc under Ptolemy VI.] and 746, the dates of their respective histories? (Dodwell, in Dissert. ad tom. i. Hudson, p. 72. Fabricius, Bibliot. Græc. tom. ii. p. 770.) [It is improbable that Diodorus refers to the Kaaba.]


Pocock, Specimen, p. 60, 61. From the death of Mahomet we ascend to 68, from his birth to 129, years before the Christian era. The veil or curtain, which is now of silk and gold, was no more than a piece of Egyptian linen (Abulfeda, in Vit. Mohammed. c. 6, p. 14). [The covering (Kiswa) of the Kaaba is made in Cairo of a coarse brocade of silk and cotton. See Lane, Modern Egyptians, ch. xxv.]


The original plan of the Caaba (which is servilely copied in Sale, the Universal History, &c.) was a Turkish draught, which Reland (de Religione Mohammedicâ, p. 113-123) has corrected and explained from the best authorities. For the description and legend of the Caaba, consult Pocock (Specimen, p. 115-122), the Bibliothèque Orientale of d’Herbelot (Caaba, Hagiar, Zemzen, &c.) and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 114-122).


Cosa, the fifth ancestor of Mahomet, must have usurped the Caaba, ad 440; but the story is differently told by Jannabi (Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 65-69) and by Abulfeda (in Vit. Moham. c. 6, p. 13).


In the second century, Maximus of Tyre attributes to the Arabs the worship of a stone — Ἀράβιοι σέβουσι μὲν, ὄντινα δὲ οὐκ οἰδα, τὸ δὲ ἄγαλμα [ὃ] εἰδον λίθος ἠ̂ν τετράγωνος (dissert. viii. tom. i. p. 142, edit. Reiske); and the reproach is furiously re-echoed by the Christians (Clemens Alex. in Protreptico, p. 40; Arnobius contra Gentes, l. vi. p. 246). Yet these stones were no other than the βαίτυλα of Syria and Greece, so renowned in sacred and profane antiquity (Euseb. Præp. Evangel. l. i. p. 37, Marsham, Canon. Chron. p. 54-56).


The two horrid subjects of Ἀνδροθυσία and Παιδοθυσία are accurately discussed by the learned Sir John Marsham (Canon. Chron. p. 76-78, 301-304). Sanchoniatho derives the Phœnician sacrifices from the example of Chronus; but we are ignorant whether Chronus lived before or after Abraham, or indeed whether he lived at all.


Κατ’ ἔτος ἔκαστον παɩ̂δα ἔθυον, is the reproach of Porphyry; but he likewise imputes to the Romans the same barbarous custom, which, a.u.c. 657, had been finally abolished. Dumætha, Daumat al Gendal, is noticed by Ptolemy (Tabul. p. 37, Arabia, p. 9-29), and Abulfeda (p. 57); and may be found in d’Anville’s maps, in the mid-desert between Chaibar and Tadmor.


Procopius (de Bell. Persico, l. i. c. 28), Evagrius (l. vi. c. 21), and Pocock (Specimen, p. 72, 86) attest the human sacrifices of the Arabs in the vith century. The danger and escape of Abdallah is a tradition rather than a fact (Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 82-84).


Suillis carnibus abstinent, says Solinus (Polyhistor. c. 33), who copies Pliny (l. viii. c. 68) in the strange supposition that hogs cannot live in Arabia. The Egyptians were actuated by a natural and superstitious horror for that unclean beast (Marsham, Canon. p. 205). The old Arabians likewise practised, post coitum, the rite of ablution (Herodot. l. i. c. 80 [leg. 198]), which is sanctified by the Mahometan law (Reland, p. 75, &c.; Chardin, or rather the Mollah of Shaw Abbas, tom. iv. p. 71, &c.).


The Mahometan doctors are not fond of the subject; yet they hold circumcision necessary to salvation, and even pretend that Mahomet was miraculously born without a foreskin (Pocock, Specimen, p. 319, 320; Sale’s Preliminary Discourse, p. 106, 107).


Diodorus Siculus (tom. i. l. ii. p. 142-145 [c. 29 sqq.]) has cast on their religion the curious, but superficial, glance of a Greek. Their astronomy would be far more valuable: they had looked through the telescope of reason, since they could doubt whether the sun were in the number of the planets or of the fixed stars. [For the Sabians and their religion see Appendix 2.]


Simplicius (who quotes Porphyry) de Cælo, l. ii. com. xlvi. p. 123, lin. 18, apud Marsham, Canon. Chron. p. 474, who doubts the fact, because it is adverse to his systems. The earliest date of the Chaldæan observations is the year 2234 before Christ. After the conquest of Babylon by Alexander, they were communicated, at the request of Aristotle, to the astronomer Hipparchus. What a moment in the annals of science!


Pocock (Specimen, p. 138-146), Hottinger (Hist. Oriental. p. 162-203), Hyde (de Religione Vet. Persarum, p. 124, 128, &c.), d’Herbelot (Sabi, p. 725, 726), and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 14; 15), rather excite than gratify our curiosity; and the last of these writers confounds Sabianism with the primitive religion of the Arabs.


D’Anville (l’Euphrates et le Tigre, p. 130-147) will fix the position of these ambiguous Christians; Assemannus (Bibliot. Oriental. tom. iv. p. 607-614) may explain their tenets. But it is a slippery task to ascertain the creed of an ignorant people, afraid and ashamed to disclose their secret traditions.


The Magi were fixed in the province of Bahrein (Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 114) and mingled with the old Arabians (Pocock, Specimen, p. 146-150).


The state of the Jews and Christians in Arabia is described by Pocock from Sharestani, &c. (Specimen, p. 60, 134, &c.), Hottinger (Hist. Orient. p. 212-238), d’Herbelot (Bibliot. Orient. p. 474-476), Basnage (Hist. des Juifs, tom. vii. p. 185, tom. viii. p. 280), and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 22, &c. 33, &c.). [Shahrastāni, Religionspartheien und Philosophen-Schule; a translation by Th. Haarbrucker, 1850-1.]


In their offerings, it was a maxim to defraud God for the profit of the idol, not a more potent, but a more irritable patron (Pocock, Specimen, p. 108, 109).


Our versions now extant, whether Jewish or Christian, appear more recent than the Koran; but the existence of a prior translation may be fairly inferred: 1. From the perpetual practice of the synagogue, of expounding the Hebrew lesson by a paraphrase in the vulgar tongue of the country; 2. From the analogy of the Armenian, Persian, Æthiopic versions, expressly quoted by the fathers of the fifth century, who assert that the Scriptures were translated into all the Barbaric languages (Walton, Prolegomena ad Biblia Polyglot. p. 34, 93-97; Simon, Hist. Critique du V. et du N. Testament, tom. i. p. 180, 181, 282-286, 293, 305, 306, tom. iv. p. 206).


In eo conveniunt omnes, ut plebeio vilique genere ortum, &c. (Hottinger, Hist. Orient. p. 136). Yet Theophanes, the most ancient of the Greeks, and the father of many a lie, confesses that Mahomet was of the race of Ismael, ἐκ μια̂ς γενικωτάτης ϕυλη̂ς (Chronograph. p. 277 [a.m. 6122]). [The name Mohammad (= “the Praised”) is found as early as ad 113; cf. C.I.G. no. 4500, Μοαμέδου.]


Abulfeda (in Vit. Mohammed. c. 1, 2) and Gagnier (Vie de Mahomet, p. 25-97) describe the popular and approved genealogy of the prophet. At Mecca, I would not dispute its authenticity: at Lausanne, I will venture to observe, 1. That from Ismael to Mahomet, a period of 2500 years, they reckon thirty, instead of seventy-five generations; 2. That the modern Bedoweens are ignorant of their history and careless of their pedigree (Voyage d’Arvieux, p. 100, 103).


The seed of this history, or fable, is contained in the cvth chapter of the Koran [entitled the Elephant]; and Gagnier (in Præfat. ad Vit. Moham. p. 18, &c.) has translated the historical narrative of Abulfeda, which may be illustrated from d’Herbelot (Bibliot. Orientale, p. 12) and Pocock (Specimen, p. 64). Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 48) calls it a lie of the coinage of Mahomet; but Sale (Koran, p. 501-503), who is half a Musulman, attacks the inconsistent faith of the Doctor for believing the miracles of the Delphic Apollo. Maracci (Alcoran, tom. i. part ii. p. 14, tom. ii. p. 823) ascribes the miracle to the devil, and extorts from the Mahometans the confession that God would not have defended against the Christians the idols of the Caaba. [The expedition of Abraha against Mecca is historical. Ibn Ishāk’s account of it is preserved in Tabari (Nöldeke, p. 201 sqq.), but the earliest notice of it is in a Greek writer — Procopius, Pers. i. 20. The Mohammadan authorities always place the expedition in ad 570; but Nöldeke, by discovering the passage in Procopius, has rectified the chronology. The expedition must have taken place before Procopius wrote his Persica, that is probably before ad 544. It has been questioned whether Abraha actually approached the neighbourhood of Mecca; but Nöldeke thinks that the süra 105 (beginning “Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the men of the Elephant?”) proves that Mecca felt itself seriously menaced. Ibn Ishāk mentions that Abraha had an elephant with him. As for Abraha, the accounts of his rise to power vary; but he was probably an Abyssinian soldier of low birth who overthrew the vassal king of Yemen and usurped his place. The miracle which caused his retreat from the Hijaz was an outbreak of smallpox.]


The safest eras of Abulfeda (in Vit. c. i. p. 2), of Alexander, or the Greeks, 882, of Bocht Naser, or Nabonasser, 1316, equally lead us to the year 569. The old Arabian calendar is too dark and uncertain to support the Benedictines (Art de vérifier les Dates, p. 15), who from the day of the month and week deduce a new mode of calculation, and remove the birth of Mahomet to the year of Christ 570, the 10th of November. Yet this date would agree with the year 882 of the Greeks, which is assigned by Elmacin (Hist. Saracen. p. 5) and Abulpharagius (Dynast. p. 101, and Errata, Pocock’s version). While we refine our chronology, it is possible that the illiterate prophet was ignorant of his own age. [Probably the date ad 570 is approximately correct.]


I copy the honourable testimony of Abu Taleb to his family and nephew. Laus Dei, qui nos a stirpe Abrahami et semine Ismaelis constituit, et nobis regionem sacram dedit, et nos judices hominibus statuit. Porro Mohammed filius Abdollahi nepotis mei (nepos meus) quocum [non] ex æquo librabitur e Koraishidis quispiam cui non præponderaturus est, bonitate et excellentiâ, et intellectu et gloriâ et acumine etsi opum inops fuerit (et certe opes umbra transiens sunt et depositum quod reddi debet), desiderio Chadijæ filiæ Chowailedi tenetur, et illa vicissim ipsius; quicquid autem dotis vice petieritis, ego in me suscipiam (Pocock, Specimen, e septimâ parte libri Ebn Hamduni [p. 171]).


The private life of Mahomet, from his birth to his mission, is preserved by Abulfeda (in Vit. c. 3-7) and the Arabian writers of genuine or apocryphal note, who are alleged by Hottinger (Hist. Orient. p. 204-211), Maracci (tom. i. p. 10-14), and Gagnier (Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 97-134).


Abulfeda, in Vit. c. 65, 66; Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 272-289; the best traditions of the person and conversation of the prophet are derived from Ayesha, Ali, and Abu Horaira (Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 267; Ockley’s Hist. of the Saracens, vol. ii. p. 149), surnamed the father of a cat, who died in the year 59 of the Hegira. [Traditions reported by Abū-Horaira require corroboration.]


Those who believe that Mahomet could read or write are incapable of reading what is written, with another pen, in the Surats, or chapters of the Koran, vii. xxix. xcvi. These texts, and the tradition of the Sonna, are admitted without doubt by Abulfeda (in Vit. c. vii), Gagnier (Not. ad Abulfed. p. 15), Pocock (Specimen, p. 151), Reland (de Religione Mohammedicâ, p. 236), and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 42). Mr. White, almost alone, denies the ignorance, to accuse the imposture, of the prophet. His arguments are far from satisfactory. Two short trading journeys to the fairs of Syria were surely not sufficient to infuse a science so rare among the citizens of Mecca; it was not in the cool deliberate act of a treaty that Mahomet would have dropped the mask; nor can any conclusion be drawn from the words of disease and delirium. The lettered youth, before he aspired to the prophetic character, must have often exercised, in private life, the arts of reading and writing; and his first converts, of his own family, would have been the first to detect and upbraid his scandalous hypocrisy. White’s Sermons, p. 203, 204, Notes, p. xxxvi.-xxxviii. [It seems probable that Mohammad had some knowledge of the arts of reading and writing, but that in practice he employed an amanuensis to whom he dictated his sūras. On the subject of the knowledge of writing in Arabia see D. H. Müller, Epigraphische Denkmäler aus Arabien, in vol. 37 of the Denkschriften of the Vienna Acad. 1889.]


The Count de Boulainvilliers (Vie de Mahommed, p. 202-228) leads his Arabian pupil, like the Telemachus of Fénélon, or the Cyrus of Ramsay. His journey to the court of Persia is probably a fiction; nor can I trace the origin of his exclamation, “Les Grecs sont pourtant des hommes.” The two Syrian journeys are expressed by almost all the Arabian writers, both Mahometans and Christians (Gagnier ad Abulfed. p. 10).


[Mohammad occasionally borrows Aramaic words, where his native tongue failed him, but is apt to use these borrowed words in a wrong sense.]


I am not at leisure to pursue the fables or conjectures which name the strangers accused or suspected by the infidels of Mecca (Koran, c. 16, p. 223, c. 35, p. 297, with Sale’s Remarks. Prideaux’s Life of Mahomet, p. 22-27. Gagnier, Not. ad Abulfed. p. 11, 74. Maracci, tom. ii. p. 400). Even Prideaux has observed that the transaction must have been secret, and that the scene lay in the heart of Arabia.


[Mohammad had come into contact with a religious movement which had recently begun in Arabia, — the movement of the Hanīfs, men who were seeking for a religion, stimulated perhaps (as Wellhausen holds) by primitive forms of Christianity surviving among hermits in the Syro-Babylonian desert.]


Abulfeda in Vit. c. 7, p. 15. Gagnier, tom. i. p. 133, 135. The situation of Mount Hera is remarked by Abulfeda (Geograph. Arab. p. 4). Yet Mahomet had never read of the cave of Egeria ubi nocturnæ Numa constituebat amicæ, of the Idæan Mount where Minos conversed with Jove, &c. [A late tradition asserted that an interval of two or three years elapsed between the first and the second revelation at Hirā. This was called the doctrine of the fatra.]


[Islām and Muslim (= Moslem, Musulman) are the infinitive and participle of the causative form of the root slm, which connotes “peace.” The idea was to make peace with the stronger — to surrender to Allah.]


Koran, c. 9, p. 153. Al Beidawi and the other commentators quoted by Sale adhere to the charge; but I do not understand that it is coloured by the most obscure or absurd tradition of the Talmudists.


Hottinger, Hist. Orient. p. 225-228. The Collyridian heresy was carried from Thrace to Arabia by some women, and the name was borrowed from the κολλυρίς, or cake, which they offered to the goddess. This example, that of Beryllus, bishop of Bostra (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. l. vi. c. 33), and several others, may excuse the reproach, Arabia hæreseωn ferax.


The three gods in the Koran (c. 4, p. 81, c. 5, p. 92) are obviously directed against our Catholic mystery; but the Arabic commentators understand them of the Father, the Son, and the Virgin Mary, an heretical Trinity, maintained, as it is said, by some Barbarians at the council of Nice (Eutych. Annal. tom. i. p. 440). But the existence of the Marianites is denied by the candid Beausobre (Hist. de Manichéisme, tom. i. p. 532), and he derives the mistake from the word Rouah, the Holy Ghost, which, in some Oriental tongues, is of the feminine gender, and is figuratively styled the Mother of Christ in the gospel of the Nazarenes


This train of thought is philosophically exemplified in the character of Abraham, who opposed in Chaldæa the first introduction of idolatry (Koran, c. 6, p. 106; d’Herbelot, Bibliot Orient. p. 13).


See the Koran, particularly the second (p. 30), the fifty-seventh (p. 437), the fifty-eighth (p. 441), chapters, which proclaim the omnipotence of the Creator


The most orthodox creeds are translated by Pocock (Specimen, p. 274, 284-292), Ockley (Hist. of the Saracens, vol. ii. p. lxxxii.-xcv.), Reland (de Religion. Moham. l. i. p. 7-13), and Chardin (Voyages en Perse, tom. iv. p. 4-28). The great truth that God is without similitude, is foolishly criticised by Maracci (Alcoran, tom. i. part iii. p. 87-94), because he made man after his own image.


Reland, de Relig. Moham. l. i. p. 17-47. Sale’s Preliminary Discourse, p. 73-76. Voyage de Chardin, tom. iv. p. 28-37 and 37-47 for the Persian addition, “Ali is the vicar of God!” Yet the precise number of prophets is not an article of faith.


For the Apocryphal books of Adam, see Fabricius, Codex Pseudepigraphus V. T. p. 27-29; of Seth, p. 154-157; of Enoch, p. 160-219. But the book of Enoch is consecrated, in some measure, by the quotation of the apostle St. Jude; and a long legendary fragment is alleged by Syncellus and Scaliger. [The book of Enoch survives in an Ethiopic version, edited by Archbishop Lawrence, with a translation, 1821.]


The seven precepts of Noah are explained by Marsham (Canon. Chronicus, p. 154-180), who adopts, on this occasion, the learning and credulity of Selden.


The articles of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, &c. in the Bibliothèque of d’Herbelot, are gaily bedecked with the fanciful legends of the Mahometans, who have built on the groundwork of Scripture and the Talmud.


Koran, c. 7, p. 128, &c. c. 10, p. 173, &c. D’Herbelot. p. 647, &c.


Koran, c. 3, p. 40, c. 4, p. 80. D’Herbelot, p. 399, &c.


See the gospel of St. Thomas, or of the Infancy, in the Codex Apocryphus N.T. of Fabricius, who collects the various testimonies concerning it (p. 128-158). It was published in Greek by Cotelier, and in Arabic by Sike, who thinks our present copy more recent than Mahomet. Yet his quotations agree with the original about the speech of Christ in his cradle, his living birds of clay, &c. (Sike, c. 1, p. 168, 169, c. 36, p. 198, 199, c. 46, p. 206. Cotelier, c. 2, p. 160, 161). [Ed. Tischendorf, Evang. apocrypha, 1876, and W. Wright, Contributions to the apocryphal literature of the N.T., 1865.]


It is darkly hinted in the Koran (c. 3, p. 39), and more clearly explained by the tradition of the Sonnites (Sale’s Note, and Maracci, tom. ii. p. 112). In the xiith century, the immaculate conception was condemned by St. Bernard as a presumptuous novelty (Fra Paolo, Istoria del Concilio di Trento, l. ii.).


See the Koran, c. 3, v. 53 and c. 4, v. 156 of Maracci’s edition. Deus est præstantissimus dolose agentium (an odd praise) . . . nec crucifixerunt eum, sed objecta est eis similitudo; an expression that may suit with the system of the Docetes; but the commentators believe (Maracci, tom. ii. p. 113-115, 173; Sale, p. 42, 43, 79) that another man, a friend or an enemy, was crucified in the likeness of Jesus: a fable which they had read in the gospel of St. Barnabas, and which had been started as early as the time of Irenæus, by some Ebionite heretics (Beausobre, Hist. du Manichéisme, tom. ii. p. 25. Mosheim de Reb. Christ. p. 353).


This charge is obscurely urged in the Koran (c. 3, p. 45); but neither Mahomet nor his followers are sufficiently versed in languages and criticism to give any weight or colour to their suspicions. Yet the Arians and Nestorians could relate some stories, and the illiterate prophet might listen to the bold assertions of the Manichæans. See Beausobre, tom. i. p. 291-305.


Among the prophecies of the Old and New Testament, which are perverted by the fraud or ignorance of the Musulmans, they apply to the prophet the promise of the Paraclete, or Comforter, which had been already usurped by the Montanists and Manichæans (Beausobre, Hist. Critique du Manichéisme, tom. i. p. 263, &c.); and the easy change of letters, περικλυτός for παράκλητος, affords the etymology of the name of Mohammed (Maracci, tom. i. part i. p. 15-28). [See John xvi. 7.]


For the Koran, see d’Herbelot, p. 85-88; Maracci, tom. i. in Vit. Mohammed. p. 32-45; Sale, Preliminary Discourse, p. 56-70. [Nöldeke, Geschichte des Qorâns, 1860; Weil, Einleitung in dem Koran, 1878 (ed. 2); Palmer’s translation in “Sacred Books of the East” (1880); Roddwell’s translation, and article in Hughes’ dictionary of Islām.]


[Abū-Bekr’s edition was made by Zaid, who had acted as secretary of the prophet. It was known as “the Leaves” (al-suhuf). Zaid also took part in the preparation of Othmān’s edition, of which four official copies were made, for Medina, Kūfa, Basra, and Damascus.]


Koran, c. 17, v. 89. In Sale, p. 235, 236. In Maracci, p. 410.


Yet a sect of Arabians was persuaded that it might be equalled or surpassed by an human pen (Pocock, Specimen, p. 221, &c.); and Maracci (the polemic is too hard for the translator) derides the rhyming affectation of the most applauded passage (tom. i. part ii. p. 69-75).


Colloquia (whether real or fabulous) in mediâ Arabiâ atque ab Arabibus habita (Lowth, de Poesi Hebræorum Prælect. xxxii. xxxiii. xxxiv. with his German editor Michaelis, Epimetron iv.). Yet Michaelis (p. 671-673) has detected many Egyptian images, the elephantiasis, papyrus, Nile, crocodile, &c. The language is ambiguously styled Arabico-Hebraea. The resemblance of the sister dialects was much more visible in their childhood than in their mature age (Michaelis, p. 682. Schultens, in Præfat. Job).


Al Bochari died a.h. 224. See D’Herbelot, p. 208, 416, 827. Gagnier, Not. ad Abulfed. c. 19, p. 33. [He discriminated 4000 out of 600,000 traditions. His book, the Sahih Bokhāri, is still of the highest authority in the world of Islām.]


See more remarkably, Koran, c. 2, 6, 12, 13, 17. Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 18, 19) has confounded the impostor. Maracci, with a more learned apparatus, has shewn that the passages which deny his miracles are clear and positive (Alcoran, tom. i. part ii. p. 7-12), and those which seem to assert them are ambiguous and insufficient (p. 12-22). [This contradiction between the Koran and the Tradition on the matter of miracles is remarkable and instructive.]


See the Specimen Hist. Arabum, the text of Abulpharagius, p. 17; the notes of Pocock, p. 187-190; D’Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale, p. 76, 77; Voyages de Chardin, tom. iv. p. 200-203. Maracci (Alcoran, tom. i. p. 22-64) has most laboriously collected and confuted the miracles and prophecies of Mahomet, which, according to some writers, amount to three thousand.


The nocturnal journey is circumstantially related by Abulfeda (in Vit. Mohammed. c. 19, p. 33), who wishes to think it a vision, by Prideaux (p. 31-40), who aggravates the absurdities; and by Gagnier (tom. i. p 252-343), who declares, from the zealous Al Jannabi, that to deny this journey is to disbelieve the Koran. Yet the Koran, without naming either heaven or Jerusalem or Mecca, has only dropped a mysterious hint: Laus illi qui transtulit servum suum ab oratorio Haram ad oratorium remotissimum (Koran, c. 17, v. 1, in Maracci, tom. ii. p. 407; for Sale’s version is more licentious). A slender basis for the aerial structure of tradition. [The literal translation of the opening words of the 17th sūra (which clearly belongs to the later Meccan period) is “Praise be unto him who transported his servant by night from the sacred temple to the farther temple, the circuit (or environs) of which we have blessed” The simplest inference may seem to be that the prophet actually visited Jerusalem in the course of the last two years of the Meccan period; yet it is hard to believe that the visit would not have been known as a fact.]


In the prophetic style, which uses the present or past for the future, Mahomet had said: Appropinquavit hora et scissa est luna (Koran, c. 54, v. 1; in Maracci, tom. ii. p. 688). This figure of rhetoric has been converted into a fact, which is said to be attested by the most respectable eye-witnesses (Maracci, tom. ii. p. 690). The festival is still celebrated by the Persians (Chardin, tom. iv. p. 201); and the legend is tediously spun out by Gagnier (Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 183-234), on the faith, as it should seem, of the credulous Al Jannabī. Yet a Mahometan doctor has arraigned the credit of the principal witness (apud Pocock, Specimen, p. 187), the best interpreters are content with the simple sense of the Koran (Al Beidawi, apud Hottinger, Hist. Orient. l. ii. p. 302); and the silence of Abulfeda is worthy of a prince and a philosopher.


Abulpharagius, in Specimen Hist. Arab. p. 17; and his scepticism is justified in the notes of Pocock, p. 190-194, from the purest authorities.


[Add the precept of pilgrimage to Mecca; cp. Sūra 2.]


The most authentic account of these precepts, pilgrimage, prayer, fasting, alms, and ablutions is extracted from the Persian and Arabian theologians by Maracci (Prodrom. part iv. p. 9-24); Reland (in his excellent treatise de Religione Mohammedicâ, Utrecht, 1717, p. 67-123); and Chardin (Voyages en Perse, tom. iv. p. 47-195). Maracci is a partial accuser; but the jeweller, Chardin, had the eyes of a philosopher; and Reland, a judicious student, had travelled over the East in his closet at Utrecht. The xivth letter of Tournefort (Voyage du Levant, tom. ii. p. 325-360, in octavo) describes what he had seen of the religion of the Turks.


[There is an annual sacrifice at the Feast of Victims in the Valley of Minā near Mecca during the Pilgrimage.]


Mahomet (Sale’s Koran, c. 9, p. 153) reproaches the Christians with taking their priests and monks for their lords, besides God. Yet Maracci (Prodromus, part iii. p. 69, 70) excuses the worship, especially of the pope, and quotes, from the Koran itself, the case of Eblis, or Satan, who was cast from heaven for refusing to adore Adam.


Koran, c. 5, p. 94, and Sale’s note, which refers to the authority of Jallaloddin and Al Beidawi. D’Herbelot declares that Mahomet condemned la vie religieuse; and that the first swarms of fakirs, dervises, &c. did not appear till after the year 300 of the Hegira (Bibliot. Orient. p. 292, 718).


[As being the month “in which the Koran was sent down” from heaven; see Sūra 2.]


See the double prohibition (Koran, c. 2, p. 25, c. 5, p. 94), the one in the style of a legislator, the other in that of a fanatic. The public and private motives of Mahomet are investigated by Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 62-64) and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 124).


[It would seem that the Koran doctrine of “abrogation” must be here applied to Gibbon. It has been pointed out that this remark is inconsistent with his subsequent statement that the Prophet incited the Arabs to “the indulgence of their darling passions in this world and in the other.” See below, p. 107.]


The jealousy of Maracci (Prodromus, part iv. p. 33) prompts him to enumerate the more liberal alms of the Catholics of Rome. Fifteen great hospitals are open to many thousand patients and pilgrims, fifteen hundred maidens are annually portioned, fifty-six charity schools are founded for both sexes, one hundred and twenty confraternities relieve the wants of their brethren, &c. The benevolence of London is still more extensive; but I am afraid that much more is to be ascribed to the humanity than to the religion of the people.


See Herodotus (l. ii. c. 123) and our learned countryman Sir John Marsham (Canon. Chronicus, p. 46). The Ἅδης of the same writer (p. 254-274) is an elaborate sketch of the infernal regions, as they were painted by the fancy of the Egyptians and Greeks, of the poets and philosophers of antiquity.


The Koran (c. 2, p. 259, &c.; of Sale, p. 32; of Maracci, p. 97) relates an ingenious miracle, which satisfied the curiosity, and confirmed the faith, of Abraham.


The candid Reland has demonstrated that Mahomet damns all unbelievers (de Religion. Moham. p. 128-142); that devils will not be finally saved (p. 196-199); that paradise will not solely consist of corporeal delights (p. 199-205); and that women’s souls are immortal (p. 205-209).


Al Beidawi, apud Sale, Koran, c. 9, p. 164. The refusal to pray for an unbelieving kindred is justified, according to Mahomet, by the duty of a prophet, and the example of Abraham, who reprobated his own father as an enemy of God. Yet Abraham (he adds, c. 9, v. 116; Maracci, tom. ii. p. 317) fuit sane pius, mitis.


For the day of judgment, hell, paradise, &c. consult the Koran (c. 2, v. 25, c. 56, 78, &c.), with Maracci’s virulent, but learned, refutation (in his notes, and in the Prodromus, part iv. p. 78, 120, 122, &c.); d’Herbelot (Bibliothèque Orientale, p. 368, 375); Reland (p. 47-61); and Sale (p. 76-173). The original ideas of the Magi are darkly and doubtfully explored by their apologist, Dr. Hyde (Hist. Religionis Persarum, c. 33, p. 402-412, Oxon. 1760). In the article of Mahomet, Bayle has shewn how indifferently wit and philosophy supply the absence of genuine information


Before I enter on the history of the prophet, it is incumbent on me to produce my evidence. The Latin, French, and English versions of the Koran are preceded by historical discourses, and the three translators, Maracci (tom. i. p. 10-32), Savary (tom. i. p. 1-248), and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p 33-56), had accurately studied the language and character of their author. Two professed lives of Mahomet have been composed by Dr. Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, seventh edition, London, 1718, in octavo) and the Count de Boulainvilliers (Vie de Mahomed, Londres, 1730, in octavo), but the adverse wish of finding an impostor or an hero has too often corrupted the learning of the Doctor and the ingenuity of the Count. The article in d’Herbelot (Bibliot. Orient. p. 598-603) is chiefly drawn from Novairi and Mircond; but the best and most authentic of our guides is M Gagnier, a Frenchman by birth, and professor at Oxford of the Oriental tongues. In two elaborate works (Ismael Abulfeda de Vitâ et Rebus gestis Mohammedis, &c., Latine vertit, Præfatione et Notis illustravit Johannes Gagnier, Oxon. 1723, in folio. La Vie de Mahomet traduite et compilée de l’Alcoran, des Traditions authentiques de la Sonna et des meilleurs Auteurs Arabes; Amsterdam, 1748, 3 vols. in 12mo) he has interpreted, illustrated, and supplied the Arabic text of Abulfeda and Al Jannabi: the first, an enlightened prince, who reigned at Hamah in Syria ad 1310-1332 (see Gagnier, Præfat. ad Abulfed.), the second, a credulous doctor, who visited Mecca ad 1556 (d’Herbelot, p. 397. Gagnier, tom. iii. p. 209, 210). These are my general vouchers, and the inquisitive reader may follow the order of time and the division of chapters. Yet I must observe that both Abulfeda and Al Jannabi are modern historians, and that they cannot appeal to any writers of the first century of the Hegira. [For sources and modern works see vol. viii. Appendix 1.]


After the Greeks, Prideaux (p. 8) discloses the secret doubts of the wife of Mahomet. As if he had been a privy counsellor of the prophet, Boulainvilliers (p. 272, &c.) unfolds the sublime and patriotic views of Cadijah and the first disciples.


Vezirus, portitor, bajulus, onus ferens; and this plebeian name was transferred by an apt metaphor to the pillars of the state (Gagnier, Not ad Abulfed. p. 19). I endeavour to preserve the Arabian idiom, as far as I can feel it myself in a Latin or French translation.


The passages of the Koran in behalf of toleration are strong and numerous; c. 2, v. 257, c. 16, 129, c. 17, 54, c. 45, 15, c. 50, 39, c. 88, 21, &c., with the notes of Maracci and Sale. This character alone may generally decide the doubts of the learned, whether a chapter was revealed at Mecca or Medina.


See the Koran (passim, and especially c. 7, p. 123, 124, &c.) and the tradition of the Arabs (Pocock, Specimen, p. 35-37). The caverns of the tribe of Thamud, fit for men of the ordinary stature, were shewn in the midway between Medina and Damascus (Abulfed. Arabiæ Descript. p. 43, 44), and may be probably ascribed to the Troglodytes of the primitive world (Michaelis, ad Lowth de Poesi Hebræor. p. 131-134. Recherches sur les Egyptiens, tom. ii. p. 48, &c.).


[Abū Lahab, another uncle of Mohammad, is meant.]


[Mohammad at one weak moment made a compromise with the Meccan elders. They asked him, as a test question, “What think you of Al-Lāt and Al-Uzzā, and of Manāt the third with them?” The prophet acknowledged them by replying, “These are the sublime cranes whose intercession may be hoped;” and the elders went away content. But Mohammad’s weakness was speedily rebuked in a vision; and his acknowledgment of the false idols was retracted. See Sūra 53.]


In the time of Job, the crime of impiety was punished by the Arabian magistrate (c. 13, v. 26, 27, 28). I blush for a respectable prelate (de Poesi Hebræorum, p. 650, 651, edict. Michaelis; and letter of a late professor in the university of Oxford, p. 15-53) who justifies and applauds this patriarchal inquisition.


D’Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 445. He quotes a particular history of the flight of Mahomet.


The Hegira was instituted by Omar, the second caliph, in imitation of the era of the martyrs of the Christians (d’Herbelot, p. 444); and properly commenced sixty-eight days before the flight of Mahomet, with the first of Moharren [Muharram], or first day of that Arabian year, which coincides with Friday, July 16th, ad 622 (Abulfeda, Vit. Moham. c. 22, 23, p. 45-50, and Greaves’s edition of Ullug Beig’s Epochæ Arabum, &c. c. 1, p. 8, 10, &c). [Before Islām, early in the fifth century ad, the Lunar and Solar years had been reconciled by intercalated months. The flight of Mohammad took place on Sept. 20; the era was dated from the new moon of the first month of the same year, corresponding to July 16. See al-Bīrūnī, Chronol. of Ancient Nations, tr. Sachau (1879), p. 327.]


Mahomet’s life, from his mission to the Hegira, may be found in Abulfeda (p. 14-45) and Gagnier (tom. i. p. 134-251, 342-383). The legend from p. 187-234 is vouched by Al Jannabi, and disdained by Abulfeda.


[This tribe of the Khazrajites must not be confused with the Khārijites or rebels, who are noticed below, p. 96.]


The triple inauguration of Mahomet is described by Abulfeda (p. 30, 33, 40, &c.), and Gagnier (tom. i. p. 342, &c. 349, &c. tom. ii. p. 223, &c).


Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 44) reviles the wickedness of the impostor, who despoiled two poor orphans, the sons of a carpenter: a reproach which he drew from the Disputatio contra Saracenos, composed in Arabic before the year 1130; but the honest Gagnier (ad Abulfed. p. 53) has shewn that they were deceived by the word Al Nagjar, which signifies, in this place, not an obscure trade, but a noble tribe of Arabs. The desolate state of the ground is described by Abulfeda; and his worthy interpreter has proved, from Al Bochari, the offer of a price; from Al Jannabi, the fair purchase; and from Ahmed Ben Joseph, the payment of the money by the generous Abubeker. On these grounds the prophet must be honourably acquitted.


Al Jannabi (apud Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 246, 324) describes the seal and pulpit as two venerable relics of the apostle of God; and the portrait of his court is taken from Abulfeda (c. 44, p. 85).


The viiith and ixth chapters of the Koran are the loudest and most vehement; and Maracci (Prodromus, part iv. p. 59-64) has inveighed with more justice than discretion against the double dealing of the impostor.


The xth and xxth chapters of Deuteronomy, with the practical comments of Joshua, David, &c., are read with more awe than satisfaction by the pious Christians of the present age. But the bishops, as well as the rabbis of former times, have beat the drum-ecclesiastic with pleasure and success (Sale’s Preliminary Discourse, p. 142, 143).


Abulfeda, in Vit. Moham. p. 156. The private arsenal of the apostle consisted of nine swords, three lances, seven pikes or half-pikes, a quiver and three bows, seven cuirasses, three shields, and two helmets (Gagnier, tom. iii. p. 328-334), with a large white standard, a black banner (p. 335), twenty horses (p. 322), &c. Two of his martial sayings are recorded by tradition (Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 88, 337).


The whole subject de jure belli Mohammedanorum is exhausted in a separate dissertation by the learned Reland (Dissertationes Miscellaneæ, tom. iii. Dissertat. x. p. 3-53).


The doctrine of absolute predestination, on which few religions can reproach each other, is sternly exposed in the Koran (c. 3, p. 52, 53, c. 4, p. 70, &c., with the notes of Sale, and c. 17, p. 413, with those of Maracci). Reland (de Relig. Mohamm. p. 61-64) and Sale (Prelim. Discourse, p. 103) represent the opinions of the doctors, and our modern travellers the confidence, the fading confidence, of the Turks.


Al Jannabi (apud Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 9) allows him seventy or eighty horse; and on two other occasions, prior to the battle of Ohud, he enlists a body of thirty (p. 10), and of 500 (p. 66), troopers. Yet the Musulmans, in the field of Ohud, had no more than two horses, according to the better sense of Abulfeda (in Vit. Mohamm. c. 31, p. 65. In the Stony province, the camels were numerous; but the horse appears to have been less common than in the Happy or the Desert Arabia.


Beder Houneene, twenty miles from Medina and forty from Mecca, is on the high road of the caravan of Egypt; and the pilgrims annually commemorate the prophet’s victory by illuminations, rockets, &c. Shaw’s Travels, p. 477.


The place to which Mahomet retired during the action is styled by Gagnier (in Abulfeda, c. 27, p. 58; Vie de Mahomet, tom. ii. p. 30, 33), umbraculum, une loge de bois avec une porte. The same Arabic word is rendered by Reiske (Annales Moslemici Abulfedæ, p. 23) by solium, suggestus editior; and the difference is of the utmost moment for the honour both of the interpreter and of the hero. I am sorry to observe the pride and acrimony with which Reiske chastises his fellow-labourer. Sæpe sic vertit, ut integræ paginæ nequeant nisi unâ liturâ corrigi: Arabice non satis callebat et carebat judicio critico. J. J. Reiske, Prodidagmata ad Hagji Chalisæ Tabulas, p. 228, ad calcem Abulfedæ Syriæ Tabulæ; Lipsiæ, 1766, in 4to. [The place in question was a hut of palm branches, in which Mohammad and Abū Bekr slept on the night before the battle. Mohammad probably took no part in the fighting, but directed and incited his men. He was not remarkable for physical courage, and never exposed himself needlessly to danger.]


The loose expressions of the Koran (c. 3, p. 124, 125; c. 8, p. 9) allow the commentators to fluctuate between the numbers of 1000, 3000, or 9000 angels; and the smallest of these might suffice for the slaughter of seventy of the Koreish (Maracci, Alcoran, tom. ii. p. 131). Yet the same scholiasts confess that this angelic band was not visible to any mortal eye (Maracci, p. 297). They refine on the words (c. 8, 16), “not thou, but God,” &c. (D’Herbelot, Bibliot. Orientale, p. 600, 601).


Geograph. Nubiensis, p. 47. [The disproportion of numbers at Ohud was rather greater than at Bedr. At Bedr it was 305 to 950; at Ohud 700 to 3000 (for 300 of the thousand followers with whom Mohammad started had turned back before the battle).]


In the iiid chapter of the Koran (p. 50-53, with Sale’s notes) the prophet alleges some poor excuses for the defeat of Ohud.


For the detail of the three Koreish wars, of Beder, of Ohud, and of the ditch, peruse Abulfeda (p. 56-61, 64-69, 73-77), Gagnier (tom. ii. p 23-45, 70-96, 120-139), with the proper articles of d’Herbelot, and the abridgments of Elmacin (Hist. Saracen p. 6, 7) and Abulpharagius (Dynast. p. 102). [And for Bedr, the 8th Sūra of the Koran is a most important source. Gibbon misdates the siege of Medina, which belongs to March, ad 627.]


The wars of Mahomet against the Jewish tribes of Kainoka, the Nadhirites, Koraidha, and Chaibar, are related by Abulfeda (p. 61, 71, 77, 87, &c.) and Gagnier (tom. ii. p. 61-65, 107-112, 139-148, 268-294).


[On the siege of Medina and the destruction of the Kuraidha see Sūra 33.]


Abu Rafe, the servant of Mahomet, is said to affirm that he himself, and seven other men, afterwards tried, without success, to move the same gate from the ground (Abulfeda, p. 90). Abu Rafe was an eye-witness, but who will be witness for Abu Rafe?


The banishment of the Jews is attested by Elmacin (Hist. Saracen. p. 9) and the great Al Tabari (Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 285). Yet Niebuhr (Description de l’Arabie, p. 324) believes that the Jewish religion, and Kareite sect, are still professed by the tribe of Chaibar; and that in the plunder of the caravans the disciples of Moses are the confederates of those of Mahomet.


The successive steps of the reduction of Mecca are related by Abulfeda (p. 84-87, 97-100, 102-111), and Gagnier (tom. ii. p. 209-245, 309-322, tom. iii. p. 1-58), Elmacin (Hist. Saracen. p. 8, 9, 10), Abulpharagius (Dynast. p. 103).


[For a translation of the treaty see Appendix 3.]


[Othmān also joined Mohammad at this juncture. It seems probable that Abū Sofyān was in collusion with Mohammad. See Muir, Life of Mahomet, p. 302.]


After the conquest of Mecca, the Mahomet of Voltaire imagines and perpetrates the most horrid crimes. The poet confesses that he is not supported by the truth of history, and can only allege que celui qui fait la guerre à sa patrie au nom de Dieu est capable de tout (Oeuvres de Voltaire, tom xv. p. 282). The maxim is neither charitable or philosophic; and some reverence is surely due to the fame of heroes and the religion of nations. I am informed that a Turkish ambassador at Paris was much scandalised at the representation of this tragedy. [Of the proscribed persons, only four were put to death.]


The Mahometan doctors still dispute whether Mecca was reduced by force or consent (Abulfeda, p. 107, et Gagnier ad locum); and this verbal controversy is of as much moment as our own about William the Conqueror.


[The rites, however, of the old cult were retained.]


In excluding the Christians from the peninsula of Arabia, the province of Hejaz, or the navigation of the Red Sea, Chardin (Voyages en Perse, tom. iv. p. 166) and Reland (Dissert. Miscell. tom iii. p. 51) are more rigid than the Musulmans themselves. The Christians are received without scruple into the ports of Mocha, and even of Gedda, and it is only the city and precincts of Mecca that are inaccessible to the profane (Niebuhr, Description de l’Arabie, p. 308, 309. Voyage en Arabie, tom. i. p. 205, 248, &c.).


Abulfeda, p. 112-115. Gagnier, tom. iii. p. 67-88. D’Herbelot, Mohammed. [The results of the conquest of Mecca, and the policy of Mohammad towards the Koraish, have been excellently summed up by Wellhausen: “The fall of Mecca reacted powerfully on the future of Islam. Again the saying came true: victa victores cepit; the victory of the Moslems over the Koraish shaped itself into a domination of the Koraish over the Moslems. For this the Prophet himself was to blame. In making Mecca the Jerusalem of Islam, he was ostensibly moved by religious motives, but in reality Mohammad’s religion had nothing to do with the heathenish usages at the Kaaba and the Great Feast. To represent Abraham as the founder of the ritual was merely a pious fraud What Mohammad actually sought was to recommend Islam to Arabic prejudices by incorporating this fragment of heathenism, and at the same time he was influenced by local patriotism. Henceforth these local feelings became quite the mainspring of his conduct; his attitude to the Koraish was determined entirely by the spirit of clannishness” (Encycl. Britann., art. Mohammedanism).]


The siege of Tayef, division of the spoil, &c. are related by Abulfeda (p. 117-123) and Gagnier (tom. iii. p. 88-111). It is Al Jannabi who mentions the engines and engineers of the tribe of Daws. The fertile spot of Tayef was supposed to be a piece of the land of Syria detached and dropped in the general deluge.


[For this incident see Sūra 9; and Muir, Life of Mahomet, ed. 3, p. 408-9.]


The last conquests and pilgrimage of Mahomet are contained in Abulfeda (p. 121-133), Gagnier (tom. iii. p. 110-219), Elmacin (p 10, 11). Abulpharagius (p. 103). The ixth of the Hegira was styled the Year of Embassies (Gagnier, Not. ad Abulfed. p. 121).


Compare the bigoted Al Jannabi (apud Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 232-255) with the no less bigoted Greeks, Theophanes (p. 276-278 [ad a.m. 6122]), Zonaras (tom. ii. l. xiv. p. 86 [c. 17]), and Cedrenus (p. 421 [i. p. 737, ed. Bonn]).


For the battle of Muta and its consequences, see Abulfeda (p. 100-102), and Gagnier (tom. ii. p. 327-343). Χάλεδος (says Theophanes [ad a.m. 6123]) ὃν λέγουσι [τὴν] μάχαιραν τον̂ Θεον̂.


The expedition of Tabuc is recorded by our ordinary historians, Abulfeda (Vit. Moham. p. 123-127) and Gagnier (Vie de Mahomet, tom iii. p. 147-163); but we have the advantage of appealing to the original evidence of the Koran (c. 9, p. 154, 165), with Sale’s learned and rational notes.


The Diploma securitatis Ailensibus is attested by Ahmed Ben Joseph, and the author Libri Splendorum (Gagnier, Not. ad Abulfedam, p. 125); but Abulfeda himself, as well as Elmacin (Hist Saracen. p. 11), though he owns Mahomet’s regard for the Christians (p. 13), only mentions peace and tribute. In the year 1630, Sionita published at Paris the text and version of Mahomet’s patent in favour of the Christians; which was admitted and reprobated by the opposite taste of Salmasius and Grotius (Bayle, Mahomet, Rem. AA). Hottinger doubts of its authenticity (Hist. Orient. p. 237); Renaudot urges the consent of the Mahometans (Hist. Patriarch. Alex. p. 169), but Mosheim (Hist. Eccles. p. 244) shews the futility of their opinion, and inclines to believe it spurious. Yet Abulpharagius quotes the impostor’s treaty with the Nestorian patriarch (Asseman. Bibliot. Orient. tom ii. p. 418); but Abulpharagius was primate of the Jacobites. [For the treaty with the prince and people of Aila, which is doubtless genuine, see Appendix 3.]


The epilepsy, or falling-sickness, of Mahomet is asserted by Theophanes, Zonaras, and the rest of the Greeks; and is greedily swallowed by the gross bigotry of Hottinger (Hist. Orient p. 10, 11), Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 12), and Maracci (tom. ii. Alcoran, p. 762, 763). The titles (the wrapped up, the covered) of two chapters of the Koran (73, 74) can hardly be strained to such an interpretation; the silence, the ignorance, of the Mahometan commentators is more conclusive than the most peremptory denial; and the charitable side is espoused by Ockley (Hist. of the Saracens, tom. i. p 301), Gagnier (ad Abulfedam, p. 9, Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p 118), and Sale (Koran, p. 469-474). [Mohammad seems to have suffered from hysteria (an affection which, as is now established, is not confined to women and is therefore miscalled), which when acute produced catalepsy. Sprenger has a long chapter on the subject, Leben und Lehre des Mohammad, vol. i. c. 3, p. 207 sqq.]


This poison (more ignominious since it was offered as a test of his prophetic knowledge) is frankly confessed by his zealous votaries, Abulfeda (p. 92) and Al Jannabi (apud Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 286-288).


The Greeks and Latins have invented and propagated the vulgar and ridiculous story that Mahomet’s iron tomb is suspended in the air at Mecca (ση̂μα μετεωριζόμενον, Laonicus Chalcocondyles de Rebus Turcicis, l. iii. p. 66), by the action of equal and potent loadstones (Dictionnaire de Bayle, Mahomet, Rem. EE, FF). Without any philosophical inquiries, it may suffice that, 1. The prophet was not buried at Mecca; and, 2. That his tomb at Medina, which has been visited by millions, is placed on the ground (Reland de Relig. Moham. l. ii. c. 19, p. 209-211; Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 263-268).


Al Jannabi enumerates (Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 372-391) the multifarious duties of a pilgrim who visits the tombs of the prophet and his companions; and the learned casuist decides that this act of devotion is nearest in obligation and merit to a divine precept. The doctors are divided, which, of Mecca and Medina, be the most excellent (p. 391-394).


The last sickness, death, and burial of Mahomet are described by Abulfeda and Gagnier (Vit. Moham. p. 133-142, Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 220-271). The most private and interesting circumstances were originally received from Ayesha, Ali, the sons of Abbas, &c; and, as they dwelt at Medina and survived the prophet many years, they might repeat the pious tale to a second or third generation of pilgrims.


The Christians, rashly enough, have assigned to Mahomet a tame pigeon, that seemed to descend from heaven and whisper in his ear. As this pretended miracle is urged by Grotius (de Veritate Religionis Christianæ), his Arabic translator, the learned Pocock, inquired of him the names of his authors; and Grotius confessed that it is unknown to the Mahometans themselves. Lest it should provoke their indignation and laughter, the pious lie is suppressed in the Arabic version; but it has maintained an edifying place in the numerous editions of the Latin text (Pocock, Specimen Hist. Arabum, p. 186, 187. Reland, de Religion. Moham. l. ii. c. 39, p. 259-262).


Ἐμοὶ δὲ τον̂τό ὲστιν ἐκ παιδὸς ἀρξάμενον, ϕωνή τις γιγνομένη ἢ ὅταν γένηται ἀεὶ ἀποτρέπει με τούτου ὃ ἃν μέλλω πράττειν, προτρέπει δὲ οῠποτε (Plato, in Apolog. Socrat c. 19, p. 121, 122, edit. Fischer). The familiar examples, which Socrates urges in his Dialogue with Theages (Platon Opera, tom. i. p. 128, 129, edit. Hen. Stephan.), are beyond the reach of human foresight; and the divine inspiration (the Δαιμόνιον) of the philosopher is clearly taught in the Memorabilia of Xenophon. The ideas of the most rational Platonists are expressed by Cicero (de Divinat. i. 54), and in the fourteenth and fifteenth Dissertations of Maximus of Tyre (p. 153-172, edit. Davis).


In some passage of his voluminous writings, Voltaire compares the prophet, in his old age, to a fakir: “qui détache la chaîne de son cou pour en donner sur les oreilles à ses confrères.”


Gagnier relates, with the same impartial pen, this humane law of the prophet, and the murders of Caab, and Sophian, which he prompted and approved (Vie de Mahomet, tom. ii. p. 69, 97, 208).


For the domestic life of Mahomet, consult Gagnier, and the corresponding chapters of Abulfeda, for his diet (tom iii. p. 285-288), his children (p. 189, 289), his wives (p. 290-303), his marriage with Zeineb (tom. ii. p. 152-160), his amour with Mary (p. 303-309), the false accusation of Ayesha (p. 186-199). The most original evidence of the three last transactions is contained in the xxivth, xxxiiird and lxvith chapters of the Koran, with Sale’s Commentary. Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 80-90) and Maracci (Prodrom. Alcoran, part iv. p. 49-59) have maliciously exaggerated the frailties of Mahomet.


Incredibile est quo ardore apud eos in Venerem uterque solvitur sexus (Ammian. Marcellin. l. xiv. c. 4).


Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 133-137) has recapitulated the laws of marriage, divorce, &c., and the curious reader of Selden’s Uxor Hebraica will recognise many Jewish ordinances. [The statement in the text “four legitimate wives or concubines” is incorrect. There was no restriction as to the number of concubines.]


In a memorable case, the Caliph Omar decided that all presumptive evidence was of no avail; and that all the four witnesses must have actually seen stylum in pyxide (Abulfedæ, Annales Moslemici, p. 71, vers. Reiske).


[A gift of the Copt Mokaukas; for whom see below, p. 177, and Appendix 4.]


[The editions give Hafna, which must have been originally a misprint.]


Sibi robur ad generationem, quantum triginta viri habent, inesse jactaret; ita ut unicâ horâ posset undecim feminis satisfacere, ut ex Arabum libris refert Stus Petrus Paschasius, c. 2 (Maracci, Prodromus Alcoran, p. iv. p. 55. See likewise Observations de Belon, l. iii. c. 10, fol. 179, recto). Al Jannabi (Gagmer, tom. iii. p. 487) records his own testimony that he surpassed all men in conjugal vigour; and Abulfeda mentions the exclamation of Ali, who washed his body after his death, “O propheta, certe penis tuus cælum versus erectus est” (in Vit. Mohammed. p. 140).


I borrow the style of a father of the church, ἐναθλεύων Ἡρακλη̂ς τρισκαιδέκατον ἀθλον (Greg. Nazianzen, Orat. iii. p. 108 [Or. iv. c. 122; ap. Migne, Patr. Gr. 35, p. 661]).


The common and most glorious legend includes, in a single night, the fifty victories of Hercules over the virgin daughters of Thestius (Diodor. Sicul. tom. i. l. iv. p. 274 [c. 29; Diodorus does not say “in a single night”]; Pausanias, l. ix. p. 763 [c. 27, 6], Statius Sylv. l. i. eleg. iii. v. 42). But Athenæus allows seven nights (Deipnosophist. l. xiii. p. 556 [c. 4]) and Apollodorus fifty, for this arduous achievement of Hercules, who was then no more than eighteen years of age (Bibliot. l. ii. c. 4, p. 111, cum notis Heyne, part i. p. 332).


Abulfeda in Vit. Moham. p. 12, 13, 16, 17, cum notis Gagnier.


This outline of the Arabian history is drawn from the Bibliothèque Orientale of d’Herbelot (under the names of Aboubecre, Omar, Othman, Ali, &c.), from the Annals of Abulfeda, Abulpharagius, and Elmacin (under the proper years of the Hegira), and especially from Ockley’s History of the Saracens (vol. i. p. 1-10, 115-122, 229, 249, 363-372, 378-391, and almost the whole of the second volume). Yet we should weigh with caution the traditions of the hostile sects, a stream which becomes still more muddy as it flows farther from the source. Sir John Chardin has too faithfully copied the fables and errors of the modern Persians (Voyages, tom. ii. p. 235-250, &c.).


Ockley (at the end of his second volume) has given an English version of 169 sentences, which he ascribes, with some hesitation, to Ali, the son of Abu Taleb. His preface is coloured by the enthusiasm of a translator; yet these sentences delineate a characteristic, though dark, picture of human life.


Ockley (Hist. of the Saracens, vol. i. p 5, 6), from an Arabian MS., represents Ayesha as adverse to the substitution of her father in the place of the apostle. This fact, so improbable in itself, is unnoticed by Abulfeda, Al Jannabi, and Al Bochari; the last of whom quotes the tradition of Ayesha herself (Vit. Mohammed. p. 136. Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 236).


Particularly by his friend and cousin Abdallah, the son of Abbas, who died ad 687, with the title of grand doctor of the Moslems. In Abulfeda he recapitulated the important occasions in which Ali had neglected his salutary advice ([Ann. Mosl.] p. 76, vers Reiske); and concludes (p. 85), O princeps fidelium, absque controversiâ tu quidem vere fortis es, at inops boni consilii et rerum gerendarum parum callens.


I suspect that the two seniors (Abulpharagius, p. 115; Ockley, tom. i. p. 371) may signify not two actual counsellors, but his two predecessors, Abubeker and Omar. [Weīl translates “the two Caliphs who preceded,” Geschichte der Chalifen, i. 153.]


The schism of the Persians is explained by all our travellers of the last century, especially in the iid and ivth volumes of their master, Chardin. Niebuhr, though of inferior merit, has the advantage of writing so late as the year 1764 (Voyages en Arabie, &c. tom. ii. p. 208-233), since the ineffectual attempt of Nadir Shah to change the religion of the nation (see his Persian History, translated into French by Sir William Jones, tom. ii. p. 5, 6, 47, 48, 144-155).


Omar is the name of the devil; his murderer is a saint. When the Persians shoot with the bow, they frequently cry, “May this arrow go to the heart of Omar!” (Voyages de Chardin, tom. ii. p. 239, 240, 259, &c.).


This gradation of merit is distinctly marked in a creed illustrated by Reland (de Relig. Mohamm. l. i. p. 37), and a Sonnite argument inserted by Ockley (Hist. of the Saracens, tom. ii. p. 230). The practice of cursing the memory of Ali was abolished, after forty years, by the Ommiades themselves (d’Herbelot, p. 690); and there are few among the Turks who presume to revile him as an infidel (Voyages de Chardin, tom. iv. p. 46).


[Khārijite means a “goer forth,” seceder.]


[The three bands of insurgents had different views as to the Succession. Those of Kūfa wished for Zobeir, Basra was for Talha, Egypt for Ali.]


[There is a curious mystery about this forged document, which seems to deserve mention, at least in a note. When the insurgents failed to win over the people of Medina, and the candidates received their overtures coldly, they professed themselves content with Othmān’s promises, and the three bands set forth for their respective homes. But they suddenly returned to Medina and presented a document with the caliph’s seal, taken (they said) from one of his servants on the road to Egypt. The contents were an order that the rebels should be seized and punished. Othmān denied all knowledge of the document; but some of the rebels were admitted into the city to confront him, and this gave them the means of assassinating him. Now there is no doubt that the document bore the caliph’s seal. But the objection (which was at once raised by Ali): If the messenger was caught on the road to Egypt, how was the news conveyed to the other bands so that they reappeared simultaneously? has not been answered; and the suspicion of collusion is very strong.]


The plain of Siffin is determined by d’Anville (l’Euphrate et le Tigre, p. 29) to be the Campus Barbaricus of Procopius.


[Not Persia.]


Abulfeda, a moderate Sonnite, relates the different opinions concerning the burial of Ali, but adopts the sepulchre of Cufa, hodie famâ numeroque religiose frequentantium celebratum This number is reckoned by Niebuhr to amount annually to 2000 of the dead, and 5000 of the living (tom. ii. p. 208, 209).


All the tyrants of Persia, from Adhad el Dowlat (a d. 977, d’Herbelot, p. 58, 59, 95) to Nadir Shah (a d. 1743, Hist. de Nadir Shah, tom. ii p. 155), have enriched the tomb of Ali with the spoils of the people. The dome is copper, with a bright and massy gilding, which glitters to the sun at the distance of many a mile.


The city of Meshed Ali, five or six miles from the ruins of Cufa, and one hundred and twenty to the south of Bagdad, is of the size and form of the modern Jerusalem. Meshed Hosein, larger and more populous, is at the distance of thirty miles.


I borrow, on this occasion, the strong sense and expression of Tacitus (Hist i. 4): Evulgato imperii arcano posse imperatorem [principem] alibi quam Romæ fieri.


[Kerbela is about twenty-five miles N.W. of Kūfa.]


I have abridged the interesting narrative of Ockley (tom. ii. p. 170-231). It is long and minute; but the pathetic, almost always, consists in the detail of little circumstances.


Niebuhr the Dane (Voyages en Arabie, &c. tom. ii. p. 208, &c.) is perhaps the only European traveller who has dared to visit Meshed Ali and Meshed Hosein. The two sepulchres are in the hands of the Turks, who tolerate and tax the devotion of the Persian heretics. The festival of the death of Hosein is amply described by Sir John Chardin, a traveller whom I have often praised. [For the passion play which is represented yearly by the Shiites, see Sir Lewis Pelly, The Miracle Play of Hasan and Hosein, 1879; Matthew Arnold, Persian Passion-play, in Essays or Criticisms, 1st ser.; S. Lane-Poole, Studies in a Mosque, c. vii.]


The general article of Imam, in d’Herbelot’s Bibliothèque, will indicate the succession; and the lives of the twelve are given under their respective names.


The name of Antichrist may seem ridiculous, but the Mahometans have liberally borrowed the fables of every religion (Sale’s Preliminary Discourse, p. 80, 82). In the royal stable of Ispahan, two horses were always kept saddled, one for the Mahadi himself, the other for his lieutenant, Jesus the son of Mary.


In the year of the Hegira 200 (ad 815). See d’Herbelot, p. 546.


D’Herbelot, p. 342. The enemies of the Fatimites disgraced them by a Jewish origin. Yet they accurately deduced their genealogy from Jaafar, the sixth Imam; and the impartial Abulfeda allows (Annal. Moslem. p. 230) that they were owned by many, qui absque controversiâ genuini sunt Alidarum, homines propaginum suæ gentis exacte callentes. He quotes some lines from the celebrated Sherif or Radhi, Egone humilitatem induam in terris hostium? (I suspect him to be an Edrissite of Sicily) cum in Ægypto sit Chalifa de gente Alii, quocum ego communem habeo patrem et vindicem.


The kings of Persia of the last dynasty are descended from Sheik Sefi [Safī], a saint of the fourteenth century, and through him from Moussa Cassem [Mūsā al-Kazam], the son [not son, but son’s great-grandson] of Hosein, the son of Ali (Olearius, p. 957; Chardin, tom. iii. p. 288). But I cannot trace the intermediate degrees in any genuine or fabulous pedigree. If they were truly Fatimites, they might draw their origin from the princes of Mazanderan, who reigned in the ixth century (d’Herbelot, p. 96). [See Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole’s Mohammadan Dynasties, p. 255.]


The present state of the family of Mahomet and Ali is most accurately described by Demetrius Cantemir (Hist. of the Othman Empire, p. 94), and Niebuhr (Description de l’Arabie, p. 9-16, 317, &c.). It is much to be lamented that the Danish traveller was unable to purchase the chronicles of Arabia.


The writers of the Modern Universal History (vol. i. and ii.) have compiled, in 850 folio pages, the life of Mahomet and the annals of the caliphs. They enjoyed the advantage of reading, and sometimes correcting, the Arabic text; yet, notwithstanding their high-sounding boasts, I cannot find, after the conclusion of my work, that they have afforded me much (if any) additional information. The dull mass is not quickened by a spark of philosophy or taste; and the compilers indulge the criticism of acrimonious bigotry against Boulainvilliers, Sale, Gagnier, and all who have treated Mahomet with favour, or even justice.


See the description of the city and country of Al Yamanah, in Abulfeda, Descript. Arabiæ, p. 60, 61. In the xiiith century, there were some ruins and a few palms, but in the present century, the same ground is occupied by the visions and arms of a modern prophet, whose tenets are imperfectly known (Niebuhr, Description de l’Arabie, p. 296-302).


Their first salutation may be transcribed, but cannot be translated. It was thus that Moseilama [Musailima is a mocking diminutive of Maslama] said or sung: —

  • Surge tandem itaque strenue permolenda; nam stratus tibi thorus est.
  • Aut in propatulo tentorio si velis, aut in abditiore cubiculo si malis;
  • Aut supinam te humi exporrectam fustigabo, si velis, aut si malis manibus pedibusque nixam.
  • Aut si velis ejus (Priapi) gemino triente, aut si malis totus veniam.
  • Imo, totus venito, O Apostole Dei, clamabat fœmina. Id ipsum dicebat
  • Moseilama mihi quoque suggessit Deus.

The prophetess Segjah, after the fall of her lover, returned to idolatry; but, under the reign of Moawiyah, she became a Musulman, and died at Bassora (Abulfeda, Annal. vers. Reiske, p. 63). [The tradition that Musailima and Sejāh spent three days “in amorous converse” is found in Tabari (i. p 135-7, ed. Kosegarten), but seems to be refuted by the circumstance that Musailima was then more than a hundred years old; Weil, i. p. 22.]


See this text, which demonstrates a God from the works of generation, in Abulpharagius (Specimen Hist. Arabum, p. 13, and Dynast. p. 103) and Abulfeda (Annal. p. 63).