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logers: to augury they paid undivided respect, and even the most insignificant of their actions was decided by an appeal to some reputed spell
Such was the general character of the antient people of Arabia up to the period of Mohammed's appearance, the causes of whose triumph in establishing a new religion we have already alluded to, and from whose influence the Arabs were impelled into a new track of existence, in which they present still more interesting features of character than in their antecedent condition.
An excellent, and highly spirited (and not the less copious in facts because brief as to its extent) life of Mohammed is next given, and this is followed by a full account of the Koran and the doctrines which it inculcates, forming the orthodox creed of the Mohammedans. These two subjects have been so frequently brought under the contemplation of British readers, that we should be scarcely pardoned were we now to dwell upon their details. Pursuing the history of the Arabs through its successive eras, the author describes the conquests of the Saracens, which commenced during the caliphate of Abu Baker, the immediate successor of Mohammed, the wars of the caliphs, the conquest by the Arabs of Africa and Spain, and the appointments of caliphs in Bagdad, Africa, Egypt, and Spain. The irruption of the Moors, who formed a portion of the Arabian forces, into Spain, was followed by the successful occupation of the African coast, opposite to the latter country. The principal personage who commanded the army, which ultimately subdued the whole of the peninsula, one little corner alone excepted, was Tarik, the lieutenant of the Arab chief, named Musa. The son of Musa afterwards confirmed the conquests which were made in Spain, and the chief himself, flushed with conquest, resolved upon the bold design of making himself master of the whole of Europe. With a vast armament by sea and land, he was preparing to repass the Pyrenees, to subvert the kingdom of the Franks in Gaul, then distracted by the wars of two contending dynasties, to extinguish the power of the Lombards in Italy, and place an Arabian imam in the chair of St. Peter. Thence, after subduing the barbarous hordes of Germany, he proposed to follow the course of the Danube, from its source to the Euxine Sea, where he would have joined his countrymen under the walls of Constantinople.
Spain, however, was one of the first of the moslem conquests which succeeded in separating itself from the parent stock. In 1,036, the power of the Ommiades in Spain was extinguished, and from their destruction sprang a multitude of parties, and as many masters.
The latter were as numerous almost.as the towns of Spain, each of which had its separate king and government. These petty monarchs were in a constant state of discord, and were either constantly destroying each other, or, from their weakness, were overwhelmed by the natives. The small province of
Granada alone was maintained by the Arabs, and it continued, for nearly three centuries, to increase in wealth and power, and, consequently, in population. Up to the accession of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Mohameddan laws and religion were observed in this province; but, at that happy era, Granada was surrendered, thousands of the followers of Mohammed were put to the sword or driven into exile. But, before it capitulated, ten years were devoted to incessant fighting, and the act by which it was given up to the monarchy of Spain was the era of the termination of the long interval during which the Moors had held dominion in Spain, that interval consisting of no less than 778 years, and being maintained by no fewer than 3,700 battles between the Arabs and the Christians.
But, as a striking illustration of the common saying, that there is no misfortune which is not succeeded, if it be not accompanied, by a corresponding good, we may state, that even this detested nation of the Moors, whose conquest in the first place, and whose expulsion at last, were marked by such a series of atrocious circumstances, still constituted the most industrious by far, besides being the most ingenious, of the population of Spain in their day; and that nation has never recovered from the effects of the loss which it sustained by the exile or destruction of its Arabian intruders. The literary activity and commercial enterprise of the Arabs, which the wise policy of their caliphs encouraged, contributed both to enrich and adorn their adopted country. Cordova, the seat of the Ommiades, was scarcely inferior in point of wealth and magnitude to its proud rival on the banks of the Tigris. A space of twenty-four miles in length and six in breadth, along the margin of the Guadalquiver, was occupied with palaces, streets, gardens, and public edifices; and for ten miles the citizens could travel by the light of lamps along an uninterrupted extent of buildings. In the reign of Almansor it could boast of 270,000 houses, 80,455 ships, 911 baths, 3,877 mosques, from the minarets of which a population of 800,000 were daily summoned to prayers. The seraglio of the caliph,-his wives, concubines, and black eunuchs, amounted to 6,300 persons; and he was attended to the field by a guard of 12,000 horsemen, whose belts and scimitars were studded with gold. Granada was equally celebrated for its luxury and its learning. The royal demesnes extended to the distance of twenty miles, the revenues of which were set apart to maintain the fortifications of the city. Of the duty on grain the king's exchequer received about 15,0001. yearly, an immense sum at that time, when wheat sold at the rate of sixpence a bushel. The consumption of 250,000 inhabitants kept 130 water-mills constantly at work in the suburbs. The population of this small kingdom under the Moors is said to have amounted to 3,000,000, which is now diminished perhaps to one fifth of that number. Its temples and palaces have shared the same decay. The Alhambra stands solitary, dismantled, and neglected. The interior
remains of the palace are in tolerable preservation, and present a melancholy picture of the romantic magnificence of its former kings. Seville, which had.continued nearly 200 years the seat of a petty kingdom, enjoyed considerable reputation as a place of wealth and commerce. The population in 1247 was computed at 300,000 persons, which, in the sixteenth century, had decreased one third. It was one of the principal marts for olives in the Moorish dominions; and so extensive was the trade in this article alone, that the acarafe or plantations round the suburbs employed farm-houses and olivepresses to the amount of 100,000, being more than is now to be found in the whole province of Andalusia.
The Arabian caliphs derived from Spain an immense revenue. sum equal to five millions and a half of our money was annually levied during the reign of Abdalrahman the Third.' The branches of the revenue consisted of a tithe in kind of every description of produce; of a duty of twelve and a half. per cent. on imports and exports, one tenth of the whole value on all goods sold, and a fifth levied on the property of all Christians and Jews. The capability of Spain to comply with such demands as these can only be accounted for by remembering, that, at the era to which we allude, her population, notwithstanding all the devastations of civil war, was on the same grand scale with her palaces and her productions, both natural and artificial. Under the Saracens she boasted of eighty great cities; 300 of the second and third order, besides smaller towns and villages innumerable. Most of these were planted with nurseries of art and industry, which gave an unexampled activity to trade and manufactures. There was scarcely a country in the civilised world to which their traffic did not extend. Throughout Africa, arms and accoutrements, silks and woollen cloths of various colours, were in great demand. With Egypt and the Grecian states they bartered their different exports to a still greater amount, for such commodities as were in popular request in Spain. Their drugs and dyes were exchanged for oriental perfumes; and the luxuries of India were brought from Alexandria to Malaga to supply the wants of the court. The manufactories of Spain were the arsenals from which France and England drew their best military accoutrements, such as helmets, lances, swordblades, and coats of mail, which had reached a perfection in that country unknown to the rest of Europe. The profits derived from these successful speculations must have been incalculable; and, while abundantly remunerating the merchant, they afforded a prodigious source of revenue to the sovereign. In the fourteenth century the Arabs had an immense marine; the woods and forests of Spain furnished them with timber, and they are said to have possessed a fleet of more than 1000 merchant vessels, From an Arabian writer on commerce of the tenth century, it appears that the balance of trade was decidedly in favour of the Moors, whom Casiri, from their maritime traffic and the distant voyages they undertook by sea, compares to the ancient Phænicians and
Carthaginians. Gold, silver, copper, raw and wrought silks, sugar, cochineal, quicksilver, iron, olives, oil, myrrh, corals fished on the coast of Andalusia, pearls on that of Catalonia, rubies and amethysts from-mines in the neighbourhood of Malaga and Carthagena, were among the most valuable and lucrative articles of exportation. These facts, attested by native authors, will throw light on the hitherto unexplained magnificence of the western caliphs. Commerce was the true foundation of their greatness, the secret spring that filled the treasuries of Spain, and fed the wealth and industry of her inhabitants. At length, the fleets of the christians, as well as of the kings of Arragon and Portugal, gradually defeated the maritime forces of the Moors, until they were totally annihilated after the conquest of Algesiras, Seville, and Almeria. - Lin
But it is delightful to have it in our power to turn from these scenes of bloodshed and cruelty to contemplate the Arabs in a far more amiable point of view, namely, their devotion to intellectual cultivation. The experience which they derived from the knowledge obtained during their forced residence in other countries, taught the Arabs the value of literature; but the rapidity with which a taste for the moral culture which this literary partiality implies, is perfectly unparalleled in the history of the human race. The refinement to which Grecian literature ultimately attained, was the work of eight centuries of mental exertion, it was not until Augustus's time that Rome was able to mature her literary tastes and powers, and even in later times, with the advantage of numerous examples both to invite and deter, France, in her mental capacity only, reaches her adult state in the time which elapsed between the reigns of Clovis and Louis XIV. But the expedition with which the Arabs perfected their mental cultivation may be estimated, when we state that it was in the year. 641, that Omar proved the Arabian character to be barbarous in the burning of the Alexandrian library; and that it was in 750, an interval of less than a century, that the dynasty of Abbas, the munificent patrons of literature, ascended the throne. : The golden age of Arabian literature is fixed at the
period when the final division of the Mahommedan Empire was effected, when Bagdad, the glorious monument of art and architectural taste, was completed. One of the great props of the scientific cultivation in Arabia, was Almansor, a successful speculator in war, who turned his sword into a ploughshare and encouraged the migration into his country of a Greek physician named George, who introduced amongst the Arabs the science of medicine. But the great Mecænas of Arabian literature was Almamoun; in bis reign Bagdad became the resort of poets, philosophers, and mathematicians, from every country and of every creed. His ambassadors and agents in Armenia, Syria, and Egypt, were ordered to collect the most important books that could be discovered. The literary relics of the conquered provinces, which his governors amassed with infinite care were brought to the foot of the throne as the most precious tribute he could demand. Hundreds of camels might be seen entering Bagdad loaded with volumes of Greek, Hebrew, and Persian literature; and such of them as were thought to be adapted to the purposes of instruction, were at the royal command translated by the most skilful interpreters into the Arabic language, that all classes might read and understand them. Masters, instructors, translators, and commentators, formed the Court of Bagdad, which appeared rather to be a learned academy than the capital of a luxurious and warlike government. Aware of the vast treasures that were deposited in the libraries of Constantinople, Almamoun, in concluding a treaty of peace with the Grecian emperor Michael III.. stipulated, as one of the conditions, that a collection of rare and valuable authors should be delivered up to him. These were immediately subjected to the process of translation; but it must be recorded with regret that, through an illjudged partiality for his native tongue, he gave orders that after the Arabic versions were finished, the original manuscripts should be burnt.
The historians of this period dwell with a very manifest feeling of pride on the universality of the establishment of institutions in every department of instruction. In truth, there was not a faculty of the human mind that ought not to have been drawn forth by the provocatives which were distributed throughout the various schools and academies established in the Arabian dominions. Oratory, which had ceased to be in any vogue after Mohammed's time, was subsequently revived by the Saracens. Poetry was always cultivated with the greatest enthusiasm; and the productions of the Arabs in this branch of literature are far more abundant than those of other nations taken in combination. The Arab poetical literature, as has often been made a matter of reproach, is destitute of those forms of composition which in all European countries are distinguished by the titles of epic and dramatic. Nevertheless there has emanated from this people a particular species of composition which cannot better be described than by offering to the notice of the reader as a perfect specimen of its nature, the well known work “ The Arabian Nights" Entertainments." Although Mr. Crichton does not enter into the account of these unequalled tales, we shall take the liberty of
supplying the deficiency in this place. This collection of delightful tales had long existed in the East, but was introduced only in 1704 into Europe, and even then amongst the literary circles merely. Shortly afterwards it was placed before the public generally, ran through the medium of a translation by Ant. Galland, a distinguished Frenchman, who was well acquainted with the oriental languages, and whose manuscript is now in the royal library of Paris. Several versions were subsequently made which were introduced upon the representations that the preceding