« AnteriorContinuar »
troops, by the bridle of his horse. The conqueror of Spain was compelled to return. He was cast into prison, fined 200,000 pieces of gold, publicly whipped, and his life with difficulty spared. As is related of Belisarius, Musa was driven as a beggar to solicit charity, and the Saracen conqueror of Spain ended his days in grief and absolute want.
The dissensions among the Arabs, far more than the sword of Charles Martel, prevented the Mohammedaniza
tion of France. Their historians admit the Arrest of Mohammedan- great check received at tho battle of Tours, in ism in West- which Abderrahman was killed; they call that ern Europe.
* field the Place of the Martyrs; but their accounts by no means correspond to the relations of the Christian authors, who affirm that 375,000 Mohammedans fell, and only 1500 Christians. The defeat was not so disastrous but that in a few months they were able to resume their advance, and their progress was arrested only by renewed dissensions among themselves-dissensions not alone among the leaders in Spain, but also more serious ones of aspirants for the khalifate in Asia. On the overthrow of the Ommiade house, Abderrahman, one of that family, escaped to Spain, which repaid the patronage of its conquest by acknowledging him as its sovereign. He madé Cordova the seat of his government. Neither he nor his immediate successors took any other title than that of Emir, out of respect to the khalif, who resided at Bagdad, the metropolis of Islam, though they maintained a rivalry with him in the patronage of letters and science. Abderrahman himself strengthened his power by an alliance with Charlemagne. Scarcely had the Arabs become firmly settled in Spain
when they commenced a brilliant career. AdoptCivilization and Splendour ing what had now become the established policy of the Spanish of the Commanders of the Faithful in Asia, the Arabs.
Emirs of Cordova distinguished themselves as patrons of learning, and set an example of refinement strongly contrasting with the condition of the native European princes. Cordova, under their administration, at its highest point of prosperity, boasted of more than two hundred thousand houses, and more than a million of inhabitants. After sunset, a man might walk through
prodiga blue sky, or weni. halconies, overunater ; shady
it in a straight line for ten miles by the light of the public lamps. Seven hundred years after this time there was not so much as one public lamp in London. Its streets were solidly paved. In Paris, centuries subsequently, whoever stepped over his threshold on a rainy day stepped up to his ankles in mud. Other cities, as Granada, Seville, Toledo. considered themselves rivals of Cordova. The palaces of the khalifs were magnificently decorated. Those sovereigns might well look down with supercilious contempt on the dwellings of the rulers of Germany, France, and England, which were scarcely better than stables-chimneyless, windowless, and with a hole in the roof for the smoke to escape, like the wigwams of certain Indians. The Spanish Mohammedans had brought with them all the luxuries and prodigalities of Asia. Their residences stood forth against the clear blue sky, or were embosomed in woods. Their palaces They had polished marble balconies, overhang- and gardens. ing orange-gardens; courts with cascades of water ; shady retreats provocative of slumber in the heat of the day ; retiring-rooms vaulted with stained glass, speckled with gold, over which streams of water were made to gush; the floors and walls were of exquisite mosaic. Here, a fountain of quicksilver shot up in a glistening spray, the glittering particles falling with a tranquil sound like fairy bells; there, apartments into which cool air was drawn from the flowergardens, in summer, by means of ventilating towers, and in winter through earthen pipes, or caleducts, imbedded in the walls —the hypocaust, in the vaults below, breathing forth volumes of warm and perfumed air through these hidden passages. The walls were not covered with wainscot, but adorned with arabesques, and paintings of agricultural scenes and views of Paradise. From the ceilings, corniced with fretted gold, great chandeliers hung, one of which, it is said, was so large that it contained 1804 lamps. Clusters of frail marble columns surprised the beholder with the vast weights they bore. In the boudoirs of the sultanas they were sometimes of verd antique, and incrusted with lapis lazuli. The furniture was of sandal and citron wood, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ivory, silver, or relieved with gold and precious malachite. In orderly confusion were arranged vases of rock crystal, Chinese porcelains, and tables of exquisite mosaic. The winter apartments were hung with rich tapestry ; the floors were covered with embroidered Persian carpets. Pillows and couches, of elegant forms, were scattered about the rooms, perfumed with frankincense. It was the intention of the Saracen architect, by excluding the view of the external landscape, to concentrate attention on his work; and since the representation of the human form was religiously forbidden, and that source of decoration denied, his imagination ran riot with the complicated arabesques he introduced, and sought every opportunity of replacing the prohibited works of art by the trophies and rarities of the garden. For this reason, the Arabs never produced artists; religion turned them from the beautiful, and made them soldiers, philosophers, and men of affairs. Splendid flowers and rare exotics ornamented the courtyards and even the inner chambers. Great care was taken to make due provision for the cleanliness, occupation, and amusement of the inmates. Through pipes of metal, water, both warm and cold, to suit the season of the year, ran into baths of marble; in niches, where the current of air could be artificially directed, hung dripping alcarazzas. There were whispering-galleries for the amusement of the women; labyrinths and marble play-courts for the children; for the master himself, grand libraries. The Khalif Alhakem's Libraries and was so large that the catalogue alone filled forty works of taste. volumes. He had also apartments for the transcribing, binding, and ornamenting of books. A taste for caligraphy and the possession of splendidly-illuminated manuscripts seems to have anticipated in the khalifs, both of Asia and Spain, the taste for statuary and paintings among the later popes of Rome. Such were the palace and gardens of Zehra, in which
of Abderrahman III. honoured his favourite sultana. Abderrahman The edifice had 1200 columns of Greek, Italian, III.
Spanish, and African marble. Its hall of audience was incrusted with gold and pearls. Through the long corridors of its seraglio black eunuchs silently glided. The ladies of the harem, both wives and concubines, were the most beautiful that could be found. To that establishment alone 6300 persons were attached. The body-guard
of the sovereign was composed of 12,000 horsemen, whose cimeters and belts were studded with gold. This was that Abderrahman who, after a glorious reign of fifty years, sat down to count the number of days of unalloyed happiness he had experienced, and could only enumerate fourteen. “Oh man ! exclaimed the plaintive khalif,“ put not thy trust in this present world.”
No nation has ever excelled the Spanish Arabs in the beauty and costliness of their pleasure-gardens. To them we owe the introduction of very many of our Social habits most valuable cultivated fruits, such as the peach. of the Moors. Retaining the love of their ancestors for the cooling effect of water in a hot climate, they spared no pains in the superfuity of fountains, hydraulic works, and artificial lakes in which fish were raised for the table. Into such a lake, attached to the palace of Cordova, many loaves were cast each day to feed the fish. There were also menageries of foreign animals; aviaries of rare birds; manufactories in which skilled workmen, obtained from foreign countries, displayed their art in textures of silk, cotton, linen, and all the miracles of the loom ; in jewelry and filigree-work, with which they ministered to the female pride of the sultanas and concubines. Under the shade of cypresses cascades disappeared ; among flowering shrubs there were winding walks, bowers of roses, seats cut out of the rock, and crypt-like grottoes hewn in the living stone. Nowhere was ornamental gardening better understood; for not only did the artist try to please the eye as it wandered over the pleasant gradation of vegetable colour and form- he also boasted his success in the gratification of the sense of smell by the studied succession of perfumes from beds of flowers.
To these Saracens we are indebted for many of our personal comforts. Religiously cleanly, it was not their domespossible for them to clothe themselves according tic life. to the fashion of the natives of Europe, in a garment unchanged till it dropped to pieces of itself, a loathsome mass of vermin, stench, and rags. No Arab who had been a minister of state, or the associate or antagonist of a sovereign, would have offered such a spectacle as the corpse of Thomas à Becket when his haircloth shirt was removed. They taught us the use of the often-changed and often. washed under-garment of linen or cotton, which still passes among ladies under its old Arabic name. But to cleanliness they were not unwilling to add ornament. Especially among women of the higher classes was the love of finery a passion. Their outer garments were often of silk, embroidered and decorated with gems and woven gold. So fond were the Moorish women of gay colours and the lustre of chrysolites, hyacinths, emeralds, and sapphires, that it was quaintly said that the interior of any public building in which they were permitted to appear looked like a flower-meadow in the spring besprinkled with rain. In the midst of all this luxury, which cannot be regarded
... by the historian with disdain, since in the end it vate litera- produced a most important result in the south of ture, music, France, the Spanish khalifs, emulating the example of their Asiatic com peers, and in this strongly contrasting with the popes of Rome, were not only the patrons, but the personal cultivators of all the branches of human learning. One of them was himself the author of a work on polite literature in not less than fifty volumes ; another wrote a treatise on algebra. When Zaryab the musician came from the East to Spain, the Khalif Abderrahman rode forth to meet him in honour. The College of Music in Cordova was sustained by ample government patronage, and produced many illustrious professors.
The Arabs never translated into their own tongue the great Greek poets, though they so sedulously collected and translated the Greek philosophers. Their religious senti
ments and sedate character caused them to abomibat dis
of nate the lewdness of our classical mythology, European my- and to denounce indignantly any connexion
between the licentious, impure Olympian Jove and the Most High God as an insufferable and unpardonable blasphemy. Haroun Alraschid had gratified his curiosity by causing Homer to be translated into Syriac, but he did not adventure on rendering the great epics into Arabic. Notwithstanding this aversion to our graceful but not unobjectionable ancient poetry, among them originated the Tensons, or poetic disputations, carried afterward to perfection among the Troubadours; from them, also, the Provençals learned to employ jongleurs. Across the Pyrenees, literary,