OR, CHARLES MARTEL AND THE RESCUE OF EUROPE
FROM THE THREATENED YOKE
OF THE SARACENS.
VOLUME I. OF THE HISTORIC SKETCHES.
DESIGNED FOR THE INSTRUCTION AND AMUSEMENT OF OLD AND YOUNG.
By G. L. STRAUSS, Ph.D.
In magnis voluisse sat est.
JOHN WEALE, 59, HIGH HOLBORN.
BRADBURY AND EVANS, PRINTERS, WHITEFRIARS.
“Story! bless you—I have none to tell.”—Canning’s Knifegrinder.
It is an old and trite saying: “Good wine needs no bush,” and even the finest and most flourishing bush will fail to put either body or flavor into the growth of a bad vintage. It is left to the reader of this little volume to decide whether or not the author has succeeded in producing an acceptable and readable book.
July 1, 1854.
|CHAPTER I.—||Arabia and its inhabitants.—Life and doctrine of Mohammed||1|
|” II.—||The Khalifs from Abu Bekr to Hesham||53|
|CHAPTER I.—||The Frank Confederacy.—Clovis, the Founder of the Frank Monarchy||89|
|” II.—||Decline of the Merovingian Princes.—The Mayors of the Palace.—Pepin of Landen.—Pepin of Heristal.—Charles Martel.—The Battle of Tours||108|
ARABIA AND ITS INHABITANTS.—LIFE AND DOCTRINE OF MOHAMMED.
The Arabian peninsula, called by the natives Jesira-al-Arab, by the Persians and Turks Arabistan, forms the south-westernmost part of Asia. It is bounded on the north by Syria and the river Euphrates, on the east by the Persian Gulf, on the south by the Indian Ocean, on the west by the Red Sea, or Arabian Gulf. Including the north-eastern desert, it occupies an area ten times the extent of that of Great Britain and Ireland. The connecting link between Asia and Africa, to which latter continent it is joined by the Isthmus of Suez, it presents in its natural features, a faithful copy of its colossal tropical neighbour, modified, however, by the imprint of a strongly marked individual character, the result of its peculiar isolated position. The attempted derivation of the name of the country from Eber, the common progenitor of the Joctanites and Ismaelites—the two races which are assumed to constitute the great bulk of the native population of Arabia—is, at the best, but very problematical; that from the word Araba, the name of a district of the province of Tehama, and which signifies a level desert, would seem to rest on a safer and more rational foundation, the far greater part of the country being indeed a dreary waste, a boundless level of sand, destitute of rivers, intersected by naked mountains, and barely relieved here and there by a shady grove or a green sward of aromatic herbs. The date-palm is often the solitary representative of vegetable life in these sterile tracts, which are scorched by a tropical sun, and hardly ever refreshed by a grateful shower. There are, however, some more favored districts, where the fertile soil produces dates and other palms, tamarinds, vines, rice, sugar, figs, tobacco, indigo, cotton, durra, coffee, gum, benzoin, frankincense, manna, balsam, aloe, myrrh, spices, &c. The high lands in the south-west, that border on the Indian Ocean, are distinguished in this respect, above all other parts of Arabia, by a more temperate air, superior fertility, and comparative abundance of wood and water. No wonder, then, that the appellation happy, bestowed upon this blessed region by Ptolemy, should have been generally adopted, although originating in a mistranslation of the word Yemen, the Arabian name of this part of the peninsula, and which does not signify happy, but is simply meant to designate the land lying, with respect to the East, to the right of Mecca, just as Al-Sham (Syria) means the land to the left of that city. Ptolemy’s division of the country into the sandy, the petraie, and the happy (Arabia Deserta, Petræa, and Felix), is, however, unknown to the Arabians themselves, who speak only of high land and low land. The epithet stony, so generally applied by geographers to the petraic division, is founded in error: Ptolemy derived the word from Petra, the name of the then flourishing capital of the Nabathæans, and not from the Greek word petra, a rock or stone. Ptolemy’s Arabia Petræa forms now part of the province of Hejaz, along the coast of the Red Sea. Yemen, as we have seen, occupies the south-western coast. On the south-eastern coast lies the maritime district of Oman; on the Persian Gulf, the district of Lahsa: the inland space bears the name of Neged, or Naged.
Arabia is the true native country of the horse, and remains even at the present time the seat of the purest and noblest races of that generous animal. Asses, oxen, sheep, goats, and the swift gazelle, are also indigenous; and so is the camel, the “ship of the desert,” nature’s most precious gift in the sands of Africa and Arabia. Monkies, pheasants, and pigeons inhabit the fertile districts. The lion, the panther, the hyena, the jackal, lurk in the desert. Ostriches, and pelicans are among the birds of Arabia; locusts, that “plague of the fields,” are among its insects. The coasts abound in fishes and tortoises; and the pearl-fishery flourishes more especially in the Persian Gulf.
Among the mineral products may be mentioned iron, copper, lead, coals, asphaltum; and precious stones, as the agate, the onyx, the carnelion, &c. Some of the ancient geographers speak also of the soil of Arabia as being impregnated with gold; and though no mines of that precious metal are at present known in the peninsula, who can say but that the treasures of another California lie hidden there?
The inhabitants of Arabia, whose present number may be estimated at about fifteen millions, are supposed to derive their origin partly from Joctan (in the Arabian language Kahtan), one of the sons of Eber; and partly from Ismael, the son of Abraham and Hagar. The Joctanites, as the supposed original inhabitants of the country, have been called also true Arabians; the Ismaelites, as later immigrants, mixed Arabians. The Ismaelites are the Bedoweens, or Bedouins, of our time, who to the present day continue to rove through the interior and the north of Arabia, as they did in the remote times of Job and Sesostris, depending partly on their flocks, partly on the transit trade of the caravans, but chiefly on plunder; which latter is by these wild sons of the desert looked upon in the light of an honorable profession rather than of a disgraceful and criminal pursuit. They are a fine race of men, of middle size, but well proportioned, vigorous, and active; they have regular features; their complexion is mostly dark, rarely of a lighter tint; their eyes sparkle with a fire and lustre unknown among us. They are brave, temperate, generous, and hospitable; enthusiastically addicted to eloquence and poetry. Rapine and revenge are the only dark spots in the national character of the Bedoween.
The Joctanites are the Haddhesies, or settled Arabians, who from the earliest times have been collected into towns and villages, more especially in the maritime districts of the peninsula, employed in the labors of agriculture, trade, and commerce. Though the Arabian house-dwellers cannot be said to possess all the noble qualities of their brethren of the desert, still the description given above of the physical and moral character of the latter applies in a great measure equally to them; they are lively, intelligent, eloquent, and witty; and, with all their habitual haughty demeanour, more particularly to strangers, affable and agreeable in their manners and conversation.
The principal nations of Arabia mentioned by the ancients, are, besides the Skenites (tent-dwellers, or wandering tribes), the Nabathæans, in Arabia Petræa (Hejaz); the Thamudites and Minæans in Hejaz; the Sabæans and Homerites, in Yemen; the Hadhramites, in Hadhramaut on the southern coast; the Omanites, Dacharenians, and Gerrhæans, in Oman and Ul-Ahsa, or Lahsa; the Saranians, in Neged; and the Saracens, an obscure tribe on the borders of Egypt, and remarkable only from the circumstance that, perhaps from a fallacious interpretation of the meaning of the word,—viz: as intended to indicate an Oriental situation—the application of the name has been gradually extended, first to the inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula generally, afterwards to all Mohammedans.
The early history of the Arabians is shrouded in obscurity. That the Joctanites were not the true original inhabitants of the country, but simply later immigrants into it, would appear to result from the histories of the ancient Babylonian and Assyrian empires (however so little reliance we may feel inclined to place in these mythical and traditional histories); for we are told that Nimrod was attended by Arabian tribes—and in the list of the Babylonian kings we find six Arabian princes; and, again, among the auxiliaries of Ninus we find Arabs, under a prince named Ariæus. The Hyksos, or Shepherd Kings, who are said to have invaded Egypt about 2075 b.c., and to have held sway in that country during more than 500 years, are also generally considered to have come from Arabia. The traditional history of Arabia mentions several kingdoms and dynasties. The two most ancient of these, dating their origin as far back as 2000 b.c., were, 1, the Homerite kingdom in Yemen, which, after a time, split into the two states of Saba, or Sheba, and Hadhramaut. About 1572 b.c., these were re-united into one empire, which about 1075 b.c. was governed by Balkis, the daughter of Hodhad, and who by some historians is thought to have been identical with the Queen of Sheba, the cotemporary of Solomon; 2, the State in Hejaz, in which the Nabathæans held superior sway.
Protected on all sides by the seas of sand and water which encompass the peninsula, the Arabian people—or, at all events, the great body of the nation—had, at all times, escaped the yoke of a foreign conqueror. King Sesostris, of Egypt, is said to have subjected some tribes of Hejaz to his rule; but it would appear they speedily recovered their independence. All the attempts made at different times, by the rulers of Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, and Persia, to subjugate the Arabian peninsula, proved either altogether abortive, or, even where they partially succeeded, the conquest was only transient. Thus Arabia Petræa was subjugated, for a time, to the Assyrian sway in the eighth century b.c. by Pul, or Phul, and Sennacherib; but in the sixth century b.c. we find it in independent alliance with the Persian kings Cyrus and Cambyses. Alexander the Great had formed the plan to conquer and colonise the coasts of Arabia, and to prepare in this way the ultimate subjugation of the entire peninsula. The genius of the Græco-Macedonian conqueror, the immense material means of which he could dispose, and the possession of a powerful fleet (under Nearchus) promised a successful issue to the intended expedition: the death of Alexander (11th June, 323 b.c.) averted the threatening danger. The attempt which Antigonus and Demetrius made upon Arabia in 312 b.c. was a failure; and the trifling conquest achieved in 219 b.c. by Antiochus the Great, of Syria, was speedily wrested again from him by the natives. At a later period, the northern tribes of Arabia were engaged for a time, with varying fortunes, in desultory feuds with the Jews under the Maccabæans, or Makkabi. The Romans also, that all-grasping nation, cast their covetous eyes upon the flourishing state of Petræa; but neither Scaurus nor Gabinius, neither Pompey nor Antony, nor even Augustus, could prevail against the difficulties of the country, and the stubborn valor of the roving tribes of the desert. Hunger, thirst, fatigue, and disease thinned the ranks of the proud legions more effectually still than the bow, the javelin, and the scymetar of the Bedoween; and after a last vain attempt under Ælius Gallus, Imperial Rome reluctantly relinquished for a time the coveted prize. In 106 a.d., Cornelius Palma, a lieutenant of Trajan, conquered the cities of Bostra and Petra, and subdued the Nabathæans. Trajan made, also, some naval inroads, and carried his incursions as far as Katif. Petra lost from this time its importance and splendor; Bostra becoming in its stead the principal seat of the commerce of the Euphrates and the Tigris. After the death of Trajan, the conquered tribes shook off again the Roman yoke. The Emperor Aurelian broke, indeed, the power of the Nabathæans in his celebrated campaign against Zenobia, the great Queen of Palmyra, (272 and 273 a.d.), and his triumphal car was followed by captive Arabian chiefs; but the Nabathæan nation, disdaining to bend to the Roman yoke, abandoned their homes, and fled to that great asylum of Arabian freedom, the desert.
At the commencement of the sixth century, (502 a.d.), the Homerite kingdom of Yemen was conquered by an Ethiopian prince, the Negus, or King, of Abyssinia, and remained subject or tributary to the Christian princes of the latter country to the time of the conquest of Arabia by Chosroes I. (Nushirvan) of Persia (about 574 a.d.). Still, though Arabia was styled a Persian province, the sway of the Sassanides over the peninsula was more nominal than real: the tribes of the desert remained free, and even in Yemen, we find seven Princes of the Homerites successfully asserting and maintaining the independence of their mountains.
There is some reason to suppose that the original worship of the Arabs was that of one God; clouded and tarnished, indeed, by many superstitious usages, and perhaps even by human sacrifices, yet free from gross idolatry. But this primitive religion was speedily supplanted by the adoration of the sun, the moon, and the fixed stars; a specious superstition which substitutes for the invisible, all-pervading, universal God, the most glorious of his creations, and may well find its excuse in the clear sky and boundless naked plains of Arabia, where the heavenly luminaries shine with a brighter lustre, displaying to the mind of the untutored son of the desert the visible image of a Deity. Intimately connected with this still primitive faith, was the belief in the wonderful powers and attributes of meteoric stones. The most renowned of these, called Hadjar-el-Aswad, is a square-shaped black stone, kept to the present day in Mecca in the Temple of the Kaaba, and which has from time immemorial been, and remains still, the sacred object of the devout pilgrimages and adoration of the Arabs of all tribes. The Kaaba is a square building, thirty-four feet high, and twenty-seven broad; built, according to the Mohammedan tradition, by Abraham, and repeatedly restored, in after ages, by the Amalekites, by the Jorhamites, by Kassa, of the tribe of Koreish, &c.; and the last time by Sultan Mustapha, in 1630. Of the original building there remains thus at present only a small portion of wall, which is held most sacred. A spacious portico encloses the quadrangle of the Kaaba. The holy stone, which is about four feet high, and set in silver, is fixed in the wall, in the southern corner. The Mohammedan tradition relates that this stone was brought to Abraham by the Angel Gabriel, whose tears over the sinfulness of man had changed its original white color to black! Hence Mahomet was induced to make it the Kebla of prayer, and to enjoin the pilgrimage of the faithful to it and the Kaaba. Verily, the idolatry of the ancient Arabs, who worshipped the divine power in the meteoric stone, that had fallen from the skies in a manner miraculous to their untutored understanding, was more natural, and even far more rational, than the present worship of the same stone, based upon this wretched and most absurd legend! The transmigration of souls, the resurrection of bodies, and the invocation of departed spirits, formed also part of the religious belief of the ancient Arabs; the cruel practice of human sacrifices prevailed among them even up to the time of Mohammed, in the course of time the grossest idolatry became an important, and, in the end, a preponderating ingredient in Arabian worship; and the sacred Kaaba was defiled by the gradual introduction of three hundred and sixty idols of men, eagles, lions, and antelopes; among which stood most conspicuous the most popular of them, the statue of Hobal, fashioned of red agate by a Syrian artist, and holding in his hand seven arrows, without heads or feathers, the instruments and symbols of profane divination.
But, though each tribe, each family, nay every independent warrior, might freely create new idols and new rites of his fantastic worship, yet the nation, in every age, has bowed to the religion of Mecca, and to the superior sanctity of the Kaaba. An annual truce of two, or, according to some historians, four months, during which the swords of the Arabs were sheathed, both in foreign and domestic warfare, protected the holy pilgrimage to Mecca. The great fair held in connection with this pilgrimage induced those to come whom religious ardor failed to attract. This annual gathering of distant and hostile tribes contributed greatly to harmonise and refine the wild sons of the desert; the exchange of eloquence and poetry usual at these periods, could only heighten the humanizing and elevating influence of the custom. The fanaticism of the first Moslems abolished the fair, inflicting thereby one of the many evils that came in the train of Mohammed’s gigantic imposture. The rites which are, even in the present day, accomplished by the devout Moslems, are still the same they were in the days of the ancient idolators of Arabia. “At a respectful distance from the temple, they threw off their garments; seven times they went round the Kaaba, with quick steps, kissing each time the holy stone with deep reverence; seven times they visited and adored the adjacent mountains; seven times they threw stones into the valley of Mina: and the pilgrimage was completed, as at the present hour, by a sacrifice of sheep and camels, and the burial of their hair and nails in the consecrated ground.”
It will be readily understood that the custody of the Kaaba must at all times have proved a most lucrative affair. No wonder, then, that the neighbouring tribes should have hotly contended for it. Originally the Ismaelites held it for a long time, together with the dominion over Mecca, which resulted from it as a natural consequence. The Jorhamites, a branch of the Joctanites, succeeded at last in ousting them from it; these again were expelled by the Khuzaites, who promoted idolatry to a most formidable extent. In the middle of the fifth century, an Ismaelitic tribe, that of Koreish, wrested the custody of the Kaaba, by fraud or force, from the Khuzaites. The sacerdotal office was entrusted by the Koreish to Cosa, of the family of the Hashemites, and devolved through four lineal descents to Abdol Motalleb, the grandfather of Mohammed.
The freedom which Arabia enjoyed, promised a safe asylum to the political and religious exiles and proscripts from the adjacent kingdoms. The intolerance of the Magian Persians had overturned the altars of Babylon, and compelled the votaries of Sabianism to seek a refuge in the desert. The same fate befell the Magians in their turn, when the sword of Alexander had overthrown the Persian monarchy. Multitudes of Jews fled into Arabia, to escape the cruel persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, and greater numbers still followed during the wars of Titus and Hadrian. To all these were added, at a later period, numerous sects of Christians, fleeing from that worst of all persecutions, that of their triumphant co-religionists, from whom they might chance to differ in some abstruse point of doctrine, or in some immaterial rite. Among the persecuted sects, we may mention here more particularly the Marcionites and the Manichæans, the Jacobites and Nestorians. The latter two sects had gained many proselytes in Yemen, and succeeded even in converting the princes of Hira and Gassan to their faith. The Jews, also, had made numerous and important converts to the Mosaic belief; and we have already seen how the intolerant zeal of a bigoted Jewish neophyte, Dunaan, prince of the Homerites, suddenly interrupted the enjoyment of that absolute liberty of conscience which the Arabian idolaters had hitherto granted to all creeds and all sects, and brought down upon Yemen an Abyssinian invasion to avenge the wrongs of the persecuted Christians.
It was in this country, and among this people, so strangely and peculiarly constituted, that arose the apostle of a new faith, destined to knead the heterogeneous and hostile elements of the nation into one compact mass, and to hurl this with irresistible might against the adjacent empires, and even, far beyond the limits of the latter, against countries and nations formerly scarcely known by name even to the Arabian merchant.
Mahomet, or more properly Mohammed or Muhammed, (i.e. the very famous), the only son of Abdallah and Amina, was born at Mecca, on the 20th April, 571. His father, Abdallah, was the best beloved of the thirteen sons of Abdol Motalleb, the son of Hashem, and chief of the family of that name; his mother, Amina, sprang from the noble race of the Zahrites. He had the misfortune to lose in his infancy, his father and mother, and his grandfather. His sole inheritance consisted in a house, an old female slave, and five camels. After the death of his grandfather, he was taken into the house of his uncle, Abu Taleb, who had succeeded Abdol Motalleb in the sacerdotal office. Here he was educated to commercial pursuits; and was, at the age of thirteen, sent with the caravan of his uncle to the fairs of Bosra, or Bostra, and Damascus, in Syria. In his twentieth year he fought in the ranks of the Koreish against some hostile tribes, and, by his valor, gained the appellation El Amin, i.e., the faithful, one of the five hundred and more surnames that have gradually been given to the Prophet of Islam. In his twenty-fifth year, Cadijah, a rich and noble widow of Mecca (according to some historians, of Bosra), engaged him as superintendent and manager to carry on the commercial affairs of her late husband. In this capacity he made a second journey to the fairs of Bosra and Damascus.
Nature had bestowed upon Mohammed the gift of personal beauty. His cotemporaries describe him as of commanding figure and majestic aspect; he had regular and most expressive features, piercing black eyes, an aquiline nose, and a well-formed mouth, with pearly teeth; his cheeks were tinged with the ruddy glow of robust health. Art had imparted to his naturally black, flowing hair and beard a lighter chestnut hue. His captivating smile, his rich and sonorous voice, the graceful dignity of his gestures, the apparent frankness and heartiness of his manner, gained him the favorable attention of those whom he addressed. He possessed talents of a superior order—his perception was quick and active, his memory capacious and retentive, his imagination lively and daring, his judgment clear, rapid, and decisive, his courage dauntless;—and, whatever may be our opinion of the sincerity of his convictions, his tenacity of purpose in the pursuit of the great object of his life, and his patient endurance, cannot but extort our admiration. His natural eloquence was enhanced by the use of the purest dialect of Arabia, and adorned by the charm of a graceful elocution.
Cadijah was a widow for the second time; she was in the fortieth year of her age—no wonder then, that a man so bountifully endowed by nature should speedily have gained her affection. She bestowed upon him her hand and her fortune, and restored him thereby to the station of his ancestors. Placed, henceforth, above the petty wants and cares of material subsistence, Mohammed had now full leisure to indulge his love of poetry and eloquence, and his natural predilection for contemplation. His marriage brought him into familiar contact with Waraka (Verka) Ben Naufil, a cousin of Cadijah. This Waraka, it would appear, had first exchanged the adoration of the heavenly bodies for the belief in the two principles of Zoroaster, (Ormuzd and Ahriman). This creed not satisfying his mind, he had embraced with fervor the monotheism of the Jews; but, disgusted with the absurdities of the Talmudists, he had seceded to the profession of the Christian faith, in which he had even assumed the priestly office. That he must have been a man of some talent and learning, is evident from the fact of his having translated the Old and New Testament from the Hebrew into the Arabic tongue. Now this man is usually mentioned by the historians of the time as the pupil of Mohammed, and the second convert to his new doctrine; but there are strong reasons to justify a belief that he was his master and teacher, rather than his pupil and convert.
It has been intimated already, that the history of the life of Mohammed, up to the time when he proclaimed himself the apostle of a new faith, is obscure and doubtful. From the scanty data, and the conjectural and contradictory statements before us, we can only gather one fact as pretty certain, viz: that the prophet of Islam had enjoyed some rabbinical and priestly instruction. Now we have seen that Mohammed was an illiterate barbarian, and not likely, therefore, to derive from conversation with priests in foreign lands that knowledge of the maxims, tenets, and traditions of other religious communities, which is evidenced in the Koran and in the Sonna; whereas Waraka had actually had a practical training in the divers beliefs of the Sabians, Magians, Jews, and Christians; and must, to judge by his translation of the New Testament, have been tolerably versed in the letter, at least, of the doctrine of Christ. From his repeated, and apparently conscientious, changes of faith, we have, perhaps, a right to conclude that he was a man sincerely in search of a religion that might satisfy his mind; nor need we wonder that the so-called “Christianity” of the seventh century should have failed to answer his expectations on this head. It would not be too much to say, indeed, that there existed really no “Christian” church at that period; the multitudinous contending sects who professed the name of Christ had almost entirely forgotten his pure doctrine, and, more especially, the divine principle preached by him of universal charity and good-will to all men. The grossest idolatry had usurped the place of the simple worship, instituted by Jesus, of an All-wise, Almighty, and All-beneficent Being, without equal and without similitude; a new Olympus had been imagined, peopled with a crowd of martyrs, saints, and angels, in lieu of the ancient gods of paganism. There were found Christian sects impious enough to invest the wife of Joseph with the honors and attributes of a goddess; relics, and carved and painted images, were objects of the most fervid adoration on the part of those whom the word of Christ commanded to address their prayer to the Living God alone.
Surely, then, we may trust that it will not be imputed to us as a violation of the laws of probability, if we venture to assume that Waraka, finding his religious aspirations disappointed even in the Christian faith, conceived the idea of founding and propagating a doctrine of his own,—a species of eclectic extract from all other religions which he had successively professed; that, void perhaps of personal ambition, or conscious, rather, that he did not himself possess the most indispensable attributes and qualities of a religious and political reformer, he cast his eyes upon Mohammed, who, with his mind attuned to contemplation and to mystic thought, promised to prove a docile disciple, and whose personal beauty and grace seemed made to “persuade ere he ope’d his mouth;” and that he chose him as his organ, as the medium through which he might give currency to the coinage of his mind, content if the people would receive the fruits of his religious experience and ponderings as a new gospel, and cheerfully consenting to yield up the honors of the paternity to him who should succeed in rearing the infant religion.
Waraka found in Mohammed a most zealous disciple, who considerably bettered the instructions which he received. From what we can gather from the scanty sources of information at our command, we think we may fix upon the year 606 a.d. as the period at which Mohammed first became the pupil of Waraka; but it was only five years after, in 611, that Waraka and himself had fully matured their plan to institute a new religion. Worthily to prepare himself for the assumption of the prophetic and apostolic office, Mohammed withdrew this year (as he had indeed done repeatedly before), several weeks, during the month of Ramadan, to the cave of Hera, three miles from Mecca. On the morning of the 24th Ramadan, Mohammed appeared before his wife, apparently greatly disturbed in mind. He called out to her to “wrap him up, to affuse him with cold water, as his soul was greatly troubled.” Having thus prepared her for his purpose, by exciting at once both her conjugal solicitude and her female curiosity, he proceeded to break to the amazed matron the great secret of his divine mission. He told her the angel Gabriel had, that night, appeared to him with a message from the Most High, appointing him, Mohammed, the sixth, greatest, and last of His chosen prophets, to reveal His existence and to preach His law to the nations of the world. The angel had brought down with him a paper copy of the uncreated and eternal Koran, enclosed in a volume of silk and gems, and had proposed to reveal to him successively and at his (Mohammed’s) own discretion, the chapters and verses of that everlasting record of the law of God.
Islam (i.e. devout submission to the Divine Will) he had been commanded by the angel to call the new faith which it was to be henceforward his mission to preach; and which, to use the felicitous language of Gibbon, is compounded of an eternal truth—viz., that there is only one God—and of a fiction necessary to further the ambitious designs of the self-appointed missionary of this new gospel—viz., that Mohammed is the apostle and prophet of God. Cadijah believed readily and implicitly—and no marvel either. Mohammed, to his honor be it written, had proved a most kind and attentive husband to the elderly matron who had raised him above the pressure of want. He had abstained—and till her death continued to abstain—from availing himself of the right of polygamy. He had proved his truth to her by unvarying affection. How, then, could she possibly have doubted his word? To her grateful and loving eyes, he must have seemed more than a mere mortal; and she may even have deemed it by no means extraordinary that the Most High should appoint as his organ and missionary one so pure, so good, so perfect, as her husband appeared in her sight.
Cadijah’s conversion was speedily followed by the avowed declaration of Waraka in favor of the new doctrine. The ex-priest of Christ professed to see in Mohammed the Paraclete, or Comforter, promised in the Gospel, and even ventured to support this view upon etymological grounds of somewhat extraordinary character. The Arabic word Mohammed is synonymous with the Greek περικλῠτὸς (i.e. very famous), which, by an easy change of letters, may be turned into παράκλητος!
The next converts to Mohammed’s new faith were, his servant Zeid, who was positively bribed to it by the promise of freedom; his youthful cousin Ali Ben Abu Taleb, a boy of eleven, and not likely, therefore, to entertain any very deep religious conviction either way; and the wealthy and universally esteemed Abdallah Ben Othman-al-Koreish, called afterwards Abu Bekr (i.e. the father of the maiden); most probably from the circumstance that his daughter Ayesha, born 613, became one of Mohammed’s wives after the death of Cadijah. By the weight and influence of Abu Bekr, ten of the most respectable citizens of Mecca were induced to join the creed of Islam, among whom were Othman, who became afterwards Mohammed’s son-in-law. It had taken three years to accomplish these fourteen private conversions; and, guided probably by the advice of Waraka, the prophet had not yet ventured upon a public profession and propaganda of his creed. In the beginning of 615, however, Waraka died; and the bolder spirit of Mohammed, freed from the restraining influence hitherto exercised by that cautious man, aspired henceforward openly to the dignity of the apostolic office.
We have already seen that Mohammed had informed Cadijah, and, of course, also his other disciples, that the chapters of the Koran were to be communicated to him by the angel Gabriel successively, and at his own discretion,—a master-stroke of policy evidently designed by the crafty Waraka to afford full time for the gradual concoction of the new creed, and worked out afterwards with such admirable skill by his illustrious pupil; indeed, the ingenuity of this provision may be said to be surpassed only by that of another saving maxim introduced into the angelic revelation, viz., that any text of the Koran is abrogated or modified by any subsequent passage,—which, of course, at once removed the inconvenience of contradictory texts. Gabriel was accordingly now made to descend again to Mohammed, and to command him in the name of the Most High to throw off the reserve which he had hitherto maintained, and to announce his mission in the open light of day. In obedience to this pretended command, the prophet of Islam invited forty members of the race of Hashem to a banquet. He placed before them, it is said, a lamb and a bowl of milk, and, after the frugal meal, addressed them as follows:—“Friends and kinsmen, 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 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?” A long silence of doubt and amazement followed this extraordinary allocution; it was broken at last by the impetuous Ali, then in the fourteenth year of his age. “O prophet!” he cried, “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.” This response on the part of one so young, and the fierce threats which it contained, excited the merriment of the assembly, which was increased when Mohammed fervently embraced his young cousin, and declared most seriously that he accepted his offer. Abu Taleb, the father of Ali, was ironically exhorted to respect the superior dignity of his son, and to take care not to provoke his potent wrath. The prince of Mecca took the matter in a more serious light: he advised his nephew to relinquish his design, which he characterised as impious. “Spare your remonstrances,” replied the son of Abdallah; “were you to place the sun on my right hand and the moon on my left, you should not divert me from my course.”
Braving the ridicule and the anger of the Hashemites, as well as the more determined and malignant hostility of the family Ommiyah and the other branches of the Koreish, Mohammed preached his doctrine henceforward publicly, with unflinching courage and untiring zeal, but for a long time with rather indifferent success, at least so far as his native city was concerned.
Mecca was the sacred city of Arabia,—the seat of the great national temple. The annual pilgrimage of the devout Arabians to the shrines of the Kaaba, brought wealth to the coffers of the inhabitants of the favored city; and it was but natural, therefore, that the tribe of Koreish, who held the lucrative office of custodians of the sacred temple, should behold with indignation and dismay the attempt made by one from among themselves to subvert a religion so profitable to their interests. No wonder, then, that when Mohammed, some time after the banquet of the Hashemites, ventured to proclaim his pretended mission before a general assembly of the Koreish, he was received with a perfect storm of disapprobation, and ignominiously pelted with mud and stones.
But the prophet of Islam was not the sort of man to be readily diverted from his fixed purpose. The indifferent success of his first public attempt rather increased his zeal than otherwise: in private converse and in public discourse, he incessantly urged the belief and worship of a sole Deity. He addressed impassioned orations to the citizens and pilgrims gathered within the holy precincts of the Kaaba, and the loudest clamor of his most violent antagonists did not always succeed in silencing his potent voice; and, indeed, after a time he had the satisfaction of beholding the gradual but steady increase of his little congregation of Unitarians. But the hostility of the Koreish assumed now a more decided and more dangerous character; and, had it not been for the powerful protection of Abu Taleb, who, though an uncompromising enemy to the attempted innovation of his nephew, continued to bestow on the son of Abdallah the affection of a parent, Mohammed would most probably have fallen a sacrifice to the rage of his enemies. But even the weight and influence of the Prince of Mecca could not always fully secure the safety of the apostle of the new creed, and Mohammed was repeatedly compelled to withdraw himself to various places of strength in the town and country. The more timid of his disciples were forced to seek in Ethiopia an asylum from the violence of religious faction. The conversion of his uncle Hamza, gave the new faith, most opportunely, a powerful support in the family of Hashem; a perhaps still more important acquisition was made in the person of the fierce and inflexible Omar, the Paul of Islam. On the other hand, the branch of Ommiyah, and the rest of the tribe of Koreish, resolved to put the children of Hashem under a species of religious and civil interdict of the most stringent nature, till they should consent to deliver the person of Mohammed to the justice of the insulted gods. A decree was passed to this effect, and was suspended in the Kaaba before the eyes of the nation; the prophet and his most faithful followers were besieged, and subjected to the greatest hardships. A hollow truce had scarcely restored the appearance of concord, when the death of Abu Taleb (621) left the prophet abandoned to the power of his enemies, and compelled him to seek a refuge in Tayef, whither he proceeded, attended by his faithful Zeid. His somewhat incautious attempts to propagate his creed in that land of grapes excited against him the indignation of the inhabitants, who pelted him with stones and drove him back to Mecca, where he was permitted to dwell yet a little while under the protection of an influential citizen. Three days after the death of Abu Taleb, an equally severe loss had befallen Mohammed—that of Cadijah, by which the ties which bound him to his native city were greatly loosened.
It is in this period that we may place the miraculous night of Mohammed’s ascension to heaven. Hitherto, Mohammed had been modestly content to place an intermediary between the Deity and himself. Probably reflecting, however, that the Jewish creed asserted direct and personal converse between Jehovah and Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, and that he, the greatest and last of the prophets, and whose doctrine was to supersede all others, could not well afford to stand inferior in this respect to his predecessors, and anxiously desirous, moreover, to gain over the Jews, whom he wished to believe him the promised Messiah—he put forth one of the wildest flights of fancy that ever issued even from an Oriental brain:—A mysterious animal, the Borak (the cherub of Islam), with human face, the ears of an elephant, the neck of a camel, the body of a horse, the tail of a mule, and the hoofs of a bullock, conveyed him at the dead of night from the temple of Mecca to that of Jerusalem, Gabriel and legions of angels attended him. From the temple of Jerusalem he was carried to the rock upon which Abraham intended to sacrifice Isaac, and thence on the wings of Gabriel successively to the seven heavens, where he exchanged civilities with the patriarchs, the prophets, and the angels. He saw the heavenly Lotos tree, with the four springs under it, flowing with water, honey, milk, and wine. Of the three former he tasted; the last he left untouched, in obedience to his own precepts. He saw, also, the heavenly tabernacle, pitched in a straight line above the Kaaba, and hidden by a golden veil. The angels sang, “There is only one God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God.” The same resounded from behind the veil, and the voice of the Lord was heard saying, “My servants speak the words of truth; Mohammed is indeed the most beloved of my prophets and apostles, the most pious of my servants, the most perfect of created beings.” Beyond this part, Mohammed alone was permitted to proceed; he passed through seventy thousand veils of light and darkness, each of them a thousand years thick, and with a space of a thousand years intervening between every two of them. At last he reached the green barrier of green light with emerald lustre; he passed the veil of the Divine unity, and approached within two bow-shots of the throne of the Almighty, where he prostrated himself and adored. The hand of the Lord touched his shoulder, which made a sensation of cold come over him that pierced him to the heart. God commanded him now to impose upon his disciples the daily obligation of fifty prayers; which Mohammed would appear to have looked upon as an intolerable burthen, since he pleaded hard for an alleviation of it. By his supplications he succeeded to reduce it, step by step, at last to the number of five, viz., one prayer at daybreak, one at noon, one in the afternoon, one in the evening, and one at the first watch of the night; but from these five obligatory prayers there was to be no dispensation of business or pleasure, of time or place. In this most important conversation, the Lord enjoined or sanctioned, also, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the bestowal of a certain percentage of the property or revenue of a believer for the relief of the indigent and unfortunate, and the thirty days fast during the month of Ramadan. Then was given to Mohammed, with one drop from the throne, all wisdom, science, and knowledge of the ages past and the time to come; and the angelic choirs recited the two articles of belief, “There is only one God, and Mohammed is the apostle of God.” Mohammed was then finally dismissed; he again descended to Jerusalem, remounted the Borak, and returned to Mecca, having thus performed in the tenth part of a night the journey of many thousand years. Verily, in this precious tale we do not know which to admire most,—whether the audacity of the impostor who could concoct, or the gross credulity of the people who could believe it! Indeed, many endeavours have been made by some of the more rational of the Mohammedan doctors to deny that the prophet of Islam ever ventured to palm off this extravagant story upon his followers; and it has been attempted to make it appear that the narration of it relates to a mere dream or vision. These apologists overlook, however, the important fact that this pretended vision was put forward with all the authority of a divine revelation. Mohammed himself encouraged as much as in him lay the belief in the actual occurrence of the fact; which, with the Sonnites, indeed, is an article of faith, the pious Al Jannabi, among others, declaring that to deny this nocturnal journey of the prophet is to disbelieve the Koran.
Abu Sophian, the chief of the branch of Ommiyah, and the mortal foe of the line of Hashem, had succeeded to the principality of the republic of Mecca. This man resolved to bring the long-pending contest between the Koreish and the self-appointed apostle of the new creed to a speedy and decisive issue. He convened an assembly of the Koreishites and their allies, in which the death of Mohammed was resolved. To baffle the vengeance of the Hashemites, it was agreed that the guilt of his blood should be divided among the several tribes. A spy (duly converted afterwards into an angel by the crafty prophet) revealed the odious plot to Mohammed, who resolved on flight as the only means of escape from the malice of his enemies. In the night of the 13th September, 622, Mohammed, accompanied by his friend Abu Bekr, escaped silently from his house, whilst the assassins, who were watching at the door, were deceived by the figure of Ali, who, covered with the green vestment of the apostle, reposed on the bed, securing thus, at the risk of his own life, the safe retreat of his illustrious and beloved cousin. When the deception practised upon them was at length revealed, the Koreishites dismissed the heroic youth unharmed.
Mohammed and the companion of his flight took refuge first in the cave of Thor, about three miles from Mecca. Three days they remained concealed there, receiving every evening from the son and daughter of Abu Bekr a supply of food, and intelligence of the movements of their enemies. The Koreish explored every hiding-place in the neighbourhood of the city, with the exception of the cave in which the fugitives were hidden, and which the pious Moslem doctors would have us believe was protected from their scrutiny by the providential deceit of a spider’s web and a pigeon’s nest. When the first rigor of the pursuit had somewhat abated, the fugitives left the protection of their cave, and mounted their camels to pursue their flight to Yathreb, called afterwards Medina, or Medina al Nabi (i.e. city of the prophet). On the road, they were overtaken by the emissaries of the Koreish, who were, however, diverted from their murderous purpose by the eloquent appeals of the prophet: indeed it is stated by the Arabian historians that one of his pursuers passed over to him with seventy followers, and attended him to Medina.
The city of Yathreb was inhabited chiefly by the tribes of the Charegites and the Awsites, and by two colonies of Jews, of a sacerdotal race, and who had introduced among their Arab fellow-citizens a taste for science and religion, which had gained Medina the name of the City of the Book. Now whether it might be that, owing to this circumstance, the preaching of Mohammed had made a deeper impression upon the pilgrims and merchants from Medina than upon his own fellow-citizens in Mecca; or that the Yathrebites, who were envious of the flourishing commerce of the latter city, would gladly avail themselves of the opportunity afforded by the bigoted zeal of the Koreish to attract to their own city the exiled disciples of Mohammed, and in fine perhaps that illustrious man himself—certain it is that at an early period of Mohammed’s mission, some of the noblest citizens of Medina, in a pilgrimage to the Kaaba, had been converted by his preaching, and had upon their return home diffused among their fellow-citizens the belief of God and his prophet. The Charegites and Awsites had hitherto lived in perpetual feud, interrupted only by temporary truces, which were broken on the slightest provocation. By the exhortations of these missionaries, the two tribes were henceforth united in faith and love. Ten Charegites and two Awsites were despatched to Mecca, where they held a secret and nocturnal interview with Mohammed on a hill in the suburbs; they protested for themselves and in the name of their wives, their children, and their absent brethren, an inviolable attachment to the person and doctrine of the prophet. At a later period, shortly before Mohammed’s forced departure from Mecca, seventy-three men and two women of Medina came to Mecca, and held a solemn conference with Mohammed, his kinsmen, and his disciples, on the same spot where the interview with the first embassy had taken place. They promised the prophet in the name of their city that should he be compelled to leave Mecca, they would receive him as their prince, and would place their lives and fortunes at his service for the defence and propagation of the new faith preached by him. Mohammed on his part promised never to abandon his new allies, even though the Koreish should repent and should recall him; he declared their blood to be as his blood, their ruin as his ruin, their friends as his friends, their foes as his foes; should they fall in his service, Paradise was to be their reward. A solemn league and covenant was made there and then between the two parties; this was ratified by the people of Medina, who, with the exception of the Jews, unanimously embraced the profession of Islam.
It was accordingly to Medina that the exiled prophet directed his steps. After a rapid though perilous journey along the sea-coast, he reached Medina sixteen days after his flight from Mecca. He was received with acclamations of loyalty and devotion; his disciples who at various times had fled from Mecca, gathered round his person. To eradicate the seeds of jealousy that might spring up between the Moslems of his native city, and his new allies of Medina, he judiciously established a holy brotherhood between his principal followers, coupling always a Mohagerian, or fugitive of Mecca, with an Ansar, or auxiliary of Medina. It so falling out that Ali found himself without a peer, the prophet declared himself the companion and brother of the noble youth.
Mohammed assumed now the exercise of the regal and sacerdotal office. He acquired by purchase a small piece of ground, on which he built a house and a mosque. The loyalty and devotion of his followers, and the unhesitating compliance and obedience which his decrees met with on the part of the inhabitants of Medina, convinced him that he was indeed the absolute prince and ruler of that city. But with this conviction the range of his ambition widened, he resolved to extend his creed and his power over all the tribes of Arabia, and even beyond the limits of his native land. He now threw off the cloak of toleration in which he had so carefully enfolded himself at Mecca. There he had asserted the liberty of conscience, and disclaimed the use of religious violence; here, at Medina, he preached a war of extermination against whomsoever should continue in idolatry. The commands and precepts, which Gabriel was now made to transmit to him, breathed a fierce and sanguinary spirit; the creed of Islam was to be propagated henceforth by the sword, and the unbelieving nations of the earth were to be pursued without mercy. To excite in his followers a spirit of martial ardor, he proclaimed the superior sanctity of the sword. “In the shade of the crossing scymitars Paradise is prefigured,” says Mohammed; “the sword 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 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 rubies, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim.” Paradise was the glorious reward of the faithful who fell in battle, and death might thus actually become an object of hope and desire rather than of dread. Moreover, as the Koran inculcates also, in the most absolute sense, the tenets of fate and predestination, it would be little use for the devout Moslem to shirk his military duties through fear of being wounded or killed in battle, since his preordained fate would be sure to overtake him, even in his bed. And as Paradise was the portion of the fallen hero, so wealth and beauty rewarded the warrior who had escaped the dangers of the fight: the apostle gave his followers the license of embracing the female captives as their wives or concubines; he regulated by a law, divine, of course, like all the rest of his laws and precepts, the distribution of the spoil taken in battle, or in a conquered place: the whole was faithfully collected in one common mass, one-fifth of it was reserved for the prophet himself (doubtless, for pious and charitable uses), the remainder was shared among the soldiers, the shares of the slain devolving to their widows and orphans: a horseman received double the share of a foot-soldier.
From the first months of his reign, he prepared for the holy warfare against Jews, Christians, and idolators. At the beginning of the year 623, his white banner was displayed before the gates of Medina. Faithful to the national character, he, the holy prophet of a creed which the nations of the world were invited to look upon as divine, went forth at the head of his pious followers, the future denizens of a Paradise which in his extravagant Oriental fancy he had placed beyond the seventh heaven, to waylay the peaceful merchant, and to rob and maim, or murder him, in the name and for the glory of the Most High.
So he went forth at the head of three hundred and thirteen Moslems, to intercept the return of the great caravan from Syria to Mecca, a caravan of a thousand camels, led by Abu Sophian, with only thirty or forty followers. But the Koreish, alarmed for the safety of their merchandise and their provisions, hastened to the rescue. One hundred horse, and eight hundred and fifty foot, advanced from Mecca to about three stations from Medina. Here, in the fertile and famous vale of Beder, they met the band of the prophet. The disproportion of numbers was great; in Mohammed’s ranks were found only two horsemen: informed by his scouts that the caravan was approaching from the one, the Koreish from the other side, Mohammed had hesitated whether to seize upon an easy prey, or to venture on an encounter with vastly superior forces; but the reflection, that a success gained under disadvantageous circumstances, would, with an impulsive people like the Arabs, go far to prove his divine mission, and would embolden his adherents and discourage his enemies, he resolved to give battle. With Abu Bekr by his side, he took his station on a kind of throne or pulpit. The white veil of Ayesha, and two black banners, were borne before his host. “Courage, my children,” he exclaimed, “close your ranks; discharge your arrows, and the day is your own.” Perceiving, however, that the Moslems fainted in their onset, and were hard pressed by the superior numbers of the Koreish, he betook himself with a loud voice to pray the succour of Gabriel and a legion of angels. He then started from his throne, mounted his horse, and, casting a handful of sand into the air, exclaiming, “Let their faces be covered with confusion,” dashed against the hostile ranks. The Arabs were a most superstitious people; their fancy beheld the angelic warriors, or rather felt their presence; the thunder of Mohammed’s voice revived the drooping spirits of his followers; whilst it carried confusion into the ranks of his enemies. The Koreish turned and fled. Seventy of the bravest were slain, and seventy captives fell into the hands of the victorious prophet, who had two of them put to death as a trifling instalment of the debt of revenge which he meant to exact from his foes and revilers. The other sixty-eight were restored for a ransom of four thousand drachms of silver. From the field of Beder, Mohammed started in pursuit of Abu Sophian’s caravan, which, despite of the swiftness of its flight, and the skill of its guides, was overtaken and captured. A booty of 100,000 drachms of silver rewarded the pious robbers. But this great success had well nigh proved fatal to Mohammed and his creed, and to the city of refuge. The fierce resentment of Abu Sophian and of the Koreish, brought into the field against Mohammed a body of three thousand men, among whom were seven hundred armed with cuirasses, and two hundred on horseback; three thousand camels attended the march of this host. Abu Sophian advanced to within six miles of the north of Medina, where he encountered the prophet at the head of nine hundred and fifty followers, on Mount Ohud, (a.d. 624). The Koreish advanced in the form of a crescent. The right wing of the cavalry was led by Kaled, the fiercest and most redoubtable of the Arab warriors. Mohammed had made his dispositions with considerable skill; his troops were successful at first, and broke the centre of the enemy; but their eagerness to seize upon the spoils threw their ranks into disorder, and speedily deprived them of the advantage gained. Kaled, with his cavalry, attacked them in the flank and rear; Mohammed was wounded in the face with a javelin, and two of his teeth were shattered with a stone; Kaled exclaimed, with a loud voice, that the lying prophet was slain; and the followers of Islam, who looked in vain for the appearance of Gabriel and his angelic legion, to avenge the fall of “The beloved of God,” trembled and fled; still, in the midst of tumult and dismay, was heard the thunder of Mohammed’s voice, denouncing the impious tribe of the Koreish, as the murderers of God’s apostle, and calling down upon them the vengeance of heaven. Some of the most devoted followers of the prophet gathered bravely around him, and conveyed him to a place of safety. Seventy of the bravest defenders of Islam lay dead on the field, among them Hamza, one of Mohammed’s uncles. The inhuman females of Mecca, who had accompanied the expedition, mangled their bodies, and the fierce Henda, Abu Sophian’s wife, tasted the entrails of Hamza, with the relish of a cannibal. But Mohammed was not discouraged: his wounds had hardly been dressed, when the convenient Gabriel revealed to him that (for some unexplained cause) the powers of darkness had been permitted to prevail against him this once, and that Satan himself had fought in the ranks of the Koreish; he was, however, exhorted to persevere in his propaganda, and was assured of ultimate success. He rallied his troops, and even as early as the next day he led them forth again to battle; on this occasion the fight was, however, only of a desultory character, no great harm being done on either side. Still the result of it was, that the Koreish, having experienced the desperate valor of the Moslems, and more particularly of Ali and Omar, despaired of carrying Medina with their present forces, and retired to Mecca. But in the ensuing year (a.d. 625) Abu Sophian, having formed a league between the Koreish and several tribes of the desert, led a well-appointed host of ten thousand warriors against Medina. The number of the Mussulmans, however, had also considerably increased, and Mohammed’s army of three thousand men, awaited the attack of their foes, securely encamped before the city, and protected by a ditch and some field-works, which had been constructed under the guidance and superintendence of a Persian engineer. A general engagement being prudently declined by the prophet, the hostilities were confined to a number of single combats, in which Ali more especially signalised his formidable strength and prowess. Twenty days passed away in this desultory warfare, the apostle of God having, meanwhile, recourse to every artifice that his crafty mind could devise, to sow disunion in the camp of his enemies. A tempest of wind, rain, and hail, which overturned the tents of the besiegers, and which was, of course, duly claimed as a direct interposition of God in favor of his prophet, put the finishing stroke to the success of this insidious policy: the Koreish, deserted by their allies, were compelled to retire, and to relinquish, henceforth, the attempt to overcome Mohammed by force of arms. This last attack upon Medina is variously named from the nations which marched under Abu Sophian’s banner, and from the ditch which protected the Mussulman camp.
During the earlier period of his mission, Mohammed had shown considerable leaning towards the Jews; he had selected Jerusalem for the Kebla of prayer, and had endeavoured to form most of his tenets and precepts upon the model of the Mosaic ordinances. Indeed, there can be no doubt, but that it was for a time the great end and object of his ambition to be accepted by the Jews as their promised Messiah; nor can it be denied, that a deep political idea lay at the bottom of this desire. Had he succeeded in persuading the Jews to believe in his Messiahship, his apostolic course among the Arabs would have run much smoother, and many of the so-called Christian sects might have been readily gained over to his mixtum compositum, which might, indeed, be called a creed of creeds in the literal acceptation of the words.
But the imposture was too shallow to take with so clear-sighted a people as the Jews unquestionably were: the pretended Messiah was repudiated by them with disdain, and the hostility of the Koreish against the son of Abdallah, was, in some degree, fomented and fanned by the Jews of Mecca. Hence the implacable and unrelenting hatred with which Mohammed pursued the unfortunate Israelites to the last moment of his life. That he changed the kebla of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca, and that in his nocturnal journey to Heaven, he beheld the divine tabernacle in a straight line above the latter city, instead of Zion, where he undoubtedly originally intended to behold it,—could, at the most, provoke a smile of contempt and derision; but the appalling cruelties which he indicted, both upon individuals and upon entire tribes of the doomed nation, must fill the mind of the impartial explorer of history with deep indignation against the man who could so avenge his offended vanity. His first exploit in this direction, was the expulsion of the Kainoka tribe from Medina, where they had hitherto been permitted to dwell in peace, by the large toleration of the Idolators. The prophet of Islam seized the occasion of an accidental tumult, in which the Kainoka had taken part, to place before them the alternative of embracing his religion, or contending with him in battle. A brave challenge this, to the unfortunate Jews, to do battle with him, and which displayed in the fullest, though certainly not in the most favorable light, the magnanimous disposition of the son of Abdallah, that has been so highly extolled by some historians. Still, even with the fearful odds of number and martial spirit against them, the feeble and unwarlike Israelites preferred the unequal contest to apostacy from the faith of their fathers. It was decided in fifteen days, of course with the total overthrow and capture of the whole tribe; and, had it not been that the Charegites, mindful of the friendship which once existed between them and their humble allies, the Kainoka, warmly interceded on behalf of the wretched captives, the prophet of God would have slain every one of them. As it was, they were despoiled of their homes and property; and driven forth, to the number of seven hundred men, with their wives and children, to seek a refuge on the confines of Syria, to which quarter the blessings of the new creed had not yet extended. The Nadhirites were the next to feel the weight of his arm. In their case, indeed, some provocation had been given, as they had conspired to assassinate the prophet in a friendly interview. Protected by the walls of their castle (situated about three miles from Medina), they fought with such boldness and resolution, that Mohammed was fain to grant them an honorable capitulation.
The war of the nations interrupted for a time Mohammed’s operations against the Jews; but even on the day that the confederated nations had abandoned the siege of Medina, he marched against the tribe of Koraidha. A campaign of twenty-five days sufficed to compel their surrender at discretion. They fondly believed that their old allies of Medina would, by their intercession, preserve them at least from the extreme measure of Mohammed’s wrath;—vain hope: fanaticism had made rapid progress among the Ansars. A venerable elder of the Charegite tribe, to whose judgment they referred their case, pronounced the penalty of death against them for their hostility to Islam. To the number of seven hundred they were led in chains to the market-place of Medina, where a grave had been dug to receive them; into this they were forced to descend, and the apostle of God indulged his vengeful mind with the sight of their slaughter and burial…. Verily, verily, the blackest and most atrocious of crimes are committed in the name of God. A few years after the extirpation of the Koraidha, Mohammed marched, at the head of two hundred horse, and fourteen hundred foot, against the ancient city of Chaibar, the seat of the Jewish power in Arabia. Chaibar was protected by eight strong castles, which were successively reduced by the Moslems in sixteen weeks, not, however, without considerable loss on the part of the conquerors. After the fall of the castles, the city was forced to surrender (628). The inhabitants had their lives granted to them, and permission to dwell in the land, on condition that they should pay to the prophet, an annual tribute of the one-half of their revenue. But the chief of Chaibar was subjected to the most cruel tortures, to force from him a confession of his hidden treasures; and when the 100,000 pieces of gold, which had been concealed, were delivered up at last, he and several of the most notable of his people were mercilessly butchered in cold blood. It was in this campaign against Chaibar that Mohammed bestowed upon Ali, the surname of the “Lion of God,” gained by the slaughter of 150 Hebrews, who are stated to have fallen by the irresistible scymitar of Abu Taleb’s illustrious son.
The Jewess Asma had offended the dignity of the prophet by some satirical strictures on his private life; he bribed a miserable blind Jew, named Omeir, to assassinate her. This wretched tool murdered the ill-fated woman in her chamber, and nailed her body to the floor; having some misgivings of conscience, he accosted the prophet next morning while at prayer, and asked him whether God might not, perhaps, punish the crime perpetrated? whereupon the pious apostle bade him to be of good cheer, as the killing of a Jew, even if not at all times a meritorious act, was, at least, a matter of perfect indifference to the Ruler of the Universe! In the same way he deputed assassins to slay the learned Jew, Eshref; in the name of God he sent them on their bloody errand! The venerable Abu Aas was murdered in his sleep at his bidding: the poor old man had reached his hundredth year, and might safely have been permitted to die in peace, but considerations of the kind weighed but little with the son of Abdallah; an insult to his apostolic dignity could only be washed off in the blood of the offender. But why sully our pages with the long list of private and public murders perpetrated by the command, or at the instigation of, this precious pretender to a divine mission, … sufficient has been stated to illustrate the cruel and sanguinary disposition of the man.
Mohammed had left Mecca most reluctantly, and only when flight alone could preserve his life from the swords of his then all-powerful enemies. The thought to revisit as a conqueror, the city and the holy temple of the Kaaba, was ever present to his mind. When the Jews, by their disdainful rejection of his advances, had turned his friendship into implacable hatred, he changed the kebla of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca, clearly indicating thereby, that, whatever might be the merits of Medina, the holy city of the Kaaba stood still foremost in his affections. As soon as he had firmly established his empire over Medina, and some powerful tribes of the desert, and had destroyed or expelled the Jewish tribes of the Kainoka, the Nadhirites, and the Koraidha, he projected a scheme for the conquest of Mecca, (towards the end of 627). Conscious that his power was not yet sufficiently great to prevail by force of arms, he craftily disguised his expedition against the city of his birth, in the form of a peaceful and pious pilgrimage. Seventy camels, chosen and bedecked for sacrifice, preceded the van of his host of 1400 picked men. The captives who fell into his hands, in his advance to the territory of the sacred city, were dismissed without ransom, to carry to the Koreish the solemn assurance of his peaceful intentions. All that the good man wanted, was to be permitted to enter the city, with his 1400 armed followers, to sacrifice the camels which he had brought with him for the purpose, and to perform the customary seven circumambulations round the Kaaba. Of course, had the Koreish conceded these points, the rest would have been a task of easy accomplishment. But the Koreish had had opportunities sufficient to know the crafty tongue and the false heart of the son of Abdallah. They encountered him, therefore, in the plain, within a day’s journey of the city, with such numbers and with such resolution, that he was fain to abandon his purpose for the time, and even to consent to the conclusion of a ten years’ truce, with the Koreish and their allies. In the treaty drawn up to that effect, he, the infallible prophet of God, the favored mortal raised by the Divine will to an equality with the cherubim and seraphim in the heavenly hierarchy, the trusted leader who had solemnly promised his believing followers, a triumphal entry into the stronghold of the most formidable and most dreaded of the enemies of Islam,—was obliged even to waive the title of Apostle of God, and to figure as plain Mohammed Abul Kasem. Still the Koreish granted him, for the ensuing year, the privilege of entering the city unarmed and as a friend, and of remaining three days to accomplish the rites of the pilgrimage—a fatal mistake on their part, and which they might have foreseen one so crafty as Mohammed would turn to excellent account. For the time being, however, the authority of the pretended prophet of God was considerably shaken, and some of the newly converted Bedoween tribes showed symptoms of disaffection. The successful campaign against Chaibar revived the faith and courage of his followers, and restored the wavering loyalty of the wandering tribes.
After the conquest of Chaibar, Mohammed sent six embassies with letters to the neighbouring princes, calling upon them to embrace the religion of Islam: the seal of the letter bore the inscription, “Mohammed, the Apostle of God.” The Greek emperor, Heraclius, returning in triumph from the Persian war, received and entertained one of these ambassadors with great urbanity at Emesa. Kobad II., of Persia (Siroes) tore the letter, and dismissed the envoy with ignominy. Mokawkas, the Byzantine governor of Memphis, a born Egyptian, and a Jacobite or Monophysite in religion; and who, in the disorder of the Persian war, had aspired to independence, and thereby exposed himself to the resentment of Heraclius, declined, indeed, the proposal of a new religion, but accompanied his refusal with flattering compliments and with gifts; among other, two Coptic damsels, one of whom, Mary, became the favorite concubine of the prophet, to whom she bore a son, Ibrahim, who died, however, at the tender age of fifteen months. The King of Abyssinia also returned a polite answer. But Haris, governor of Damascus, threatened war upon the presumptuous Arabian; and Amru, prince of Gassan, a vassal of the Byzantine emperor, put the envoy to death, for which outrage Mohammed sent afterwards an army into Syria, with what results we shall see hereafter.
According to the stipulations of the treaty of Hodaibeh, Mohammed was permitted to perform, towards the end of 628, at the head of a body of pious pilgrims, his three days’ devotion in the Kaaba; the Koreish retiring, meanwhile, to the hills. After the customary sacrifice, he evacuated the city on the fourth day; but in this short space of time, he had succeeded in sowing the seeds of division between the hostile chiefs, and to gain over to his cause Kaled and Amrou, or Amru, the future conquerors of Syria and Egypt. The interdiction of wine, and of dice and lotteries, falls in this period.
It was after the return from this pilgrimage, that he sent an army of 3000 Moslems against Amru, prince of Gassan, and the Greeks. The army was led by Zeid, Mohammed’s freedman and one of his earliest disciples. At Muta, three days’ journey from Jerusalem, they met the Gassanides and the Greeks: a fierce and bloody battle ensued; Zeid fell fighting in the foremost ranks; the holy banner, which escaped from his relaxing grasp, was seized by Jaafar, the leader appointed by Mohammed to succeed Zeid, in the event of the decease of the latter. Jaafar’s right hand was severed from his body by the sword of a Roman soldier; he shifted the standard to the left hand: this met the same fate; he embraced the holy banner with the bleeding stumps, and thus upheld it, till the tide of life ebbed away from fifty wounds. The vacant place was as worthily filled by Abdallah, the second successor appointed by the prophet in case of accident. He also fell, transfixed by the lance of a Roman. The battle was lost, the flower of the Moslem host annihilated, and the ambitions dreams of empire were dispelled at the very time when they seemed to promise fairest,—had not Kaled, the recent convert of Mecca, at this critical juncture, rescued the falling standard, and assumed the command, with the same bravery as his predecessors, but with still greater prowess, and with greater success. Nine swords were broken in his hand; and every enemy that dared to approach him, was made to bite the dust by his invincible arm. Night put an end to the contest: in the nocturnal council of the camp, Kaled was chosen, or rather confirmed, leader of the gallant band of warriors, who had survived the carnage of the day. Death had been fearfully busy in the ranks of the Moslems; and the Greeks, though awed by the valor of Kaled, had still an immense superiority of number in their favor. Kaled wisely resolved, therefore, to save the wreck of his forces by a skilful retreat. His admirable combinations, and the dread inspired by his prowess, rescued the host of the faithful believers of Islam from all but certain destruction; and the well-earned gratitude of the prophet bestowed upon the hero of Muta, the glorious appellation of the “Sword of God,” a name destined after to ring many a time and oft as the knell of doom in the ears of the affrighted Christians.
Mohammed had never ceased to meditate the conquest of Mecca, and his power was now, indeed, sufficiently great and solid to promise an easy accomplishment of this, the darling object of his ambition; but the ten years’ truce seemed an obstacle which it would not be easy to surmount. Notwithstanding, however, he silently prepared the means to carry his plans against the city of his birth into execution, should a favorable opportunity offer. The reverse which his forces had suffered at Muta, impelled the Koreish to furnish him with the desired pretext; they attacked one of the tribes confederated with Mohammed. Ten thousand soldiers were speedily gathered round the banner of the prophet, and led by him against the offending city. A rapid and secret march brought them almost within sight of Mecca, before the Koreish had the least notion of their approach. Unprepared as they were, it would have been sheer madness to contend against the overwhelming forces which now encompassed the city of the Kaaba: they resolved therefore to throw themselves upon the clemency of their triumphant exile. On the 11th of January, 630, the haughty chief of the house of Ommiyah presented the keys of the city; and confessed, under the scymitar of Omar, that the son of Abdallah was the apostle of the true God. The patriotic attachment which Mohammed unquestionably bore the city of his birth, and political considerations of a high order, stayed the avenging hand of the victorious outcast. Kaled had, indeed, slain twenty-eight of the inhabitants, ere the potent command of the prophet to spare the vanquished, could restrain his ruthless arm; but Mohammed blamed the cruelty of his lieutenant, and, though he proscribed eleven men and six women, few only were put to death by him. Among these was Abdolusa, who, after having embraced the faith of Islam, had relapsed into idolatry. Abdallah, once the secretary of Mohammed, and who had been employed by him to note down the fragmentary revelations imparted by Gabriel, had a narrow escape. The clear-sighted man had seen through the shallow imposture palmed upon the people by the pretended apostle; and he had imprudently boasted, that he also might claim the name and rank of a prophet, considering that he had it in his power to change, or to suppress, the holy revelations dictated to him by Mohammed. To escape the vengeance of his offended master, he had fled to Mecca, where he had, however, still continued to provoke his resentment by exposing and ridiculing his ignorance. When Mecca was taken, Abdallah fell prostrate at the feet of Mohammed, and implored his pardon. Othman, Abdallah’s foster-brother, entreated the prophet to spare the life of the humble penitent, a request which was at last most reluctantly granted, Mohammed declaring that he had so long hesitated, to allow time for some zealous disciple to strike the kneeling apostate dead at his feet. The poet, Huires, paid the penalty of his satires on the Apostle of God: but Soheir more wisely purchased, not only forgiveness, but a rich reward in the bargain, by one of the grossest and most extravagant pieces of adulation that ever proceeded even from an Oriental pen.
The Koreish and the other inhabitants of Mecca, professed the religion of Islam, and acknowledged the temporal and spiritual supremacy of the prophet. The 360 idols of the Kaaba were ignominiously broken; Mohammed assisting with his own hands, in the work of destruction, nay, even lending his august shoulders for Ali to mount upon, to accomplish the overthrow of some idols placed a little above ordinary reach. This meritorious feat was performed on a Friday; which day was, therefore, henceforward appointed by the prophet as the holy day of Islam.
But it was by no means the intention of Mohammed to despoil the city of his birth, of the lucrative trade in religion to which it had hitherto been mainly indebted for its pre-eminence among the cities of Arabia. The people of Mecca were agreeably disappointed, when they beheld the Prophet of God solemnly consecrating again the purified Kaaba, and performing the customary circumambulations and sacrifices as of old. They were readily reconciled to the belief in a sole Deity, since their astute townsman assigned a local habitation on earth to the idea of the God whom he commanded them and the nations of the world to worship, and placed this habitation within the walls of their own city. Even the black stone was not forgotten by the crafty politician: his reverential touch cleansed it from the pollution of ages of idolatry, and restored it to the pristine purity and holiness of Gabriel’s celestial gift to Abraham; and to crown all, he still heightened the sanctity of the holy city, by enacting a perpetual law that no unbeliever should ever dare to set his foot within its sacred precincts.
The conquest of Mecca secured Mohammed the allegiance of many of the Bedoween tribes, who, troubling themselves but little about religious opinions and controversies, readily gave their adhesion to the cause which the gods seemed to prosper. But some of the most important tribes of Hejaz, and more especially the people of Tayef, persisted in their idolatry, and a great confederacy was formed among them to break the power of Mohammed. The prophet resolved to meet the threatening danger; he collected a host of 12,000 men, well-armed and well-appointed; the confederates had not one-half the number to oppose him. But the skilful tactics of the pagans, and the overweening confidence of the Mussulmans, brought the apostle and his new faith to the verge of ruin. Having incautiously descended into the valley of Honain, the Moslems were suddenly attacked on all sides by the archers and slingers of the enemy, who occupied the heights; the ranks of the faithful were thrown into confusion by the unexpected and fierce onset of the foe; and the stoutest hearts among them quailed, when they saw themselves caught as in a net. The Koreish secretly rejoiced at the impending destruction of their conquerors, and even prepared to go over to the enemy. All seemed lost;—despairing of victory, the prophet, seeking a glorious death, urged his white mule against the wall of spears that encompassed him: his faithful followers dragged him back, and covered him with their persons from the thrusts and darts aimed at his breast. Three of these devoted followers fell dead at his feet;—but the moment of weak despair was past, and soon the thunder of his voice was heard again, reanimating the sinking courage of the Moslems, and striking terror into the hearts of the idolators. The Koreish forgot their treacherous intentions; the flying Mussulmans returned from all sides to the holy standard; and the attacks of the enemy were now everywhere vigorously repulsed. Defeat was changed into victory, and a merciless slaughter of the conquered and flying pagans, avenged the temporary disgrace of the followers of Islam. From the field of Honain, Mohammed marched without delay to Tayef, the centre and stronghold of the confederacy. He laid siege to that fortress; but the desperate valor of the inhabitants defeated all his efforts to effect its reduction; and after twenty days spent before it, he deemed it the wisest course to rest satisfied for the time with the victory of Honain, and not to court the chances of an inglorious defeat. He, therefore, raised the siege, and marched back to Mecca. In his operations against Tayef, he gave an instance of how cheap he held his own laws and precepts, where they happened to clash with his interests: he ordered the extirpation of all the fruit trees in the fertile lands round the city.
In the division of the rich spoils of the expedition of Honain, he acted with consummate skill. Instead of excluding the Koreish from their share, to punish them for their ambiguous conduct during the campaign, he bestowed double measure upon them; the most disaffected of them all, Abu Sophian, being presented with no less than three hundred camels and twenty ounces of silver: no wonder, then, that that rapacious chief and his followers should have, henceforth, become sincere adherents to so profitable a creed. The old companions in arms of the prophet were reconciled to this manifest injustice in the distribution of the spoil, by artful flatteries and promises of heavenly rewards: his own share of the plunder (one-fifth) he assigned to the soldiers.
Although he had failed to reduce Tayef, yet by the extirpation of the fruit trees he had struck a severe blow against the people of that city; the fortifications had been considerably injured by the battering rams and the mining operations, so that there was ample reason to dread the event of a renewal of the siege. The people of Tayef resolved, therefore, to sue for peace; their deputies endeavoured to obtain favorable conditions, and, at least, the toleration of their ancient worship, though even only for a short period. Mohammed would not concede them even one day; at last they simply entreated to be excused from the obligation of prayer to the God of Islam; in vain: Mohammed was inexorable, and Tayef at length submitted to the harsh conditions imposed by the prophet. The idols were broken, their temples demolished, and all the tribes of Hejaz acknowledged the supreme rule of the son of Abdallah. The ruler of Bahrein, the King of Oman, and the King of the Beni Gassan, in Syria, confessed the God of Mohammed, and submitted to the sway of the prophet. Yemen also, and the rest of the peninsula, was reduced to obedience by his victorious lieutenants, and the ambassadors who knelt before the throne of Medina, (631, hence called the year of the embassies), were, in the words of the Arabian proverb, “as numerous as the dates that fall from the palm-tree in the season of ripeness.”
Absolute master of the whole of Arabia, the son of Abdallah resolved to subject Syria also to his sway; he solemnly declared war against the Empire of the East, and summoned the faithful to the holy standard. But the prospect of the difficulties and hardships of a march through the desert, during the intolerable heat of the summer, and, perhaps also, the recollection of Muta, discouraged the Moslems; and the most urgent solicitations of the apostle were disregarded, or met by more or less cogent excuses. Still the great champions of the faith, Ali, Omar, Othman, Kaled, Amru, Abu Bekr, Abu Obeidah, Abbas, and many others, attended by trains of devoted followers, gathered round the prophet, and enabled him thus to take the field, at the head of ten thousand horse and twenty thousand foot. After one of the most distressing marches through the desert, the Moslem host was compelled to halt midway near Tabuc, ten days’ journey from Medina and Damascus. The hardships endured had considerably cooled the ardor of the faithful, and wisely declining to engage the disciplined forces of the Eastern empire with his wearied and dispirited followers, Mohammed contented himself with inviting the Greek Emperor once more to embrace his religion, and retired to Arabia; leaving a body of picked men, under the command of the intrepid Kaled, to prosecute the war. The valor and activity of that leader secured the submission of the tribes and cities from the Euphrates to Ailah, at the head of the Red Sea. Mohammed returned to Medina, where he pronounced a sentence of excommunication for fifty days against those who had been the most disobedient to his call. He then prepared for a great pilgrimage to Mecca, which he accomplished in the early part of 632, attended by 60,000 Moslems. In this, his last visit to the city of his birth, he gave a great number of laws and precepts; and, among others, the interdiction of the private revenge of murder and other injuries.
It has already been stated, that Mohammed’s health had been declining ever since the campaign of Chaibar, (see page 34, note); yet such was the strength and vigor of his constitution, that up to the time of his last and fatal illness, he remained equal to the physical and mental fatigues of his mission. However, soon after his return from the last pilgrimage to Mecca, he fell ill of an inflammatory fever, with occasional fits of delirium, which he endeavoured to combat by frequent affusions with cold water. When he became conscious of the fatal nature of his illness, he laid himself out to die, as an accomplished actor, like Octavianus Augustus. Leaning on his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, and on his uncle, Abbas, or the son of the latter, Fadl, he dragged himself to the mosque to perform the functions of public prayer: from the pulpit he called upon his subjects freely and boldly to state any grievance that any one of them might have suffered at his hands, and to prefer any just claims against his estate. A safe challenge indeed: the victims of his lust of power and revenge were laid in their graves, and could not appear against him there; nor could they prefer any claim against his estate, who had been despoiled by him or his lieutenants, in their predatory expeditions. No wonder then that the immaculate justice and piety of the Apostle of God, were fully attested by the silence of the congregation in presence of this challenge,—excepting a paltry claim of three drachms of silver, which was, of course, at once duly settled by Mohammed, with a profusion of thanks into the bargain, that the “creditor” had rather demanded payment in this world, than waited to accuse him at the judgment-seat of God!
Up to the third day before his death, he continued to perform the function of public prayer; on that day his strength failed him, and he deputed Abu Bekr in his place, which was afterwards skilfully laid hold of by the latter and Ayesha, to found a claim to the successorship in the sacerdotal and regal office, in favor of Abu Bekr, to the prejudice of Ali.
He then made his last dispositions, enfranchised his slaves, (seventeen men and eleven women), had alms distributed to the poor of Medina, and minutely directed the order of his funeral. He expressed a desire to dictate to his secretary a new divine book, the sum and accomplishment of all his revelations, and which, according to Mohammed’s convenient maxim, would have superseded the authority of the Koran, in all points in which its teachings might happen to clash with the rules and precepts laid down in the latter. As Mohammed had preached an eternal and immutable God, and had declared the substance of the Koran to be uncreated and eternal, the gross absurdity of attempting a new, revised, and amended edition of it, could not fail to strike the more rational among his disciples. They, with Omar at their head, firmly refused, therefore, to consent to the prophet’s anxiously expressed wish—a curious comment on the sincerity of their professed conviction of his divine mission, and his communings with the messenger of heaven, and for which, their assumed belief that his mental faculties were, at the time, impaired by the effects of illness, afforded but an indifferent apology. Be this however as it may, the point was vehemently discussed between them and the more devout followers of the prophet; and the dispute, which was carried on in the chamber of the dying man, rose at last to such a pitch, that Mohammed reluctantly desisting from his desire, was forced to reprove the indecent vehemence of the disputants on either side.
Even to the last moment of his life, Mohammed consistently carried out his system of deception. He told his friends about him, that he had received a last visit of Gabriel, who had now bidden an everlasting farewell to the earth. In a familiar discourse, he had once boasted of the peculiar and exclusive prerogative granted to him, that the angel of death should respectfully solicit his permission before he was to be allowed to take his soul. When he felt the near approach of his dissolution, he calmly informed the Moslem chiefs assembled round him, that the Great Destroyer had just preferred his request, and that he, Mohammed, had granted the permission asked! Stretched on a carpet spread upon the floor, and with his head reclining on the lap of Ayesha, the best beloved of his wives, he expired on the 7th day of June, 632. His last words were: “O God!… pardon my sins…. Yes, … I come, … among my fellow-citizens on high.”
His death dismayed his followers; the more fanatical among them could not bring themselves to believe in the actual departure of his spirit from this world. The idea of a trance, or of a resurrection after a few days’ apparent death, found ready credence with them. Omar, unsheathing his scymitar, threatened to strike off the heads of the infidels who should dare to affirm that the prophet was no more!—a curious comment upon his refusal to allow the dying prophet to re-write the Koran. At last, Abu Bekr succeeded in making them listen to reason: “Is it Mohammed,” he said, “or Mohammed’s God whom you worship? Has not the apostle himself predicted that he should experience the common fate of mortality?” This calm and rational address had the desired effect; the death of the prophet was admitted by all, and his body was piously interred by the hands of Ali, on the same spot on which he expired, and which is now surrounded by the great mosque of Medina. The story of the hanging coffin at Mecca is a vulgar and puerile invention, not worth the trouble of refutation.
I have been led by the superior importance and interest which attach to the subject, to extend this chapter, perhaps, considerably beyond the limits compatible with the nature and size of the present work; still I cannot abstain from adding a short sketch of Mohammed’s habits of life, and a few brief remarks on the Koran.
In his domestic life and intercourse, Mohammed was most simple and unassuming. The ruler of Arabia fed usually upon barley bread and dates; water was his ordinary drink, though he delighted, and occasionally indulged, in the taste of milk and honey; he never drank wine. The powerful chieftain who could command the services of thousands, did not disdain performing the menial offices of the household: he kindled the fire, swept the floor, milked the ewes, and mended with his own hands, his shoes and his woollen garment (the use of silk he rejected as too effeminate); nor was it an uncommon circumstance to see the Apostle of God barefoot. He slept on the bare ground, or on a carpet or straw mat spread upon the floor. He always performed, with the most rigorous strictness, the prayers and ablutions enjoined by the Koran. With the regal and sacerdotal office, he had assumed the reserve and austerity that befitted his high position; yet he would occasionally unbend in the circle of his friends, when he enchanted all around him by the graceful, though dignified, affability of his manners, and the charms of his conversation. He was passionately fond of fairy tales. He delighted in perfumes and cats, which latter partiality he shared with one of his cotemporaries, the learned Abu Horaira, who gained for himself the surname of “the father of a cat.” His hair, beard, and eyebrows, were the objects of his most anxious care and solicitude; he dyed them with considerable skill, a glossy light-chesnut color.
He was most passionately addicted to the fair sex: in the indulgence of his amorous desires, he set his own laws at nought. The Arabians had enjoyed, from time immemorial, an unbounded licence of polygamy; the Koran limited the number of legitimate wives or concubines to four, the prophet had seventeen wives; but then, Gabriel had descended with a special revelation, dispensing the favored apostle from the laws which he had imposed on the nation. Zeineb, the beautiful wife of Zeid, his freedman and adopted son, excited his desire. The grateful husband consented to a divorce, and the prophet added her to the number of his wives; but as the filial relation in which the young woman stood to Mohammed, even though only by adoption, was likely to produce some scandal, and to raise some scruples in the minds of the faithful, the complaisant Gabriel descended with another verse of the Koran, appropriate to the occasion. Again, in the case of Mary, the Egyptian slave, the indefatigable angel was at hand to oblige the Apostle of God. Had Mohammed liked wine, there can be no doubt, but that Gabriel would have been ready with another verse of the Koran, to dispense the prophet from the restriction imposed upon all other mortals. A better proof than the nature of these successive “revelations,” so entirely subservient to the gratification of his passions, could not well be adduced, to show that Mohammed was not, as some good-natured historians would fain believe him to have been, the enthusiastic dupe of his own illusions, but simply a cool and calculating politician, who made the institution of a new religious system the basis and engine of his power and dominion; most probably, sincerely believing also, that he was really conferring an immense boon upon his people. His vengeful and sanguinary disposition, has been already fully exposed in the narration of his life. The impartiality of history relieves those darker touches in the picture of Mohammed’s character, by a trait of unaffected humanity. His decree that, in the sale of captives, mothers should never be separated from their children, may well, as Gibbon says, moderate the censure of the historian. How the thousands of hapless negro mothers that have had their children ruthlessly torn from their arms in Christian America, would bless the memory of the Arabian legislator, could that humane decree of his find force and application in the Western Hemisphere!
The Koran is the sacred book of Islam; the successive “revelations” imparted to Mohammed, were diligently recorded by his disciples on palm-leaves, skins, and the shoulder-bones of mutton; and the fragments, or “pages,” were thrown into a domestic chest, in the custody of one of Mohammed’s wives. In 634, these fragments were collected and published by Abu Bekr; the sacred volume was revised by the Khalif Othman, in 651. It consists of 114 chapters (Surats, i.e. stages or degrees), of very unequal lengths, and jumbled together without chronological order, or systematic arrangement. The chapters are made up of plagiarisms from the Bible, rabbinical and apocryphal legends, religious and moral precepts, descriptions of the joys of paradise and the torments of hell, declamations and rhapsodies. The style is, for the most part, inflated, rarely poetical, never sublime; yet Mohammed had the cool audacity to rest the truth of his mission on the incomparable merit of the Koran, as an intellectual, linguistic, and poetical performance. He blasphemously asserted, that God alone could have penned, or dictated, its divine contents; as no human, nor even an angelic intelligence, could possibly have conceived anything like them!!!
The dogmatic part of the Koran (the Iman), comprises the two articles of faith, viz., the belief in one God, and in his prophet Mohammed; and the four practical duties of Islam, viz., prayer, ablutions, fasting, and alms-giving: these duties are reduced to the level of mere mechanical performances, without one atom of spontaneity about them, and are looked upon by most Mohammedans as irksome tasks, which must be accomplished, however, to secure the reward of paradise; the formal permission granted to supply with sand the scarcity of water, so that the prescribed lustration of the hands, the face, and the body may be practised even in the arid desert, shows how little capable the legislator must have been to conceive and comprehend the true spirit and intention of his own ordinances. The Koran pronounces—of course: is there a religion that does not?—sentence of eternal damnation against all unbelievers; it imagines a gradation of seven inconveniently hot places, of which the highest and least uncomfortable is, of course, appropriated for the exclusive use of Mohammedans who have been lacking in piety during their mortal career; according to the less or greater gravity of their respective offences, they are condemned to remain denizens of this the mildest of the seven hells, for periods varying from 900 to 9000 years, after which they are admitted to the joys of paradise. The place immediately beneath this purgatorial hell is assigned to the Christians; the hell next to this is allotted to the Jews, whom the prophet of Islam would indeed gladly have sent down lower, had he dared to treat monotheists worse than idolators; the Sabians inhabit the fourth, the Magians the fifth, the gross idolators the sixth hell; the deepest and hottest hell is destined to receive hypocrites in religion, and may therefore safely be assumed to be of larger dimensions and infinitely greater capacity than the other six together. The paradise of the Koran abounds in groves, fountains, and rivers; the blessed Moslems who are permitted to enter its gates will dwell in palaces of marble, eat artificial dainties and luscious fruits presented in dishes of gold, drink rich wines, dress in robes of silk, adorned with pearls and diamonds, and have a numerous retinue of attendants; and above all, each Moslem will enjoy the society and possession of seventy-two Houris, or black-eyed girls, of resplendent beauty, blooming youth, virgin purity, and exquisite sensibility—rather a pleasant picture for a sensual people like the Arabians. To the female sex also the gates of paradise are open; but the privileges and enjoyments which may await the ladies of the Mohammedan faith, are not specified in the Koran. Still, we must not be unjust: above the vulgar joys and sensual pleasures borrowed from this world, Mohammed places the delights of familiar conversation with the sages, and he expressly declares that all meaner happiness will be forgotten and despised by the saints and martyrs who shall be permitted to behold the face of God.
Mohammed’s assertion that the Koran was the production of the highest intelligence, and comprised within it the knowledge of all times, has, ever since the establishment of his creed, proved a bar to the intellectual culture and progress of his people and of the other nations who were induced or compelled to adopt his faith; his interdiction to reproduce the human face and form on canvas or in marble, or any other material, and which with singular poverty of invention he had devised as the only possible check to idolatry, has had the natural effect to suppress and extinguish in the Moslem nations the love of the fine arts. True, when conquest had placed the wealth of empires at the disposal of the sons of the Desert, many of Mohammed’s followers could not resist the natural longing after the treasures and enjoyments of science, art, and literature; and indeed the republic of letters is vastly indebted to many of them for their labors and researches in various fields of human lore, more especially in geography, history, philosophy, medicine, natural philosophy, chemistry, mathematics, and above all, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and astronomy. But then, as A. W. von Schlegel, says, “All this was done, as it were, behind the back of the prophet, and the votaries of art, science, and literature, among the Arabians must, from a Koranic point of view, be regarded in the light of free-thinkers.”
The ritual of the faith of Islam, and the interdictions decreed by the prophet, have been already incidentally touched upon in various parts of this chapter; we have therefore simply to add here that the Koran commands every faithful Moslem to visit, at feast once in his life, the holy city of Mecca, and the Kaaba.
One great redeeming feature of the religion of Islam was that it was originally destitute of a priesthood, and repudiated monachism; the Ulemas were simply intended to be the expounders and interpreters of the law.
On Friday, the appointed day of public worship, when the faithful are assembled in the mosque, any respectable elder may ascend the pulpit to begin the prayer and pronounce the sermon: there is no need of a duly appointed priest. But, unfortunately, the Ulemas and Imams of the present day act very much in the capacity of an actual clergy: and there is indeed no great difference between fakirs and dervishes and Roman Catholic monks.
The Koran contains also the civil and criminal code of the Mussulmans; the punishments decreed in it for injuries, offences, and crimes are mostly based upon the principle of retaliation.
Briefly to sum up: though it must be admitted that the religion of Islam, calmly and dispassionately examined by the light of reason, contains, by the side of the grossest absurdities, the most palpable falsehoods, and the veriest rubbish, much also that is true and of sterling worth; and that it has exercised a certain civilising influence over the barbarous nations to whom it was first preached, yet few only will venture to deny that it lacks altogether the higher and most essential qualities of a universal faith. Even the basis whereon it rests, the great eternal truth of a sole Deity, is tarnished and clouded in it by the companionship which it is forced to bear to a miserable fiction placed by the side of it, and with equal attributes. There are some few, strange though it may appear, who almost regret that the victorious career of the Moslems should have been checked by Leo the Isaurian and by Charles Martel. What would have become of Europe—what of civilisation, had the Moslems conquered? Let the admirers of Islam look at the state of the Mussulman nations of the present day: the fruit shows the quality of the tree. It is also a favorite argument with historians and others, to point to the numbers of believers in Islam, and to the twelve centuries that the Mohammedan faith has endured, as convincing proofs of the truth of that creed, or, at all events, of a preponderating amount of truth in it. If arguments of this kind are to apply, the Mormon faith also may claim admission among the “received” creeds; and the names of Joe Smith and Brigham Young may be expected, in the course of fifty years or so, to figure among the “prophets and apostles of religion.”
See Genesis, x. 25. Eber signifies a nomadic shepherd, one leading a roving pastoral life; it signifies, also, in Hebrew, beyond, yon-side, the other side: hence the name Hebrew, or Ebrew, has been supposed also to be intended to designate immigrants into Canaan or Palestine from beyond the Euphrates.
A species of millet, which compensates to some extent the scarcity of European grains.
“The Arabian tribes are equally addicted to commerce and rapine,” as Pliny has it.
True, in the Arabic tongue the meaning of the words, of which the name Saracens may be compounded, will bear out the signification of an Oriental situation. But the western position of the Saracen tribe mentioned by Ptolemy, negatives the assumption of the Arabic origin of the word as applied in this sense. As Gibbon sagaciously remarks, the appellation being imposed by strangers, its meaning must be sought, not in the Arabic, but in a foreign language.
It would even appear that the confusion consequent upon the death of the great Macedonian, and upon the feuds and struggles for empire among his generals, was taken advantage of by the princes in the north of Arabia, to extend their dominion beyond the frontier of the peninsula. From the earliest times the wandering tribes had been in the habit, more particularly during the scarcity of winter, to extort the dangerous license of encamping on the skirts of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Egypt, and had often extended their incursions to the very heart of Chaldæa, or Babylonia (Irak). They now took formal possession of a part of the latter country (hence called to the present day Irak-Arabi), and established in it a new Arabian state, the kingdom of Hira. Tribes from Yemen emigrated to the territory of Syria, and established the state of Gassan, in the country north of Damascus. We must not omit to mention, however, that some historians place the establishment of the states of Hira and Gassan at a much later period.
So named from Makkabi, i.e., the hammer; the appellation bestowed upon Judas, the liberator of the Jews from the Syrian yoke.
Dunaan, prince of the Homerites, had been gained over to the Mosaic faith by the Jewish exiles who had found an asylum in Yemen. The new proselyte carried on a most vigorous persecution of the Christians in his dominions, and more particularly in the city of Negra, or Nag’ran, (situated between Saana and Mecca). The Christian king of Abyssinia, who preferred an hereditary claim to the crown of Yemen, as a descendant of Balkis, Queen of Sheba, came to the rescue of his oppressed fellow-believers, and speedily deprived the Jewish proselyte of crown and life. He allied himself also with the Emperor Justinian for the overthrow of the Persian power; but he failed in his subsequent enterprise, and found himself incapable even of defending his Arabian conquests, which were wrested from him by the revolt and usurpation of Abrahah, once the slave of a Roman merchant of Adulis. The payment of a slight tribute alone acknowledged the supremacy of the Ethiopian prince. After a long and prosperous reign, the power of Abrahah was overthrown before the gates of Mecca, by Abdul Motalleb, the grandfather of Mohammed; and his children were finally despoiled by Chosroes Nushirvan, of Persia.
The Axumites, or Abyssinians, were, most probably, originally a colony of Arabs who had settled in Africa.
The same independence from the yoke of a foreign ruler is still preserved to the present day by the Arabians. The Sultan of Turkey exercises but a nominal sovereignty over Hedjaz and Neged; and the rise and exploits of that formidable sect of religious reformers, the Wahabys, during the latter half of the last and in the present century, indicate sufficiently that it may only require the appearance of a great man among the Arabs, or the occurrence of some great event, to unite the wild sons of the desert once more into a mighty nation that may make its influence felt in the destinies of the world. Had not Egypt’s great ruler, Mehemet Ali, and his warlike son Ibrahim, stemmed for a time the progress, and crippled the power of the Wahabys, who knows but that the champion of Greek orthodoxy might have found his present ambitious projects opposed by a fiercer and more formidable antagonist than the effete race of Osman?
Called Medjid-el-Haram, i.e., the holy Mosch.
A visible point of the horizon.
The constant repetition of this act of pious devotion by so many myriads of pilgrims has had the effect of rendering the surface of the stone quite uneven.
It was in the time when Abdol Motalleb held the sacerdotal office that Mecca was invested by an army of Africans, under the command of the Christian usurper of Yemen, Abrahah, the nominal vassal of the Abyssinian Negus. The valor of the Koreishites, or perhaps the want of provisions, compelled the investing host to a disgraceful retreat, and broke the power of the Abyssinians so effectually that the kingdom of Yemen became soon after an easy prey to the victorious arms of the great Chosroes of Persia. Had the Christian Abrahah prevailed, the early feeble efforts of Mohammed to propagate his new doctrine would certainly have been crushed in the bud, and the fate of the world would have been changed.
Sabianism, though also based upon the adoration of the heavenly bodies, must not be confounded with the primitive and simple faith of the Arabians in the sun, the moon, and the stars; it was of a much more complex and recondite nature.
Some historians assign the year 569, others 570 (10th November), as the date of Mahomet’s birth. The date given in the text is, however, supported by the greater weight of historic authorities.
This Syrian city has been most strangely confounded by many historians with Bassora, or Basra, on the Shat-el-Arab, in Irak-Arabi. The latter city was only founded in 636, a.d., by the Khalif Omar, which makes the mistake the more glaring and inexplicable.
Some historians make Mohammed at the age of fourteen fight in defence of the Kaaba, which a hostile tribe threatened to snatch from the custody of the Koreish. They relate, also, how, at a later period of his life, when the Kaaba, having been tumbled down by a formidable torrent of rain, was rebuilding, the honor of fixing the sacred black stone in the wall devolved upon him; and they endeavour to trace a kind of causal connection between these incidents in the earlier life of Mohammed and the religious bias of his later years. But the facts relied upon here partake too much of the nature of fiction, to make these speculative notions of much moment. Before his marriage with Cadijah, Mohammed was in a humble and dependent position; and from the time of his marriage up to when he took upon himself the apostolic office, he was simply a wealthy but obscure citizen.
Here, again, historians have sent Mohammed on a great many journeys through Syria, Irak-Arabi, and to the adjoining provinces of Persia and the Eastern Empire. They make him visit the courts, the camps, and the temples of the East, and hold converse with princes, bishops, and priests, more particularly with the Christian monks Bahira, Sergius, and Nestor. An attentive study of the historic sources at our command, and a careful examination of the life and writings of Mohammed, tend to negative altogether the truth of these pretended journeys and visits, which look very much like fictions got up by imaginative historians to supply some plausible explanation of the origin of Mohammed’s pretended mission—an explanation which may be found much nearer home, as I shall endeavour to show in the text. Here I will simply add that Mohammed, with all his talent, genius, and eloquence, was, like the immense majority of his fellow-citizens, an illiterate barbarian, who had not even been taught to read and write, and was totally unacquainted with any but his native tongue, and not likely, therefore, to profit much from converse with other nations.
The assertion that Mohammed was subject to epileptic fits is a base invention of the Greeks, who would seem to impute that morbid affection to the apostle of a novel creed as a stain upon his moral character deserving the reprobation and abhorrence of the Christian world. Surely, these malignant bigots might have reflected that if Mohammed had really been afflicted with that dread disorder, Christian charity ought to have commanded them to pity his misfortune, rather than rejoice over it or pretend to regard it in the light of a sign of Divine wrath.
Sonna, custom or rule; the oral law of the Mohammedans,—or, more correctly speaking, of the four orthodox sects of the Sonnites—a collection of 7275 traditions of the sayings and doings of Mohammed, made about 200 years after the Hegira, by Al Bochari, who selected them from a mass of three hundred thousand reports of a more doubtful or spurious character.
The so-called Marianites are even stated to have attempted the introduction of a heretical trinity into the church, by substituting the Virgin for the Holy Ghost.
The five preceding prophets were, in due gradation, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Christus.
The interdiction of wine appeared, however, at a much later period, (628).
By the advice of Moses, it is somewhat inconsistently asserted considering that the founder of the Jewish creed, not being permitted, according to the tradition of the nocturnal journey, to proceed beyond the seventh heaven (if even so far, his proper appointed mansion being the sixth heaven) must have been, on the most moderate calculation, at 140,000,000 years’ distance from the throne of God.
This flight of the prophet, called the Hejira, (i.e., emigration,) was deemed afterwards of such importance that it was instituted by Omar, the second Khalif, as the starting-point of the Mohammedan era, which was, however, made to commence about two months before, on the first day of that Arabian year, which coincides with July 16th, 622, a.d.
The conquered Christians were granted the security of their persons, the freedom of their trade, the property of their goods, and the toleration of their worship. For the treatment which the Jews met with at Mohammed’s hands, see the text.
Whether 1000, 3000, or 9000, the commentators of the Koran cannot agree. Considering that there were only 1000 Koreish in the field, of whom no more than seventy were slain, it would appear that Mohammed must either have entertained a most exalted idea of the valor of his former fellow-citizens, or rather a humble one of angelic prowess.
It was at the time of the expedition against Chaibar that Mohammed prohibited the eating of pork, and of the flesh of the ass, and also the cutting down of fruit-trees, more especially of palms. “Revere your aunt, the palm-tree,” says the Koran, “for it is made of the remainder of the clay of which Adam was formed.” Here in Chaibar, a Jewish female, named Zainab, avenged the cruelties inflicted by Mohammed upon her nation, by administering a slow poison to the pretended apostle, whose prophetic knowledge was in this instance lamentably at fault. To the effects of this poison he himself attributed the gradual decline of his health from this time, and his increasing infirmities; and both Abulfeda and Al Jannabi, zealous votaries of Islam though they are, frankly admit the humiliating fact. The hatred which he bore to the Jews, did not, however, prevent his adding to the number of his wives the fair Jewess Shafiya, who, upon the capitulation of Chaibar, was presented to him as worthy his acceptance.
The final campaign against Chaibar took place several months after the first attempt upon Mecca; but for the sake of connection it has been given in the text a little out of its chronological order.
Known as the treaty of Hodaibeh.
Chosroes II., who is mentioned in most histories as the monarch who received the envoys of Mohammed, had been murdered by his son Siroes, on the 28th February, 628, and could not therefore well have received the ambassador of Mohammed, who started at a later period of the year.
The sect of the Monophysites asserted one incarnate nature in Christ; the name of Jacobites, by which they are mostly known, is derived from Jacobus Baradæus, Bishop of Edessa, who revived the expiring faction of the Monophysites (about 530).
Some historians dispose of Abdallah on this occasion by the scymitar of Beschr, and assign to the Abdallah who in 647 invaded North Africa, a different origin (some assert the latter to have been the son of the martyr Jaafar who fell in the battle of Muta).
Mohammed’s vices were of a regal cast; avarice, the beggar’s vice, yet which so often sullies crowned heads, was not among his failings.
One of the uncles of the prophet, whose vigorous arm and immensely powerful voice had done good service to the cause in the fight of Honain.
Even this number reads very much like Oriental exaggeration, and may safely be reduced by the half.
Some writers say 90,000, others, 110,000; others, 114,000; some raise the number even to 130, 140, or 150,000; but then due allowance must be made for Oriental exaggeration; I think the number given in the text may be considered to come tolerably near the mark.
Ali was married to Fatima, the only one of Mohammed’s children who survived the prophet.
Some historians give the 6th, others the 8th, and others the 17th of June, as the last day of Mohammed’s life.
Rather a curious comment on the interdiction of wine in this world.
THE KHALIFS FROM ABU BEKR TO HASHEM (OR HESHAM).
After the death of the prophet, his companions convened an assembly to deliberate on the choice of his successor, as Mohammed had abstained from expressing any explicit command or wish in this respect. Several competitors presented themselves, of whom Ali, Abu Bekr, and Omar were the most important. The illustrious son of Abu Taleb seemed indeed to combine in his own person every possible claim to the vacant throne of Arabia; he was chief, in his own right, of the family of Hashem, and hereditary prince of the city, and custodian of the Temple, of Mecca; the husband of Fatima, Mohammed’s favorite and only surviving daughter, might reasonably claim for himself and his two sons the inheritance of the prophet, who had always delighted in calling him his vizir and vicegerent; his valor and prowess had shone conspicuous in many a hard-fought battle; and even his enemies could not impeach the purity of his private life. But it so happened that Ali had drawn upon himself the implacable hatred of Ayesha: the conduct of this lady had, on one occasion, been rather indiscreet, to use the very mildest term, and Ali had urged his cousin to punish the frail fair. Mohammed was indeed inclined to jealousy, but the youth, beauty, and spirit of the daughter of Abu Bekr had established her empire over her husband’s affections so firmly that he rejected the clearest evidence of her faithlessness, inflicted a severe chastisement upon her accusers, and reproved Ali for his officiousness. Ayesha never forgave Ali the part he had played in this delicate affair, and the enmity she bore him was still heightened by her jealousy of Fatima, to whom she grudged the prophet’s paternal affection. Mohammed would most probably have named Ali his successor—and against the explicit nomination of the prophet, no voice would have dared a protest—but the artful daughter of Abu Bekr besieged his bed of sickness; and, turning the ascendant she had acquired over the uxorious man to excellent account, obtained from him that on the third day before his death, when he was no longer able to proceed to the mosque, he deputed Abu Bekr in his place to perform the function of public prayer, instead of charging Ali with that most honorable and important duty. After the death of Mohammed, she boldly asserted that he had “appointed” her father his successor in the royal and sacerdotal office. The Koreish, and more especially the branch of Ommiyah, the old enemies of the line of Hashem, eagerly espoused the cause of Abu Bekr. The Ansars of Medina, and a few of the Mohagerians of Mecca voted for Ali; the crafty Omar was watching the event; a rash proposal made by one of Ali’s supporters to let each party choose their own Khalif, and to divide the empire between them, brought the matter to an abrupt termination. Omar, discerning the danger which threatened the rising Saracen empire, if this proposal were acted upon, renounced his own pretensions; and, setting the regular forms of an election at naught, hailed Abu Bekr as the first Khalif. The people acquiesced, and Mecca, Medina, and most of the provinces of Arabia, acknowledged Abu Bekr as commander of the Faithful. The Hashemites, however, remained true to their chief, and Ali resisted for six months the cajoleries of the Khalif and the threats of Omar. But the death of his beloved Fatima subdued his haughty spirit, and he consented at length to submit to Abu Bekr’s rule. Strange enough, when Ali had made his submission, the old man offered to resign in his favor; an offer which was prudently declined.
During the later part of Mohammed’s life, several other prophets had arisen in various parts of Arabia, and among them one of some note, and of no mean skill in the apostolic trade. His name was Moseilama; the powerful tribe of Hanifa, in the city of Yamanah, in Neged, listened to his voice. Confident in his power, he coolly offered Mohammed a partition of the earth between them. The prophet of Islam treated the offer with disdain; but after his death, several tribes, who had unwillingly embraced his creed, seceded to the standard of the new prophet, who speedily became a formidable rival to the Khalif. Mohammed’s uncle Abbas and the fierce Kaled were dispatched against him by Abu Bekr; but though forty thousand Moslems followed their banner, the first action against Moseilama ended in the defeat of Abbas and Kaled, and the former of the two generals was severely wounded with a javelin. This defeat was, however, fearfully avenged by Kaled; ten thousand infidels were made to bite the dust, and the same javelin that had pierced Abbas, was sent, a messenger of death, to Moseilama’s heart, by the hand of an Ethiopian slave. The submission of the revolted tribes speedily followed, and the dread name of the Sword of God was in itself sufficient to disarm all the other rebels who had risen in various parts of the peninsula.
The victorious Kaled was now sent to the banks of the Euphrates, where he reduced the cities of Anbar and Hira (a.d. 632), and, having slain the last of the Mondars of the Arabian colony of Hira, and sent his son a captive to Medina, prepared to invade the Persian empire; but in the midst of his triumphant career, he was recalled and sent into Syria, to take the command of the army there, and, in conjunction with Abu Obeidah, to effect the reduction of that province of the Greek empire. Bosra, a strong city situated four days’ journey from Damascus, fell by his valor and by the treachery of the Greek governor Romanus. Damascus was besieged (633); and an army of 70,000 Greeks, who came to the relief of the hard-pressed city, under the command of Werdan, was totally defeated and dispersed by 45,000 Moslems under Kaled, Amru, and Abu Obeidah, at Aiznadin (13th July, 633). Still Damascus resisted stoutly for many months, sustained chiefly by the valor of a noble Greek named Thomas. At length, however, the courage of the besieged gave way, and they surrendered to the mild Abu Obeidah (most probably in August, 634), who granted them personal safety, and free possession of their lands and houses, and to such of them as should prefer exile to the Moslem rule, the permission to depart with as much of their effects as they could carry away with them. But the fierce and cruel Kaled refused to ratify these terms of his fellow-commander: he slaughtered thousands of the unfortunate Damascenes; and, though he consented at last to abide by the terms of the capitulation, he only gave three days respite to the band of voluntary exiles who left Damascus under the leadership of the valiant Thomas. At the expiration of this term, he set out in pursuit at the head of four thousand horsemen; a miserable renegade, named Jonas, acted as guide. The hapless fugitives were overtaken, and ruthlessly cut down to the last being of either sex, with the solitary exception of the widow of the brave Thomas, who was sent by Kaled to carry a message of defiance to the throne of the Cæsars.
Meanwhile the aged Abu Bekr, after a short reign of two years, had been gathered to his fathers; Ayesha’s influence and Omar’s craft had once more defeated Ali’s claims to the vacant throne; and Omar had gained the object of his ambition (24th July, 634). The new Khalif proved himself worthy of this exalted position; his justice, his wisdom, his moderation, and his frugality form, even to the present day, among the Sonnites, the theme of the most enthusiastic praise; though by the Shiites his memory is as bitterly reviled, and the appellation Shitan Omar, which the Persians so liberally bestow upon the second Khalif, shows the sense which they entertain of his machinations against the illustrious Ali. The son of Abu Taleb, however, submitted to Abu Bekr’s choice, and was comforted for the loss of empire by the most flattering marks of esteem and confidence on the part of the new commander of the Faithful.
One of the first acts of Omar’s reign was to remove Kaled from the command of the Syrian army, under pretext of excessive cruelty, and of rashness in the pursuit of the Damascene exiles, but in reality because the Khalif bore a personal enmity to his invincible lieutenant. This made, however, practically, no difference in the conduct of the war; Kaled could command and obey with equal readiness, and Abu Obeidah was modest and sensible enough to guide himself in all important operations by the advice of his former chief. After the reduction of Damascus, the Arabs laid siege to Heliopolis (Baalbec) and Emesa, and speedily compelled these important cities to surrender (635). Heraclius made one last great effort to free Syria from these most unwelcome visitors; he sent four-score thousand veteran soldiers by sea and land to Antioch and Cæsarea; this host was considerably increased by the remains of the Syrian army, and by new levies in Syria and Palestine, and joined also by 60,000 Christian Arabs under the banner of Jabalah, the last of the Gassanide princes. Upon Kaled’s prudent advice, Abu Obeidah resolved to retire to the skirts of Palestine and Arabia, and there to await the attack of the enemy. In the vicinity of Bosra, on the banks of the obscure river Yermuk (Hieromax), a fierce and bloody encounter took place, in which the Greek forces were totally routed (636); their Gassanide allies had already previously met with the same fate at the hands of the intrepid Kaled. After the victory of Yermuk, Abu Obeidah resolved to invest Jerusalem (or Ælia, as the Romans called it); he first sent Moawiyah, Abu Sophian’s son, with the van of five thousand Arabs, to try a surprise; and this failing, he appeared himself, ten days after, with the whole army.
After having endured four months the hardships of a siege, the garrison and people of the holy city offered to capitulate; but they demanded as a guarantee for the articles of security, that the Khalif should ratify them in person. Ali advised the Khalif to comply with this rather unusual demand; and Omar set out from Medina, 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! Jerusalem immediately surrendered (637), and the Khalif returned promptly to Medina in the same simple manner in which he had come. The conquest of Syria was achieved the year after (638) by Abu Obeidah and Kaled, who reduced Antioch, Aleppo, Tripoli, Tyre, Acca (St. Jean d’Acre), Cæsarea, Ascelon, Hierapolis, and many other cities and strong places. Abu Obeidah died 639, of a fatal disease which carried off twenty-five thousand of the conquerors of Syria; the hero Kaled, the Sword of God, survived his fellow-commander about three years. The government of the conquered province was entrusted by Omar to the hands of Moawiyah, the chief of the family Ommiyah, and who became afterwards the founder of the Ommiade dynasty.
After Kaled’s recall from the Persian frontier, the war against the empire of the Magians was carried on languidly for several years. In 636, however, Omar sent a new commander, Said, with considerable reinforcements to the army on the Euphrates. After the murder of Chosroes II. and Cobad II., in 628, eight kings of Persia had followed each other in rapid succession, in the short space of three years. At last, a woman, Arzema, seized upon the throne; but, in 632, she was deposed, and the tiara transferred from her head to that of the grandson of Chosroes, Yezdegerd (III.), a boy of fifteen. A dying effort was now made by the Persians to drive back the Saracen invaders. An army of 120,000 men, with 30,000 regulars among them, was collected under Rustam, who, urged on by his youthful and inexperienced monarch, sought the Moslems in the plains of Cadesia, where Said had pitched his camp. The Mussulman forces numbered only 30,000; the fight was protracted for three whole days; it was bloody and obstinate in the extreme; the Saracens lost one clear fourth of their number; the fall of Rustam, on the third day, decided the fate of the battle and of Persia (636). The standard of the Sassanides (a leathern apron of a blacksmith, covered with a profusion of precious gems) fell into the hands of the conquerors. The province of Irak submitted to the Khalif, who secured his conquest by the foundation of the city of Basra, or Bassora, on the Shat-el-Arab (i.e., the river of the Arabs), which is formed by the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris. The Moslems crossed the latter river, and took and sacked Madayn, or Ctesiphon, the capital of the Persian empire; immense treasures fell here into their hands, more than sufficient indeed to enrich the whole host of naked Arabians beyond their most sanguine expectations. Many splendid works of art were destroyed by the ruthless hands of the ignorant sons of the desert. In one of the apartments of the white palace of Chosroes Nushirvan, was found a magnificent carpet of silk, with the picture of a garden embroidered on it in gold and precious stones, imitating the natural colors of the flowers, fruits, and shrubs depicted; Said preserved this splendid piece of workmanship, and sent it to the commander of the Faithful; but the precious gift found little favor in the sight of Omar; that cynical gentleman quietly ordered the picture to be destroyed, and divided the materials among his brethren of Medina: the intrinsic value of these materials may be conjectured from the fact, that Ali’s share alone was sold for twenty thousand drachms of silver. A new city, Cufa, was founded on the western side of the lower Euphrates, and the seat of government was removed to it from the despoiled Madayn. One Persian province after the other was compelled to submit to the Moslem sway; at Jalula, Yezdegerd nobly contended once more for the empire of his ancestors; in vain! the fanaticism of the Arabs proved stronger than the despair of the Persians. Said had been recalled, and Firuzan sent in his place; the courage of the Persian nation was not yet thoroughly subdued; 150,000 Persians attacked the Moslem host at Nehavend, about 230 miles south of Hamadan; but though Firuzan had only 30,000 Mussulmans to oppose to the overwhelming numbers of the Persians, and though the latter fought with true bravery, fate had decreed the downfall of the monarchy of the Sassanides: the Arabians gained “the victory of victories,” and the hapless Yezdegerd, worthy of a better fate, like Darius Codomannus, yielded up all hope of empire (642). After the victory of Nehavend, the cities of Hamadan, Ispahan, Estachar (Persepolis), and many more, were readily reduced, and the conquest of Persia was achieved.
Whilst Persia was thus being added to the new Saracen empire, another province was snatched from the feeble emperor of Byzantium. Omar had cast his eyes upon Egypt. With only 4000 Arabs, the valiant Amru invaded that country, in June, 638; after a siege of thirty days, he took possession of Farmah, or Pelusium, the key of Egypt. The reduction of Babylon, on the Eastern bank of the Nile, opposite Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt, took Amru seven months, although he had received a reinforcement of 4000 men. On the spot where Amru’s army had pitched their tents during the siege of Babylon, a new city arose, which forms now part of an extensive suburb of Cairo, or Al Cahira, i.e., the victorious, founded by the Fatimite Khalifs (Moez), in 970. Notwithstanding the capture of Babylon and Memphis, Amru would probably have been compelled to relinquish his attempt to conquer Egypt, had not the Jacobite (Monophysite) Copts under Mokawkas, who would have preferred the devil’s rule to that of their Melchite tyrants, joined the invaders heart and soul. Under their guidance, and with their aid, Amru, who had, meanwhile, been considerably reinforced from Syria, marched from Memphis to Alexandria; which latter city was, after a series of preliminary combats, at last closely invested on the land side. As the sea remained open, Heraclius might have saved the great provision store of Byzantium, had he acted with the least energy; but the feeble old man contented himself with praying for the relief of the besieged city, and thought, perhaps, he had enlisted God on his side by appointing a priest (the patriarch Cyrus), to the præfecture of Egypt, and the conduct of the war. No wonder then that, notwithstanding a truly gallant defence by the inhabitants, the city was, after a siege of fourteen months, at length compelled to surrender (22nd of December, 640). Omar’s commands preserved Alexandria from the horrors of pillage. The story of the burning of the Alexandrian library by order of Omar, is absolutely void of foundation; the honor of the first invention of this calumnious lie belongs (of course) to a Christian historian, Abulpharagius, primate of the Jacobites, who wrote 600 years after the event: but a crowd of historians have since faithfully copied it, even to its most extravagantly absurd details.
With the reduction of Alexandria, the conquest of Egypt was achieved, Amru carrying his victorious arms even beyond the boundaries of that country as far as Tripoli. To facilitate the communication between Egypt and Arabia, Omar constructed a canal from the Nile to the Red Sea. Omar, the now mighty ruler of a most extensive empire, was revolving new plans of conquest, when the dagger of Firuz, a Persian slave, who had been personally aggrieved by the Khalif, cut short his thread of life—and saved the world from subjugation; for what nation or empire could, at that time, have long or successfully withstood the impetuous tide, which, in the short space of ten years, had engulphed Syria, Persia, and Egypt; and was full vigorous enough to sweep over the whole earth, had but the master-mind which had hitherto with rare wisdom directed its enormous material force, continued to breathe an intelligent will into it. Omar died in November, 644: urged to name his successor, he had refused to do so, but had devolved the task of choosing a new Khalif, on Ali and five others of the most respectable companions of the prophet. The illustrious son of Abu Taleb might now, indeed, have ascended the vacant throne, had he deigned to promise a servile conformity, not only to the Koran and tradition, but also to the “sayings and doings” of his predecessors, Abu Bekr and Omar. This demand his proud spirit rejected with disdain. Othman, also a son-in-law of the prophet, and who had been his secretary, accepted the government with these restrictions. The new Khalif was but little made to sustain the weight of the Saracen empire. He was a weak and vacillating old man, and led entirely by unworthy favorites, more particularly by his secretary, Mervan; he was arrogant and overbearing withal, and in the space of a few brief years, he excited the dissatisfaction and indignation of even the most loyally disposed among his subjects. At last the universal discontent was gathering to a head. Resolved no longer to submit to the exactions of the wretched favorites on whom the Khalif had conferred power and station, the tribes rose in arms. From Cufa, from Bassora, from Egypt, from the Desert, they marched on Medina: they encamped about a league from the city, and dispatched a haughty summons to their sovereign to redress their grievances, or to give place to a more worthy prince. Othman promised reformation, and Ali’s generous intercession might have succeeded in healing the breach between the Khalif and his angry subjects; but Mervan’s perfidy, and the deep intrigues of the artful Ayesha, defeated all chances of reconciliation between the prince and the people. In vain Othman ascended the pulpit, publicly and solemnly to entreat Allah’s and the people’s forgiveness for his misrule; he was pelted with stones, and carried home half dead. The insurgents besieged him six weeks in his palace, intercepting his water and provisions. The helpless old man had to endure the grief of seeing himself forsaken and betrayed by those on whom his misplaced favor had bestowed wealth and power. Abandoning all hope, he calmly expected the approach of death: a desperate band of fanatical Charegites, with Mohammed, Ayesha’s brother, at their head, made their way into his palace. They found him seated, with the Koran in his lap; but neither the sacred book, nor his venerable aspect, could disarm the assassins. Othman fell, pierced with many wounds, 18th June, 655, in the eighty-second year of his age.
During the reign of Othman, the island of Cyprus was conquered by Moawiyah, in 647, and the island of Rhodes, in 654; from the latter island, the Saracens carried off the massy trunk and the huge fragments of the celebrated colossal statue of Apollo, which had been overthrown about 800 years before by an earthquake. The large and once populous country of Chorasan, the kingdom of the ancient Bactrians, was also “annexed” to the Saracen empire, during the reign of Othman. In 647, Abdallah and Zobeir were sent with 40,000 Moslems to attempt the conquest of Africa. They advanced to the walls of Tripoli, and endeavoured to carry that maritime city by assault; they were, however, repulsed, and the approach of a numerous army under the Greek præfect Gregory, compelled them to raise the siege. By Zobeir’s skill and valor, the Arabs gained a complete and decisive victory over the hostile forces, the præfect himself being slain by the hand of Zobeir. The opulent city of Sufetula, situated 150 miles to the south of Carthage, fell into the hands of the victorious Arabs. Abdallah prudently rested content with the advantages gained; he accepted the offer of submission and tribute made on all sides by the provincials, and retreated to the confines of Egypt (648).
Ali had made a perhaps somewhat lukewarm effort to effect a reconciliation between Othman and his insurgent subjects. When matters had proceeded to extremities, he had sent his two sons, Hassan and Hosein, to the rescue of the besieged Khalif; and Hassan, the eldest of his sons, had, indeed, been wounded in the defence of that unfortunate prince. Still Ali had not been very energetic in his opposition to the rebels; and it is not uncharitable to suppose, that the death of Othman caused him no very bitter grief. Five days after the murder of the aged Khalif, Ali was proclaimed his successor by acclamation. The illustrious son of Abu Taleb was, indeed, a poet and a hero, but a most indifferent statesman. Telha and the valiant Zobeir, two of the most powerful of the Arabian chiefs, who had had a hand in Othman’s overthrow and death, and whose doubtful allegiance Ali ought to have secured by rich gifts and greater promises, saw themselves treated with studied coldness by the new Khalif, of whom they had vainly solicited the government of Irak, as the reward of their services. This impolitic conduct of Ali made them inclined to lend a willing ear to the advice and suggestions of the artful Ayesha, to raise the standard of revolt against Ali, and to charge him with the perpetration of the very crime which she had instigated, and they had lent their aid to execute! The two chiefs, and the widow of the prophet, escaped from Medina to Mecca, and from thence to Bassora; the unblushing woman, whose own brother had actually headed the assassins, had the almost incredible effrontery to send Othman’s bloody shirt to the governor of Syria, Moawiyah, Ali’s hereditary foe, and to call upon him to avenge Othman’s blood upon his murderer—Ali! The son of Abu Sophian was perfectly aware of the true circumstances of the case; but it suited his ambitious projects to appear to believe the infamous accusation against the august chief of the line of Hashem, the more so as Ali had expressed his intention to remove the head of the house of Ommiyah from the government of Syria. Moawiyah, therefore, exposed the bloody shirt of Othman in the principal mosque of Damascus, and denouncing Ali as the instigator of the sacrilegious deed, called upon the Faithful to rise and avenge the death of the holy martyr, whose lawful successor in the Khalifate he declared himself to be, in obedience, as he pretended, to the express command of the dying Othman. The appeal was numerously responded to, and the ruler of Syria saw himself speedily at the head of a formidable army; his friend, Amru, whom Ali had removed from the government of Egypt, espoused his cause. Telha and Zobeir seized upon Irak; 50,000 Moslems marched under their banner. At the head of 20,000 of his loyal Arabs, and 9,000 auxiliaries of Cufa, the Lion of God went to encounter his enemies. Under the walls of Bassora (2nd and 3rd November, 656) was fought the first battle of this civil war, which, destroying in internecine strife the flower of the nation of the desert, may well be said to have saved the world from the yoke of Islam; for had Ali been sole and undisputed master of the Saracen empire, even the fire of Callinicus would have proved no effectual protection against the then irresistible tide of Moslem conquest, and, mayhap, the Isaurian might have indulged his iconoclastic propensities at the head of a congenial host of image-haters; nor would the west of Europe have escaped, and the champion of the cross, the Hammer of Christ, might, perchance, have figured in history as the Ilderim of Islam.
The rebels were totally defeated; Telha and Zobeir, with 10,000 of their host, were slain; and Ayesha, who, seated in a litter perched on the back of a camel, had braved the dangers of the field, animating the troops by her presence, and cheering them on with her voice, fell a captive into the hands of the man whom, with implacable hatred, she had pursued so many years, and whom she had so grievously injured; but the generous Ali disdained warring with women. Mohammed’s widow was treated with every respect due to her rank, and speedily dismissed to her proper station at the tomb of the prophet. The victorious Khalif, having in vain offered the most favorable terms of accommodation to Moawiyah and Amru, took the field against them at the head of 70,000 men, in the spring of 657. The plain of Siffin, on the western bank of the Euphrates, formed the field of ninety actions or skirmishes, in a desultory warfare of one hundred and ten days. The forces of the Ommiyah chief, are said to have amounted to more than 120,000 men; among them many of the veterans of the Persian, Syrian, and Egyptian campaigns; 45,000 of that gallant band paid with their lives for the ambition of their chief; 25,000 of Ali’s brave and loyal followers lay slain by their side—a rare crop of blossoms for the garden of the destroyer. The Lion of God was everywhere foremost in the fight; his ponderous two-edged sword, wielded with irresistible force, made fearful havoc in the hostile ranks; every time he smote a rebel, he shouted his war-cry “Allah Akbar!” and the Arabian and Persian historians tell us with all gravity, that “in the tumult of a nocturnal battle, that tremendous exclamation was heard no less than four hundred times.” Making all due allowance for Oriental exaggeration, and striking one nought off the account, enough still remains to make the feat a most respectable achievement indeed.
The magnanimous Ali had proposed to settle the dispute between him and Moawiyah by single combat; but to encounter so formidable a champion would truly have been sheer madness on the part of the prince of Damascus; he therefore declined the Khalif’s courteous invitation. The chief of the line of Ommiyah was not so redoubtable a warrior as Ali, but he was a much better politician than the true and lawful commander of the Faithful; clearly foreseeing that the decision of the sword must in the end inevitably turn against him, he devised a stratagem to discomfit his dreaded antagonist, which being based upon a crafty appeal to the reverential and superstitious feelings of Ali’s followers, might reasonably be expected to have a fair chance of success. The Khalif had resolved to terminate the long-pending struggle by a decisive battle; the troops were in presence, and the fight was on the point of being engaged, when a solemn appeal to the books of the Koran, which Moawiyah exposed on the foremost lances, made a considerable portion of Ali’s forces pause in their onset; emissaries of the prince of Damascus had long been busy in the unsuspecting Ali’s ranks; his refusal to hold the tradition, and the sayings and acts of Abu Bekr and Omar as equally binding with the precepts of the Koran, was regarded by many of his own followers as rank heresy; and so it occurred that at the very time when victory seemed secure in his grasp, the Khalif saw himself suddenly abandoned by the greater half of his forces, and even compelled by the vile rabble to submit his indefeasible right to a so-called “arbitration;” Moawiyah being permitted to appoint his friend and fellow-rebel, Amru, as arbiter on his part, whilst Ali was forced by the treacherous crew around him to name Musa, the cadi of Cufa, a mixture in equal parts of stupidity and conceit, to act on his behalf. The result was such as might have been foreseen; the decision was in favor of Moawiyah. Ali indignantly refused to be bound by it, as it was but too patent that the whole “arbitration” had been a disgraceful juggle from the beginning. But he was abandoned by a great many of his former adherents, and compelled to retreat to Cufa. Still he nobly carried on the struggle against the vastly superior forces of his enemies, and though Amru snatched Egypt from him, though Persia and Yemen were subdued or seduced by his crafty rival of Damascus, the final issue of the struggle might yet have been in his favor, had he not been foully murdered by a Charegite, who with two other fanatics had agreed to give peace to their troubled country by the removal of Ali, Moawiyah, and Amru. Each of the three assassins chose his victim, poisoned his dagger, and secretly repaired to the scene of action; but the stroke was fatal only to the lawful Khalif, though the prince of Damascus also was dangerously hurt, and the deputy of the viceroy of Egypt paid with his life for the honor of being mistaken for the illustrious Amru (661). The dying Ali mercifully commanded his children to dispatch his murderer by a single stroke. His eldest son, Hassan, was indeed saluted Khalif, by the party who had faithfully adhered to the banner of the Lion of God, but he was prevailed upon by Moawiyah to resign his pretensions, and the son of Abu Sophian was acknowledged the lawful commander of the Faithful; and Ali’s name was ordered to be cursed from the pulpit.
The rule of the new Khalif was marked, upon the whole, by wisdom and moderation. Moawiyah disdained the simplicity of manners which had distinguished his predecessors; he dressed in costly silks, surrounded himself with a brilliant court, kept eunuchs for the guard of his harem, and set the prophet’s precepts at naught in the matter of wine-drinking. He would indeed shrink from no crime where his political interests were or seemed concerned; and the poisoning of Hassan, who had fondly, but foolishly, hoped that the son of Abu Sophian would forget that the title of Khalif had graced his name for however so short a period of time, and the base murders of Kaled’s son, Abderrahman, and of the bold-spoken Hadjir Ben Hadad, who had dared publicly to protest against the cursing of Ali’s name and memory, are by no means the only blots on the reputation of the founder of the Ommiade dynasty; but he was not cruel and blood-thirsty from mere wantonness of disposition, and, as princes go, he was altogether rather a favorable sample of the class than otherwise.
The first acts of his reign were to put down the rebellious Charegites, and to quell an insurrection of the people of Bassora. The three first Khalifs had resided at Medina; political and strategic considerations had induced Ali to transfer the seat of his government to Cufa. Moawiyah made Damascus his capital, partly because Syria was the stronghold of his power, and partly—and this was unquestionably the principal reason—because his residence at Medina would have materially interfered with the accomplishment of the project nearest and dearest to his heart; viz., to change the elective monarchy to an hereditary kingdom. When he had firmly established his throne, he prepared a powerful expedition by sea and land against Constantinople (668); he entrusted the chief command to the veteran Sophian, and sent his own son Yezid to encourage the troops by his presence and example. But though the supineness of the Greeks permitted them to invest the city of the Cæsars by sea and land, the Saracens met with a more vigorous resistance than they had anticipated; the solid and lofty walls of Byzantium, energetically defended by a numerous and well-disciplined army, and by a people aroused for a time to deeds of heroic devotion, by the danger which threatened to overthrow the last bulwark of their nationality and their religion, and the prodigious effect of the fire of Callinicus, defeated all attempts to carry the city by assault; and the Arabs, finding it a much easier task to plunder the European and Asiatic coasts of the Propontis, carried on the operations of the siege more and more languidly, till, at last, having kept the sea from April to September, they retreated, on the approach of winter, to the isle of Cyzicus, about eighty miles from the capital. However, they renewed the attempt six successive summers, until the enormous losses which they had suffered by fire and sword, and by the mischances of shipwreck and disease, compelled them finally to abandon the bootless enterprise (675). This failure dimmed for a time the glory of the Saracen arms, whilst it seemed to restore the former prestige of the Roman name. The destruction of his fleets, and the annihilation of his armies, had subdued the proud spirit of Moawiyah; the aged Khalif had the mortification of seeing himself insulted in his city and palace of Damascus by the warlike Maronites, or Mardaites, of Mount Lebanon; and he felt desirous of ending his days in tranquillity and repose: he consented therefore to a peace, or truce, of thirty years with the emperor Constantine IV. Pogonatus, in which he indeed was permitted to retain possession of the north-western part of Asia Minor, the island of Cyprus, and the isles of the Greek Archipelago, but in which the majesty of the commander of the Faithful was wofully degraded, by the stipulation of an annual tribute to the Court of Byzantium of three thousand pieces of gold, fifty slaves, and fifty horses of a noble breed (677).
Moawiyah’s arms were more successful in other quarters. His lieutenant, Obeidah, invaded the territories of the Turks, in 673, and made considerable conquests in Central Asia; and a large portion of North Africa was added to the Saracen empire by Akbah, who conquered Tripoli and Barca, founded the city of Cairoan, about fifty miles south of Carthage, in 671, and advanced to the verge of the Atlantic and the Great Desert. But the universal defection of the Africans and Greeks, whom he had conquered, recalled him from the shores of the Atlantic, where he was already meditating a descent on Spain. Surrounded on all sides by hostile multitudes, and despairing of succour, the gallant Akbah, and his small force of brave men, had no other resource left them but to die an honorable death,—they fell to the last man. Zuheir, sent with a new army, avenged the fate of his predecessor; he vanquished the natives in many battles, but was himself overthrown in the end by a powerful army, sent from Constantinople to the relief of Carthage which he was besieging.
Moawiyah died on the 6th April, 680. Ten years before his death he had seen his aspiring wishes crowned by the proclamation of his son, Yezid, as presumptive heir of the Saracen empire. True, there had been some murmurs of discontent, and it had even required an armed demonstration against the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to enforce submission to the will of the Khalif: but Moawiyah’s vigor and address had triumphed over every obstacle. Accordingly, after the father’s death, the son was acknowledged as Khalif in every province of the vast empire; with some partial exceptions, indeed, in Arabia proper, and more particularly in Mecca and Medina. But Yezid had inherited none of his father’s qualities; he was a dissolute voluptuarian, and of a most tyrannical disposition withal. In the short time of a few months, the discontent of his subjects had risen to a threatening height; more especially in Arabia proper, and in the province of Irak, People’s eyes began to turn towards Hosein, the younger and only surviving son of Ali and Fatima, and head of the line of Hashem. Hosein had served with distinction in the siege of Constantinople; he had inherited some of his father’s spirit, and had disdainfully refused to acknowledge Yezid’s title. He was invited by a large body of the discontented in Irak, to come and place himself at their head; against the advice of his wife and many of his friends, he resolved to obey the call, and set out with a small retinue, consisting, chiefly of women and children. When he reached the confines of Irak, Obeidollah, the watchful and energetic governor of Cufa, had already crushed the insurrection in the bud. In the plains of Kerbela, Hosein found himself surrounded on all sides by a body of five thousand horse. Unconditional surrender or death was the only alternative offered to him; he chose the latter, and, after deeds of the most heroic valor, his generous band of devoted adherents were all slain, basely butchered from afar with arrows by their cowardly assailants: he, alone, still survived, though bleeding from many a wound. He seated himself at the door of his tent, enfolding his youngest son and his nephew, two beautiful children, in his arms; they were slain there, and their warm life-blood overflowed the hands of the hapless man. With a cry of grief and despair, he started up and threw himself in the midst of the foe. The soldiers fell back on every side, and, for a time, none dared to lay hands on the grandson of the prophet; but, at last, one of their leaders, the remorseless Shamer, urged them to the attack, and the heroic Hosein was slain, with three-and-thirty strokes of lances and swords. The dead body was trampled under foot by the inhuman wretches, and the severed head carried to the castle of Cufa, and thence forwarded to Damascus, that Yezid might look upon it and sleep in peace. An expedition was sent against the holy cities, which, after Hosein’s death, had acknowledged for their Khalif, Abdallah, the son of the valiant Zobeir. Medina was taken, and the sisters and children of Hosein and Hassan were sent in chains to the throne of Damascus. Yezid was urged by his advisers to bury his fears for ever in the grave of the race of Ali and Fatima. Now, had Yezid been one of the Christian Cæsars of Byzantium, who “thought it no very great harm” to slay even their own kindred, or to deprive them of sight, or mutilate them in some other way, if undisputed empire could but be secured thereby, no doubt the advice would have been followed to the letter: but the grandson of the wild Henda was not altogether without some of the better feelings of human nature, and the Saracen Khalif had no convenient “patriarch,” or bishop, at hand to lull his troublesome conscience by the mockery of priestly absolution. The mourning family were honorably dismissed to Medina, and Yezid even strove to console them for the irreparable losses they had suffered at his father’s and his own hands.
The partial successes of Yezid’s generals against Abdallah did not prevent that indefatigable warrior from seizing upon Yemen, and establishing his power in Egypt. After a troubled reign of three years, Yezid died (683); and a few months after his death, his son and successor, Moawiyah II., preferred voluntary abdication to the desperate struggle which he foresaw it would cost to oust Abdallah from his usurped position. For a time, complete anarchy ensued: Obeidollah, the governor of Irak, attempted to found a new empire and a new dynasty, in Bassora, but he was ignominiously expelled by the people; and the provinces of Irak, Yemen, Hejaz, and Egypt, acknowledged the name and sovereignty of Abdallah. Even in Syria, a creature of Abdallah’s, Dehac, was, for a time, obeyed as vicegerent. At last, however, Mervan, of the line of Ommiyah, was saluted Khalif in Damascus (684), on condition, however, as he bound himself by oath, to name Kaled, Yezid’s younger son, his successor. Mervan speedily succeeded in subjecting Syria and Egypt to his sway. The people of Chorasan, where the Hashemites had gained considerable ascendancy, renounced their allegiance to the empire, proclaimed their independence, and elected the noble Salem their king. Soliman, the son of Zarad, excited a formidable insurrection in Arabia Proper, and in part of Syria, and proclaimed the deposition of both rival Khalifs; but he was defeated by Obeidollah. Mervan, forgetful of his oath, proclaimed his son, Abd-el-Malek, his successor; he fell by the dagger of his offended kinsman, Kaled (685). But Abd-el-Malek made good his claim to the succession, and set diligently about to strengthen his position in the provinces which his father had wrested from Abdallah’s grasp. In Abd-el-Malek the latter found an antagonist worthy of himself, both in valor and wile. The actual struggle between the two rivals was, however, postponed for a season by the appearance of a third party on the scene,—Mokhtar, another inspired prophet, and whose chances of establishing another new creed seemed, for a time, to promise rather fair; in fact, the city of Cufa, and part of the province of Irak, had acknowledged his divine mission, when Abdallah’s good sword proved him an impostor (686). The Greeks had, meanwhile, taken advantage of the distress and fears of the house of Ommiyah, but in their own paltry and pettifogging way; for instead of boldly drawing the sword to wrest Asia Minor, Palestine, and Syria from the enfeebled grasp of the divided Saracens, they were content with obtaining from Abd-el-Malek a considerable increase of the tribute.
Abd-el-Malek, relieved thus from his apprehensions of a war with the Eastern empire, could now turn his undivided attention to the impending struggle with the rival Khalif of Mecca. After five years’ fierce and doubtful contest, Abdallah was at length defeated in a decisive battle, and compelled to take refuge in Mecca; here he defended himself for seven months against Abd-el-Malek’s vastly superior forces. At last, in a general assault, the valiant son of Zobeir was slain; his fall decided that of the city, and the Saracen empire was thus again united under one ruler (692). As soon as Abd-el-Malek saw himself sole and undisputed Khalif, he threw off the badge of servitude to the Eastern empire, which the internal dissensions and troubles of the preceding years had compelled him to submit to. He discontinued the payment of the stipulated tribute, and even wrested another province, Armenia, from the feeble hands of the Byzantine Cæsars.
Hassan, the governor of Egypt, was charged with the task to reconquer the north of Africa. That brave and skilful commander, after having subdued the provinces of the interior, carried his victorious arms to the sea-coast, and took, by a sudden assault, the fortifications of Carthage, the metropolis of Africa (697). However, the unexpected arrival of a powerful Greek fleet, with a numerous and well-appointed army on board, compelled the Arabian general to evacuate his recent conquest, and to retire to Cairoan. But Abd-el-Malek had resolved to annex North Africa to his dominions at any cost; he prepared therefore during the winter a powerful armament by sea and land, and in spring, 698, Hassan appeared once more before Carthage, and compelled the præfect and patrician John, who commanded the Greek forces, to evacuate the city; soon after, he defeated him again in the neighbourhood of Utica, and a precipitate embarkation alone saved the remains of the Byzantine army from absolute annihilation. Carthage was reduced to a heap of ruins. But Hassan had soon to encounter a more formidable enemy: a prophetess arose among the Moors, or Berbers, of the interior, and boldly challenged the Arabian invaders to make good their claim to the land which they had fondly deemed subdued with the expulsion of the Greeks. Cahina was the name of this extraordinary woman, who seemed to have discovered the secret of breathing into her people a spirit of enthusiasm superior even to the fanaticism of the Moslems. In a single day Africa was lost again to the Saracens, and the humbled Hassan retired to the confines of Egypt, where he expected, five years, the promised succour of the Khalif. But Queen Cahina’s order to destroy the cities, and to cut down the fruit-trees, filled the Christian population of the coast with apprehension and anger; and when Hassan at last made his reappearance in the province, he was hailed, even by the most zealous Catholics, as a deliverer and saviour. The royal prophetess boldly accepted battle; but she was slain, and her army was put to the rout (705). Still the spirit of resistance survived, and Hassan’s successor, the aged but fiery Musa Ben Nassir, had to quell a new insurrection of the Moorish tribes. He and his two sons, Abdallah and Abdelaziz, succeeded so well, however, that not only did the Berbers submit to the Khalif, but they even embraced the religion of Islam, and became henceforth as one people with their Arabian conquerors.
Abd-el-Malek was the first Khalif to establish a national mint, both for silver and gold coin (695); the gold coins were imitations of the Roman gold denar, with an inscription proclaiming the unity of the God of Mohammed; the Arabs called these gold coins, dinars; their value was about eight shillings sterling. It would appear they struck also double, and half, dinars. The silver coin might represent a value of fivepence or sixpence English money. Abd-el-Malek died in 705. He was succeeded by his son Walid, a prince who, indeed, did not inherit the activity, vigor, and decision of his father; but was, on the other hand, free also from the cruelty and the low avarice that stained the character of Abd-el-Malek. Walid loved and encouraged arts and sciences, and more especially architecture: he built the splendid mosque of the Ommiades at Damascus, at an expense of half a million sterling; he rebuilt also Mohammed’s mosque at Medina, on a larger and more magnificent scale. He had the good fortune to be served by clever ministers and great generals, whose energy, valor, and enterprise amply made up for the personal indolence and inactivity of the Khalif, and imparted a glory to his reign, rivalling that of Omar’s. One of his lieutenants, Catibah (the camel driver), added to the Saracen empire the spacious regions between the Oxus, the Jaxartes, and the Caspian sea, with the rich and populous commercial cities Carizme, Bochara, and Samarcand (707-710). From Samarcand, the victorious general sent his master a daughter of Phirouz, or Firuz, the son of the unfortunate Yezdegerd, the last of the Sassanide rulers of Persia, who became Walid’s wife. Mohammed, one of Catibah’s colleagues, displayed the banner of Islam on the opposite banks of the Indus (712); and in the same year, Fargana, the residence of the Chagan of the Turks, was taken by Catibah, who advanced as far as Cashgar, where he received an embassy from the Emperor of China. Walid’s brother, Moslemah, one of the most redoubtable of the Mussulman warriors known to history, defeated the Chazars in the Caucasus, and annexed Galatia and other parts of Asia Minor to the empire of his brother (710). But the greatest and most glorious conquest was that of Spain. As early as the time of Othman, the Arabs had cast a longing eye upon the fair land of Handalusia, and their piratical squadrons had more than once ravaged the Spanish coast. The Gothic king, Wamba, had defeated one of their expeditionary corps in 675. Since that time no further attempt had been made on the kingdom of the Visigoths; but the latter, beholding with apprehension the establishment of the Arabian power in North Africa, had, in 697, aided the Byzantine emperor in the attempted relief of Carthage. The king of Spain possessed on the African coast the fortress of Ceuta (Septa or Septum), one of the columns of Hercules, which is divided by a narrow strait from the opposite pillar or point on the European coast. This fortress was held at the beginning of the eighth century by the Gothic Count Julian, brother-in-law of Oppas, archbishop of Toledo and Seville, whose brother, Witiza, was then king of Spain. In 709, Musa made an attempt to reduce Ceuta, and subdue the small portion of Mauritania which was still wanting to the conquest of North Africa; but he was repulsed by Count Julian with considerable loss, and would most probably have relinquished his project upon Spain, had not internal dissensions among the Gothic magnates unexpectedly opened to him a fair prospect of success. King Witiza had attempted to reform the truly appalling licentiousness of the Spanish clergy, and to curb the overgrown power of the nobility; but lacking both the crafty wile of the eleventh Louis of France, and the strong despotic will of the Tudors of England, his well-meant efforts simply led to his own deposition (710), which he survived only a few months. The clergy and nobility elected a king after their own heart, in the person of Roderic, a grandson of King Reccaswinth (or Receswinth). The two sons of Witiza, and their uncle Oppas, conspired to overthrow the new monarch, who, it would appear, had been indiscreet enough to express his intention of removing Count Julian from his Andalusian and Mauritanian commands, the moment he should think himself sufficiently powerful to give due force to his royal decrees. The threatened count was readily induced to join the party of the conspirators; but dreading lest the force which they could bring into the field, should prove unavailing against the monarch’s power, he, who had hitherto been the staunchest defender of his country, did not hesitate to betray her to the Saracen foe, and to open wide the portals that had been entrusted to his honor and patriotism to guard. He and his fellow-conspirators endeavored to soothe the misgivings of conscience with Musa’s deceptive assurance, that he did not intend to establish himself in Spain, but would rest content with a share of the spoil.
As soon as Musa had obtained Walid’s sanction to the contemplated enterprise, he sent off an expedition of only four vessels, with five hundred men on board, to explore the coast of the coveted land. Tarif Abu Zara, the commander of this force, landed on the opposite side of the strait, and marched eighteen miles into the interior, to the castle and town of the traitor Count of Ceuta (July 710). His glowing report of the wealth of the country, decided Musa to send over a more powerful expedition under the command of his freedman, Tarik Ben Zayad. The miserable Julian supplied the means of transport. Five thousand Arabs and seven thousand Moors landed at the European pillar of Hercules, Mount Calpe, which became, henceforth, the Mountain of Tarik—Gebel al Tarik, a name corrupted afterwards into the present appellation of Gibraltar (April, 711). Here Tarik formed a strongly entrenched camp, and gathered around him the friends of Julian, and also many Jews who were fired with the most deadly hatred against their Christian persecutors, that had, for more than a century, oppressed and hunted down this doomed people with a malignity such as religious fanaticism alone can excite and sustain. Counts Edeco and Theodemir, who had been commanded by the king to expel the intruders, were defeated with great slaughter; and a seasonable reinforcement from Africa swelled Tarik’s ranks to above 30,000 men. Roderic, conscious at last of the magnitude of the danger that threatened to overwhelm his throne and his people, gathered the flower of the Gothic nation around him, and marched at the head of 100,000 men to encounter the foreign invaders. In the neighbourhood of Cadiz, at Xeres de la Frontera, on the Guadelete, the hostile armies met. Three days were spent in desultory, though bloody fighting; on the fourth day, the actual battle commenced. When night spread her sable wings, and bade the slaughter cease for a while, more than half of the Saracen forces lay stretched dead on the ground they had come to conquer; and had not the vile defection of the most reverend father in God, the Archbishop of Toledo, and his two nephews, to whom Roderic’s generous or foolish (it may be read both ways) confidence had entrusted the most important post, broken the ranks of the Christians, the severed head of Musa’s freedman might have graced the battlements of Toledo. As it was, it took three days to scatter the remains of the Gothic army; and many a Saracen, and many a Christian traitor to his country, had to bite the dust before Tarik could pen his laconic “Praise be to Allah!—we have conquered.” (July 19-26, 711). The hapless king of the Goths was either slain in the fight or drowned in the waters of the Guadalquivir. The field of Xeres decided the fate of the Gothic monarchy; nearly the whole of Spain submitted to Tarik with such extraordinary rapidity, that the good old Musa, envious of his freedman’s success and fame, bade him arrest his victorious course, until he himself should arrive to gather the last and fairest fruits of the victory. Tarik, however, added Cordova and Toledo, the capital of the Gothic kingdom, to the list of his conquests, and advanced as far as the Bay of Biscay, where the failure of land at last compelled him to stop. Here he received an angry and imperious summons from his jealous chief; who had, meanwhile, himself crossed over from Africa, at the head of ten thousand Arabs and eight thousand Moors, and had taken Seville, and was besieging Merida. The latter city, though valiantly defended, was at last compelled to surrender. Midway between Merida and Toledo, Tarik met his chief, who received him with cold and stately formality, and demanded a strict account of the treasures of the conquered kingdom. The unfortunate lieutenant speedily found that Musa would not readily forgive his presumption of subduing Spain in the absence of his general: he saw himself ignominiously deprived of his command, and thrown into prison; and Musa carried his resentment so far, that he ordered the conqueror of Spain to be publicly scourged. Walid’s imperative commands compelled Musa to restore Tarik to his position; and the valiant man, who had been so ungenerously and unworthily treated by the jealous old chief, assisted him with his accustomed zeal, in achieving the conquest of the still unsubdued parts of the peninsula. At the end of 712, all resistance had ceased on the part of the Christians, with the exception of the valiant prince Theodemir, who defended himself several months longer in Orihuela, and obtained, at last, most favorable terms from Musa’s son, Abdelaziz, (5th April, 713); and the invincible Pelagius, or Pelayo, and Petrus, who, in the Asturian, Gallician, and Biscayan vallies, laid the foundation of a new Christian empire in Spain; destined, after a time, to renew the struggle and ultimately to expel the foreign invaders.
Musa was a very old man—but though the coloring of his beard, and other little expedients of art, might fail to obliterate the physical ravages wrought by eighty-eight years of life, and by the fatigues and privations of fifty campaigns—yet the vigor of his mind, and the youthful ardor that fired his breast, remained unimpaired: and, like that marvellous old man of a later period, great Dandolo, the approach of ninety found him revolving enterprises of stupendous magnitude; aye, no less than the conquest of Gaul, Italy, Germany, and the Greek empire. He was preparing to pass the Pyrenees, and bid the kingdom of the Franks cease to exist, when an imperious command from Damascus, called both him and Tarik thither, to render an account of their proceedings to the commander of the faithful. Tarik obeyed; Musa delayed complying with the Khalif’s summons, until a second and still more peremptory message left the old chief no other alternative but obedience or open rebellion: and, as his own loyalty, or that of his troops, put the latter out of question, he set at once diligently about preparing for his return to Damascus. He confided the government of Spain to his son, Abdelaziz; that of Africa, to his son, Abdallah. Taking with him immense treasures in gold and silver, and, among others, the famous emerald table of Solomon, encircled with pearls and gems—a spoil of the Romans from the east, and which, it would appear, had fallen into the hands of Alaric, in the sack of Rome (410, a.d.); and attended by thirty Gothic princes, 400 nobles, and 18,000 male and female captives of humbler degree, he set out from Ceuta on his way to Damascus. At Tiberias, in Palestine, he received a private message from Suleiman, or Soliman, the brother and presumptive heir of Walid, informing him that the Khalif was dying, and commanding him, as he valued Soliman’s friendship, to reserve his triumphal entry into Damascus for the inauguration of the new reign.
Musa, who might deem Soliman’s anger less dangerous than the resentment of the Khalif should he recover, disregarded the injunction, and pursued his march to Damascus, where he arrived just in time to afford the dying Walid the gratification of beholding the spoils of Africa and of Spain, soon after which, the most powerful of the Khalifs bowed his head to the stroke of the mighty master of kings and emperors (October, 714). His successor, Soliman, was an able and energetic prince, but of a despotic and ruthless disposition. Musa was arraigned at the judgment seat of the new Khalif, for abuse of power and disobedience to orders. The unworthy treatment which the victor of Xeres had suffered at the hands of his jealous chief, was avenged by a similar indignity inflicted upon the latter: the veteran commander was publicly scourged, and then kept waiting a whole day before the palace gate, till the “mercy” of Soliman accorded him a sentence of exile to Mecca. He was, moreover, adjudged to pay to the public treasury, a fine of 200,000 pieces of gold. Afraid lest the sons of the despoiled and insulted old man, should attempt to avenge the injuries of their father, the worthy son of Abd-el-Malek secretly dispatched to Africa and Spain, decrees commanding the extermination of Musa’s family; and, by a refinement of cruelty worthy of a Caligula, Caracalla, or Justinian II., he had the head of Abdelaziz presented to the bereaved father, with an insulting question, whether he knew the features of the rebel? “I know his features,” exclaimed the hapless old man, in a paroxysm of grief and indignation; “he was loyal and true. May the same fate overtake the base authors of his death!” — — — Musa’s death, a few weeks after, of the anguish of a broken heart, spared Soliman an additional crime. The victor of Xeres fared but little better than his ancient commander; though, indeed, he was not made to expiate by death, imprisonment, or exile, the great services which he had rendered his country. Catibah, who had every reason to dread a similar fate as Musa’s and Tarik’s, rose in arms against the jealous tyrant of Damascus, and had the good fortune to meet with a glorious death on the battle field.
Soliman resolved to render his reign famous by the overthrow of the Greek empire, and the conquest of Constantinople. His preparations, both by land and sea, were made on a gigantic scale. His brother, the redoubtable Moslemah, invaded Asia Minor at the head of 70,000 foot and 50,000 horse, with an immense train of camels, (716). The city of Tyana fell into the hands of the Moslems, and Amorium was closely besieged by them. The troops in Amorium were commanded at the time by General Leo, a native of Isauria. The original name of this remarkable man, was Konon; his father had come over from Asia Minor to Thrace, and had settled as a grazier there. He must have acquired considerable wealth in that lucrative business, since he could afford a gift of 500 sheep to the Imperial camp, to procure for his son admission into the guards of Justinian. The personal strength of the young soldier, and his dexterity in all martial exercises attracted the notice of the emperor, who speedily advanced him to the higher grades of military rank. Anastasius II. confided to him the command of the Anatolian legions, and it was in this capacity that he defended Amorium against the Saracens. One of those sudden revolutions so frequent in the Byzantine court, compelled Anastasius to hand over the sceptre to an obscure officer of the revenue, who assumed the name of Theodosius III. General Leo refused to acknowledge the new emperor, and managed so skilfully, that not only did the troops under his command invest him with the imperial purple, but the Arabs, it would appear, accorded him and his army free and undisturbed departure from Amorium. He marched upon Constantinople, and Theodosius seeing himself in danger of being abandoned by the very troops who had so recently exalted him, willingly resigned to the hands of the general and emperor of the Oriental troops, the sceptre which, moreover, he had accepted with extreme reluctance only. He was permitted to retire with his son to the shelter of a monastery, where he had ample time to paint golden letters, an occupation which marvellously suited the natural indolence of his disposition.
Leo, third of the name, who figures in history usually as the Isaurian, or the Iconoclast, was fully aware of the intention of the Arabs to attempt the reduction of Constantinople; he, therefore, made every preparation which military experience could suggest, or engineering skill devise, to give them a fitting reception. In July, 717, after the reduction of Pergamus, Moslemah transported his army from Asia to Europe, across the Hellespont or Dardanelles, at the most narrow part of the passage (from Abydos to Sestos); and thence, wheeling his troops round Gallipoli, Heraclea, and the other Thracian cities of the Propontis, or Sea of Marmara, he invested Constantinople on the land side. An offer made by the Greeks, to purchase the withdrawal of the besieging forces by the payment of a piece of gold for each inhabitant of the city, was contemptuously rejected; and Moslemah pushed on the operations of the siege with the greatest vigor, but without any corresponding success, the Isaurian repelling every attack with a bravery and determination, such as the Saracens had but little expected to see displayed by the apparently effete Greeks. Moslemah’s hopes were swelled high, however, by the arrival of the navies of Syria and Egypt, to the number of 1800 vessels, with 50,000 men on board. The Saracen commander fixed a night for a general assault by land and sea, and proudly boasted that by the morning the city should be his. When that morning came, the Greek fire had done its work; and scarce a vestige remained of the proud fleet, or of those who had manned it; and ten thousand Arabs and Persians slain, bore witness how fiercely Moslemah had assaulted the defences of Byzantium, and how bravely and vigorously the Isaurian and his gallant troops had repulsed the hostile multitudes. From this check, Moslemah essayed in vain to recover: he became soon painfully conscious that the conviction of invincibility, which had hitherto so materially contributed to the great successes of the Saracen arms, was, if not altogether destroyed, at least considerably shaken. His assaults were now repulsed with apparent ease almost, and all his attempts at surprises were defeated by the ever watchful Isaurian. One hope still remained to restore the ancient supremacy of the Moslem arms: Khalif Soliman had gathered a formidable host of Arabians, Persians, and Turks, and was preparing to lead them to his brother’s assistance. The eyes of both the besiegers and the besieged were anxiously turned towards the Khalif’s camp near Chalcis (or Kinnisrin) in Syria; and Leo was endeavoring, by gifts and promises, to attract an army of Bulgarians from the Danube to pit them against the Saracens; and thus, perchance, to free the Byzantine empire from all danger, by the mutual destruction of its Barbarian foes. But it so happened that the Commander of the Faithful could not command his appetite; a meal of two scores or so of eggs, and a matter of six or seven pounds of figs, followed up by a dessert of marrow and sugar, proved too much for even his well-seasoned stomach; he paid with his life the penalty of his gluttony (717). He had appointed his cousin, Omar Ben Abdelaziz, to succeed him in the khalifate. Omar, second of the name, was a most estimable man, but a very indifferent prince; much fitter, indeed, to be the head of a monastery of ascetics, than of a powerful empire. The first act of his reign was to order the cessation of the Syrian armaments, which might have been a wise measure, had it been accompanied by the recall of Moslemah and his forces from the siege of Constantinople. His neglect of the latter measure entailed upon the unfortunate natives of the sultry climes of Egypt and Arabia, the unspeakable hardships of a most severe winter, passed in a frozen camp. In spring (718), he made an effort to relieve their wants, and to fill up the gaps which cold, famine, and disease had made in the ranks of the besieging army. Two numerous fleets were sent on this errand, one from Alexandria, the other from the ports of Africa. They succeeded, indeed, in landing the stores and reinforcements, but they found it as vain to contend against the Greek fire, as the armada which, the year before, had so proudly threatened to erase the Roman name from among the nations. Meanwhile, the Bulgarians had been bribed into an alliance with the Greek emperor, and these savage auxiliaries proved formidable antagonists to the exhausted and half-starved Asiatics. Still the intrepid Moslemah was not dismayed, and although he was compelled to relinquish all further attempts upon the defences of the city, he defeated, on his part, all attacks made on his camp: until, at length, Khalif Omar sent him the welcome order to raise the siege, (August, 718). The retreat of the Arabian forces was effected without delay or molestation; but of the fleet, tempests destroyed what the fire of Callinicus had spared, and of 700 vessels that had proudly sailed forth, five only returned to the port of Alexandria, to tell the sad tale of the disastrous loss of their companions. Byzantium was saved, and the victorious Isaurian found himself at liberty to prepare for his meditated warfare against canvas, wood, brass, and marble.
The good and pious Omar distinguished his reign chiefly by the abolition or “repeal” of the curse against Ali and his adherents which had for nearly sixty years been daily pronounced from the pulpits (719). By this act of simple justice, and by his somewhat hasty and incautious attempts to reform the fearful abuses which had crept into the administration of the empire under his predecessors, he excited the determined hostility of his own family, and of the Vizirs and high officers of state. A dose of poison removed him (720). His successor, Yezid II., had none of his virtues, but most of the vices of his other predecessors of the line of Ommiyah. It was in the reign of this prince, and in that of his successor, that the family Hashem, in two of its branches, viz. the Alides, or Fatimites, i.e. the descendants of Ali and Fatima, and the Abassides, that is the descendants of Abbas, the uncle of the prophet, began to urge their claims to the throne of the Khalifa. Indeed, Mohammed, the great grandson of Abbas, was secretly acknowledged as the true commander of the Faithful, by a considerable body of the inhabitants of Chorasan, and his son Ibrahim was even enabled to hoist the black flag of the Abassides in that province; the gloomy banner was triumphantly borne onward by Abu Moslem, the intrepid and invincible champion of the Abassides, the King-maker of the East, but, who was fated at last, like the English King-maker, to experience the usual gratitude of princes. From the Indus to the Euphrates, the East was convulsed by the fearful struggle between the white and the black factions, and the fairest provinces of Asia were deluged with blood to void the ancient quarrel between Ommiyah and Hashem, and to decide which of two equally vile races of despots had the better right to trample on God’s fair creation. The struggle terminated for a time in 750, with the overthrow and almost total extirpation of the Ommiades—but of this hereafter.
Yezid died in 722 or 723, of grief for the death of a favorite concubine. He was succeeded by his brother Hesham, a prince not altogether destitute of good qualities. Hesham had to contend against the Fatimite Zeid, the grandson of Hassan, who was, however, speedily overcome, and had to pay with his life the penalty of his ambition. The struggle against the more successful Abassides has been mentioned in the preceding paragraph.
After Musa’s departure from Spain, and the murder of his son Abdelaziz, Ajub was proclaimed by the Arabian and Moorish troops, governor of the Spanish peninsula; he fixed his residence at Cordova. Under him and his more immediate successors numerous colonies came over to Spain from various parts of the Saracen dominions in Asia and Africa; of these the royal legion of Damascus was planted at Cordova; that of Emesa at Seville; that of Chalcis at Jaen; that of Palestine at Algezire and Medina Sidonia. The Egyptian bands were permitted to share with the original conquerors their establishments of Murcia and Lisbon. The immigrants from Yemen and Persia were located round Toledo, and in the inland country; and ten thousand horsemen of Syria and Irak, the children of the purest and most noble Arabian tribes, settled in the fertile seats of Grenada.
Ajub’s successor in the government of Spain, El Horr Ben Abderrahman resolved to annex to the dominions under his sway the Gallic province of Septimania or Languedoc, of which the eastern part, with Narbonne and Carcassone, was still remaining in the hands of the Visigoths; the western part, Aquitaine and Thoulouse having been severed from the Gothic kingdom in 508, by Clovis. But he was defeated and driven back by the Christians; in consequence of the ill-success of his operations, the Khalif removed him from the command, and named El Zama governor in his stead. That bold and skilful general speedily succeeded in reducing the whole of the Narbonnese province (720); whence he marched into Aquitaine, and laid siege to Thoulouse. Here he found a more formidable foe to encounter—the Franks, who were ultimately to check the further advance of Islam and its followers into the fairest provinces of Europe. The history of that nation, and of its successful leader against the Saracen invaders, forms the subject of the second part of this volume.
Khalifet Resul Allah, i.e. lieutenant, or representative of the prophet of God.
Omar was the first to assume the additional title of Emir al Mumenin, i.e. prince, or commander, of the faithful.
Jabalah had embraced the religion of Islam. On the occasion of the pilgrimage to Mecca, the irascible prince had dealt an Arabian, who had accidentally trod on the skirt of his long robe, a severe blow with his fist, which broke the bridge of the nose of the assaulted man. The Khalif Omar having demanded satisfaction for the aggrieved Moslem, and threatened the proud Gassanide chief with the application of the lex talionis, Jabalah, feeling highly indignant at the notion, fled, and returned to the profession of the Christian faith.
Yezdegerd fled finally to the territory of Tergana, on the Jaxartes. In an attempt which he made in 651, to invade his lost empire at the head of some Turkish tribes, he met his death, it would appear, at the hands of his barbarian allies. One of the daughters of Yezdegerd married Hassan, the son of Ali, and the other, Mohammed, the son of Abu Bekr.
The Nestorians and Jacobites bestowed on the self-styled Catholics of the Greek and Roman church, the name of Melchites, or Royalists, to mark that their faith, instead of resting on the basis of Scripture, reason, or tradition, had been established solely by the power of a temporal monarch.
“Six months,” the Worthy Jacobite says, “the 4000 baths of the city were heated with the volumes of paper and parchment.” These volumes must have been bulky indeed, and must have contained a surprising amount of latent heat, considering that, even admitting the library to have existed at the time, and conceding to it the largest number of volumes claimed by the most extravagant writers, viz., 720,000, one single volume per day must have sufficed to heat a public bath! Verily, verily, history is made the most inexact of all sciences. The flames which Cæsar was compelled to kindle in his defence, in the Bruchion (the Belgravia or Tyburnia of the city of Alexander); the havoc and depredation committed by the Alexandrian mob during the troubles of the shoes (so called from the circumstance that these terrible troubles, which are said to have lasted above twelve years [from 261 to 273 a.d.], were first occasioned by a dispute between a soldier and a townsman about a pair of shoes); and the destruction inflicted on the Bruchion by Aurelian, in 273, cannot have left much behind of that portion of the splendid library of the Ptolemies which was kept in the museum. And the other portion of it, which was kept in the Temple of Serapis, to which latter place it is most probable the celebrated Pergamese library, presented by Marcus Antonius to Cleopatra, had also been sent, was totally destroyed in 389, in the reign of Theodosius I., by a bigoted Christian mob, under the leadership of the Archbishop Theophilus, a much more ignorant and brutal zealot than either Omar or Amru.
Othman’s foster-brother, the same whom Mohammed had so reluctantly pardoned after the taking of Mecca. He was renowned as the boldest and most dexterous horseman of Arabia.
Callinicus was either a native of Heliopolis, in Syria, or of Egypt. This clever chemist had been for a while in the service of the Khalif; but, offended at the slight estimation in which his science was held by the ignorant sons of the desert, he went over to the emperor, and placed in the hands of the Christians that marvellous and mysterious agent, the Greek fire, which afterwards repeatedly saved Constantinople from falling into the hands of its barbarian besiegers. It is certainly a curious coincidence, that, at a later period of history, Sultan Mohammed II. was most materially assisted in the reduction of the city of the Cæsars, by another man of science, the Hungarian Urban, who, having been almost starved in the Greek service, had deserted to the Moslems, for whom he cast cannons of enormous size and weight of metal.
The victory of Bassora is therefore usually called the Day of the Camel; seventy men who successively held the bridle of the camel which carried Ayesha’s litter, were all either killed or more or less severely wounded.
That is, “God is great,” or “God is victorious.”
January; according to some historians, Midsummer, 660; others place the event in August, 661.
But many of the tribes revered the name and memory of Ali. His refusal to be bound by the tradition, or Sonna, became a kind of religious creed, and a wide and deep gulf was opened between two rival sects, the Sonnites, or believers in the tradition, and the Schiites, or sectaries, who reject the tradition, regard Ali as the Vicar of God, and his three predecessors as execrable usurpers. The religious discord of the friends and enemies of Ali may be said to be actually maintained still to the present day in the immortal hatred of the Schiite Persians, and the Sonnite Turks. The twelve Imams, or pontiffs, of the Persian church are Ali, Hassan, Hosein, and the lineal descendants of Hosein to the ninth generation. The curse against Ali and his adherents was abolished by Omar II., in 719.
The ruins of the ancient city of Carthage are about ten miles east of Tunis.
At least in Syria and Irak.
One of the most remarkable men of the period; he was said to unite the fierceness of the lion with the subtlety of the fox; his eventful life would furnish ample material for ten historic romances.
It would appear, from Leo Africanus, that a considerable body of Goths formed part of the army of relief.
Handalusia signifies, in Arabic, the country of the West; and the Arabs applied the name not only to the modern province of Andalusia, but to the whole peninsula of Spain. The attempted derivation of the name of Andalusia from the Vandals (Vandalusia) is most improbable. Lembke travels still farther out of the way of all rational probability, by assigning the etymological paternity of the name to Andalos, whom the Arabians number among Noah’s grandchildren.
This would certainly seem to have been the true cause of Julian’s defection; the story of the seduction or violation of his daughter Florinda (surnamed la Cava, i.e., the wicked), lacks all true historic foundation. Mariana, the Jesuit historian, to whom we are chiefly indebted for this pretty tale, was too apt to draw on his lively imagination, where historical evidence failed him.
The place on which the Arabs landed is marked to the present day by the name of their chief Tarif (Tarifa); on the coast they bestowed the name of the Green Island (Algesiras or Algezire).
Musa had fought in Syria; he had assisted Moawiyah in the reduction of Cyprus (648), and had held the government of that island; he had subsequently been governor of Irak, and after this, governor of Egypt; Sardinia, Majorca, and Minorca, also had felt his presence.
Though some historians lead Musa (in 712) into the Narbonnese Gaul, there are strong reasons to reject this as an erroneous supposition; it is more than doubtful whether the old chief ever passed the Pyrenees.
The statement made by some historians, that Ætius presented this table as a gift to Torismund, after the victory of Chalons (451), seems to rest on a very slender foundation; and so, I am inclined to think, do the 365 feet of gems and massive gold so liberally bestowed upon the table by Oriental writers. Another tradition substitutes, as the gift of the Roman patrician, the famous Missorium, or great golden dish for the service of the communion table, which is stated to have weighed 500 pounds, and to have been adorned with a profusion of gems.
Some historians make Musa arrive after the death of Walid; and some place the latter event a year later (715). The records of the period of the early Khalifs are so confused and contradictory that it is by no means easy always to ascertain the correct date of an event; the difficulty is considerably increased by the error into which some historians have fallen, of confounding the lunar year of the Mohammedans with the solar year of the Julian era. The common lunar year of the Hegira has 354 days; but the Mohammedans count, in a cyclus of 30 years, 11 leap years of 355 days (the 2nd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 25th and 29th years of the cyclus).
Of small size, of course.
In the separation of parties, the green color was adopted by the Alides, or Fatimites, the black color by the Abassides, and the white color by the Ommiades; these colors were displayed respectively by the several parties, not only in their standards but also in their garments and turbans.
THE FRANK CONFEDERACY.—CLOVIS, THE FOUNDER OF THE FRANK MONARCHY.
A great deal of labor and ingenuity has been wasted in futile endeavors to trace the origin of a distinct Frank nation; however, after exhausting every possible means of research, and every probable and improbable suggestion of fancy, the most rational writers are now agreed in looking upon the supposed existence of a distinct Frank nation as a myth, and in believing that the name of Franks or Freemen was assumed, most probably about the middle of the third century after Christ, by a league of several Germanic nations, of whom the most important were the Sigambrians and the Catti. The former constituted, with the Bructeri, the Chamavians, the Chattuarii, and perhaps also part of the Batavians, the lower branch of the confederacy; towards the end of the third century their settlements extended along the eastern bank of the Rhine, from the Lippe down to the mouth of the great German river; they occupied also the island of the Batavians, and the land between the Rhine and Meuse, and down to the Scheld. From the settlement of the Sigambrians on the Yssel or Sala, this branch of the confederacy received the name of the Salian Franks. The Catti, the Ambsivarians, and some other tribes, (including perhaps even the Hermunduri, or Thuringians?) constituted the upper branch of the confederacy.
The upper Franks extended their settlements from the lands between the Mein and Lippe gradually along both banks of the Rhine, from Mayence to Cologne; and, although repeatedly driven back by the Romans, they ultimately retained possession of the left bank of the river; whence they were also called Riparian or Ripuarian Franks (from the Latin ripa, bank, shore).
The Franks repeatedly invaded Gaul, more particularly in the reigns of Valerian (253-260), and of Gallienus (260-268); and though the Romans boast of numerous victories achieved at the time against them, under the leadership of Posthumus, the general of Valerian, but who afterwards usurped the empire in Gaul, yet it is certain that the Franks not only carried their devastations from the Rhine to the foot of the Pyrenees, but numbers of them actually crossed these mountains, and ravaged Spain during twelve years; when they had exhausted that unfortunate country, they seized on some vessels in the ports of Spain, and crossed over to the coast of Africa, where their sudden appearance created the utmost consternation. The Emperor Probus defeated the Franks in 277, and transported a colony of them to the sea-coast of Pontus, where he established them with a view of strengthening the frontier against the inroads of the Alani. But impelled by their unconquerable love of country and freedom, they seized on a number of vessels in one of the harbors of the Euxine, sailed boldly through the Bosphorus and the Hellespont, and, cruising along the coast of the Mediterranean, made frequent descents upon the coasts of Asia, Greece, and Africa, and actually took and sacked the opulent city of Syracuse, in the island of Sicily; whence they proceeded to the Columns of Hercules, where they made their way into the Atlantic, and coasting round Spain and Gaul, reached the British Channel, sailed through it, and landed ultimately in safety, and richly laden with spoil, on the Batavian shore.
In 287, the Menapian Carausius, who usurped the imperial purple in Britain, granted to the Franks the island of the Batavians, and the land between Meuse and Scheld. Constantius (293), and Constantine (313), expelled them from these provinces; the Ripuarians also felt the heavy hand of Constantine, and of his son Crispus; the latter expelled them for a time from the left bank of the Rhine. But Julian found both the Salians and the Ripuarians in their old places; and, though successful against both (357 and 358), contented himself with the partial expulsion of the Ripuarians and the Chamavians, leaving the Sigambrians in quiet possession of the island of the Batavians, and the extensive district of Brabant, which they had occupied, on condition that they should henceforth hold themselves subjects and auxiliaries of the Roman empire. However, the expelled tribes soon made their reappearance on the banks of the Rhine, and, at the end of the fourth century, the Franks had regained complete possession of their old quarters.
Stilicho, the great minister and general of the contemptible Honorius, made it one of the first acts of his administration to secure the alliance of the warlike Franks against the enemies of Rome (395). He succeeded so well, it would appear, that the Franks actually handed over to the discretion of his justice, one of their kings or dukes, Marcomir, who was accused of having violated the faith of treaties; the accused prince was exiled to Tuscany, his brother Sunno, who attempted to avenge the insult which he deemed had been put upon the nation by this degradation of the dignity of one of its chiefs, met with a harsher fate at the hands of his own countrymen: he was slain by them; and the princes whom Stilicho had appointed, were cheerfully acknowledged. The fact that Stilicho himself was of German (Vandalian) extraction, may account in some degree for this extraordinary subserviency of the Franks to the will and wishes of the master of the Western Empire. On this occasion, the Franks had engaged to protect the province of Gaul against invasion from the side of Germany. An opportunity of proving their sincerity and fidelity to Rome, or perhaps rather to the great minister who had made the treaty of alliance with them, offered in the year 406, when the confederated nations of the Vandals, the Alani, the Suevi, and the Burgundians, were moving in a body to the Rhine with the intention of invading Gaul; and most honestly and valiantly indeed did the Franks acquit themselves of the duty undertaken by them. It so happened that the Vandals were the first to make their appearance on the bank of the river; proudly relying on their numbers they attempted to force the passage, without awaiting the coming up of the other confederated nations. They paid the penalty of their rashness; twenty thousand of them were slain, among them their king, Godigisclus; and the opportune arrival of the Alani, whose squadrons trampled down the infantry of the Franks, alone saved the nation of the Vandals from total destruction. Attacked by the combined forces of the confederates, the Franks were at last compelled to give way. On the 31st December, 406, the Suevi, the Alani, the Vandals, and the Burgundians, crossed the frozen Rhine without further opposition, and thus entered the defenceless provinces of Gaul, where the Burgundians formed a lasting settlement, the other nations of the confederacy proceeding subsequently further on to Spain and Lusitania.
History leaves us in the dark as to the period when the Franks first submitted to the sway of hereditary princes; but this much seems certain, that it must have been long before the time of Pharamond; and also that their long-haired kings did not derive the name of Merovingians, from Meroveus, the grandson of Pharamond, but either from some more ancient Meroveus; or perhaps from Merve, the name which the Meuse receives after its union with the Waal (an arm of the Rhine); or from the same name of a castle near Dortrecht, supposed to have been the family seat of the Frankian kings.
It would appear that Pharamond, the son of Marcomir, was elevated on the buckler, about 410, and that his son Clodion succeeded him in 428. It is somewhat doubtful whether these two kings held sway over the Ripuarians as well as over the Salians, or even over all the nations which constituted the league of the latter. Clodion had his residence at Dispargum (Duisborch?), in Brabant, somewhere between Louvain and Brussels. Soon after his accession, this prince invaded Belgic Gaul, took Tournay and Cambray, and advanced as far as the river Somme. He was surprised and defeated in the plains of Artois, by Ætius, the general of the Western empire (430); but that astute politician deemed it the wiser course to secure the friendship of the powerful leader of the warlike Franks, and therefore conceded to him free possession of the conquered province. Clodion died about 448 (450?) He left two sons who disputed his succession. All we can gather from the very confused and contradictory accounts of this period, is that the younger of the two sons, whose name is not mentioned, was raised on the buckler by the Ripuarian, the elder, Mervey or Meroveus, by the Salian Franks; and that the former joined Attila in his invasion of Gaul, and fought on the side of the Huns in the great battle of Chalons (451); whilst Meroveus, with his Salians joined the standard of Ætius, and combated on the side of the Romans and Visigoths. Mervey’s son, Childeric, offended the Franks by his excesses and his arbitrary proceedings: he was deposed by them, and was compelled to seek a refuge at the court of the King of the Thuringians, Bisinus or Basinus. The Franks having thus disposed of their king, proceeded to bestow the royal dignity upon Ægidius, the Roman master-general of Gaul, who, after the compelled abdication and the most suspicious death of the Emperor Majorian, in 461, had refused to acknowledge the successor forced upon the acceptance of the Roman Senate by the all-powerful Patrician Ricimer, the instigator of Majorian’s fall, and had assumed the sovereignty over the remnant of the Gallic province which still obeyed the Roman sway. However, a few years after, the Franks, who found the Roman system of taxation more oppressive and objectionable than any act of Childeric’s, recalled that prince, and, under his guidance, expelled the “tax-gatherers” (465). Ægidius acquiesced with a good grace in a change which he had not the power to oppose. Childeric had been most hospitably entertained by King Bisinus; but the hospitality extended to him by the wife of that monarch, Queen Basina, was, by all accounts, still more liberal than that shown to the interesting guest by her worthy husband. After Childeric’s restoration, Basina left her husband, and rejoined her lover: the fruit of this voluntary union was Clovis, who, at the age of fifteen, succeeded, by his father’s death, to the rule of that portion of the Salian territory, over which Childeric had held sway, and which was confined to the island of the Batavians, with the ancient dioceses of Tournay and Arras; for the custom of the Franks to divide the treasures and territories of a deceased duke or king equally among his sons, had had the natural effect to split the kingdom of Pharamond into several parts independent of each other. Clovis combined with an insatiable ambition, all the qualities requisite to satisfy that all-absorbing passion. His personal bravery was controlled and directed by cool and consummate prudence. He wielded the francisca (the battle-axe of the Franks) with formidable strength and skill; and he did not hesitate, when occasion required, to make his own soldiers feel the weight of his arm and the precision of his aim. He subjected the barbarians whom he commanded to the strict rules of a severe discipline which he enforced with unbending rigor. A crafty and astute politician, he was endowed with the most essential requisites for success, patience and perseverance. In the pursuit and accomplishment of his ambitious designs, he trampled on every law of God and nature: no feeling of pity ever stayed, no fear of retribution ever restrained, his murderous hands. He was indeed the worthy progenitor of a line of princes fit to take the proudest place among the highest aristocracy of crime, to put to the blush the Neros, the Caligulas, the Domitians, the Caracallas, the Elagabalus of imperial Rome, and to rank with the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs and the Tudors. At the age of twenty, he made war upon Syagrius, the son of Ægidius, who had inherited from his father the city and diocese of Soissons, and whose sway was acknowledged also by the cities and territories of Rheims, Troyes, Beauvais and Amiens. In alliance with his cousin Ragnachar, King of the Franks of Cambray, and some other Merovingian princes, he defeated Syagrius at Soissons, and reduced in the brief space of a few months the remnant of the Roman dominion in Gaul, and which had survived ten years the extinction of the Western empire (486). Syagrius fled to Thoulouse, where he flattered himself to find a safe asylum; but in vain: Alaric II., the son of the great Euric, was a minor, and the men who governed the kingdom of the Visigoths in his name, were but too readily intimidated by the threats of Clovis, and pusillanimously delivered up the hapless fugitive to certain death. A few years after (491), Clovis enlarged his dominions towards the east by the ample diocese of Tongres. In 498, he married the Burgundian princess Clotilda, who, in the midst of an Arian court, had been educated in the Nicean faith. Clotilda’s endeavors to convert her husband to Christianity were not very successful at first, though he consented to the baptism of his first-born son; the sudden death of the infant, which the ignorant and superstitious Pagan was inclined to attribute to the anger of his gods, had well-nigh proved fatal to any further attempt at conversion; still the beauty and blandishments of the pious queen succeeded at last in overcoming the scruples and apprehensions of her husband, and gaining his consent to a repetition of the experiment: this time the infant survived, and Clovis began to listen with greater favor to the exhortations of his Christian spouse.
In the year 496, the Alemanni, who occupied both banks of the Rhine, from the source of that river to its conflux with the Mein and the Moselle, and had spread themselves over the modern provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, invaded the territories of Sigebert, the king of the Ripuarian Franks, who had his seat at Cologne. Sigebert, unable to resist the invaders single-handed, invoked the powerful aid of his cousin, Clovis, and the latter hastened at once to the rescue. He encountered the invaders in the plain of Tolbiac (Zülpich), about twenty-four miles from Cologne. A fierce battle ensued. For several hours it raged with unabated fury, without any decided advantage being gained by either party; at length the Franks gave way, and the Alemanni raised shouts of victory. Clovis saw his dream of power and ambition rapidly fading away; in his extremity he invoked the God of Clotilda and the Christians, to grant him the victory over his enemies, which service he vowed duly to acknowledge, by consenting to be baptised. Resolved, however, to do his share also towards the achievement of the victory which he was imploring the Christian Lord of Hosts to vouchsafe him, he rallied his discomfited troops, and placing himself at their head, led them on again to the attack, and by his valor and conduct, succeeded in restoring the battle. The franciscas, and the heavy swords of the Franks, made fearful havoc in the hostile ranks; the king, and many of the most valiant chiefs of the Alemanni, were slain, and ere evening the power of one of the fiercest and most warlike nations of Germany, was annihilated. Pursued by the victorious Franks into the heart of their forests, the Alemanni were forced to submit to the yoke of the conqueror; some of their tribes fled to the territory of the Gothic king of Italy, Theodoric, who assigned them settlements in Rhætia, and interceded, with his brother-in-law, in favor of the conquered nation.
In his distress, Clovis had vowed to adore the God of the Christians, if He would succour him; the danger past, and the victory achieved, the perfidious Frank would gladly have made light of his vow, but for the incessant importunities of Clotilda, and of Remigius, the Catholic bishop of Rheims. On the day of Christmas in the same year, (496), Clovis was baptised in the Cathedral of Rheims with 3000 of his warlike subjects; and the remainder of the Salians speedily followed the example. As the kings of the Goths, Burgundians, and Vandals were Arians, and even the Greek emperor, Anastasius, was not quite free from the taint of heresy; the Bishop of Rome, Anastasius II., overjoyed at the conversion of the powerful king of the Franks to the Nicean faith, hailed the neophyte as the “Most Christian King.”
The conversion of Clovis to the Catholic faith stood him in excellent need in his schemes of further aggrandisement. His arms were henceforward supported by the favor and zeal of the Catholic clergy, more especially in the discontented cities of Gaul, under the sway of the Arian kings of the Visigoths and the Burgundians. The Armoricans, or Bretons, in the north-western provinces of Gaul, who had hitherto bravely and successfully resisted all attempts of the Pagan chief to conquer them, were now gradually induced to submit to an equal and honorable union with a Christian people, governed by a Catholic king (497-500); and the remnants of the Roman troops (most of them of barbarian extraction), also acknowledged the sway of Clovis, on condition of their being permitted to retain their arms, their ensigns, and their peculiar dress and institutions.
Clotilda had never ceased to urge her husband to make war upon her uncle Gundobald, the murderer of her father. Her other uncle, Godegesil, had been permitted by his rapacious brother to retain the dependent principality of Geneva. But fearful lest Gundobald should treat him in the end the same as he had his other brothers, he lent a willing ear to the suggestions of his niece, and the tempting offers of the Frankish king, and entered into a secret compact with the latter to betray and abandon the cause of his brother on the first favorable opportunity. Hereupon Clovis declared war against the King of Burgundy, and invaded his territories: in the year 500 or 501, the armies of the Franks and the Burgundians met between Langres and Dijon. The treacherous desertion, at the decisive moment, of Godegesil and the troops of Geneva, saved Clovis from defeat. Apprehensive of the disaffection of the Gauls, Gundobald abandoned the castle of Dijon, and the important cities of Lyons and Vienna, to the king of the Franks, and continued his flight till he had reached Avignon; but here he made a stand, and defended the city with such skill and vigor, that Clovis ultimately consented to a treaty of peace, which made the king of Burgundy tributary to him, and stipulated the cession of the province of Vienna to Godegesil, as a reward for his treachery. A garrison of 5000 Franks was left at Vienna, to secure the somewhat doubtful allegiance of Godegesil, and also to protect the latter against the vengeance of his offended brother. But Gundobald, unscrupulous and truculent though he was in the pursuit of his grasping policy, was yet not lacking wisdom. As soon as the conclusion of the peace with Clovis had restored to him the remnant of his kingdom, he applied himself to gain the affections of his Roman and Gallic subjects, by the promulgation of a code of wise and impartial laws (502), and to conciliate the Catholic prelates by artful promises of his approaching conversion from the errors of the Arian heresy. Having strengthened his position, moreover, by alliances with the kings of the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, he suddenly invaded the territories which Clovis had compelled him to cede to his brother, and surprised Vienna and its Frankish garrison ere his brother was even fully aware of his hostile intentions. Godegesil sought refuge in a church; but the protection of the holy precincts availed him nought; he was struck down dead at the altar by his remorseless brother. The provinces of Geneva and Vienna were re-united to the Burgundian kingdom; the captive Franks were sent to the king of the Visigoths, who settled them in the territory of Thoulouse. Clovis, who could now no longer rely upon the assistance of a traitor in the camp of Gundobald, deemed it the wiser course to submit to the altered state of affairs, and to content himself with the alliance and the promised military service of the King of Burgundy.
Already before the Burgundian war, Clovis had cast his covetous eyes upon the fair provinces of the south of Gaul, which were held by Alaric II., the King of the Visigoths. Here, also, the disaffection of the Catholic Gauls and Romans promised the best chances of success. Some paltry border-squabble was eagerly laid hold of by Clovis to pick a quarrel with the King of the Visigoths, and war seemed at the time inevitable between the two nations; when Theodoric, Alaric’s father-in-law, interposed his good offices, and succeeded, by a well-timed threat of an armed intervention, in restraining the aggressive spirit of the Frankish King, (498). A personal interview was proposed between Clovis and Alaric: it was held on the border of the two states, in a small island of the Loire, near Amboise. The two kings met in right royal fashion: they embraced, feasted together, indulged in a profusion of protestations of mutual regard and brotherly affection, and parted full of smiles—and mutual hatred and distrust.
Had Alaric pursued the same wise course as Gundobald, he might have found in the affection of the people under his sway, a safe shield against Frank aggression. But, unfortunately, the Arian could not forbear from inflicting upon his dissenting subjects, those petty acts of tyranny in which dominant sects delight, and which are always sure to create a deeper and more lasting disaffection than any act of political oppression. The Catholic clergy in Aquitaine laid their complaints against their Arian sovereign, before the Catholic King of the Franks; and besought the latter to come to the aid of his co-religionists, and free them from the yoke of their Gothic tyrants. Clovis eagerly seized the pretext. In a general assembly of the Frankish chiefs and the Catholic prelates held at Paris, he declared his intention not to permit the Arian heretics to retain possession any longer of the fairest portion of Gaul. Alaric did his best to prepare for the coming struggle; the army which he collected was much more numerous, indeed, than the military power which Clovis could bring against him; but, unfortunately, a long peace had enervated the descendants of the once so formidable warriors of the first Alaric. They were unable to sustain the fierce shock of the Franks, who totally overthrew and routed them in the battle of Vouglé, near Poitiers, in 507. Alaric himself fell by the hand of his rival; Angoulême, Bordeaux, Thoulouse, submitted to the conqueror, and the whole of Aquitaine acknowledged his sway, (508); and he would have succeeded in driving the Visigoths beyond the Pyrenean mountains, had not the King of Italy thrown the shield of his power over the discomfited nation. The Franks and their Burgundian allies were besieging Arles and Carcassone, when the valiant Hibbas, Theodoric’s general, appeared on the scene with a powerful and well-appointed army of Ostrogoths. He defeated the victors of Vouglé, and compelled the ambitious King of the Franks to raise the siege of the two cities, and to lend a willing ear to proposals of an advantageous peace. He then overthrew and slew the bastard Gesalic, who had usurped the throne of the Visigoths, to the exclusion of Alaric’s infant son, Amalaric. The latter was now proclaimed King of Spain and Septimania, under the guardianship of his grandfather, Theodoric: Clovis being permitted to retain possession of the land from the Cevennes and the Garonne to the Loire, whilst the Provence was annexed to the dominions of the King of Italy, who thus did not disdain despoiling his own grandson of one of the finest provinces of his kingdom.
The Emperor Anastasius, overjoyed at the humiliation inflicted by Clovis upon the Goths, bestowed upon the King of the Franks the dignity and ensigns of the Roman consulship! (510); which, though in reality a mere empty title, yet invested that monarch, in the eyes of his Roman and Gallic subjects, with the prestige of Imperial authority.
Clovis seeing himself thus in undisputed possession of the greater part of Gaul, thought the time had come to unite the several Frankish tribes into one nation, under his sceptre. But, knowing full well that his Franks would not follow him in an open war against his own kindred of the race of Pharamond, he coolly planned the assassination of the whole family. Sigebert, the king of the Ripuarians, had proved himself a most faithful ally of his Salian cousin; and in the last campaign against the Visigoths, he had sent to his aid a powerful contingent of his Ripuarians, under the command of his own son, Chloderic. Clovis excited the ambition and cupidity of the latter, and succeeded in persuading him to murder his own father; when the horrid deed was perpetrated, the wretched son, intent upon securing the powerful support of the Salian king, offered him part of the treasures of the murdered man. The “fair cousin” sent him word to keep his treasures, and simply to show them to his ambassadors, that he, Clovis, might rejoice in the prosperity of his cousin; but, when the assassin of his father had lifted up the heavy lid of one of the boxes, and was bending down to take out some of the precious articles which it held, he was slain in his turn by one of the ambassadors of Clovis. That most Christian king afterwards solemnly protested to the Ripuarians that Chloderic, the assassin of his father, had fallen by the hand of some unknown avenger, and that he, Clovis, was innocent of the death of either of them. “Surely,” he exclaimed, with well affected horror and indignation, “no one would dare to deem me guilty of that most horrible of all crimes, the murder of my own kindred!” The Ripuarians believed him, and acknowledged him their king, by raising him on a shield. The next victims were Chararic, the king of the Morinic Franks, in Belgium, and his son. Chararic, had refused his aid to Clovis, in the campaign against Syagrius; the fact had, indeed, occurred rather long ago, but still it answered the purpose of the unscrupulous son of Childeric. Chararic and his son, having fallen into his hands by the grossest treachery, were despoiled of their treasures and their long hair, and ordained priests. When the son, endeavoring to console his father, could not refrain from indignant invectives against the author of their misery, the pious king of the Salians calmly ordered both of them to be slain, as they had “dared to rebel against the will of the Most High!” There remained still the family of the Cambray princes, consisting of three brothers, viz., Ragnachar, Richar, and Rignomer. The pretext in their case was that they still continued Pagans. Clovis bribed some of the chiefs of the tribe with spurious gold; they fell unawares upon Ragnachar and Richar, bound them, and delivered them into the hands of their “loving cousin.” Addressing the hapless Ragnachar, that monstrous villain exclaimed, “How dare you bring disgrace upon our noble family, by submitting to the indignity of bonds!” and, with a blow of his battle-axe, he spared the wretched captive the trouble of a reply; then turning to the brother of the butchered man, “Hadst thou defended thy brother,” he cried, “they could not have bound him;” and an instant after, the blood and brains of the brothers had mingled their kindred streams on the weapon of the most Christian king. When the wretches who had betrayed their princes into the hands, of the assassin, came to complain that the price of their treachery had been paid in base coin, he told them, traitors deserved no better reward, and bade them be gone, lest he should feel tempted to avenge upon them the blood of his murdered relations.
Rignomer was disposed of by private assassination, and Clovis might now exclaim: “At last I am king of the Franks.” The worthy bishop of Tours, the chronicler of this, and some of the following reigns of the Merovingians, whilst coolly relating these horrid crimes of his hero, piously informs us that success in all his undertakings was vouchsafed to Clovis by the Most High, and that his enemies were delivered up into his hands, because he walked with a sincere heart in the ways of the Lord, and did that which was right in his sight!! What a pity that this godly monarch was not permitted to walk a little longer in the ways of the Lord: an additional score or so of murders would surely have achieved canonisation for him. But the most orthodox and most Christian king was suddenly called away from the scene of his glorious exploits; at the very time when he was revolving mighty schemes of further aggrandisement, and planning, as preliminary step, the assassination of Gundobald, the king of Burgundy, and of Theudes, the regent of Spain, (511). His four sons divided his kingdom between them; Theodoric, (Thierry) the eldest, received the Eastern part, Austrasia, (Francia orientalis), and also part of Champagne, and the conquests of Clovis south of the Loire; he established the seat of his government at Metz; Clodomir’s seat was at Orleans; Clotaire’s at Soissons; Childebert’s at Paris; the share of the latter was called Neustria or Neustrasia (Francia occidentalis), a name which was afterwards used to designate the whole of the territories occupied by the Franks between the mouths of the Rhine and the Loire, the Meuse, and the sea.
It is not my intention to smear my pages with the blood and mire of the lives and acts of the Merovingian princes. We will content ourselves here with a brief glance at the principal events and incidents connected with the progress of the Frank empire during the two hundred years that intervene between the death of Clovis and the accession of Charles, afterwards surnamed Martel, as Mayor of the Palace.
In the year 523, the three sons of Clotilda, invited by their unforgiving mother, invaded Burgundy, and attacked the son and successor of Gundobald, Sigismond, whose conversion to the Catholic faith has gained him, in the lying annals penned by the clerical historians of the period, the name of a saint and a martyr, though he had imbrued his hands in the blood of his own son, an innocent youth whom he had basely sacrificed to the pride of his second wife! Sigismond lost a battle and fell soon after into the hands of the sons of Clotilda, who carried him to Orleans, and had him buried alive together with his wife and two of his children—an excellent proof that they had not degenerated. Sigismond’s brother, Gondemar, defeated the invaders in the battle of Vienna, where Clodomir fell. This gave Gondemar a few years’ respite, as the two brothers, Clotaire and Childebert, were busy sharing the inheritance of Clodomir. But, in 534, the brothers invaded Burgundy again; when Gondemar lost his crown and his liberty, and the fair Burgundian provinces became the patrimony of the Merovingian princes. In the year 530, Theodoric and Clotaire conquered and annexed the territories of the Thuringians, thus extending their dominion to the banks of the Unstrut. Rhætia and Provence also fell into the hands of the successors of Clovis. Theudobald, the grandson and second successor of Theodoric, or Thierry, died in 554; as he left no heir, Clotaire and Childebert shared his dominions between them; Childebert’s death, in 558, without male heirs, left Clotaire in sole and undisputed possession of the Frankish empire, which now extended from the Atlantic and the Pyrenees to the Unstrut. After having added to the list of his crimes the murder of his son Chramus, and also of the wife and the two daughters of the latter, King Clotaire died in 560. His kingdom was again divided between his four sons, Charibert, Guntram, Sigebert, and Chilperic; the eldest of the brothers, Charibert, died in 567. As he left no heir, his territories were divided between the three surviving brothers. But Chilperic was dissatisfied with his share, and this led to a series of civil wars, which terminated only in 613, when Clotaire II., the son of Chilperic and Fredegonda, re-united in his hands the entire empire of the Franks.
It would be difficult to crowd a greater number of more appalling and atrocious crimes, within the short space of half a century, than were committed by the Merovingians, from the time of the death of Charibert up to the re-union of the empire under Clotaire II.; the names of Chilperic, of Fredegonda, of Brunehilda, of Theuderic, and last, though not least, of the monster Clotaire (second of the name) deserve, indeed, prominent places in the great criminal calendar of the world’s history.
Still we must not omit to state that the lays of ancient Germany, and the old Chronicles of the country, exhibit singular agreement in the reproduction of the popular tradition which makes the nation of the Franks come from Troy. However, after all, this makes no great difference, as even the most strenuous believers in the existence of a distinct nation of Franks, fully admit that as early as the third century (the time when the name of the Franks first appears in history) that name included several Germanic nations. By some the Thuringians are given as a branch of the Frank nation.
Some, however, derive the name from the Old German word saljan, i.e. to grant, in reference to part of the territory occupied by the Salian Franks having been granted to them by the Romans (by Carausius, in 287, confirmed at a later period by Julian the Apostate). Leo derives the name from the Celtic word, Sal, i.e. the sea.
Valerian was taken prisoner by Sapor, King of Persia, in 260, who is said to have treated the fallen emperor with the greatest indignity. Valerian died in captivity.
He was one of the nineteen usurpers who rose against Gallienus in the several provinces of the empire. The writers of the Augustan history have magnified the number to thirty.
History names Pharamond as the first King of the Franks; the author of the Gesta Francorum makes that prince the son of Marcomir, the king mentioned in the text; and there appears to be little doubt indeed, but that the Franks had established the right of hereditary succession somewhat before the time of Clodion, the reputed son of Pharamond.
The fashion of long hair was among the Franks for a time, the somewhat exclusive privilege of the royal family; the members of which wore their locks hanging down in flowing ringlets on their back and shoulders; while the rest of the nation were obliged to shave the hind part of the head, and to comb the hair over the forehead.
Elevation on a buckler was the ceremony by which the Franks invested their chosen leader with military command.
According to some historians and geographers, Duisburg, on the right bank of the Rhine.
Most historians make Meroveus, the younger of the two sons of Clodion; and, after his father’s death, they send him to Rome to implore the protection of Ætius. Now, it is next to impossible that the beardless youth, whom Priscus states to have seen at Rome (about 449 or 450), could have been Meroveus, since the son of that prince, Childeric, was within ten years after exiled by the Franks on account of his excesses and his despotic sway. The young man whom Priscus saw was most probably Childeric, who may have been sent to Rome by his father, Meroveus, to renew the alliance which Clodion had made with Ætius.
The kingdom of the Burgundians, which had been established in 407 (see page 93), was divided, in 470, among the four sons of king Gonderic; Hilperic, or Chilperic, the father of Clotilda, fixed his residence at Geneva; Gundobald at Lyons; Godegesil at Besançon, and Godemar at Vienne (in Dauphiné). A war broke out between the brothers, in which Gundobald conquered and took prisoner Hilperic and Godemar; the latter committed suicide; the former was put to death by his inhuman brother Gundobald, and his wife and his two sons shared his fate; his two daughters were spared, and one of them, Clotilda, was brought up at the court of Lyons; and, as chance would have it, in the Catholic faith, though Gundobald himself, like most of the Christian princes of the time, professed the Arian doctrine, Gundobald would gladly have refused Clovis the hand of his niece, had he dared to brave the anger of the powerful Frankish chief. Clotilda, on her part, was overjoyed at the prospect of an alliance with a King, whose ambition might be turned to good account for the pursuit of her own vengeful projects against the murderer of her father; with a pagan, whose conversion to the Nicean creed would gain her beloved Catholic church a formidable champion against the hated Arian heretics. Gundobald had scarcely parted with his niece, and her father’s treasures, when the pious princess displayed her Christian spirit, by ordering her Frankish escort to burn down the Burgundian villages through which they were passing, and when she saw the flames rising, and heard the despairing cries of the unfortunates who were thus being deprived of their homes, she lifted up her voice, and praised the God of Athanasius—the holy Chlotildis!
The Alemanni were also, like the Franks, a league of several Germanic nations, among whom the Teneteri, the Usipetes, and most probably a portion of the Suevi, were the most important. The favorite etymology of the name, Allemanni or All-Men, as meant to denote at once the various lineage, and the common bravery of the component members of the league, is a little fanciful perhaps, yet not more so, or rather not quite so much so, as some other etymologies of the name indulged in by the learned.
The invocation as given by Gregory of Tours, is rather naïve. Jesu Christe, quem Chlotildis prædicat esse filium Dei vivi, qui dare auxilium laborantibus, victoriamque in te sperantibus tribuere diceris, tuæ opis gloriam devotus efflagito: ut si mihi victoriam super hos hostes indulseris, et expertus fuero illam virtutem, quam de te populus tuo nomine dicatus probasse se prædicat, credam tibi et in nomine tuo baptizer. Invocavi enim deos meos, sed ut experior, elongati sunt ab auxilio meo: unde credo eos nullius potestatis, qui tibi obedientibus non succurrunt. A pretty plain hint: no victory, no belief, no baptism!
Theodoric had lately married Albofleda (Audofleda, or Andefleda), the sister of Clovis.
Lex Gudebalda—“La loy Gombette.”—Drawn up by Aredius.
Alaric was married to Theodoric’s daughter Theudogotha, or Theodichusa.
Prosternabat enim quotidie Deus hostes ejus sub manu ipsius, et augebat regnum ejus, eo quod ambularet recto corde coram eo, et faceret, quæ placita erant in oculis ejus. Gregor. Hist. lib. II., cap. 40.
Austrasia comprised the old Salian possessions in Belgium, and the territories of the Ripuarians and the Alemanni.
Clodomir had left three sons, who were brought up by their grandmother, Clotilda. The two brothers having got possession of two of their nephews, calmly resolved to kill them. Clotaire sheathed his dagger in the breast of one of them, the other embraced the knees of his uncle Childebert, and besought him to spare his life. The tears of the innocent child moved even the harsh Childebert to pity; he entreated his brother to spare him; but that monster remained deaf to all prayers, and threatened even to make Childebert share the fate of the helpless boy, should he continue any longer to withhold him from his murderous hands: Childebert thereupon pushed back the poor innocent, and Clotaire’s dagger speedily sent him to rejoin his brother (532). The third of the children of Clodomir was, indeed, saved from his uncle’s clutches; but he deemed it necessary afterwards to embrace the ecclesiastical profession, in order to secure his safety.
Fredegonda was first Chilperic’s concubine, subsequently, after the murder of Galsuintha, his wife. After a career of blood and crime, of which history affords but few parallels, she died in 579, at the height of prosperity and power, tranquilly in her bed, properly shriven, of course, and with a promise of paradise. Had the female monster been but a little more liberal to the Church, who knows but the Calendar of the Saints might contain an additional name.
Brunehilda was the daughter of Athanagild, King of Spain, and the wife of Sigebert, King of Austrasia. She was in every respect a worthy pendant to Fredegonda; but her final fate was very different from that of her more fortunate rival, whom she survived about sixteen years. In the year 613, she fell into the hands of Fredegonda’s son, Clotaire, who inflicted upon the aged woman the most horrible tortures, and had her finally tied, with one arm and one leg, to the tail of a wild horse, and thus dragged along over a stony road until death took mercy upon her. And all these people professed the religion of Christ, and were surrounded by numbers of most pious bishops! but then, the Church has always been indulgent to those who could and would remember her with rich endowments. Moreover, many of the bishops of that period were themselves such monstrous villains that little or no remonstrance could be expected from them against any royal crime, however so atrocious.—To give one instance out of many: a bishop of Clermont, wishing to compel a priest of his diocese to cede to him a small estate held by the latter, and which he refused to part with, had the unfortunate man shut up in a coffin, with a decaying corpse, and the coffin placed in the vault of the church!
Theuderic, or Thierry, was the younger son of Sigebert’s son Childebert; he murdered his elder brother, Theudebert, and the infant son of the latter, Meroveus (612). He died a year after, and two of his own boys, Sigebert and Corbus, met the same fate at the hands of Clotaire.
DECLINE OF THE MEROVINGIAN PRINCES.—THE MAYORS OF THE PALACE.—PEPIN OF LANDEN.—PEPIN OF HERISTAL.—CHARLES MARTEL.—THE BATTLE OF TOURS.
When the Roman empire had ceased to exist, the Frankish kings had, in imitation of the Roman rulers, begun to surround themselves with a court, and a great many high officers, and charges had been created, among the most important of which may be mentioned the office of Lord High Chancellor (archicancellarius, referendarius); Lord High Chamberlain, or High Treasurer (thesaurarius, camerarius); Master of the royal stables (marescalchus); Lord Justice (comes palatii); Steward of the royal household (senescalchus); and more particularly that of Mayor of the palace (præfectus palatii, or major-domus, or comes domûs regiæ). The functions of the latter officer had originally been confined to the general superintendence of the palace, and the administration of the royal domains; but had speedily been extended also to the command of the household troops. In the course of the domestic wars between the Merovingian princes, the mayors of the palace had gradually acquired a power and influence second only to that of the king; so that, after the assassination of Sigebert, in 575, Gogo, the then mayor of the palace of Austrasia, had actually been named regent during the minority of Sigebert’s son, Childebert. So powerful indeed had these domestic officers grown, that Clotaire II. was positively forced to bind himself by oath to Warnachar, the mayor of the palace of Burgundy, to leave him for his life in undisturbed possession of his office; he was obliged also to acknowledge the learned and valiant Arnulf, the Austrasian, mayor of the palace, and subsequently—when that officer embraced the ecclesiastical profession, and became Bishop of Metz—the energetic Pepin of Landen, as his representative with sovereign powers in Austrasia. Even when Clotaire had ceded the kingdom of Austrasia to his son Dagobert (622), Pepin continued to exercise almost unlimited sway in that part of the Frankish empire. After Clotaire’s death, in 623, Dagobert succeeded also to the Neustrian kingdom; and in 631, after his brother Charibert’s death, who had held some of the south-western provinces, he became sole king of France. He died in 638; he was a compound of sensuality and indolence; still his character and life were not stained with the horrible crimes perpetrated by his predecessors, and more particularly by his own father; he was the last of the descendants of Clovis, who exhibited even the faintest spark of that fierce and energetic spirit which made the founder of the Frank monarchy, however so abhorrent as a man, yet respectable, and even great, as a king. Dagobert built and richly endowed the Church of St. Denys, which gained him the surname “The Great,” from a grateful clergy; but history has refused to register the ill-deserved epithet. Pepin of Landen died a year after his king (689). His son, Grimoald, deemed the power of his family already so firmly established, that, taking advantage of the tender age of Dagobert’s sons, Sigebert (second of the name in the list of the Merovingian kings), and Clovis (II.), he attempted to deprive them of their father’s succession, and to place his own son (Childebert) on the throne; both father and son paid with their lives the failure of the ambitious plan. But the overthrow of Grimoald led simply to a change of persons; the power of the mayors of the palace remained undiminished, and from this time forward, the Merovingian kings were mere ciphers. “They ascended the throne without power, and sunk into the grave without a name.” (Gibbon.) Sigebert died in 650; his brother Clovis six years after. One of the sons of the latter, Clotaire (III.), succeeded to the Neustrian, another, Childeric (II.), to the Austrasian part of the empire. After Clotaire’s death, in 670, the third brother, Theodoric, or Thierry (III.), was for a short time king of Neustria; but he was speedily dispossessed by his brother Childeric (or to speak more correctly, his mayor of the palace was compelled to give way to Childeric’s mayor of the palace). Childeric was murdered in 673; when Thierry was reinstated in Neustria, Austrasia being given to Dagobert (II.), a son of Sigebert II., but who had hitherto been kept out of his inheritance.
After the death of Dagobert in 678, the Austrasians refused to submit to Thierry, the King of Neustria and Burgundy, or rather to his haughty mayor of the palace, Ebroin. Pepin d’Heristal, the grandson of Pepin of Landen, and his cousin, Martin, were at the head of the insurgent Austrasian nobility. Martin fell into the hands of Ebroin, and was killed. Ebroin himself was soon after assassinated, (682). His successor, Giselmar, defeated Pepin at Namur, but the Austrasian notwithstanding maintained his position. The Neustrian nobility, discontented with the rule of Giselmar’s successor, Berthar or Berchar, ultimately called Pepin to their aid.
Berthar, and his puppet, Thierry, were defeated by the Austrasian ruler in the famous battle of Testry, near Peronne and St. Quentin, in 687. Berthar was slain as he fled from the field of battle: and although the name of king was left to Thierry, he was compelled to acknowledge Pepin as sole, perpetual, and hereditary Mayor of the Palace, in the three kingdoms of Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy, under the style and title of Duke and Prince of the Franks, (Dux et Princeps Francorum). Pepin was now, to all intents and purposes, the actual ruler of the Frankish empire—king in all but the name. The nominal sovereigns had, henceforth, a residence assigned them, which they dared not even quit without the sanction of their master; nay, even the paltry consolation of the pomp and glitter of royalty was not vouchsafed them—except once a year in the month of March, when the royal puppet was conducted in state in the old Frankish fashion, in a waggon drawn by two oxen, to the great annual assembly of the nation; to give audience to foreign ambassadors, or to receive plaints and petitions—and to place his organ of speech, for a time, at the disposal of the Mayor of the Palace, and give utterance to the replies or decisions of the real ruler of France. The assembly over, the “King” was reconducted to his residence or prison, where a feeble retinue and a strong guard insulted the fallen majesty of the house of Clovis. It would even appear, that the civil list assigned to the “King,” was only a precarious grant, and that the nominal master of three kingdoms, was often left without the means of defraying the expenses of his humble household. The epithet of the “do-nothing kings,” (les rois fainéans) has been felicitously applied to the last princes of the Merovingian line. Besides Thierry III, (✠621), three of them lived in the reign of Pepin of Heristal, viz: Clovis III, (✠695); Childebert III, (✠711); and Dagobert III., all of them minors.
Pepin was an able and energetic ruler; he restored in some measure the respect of the law. Liberal rewards secured him the allegiance of the nobility; munificent endowments to churches and monasteries, and the aid and encouragement which he gave to the Christian missionaries, who were endeavoring to convert the heathen Germans, gained him the favor and support of the clergy: his good sword put down the discontented; and last, though certainly not least, he deserved the grateful affection of the people by alleviating their burthens, and by protecting them, in some measure, against the despotic oppression of the nobility. The expulsion of some Christian missionaries from Friesland, gave Pepin a pretext for endeavoring to subject the Frisons to the Frankish sway. He invaded Friesland in 689, and defeated the Frison duke, or prince, Radbodus, at Dorestadt, or Dorsted; in consequence of which defeat, the latter was compelled to cede West Friesland to the Duke of the Franks; but all attempts to obtain the conversion of Radbodus to Christianity failed.
In 697, a new war broke out between the Duke of the Franks and the Prince of the Frisons, in which the latter is stated to have been again defeated, and compelled to acknowledge, by the payment of an annual tribute, the supremacy of the Franks. It is added, also, that he gave his daughter in marriage to Pepin’s son Grimoald.
Pepin of Heristal made also several expeditions, though, it would appear, with indifferent success only, against the Alemanni, the Thuringians, and the Bojoarii, or Bavarians, who had taken advantage of the internal dissensions and disorder of the Frankish empire, to shake off the yoke of their masters.
In the beginning of the year 714, Pepin fell seriously ill, at his estate Jopila, on the Meuse. He sent for his only surviving (legitimate) son, Grimoald, whom he had made (after the death of his friend Nordbert) major domûs in Neustria, and (after the death of Drogo, another of his sons) Duke of Burgundy and Champagne, and whom he intended to name his successor in the government of the entire monarchy. But on his way to his father, Grimoald was assassinated at Liège, in the church of St. Lambert, by a Frison; at the instigation, it would appear, of some discontented nobles. He left an illegitimate infant son, Theudoald, or Theudebaud. Pepin was unfortunately persuaded by his wife, the ambitious Plectrudis, who expected to wield the government during the minority of her little grandson, to name this infant his successor, instead of either of his own two illegitimate sons (Charles and Childebrand), and of whom the latter, more especially, possessed his father’s great qualities, and that amount of physical and intellectual vigor indispensable to keep together and to rule over an empire composed of such heterogeneous and antagonistic elements, as the Frankish. Soon after this fatal step, which, we may safely assume the love of his country and of his glory, would never have permitted the aged ruler to take, had not his faculties been greatly impaired at the time by long illness and by the bitter grief of his son’s death, Pepin of Heristal died on the 16th of December, 714.
He had scarcely departed life when Plectrudis, who dreaded the aspiring genius of Charles, had the latter seized, and confined in the city of Cologne. She now deemed herself in safe possession of the government; but she was soon awakened from her ambitious dream. The Neustrians were indignant that they should thus be handed over to the sway of a child and to the rule of a woman: they could bear infant-kings, indeed, but they refused to put up with an infant mayor of the palace. They, therefore, made Raganfried, a powerful Neustrian noble, their mayor of the palace, and prepared to resist by force of arms, any attempt which Plectrudis might make to compel their submission. The widow of Pepin showed indeed that, if she had had the ambition to seize the sceptre, she had also the spirit to wield, and the requisite energy to defend it. She collected a powerful army, and sent the puppet-King Dagobert (III.), and his infant minister Theudebaud, with it against, what she was pleased to call, the Neustrian rebels. But the fortune of war declared against her: the Austrasian forces were totally routed by Raganfried, and “King” Dagobert fell into the hands of the Neustrian mayor of the palace. The infant on whose tiny shoulders Pepin’s ill-judged partiality, or uxoriousness, had thrown the burthen of three kingdoms, died soon after this reverse (715). Radbodus took advantage of the position of affairs, to re-annex West Friesland to his dominions; and, in conjunction with the Saxons, invaded the Frankish territories from the north east, whilst the Merovingian princes of Aquitaine ravaged them in the south west; the Alemanni and the Bavarians threw off the Frankish yoke, and resumed their ancient independence. Matters were looking dark indeed for the house of the Pepins, and though Mistress Plectrudis most gallantly braved the storm, her utmost efforts could have availed but little against such a multitude of foes, had not Pepin’s son, Charles, meanwhile found his way out of the prison to which the ambition of his father’s widow had confined him.
Charles, who was destined afterwards to play so important a part in history, was, at this time, about 25 years of age (he was born in 690). Nature had been most bountiful to him: tall even among the tall nation of the Franks, of a most commanding figure, and of a compact and beautifully symmetrical frame, he might be said to present in his physical conformation a compound of Hercules and Antinöus; his features were regular and expressive, and the lightning glance of his large blue eyes reflected, as in a mirror, the energy of his mind and the vigor of his intellect. He possessed enormous bodily strength combined with surprising agility. The remembrance of his great father, and his own manly beauty and grace, gained him the hearts of the Austrasians; and he soon found himself at the head of a formidable body of troops, with which he proceeded first to attack the Frisons, but with rather indifferent success, it would appear, as, we find Radbodus and his Frisons soon after laying siege to Cologne, in conjunction with the Neustrians under Raganfried. Plectrudis, however, purchased the retreat of the besieging forces; and the Frisons and Neustrians having separated again, Charles fell upon the latter at Ambleva. But, although he exhibited all the qualities of a great general, and that the fearful execution which his heavy sword did in the hostile ranks struck terror into the foe, and made ever after his war-cry “Here Charles and his sword,” ring as the prelude of inevitable defeat on the affrighted ears of his enemies: yet the superiority of numbers was too great on the side of Raganfried, and the battle terminated at last rather in favor of the Neustrians than otherwise (716). Soon after his capture by the Neustrians, Dagobert had passed from his royal prison to the grave (715), and another unlucky scion of the race of Pharamond, the Monk Daniel, had been dragged from the repose of his cloistral cell, to figure, as Chilperic II., in the line of the “titular” kings of France. Charles would have acquiesced in the arrangement, had not Raganfried steadily refused to acknowledge him as Duke of Austrasia; he determined, therefore, to appeal once more to the decision of arms. A fierce and sanguinary battle was fought between the Austrasians and the Neustrians, at Vincy, between Arras and Cambray (21st of March, 717): and this time, Charles’ valor and generalship were rewarded with a brilliant and decisive victory, which made him master of the country up to Paris. But, wisely declining to pursue his conquests in this quarter, and to court perhaps the chance of a defeat far away from his resources, he led his victorious army swiftly back to the Rhine, and compelled Plectrudis to give up to him the city of Cologne, and his paternal treasures; which latter he turned to excellent account in increasing the number and efficiency of his forces. Plectrudis took refuge in Bavaria.
Though the Merovingian princes had lost all real power in the state, yet there still attached to the name of the family a prestige in the eyes of the nation, which rendered the continued existence of “Kings” chosen from among the descendants of Clovis, a matter of political necessity. Charles wisely resolved therefore, to put himself in this respect on equal terms with Raganfried; and he accordingly invested with the insignia of a sham royalty another scion of the long-haired line, yclept Clotaire, fourth of that name. An expedition against the Saxons, to chastise them for their predatory incursions into the Frankish territories, was eminently successful, and the son of Pepin displayed his victorious banner on the Weser (718); but receiving information that Raganfried had made an alliance against him with the valiant Eudes, Duke of Aquitaine (of Merovingian descent), and dreading lest the united power of the two might prove too strong for him, he resolved to attack the former before a junction of the allied forces could be effected, and accordingly led his army with his accustomed celerity from the banks of the Weser to the banks of the Seine. After totally routing Raganfried at Soissons (719), he compelled Paris to surrender. The wretched Chilperic sought refuge with his ally, Eudes. Charles marched on to the Loire, and was preparing to carry his arms into Aquitaine, when the death of Clotaire led to an arrangement with Chilperic, who, acknowledging Charles as major domûs in the three kingdoms, was permitted to continue in the enjoyment of his fictitious royalty. In the same year still (719), Charles was delivered by death from another of his opponents, Radbodus, the brave duke of the Frisons. He promptly took advantage of this event to re-annex West Friesland to the Frankish dependencies, and to induct Bishop Willibrod into his see of Utrecht, from which Radbodus had kept him excluded.
In the year 720, Chilperic was gathered to his fathers; Charles replaced him by a child of the Merovingian race, taken from the monastery of Lala (Thierry IV.) In 721 Charles crossed the Rhine at the head of a powerful army, to subject the Alemanni, the Bavarians, and the Thuringians again to the Frankish sway. As he saw in the conversion of these stubborn nations to Christianity one of the most efficient means to secure their allegiance in future, he had himself attended by Winifried, and other missionaries, who, now that they were supported by the arms of the Frankish chief, were brilliantly successful in their missionary labors, in some of the very places among others, where they had on former occasions been treated with derision and contumely, or whence they had been forcibly expelled.
In 722, Charles drove the Saxons from the Hassian (Hessian) district which they had invaded; but when he followed them into their own country, with the intention of subjecting them altogether to his sway, he experienced such determined resistance that he wisely resolved to leave them alone. In 725, he compelled the Suabians and Alemanni, and their duke, Lantfried, to acknowledge his sovereignty.
Since 553, after the extinction of the Gothic kingdom of Italy, the Agilolfingian dukes of Bavaria “enjoyed” the “protection” of the Frankish kings; although, whenever the dissensions among the members of that amiable family, or the contentions among the mayors of the palace, afforded a fitting opportunity, the Bavarians invariably took occasion to “thank” them for their protection, and to decline further favors. But the persuasive force of Pepin of Heristal, and of his son Charles, fully succeeded in the end in restoring the amicable relations between the two nations, to the old footing. Duke Theodo II., a most pious prince, who greatly favored and furthered the extension of Christianity in his dominions, committed the capital blunder so common at the time (and so natural withal)—to divide his dominions between his three sons, Theodoald (Theudebaud), Theudebert, and Grimoald. Theudebaud had married Pilitrudis, the fair daughter of Plectrudis; he died in 716, and his brother Grimoald deemed it no harm to marry the beautiful widow of the departed; but Saint Corbinian happened to think very differently; and his zealous exhortations, and the fearful picture which he drew of the pains and penalties that awaited him who should have committed, what the holy man was pleased to call, “incest,” frightened poor Duke Grimoald into giving his consent to a divorce from his dearly beloved wife. Mistress Pilitrudis, however, was by no means pleased with the pusillanimous conduct of her second husband; and the exile of the meddlesome ecclesiastic speedily showed him, that a woman offended may prove more than a match even for a priest and a saint. Theudebert also died (724), leaving behind a son, named Hugibert, and a daughter, named Guntrudis, and who was married to Liutprand, King of the Lombards. After his second brother’s death, Grimoald seized upon his dominions to the prejudice of his nephew. Hugibert, finding all his remonstrances disregarded, claimed the intercession of the Duke of the Franks, in his capacity as Protector of Bavaria. Charles accepted the offer of mediator between the contending parties; and called upon Grimoald to deliver up to Hugibert the provinces which he was unjustly withholding from him. Grimoald refusing, Charles entered Bavaria at the head of his army, and the Bavarian duke was defeated and slain in the first battle (725). Hugibert now succeeded to the government of all Bavaria, with the exception, however, of a large slice of the Northern provinces, which he ceded to Charles in reward of his services. The unfortunate Pilitrudis was despoiled by the “magnanimous” victor of all she possessed, except a mule, or donkey, to carry her to Pavia to her relations. A new irruption of the Saxons, called Charles again to the Weser; he defeated and drove back the invaders (729). Whilst he was thus occupied on the Saxon frontier, the Suabians and Alemanni took advantage of his absence, to throw off once more the yoke of the Franks. Charles confounded them, however, by the rapidity of his movements; he appeared on the Mein before they were well aware that he had left the banks of the Weser. The battle which ensued, terminated in the total defeat of the “rebels;” Duke Lantfried was slain, and the humbled nation submitted to the rule of the conqueror (730).
We are now approaching the most important and most interesting period in the life and career of Charles, viz., his encounter with the Saracens; we will, therefore, resume here the thread of the history of the Moslem invasion, broken off at page 88, where we left the Saracen general, El Zama, laying siege to Thoulouse. A branch of the Merovingian family, descended from Clotaire’s (II.) younger son Charibert (631), had established the independent duchy of Aquitaine in the south of France. At the time of the Arab invasion, Eudes (Eudo, or Odo), an able and energetic prince, was Duke of Aquitaine. This prince, seeing his capital threatened by the Moslems, collected a numerous army of Gascons, Goths, and Franks, and marched bravely to the rescue. He attacked the Arabs under the walls of Thoulouse, and succeeded in inflicting on them a most disastrous defeat (721). El Zama fell in the battle, and the discomfited Moslems were saved from total destruction only by the prudence and valor of Abdalrahman Ben Abdallah (Abderrahman, or Abderame), a veteran officer, whom they had elected by acclamation in the place of their late general.
The Khalif, however, did not ratify the choice of the army, but named Anbesa to the government of Spain. The new governor advanced again into Aquitaine in 725; he took Carcassone by storm, and penetrated as far as Burgundy; but the valiant Eudes succeeded ultimately in driving him back, and also in defeating several subsequent attempts of the Arabs to gain possession of Aquitaine.
In the year 730, the Khalif Hesham, yielding to the wishes of the people and the army of Spain, restored Abdalrahman to the government of that part of the Arab dominions. That daring and ambitious commander proposed to subject to his sway, not only Aquitaine, but the entire Frank empire; and collected a formidable host to carry his resolve into execution. But, at the very threshold of his enterprise, he met with an obstacle which, though he indeed triumphantly overcame it, yet cannot be denied to have exercised a powerful adverse influence upon its final issue. This was the rebellion of Othman, or Munuza, a Moorish chief, who, as governor of Cerdagne, held the most important passes of the Pyrenees. The fortune of war had placed the beauteous daughter of Eudes in the hands of Munuza; and the political Duke of Aquitaine, justly appreciating the advantages of an alliance with the man who might be said to hold the keys of his house, had willingly consented to accept the African misbeliever for his son-in-law. The skill, rapidity, and decision, of Abdalrahman’s movements undoubtedly disconcerted the strategic combinations of the two allies, and Munuza was overcome and slain, ere Eudes could hasten to his assistance; the head of the rebel, and the daughter of the Duke of Aquitaine, were sent to Damascus. But much precious time was consumed, and a great number of combatants were lost, in this unexpected prelude to the invasion of France. However, immediately after the overthrow of Munuza, Abdalrahman advanced rapidly to the Rhone, crossed that river, and laid siege to Arles; Eudes attempted to relieve the beleaguered city, but his army was totally routed, and Arles fell into the hands of the invaders (731). Abdalrahman speedily conquered the greater part of Aquitaine, and advanced to Bordeaux. The intrepid Eudes met him once more, at the head of a numerous army; but neither the valor and skill of the Christian leader nor the bravery of his troops could save them from a most disastrous defeat. Bordeaux fell, and the Saracens overran the fairest provinces of France (732). Charles, who would most probably have remained deaf to the most urgent entreaties of Eudes, whom he regarded in the light of a rival, comprehended the necessity of a speedy and vigorous action, from the moment that he saw his own dominions threatened. He, therefore, rapidly collected his faithful Austrasians and the auxiliary contingents of the Alemanni, the Thuringians, and the Bavarians; and ordered the Neustrian and Burgundian nobles to join him with their followers; and although many of the Burgundian nobles hung back, yet a most powerful host of the nations of Germany and Gaul gathered under the banner of the Christian leader, who was joined also by Eudes and the remains of the Aquitanian army. In the centre of France, between Tours and Poitiers, the Franks and the Moslems met, in the month of October, 732. Six days were spent in desultory warfare, and many a gallant heart had ceased to beat, ere as the red sun of the seventh day rose, the day on which it was to be decided whether mosque or cathedral should prevail in Europe. The battle raged fiercely from noon till eventide; the fiery sons of the South fought with tenfold their accustomed valor, and Abdalrahman emulated the glory of Kaled “the Sword of God.” The Germans stood firm as rocks, and fought as heroes; and the heavy battle-axe of Charles, wielded with irresistible strength, spread death and dismay in the Arabian ranks; the mighty strokes which the Christian hero dealt with that formidable weapon, gained him the epithet of Martel, the Hammer. Eudes, burning with the resentment of former defeats, strove to rival the prowess of his ally. Still, for many hours, the balance hung equipoised. The life-blood of thousands of Christians and thousands of Moslems, that had ere just raced so fiercely through its channels, mingled in sluggish streams on the ground. Evening set in, and still the contest raged with unabated fury; the Orientals had, indeed, repeatedly been forced to give way to the superior weight and strength of the Germans but their heroic chief had as often rallied them and led them on again to death and glory. At length, a German spear struck him to death: his fall decided the fate of the battle; the Saracens, disheartened by the loss of their great commander, retired to their camp. There was no leader left among them of sufficient renown and authority to replace the fallen hero; despairing of their ability to renew the fight next day with the slightest chance of success, they resolved upon a hasty retreat; and taking with them the richest and most portable portion of their spoil, they abandoned their camp in the middle of the night.
Next morning, when Charles was marshalling forth his troops to renew the contest, his spies both surprised and rejoiced him with the welcome intelligence that the enemy were in full retreat to the south. The victory gained was decisive and final: the torrent of Arabian conquest was rolled back; and Europe was rescued from the threatened yoke of the Saracens. But the losses of the Christians also had been very great, and Charles wisely declined incurring with his sadly diminished forces, the possible mischances of a pursuit.
Leaving to Eudes the task of reconquering his own land from the flying foe, Charles proceeded now to call the Burgundian nobles to account for their hesitation and lukewarmness in his cause. To secure their future allegiance, he placed officers of his into the Burgundian cities and castles; to little purpose, however, it would appear, as their presence did not prevent the discontented Burgundian nobles, a few years after, from calling in the Saracens, and actually delivering the city of Avignon into the hands of Jussuf Ben Abdalrahman, the Arabian governor of Narbonne (735).
In 734, Charles defeated Poppo, the Duke of the Frisons, and regained the western part of Friesland. In 735, Duke Eudes died, and as his two sons, Hunold and Hatto, quarrelled about the succession, Charles proffered his “armed mediation,” and settled the dispute finally by naming Hunold Duke of Aquitaine, after having exacted and obtained from that prince an oath of allegiance, not to the nominal king of the Franks, but to himself personally, and to his two sons of his first marriage, Carloman and Pepin. In 736, Charles had to repel another invasion of the Saxons, which prevented him from proceeding to Burgundy against the disaffected nobles and their allies, the Arabs; he sent, however, his brother Childebrand. In 737, he came himself; he speedily reduced Avignon, and expelled the Arabs from the Burgundian territory; the nobility and clergy, who had treasonably conspired against him with the enemy, or had acted in a hostile manner to him, he deprived of their possessions, bishoprics, &c., which he bestowed upon his friends and followers. In 738 he advanced into Septimania, and laid siege to Narbonne. He totally defeated Omar Ben Kaled, the Arabian general, who was marching to the relief of the beleaguered city; but the governor of Narbonne defended the place so valiantly and successfully, that the Franks were compelled to raise the siege. However, though Septimania remained in the hands of the Arabs till 755, when Pepin, the son of Charles Martel, recovered it, an effectual and final check had been put to their further advance into France.
In 737, King Thierry died; but so firmly was the power of Charles Martel established now, that he could safely neglect to name a successor to the dead “monarch;” nay, in 741, he actually proceeded before a general assembly of the nobility and the army, to divide his dominions between his two sons of his first marriage (with Rotrudis), bestowing Austrasia, with Suabia and Thuringia, upon the elder, Carloman; Neustria, Burgundy, and Provence, upon the younger, Pepin. His son Grypho, whom Suanehilda had borne him, he excluded at first from all participation in his succession; subsequently he assigned him also a portion, which, after his death, led to the oppression and imprisonment of the youth by his elder brothers. In the same year (741) Charles was, on his return from a kind of pilgrimage to St. Denys, seized with a violent fever, of which he died at Carisiacum, or Quiercy, on the Oise, on the 22nd October.
Pepin of Landen was the son of Carloman, a Frank noble of Brabant. Pepin’s daughter, Begga, was married to Arnulf’s son, Ansgesil; from this marriage sprang Pepin d’Heristal, the father of Charles Martel.
However, two natural sons of Charibert founded, after the death of the latter, the semi-independent duchy of Aquitaine, in a more restricted sense, with the capital, Thoulouse.
Mamaccæ (Mommarques) on the Oise between Compiègne and Noyon.
Pepin of Heristal restored the annual national assembly of the Franks, which had fallen in desuetude since the days of Ebroin; when the younger Pepin, the son of Charles Martel, finally added the name of King to the exercise of the royal power which he wielded, he changed the month of meeting from March to May; the Campus Martius became accordingly a Campus Majus.
Nam et opes et potentia regni penes palatii præfectos, qui Majores Domûs dicebantur, et ad quos summa imperii pertinebat, tenebantur; neque regi aliud relinquebatur quam ut regis tantum nomine contentus, speciem dominantis effingeret, legatos audiret, eisque abeuntibus responsa, quæ erat edoctus vel etiam jussus, ex sua velut potestate redderet; cum præter inutile regis nomen et præcarium vitæ stipendium, quod ei præfectus aulæ, prout videbatur, exhibebat, nihil aliud proprium possideret.—Einhardi, (Eginhart,) Vita Caroli Magni; Pertz, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica, Tomus II., p. 444.
At one time, it would appear, the Frison prince was on the point of consenting to his baptism; he had already placed one foot in the baptismal font, when it occurred to him to ask the officiating bishop (Wolfram, of Sens), “where his ancestors were gone to?” “To Hell,” was the unhesitating reply of the bigoted priest; whereupon the honest heathen exclaimed: “Then I will rather be damned with them than saved without them,” and withdrew his foot.
Perhaps in some measure in consequence of the consecration of the missionary Willibrod, as bishop of Utrecht (696)?
Of the race of the Bojoarian Agilolfingians.
Alpais, or Alpheida, was the mother of these two sons.
Raganfried had most likely perished on his flight.
Better known as Boniface, the Apostle of the Germans. He was sent by Charles to Rome to obtain the episcopal ordination, that he might be able to act with greater ecclesiastical authority in the newly converted districts; on the 30th November, 723, Pope Gregory II. (715-731) ordained him bishop, after he had given in his “profession of faith,” which was approved of by Gregory as strictly orthodox. The pope furnished him then with letters and credentials to Christian princes and ecclesiastics, and to the heathen princes and nations of Germany, and also with faithful copies of the ordinances, creed, ritual, and regulations of the Romish Church; and the Christian missionary was thus converted into the Popish legate. By his base monkish truckling to the authority of Rome this narrow-minded zealot, who sought in idle formalities and ceremonies the spirit of the word of Christ, which he was totally unable to conceive and comprehend, turned the new Christian church in Germany into a dependence of the Papal see, and thus prepared ages of bloodshed and misery for that devoted country. He carried his “submissiveness” to Rome so far that he actually asked instructions in that quarter as to whether, on which part of the body, and with which finger he might, or was to, make the sign of the cross during the delivery of his sermons. No wonder, indeed, his “mission” succeeded only when backed by the sword. He was murdered by the Frisons, in 755. Apart from his narrow-minded bigotry, he was an estimable man, full of honest and disinterested zeal.
The ingenuity displayed by man in the invention of specious terms to disguise the plain and simple fact of the domination of one being or nation over another, is truly marvellous.
What a blessing a Primate like St. Corbinian would have been to that tender-conscienced casuist, Henry VIII. of England.
Of course, under Frankish protection.
Or as the dower of Suanehilda, Theudebaud’s daughter of a former marriage, whom Charles espoused on this occasion.
The idle and incredibly extravagant tale told by Paul Warnefried and Anastasius of 350,000 or 375,000 Arabs slain in this battle, to 1500 Christians, has been faithfully copied by most historians. One should think a moment’s reflection would suffice to show the absolute impossibility of these numbers. Where on earth was a governor of Spain, a recent conquest of the Saracens, to find the 450,000 men (for 100,000 are stated to have escaped) to lead into France; and where was he to find, in a thinly populated region, such as that country was in the time of Charles Martel, the means of subsistence for such a host? His chief of the commissariat must have been a rare genius indeed. And as to the number of fifteen hundred Christians slain, this looks very much like the “one man killed and four men slightly wounded,” to “one thousand of the enemy slain,” of some of our modern bulletins. Striking off a nought from the number of the Saracens, and adding one to that of the Christians may bring us somewhat nearer the truth.
Charles Martel was not over-nice, it would appear, in the bestowal of ecclesiastical preferments and estates; it mattered very little indeed to him whether the recipient was a priest or a layman, or even whether he could read and write. He also laid his impious hands repeatedly upon the revenues of the church, and applied them to the necessities of the state, or to pay his soldiers. No wonder then that a sainted bishop of the times, Eucherius, of Orleans, should have been indulged with a pleasant vision of the body and soul of the wicked prince burning in the deepest abyss of hell—rather scurvy treatment, though, on the part of a Christian clergy, of a prince who, whatever might be his foibles as a man, and his vices as a king—(and it must be admitted, he had a goodly share of them)—had yet the merit of being the saviour of Christendom. (A synod held at Quiercy, in 858, had the calm impudence to communicate this interesting and flattering statement, accompanied by some others of the same stamp, to Lewis, King of Germany, grandson of Charlemagne!)#ENGLISH