CHAP. and often renewed by single combats and flying skir


mishes, might be protracted without any decisive event to the continuance of several days. The periods of the battle of Cadesia were distinguished by their peculiar appellations. The first, from the well-timed appearance of six thousand of the Syrian brethren, was denominated the day of succour. The day of concussion might express the disorder of one, or perhaps of both, of the contending armies. The third, a nocturnal tumult, received the whimsical name of the night of barking, from the discordant clamours, which were compared to the inarticulate sounds of the fiercest animals. The morning of the succeeding day determined the fate of Persia; and a seasonable whirlwind drove a cloud of dust against the faces of the unbelievers. The clangor of arms was re-echoed to the tent of Rustam, who, far unlike the ancient hero of his name, was gently reclining in a cool and tranquil shade, amidst the baggage of his camp, and the train of mules that were laden with gold and silver. On the sound of danger he started from his couch; but his flight was overtaken by a valiant Arab, who caught him by the foot, struck off his head, hoisted it on a lance, and instantly returning to the field of battle, carried slaughter and dismay among the thickest ranks of the Persians. The Saracens confess a loss of seven thousand five hundred men; and the battle of Cadesia is justly described by the epithets of obstinate and atrocious." The standard of the monarchy was overthrown and captured in the field—a leathern apron of a blacksmith, who, in ancient times, had arisen the deliverer of Persia; but this badge of heroic poverty was disguised, and almost concealed, by a profusion of precious gems." After

* Atrox, contumax, plus semel renovatum, are the well-chosen expressions of the translator of Abulfeda (Reiske, p. 69). * D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale, p. 297.348.

this victory, the wealthy province of Irak, or Assyria, cop.

submitted to the caliph, and his conquests were firmly established by the speedy foundation of Bassora," a place which ever commands the trade and navigation of the Persians. At the distance of fourscore miles from the Gulf, the Euphrates and Tigris unite in a broad and direct current, which is aptly styled the river of the Arabs. In the midway, between the junction and the mouth of these famous streams, the new settlement was planted on the western bank: the first colony was composed of eight hundred Moslems; but the influence of the situation soon reared a flourishing and populous capital. The air, though excessively hot, is pure and healthy: the meadows are filled with palm-trees and cattle; and one of the adjacent valleys has been celebrated among the four

paradises or gardens of Asia. Under the first caliphs, Foundation

the jurisdiction of this Arabian colony extended over the southern provinces of Persia: the city has been sanctified by the tombs of the companions and martyrs; and the vessels of Europe still frequent the port of Bassora, as a convenient station and passage of the Indian trade.



After the defeat of Cadesia, a country intersected i. by rivers and canals might have opposed an insuper- jo,

able barrier to the victorious cavalry; and the walls of Ctesiphon or Madayn, which had resisted the battering rams of the Romans, would not have yielded to the darts of the Saracens. But the flying Persians were overcome by the belief, that the last day of their religion and empire was at hand: the strongest posts were abandoned by treachery or cowardice; and the

* The reader may satisfy himself on the subject of Bassora, by consulting the following writers: Geograph. Nubiens. p. 121. D'Herbelot, Bibliothéque Orientale, p. 192. D'Anville, L'Euphrate et le Tigre, p. 130. 133. 145. Raynal, Hist. Philosophique des deux Indes, tom. ii. p. 92-—100. Voyages di Pietro della Valle, tom. iv. p. 370–391. De Tavernier, tom. i. p. 240–247. De Thevenot, tom. ii. p. 545–584. D'Otter, tom. ii. p. 45–78. De Niebuhr, tom. ii. p. 172–199.


cop. king, with a part of his family and treasures, escaped * to Holwan at the foot of the Median hills. In the

third month after the battle, Said, the lieutenant of Omar, passed the Tigris without opposition; the capital was taken by assault; and the disorderly resistance of the people gave a keener edge to the sabres of the Moslems, who shouted with religious transport, “This is the white palace of Chosroes; this is the promise of the apostle of God!” The naked robbers of the desert were suddenly enriched beyond the measure of their hope or knowledge. Each chamber revealed a new treasure secreted with art, or ostentatiously displayed; the gold and silver, the various wardrobes and precious furniture, surpassed (says Abulfeda) the estimate of fancy or numbers; and another historian defines the untold and almost infinite mass, by the fabulous computation of three thousands of thousands of thousands of pieces of gold.” Some minute though curious facts represent the eontrast of riches and ignorance. From the remote islands of the Indian Ocean, a large provision of camphire” had been imported, which is employed with a mixture of wax to illuminate the palaces of the East. Strangers to the name and properties of that odoriferous gum, the Saracens, mistaking it for salt, mingled the camphire in their bread, and were astonished at the bitterness of the taste. One of the apartments of the palace was decorated with a carpet of silk, sixty cubits in length, and as many in breadth: a paradise or garden was depictured on the ground; the flowers, c

* Mente vix potest numerove comprehendi quanta spolia . . . . nostris cesserint. Abulfeda, p. 69. Yet I still suspect, that the extravagant numbers of Elmacin may be the error, not of the text, but of the version. The best translators from the Greek, for instance, I find to be very poor arithmeticians.

y The camphire tree grows in China and Japan; but many hundred weight of those meaner sorts are exchanged for a single pound of the more precious gum of Borneo and Sumatra (Raynal, Hist. Philosoph. tom. i. p. 362—365. Dictionnaire d’Hist. Naturelle par Bomare. Miller's Gardener's Dictionary). These may be the islands of the first climate from whence the Arabians imported their camphire (Geograph. Nub. p. 34, 35. D'Herbelot, p. 232).

fruits, and shrubs, were imitated by the figures of the gold embroidery, and the colours of the precious stones; and the ample square was encircled by a variegated and verdant border. The Arabian general persuaded his soldiers to relinquish their claim, in the reasonable hope, that the eyes of the caliph would be delighted with the splendid workmanship of nature and industry. Regardless of the merit of art, and the pomp of royalty, the rigid Omar divided the prize among his brethren of Medina: the picture was destroyed; but such was the intrinsic value of the materials, that the share of Ali alone was sold for twenty thousand drams. A mule that carried away the tiara and cuirass, the belt and bracelets of Chosroes, was overtaken by the pursuers; the gorgeous trophy was presented to the commander of the faithful; and the gravest of the companions condescended to smile when they beheld the white beard, the hairy arms, and uncouth figure of the veteran, who was invested with the spoils of the Great King.” The sack of Ctesiphon was followed by its desertion and gradual decay.

[ocr errors]

The Saracens disliked the air and situation of the Foundation

place, and Omar was advised by his general to remove the seat of government to the western side of the Euphrates. In every age the foundation and ruin of the Assyrian cities has been easy and rapid: the country is destitute of stone and timber; and the most solid structures" are composed of bricks baked in the sun, and joined by a cement of the native bitumen. The name of Cufa" describes a habitation

* See Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 376, 377. I may credit the fact, without believing the prophecy.

* The most considerable ruins of Assyria are the tower of Belus, at Babylon, and the hall of Chosroes, at Ctesiphon: they have been visited by that vain and curious traveller Pietro della Valle (tom. i. p. 713–718. 731–735).

* Consult the article of Coufah in the Bibliothéque of D'Herbelot (p. 277, 278), and the second volume of Ockley's History, particularly p. 40 and 153.

[ocr errors]

CHAP. of reeds and earth; but the importance of the new


Conquest of

capital was supported by the numbers, wealth, and spirit, of a colony of veterans; and their licentiousness was indulged by the wisest caliphs, who were apprehensive of provoking the revolt of a hundred thousand swords: “Ye men of Cufa,” said Ali, who solicited their aid, “you have been always conspicuous by your valour. You conquered the Persian king, and scattered his forces, till you had taken possession of his inheritance.” This mighty conquest was achieved by the battles of Jalula and Nehavend. After the loss of the former, Yezdegerd fled from Holwan, and concealed his shame and despair in the mountains of Farsistan, from whence Cyrus had descended with his equal and valiant companions. The courage of the nation survived that of the monarch: among the hills to the south of Ecbatana or Hamadan, one hundred and fifty thousand Persians made a third and final stand for their religion and country; and the decisive battle of Nehavend was styled by the Arabs the victory of victories. If it be true that the flying general of the Persians was stopt and overtaken in a crowd of mules and camels laden with honey, the incident, however slight or singular, will denote the luxurious impediments of an oriental army.*

The geography of Persia is darkly delineated by

ersia, - - Aoi the Greeks and Latins; but the most illustrious of

her cities appear to be more ancient than the invasion of the Arabs. By the reduction of Hamadan and Ispahan, of Caswin, Tauris, and Rei, they gradually approached the shores of the Caspian Sea; and the orators of Mecca might applaud the success and spirit of the faithful, who had already lost sight of the northern bear, and had almost transcended the bounds

• See the article of Nehavend, in D'Herbelot, p. 667, 668; and Voyages en Turquie et en Perse, par Otter, tom. i. p. 101.

« ForrigeFortsett »