inactive in his shallow bed, till the mandate of the chAP. caliph was cast into the obedient stream, which rose * in a single night to the height of sixteen cubits. The admiration of the Arabs for their new conquest encouraged the licence of their romantic spirit. We may read, in the gravest authors, that Egypt was crowded with twenty thousand cities or villages:" that, exclusive of the Greeks and Arabs, the Copts alone were found, on the assessment, six millions of tributary subjects,” or twenty millions of either sex, and of every age: that three hundred millions of gold or silver were annually paid to the treasury of the caliph.” Our reason must be startled by these extravagant assertions; and they will become more palpable, if we assume the compass and measure the extent of habitable ground: a valley from the tropic to Memphis, seldom broader than twelve miles, and the triangle of the Delta, a flat surface of two thousand one hundred square leagues, compose a twelfth part of the magnitude of France." A more accurate research will justify a more reasonable estimate. The three hundred millions, created by the error of a scribe, are reduced to the decent revenue of four * Maillet, Description de l'Egypte, p. 22. He mentions this number as the common opinion; and adds, that the generality of these villages contain two or three thousand persons, and that many of them are more populous than our large cities. * Eutych. Annal. tom. ii. p. 308. 311. The twenty millions are computed from the following data: one-twelfth of mankind above sixty, one-third below sixteen, the proportion of men to women as seventeen to sixteen (Recherches sur la Population de la France, p. 71, 72). The president Goguet (Origine des Arts, &c. tom. iii. p. 26, &c.) bestows twenty-seven millions on ancient Egypt, because the seventeen hundred companions of Sesostris were born on the same day. * Elmacin, Hist. Saracen. p. 218; and this gross lump is swallowed without scruple by D'Herbelot (Bibliot. Orient. p. 1031), Arbuthnot (Tables of Ancient Coins, p. 262), and De Guignes (Hist, des Huns, tom. iii. p. 135). They might allege the not less extravagant liberality of Appian in favour of the Ptolemies (in praefat.) of seventy-four myriads, 740,000 talents, an annual income of 185, or near 300, millions of pounds sterling, according as we reckon by the Egyptian or the Alexandrian talent (Bernard de Ponderibus Antiq. p. 186). * See the measurement of D'Anville (Mem. sur l'Egypte, p. 23, &c.) After

some peevish cavils, M. Pauw (Recherches sur les Egyptiens, tom. i. p. 118– 121) can only enlarge his reckoning to 2250 square leagues.

[ocr errors]

millions three hundred thousand pieces of gold, of
which nine hundred thousand were consumed by the
pay of the soldiers." Two authentic lists, of the pre-
sent and of the twelfth century, are circumscribed
within the respectable number of two thousand seven
hundred villages and towns." After a long residence
at Cairo, a French consul has ventured to assign about
four millions of Mahometans, Christians, and Jews,
for the ample, though not incredible, scope of the
population of Egypt.”
IV. The conquest of Africa, from the Nile to the
Atlantic ocean," was first attempted by the arms of
the caliph Othman. The pious design was approved
by the companions of Mahomet and the chiefs of the
tribes; and twenty thousand Arabs marched from
Medina, with the gifts and the blessing of the com-


First inva-
sion by
A. D. 647.

• Renaudot, Hist. Patriarch. Alexand. p. 334, who calls the common reading or version of Elmacin, error librarii. His own emendation, of 4,300,000 pieces, in the ixth century, maintains a probable medium between the 3,000,000 which the Arabs acquired by the conquest of Egypt (idem, p. 168), and the 2,400,000 which the sultan of Constantinople levied in the last century (Pietro della Valle, tom. i. p. 352; Thevenot, part i. p. 824). Pauw (Recherches, tom. ii. p. 365 –373) gradually raises the revenue of the Pharaohs, the Ptolemies, and the Caesars, from six to fifteen millions of German crowns.

* The list of Schultens (Index Geograph. ad calcem Vit. Saladin. p. 5) contains 2396 places; that of D'Anville (Mem. sur l'Egypte, p. 29), from the divan of Cairo, enumerates 2696.

s See Maillet (Description de l'Egypte, p. 28), who seems to argue with candour and judgment. I am much better satisfied with the observations than with the reading of the French consul. He was ignorant of Greek and Latin literature, and his fancy is too much delighted with the fictions of the Arabs. Their best knowledge is collected by Abulfeda (Descript. Ægypt. Arab. et Lat. A Joh. David Michaelis, Gottingae, in 4to. 1776); and in two recent voyages into Egypt, we are amused by Savary, and instructed by Volney. I wish the latter could travel over the globe.

* My conquest of Africa is drawn from two French interpreters of Arabic literature, Cardonne (Hist. de l'Afrique et de l'Espagne sous la Domination des Arabes, tom. i. p. 8–55) and Otter (Hist. de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xxi. p. 111–125. and 136). They derive their principal information from Novairi, who composed, A. D. 1331, an Encyclopaedia in more than twenty volumes. The five general parts successively treat of, 1. Physics; 2. Man; 3. Animals; 4. Plants; and, 5. History; and the African affairs are discussed in the vith chapter of the vth section of this last part (Reiske, Prodidagmata ad Hagji Chalifa, Tabulas, p. 232–234). Among the older historians who are quoted by Novairi we may distinguish the original narrative of a soldier who led the van of the Moslems.

mander of the faithful. They were joined in the cłło.

camp of Memphis by twenty thousand of their countrymen; and the conduct of the war was intrusted to Abdallah, the son of Said and the foster-brother of the caliph, who had lately supplanted the conqueror and lieutenant of Egypt. Yet the favour of the prince, and the merit of his favourite, could not obliterate the guilt of his apostacy. The early conversion of Abdallah, and his skilful pen, had recommended him to the important office of transcribing the sheets of the Koran: he betrayed his trust, corrupted the text, derided the errors which he had made, and fled to Mecca to escape the justice, and

expose the ignorance, of the apostle. After the

conquest of Mecca, he fell prostrate at the feet of
Mahomet: his tears, and the entreaties of Othman,
extorted a reluctant pardon; but the prophet declared
that he had so long hesitated, to allow time for some
zealous disciple to avenge his injury in the blood of
the apostate. With apparent fidelity and effective
merit, he served the religion which it was no longer
his interest to desert: his birth and talents gave him
an honourable rank among the Koreish; and, in a
nation of cavalry, Abdallah was renowned as the
boldest and most dexterous horseman of Arabia. At
the head of forty thousand Moslems, he advanced
from Egypt into the unknown countries of the West.
The sands of Barca might be impervious to a Roman
legion; but the Arabs were attended by their faithful
camels; and the natives of the desert beheld without
terror the familiar aspect of the soil and climate.
After a painful march, they pitched their tents be-
fore the walls of Tripoli,' a maritime city in which
* See the history of Abdallah, in Abulfeda (Vit. Mohammed. p. 109), and
Gagnier (Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 45–48).
! The province and city of Tripoli are described by Leo Africanus (in Navi-

gatione et Viaggi di Ramusio, tom. i. Venetia, 1550, fol. 76. verso) and Marmol (Description de l'Afrique, tom. ii. p. 562). The first of these writers was a

CHAP, the name, the wealth, and the inhabitants, of the * province had gradually centered, and which now maintains the third rank among the states of Barbary. A reinforcement of Greeks was surprised and cut in pieces on the sea-shore; but the fortifications of Tripoli resisted the first assaults; and the Saracens were tempted by the approach of the praefect * Gregory" to relinquish the labours of the siege for †. the perils and the hopes of a decisive action. If his standard was followed by one hundred and twenty thousand men, the regular bands of the empire must have been lost in the naked and disorderly crowd of Africans and Moors, who formed the strength, or rather the numbers, of his host. He rejected with indignation the option of the Koran or the tribute; and during several days, the two armies were fiercely engaged from the dawn of light to the hour of noon, when their fatigue and the excessive heat compelled them to seek shelter and refreshment in their respective camps. The daughter of Gregory, a maid of incomparable beauty and spirit, is said to have fought by his side: from her earliest youth she was trained to mount on horseback, to draw the bow, and to wield the scimitar; and the richness of her arms and apparel was conspicuous in the foremost ranks of the battle. Her hand, with a hundred thousand pieces of gold, was offered for the head of the Arabian general, and the youths of Africa were excited by the prospect of the glorious prize. At the pressing

Moor, a scholar, and a traveller, who composed or translated his African geo-
graphy in a state of captivity at Rome, where he had assumed the name and re-
ligion of pope Leo X. In a similar captivity among the Moors, the Spaniard
Marmol, a soldier of Charles V., compiled his Description of Africa, translated
by D'Ablancourt into French (Paris, 1667, 3 vols. in 4to). Marmol had read and
seen, but he is destitute of the curious and extensive observation which abounds
in the original work of Leo the African.
* Theophanes, who mentions the defeat, rather than the death, of Gregory.
He brands the praefect with the name of Tugzwo; ; he had probably assumed the
purple (Chronograph. p. 285). - -

solicitation of his brethren, Abdallah withdrew his chAP. person from the field; but the Saracens were dis-, * couraged by the retreat of their leader, and the repetition of these equal or unsuccessful conflicts. A noble Arabian, who afterwards became the ad- . : versary of Ali, and the father of a caliph, had sig-" " nalized his valour in Egypt, and Zobeir' was the first who planted a scaling-ladder against the walls of Babylon. In the African war he was detached from the standard of Abdallah. On the news of the battle, Zobeir, with twelve companions, cut his way through the camp of the Greeks, and pressed forwards, without tasting either food or repose, to partake of the dangers of his brethren. He cast his eyes round the field: “Where,” said he, “is our general?” “In his tent.” “Is the tent a station for the general of the Moslems?” Abdallah represented with a blush the importance of his own life, and the temptation that was held forth by the Roman praefect. “Retort,” said Zobeir, “on the infidels their ungenerous attempt. Proclaim through the ranks, that the head of Gregory shall be repaid with his captive daughter, and the equal sum of one hundred thousand pieces of gold.” To the courage and discretion of Zobeir the lieutenant of the caliph intrusted the execution of his own stratagem, which inclined the long-disputed balance in favour of the Saracens. Supplying by activity and artifice the deficiency of numbers, a part of their forces lay concealed in their tents, while the remainder prolonged an irregular skirmish with the enemy, till the sun was high in the heavens. On both sides they retired with fainting steps: their horses were unbridled, their armour was laid aside,

See in Ockley (Hist. of the Saracens, vol. ii. p. 45), the death of Zobeir, which was honoured with the tears of Ali, against whom he had rebelled. His valour at the siege of Babylon, if indeed it be the same person, is mentioned by Eutychius (Annal. tom. ii. p. 308).

« ForrigeFortsett »