Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

uople.1 They were animated by a genuine or fictitious saying of the prophet, that, to the first army whicn besieged the city of the Caesars, their sins were forgiven: the long series of Roman triumphs would be meritoriously transferred to the conquerors of New Rome; and the wealth of nations was deposited in this well chosen seat of royalty and commerce. No sooner had the caliph Moawiyah suppressed his rivals and established his throne, than he aspired to expiate the guilt of '-ivil blood, by the success and glory of this holy expedition;' bis preparations by sea and land were adequate to the importance of the object; his standard was intrusted to Sophian, a veteran warrior, but the troops were encouraged by the example and presence of Yezid, the son and presumptive heir of the commander of the faithful. The Greeks had little to hope, nor had their enemies any reason of fear, from the courage and vigilance of the reigning emperor, who disgraced the name of Constantine, and imitated only the inglorious years of his grandfather Heraclius. Without delay or opposition, the naval forces of the Saracens passed through the unguarded channel of the Hellespont, which even now, under the feeble and disorderly government of the Turks, is maintained as the natural bulwark of the capital.3 The Arabian fleet cast anchor, and the troops were disembarked near the palace of Hebdomon, seven miles from the city. During many days, from the dawn of light to the evening, the line of assault

1 Theophanes places the seven years of the siege of Constantinople in the year of our Christian tera, 673 (of the Alexandrian 665, Sept. 1,) and the peace of the Saracens, four years afterwards; a glaring inconsistency! which Petavius, Goar, and Pagi, (Critica, torn. iv. p 68, 64,) have struggled to remove. Of the Arabians, the Hegira 52 (A. D. 672, January 8) is assigned by Elmacin, the year 48 (A. D. 688, Feb. 2U) by Abulfeda, whose testimony I esteem the most convenient and credible.

2 For this first siege of Constantinople, see Nicephorus, (Breviar. p 21, 22 ;) Theophanes, (Chronograph, p. 294;) Cedrenus, (Compend. p 487;) Zonaras, (Hist. torn. ii. 1. xiv. p. 89;) Elmacin, (Hist. Saracen

B56, 57;) Abulfeda, (Annal. Moslem, p. 107, 108, vers. Reiske:) 'Herbelot, (Bibliot. Orient. Constantinah;) Ockley's History of the Saracens, vol. ii. p. 127, 128.

1 The state and defence of the Dardanelles is exposed in the Me moirs of the Baron de Tott, (torn. iii. p. 39—97,) who was sent t > for tify them against the Russians. From a principal actor, I should ha/e •xpected more accurate details; but he seems to write for the amuse ment, rather than the instruction, of his reader. Perhaps, on the approach of the enemy, the minister of Constantine was occupied, like that of Mustapha, in finding two Canary birds who should sinyr «re tisely the same note.

was extended from the golder gate to the eastern promontory and the foremost warriors w.re impelled by the weight and effort of the succeeding columns. But the besiegers had formed an insufficient estimate of the strength and resources of Constantinople. The solid and lofty walls were guarded by numbers and discipline: the spirit of the Romans was rekindled by the last danger of their religion and empire: the fugitives from the conquered provinces more successfully renewed the defence of Damascus and Alexandria; and the Saracens were dismayed by the strange and prodigious effects of artificial fire. This firm and effectual resistance diverted their amis to the more easy attempt of plundering the European and Asiatic coasts of the Propontis; and, after keeping the sea from the month of April to that of September, on the approach of winter they retreated fourscore miles from the capital, to the Isle of Cyzicus, in which they had established their magazine of spoil and provisions. So patient was their perseverance, or so languid were their operations, that they repeated in the six following summers the same attack and retreat, with a gradual abatement of hope and vigor, till the mischances of shipwreck and disease, of the sword and'of fire, compelled them to relinquish the fruitless enterprise. They might bewail the loss, or commemorate the martyrdom, of thirty thousand Moslems, who fell in the siege of Constantinople; and the solemn funeral of Abu Ayub, or Job, excited the curiosity of the Christians themselves. That venerable Arab, one of the last of the companions of Mahomet, was numbered among the ansars, or auxiliaries, of Medina, who sheltered the head of the flying prophet, in his youth he fought, at Beder and Ohud, under the holy standard: in his mature age he was the friend and follower of Ali; and the last remnant of his strength and life was consumed in a distant and dangerous war against the enemies of the Koran. His memory was revered; but the place of his burial was neglected and unknown, during a period of seven hundred and eighty years, till the conquest of Constantinople by Mahomet the Second. A seasonable vision (for such are the manufacture of every religion) revealed the holy spot at the foot of the walls and the bottom of the harbor; and the mosch of Ayub has been deservedly chosen for the simple and martial inauguration of the Turkish •ultans.*

* Demetrius Cantemir's Hist, of the Othman Empire, p. 106. 10€ VOL. V. —10

The event of the siege revived, both in the East and Wesi, the reputation of the Roman arms, and cast a momentary shade over the glories of the Saracens. The Greek ambassador was favorably received at Damascus, s a genera! council of the emirs or Koreish: a peace, or truce, of thirty yeais was ratified between the two empires; and the stipulation of an annual tribute, fifty horses of a noble breed, fifty slaves, and three thousand pieces of gold, degraded the majesty of the commander of the faithful.6 The aged caliph was desirous of possessing his dominions, and ending his days in tranquillity and repose: while the Moors and Indians trembled at his name, his palace and city of Damascus was insulted by the Mardaites, or Maronites, of Mount Libanus, the firmest barrier of the empire, till they were disarmed and transplanted by the suspicious policy of the Greeks." After the revolt of Arabia and Persia, the house of Ommiyah was reduced to the kingdoms of Syria and Egypt: their distress and fear enforced their compliance with the pressing demands of the Christians; and the tribute was increased to a slave, a horse, and a thousand pieces of gold, fur each of the three hundred and sixty-five days'of the solar year. But as soon as the empire was again united by the arms and policy of Abdalmalek, he disclaimed a badge of servitude not less injurious to his conscLnve than to his pride; he discontinued the payment of the tribute; and the resentment of the Greeks was disabled from action by the mad tyranny of the second

Rycaut's State of the Ottoman Empire, p. 10, 11. Voyages if Theveaot, part i. p. 189. The Christians, who suppose that the martyr Abu Ayub is vulgarly confounded with the patriarcli Job, betray their own ignorance rather than that of the Turks.

6 Theophanes, though a Greek, deserves credit for these tributes, (Chronograph, p. 295, 296, 300, 301.) which are confirmed, with some variation, by the Arabic History of Abulpharagius, (Dynast, p. 128, vers. Pocock.)

* The censure of Theophanes is just and pointed r/> 'P(.j/«nvijK favaoTzia* dxpLOTriptiiaac iravStiva Kuku TrCKitidsf h 'Paiwni/in vno roil

'Apa/Sui/ /iE^P' r»9 viv, (Chronograph, p. 302, 303.) The series of these events maybe traced in the Annals of Theophanes. and in the Abridg meat of the patriarch Nicephorus, p. 22, 24.

1 These domestic revolutions are related in a clear and natural style, in the second volume of Ockley's History of the Saracens, p 253—370. Besides our printed authors, he draws his materials fron the Arabic MSS. of Oxford, which lie would have more deeply searched had he been confined to the Bodleian library instead of the cit> jail a fate how unworthy of the man and of his country!

Justinian, the just rebellion of his subjects, and the frequent change of his antagonists and successors. Till the reign of Abdalmalek, the Saracens had been content with the freo possession of the Persian and Roman treasures, in the coins of Chosroes and Caesar By the command of that caliph, a national mint was established, both for silver and gold, and the inscription of the Dinar, though it might be censured by *ome timorous casuists, proclaimed the unity of the God of Mahomet.' Under the reign of the caliph Walid, the Greek language and characters were excluded from the accounts of the public revenue.* If this change was productive of the

8 Elmacin who dates the first coinage A. H. 76, A. D. 695, five or six years later than the Greek histo- ians, has compared the weight of the best or common gold dinar to the drachm or dirhem of Egypt, (p 77,) which may be equal to two pennies (48 grains) of our Troy weight, (Hooper's Inquiry into Ancient Measures, p. 24—156,) and equivalent to eight shillings of our sterling money. From the same Elmacin and the Arabian physicians, some dinars as high as two dirhems, as low as half a dirhem, may be deduced. The piece of silver was the dirhem, both in value and weight; but an old. though fair coin, struck at Waset, A. H. 88, and preserved in the Bodleian library, wants four grains of the Cairo standard, (see the Modern Universal History, torn. i. p. 548 of the French translation.)*

Kdf d\X A.i>n0it)if avra Trapa^riuaivtaOai ^aioi? riav ipfiiptov, tnti&h 'ifi'r varov, Tv tKtlvutv y\(oaar) fiova&a, 1? (h'iMii, 3) rpiafia, 5) dxrto ft/iiav 5) 17)111 ■ypatpsaQai. Theophan. Chronograph, p. 314. This defect, if it really existed, must have stimulated the ingenuity of the Arabs to invent or horrow.

* Up to this time the Arabs had used the Roman or the Persian coins or had minted others which resembled them. Novertlr-less, it has been admitted of late years, that the Arabians, before this epoch, had caused coin to be minted, on which, preserving the Roman or the Persian dies, they added Arabian names or inscriptions. Some of these exist in difTeron. collections. We learn from Makrizi, an Arabian author of great learning Bnd judgment, that in the year 18 of the Hegira. under the caliphate 01 Omar, the Arabs had coined money of this description. The same authoi informs us that the caliph Abdalmalek caused coins to be struck representing himself with a sword by his side. These types, so contrary to the notions of the Arabs, were disapproved by the most influential persons of the time, and the caliph substituted for them, after the year 76 of the Hegira, the Mahometan coins with which we are acquainted. Consult, on the question of Arabic numismatics, the works of Adler, of Fraehn, of Castiglione, and of Marsdeti, who have treated at length this interesting point of historic antiquities. See, also, in the Journal Asiatique, torn. ii. p. 257, et seq: 1 paper of M. Silvestre de Sacy, entitled Des Monnaies des Khalifes avanl I'An 75 de l'Hegire. See, also the translation of a German paper on the Arabic medals of the Chos.-oes, by M. Fraehn. in the same Journal Asiavi'jao tons iv. p. 331- -Ml St. Martiii. vol. xu p 7 9 -M,

invention or familiar use of our present numerals, the Arabic or Indian ciphers, as they are commonly styled, a regulation of office has promoted the most important discoveries of arithmetic, algebra, and the mathematical sciences.10

Whilst the caliph Walid sat idle on the throne of Dama» cus, whilst his lieutenants achieved the conquest of Transoxiana and Spain, a third army of Saracens overspread the provinces of Asia Minor, and approached the borders of the Byzantine capital. But the attempt and disgrace of the second siege was reserved for his brother Soliman, whose ambition appears to have been quickened by a more active and martial spirit. In the revolutions of the Greek empire, after the tyrant Justinian had been punished and avenged, an humble secretary, Anastasius or Artemius, was promoted by chance or merit to the vacant purple. He was alarmed by the sound of war; and his ambassador returned from Damascus with the tremendous news, that the Saracens were preparing an armament by sea and land, such as would transcend the experience of the past, or the belief of the present age. The precautions of Anastasius were not unworthy of his 6tation, or of the impending danger. He issued a peremptory mandate, that all persons who were not provided with the means of subsistence for a three years' siege should evacuate the city: the public granaries and arsenals were abundantly replenished; the walls were restored and strengthened; and the engines for casting stones, or darts, or fire, were stationed along the ramparts, or in the brigantines of war, of which an additional number was hastily constructed. To prevent is safer, as well as more honorable, than to repel, an attack; and a design was m'editated, above the usual spirit of the Greeks, of burning the naval stores of the enemy, the cypress timber that had been hewn in Mount Libanus, and was piled aloi.g the sea-shore of Phoenicia, for the service of

10 According to a new, though probable, notion, maintained by M de Villoison, (Anecdota Grseca, torn. ii. p. 152—157,) our ciphers »re not of Indian or Arabic invention. They were used by the Greek and Latin arithmeticians long before the age of Boethius. After the extinction of science in the West, they were adopted by the Arabic versions from the original MSS., and restored to the Latins kbout the xith century.*

* Compare, on the Introduction of the Arabic numerals, Hullam ■ Introduction to the Literature of Europe, p. 150, note arvl the wuthorw footed therein.—M

« ForrigeFortsett »