Think of that age's awful birth,

When Europe echoed, terror-riven,
That a new foot was on the earth,

And a new name come down from Heaven;
When over Calpe's straits and steeps

The Moor had bridged his royal road,
And Othman's sons from Asia's deeps

The conquests of the Cross o'erflowed.

Lord Houghton.

The victorious Saracens next crossed the Pyrenees and tried to subdue the Franks, by whom, under Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer), they were defeated in the battle of Tours (732) and driven back into Spain, thus saving the rest of Europe from the Mahometan rule.

At which time a dreadful plague of Saracens ravaged France with miserable slaughter; but they not long after in that country received the punishment due to their wickedness. — The Venerable Bede.

One of those signal deliverances [the battle of Tours] which have affected for centuries the happiness of mankind.—Arnold.

The arm of Charles Martel saved and delivered the Christian nations of the West from the deadly grasp of all-destroying Islam. — Schlegel.

The events that rescued our ancestors of Britain and our neighbors of Gaul from the civil and religious yoke of the Koran. — Gibbon.

One of the most important epochs in the history of the world, the commencement of the eighth century, when on the one side Mahometanism threatened to overspread Italy and Gaul, and on the other the ancient idolatry of Saxony and Friesland once more forced its way across the Rhine. In this peril of Christian institutions, a youthful prince of the Germanic race, Karl Martel, arose as their champion, maintained them with all the energy which the necessity for selfdefence calls forth, and finally extended them into new regions. — Ranke.

The victory of Charles Martel has immortalized his name, and may justly be reckoned among those few battles of which a contrary event would have essentially varied the drama of the world in all its subsequent stages. — Hallam.

Let me not for a moment depreciate the fame of so glorious an exploit. The first total defeat of the Saracen by the Christian in a great pitched battle was indeed an illustrious event; and it may be that Charles Martel saved Gaul from the fate of Spain. But let honor be given where honor is due; and honor is not fairly assigned when Charles is magnified as the one savior of Christendom, while Leo the Isaurian is forgotten. [See, on this point, below.] — Freeman.

Then Abderrahman [Saracen], seeing the land filled with the multitude of his army, pierces the mountains, marches over rough and level ground, plunders far into the land of the Franks, and smites all with the sword, insomuch that God alone knows the number of the slain. Then Abderrahman encounters the chief of the Austrasian Franks, Charles, and for nearly seven days they strive intensely, and at last they set themselves in battle array, and the nations of the North standing firm as a wall, and impenetrable as a zone of ice, utterly slay the Arabs with the edge of the sword. —Arabian Chroniclers.

The enduring importance of the battle of Tours in the eyes of the Moslems is attested by the fact that no more serious attempts at conquest beyond the Pyrenees were made by the Saracens. Charles Martel, and his son and grandson, were left at leisure to consolidate and extend their power. — Creasy.

The Saracens, who had attacked Constantinople in the preceding century (673), renewed the assault forty-three m „ Years later (716), but in Loth cases they were re

The Sara- » , , T , .

cens pulsed with heavy loss. In the second siege the Constanti- Emperor Leo the Isaurian defended the city with nople" great valor, and was the means of saving Chris-' tianity and European civilization from complete overthrow.

Leo the Isaurian and Charles Martel may be placed side by side as the two deliverers of Christendom at its two ends. [See also above.] — Freeman.

In the two sieges, the deliverance of Constantinople may be chiefly ascribed to the novelty, the terrors, and the real eflicacy of the Greek fire.1Gibbon.

In 755 the vast dominion controlled by the Saracens, which till then had been under one caliph at Damascus, became divided into the Ommiad Caliphate of caliphates Cordova, which lasted for about two hundred and °„jordova fifty years, and is famous for the brilliancy of its Basdadcivilization, and the Abbassidian Caliphate of Bagdad (762), which is also noted for its civilization and for its caliph Haroun-al-Easchid (766 ?- 809), who figures in the familiar tales of the " Arabian Nights." (For the Caliphate of Cordova, see also the Tenth Centuey.)

For a century at least, the representative of Mahomet ruled over a vaster continuous empire than the world has beheld before or since. . . . The recent empire of Spain, the actual empire of Britain, may surpass the caliphate in population and extent; but these are empires consisting of provinces scattered over distant portions of the globe. The present empire of Russia may exceed it in actual continuous extent, but only by balancing barbarous or uninhabited regions against fertile provinces and splendid cities. — Freeman.

There are not any names in the long line of khalifs, after the companions of Mahomet, more renowned in history than some of the earlier sovereigns who reigned in this capital: Almansor, Haroun Alraschid, and Almamim. Their splendid palaces, their numerous guards, their treasures of gold and silver, the populousness and wealth of their cities, formed a striking contrast to the rudeness and poverty of the Western nations in the same age. — Hallam.

Proportioned to the rapidity of the Arab conquests, was the speed with which the arts and sciences attained among them their highest bloom. At first we see the conquerors destroying everything connected with art and science. Omar is said to have caused the

1 A combustible compound, supposed to have been composed of asphalt, nitre, and sulphur, which burned under water, and was blown through copper tubes upon the object to be ignited.

destruction of the noble Alexandrian Library. "These books," said he, " either contain what is in the Koran, or something else; in either case they are superfluous." But soon afterwards the Arabs became zealous in promoting the arts and spreading them everywhere. Their empire reached the summit of its glory under the caliphs Al-Mansor and Haroun Al-Raschid. Large cities arose in all parts of the empire, where commerce and manufactures flourished, splendid palaces were built, and schools created. The learned men of the empire assembled at the caliph's court, which not merely shone outwardly with the pomp of the costliest jewels, furniture, and palaces, but was resplendent with the glory of poetry and all the sciences. — Hegel.

We must accompany the khaleefs to their magnificent capital on the Tigris, whence emanated all that has thrown such a halo of splendor around the genius and language of Arabia. It is in this seat of empire that we must look to meet with the origin of the marvels of Arabian literature. Transplanted to a rich and fertile soil, the sons of the desert speedily abandoned their former simple mode of life; and the court of Bagdad equalled or surpassed in magnificence anything that the East has ever witnessed. Genius, whatever its direction, was encouraged and rewarded, and the musician and the story-teller shared with the astronomer and historian the favor of the munificent khaleefs. — Keightley.

The cultivation of the Saracens was no less remarkable than their military prowess and religious conquests. The khalifs of Bagdad founded schools of mathematics, arithmetic, astronomy, medicine, surgery, and general learning; they assembled philosophers and learned men from all regions, — Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, and Jews; they established libraries; they endeavored to collect the scattered relics of ancient philosophy and learning; they pursued their researches through every school of science; and they seemed to emulate the traditional renown of the Alexandrian Museum and the Egyptian Ptolemies. — May.

The Arabians cannot claim, in science or philosophy, any really great names; they produced no men and no discoveries which have materially influenced the course and destinies of human knowledge; they tamely adopted the intellectual servitude of the nation which they conquered by their arms; they joined themselves at once to the string of slaves who were dragging the car of Aristotle and Plotinus. Nor, perhaps, on a little further reflection, shall we be surprised at this want of vigor and productive power, in this period of apparent national youth. The Arabians had not been duly prepared rightly to enjoy and use the treasures of which they became possessed. They had, like most uncivilized nations, been passionately fond of their indigenous poetry; their imagination had been awakened, but their rational powers and speculative tendencies were still torpid. They received the Greek philosophy without having passed through those gradations of ardent curiosity and keen research, of obscurity brightening into clearness, of doubt succeeded by the joy of discovery, by which the Greek mind had been enlarged and exercised. Nor had the Arabians ever enjoyed, as the Greeks had, the individual consciousness, the independent volition, the intellectual freedom, arising from the freedom of political institutions; ... in short, they had not had a national education, such as fitted the Greeks to be disciples of Plato and Hipparchus. Hence, their new literary wealth rather encumbered and enslaved, than enriched and strengthened them. — William Whewell.

And many a sheeny summer morn,
Adown the Tigris I was borne,
By Bagdad's shrines of fretted gold,
High-walled gardens green and old;
True Mussulman was I and sworn,
For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alrasehid.

Romantic Bagdad! name to childhood dear,
Awakening terror's thrill and pity's tear;
For there the sorcerer gloomed, the genii dwelt,
And Love and Worth to good Al Rashid knelt;
Prince of the Thousand Tales! whose glorious reign
So brightly shines in fancy's fair domain!
Whose noble deeds still Arab minstrels sing,
Who rivalled all but Gallia's knightly king.

N. Michell.

Such the gay splendor, the luxurious state,

Of caliphs old, who on the Tigris' shore,
In mighty Bagdat, populous and great,

Held their bright court, where was of ladies store;

And verse, love, music, still the garland wore.


« ForrigeFortsett »