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MOHAMMEDAN ART: THE MOSQUE OF OMAR, OR DOME OF THE ROCK (KUBBET ES SAKKRA)
JERUSALEM ; END OF THE 7TH CENTURY A.D.
forward to condemn the literature and judgment of nations of whose language I am ignorant. Yet I know that the classics have much to teach and I believe that the Orientals have much to learn ; the temperate dignity of style, the graceful proportions of art, the forms of visible and intellectual beauty, the just delineation of character and passion, the rhetoric of narrative and argument, the regular fabric of epic and dramatic poetry. The influence of truth and reason is of a less ambiguous complexion. The philosophers of Athens and Rome enjoyed the blessings, and asserted the rights, of civil and religious freedom. Their moral and political writings might have gradually unlocked the fetters of Eastern despotism, diffused a liberal spirit of enquiry and toleration, and encouraged the Arabian sages to suspect that their caliph was a tyrant and their prophet an impostor.83 The instinct of superstition was alarmed by the introduction even of the abstract sciences; and the more rigid doctors of the law condemn the rash and pernicious curiosity of Almamon.s To the thirst of martyrdom, the vision of paradise, and the belief of predestination, we must ascribe the invincible enthusiasm of the prince and people. And the sword of the Saracens became less formidable, when their youth was drawn away from the camp to the college, when the armies of the faithful presumed to read and to reflect. Yet the foolish vanity of the Greeks was jealous of their studies, and reluctantly imparted the sacred fire to the barbarians of the East.86 In the bloody conflict of the Ommiades and Abbassides, the Wars of
Harun al Greeks had stolen the opportunity of avenging their wrongs and Rashid
against the Romans.
A.D. 781-806 I have perused with much pleasure Sir William Jones's Latin Commentary
(806] on Asiatic Poetry (London, 1774, in octavo), which was composed in the youth of that wonderful linguist. At present, in the maturity of his taste and judgment, he would perhaps abate of the fervent, and even partial, praise which he has bestowed op the Orientals.
83 Among the Arabian philosophers, Averroes has been accused of despising the religion of the Jews, the Christians, and the Mahometans (see his article in Bayle's Dictionary). Each of these sects would agree that in two instances out of three his contempt was reasonable.
** D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale, p. 546. [Abd Allāh al-Mamún (813-833 1.0.).]
88 Θεόφιλος άτοπον κρίνας εί την των όντων γνώσιν, δι' ήν το Ρωμαίων γένος θαυμά(97a1, fredotov roihoet tois' cover, &c.; Cedrenus, p. 548 (ii. p. 169, ed. Bonn), who reIstes how manfully the emperor refused a mathematician to the instances and offers of the caliph Almamon. This absurd scruple is expressed almost in the same words by the continuator of Theophanes (Scriptores post Theophanem, p. 118 (p. 190, ed. Boan]). [The continuation of Theophanes is the source of Scylitzes, who was transcribed by Cedrenus.]
enlarging their limits. But a severe retribution was exacted by Mohadi, the third caliph of the new dynasty, who seized in his turn the favourable opportunity, while a woman and a child, Irene and Constantine, were seated on the Byzantine throne. An army of ninety-five thousand Persians and Arabs was sent from the Tigris to the Thracian Bosphorus, under the command of Harun, 87 or Aaron, the second son of the commander of the faithful. His encampment on the opposite heights of Chrysopolis, or Scutari, informed Irene, in her palace of Constantinople, of the loss of her troops and provinces. With the consent or connivance of their sovereign, her ministers subscribed an ignominious peace ; and the exchange of some royal gifts could not disguise the annual tribute of seventy thousand dinars of gold, which was imposed on the Roman empire. The Saracens had too rashly advanced into the midst of a distant and hostile land; their retreat was solicited by the promise of faithful guides and plentiful markets; and not a Greek had courage to whisper that their weary forces might be surrounded and destroyed in their neces
sary passage between a slippery mountain and the river San(A.D. 786] garius. Five years after this expedition, Harun ascended the
throne of his father and his elder brother : 88 the most powerful and vigorous monarch of his race, illustrious in the West as the ally of Charlemagne, and familiar to the most childish readers as the perpetual hero of the Arabian tales. His title to the name of Al Rashid (the Just) is sullied by the extirpation of the generous, perhaps the innocent, Barmecides; yet he could listen to the complaint of a poor widow who had been pillaged by his troops, and who dared, in a passage of the Koran, to threaten the inattentive despot with the judgment of God and posterity. His court was adorned with luxury and science; but, in a reign of three-and-twenty years, Harun repeatedly visited his provinces from Chorasan to Egypt; nine times he performed the pilgrimage of Mecca; eight times he invaded the territories of the Romans; and, as often as they declined the payment of the tribute, they were taught to feel that a month of depredation
(A.D. 786 807)
86 (Al-Mahdi Mohammad ibn Mangūr, A.D. 775-785.)
87 See the reign and character of Harun al Rashid (Hārūn ar-Rashid, caliph 786-809 A.D.), in the Bibliothèque Orientale, p. 431-433, under his proper title ; and in the relative articles to which M. d'Herbelot refers. That learned collector has shewn much taste in stripping the Oriental chronicles of their instructive and am using anecdotes.
88 [Abū Mohammad Mūsā al-Hādi, A.D. 785-6.]
was more costly than a year of submission. But, when the la.D. 802] unnatural mother of Constantine was deposed and banished, her successor Nicephorus resolved to obliterate this badge of servitude and disgrace. The epistle of the emperor to the caliph was pointed with an allusion to the game of chess, which had already spread from Persia to Greece. “The queen (he spoke of Irene)
" considered you as a rook and herself as a pawn. That pusillanimous female submitted to pay a tribute, the double of which she onght to have exacted from the barbarians. Restore therefore the fruits of your injustice, or abide the determination of the sword.” At these words the ambassadors cast a bundle of swords before the foot of the throne. The caliph smiled at the menace, and drawing his scymetar, samsamah, a weapon of historic or fabulous renown,
,882 he cut asunder the feeble arms of the Greeks, without turning the edge or endangering the temper of his blade. He then dictated an epistle of tremendous brevity: “In the name of the most merciful God, Harun al Rashid, commander of the faithful, to Nicephorus, the Roman dog. I have read thy letter, O thou son of an unbelieving mother. Thou shalt not hear, thou shalt behold, my reply.” It was written in characters of blood and fire on the plains of Phrygia; and the warlike celerity of the Arabs could only be checked by the arts of deceit and the show of repentance. The triumphant caliph retired, after the fatigues of the campaign, to his favourite palace of Racca, on the Euphrates; 89 but the distance of five hundred miles, and the inclemency of the season, encouraged his adversary to violate the peace. Nicephorus was astonished by the bold and rapid march of the commander of the faithful, who repassed, in (A.D. 808] the depth of winter, the snows of mount Taurus : his stratagems of policy and war were exhausted; and the perfidious Greek escaped with three wounds from a field of battle overspread with forty thousand of his subjects. Yet the emperor was ashamed
Se (Samsāma, = "inflexible sword,” was particularly the name of the sword of the Arab hero Amr ibn Madi Kerib.]
** For the situation of Racca, the old Nicephorium, consult d'Anville (l'Euphrate et le Tigre, p. 24-27). The Arabian Nights represent Harun al Rashid as almost stationary in Bagdad. He respected the royal seat of the Abbassides, but the vices of the inhabitants had driven him from the city (Abulfed. Annal. p. 167). [" The extirpation of the Barmecides made such a bad impression in Bagdad, where the family was held in high respect, that Harun was probably induced thereby to transier his résidence to Rakka." Weil, op. cit., vol. ii. p. 144.]
» (According to Arabic authorities Hārūn himself invaded Asia Minor twice in A.D. 803. The first time he appeared before Heraclea and the promise of tribute