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worthy or aged of the noble kinsmen are preferred to the CHAP. simple, though important, office of composing disputes by their advice, and guiding valour by their example. Even a female of sense and spirit has been perunitted to command the countrymen of Zenobia.31 The momentary junction of several tribes produces an army; their more lasting union constitutes a nation; and the supreme chief, the emir of emirs, whose banner is displayed at their head, may deserve, in the eyes of strangers, the honours of the kingly name. If the Arabian princes abuse their power, they are quickly punished by the desertion of their subjects, who had been accustomed to a mild and parental jurisdiction. Their spirit is free, their steps are unconfined, the desart is open, and the tribes and families are held together by a mutual and voluntary compact. The softer natives of Yemen supported the pomp and majesty of a monarch; but if he could not leave his palace without endangering his life,3* the active powers

government must have been devolved on his nobles and magistrates. The cities of Mecca and Medina present, in the heart of Asia, the form, or rather the substance, of a commonwealth. The grandfather of Mahomet, and his lineal ancestors, appear in foreign and domestic transactions as the princes of their country; but they reigned, like Pericles at Athens, or the Medici at Florence, by the opinion of their wisdom and integrity; their influence was divided with their patrimony; and the sceptre was transferred from the uncles of the prophet to a younger branch of the tribe of Koreish. On solemn occasions they convened the assembly of the people; and since mankind must be either compelled or persuaded to obey, the use and reputation of oratory among the ancient Arabs is the clearest evidence of public freedom.33 But their simple freedom



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31 Saraceni ... mulieres aiunt in eos regnare (Expositio totius Mundi, p. 3. in Hudson, toin. iii). The reign of Mavia is famous in ecclesiastical story. Pocock, Specimen, p. 69. 83.

23 Mn eelveli ex Twv Bavidelwy, is the report of Agatharades (de Mari Rubro, p. 63, 64. in Hudson, tom.i), Diodorus Siculus (tom. i. 1. iii.c. 47. p. 215), and Strabo (l. xvi. p. 1124). But I much suspect that this is one of the popular tales, or extraordinary accidents, which the credulity of travellers so often transforms into a fact, a custom, and a law.

33 Non gloriabantur antiquitus Arabes, nisi gladio, hospite, et eloquentia (Sephadius, apud Pocock, Specimen, p. 161, 162). This gift of speech they shared only with the Persians; and the sententious Arabs would probably have disdained the simple and sublime logic of Demosthenes.

CHAP. was of a very different cast from the nice and artificial maL.

chinery of the Greek and Roman republics, in which each member possessed an undivided share of the civil and political rights of the community. In the more simple state of the Arabs, the nation is free, because each of her sons disdains a base submission to the will of a master. His breast is fortified with the austere virtues of courage, patience, and sobriety; the love of independence prompts him to exercise the habits of self-command; and the fear of dishonour guards him from the meaner apprehension of pain, of danger, and of death. The gravity and firmness of the mind is conspicuous in his outward demeanor: his specch is slow, weighty, and concise, he is seldom provoked to laughter, his only gesture is that of stroking his beard, the venerable symbol of manhcod; and the sense of his own importance teaches him to accost his equals without levity, and his superiors without awe.34 The liberty of the Saracens survived their conquests: the first caliphs indulged the bold and familiar language of their subjects: they ascended the pulpit to per. suade and edify the congregation: nor was it before the seat of empire was removed to the Tigris, that the Abbassides adopted the proud and pompous ceremonial of the Persian

and Byzantine courts. Civil wars In the study of nations and men, we may observe the and pri

causes that render them hostile or friendly to each other, venge. that tend to narrow or enlarge, to mollify or exasperate, the

social character. The separation of the Arabs from the rest of mankind, has accustomed them to confound the ideas of stranger and enemy; and the poverty of the land has introduced a maxim of jurisprudence, which they believe and practise to the present hour. They pretend, that in the division of the earth the rich and fertile climates were assigned to the other branches of the human family; and that the posterity of the outlaw Ismael might recover, by fraud or force, the portion of inheritance of which he had been unjustly deprived. According to the remark of Pliny, the Arabian tribes are equally addicted to theft and merchandise; the caravans that traverse the desart are ransomed or

vate re

34 I must remind the reader that d'Arvieux, d'Herbelot, and Niebuhr, represent in the most lively colours, the manners and government of the Arabs, which are illustrated by many incidental passages in the life of Mahomet.


pillaged; and their neighbours, since the remote times of CHAP. Job and Sesostris,' have been the victims of their rapa

35 cious spirit. If a Bedoween discovers from afar a solitary traveller, he rides furiously against him, crying, with a loud voice, “ Undress thyself, thy aunt (my wife) is without a

garment.” A ready submission entitles him to mercy; resistance will provoke the aggressor, and his own blood must expiate the blood which he presumes to shed in legitimate defence. A single robber, or a few associates, are branded with their genuine name; but the exploits of a numerous band assume the character of a lawful and honourable war. The temper of a people, thus armed against mankind, was doubly inflamed by the domestic license of rapine, murder, and revenge. In the constitution of Europe, the right of peace and war is now confined to a small, and the actual exercise to a much smaller, list of respectable potentates; but each Arab, with impunity and renown, might point his javelin against the life of his countryman. The union of the nation consisted only in a vague resemblance of language and manners; and in each community, the ju. risdiction of the magistrate was mute and impotent. Of the time of ignorance which preceded Mahomet, seventeen hundred battles 36 are recorded by tradition; hostility was embittered with the rancour of civil faction; and the recital, in prose or verse, of an obsolete feud was sufficient to rekindle the same passions among the descendants of the hostile tribes: In private life, every man, at least every family, was the judge and avenger of its own cause. The nice sensibility of honour, which weighs the insult rather than the injury, shed its deadly venom on the quarrels of the Arabs: the honour of their women, and of their beards, is most easily wounded; an indecent action, a contemptuous word, can be expiated only by the blood of the offender: and such is their patient inveteracy, that they expect whole months

35 Observe the first chapter of Job, and the long wall of 1500 stadia (which Sesostris built from Pelusium to Heliopolis (Diodor. Sicul. tom. i.l. i. p. 67); Under the name of Hycsos, the shepherd-kings, they had formerly subdued Egipt (Marsham, Canon. Chron. p. 98...163, &c).

36 Or, according to another account, 1200 (d'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 75): the two historians who wrote of the Avam al Artib, the battles of the Arabs, lived in the ixth and xth century. The famous war of Dakes and Gabrah was occssioned by two horses, lasted forty years, and ended in a provero (Pocock, Specimen, p. 48). VOL. VI.


CHAP. and years the opportunity of revenge. A fine or compensa.

tion for murder is familiar to the Barbarians of every age; but in Arabia the kinsmen of the dead are at liberty to accept the atonement, or to exercise with their own hands the law of retaliation. The refined malice of the Arabs refuses even the head of the murderer, substitutes an innocent to the guilty person, and transfers the penalty to the best and most considerable of the race by whom they have been injured. If he falls by their hands, they are exposed in their turn to the danger of reprisals, the interest and principal of the bloody debt are accumulated; the individuals of either family lead a life of malice and suspicion, and fifty years may sometimes elapse before the account of vengeance be finally settled.37 This sanguinary spirit, ignorant of pity or forgiveness, has been moderated, however, by the maxims of honour, which require in every private encounter some

decent equality of age and strength, of numbers and weaAnnual pons. An annual festival of two, perhaps of four, months,

was observed by the Arabs before the time of Mahomet, during which their swords were religiously sheathed both in foreign and domestic hostility ; and this partial truce is more strongly expressive of the habits of anarchy and war

fare.38 The'r so

But the spirit of rapine and revenge was attempered by cial quali- the milder influence of trade and literature. The solitary fications and vir. peninsula is encompassed by the most civilized nations of

the ancient world: the merchant is the friend of mankind : and the annual caravans imported the first seeds of knowledge and politeness into the cities, and even the camps of the desart. Whatever may be the pedigree of the Arabs, their language is derived from the same original stock with the Hebrew, the Syriac, and the Chaldæan tongues; the independence of the tribes was marked by their peculiar dia



37 The modern theory and practise of the Arabs in the revenge of murder, are described by Niebuhr (Description, p. 26...31). The harsher features of antiquity may be traced in the Koran, c. 2. p. 20.c. 17. p. 230. with Sale's Observations.

38 Procopius (de Bell. Persic.l.i. c. 16), places the two holy months about the summer sustice. The Arabians consecrate four months of the year....the first, seven: h, eleventh, and twelfth ; and pretend, that in a long series of ages the truce was infringed only four or six times (Sale's Preliminary Discourse, p. 147...150. and Notes on the ixth chapter of the Koran, p. 154, &c. Casisi, Bibliot-Hispano. Arabica, tom. i. p. 20, 21).


lects ;30 but each after their own, allowed a just preference CHAP. to the pure and perspicuous idiom of Mecca. In Arabia as well as in Greece, the perfection of language outstripped the refinement of manners; and her speech could diversify the fourscore names of honey, the two hundred of a serpent, the five hundred of a lion, the thousand of a sword, at a time when this copious dictionary was entrusted to the me. mory of an illiterate people. The monuments of the Homerites were inscribed with an obsolete and mysterious character; but the Cufic letters, the ground-work of the present alphabet, were invented on the banks of the Euphrates; and the recent invention was taught at Mecca by a stranger who settled in that city after the birth of Mahomet. The arts of grammar, of metre, and of rhetoric, were unknown to the freeborn eloquence of the Arabians; but their penetration was sharp, their fancy luxuriant, their wit strong and sententious,40 and their more elaborate compositions were addressed with energy and effect to the minds of their hearers. The genius and merit of a rising poet was celebrated Love of by the applause of his own and the kindred tribes. A so- poetry. lemn banquet was prepared, and a chorus of women, striking their tymbals, and displaying the pomp of their nuptials, sung in the presence of their sons and husbands the felicity of their native tribe; that a champion had now appeared to vindicate their rights; that a herald had raised his voice to immortalise their renown. The distant or hostile tribes resorted to an annual fair which was abolished by the fanaticism of the first Moslems; a national assembly that must have contributed to refine and harmonise the Barbarians. Thirty days were employed in the exchange, not only of corn and wine, but of eloquence and poetry. The prize was disputed by the generous emulation of the bards; the vic


39 Arrian, in the second century, remarks (in Periplo Maris Erythræi, p. 12). the partial or total difference of the dialects of the Arabs. Their language and letters are copiously treated by Pocock (Specimen, p. 150...154), Casiri, (Bibliot. Hispano-Arabica, tom. i. p. 1. 83. 292. tom.ii. p. 25, &c.), and Niebuhr (Description de l'Arabie, p. 72...86). I pass slightly; I am not fond of repeating words like a parrot.

40 A familiar tale in Voltaire's Zadig (le Chien et le Cheval) is related, to prove the natural sagacity of the Arabs (d'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient, p. 120, 121. Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 37...46); but d’Arvieux, or rather La Roque (Voyage de Palestine, p. 92), denies the boas'ed superiority of the Bedoweens. The one hundred and sixty-nine sentences of Ali (translated by Ockley, London, 1718) afford a just and favourable specimen of Anabian wit.

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