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unlucky fellow, get thee gone.” “Commander of the faithful," replies his physician, “say not what is absurd. That John, the son of Misna, whose father was an obscure man, and whose mother was purchased for a few pieces of silver; whom fortune has so far favoured, that he has been admitted to the society and familiarity of caliphs; who is so overpowered with the good things of life, as to have obtained from them that to which even his hopes did not aspire; that he (I say) should be an unlucky fellow, is surely something most absurd.
“However, if the commander of the faithful would have me tell him, who is unlucky, I will inform him.” “And who is he?" says the caliph. “The man," replied John, “who being sprung from four caliphs, and being then raised through God to the caliphate himself, can leave his caliphate and his palaces, and in the middle of the Tigris sit upon a paltry raft, twenty cubits broad and as many long, without the least assurance that a stormy blast may not sink him; resembling, too, by his employ, the poorest, the worst fellows in the world; I mean fishermen.
The prince on this singular discourse only remarked, "My companion I find is moved, if my presence did not restrain
Another instance of lenity I must not omit, though in a later period, and in another country. When Al-azis was sultan of Egypt, a poet there wrote a scandalous invective upon him and his vizier. The vizier complained, and repeated the verses to Al-azis, to whom the Sultan thus replied: “I perceive,” says he, “that in this invective l' have my share along with you: in pardoning it, you shall have your share along with me.'
We are now, as we promised, to mention astrology, which seems to have been connected in its origin with astronomy. Philosophers, men of veracity, studied the heavenly bodies; and it was upon their labours that impostors built astrology.
The following facts, however, notwithstanding its temporary credit, seem not much in its favour.
When Al-wathick (the caliph whom we have just mentioned) was dangerously ill, he sent for his astrologers, one of whom, pretending to inquire into his destiny, pronounced that from that day he would live fifty years. He did not however live beyond ten days."
A few years after, the same pretenders to prediction said, that a vast number of countries would be destroyed by floods; that the rains would be immense, and the rivers far exceed their usual boundaries.
Men began upon this to prepare ; to expect inundations with terror; and to betake themselves into places which might protect them by their altitude.
The event was far from corresponding either to the threats of * Abulpharag. p. 168.
i Ibid. p. 219.
u Ibid. p. 168.
the prophets or to the fears of the vulgar. The rain that season was so remarkably small, and so many springs and rivers were absorbed by the drought, that public supplications for rain were many times made in the city of Bagdad.*
We must however confess that, notwithstanding these and many other such failures, astrologers still maintained their ground, gained admittance for many years into the courts of these princes, and were consulted by many, who appear not to have wanted abilities.
As the West of Europe learned astronomy from these Arabians, so astrology appears to have attended it, and to have been much esteemed during centuries not remote, through Germany, Italy, France, &c.
Even so late as the days of cardinal Mazarine, when that minister lay on his death-bed, and a comet happened to appear, there were not wanting flatterers to insinuate, that it had reference to him, and his destiny. The cardinal answered them, with a manly pleasantry, “ Messieurs, la comete me fait trop d'honneur."y
We cannot quit these Orientals without observing, that, though they eagerly coveted the fair fruit of knowledge, they appear to have had little relish for the fairer fruit of liberty. This valuable plant seems to have rarely flourished beyond the bounds of Europe, and seldom even there, but in particular regions.
It has appeared, indeed, from the facts already alleged, that these Eastern princes often shewed many eminent virtues; the virtues, I mean, of candour, magnanimity, affability, compassion, liberality, justice, and the like. But it does not appear, that either they or their subjects ever quitted those ideas of despotism and servitude, which during all ages appear to have been the characteristic of Oriental dominion.
As all things human naturally decay, so, after a period of more than five centuries, did the illustrious race of the Abasidæ. The last reigning caliph of that family, Al-Mostasem, wasting his time in idleness and luxury, and that without the least judgment, or consistency in the conduct of his empire; when he was told of the formidable approach of the Tartars, and how necessary it was, either to soothe them by submission, or to oppose them by force, made, in answer to this advice, the following mean reply: "For me, Bagdad suffices; which they will not surely think too much, if I yield them the other provinces. They will not invade me while I remain there; for this is my mansion, and the place of my abode."
Little did these poor sentiments avail. Bagdad soon after was taken, and he himself, having basely asked permission to approach the Tartar prince, appeared, and offered him dishes, filled with pearls and precious stones. These the Tartar dis* Abulpharag. p. 181. Abulfeda, p. 222.
9 Bayle, sur la Cométe.
tributed among his attendants, and a few days after put the unhappy caliph to death.”
Bagdad being lost by this fatal event, the dignity and sovereignty of the caliphs were no more.
The name indeed remained in Egypt under the Mamlucs, but it was a name merely of honour, as those other princes were absolute.
It even continued in the same family to the time of Selim, emperor
of the Turks. When that emperor in 1520 conquered Egypt, and destroyed the Mamlucs, he carried the caliph, whom he found there, a prisoner to Constantinople. It was partly in this last city and partly in Egypt that this caliph, when degraded, lived upon a pension. When he died, the family of the Abassidæ, once so illustrious, and which had borne the title of Caliph for almost eight hundred years, sunk with him from obscurity into oblivion.
When the Tartars and the Turks had extinguished the sovereignty of these Arabians in the East, and the descendants of the ancient Spaniards had driven them out of Spain, the remainder in Africa soon degenerated; till at length, under the celebrated Muly Ismael, in the beginning of this century, they sunk into a state of ignorance, barbarity, and abject servitude, hardly to be equalled either in ancient or in modern history.
But I say nothing concerning them during this unhappy period. That which I have been treating, though in chronology a middle period, was to them, in many respects, a truly golden one.
I conclude this chapter with the following anecdote, so far curious, as it proves that, even in our own century, the taste among the Orientals for philosophy was not totally extinguished.
In the year 1721, a Turkish envoy came to the court of France. As he was a man of learning, he searched through Paris (though in vain) for the Commentary of Averroes upon Aristotle, a large work in Latin, containing five folio volumes, printed at Venice by the Juntæ, in the years 1552, 1553. It happened that, visiting the king's library, he saw the book he wanted ; and seeing it, he could not help expressing his ardent wish to possess it. The king of France, hearing what had happened, ordered the volumes to be magnificently bound, and presented him by his librarian, the abbé Bignon,
? Abulpharag. p. 318. 337, 338, 339. their extinction. These events happened in the middle of the See also Herbelot's Biblioth. Orientale, thirteenth century.
under the word Abassides, with the several & See the supplement of that excellent references to other articles in the same scholar, Pococke, to his edition of Abul work. pharagius. In this supplement we have a b Vid. Reimanni Histor. Atheismi et short but accurate account of the caliphs who Atheorum, 8vo. p. 537. succeeded Mostasem, even to the time of
CONCERNING THE LATINS OR FRANKS-BEDE, ALCUIN, JOANNES ERIGENA,
ETC. GERBERTUS, OR GIBERTUS, TRAVELLED TO THE ARABIANS IN SPAIN FOR IMPROVEMENTS SUSPECTED OF MAGIC_THIS THE MISFORTUNE OF MANY SUPERIOR GENIUSES IN DARK AGES ; OF BACON, PETRARCH, FAUST, AND OTHERS — ERUDITION OF THE CHURCH ; IGNORANCE OF THE LAITY-INGULPHUS, AN ENGLISHMAN, EDUCATED IN THE COURT OF EDWARD THE CONFESSORATTACHED HIMSELF TO THE DUKE OF NORMANDY-ACCOMPLISHED CHARACTER OF QUEEN EGITHA, WIFE OF THE CONFESSOR-PLAN OF EDUCATION IN THOSE DAYS—THE PLACES OF STUDY, THE AUTHORS STUDIED-CANON LAW, CIVIL LAW, HOLY WAR, INQUISITION-TROUBADOURS-WILLIAM OF POICTOU “DEBAUCHERY, CORRUPTION, AND AVARICE OF THE TIMES
-WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR, HIS CHARACTER AND TASTE-HIS SONS, RUFUS AND HENRY-LITTLE INCIDENTS CONCERNING THEM-HILDEBERT, A POET OF THE TIMES — FINE VERSES OF HIS QUOTED.
I PASS now to another race, the Latins, or inhabitants of Western Europe, who in this middle age were often by the Arabians, their contemporaries, called Franks.
Ignorance was their general character, yet individuals we except in the enumeration which follows.
Bede, called the venerable from his respectable character, was an Englishman; was born in the seventh century, but flourished in the eighth; and left many works, critical, historical, and theological, behind him.
Alcuin (sometimes called Alcuinus, sometimes Flaccus Albinus) was Bede's disciple, and like him an Englishman. He was famous for having been preceptor to Charlemagne, and much in his favour for many years.
Joannes Erigena, a native of Scotland, and who, about the same period or a little later, lived sometimes in France and sometimes in England, appears to have understood Greek; a rare accomplishment for those countries in those days.
It is related of him, that when he was once sitting at table over-against the emperor, Charles the Bald, the emperor asked him, How far distant a Scot was from a sot? As far, sir, replied he, as the table's length.d
• The grammatical works of these two, was, Tabula tantum. together with those of other grammarians, We have translated sotum, sot, in order were published in quarto by Putschius, at to preserve the emperor's dull pun, though Hanover, in the year 1605. Those who perhaps not quite agreeably to its proper would learn more concerning them, may meaning. consult Fabricius and Cave.
The word Scotum plainly decides the In the original, taken from Roger de country of this learned man, which some Hoveden, Annal. pars prior, it is, Quid dis- seem, without reason, to have doubted. tat inter Sotum et Scotum ? The answer
A treatise of his, which appears to be metaphysical, entitled De Divisione Naturæ, was printed in a thin folio at Oxford, in the year 1681.
Adelard, a monk of Bath, for the sake of mathematical knowledge travelled into Spain, Egypt, and Arabia, and translated Euclid out of Arabic into Latin, about the year 1130. Robert of Reading, a monk, travelled into Spain on the same account, and wrote about the year 1143.
They found, by fatal experience, that little information was to be had at home, and therefore ventured upon these perilous journeys abroad.
Gerbertus, or Gibertus, a native of France, flourished a little before them in the tenth century, called (though not on his account) sæculum obscurum,“ the dark age."
." His ardent love for mathematical knowledge carried him too from his own country into Spain, that he might there learn science from the learned Arabians.
After an uncommon proficiency in the mathematics, and after having recommended himself for his learning and abilities both to Robert, king of France, and to the emperor Otho, he became first archbishop of Rheims, then of Ravenna, and at length pope, by the name of Sylvester the Second.
His three capital preferments being at Rheims, Ravenna, and Rome, each beginning with an R, gave occasion to the following barbarous verse,
Transit ab R Gerbertus ad R, post papa viget R." It is singular that not his sacerdotal, nor even his pontifical character could screen him from the imputation of magic, incurred merely, as it should seem, from his superior ingenuity.
A bishop Otho, who lived in the next century, gravely relates of him, that he obtained the pontificate by wicked arts; for in his youth, when he was nothing more than a simple monk, having left his monastery, he gave himself up wholly to the devil, on condition he might obtain that which he desired.
Soon after this, the same historian, having given an account of his gradual rise, subjoins, that at length, by the devil's help, he was made Roman pontiff; but then it was upon compact, that after his decease, he should wholly in body and soul belong to him, through whose frauds he had acquired so great a dignity.s
A cardinal Benno, of nearly the same age with this bishop
e See Wallis's preface to his Algebra, short narrative of his rise being given, the fol. Lond. 1685. p. 5.
historian subjoins — Postremo Romanus See Brown's Fasciculus rerum expe- pontifex diabolo adjuvante fuit constitutus ; tendar. et fugiendar. vol. ii. p. 83.
hac tamen lege, ut post ejus obitum totus 8 Hic (scilicet Gerbertus) malis artibus illius in anima et corpore esset, cujus fraudipontificatum obtinuit, eo quod ab adole- bus tantam adeptus esset dignitatem. See scentia, cum monachus esset, relicto mo- Bishop Otho, in Brown's Fasciculas, just nasterio, se totum diabolo obtulit, modo quoted, vol. ii. p. 88. quod optabat obtineret. And soon after, a