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Isaurian dynasty to the throne of the Caesars. was shifted in favour of the eastern regions of the Empire, and influences emanating from the mountains of Asia Minor strove to gain the upper hand over the prevailing influence of the Greeks. If the struggle between the two spirits expressed itself here in the form of the iconoclastic controversy, the anti-Arabian reaction in the Caliphate was similarly marked by a religious movement, which is called heretical because it was unsuccessful, and has a certain resemblance to iconoclasm in so far as it was an attempt of reason to assert itself, within certain limits, against authority and tradition. While the Omayyad Caliphs were still ruling in Damascus, there were some thoughtful Mohammadans who were not prepared to accept without reflexion the doctrines which orthodoxy imposed; and it is not improbable that such men were stimulated in theological speculation by friendly disputes and discussions with their Christian fellow-subjects. The sect of the Mutazalites proclaimed the freedom of the will, which the orthodox Mohammadan regards as inconsistent with the omnipotence of Allah, and they adopted the dangerous method of allegorical interpretation of the Koran. Their doctrines were largely accepted by the Shiites, and they had to endure some persecution under the Caliphs of Damascus. The first Abbasid rulers secretly sympathized with the Mutazalites, but orthodoxy was still too strong to enable them to do more than tolerate it. Mamun was the first who ventured to profess the heresy, and in A.D. 827 he issued an edict proclaiming that the Koran was created. This was the cardinal point at issue. The Mutazalites pointed out that if, as the orthodox maintained, the Koran existed from all eternity, it followed that there were two co-existing and equally eternal Beings, Allah and the Koran. The doctrine of the eternal existence of the Koran corresponds to the Christian doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible, and in denying it the Caliph and his fellow-heretics seemed to undermine the authority of the Sacred Book. There were some who had even the good sense to assert that a better book than the Koran might conceivably be written.2 The intellectual attitude of the Mutazalites is also apparent in their rejection 1 Cp. Kremer, Culturgeschichte, ii. 399 sq. 2 Weil, ii. 264.
of the doctrine, which the orthodox cherished, that in the next world God would reveal himself to the faithful in a visible shape. Mamun may have hoped to bring about a general reform of Islam, but his enlightened views, which his two successors, Mutasim and Wathik, also professed and endeavoured to enforce, probably made few converts. These Caliphs, like the iconoclastic Emperors, resorted to persecution, the logical consequence of a system in which theological doctrine can be defined by a sovran's edict. When Wathik died, in consequence of his dissolute life, in A.D. 847, his successor Mutawakkil inaugurated a return to the orthodox creed, and executed those who persisted in denying the eternity of the Koran.
The genuine interest evinced by the Caliphs of this period in poetry and music, in literature and science, was the most pleasing feature of their rule. It was a coincidence that the brilliant period of Arabic literature, developing under Persian influence, was contemporary with the revival of learning and science at Constantinople, of which something will be said in another chapter. The debt which Arabic learning owed to the Greeks was due directly to the intermediate literature of Syria; but we must not ignore the general effect of influences of culture which flowed reciprocally and continually between the Empire and the Caliphate. Intercourse other than warlike between neighbouring realms is usually unnoticed in medieval chronicles, and the more frequent it is, the more likely it is to be ignored. But various circumstances permit us to infer that the two civilizations exerted a mutual influence on each other; and the historians record anecdotes which, though we hesitate to accept them as literal facts, are yet, like the anecdotes of Herodotus, good evidence for the social or historical conditions which they presuppose. It must not be thought that the religious bigotry of the Moslems or the chronic state of war between the two powers were barriers or obstacles. At that time the Mohammadan society of the middle classes, especially in the towns, seems to have been permeated by a current of intellectual freedom: they were not afraid to think, they were broad-minded and humane. On the other hand, while the continuous hostilities on the
See below, Chapter XIV.
frontiers do not appear to have seriously interrupted the commercial traffic between Europe and Asia, the war directly contributed to mutual knowledge. In the annual raids and invasions by which the Romans and Saracens harried each other's territories, hundreds of captives were secured; and there was a recognized system of exchanging or redeeming them at intervals of a few years. The treatment of these prisoners does not seem to have been very severe; distinguished Saracens who were detained in the State prison at Constantinople were entertained at banquets in the Imperial palace.' Prisoners of the better classes, spending usually perhaps five or six years, often much longer terms, in captivity, were a channel of mutual influence between Greek and Saracen civilization. On the occasion of an exchange of captives in A.D. 845, Al-Garmi, a highly orthodox Mohammadan, was one of those who was redeemed. During a long period of detention, he had made himself acquainted with the general outline of Imperial history, with the government, the geography, and the highroads of the Empire, and had obtained information touching the neighbouring lands of the Slavs and the Bulgarians. He committed the results of his curiosity to writing, and the descriptive work of Ibn Khurdadhbah, which has come down to us, owed much to the compositions of the captive Al-Garmi.
In its political constitution, the most striking feature of the Caliphate, as contrasted with the Roman Empire, was the looseness of the ties which bound its heterogeneous territories together under the central government. There was no great administrative organization like that which was instituted by Diocletian and Constantine, and survived, however changed and modified, throughout the ages. At Constantinople the great chiefs of departments held in their hands the strings to all the administration in the provinces, and the local affairs of the inhabitants were strictly controlled by the governors and Imperial oflicials. In the Caliphate, on the other hand, the provincials enjoyed a large measure of autonomy, and there was no administrative centralisation. For keeping their subjects in hand, the Caliphs seem to have depended on secret police and an organized system of espionage. An exception Philotheos, in Constantine. Cer. 743, 767 (=157, 168, ed. Bury),
to the principle of abstaining from State interference was made in favour of agriculture: the government considered itself responsible for irrigation; and the expenses of maintaining in repair the sluices of the Tigris and Euphrates, indispensable for the fertility of Mesopotamia, were defrayed entirely by the public treasury.'
The small number of the ministries or divans in Baghdad is significant of the administrative simplicity of the Saracen State. The most important minister presided over the office of the ground-tax, and next to him was the grand Vezir. The duty of the Postmaster was to exercise some general control over the administration; and his title, though he was not responsible for the management of the State Post, suggests the methods by which such control was exerted.
The chief purpose of the Post, which, like that of the Roman Empire, was exclusively used by officials, was to transmit reports from the provinces to the capital. It was carefully organized. The names of the postal stations, and their distances, were entered in an official book at Baghdad, and the oldest geographical works of the Arabs were based on these official itineraries. The institution served a huge system of espionage, and the local postmasters were the informers, sending reports on the conduct of governors and tax-collectors, as well as on the condition of agriculture, to headquarters.
We possess far fuller information on the budget of the Caliphate under the early Abbasids than on the finances of the later Empire at any period. We can compare the total revenues of the State at various periods in the eighth and ninth centuries, and we know the amount which each province contributed. Under Harun ar-Rashid the whole revenue amounted to more than 530 millions of dirhams (about £21,000,000), in addition to large contributions in kind, whose value in money it is impossible to estimate." In the
1 Kremer, ib. i. 200-202.
He may be compared to the head of the Third Section of the Russian police.
Kremer, ib. 192 sqq., 201-202.
For Harun's reign we have three tax rolls: (1) in Galsiyari's History of the Vezirs; published in Kremer, Budget Harun; (2) in Ibn Khaldun ;
Kremer, Culturgeschichte, 356 sqq. ; (3) in the Persian historian Wassaf. The relations of the three are discussed by Kremer, ib. 12 sqq. (1) and (3) agree accurately as to the gold and silver items, and both state that the gold dinar was then (under Harun) equivalent to 22 silver dirhams. They are evidently copies of the same tax list. (1) and (2) agree generally.
reign of Mamun (A.D. 819-820) it was reduced perhaps by 200 millions, and about forty years later the sources point to a still lower figure. In the following century (A.D. 915-916), it is recorded that the income of the State, from the taxes which were paid in gold and silver, amounted to no more than 24 millions of dirhams.2 The sources of the revenue were the taxes on land and property, ships and mines, mills and factories, the duties on luxuries, on salt, and many other things. The falling off during the ninth century may be easily accounted for by such general causes as internal troubles and rebellions, constant wars, the dishonesty of provincial governors, and the lavish luxury of the Court. The Caliph
Mamun is said to have spent on the maintenance of his Court six thousand dinars daily, which is equivalent nearly to £1,000,000 a year."
The circumstances of the elevation of the Abbasid house entailed, as a natural consequence, that the Persians should form an important element in the military establishments. Under the Omayyads the chief recruiting grounds were! Basrah and Kufah, and the host consisted mainly of Arabians. In the army of Mansur there were three chief divisions-the northern Arabs, the southern Arabs, and, thirdly, the men of Khurasan, a geographical term which then embraced the mountainous districts of Persia. The third division were the privileged troops who, to use the technical Roman term, were in praesenti and furnished the guards of the Caliph. But in the reign of Mutasim, who ascended the throne in A.D. 833, the Persians were dislodged from their place of favour by foreigners. The Turkish bodyguard was formed by slaves
Kremer calculated the dinar from Ibn Khaldun's sums as equal to 15 dir hams. This list belonged to the period immediately before Harun's accession (775-786).
We cannot depend on the totals of the accounts in Kudama and Ibn Khurdadhbah, which are our sources for this decline. For Kudama's list is based partly on a list of 819-820, and partly on later lists up to 851-852 (Kremer, Culturgeschichte, 270); and Ibn Khurdadhbah gives the revenue from Khurasan for 836, but his other figures belong to later years (up to 874). Further, we do not know how
the relation of the dinar to the dirham varied. The actual totals given (supposing the dinar 15 dirhams) are: Kudama, 317 millions (over £12,706,000); Ibn Khurdadhbah, 293 millions (11,720,000)-taking the dirham as a franc.-Ibn Khurdadhbah was general postmaster in the district of Gabal, and wrote between A.D. 854 and 874. Kudama died in A.D. 948-9. 2 Kremer, Culturgeschichte, i. 281.
The defence of the Syrian frontier is said to have cost 200,000 dinars (£120,000), sometimes 300,000(£180,000).