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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 officials. 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 1 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.1
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.2 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.3
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.
2 He may be compared to the head of the Third Section of the Russian police.
3 Kremer, ib. 192 sqq., 201-202.
4 Kremer, ib. 256 sqq.
5 For Harun's reign we have three tax rolls: (1) in Gahsiyari'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.1 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 dirhams. This list belonged to the period immediately before Harun's accession (775-786).
1 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 İbn 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.
3 The defence of the Syrian frontier is said to have cost 200,000 dinars (£120,000), sometimes 300,000 (£180,000).
imported from the lands beyond the Oxus, and so many came from Farghana that they were all alike known as Farghanese. We may suspect that many of these soldiers entered the Caliph's service voluntarily, and it is remarkable that much about the same time as the formation of the Turkish bodyguard of the Caliph we meet the earliest mention of Farghanese in the service of the Roman Empire.1 The unpopularity of the insolent Turkish guards among the inhabitants of Baghdad drove Mutasim into leaving the capital, and during the secession to Samarra, which lasted for sixty years, they tyrannized over their masters, like the Praetorians of past and the Janissaries of future history. Yet a fifth class of troops was added about the same time to the military forces of the Caliphate; it consisted of Egyptian Beduins, Berbers, and negroes, and was known as the African corps. The Saracens adopted the tactical divisions of the Roman army.2 The regiment of 1000 men, commanded by a kaid, was subdivided into hundreds and tens, and there were normally ten such regiments under the emir, who corresponded to the stratêgos of a Theme.
§ 2. Baghdad
The capital city of the Abbasids, from which they governed or misgoverned Western Asia, was the second city in the world. In size and splendour, Baghdad was surpassed only by Constantinople. There is a certain resemblance between the circumstances in which these two great centres of power were founded. Saffah, the first sovran of the new dynasty, had seen the necessity of translating the seat of government from Syria to Mesopotamia. A capital on the navigable waters of the Tigris or the Euphrates would be most favourably situated for ocean commerce with the far East; it would be at a safe distance from Syria, where the numerous adherents of the fallen house of the Omayyads were a source of danger; it would be near Persia, on whose support the risen house of the
1 Cp. Simeon, Cont. Georg. 815 Θεοφάνης ὁ ἐκ Φαργάνων.
2 Kremer, ib. 237.
3 The following description is derived from Le Strange's exhaustive
work, Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate, where references to the authorities are given throughout, and the topography is elucidated by numerous plans.
Abbasids especially depended. Perhaps, too, it may have been thought that Damascus was perilously near the frontier of the Roman Empire, whose strength and vigour had revived under its warlike Isaurian rulers.1 It was impossible to choose Kufah on the Euphrates, with its turbulent and fanatical population, and Saffah built himself a palace near the old Persian town of Anbar, a hundred miles further up the river. But his successor Mansur, having just essayed a new residence on the same stream, discerned the advantages of a situation on the Tigris. For the Tigris flows through fruitful country, whereas the desert approaches the western banks of the Euphrates; and in the eighth century it flowed alone into the Persian Gulf, while the Euphrates lost itself in a great swamp, instead of uniting with its companion river, as at the present day. Mansur did not choose the place of his new capital in haste. He explored the banks of the Tigris far to the north, and thought that he had discovered a suitable site not far from Mosul. But finally he fixed his choice on the village of Baghdad. Bricks bearing the name of Nebuchadnezzar show that the spot was inhabited in the days of the Assyrian monarchy; when Mansur inspected it, he found it occupied by monasteries of Nestorian Christians, who extolled the coolness of the place and its freedom from gnats. The wisdom of the Caliph's decision may be justified by the fact that Baghdad has remained unchallenged, till this day, the principal city of Mesopotamia. The experiments preliminary to its foundation remind us of the prologue to the foundation of Constantinople. When Diocletian determined to reside himself in the East, he chose Nicomedia, and Nicomedia corresponds to the tentative establishments of Saffah and Mansur on the Euphrates. When Constantine decided that Nicomedia would not suit the requirements of a new Rome, he was no less at a loss than Mansur, and we are told that various sites competed for his choice before he discovered Byzantium.
But the tasks which confronted the two founders were widely different. Constantine had to renew and extend an ancient city; and his plans were conditioned by the hilly
1 Le Strange, 4-5.
2 In the last portion of its course it entered the great swamp, but the
lagoons which marked its stream were navigable (ib.).