Slike stranica

but we must remember that it was justified by immediate impunity, for it was correlated with the simultaneous decline in the naval power of the Saracens. The Abbasids who transferred the centre of the Caliphate from Syria to Mesopotamia undertook no serious maritime enterprises. The dangers of the future lay in the west and not in the east,-in the ambitions of the Mohammadan rulers of Africa and Spain, whose only way of aggression was by sea. Sicily was in peril throughout the eighth century, and Constantine V. was forced to reorganize her fleet;1 accidents and internal divisions among the Saracens helped to save her till the reign of Michael II. We shall see in another chapter how the Mohammadans then obtained a permanent footing in the island, the beginning of its complete conquest, and how they occupied Crete. These events necessitated a new maritime policy. To save Sicily, to recover Crete, were not the only problems. The Imperial possessions in South Italy were endangered; Dalmatia, the Ionian islands, and the coasts of Greece were exposed to the African fleets. It was a matter of the first importance to preserve the control of the Hadriatic. The reorganization of the marine establishment was begun by the Amorian dynasty, though its effects were not fully realized till a later period.


The naval forces of the Empire consisted of the Imperial fleet, which was stationed at Constantinople and commanded by the Drungary of the Navy,3 and the Provincial fleets of the Kibyrrhaeot Theme, the Aegean,5 Hellas, Peloponnesus, and Kephalonia. The Imperial fleet must now have been increased in strength, and the most prominent admiral of the age, Ooryphas, may have done much to reorganize it. An armament of three hundred warships was sent against Egypt in A.D. 853, and the size of this force may be held to mark the progress which had been made.7 Not long after the death of Michael III. four hundred vessels were operating off the coast of Apulia.R

We have some figures which may give us a general idea

1 Amari, Storia, i. 175 n.

2 τὸ βασιλικοπλόϊμον.

3 ὁ δρουγγάριος τοῦ πλοΐμου.


him and his staff, see Bury, Imp. Adm. System, 108 sqq.

4 ὁ θεματικὸς στόλος.

5 The naval Theme of Samos seems to have been of later date than the Amorian period.

6 Paphlagonia had also a small flotilla.

7 See below, p. 292.

8 Bury, Naval Policy, 33.

of the cost of these naval expeditions. Attempts were made to recover Crete from the Saracens in A.D. 902 and in A.D. 949, and the pay of officers and men for each of these expeditions, which were not on a large scale, amounted to over £140,000.1 This may enable us to form a rough estimate of the expenditure incurred in sending armaments oversea in the ninth century. We may surmise, for instance, that not less than a quarter of a million (pounds sterling), equivalent in present value to a million and a quarter, was spent on the Egyptian expedition in the reign of Michael III.

1 See official documents in Constantine, Cer. 651 sqq. and 667 sqq. The total in the first case seems to come to £143,483, in the second to £147,287. In A.D. 902, there were 177 ships, and the men numbered 47,127. For A.D.

949 we have (673 sqq.) interesting details of the prices of the articles required for the equipment (¿§óπλois) of the vessels, and I calculate that this expenditure came to more than £1000.


As to the surplus in the treasury on the death of Theophilus, mentioned on p. 219, a footnote was there accidentally omitted. When Michael III. assumed the government himself in A.D. 856, Theodora, by way of justifying her administration, proved to the Senate that the accumulated savings effected in the reign of Theophilus, and under her own régime, lay in the treasury, and amounted to 190 kentenaria in gold coin, and 300 pounds of silver (Gen. 90= Cont. Th. 172). The gold is equivalent to £4,708,800 (in purchasing value upwards of £20,000,000).



§1. The Empire of the Abbasids

IN the days of Nicephorus and Charles the Great, the Caliphate was at the height of its power and grandeur; a quarter of a century later the decline of Abbasid rule, a process which was eked out through several centuries, had already begun. An accomplished student of Mohammadan history1 has found, even in the reigns of Harun and his son Mamun, the last great Caliphs, signs and premonitions of decay; in their characters and tempers he discovers traits of the degeneracy which was to be fully revealed in their weak and corrupt successors. Without presuming to decide whether Harun should be called a degenerate because to a nature unscrupulously cruel he united susceptibility so sensitive to music and so prone to melancholy that he burst into tears on hearing the strains of a boatman's song wafted over the waters of the Tigris, we can see in his reign and that of his son the immense difficulties of government which confronted the rulers of the Mohammadan world, the strength of the elements of division and disruption, and the need of sovrans of singular ability and strenuous life, if the fabric of the Empire was to be held together.

The realm of the Abbasids, in its early period, presents some interesting points of comparison with the contemporary Roman Empire. The victory of the Abbasids and their establishment on the throne of the Caliphs had been mainly due to Persian support; the change of dynasty marked the triumph of Persian over Arabian influence. We may fairly compare this change with that which attended the elevation of the

1 Von Kremer.

Isaurian dynasty to the throne of the Caesars.

The balance

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.1 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.1 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.2 On the other hand, while the continuous hostilities on the

1 See below, Chapter XIV.
2 Kremer, Culturgeschichte, i.,
P. vi.

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