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INTRODUCTION.

IN our first volume we have given an account of the wonderful success of the Saracens in the speedy conquest of Syria, Persia, and Egypt. The particulars of the sieges of Damascus, Alexandria, Aleppo, Antioch, Jerusalem, and several other places of great importance, as delivered by their own authors; the foundation of the destruction of the Grecian empire, and the establishment of that of the Saracens under the government of Abubeker, Omar, and Othman, the immediate successors of Mohammed.

But, if the reader expects in this second volume such a particular account of their foreign conquests as is to be found in the first, he will find himself deceived. When the Saracens first undertook the conquest of the universe, everything beyond their own bounds was new to them, and their achievements were no less matter of surprise to themselves than to their neighbours. Afterwards, however, when they were grown considerable enough to quarrel among themselves, and when their foreign enemies were removed so far from the centre of the government, that, let success prove which way it would, it was not likely to affect the vitals of the empire; their historians begin to pass over those distant transactions very cursorily, seldom descending to particulars, unless there happens to be something very extraordinary; and, what is more remarkable still, seldom take any notice of them, unless the bare mentioning of them can be reckoned as such. Not but that there are in several of their libraries particular accounts from whence many circumstances might be gathered relating to Africa, and also entire histories of the conquest of Spain; while, for the eastern parts of their empire, the Persian historians are the best.

Instead of such exact accounts of foreign affairs, we are in the present period entertained with a quite different scene. Here their historians dwell principally upon those terrible divisions among themselves which, originating with the succession of Ali and his family, the abdication of his son Hasan, and the death of Hosein, have laid the foundation of perpetual discord among the followers of the prophet. For the dissensions between Ali's followers (of whom the Persians are chief), and the Traditionists (of whom are the Turks, and whose creed we have inserted at the end of the Life of Mohammed), seem never likely to be reconciled so long as Mohammedanism itself shall exist. Some of the Turks, indeed, interpret that fable of Mohammed's having divided the moon, and, after holding one half of it for some time in his sleeve, joining it again to the other, as prefiguring the division of the professors of Mohammedanism (whose standard is the new

The edition from which the present is printed is in two volumes, published at intervals, in 1757. This introduction was prefixed to the second volume.-Ed.

moon) into those two great sects, and the re-union of them after a certain period of years.

These things, together with the changing of their government from an elective monarchy as it was left to them by Mohammed, into an hereditary one, as commenced by Moawiyah, and firmly settled in the reigns of his successors; as well as the account of the immense and rapid extension of their empire, form the principal contents of the second volume. And although we have not arrived at the conquest of Spain, nor the learned age of the Arabians, yet we have brought the Saracen empire to an established settlement, and written the history of fourscore years, in which the Saracens conquered very much more than the Romans did in four hundred.

I designed, when I first set about the present portion of my work, to take in the whole of the contemporary affairs of the Christians; but, upon second thoughts, it appeared to me to be foreign to my purpose. Every one may satisfy himself, by reading this history, how regardless during its course the Saracens were of any European powers; they were wholly taken up with their domestic quarrels. The proposed way of proceeding must have occasioned a great many discourses to be intermixed through the whole, in order to reconcile the accounts of the Greeks and Arabians, which widely disagree both in the facts and the dates. By such discussions the narrative of Arabian affairs must have been frequently and unseasonably interrupted. A man might as well undertake to write the history of France for the present time, out of our newspapers, as to give an account of the Arabians from Christian historians. The Arabians (and it is their history we write, and no other) are the most likely to give the best account of things performed among themselves. Wherefore all that we promise, is, to fix our chronology to a day.

Then, as to the Greeks, whom, in the early part of our history, we see sufficiently broken by the irresistible prowess of the victorious Saracens; it was not in their power to offer any considerable opposition to such foes. For so great was their intrepidity that there was not a single deputy-lieutenant or general among them that would not have thought himself worthy to be branded with indelible disgrace, if he should have suffered himself to have been intimidated even by the united forces of all Europe. And if any one asks, why the Greeks did not exert themselves more towards the extirpation of these insolent invaders? to say, that Amrou kept his residence at Alexandria, and Moawiyah at Damascus, is a sufficient answer to any person that is acquainted with the characters of those men.

But what a great many persons, otherwise of no contemptible reading nor abilities, wonder at, is the vast difference between the occurrences in our present history and those that are found in others. But whosoever considers the briskness and activity of the Arabians (the effect of the warmth of their climate, temperance, and constant exercise), joined to their enthusiasm, will find an easy solution of those extravagant actions that seem to distinguish them from the rest of mankind.

For this reason no one ought to wonder if I have accommodated my style to the humour of the people of whom I write. To write of men in their circumstances, who were all humorists, bigots, and enthusiasts, in the same style as becomes the sedateness and gravity of the Greeks and Romans, would be most unsuitable and unnatural. In such a case you put

them in a dress which they would no more thank you for than a Roman senator would for a long periwig, or Socrates for a pair of silk stockings. You rob them of all their merit; the very things for which you laugh at them are what they most value themselves upon; and it is most certain, that the nearer you bring a man that is singular to the rest of mankind, he farther you remove him from himself, and destroy the very being of his singularity. This will, I hope, satisfy the judicious reader, that, if I have deviated from that way of writing which was first established by the ancients, and always admired and imitated by the wisest of the moderns, I have done so not of choice, but of necessity. For otherwise I should have abused both the Arabians and my readers: the former by putting them into a disguise under a pretence of dressing them; my readers, by defrauding them of the humour of that enthusiastic nation. Wherefore I have let them tell their own story their own way; and I have abstained as much as possible from intermixing reflections of my own, unless where there appeared a necessity of illustrating something that might not be obvious to persons unacquainted with oriental affairs.

I must confesss that some of the particulars seem very odd and ridiculous; but the stranger they are, the more they illustrate the character of the people of whom we write. Besides, there is a vast deal of difference between being a reader and a spectator. The things that make us laugh now, would have made us tremble then. The habit, the 'manner, the gravity, sobriety, and activity of that conquering people, are not beneath the observance of the greatest genius. What we find in them to laugh at is the difference of their manners. But this is but a childish reason, and the very same which makes ignorants laugh at scholars; fools, at wise men; boys, at old ones; atheists and debauchees, at persons of virtue and religion. However, I do not deny, but that I have here and there inserted a relation wherein the matter of fact itself contains nothing very extraordinary; nevertheless, I could not make up my mind to omit it, because the circumstances appeared to be highly characteristic of the humour and genius of that tragi-comical people.

Who would not rather have the details of a siege omitted, than lose the description of Ali's inauguration? Of the former a man may form some notion by himself, but he could have no idea of the latter without good authority. Many cities have been taken under nearly the same circumstances, but very few emperors, I believe, were ever proclaimed in such style as Ali. A great many other little incidents there are, very useful and entertaining in themselves, that may be properly enough inserted in writing a life, which would not so well come into a universal history, whose course goes on like a vast river, sometimes overflowing its banks, sometimes keeping within its bounds; sometimes with a great, impetuous fall, sometimes with a smooth and almost imperceptible motion. But, in writing the lives of monarchs, the course of the narrative is frequently interrupted, and the historian must detail several little particulars pertaining to his particular person, his humour, friends, enemies passions, affections, dangers, deliverances, apophthegms, and the like, not properly belonging to the history of the people. Such is the difference between Suetonius and Livy.

But, to write after the manner of the most celebrated universal historiuns, all little circumstances and trivial discourses must be omitted; the

anguage must be all of the same thread, and the whole carried on in a nervous, eloquent, and flowing style; and, when the subject calls for it (as in any very extraordinary case), proportionable ornament must be added; the images magnified beyond the life, and embellished to that degree sometimes, that the historian puts on the orator before he is aware: and speeches must be made suitable to every occasion, according to the abilities of the author. Throughout the cadence must be smooth and easy, and the periods full nothing must be inserted that falls beneath the dignity of history; otherwise, between the style and the matter, it must of necessity oftentimes happen, that a great deal of nature is lost. The whole composition must be uniform, and managed as regularly as a well-built edifice. In short, such a round turn must be given to everything, that the facts shall seem to be made on purpose to embellish the history, rather than the history for the relation of the facts. He, therefore, that reads for delight, and loves to be entertained with artful compositions, will choose this way; he that studies nature, will be better pleased with the other. That is one reason why persons of the greatest severity and exactest judgment delight in comedy, not only because it diverts them, but because it lets them into the humour of mankind, and paints it in all conditions of life as it really is. Now, why an historian, whose business is truth, should, for the sake of imitation, smother every thing that is characteristic and distinguishing of the people concerning whom he writes, I cannot understand. Wherefore, let Livy make speeches for his people, and Tacitus invent politics, it is the glory of our Arabic historians to represent the naked truth as handed down from their ancestors in its native simplicity. So that, as much as we are exceeded by other authors in their elaborate expression, and the strength and artifice of their composition, so much at least do we hope to exceed them in the unaffected plainness and sincerity of our relation.

Some critics were pleased to object to the first part of my history, that it was the strangest story they had ever heard since they were born! They never met with such folks in their lives as these Arabians! They never heard too, they said, of these things before, which they of course must have done, if any body else had. A reverend dignitary asked me, if, when I wrote that book, I had not lately been reading the History of Oliver Cromwell! They say that the Arabians are given to romance; and for that reason I suppose they are not to be believed (according to Aristotle) when they speak truth. And above all, that a history will never go down in this nice age, that contains only a relation of battles, but that the very quintessence of a history consists in the politics.

Now for my own part I must confess, that I am of such an indolent disposition, that if I can but fairly get rid of this last grand objection, I care not one rush for all the rest. I confess that a history without politics comes into the world in very unfashionable circumstances, especially in a generation wherein, if fortune had not envied our merit, we should all have been plenipotentiaries, secretaries of state, or privy-councillors! What affects me most is, that this objection should be made by these enlightened gentlemen, whom every body would have supposed to have been so well skilled in analytics, as upon the first sight of any action to have made an infallible guess at the springs of it. Besides, I should have run a great risk on the other side, for it is an insufferable affront in an author to leave

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nothing to his intelligent reader, but to be always feeding him with a spoon, and teaching him to read with a fescue! Who would ever have imagined but that it was the peculiar talent of these gentlemen, upon first sight of the event to trace back the springs of the action; and surely it required no great discernment to trace the course and issue of events, in an enthusiastic tyrannical government, held by persons entangled in family quarrels entailed apon them from generation to generation, and not extinguished, whatsoever hey pretended, by their being united in the same profession of MohammeJanism. For it was from these antecedent divisions that arose those terrible convulsions in the state which, had it not been very well supported by their aversion to Christianity on the one side, and to idolatry on the other, must soon have rendered them a prey to their common enemies. Add to this, that those persons who had enjoyed the greatest share of their prophet's favour when alive, were treated with proportionable respect after his decease. To such a height was this carried, that if any person had been any way familiar with Mohammed, he was reckoned among the companions though he was never so young; and so great was the respect paid to them, that their authority would turn the scale in almost any debate. For the Saracens preferred to go to a very great extremity, rather than reject the advice of a companion of the apostle-of course I mean if that counsel were urged on the prevailing side; for notwithstanding their allegiance to their prince, it is evident they were no bigots to indefeasible right.

But if the not having heard of this history before be such a terrible objection against it, what would the having heard of it before have been? I must confess that objection lies strong against the veracity of it to persons who would take it as an affront to be supposed capable of being ignorant of such a considerable part of history as this pretends to be. What I wonder most at is, that those very gentlemen who formerly were better acquainted with the rivers Jaxartes and Oxus, Indus and the Ganges, than with the Thames itself which they swam in every holiday; who discoursed of Asia as if they had been surveyors to Alexander the Great; who would have disputed every foot of ancient geography with no less eagerness than if it had been a paternal inheritance; and could pronounce concerning the oracle of Jupiter Ammon with no less certainty than the oracle itself, should on a sudden prove so indolent as not only to suffer those delicate provinces to be ravished out of their hands without so much as venturing a suit about them, but even express an ungrateful displeasure of those who too officiously proffer their service to restore them gratis. However, these critics are of the kinder sort; they neither mean nor do any great hurt; they only make themselves a little sport with those things which they do not very well understand; and, if they carry on the humour upon that foot, bid fair for the reputation of the merriest company in the world.

I have not omitted to make every use of the learned labours of Monsieur D'Herbelot, whose Bibliothéque Orientale deserves the highest esteem from all that have a true taste for oriental learning. After I had made my collections, I found him so accurate in the life of Ali, in the history of the Saracens, that I have chosen sometimes to transcribe him

• Ziyad was of this number he was born in the year of the Hejirah, and was but eleven years old when Mohammed died. See p.

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