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of which is thus related by the Eastern annalists. While Almansur held his court at Anbar, or rather at Alhashemiyyah, a neighbouring town, built by his predecessor, a fanatical sect, called Rawandis, attempted to offer divine honours to his person, going round his palace with great solemnity, as the pilgrims compass the Caaba in the holy city. On the caliph's treating this apotheosis with very little ceremony, as an impious indecency, the fanatics went to the opposite extreme, and attempted to assassinate him. In consequence of these events, he conceived a disgust for the place where they occurred, and formed the design of erecting for himself a city worthy to become the metropolis of such a mighty empire. This scheme resulted in the building of Bagdad, the foundations of which were laid upon the Tigris, in the year of the Hejrah 145.* Of a city so familiar to every reader of history, we need only say in passing, that it continued to be the seat of the Eastern caliphat for five hundred years, that it then passed successively into the hands of the Turcomans and Tartars, after which the possession of it was contested obstinately by the Turks and Persians, being taken and retaken repeatedly by both, till it was finally yielded to the former, about two hundred years ago, since which time it has been the seat of a pacha.
Almansur died, after a reign of one-and-twenty years, leaving the crown to his son Almohdi, on condition that it should pass
from him to his cousin Isa Ibn Musa. The latter, however, not content with mere prospective sovereignty, took advantage of the absence of Almohdi from the capital, and assumed the supreme authority at once. Yet with true Oriental sordidness and flexibility, when fairly overcome by superior force, he not only abandoned his premature pretensions, but actually sold all claim to the succession for a sum of money. The reign of Almohdi was principally occupied in conflicts with the Greeks, and in quelling insurrections. Of the latter, the most remarkable was that headed by Almo-Kanna, the Veiled Prophet of Khorasan, the most interesting points in whose history have been versified by Moore in his Lalla Rookh.
Alhadi, the son and successor of Almohdi, after a reign of a few months, was dispatched by poison, and the crown descended by hereditary right to his younger brother, Harun Alrashid.
One hundred and seventy years had now elapsed since the flight of Mohammed to Medina; one hundred and twenty since the throne became hereditary in the house of Ommiyah; and not quite forty since it was transferred to the Abassides. The changes, whether gradual or sudden, which had taken place in the pervading spirit of the Moslem world, in the nature of the office of caliph, and in the principles on which it was administered, have been so particularly remarked in the preceding sketches, that a general survey in this place is unnecessary. The Commander of the Faithful, though he still continued, like the simple and devoted zealots who first filled the office, to perform in person the duties of an Imam or officiating priest, in the royal mosque, had in other respects become assimilated to the ignobile vulgus of ordinary kings, and began to find his attention more and more diverted from religious duties, by the multiplying cares of a great and growing empire. The caliphat now comprehended nominally, and perhaps substantially, the whole of the ancient Persian empire, and no small proportion of the Roman, in addition to some regions (and among the rest Arabia) which, though historically reckoned as appurtenances of those mighty kingdoms, had in point of fact never appertained to either. It is not to be understood, however, that at the period of which we speak, the Moslem empire was at its height. In numbers, wealth, and territory, it had suffered, since the change of dynasty, no trifling loss by the adhesion of the Spanish Moslems to the house of Ommiyah. This was afterwards, indeed, compensated by new conquests; which did not occur, however, until after Harun's death. Still, the extent of the caliph's territories was stupendous, and the coffers of so vast an empire were of course well filled; for, in all Eastern countries, an enormous proportion of the whole wealth of the people finds its way into the treasury. This overflow of stagnant and ill-gotten wealth, had begun already to produce its natural and necessary consequences, partial refinement and radical corruption. The caliphs of the house of Abbas thought it necessary to render the distinction still more marked between their predecessors and themselves, by a splendour in the appointments of their court, and a munificence in the disposal of their funds, which would have seemed incredible to the poorer and more frugal princes of the house of Ommiyah. And it must be admitted, that the Eastern writers have recorded largesses of these prodigal monarchs, almost, perhaps entirely, unparalleled in Occidental history. Among the other schemes devised by these indefatigable spendthrifts, for emptying their coffers and commanding admiration, may be mentioned their splendid pilgrimages to the holy city-in themselves remarkable enough, but rendered still more striking by their contrast with the simplicity, and even meanness, which their predecessors considered it a duty to display upon similar occasions. Almost all the early princes of the house of Abbas performed the hajj in this novel style; but Almohdi may be fairly said to have eclipsed them all; for in addition to immense stores of every other kind, he carried snow enough across the desert, not only to allay the VOL. VII.-NO, 13.
* A. D. 762.
thirst of his vast retinue, both going and returning, and to astonish the Meccans with the phenomena of ice-water, but to preserve fresh an incalculable quantity of Syrian and Mesopotamian fruits, which formed a part of his provisions.* Yet amidst all this glittering profusion, it is curious to observe how inefficacious wealth and its immediate consequences are, to refine the rudeness and soften the asperities of social life. It is impossible for us to go into the small details which would be necessary even to illustrate this remark; but the rich stòre of anecdote preserved by the Arabic historians seems clearly to evince, that the manners even of the higher classes were, at this time, in a sort of fluctuation between the coarseness of half-barbarism and the elegant effeminacy of a luxurious age. This fact may be attributed in part to the natural influence of the Mohammedan religion, but still more to the infancy and insignificance of Arab literature. The peninsular Arabs, it is true, had ever been enthusiastic lovers of poetry; but preceding caliphs were, with few exceptions, little able or disposed to afford efficient patronage to genius; and what is still more to the purpose, there was an almost total want of those materialsbooks, schools, and men of patient industry-without which the only sure foundations of true learning, and a lasting literature, never can be laid.
Harun Alrashid (or Aaron the Guide) appears to have acquired no small degree of popularity before his accession to the throne. His manners and deportment seem to have been such as were likely to win the affections of the populace. His social disposition, neglect of ceremony, and romantic fondness for adventure, brought him early into contact with the lower classes of his father's capital, and procured for him that enthusiastic admiration, which such condescension, on the part of royal personages, commonly produces. This partiality was greatly strengthened by the laurels which he won, at an early age, in his campaigns against the Greeks. At the head of the Moslem troops, he advanced repeatedly beyond the frontier of the Roman empire, and in one instance threatened the metropolis itself; displaying, in every case, an energy, sagacity, and courage, highly creditable to so young a prince, nurtured in all the effeminate refinement of an
* This pilgrimage is elegantly alluded to in the celebrated poem before mentioned.
“ Ne'er did the march of Mahadi (Mohdi) display
Such pomp before;-not e'en when on his way
Oriental court. But even these were not the only grounds of the popular enthusiasm in favour of Alrashid. Towards the close of his father's reign, he displayed, in an important juncture, a generosity of feeling and chivalrous loftiness of spirit, as honourable in itself as it is rare in the annals of the East. Almohdi, charmed with the promising abilities and gallant exploits of his younger son, conceived a design to supersede his first-born, and make Harun his immediate heir. From this project he was, strange to tell, dissuaded by Harun himself, whom neither persuasion nor parental authority could force into an acquiescence in the scheme. So firm was he, indeed, in this disinterested opposition to his father's plan, that he peremptorily refused to come to Bagdad, when formally summoned by the caliph, with a view to his being there proclaimed successor to the crown. Nor was this sense of honour and regard to his brother's rights displayed merely while his father lived. On the contrary, the most striking exhibition of his generosity was made immediately upon Almohdi's death, when, although the sceptre was completely in his power, in consequence of Alhadi's absence, and the strong attachment of the courtiers to himself, he resisted the temptation, and proclaimed his brother caliph. Disinterestedness and self-denial so heroic, could not fail to have its influence upon the public feelings, and accordingly we find, that the partiality for Harun was increased on the accession of his brother, and continued gradually to grow stronger, till it burst into enthusiasm, on the detection of Alhadi’s ungrateful and unwise attempt to take his brother's life. The success of this abominable project was finally prevented by the caliph's own untimely death, which is currently ascribed, by Oriental writers, to his mother.
When to these facts we add the circumstance that Harun was, throughout his life, rigid in his adherence to the forms of his religion, the reader will readily conceive, that he must have enjoyed a great advantage over all his predecessors in the important article of personal popularity. His condescension, his engaging manners, the elegance of his person, his military prowess, his wit, learning, and accomplishments ; but above all, his generosity and loftiness of spirit, gained for him such a hold on the affections of his people, as seemed to promise new stability to his vast empire, and may serve to explain the prominence with which he is exhibited in Oriental history, tradition, and romance. The only one of the early caliphs who appears at any time to have enjoyed the personal attachment of the people in a high degree, was the son of Abu Taleb; and the reader need not be reminded, that he lost the favour of one half the Moslem world by the excess of his ambition. But in the days of Harun, the same ambition which in Ali was a mortal sin, had become a public virtue. Alrashid came therefore to the throne, under cir