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But without considering any other than human
circumstances, and leaving out of account the judg-
ments of God, and the mysterious ways of Provi-
dence, we may ask why Mahomet and his successors,
who began their conquests precisely in the manner
of the Jews, were so much superior to them in their
achievements and success? Was not the difference
owing to the different conduct of the two nations?
The Mussulmans exerted their chief care in sub-
jecting the vanquished to their religion, sometimes
by force, and sometimes by dint of persuasion. The
Hebrews, on the contrary, never admitted foreigners
into a participation of their worship. The Arabian
Mussulmans always incorporated other nations with
their own: the Hebrews carefully secluded them-
selves from every other people. In a word, the
Arabians seem to have possessed a more courageous
enthusiasm, with a bolder and more generous policy.
The Hebrews looked with horror on all other
nations, in the apprehension of being enslaved:
whereas the people of Arabia endeavored to attract

56 Ancient and Modern History.

everything, and believed themselves created for
dominion. Mahomet's last will was not executed.
He had bequeathed the empire to his son-in-law
AH, and daughter Fatima : but ambition, which
even transcends fanaticism, engaged the chiefs of
the army to declare old Abu-Beker, his father-in-law,
caliph, that is, vicar of the prophet, in hope of being
soon able to share the succession among themselves.
Ali, meanwhile, remained in Arabia, waiting for an
opportunity to signalize his talents.

Abu-Beker's first step was to collect, in one vol-
ume, the scattered sheets of the Koran ; the chapters
of the book were read in presence of all the chiefs,
and its authenticity was invariably established. In
a little time Abu-Beker marched at the head of his
Mussulmans into Palestine, where he defeated the
brother of Heraclius. He died soon after this vic-
tory, with the reputation of the most generous man
alive. For his own share of the booty, which was
divided, he never took more than about twenty pence
a day, thereby demonstrating how well a contempt
of low self-interest will agree with that ambition
which self-interest of a higher order inspires.

Abu-Beker is esteemed among the Mahometans as
a great character and a faithful Mussulman: he
is reckoned one of the saints of the Koran. The
Arabians record that his last will was couched in
these terms : " In the name of God most merciful,
this is the last will of Abu-Beker, made at a time
when he is about to pass from this world to the

Persia, Arabia, and Mahomet. 57

next ; at a time when infidels begin to believe, when
the wicked cease to doubt, and the liar tells the
truth." This seems to be the preamble of a man who
was really convinced ; yet Abu-Beker, as the father-
in-law of Mahomet, had opportunities of examining
the prophet nearly. He must either have been
deceived himself, or acted as accomplice in an illus-
trious imposture, which he looked upon as a neces-
sary fraud. The rank he maintained obliged him to
support at his death what in his lifetime he had
imposed on his fellow creatures.

Omar, chosen his successor, was one of the most
rapid conquerors that ever ravaged the face of the
earth. His first exploit was the reduction of Damas-
cus, famous for the fertility of its soil, for its steel
manufactures, the best in the world, and the silk
stuffs that still bear its name. The Greeks, who
assumed the name of Romans, he drove from Syria
and Phoenicia. After a long siege, he, by capitula-
tion, got possession of Jerusalem, which had been
almost always in the hands of foreigners, from the
time when David wrested it from its ancient pos-

At the same period, Omar's lieutenants advanced
into Persia. The last of the Persian kings, whom we
call Hormizdas IV., gives battle to the Arabians
within a few leagues of Madain, the capital of their
empire. He loses the battle with his life; and the
Persians acknowledge the dominion of Omar, even
more easily than they had formerly submitted to the

58 Ancient and Modern History.

yoke of Alexander. Then fell that ancient religion
of the Magi, which had been respected by the con-
queror of Darius; for he never encroached upon
the religion of the nations whom he subdued.

The Magi adored one God, were enemies to idol-
atry, and revered the fire that animates nature, as
an emblem of the Deity. They looked upon their
own worship as the most ancient and pure of all
religions. Their knowledge of mathematics, astron-
omy, and history, increased their contempt for their
conquerors, who were at that time extremely ignor-
ant. They could not abandon a religion consecrated
through so many ages for the upstart sect of their
enemies. The greater part of them retired to the
confines of Persia and India : there they live at this
day, under the denomination of Gaures or Guebers,
marrying only among themselves, maintaining the
sacred fire, and faithfully attached to all they know
of their ancient worship; but altogether ignorant,
despised, and, except in their poverty, resembling
the Jews, so long dispersed, without mingling in
alliance with other nations: but they may be still
more properly compared to the Banians, who are
established and dispersed in no other countries but
Persia and India. A great number of Gueber fam-
ilies, or Ignicolae, remained at Ispahan, till the reign
of Shah Abbas, who banished them in the same man-
ner as Isabella expelled the Jews from Spain. These
Ignicolae have for a long time anathematized Alex-
ander and Mahomet in their prayers; in all prob-

Persia, Arabia, and Mahomet. 59

ability they now extend their curses to Shah Abbas

While one of Omar's lieutenants subdues Persia,
another conquers from the Romans the whole coun-
try of Egypt, and great part of Libya. It was in the
course of this war that they burned the famous
library at Alexandria, a monument of the knowl-
edge, as well as of the errors, of mankind, begun
t>y Ptolemy Philadelphus, and augmented by such
a number of monarchs. At that time the Saracens
rejected all science but what was contained in the
Koran ; but they had already demonstrated that
their genius was capable of extending to every sub-
ject. Their undertaking to renew the old canal first
dug by the kings of Egypt, and afterwards repaired
by Trajan, for joining the Nile and the Red Sea,
was an enterprise worthy of the most enlightened
ages. A governor of Egypt undertakes, and even
accomplishes this great work in the caliphate of
Omar. What a wide difference between the genius
of the Arabians, and that of the Turks ! These last
have let a work run to ruin, the preservation of
which was of greater consequence than the conquest
of a mighty province.

The success of that conquering people seems
rather to have been owing to the enthusiasm by
which they were animated, and to the spirit of the
nation in general, than to the ability of their con-
ductors ; for Omar was assassinated in the year 603,
by a Persian slave, and Otman, his successor, met

6o Ancient and Modern History.

with the same fate in an insurrection that happened
in 655. Ali, the celebrated son-in-law of Mahomet,
is not elected to the sovereign power until the state
is involved in troubles. Like his predecessors, he
is murdered in five years ; and in the meantime the
Mussulman arms are always prosperous. This Ali,
whom the Persians revere at this day, and whose
principles they follow in opposition to those of
Omar, at length obtains the caliphate, and transfers
the seat of the caliphs from Medina, where Ma-
homet is buried, to Coussa, on the banks of the
Euphrates, a city of which scarce any ruins now
remain. This was the fate of Babylon, Seleucia,
and all the ancient cities of Chaldaea, which were
wholly built of bricks.

It is very evident that the genius of the Arabians,
set in motion by Mahomet, did everything by dint of
its own strength for the space of near three centu-
ries ; thus resembling the genius of the ancient Ro-
mans. Nay, it was in the reign of Valid, the most
unwarlike of all the caliphs, that their greatest con-
quests were achieved. One of his generals, in the year
707, extended his empire as far as Samarkand.
Another, at the same time, invaded the empire of the
Greeks, towards the Black Sea. A third, in the
year 711, sailed from Egypt into Spain, a country
which has been with ease subdued successively by the
Carthaginians, the Romans, the Goths, and Van-
dals, and at length by these Arabs, who were known
by the appellation of Moors. There they at first

Persia, Arabia, and Mahomet. 61

founded the kingdom of Cordova. The sultan of
Egypt indeed shook off the yoke of the great caliph
of Bagdad ; and Abd-er-Rahman, governor of Spain,
which he had conquered, no longer acknowledged
the sultan of Egypt ; but for all thaf, it was to the
arms of the Mussulmans that all those successes were

This Abd-er-Rahman, the grandson of Caliph Hes-
ham, subdued the kingdoms of Castile, Navarre,
Portugal, and Aragon. He made a settlement in
Languedoc, became master of Guienne and Poitou ;
and had not Charles Martel deprived him of his good
fortune and his life together, France would have
been a Mahometan province.

After the reigns of nineteen caliphs of the house
of the Ommiades, the long dynasty of the Abbas-
sides began about the year 752 of the Christian era :
Abougiafar Almanzor, the second caliph of this race,
located the seat of that great empire at Bagdad in
Chaldaea, on the other side of the river Euphrates.
The Turks say he laid the foundation of this city;
the Persians assure us it was of great antiquity, and
that he did no more than order it to be repaired.
This is the city which is sometimes called Babylon,
and has been the source of so many wars between
Persia and Turkey.

The dominion of the caliphs lasted 655 years.
Though despotic in religion as well as in govern-
ment, they were never worshipped like the Grand
Lama; but they enjoyed a more substantial author-

62 Ancient and Modern History.

ity; and even in the times of their decay they met
with respect from those princes by whom they were
persecuted. All the sultans, whether Turks, Ara-
bians, or Tartars, received the investiture from the
caliphs, with much less dispute than many Chris-
tian princes have had with the pope on the same
subject. They did not kiss the caliph's feet, but
they prostrated themselves upon the threshold of his

If ever power threatened the whole earth with
subjection, it was that of the caliphs; for they
possessed the right of the throne, and of the altar ;
of the sword, and of the spirit; their orders were
received as oracles, and their soldiers were so many
desperate enthusiasts. In the year 671, they besieged
Constantinople, which was doomed to be one day a
Mahometan capital, and the almost inevitable dissen-
sions among so many ferocious chiefs, did not stop
the course of their conquests. In this particular
they resembled the ancient Romans, who in the midst
of their civil wars subdued the country of Asia

The politeness of the Mahometans increased with
their power. Those caliphs, still acknowledged sov-
ereigns in religion, and as apparent heads of the
empire, even by those distant princes who no longer
obeyed their orders, lived quietly in their new Baby-
lon, and the arts soon revived under their counte-
nance and protection. Haroun-al-Raschid, contempo-
rary with Charlemagne, and more respected than

Persia, Arabia, and Mahomet. 63

any of his predecessors, whose commands were
obeyed in Spain, and in the Indies, reanimated the
sciences, taught the agreeable and useful arts to
flourish, invited learned men into his empire, com-
posed verses, and took such measures, that, through-
out his vast dominions, barbarity gave way to polite-
ness. In his reign, the Arabians, who had already
adopted the Indian ciphers, imported them into
Europe. In Germany and France, we had no other
knowledge of astronomy but what we learned of the
same people. The single word almanac is still a
proof of this assertion.

The "Almagest " of Ptolemy was at that time
translated from the Greek into the Arabic language,
by the astronomer Benhonain. The caliph Al-Mamun
caused a degree of the meridian to be measured geo-
metrically, in order to determine the magnitude of
the earth ; an operation which was not performed
in France till nine hundred years after this period,
in the reign of Louis XIV. The same astronomer
Benhonain made considerable progress in his obser-
vations : he discovered that either Ptolemy had fixed
the sun's utmost declination too far northwards, or
that the obliquity of the ecliptic was changed: he
even perceived that the period of thirty-six thousand
years, assigned for the revolution of the fixed stars
from east to west, must be considerably abridged.

Chemistry and medicine were carefully cultivated
by the Arabians. Chemistry, which among us is now
brought to perfection, we learned from them, and

64 Ancient and Modern History.

them only ; to them we owe the new remedies termed
minoratives, more gentle and salutary than those
formerly used in the schools of Hippocrates and
Galen. In a word, even in the second century after
Mahomet, the Christians of the West received all
their instructions from the Mussulmans.

One infallible proof of the superiority of a nation
in the arts that depend upon genius, is their bring-
ing the culture of poetry to perfection. I do not
mean those inflated and bombastic metaphors, con-
sisting of insipid, commonplace allusions to the sun,
moon, stars, seas, and mountains; but that sort of
sensible and energic poetry which flourished in
the Augustan age, and revived in the reign of
Louis XIV. That poetry, composed of image and
sentiment, was well known in the time of Haroun-
al-Raschid. Among other striking passages, I shall
quote the following, because it is short; it turns
upon the celebrated story of the misfortunes that
befell Giafar, one of the Barmecides :

" Frail mortal, with presumptuous pride,

By Fortune's treacherous gifts elate,
Behold the end of Barmecide,
And tremble at thy prosperous fate."

The last line is literally translated ; and nothing,
in my opinion, can be more beautiful than this
apothegm : " Tremble at thy own prosperity." The
Arabic language had the advantage of having been
long brought to perfection : it was fixed before the
time of Mahomet, and has not been altered since

Italy. 65

that period. There is not the least trace remaining
of any jargon that was spoken at that time in
Europe. To which side soever we turn, it must be
confessed that we are but of yesterday: we have
made greater progress than other people, in more
than one art and science; perhaps we proceed the
faster, because we began so late.



NOTHING is more worthy of our curiosity than the
manner in which God brought about the establish-
ment of His Church, by making second causes coin-
cide and concur with His eternal decrees. Let us
leave, with the utmost reverence, the divine part in
the hands of those with whom it is deposited, and
confine ourselves solely to that which is historical.
The disciples of St. John established themselves at
first in Arabia, the neighboring country to Jerusa-
lem ; but the disciples of Christ dispersed themselves
over the face of the earth. The Platonic philosophers
of Alexandria, where there was such a number of
Jews, associated themselves with the first Christians
at Rome, in the reign of Nero ; and these were con-
founded with the Jews, because they were in effect
their countrymen, spoke the same language, and
abstained, like them, from those meats that were
forbidden by the law of Moses ; nay, many of them
Vol. 245

66 Ancient and Modern History.

were actually circumcised, and observed the Sab-

The number of the Jews that still remained at
Rome amounted to four thousand. There had been
double that number in the time of Augustus, but
Tiberius transported one-half to Sardinia, in order to
people that island, and diminish the number of
usurpers at Rome. Far from being restricted in
their worship, they enjoyed that toleration which
the Romans freely granted to all religions; they
were even allowed to have synagogues, and judges
of their own nation, privileges which they enjoy
at this day in modern Rome, where they are still
more numerous. Their hatred of the Christians was
implacable. They accused them of being the authors
of the conflagration that destroyed one-half of Rome
in the reign of Nero. It was as unjust to accuse the
Christians of that accident as to impute it to the
emperor. Neither he, nor the Christians, nor the
Jews could have any interest in burning the city of
Rome : but there was a necessity for appeasing the
people that rose against the foreigners, who were
equally hated by Jews and Romans. Some unfor-
tunate wretches were sacrificed as victims to the
vengeance of the populace. This transient outrage,
however, should not be reckoned among the perse-
cutions they underwent for their faith; it had no
affinity with their religion, which was not known,
and which the Romans confounded with Judaism, a
religion which their laws protected. True it is, the

Italy. 67

antiquarians have lound in Spain certain inscriptions
in which Nero is thanked for having abolished a new
superstition in that province ; but the authenticity
of these monuments is very much doubted. Allow-
ing them to be authentic, they do not mention Chris-
tianity; and even if these cruel monuments relate
to Christians, to what are they to be ascribed, but
to the jealousy of the Jews settled in Spain, who
abhorred Christianity as an enemy engendered in
their own bosoms? We will carefully avoid all
attempts to remove that impenetrable obscurity
which veils the cradle of the infant church; a veil
which learning itself has only served to double.

What we are assured of is, that it never was the
genius of the Roman senate to persecute any per-
son for his faith ; and that none of the emperors had
the least intention to compel the Jews to change their
religion, neither after the revolt under Vespasian,
nor in consequence of that which broke out in the
reign of Adrian. Their worship indeed was always
insulted and ridiculed, and statues were erected in
the temple before it was destroyed; but it never
entered into the head of any emperor, proconsul, or
Roman senate, to hinder the Jews from believing
their own law. This circumstance only serves to
show what scope Christianity had to extend itself in

None of the Csesars, before Domitian, ever dis-
turbed the Christians. Dio Cassius tells us, that
under this emperor some persons were condemned as

68 Ancient and Modern History.

atheists, and as instating the Jewish customs: but
this disturbance, about which we are so much in the
dark, was neither general nor of long duration. We
know precisely neither the reasons for which some
Christians were banished, nor those for which they
were recalled. What credit can we give to Tertull-
ian, 'who, upon the faith of Hegesippus, seriously
relates that Domitian interrogated the grandchil-
dren of the apostle St. Jude, of the race of David,
whose right to the throne of Judaea began to make
him uneasy ; but that, perceiving they were indigent
and miserable, he desisted from further persecution ?
Had it been possible, that a Roman emperor should
dread the pretended descendants of David, even after
Jerusalem was destroyed, his policy would have been
directed to the Jews, and not to the Christians ; but
how can we suppose that he, who was master of all
the known world, should feel disquietude about the
pretensions which two of the grandchildren of St.
Jude might have to the kingdom of Palestine ; and
that he should question them on the subject ? Unhap-
pily, in this manner has history been written by a
great number of authors, whose piety was much pref-
erable to their materials and understanding.

Nerva, Vespasian, Titus, Trajan, Adrian, and the
Antonines never persecuted the Church. Trajan,
who had forbidden private associations, writes to
Pliny, " Let no inquiries be made against the Chris-
tians." These essential words, " no inquiry," prove
that it was in their power to conceal and support

Italy. 69

themselves with a little discretion, though the zeal of
priests, and the hatred of the Jews often dragged
them to trial, and exposed them to punishment. They
were rancorously hated by the populace, especially
in the provinces, who excited the magistrates against
them, and loudly exclaimed that they should be
exposed to wild beasts in the circus. Adrian not
only forbade Fondanus, the proconsul of Asia Minor,
to persecute them, but his decree imports, "If the
Christians are slandered, let the calumniator be
severely chastised." From this instance of Adrian's
justice, some have fondly believed that he was a
Christian, but can we suppose that he, who built a
temple to Antinous, would raise another to Jesus

Marcus Aurelius ordained that the Christians
should not be prosecuted on the score of religion,
and they were openly protected by Caracalla, Helio-
gabalus, Alexander, Philippus, and Gallienus. They
had all this time, therefore, to extend and fortify
their infant church. They held five councils in the
first century, sixteen in the second, and thirty-six in
the third. We learn from ecclesiastical history that
even at this period the altars were extremely magnifi-
cent : that some of them were adorned with columns
of silver, weighing together three thousand marks :
that the chalices were made after the model of the
Roman cups, and the patens, or covers, of beaten
gold. The Christians enjoyed such uncommon indul-
gences, in spite of the clamor and persecuting spirit

yo Ancient and Modern History.

of their enemies, that, in several provinces they had
churches built upon the ruins of heathen temples
which had been demolished. This circumstance is
owned by Origen and St. Cyprian ; and the Church
must have long enjoyed uninterrupted peace, seeing
these two great men already reproached their con-
temporaries with luxury, effeminacy, and avarice,
the consequences of affluence and repose. St. Cyprian
expressly complains that divers bishops, neglecting
the holy examples they had before their eyes,
" accumulated great sums of money, enriched them-
selves by usury, and obtained estates by fraud : "
these are his very words; an evident proof of the
happy tranquillity they enjoyed under the Roman
laws. The abuse of anything plainly demonstrates
the existence of it.

The persecution of the Christians under Decius,
Maximin, and Diocletian, was founded on reasons
of state. Decius hated them because they favored
the family of Philippus, suspected, though erro-
neously, of being a Christian himself : Maximin per-
secuted them because they supported Gordianus ; but
they enjoyed the most extensive liberty, for a series
of twenty years, in the reign of Diocletian. At
length, in the year 303, Caesar Galerius, their invet-
erate enemy, persuaded Diocletian to give orders for
demolishing the cathedral of Nicomedia, which was
built opposite the emperor's palace : a Christian tore
the edict in public, and was punished for his pre-
sumption. In a few days after this incident, part of

Italy. 71

the palace of Galerius was destroyed by fire, and
the Christians were accused as incendiaries : never-
theless, they were not condemned to the pains of
death ; it was only decreed that their churches and
books should be burned and that their persons should
be deprived of all dignity. Until that time Diocle-
tian never had the least intention to lay them under
constraint in matters of religion. He had, after
his victory over the Persians, issued edicts against
the Manichaeans, who were attached to the interests
of Persia, and secret enemies to the Roman Empire.
Reasons of state were the sole cause of these edicts.
Had they been dictated by religious zeal, a kind of
zeal with which conquerors are very seldom inspired,
the Christians would have been included ; but they
were not. Consequently they had twenty years to
strengthen their interest, under this very Diocletian,
and were not maltreated, except during two years
of his reign ; besides, Lactantius, Eusebius, and the
emperor Constantine himself, impute these violences
to Galerius alone, and not to Diocletian. Indeed it

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