Flora Louise Shaw Lugard.

A tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria online

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to the Christian era. The subsequent decline of the
Roman Empire was marked by a corresponding decline
of the Roman colonies in Africa. The Vandals, who
occupied Spain and gave it its name of Vandalusia or
Andalusia, followed the Romans and effected establish-
ments upon the coast. But they left the interior untouched,
and the conquest which was of supreme interest to
Negroland was that which was carried out in the seventh
century of the Christian era by the Arabs.

The Arabs conquered Egypt in 638, and their victorious
forces spread rapidly, as was to be expected, across the
provinces of North Africa. And, as might also be expected,
they did not occupy the prosperous northern provinces
without endeavouring to find out something of what lay
behind them in the desert. Tripoli was taken by them
in 643, and expeditions were immediately sent across the
hills to the slopes upon the south and as far as Wadan
in the western desert. A very little later, 666, Okbar
ibn Nafe made a military progress of a still more complete
description, and inquiring always of the inhabitants of
each conquered tribe — "What lies beyond you?" he
marched as far as Kawar, the country of the Tibboos
to the north of Lake Chad, which to this day does not
appear to be substantially altered from the condition in
which he found it. The people of Kawar, either not
knowing or not choosing to tell that there was anything
beyond them, replied in answer to his questions that



the country beyond was unknown. He turned back to
Tripoli, and thus just missed entering the fertile belt.
Fifteen years later, 681, the same Okbar attacked the
south-western part of Morocco, a very fruitful district then
occupied by Europeans and Christian Berbers, and made
himself master of the whole. The principal town, Medina
Niffis, is spoken of by Arab historians as a town of great
antiquity. It lies, however, on the other side of the
mountains which separate Morocco from the desert, and
he still did not enter the fertile belt of Negroland. But
Okbar was only a forerunner of the more celebrated
Musa Nosseyr, who was appointed Governor of Africa
under the Caliphs in 698, and made his administration
for ever famous by that Arab conquest of Spain which
so profoundly affected the civilisation of the West.

It is interesting, and important to the history of North
Africa, that Musa did not immediately undertake the inva-
sion of Spain. Upwards of ten years elapsed, during
which he had time to make his presence felt in the
province which was at that time known by the name
of Afrikyah, or, as it was more generally spelt, Ifrikyah.
This province of the Arab domination corresponded not
to Africa as we know it, but to the Carthaginian and
Roman Province of Africa Propria, which stretched from
Barca to the borders of Morocco and extended south-
ward to the edge of the desert. It held the head of
the eastern road into the desert through the Fezzan,
while the head of the western road through Morocco
appears, notwithstanding Okbar's partial conquests, to
have remained in the hands of the Europeans and
Christian Berbers who held the country which corre-
sponds to the modern Morocco.

Musa's first act on arriving at Cairouan to take up
the governorship, was to make a speech to his soldiers
which, interpreted by the light of succeeding events, had
almost a prophetic note: "I know well," he said, "what
sort of commander you want," and after describing to
them an ideal soldier "doubly cautious after victories,


doubly brave after defeat, trusting ever in the righteous-
ness of his cause," he lifted his hands to the mountains
in the shadow of which they stood, and cried : " You may
safely rely upon me as your commander, for I shall seize
every opportunity of leading you on to victory ; and, by
Allah ! I will not cease making incursions into yonder
high mountains and attacking the strong passes leading
into them, until God has depressed their summits, reduced
their strength, and granted the Moslems the victory. I
shall lead you on until God Almighty makes us the
masters of all or part of the territories lying beyond
them, and until we have subdued the countries which
His immutable decrees have already allotted to us."

His own province was far from being at that time
in a state of complete subjection. His first campaign
was against the Berbers of Arwah, who made forays
towards Cairouan. He overthrew them and took looo
prisoners. These were the first Berber captives taken
to Cairouan. Then he sent one of his sons against the
tribes. His son was successful, and returned with 100,000
captives. He sent another son in another direction, who
was successful, and returned with 100,000 captives. He
himself went in a third direction, and was successful, and
returned with another 100,000 captives. In all, upwards
of 300,000 captives resulted from this campaign. The
Caliph, we are told, would hardly believe it when he
was informed that his fifth of the captives amounted to
60,000. Musa, encouraged by his success, despatched
his troops farther and farther into the desert. The
Western Berber tribes of the Hawara, the Zenatah
Kotamah, and even as far south as the Senhajah, were
in turn taken by surprise. He fought with them — in the
words of his historian — "battles of extermination, he
killed myriads of them, and made a surprising number
of prisoners, with great booty of cattle, grain, and articles
of dress." These conquests took place in the years 699
and 700 A.D. The fame of Musa spread so far and
wide that all soldiers desired to serve under him in


Africa, and the numbers of his army increased so much
that they were doubled. Conflict was constantly renewed
with the more warlike of the desert tribes, but "God was
pleased to permit that the Moslems should have every-
where the victory." By the year 702, Musa was joined
by the van of the Egyptian army, and a great battle was
then fought in the west, in which the Berbers were com-
manded by their famous king Koseylah. The Moslems
were entirely victorious, and with the spoils there were
taken from the Berbers "innumerable maidens inestim-
able by their beauty and accomplishments." The maidens
were distributed amongst the soldiers as wives. This
battle was ;the prelude of many further 'African con-
quests, including the conquest of the territory of Morre-
kosh. (The town of Morrekosh or Morocco was not
founded till near the end of the eleventh century.)

The territory of Northern Africa being conquered, and
Arab armies driving all before them to the southern
edges of the desert, where, as will presently be seen, the
harried tribes found refuge in the fruitful plains of Negro-
land, Musa turned his ambition to the sea. He ordered
the building of a dockyard at Tunis, and himself sailed
thither. From the moment of the completion of the dock-
yard the port of Tunis became "a place of safety for
ships when the winds blew at sea and the waves were
high." Musa ordered the construction of a hundred
vessels, and in these preparations passed the remainder
of the year 703.

In the year 704 all the best of his army embarked in
an expedition which was called "The Expedition of the
Nobles." They spoiled Sicily and returned safe.

In 705 another [expedition against the Berbers was
followed by their total submission. In the same year
Syracuse was attacked by sea and spoiled. Three years
afterwards Sardinia was attacked and immense spoil taken.
A great expedition inland to the territory to the south of
Morocco, lying on the slopes of the mountains between
it and the desert, and commanding the western road to


Negroland, resulted in the submission of that country.
There was also a sea expedition to Majorca, which was

By this time (708) Musa was fairly master by sea
and land of the whole of North Africa from the Mediter-
ranean to the borders of Negroland. His influence upon
the Berber tribes whom he displaced or overthrew was
twofold. One effect of his conquests was to drive them
from their old habitations in the fruitful northern edge of
the desert to find new habitations in the no less fruitful
but already occupied southern edge, where to make room
for them disturbance was necessarily produced among the
existing black populations. The other effect was in an
exactly opposite direction. It was to draw them into the
circle of Arab influence and even to incorporate them
with the nation of their conquerors. It is related of Musa
that on his return to Egypt at a later period he was on
one occasion asked by the Sultan to describe the various
peoples whom he had conquered. It came to the turn of
the Berbers, and of them he said : " The Berbers, O
Commander of the Faithful, are of all foreign nations the
people who resemble most the Arabs in impetuosity,
corporal strength, endurance, military science, generosity,
only that they are, O Commander of the Faithful, the
most treacherous people upon earth." The Berbers them-
selves had various traditions purporting to show that they
were sprung from the same stock as the Arabs. It has
already been seen that the innumerable maidens who
were taken with the spoils of Musa's many conquests were
regarded as ''inestimable by their beauty and accomplish-
ments," and were distributed among his soldiers for wives.
Musa's own sons had sons by Berber wives who rose to
high repute. But it was not only by intermarriage, nor
by the revival of traditions of a common stock, that the
two races were mixed. It was also Musa's habit to spend
the immense sums with which the Sultan rewarded his
victories largely in the purchase of captured Berbers.
This he did, his biographer relates, in the interests of


religion. " Whenever after a victory there were a number
of slaves put up for sale, he used to buy all those who,
he thought, would willingly embrace Islam, who were of
noble origin, and who looked, besides, as if they were
active young men. To these he first proposed the em-
bracing of Islam, and if, after cleansing their under-
standing and making them fit to receive the sublime
truths, they were converted to the best of religions, and
their conversion was a sincere one, he would then, by way
of putting their abilities to trial, employ them. If they
evinced good dispositions and talents he would instantly
grant them their liberty, appoint them to high commands
in his army, and promote them according to their merits."
If they showed no good dispositions, he returned them
to the common stock of captives belonging to the army.

The effect of such a system in bringing about an
amalgamation of the two races and in inducing the accept-
ance of Mohammedanism by the Berbers does not need to
be insisted upon. The races became by degrees so mixed
that in many cases the Berber could hardly be distinguished
from the Arab nor the Arab from the Berber. In all
that was subsequently done by the Arabs leading Berbers
had their share.

The amalgamation of the Arab and the Berber peoples,
which could not have taken place but for the similarity in
their dispositions noted by Musa, was very shortly to be
illustrated in that conquest of Spain which has left Musa's
name enshrined in the sacred places of Arab history.

Having assured himself of the necessary command of
the sea, Musa sent "the Berber Tarik, one of his freed-
men," to possess himself of Tangiers and the strong places
of the neighbouring districts with a view to crossing over
into Spain. Tarik accordingly marched thither and took
the strong places and cities of those Berbers. This being
done, Tarik wrote to his master, "Musa, I have found
here six vessels." Musa told him to take them and to sail
for Spain. Tarik did so in the year 710, and was joined
by Musa himself in the year 711. As is well known, the


mountain by which the expedition entered Europe bears
to this day the name of the military commander — the
Mountain of Tarik, Jebr el Tarik or Gibraltar — while the
spot, a little further along the coast, on which a lesser
detachment landed, is known as Tarifa from the name of
its leader Tarif, another of Musa's Berber freedmen.
What is not perhaps so generally recognised is that the
men who led this civilising expedition into Spain were of
the same race as those who, driven by the same compellin,g
cause to another fate, carried the banner of civilisation into
Negroland. The capacity for taking high command which
Musa recognised in the Berbers was a capacity of race
which was sure to find its satisfaction under circumstances
of the most diverse kind. North or south, it mattered
little in which direction they were forced by the resistless
pressure of a higher fate. Alike in Spain and Negroland,
where they went in misfortune they were to remain in
triumph, until that mysterious decadence which attends the
fate of peoples marked them for decay.



The fascinating story of the conquest of Spain by the
Arabs and of the development of a civiHsation far in
advance of anything known at the time to Western
Europe, Hes outside the scope of this book. Yet the his-
tory of Negroland and of Spain were in their early days
so closely interwoven through the links of the Arab and
Berber connection that the records of Arab civilisation
are not altogether foreign to the history of West Africa.

The conquest took place at the beginning of the eighth
century, and was for all ordinary purposes complete. It
was carried out almost entirely by Berber troops whom
Musa continued to convert, to organise, and to draft into
Spain. Tangiers, which had always been a Berber
stronghold, became for this purpose his military head-
quarters, and he was enabled perpetually to recruit his
conquering armies with fresh troops. Tarik took 12,000
of these converts with him on his first landing. There
was a tradition lingering from the Greek occupation of the
country that Spain would be conquered only "by two
nations composed of peoples unaccustomed to the luxuries
of life, hardened by privation and fatigue." The Arabs
and the Andalusians alike translated the prophecy to apply
to the Arabs and the Berbers. " For a long period," says
one of their historians, " the Berbers and Andalusians
had hated each other across the Straits, but Berbers
being more in want of Andalusians than these were of
them, owing to certain necessaries not to be procured in
Africa, which were imported from Andalus, communi-
cation necessarily existed between the people of both


countries." The Berbers had long wanted Spain : Spain
had long feared the Berbers. The conquest of Spain was
therefore to some extent regarded as a fulfilment of the
destiny of both nations.

But while the Berbers claimed to be of the same stock
as the Arabs, and were admitted, as has been seen, to
some degree of comradeship, they were at a very inferior
stage of civilisation. The sense of difference of the culti-
vated Arabs was expressed by a comic poet, who suffered
under a subsequent Berber dynasty for his readiness of
speech. " I saw Adam in my dream," he makes one of
his characters declare, "and I said to him, 'Oh, Father
of Mankind ! Men generally agree that the Berbers
are descended from thee.' ' Yes,' replied Adam, * it is
true, but none dispute that Eve was at that time
divorced from me.' " Brothers, but brothers of divorce,
very fairly represents the relation which for a long time
existed between Berber and Arab.

Shortly after the whole of Spain was reduced there
was a general Arab migration to it, and it was with this
Arab migration that the high civilisation came. For
about fifty years the Berbers in fitful revolution struggled
against the Arabs for the sole possession of a country
which they claimed that they and they alone had won.
The conflict between the dynasties of the Ommeyades and
the Abbassides in the East gave opportunities for the dis-
affected in Spain. But about the middle of the eighth
century, when the Abbassides succeeded in overthrowing
the dynasty of the Ommeyades in the East and possessing
themselves of the Caliphate, one son of the Ommeyades
escaped into North Africa, and, after many adventures,
established himself under the name of Abdurrahman I.
upon the throne of his fathers in Spain. He ascended the
throne in 757, thus separating the Caliphate of the East
from the Caliphate of the West, and brilliantly opened the
chapter of cultivated Arab rule in the West.

The dynasty of the Ommeyades lasted in Spain for up-
wards of two hundred and fifty years, and may be thought


of as coming to an end, in power at least, about the year
1000 A.D. ; when, after an interval of misrule, it was suc-
ceeded in the latter part of the eleventh century, that is,
shortly after the Norman conquest of England, by the
purely Berber dynasty of the Almoravides. During the
first two centuries of the rule of the Ommeyades the Arab
dominion in Spain reached its highest point. The court
of Abdurrahman and his successors became the centre of
all the art, the learning, the refinement, and the elegance
of the known world. Commerce brought to the shores of
Spain the best productions of every land. Science was
honoured. Arab travellers penetrated to the furthest limits
of the Eastern hemisphere. All that India and China had
to teach was known to them.

They had a common saying that " Science came down
from heaven and lodged itself in three different parts of
man's body : in the brain among the Greeks ; in the hands
among the Chinese ; and in the tongue among the Arabs."
Unfortunate in the fate that subsequently befell them, the
Arabs were fortunate in this, that during the period of
their prosperity they had historians and poets capable
of preserving for posterity records of the high level of
civilisation that was reached. Religious fanaticism, which
made a duty at a later period of sweeping the infidel out
of Spain, made it no less a matter of conscience to destroy
the admirable literature which centuries of enlightenment
had amassed in the libraries of his forefathers. Fortu-
nately, however, the writings were so copious that many
escaped destruction, and the industry of modern research
has brought again to light learning which was indignantly
rejected by the religious Europe of the Middle Ages.

To appreciate in any degree the debt which Europe
owes to the Arab civilisation of Spain, we have to re-
member the condition of barbarous ignorance, sloth, and
superstition in which the Continent was plunged after the
break-up of the Roman Empire. What the Berber was to
North Africa, such was the Scythian, in the many divisions
of Goths, Gauls, Huns, &c., to Europe. What the culti-



vated northern strip lying between the mountains and the
sea was to North Africa, such on the Continent of Europe
was the strip lying also between the mountains and the
sea which is known to us under the names of Italy, Spain,
and Greece. To both these famous districts the Mediter-
ranean had given life and the mountains defence. Beyond
the mountains, equally on the north and on the south,
countless hordes of nomads unacquainted with the gentler
arts of civilisation, but vigorous and active in their bar-
barism, awaited nothing but the opportunity of conquest.
The Scythians and the Berbers were, in their original con-
dition, pastoral tribes of migratory habits, feeding exclu-
sively on meat and milk, and clothing themselves in the
skins of animals. Of many of them it is said that they
had never even seen bread ; this, as well on the plains
of Europe and Asia as in the African desert. They had
no dwelling-houses and no domestic arts. Leather tents
or straw huts served all their temporary purpose. But
they were hardy, abstemious, expert riders, brave, brutal,
and proficient in all the ruder military virtues. Nothing
strikes the student of Berber history more than the re-
semblance to be noted between the characteristics of
the Berber tribes and the descriptive traits recorded by
Tacitus, and quoted by Gibbon from earlier authors, of
the primitive inhabitants of Northern Europe. The can-
nibalism which distinguished the extreme barbarism of
Africa was not wanting, as we know, among the abori-
ginals of Northern Germany.

In Europe the decadence of Rome and the downfall
of the Byzantine Empire gave opportunity for the northern
tribes to possess themselves of all the outlying terri-
tories of the Empire, and from the forced wedlock of deca-
dence and barbarism the states of modern Europe took
their rise.

In Africa the strong intellectual impulse of the Jews
and Saracens dominated the brute forces of barbarism by
which it was surrounded, and the southern tribes, instead
of conquering, became the instruments of conquest directed


by a higher mind. While Europe fell to the level of her
conquerors, Arabian civilisation rose, and, spreading
through Africa to Spain, it maintained for the Western
world the moral ideals and the intellectual enliofhtenment
which, without the refuge afforded them in Spain, had
perhaps been wholly lost.

Medieval Arabian achievements in the higher paths of
learning are well known. There is no branch of scientific
development among the Western nations upon which the
Arabs have not set their mark, either by original research,
or by the service which they rendered in transmitting to
their European posterity the learning accumulated by
other generations in other lands. They initiated the
Renaissance in Europe by preserving and translating at
a much earlier period the great works of the Greeks.
They gave a vivifying impulse to all the intellectual life
of the West by introducing to it the hoarded knowledge
of the East. In mathematics they imported much from
India, amongst other things the numerals known to us as
"Arabic" numerals, and with them the advantages of the
decimal system. The word cypher, with all its deriva-
tions, is an Arabic word. They translated from the Greek
Euclid and the earlier geometers ; but it was to the
original studies of an Arab geometer — Ben Musa — of the
ninth century, that Europe owed its use of the improved
science to which the Arabs gave its modern name of
algebra. Ben Musa was the inventor of the common
method of solving quadratic equations, as well as of the
substitution of sines for chords in trigonometry. His
system was the system commonly adopted by the Arab
schools. The Arabs were ardent students of mathematics,
and a long list of astronomers and physicists, from Al
Maimon, who determined the obliquity of the ecliptic in
830 ; through Ebn Junis, who constructed the Hakemite
tables of the stars in 1008 ; Avicenna, the well-known
physician and philosopher, who wrote, amongst other
things, in the early part of the eleventh century, an
encyclopaedia of human knowledge in twenty volumes ;


Al Gazzali, who in 1058 was the forerunner of Descartes ;
Al-Hazen, the optician, who estabhshed the modern theory
of vision, basing it on clear anatomical and geometrical
evidence, and who was the first to trace, about the year
1 100, the curvilinear path of rays of light through the
air, deducing from his theory of refraction a determina-
tion of the height of the atmosphere ; to El Idrisi, the
geographer of Roger of Sicily ; the famous Averrhoes, the
commentator of Aristotle, who lived at the end of the
twelfth century ; and the brilliant schools of medicine and
surgery which adorned the thirteenth century : all serve
to demonstrate that in the application of the abstract
principles of science to natural phenomena, the Arabs
luminously opened the path of modern progress. Their
studies in chemistry were profound. Geber, or Djajar,
who lived in the ninth century, and of whom Roger
Bacon speaks at a much later period as the niagister
magistrorunt of chemical science, was the first to describe
nitric acid and aqua regia. Before him chemistry had
no stronger acid than concentrated vinegar. The pro-
perties and preparation of sulphuric acid and phosphorus
soon followed. For the composition of gunpowder we
get towards the end of the eighth century the following
prescription: "Pulverise on a marble mortar one pound
of sulphur, two of charcoal, and six of saltpetre." Any
one who may have visited the royal gunpowder works
at Waltham Abbey will know how little the prescription
has altered, except in varying proportions, to the present

Online LibraryFlora Louise Shaw LugardA tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria → online text (page 3 of 41)