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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in Andalusia had a handwriting of their own which they
adopted at some period subsequent to their arrival in
Spain. It has already been mentioned that one of the
distinctions by which it has been made possible to learned
French research to trace the different origin of the
civilisation of Eastern and Western Negroland is the
employment of the Eastern alphabet of Arabia and Egypt
in the one, and the Western alphabet of Morocco and
Spain in the other. In addition to the geometricians,
astronomers, geographers, mechanicians, botanists, chemists,
physicians, who appear to have collected all that was
known in Asia as well as Europe, and who wrote volumin-
ously — the works of many of them amounting to fifty and
sixty volumes — every branch of literature was represented.
There were histories, essays, poems ; there were treatises
upon arithmetic, grammar, poetry, rhetoric, canon and
civil law, jurisprudence, logic. Lists of distinguished
writers have been preserved in biographical dictionaries
which have escaped destruction, and it is therefore pos-
sible to some extent to reconstruct the intellectual life of
the day. It would appear to have been active, charming,
polished. The Arabs claimed for their children and their
women that they had a natural gift for poetry, narrative,
and repartee. They appear to have had a sufficient


number of poets to furnish matter for biographies of
poets, of which one is mentioned as having been in ten
volumes. Philosophy, theology, metaphysics, were richyl
represented, and fiction was not neglected.

The minor arts, as we have seen, were warmly
encouraged. Seville, which was the special home of
music, had a large export trade in musical instruments,
which it sent to Africa. In this town it was said that
every musical instrument was to be obtained. Toledo
was the centre of steel and metal work. In Cordova,
the famous Cordovan leather, of which the skins were
imported from Negroland, was worked into many designs
and extensively used in beautiful book bindings. All
the arts to which elaborate architecture and luxurious
domestic life gave rise were, of course, highly developed.
Painting appears to have been restricted chiefly to decora-
tive work, but we are repeatedly told that the palaces of
southern Spain were filled with works of art.

It is interesting to note that in the great days of
Mohammedan Spain, Arabian women were not confined^
as in the East, to harems, but appeared freely in public
and took their share in all the intellectual, literary, and
even scientific movements of the day. Women held
schools in some of the principal towns. There were
women poets, historians, and philosophers, as well as
women surgeons and doctors.

A national life, so varied and active, having a commerce
which reached to the confines of the known world, naturally
drew material for its consumption from every source with
which it was acquainted. Negroland offered to Saracen
Spain many of the same sources of supply which our
tropical colonies offer to us, and it will presently be seen
how deeply the development of Negroland was affected by
the high civilisation of the Peninsula.




The dynasty of the Ommeyades lasted nominally in Spain
until the year 103 1 ; but the visible decay of its power
may be placed about the year 1000.

Abdurrahman III., one of the greatest of the Western
Caliphs, reigned for fifty years, between the dates of 911
and 961 A.D. He was the first to assume the title of
Commander of the Faithful in the West, and his reign
may be taken as marking the highest epoch of Moham-
medan authority in Europe. The Christian nations of
the North represented to the Mohammedans of that day
nothing more than barbarism, and in levying successful
war upon them, Abdurrahman took the place of the
champion of civilisation. Every year he renewed his
attacks. He carried war by land across the Pyrenees,
and his fleets dominated the Mediterranean.

"In this manner," says his chronicler, "the Moslems
subdued the country of the Franks beyond the utmost
limits reached during the reigns of his predecessors. The
Christian nations beyond the Pyrenees extended to him
the hand of submission, and their kings sent costly presents
to conciliate his favour. Even the kings of Rome, Con-
stantinople, Germany, Sclavonia, and other distant parts,
sent ambassadors asking for peace and suspension of
hostilities, and offering to agree to any conditions which
he should dictate." The most elaborate receptions were
accorded to these embassies, and it is rather interesting
to note incidentally in a description of the reception of
the embassy from Constantinople, which took place with
extraordinary magnificence in the year 949, that amongst


other things brought by the ambassadors there was a
letter enclosed in a gold case, with a portrait of the
Emperor Constantine, "admirably executed" in stained

Abdurrahman, moved, it is said, by the consideration
that he could not afford to have any hostile power so close
to the borders of Spain as Western Africa, subdued also
a great portion of Africa. He thus established the power
of the Western Caliphate from the borders of Negroland
to the Pyrenees, and this double kingdom was known
by the name of Adouatein, or " The Two Shores." In
the course of all his wars he suffered but one serious
defeat, and he had the surname of "the Victorious."
" Never," it is said, " was the Mohammedan Empire more
prosperous than during his reign. Commerce and agri-
culture flourished ; the sciences and arts received a new
impulse, and the revenue was increased tenfold." It was
under this Abdurrahman that cotton manufacture was
first established in Europe in the year 930. The Arabs
also introduced the art of printing calicoes from wooden

Abdurrahman is described as the mildest and most
enlightened sovereign that ever ruled. His meekness,
his generosity, and his love of justice became proverbial.
None of his ancestors surpassed him in courage in the
field ; he was fond of science, and the patron of the
learned, with w hom he loved to converse, spending those
hours that he stole from the arduous labours of the ad-
ministration in literary meetings, to which all the eminent
poets and learned men of his court were admitted.

It is an interesting comment on this half-century of
glory and prosperity that, after Abdurrahman's death, a
paper was found in his own handwriting, in which those
days that he had spent in happiness were carefully noted
down, and, on numbering them, they were found to amount
to fourteen !

Before the nominal end of the Ommeyade dynasty a
usurper, Al Mansur, "called in Berbers and Zenatahs,


whom he divided into companies according to their tribes,"
and made himself Sultan. Al Mansur became one of the
great Caliphs, and established a splendid dominion in
Western Africa. But the fact that he was a usurper held
in power by African tribes introduced a dangerous element
of disruption into the body-politic of the Caliphate in
Spain. The Berbers of Africa began to recognise their
power. The descendants of the original Berbers who,
with the Arabs, had effected the conquest of Spain, were
growing soft with the pleasures and the luxury of a high
civilisation. Their ruder brothers in Africa had kept
their vigour, and began to realise the possibilities which
it opened to them. A great African revolt was organised,
the result of which was that Al Mansur gave Fez in
sovereignty to the Berber chiefs of the Zenatah tribes,
together with a good bit of Western Africa, including the
southern province of what we now call Morocco. Side
by side with the dominion of the Caliphs, local sovereign-
ties in Africa acquired importance, and the ambitions thus
partially gratified were not long limited to Africa.

Al Mansur died in 1002, and Arab historians are in
practical agreement that from this time the Mohammedan
Empire in Spain began to show signs of decay. Perpetual
claimants of the throne of the Caliphs employed African
troops in Spain. Between 1020 and 1030 the whole of
Andalusia submitted with revolts and civil wars to the
Berbers. It became the habit of the reigning Caliph to
employ a black bodyguard drawn from Negroland, and,
instead of maintaining the old attitude of united hostility
to the Christians on their northern borders, each faction
in turn called in Christian help.

It was not long before the Christian armies dominated
the situation. The limits of the Arab Empire became
narrower, and the power of the Caliphs was broken.
Cordova, Granada, Malaga, Seville, became separate
principalities. Here is a view of the situation as pre-
sented by an Arab historian of the sixteenth century : " In
Africa as well as in Andalusia the possessions of the


Ummeyah were broken up into petty provinces, thus
giving an opportunity to the cruel enemy of God to attack
in detail the divided Moslems, and to expel them at last
from those countries which they had so long held in their
power." Alfonso VI. took Toledo in 1081. In the
following year Al Mutammed, the Arab king of Seville,
refused to pay him tribute, and Alfonso swore to drive the
Arabs into the sea at Gibraltar. In this extremity Al
Mutammed looked across the straits for help, and Africa
once more intervened directly in the affairs of Spain.

To understand the position which had been reached in
Africa, it is necessary to go back for a few years. It has
been mentioned that of the two main roads by which com-
munication between Negroland and Northern Africa was
maintained, one lay across the western deserts in a direc-
tion almost due south of the territory now known as
Morocco. The consequence of many wars in Northern
Africa had been to force down certain Berber tribes upon
the western confines of Negroland. " From time im-
memorial," says Ibn Khaldun, " the Molet-themim (or
Wearers of the Veil) had been in the Sandy Desert. As
brave as they were wild, they had never bowed under a
foreign yoke. Having increased their numbers in the
vast plains of the desert, they formed several tribes — the
Goddala, the Lemtunah, the Messonfah, the Outzila, the
Tuareg, the Zegowah, and the Lamta. These people
were all brothers of the Senajah, who lived between the
Atlantic and Ghadames," that is, in the western half of
Northern Africa.

The Lemtunah were already a powerful nation obeying
hereditary kings when the Omrneyade dynasty reigned in
Spain, and the western portion of the desert over which they
ruled was known as the " Desert Empire." At that time
also the Negro nations of the West were very powerful,
but at a later period, after the Lemtunahs had subdued
the lesser tribes, the Western kingdom of the Negroes
began to decay. The Lemtunah made war upon them and
forced them partially to accept Islam. Under Tiloutan, a


Lemtunah king who died in the year 837, the Desert
Empire reached its height. Twenty Negro kings paid
tribute to him. It is said of his kingdom that the cHmate
was so healthy that men commonly reached in it the age
of eighty. The sons and successors of Tiloutan reigned
successfully until the year 918, when the dynasty was
overthrown by the Senajah. After this there was confu-
sion mixed with conquest for about 1 20 years, until there
came to the throne a Senajah ruler of the name of Yahya,
under whom there took place a union of the tribes which
resulted in the foundation of the Empire of Morocco.

In 1048 Yahya made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and
brought back with him for the instruction of his people a
religious teacher, Ibn Yasin. The united tribes had never
wholly abandoned the nomad habits of their ancestors.
They were a hardy, active people, who had kept the
abstemious customs of the desert. Their principal wealth
consisted in their flocks. They were among those of
whom it was said that many of them passed their lives
without ever seeing bread. They had long since em-
braced Islam, but they had apparently strayed from the
true path, and the reformation preached by Ibn Yasin was
stern. Severe penalties were imposed on wrong-doing.
The man who told a lie was beaten with eighty strokes ;
the man who drank wine was beaten with eighty strokes ;
serious offences were more heavily punished ; and every
stranger who joined the sect was required to forfeit
one-third of his property by way of redemption for any
injustice by which he might have acquired the rest.

The pressure of these doctrines in application produced
a revolt. Ibn Yasin with a few of his followers with-
drew to an island in the Senegal, the river which formed
the southern frontier of the Desert Kingdom, Here he
practised in rigid seclusion all he taught. The fame of
his doctrine spread through the West, and thousands
flocked to him, till at last, seeing the number of his
followers daily increase, he declared to them that it was
not enough to accept the truth themselves, they must also


constrain the world to accept it. He gave to his disciples
the name of " Morabites," or "Champions of the Faith,"
afterwards known as " Al Moravides," and proceeded to
preach a Holy War. To "maintain the truth, to repress
injustice, and to abolish all taxes not based on law " was
the formula of faith with which this relicrious movement
started from the extreme south of the then known Western
world. The Emir Yahya assumed command, and under
his leadership the Almoravides began that triumphant
march to the north which was to end only on the throne
of Spain. Yahya died in 1056 after a successful campaign
which established his power in South- Western Morocco.
He was succeeded by his brother Abou Bekr, who led the
Almoravides to further conquest. Their dominion spread
across the Atlas Mountains to the sea, and they subdued
all the territory to the western coast.

In 1 06 1 dissensions breaking out amongst the tribes in
the south, Abou Bekr returned to his Desert Kingdom,
leaving his cousin Yusuf Tachefin in command in the
north. This proved to be a final division. Abou Bekr
succeeded in reconciling his unruly tribes, and to give an
outlet to their energies he led them to the conquest of
Negroland, the northern border of which he overran for
a distance of ninety days' march from his own territory.
This should have carried him to the Haussa States. But
he returned no more to take command in the north. In
the year 1062 Yusuf laid the foundation of the town of
Morocco with his own hands, and not long afterwards
declared the independence of the northern kingdom of
which it was to become the capital. Abou Bekr acquiesced,
and Yusuf, left to himself, continued the conquest of North-
Western Africa. By the year 1082 he had long been the
supreme ruler of that portion of the world. His court had
begun to attract the learning and civilisation which civil
war was driving out of Spain, and we are told that it was
filled with Arabs from the frontier towns which had sub-
mitted to Alfonso. These men, "with tears in their eyes
and sorrow in their hearts, had come to Yusuf to implore


his protection." It was to this court and to this man that
Al Mutammed of Seville came in 1083 to ask for help
against the Christians.

Yusuf is described as a " wise and shrewd man, neither
too prompt in his determinations, nor too slow in carrying
them into effect." He had passed the greater part of his
life in his native deserts exposed to hunger and privation,
and had no taste for a life of pleasure. It is expressly said
of him that he did not speak Arabic. When, therefore, he
consented to cross over to Spain, and in the course of time
drove back the Christians and established once more a
supreme Sultan upon the throne of Andalusia, his con-
quest and the dynasty which he founded must be regarded
as an African conquest and an African dynasty. The
Almoravides ruling in Spain were identically the same
race as that which, moving from the West, imposed Islam
on the races of Negroland, and established kingdoms, of
which we shall presently hear, along the courses of the
Niger and the Senegal.

It is stated that when Yusuf crossed to Spain there
was no tribe of the western desert that was not represented
in his army, and it was the first time that the people of
Spain had ever seen camels used for the purpose of
mounting cavalry. Forming part of the army which
fought at Zalakah in 1086 there were also some thousands
of blacks armed with Indian swords and short spears,
and shields covered with hippopotamus hide. This battle
drove the Christian forces out of southern Spain and laid
the foundation of Yusuf's Spanish Empire. When, after
fighting it, Yusuf marched to Seville, the comforts and
luxury of that town, far from raising in his mind the
admiration and astonishment that might have been ex-
pected, impressed him with very different sentiments. His
councillors and courtiers pointed out to him the advan-
tages which power conferred in a civilised country. " It
strikes me," he replied, "that this man (meaning the King
of Seville) is throwing away the power which has been
placed in his hands. Instead of giving his attention to


the good administration and defence of his kingdom, he
thinks of nothing else than satisfying the cravings of his

Not long afterwards, when Yusuf had returned to Africa,
his generals informed him that the whole of the fighting
against the Christians was left to them, while the Kings
of Andalusia remained sunk in pleasure and sloth. They
asked for his instructions, and were ordered to conquer
the Kings of Andalusia, and to appoint to every city or
town as it fell into their power a governor from among
the officers of Yusufs army. Town after town fell to
the army of the Almoravides, till Seville itself was taken,
and the King sent a prisoner into Africa, where he died
in 1095.

Yusuf died in 11 06. His son succeeded to the Sul-
tanate of North Africa and Spain ; and the Almoravide
dynasty continued to reign with a double court, one in
Africa and one in Spain, the Sultan residing alternately
in either until the African dominion was overthrown in
1 142, and the Spanish dominion three years later, in 1 145.
The last Almoravide sovereign of Africa and Spain was,
according to Ibn Khaldun, executed in the presence of
the Almohade conqueror in 1147. During the whole of
this period, as under the dynasty of the Ommeyades,
intercourse between Spain and Negroland was freely



Although the Almoravides on their first entrance into
Spain came as reformers from the desert, preaching a
stern doctrine of abnegation, they yielded rapidly to the
seduction of Spanish luxury, and in little more than half a
century they are spoken of by Arab historians as having
become soft and effeminate like their predecessors. The
probability is that the body of the Moors in Spain re-
mained what they had been before the Almoravide in-
vasion, and the course of history was not altered, but only
delayed, by the African conquest.

In the same spirit of religious reform which had stirred
the founder of the Almoravide sect, a Mahdi arose in the
early part of the twelfth century in the northern provinces
of Ifrikiah, and preached a doctrine so stringent that he
excited a revolt among the populace, and was obliged to
fly from the anger of the Sultan. He appeared first in
Bugia in 1 1 18, and preached his ascetic reforms in Telem-
9an, Fez, Mequinez, and Morocco. Everywhere he excited
the anger of the people, and towards 1121 he withdrew
into the desert, where gradually disciples began to join him
in great numbers. The authorities persecuted him here
also, and he then called upon the Mesmudian Berbers to
rally to his cause, to defend his person, and to declare a
Holy War in defence of the doctrine of the Unity of God.
He declared himself to be the Mahdi, and he gave to
his followers the title of Almohades or Unitarians. He
entrenched himself in the Mountain of Tinmelel in the
southern fastnesses of the Atlas chain, and this spot
remained the stronghold of the sect until their final ex-


tinction as a political power about a hundred years later.
The original Mahdi died in 11 28, but this event had little
effect upon the sect. In 11 30 a war began between the
Almohades and the Almoravides in Africa, which ended
in 1 147 by the capture of Morocco and the execution of
the reigning Almoravide sovereign.

No sooner was the province of Morocco subdued than
the Almohades crossed into Spain, and after a determined
contest with the Christian armies, who were only with the
greatest difficulty prevented from taking Cordova, Mussul-
man Spain swore fealty in 11 50 to the Almohades. Thus
for a second time a purely African dynasty reigned upon the
most civilised throne of Europe. This same Almohade con-
queror reconstructed the Moorish fleet, and added to it no
less than 460 vessels. His reign, which lasted until 1163,
was a period of constant war, during which he was com-
pelled to put out all his strength against the Christians.
He succeeded in holding his own with difficulty, and his
successor united all the tribes of North Africa in a Holy
War against the "infidels of Spain." It is curious to read
in the Arab chronicles the history of the Crusades told
from the other side. It will be remembered that the
famous Saladin took Jerusalem in 1187. In 1189 this
Caliph of the Eastern Arabs appealed to the reigning
Almohade Caliph of the West, El Mansour, to assist with
his maritime forces in the sieges of Acre, Tyre, and Tripoli,
and according to one historian 180 ships sent by the
African Sultan prevented the Christians from landing in

Under the great Almohade sovereigns the glory of the
Arabs in Spain was well maintained. Monuments of their
civil activity remain in the Castle of Gibraltar, which they
built in 1160, and in the great mosque of Seville, which
was begun in 1183. The Giralda or tower of Seville —
not, alas ! now perhaps to be spoken of as existing — was
built as an observatory under the superintendence of the
mathematician Geber in 11 96. The Almoravides had
fixed their Spanish Court at Seville. The Almohades


imported to their African Court in Morocco workmen
from all parts of Spain. Ibn Said describes Morocco in
the thirteenth century as the " Baghdad of the West,"
and says that it was never so prosperous as under the
early Almohadcs. Both dynasties had two courts, one
in Africa and one in Spain. Thus, whatever was the
prosperity or greatness of one part of their empire, it was
shared by the other, and under the Almohades there was
a shifting towards the African centre.

A good deal of jealousy seems to have existed between
the natives of the " Two Shores" as to the merits of their
respective territories. A certain distinguished citizen of
Tangier, Abu Yahya, arguing on one occasion with the
Sheikh Ash-shakandi of Cordova — who flourished under
the later Almohades and died 1231 — on the advantages of
their respective countries, provoked Ash-shakandi to say :
" Were it not for Andalusia, Africa, thy country, would
never have been known." " Do you really mean," replied
the African, "to say that excellency and power reside
anywhere in such degree as amongst us ? Prove it ! "
The Caliph, who was listening to the dispute, interposed.
He said that it was too serious to be decided by extempore
speaking, and ordered each disputant to put his views in
writing. Hence the celebrated epistle of Ash-shakandi,
written under the last of the Almohades, to which we are
indebted for a great deal of contemporary information.
It states the case for the civilisation of the Spanish half
of the empire. Unfortunately the counter-statement of
Abu Yahya, maintaining the claims of the African half,
has not been preserved.

" He pretends to make Africa superior to Andalusia!"
exclaims Ash-shakandi in derision of his opponent. " It
is as much as to say that the left hand is better than the
right, and that night is lighter than day." No claim is
allowed to be based on the fact that the Sultans of the day
kept their chief court in Africa. "We too," says Ash-
shakandi, " have had our Sultans," and he speaks of the
Ommeyades as " Sultans who succeeded each other as


pearls in a necklace united by the thread." The break-up

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 5 of 41)