Oscar Wilde.

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eighteenth dynasty under the old Thebans, the spirit of war and
conquest revived, and under Thutmosis I. and Thutmosis III.,
notably, numerous and successful campaigns were made against
Northern Syria and then extending eastward across the Euphrates
into the borders of Armenia and Assyria. And from the number
of horses and chariots captured in battle and collected as tribute,
the careful student cannot avoid the conclusion that this kind of
spoil was the chief incentive to the various campaigns. "Besides
the usual species," Maspero informs us, "powerful stallions were
imported from Northern Syria, which were known by the Semitic
name of Abiri, the strong." This is the first mention in history
of an improved type of horse noted for his strength.

Whatever may have been the precise period in which the Patri-
arch Job lived, he was the author of the grandest panegyric on
the war-horse that ever was written. Yet it seems strange that
he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five
hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred she asses, but did not
own a horse. To draw his picture of the war-horse he must have
seen him in action, on the field, and it is not improbable in his
younger days he witnessed, or possibly participated in, some great
battle between the Babylonians and the Persians, north of the
latitude and country in which he lived. It is now generally con-


ceded, I think, among learned men that the ''land of Uz" was in
the southeastern portion of Arabia Deserta, bordering on the
Persian Gulf, where the horse is a useless luxury. Job was a
very rich man, he certainly did not lack in admiration of the
horse, and if he had thought that horses wo-,ild add to his comfort
and enjoyment he could easily have obtained them from the great
herds in the north. But the camel is the great beast of service
and utility in Arabia; it was so in Job's time, it is so to-day, and
it always will be so because it is suited to the environment.

When Joshua was subduing the tribes of Canaan, B.C. 1450, he
found that the Phoenicians had several well-fortified cities and
did not attack them, but he encountered a combination of
"Northern Kings" with a vast army and ''with horses and chariots
very many." His victory was complete, and he houghed their
horses and burned their chariots with fire.

Jabin, called the King of Canaan, in the time of the Judges,
had his kingdom on the northern border of Palestine and east of
Phoenicia, at the southern extension of Mount Lebanon. Sisera,
one of the greatest commanders of the time, B.C. 1285, com-
manded his army and he had nine hundred chariots of iron, but
the victory of the Israelites was complete.

In the year B.C. 1056, David pursued some of the tribes of
"Western Arabia that had made a raid on Southern Palestine and
carried away many captives and much spoil. He overtook them
with his own followers and subdued them, and none escaped ex-
cept four iiundred young men who fled on camels. He recovered
all the captives and brought back all the flocks and herds, but
there were no horses among them. About the same time, his-
torians inform us, the tribes of Eastern Arabia were paying their
tribute to the Assyrians in camels and asses, while the northern
countries were paying theirs in horses and money.

The Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon B.C. 992, to learn of
his wisdom and "to prove him with hard questions." Her king-
dom was in that part of southeastern Arabia now called Yemen,
bordering on the Red Sea. Her journey was a very long one and
she "came with a very great train of camels that bare spices and
very much gold and precious stones." It will be observed that .
there were no horses in this "very great train." It will be ob-
served further, from the incidents above related, that whenever
the Israelites met their neighbors north of them, whether in
peace or war, they met horses with them; and whenever they met


their neighbors south of them, they were mounted only on

When the dominions of Solomon had become vastly extended,
embracing numbers of tributary kingdoms, as well as nomadic
tribes, and when his ships had gathered in untold riches from all
parts of the world, he found it prudent to reorganize his army
for the defense of his kingdom and his wealth, and on a scale
commensurate with the dangers that might arise from a combina-
tion of the jealous and envious neighbors with whom he was sur-
rounded. Among the northern kingdoms of that day it had been
often demonstrated in battle that the effective force of an army
must be estimated by its strength in horsemen and chariots of
war. Solomon, therefore, bought horses and chariots from Egypt,
and horses from all lands that had them for sale. It is probable
that the superiority of the Egyptian chariots was the special
reason for buying them in that country, as he paid six hundred
shekels of silver for the chariots and one hundred and fifty for
the horses to bring them home. The reorganized army consisted
of one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horse-
men, and they were quartered in the different large cities in his
dominions. In the interval of seven hundred and twenty-eight
years that had elapsed since Joseph was Prime Minister, and
horses introduced in Egypt, they had greatly multiplied. When
Solomon died and his kingdom was divided into two hostile
camps, Hiram, King of Tyre, his lifelong friend and associate,
became virtually his successor to the trade of the world.

The great Greek geographer, Strabo, traveled and wrote in
the reign of Augustus, and died a.d. 24. For descriptions of all
countries of that period and their industries and productions, he
has been quoted for eighteen hundred years as the best if not the
only authority. Writing as he did, at the very initial point of
the Cliristian era, he gives us a landmark that fixes itself in the
mind. He gives a brief, but quite satisfactory, description of
Arabia, in which he notes the general topography and boundaries
as they are understood to-day; and then he enters, somcAvhat,
into the climate, productions of the soil, character and industries
of the people, etc. Of one part of the country he speaks of the
inhabitants as breeders of camels, and of another, that is more
productive, he remarks: "The general fertility of the country is
very great; among other products there is in particular an
abundant supply of honey. Except horses, there are numerous


herds of animals, asses and swine, birds also of every kind, ex-
cept geese and the gallinaceous tribes."

Here we have from the very highest authority the pivotal fact
that there were no horses in Arabia at the commencement of the
Christian era. This does not rest upon argument, nor is it a
deduction from some condition of things that might have existed;
but it is a distinct declaration of what Strabo saw with his own
eyes and wrote down when he saw it. It must, therefore, stand
as an undisputed fact, until some reputable authority is brought
forward to contradict it. This description from Strabo applies
to that rich portion of Arabia, bordering on the Red Sea along
its full length. With the fact established, circumstantially and
historically, that there were no horses in Arabia at the beginning
of the Christian era, it now remains to consider how and when
they were first introduced in that country.

Philostorgius, a distinguished Greek theologian, born a.d. 425,
as related in the preceding chapter, wrote an ecclesiastical his-
tory, which is no longer extant, but fortunately Photius, at one
time patriarch of the Eastern church, born a.d. 853, prepared an
epitome of it. This epitome of Philostorgius comes down to
A.D. 425, and is to be found in the Lenox Library of this city,
bound up in the same volume with Sozomen's Ecclesiastical
History. I will here quote literally from this epitome so much
as is pertinent to the question before us. Constantius was then
on the throne of the Eastern Empire, and labored for the pro^
motion of the Christian religion.

•' Constantius sent ambassadors to tbose who were formerly called Sabaeans,
but are now known as Homeritse, » tribe descended from Abraham, by Keturab.
As to the territory which they inhabit, it is called by the Greeks Magna Arabia
and Arabia Felix, and extends t> the most distant part of the ocean. Its
metropolis is Saba, the city from which the Queen of Sheba went forth to see
Solomon. . . . Constantius, accordingly, sent ambassadors to them to
come over, to the Christian religion. . . . Constantius, wishing to array
the embassy with peculiar splendor, put on board their ships two hundred
well-bred horses from Cappadocia, and sent them, with many other gifts. .

. The embassy turned out successfully, for the prince of the nation, by
sincere conviction, came over to the true religion."

Other facts might be quoted from this epitome, showing that
Tlieopholis was made a bishop and placed at the head of this em-
bassy and that he remained in Arabia Felix several years, prose-


•cuting his work successfully. It might also be quoted to show
that the people of the cities of Yemen (Arabia Felix) were, at
that day, well advanced in civilization and refinement, and that
wealth and luxury abounded on all sides. Their lands, from the
sea to the desert, were wonderfully productive, and their people
lived in the cities and on their farms, but few leading a nomadic
life. In later generations this part of the country, which is in
Arabia Felix, has been called Yemen, and I believe it is univer-
sally conceded among the Arab tribes and by writers who have
studied the subject that the best horses come from Yemen.

Taking the administration of Joseph as indicating the time
when the first horses were introduced into Egypt, about B.C.
1720, and the actual date when Constantius sent the first into
Arabia, a.d. 356, we find that Egypt led Arabia by two thousand
and seventy-six years. And yet numbers of men have written
great pretentious books on the horse, in which they tell us that
the Egyptians got their horses from the Arabians; while others
equally pretentious and voluminous tell us the Arabians got their
horses from the Egyptians; and neither class probably ever gave
the labor of an honest hour to settle this question. The one is
over two thousand years out of the Avay, and still they know just
as much about it as the other knows. They are both equally
ignorant and equally dishonest, for they simply copied, as their
own, what somebody had said before them.

It is conceded on all hands and by all men who have gone beneath
the mere surface, that the literature of the ages furnishes no
evidence that there were horses in Arabia before the fourth or
fifth century of our era. General Tweedie, by far the ablest
writer on the Arabian horse that we have examined, concedes
the pertinency and force of the absence of all literary evidence,
until the fifth century is reached, and as a reply he says: "The sev-
eral Roman invasions of Arabia, in the reigns of Augustus, Trajan,
and Severus, must have left foreign horses behind them." This
is, in fact, conceding the accuracy of Strabo's representations and
that there were no horses in Arabia at the beginning of the
Christian era. The truth of the historical allusion is that the
Romans never overran nor conquered Arabia., They could skir-
mish around the border and capture a few towns or cities, but
the death -dealing desert was too much for them. Trajan at last
made it a Roman province by his proclamation, and not by his
sword, and for the excellent reason that "the game was not worth


the candle." What a strange fact it is that Arabia, instead of
the first, should have been the last country in all the old world ta
be supplied with horses!

It is very difficult to comprehend or even imagine the changes
that may be wrought in a thousand years by a strong, enterpris-
ing, and aggressive people, colonized in a rich country occupied
by semi-barbarians and savages. This was the condition in
Northern Africa, when the Phoenician colonies were planted
there, a thousand years before the Christian era. The colony at
Utica in Algeria was planted about eleven hundred years before
the Christian era, which was conteraj)oraneous with the reign of
Saul as king of Israel. The colony of Carthage, that afterward
contested with Eome for universal dominion, was planted in the
same country, about two hundred years later, and was contem-
poraneous with Jehu. The whole southern shore of the Mediter-
ranean was dotted with Phtenician colonies, from Egypt west-

The oldest of the Phoenician colonies so far from home was
probably Gades, now called Cadiz, on the Atlantic coast of Spain
and outside of the Pillars of Hercules. This colony was planted
about fifteen hundred years B.C. and was contemporaneous with
Moses and the forty years' journeying of the Israelites in the
wilderness. The more recent scholarship seems to have de-
veloped the fact that still north of Gades and extending from
the mouth of the Guadelete to that of the Guadiana, there was a
very large and flourishing colony planted by the Phoenicians,
possessing within itself many of the requisites and functions of
statehood, and that this was the ancient "Tarshish" of scripture.
This plantation became a secondary Tyre, and the "ships of Tar-
shish" not only made their voyages back and forth through the
length of the Mediterranean, but extended them northward, up
the European coast and to Britain, and southward along the
African coast for a great distance, establishing trading j)osts
wherever the products of a country promised profitable exchange.

The planting of colonies in that age, even for the one ostensi-
ble purpose of trade, involved more than the mere erection of a
"trading post" at some selected harbor. A strong and well-
equipped and well-trained military force had to be employed to
protect and defend them. The Phoenicians were great traders,
and at the same time they were excellent fighters. Their numer-
ous colonies on both shores of the Mediterranean required a.


strong military force that was made up very largely of slaves and
the nomadic tribes of the country, but always commanded by
prominent and influential Phoenicians. It is impossible to tell
what the very early experiences of the colonists may have been
with regard to horses; nor do we know whether they found horses
already there when they arrived at their new plantations. My
belief is, however, that they were not only the first to carry
horses to Egyj^t, but they were the first to carry them to the
western extremities of the Mediterranean. It will be remembered
that the early trade of the Armenians with the Phoenician mer-
chants was not only in horses, but in horsemen, and it is probable
that these "horsemen" were slaves, expert and skillful in managing
t]j/i horse. It has been said by historians that certain classes of
their ships were ornamented with a carved horse's head, at the
prow; and it has been inferred that the ships so designated Avere
specially constructed and fitted up for the safe carrying of horses.
It is true that in the course of the centuries horses may have
found their way from Egypt westward to Algeria, and by crossing
the Bosphorus they might have found their way from Asia
Minor to Spain, but it is also true that from small beginnings at
the plantation of the colonies there was ample time for them to
increase to almost countless herds before the period when the
colonists became a mighty military power in the earth.

Historians tell us that the military establishment of the city
of Carthage alone, when on a peace footing, consisted of three
hundred elephants, four thousand horses and forty thousand foot
soldiers. When Hannibal started out to fight Rome, in the second
Punic war, say e.g. 218, he had with him eighty thousand foot-
men and twelve thousand horsemen; and he left thirty -two thou-
sand soldiers at home to guard his Spanish and his African
dominions. With a proportional division of the home troops, he
then had about seventeen thousand mounted men in his army.
These were not war levies, but hardened and trained soldiers, and
it is, therefore, not remarkable that he held nearly the whole of
Spain in subjection, and practically all of Northwestern Africa.
Polybius, the soldier historian, tells us that "his Numidian
cavalry formed the strongest part of his army, and to their quick
evolutions, their sudden retreat, and their rapid return to the
charge, may be attributed the success of Hannibal in his great
victories." At an earlier period, we learn that in the organiza-
tion of the Phoenician armies the numerous nomadic tribes were


placed on their flanks, and wheeled about on unsaddled horses,
guided by a bridle of rushes.

At a very remote period there were two tribes in the interior of
Spain, the Celtae and Iberi, that were greatly distinguished for
their love of independence and their bravery in defending it.
The antiquarians have failed to give us any information as to
Avhat they were or whence they came. They were contempo-
raneous with some of the early colonies of the Phoenicians. Their
tactics in battle seemed to have been to break the enemy's ranks by
a charge as cavalry, and to then dismount and fight on foot. They
united as one people and called themselves Celtiberi. Where
they got their horses, or whether they had them before the
Phoenicians arrived, are questions that cannot be answered.

The Visigoths, or western Goths, overran Northern Italy, set-
tled in Southern France and eventually passed over into Spain,
where they established a dynasty that lasted over two centuries and
until it was overthrown by the Saracens, a.d. 711. Roderick,
the kiiig of the Visigoths, went out to battle with the Saracens,
arrayed in his most showy apparel, and mounted on his splendid
chariot, made of ivory and set with precious stones. As the bat-
tle progressed he saw what he had good reason to believe was
treachery on the part of one wing of his army and he alighted
from his chariot, mounted his horse called Orelia and rode away
while his soldiers were being butchered. He was the last of the
Gothic dynasty. There had been a battle between the navies of the
Saracens and the Goths, a.d. 680, fifty-one years earlier, in which
the fleet of the Saracens had been entirely destroyed, and at that
time the Saracens occupied the whole of the southern shore of
the Mediterranean. The word ''Moors," as often used to desig-
nate the people of Northern Africa, is not well chosen, for it really
belongs to but one of many different tribes of different names.
The term "Saracen" anciently meant only an Arab born, but
since the middle ages it has come to mean any and all adherents
to the Mohammedan religion, in the usage of Christian people,
and is particularly apposite when speaking of a number of tribes
engaged in a common cause.

The people of Northern Africa were not negroes as we under-
stand the word, but a mixture of different races. AVhen the
Phoenicians settled among them they Avere nomadic barbarians,
possessing a country of great riches without knowing it. Under
the tuition of their new masters they made great advances ia


many of the arts of peace and in all the arts of war. The Phoeni-
cian blood was liberally commingled with that of the natives.
The blood carried the brains, and hence the beautiful structures
that came from their hands and heads. No purely bred nomad
ever could have conceived or constructed the Alhambra. The
Phoenicians were refined and educated idolaters, as refinement and
education were understood in their day, while the native people
were literally barbarians.

The then recent and rapid spread of Mohammedanism among
all the people of Northern Africa is, on its surface, one of the
most remarkable facts in history. As a religion it served to
unite, under the banner of the Crescent, all who accepted it, and
guaranteed to all who fell in its defense immediate admission to
paradise. All who did not accept it were enemies and only fit to
perish by the sword of the Saracen. The founder of this religion
died A.D. 632, and seventy -nine years afterward his followers, in
Northern Africa alone, won their great victory over the Gothic
dynasty of Spain. When once on Spanish soil they appeared to
take root there and held possession of a large part of Spain for
nearly nine hundred years.

Now that I have traversed the field of Spain and Northern
Africa, from the first dawnings of history down to the beginning
of the seventeenth century, in order to gather in all that history
reveals touching the introduction and propagation of the horse
in those regions, we are ready to summarize the facts that we
have gleaned. At the periods of six hundred (when Carthage be-
came independent of the mother country), four hundred, and
two hundred years before the Christian' era, there is undoubted
evidence, over and over again, that Spain and Northern Africa
were abundantly supplied with horses. Then, how is it possible
that the hordes of Barbarians from Asia could have supplied these
countries with horses, Avhen they did not arrive there until
several centuries after the supply is established to have existed?
Take, if you please, the shortest of the periods suggested above,
when Hannibal's cavalry almost annihilated a great Roman army,
two hundred and sixteen years before the Christian era. This
was five hundred and seventy-two years before Arabia had any
horses; and how can "the blind leaders of the blind" supply
Hannibal's cavalry with Arabian blood? When the people of
Northern Africa, west of Egypt, fought their way into Spain it is
not known that there was a single Arabian soldier nor a single


Arabian horse in the whole armj. They were all called Arabians,
however, and that pretense has existed ever since.

The Phoenicians were the most remarkable people of all the
early ages and indeed of any age. They belonged to the Aramaic
or Semitic race; they settled in Canaan long before the days of
Abraham and attained their greatest prosperity in the days of
Solomon, when his fleets and those of his friend Hiram, King of
Tyre, controlled and monopolized the commerce of the world.
More than five hundred years before this alliance, however, they
had established commercial relations with all the countries bor-
dering on the Mediterranean, and their ships were trading in the
ports of every country from Egypt to the Pillars of Hercules and
far beyond. There seems to be no doubt that they carried tin
from Britain and amber from the Baltic, and, of course, they
had to bring something to exchange for what they carried away.
What did they bring? As amber did not enter into the necessary
arts it is not probable the trade was very large, but tin was re-
quired by many nations in their everyday life, especially the
Egyptians, who had no foreign commerce and were thus depend-
ent upon the Phoenician merchants. "We may conclude, there-
fore, that the trade in tin was large, and as there was no Phoeni-
cian colony in extreme southwestern Britain, the foreign traders
would bring just wliat the Britons most needed. If they were
already in possession of horses they would not need that kind of
exchange, but if they were not in possession of liorses, that would
be just the kind of exchange they would want, and probably this
was the source from which they obtained their supply. The
question, however, of how or when our British ancestors obtained
their first supply of horses has never been positively answered.
That they had them in great abundance at the beginning of the
Christian era is fully established by the experience of the Eomans
when they captured Britain. From their great numbers and the
skill displayed in their management in battle, it cannot be
doubted that they were there for many generations before the
Roman armies came in contact with them. Many theories have
been advanced as to how the horse may have reached Britain, but
no one of them rests on so reasonable a basis of probability as
that of the Phoenician traders. If from this source, which I am
strongly disposed to believe was the true source, it must have
been during the maritime supremacy of the Phoenicians and their
colonies, and this would place the date several centuries before


Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 6 of 61)