The Marvelous Arabian Civilization
Arabia was one of the earliest colonies of the ancient Cushite Empire of Ethiopians. Baldwin claims that it was the original land of Cush. He says, “In the oldest recorded traditions, Arabia is the land of Cush, the celebrated Ethiopia of very remote times.” He continues, “In ages older than Egypt or Chaldea, Arabia was the seat of an enlightened and enterprising civilization that went far into neighboring countries. At that time Arabia was the exalted and wonderful Ethiopia of olden tradition, the center and life of what in western Asia was known as the civilized world. Traditions of the ancient world rightly interpreted can have no other meaning. In the early traditions and records of Greece, Arabia was described as Ethiopia.” Arabia was only separated from old Ethiopia by the Red Sea. We would decide that the “Old Race” of the Upper Nile early sent colonies across the sea, which built up the cities and communities along the opposite Arabian coast. This happening before the founding of Memphis or the colonizing of Chaldea.
The Scriptures unite Arabia with the most intimate dealings of God with men. Here says the Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, were transacted the marvelous panorama of the life of the Patriarch Job, who was described as one of the greatest men of the east. To this land, Moses escaped after killing the Egyptian. Here he lived (put to school as it were) among the Midianites, descendants of Cush. Here he married a daughter of Ethiopia, here: he saw the burning bush and here he talked with God. Here Elijah was fed by the Ravens. In Arabia was the scene of all the marvelous displays of divine power and mercy that followed the deliverance of Israel from Egypt and accompanied their journeying into the Promised Land, and here Jehovah manifested himself in visible glory to his people. Here today in the desert of Sin, manna still forms a tiny cereal upon the rocks. It was out of this region that God selected the race through which in two religions, one supreme God should be revealed to the world, the Hebrews and Mohammedans spring from the same race.
These primitive Semites were a north Arabian race. Southern Arabia was occupied by the older and more civilized Ethiopian race. Gibbon speaks of Sabaeans in north Arabia, if they were it was families that had passed northward after the Flood of Arem, which dispersed the families of old Yemen over northern Arabia. These people were advanced in civilization. The fact that the father-in-law of Moses could show him defects in his administration of government, proves that he was in possession of an older and more seasoned form of law. The Scriptures tell us that Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he said. There is a marked similarity between the Jewish law and the code of Hammurabi, which was the essence of the old laws that for thousands of years had ruled the Cushite race. The Jewish lawmaker was thus placed in close contact with the race which in earlier ages had possessed the revelations of God in law and equity. This is why the code of Hammurabi, though it preceded Jewish law by many ages, yet in many features was the same code.
Arabia possessed many products in ancient days, that was covered by the rest of the world. Nothing then was considered more costly and desirable than frankincense and myrrh, which were Arabia’s fabled products. It was by this commerce that she amassed her fabulous wealth. The treasures of Africa were conveyed over the peninsula to Gerrha. Joined by the pearls of the Persian Gulf, this commerce was floated on rafts to the mouth of the Euphrates. Diodorus Siculus says, Bk. II, ch. 3, “The perfumes of Arabia ravished the senses and were conveyed by the winds to those who sailed near the coast. Having never been conquered, by the largeness of their country, they flow in gold and silver; and likewise, their beds, chairs, and stools have their feet of silver; and all their house stuff is so sumptuous and magnificent that it is incredible. The porticoes of their homes and temples, in some cases, are overlaid with gold. They have enjoyed a constant uninterrupted peace for many ages and generations. Archaeological research has proved
these assertions to have been true of the southern Arabians of the Hamitic race.
Pliny said of these Arabians that they were the richest nations in the world. The harbors of Oman and Aden were laden with the precious cargo of perfumes. Agatharchides declared, “The Sabaeans surpass in wealth and magnificence not only the neighboring barbarians but all the nations whatsoever. As their distant situation protects them from foreign plunderers, immense stores of precious metals have been accumulated among them, especially in the capital. They have curiously wrought gold and silver drinking vessels in great variety, couches, and tripods, with silver feet; an incredible profusion of costly furniture in general; porticoes with large columns partly gilt and capitals ornamented with gold fretwork set with precious stones; besides an extraordinary magnificence reigning in the decorations of their houses, where they use silver, gold, ivory, and the most precious stones and all other things that men deem valuable.” (De Mari Erythraeo, 102.) This civilization was one that rose and perished long before the day of the Saracens.
From Baldwin’s researches, we learn that Strabo, Pliny, Ptolemy, as well as the Hebrew writers speak of the great cities of Arabia, that no longer exist. So far back does this ancient civilization extend that from the great length of time its literature has disappeared. The monuments of these Himyarites were inscribed with an obsolete and mysterious alphabet. The present Cufic letters were invented on the banks of the Euphrates, Gibbon tells us. The present inhabitants cannot explain the ancient ruins. They owe their origin to very remote antiquity. At Mareb is the Great Tank, so famous in the Arabic tradition. The history of its origin was lost before the age of Solomon. Then the solid and vast embankment was going to decay. The ancient city of Saba was in ruins before the time of Christ. Throughout Yemen are to be found gigantic ruins which bewilder the beholders, who cannot understand how they were raised by human hands. They were built by the same race that reared the columns at Belbec and Karnak. These original Arabians were spoken of by later Arabs as Adites, Men of Ad, giants of old.
Lenormant in his painstaking researches found that Cushites were the first inhabitants of Arabia and were known in the national traditions as Adites. These descended from Ad, a grandson of Ham. His sons were She did and Shedad. To them was attributed the Shepherd invasion of Egypt. It was recorded in the traditions that one of them built a palace of superb columns surrounded by a magnificent garden. He tried to imitate the celestial paradise and God took him away. The Adites were depicted as men of gigantic stature. Fanciful tales like the Arabian Nights exist in Arabian legends, springing from the same source as those of the Egyptian manuscripts. Lenormant says, “We may perceive in all this the remembrance of a powerful empire founded by Cushites in very early ages. We find traces of a wealthy nation, constructors of great buildings, with an advanced civilization like that of Chaldea. This must be true as everywhere we find traces of Cushites in Arabian literature and their brothers the Canaanites.” (Ancient History of the East, Lenormant, Vol. III, Arabians, p. 296 )
Alexander the Great said that Arabia was inferior to no country of the earth. He referred to the once famous town of Oman, which had been a harbor of ancient commerce. It was on the day of Alexander a wilderness. His estimate of these Cushites was, “Taking them all in all, they are the richest nation in the world.” Alexander lived in the declining days of Ethiopian power. Himyar was the son of Seba, the son of Cush. These were the people of Yemen and the Sabaeans of the Greeks. Lenormant called them related to the Accadians of Shinar and the Ghez of Abyssinia. Himyar became the head of the dynasty of Himyarites. These Cushite Arabians were a fine race of remarkable stature and dark complexion. The Semitic Arabians are brown, thin, small, well-formed and of opposite traits from the Cushite Arabian. The Omanee kingdom attained a latter great splendor at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century. The conquering Mohammedan tribes of the north in idol-destroying mood have effaced all the pagan temples that once covered Arabia. Several enormous stone circles like those of some parts of Europe, built as a form of primitive religion, still remain.
At Hagerein, Gen. E. T. Haig saw the ruins of once fertile districts under the weight of sand that had overwhelmed them. There were ruins of once lofty square buildings. The ground lies strewn with fragments of Himyaritic inscriptions and pottery. Wherever he found ruins they were on elevated spots. The centers of civilization in the valleys must have been buried very deeply. Arabia, just as once fertile spots of the Sahara, has been overwhelmed by the sand. At Al Azorem are many ancient stone monuments on the slightly elevated ground. The old Cushite stones of cromlech type abound. They are decorated with geometric patterns, which are like the Cushite decorations of Rhodesia in Africa and those of Asia Minor. There were buildings surrounded by stone walls. Welsted uncovered at Nakab-el-Hajar a massive wall, thirty or forty feet high flanked with square towers. On the face of the building, he found an inscription in the ancient Himyaritic writing, which is a form of the primitive African language and has no relation to the Semitic tongues.
In Yemen appears another evidence of Cushite occupation, the terracing to be found on all ancient Hamitic sites. In one district the whole mountainside was terraced from top to bottom. Gen. Haig saw in this district everywhere above, below and around, endless flights of terraced walls. One can hardly realize the enormous amount of labor, toil, and perseverance, these represent. These walls were usually four or five feet in height, but toward the top, they were sometimes as high as fifteen to eighteen feet. Agriculture among these indefatigable people was brought to the highest degree of perfection. They constructed immense dikes, forming permanent reservoirs, which irrigated the lowlands in dry weather. The Semitic Arabian abhors agriculture. It is by these differences in traits that we can unerringly detect race. When the Israelites first appear in the light of Bible history, they were keepers of flocks. Pastorals do not originate culture. The nature of their life renders it impossible. Nomadic people. have been the invincible opponents of culture.
A primitive form of religion called Sabaeanism spread all over the Arabian provinces in the earlier ages. We find a gross form of Sabaeanism among the Turanian nations mixed with magic, but this religion in Arabia was without images, idolatry or priesthood. Once this religion was spread over the whole primitive world wherever Cushites were established. They addressed worship to the stars from high places. It was probably from this observation of the stars, that the science of astronomy first developed among them. To this use was put the tops of the pyramids. The pyramids of the ancients were built by this race for sacerdotal purposes. In India, Egypt, Rhodesia, in West Africa and western Europe this worship from high mountains was slow to die out. The ancient inhabitants of Arabia Petraea and Yemen believed in one god and a future life. .Dead ancestors were canonized and worshipped by their families. This one custom marked the race of “Anu” one of the names of the “Old Race” of the Upper Nile. The people that by the traditions of Western Europe settled old Gaul, Ireland, Spain, and ancient Thrace.
Myers tells us in his Ancient History, that just as the “Odyssey” of Homer mirrored the trade voyages of the prehistoric Greeks, so the marvelous tales of Sinbad the Sailor pictured the adventures of the Cushite Arabian sailors upon the seas. The ships of these Ethiopians in the early ages of their dominion covered the ancient world. It was from this branch of the race, that the early race of India gained the knowledge that appears in Sanskrit books, that contain maps upon which we can trace the outlines of Western Europe and the British Isles. These books portray knowledge of ages prior to 2000 B. C. The Phoenicians in later times only followed courses that their Cushite cousins had pursued in earlier ages. They learned geography from their wide conquests and extended trade relations. The Portuguese found maps and charts in their possession when they first came in contact with them on the coasts of East Africa, which were original and authentic. Some showed routes extending to the new world long before the age of Columbus.
One early Portuguese map, gained from these Arabians marks South America, Western Africa, and Southern Europe, as three ancient centers of civilization. The remains of primitive American nations give forth relics, proving ancient Cushite communication. Before the arrival of the Portuguese, Arabian navigators had kept this knowledge secret. With declining Ethiopian power the links of this great chain had been broken to the Americas but they still kept up the ancient lines of trade with the nations peculiarly Cushite, India, Chaldea, South Africa, and Western Europe. By caravan routes, they crossed deserts and delivered merchandise to the North African colonies, which in ages earlier than Phoenician dominion had been Cushite Ethiopian nations. To sum up we must decide that the meager information of the average historical book is very misleading as to who were the original Arabians and the giving of the right credit to the race which was responsible for the earlier so-called Arabian conquest of Babylonia. The later spurious stock, the Semitic Arabians appeared there in comparatively modern times. They were a pastoral, warlike people who in their mode of life, their food, their dress, their traits, manners, customs, and government were wholly unlike the original Arabians.
Through the ages, these differences have remained unalterable. The riches to be gained as carriers induced some of the Semitic Arabian tribes from the more wildlife to the service of bearers of the rich ancient commerce over the deserts. Having to constantly change their residence these Semites live in movable tents. These are divided into two parts one of which is for the women. The tents are arranged in an irregular circle, the space between being reserved as a fold for the cattle at night. As they have no land belonging to themselves they change their abode as often as they please. Col. Capper thus describes an Arab encampment, “From this hill, we could see at a distance of about three miles an Arab encampment, an immense body. There were nearly twenty thousand of them including women and children. They demanded and received tribute from us and promised a protecting guard until we were past all danger of attack from their detached bands.” Those too poor to own a tent sheltered themselves under a piece of cloth suspended from poles Their tents are of coarse black material woven by the women from goats’ hair.
The primitive nature of the Semitic Arabian is to be seen in the religion of Mohammed, in the presentation of his gospel, at the point of the sword; as Gibbon says, if they professed the creed of Islam they were admitted to all spiritual and material benefits. His apostles united the professions of merchant and robber. The distribution of the spoil was regulated according to Mohammed by divine law. From all sides, the roving Arabs were allured to his standard by this combination of religion and plunder. In one incidence seven hundred Jews were dragged in chains to the marketplace of the city and descended alive into the grave prepared for their execution and burial, and the Apostle beheld with an inflexible eye the slaughter of his helpless enemies. In 628, the town of Khaibar surrendered, the chief of the tribe was tortured in the presence of Mohammed, to force the confession of his hidden treasure.
Gibbon looks on the other side of Mohammed’s character. He seemed endowed, whether he was an imposter or enthusiast, with a pious and contemplative disposition. He despised the pomp of royalty; he observed without effort or vanity the abstemious diet of an Arab and a soldier. The interdiction of wine arose and was confirmed by his example. The freedom of divorce was discouraged and adultery made a capital offense. During the twenty-four years of his marriage to his first wife, he abstained from polygamy. At her death, he placed her in the rank of the four perfect women. The triumphant banners of Mohammed after his death waved over the cities of the Euphrates. Persia was reduced. Turning to Syria, his followers invested Damascus, which fell; then Jerusalem, until all Syria, bowed under the scepter of the caliphs. Greek rule had become odious in Egypt and it was gladly exchanged for the rule of the Saracens. The Greeks retreated from Upper Egypt and made their last stand at Alexandria. After a siege of fourteen months, the Saracens prevailed. Mohammed’s standard was set up on the walls of the capital of Egypt.
Let us examine the passage of the Semitic Arabians across Africa. Was his influence on the making of civilization? They burned the priceless collection of books that made up the Alexandrian library, in which were locked up the secrets of the lost arts and the knowledge of the origin of civilization. So great was the number of books that six months were needed for the consumption of this precious fuel. Every scholar with pious indignation has deplored this irreparable shipwreck of the learning and genius of antiquity.
Many Africans and Moors helped to make up the numbers and strength of the armies of the Saracens. After successive expeditions, the arms of Hassan reduced and pillaged Carthage. Greeks and Goths who came to the aid of Carthage were defeated and the city given to the flames. This ancient Metropolis of Africa was destroyed, all but the broken arches of an aqueduct. The Moors under the standard of a queen attacked the invaders with an enthusiasm equal to their own and the Arabians were driven back to the confines of Egypt. In later expeditions, the blood of the Moors and Semites was insensibly mixed.
Moor and Arab attacked Spain then under the crumbling domination of the Goth. They landed at the Pillars of Hercules. The royal city of Toledo fell. Their conquest spread northward. A table of emerald, Gothic spoil from the Romans, was sent to the caliph at Damascus. In 712 A. D. 10,000 Arabs and 8,000 Africans passed over from Mauritania into Spain. The ports were thrown open to the vessels of Syria and the Goths were pursued to Gaul. Spain imbibed in a few generations the name and manners of the Arabs. This need not be surprising for in Spain was the basic blood of the Cushite, that ran in the Moor and the Cushite Arabian, who as natives of Yemen and other Cushite centers of Arabia, represented the proudest and noblest of the Arabian tribes.
From this combination of conquerors sprang a most prosperous era of wealth, cultivation and populousness for Spain. Those who were willing to pay a moderate tribute were allowed freedom of conscience in religious worship. Where it paid the Moslem practiced moderation. A glance taken over the vast empire of the Semitic Arabians finds them extended from the confines of Tartary and India to the shores of the Atlantic. The laws of the Koran were studied with equal zeal at Samarcand and Seville. Hindu and Moor embraced as brothers on the pilgrimage to Mecca. Yet this does not seem strange for the Moor and Hindu in the race were brothers. Forty-six years after the flight of Mohammed from Mecca, Arabian arms appeared under the walls of Constantinople in a siege of the city. The solid and lofty walls were guarded by numbers and discipline.
For six summers they made an attack with a retreat. This revived my reputation of the Roman arms and cast a momentary shade over the glory of the Saracens. Persia and Syria revolted. 717 A. D. the attack was made on Constantinople by 120,000 Arabs and Persians. A huge armada approached from Egypt and Syria. Entering the harbor they were assailed with Greek Be and the Arabian arms and vessels were involved in flames. In a later attempt, the Egyptian ships deserted to the Christian emperor. The arms of Arabia retired after almost incredible disasters.
The deliverance of Constantinople sprang from the terror and efficacy of Greek fire. The skill of a chemist defeated fleets and armies, a distant forerunner of the gases of the world war of our day. Its composition was guarded by the Greeks with zealous care. It was the invention of a Cushite Arabian but was bought by the emperor and it filled the Semitic Arabs with superstitious terror. The secret of Greek fire was finally stolen by the Mohammedans and returned upon the heads of the Christians in the holy wars of Syria and Egypt. This Arabian invention affected a revolution in the art of war and in the history of mankind. Turning for a survey of the onward sweep of the Saracens of the west, we find them invading Gaul (France).
Here we find Goth, Gascon and Franks assembled under the standard of the Duke of Iberian (Cushite) Aquitaine. He repelled their first invasion. In a second engagement the Arabs conquered and overran Aquitaine They stripped the churches of their ornaments and delivered them to the flames. Their invasion formed the groundwork of many a weird tale of chivalry. Had they not been checked, instead of the Bible, interpretations of the Koran would today be taught at Oxford. To a circumcised people would be demonstrated the revelations of Mohammed. Christendom was delivered by the genius of one man. Half the kingdom was in the hands of the Saracens when Charles Martel, Duke of the Franks aided by the Germans met the enemy in the center of France. At the close of seven days of fighting the leader of the Saracens was slain.
The tribes of Yemen, Damascus, Africa, and Spain were provoked to turn their arms against one another. A hasty and separate retreat was made the spoils being left in the tents. The victory of the Franks was complete and final. Aquitaine was recovered by the arms of Eudes. Thus the ancient Franks saved the Christian world. Arabia at this time was convulsed with the massacre of the warring factions claiming their right of succession to the authority of Mohammed. The chair of Mohammed was disputed by three caliphs. At Bagdad, they aspired to emulate the magnificence of the Persian kings. $150,000,000 was exhausted in a few years by the children of Caliph Almansor. His grandson showered a thousand pearls of largest size upon the head of his bride. Barges and boats of superb decoration were seen on the Tigris. In the palace were 38,000 pieces of tapestry, 12,500 of which were embroidered with gold.
Here was a perfect setting for the stories of the Arabian Nights, Gibbons continues this description, “A hundred lions were brought out with a keeper to each lion. Among the other spectacles of rare and stupendous luxury was a tree of gold and silver spreading into eighteen large branches, on the lesser branches sat a variety of birds made of the same precious metals, as well as the leaves of the tree. While the machinery affected spontaneous motions, the several birds warbled their natural harmony.” In the west, the Caliphs of Cordova supported an equal pomp. The hall of audience was incrusted with gold and pearls. The caliph was attended to the field by a guard of 12,000 horse, whose belts and scimitars were studded with gold. Luxury terminated the progress of the Arabian empire. 786 A. D.
Harun, the most powerful and vigorous monarch of his race ascended the throne. He was the perpetual hero of the Arabian tales. He swept the surface of Asia Minor. The ruin was complete, the spoil was ample, 823 A. D. the islands of Crete and Sicily fell and the cities of the age of Minos became thirty. 846 A. D. a fleet of Saracens from the African coast entered the Tiber and approached Rome. Her gates and ramparts were guarded by a trembling people. The costly offerings were torn from the altars. The Arabians divided their forces to pillage the neighboring towns of Fundi and Gaeta, and this division saved the capital from the yoke of the Prophet of Mecca. 838 Saracens advanced again upon Constantinople. A domestic traitor after fifty-five days of fruitless fighting pointed out the weakest part of the wall.
Constantinople fell, the Arabs satiated with destruction then returned to Bagdad. The quarter was seldom given in the field. Those who escaped the edge of the sword were condemned to helpless servitude or exquisite torture. As the Arabian conquerors mingled with the servile crowds of Persia, Syria, and Egypt, they lost the free-born virtues of the desert. Therefore the mercenary forces of the caliphs were recruited from the north. Mutism introduced into the capital fifty thousand Turks. His son was cut in seven pieces by their swords. In three years they created, deposed and murdered three commanders of the faithful. Then Abbasids curbed and divided their power.
Near the end of the ninth century, an imposter arose. He relaxed the duties, ablution, fasting, and pilgrimage. His twelve apostles dispersed themselves among the Bedouins, a race of men whom Abulfeda called equally devoid of reason and religion. His subjects were ripe for revolt disclaiming the title of the house of Abbas and abhorring the worldly pomp of the caliphs of Bagdad. 107,000 fanatics took and pillaged the cities of Racca, Baalbec, Cufa, and Bassora. Bagdad was filled with consternation. The city was taken. They stormed and trampled upon the most venerable relics of the Mohammedan faith. Their sect was finally broken into sections but they were a second visible cause of the fall of the empire of caliphs.
A third cause was the unwieldiness of the empire resulting from its magnitude. The provinces of Syria and Egypt were twice dismembered by Turkish slaves. The sons of the caliphs were educated in the vices of kings. 1000 A. D. Persia became free and her language and genius revived. Radhi the thirty-ninth of the successors of the Prophet was the last to represent the wealth and magnificence of the caliphs. After him, the lords of the eastern world were reduced to abject misery. The treasury was no longer replenished by the spoil and tribute of nations. The African and Turkish guards turned their swords against each other. The chief commanders imprisoned or deposed their sovereigns. 945 A. D. the caliph was dragged from the throne to a dungeon. His palace was pillaged and his eyes put out.
In this school of adversity, the caliphs went back to the rigid virtues of the more primitive times. Sometimes through the division of their tyrants, the Abbasids were restored to the sovereignty of Bagdad. Their misfortunes were embittered by the triumphs of the Fatimites, claimed progeny of the daughter of Mohammed. Rising from the extremity of Africa, they put an end to the authority of the Abbasids. In the declining age of the caliphs, the arms of the Byzantine empire extirpated the nest of the Arabian pirates upon the island of Crete. 963 A. D. and 969 A. D. was the most splendid period of the Byzantine annals.
Roman arms were carried into the heart of Syria. The reign of Caesar and of Christ was restored at Antioch the ancient metropolis of the east. At Aleppo, they found in the stately palace outside the walls a magazine of arms, 1400 mules and three hundred bags of silver and gold. A hundred cities were reduced to obedience. Greek ardor was quickened to seize the virgin treasures of Bagdad but they had already been dissipated by the avarice and prodigality of the domestic tyrants. The fears of Bagdad were relieved by the retreat of the Greeks. Hunger and thirst had guarded the deserts of Mesopotamia. The emperor laden with oriental spoils returned to Byzantium. The Moslems purified their temples and overturned their idols but the old days of glory were fled. 1538 the claim to the caliphate passed to the Ottoman Turks. Their sultan called himself head of the Mohammedan world.