Day 1213 – Ken here (M)(01-07-2013)
(DEF III, v.5, Ch.51, pp.240-250)(pages read: 2280)
 
 

A reconstructed view of Sinornithosaurus – one of the Dromaeosauridae, the feathered Dinosaur ancestors of Aves, Avians – today’s birds. And just as the Dromaeosauridae are gone, and the 10,000 species of birds remain as a reminder of Age of Dinosaurs, the reign of the last of the Persian Shahs – Yazdegerd III is gone – but the Persian Empire remains in the dating system of an entire religion – that of Zoroasterianism. It is still the reign of Shah Yazdegerd III (d. 651) for those who follow Ahura Mazda – the Good God of the Prophet Zoroaster. And 2012 is the 1,380th year of his reign.


 
We begin today to look in detail at the Early Conquests of Islam, and thus (somewhat) rejoin the field of History and leave 18th cent. Sociology behind.

Today is a day of conquests and destruction, big winners and even bigger losers. Mostly, of course, it’s the Arabs doing the winning and it’s everybody else doing the losing. But that’s life in the latter 600’s – the story of the first great expansion of Islam. Not that it’s all easy pickings for the Arabs – it’s not. It’s a long, long series of continuous battles. But the Arabs luckily stumble upon two empires destitute after twenty years of exhausting world war, and they get to pick up the broken pieces of Rome and Persia that are lying all over the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Cities, castles, provinces, nations, armies, subject peoples, all for the asking.

It is the end of Persia, and the near-end of Rome.

It’s a big day, if you’re into change – change and the evanescent nature of human accomplishments in a militantly vicious and opportunistic world. Gotterdammerung – the Twilight of the Gods. Not to put too fine a Wagnerian point on it.

The Story

 

Conquest of Persia (637-651)

 

Battle of Cadesia (636)
  • Persia has six usurpers in 4 years after defeat by Rom Emp Heraclius
  • QueenArzema deposed, Khosroes’s grandson 15 yo Yazdegerd, is Shah
  • On plains of Cadesia – 30,000 persians against 15-20,000 Arabs
  • Arabs fight for 4 days – more continuous harassment – cavalry and archers
  • “Bloody and atrocious” battle – per the Arabs – they lose 7000 men – 1/2 to 1/3 of their force
  • Arabs win – Persians overthrown, shah takes off for Persian homelands to regroup
Foundation of Bassora (636), Sack of Medayn/Ctesiphon
  • Arabs found port of Bassora (Basra)
  • Apparently a big port for the British – or it was in the news in the 1780’s as Gibbon devotes a half-page to it
2nd Big Battle – Sack of Medayn/Ctesiphon (3-637)
  • Although country bisected by canals – Gibbon makes the point that were the ancient Persians Dutch, they would have flooded their fields – but Pers are demoralized and fall back on capital
  • 3 months later, invest and take Ctesiphon, the Persian capital
  • Fight and take riches, Gibbon relates a few anecdotes about Arabic barbarian simplicity in the face of the superior Persian civilization
Foundation of Cufa (Kufah)
  • Kufa founded in 637, became the capital (moving cap from Medina) under Ali in 650’s – Ali being the head of the Shia party of Islam – basing auth on having a direct bloodline to the prophet
  • Kufa became ctr for Islamic study, govt – even after capital moved to Damascus – cap moved back under Abbasids in 750 to Kufa, but subs moved to new city – Baghdad
  • NOTE: these are the founding stories of the fabulous cities of Islam – Kufa, Baghdad, Basra
Conquest of Northeast – Caspian, Armenia, and West – Oxus River Territories and beyond-Transoxiana
  • NorthEast – Arabs move up through Hamadan, Ispahan, take shores of Caspian Sea
  • Cross back over the Tigris, towards Roman Territory, take Armenia, Mesopotamia
  • Move up the Tigris and take Persepolis
  • Caliph Othman promises governorship of all Bactria to 1st general who takes it – Arabs take it – Herach, Merou, Balch, Harmozan
  • Persians cross Oxus (Amu Darya) and begin conquest of Transoxiana (710)
  • Take Sogdiana – Carizme, Bochara, Samarcand
  • Chinese solicit friendship of Arabs
  • Arabs go as far as the Indus River – boundary of India
Last Flight and Death of Yezdegerd III
  • Young Yazdegerd III, (15 yo) last Sassanid Persian Shah, he is actually the grandson of the Roman Emperor Maurice
  • Defeated at Ctesiphon (636), spends next 15 years running govt in exile as he is pursued
  • He moves up to old Persia, is pursued, tries to get Rom Emp Heraclius to support him, is refused
  • Moves across Bactria, is pursued, is killed in Central Asia while trying to make for China and safety with the Tang Dynasty
  • His son Firuz (Piroz II)serves the Tang in China, a daughter enters the bloodlines of the Caliphs, thus the Caliphs claim descent from the Sassanid Persian emperors
Conquest of Syria

 

Invasion of Syria (632)
  • Abu Bekr sends a circular letter to all the tribes – 632 – year of Moh death
  • Incites war raids, but enjons no destruction as goal is conquest, not just pillaging
  • The contest with an exhausted Rome begins

 

Map of the Aral Sea and the Oxus (Amu Darya – to the South) and the Jaxartes (Syr Darya – to the North) (Darya is river in Persian). Yazdegerd III lost his life trying to sell the royal jewels for passage across the Moghrab (?) in Merv a desert river just south of the Amu Darya. The Aral Sea of course, no longer exists, since the Amu Darya, like the Rio Grande, doesnt actually carry any water to its own delta, its entire flow is used up in irrigation before it ends.


 
 
 

Yazdegerd III – A Family Who Helped Ruin the East – A Real Tragedy

 

The Romans and the Persians had been at each other’s throats for about 400 years (240’s – 600’s) when the latest set of skirmishes ended in a substantial Roman victory for the emperor Maurice, Maurice wedded his daughter Maria to the new Persian Shah Khosrua II ( a marriage recorded by a chronicler Michael the Syrian, of which some modern historians entertain doubts).

At any rate, Khosrau II had spent his youth among the Romans living in exile and so was a great friend of the last living family of the Justinian dynasty, esp. that is, of the emperor Maurice. And Maurice, once he’d defeated the Persians soundly, placed the exiled pretender Khosrau II firmly back on the Persian throne. Roman-Persian peace seemed assured. What could go wrong?

But no Roman emperor ever easily wears the purple. Later, in a typically Roman spasm of discontent, the Romans killed Maurice and raised Phocas (602-610) as emperor, which both pleased and infuriated Khosrau II (TANGENT: this is the Phocas of Phocas’s column – the last column raised by an emperor in the Roman Forum).

Khosrau had the excuse to go to war against the Romans and avenge their heavy losses under Maurice, and Khosrau had a just reason for war, as Maurice had been his friend and sponsor. And so began the Gotterdammerung of the Persian and Roman states, as the entire Eastern Mediterranean became one huge battlefield for over twenty years.

For the next decade, Persia stripped Rome of almost every province she had, utterly exhausting the Roman economy and its own in the process. The next decade or so saw the Emperor Heraclius (who deposed Phocas) spring back from total Roman defeat and through a long guerilla-style war, annihilate the Persians and their empire, destroying what was left of Sassanid strength and exhausting the Persian and Roman economy a second time, this time completely with the war-to-end-all-wars war effort. Complete victory came to Rome this time, ending the 400 year Perso-Roman battle for Mediterranean/Mid-East supremacy. That was 629. In 632 the Arabs invaded defeated Persia and took it. In 633 the Arabs invaded the prostate Roman Empire and took it.

Yazdegerd III‘s grandfather was the Roman Emperor Maurice. If it weren’t for the unfortunate war that lasted 20+ years between Persia and Rome, the Arabs might never have left the Arabian peninsula.

As it was, in 651 Yazdegerd died trying to pawn his royal jewels to cross a river (the Moghrab in Merv south of the mythical Aral Sea). And by 674 (23 years later) the Arabs mounted a nearly successful siege on the Roman capital itself, Constantinople, as the Roman empire evaporated like morning mist in the midday heat of the rising sun of Islam (forgive the florid metaphor-making).
 
 

Non-coin objects from the Furness Hoard – a Viking hoard from in England dating from the 900’s found in 2011 by optimistic and hardworking persons employing metal detectors. Note that the items that are precious metals are hacked into pieces. Gibbon points and laughs at the Arabs destruction of Art, by dividing the spoils of war into convenient pieces for distribution to underlings. But, just like the Arabs with their Roman and Persian spoils during the 700’s, the Vikings in the 900’s act in the same way. Its just that the actions of Scandinavian ancestors of English aristocracy had slipped from the national consciousness by the 1780s.

Gibbon on Cultural Awareness – The Simple Arab Conquerors

 
Gibbon makes a point of showing the naive simplicity of the Arab conquerors of the Persian Empire in a long page-long passage today. In his mind, Gibbon was referencing not only the Arabs of the 630’s but also the Arabs and Arab Mid-Eastern, Islamic culture of the 1780’s. Gibbon means to show that the simple men of the world, although numerous and powerful, will innocently and cheerfully destroy civilization every time if allowed the opportunity. Therefor, it must be the goal of civilized, enlightened men everywhere NOT to give them that chance. They must be protected from themselves, for their own good. Thus the Gibbon passage quoted below demonstrating the infantile actions of Early Arab conquerors.

Simple raiding and pillaging societies (like the Arabs) coming into contact with complicated nation-state-empires (like the Persians) is an old story. Gibbon’s own ancestors were probably those same simple, destructive people – nations that heedlessly ripped apart superior civilizations in the name of pillaging and wealth. This, however, was conveniently forgotten by the late 1700’s. Each invading nation, each people arriving to conquer England followed the same pillaging philosophy – be they Angles invading Roman Britain, Danes/Norwegians invading Saxon England, or Norman coming over in 1066 – the Norman Conquerors of Normandy were, after all, descendants of Vikings – Scandinavian pirates – war parties that had ravaged the Lower Seine for a hundred years and had finally blackmailed the French king into giving up French territory for them irrevecably. No one stood between a Norman and some movable, relatively-unprotected wealth. At least not for long.

Carolingian silver and gold statuary was clipped into pieces by Vikings (to be distributed among their own Viking war bands just like the Arabs distributed their booty between their own tribes on Jihad. They tore apart wealth just as eagerly as the Arabs (ex. the Furness Hoard) – in fact, in exactly the same way as the Arabs tore apart the Persian’s Chinese silk tapestries in the Gibbon quote below. But again, this had all been forgotten by the time of the Enlightenment and Gibbon.

Civilization versus Barbarism. The parallels to European expansion in the late 1700’s over the entire world are obvious, and Gibbon is smilingly making that point to his readers. Civilized white men from Europe are confronting traditional cultures everywhere on the globe – and it is the white man’s duty to civilize them.

Gibbon’s point is that the Arabs conquered the Persians but didn’t have the slightest idea what they had conquered. Gibbon says they are brave and hardworking, but ignorant and destructive. In Gibbon’s eyes, on the whole, that makes them not worthy of overlordship.

The Arabs are not like the English (in the 1780’s), who are brave and hardworking AND knowledgeable and constructive. There is more than a little paternal smirking and winking going on in this passage about the Arabs and their reaction to one of the big three (China, Persia, Rome) civilized, highly-organized states of the Late Antique, Early Medieval World.

This, from Gibbon:

The naked robbers of the desert were suddenly enriched beyond the measure of their hope or knowledge. Each chamber revealed a new treasure secreted with art, or ostentatiously displayed; the gold and silver, the various wardrobes and precious furniture, surpassed (says Abulfeda) the estimate of fancy or numbers; and another historian defines the untold and almost infinite mass, by the fabulous computation of three thousands of thousands of thousands of pieces of gold.

Some minute though curious facts represent the contrast of riches and ignorance. From the remote islands of the Indian Ocean a large provision of camphire had been imported, which is employed with a mixture of wax to illuminate the palaces of the East. Strangers to the name and properties of that odoriferous gum, the Saracens, mistaking it for salt, mingled the camphire in their bread, and were astonished at the bitterness of the taste.

One of the apartments of the palace was decorated with a carpet of silk, sixty cubits in length, and as many in breadth: a paradise or garden was depictured on the ground: the flowers, fruits, and shrubs, were imitated by the figures of the gold embroidery, and the colours of the precious stones; and the ample square was encircled by a variegated and verdant border. The Arabian general persuaded his soldiers to relinquish their claim, in the reasonable hope that the eyes of the caliph would be delighted with the splendid workmanship of nature and industry.

Regardless of the merit of art, and the pomp of royalty, the rigid Omar divided the prize among his brethren of Medina: the picture was destroyed; but such was the intrinsic value of the materials, that the share of Ali alone was sold for twenty thousand drams. A mule that carried away the tiara and cuirass, the belt and bracelets of Chosroes, was overtaken by the pursuers; the gorgeous trophy was presented to the commander of the faithful; and the gravest of the companions condescended to smile when they beheld the white beard, the hairy arms, and uncouth figure of the veteran, who was invested with the spoils of the Great King.

(DEF III, v.5, Ch.51, pp.242-243)
 
 

A very sad numismatic relic. Coin of last Sassanid Persian Emperor Yazdegerd III (Persian for -made by God) minted in RY (Regnal Year) 11 (643) – he reigned 632-651. As Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the Persians, the religious calendar of the Zoroaster was based on the regnal years of the Persian emperors. There were no other Persian Emperors after Yazdegerd III – at least no Zorasterians. So we are currently in the RY 1380 – of Yazdegerd IIIs reign and the Zorasterian calendar both – which are the same thing. The story behind this coin is that it was minted 6 years (643) after the fall of the capital, Ctesiphon, in 637, so that makes it a coin minted by a provincial mint acting for a government in exile – a government that was to disappear entirely in 8 years. As I said, sad.

Last Word…

Things From Long Ago – Zorasterian Dating and Dinosaurs

In today’s reading, the last of the Persian Shahs (Sassanid Empire (224-651) is defeated, hounded, betrayed, and dies. This is Yazdegerd III. The Persian Sassanids were inveterate Zoroasterians, and since the state supported priesthood was intimately involved in the government of Persia, the religious calendar followed the political calendar – dates were calculated based on the regnal year (reign-year) of the current Persian Shah.

But what happens to a state religion when the state disappears? Gibbon delights in examining just that when he discusses Christianity, Rome, and the Catholic Papacy. But we are looking at Persia just now. Actually, that very thing happened in Iran/Iraq in the late 600’s. Between 637 and 651, the Persian Zoroasterian state evaporated, replaced by Islamic territories in the newly-born Islamic Empire run by Islamic governors.

Well, if the supporting state disappears, apparently you are fossilized in place, at the moment of the state’s destruction. For the Zoroasterians, this meant the era of Yezdegerd III (regnal year starting 632) never ceased. We are currently in year 1380 (in 2012) of the reign of Yezdegerd, Persian Shah. This is the official date of the Zoroasterian religious calendar. A sad and interesting fact.

Like the once-ubiquitous and powerful clade of dinosauria (dinosaurs) surviving as the class Aves (birds), the Sassanid Persian Empire survives today in an obviously radically different form in the ongoing faith of Zoroasterians.

This from Wiki:

The Zoroastrian religious calendar, which is still in use today, uses the regnal year of Yazdegerd III as its base year. Its calendar era (year numbering system), which is accompanied by a Y.Z. suffix, thus indicates the number of years since the emperor’s coronation in 632 AD.

(Yazdegerd III in Wikipedia)

 
 
 
 
 

Bonus Points…

This is also a Page in the Header above.
Ongoing Table of Names

I should have done this long ago, but was overcome by blog-sloth and blog-entropy – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’m only doing it now because sometimes it takes a good five minutes for me to figure out how Benjamin Franklin would have spelled the names of Persian shahs or Arabic cities in order to link it to the modern spellings you find in current references online (say Wikipedia). 18th Century Englishmen had a field day with non-Latin alphabet transliteration. Very imaginative. So, once I’ve done it and I’ve got a link, I figure, well, I ought to save you some of that trouble. Thus the table below.

Although, to be truthful, I could have been doing this all along, for the last 2 years and the table (including Latin, Greek, Chinese, Turkish, Arabic, Russian, etc) would have extended to hundreds if not thousands of entries by now.

But here it is now, today, such as it is. As you can see, I’m still lazy. It’s not much of a table. But it’s a start.

Names in Gibbon – Translation Table to Modern Terms
Gibbon 18th c. Modern 21st c. Type Description
Bassora Basra,Iraq (Al-Basra) City Foremost port of Iraq. Nearby Umm Qasr is the deepwater port on the Gulf.
Cadesia Qadisiyya or Kadisiya Battle Decisive battle – Arab victory over Persian Empire (636).
Cufa Kufa,Iraq, (Al-Kufah) or Najaf (An-Najaf) City First great mosque of Kufa in Iraq 630’s, tomb of Ali is in Najaf. Kufa now part of larger town Najaf.
Madayn Al-Mada‘in, Iraq City Also known as Ctesiphon, Seleuca, One Cap. of Persian Emp. Arabs let Ctesiphon decay, founded new capital 110 miles north on Tigris – Baghdad.
Yezdegerd Yazdegerd III Person 29th and last king of the Persian Sassanids – Persian Empire. Zoroastrian religious calendar still uses his regnal dates (Y.Z.)(from 632)(just like the Romans did using the regnal dates of roman emperors, except we’re in the 1,380th year of Yaz.’s reign)

File this under P for It All Depends On Your Perspective. Here is yet another feathered Dinosaur, Dromaeosaurus. Feathered like a bird, because, in actuality, as it turns out, all birds are Dinosaurs – like House Sparrows they are of the Clade Dinosauria. I heard on a NOVA special – The Four Winged Dinosaur – one of the hosts mentioning that there are 5,700 species of mammals and there are 10,000 species of birds – which means we are effectively STILL IN the Age of Dinosaurs. Its just that we newbies, the mammals, well, in our self-absorbed universe, we just don’t want to see it that way. And, likewise, 1400 years later, the Iranians still (at least up till the 1960’s) called their leaders Shah – just like Yazdegerd III.

Posted by: ken98 | October 22, 2012

Out To Lunch – Be Back Soon

Day 1136 – Ken here (M)(10-22-2012)

Out to Lunch

Rare historical evidence of the existence of a Late Antique Monastic Meal Breaks – image from a page of the Liber Exlunchialis

 
 
 

Out To Lunch With Gibbon – Or Without Him
 

 
For the holidays, and maybe a little while after, we’ll be taking a brief break from the exciting world of Gibbon’s Overview of Arabic History. As I’ve said before, we’re probably a month or two or three away from getting back to Roman History – but we’ll get there, I promise. Although, at the rate I’m writing it will probably be 2015 – but eventually we’ll get there.

And, after reviewing my last few entries, I see I seem to be settling down into a kind of comfortable, consistent, incoherent babbling. Maybe a little less words, maybe a little more editing is what I need to put my energies into. Taking a break might help.

And I have to learn to fall back in love with Gibbon, so I can enjoy the last 700 pages or so of this long, long ride into the 15th century. Enjoy it, despite the fact that I think Gibbon, at this point, feels the Decline and Fall has turned into a sort of never-ending nightmare for him – and endless, nearly thankless task. But we will see him through until the end, and at the very least we can cheerfully accompany him down this long slide into madness and pain and loathing as he enters the Early Middle Ages.

So, I’ll take this opportunity to breathe, refocus, re-energize, and re-think my constant whining and complaining about Gibbon. There actually is a lot of interesting stuff to cover. I’m sure of it. I know it’s there. Just have to give Gibbon a chance.

and with that it’s…

Hasta El Gibbon, Dudes and Dudettes out there – – –

Day 1129 – Ken here (M)(10-15-2012)
(DEF III, v.5, Ch.50,51, pp.230-240)(pages read: 2270)

What if the U.S. government cut taxes and allowed retailers to organize their own armies and city states on foreign soil? Gibbon (in 1780’s) comments on governmental expenditures today, voicing the majority opinion of the time that a small government with broad privatization was best – a failed policy that exploded in the collective face of Imperial Britain in India in the 1860’s. J C Penney store photo (Wikip)

A short(er) day – we finish Chapter 50 with a rolling, thunderous summation of Mohammed and his life – which, of course, is actually to us a summation of Gibbon’s view of an entirely antagonistic and alien culture – that of Islam (the Turks mostly to Gibbon) in the late Eighteenth Century.

Then on to Chapter 51 – a long tale of the Islamic Empire – today, we re-hash the first decades of glorious, unstoppable expansion, and bloody civil war. And, of course, mostly Gibbons 1780’s viewpoint of early Islamic history.

As even remotely factual histories of the Middle East were only being written in the previous century or so, and all in France and in French, Gibbon is once again on the cutting historical edge, when he tackles Islam – and he does so with his usual contrarian, rebellious stance. If he were to rank religious feeling (and he does in these 10 pages) they rank: Anglican Church, Protestants in general, Muslims, and finally, Catholics.

And, Gibbon pauses a second to throw in a few Gentlemanly Observations about Low Taxes and Government Economy. How did the British Government lower expenditures as the empire expanded? They privatized the government – example: The East India Company on the Indian Subcontinent. A little like the U.S. allowing J.C. Penneys to organize a private army and take over Northern Mexico to consolidate their hold on the Maquiladora factories there. Privatization saves money, but it leaves huge sectors of the economy and politics beyond the control of the citizens of the country that sponsors the corporation in the first place. Uncontrolled monopoly is never a good idea. The British learned that in the Great Rebellion of 1867 in India when the British were almost kicked out because the government had little say in the conduct of its “privatized” armies. They rapidly DE-PRIVATIZED India after that.

Rational Historiagraphy – Gibbon notes that Arabic historians – in his opinion, the Asiatic Historian – are much less likely to report facts as to Praise the current Regime – this is an image of the Greek (1180s) historian Michael Psellos (left) with his student, Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Michael VII Doukas. From a manuscript from Mount Athos Pantokrator Monastery, 12th – 13th cent. Which would make it a possible contemporary portrait of Psellos.

The Story
 
Gibbon on Mohammed and the Islamic Faith
 
  • Gibbon waxes Contrarian – praises the Muslims for 3 pages
  • Islam – miracle isnt its growth, it is its permanence and unchangingness – which of course, is entirely wrong, as Islam fractured into dozens of separate sects within the first century after 632, as Gibbon himself has already related, but hes being Contrarian and expects to be listened to when hes poking fun at the complacent moral majority of the 1780’s
  • Mohammed had a salutary, healthful effect on the Arabian peninsula –
  • Ended idolatry, promoted *social virtues* of law, suppression of vendetta, oppression of widows and orphans
  • Gibbon then makes the interesting point – if Arabs had NOT conquered so swiftly and quickly, maybe the Arab Bedouin would still be ruling in Arabia, but in Gibbon’s Arabia, the Bedouins hadn’t ruled Islam for a thousand years – of course, our experience with Arab Oil since 1973 has been a little different, as the metaphorical shoe is now on the other metaphorical foot and the Saudis, Arab sheikhs have the ascendancy once again
  • And we end Chapter 50 (FINALLY!)
  •  

    Political History of Islam
     
  • We start the conquests of Persia, Egypt, Syria, Africa, Spain and the empire of the Caliphs
  • Union of the Arabs (632) – Arabs have mandatory new requirements 1) submit to Koran (the word Islam=submission) and to 2) No wine 3) Fasting at Ramadan 4) 5 daily prayers 5) tithes and alms
  • They are thus, a separate people now
  •  

    The First Caliphs – Union of the Tribes, False Prophets, Doctrinal Splits, Murder
     
  • Gibbon relates the interesting story of the false prophet of Yemanah – Moseilama – who offered to share the Arabian peninsula with Mohammed – Mohammed sends out army for battle to decide who will stand for God – wins
  • Courageous 1st Caliphs Abubekr, Omar, Othman – yet do not lead in battle, but lead from the rear
  • Abubekr noted for his economy – he was extraordinarily cheap when it came to himself, giving when it came to others – Gibbon LOVES this
  •  

    Political History – The Beginning of the Conquests
     
  • Gibbon notes that there is no proper historians (say in the sense of Thucydides or Tacitus) in the Early Arab world – Gibbon would say even down to his day (1780’s)
  • This is an old argument – history as PRAISE (of men), history as EDUCATION (in virtue), history as Blank Telling of Events (facts and truth)
  • Those that come down on the side of PRAISE and EDUCATION say with Pontius Pilate that truth is an illusion – Gibbon being a rational man of the Eminently Reasonable Enlightenment hastens to disagree
  • I have to say I agree with Gibbon – History as Blank Telling requires a lot more work on the part of historians – self-observation, scrupulous honesty, a willingness to weaken or destroy your case/historical position/narrative – lazy historians HATE to do that EXTRA PERSONAL WORK who notices anyways? – but if you’ve read Monastic Chronicles of Byzantium (Greek Middle Ages) and stumbled happily upon the warped yet reasonable historian Micheal Psellus (1080’s) you already know what I mean
  •  

    Political History – Conquests – I – Persia
     
  • Invasion of Persia (632)
  • Persia and Syria (Rome) invaded simultaneously
  • Persia falls very quickly – it was already a destitute country – like Europe just after WWII – no fight left after it lost completely and utterly to Rome and Heraclius
  •  

     

    What everyone loves to hate, including Gibbon

     

    More Quoteable Gibbon: British Prot’s are Best, Taxes are of the Anti-Christ, Asiatics Can’t Write History
     

     
     
     
     

      On the Extremely Desirable and Obvious Reasonableness of the British Protestant Anglican Church

    Gibbon cannot help, even in a chapter given over entirely to Islam, not extending his hands and painfully poking the Catholic church repeatedly in its kidneys. He has the easy Late Eighteenth Century Assurance that all-things-British automatically represent the highest good, with a brief congratulatory nod to Protestant Calvinists in Geneva (since he is, after all, en ex-pat living in Switzerland). But the in Gibbon’s eyes, the rational man’s pecking order remains (from best to worst): British Protestant Anglicanism, Certain Other Protestants, Islam, and finally in a limping, peevish, desultory last place, Catholicism.

    It is not the propagation, but the permanency, of his religion, that deserves our wonder: the same pure and perfect impression which he engraved at Mecca and Medina, is preserved, after the revolutions of twelve centuries, by the Indian, the African, and the Turkish proselytes of the Koran. If the Christian apostles, St. Peter or St. Paul, could return to the Vatican, they might possibly inquire the name of the Deity who is worshipped with such mysterious rites in that magnificent temple: at Oxford or Geneva, they would experience less surprise; but it might still be incumbent on them to peruse the catechism of the church, and to study the orthodox commentators on their own writings and the words of their Master.

    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, p.230)

    Someone is paying their taxes – Largest Interstate System on Earth – The Chinese Interstate (Trunk Roads) System – this is G106-Jingkai Expressway, Southern Beijing (2004) (Wikip).


     
     
      On the Obvious Maxim that the Best Monarchy is a Cheap Monarchy

    Gibbon, like any upper-class Englishman, wants a strong central government that provides reliable services – army, post office, taxes, duties, manage internal/external politics, policing, etc – he wants all that, but doesn’t want to pay for it. Since the Magna Carta, Brits have been telling their king and their central government to “live on your own, and leave us and our money alone.” It’s the whole reason there was a British Parliament in the first place – a venue for the King to plead and wheedle money out of his subjects, and a place for the King/Queen’s subjects to dig their heels in and “just say no”.

    That apparent contradiction – wanting services, but not wanting to pay for them lives on unfortunately today in the U.S. where whole generations of Americans want to save $100 a year in taxes and let rot (for example) 4 decades of work on the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. Sometimes you can’t spend money on a new pair of jet skies or an ATV and still have a highway to get to the lake/sand with.

    There are countries (see China), where the idea of building for tomorrow instead of only pleasuring yourself today is rising – an example is the Interstate System of China which surpassed the U.S. as the largest Interstate System in the world in early 2011 – starting from nothing in 1993. There is a difference between yelling “me, me, me” and “us, us us”. But, again, unfortunately, people usually don’t see that until they’ve trashed the hard work of a century and trillions of man-hours in a decade or two of outrageous self-pleasuring.

    But what does that have to do with Gibbon and the rise of the Islamic state?

    Well, I’m glad you asked.

    Gibbon praises (again being contrarian for the 1780’s) Muslim rulers, in particular, AbuBekr and his noted FRUGALITY. This is the primary virtue (in Gibbon’s account) of AbuBekr (besides Courage) – his PARSIMONY.

    Yet the abstinence and humility of Omar were not inferior to the virtues of Abubeker: his food consisted of barley bread or dates; his drink was water; he preached in a gown that was torn or tattered in twelve places; and the Persian satrap, who paid his homage to the conqueror, found him asleep among the beggars on the steps of the mosch of Medina. Oeeconomy is the source of liberality, and the increase of the revenue enabled Omar to establish a just and perpetual reward for the past and present services of the faithful.

    Careless of his own emolument, he assigned to Abbas, the uncle of the prophet, the first and most ample allowance of twenty-five thousand drachms or pieces of silver. Five thousand were allotted to each of the aged warriors, the relics of the field of Beder; and the last and meanest of the companions of Mahomet was distinguished by the annual reward of three thousand pieces.

    One thousand was the stipend of the veterans who had fought in the first battles against the Greeks and Persians; and the decreasing pay, as low as fifty pieces of silver, was adapted to the respective merit and seniority of the soldiers of Omar. Under his reign, and that of his predecessor, the conquerors of the East were the trusty servants of God and the people; the mass of the public treasure was consecrated to the expenses of peace and war; a prudent mixture of justice and bounty maintained the discipline of the Saracens, and they united, by a rare felicity, the despatch and execution of despotism with the equal and frugal maxims of a republican government. The heroic courage of Ali, (7) the consummate prudence of Moawiyah, excited the emulation of their subjects; and the talents which had been exercised in the school of civil discord were more usefully applied… etc etc etc

    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.51, p.236)

    Gibbon just slides this one into his narrative. You know, sometimes writers of Histories were known to have been rewarded by Kings with generous lifetime pensions. The truly enlightened Kings did that sort of thing. And the noble Muslim Caliphs were known to do that sort of thing. Gibbon’s just sayin’…

    And, perhaps, it wasn’t the ECONOMY of AbuBekr that allowed him to grant generous pensions (something an English gentleman, desirous of Royal Pensions to live off of, would be particularly observant of, as we have noted above). PERHAPS, rather than the ECONOMY of the Central Government, it was the fact that the Muslims were PILLAGING TWO OF THE WEALTHIEST and LARGEST EMPIRES on EARTH at the time (Rome and Persia) and had spoils, tribute, booty, plunder, men, money, cities, roads, land, slaves, ships, gold and silver, etc. etc. coming out the yin-yang and to spare. Perhaps it was that.

    Or maybe AbuBekr just kept taxes low and spending lower. Yeah, that makes more sense.

     
     

      On the Absence of History Among Asiatics

    Gibbon bemoans his fate as a historian of Arabs. It’s a thankless job. You’re not thanking him. No one’s thanking him. And no one’s helping. Least of all the Arabs. Because, let’s face it, no ASIATIC can write or has written what any Englishman would call a proper history. Hasn’t been done. Thus, the huge, thankless job facing Gibbon.

    It’s interesting to note he allows himself to use the faintly derogatory Christian word “Musselmans” in referring to Muslims in this passage, rather than the “faithful”, “Adherents of Mohammed”, “Mahometans” etc, he has obstinately used before – in his contrarian way, to irritate the more conservative among his subscribers and readers.

    Gibbon, I hope you’ll note, even takes this opportunity to throw in a disdainful reference to monks and monasticism. Tow things Gibbon can never hate too much.

    Yet I must excuse my own defects by a just complaint of the blindness and insufficiency of my guides. The Greeks, so loquacious in controversy, have not been anxious to celebrate the triumphs of their enemies. After a century of ignorance, the first annals of the Mussulmans were collected in a great measure from the voice of tradition.

    Among the numerous productions of Arabic and Persian literature, our interpreters have selected the imperfect sketches of a more recent age. The art and genius of history have ever been unknown to the Asiatics; they are ignorant of the laws of criticism; and our monkish chronicle of the same period may be compared to their most popular works, which are never vivified by the spirit of philosophy and freedom.

    The Oriental library of a Frenchman would instruct the most learned mufti of the East; and perhaps the Arabs might not find in a single historian so clear and comprehensive a narrative of their own exploits as that which will be deduced in the ensuing sheets.

     
     
     
     
     

    There were other men who claimed leadership from God and tried unsuccessfully to lead the Arabic tribes after Mohammed’s rise. I’d never heard of subsequent false prophets in Islam before. Although, technically, I guess a false prophet is outside Islam by definition. But, still its interesting. Whats even more interesting to me is that there isnt even a Wikipedia page for Moseilama in English Wikipedia. Guess the West is still somewhat ignorant of Muslim history. This image is NOT a muslim prophet – it is the False Prophet Card from the AeGen4 game

    Last Word…

     

    The Subsequent (False) Prophets from within Islamic Tradition
     

     

    Gibbon makes a short note of a man who challenged Mohammed for leadership of the Arab tribes as the chief of Monotheism, something you don’t hear much about. It is from a quick reference in the Koran Chapter 47 “The Victory.” Apparently he was one of many, many men who tried to follow in Mohammed’s footsteps and claim a higher and subsequent divine revelation as a prophet of God and leader of the Monotheists of Islam. I’d never heard of this before.

    These were Banu Honeifa, who inhabited al Yamâma, and were the
    followers of Moseilama, Mohammed’s competitor; or any other of those tribes
    which apostatized from Mohammedism,5 or, as others rather suppose, the
    Persians or the Greeks.

    Koran, Ch. 47, The Victory (Gutenberg.Org 1891 Annotated Edition of Koran)

    And here is Gibbon’s 1780’s take on it:

    At the head of the fugitives and auxiliaries, the first caliph was reduced to the cities of Mecca, Medina, and Tayef; and perhaps the Koreish would have restored the idols of the Caaba, if their levity had not been checked by a seasonable reproof.

    “Ye men of Mecca, will ye be the last to embrace, and the first to abandon, the religion of Islam?”

    After exhorting the Moslems to confide in the aid of God and his apostle, Abubeker resolved, by a vigorous attack, to prevent the junction of the rebels. The women and children were safely lodged in the cavities of the mountains: the warriors, marching under eleven banners, diffused the terror of their arms; and the appearance of a military force revived and confirmed the loyalty of the faithful.

    The inconstant tribes accepted, with humble repentance, the duties of prayer, and fasting, and alms; and, after some examples of success and severity, the most daring apostates fell prostrate before the sword of the Lord and of Caled. In the fertile province of Yemanah, between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Persia, in a city not inferior to Medina itself, a powerful chief (his name was Moseilama) had assumed the character of a prophet, and the tribe of Hanifa listened to his voice. A female prophetess was attracted by his reputation; the decencies of words and actions were spurned by these favourites of Heaven; and they employed several days in mystic and amorous converse.

    An obscure sentence of his Koran, or book, is yet extant; and in the pride of his mission, Moseilama condescended to offer a partition of the earth. The proposal was answered by Mahomet with contempt; but the rapid progress of the impostor awakened the fears of his successor: forty thousand Moslems were assembled under the standard of Caled; and the existence of their faith was resigned to the event of a decisive battle.

    In the first action they were repulsed by the loss of twelve hundred men; but the skill and perseverance of their general prevailed; their defeat was avenged by the slaughter of ten thousand infidels; and Moseilama himself was pierced by an Aethiopian slave with the same javelin which had mortally wounded the uncle of Mahomet. The various rebels of Arabia without a chief or a cause, were speedily suppressed by the power and discipline of the rising monarchy; and the whole nation again professed, and more steadfastly held, the religion of the Koran.

    The ambition of the caliphs provided an immediate exercise for the restless spirit of the Saracens: their valour was united in the prosecution of a holy war; and their enthusiasm was equally confirmed by opposition and victory.

    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.51, p.234)

    It’s obvious in retrospect, but there have been (as with Christianity) many false prophets in Islam. Here is a brief history of two from an Annotated Koran from 1891 – the annotated history of Koranic events being taken from Arabic sources (I include the sources and footnotes

    As success in any project seldom fails to draw in imitators, Mohammed’s
    having raised himself to such a degree of power and reputation by acting the
    prophet, induced others to imagine they might arrive at the same height by the
    same means. His most considerable competitors in the prophetic office were
    Moseilama and al Aswad, whom the Mohammedans usually call the two liars.

    The former was of the tribe of Honeifa, who inhabited the province of
    Yamâma, and a principal man among them. He headed an embassy sent by his
    tribe to Mohammed in the ninth year of the Hejra, and professed himself a
    Moslem:1 but on his return home, considering that he might possibly share with
    Mohammed in his power, the next year he set up for a prophet also, pretending
    to be joined with him the commission to recall mankind from idolatry to the
    worship of the true GOD;2 and he published written revelations, in imitation
    of the Korân, of which Abulfargius3 has preserved the following passage, viz.:

    “now hath GOD been gracious unto her that was with child, and hath brought
    forth from her the soul, which runneth between the peritonæum and the bowels.”

    Moseilama, having formed a considerable party among those of Honeifa, began to
    think himself upon equal terms with Mohammed, and sent him a letter, offering
    to go halves with him,4 in these words: “From Moseilama the apostle of GOD, to
    Mohammed the apostle of GOD. Now let the earth be half mine, and half thine.”
    But Mohammed, thinking himself too well established to need a partner, wrote
    him this answer:

    “From Mohammed the apostle of GOD, to Moseilama the liar.
    The earth is GOD’S: he giveth the same for inheritance unto such of his
    servants as he pleaseth; and the happy issue shall attend those who fear
    him.”5

    During the few months which Mohammed lived after this revolt,
    Moseilama rather gained than lost ground, and grew very formidable; but Abu
    Becr, his successor, in the eleventh year of the Hejra, sent a great army
    against him, under the command of that consummate general, Khâled Ebn al
    Walîd, who engaged Moseilama in a bloody battle, wherein the false prophet,
    happening to be slain by Wahsha, the negro slave who had killed Hamza at Ohod,
    and by the same lance,6 the Moslems gained an entire victory, ten thousand of
    the apostates being left dead on the spot, and the rest returning to
    Mohammedism.7

    1 Abulfed. p.160.
    2 Idem, Elmac. p. 9.
    3 Hist. Dynast. p. 164.
    4 Abulfed. ubi sup.
    5 Al Beidâwi, in Kor. c. 5.
    6 Abulfed. ubi sup.
    7 Idem, ibid. Abulfarag, p. 173. Elmac. p. 16, &c. See Ockley’s Hist. of the
    Saracens, vol. i. p. 15, &c.

    Al Aswad, whose name was Aihala, was of the tribe of Ans, and governed that
    and the other tribes of Arabs descended from Madhhaj.1 This man was likewise
    an apostate from Mohammedism, and set up for himself the very year that
    Mohammed died.2 He was surnamed Dhu’lhemâr, or the master of the ass, because
    he used frequently to say,

    “The master of the ass is coming unto me;”3

    and pretended to receive his revelations from two angels, named Sohaik and
    Shoraik.4 Having a good hand at legerdemain, and a smooth tongue, he gained
    mightily on the multitude by the strange feats which he showed them,
    and the eloquence of his discourse:5 by these means he greatly increased his
    power, and having made himself master of Najrân, and the territory of al
    Tâyef,6 on the death of Badhân, the governor of Yaman for Mohammed, he seized
    that province also, killing Shahr, the son of Badhân, and taking to wife his
    widow, whose father, the uncle of Firûz the Deilamite, he had also slain.7

    These news being brought to Mohammed, he sent to his friends, and to those of
    Hamdân, a party of whom, conspiring with Kais Ebn Abd’al Yaghûth, who bore Al
    Aswad a grudge, and with Firûz, and al Aswad’s wife, broke by night into his
    house, where Firûz surprised him and cut off his head. While he was
    dispatching he roared like a bull; at which his guards came to the chamber
    door, but were sent away by his wife, who told them the prophet was only
    agitated by the divine inspiration.

    This was done the very night before Mohammed died. The next morning the conspirators caused the following
    proclamation to be made, viz.:

    “I bear witness that Mohammed is the apostle of GOD, and that Aihala is a liar;”

    and letters were immediately sent away to Mohammed, with an account of what had been done: but a messenger from heaven
    outstripped them, and acquainted the prophet with the news, which he imparted
    to his companions but a little before his death; the letters themselves not
    arriving till Abu Becr was chosen Khalîf.

    It is said that Mohammed, on this
    occasion, told those who attended him that before the day of judgment thirty
    more impostors, besides Moseilama and al Aswad, should appear, and every one
    of them set up for a prophet. The whole time, from the beginning of al
    Aswad’s rebellion to his death, was about four months.8

    1 Al Soheili, apud Gagnier. in not. ad Abulf. Vit. Moh. p. 158.
    2 Elmac. p. 9.
    3 Abulfed ubi sup.
    4 Al Soheili, ubi sup.
    5 Abulfed. ubi sup.
    6 Idem, et Elmac. ubi sup.
    7 Idem, al Jannâbi, ubi sup.
    8 Idem, ibid.

    In the same eleventh year of the Hejra, but after the death of Mohammed, as
    seems most probable, Toleiha Ebn Khowailed set up for a prophet, and Sejâj
    Bint al Mondar1 for a prophetess.

    Toleiha was of the tribe of Asad, which adhered to him, together with great
    numbers of the tribes of Ghatfân and Tay. Against them likewise was Khâled
    sent, who engaged and put them to flight, obliging Toleiha, with his shattered
    troops, to retire into Syria, where he stayed till the death of Abu Becr: then
    he went to Omar and embraced Mohammedism in his presence, and, having taken
    the oath of fidelity to him, returned to his own country and people.2

    Sejâj, surnamed Omm Sâder, was of the tribe of Tamîm, and the wife of Abu
    Cahdala, a soothsayer of Yamâma. She was followed not only by those of her
    own tribe, but by several others. Thinking a prophet the most proper husband
    for her, she went to Moseilama, and married him; but after she had stayed with
    him three days, she left him and returned home.3 What became of her
    afterwards I do not find. Ebn Shohnah has given us part of the conversation
    which passed at the interview between those two pretenders to inspiration; but
    the same is a little too immodest to be translated.

    In succeeding ages several impostors from time to time started up most of
    whom quickly came to nothing: but some made a considerable figure, and
    propagated sects which continued long after their decease.

    1 Ebn Shohnah and Elmacinus call her the daughter of al Hareth.
    2 Elmac, p. 16, al Beidâwi, in Kor. c. 5.
    3 Ebn Shohnah. Vide Elmac. p. 16.

    from (Gutenberg.Org 1891 Annotated Edition of Koran)

    Map of Muslim Conquests

    Day 1122 – Ken here (M)(10-8-2012)
    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, pp.220-230)(pages read: 2260)

    Mausoleum of Ali in Najaf, Iraq – Ali is a pivotal personage in the spiritual lives of many Muslims – Shiites consider him, as he was the blood-nephew of the prophet Mohammed, to be the keystone to spiritual authority in the Muslim world – he was the first of the 12 Imams – the spiritual inheritors of Mohammeds authority and understanding

    A little shaky on my feet but getting through Arabic history – Gibbon has another 180 pages and 2 long chapters to go before he’s through and we stumble back to the Roman Empire and its Decline and its Fall. Granted all this Middle Eastern history was probably well worth the subscription rate for Gibbons fifth book in his third volume for all his English readers, BUT, I HAVE TO SAY, I am pining for some solid Roman history.

    At the rate I’m reading now – that won’t be for another six months – *sigh* *heavy sigh* – no one said life would give no bitter with the sweet, and if reading Arabic history is the worse thing that ever happens to me, well, I should just shut the heck up…

    so…

    Gibbon ventures into territory that would have been completely opaque to the average Gentleman Reader of the 1790’s – the difference between Sunni and Shiite, and some further pages on the succession/reigns of the early Caliphs – esp. the descendants of the tragic Ali, whom Gibbon takes quite a shine to.

    REMEMBER – the odd spellings used in all this Arabic History comes from the more free-wheeling days of late Eighteenth Century English – for the most part I just use Gibbon’s spelling to make it easier, as some of these names’ transliteration (Arabic script to Latin Letters English) etc (like Chinese transliteration from characters to Latin Letters English) have changed more than once in the last 225 years – so if the Arabic names are odd and quaint – you know the reason.

    The Story
     
    Sunni Versus Shiite
     
  • Gibbon defines Shiite – Mohammed is the prophet, Ali, his nephew, the vicar of God
  • The first three Caliphs are imposters (successors to the Theocratic State founded by Mohammed on the Arabian Peninsula) – Abubekr (632-634), Omar (634-644), Othman (644-655)
  • The only true succession is by the blood of Mohammed, thus, Fatima, thus Ali (fourth Caliph, 655-660)
  •  

    Death of Othman (6-18-655)
     
  • Old man on accession
  • Discord among tribes, Othman unable to mediate, quell
  • He is deserted, besieged in Medina
  • Brother of Ayesha (wife of Mohammed) slays him
  • 5 days of chaos, Ali is acclaimed Caliph
  •  

    Reign of Ali (655-660)
     
  • Factions form – Ayesha versus Fatima (m. of Ali) – two wives of Mohammed – Ayesha raises army against Ali
  • ‘Day of the Camel’ Battle of Bassora – Ayesha defeated by Ali
  • Syria and the Ummayads rise up against Ali – Moawiyah at the head
  • 110 day battle of myth and legend – battle of Plain of Sethin
  • Moawiyah succeeds in fighting to a standstill – Ali accepts truce
  • Moawiyah suborns Persia, Yemen, Syria during cease-fire – so unending civil war, muslim world ripped apart – Ali killed, Amrou
  • Tale of the three assassins – in Mecca the Charegites – elect 3 men to assassinate Ali, Moawiyah, Amrou (viceroy of Egypt) to bring about peace – Amrou mistakenly let go, Moawiyah wounded, Ali killed – Moawiyah becomes next Caliph
  •  

    Reign of Moawiyah (661-680)
     
  • Moawiyah, son of Abu Sophian – head of old Pagan chief family in Mecca, secr to prophet now Caliph – rise of the old aristocracy to rule again – Ommayads
  • Amrou acclaims him in Egypt – NOTE – Egypt has only been non-roman for a decade or so – and it is STILL the wealthiest land in the Med. world – so its governor MUST be on your side to win in the new Muslim world
  • Caliphate now changes from ELECTED to HEREDITARY office – Moawiyah’s son Yezid = commander of the faithful, successor of Apostle of God
  •  

    Persia, Shiites, the Sons of Ali
     
  • Grandsons of Mohammed – thru Ali – Hosein, Hussan – serve in army – Hassan in the siege of Constantinople (674-678)
  • Rebellion of Hosein against Yezid of Cufa
  • Gibbon treats Hosein as a character in a knightly romance
  • Hosein defeated, meets death bravely
  • Hosein a Shiite martyr
  •  

    12 Imams of Shiites
     
  • Yezid allows family of Hosein to survive – result – the 12 Imams
  • Ali, Hassan, Hosein – without arms, treasuries, land, they rule for nine more generations
  • Being of the bloodline of Ali, thus of the bloodline of Mohammed, becomes a frequent boast of succeeding Muslim dynasties – Almohads of Spain, Fatimids of Egypt,Syria, Sultans of Yemen
  •  
     

     
     
     

    No, not this kind of Knight, although Batman is an icon of sorts of selfless giving – and extremely liberal giving was one of the most important qualities a noble knight could have – according to his followers – who often were on the recieving end of the noble giving – the noble virtue of Liberalitas – a scene from the 2012 Batman movie – The Dark Knight Rises

     

    Courtly Knightly Romance 500 years before Romance Hit Europe
     

     

    The cult of the wildly benevolent, extraordinarily courteous gentleman is a complicated subject. Gift-giving as a way of cementing social relationships shows up globally, across our entire species, and over a long period of time.

    Romans had their “patrons and clients” – wealthy heads of Roman clans had large groups of poorer people they gave gifts to, who supported them in return. Still, it was an occasion for what Romans considered “civilized” ostentatious giving.

    Potlatch among the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest was a festival of reciprocal gift-giving, having less to do with superior/inferior relationships (as the Romans) than to the commonality of possessions – another example on another continent of ostentatious giving.

    The hallmark of a Viking leader, and indeed most of Late Antique Europe was the ability of the war-lord to lead his troops of young men out to pillage and battle, guaranteeing them much wealth and plunder in the process. To go a-viking means just that – go pillaging under a war-leader, the leader getting all the spoils, but “giving back” much of it to his loyal battle-friends.

    Charlemagne’s empire in the 800’s – the Holy Roman Empire – was built on war-raids against the Saxons as Charlemagne conquered Germany for the Franks and for romanitas or “civilization”. Giving to one’s followers is what a nobleman does. In the Middle Ages, Liberality – i.e. a nobles ability and tendency to give lavishly to his followers was considered (by followers) to be the most important quality (for obvious selfish reasons) in a leader. Thus it entered all the knightly romances.

    Arabic mores are not dissimilar. Lavish giving to one’s followers, before and after Mohammed, was considered an admirable, noble, civilized trait.

    Thus, here is an example of Gibbon – relating how a son of Ali reacted to his servant, when his servant drops a dish of scalding broth upon him. It’s interesting in that it supposedly shows piety, but actually shows typical values of Arabic nobility, and the desperate, devious, and successful pleading of a much inferior man in the hands of a lawfully furious superior. There’s a picaresque kind of William Tell, Robin Hood, weaker-man-wriggling-out-from-under-the-thumb-of-the-mighty-and-in-turn-thumbing-his-nose-at-him sort of thing going on here too.

    A familiar story is related of the benevolence of one of the sons of Ali. In serving at table, a slave had inadvertently dropped a dish of scalding broth on his master: the heedless wretch fell prostrate, to deprecate his punishment, and repeated a verse of the Koran:

    “Paradise is for those who command their anger: ” —— “I am not angry: “
    “and for those who pardon offences: ” —— “I pardon your offence: “
    “and for those who return good for evil: ” —— “I give you your liberty and four hundred pieces of silver.”

    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, pp.225-226)

    Modern photo of potlatch – a time of reciprocal giving and celebration – of the Pacific Northwest – giving was also a sign of a noble heart and a pious one in Islam, as Gibbon points out today in our ten pages

     
     
     

    A very likeable man, and an avid breeder and racer of horses in France. 49th Imam of the Naziri Ismailis – a part of the Shia – Shiite – party of Islam. Aga Khan IV in 1959 accepting a sample of Trinitite – residue of green, glassy rock formed by first U.S. atom bomb test Trinity

    Last Word…

     

    Seveners, the Blood of Mohammed, and Aga Khan IV
     

     

      The Tangled Roots of A Single Tree

    Aga Khan – 49th Imam (desc of Moh, leader of spiritual community of Islam) (head of Ismaili “path” of Shia “branch” of Islam). The first great break in Islam is between the adherents of the bloodline of Mohammed (Ali through Fatima), and the battle-chosen leaders of Islam – AbuBekr and following, the Ummayads. Those favoring Mohammed’s blood as the deciding factor were of the Party of Ali (Shiate Ali – or Shiite’s).

    They in turn broke away from each other over the centuries into pieces, depending on which man you followed of the later 12 Imams – you got your name by the number of shared Imams you held to be valid – thus the Twelvers (all and largest group now), the Seveners (1st 7 – Ismailis), the Fivers (1st 5). The Ismailis (the Fivers) broke down into parties over the centuries. Only the Naziri party of the Ismailis are left now, for the most part.

    Logo for Aga Khan Studs – showing Aga Khans racing colors – all green with red shoulders

    They follow the Imam Aga Khan IV – a man confirmed inhis spiritual mission by the British empire in 1866 by Sir Joseph Arnold, Chief Judge of the High Court of Bombay – who legally (for the British Empire) nailed down the identity of the first Aga Khan, settling a long dispute over assets and authority, and from whom the 4th and current Aga Khan gets a portion of his legitimacy, at least in terms of proving his unbroken succession.

    The British must have been anxious to quell religious violence after the Uprising of 1857, so perhaps the legal recognition of spiritual leadership was very much a part of British policy of the day.

    It’s fascinating that a political body which no longer exists – the British Empire – lives on spiritually by virtue of an obscure court decision in a province (India) and funds an enormous horse-racing-horse-breeding-machine now in Northern France (Aga Khan Stud Farm in France).

      Naziri Ismailiis

    >Islam
    —> Sunni (don’t focus on the concept of Imam – spiritual, hereditary voice of Islam – of the blood of Mohammed)
    —> Shia (Shiatu Ali) (the Party of Ali – devoted to the blood desc’s of Mohammed)
    Once many more, now five main “Paths” of Shia Islam
    —–> Twelvers (biggest group – Ithna Ashariyya – hold 12 Imams as auth.) – the 12 Imams that follows Ali – see above and the readings from today
    —–> Seveners (next biggest – the Ismaili) (once,many many paths)
    ——-> Nazir Seveners – largest surviving path within the Ismailis – Aga Khan
    leads this group – the 49th Imam of Islam, dir desc of Moh. – only hold 7 Imams as auth., hold Aga Khan as curr leader)
    —–> Fivers (Zaidi – accept 1st five Imams)
    —–> Alawis
    —–> Druze

    Aga Khan Family – from Mohommed, to Persia, to Afghanistan, to India, via the British Empire, to the Outskirts of Paris

    Abu Khan IV is the 49th Imam of the Naziri Ismailis. The history of his family is fascinating. Lest you think this is all idle scholarship – below an excerpt from an online Indian (Subcontinent India)

    NIZARI IMAMS COME TO INDIA.
    Imam Shah Khalilu’llah took up his temporary residence at Yezd, leading a retired life. People had great regard for him and Fateh Ali Shah, who was then ruling over Persia, himself held him in the highest esteem. This excited the bitter jealousy of a Mullah who instigated some fanatics to murder him. The dastardly crime created quite a sensation in the country, and the faithful followers of the Imam were in no mood to tolerate it.

    Fateh Ali Shah realising the seriousness of the situation took prompt measures to allay it. He administered severe punishment to the guilty ones and invited Hasan Ali Shah, the young son of the deceased Imam to his palace where he publicly recognized him as the head of the Ismailis with the title of Aga Khan, and later gave to him one of his daughters in marriage. With the death of Fateh Ali Shah in 1834, civil war broke out and the situation of Agha Hasan Ali Shah, the first Aga Khan was changed. Soon after, he left for Sind via Afghanistan where he was enthusiastically welcomed by the Talpur Amirs of Sind who with other followers had long been his zealous supporters.

    THE KHOJA CASE:
    The Khoja Case heard by Sir Joseph Arnold, then Chief Judge, in 1866 confirmed beyond doubt the claim of Imam Agha Hassan Ali Shah, the first Aga Khan, as being the direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad, through Ali and Fatima.

    In setting out the prominent facts established in the High Court of Bombay, Sir Joseph Arnold declared: – “The question ‘Who is the Aga Khan?’ has thus been already partly answered: Mahomed Hussain Hooseinee otherwise Aga Khan, or as he is more formally styled when addressed or mentioned in official documents by the Bombay Government – ‘His Highness Aga Khan, Mehelati,’ is the hereditary Chief and Imam of the Ismailis – the present or living holder of the Musnud of the Imamate – claiming descent in direct line from Ali, the Vicar of God, through Ismail, the son of Jaffir Sadick.’ Writing on the case, John Norman Hollister says:-

    “The case was heard by Sir Joseph Arnold. A great deal of information concerning the sect was elicited. Such Sunni practices as the plaintiffs presented were explained by the defendants as being in accordance with the Shiite principle of taqiya. The judgment was rendered in favor of the Agha Khan on all points.” 40

    “As a result of this judgment, ” writes A.S. Picklay. “the rights of the Aga Khan as the Spiritual Head of the Shia Imami Ismaili were firmly and legally established much to the discomfiture of a few discontented persons.”

    from the Ismaili.net page of the Holy Imams – On The Geneaology of the Imams

    Aga Khan

    This from Wikipedia, on the Aga Khan

    His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV (Aga Khan is also transliterated as Aqa Khan and Agha Khan), NPk, NI, KBE, CC, GCC, GCIH, GCM; born December 13, 1936; is an international business magnate,racehorse owner and breeder,as well as the 49th and current Imam of Nizari Ismailism – a denomination of Ismailism within Shia Islam consisting of approximately 5–15 million adherents (under 10% of the world’s Shia Muslim population).He has held this position of Imam, under the title of Aga Khan IV, since July 11, 1957, when, at the age of 20, he succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III.

    The Aga Khan claims to be the direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad through the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali, considered the first Imam in Shia Islam, and Ali’s wife Fatima az-Zahra, the Prophet’s daughter from his first marriage. As the Imam of Nizari Ismailism, the Aga Khan IV is considered by his followers to be the proof or hujjah of God on earth as well as infallible and immune from sin (just as an Imam is viewed in most other denominations of Shia Islam). He is further considered by his followers to be the carrier of the eternal Noor of Allah (“Light of God” – a concept unique to certain denominations of Shia Islam).

    In 1986, the Aga Khan ordained the current Ismailia Constitution – an ecclesiastical decree affirming to Nizari Ismailis his “sole right to interpret the Qur’an and provide authoritative guidance on [all] matters of faith” and formalizing his sole discretion, power and authority for the governance of Nizari Ismaili jamats (places of worship) and institutions.

    Forbes describes the Aga Khan as one of the world’s ten richest royals with an estimated net worth of $800 million USD (2010). Additionally he is unique among the richest royals as he does not preside over a geographic territory. He owns hundreds of racehorses, valuable stud farms, an exclusive yacht club on Sardinia, a private island in the Bahamas, two Bombardier jets, a 12-seat helicopter, a £100 million high speed yacht named after his prize racehorse, and several estates around the world, including an estate called Aiglemont in the town of Gouvieux, France – just north of Paris.

    His philanthropic institutions, funded by his followers, spend more than $600 million per year – primarily in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In 2007, after an interview with the Aga Khan, G. Pascal Zachary, of the The New York Times, wrote, “Part of the Aga Khan’s personal wealth [used by him and his family], which his advisers say exceeds $1 billion [USD], comes from a dizzyingly complex system of tithes that some of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims pay him each year [one of which is called dasond, which is at least 12.5% of each Nizari Ismaili’s gross annual income] – an amount that he will not disclose but which may reach hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”

    Among the goals the Aga Khan has asserted he works toward are the elimination of global poverty; the promotion and implementation of secular pluralism; the advancement of the status of women; and the honoring of Islamic art and architecture. He is the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the largest private development networks in the world. The organization has said it works toward improvement of the environment, health, education, architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development, disaster reduction, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalisation of historic cities.

    Since his ascension to the Imamate of Nizari Ismailis in 1957, the Aga Khan has been involved in complex political and economic changes which have affected his Nizari Ismaili followers, including the independence of African countries from colonial rule, expulsion of Asians from Uganda, the independence of Central Asian countries such as Tajikistan from the former Soviet Union and the continuous turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan. During his visit to India in 1983, the Aga Khan said:

    “ There are those who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their circumstances. Unless these unfortunates can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink back into renewed apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.

    Azamour – a horse of Aga Khans – racing – note the green racing colors with the red shoulders – the signature colors of the Aga Khan Stud Farms


     
     

    Aga Khan Stud Farm in Bonneval France – one of two, the other is in Ireland – this one about 30 miles southeast of Caen in Northern France – a beautiful place – and horse-racing is, after all, the sport of Kings, and Caliphs, and Imams

    Day 1115 – Ken here (M)(10-1-2012)
    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, pp.210-220)(pages read: 2250)

    Death of Mohammed (face visible) – provenance unknown

    A little tired out today – forgive me if I ramble on and on and on a little more vacuously than I usually do.

    Today we follow Gibbon as he follows the death of Mohammed, Mohammed’s character, his wives, and the first three Caliphs. It’s an interesting day for once. We have something that looks a lot more like actual history.

    We quickly cover the first 24 years after Mohammed’s death (632-654). We journey down a long tangent by Gibbon on Mohammed’s character (this is a usual Gibbon-theme, after the death of a significant man/woman in his history he gives the pros and cons, virtues and faults of that individual – an encomium/diatribe that, of course, reveals more about Gibbon and Late Eighteenth Century English Gentlemen than the person he is discussing).

    We also include 4+ pages (about 40% of the reading for today) on Gibbon’s take on Mohommed’s marital/sex life – something Gibbon is especially keen on. Remember, Gibbon was going through a particularly nasty disease at the time and his days of wine and roses were far, far behind him, although he, Gibbon (being a particularly proud and prickly man when it came to appearance and status in society) did not probably want to see it that way. Thus the emphasis on sex and multiple wives in today’s reading.

    We also see the first three Caliphs (Abubekr, Omar, Othman) and Ali, the fourth, and most contentious, provocative, and controversial to this day (being one of the fundamental reasons for a split between the two great Muslim sects – Shiite (for Ali), and Sunni.

    Death of Mohammed

    Death of Mohammed in grotto (face invisible) – with anachronistic Mongol warriors present provenance unknown

    Gibbon continues to be stubbornly contrarian – defending the Muslims against Christian superstition whenever he can. Not the normal Christian-chauvinist Englishman. In only one sentence does Gibbon gently hint, insinuating even, that Mohammed wasn’t the head of the only valid monotheistic religion on the planet. Although he goes out of his way to show that Mohammed was, in fact, actually, very much, a man – in every sense of the word. You’ll see.

    But still, he’s HUGELY MULTI-CULTURAL and ETHNICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY SENSITIVE for an Eighteenth Century man. You can bet no American author, no New England historian would have written from his viewpoint – well, maybe a Deist president like Thomas Jefferson might have – but not many others.

    Anyways…

    I digress… On to… The Early Caliphate

    The Story
     
    Death of Mohammed
     
  • Moh. feels death approaching – tradition is the angel of death would not take him until it had Moh. permission
  • Asks if he has ever despoiled anyone of their goods – reimburses a man for 3 drachmas – thanks him
  • As he slips into dementia, his followers debate allowing him to continue to write
  • He dies – the conq of Syria stops
  • Omar does not accept it, claims he will cut off the head of anyone who says Moh doesnt live, Abubekr asks if he worships Moh or the God of Moh?
  • He is buried near Medina
  •  

    Mohammed’s Character – per Gibbon of course
     
  • Virtues – lived humbly until 40, faithful to Cadijah his 1st wife
  • Vices – gave way to pride, amibiiton, and revenge, overrode his own law and allowed himself 17 wives
  •  

    Mohammed’s Private Life
     
  • Despised pomp, kindled fire, swept floor, milked ewes
  • Abstained from alcohol
  • Two weaknesses – women, perfumes
  •  

    Mohammed’s Wives
     
  • 15 wives
  • Married Ayesha the youngest at nine
  •  

    Mohammed’s Children
     
  • Four living daughters, no sons, only one left when he died – Fatima by Cadijah his 1st wife – the widow
  • Fatima bore Ali – the “founder” of Shiites
  •  

    Character of Ali
     
  • Of royal blood, of Hashem, hereditary rulers of Mecca
  • Zealous, virtuous proselyte for Moh
  • Soldier, poet, saint
  •  

    Caliph Abubekr (632-634)
     
  • Upon Moh death hold council
  • Koreish (Omar) versus Hashem (Ali) – almost civil war
  • Abubekr proposed as compromise – rule as Caliph – political and religious ruler
  • 4 years
  • Ali expects to be chosen, as direct desc of prophet, but pulls back
  •  

    Caliph Omar (634-644)
     
  • Abubekr calls on Omar to succeed him before Abubekr dies
  • Omar assassinated after 10 years
  • Ali expects to be chosen, but allows Omar
  •  

    Caliph Othman (644-656)
     
  • Ali expects to be chosen, but sets up committee to choose
  • Choose Othman, secr of Moh
  •  

    Caliph Ali (656-on)
     
  • Ali finally gets Caliphate – time of troubles and civil war
  •  
     

     

    Coffin

    What Gibbon says 18th Cent.Christians say levitate at the heart of Mecca

     

    Gibbon on Mohammed – NOT an Epiliptic, NOT a Post-Mortem Levitater
     

     

    Christian Calumnies

    As we move on, Gibbon takes one last look at the founder of Islam.

    Gibbon relates the curious episode of Mohammed asking, on his deathbed, if he still owed anyone money – someone asks for 3 pieces of silver and Mohammed pays. There are all kinds of cultural values playing about here. Why would Mohammed ask? Why would someone demand restitution from the prophet? More importantly, why did Gibbon choose to relate all this to his gentlemanly English audience? Is it some kind of odd, REVERSE-Judas-thirty-pieces-of-silver reference? To show Mohammed’s humanity in “cheating” someone of money? To show his honesty in promptly paying? Obviously there is some 7th cent. Arabic cultural norm being played out here – the honest sheikh? – that Gibbon is using to his own purposes.

    Till the age of sixty-three years, the strength of Mahomet was equal to the temporal and spiritual fatigues of his mission. His epileptic fits, an absurd calumny of the Greeks, would be an object of pity rather than abhorrence; but he seriously believed that he was poisoned at Chaibar by the revenge of a Jewish female. During four years, the health of the prophet declined; his infirmities increased; but his mortal disease was a fever of fourteen days, which deprived him by intervals of the use of reason. As soon as he was conscious of his danger, he edified his brethren by the humility of his virtue or penitence.

    “If there be any man,” said the apostle from the pulpit, “whom I have unjustly scourged, I submit my own back to the lash of retaliation. Have I aspersed the reputation of a Mussulman? let him proclaim my faults in the face of the congregation. Has any one been despoiled of his goods? the little that I possess shall compensate the principal and the interest of the debt.”

    “Yes,” replied a voice from the crowd, “I am entitled to three drams of silver.”

    Mahomet heard the complaint, satisfied the demand, and thanked his creditor for accusing him in this world rather than at the day of judgment.

    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, pp.210-211)

    Gibbon handily dismisses what he terms crude Christian disparagements of Mohammed – that he was epileptic

    The epilepsy, or falling-sickness, of Mahomet is asserted by Theophanes, Zonaras, and the rest of the Greeks; and is greedily swallowed by the gross bigotry of Hottinger, (Hist. Orient. p. 10, 11,) Prideaux, (Life of Mahomet, p. 12,) and Maracci, (tom. ii. Alcoran, p. 762, 763.) The titles (the wrapped-up, the covered) of two chapters of the Koran, (73, 74) can hardly be strained to such an interpretation: the silence, the ignorance of the Mahometan commentators, is more conclusive than the most peremptory denial; and the charitable side is espoused by Ockley, (Hist. of the Saracens, tom. i. p. 301,) Gagnier, (ad Abulfedam, p. 9. Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 118,) and Sale, (Koran, p. 469 – 474.)

    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, pp.210, fn 149)

    And that his coffin levitates in the air in Mecca, by means of magnetism

    The Greeks and Latins have invented and propagated the vulgar and ridiculous story, that Mahomet’s iron tomb is suspended in the air at Mecca Laonicus Chalcondyles, de Rebus Turcicis, l. iii. p. 66), by the action of equal and potent loadstones (Dictionnaire de Bayle, MAHOMET, Rem. EE. FF.). Without any philosophical inquiries, it may suffice, that,

    1. The prophet was not buried at Mecca; and,

    2. That his tomb at Medina, which has been visited by millions, is placed on the ground(Reland, de Relig. Moham. l. ii. c. 19, p. 209 – 211. Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 263 – 268.).

    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, pp.211,fn 151)

     
     
     

    Benjamin FranklinLike Gibbon, a man of the easy and openly ribald Enlightenment – this frontier guy from Pennsylvania knew his way around 18th cent.Paris and the ladies of 18th cent. Paris equally well – the smile of reason might have had other sources than pure intellectual pleasure during the wild and untamed times of the Enlightenment

    Last Word…

     

    Lest We Think Gibbon Too Fond
     

     

    Gibbon, in the best 18th cent. tradition of polite whispering campaigns detailing the scandalous behavior of the famous, lures us into a false sense of security as he defends Mohammed. Then he proceeds into a many-paged expose of Mohammed’s marital life. In a kind of bored monotone. With the most salacious of details, of course. It’s actually a little embarrassing. But it illustrates the values of the 1770’s, a looser, slipperier, wilder time. Ben Franklin, in Paris as the U.S. ambassador wore himself out on the ladies there and had to forcibly remind himself to be a little more “moderate” in terms of “Venery” – as he tells us in his Autobiography. You have to imagine them like it’s the Summer of Love. Sex, Wine, and the Minuet. Gibbon is unashamed and interested in the masculine history of Mohammed.

    Here he speaks of one of his wives – Mary, at first forbidden to him, then granted him. Also Gibbon notes Mohammed’s devotion to Cajidah, his 1st wife who stuck with him through the hardest times –

    In his adventures with Zeineb, the wife of Zeid, and with Mary, an Egyptian captive, the amorous prophet forgot the interest of his reputation. At the house of Zeid, his freedman and adopted son, he beheld, in a loose undress, the beauty of Zeineb, and burst forth into an ejaculation of devotion and desire. The servile, or grateful, freedman understood the hint, and yielded without hesitation to the love of his benefactor.

    But as the filial relation had excited some doubt and scandal, the angel Gabriel descended from heaven to ratify the deed, to annul the adoption, and gently to reprove the apostle for distrusting the indulgence of his God. One of his wives, Hafna, the daughter of Omar, surprised him on her own bed, in the embraces of his Egyptian captive: she promised secrecy and forgiveness, he swore that he would renounce the possession of Mary.

    Both parties forgot their engagements; and Gabriel again descended with a chapter of the Koran, to absolve him from his oath, and to exhort him freely to enjoy his captives and concubines, without listening to the clamours of his wives. In a solitary retreat of thirty days, he labored, alone with Mary, to fulfil the commands of the angel. When his love and revenge were satiated, he summoned to his presence his eleven wives, reproached their disobedience and indiscretion, and threatened them with a sentence of divorce, both in this world and in the next; a dreadful sentence, since those who had ascended the bed of the prophet were forever excluded from the hope of a second marriage.

    Perhaps the incontinence of Mahomet may be palliated by the tradition of his natural or preternatural gifts; he united the manly virtue of thirty of the children of Adam: and the apostle might rival the thirteenth labour of the Grecian Hercules. A more serious and decent excuse may be drawn from his fidelity to Cadijah.

    During the twenty-four years of their marriage, her youthful husband abstained from the right of polygamy, and the pride or tenderness of the venerable matron was never insulted by the society of a rival. After her death, he placed her in the rank of the four perfect women, with the sister of Moses, the mother of Jesus, and Fatima, the best beloved of his daughters.

    “Was she not old?” said Ayesha, with the insolence of a blooming beauty; “has not God given you a better in her place?”

    “No, by God,” said Mahomet, with an effusion of honest gratitude, “there never can be a better! She believed in me when men despised me; she relieved my wants, when I was poor and persecuted by the world.”

    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, pp.216)

    And here he (of course in Latin, and in the juicier footnotes) relates a scene from Mohommed’s deathbed. Once again, various cultural values are at play here. there’s Arabic values – which wish to show Mohommed as a virile, vital man – like Moses with his “natural moisture” unabated even at an elderly age. There’s Eighteenth Cent.Gibbon interested in the spicy conversational sexual tidbit, and there’s us, readers of the 21st cent. who know ithyphallicism or Death Erections are not a completely uncommon medical occurrence. In fact, this incident makes it into a footnote in the above Wikipedia article.

    Sibi robur ad generationem, quantum triginta viri habent, inesse jacteret: ita ut unica hora posset undecim foeminis satisfacere, ut ex Arabum libris refert Stus Petrus Paschasius, c. 2. (Maracci, Prodromus Alcoran, p. iv. p. 55. See likewise Observations de Belon, l. iii. c. 10, fol. 179, recto.).

    Al Jannabi (Gagnier, tom. iii. p. 287) records his own testimony, that he surpassed all men in conjugal vigor; and Abulfeda mentions the exclamation of Ali, who washed the body after his death,

    “O propheta, certe penis tuus coelum versus erectus est” in Vit. Mohammed, p. 140.

    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, pp.211,fn 151)

    The translation of the first – from Latin – Mohammed was able to satisfy 11 women in one hour. Although, I have to say, this looks like some nebulous quote from a hateful monk as the reference is only to an “Arab book” – but it’s impressive if it’s true.

    The translation of the second – “O Prophet, certainly your penis stands pointed towards heaven.”

    Benjamin Franklin

    Just as ribald as Gibbon, Benjamin Franklin appears here in the fur frontier hat that landed so many ladies in his lap

    Day 1109 – Ken here (M)(9-24-2012)
    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, pp.200-210)(pages read: 2240)

    How I feel coming upon the merest, smallest crumb of Roman History in this Third Volume of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall – It’s Alive! – Still from the film Frankenstein 1931

    Hey there – feeling weak and sick but willing to blunder onward through Islamic history. I’d forgotten what Roman history was until the last paragraph of this week’s 10 pages where Gibbon mentions Heraclius. It was like giving a mostly-dead, dehydrated man a sip of cool, clean, glacier water. Suddenly I feel alive!

    I know, I know… whine, whine, complain, complain. How I yearn for the long, snide but well-written asides on Roman Imperial Christianity and Roman Imperial monks, now that we are mired deep in the twilight of pre-literate Arabic history. And again, reading Gibbon – a man who was writing 230 years ago, is more of a sociological-anthropological study of Late Enlightenment English Historians than it is reading actual history. But we have some text to get through here – so onwards…

    A Day of Battles

    Today Gibbon takes us through the 1st 8 or 9 battles of Mohammed, from his difficult taking of Medina, to the rounding up of the Tribes of the Arabian Peninsula, to his first tentative assaults on the huge (but exhausted) Roman Empire of Heraclius. Rome will be surprisingly easy to capture – after Heraclius had successfully concluded the Persian Wars, won back the Middle East, destroyed the Persian dynasty, and alienated and exhausted most of his citizenry. Of course, the prostrate Persians will fall just as easily, maybe more easily – they barely had a central government back in place when the Bedouins hit them.

    Emperor Heraclius

    Tremissis of the emperor Heraclius (610-641) – the Roman who saw the wealthiest of his provinces lost to Islam – just after winning them all back from the Persians in a 20 year Gotterdammerung of Roman-Persian World War – poor guy – what a life he led

    The conquests of Islam were NOT a foregone conclusion in the 620’s. Every forward move by the forces of Monotheism under Mohammed were blocked and questioned and opposed. The taking of Arabia was a long affair, more a matter of persistence and luck than blitzkrieg. The initial forays into Roman territory were little more than raids. After all, Mohammed’s forces were cobbled together with religious zeal and the prospect of unheard of plunder from raiding.

    The Roman Empire was certain to field an army against them that was a war machine, backed by the strongest power in the Mediterranean, one that had just fought a 30 year war against one of the greatest powers in the hemisphere (Persia) and won. Arabs against Romans – well maybe it would have seemed (to the world at large) like the Afghans marching on Moscow. Raiding people expected. Booty, yes. Burnt towns, cattle, gold, slaves, jewelry yes, yes, and yes. But complete conquest? The world would have said, probably not. Mohammed was barely keeping his current forces loyal.

    But in this case, the world would have been wrong.

    The Story
     
    Battle of Beder (623)
     
  • Mohammed defeats the Koreish of Mecca, harassing their caravan, taking all
  • The Koreish move to retaliate against the upstart Medinan state of Mohammed and his caravan-raiding propensities
  • remember – Mohammed is an exile of the city of Mecca, in exile in Medina since 622 a year ago – the Meccans are hunting him down like a quarry and expect to eliminate him once and for all
  •  

    Battle of Ohud (623)
     
  • Meccan Koreish attack the Medinans and Mohammed and win big – under Abu Sophian
  • Lack the forces to utterly take and obliterate Medina, return to Mecca
  •  

    Battle of the Nations – or The Ditch (625)
     
  • Koreish attack with overwhelming force with many nations under Abu Sophian – a broad alliance
  • Private quarrels, bad weather, and the alliance is broken
  •  

    Subjugation and Elimination of Jews in Arabia (623-627)
     
  • Jews at Medina asked to convert, refuse, they are stripped of wealth, not killed, but exiled all out of the city
  • Jews of Nadhiri, Koraidha, killed because they militarily opposed Moh.
  • Jews of Chaibar – live, but agree to give 1/2 income to Moh., soon after under Omar, transplanted to Syria in campaign to rid of Arabian peninsula of non-Muslims
  •  

    Submission of Mecca (629)
     
  • Moh. makes pilgrimage to Mecca
  • Stays for 4 days – not warring, retires
  • His example inspires Meccans to his side
  • Abu Sophian, Meccans present Moh. with keys to city
  • Frees the Koreish
  • Makes law no unbeliever may enter Mecca
  •  

    Conquest of Arabia (629-632) Honain, Tayef
     
  • Honain – at 1st goes badly – prophet rallies them, Koreish wait for Moh. Failure – Moh. wins
  • Tayef – fortress – siege – 60 miles sw of Mecca, Moh wins, gives huge gifts to Koreish, wins them over
  •  

    First Wars Against Romans (629-630) Battles of Muta, Tabuc
     
  • Muta – east of Jordan, alliance of Heraclius-Moh ends – many Moh. generals fall
  • Tabuc – long march across desert, lose men, take oasis near Roman border
  •  
     

     
    Muslim Conquests - 620s - 640s or soMuslim Conquests – 620’s through 640’s or so – the Green is Mohammed, the Pink and Purples, Persia and Rome – it was a slow (relatively) laborious process
     

    Illustration from 800 years later of Heraclius – Heraclius returned the cross in the 600’s but Helen the mother of Constantine supposedly found it in the early 300s – Bernat – Saint Helena and Heraclius taking the Holy Cross to Jerusalem


     

    The Tragedy of Heraclius
     

    The poignant thing about Heraclius and Mohammed is that Heraclius had just accomplished what Romans had been attempting for the last 500 years – the annihilation of the Persian Empire. What Gibbon writes about now is the hurricane of Arab/Islam martial activity that seemed to burst upon the Mediterranean from out of nowhere, but actually was a long, difficult, and indirect set of conquests starting with Mohammed in Medina and Mecca and only a handful of men.

    It ends of course, with almost all of the 1,300 year old Roman state converting to Islam, obedient politically and religiously to Mohammed’s successors. Seldom has history been more tragic and cruel on such an epic scale.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Graphical Result of collision in Particle Accelerator at Fermilab in Europe Maybe what a future graph of interactions in a Historical Analysis of a 23rd Century History Student would look like – contingent, chaotic, partially predictable – this is actually a Graphical Result of a collision in the Particle Accelerator at Fermilab in Switzerland-France

    Last Word…

     
     

    On the Continuing Irrelevance of Gibbon, with Brief Observations on Our Own Inherent Future Irrelevance
     

     

    It always cracks me up now when I see a “scholarly article” as this one on Muslim Conquests in Wikipedia that features a quote from Gibbon the Historian (in caps) as if quoting a known authority. No competent historian lists Gibbon as a reference today. You could do it. But why? You’d have to make so many adjustments, changes, etc to his writing – adjusting for his viewpont, taking into account recent discoveries, undoing the considerable amount of prejudice and just plain inadvertent ignorance there is in his text – well, you’d end up using nothing at all of Gibbon and using all of the HUGE VOLUME of historical data produced in the last 50 years (we’re actually living in a kind of Historian’s Golden Age right now – although you don’t hear much about it).

    It’s pretty. It’s art. But it’s no longer really science. And certainly no longer history.

    And that’s O.K.

    Because we (the 21st cent. historians of the Roman past, we most likely will be just as useless to 23rd cent. historians (who will probably be mind-linking directly to vast data-centers exuding socio-anthropological-historico-cultural patternings tailor-designed for the very specific questions posed). Our infant-like, credulous, net-based data structures of the last 10 years will seem – quaint – to put the best spin on it possible, and – criminally negligent – if attacked by some righteous twenty-something historian in 2310’s who refuses to believe her/his remote ancestors could ever have been that naive.

    And that’s the stuff running through my head as I read Gibbon.

    Lewis and Clark Expedition Route - 1802-1804

    You could use Lewis and Clark’s journals from their exploratory Expedition to the Northwest that President Jefferson sent them on – you could use that to – with a great deal of extrapolation and thought – to navigate the Interstate and Federal and State highway systems and find your way in 2012 from St Louis to Seattle. You could do it. With a huge amount of work. But why? When youve got a 2012 Rand Macnally atlas with 200 years of research and map-work behind it to navigate over the same terrain? – this is why modern historians DONT USE Gibbon to navigate Roman history – – – Lewis and Clark Expedition Route – 1802-1804 – from Wiki

    Day 1102 – Ken here (M)(9-17-2012)
    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, pp.190-200)(pages read: 2230)

    Las Vegas Showgirls

    What the last volume of Gibbon is – hype, infotainment, grandstanding, Enlightenment glitz and glamor, a spectacular fireworks display of cunning historical prose designed to delight and confound the discerning subscriber

    A little under the weather, but persevering.

    I have to say though, I’ve been unhappily peeking ahead a couple of hundred pages and we will still be detailing the history of Islam as a state and a religion for the next couple of hundred pages – not an especially pleasing prospect if what you’re really interested in is actual Roman history. Its good background. But for 400 pages?

    Gibbon’s 3rd volume is basically all non-Roman unfortunately. He spends 2,000 pages on about 350 years of history. Now he has 900 years to go. You do the math (answer: that would leave Gibbon about 5,000 pages left to write – we actually have only about 800 pages left – mucha condensacion as the Spanish would say). You can tell he is getting tired and is down to dotting his “i”s and crossing his “t”s, SLOGGING THROUGH the last 1000 years of Roman history like a man trying hurriedly to load his plate at last call at the legendary buffet at Caesar’s Palace in fabulous (literally) Las Vegas (see above image for everyday sight in the aforementioned fabled city).

    Gibbon just grabs what he’s interested in, or what he thinks might sell, or whatever’s nearest and easiest to grab and rushes disdainfully through the rest. He doesn’t ignore it because he’s tired of Rome, he ignores it because it’s eminently ignorable. Trust me, Gibbon says. I know what I’m doing. And we do, because he’s Gibbon and he can write like 99 demons when he sets his mind to it.

    Still it’s mostly “info-tainment” from here on out to the end.

    But I digress…

    Fireworks

    Gibbon’s wit and prose

    That puts us basically up against New Years before we return to what Gibbon refers to as the history of the “Greeks”. Even when he gets back to talking about Rome now, he’s not REALLY all that interested. There’s a reason why in French the “Byzantine” empire is called the Bas-Empire (low empire). For literate 18th cent. men (read Gibbon) brought up on Cicero and Ovid, Livy, Caesar and who could forget Catullus (whose name I recently realized could be understood as either clever or kitten – a very Catullan conceit), it’s all slumming as far as the eye can see from now on.

    The Arab stuff is undeniably interesting but not particularly Roman – except that Islam will occupy in the East (along with the Serbs and Bulgars in the West) the continuous attention of Constantinople and Rome until the 1200’s – of course in 1202 (with the 4th Crusade and what has been justly referred to as the last barbarian invasion) Constantinople becomes a little preoccupied with France, especially when the French sack and take her. I’m sure we’ll get a history of France out of Gibbon also, in 6 months or so. Until then, for the next few months we will be mired in a 1790’s view of the 630’s takeover of a desert peninsula and its society’s religious sensibilities.

    Again, his history is mostly interesting from a sociological/anthropological view nowadays, modern scholarship has swamped his pioneering but small Gibbonian boat of research like a tsunami falling on a sandcastle (to freely mix metaphors in the most confusing way possible). In other words, what was cutting edge in 1790, now doesn’t merit a footnote in 2012 – EXCEPT extremely ironically, in that Gibbon himself has become a primary reference for modern day socio-historians following the mentalities of English philosophes of the late Eighteenth Century. From fêted radical to hoary artifact. An evolution we all will follow should our work be so fortunate as to be read centuries from now, as Gibbon’s has .

    Gibbon takes a surprisingly positive view of the whole Rise-of-Islam arc of history – again, doing so in a very Gibbon-like contrarian way – partly to shock modern (18th cent.) readers to be sure, but also trying to write decent history about an entire religion that had been described with ignorance, fear and loathing mostly heretofore. For that he is to be praised.

    But as for Roman history – the pickings continue to be at the very least, slim. If not non-existent. But that’s my own personal gripe. Your’e probably getting tired of it.

    However, be that as it may gentle reader,

    we continue onwards…

    and upwards…

    both literally and metaphysically…

    The Rise of Mohammed. Did you ever wonder how Mohammed went from being an orphan who had angelic revelations in a cave to being the head of a unified, theocratic state extending across the Arabian peninsula at his death? Gibbon leads us though it today, in our 10 pages. I invite you to enjoy his prodigious prose-pyrotechnics with me…

    The Story
     
    Moh. converts – his family
     
  • Moh converts his wife (Cadijah) servant, pupil, and friend 1st – 4 people
  •  

    Moh. converts – his friends
     
  • In 1st 3 years of preaching he converts 14 people
  •  

    Moh incurs wrath of Meccan leading family – Koreish (613-622)
     
  • Koreish – leading tribe of Mecca angry at Moh. attacks on ancestral religion of Mecca
  • threaten violence – Moh sends a portion of his believers to Ethiopia and safety
  •  

    Moh. sends followers to Ethiopia, Retreats to Meduba (Yathrib) – starts the Islamic Calendar (9-24-622)
     
  • Driven from Mecca – later the official start of Islamic calendar
  • pursued by Koreish but not found
  •  

    Moh. converts Medina, rules there (622-632)
     
  • recieved as a Prince of Medina
  • both priestly (sacerdotal) and civil office
  •  

    War against Infidels – battle of Beder (623)
     
  • In Medina declares war against the unbelievers
  • Attacks caravans, wealth of Mecca, war of attrition
  • Battle of Beder 623 – Mecca attacks back
  • Mecca loses, men, wealth, direct trade routes to Moh. followers – 1st round of battle to Moh.
  •  
     

     

    Peace of Augsburg Poster

    An obviously non-contemporary propaganda poster commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Shmalkaldic League – that the League didn’t actually start until 1531 underlines the -propaganda- nature of the poster I suppose. Church and State working hand in hand. Unity. An old dream. Germany like Arabia experienced an attempt at a complete changeover in religion in the early 1500’s with the Reformation, the Wars of Religion, the process coming to a temporary halt with the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. But in 1925! What a time to produce such a poster! Germany between the wars, runaway inflation starting, the beginning of the rise of the Nationalist Socialist Party, society unravelling at the seams – perhaps the intent was to show that if warring religions could be reconciled, warring political parties could also, but the Weimar Republic was not fated to survive the tumult of the 20’s

     

    Religious Makeovers Not Isolated to Islam – Remember Germany
    Cuius Regio Eius Religio
     

     

    Lutherans versus Catholics – the middle and late 1500’s were one long continuous battle between rival kingdoms, economic forces, empires, small states, and yes, Protestants and Catholics. And, like the expansion of Islam, where political control and rapid conquest brought about swift changes of religion, political control dictated religious change in Sixteenth Century Europe – the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 was based upon it and it set up a dividing line between Lutherans and Catholics (Anabaptists and Calvinists were still heretics) in Germany that continued for centuries.

    Cuius Regio Eius Religio (literally “whose realm his religion” left the spiritual state of millions in the hands of the consciences of the individual rulers of each state. Short of emigration, your personal spiritual journey was dictated by negotiators between the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the German princes of the Schmalkaldic League.

    Rulers deciding for citizens is not new. All this is maybe something like the gradual assimilation over a decade or so, tribe by tribe rather than individual by individual, of the nations of the Arabian peninsula into Mohammed’s new unitary religious and civil state.

     
     
     

    Name of Mohammed

    Common calligraphic script representation of the name of Mohammed

    Last Word…

     

    Guerilla Warfare and the Rise of Religions
     

     

    Gibbon makes two points which have become commonplace today, but perhaps were closer to the views of the radical, possibly lunatic fringe of Enlightenment historians (in the late 1700’s) in the Europe of 3 centuries ago: that is:

    1) Follow the Money – Gibbon is actually benignly nebulous for the most part on commenting on the religious or revelatory spects of Mohammed and Islam, but he is mercilessly exact when it comes to finding an ECONOMIC IMPETUS to the extremely rapid rise of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula during the decades of the 620’s and 630’s, and

    2) Working With The Materials You Have At Hand – Gibbon again makes his case for the rapid rise of Islamic Arab tribes by explaining that Mohammed made use of the already vigorous cultural values of raiding and pillaging your neighbor – thus the jihad was a natural extension of a reflex already deeply embedded in the Bedouin culture. You make use of what you have. Mohammed serendipitously has raiders and pillagers for co-religionists, so he uses a raiding and pillaging kind of war for the purposes of his proselytizing among the Arabs, and later the Mediterranean and Asian world.

    Gibbon says as a purely economic motive, embracing Mohammed’s cause was fruitful – that the passionate Bedouin would later, after signing on to Mohammed’s guerrilla bands raiding Meccan caravans, discover submission to the One God and thereby save himself eternally. This, per Gibbon, was all part and parcel of Mohammed’s plan.

    Viking

    Realistic portrait of a Ninth Century Viking. Given a strong dose of monotheism, could another rather desolate and remote peninsula – Scandinavia – have conquered half the civilized world too?

    Also, Gibbon makes the interesting sociological observation that a patriarchal raiding and pillaging society would be particularly susceptible to a religion that enshrines warfare and conquest as a means to gain salvation. Like pouring rocket fuel into a VW’s combustion engine, maybe (I’m no engineer, I know, the VW’s engine would probably cough and die -but work with me on this), you get a beetle that commands a great deal of respect.

    Just think, if Charlemagne’s missionaries (in the late 700’s, early 800’s) had been also the leader of armies and promised salvation (and by the way, riches) to any who would join up – all of Viking Scandinavia (arctic bedouins who ingested Raiding and Pillaging with their mother’s milk) would have joyfully converted to the cause and conquered half the world before they were through. As it was they (the Vikings) took Western Western Europe, Sicily, Southern Italy and the Russias.

    this, from Gibbon:

    The Arab continued to unite the professions of a merchant and a robber; and his petty excursions for the defence or the attack of a caravan insensibly prepared his troops for the conquest of Arabia. The distribution of the spoil was regulated by a divine law: the whole was faithfully collected in one common mass: a fifth of the gold and silver, the prisoners and cattle, the movables and immovables, was reserved by the prophet for pious and charitable uses; the remainder was shared in adequate portions by the soldiers who had obtained the victory or guarded the camp: the rewards of the slain devolved to their widows and orphans; and the increase of cavalry was encouraged by the allotment of a double share to the horse and to the man.

    From all sides the roving Arabs were allured to the standard of religion and plunder: the apostle sanctified the license of embracing the female captives as their wives or concubines, and the enjoyment of wealth and beauty was a feeble type of the joys of paradise prepared for the valiant martyrs of the faith.

    “The sword,” says Mahomet, “is the key of heaven and of hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting or prayer: whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven: at the day of judgment his wounds shall be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim.”

    The intrepid souls of the Arabs were fired with enthusiasm: the picture of the invisible world was strongly painted on their imagination; and the death which they had always despised became an object of hope and desire. The Koran inculcates, in the most absolute sense, the tenets of fate and predestination, which would extinguish both industry and virtue, if the actions of man were governed by his speculative belief.

    Yet their influence in every age has exalted the courage of the Saracens and Turks. The first companions of Mahomet advanced to battle with a fearless confidence: there is no danger where there is no chance: they were ordained to perish in their beds; or they were safe and invulnerable amidst the darts of the enemy.

    (DEF III, v.5, Ch.50, pp.198-199)

    John Calvin

    Portrait of John Calvin, the famous Protestant Reformer of Geneva Switzerland. He and Mohammed shared vaguely similar views when it came to Fate or Predestination

    Gibbon makes his own observation, as an Englishman not believing in fate or predestination particularly, that anyone who did believe it wholeheartedly would cease working and stop practicing virtue, as each man’s fate (and his salvation) would already have been written irrevocably before he was born.

    NOTE: Gibbon’s foray into predestination above, is of course, natural and understandable, as he lived in Switzerland (Lausanne) for quite awhile. John Calvin of (Swiss) Reformed Church fame, just down the lake (Lake Geneva) in Geneva, Switzerland once debated in 1536 in Lausanne at the beginning of his career. Predestination. the idea that all events have been pre-willed by God is a strong tenet of both Islam and Calvinism.

     
     
     
     
     
     

    Edward Gibbon

    Portrait of Edward Gibbon by Henry Walton – such a gentle, kind face – who would or could guess what razor sharp wit lurked behind those placid, innocuous brows? And that we would still be talking about him 200 years later?

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