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History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science by John William Draper

Part 2 out of 7

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revelation. Paganism leaned for support on the learning of its
philosophers, Christianity on the inspiration of its Fathers

The Church thus set herself forth as the depository and arbiter
of knowledge; she was ever ready to resort to the civil power to
compel obedience to her decisions. She thus took a course which
determined her whole future career: she became a stumbling-block
in the intellectual advancement of Europe for more than a
thousand years.

The reign of Constantine marks the epoch of the transformation of
Christianity from a religion into a political system; and though,
in one sense, that system was degraded into an idolatry, in
another it had risen into a development of the old Greek
mythology. The maxim holds good in the social as well as in the
mechanical world, that, when two bodies strike, the form of both
is changed. Paganism was modified by Christianity; Christianity
by Paganism.

THE TRINITARIAN DISPUTE. In the Trinitarian controversy, which
first broke out in Egypt--Egypt, the land of Trinities--the chief
point in discussion was to define the position of "the Son."
There lived in Alexandria a presbyter of the name of Arius, a
disappointed candidate for the office of bishop. He took the
ground that there was a time when, from the very nature of
sonship, the Son did not exist, and a time at which he commenced
to be, asserting that it is the necessary condition of the filial
relation that a father must be older than his son. But this
assertion evidently denied the coeternity of the three persons of
the Trinity; it suggested a subordination or inequality among
them, and indeed implied a time when the Trinity did not exist.
Hereupon, the bishop, who had been the successful competitor
against Arius, displayed his rhetorical powers in public debates
on the question, and, the strife spreading, the Jews and pagans,
who formed a very large portion of the population of Alexandria,
amused themselves with theatrical representations of the contest
on the stage--the point of their burlesques being the equality of
age of the Father and his Son.

Such was the violence the controversy at length assumed, that the
matter had to be referred to the emperor. At first he looked upon
the dispute as altogether frivolous, and perhaps in truth
inclined to the assertion of Arius, that in the very nature of
the thing a father must be older than his son. So great, however,
was the pressure laid upon him, that he was eventually compelled
to summon the Council of Nicea, which, to dispose of the
conflict, set forth a formulary or creed, and attached to it this
anathema: "The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes
those who say that there was a time when the Son of God was not,
and that, before he was begotten, he was not, and that he was
made out of nothing, or out of another substance or essence, and
is created, or changeable, or alterable." Constantine at once
enforced the decision of the council by the civil power.

A few years subsequently the Emperor Theodosius prohibited
sacrifices, made the inspection of the entrails of animals a
capital offense, and forbade any one entering a temple. He
instituted Inquisitors of Faith, and ordained that all who did
not accord with the belief of Damasus, the Bishop of Rome, and
Peter, the Bishop of Alexandria, should be driven into exile, and
deprived of civil rights. Those who presumed to celebrate Easter
on the same day as the Jews, he condemned to death. The Greek
language was now ceasing to be known in the West, and true
learning was becoming extinct.

At this time the bishopric of Alexandria was held by one
Theophilus. An ancient temple of Osiris having been given to the
Christians of the city for the site of a church, it happened
that, in digging the foundation for the new edifice, the obscene
symbols of the former worship chanced to be found. These, with
more zeal than modesty, Theophilus exhibited in the market-place
to public derision. With less forbearance than the Christian
party showed when it was insulted in the theatre during the
Trinitarian dispute, the pagans resorted to violence, and a riot
ensued. They held the Serapion as their headquarters. Such were
the disorder and bloodshed that the emperor had to interfere. He
dispatched a rescript to Alexandria, enjoining the bishop,
Theophilus, to destroy the Serapion; and the great library, which
had been collected by the Ptolemies, and had escaped the fire of
Julius Caesar, was by that fanatic dispersed.

THE MURDER OF HYPATIA. The bishopric thus held by Theophilus was
in due time occupied by his nephew St. Cyril, who had commended
himself to the approval of the Alexandrian congregations as a
successful and fashionable preacher. It was he who had so much to
do with the introduction of the worship of the Virgin Mary. His
hold upon the audiences of the giddy city was, however, much
weakened by Hypatia, the daughter of Theon, the mathematician,
who not only distinguished herself by her expositions of the
doctrines of Plato and Aristotle, but also by her comments on the
writings of Apollonius and other geometers. Each day before her
academy stood a long train of chariots; her lecture-room was
crowded with the wealth and fashion of Alexandria. They came to
listen to her discourses on those questions which man in all ages
has asked, but which never yet have been answered: "What am I?
Where am I? What can I know?"

Hypatia and Cyril! Philosophy and bigotry. They cannot exist
together. So Cyril felt, and on that feeling he acted. As Hypatia
repaired to her academy, she was assaulted by Cyril's mob--a mob
of many monks. Stripped naked in the street, she was dragged into
a church, and there killed by the club of Peter the Reader. The
corpse was cut to pieces, the flesh was scraped from the bones
with shells, and the remnants cast into a fire. For this
frightful crime Cyril was never called to account. It seemed to
be admitted that the end sanctified the means.

So ended Greek philosophy in Alexandria, so came to an untimely
close the learning that the Ptolemies had done so much to
promote. The "Daughter Library," that of the Serapion, had been
dispersed. The fate of Hypatia was a warning to all who would
cultivate profane knowledge. Henceforth there was to be no
freedom for human thought. Every one must think as the
ecclesiastical authority ordered him, A.D. 414. In Athens itself
philosophy awaited its doom. Justinian at length prohibited its
teaching, and caused all its schools in that city to be closed.

PELAGIUS. While these events were transpiring in the Eastern
provinces of the Roman Empire, the spirit that had produced them
was displaying itself in the West. A British monk, who had
assumed the name of Pelagius, passed through Western Europe and
Northern Africa, teaching that death was not introduced into the
world by the sin of Adam; that on the contrary he was necessarily
and by nature mortal, and had he not sinned he would nevertheless
have died; that the consequences of his sins were confined to
himself, and did not affect his posterity. From these premises
Pelagius drew certain important theological conclusions.

At Rome, Pelagius had been received with favor; at Carthage, at
the instigation of St. Augustine, he was denounced. By a synod,
held at Diospolis, he was acquitted of heresy, but, on referring
the matter to the Bishop of Rome, Innocent I., he was, on the
contrary, condemned. It happened that at this moment Innocent
died, and his successor, Zosimus, annulled his judgment and
declared the opinions of Pelagius to be orthodox. These
contradictory decisions are still often referred to by the
opponents of papal infallibility. Things were in this state of
confusion, when the wily African bishops, through the influence
of Count Valerius, procured from the emperor an edict denouncing
Pelagins as a heretic; he and his accomplices were condemned to
exile and the forfeiture of their goods. To affirm that death was
in the world before the fall of Adam, was a state crime.

CONDEMNATION OF PELAGIUS. It is very instructive to consider the
principles on which this strange decision was founded. Since the
question was purely philosophical, one might suppose that it
would have been discussed on natural principles; instead of that,
theological considerations alone were adduced. The attentive
reader will have remarked, in Tertullian's statement of the
principles of Christianity, a complete absence of the doctrines
of original sin, total depravity, predestination, grace, and
atonement. The intention of Christianity, as set forth by him,
has nothing in common with the plan of salvation upheld two
centuries subsequently. It is to St. Augustine, a Carthaginian,
that we are indebted for the precision of our views on these
important points.

In deciding whether death had been in the world before the fall
of Adam, or whether it was the penalty inflicted on the world for
his sin, the course taken was to ascertain whether the views of
Pelagius were accordant or discordant not with Nature but with
the theological doctrines of St. Augustine. And the result has
been such as might be expected. The doctrine declared to be
orthodox by ecclesiastical authority is overthrown by the
unquestionable discoveries of modern science. Long before a human
being had appeared upon earth, millions of individuals--nay,
more, thousands of species and even genera--had died; those which
remain with us are an insignificant fraction of the vast hosts
that have passed away.

A consequence of great importance issued from the decision of the
Pelagian controversy. The book of Genesis had been made the basis
of Christianity. If, in a theological point of view, to its
account of the sin in the garden of Eden, and the transgression
and punishment of Adam, so much weight had been attached, it also
in a philosophical point of view became the grand authority of
Patristic science. Astronomy, geology, geography, anthropology,
chronology, and indeed all the various departments of human
knowledge, were made to conform to it.

ST. AUGUSTINE. As the doctrines of St. Augustine have had the
effect of thus placing theology in antagonism with science, it
may be interesting to examine briefly some of the more purely
philosophical views of that great man. For this purpose, we may
appropriately select portions of his study of the first chapter
of Genesis, as contained in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth
books of his "Confessions."

These consist of philosophical discussions, largely interspersed
with rhapsodies. He prays that God will give him to understand
the Scriptures, and will open their meaning to him; he declares
that in them there is nothing superfluous, but that the words
have a manifold meaning.

The face of creation testifies that there has been a Creator; but
at once arises the question, "How and when did he make heaven and
earth? They could not have been made IN heaven and earth, the
world could not have been made IN the world, nor could they have
been made when there was nothing to make them of." The solution
of this fundamental inquiry St. Augustine finds in saying, "Thou
spakest, and they were made."

But the difficulty does not end here. St. Augustine goes on to
remark that the syllables thus uttered by God came forth in
succession, and there must have been some created thing to
express the words. This created thing must, therefore, have
existed before heaven and earth, and yet there could have been no
corporeal thing before heaven and earth. It must have been a
creature, because the words passed away and came to an end but we
know that "the word of the Lord endureth forever."

Moreover, it is plain that the words thus spoken could not have
been spoken successively, but simultaneously, else there would
have been time and change-- succession in its nature implying
time; whereas there was then nothing but eternity and
immortality. God knows and says eternally what takes place in

CRITICISM OF ST. AUGUSTINE. St. Augustine then defines, not
without much mysticism, what is meant by the opening words of
Genesis: "In the beginning." He is guided to his conclusion by
another scriptural passage: "How wonderful are thy works, O Lord!
in wisdom hast thou made them all." This "wisdom" is "the
beginning," and in that beginning the Lord created the heaven and
the earth.

"But," he adds, "some one may ask, 'What was God doing before he
made the heaven and the earth? for, if at any particular moment
he began to employ himself, that means time, not eternity. In
eternity nothing transpires--the whole is present.' " In
answering this question, he cannot forbear one of those touches
of rhetoric for which he was so celebrated: "I will not answer
this question by saying that he was preparing hell for priers
into his mysteries. I say that, before God made heaven and earth,
he did not make any thing, for no creature could be made before
any creature was made. Time itself is a creature, and hence it
could not possibly exist before creation.

"What, then, is time? The past is not, the future is not, the
present--who can tell what it is, unless it be that which has no
duration between two nonentities? There is no such thing as 'a
long time,' or 'a short time,' for there are no such things as
the past and the future. They have no existence, except in the

The style in which St. Augustine conveyed his ideas is that of a
rhapsodical conversation with God. His works are an incoherent
dream. That the reader may appreciate this remark, I might copy
almost at random any of his paragraphs. The following is from the
twelfth book:

"This then, is what I conceive, O my God, when I hear thy
Scripture saying, In the beginning God made heaven and earth: and
the earth was invisible and without form, and darkness was upon
the deep, and not mentioning what day thou createdst them; this
is what I conceive, that because of the heaven of heavens--that
intellectual heaven, whose intelligences know all at once, not in
part, not darkly, not through a glass, but as a whole, in
manifestation, face to face; not this thing now, and that thing
anon; but (as I said) know all at once, without any succession of
times; and because of the earth, invisible and without form,
without any succession of times, which succession presents 'this
thing now, that thing anon;' because, where there is no form,
there is no distinction of things; it is, then, on account of
these two, a primitive formed, and a primitive formless; the one,
heaven, but the heaven of heavens; the other, earth, but the
earth movable and without form; because of these two do I
conceive, did thy Scripture say without mention of days, In the
beginning God created the heaven and the earth. For, forthwith it
subjoined what earth it spake of; and also in that the firmament
is recorded to be created the second day, and called heaven, it
conveys to us of which heaven he before spake, without mention of

"Wondrous depth of thy words! whose surface behold! is before us,
inviting to little ones; yet are they a wondrous depth, O my God,
a wondrous depth! It is awful to look therein; an awfulness of
honor, and a trembling of love. The enemies thereof I hate
vehemently; O that thou wouldst slay them with thy two-edged
sword, that they might no longer be enemies to it: for so do I
love to have them slain unto themselves, that they may live unto

As an example of the hermeneutical manner in which St. Augustine
unfolded the concealed facts of the Scriptures, I may cite the
following from the thirteenth book of the "Confessions;" his
object is to show that the doctrine of the Trinity is contained
in the Mosaic narrative of the creation:

"Lo, now the Trinity appears unto me in a glass darkly, which is
thou my God, because thou, O Father, in him who is the beginning
of our wisdom, which is thy wisdom, born of thyself, equal unto
thee and coeternal, that is, in thy Son, createdst heaven and
earth. Much now have we said of the heaven of heavens, and of the
earth invisible and without form, and of the darksome deep, in
reference to the wandering instability of its spiritual
deformity, unless it had been converted unto him, from whom it
had its then degree of life, and by his enlightening became a
beauteous life, and the heaven of that heaven, which was
afterward set between water and water. And under the name of God,
I now held the Father, who made these things; and under the name
of the beginning, the Son, in whom he made these things; and
believing, as I did, my God as the Trinity, I searched further in
his holy words, and lo! thy Spirit moved upon the waters. Behold
the Trinity, my God!--Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost Creator of
all creation."

That I might convey to my reader a just impression of the
character of St. Augustine's philosophical writings, I have, in
the two quotations here given, substituted for my own translation
that of the Rev. Dr. Pusey, as contained in Vol. I. of the
"Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church," published at
Oxford, 1840.

Considering the eminent authority which has been attributed to
the writings of St. Augustine by the religious world for nearly
fifteen centuries, it is proper to speak of them with respect.
And indeed it is not necessary to do otherwise. The paragraphs
here quoted criticise themselves. No one did more than this
Father to bring science and religion into antagonism; it was
mainly he who diverted the Bible from its true office-- a guide
to purity of life--and placed it in the perilous position of
being the arbiter of human knowledge, an audacious tyranny over
the mind of man. The example once set, there was no want of
followers; the works of the great Greek philosophers were
stigmatized as profane; the transcendently glorious achievements
of the Museum of Alexandria were hidden from sight by a cloud of
ignorance, mysticism, and unintelligible jargon, out of which
there too often flashed the destroying lightnings of
ecclesiastical vengeance.

A divine revelation of science admits of no improvement, no
change, no advance. It discourages as needless, and indeed as
presumptuous, all new discovery, considering it as an unlawful
prying into things which it was the intention of God to conceal.

What, then, is that sacred, that revealed science, declared by
the Fathers to be the sum of all knowledge?

It likened all phenomena, natural and spiritual, to human acts.
It saw in the Almighty, the Eternal, only a gigantic man.

THE PATRISTIC PHILOSOPHY. As to the earth, it affirmed that it is
a flat surface, over which the sky is spread like a dome, or, as
St. Augustine tells us, is stretched like a skin. In this the sun
and moon and stars move, so that they may give light by day and
by night to man. The earth was made of matter created by God out
of nothing, and, with all the tribes of animals and plants
inhabiting it, was finished in six days. Above the sky or
firmament is heaven; in the dark and fiery space beneath the
earth is hell. The earth is the central and most important body
of the universe, all other things being intended for and
subservient to it.

As to man, he was made out of the dust of the earth. At first he
was alone, but subsequently woman was formed from one of his
ribs. He is the greatest and choicest of the works of God. He was
placed in a paradise near the banks of the Euphrates, and was
very wise and very pure; but, having tasted of the forbidden
fruit, and thereby broken the commandment given to him, he was
condemned to labor and to death.

The descendants of the first man, undeterred by his punishment,
pursued such a career of wickedness that it became necessary to
destroy them. A deluge, therefore, flooded the face of the earth,
and rose over the tops of the mountains. Having accomplished its
purpose, the water was dried up by a wind.

From this catastrophe Noah and his three sons, with their wives,
were saved in an ark. Of these sons, Shem remained in Asia and
repeopled it. Ham peopled Africa; Japhet, Europe. As the Fathers
were not acquainted with the existence of America, they did not
provide an ancestor for its people.

Let us listen to what some of these authorities say in support of
their assertions. Thus Lactantius, referring to the heretical
doctrine of the globular form of the earth, remarks: "Is it
possible that men can be so absurd as to believe that the crops
and the trees on the other side of the earth hang downward, and
that men have their feet higher than their heads? If you ask them
how they defend these monstrosities, how things do not fall away
from the earth on that side, they reply that the nature of things
is such that heavy bodies tend toward the centre, like the spokes
of a wheel, while light bodies, as clouds, smoke, fire, tend from
the centre to the heavens on all sides. Now, I am really at a
loss what to say of those who, when they have once gone wrong,
steadily persevere in their folly, and defend one absurd opinion
by another." On the question of the antipodes, St. Augustine
asserts that "it is impossible there should be inhabitants on the
opposite side of the earth, since no such race is recorded by
Scripture among the descendants of Adam." Perhaps, however, the
most unanswerable argument against the sphericity of the earth
was this, that "in the day of judgment, men on the other side of
a globe could not see the Lord descending through the air."

It is unnecessary for me to say any thing respecting the
introduction of death into the world, the continual interventions
of spiritual agencies in the course of events, the offices of
angels and devils, the expected conflagration of the earth, the
tower of Babel, the confusion of tongues, the dispersion of
mankind, the interpretation of natural phenomena, as eclipses,
the rainbow, etc. Above all, I abstain from commenting on the
Patristic conceptions of the Almighty; they are too
anthropomorphic, and wanting in sublimity.

Perhaps, however, I may quote from Cosmas Indicopleustes the
views that were entertained in the sixth century. He wrote a work
entitled "Christian Topography," the chief intent of which was to
confute the heretical opinion of the globular form of the earth,
and the pagan assertion that there is a temperate zone on the
southern side of the torrid. He affirms that, according to the
true orthodox system of geography, the earth is a quadrangular
plane, extending four hundred days' journey east and west, and
exactly half as much north and south; that it is inclosed by
mountains, on which the sky rests; that one on the north side,
huger than the others, by intercepting the rays of the sun,
produces night; and that the plane of the earth is not set
exactly horizontally, but with a little inclination from the
north: hence the Euphrates, Tigris, and other rivers, running
southward, are rapid; but the Nile, having to run up-hill, has
necessarily a very slow current.

The Venerable Bede, writing in the seventh century, tells us that
"the creation was accomplished in six days, and that the earth is
its centre and its primary object. The heaven is of a fiery and
subtile nature, round, and equidistant in every part, as a canopy
from the centre of the earth. It turns round every day with
ineffable rapidity, only moderated by the resistance of the seven
planets, three above the sun--Saturn, Jupiter, Mars-- then the
sun; three below--Venus, Mercury, the moon. The stars go round in
their fixed courses, the northern perform the shortest circle.
The highest heaven has its proper limit; it contains the angelic
virtues who descend upon earth, assume ethereal bodies, perform
human functions, and return. The heaven is tempered with glacial
waters, lest it should be set on fire. The inferior heaven is
called the firmament, because it separates the superincumbent
waters from the waters below. The firmamental waters are lower
than the spiritual heaven, higher than all corporeal beings,
reserved, some say, for a second deluge; others, more truly, to
temper the fire of the fixed stars."

Was it for this preposterous scheme--this product of ignorance
and audacity--that the works of the Greek philosophers were to be
given up? It was none too soon that the great critics who
appeared at the Reformation, by comparing the works of these
writers with one another, brought them to their proper level, and
taught us to look upon them all with contempt.

Of this presumptuous system, the strangest part was its logic,
the nature of its proofs. It relied upon miracle-evidence. A fact
was supposed to he demonstrated by an astounding illustration of
something else! An Arabian writer, referring to this, says: "If a
conjurer should say to me, 'Three are more than ten, and in proof
of it I will change this stick into a serpent,' I might be
surprised at his legerdemain, but I certainly should not admit
his assertion." Yet, for more than a thousand years, such was the
accepted logic, and all over Europe propositions equally absurd
were accepted on equally ridiculous proof.

Since the party that had become dominant in the empire could not
furnish works capable of intellectual competition with those of
the great pagan authors, and since it was impossible for it to
accept a position of inferiority, there arose a political
necessity for the discouragement, and even persecution, of
profane learning. The persecution of the Platonists under
Valentinian was due to that necessity. They were accused of
magic, and many of them were put to death. The profession of
philosophy had become dangerous--it was a state crime. In its
stead there arose a passion for the marvelous, a spirit of
superstition. Egypt exchanged the great men, who had made her
Museum immortal, for bands of solitary monks and sequestered
virgins, with which she was overrun.



The Egyptians insist on the introduction of the worship of the
Virgin Mary--They are resisted by Nestor, the Patriarch of
Constantinople, but eventually, through their influence with the
emperor, cause Nestor's exile and the dispersion of his

Prelude to the Southern Reformation--The Persian attack; its
moral effects.

The Arabian Reformation.--Mohammed is brought in contact with the
Nestorians--He adopts and extends their principles, rejecting the
worship of the Virgin, the doctrine of the Trinity, and every
thing in opposition to the unity of God.--He extinguishes
idolatry in Arabia, by force, and prepares to make war on the
Roman Empire.--His successors conquer Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor,
North Africa, Spain, and invade France.

As the result of this conflict, the doctrine of the unity of God
was established in the greater part of the Roman Empire--The
cultivation of science was restored, and Christendom lost many of
her most illustrious capitals, as Alexandria, Carthage, and,
above all, Jerusalem.

THE policy of the Byzantine court had given to primitive
Christianity a paganized form, which it had spread over all the
idolatrous populations constituting the empire. There had been an
amalgamation of the two parties. Christianity had modified
paganism, paganism had modified Christianity. The limits of this
adulterated religion were the confines of the Roman Empire. With
this great extension there had come to the Christian party
political influence and wealth. No insignificant portion of the
vast public revenues found their way into the treasuries of the
Church. As under such circumstances must ever be the case, there
were many competitors for the spoils--men who, under the mask of
zeal for the predominant faith, sought only the enjoyment of its

ECCLESIASTICAL DISPUTES. Under the early emperors, conquest had
reached its culmination; the empire was completed; there remained
no adequate objects for military life; the days of
war-peculation, and the plundering of provinces, were over. For
the ambitious, however, another path was open; other objects
presented. A successful career in the Church led to results not
unworthy of comparison with those that in former days had been
attained by a successful career in the army.

The ecclesiastical, and indeed, it may be said, much of the
political history of that time, turns on the struggles of the
bishops of the three great metropolitan cities--Constantinople,
Alexandria, Rome--for supremacy: Constantinople based her claims
on the fact that she was the existing imperial city; Alexandria
pointed to her commercial and literary position; Rome, to her
souvenirs. But the Patriarch of Constantinople labored under the
disadvantage that he was too closely under the eye, and, as he
found to his cost, too often under the hand, of the emperor.
Distance gave security to the episcopates of Alexandria and Rome.

ECCLESIASTICAL DISPUTES. Religious disputations in the East have
generally turned on diversities of opinion respecting the nature
and attributes of God; in the West, on the relations and life of
man. This peculiarity has been strikingly manifested in the
transformations that Christianity has undergone in Asia and
Europe respectively. Accordingly, at the time of which we are
speaking, all the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire exhibited
an intellectual anarchy. There were fierce quarrels respecting
the Trinity, the essence of God, the position of the Son, the
nature of the Holy Spirit, the influences of the Virgin Mary. The
triumphant clamor first of one then of another sect was
confirmed, sometimes by miracle-proof, sometimes by bloodshed. No
attempt was ever made to submit the rival opinions to logical
examination. All parties, however, agreed in this, that the
imposture of the old classical pagan forms of faith was
demonstrated by the facility with which they had been overthrown.
The triumphant ecclesiastics proclaimed that the images of the
gods had failed to defend themselves when the time of trial came.

Polytheistic ideas have always been held in repute by the
southern European races, the Semitic have maintained the unity of
God. Perhaps this is due to the fact, as a recent author has
suggested, that a diversified landscape of mountains and valleys,
islands, and rivers, and gulfs, predisposes man to a belief in a
multitude of divinities. A vast sandy desert, the illimitable
ocean, impresses him with an idea of the oneness of God.

Political reasons had led the emperors to look with favor on the
admixture of Christianity and paganism, and doubtless by this
means the bitterness of the rivalry between those antagonists was
somewhat abated. The heaven of the popular, the fashionable
Christianity was the old Olympus, from which the venerable Greek
divinities had been removed. There, on a great white throne, sat
God the Father, on his right the Son, and then the blessed
Virgin, clad in a golden robe, and "covered with various female
adornments;" on the left sat God the Holy Ghost. Surrounding
these thrones were hosts of angels with their harps. The vast
expanse beyond was filled with tables, seated at which the happy
spirits of the just enjoyed a perpetual banquet.

If, satisfied with this picture of happiness, illiterate persons
never inquired how the details of such a heaven were carried out,
or how much pleasure there could be in the ennui of such an
eternally unchanging, unmoving scene, it was not so with the
intelligent. As we are soon to see, there were among the higher
ecclesiastics those who rejected with sentiments of horror these
carnal, these materialistic conceptions, and raised their
protesting voices in vindication of the attributes of the
Omnipresent, the Almighty God.

EGYPTIAN DOCTRINES. In the paganization of religion, now in all
directions taking place, it became the interest of every bishop
to procure an adoption of the ideas which, time out of mind, had
been current in the community under his charge. The Egyptians had
already thus forced on the Church their peculiar Trinitarian
views; and now they were resolved that, under the form of the
adoration of the Virgin Mary, the worship of Isis should be

THE NESTORIANS. It so happened that Nestor, the Bishop of
Antioch, who entertained the philosophical views of Theodore of
Mopsuestia, had been called by the Emperor Theodosius the Younger
to the Episcopate of Constantinople (A.D. 427). Nestor rejected
the base popular anthropomorphism, looking upon it as little
better than blasphemous, and pictured to himself an awful eternal
Divinity, who pervaded the universe, and had none of the aspects
or attributes of man. Nestor was deeply imbued with the doctrines
of Aristotle, and attempted to coordinate them with what he
considered to be orthodox Christian tenets. Between him and
Cyril, the Bishop or Patriarch of Alexandria, a quarrel
accordingly arose. Cyril represented the paganizing, Nestor the
philosophizing party of the Church. This was that Cyril who had
murdered Hypatia. Cyril was determined that the worship of the
Virgin as the Mother of God should be recognized, Nestor was
determined that it should not. In a sermon delivered in the
metropolitan church at Constantinople, he vindicated the
attributes of the Eternal, the Almighty God. "And can this God
have a mother?" he exclaimed. In other sermons and writings, he
set forth with more precision his ideas that the Virgin should be
considered not as the Mother of God, but as the mother of the
human portion of Christ, that portion being as essentially
distinct from the divine as is a temple from its contained deity.

PERSECUTION AND DEATH OF NESTOR. Instigated by the monks of
Alexandria, the monks of Constantinople took up arms in behalf of
"the Mother of God." The quarrel rose to such a pitch that the
emperor was constrained to summon a council to meet at Ephesus.
In the mean time Cyril had given a bribe of many pounds of gold
to the chief eunuch of the imperial court, and had thereby
obtained the influence of the emperor's sister. "The holy virgin
of the court of heaven thus found an ally of her own sex in the
holy virgin of the emperor's court." Cyril hastened to the
council, attended by a mob of men and women of the baser sort. He
at once assumed the presidency, and in the midst of a tumult had
the emperor's rescript read before the Syrian bishops could
arrive. A single day served to complete his triumph. All offers
of accommodation on the part of Nestor were refused, his
explanations were not read, he was condemned unheard. On the
arrival of the Syrian ecclesiastics, a meeting of protest was
held by them. A riot, with much bloodshed, ensued in the
cathedral of St. John. Nestor was abandoned by the court, and
eventually exiled to an Egyptian oasis. His persecutors tormented
him as long as he lived, by every means in their power, and at
his death gave out that "his blasphemous tongue had been devoured
by worms, and that from the heats of an Egyptian desert he had
escaped only into the hotter torments of hell!"

The overthrow and punishment of Nestor, however, by no means
destroyed his opinions. He and his followers, insisting on the
plain inference of the last verse of the first chapter of St.
Matthew, together with the fifty-fifth and fifty-sixth verses of
the thirteenth of the same gospel, could never be brought to an
acknowledgment of the perpetual virginity of the new queen of
heaven. Their philosophical tendencies were soon indicated by
their actions. While their leader was tormented in an African
oasis, many of them emigrated to the Euphrates, and established
the Chaldean Church. Under their auspices the college of Edessa
was founded. From the college of Nisibis issued those doctors who
spread Nestor's tenets through Syria, Arabia, India, Tartary,
China, Egypt. The Nestorians, of course, adopted the philosophy
of Aristotle, and translated the works of that great writer into
Syriac and Persian. They also made similar translations of later
works, such as those of Pliny. In connection with the Jews they
founded the medical college of Djondesabour. Their missionaries
disseminated the Nestorian form of Christianity to such an extent
over Asia, that its worshipers eventually outnumbered all the
European Christians of the Greek and Roman Churches combined. It
may be particularly remarked that in Arabia they had a bishop.

THE PERSIAN CAMPAIGN. The dissensions between Constantinople and
Alexandria had thus filled all Western Asia with sectaries,
ferocious in their contests with each other, and many of them
burning with hatred against the imperial power for the
persecutions it had inflicted on them. A religious revolution,
the consequences of which are felt in our own times, was the
result. It affected the whole world.

We shall gain a clear view of this great event, if we consider
separately the two acts into which it may be decomposed: 1. The
temporary overthrow of Asiatic Christianity by the Persians; 2.
The decisive and final reformation under the Arabians.

1. It happened (A.D. 590) that, by one of those revolutions so
frequent in Oriental courts, Chosroes, the lawful heir to the
Persian throne, was compelled to seek refuge in the Byzantine
Empire, and implore the aid of the Emperor Maurice. That aid was
cheerfully given. A brief and successful campaign restored
Chosroes to the throne of his ancestors.

But the glories of this generous campaign could not preserve
Maurice himself. A mutiny broke out in the Roman army, headed by
Phocas, a centurion. The statues of the emperor were overthrown.
The Patriarch of Constantinople, having declared that he had
assured himself of the orthodoxy of Phocas, consecrated him
emperor. The unfortunate Maurice was dragged from a sanctuary, in
which he had sought refuge; his five sons were beheaded before
his eyes, and then he was put to death. His empress was inveigled
from the church of St. Sophia, tortured, and with her three young
daughters beheaded. The adherents of the massacred family were
pursued with ferocious vindictiveness; of some the eyes were
blinded, of others the tongues were torn out, or the feet and
hands cut off, some were whipped to death, others were burnt.

When the news reached Rome, Pope Gregory received it with
exultation, praying that the hands of Phocas might be
strengthened against all his enemies. As an equivalent for this
subserviency, he was greeted with the title of "Universal
Bishop." The cause of his action, as well as of that of the
Patriarch of Constantinople, was doubtless the fact that Maurice
was suspected of Magrian tendencies, into which he had been lured
by the Persians. The mob of Constantinople had hooted after him
in the streets, branding him as a Marcionite, a sect which
believed in the Magian doctrine of two conflicting principles.

With very different sentiments Chosroes heard of the murder of
his friend. Phocas had sent him the heads of Maurice and his
sons. The Persian king turned from the ghastly spectacle with
horror, and at once made ready to avenge the wrongs of his
benefactor by war.

THE EXPEDITION OF HERACLIUS. The Exarch of Africa, Heraclius, one
of the chief officers of the state, also received the shocking
tidings with indignation. He was determined that the imperial
purple should not be usurped by an obscure centurion of
disgusting aspect. "The person of this Phocas was diminutive and
deformed; the closeness of his shaggy eyebrows, his red hair, his
beardless chin, were in keeping with his cheek, disfigured and
discolored by a formidable scar. Ignorant of letters, of laws,
and even of arms, he indulged in an ample privilege of lust and
drunkenness." At first Heraclius refused tribute and obedience to
him; then, admonished by age and infirmities, he committed the
dangerous enterprise of resistance to his son of the same name. A
prosperous voyage from Carthage soon brought the younger
Heraclius in front of Constantinople. The inconstant clergy,
senate, and people of the city joined him, the usurper was seized
in his palace and beheaded.

INVASION OF CHOSROES. But the revolution that had taken place in
Constantinople did not arrest the movements of the Persian king.
His Magian priests had warned him to act independently of the
Greeks, whose superstition, they declared, was devoid of all
truth and justice. Chosroes, therefore, crossed the Euphrates;
his army was received with transport by the Syrian sectaries,
insurrections in his favor everywhere breaking out. In
succession, Antioch, Caesarea, Damascus fell; Jerusalem itself
was taken by storm; the sepulchre of Christ, the churches of
Constantine and of Helena were given to the flames; the Savior's
cross was sent as a trophy to Persia; the churches were rifled of
their riches; the sacred relics, collected by superstition, were
dispersed. Egypt was invaded, conquered, and annexed to the
Persian Empire; the Patriarch of Alexandria escaped by flight to
Cyprus; the African coast to Tripoli was seized. On the north,
Asia Minor was subdued, and for ten years the Persian forces
encamped on the shores of the Bosporus, in front of

In his extremity Heraclius begged for peace. "I will never give
peace to the Emperor of Rome," replied the proud Persian, "till
he has abjured his crucified God, and embraced the worship of the
sun." After a long delay terms were, however, secured, and the
Roman Empire was ransomed at the price of "a thousand talents of
gold, a thousand talents of silver, a thousand silk robes, a
thousand horses, and a thousand virgins."

But Heraclius submitted only for a moment. He found means not
only to restore his affairs but to retaliate on the Persian
Empire. The operations by which he achieved this result were
worthy of the most brilliant days of Rome.

INVASION OF CHOSROES Though her military renown was thus
recovered, though her territory was regained, there was something
that the Roman Empire had irrecoverably lost. Religious faith
could never be restored. In face of the world Magianism had
insulted Christianity, by profaning her most sacred
places--Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Calvary--by burning the sepulchre
of Christ, by rifling and destroying the churches, by scattering
to the winds priceless relics, by carrying off, with shouts of
laughter, the cross.

Miracles had once abounded in Syria, in Egypt, in Asia Minor;
there was not a church which had not its long catalogue of them.
Very often they were displayed on unimportant occasions and in
insignificant cases. In this supreme moment, when such aid was
most urgently demanded, not a miracle was worked.

Amazement filled the Christian populations of the East when they
witnessed these Persian sacrileges perpetrated with impunity. The
heavens should have rolled asunder, the earth should have opened
her abysses, the sword of the Almighty should have flashed in the
sky, the fate of Sennacherib should have been repeated. But it
was not so. In the land of miracles, amazement was followed by
consternation--consternation died out in disbelief.

2. But, dreadful as it was, the Persian conquest was but a
prelude to the great event, the story of which we have now to
relate--the Southern revolt against Christianity. Its issue was
the loss of nine-tenths of her geographical possessions--Asia,
Africa, and part of Europe.

MOHAMMED. In the summer of 581 of the Christian era, there came
to Bozrah, a town on the confines of Syria, south of Damascus, a
caravan of camels. It was from Mecca, and was laden with the
costly products of South Arabia--Arabia the Happy. The conductor
of the caravan, one Abou Taleb, and his nephew, a lad of twelve
years, were hospitably received and entertained at the Nestorian
convent of the town.

The monks of this convent soon found that their young visitor,
Halibi or Mohammed, was the nephew of the guardian of the Caaba,
the sacred temple of the Arabs. One of them, by name Bahira,
spared no pains to secure his conversion from the idolatry in
which he had been brought up. He found the boy not only
precociously intelligent, but eagerly desirous of information,
especially on matters relating to religion.

In Mohammed's own country the chief object of Meccan worship was
a black meteoric stone, kept in the Caaba, with three hundred and
sixty subordinate idols, representing the days of the year, as
the year was then counted.

At this time, as we have seen, the Christian Church, through the
ambition and wickedness of its clergy, had been brought into a
condition of anarchy. Councils had been held on various
pretenses, while the real motives were concealed. Too often they
were scenes of violence, bribery, corruption. In the West, such
were the temptations of riches, luxury, and power, presented by
the episcopates, that the election of a bishop was often
disgraced by frightful murders. In the East, in consequence of
the policy of the court of Constantinople, the Church had been
torn in pieces by contentions and schisms. Among a countless host
of disputants may be mentioned Arians, Basilidians,
Carpocratians, Collyridians, Eutychians, Gnostics, Jacobites,
Marcionites, Marionites, Nestorians, Sabellians, Valentinians. Of
these, the Marionites regarded the Trinity as consisting of God
the Father, God the Son, and God the Virgin Mary; the
Collyridians worshiped the Virgin as a divinity, offering her
sacrifices of cakes; the Nestorians, as we have seen, denied that
God had "a mother." They prided themselves on being the
inheritors, the possessors of the science of old Greece.

But, though they were irreconcilable in matters of faith, there
was one point in which all these sects agreed --ferocious hatred
and persecution of each other. Arabia, an unconquered land of
liberty, stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Desert of Syria,
gave them all, as the tide of fortune successively turned, a
refuge. It had been so from the old times. Thither, after the
Roman conquest of Palestine, vast numbers of Jews escaped;
thither, immediately after his conversion, St. Paul tells the
Galatians that he retired. The deserts were now filled with
Christian anchorites, and among the chief tribes of the Arabs
many proselytes had been made. Here and there churches had been
built. The Christian princes of Abyssinia, who were Nestorians,
held the southern province of Arabia--Yemen--in possession.

By the monk Bahira, in the convent at Bozrah, Mohammed was taught
the tenets of the Nestorians; from them the young Arab learned
the story of their persecutions. It was these interviews which
engendered in him a hatred of the idolatrous practices of the
Eastern Church, and indeed of all idolatry; that taught him, in
his wonderful career, never to speak of Jesus as the Son of God,
but always as "Jesus, the son of Mary." His untutored but active
mind could not fail to be profoundly impressed not only with the
religious but also with the philosophical ideas of his
instructors, who gloried in being the living representatives of
Aristotelian science. His subsequent career shows how completely
their religious thoughts had taken possession of him, and
repeated acts manifest his affectionate regard for them. His own
life was devoted to the expansion and extension of their
theological doctrine, and, that once effectually established, his
successors energetically adopted and diffused their scientific,
their Aristotelian opinions.

As Mohammed grew to manhood, he made other expeditions to Syria.
Perhaps, we may suppose, that on these occasions the convent and
its hospitable in mates were not forgotten. He had a mysterious
reverence for that country. A wealthy Meccan widow Chadizah, had
intrusted him with the care of her Syrian trade. She was charmed
with his capacity and fidelity, and (since he is said to have
been characterized by the possession of singular manly beauty and
a most courteous demeanor) charmed with his person. The female
heart in all ages and countries is the same. She caused a slave
to intimate to him what was passing in her mind, and, for the
remaining twenty-four years of her life, Mohammed was her
faithful husband. In a land of polygamy, he never insulted her by
the presence of a rival. Many years subsequently, in the height
of his power, Ayesha, who was one of the most beautiful women in
Arabia, said to him: "Was she not old? Did not God give you in me
a better wife in her place?" "No, by God!" exclaimed Mohammed,
and with a burst of honest gratitude, "there never can be a
better. She believed in me when men despised me, she relieved me
when I was poor and persecuted by the world."

His marriage with Chadizah placed him in circumstances of ease,
and gave him an opportunity of indulging his inclination to
religious meditation. It so happened that her cousin Waraka, who
was a Jew, had turned Christian. He was the first to translate
the Bible into Arabic. By his conversation Mohammed's detestation
of idolatry was confirmed.

After the example of the Christian anchorites in their hermitages
in the desert, Mohammed retired to a grotto in Mount Hera, a few
miles from Mecca, giving himself up to meditation and prayer. In
this seclusion, contemplating the awful attributes of the
Omnipotent and Eternal God, he addressed to his conscience the
solemn inquiry, whether he could adopt the dogmas then held in
Asiatic Christendom respecting the Trinity, the sonship of Jesus
as begotten by the Almighty, the character of Mary as at once a
virgin, a mother, and the queen of heaven, without incurring the
guilt and the peril of blasphemy.

By his solitary meditations in the grotto Mohammed was drawn to
the conclusion that, through the cloud of dogmas and disputations
around him, one great truth might be discerned--the unity of God.
Leaning against the stem of a palm-tree, he unfolded his views on
this subject to his neighbors and friends, and announced to them
that he should dedicate his life to the preaching of that truth.
Again and again, in his sermons and in the Koran, he declared: "I
am nothing but a public preacher.... I preach the oneness of
God." Such was his own conception of his so-called apostleship.
Henceforth, to the day of his death, he wore on his finger a
seal-ring on which was engraved, "Mohammed, the messenger of

VICTORIES OF MOHAMMED. It is well known among physicians that
prolonged fasting and mental anxiety inevitably give rise to
hallucination. Perhaps there never has been any religious system
introduced by self-denying, earnest men that did not offer
examples of supernatural temptations and supernatural commands.
Mysterious voices encouraged the Arabian preacher to persist in
his determination; shadows of strange forms passed before him. He
heard sounds in the air like those of a distant bell. In a
nocturnal dream he was carried by Gabriel from Mecca to
Jerusalem, and thence in succession through the six heavens. Into
the seventh the angel feared to intrude and Mohammed alone passed
into the dread cloud that forever enshrouds the Almighty. "A
shiver thrilled his heart as he felt upon his shoulder the touch
of the cold hand of God."

His public ministrations met with much resistance and little
success at first. Expelled from Mecca by the upholders of the
prevalent idolatry, he sought refuge in Medina, a town in which
there were many Jews and Nestorians; the latter at once became
proselytes to his faith. He had already been compelled to send
his daughter and others of his disciples to Abyssinia, the king
of which was a Nestorian Christian. At the end of six years he
had made only fifteen hundred converts. But in three little
skirmishes, magnified in subsequent times by the designation of
the battles of Beder, of Ohud, and of the Nations, Mohammed
discovered that his most convincing argument was his sword.
Afterward, with Oriental eloquence, he said, "Paradise will be
found in the shadow of the crossing of swords." By a series of
well-conducted military operations, his enemies were completely
overthrown. Arabian idolatry was absolutely exterminated; the
doctrine he proclaimed, that "there is but one God," was
universally adopted by his countrymen, and his own apostleship

DEATH OF MOHAMMED. Let us pass over his stormy life, and hear
what he says when, on the pinnacle of earthly power and glory, he
was approaching its close.

Steadfast in his declaration of the unity of God, he departed
from Medina on his last pilgrimage to Mecca, at the head of one
hundred and fourteen thousand devotees, with camels decorated
with garlands of flowers and fluttering streamers. When he
approached the holy city, he uttered the solemn invocation: "Here
am I in thy service, O God! Thou hast no companion. To thee alone
belongeth worship. Thine alone is the kingdom. There is none to
share it with thee."

With his own hand he offered up the camels in sacrifice. He
considered that primeval institution to be equally sacred as
prayer, and that no reason can be alleged in support of the one
which is not equally strong in support of the other.

From the pulpit of the Caaba he reiterated, "O my hearers, I am
only a man like yourselves." They remembered that he had once
said to one who approached him with timid steps: "Of what dost
thou stand in awe? I am no king. I am nothing but the son of an
Arab woman, who ate flesh dried in the sun."

He returned to Medina to die. In his farewell to his
congregation, he said: "Every thing happens according to the will
of God, and has its appointed time, which can neither be hastened
nor avoided. I return to him who sent me, and my last command to
you is, that ye love, honor, and uphold each other, that ye
exhort each other to faith and constancy in belief, and to the
performance of pious deeds. My life has been for your good, and
so will be my death."

In his dying agony, his head was reclined on the lap of Ayesha.
From time to time he had dipped his hand in a vase of water, and
moistened his face. At last he ceased, and, gazing steadfastly
upward, said, in broken accents: "O God--forgive my sins--be it
so. I come."

Shall we speak of this man with disrespect? His precepts are, at
this day, the religious guide of one- third of the human race.

DOCTRINES OF MOHAMMED. In Mohammed, who had already broken away
from the ancient idolatrous worship of his native country,
preparation had been made for the rejection of those tenets which
his Nestorian teachers had communicated to him, inconsistent with
reason and conscience. And, though, in the first pages of the
Koran, he declares his belief in what was delivered to Moses and
Jesus, and his reverence for them personally, his veneration for
the Almighty is perpetually displayed. He is horror-stricken at
the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus, the Worship of Mary as the
mother of God, the adoration of images and paintings, in his eyes
a base idolatry. He absolutely rejects the Trinity, of which he
seems to have entertained the idea that it could not be
interpreted otherwise than as presenting three distinct Gods.

His first and ruling idea was simply religious reform--to
overthrow Arabian idolatry, and put an end to the wild
sectarianism of Christianity. That he proposed to set up a new
religion was a calumny invented against him in Constantinople,
where he was looked upon with detestation, like that with which
in after ages Luther was regarded in Rome.

But, though he rejected with indignation whatever might seem to
disparage the doctrine of the unity of God, he was not able to
emancipate himself from anthropomorphic conceptions. The God of
the Koran is altogether human, both corporeally and mentally, if
such expressions may with propriety be used. Very soon, however,
the followers of Mohammed divested themselves of these base ideas
and rose to nobler ones.

The view here presented of the primitive character of
Mohammedanism has long been adopted by many competent
authorities. Sir William Jones, following Locke, regards the main
point in the divergence of Mohammedanism from Christianity to
consist "in denying vehemently the character of our Savior as the
Son, and his equality as God with the Father, of whose unity and
attributes the Mohammedans entertain and express the most awful
ideas." This opinion has been largely entertained in Italy. Dante
regarded Mohammed only as the author of a schism, and saw in
Islamism only an Arian sect. In England, Whately views it as a
corruption of Christianity. It was an offshoot of Nestorianism,
and not until it had overthrown Greek Christianity in many great
battles, was spreading rapidly over Asia and Africa, and had
become intoxicated with its wonderful successes, did it repudiate
its primitive limited intentions, and assert itself to be founded
on a separate and distinct revelation.

THE FIRST KHALIF. Mohammed's life had been almost entirely
consumed in the conversion or conquest of his native country.
Toward its close, however, he felt himself strong enough to
threaten the invasion of Syria and Persia. He had made no
provision for the perpetuation of his own dominion, and hence it
was not without a struggle that a successor was appointed. At
length Abubeker, the father of Ayesha, was selected. He was
proclaimed the first khalif, or successor of the Prophet.

There is a very important difference between the spread of
Mohammedanism and the spread of Christianity. The latter was
never sufficiently strong to over throw and extirpate idolatry in
the Roman Empire. As it advanced, there was an amalgamation, a
union. The old forms of the one were vivified by the new spirit
of the other, and that paganization to which reference has
already been made was the result.

THE MOHAMMEDAN HEAVEN. But, in Arabia, Mohammed overthrew and
absolutely annihilated the old idolatry. No trace of it is found
in the doctrines preached by him and his successors. The black
stone that had fallen from heaven--the meteorite of the
Caaba--and its encircling idols, passed totally out of view. The
essential dogma of the new faith--"There is but one God"--spread
without any adulteration. Military successes had, in a worldly
sense made the religion of the Koran profitable; and, no matter
what dogmas may be, when that is the case, there will be plenty
of converts.

As to the popular doctrines of Mohammedanism, I shall here have
nothing to say. The reader who is interested in that matter will
find an account of them in a review of the Koran in the eleventh
chapter of my "History of the Intellectual Development of
Europe." It is enough now to remark that their heaven was
arranged in seven stories, and was only a palace of Oriental
carnal delight. It was filled with black-eyed concubines and
servants. The form of God was, perhaps, more awful than that of
paganized Christianity. Anthropomorphism will, however, never be
obliterated from the ideas of the unintellectual. Their God, at
the best, will never be any thing more than the gigantic shadow
of a man--a vast phantom of humanity-- like one of those Alpine
spectres seen in the midst of the clouds by him who turns his
back on the sun.

Abubeker had scarcely seated himself in the khalifate, when he
put forth the following proclamation:

In the name of the most merciful God! Abubeker to the rest of the
true believers, health and happiness. The mercy and blessing of
God be upon you. I praise the most high God. I pray for his
prophet Mohammed.

INVASION OF SYRIA. "This is to inform you that I intend to send
the true believers into Syria, to take it out of the hands of the
infidels. And I would have you know that the fighting for
religion is an act of obedience to God."

On the first encounter, Khaled, the Saracen general, hard
pressed, lifted up his hands in the midst of his army and said:
"O God! these vile wretches pray with idolatrous expressions and
take to themselves another God besides thee, but we acknowledge
thy unity and affirm that there is no other God but thee alone.
Help us, we beseech thee, for the sake of thy prophet Mohammed,
against these idolaters." On the part of the Saracens the
conquest of Syria was conducted with ferocious piety. The belief
of the Syrian Christians aroused in their antagonists sentiments
of horror and indignation. "I will cleave the skull of any
blaspheming idolater who says that the Most Holy God, the
Almighty and Eternal, has begotten a son." The Khalif Omar, who
took Jerusalem, commences a letter to Heraclius, the Roman
emperor: "In the name of the most merciful God! Praise be to God,
the Lord of this and of the other world, who has neither female
consort nor son." The Saracens nicknamed the Christians
"Associators," because they joined Mary and Jesus as partners
with the Almighty and Most Holy God.

It was not the intention of the khalif to command his army; that
duty was devolved on Abou Obeidah nominally, on Khaled in
reality. In a parting review the khalif enjoined on his troops
justice, mercy, and the observance of fidelity in their
engagements he commanded them to abstain from all frivolous
conversation and from wine, and rigorously to observe the hours
of prayer; to be kind to the common people among whom they
passed, but to show no mercy to their priests.

FALL OF BOZRAH. Eastward of the river Jordan is Bozrah, a strong
town where Mohammed had first met his Nestorian Christian
instructors. It was one of the Roman forts with which the country
was dotted over. Before this place the Saracen army encamped. The
garrison was strong, the ramparts were covered with holy crosses
and consecrated banners. It might have made a long defense. But
its governor, Romanus, betrayed his trust, and stealthily opened
its gates to the besiegers. His conduct shows to what a
deplorable condition the population of Syria had come. After the
surrender, in a speech he made to the people he had betrayed, he
said: "I renounce your society, both in this world and that to
come. And I deny him that was crucified, and whosoever worships
him. And I choose God for my Lord, Islam for my faith, Mecca for
my temple, the Moslems for my brethren, Mohammed for my prophet,
who was sent to lead us in the right way, and to exalt the true
religion in spite of those who join partners with God." Since the
Persian invasion, Asia Minor, Syria, and even Palestine, were
full of traitors and apostates, ready to join the Saracens.
Romanus was but one of many thousands who had fallen into
disbelief through the victories of the Persians.

FALL OF DAMASCUS. From Bozrah it was only seventy miles northward
to Damascus, the capital of Syria. Thither, without delay, the
Saracen army marched. The city was at once summoned to take its
option--conversion, tribute, or the sword. In his palace at
Antioch, barely one hundred and fifty miles still farther north,
the Emperor Heraclius received tidings of the alarming advance of
his assailants. He at once dispatched an army of seventy thousand
men. The Saracens were compelled to raise the siege. A battle
took place in the plains of Aiznadin, the Roman army was
overthrown and dispersed. Khaled reappeared before Damascus with
his standard of the black eagle, and after a renewed investment
of seventy days Damascus surrendered.

From the Arabian historians of these events we may gather that
thus far the Saracen armies were little better than a fanatic
mob. Many of the men fought naked. It was not unusual for a
warrior to stand forth in front and challenge an antagonist to
mortal duel. Nay, more, even the women engaged in the combats.
Picturesque narratives have been handed down to us relating the
gallant manner in which they acquitted themselves.

FALL OF JERUSALEM. From Damascus the Saracen army advanced
northward, guided by the snow-clad peaks of Libanus and the
beautiful river Orontes. It captured on its way Baalbec, the
capital of the Syrian valley, and Emesa, the chief city of the
eastern plain. To resist its further progress, Heraclius
collected an army of one hundred and forty thousand men. A battle
took place at Yermuck; the right wing of the Saracens was broken,
but the soldiers were driven back to the field by the fanatic
expostulations of their women. The conflict ended in the complete
overthrow of the Roman army. Forty thousand were taken prisoners,
and a vast number killed. The whole country now lay open to the
victors. The advance of their army had been east of the Jordan.
It was clear that, before Asia Minor could be touched, the strong
and important cities of Palestine, which was now in their rear,
must be secured. There was a difference of opinion among the
generals in the field as to whether Caesarea or Jerusalem should
be assailed first. The matter was referred to the khalif, who,
rightly preferring the moral advantages of the capture of
Jerusalem to the military advantages of the capture of Caesarea,
ordered the Holy City to be taken, and that at any cost. Close
siege was therefore laid to it. The inhabitants, remembering the
atrocities inflicted by the Persians, and the indignities that
had been offered to the Savior's sepulchre, prepared now for a
vigorous defense. But, after an investment of four months, the
Patriarch Sophronius appeared on the wall, asking terms of
capitulation. There had been misunderstandings among the generals
at the capture of Damascus, followed by a massacre of the fleeing
inhabitants. Sophronius, therefore, stipulated that the surrender
of Jerusalem should take place in presence of the khalif himself
Accordingly, Omar, the khalif, came from Medina for that purpose.
He journeyed on a red camel, carrying a bag of corn and one of
dates, a wooden dish, and a leathern water-bottle. The Arab
conqueror entered the Holy City riding by the side of the
Christian patriarch and the transference of the capital of
Christianity to the representative of Mohammedanism was effected
without tumult or outrage. Having ordered that a mosque should be
built on the site of the temple of Solomon, the khalif returned
to the tomb of the Prophet at Medina.

Heraclius saw plainly that the disasters which were fast settling
on Christianity were due to the dissensions of its conflicting
sects; and hence, while he endeavored to defend the empire with
his armies, he sedulously tried to compose those differences.
With this view he pressed for acceptance the Monothelite doctrine
of the nature of Christ. But it was now too late. Aleppo and
Antioch were taken. Nothing could prevent the Saracens from
overrunning Asia Minor. Heraclius himself had to seek safety in
flight. Syria, which had been added by Pompey the Great, the
rival of Caesar, to the provinces of Rome, seven hundred years
previously-- Syria, the birthplace of Christianity, the scene of
its most sacred and precious souvenirs, the land from which
Heraclius himself had once expelled the Persian intruder--was
irretrievably lost. Apostates and traitors had wrought this
calamity. We are told that, as the ship which bore him to
Constantinople parted from the shore, Heraclius gazed intently on
the receding hills, and in the bitterness of anguish exclaimed,
"Farewell, Syria, forever farewell!"

It is needless to dwell on the remaining details of the Saracen
conquest: how Tripoli and Tyre were betrayed; how Caesarea was
captured; how with the trees of Libanus and the sailors of
Phoenicia a Saraeen fleet was equipped, which drove the Roman
navy into the Hellespont; how Cyprus, Rhodes, and the Cyclades,
were ravaged, and the Colossus, which was counted as one of the
wonders of the world, sold to a Jew, who loaded nine hundred
camels with its brass; how the armies of the khalif advanced to
the Black Sea, and even lay in front of Constantinople--all this
was as nothing after the fall of Jerusalem.

OVERTHROW OF THE PERSIANS. The fall of Jerusalem! the loss of the
metropolis of Christianity! In the ideas of that age the two
antagonistic forms of faith had submitted themselves to the
ordeal of the judgment of God. Victory had awarded the prize of
battle, Jerusalem, to the Mohammedan; and, notwithstanding the
temporary successes of the Crusaders, after much more than a
thousand years in his hands it remains to this day. The Byzantine
historians are not without excuse for the course they are
condemned for taking: "They have wholly neglected the great topic
of the ruin of the Eastern Church." And as for the Western
Church, even the debased popes of the middle ages--the ages of
the Crusades--could not see without indignation that they were
compelled to rest the claims of Rome as the metropolis of
Christendom on a false legendary story of a visit of St. Peter to
that city; while the true metropolis, the grand, the sacred place
of the birth, the life, the death of Christ himself, was in the
hands of the infidels! It has not been the Byzantine historians
alone who have tried to conceal this great catastrophe. The
Christian writers of Europe on all manner of subjects, whether of
history, religion, or science, have followed a similar course
against their conquering antagonists. It has been their constant
practice to hide what they could not depreciate, and depreciate
what they could not hide.

INVASION OF EGYPT. I have not space, nor indeed does it comport
with the intention of this work, to relate, in such detail as I
have given to the fall of Jerusalem, other conquests of the
Saracens--conquests which eventually established a Mohammedan
empire far exceeding in geographical extent that of Alexander,
and even that of Rome. But, devoting a few words to this subject,
it may be said that Magianism received a worse blow than that
which had been inflicted on Christianity; The fate of Persia was
settled at the battle of Cadesia. At the sack of Ctesiphon, the
treasury, the royal arms, and an unlimited spoil, fell into the
hands of the Saracens. Not without reason do they call the battle
of Nehavend the victory of victories." In one direction they
advanced to the Caspian, in the other southward along the Tigris
to Persepolis. The Persian king fled for his life over the great
Salt Desert, from the columns and statues of that city which had
lain in ruins since the night of the riotous banquet of
Alexander. One division of the Arabian army forced the Persian
monarch over the Oxus. He was assassinated by the Turks. His son
was driven into China, and became a captain in the Chinese
emperor's guards. The country beyond the Oxus was reduced. It
paid a tribute of two million pieces of gold. While the emperor
at Peking was demanding the friendship of the khalif at Medina,
the standard of the Prophet was displayed on the banks of the

Among the generals who had greatly distinguished themselves in
the Syrian wars was Amrou, destined to be the conqueror of Egypt;
for the khalifs, not content with their victories on the North
and East, now turned their eyes to the West, and prepared for the
annexation of Africa. As in the former cases, so in this,
sectarian treason assisted them. The Saracen army was hailed as
the deliverer of the Jacobite Church; the Monophysite Christians
of Egypt, that is, they who, in the language of the Athanasian
Creed, confounded the substance of the Son, proclaimed, through
their leader, Mokaukas, that they desired no communion with the
Greeks, either in this world or the next, that they abjured
forever the Byzantine tyrant and his synod of Chalcedon. They
hastened to pay tribute to the khalif, to repair the roads and
bridges, and to supply provisions and intelligence to the
invading army.

FALL OF ALEXANDRIA. Memphis, one of the old Pharaonic capitals,
soon fell, and Alexandria was invested. The open sea behind gave
opportunity to Heraclius to reenforce the garrison continually.
On his part, Omar, who was now khalif sent to the succor of the
besieging army the veteran troops of Syria. There were many
assaults and many sallies. In one Amrou himself was taken
prisoner by the besieged, but, through the dexterity of a slave,
made his escape. After a siege of fourteen months, and a loss of
twenty-three thousand men, the Saracens captured the city. In his
dispatch to the Khalif, Amrou enumerated the splendors of the
great city of the West "its four thousand palaces, four thousand
baths, four hundred theatres, twelve thousand shops for the sale
of vegetable food, and forty thousand tributary Jews."

So fell the second great city of Christendom--the fate of
Jerusalem had fallen on Alexandria, the city of Athanasius, and
Arius, and Cyril; the city that had imposed Trinitarian ideas and
Mariolatry on the Church. In his palace at Constantinople
Heraclius received the fatal tidings. He was overwhelmed with
grief. It seemed as if his reign was to be disgraced by the
downfall of Christianity. He lived scarcely a month after the
loss of the town.

But if Alexandria had been essential to Constantinople in the
supply of orthodox faith, she was also essential in the supply of
daily food. Egypt was the granary of the Byzantines. For this
reason two attempts were made by powerful fleets and armies for
the recovery of the place, and twice had Amrou to renew his
conquest. He saw with what facility these attacks could be made,
the place being open to the sea; he saw that there was but one
and that a fatal remedy. "By the living God, if this thing be
repeated a third time I will make Alexandria as open to anybody
as is the house of a prostitute!" He was better than his word,
for he forthwith dismantled its fortifications, and made it an
untenable place.

FALL OF CARTHAGE. It was not the intention of the khalifs to
limit their conquest to Egypt. Othman contemplated the annexation
of the entire North-African coast. His general, Abdallah, set out
from Memphis with forty thousand men, passed through the desert
of Barca, and besieged Tripoli. But, the plague breaking out in
his army, he was compelled to retreat to Egypt.

All attempts were now suspended for more than twenty years. Then
Akbah forced his way from the Nile to the Atlantic Ocean. In
front of the Canary Islands he rode his horse into the sea,
exclaiming: "Great God! if my course were not stopped by this
sea, I would still go on to the unknown kingdoms of the West,
preaching the unity of thy holy name, and putting to the sword
the rebellious nations who worship any other gods than thee."

These Saracen expeditions had been through the interior of the
country, for the Byzantine emperors, controlling for the time the
Mediterranean, had retained possession of the cities on the
coast. The Khalif Abdalmalek at length resolved on the reduction
of Carthage, the most important of those cities, and indeed the
capital of North Africa. His general, Hassan, carried it by
escalade; but reenforcements from Constantinople, aided by some
Sicilian and Gothic troops, compelled him to retreat. The relief
was, however, only temporary. Hassan, in the course of a few
months renewed his attack. It proved successful, and he delivered
Carthage to the flames.

Jerusalem, Alexandria, Carthage, three out of the five great
Christian capitals, were lost. The fall of Constantinople was
only a question of time. After its fall, Rome alone remained.

In the development of Christianity, Carthage had played no
insignificant part. It had given to Europe its Latin form of
faith, and some of its greatest theologians. It was the home of
St. Augustine.

Never in the history of the world had there been so rapid and
extensive a propagation of any religion as Mohammedanism. It was
now dominating from the Altai Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean,
from the centre of Asia to the western verge of Africa.

CONQUEST OF SPAIN. The Khalif Alwalid next authorized the
invasion of Europe, the conquest of Andalusia, or the Region of
the Evening. Musa, his general, found, as had so often been the
case elsewhere, two effective allies sectarianism and
treason--the Archbishop of Toledo and Count Julian the Gothic
general. Under their lead, in the very crisis of the battle of
Xeres, a large portion of the army went over to the invaders; the
Spanish king was compelled to flee from the field, and in the
pursuit he was drowned in the waters of the Guadalquivir.

With great rapidity Tarik, the lieutenant of Musa, pushed forward
from the battle-field to Toledo, and thence northward. On the
arrival of Musa the reduction of the Spanish peninsula was
completed, and the wreck of the Gothic army driven beyond the
Pyrenees into France. Considering the conquest of Spain as only
the first step in his victories, he announced his intention of
forcing his way into Italy, and preaching the unity of God in the
Vatican. Thence he would march to Constantinople, and, having put
all end to the Roman Empire and Christianity, would pass into
Asia and lay his victorious sword on the footstool of the khalif
at Damascus.

But this was not to be. Musa, envious of his lieutenant, Tarik,
had treated him with great indignity. The friends of Tarik at the
court of the khalif found means of retaliation. An envoy from
Damascus arrested Musa in his camp; he was carried before his
sovereign, disgraced by a public whipping, and died of a broken

INVASION OF FRANCE. Under other leaders, however, the Saracen
conquest of France was attempted. In a preliminary campaign the
country from the mouth of the Garonne to that of the Loire was
secured. Then Abderahman, the Saracen commander, dividing his
forces into two columns, with one on the east passed the Rhone,
and laid siege to Arles. A Christian army, attempting the relief
of the place, was defeated with heavy loss. His western column,
equally successful, passed the Dordogne, defeated another
Christian army, inflicting on it such dreadful loss that,
according to its own fugitives, "God alone could number the
slain." All Central France was now overrun; the banks of the
Loire were reached; the churches and monasteries were despoiled
of their treasures; and the tutelar saints, who had worked so
many miracles when there was no necessity, were found to want the
requisite power when it was so greatly needed.

The progress of the invaders was at length stopped by Charles
Martel (A.D. 732). Between Tours and Poictiers, a great battle,
which lasted seven days, was fought. Abderahman was killed, the
Saracens retreated, and soon afterward were compelled to recross
the Pyrenees.

The banks of the Loire, therefore, mark the boundary of the
Mohammedan advance in Western Europe. Gibbon, in his narrative of
these great events, makes this remark: "A victorious line of
march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of
Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire--a repetition of an equal
space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland
and the Highlands of Scotland."

INSULT TO ROME. It is not necessary for me to add to this sketch
of the military diffusion of Mohammedanism, the operations of the
Saracens on the Mediterranean Sea, their conquest of Crete and
Sicily, their insult to Rome. It will be found, however, that
their presence in Sicily and the south of Italy exerted a marked
influence on the intellectual development of Europe.

Their insult to Rome! What could be more humiliating than the
circumstances under which it took place (A.D. 846)? An
insignificant Saracen expedition entered the Tiber and appeared
before the walls of the city. Too weak to force an entrance, it
insulted and plundered the precincts, sacrilegiously violating
the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul. Had the city itself been
sacked, the moral effect could not have been greater. From the
church of St. Peter its altar of silver was torn away and sent to
Africa--St. Peter's altar, the very emblem of Roman Christianity!

Constantinople had already been besieged by the Saracens more
than once; its fall was predestined, and only postponed. Rome had
received the direst insult, the greatest loss that could be
inflicted upon it; the venerable churches of Asia Minor had
passed out of existence; no Christian could set his foot in
Jerusalem without permission; the Mosque of Omar stood on the
site of the Temple of Solomon. Among the ruins of Alexandria the
Mosque of Mercy marked the spot where a Saracen general, satiated
with massacre, had, in contemptuous compassion, spared the
fugitive relics of the enemies of Mohammed; nothing remained of
Carthage but her blackened ruins. The most powerful religious
empire that the world had ever seen had suddenly come into
existence. It stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Chinese
Wall, from the shores of the Caspian to those of the Indian
Ocean, and yet, in one sense, it had not reached its culmination.
The day was to come when it was to expel the successors of the
Caesars from their capital, and hold the peninsula of Greece in
subjection, to dispute with Christianity the empire of Europe in
the very centre of that continent, and in Africa to extend its
dogmas and faith across burning deserts and through pestilential
forests from the Mediterranean to regions southward far beyond
the equinoetial line.

DISSENSIONS OF THE ARABS. But, though Mohammedanism had not
reached its culmination, the dominion of the khalifs had. Not the
sword of Charles Martel, but the internal dissension of the vast
Arabian Empire, was the salvation of Europe. Though the Ommiade
Khalifs were popular in Syria, elsewhere they were looked upon as
intruders or usurpers; the kindred of the apostle was considered
to be the rightful representative of his faith. Three parties,
distinguished by their colors, tore the khalifate asunder with
their disputes, and disgraced it by their atrocities. The color
of the Ommiades was white, that of the Fatimites green, that of
the Abassides black; the last represented the party of Abbas, the
uncle of Mohammed. The result of these discords was a tripartite
division of the Mohammedan Empire in the tenth century into the
khalifates of Bagdad, of Cairoan, and of Cordova. Unity in
Mohammedan political action was at an end, and Christendom found
its safeguard, not in supernatural help, but in the quarrels of
the rival potentates. To internal animosities foreign pressures
were eventually added and Arabism, which had done so much for the
intellectual advancement of the world, came to an end when the
Turks and the Berbers attained to power.

The Saracens had become totally regardless of European
opposition--they were wholly taken up with their domestic
quarrels. Ockley says with truth, in his history: "The Saracens
had scarce a deputy lieutenant or general that would not have
thought it the greatest affront, and such as ought to stigmatize
him with indelible disgrace, if he should have suffered himself
to have been insulted by the united forces of all Europe. And if
any one asks why the Greeks did not exert themselves more, in
order to the extirpation of these insolent invaders, it is a
sufficient answer to any person that is acquainted with the
characters of those men to say that Amrou kept his residence at
Alexandria, and Moawyah at Damascus."

As to their contempt, this instance may suffice: Nicephorus, the
Roman emperor, had sent to the Khalif Haroun-al-Raschid a
threatening letter, and this was the reply: "In the name of the
most merciful God, Haroun-al-Raschid, commander of the faithful,
to Nicephorus, the Roman dog! I have read thy letter, O thou son
of an unbelieving mother. Thou shalt not hear, thou shalt behold
my reply!" It was written in letters of blood and fire on the
plains of Phrygia.

POLITICAL EFFECT OF POLYGAMY. A nation may recover the
confiscation of its provinces, the confiscation of its wealth; it
may survive the imposition of enormous war-fines; but it never
can recover from that most frightful of all war-acts, the
confiscation of its women. When Abou Obeidah sent to Omar news of
his capture of Antioch, Omar gently upbraided him that he had not
let the troops have the women. "If they want to marry in Syria,
let them; and let them have as many female slaves as they have
occasion for." It was the institution of polygamy, based upon the
confiscation of the women in the vanquished countries, that
secured forever the Mohammedan rule. the children of these unions
gloried in their descent from their conquering fathers. No better
proof can be given of the efficacy of this policy than that which
is furnished by North Africa. The irresistible effect of polygamy
in consolidating the new order of things was very striking. In
little more than a single generation, the Khalif was informed by
his officers that the tribute must cease, for all the children
born in that region were Mohammedans, and all spoke Arabic.

MOHAMMEDANISM. Mohammedanism, as left by its founder, was an
anthropomorphic religion. Its God was only a gigantic man, its
heaven a mansion of carnal pleasures. From these imperfect ideas
its more intelligent classes very soon freed themselves,
substituting for them others more philosophical, more correct.
Eventually they attained to an accordance with those that have
been pronounced in our own times by the Vatican Council as
orthodox. Thus Al-Gazzali says: "A knowledge of God cannot be
obtained by means of the knowledge a man has of himself, or of
his own soul. The attributes of God cannot be determined from the
attributes of man. His sovereignty and government can neither be
compared nor measured."



By the influence of the Nestorians and Jews, the Arabians are
turned to the cultivation of Science. --They modify their views
as to the destiny of man, and obtain true conceptions respecting
the structure of the world.--They ascertain the size of the
earth, and determine its shape. --Their khalifs collect great
libraries, patronize every department of science and literature,
establish astronomical observatories.--They develop the
mathematical sciences, invent algebra, and improve geometry and
trigonometry.--They collect and translate the old Greek
mathematical and astronomical works, and adopt the inductive
method of Aristotle.--They establish many colleges, and, with the
aid of the Nestorians, organize a public-school system.--They
introduce the Arabic numerals and arithmetic, and catalogue and
give names to the stars.--They lay the foundation of modern
astronomy, chemistry, and physics, and introduce great
improvements in agriculture and manufactures.

"IN the course of my long life," said the Khalif Ali, "I have
often observed that men are more like the times they live in than
they are like their fathers." This profoundly philosophical
remark of the son-in-law of Mohammed is strictly true; for,
though the personal, the bodily lineaments of a man may indicate
his parentage, the constitution of his mind, and therefore the
direction of his thoughts, is determined by the environment in
which he lives.

When Amrou, the lieutenant of the Khalif Omar, conquered Egypt,
and annexed it to the Saracenic Empire, he found in Alexandria a
Greek grammarian, John surnamed Philoponus, or the Labor-lover.
Presuming on the friendship which had arisen between them, the
Greek solicited as a gift the remnant of the great library-- a
remnant which war and time and bigotry had spared. Amrou,
therefore, sent to the khalif to ascertain his pleasure. "If,"
replied the khalif, "the books agree with the Koran, the Word of
God, they are useless, and need not be preserved; if they
disagree with it, they are pernicious. Let them be destroyed."
Accordingly, they were distributed among the baths of Alexandria,
and it is said that six months were barely sufficient to consume

Although the fact has been denied, there can be little doubt that
Omar gave this order. The khalif was an illiterate man; his
environment was an environment of fanaticism and ignorance.
Omar's act was an illustration of Ali's remark.

THE ALEXANDRIAN LIBRARY BURNT. But it must not be supposed that
the books which John the Labor-lover coveted were those which
constituted the great library of the Ptolemies, and that of
Eumenes, King of Pergamus. Nearly a thousand years had elapsed
since Philadelphus began his collection. Julius Caesar had burnt
more than half; the Patriarchs of Alexandria had not only
permitted but superintended the dispersion of almost all the
rest. Orosius expressly states that he saw the empty cases or
shelves of the library twenty years after Theophilus, the uncle
of St. Cyril, had procured from the Emperor Theodosius a rescript
for its destruction. Even had this once noble collection never
endured such acts of violence, the mere wear and tear, and
perhaps, I may add, the pilfering of a thousand years, would have
diminished it sadly. Though John, as the surname he received
indicates, might rejoice in a superfluity of occupation, we may
be certain that the care of a library of half a million books
would transcend even his well-tried powers; and the cost of
preserving and supporting it, that had demanded the ample
resources of the Ptolemies and the Caesars, was beyond the means
of a grammarian. Nor is the time required for its combustion or
destruction any indication of the extent of the collection. Of
all articles of fuel, parchment is, perhaps, the most wretched.
Paper and papyrus do excellently well as kindling-materials, but
we may be sure that the bath-men of Alexandria did not resort to
parchment so long as they could find any thing else, and of
parchment a very large portion of these books was composed.

There can, then, be no more doubt that Omar did order the
destruction of this library, under an impression of its
uselessness or its irreligious tendency, than that the Crusaders
burnt the library of Tripoli, fancifully said to have consisted
of three million volumes. The first apartment entered being found
to contain nothing but the Koran, all the other books were
supposed to be the works of the Arabian impostor, and were
consequently committed to the flames. In both cases the story
contains some truth and much exaggeration. Bigotry, however, has
often distinguished itself by such exploits. The Spaniards burnt
in Mexico vast piles of American picture-writings, an
irretrievable loss; and Cardinal Ximenes delivered to the flames,
in the squares of Granada, eighty thousand Arabic manuscripts,
many of them translations of classical authors.

We have seen how engineering talent, stimulated by Alexander's
Persian campaign, led to a wonderful development of pure science
under the Ptolemies; a similar effect may be noted as the result
of the Saracenic military operations.

The friendship contracted by Amrou, the conqueror of Egypt, with
John the Grammarian, indicates how much the Arabian mind was
predisposed to liberal ideas. Its step from the idolatry of the
Caaba to the monotheism of Mohammed prepared it to expatiate in
the wide and pleasing fields of literature and philosophy. There
were two influences to which it was continually exposed. They
conspired in determining its path. These were--1. That of the
Nestorians in Syria; 2. That of the Jews in Egypt.

briefly related the persecution of Nestor and his disciples. They
bore testimony to the oneness of God, through many sufferings and
martyrdoms. They utterly repudiated an Olympus filled with gods
and goddesses. "Away from us a queen of heaven!"

Such being their special views, the Nestorians found no
difficulty in affiliating with their Saracen conquerors, by whom
they were treated not only with the highest respect, but
intrusted with some of the most important offices of the state.
Mohammed, in the strongest manner, prohibited his followers from
committing any injuries against them. Jesuiabbas, their pontiff,
concluded treaties both with the Prophet and with Omar, and
subsequently the Khalif Haroun-al-Raschid placed all his public
schools under the superintendence of John Masue, a Nestorian.

To the influence of the Nestorians that of the Jews was added.
When Christianity displayed a tendency to unite itself with
paganism, the conversion of the Jews was arrested; it totally
ceased when Trinitarian ideas were introduced. The cities of
Syria and Egypt were full of Jews. In Alexandria alone, at the
time of its capture by Amrou, there were forty thousand who paid
tribute. Centuries of misfortune and persecution had served only
to confirm them in their monotheism, and to strengthen that
implacable hatred of idolatry which they had cherished ever since
the Babylonian captivity. Associated with the Nestorians, they
translated into Syriac many Greek and Latin philosophical works,
which were retranslated into Arabic. While the Nestorian was
occupied with the education of the children of the great
Mohammedan families, the Jew found his way into them in the
character of a physician.

FATALISM OF THE ARABIANS. Under these influences the ferocious
fanaticism of the Saracens abated, their manners were polished,
their thoughts elevated. They overran the realms of Philosophy
and Science as quickly as they had overrun the provinces of the
Roman Empire. They abandoned the fallacies of vulgar
Mohammedanism, accepting in their stead scientific truth.

In a world devoted to idolatry, the sword of the Saracen had
vindicated the majesty of God. The doctrine of fatalism,
inculcated by the Koran, had powerfully contributed to that
result. "No man can anticipate or postpone his predetermined end.
Death will overtake us even in lofty towers. From the beginning
God hath settled the place in which each man shall die." In his
figurative language the Arab said: "No man can by flight escape
his fate. The Destinies ride their horses by night. . . . Whether
asleep in bed or in the storm of battle, the angel of death will
find thee." "I am convinced," said Ali, to whose wisdom we have
already referred--"I am convinced that the affairs of men go by
divine decree, and not by our administration." The Mussulmen are
those who submissively resign themselves to the will of God. They
reconciled fate and free-will by saying, "The outline is given
us, we color the picture of life as we will." They said that, if
we would overcome the laws of Nature, we must not resist, we must
balance them against each other.

This dark doctrine prepared its devotees for the accomplishment
of great things--things such as the Saracens did accomplish. It
converted despair into resignation, and taught men to disdain
hope. There was a proverb among them that "Despair is a freeman,
Hope is a slave."

But many of the incidents of war showed plainly that medicines
may assuage pain, that skill may close wounds, that those who are
incontestably dying may be snatched from the grave. The Jewish
physician became a living, an accepted protest against the
fatalism of the Koran. By degrees the sternness of predestination
was mitigated, and it was admitted that in individual life there
is an effect due to free-will; that by his voluntary acts man may
within certain limits determine his own course. But, so far as
nations are concerned, since they can yield no personal
accountability to God, they are placed under the control of
immutable law.

In this respect the contrast between the Christian and the
Mohammedan nations was very striking: The Christian was convinced
of incessant providential interventions; he believed that there
was no such thing as law in the government of the world. By
prayers and entreaties he might prevail with God to change the
current of affairs, or, if that failed, he might succeed with
Christ, or perhaps with the Virgin Mary, or through the
intercession of the saints, or by the influence of their relics
or bones. If his own supplications were unavailing, he might
obtain his desire through the intervention of his priest, or
through that of the holy men of the Church, and especially if
oblations or gifts of money were added. Christendom believed that
she could change the course of affairs by influencing the conduct
of superior beings. Islam rested in a pious resignation to the
unchangeable will of God. The prayer of the Christian was mainly
an earnest intercession for benefits hoped for, that of the
Saracen a devout expression of gratitude for the past. Both
substituted prayer for the ecstatic meditation of India. To the
Christian the progress of the world was an exhibition of
disconnected impulses, of sudden surprises. To the Mohammedan
that progress presented a very different aspect. Every corporeal
motion was due to some preceding motion; every thought to some
preceding thought; every historical event was the offspring of
some preceding event; every human action was the result of some
foregone and accomplished action. In the long annals of our race,
nothing has ever been abruptly introduced. There has been an
orderly, an inevitable sequence from event to event. There is an
iron chain of destiny, of which the links are facts; each stands
in its preordained place--not one has ever been disturbed, not
one has ever been removed. Every man came into the world without
his own knowledge, he is to depart from it perhaps against his
own wishes. Then let him calmly fold his hands, and expect the
issues of fate.

Coincidently with this change of opinion as to the government of
individual life, there came a change as respects the mechanical
construction of the world. According to the Koran, the earth is a
square plane, edged with vast mountains, which serve the double
purpose of balancing it in its seat, and of sustaining the dome
of the sky. Our devout admiration of the power and wisdom of God
should be excited by the spectacle of this vast crystalline
brittle expanse, which has been safely set in its position
without so much as a crack or any other injury. Above the sky,
and resting on it, is heaven, built in seven stories, the
uppermost being the habitation of God, who, under the form of a
gigantic man, sits on a throne, having on either side winged
bulls, like those in the palaces of old Assyrian kings.

THEY MEASURE THE EARTH. These ideas, which indeed are not
peculiar to Mohammedanism, but are entertained by all men in a
certain stage of their intellectual development as religious
revelations, were very quickly exchanged by the more advanced
Mohammedans for others scientifically correct. Yet, as has been
the case in Christian countries, the advance was not made without
resistance on the part of the defenders of revealed truth. Thus
when Al-Mamun, having become acquainted with the globular form of
the earth, gave orders to his mathematicians and astronomers to
measure a degree of a great circle upon it, Takyuddin, one of the
most celebrated doctors of divinity of that time, denounced the
wicked khalif, declaring that God would assuredly punish him for
presumptuously interrupting the devotions of the faithful by
encouraging and diffusing a false and atheistical philosophy
among them. Al-Mamun, however, persisted. On the shores of the
Red Sea, in the plains of Shinar, by the aid of an astrolabe, the
elevation of the pole above the horizon was determined at two
stations on the same meridian, exactly one degree apart. The
distance between the two stations was then measured, and found to
be two hundred thousand Hashemite cubits; this gave for the
entire circumference of the earth about twenty-four thousand of
our miles, a determination not far from the truth. But, since the
spherical form could not be positively asserted from one such
measurement, the khalif caused another to be made near Cufa in
Mesopotamia. His astronomers divided themselves into two parties,
and, starting from a given point, each party measured an arc of
one degree, the one northward, the other southward. Their result
is given in cubits. If the cubit employed was that known as the
royal cubit, the length of a degree was ascertained within
one-third of a mile of its true value. From these measures the
khalif concluded that the globular form was established.

THEIR PASSION FOR SCIENCE. It is remarkable how quickly the
ferocious fanaticism of the Saracens was transformed into a
passion for intellectual pursuits. At first the Koran was an
obstacle to literature and science. Mohammed had extolled it as
the grandest of all compositions, and had adduced its
unapproachable excellence as a proof of his divine mission. But,
in little more than twenty years after his death, the experience
that had been acquired in Syria, Persia, Asia Minor, Egypt, had
produced a striking effect, and Ali the khalif reigning at that
time, avowedly encouraged all kinds of literary pursuits.
Moawyah, the founder of the Ommiade dynasty, who followed in 661,
revolutionized the government. It had been elective, he made it
hereditary. He removed its seat from Medina to a more central
position at Damascus, and entered on a career of luxury and
magnificence. He broke the bonds of a stern fanaticism, and put
himself forth as a cultivator and patron of letters. Thirty years
had wrought a wonderful change. A Persian satrap who had occasion
to pay homage to Omar, the second khalif, found him asleep among
the beggars on the steps of the Mosque of Medina; but foreign
envoys who had occasion to seek Moawyah, the sixth khalif, were
presented to him in a magnificent palace, decorated with
exquisite arabesques, and adorned with flower-gardens and

THEIR LITERATURE. In less than a century after the death of
Mohammed, translations of the chief Greek philosophical authors
had been made into Arabic; poems such as the "Iliad" and the
"Odyssey," being considered to have an irreligious tendency from
their mythological allusions, were rendered into Syriac, to
gratify the curiosity of the learned. Almansor, during his
khalifate (A.D. 753-775), transferred the seat of government to
Bagdad, which he converted into a splendid metropolis; he gave
much of his time to the study and promotion of astronomy, and
established schools of medicine and law. His grandson,
Haroun-al-Raschid (A.D. 786), followed his example, and ordered
that to every mosque in his dominions a school should be
attached. But the Augustan age of Asiatic learning was during the
khalifate of Al-Mamun (A.D. 813-832). He made Bagdad the centre
of science, collected great libraries, and surrounded himself
with learned men.

The elevated taste thus cultivated continued after the division
of the Saracen Empire by internal dissensions into three parts.
The Abasside dynasty in Asia, the Fatimite in Egypt, and the
Ommiade in Spain, became rivals not merely in politics, but also
in letters and science.

THEY ORIGINATE CHEMISTRY. In letters the Saracens embraced every
topic that can amuse or edify the mind. In later times, it was
their boast that they had produced more poets than all other
nations combined. In science their great merit consists in this,
that they cultivated it after the manner of the Alexandrian
Greeks, not after the manner of the European Greeks. They
perceived that it can never be advanced by mere speculation; its
only sure progress is by the practical interrogation of Nature.
The essential characteristics of their method are experiment and
observation. Geometry and the mathematical sciences they looked
upon as instruments of reasoning. In their numerous writings on
mechanics, hydrostatics, optics, it is interesting to remark that
the solution of a problem is always obtained by performing an
experiment, or by an instrumental observation. It was this that
made them the originators of chemistry, that led them to the
invention of all kinds of apparatus for distillation,
sublimation, fusion, filtration, etc.; that in astronomy caused
them to appeal to divided instruments, as quadrants and
astrolabes; in chemistry, to employ the balance, the theory of
which they were perfectly familiar with; to construct tables of
specific gravities and astronomical tables, as those of Bagdad,
Spain, Samarcand; that produced their great improvements in
geometry, trigonometry, the invention of algebra, and the
adoption of the Indian numeration in arithmetic. Such were the
results of their preference of the inductive method of Aristotle,
their declining the reveries of Plato.

THEIR GREAT LIBRARIES. For the establishment and extension of the
public libraries, books were sedulously collected. Thus the
khalif Al-Mamun is reported to have brought into Bagdad hundreds
of camel-loads of manuscripts. In a treaty he made with the Greek
emperor, Michael III., he stipulated that one of the
Constantinople libraries should be given up to him. Among the
treasures he thus acquired was the treatise of Ptolemy on the
mathematical construction of the heavens. He had it forthwith
translated into Arabic, under the title of "Al-magest." The
collections thus acquired sometimes became very large; thus the
Fatimite Library at Cairo contained one hundred thousand volumes,
elegantly transcribed and bound. Among these, there were six
thousand five hundred manuscripts on astronomy and medicine
alone. The rules of this library permitted the lending out of
books to students resident at Cairo. It also contained two
globes, one of massive silver and one of brass; the latter was
said to have been constructed by Ptolemy, the former cost three
thousand golden crowns. The great library of the Spanish khalifs
eventually numbered six hundred thousand volumes; its catalogue
alone occupied forty-four. Besides this, there were seventy
public libraries in Andalusia. The collections in the possession
of individuals were sometimes very extensive. A private doctor
refused the invitation of a Sultan of Bokhara because the
carriage of his books would have required four hundred camels.

There was in every great library a department for the copying or
manufacture of translations. Such manufactures were also often an
affair of private enterprise. Honian, a Nestorian physician, had
an establishment of the kind at Bagdad (A.D. 850). He issued
versions of Aristotle, Plato, Hippocrates, Galen, etc. As to
original works, it was the custom of the authorities of colleges
to require their professors to prepare treatises on prescribed
topics. Every khalif had his own historian. Books of romances and
tales, such as "The Thousand and One Arabian Nights'
Entertainments," bear testimony to the creative fancy of the
Saracens. Besides these, there were works on all kinds of
subjects--history, jurisprudence, politics, philosophy,
biographies not only of illustrious men, but also of celebrated
horses and camels. These were issued without any censorship or
restraint, though, in later times, works on theology required a
license for publication. Books of reference abounded,
geographical, statistical, medical, historical dictionaries, and
even abridgments or condensations of them, as the "Encyclopedic
Dictionary of all the Sciences, by Mohammed Abu Abdallah. Much
pride was taken in the purity and whiteness of the paper, in the
skillful intermixture of variously-colored inks, and in the
illumination of titles by gilding and other adornments.

The Saracen Empire was dotted all over with colleges. They were
established in Mongolia, Tartary, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria,
Egypt, North Africa, Morocco, Fez, Spain. At one extremity of
this vast region, which far exceeded the Roman Empire in
geographical extent, were the college and astronomical
observatory of Samarcand, at the other the Giralda in Spain.
Gibbon, referring to this patronage of learning, says: "The same
royal prerogative was claimed by the independent emirs of the
provinces, and their emulation diffused the taste and the rewards
of science from Samarcand and Bokhara to Fez and Cordova. The
vizier of a sultan consecrated a sum of two hundred thousand
pieces of gold to the foundation of a college at Bagdad, which he
endowed with an annual revenue of fifteen thousand dinars. The
fruits of instruction were communicated, perhaps, at different
times, to six thousand disciples of every degree, from the son of
the noble to that of the mechanic; a sufficient allowance was
provided for the indigent scholars, and the merit or industry of
the professors was repaid with adequate stipends. In every city
the productions of Arabic literature were copied and collected,
by the curiosity of the studious and the vanity of the rich." The
superintendence of these schools was committed with noble
liberality sometimes to Nestorians, sometimes to Jews. It
mattered not in what country a man was born, nor what were his
religious opinions; his attainment in learning was the only thing
to be considered. The great Khalif Al-Mamun had declared that
"they are the elect of God, his best and most useful servants,
whose lives are devoted to the improvement of their rational
faculties; that the teachers of wisdom are the true luminaries
and legislators of this world, which, without their aid, would
again sink into ignorance and barbarism."

After the example of the medical college of Cairo, other medical
colleges required their students to pass a rigid examination. The
candidate then received authority to enter on the practice of his
profession. The first medical college established in Europe was
that founded by the Saracens at Salerno, in Italy. The first
astronomical observatory was that erected by them at Seville, in

THE ARABIAN SCIENTIFIC MOVEMENT. It would far transcend the
limits of this book to give an adequate statement of the results
of this imposing scientific movement. The ancient sciences were
greatly extended--new ones were brought into existence. The
Indian method of arithmetic was introduced, a beautiful
invention, which expresses all numbers by ten characters, giving
them an absolute value, and a value by position, and furnishing
simple rules for the easy performance of all kinds of
calculations. Algebra, or universal arithmetic--the method of
calculating indeterminate quantities, or investigating the
relations that subsist among quantities of all kinds, whether
arithmetical or geometrical--was developed from the germ that
Diophantus had left. Mohammed Ben Musa furnished the solution of
quadratic equations, Omar Ben Ibra him that of cubic equations.
The Saracens also gave to trigonometry its modern form,
substituting sines for chords, which had been previously used;
they elevated it into a separate science. Musa, above mentioned,
was the author of a "Treatise on Spherical Trigonometry."
Al-Baghadadi left one on land-surveying, so excellent, that by
some it has been declared to be a copy of Euclid's lost work on
that subject.

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