Page 1290

1290 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

by his brother Al Mansour. The sovereignty

was also claimed by his uncle Abdallah,

by whom the destruction of the Ommiyades

had been accomplished. Abdallah took up

arms to maintain his cause, but Abu Moslem,

the lieutenant of AI Mansour, went forth

against the insurgents, and they were completely defeated. Abu Moslem, however,

soon afterwards incurred the anger of his

master, and was deprived of his eyes for

refusing to accept the governorship of Egypt.

Like his predecessor, AI Mansour marked

his reign with merciless cruelty. In the

year 758, a heretical sect, called the Ravendites, whose principal tenet was the old

Egyptian doctrine of metempsychosis, became powerful at the city of Cufa, the then

capital of the Eastern Caliphate. They

fell into violent quarrels and riots with

the orthodox Mohammedans, and thus came

under the extreme displeasure of the Caliph.

After much violence and bloodshed, Al Mansour determined to punish the city

and people by removing the capital to another place. He accordingly selected a

site. on the Tigris, once occupied by the

Assyrian kings, and there founded the new

city of Baghdad, which was destined to

remain for more than four centuries the

capital of the Mohammedan kingdoms in

the East.

In the year 762-63 the seat of government

was transferred, and Al Mansour began his

reign of twenty-one years with beautifying his

palace and drawing to his court the art and

learning of his countrymen. It was not long,

however, until he was obliged to go to war.

The descendants of Ali, son of Abu Taleb,

raised the standard of revolt and attempted to

recover the Caliphate. The armies of Al Mansour, however, gained the victory over

the enemies of their master, and Asia Minor

and Armenia, in which the insurrection had

made most headway, were reduced to submission. But in the West the revolt held on its

way and could not be suppressed. Distance

and the intervening Mediterranean favored

the rebellion in Spain to the extent of securing the independence of that province, which

could never be regained by the Eastern

Caliphs.

But more important than the wars of

Al Mansour were his efforts to set up a higher

standard of literary culture than had hitherto been known among the Mohammedans. The

old anti-literary dispositions of Islam were

made to yield to a more reasonable view

of human culture and refinement. The

arts and humanities embalmed in the works

of the Greeks were revealed by translation to the wondering philosophers of the

Tigris, who were stimulated and encouraged

in their work by the liberal patronage of the

Caliph.

After a successful and distinguished reign

of twenty-one years Al Mansour died, and

was succeeded by his son Mahdi, who held

the throne for a period of ten years. Perhaps

the most distinguished part of his reign

related to the slave Khaizeran, by whom he

became the father of the celebrated Haroun

AI-Rashid, most distinguished of all the

Caliphs of the East. The young prince

became his father's chief military leader.

He commanded an army of ninety-five

thousand men in an expedition against the

Byzantine Empire, then ruled by the Empress

Irene. With his well-nigh invincible soldiers,

he marched through Asia Minor, overthrew

the Greek general, Nicetas, in battle, reached

the Bosphorus, and in the year 781 gained

possession of the heights of Scutari, opposite Constantinople. Such was the alarm

of the Empress and her council that she was

glad to purchase the retirement of the Mohammedans by the payment of an annual

tribute of seventy thousand pieces of gold.

While the fame of these exploits was filling all the realms of Islam with the name of

the slave-woman's son, his elder brother Hadi

was busily engaged in a conspiracy to destroy

both his reputation and his life. Nor was the

bitterness of Hadi at all appeased when, in

785, the father Mahdi died and left him heir

to the Caliphate. No sooner had he reached

this position than, fired with increasing jealousy, he issued orders for the execution of

Haroun; and the edict was prevented from

fulfillment only by the death of Hadi, who

came to an end within a year from his accession. When this event occurred, Al Rashid

came into peaceable possession of the throne.

His character and abilities far surpassed those

of any preceding Caliph. With his accession

came the golden era of Mohammedanism. In

his dealings with the different nations under

his dominion, he fully merited his honorable

sobriquet of the Just. He selected his