Page 1292

1292 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

might marry her. In course of time, however, Abassa presented her singular lord with

an heir, greatly to the chagrin of the Caliph.

So hot was his rage that he caused Jaffar

to be beheaded. Tahya and Fadhl were

chained and thrown into a dungeon, where

they died. Nearly all the other members

of the family suffered deposition, confiscation of property, and imprisonment. The

influence of the House was thus suddenly

thrown off. But the memory of Al Rashid

suffered not a little from the gratification of

his passion against those whom he had no

cause of hating other than jealousy.

In the same year with the downfall of the

Barmecides, Nicephorus, having then succeeded Irene on the throne of the Byzantine

Empire, made a sudden show of old time

virtue by refusing payment of the annual

tribute agreed to by his predecessor. Not

only did he decline longer to continue the

stipend, but he sent an embassy to Al Rashid,

demanding a restitution of all the sums

previously paid by Irene. Thereupon the

Caliph, flaming with rage, returned the

following perspicuous but undiplomatic message: "In the name of the Most Merciful

God, Haroun Al Rashid, 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." Nor was

this threatening manifesto without an immediate fulfillment. The Caliph put himself

at the head of his army, wasted a large part

of Asia Minor, besieged the city of Heraclia, and quickly obliged Nicephorus to

resume the payment of tribute.

The Emperor was not yet satisfied, and

soon violated his agreement. In 806 Haroun

Al Rashid returned with a hundred and thirty-five thousand men, overtook Nicephorus in

Phrygia, and defeated him with a loss of forty

thousand of his troops. Still the Greek Emperor was not satisfied. Two years later, he

again refused to pay the stipulated tribute,

and Al Rashid came upon him with an army

twice as great as previously. He ravaged

Asia Minor to the borders of the AEgean, and

then taking to his fleet, overran the islands of

Rhodes, Cyprus, and Crete. The tribute was

reimposed on more humiliating terms than

ever. But hardly had the Mohammedans retired from their expedition before the perfidious Greek Emperor once more broke off his

engagement and took up arms. Haroun

renewed the war with the greatest fury,

swearing that he never would treat again

with such an oath-breaking enemy as Nicephorus. But before his vengeance on the Greek

could wreak a bloody satisfaction, a revolt

broke out in Khorassan, and Al Rashid

was recalled from the West to overawe

the insurgents. Before reaching the revolted province, however, he fell sick and

died, leaving behind a reputation for ambition, prudence, and wisdom unequaled

by any of his predecessors in the Caliphate.

He had a breadth of apprehension which

would have been creditable in a sovereign

of modern times. He cultivated the acquaintance of the great rulers of his age.

He corresponded with Charlemagne, and

in the year 807 sent to that monarch a water clock, an elephant, and the keys of the Holy

Sepulcher. Nine times did Al Rashid make

the pilgrimage to Mecca. Above all his

contemporaries, he sought to encourage the

development of literature and art. About

his court were gathered the greatest geniuses

of Islam, and legend and poetry have woven

about his name the imperishable garland of

the Arabian Nights.

On the death of Al Rashid, in the year

809, the succession was contested by his

two sons, Al Amin and Al Mamoun. The

former obtained the throne and held it for four

years. But his brother grew in favor and

power, and when .in 813 the issue came

to be settled by the sword, Al Amin was

killed and Al Mamoun took the Caliphate.

He entered upon his administration by

adopting the policy of his father, especially

as it related to the encouragement of learning.

The chief towns of the East were made

the seats of academic instruction and philosophy. Many important works were translated from the Greek and the Sanskrit.

From the Hindus were obtained the rudiments of the mathematical sciences, especially

those of arithmetic and algebra. Ancient

Chaldaea gave to the inquisitive scholars

of the age her wealth of starlore; while the

elements of logic, natural history, and the

Aristotelian system of philosophy were brought

in from the Archipelago and Constantinople.

As a warrior Al Mamoun was less distinguished. In his country, as in the West, a