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