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Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 5, by Edward Gibbon, [1788], at

Chapter L: Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants. Part I.

Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants. - Birth, Character, And Doctrine Of Mahomet. - He Preaches At Mecca. - Flies To Medina. - Propagates His Religion By The Sword. - Voluntary Or Reluctant Submission Of The Arabs. - His Death And Successors. - The Claims And Fortunes Of All And His Descendants.

After pursuing above six hundred years the fleeting Caesars of Constantinople and Germany, I now descend, in the reign of Heraclius, on the eastern borders of the Greek monarchy. While the state was exhausted by the Persian war, and the church was distracted by the Nestorian and Monophysite sects, Mahomet, with the sword in one hand and the Koran in the other, erected his throne on the ruins of Christianity and of Rome. The genius of the Arabian prophet, the manners of his nation, and the spirit of his religion, involve the causes of the decline and fall of the Eastern empire; and our eyes are curiously intent on one of the most memorable revolutions, which have impressed a new and lasting character on the nations of the globe.  1

In the vacant space between Persia, Syria, Egypt, and Aethiopia, the Arabian peninsula  2 may be conceived as a triangle of spacious but irregular dimensions. From the northern point of Beles  3 on the Euphrates, a line of fifteen hundred miles is terminated by the Straits of Bebelmandel and the land of frankincense. About half this length may be allowed for the middle breadth, from east to west, from Bassora to Suez, from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea.  4 The sides of the triangle are gradually enlarged, and the southern basis presents a front of a thousand miles to the Indian Ocean. The entire surface of the peninsula exceeds in a fourfold proportion that of Germany or France; but the far greater part has been justly stigmatized with the epithets of the stony and the sandy. Even the wilds of Tartary are decked, by the hand of nature, with lofty trees and luxuriant herbage; and the lonesome traveller derives a sort of comfort and society from the presence of vegetable life. But in the dreary waste of Arabia, a boundless level of sand is intersected by sharp and naked mountains; and the face of the desert, without shade or shelter, is scorched by the direct and intense rays of a tropical sun. Instead of refreshing breezes, the winds, particularly from the south-west, diffuse a noxious and even deadly vapor; the hillocks of sand which they alternately raise and scatter, are compared to the billows of the ocean, and whole caravans, whole armies, have been lost and buried in the whirlwind. The common benefits of water are an object of desire and contest; and such is the scarcity of wood, that some art is requisite to preserve and propagate the element of fire. Arabia is destitute of navigable rivers, which fertilize the soil, and convey its produce to the adjacent regions: the torrents that fall from the hills are imbibed by the thirsty earth: the rare and hardy plants, the tamarind or the acacia, that strike their roots into the clefts of the rocks, are nourished by the dews of the night: a scanty supply of rain is collected in cisterns and aqueducts: the wells and springs are the secret treasure of the desert; and the pilgrim of Mecca,  5 after many a dry and sultry march, is disgusted by the taste of the waters which have rolled over a bed of sulphur or salt. Such is the general and genuine picture of the climate of Arabia. The experience of evil enhances the value of any local or partial enjoyments. A shady grove, a green pasture, a stream of fresh water, are sufficient to attract a colony of sedentary Arabs to the fortunate spots which can afford food and refreshment to themselves and their cattle, and which encourage their industry in the cultivation of the palmtree and the vine. The high lands that border on the Indian Ocean are distinguished by their superior plenty of wood and water; the air is more temperate, the fruits are more delicious, the animals and the human race more numerous: the fertility of the soil invites and rewards the toil of the husbandman; and the peculiar gifts of frankincense  6 and coffee have attracted in different ages the merchants of the world. If it be compared with the rest of the peninsula, this sequestered region may truly deserve the appellation of the happy; and the splendid coloring of fancy and fiction has been suggested by contrast, and countenanced by distance. It was for this earthly paradise that Nature had reserved her choicest favors and her most curious workmanship: the incompatible blessings of luxury and innocence were ascribed to the natives: the soil was impregnated with gold  7 and gems, and both the land and sea were taught to exhale the odors of aromatic sweets. This division of the sandy, the stony, and the happy, so familiar to the Greeks and Latins, is unknown to the Arabians themselves; and it is singular enough, that a country, whose language and inhabitants have ever been the same, should scarcely retain a vestige of its ancient geography. The maritime districts of Bahrein and Oman are opposite to the realm of Persia. The kingdom of Yemen displays the limits, or at least the situation, of Arabia Felix: the name of Neged is extended over the inland space; and the birth of Mahomet has illustrated the province of Hejaz along the coast of the Red Sea.  8

The measure of population is regulated by the means of subsistence; and the inhabitants of this vast peninsula might be outnumbered by the subjects of a fertile and industrious province. Along the shores of the Persian Gulf, of the ocean, and even of the Red Sea, the Icthyophagi,  9 or fish eaters, continued to wander in quest of their precarious food. In this primitive and abject state, which ill deserves the name of society, the human brute, without arts or laws, almost without sense or language, is poorly distinguished from the rest of the animal creation. Generations and ages might roll away in silent oblivion, and the helpless savage was restrained from multiplying his race by the wants and pursuits which confined his existence to the narrow margin of the seacoast. But in an early period of antiquity the great body of the Arabs had emerged from this scene of misery; and as the naked wilderness could not maintain a people of hunters, they rose at once to the more secure and plentiful condition of the pastoral life. The same life is uniformly pursued by the roving tribes of the desert; and in the portrait of the modern Bedoweens, we may trace the features of their ancestors,  10 who, in the age of Moses or Mahomet, dwelt under similar tents, and conducted their horses, and camels, and sheep, to the same springs and the same pastures. Our toil is lessened, and our wealth is increased, by our dominion over the useful animals; and the Arabian shepherd had acquired the absolute possession of a faithful friend and a laborious slave.  11 Arabia, in the opinion of the naturalist, is the genuine and original country of the horse; the climate most propitious, not indeed to the size, but to the spirit and swiftness, of that generous animal. The merit of the Barb, the Spanish, and the English breed, is derived from a mixture of Arabian blood:  12 the Bedoweens preserve, with superstitious care, the honors and the memory of the purest race: the males are sold at a high price, but the females are seldom alienated; and the birth of a noble foal was esteemed among the tribes, as a subject of joy and mutual congratulation. These horses are educated in the tents, among the children of the Arabs, with a tender familiarity, which trains them in the habits of gentleness and attachment. They are accustomed only to walk and to gallop: their sensations are not blunted by the incessant abuse of the spur and the whip: their powers are reserved for the moments of flight and pursuit: but no sooner do they feel the touch of the hand or the stirrup, than they dart away with the swiftness of the wind; and if their friend be dismounted in the rapid career, they instantly stop till he has recovered his seat. In the sands of Africa and Arabia, the camel is a sacred and precious gift. That strong and patient beast of burden can perform, without eating or drinking, a journey of several days; and a reservoir of fresh water is preserved in a large bag, a fifth stomach of the animal, whose body is imprinted with the marks of servitude: the larger breed is capable of transporting a weight of a thousand pounds; and the dromedary, of a lighter and more active frame, outstrips the fleetest courser in the race. Alive or dead, almost every part of the camel is serviceable to man: her milk is plentiful and nutritious: the young and tender flesh has the taste of veal:  13 a valuable salt is extracted from the urine: the dung supplies the deficiency of fuel; and the long hair, which falls each year and is renewed, is coarsely manufactured into the garments, the furniture, and the tents of the Bedoweens. In the rainy seasons, they consume the rare and insufficient herbage of the desert: during the heats of summer and the scarcity of winter, they remove their encampments to the sea-coast, the hills of Yemen, or the neighborhood of the Euphrates, and have often extorted the dangerous license of visiting the banks of the Nile, and the villages of Syria and Palestine. The life of a wandering Arab is a life of danger and distress; and though sometimes, by rapine or exchange, he may appropriate the fruits of industry, a private citizen in Europe is in the possession of more solid and pleasing luxury than the proudest emir, who marches in the field at the head of ten thousand horse.

Yet an essential difference may be found between the hordes of Scythia and the Arabian tribes; since many of the latter were collected into towns, and employed in the labors of trade and agriculture. A part of their time and industry was still devoted to the management of their cattle: they mingled, in peace and war, with their brethren of the desert; and the Bedoweens derived from their useful intercourse some supply of their wants, and some rudiments of art and knowledge. Among the forty-two cities of Arabia,  14 enumerated by Abulfeda, the most ancient and populous were situate in the happy Yemen: the towers of Saana,  15 and the marvellous reservoir of Merab,  16 were constructed by the kings of the Homerites; but their profane lustre was eclipsed by the prophetic glories of Medina  17 and Mecca,  18 near the Red Sea, and at the distance from each other of two hundred and seventy miles. The last of these holy places was known to the Greeks under the name of Macoraba; and the termination of the word is expressive of its greatness, which has not, indeed, in the most flourishing period, exceeded the size and populousness of Marseilles. Some latent motive, perhaps of superstition, must have impelled the founders, in the choice of a most unpromising situation. They erected their habitations of mud or stone, in a plain about two miles long and one mile broad, at the foot of three barren mountains: the soil is a rock; the water even of the holy well of Zemzem is bitter or brackish; the pastures are remote from the city; and grapes are transported above seventy miles from the gardens of Tayef. The fame and spirit of the Koreishites, who reigned in Mecca, were conspicuous among the Arabian tribes; but their ungrateful soil refused the labors of agriculture, and their position was favorable to the enterprises of trade. By the seaport of Gedda, at the distance only of forty miles, they maintained an easy correspondence with Abyssinia; and that Christian kingdom afforded the first refuge to the disciples of Mahomet. The treasures of Africa were conveyed over the Peninsula to Gerrha or Katif, in the province of Bahrein, a city built, as it is said, of rock-salt, by the Chaldaean exiles;  19 and from thence with the native pearls of the Persian Gulf, they were floated on rafts to the mouth of the Euphrates. Mecca is placed almost at an equal distance, a month's journey, between Yemen on the right, and Syria on the left hand. The former was the winter, the latter the summer, station of her caravans; and their seasonable arrival relieved the ships of India from the tedious and troublesome navigation of the Red Sea. In the markets of Saana and Merab, in the harbors of Oman and Aden, the camels of the Koreishites were laden with a precious cargo of aromatics; a supply of corn and manufactures was purchased in the fairs of Bostra and Damascus; the lucrative exchange diffused plenty and riches in the streets of Mecca; and the noblest of her sons united the love of arms with the profession of merchandise.  20

The perpetual independence of the Arabs has been the theme of praise among strangers and natives; and the arts of controversy transform this singular event into a prophecy and a miracle, in favor of the posterity of Ismael.  21 Some exceptions, that can neither be dismissed nor eluded, render this mode of reasoning as indiscreet as it is superfluous; the kingdom of Yemen has been successively subdued by the Abyssinians, the Persians, the sultans of Egypt,  22 and the Turks;  23 the holy cities of Mecca and Medina have repeatedly bowed under a Scythian tyrant; and the Roman province of Arabia  24 embraced the peculiar wilderness in which Ismael and his sons must have pitched their tents in the face of their brethren. Yet these exceptions are temporary or local; the body of the nation has escaped the yoke of the most powerful monarchies: the arms of Sesostris and Cyrus, of Pompey and Trajan, could never achieve the conquest of Arabia; the present sovereign of the Turks  25 may exercise a shadow of jurisdiction, but his pride is reduced to solicit the friendship of a people, whom it is dangerous to provoke, and fruitless to attack. The obvious causes of their freedom are inscribed on the character and country of the Arabs. Many ages before Mahomet,  26 their intrepid valor had been severely felt by their neighbors in offensive and defensive war. The patient and active virtues of a soldier are insensibly nursed in the habits and discipline of a pastoral life. The care of the sheep and camels is abandoned to the women of the tribe; but the martial youth, under the banner of the emir, is ever on horseback, and in the field, to practise the exercise of the bow, the javelin, and the cimeter. The long memory of their independence is the firmest pledge of its perpetuity and succeeding generations are animated to prove their descent, and to maintain their inheritance. Their domestic feuds are suspended on the approach of a common enemy; and in their last hostilities against the Turks, the caravan of Mecca was attacked and pillaged by fourscore thousand of the confederates. When they advance to battle, the hope of victory is in the front; in the rear, the assurance of a retreat. Their horses and camels, who, in eight or ten days, can perform a march of four or five hundred miles, disappear before the conqueror; the secret waters of the desert elude his search, and his victorious troops are consumed with thirst, hunger, and fatigue, in the pursuit of an invisible foe, who scorns his efforts, and safely reposes in the heart of the burning solitude. The arms and deserts of the Bedoweens are not only the safeguards of their own freedom, but the barriers also of the happy Arabia, whose inhabitants, remote from war, are enervated by the luxury of the soil and climate. The legions of Augustus melted away in disease and lassitude;  27 and it is only by a naval power that the reduction of Yemen has been successfully attempted. When Mahomet erected his holy standard,  28 that kingdom was a province of the Persian empire; yet seven princes of the Homerites still reigned in the mountains; and the vicegerent of Chosroes was tempted to forget his distant country and his unfortunate master. The historians of the age of Justinian represent the state of the independent Arabs, who were divided by interest or affection in the long quarrel of the East: the tribe of Gassan was allowed to encamp on the Syrian territory: the princes of Hira were permitted to form a city about forty miles to the southward of the ruins of Babylon. Their service in the field was speedy and vigorous; but their friendship was venal, their faith inconstant, their enmity capricious: it was an easier task to excite than to disarm these roving barbarians; and, in the familiar intercourse of war, they learned to see, and to despise, the splendid weakness both of Rome and of Persia. From Mecca to the Euphrates, the Arabian tribes  29 were confounded by the Greeks and Latins, under the general appellation of Saracens,  30 a name which every Christian mouth has been taught to pronounce with terror and abhorrence.


1 As in this and the following chapter I shall display much Arabic learning, I must profess my total ignorance of the Oriental tongues, and my gratitude to the learned interpreters, who have transfused their science into the Latin, French, and English languages. Their collections, versions, and histories, I shall occasionally notice.

2 The geographers of Arabia may be divided into three classes: 1. The Greeks and Latins, whose progressive knowledge may be traced in Agatharcides, (de Mari Rubro, in Hudson, Geograph. Minor. tom. i.,) Diodorus Siculus, (tom. i. l. ii. p. 159 - 167, l. iii. p. 211 - 216, edit. Wesseling,) Strabo, (l. xvi. p. 1112 - 1114, from Eratosthenes, p. 1122 - 1132, from Artemidorus,) Dionysius, (Periegesis, 927 - 969,) Pliny, (Hist. Natur. v. 12, vi. 32,) and Ptolemy, (Descript. et Tabulae Urbium, in Hudson, tom. iii.) 2. The Arabic writers, who have treated the subject with the zeal of patriotism or devotion: the extracts of Pocock (Specimen Hist. Arabum, p. 125 - 128) from the Geography of the Sherif al Edrissi, render us still more dissatisfied with the version or abridgment (p. 24 - 27, 44 - 56, 108, &c., 119, &c.) which the Maronites have published under the absurd title of Geographia Nubiensis, (Paris, 1619;) but the Latin and French translators, Greaves (in Hudson, tom. iii.) and Galland, (Voyage de la Palestine par La Roque, p. 265 - 346,) have opened to us the Arabia of Abulfeda, the most copious and correct account of the peninsula, which may be enriched, however, from the Bibliotheque Orientale of D'Herbelot, p. 120, et alibi passim. 3. The European travellers; among whom Shaw (p. 438 - 455) and Niebuhr (Description, 1773; Voyages, tom. i. 1776) deserve an honorable distinction: Busching (Geographie par Berenger, tom. viii. p. 416 - 510) has compiled with judgment, and D'Anville's Maps (Orbis Veteribus Notus, and 1re Partie de l'Asie) should lie before the reader, with his Geographie Ancienne, tom. ii. p. 208 - 231. Note: Of modern travellers may be mentioned the adventurer who called himself Ali Bey; but above all, the intelligent, the enterprising the accurate Burckhardt. - M.

3 Abulfed. Descript. Arabiae, p. 1. D'Anville, l'Euphrate et le Tigre, p. 19, 20. It was in this place, the paradise or garden of a satrap, that Xenophon and the Greeks first passed the Euphrates, (Anabasis, l. i. c. 10, p. 29, edit. Wells.)

4 Reland has proved, with much superfluous learning, 1. That our Red Sea (the Arabian Gulf) is no more than a part of the Mare Rubrum, which was extended to the indefinite space of the Indian Ocean. 2. That the synonymous words, allude to the color of the blacks or negroes, (Dissert Miscell. tom. i. p. 59 - 117.)

5 In the thirty days, or stations, between Cairo and Mecca, there are fifteen destitute of good water. See the route of the Hadjees, in Shaw's Travels, p. 477.

6 The aromatics, especially the thus, or frankincense, of Arabia, occupy the xiith book of Pliny. Our great poet (Paradise Lost, l. iv.) introduces, in a simile, the spicy odors that are blown by the north- east wind from the Sabaean coast: -

- Many a league, Pleased with the grateful scent, old Ocean smiles.

(Plin. Hist. Natur. xii. 42.)

7 Agatharcides affirms, that lumps of pure gold were found, from the size of an olive to that of a nut; that iron was twice, and silver ten times, the value of gold, (de Mari Rubro, p. 60.) These real or imaginary treasures are vanished; and no gold mines are at present known in Arabia, (Niebuhr, Description, p. 124.)

Note: A brilliant passage in the geographical poem of Dionysius Periegetes embodies the notions of the ancients on the wealth and fertility of Yemen. Greek mythology, and the traditions of the "gorgeous east," of India as well as Arabia, are mingled together in indiscriminate splendor. Compare on the southern coast of Arabia, the recent travels of Lieut. Wellsted - M.

8 Consult, peruse, and study the Specimen Hostoriae Arabum of Pocock, (Oxon. 1650, in 4to.) The thirty pages of text and version are extracted from the Dynasties of Gregory Abulpharagius, which Pocock afterwards translated, (Oxon. 1663, in 4to.;) the three hundred and fifty- eight notes form a classic and original work on the Arabian antiquities.

9 Arrian remarks the Icthyophagi of the coast of Hejez, (Periplus Maris Erythraei, p. 12,) and beyond Aden, (p. 15.) It seems probable that the shores of the Red Sea (in the largest sense) were occupied by these savages in the time, perhaps, of Cyrus; but I can hardly believe that any cannibals were left among the savages in the reign of Justinian. (Procop. de Bell. Persic. l. i. c. 19.)

10 See the Specimen Historiae Arabum of Pocock, p. 2, 5, 86, &c. The journey of M. d'Arvieux, in 1664, to the camp of the emir of Mount Carmel, (Voyage de la Palestine, Amsterdam, 1718,) exhibits a pleasing and original picture of the life of the Bedoweens, which may be illustrated from Niebuhr (Description de l'Arabie, p. 327 - 344) and Volney, (tom. i. p. 343 - 385,) the last and most judicious of our Syrian travellers.

11 Read (it is no unpleasing task) the incomparable articles of the Horse and the Camel, in the Natural History of M. de Buffon.

12 For the Arabian horses, see D'Arvieux (p. 159 - 173) and Niebuhr, (p. 142 - 144.) At the end of the xiiith century, the horses of Neged were esteemed sure-footed, those of Yemen strong and serviceable, those of Hejaz most noble. The horses of Europe, the tenth and last class, were generally despised as having too much body and too little spirit, (D'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 339: ) their strength was requisite to bear the weight of the knight and his armor

13 Qui carnibus camelorum vesci solent odii tenaces sunt, was the opinion of an Arabian physician, (Pocock, Specimen, p. 88.) Mahomet himself, who was fond of milk, prefers the cow, and does not even mention the camel; but the diet of Mecca and Medina was already more luxurious, (Gagnier Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 404.)

14 Yet Marcian of Heraclea (in Periplo, p. 16, in tom. i. Hudson, Minor. Geograph.) reckons one hundred and sixty-four towns in Arabia Felix. The size of the towns might be small - the faith of the writer might be large.

15 It is compared by Abulfeda (in Hudson, tom. ii. p. 54) to Damascus, and is still the residence of the Iman of Yemen, (Voyages de Niebuhr, tom. i. p. 331 - 342.) Saana is twenty-four parasangs from Dafar, (Abulfeda, p. 51,) and sixty-eight from Aden, (p. 53.)

16 Pocock, Specimen, p. 57. Geograph. Nubiensis, p. 52. Meriaba, or Merab, six miles in circumference, was destroyed by the legions of Augustus, (Plin. Hist. Nat. vi. 32,) and had not revived in the xivth century, (Abulfed. Descript. Arab. p. 58.)

Note: See note 2 to chap. i. The destruction of Meriaba by the Romans is doubtful. The town never recovered the inundation which took place from the bursting of a large reservoir of water - an event of great importance in the Arabian annals, and discussed at considerable length by modern Orientalists. - M.

17 The name of city, Medina, was appropriated, to Yatreb. (the Iatrippa of the Greeks,) the seat of the prophet. The distances from Medina are reckoned by Abulfeda in stations, or days' journey of a caravan, (p. 15: ) to Bahrein, xv.; to Bassora, xviii.; to Cufah, xx.; to Damascus or Palestine, xx.; to Cairo, xxv.; to Mecca. x.; from Mecca to Saana, (p. 52,) or Aden, xxx.; to Cairo, xxxi. days, or 412 hours, (Shaw's Travels, p. 477;) which, according to the estimate of D'Anville, (Mesures Itineraires, p. 99,) allows about twenty-five English miles for a day's journey. From the land of frankincense (Hadramaut, in Yemen, between Aden and Cape Fartasch) to Gaza in Syria, Pliny (Hist. Nat. xii. 32) computes lxv. mansions of camels. These measures may assist fancy and elucidate facts.

18 Our notions of Mecca must be drawn from the Arabians, (D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 368 - 371. Pocock, Specimen, p. 125 - 128. Abulfeda, p. 11 - 40.) As no unbeliever is permitted to enter the city, our travellers are silent; and the short hints of Thevenot (Voyages du Levant, part i. p. 490) are taken from the suspicious mouth of an African renegado. Some Persians counted 6000 houses, (Chardin. tom. iv. p. 167.) Note: Even in the time of Gibbon, Mecca had not been so inaccessible to Europeans. It had been visited by Ludovico Barthema, and by one Joseph Pitts, of Exeter, who was taken prisoner by the Moors, and forcibly converted to Mahometanism. His volume is a curious, though plain, account of his sufferings and travels. Since that time Mecca has been entered, and the ceremonies witnessed, by Dr. Seetzen, whose papers were unfortunately lost; by the Spaniard, who called himself Ali Bey; and, lastly, by Burckhardt, whose description leaves nothing wanting to satisfy the curiosity. - M.

19 Strabo, l. xvi. p. 1110. See one of these salt houses near Bassora, in D'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 6.

20 Mirum dictu ex innumeris populis pars aequa in commerciis aut in latrociniis degit, (Plin. Hist. Nat. vi. 32.) See Sale's Koran, Sura. cvi. p. 503. Pocock, Specimen, p. 2. D'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 361. Prideaux's Life of Mahomet, p. 5. Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 72, 120, 126, &c.

21 A nameless doctor (Universal Hist. vol. xx. octavo edition) has formally demonstrated the truth of Christianity by the independence of the Arabs. A critic, besides the exceptions of fact, might dispute the meaning of the text (Gen. xvi. 12,) the extent of the application, and the foundation of the pedigree.

Note: See note 3 to chap. xlvi. The atter point is probably the least contestable of the three. - M.

22 It was subdued, A.D. 1173, by a brother of the great Saladin, who founded a dynasty of Curds or Ayoubites, (Guignes, Hist. des Huns, tom. i. p. 425. D'Herbelot, p. 477.)

23 By the lieutenant of Soliman I. (A.D. 1538) and Selim II., (1568.) See Cantemir's Hist. of the Othman Empire, p. 201, 221. The pacha, who resided at Saana, commanded twenty-one beys; but no revenue was ever remitted to the Porte, (Marsigli, Stato Militare dell' Imperio Ottomanno, p. 124,) and the Turks were expelled about the year 1630, (Niebuhr, p. 167, 168.)

24 Of the Roman province, under the name of Arabia and the third Palestine, the principal cities were Bostra and Petra, which dated their aera from the year 105, when they were subdued by Palma, a lieutenant of Trajan, (Dion. Cassius, l. lxviii.) Petra was the capital of the Nabathaeans; whose name is derived from the eldest of the sons of Ismael, (Gen. xxv. 12, &c., with the Commentaries of Jerom, Le Clerc, and Calmet.) Justinian relinquished a palm country of ten days' journey to the south of Aelah, (Procop. de Bell. Persic. l. i. c. 19,) and the Romans maintained a centurion and a custom-house, (Arrian in Periplo Maris Erythraei, p. 11, in Hudson, tom. i.,) at a place (Pagus Albus, Hawara) in the territory of Medina, (D'Anville, Memoire sur l'Egypte, p. 243.) These real possessions, and some naval inroads of Trajan, (Peripl. p. 14, 15,) are magnified by history and medals into the Roman conquest of Arabia.

Note: On the ruins of Petra, see the travels of Messrs. Irby and Mangles, and of Leon de Laborde. - M.

25 Niebuhr (Description de l'Arabie, p. 302, 303, 329 - 331) affords the most recent and authentic intelligence of the Turkish empire in Arabia.

Note: Niebuhr's, notwithstanding the multitude of later travellers, maintains its ground, as the classical work on Arabia. - M.

26 Diodorus Siculus (tom. ii. l. xix. p. 390 - 393, edit. Wesseling) has clearly exposed the freedom of the Nabathaean Arabs, who resisted the arms of Antigonus and his son.

27 Strabo, l. xvi. p. 1127 - 1129. Plin. Hist. Natur. vi. 32. Aelius Gallus landed near Medina, and marched near a thousand miles into the part of Yemen between Mareb and the Ocean. The non ante devictis Sabeae regibus, (Od. i. 29,) and the intacti Arabum thesanri (Od. iii. 24) of Horace, attest the virgin purity of Arabia.

28 See the imperfect history of Yemen in Pocock, Specimen, p. 55 - 66, of Hira, p. 66 - 74, of Gassan, p. 75 - 78, as far as it could be known or preserved in the time of ignorance.

Note: Compare the Hist. Yemanae, published by Johannsen at Bonn 1880 particularly the translator's preface. - M.

29 They are described by Menander, (Excerpt. Legation p. 149,) Procopius, (de Bell. Persic. l. i. c. 17, 19, l. ii. c. 10,) and, in the most lively colors, by Ammianus Marcellinus, (l. xiv. c. 4,) who had spoken of them as early as the reign of Marcus.

30 The name which, used by Ptolemy and Pliny in a more confined, by Ammianus and Procopius in a larger, sense, has been derived, ridiculously, from Sarah, the wife of Abraham, obscurely from the village of Saraka, (Stephan. de Urbibus,) more plausibly from the Arabic words, which signify a thievish character, or Oriental situation, (Hottinger, Hist. Oriental. l. i. c. i. p. 7, 8. Pocock, Specimen, p. 33, 35. Asseman. Bibliot. Orient. tom. iv. p. 567.) Yet the last and most popular of these etymologies is refuted by Ptolemy, (Arabia, p. 2, 18, in Hudson, tom. iv.,) who expressly remarks the western and southern position of the Saracens, then an obscure tribe on the borders of Egypt. The appellation cannot therefore allude to any national character; and, since it was imposed by strangers, it must be found, not in the Arabic, but in a foreign language.

Note: Dr. Clarke, (Travels, vol. ii. p. 491,) after expressing contemptuous pity for Gibbon's ignorance, derives the word from Zara, Zaara, Sara, the Desert, whence Saraceni, the children of the Desert. De Marles adopts the derivation from Sarrik, a robber, (Hist. des Arabes, vol. i. p. 36, S.L. Martin from Scharkioun, or Sharkun, Eastern, vol. xi. p. 55. - M.

Next: Chapter L: Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants. Part II.