Page images
PDF
EPUB

Cordova could arrive. Meanwhile, El-Mohadi marched westward through Morocco, having first got himself proclaimed caliph. Hut ElMohadi was assassinated and a new dynasty ruled in Morocco. The chief, Morabethoon, was a rigid observer of the laws of the Koran, and invariably successful in battle. He died about the close of the eleventh century, and was succeeded in the sovereignty by his son Joseph. This king enjoyed extraordinary renown. It was in his reign that the city of Morocco was completed; his father had laid the foundations. It was he who united the kingdoms of Morocco and Fez under one monarch. But his conquests were not confined to Africa. The Mohammedan kings of Spain having learned his power, sought his alliance, and offered to acknowledge him supreme sovereign if he would help them against the Christians. Impelled by fanaticism, as well as the love of conquest, Joseph crossed into Spain, where having joined his allies, he conquered the city of Seville. On his return to Africa, he proclaimed the Gazia, or war of religion, and, strengthened by a large reinforcement, he again crossed into Spain, and made himself master of all Andalusia, Grenada, and Murcia. Joseph died at Morocco about the beginning of the twelfth century. He was succeeded by his son Ah, whose zeal for religion equalled that of his father and grandfather. He erected the great mosque at Morocco, and befriended the Moors in Spain. His son Brahem was the last of the house of Morabethoon. The infant son of Brahem was strangled by Abdulmomen, and founder of the Moahedin dynasty in Morocco. Abdulmomen commenced his reign with the exercise of great cruelty. He ordered all the Morabethoon throughout the empire to be put to death. In his exterminating rage he destroyed the whole city of Morocco, which, however, he afterwards rebuilt. Abdulmomen lost a great portion of his kingdom through the rebellion of some of his chiefs, who, throwing off the Moorish yoke, declared themselves independent. There remained to Abdulmomen only the kingdoms of Morocco and Fez. Notwithstanding these losses at home, his religious zeal prompted him to aid his brethren in Spain. After his death, his son Joseph continued to carry out his father's design; but a fall from his horse, during his expedition in Spain, put a period to his life and a termination to his ambition. This Joseph was succeeded by his son, the celebrated Almansor, surnamed the " Invincible." This warrior spread his conquests far along the northern coast even to Tunis, and received homage from the Arab chiefs of Spain. Like some of his predecessors, he published a " Gazia," and entered Spain to carry thither the horrors of an exterminating religious war. The victories which made him famous also made him detested. After a long series of triumphs, he disappeared rather mysteriously.

The story goes that, having besieged a certain city, one of the enemy rendered him important services, upon condition, of course, of being amply repaid. After the siege, and when Almansor had reaped the benefit of the treachery, he forgot his promise and put the man to death. But, as time passed on, the thought of his falsehood prayed on his mind; he became gloomy and dejected; in vain he tried to console himself by saying that his victim was a traitor; conscience whispered that even so, his treachery had been truth to Almansor. It is to the honour of this Emperor that the consciousness of the evil he had com • mitted made his throne uncomfortable, and robbed him of all delight in his vast possessions. Unable to endure the anguish of his mind, he privately withdrew from his palace and from his kingdom. Various surmises were raised, but the exact truth was never known. Some said that he was wandering from place to place without a fixed purpose, striving to escape the companionship of his own thoughts, and that this objectless and ceaseless journeying consumed his life. Others said that, disguised as a private individual, he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and he had retired to a hermitage to expiate by penance the crime he had committed. Whether these conjectures or assertions were true, is not known; but certain it is that the victorious Almansor never again returned to his royal palace. His son, Mahomet Ben-Nasser ascended the throne. This prince, too, ventured to carry war into Spain, but with a different result from that which attended his father's expeditions. It was now the turn of the Christians to triumph. The Moors were defeated, and Ben-Nasser was so mortified by the disgrace that soon after his return to Africa he died.

From the death of Almansor, the glory of the house of El-Mohadi began to decline. Ben-Nasser was succeeded by his grandson, but the young prince fell by the dagger of an assassin. The friends of the house placed his uncle, Abdel-Kader, on the throne, but the opposing faction was too strong. Abdel-Kader, feeling that he could not retain the sceptre that had been placed in his hand, resigned his place to Abdallah, the first of the Benimerin race that ruled in Morocco. It was under this dynasty that the kings of Morocco lost the sovereignty they had so long wielded in Spain. The history of Morocco for nearly two centuries after this period presents a picture of frequent, but always unsuccessful, expeditions against the Spanish Christians, intermixed with domestic rebellions, plots, and treasons. We find there a succession of horrors, where sons fighting against sires, were prepared to add to the crime of regicide the more terrible sin of parricide. It was about the beginning of the sixteenth century that a private individual named Mahomet-hen-Achmet profited by the general anarchy, to advance his private ambition. He announced himself as a lineal descendant of the prophet, affected a corresponding sanctity of life. Knowing how powerful an instrument fanaticism may become, he bespoke the veneration of the multitude for his three sons by sending them to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, a journey sufficient to procure the reputation of a saint amongst the vulgar. On their return they were received with great veneration by the mass of the people, and looked upon with a kind of holy awe.

Ben-Achmet managed so well, that before his death he saw his eldest son seated on the throne and proclaimed King of Morocco. Gradually the power of the brothers increased; the eldest, master of Mauritania, helped to give his second brother possession of part of the adjoining coast, and, thus leagued, they continually opposed the Portuguese, who had made some settlements to the west of Barbary. But the brothers soon quarrelled, and fought. The elder was overcome, and the younger drove him with his children into the sandy deserts south of Morocco. Both met a violent death; both perished by the hands of assassins. The son of one of these brothers ascended the throne. His reign, and those of his successors, contain nothing worthy of record, if we except the mention of Muley Abdelmelek, the first king of Morocco who called himself emperor. This was about the beginning of the seventeenth century. This emperor was assassinated, and many of his descendants only ascended the throne to be hurled therefrom into a dungeon, or fall lifeless on its steps from the thrust of a dagger. The many changes that supervened made room for a new destiny. A famine devastated the province of Tafilet. A number of the inhabitants made a pilgrimage to Mecca to appease the Divine wrath. During their absence they elected a chief named Muley Ali, a native of a small town near Medina. This chief, besides his other recommendations, possessed that of being a descendant of Mahomet. He founded a new dynasty called the Fileli. Of his numerous children, and he is said to have had more than a hundred, two succeeded to the throne. Both, but particularly the younger, were distinguished by a ferocious cruelty of disposition. One of his favourite amusements was sacrificing men with his own hand. On the days appointed by the Mohammedan law for prayer and other devotional exercises, he found convenient leisure for following his favourite pastime. During a reign of more than half a century his bloodthirstiness was still unslaeked. His immediate successors were scarcely less ferocious than he. About the close of the eighteenth century, Sidi Mahomet, who held the Moorish sceptre, seemed to take a civilized view of the political relations of nations. He formed treaties with different European powers. English and Dutch ships could now pass through the straits without fearing to be pounced on by a piratical craft hidden in the deep indenture of some small creek. The opposite neighbours of the Moors on the coasts of Spain and Italy might now retire to their couches in peace, unapprehensive that their daughters might be carried off during the night, sold in a Moorish market, or consigned to a Moorish harem. In fact, the Moors had become more civilized, or, to speak more truly, they had become more fearful, because weaker, whilst the Christian powers had become far stronger than in the olden time, when, chained to the oar, they rowed the Moorish galleys, or performed as captives the meanest domestic offices in the houses of their Moslem masters. It is to be regretted that, towards the close of this monarch's reign, he lost his first fervour, and ceased to bestow those benefits on his people which at an earlier period he seemed to promise. He founded many mercantile establishments along the coasts, and considerably beautified the city of Morocco. This city, beautifully situated to the west of Mount Atlas, enjoys a delightful climate. The vicinity of the mountain cools the air, whilst the fertility of the soil is so great that with the slightest culture abundant harvests can be obtained. The Morocco of the present day can afford no idea of the ancient city. Situated in a lovely plain, surrounded with palm-trees and watered by hundreds of streams flowing from Mount Atlas, it is said that Morocco in the days of its prosperity contained one million inhabitants. Charming villas, surrounded by pleasure-grounds and gardens, and enclosed by high walls, formed in olden times the dwellings of the wealthy Moors. The city was well U. S. Mao., No. 342, Mat, 1857. u

[graphic]

supplied with water from the numerous springs that traversed the plain, and, besides, an aqueduct of solid brick ran round the town twenty feet below the surface, from which, at intervals of about one hundred yards, pipes branched off to supply the houses with water. The huts of the modern Moors are built on the ruins where once stood the splendid mansions of their ancestors. The Emperor Sidi Mahomet enlarged and beautified his palace by the erection of several pavilions, which he caused to be built by Europeans. The pavilions inhabited by the princes were covered with coloured tiles, and surrounded with spacious gardens, where the odour of orange-trees perfumed the air. Outside these garden walls, the miserable huts of the general population formed a mournful contrast to the luxury within. The palace of the emperor faced Mount Atlas, and was a large, strong building. The wall gates were Gothic arches of cut stone, and ornamented with Arabesque tracery. The royal residence was not one compact building, but consisted of several detached pavilions. These were square pyramidal buildings about forty feet long, but not quite so high. The interior formed a noble hall; the walls adorned with the Arabesque scroll, on which were traced passages from the Koran, or moral sentences from some other source. The pavilion containing the apartments for the emperor and the women was more spacious than the others, but not more splendid. The furniture in all was very simple. Immured within these walls, the emperor thought not of the wants of his people, nor was he, perhaps, sufficiently enlightened to supply them, even if his direction had been so directed. A free intercourse with civilized states may in time do much to alter the condition of the modern Moors. Their sunny clime and fertile soil may, under more favourable circumstances, afford the people the enjoyment which both are calculated to bestow.

CRIMEAN SKETCHES.

No. V.—" Hard Times."

There is mud everywhere; there is mud upon everything; the camp is pitched on mud ; mud works its way through the boots of the men who are digging for the roots of brushwood; the ground of the tents is deep with mud; the tent-pole is marked by the muddy barrels of the muskets; mud rots away the canvas of the tent walls; vainly do the men endeavour to scrape off the mud from their clothes with a bit of iron pork-barrel hoop; tent pegs slip out of the mud; the horses' sides are covered with the mud in which they have been rolling; their rack chains shiver tremulously against the spokes of the wagon wheels; mud finds its way into their feeds through the nose bags; unclaimed mules and ponies wander through the mud ; the trenches are mere dykes; men collect stones for pillows; the stocks ofthe musket- in the pile of arms aredeeply embedded in the mud before the evening ; the pouch-belt is marked in mud on the outside of their greatcoats; men prowl about the engineers' depot to pick up the refuse end of platform sleepers ; lay the battened side of a powderbox on the mud as a base for the fire, and their coffee savours strongly of pork fat; the leading file of a working party turning moodily round a traverse falls over the gyn, and is sprawling in the mud before he has time to disengage his hands from his great-coat; men who have been to the Piquet House Valley for water climb wearily up the muddy sides of the ravine; the feet of riflemen slip from the muddy banquettes just as they are going to fire ; the sand-bags droop so much with the bursting earth that they will not form loop-holes; the batteries are muddy ; sponge heads are washed in one of the pools before the gun is sponged out; the discharge of the gun brings down some of the gabions through which mud has been oozing; we can almost hear the "thud" of the shot as it strikes the muddy earthworks; disabled guns in rear of the batteries afford a slippery footing as they are covered with mud ; the lower tiers of the piles of shot are hidden by the mud ; gun-wads are struck with hand-spikes to clear them of mud ; mud has to be scraped off the bottom of the shells before they are put into the mortars; mud loosens the grip of the handspikes, and the mortars slide upon the platforms; the magazine man reports that mud is trickling through the roof of the magazines; men look at the expanse of mud they have to toil through before they get back to camp, to lie down in their muddy blankets. The clouds at Balaklava look as if they would pour down mud. The rearmost files of the Turks carrying up gabions to the front are roused to exertion by loud shouts of " Haidee;" they have a word of encouragement to give to their brother Osmanli, whose feet, wrapped round with bandages, sink deeply in the mud as he staggers into Balaklava, carrying a sick comrade to die on the muddy ground-floor of one of the rickety houses ; the wooden axletree arms of arabas break down in the mud, causing a stoppage in the road, and collecting a crowd anxious to secure some firewood. Batmen walk through the mud propping up trusses of hay, or stop to readjust the planking that is trailing in the mud ; French soldiers, with shot slung over their shoulders in sandbags, impregnate the air with sacres; round shot rolled on planks from the ships' side fall into the mud with a splash; surgeons, who have got an order for a hut, survey the piles of timbers and shake their heads as they look at the mud; the floor of the parcels' officcis muddy from the boots of officers who crowd in to look at the list of arrivals of ships; muddy officers rush on board the steamers and meekly submit to the impertinences, and pay the exorbitant charges of the stewards; delighted officers, who find themselves the possessors of huge boxes of good things, break them open, bundle the eatables and the warm clothing into two commissariat sacks, tie up the wood for firewood on the top of the pack-saddle, and the hay in which the things were packed is thrown upon the mud for the pony ; a youthful cornet, whose trowsers appear to be made of leather and lined with cloth, and who carries a massive riding-whip, dismounts, whilst his men and horses stand under shelter of a wall, and getting on one of

« PreviousContinue »