The Lord giveth the power to get wealth. The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich. Both riches and honor come of thee. A little that the righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked. Surely every man walketh in vain show; surely they are disquieted in vain; he heapeth up riches and knoweth not who shall gather them. Be thou not hen one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dieth he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him: though while he lived he blessed his soul and men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself. If riches increase set not your heart upon them. He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand, but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. They that trust in their wealth and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother nor give to God a ransom for him. The generation of the upright shall be blessed; wealth and riches shall be in his house and his righteousness endureth forever. The rich man's wealth is his strong city; the destruction of the poor is their poverty. The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as a high wall in his own conceit. Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished, but he that gathereth by labor shall increase. Wealth maketh many friends, but the poor is separated from his neighbor. Riches profit not in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivereth from death. The blessing of the Lord it maketh rich and he addeth no sorrow with it. There is that maketh a himself rich yet hath nothing; there is that maketh himself poor yet hath great riches. The poor useth entreaties, but the rich answereth roughly. He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man; he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich. Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom; for riches certainly make themselves wings. The rich man is wise in his own conceit, but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out. Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me. There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt; but those perish by evil travail, and he begetteth a son and there is nothing in his hand. Let not the rich man glory in his riches. He that getteth riches and not by right shall leave them in the midst of his days. He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away. Woe unto you that are rich I for ye have received your consolation. How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God; for it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
A little more than a century and a half after the downfall of Carthage there lived, as Tacitus relates, "a man called Christ, who was crucified for stirring up sedition in Judea." Thus does the great historian, beyond dispute the greatest of his age, if not of all ages, dismiss a theme which for well-nigh 2,000 years has stamped its impress on the better part of the civilized world.
Although today the Israelites are a people without a country, or rather a people of all countries, it was not always so. In the twilight of civilization we find them conspicuous among the nations cradled in the fertile region watered by the Tigris and Euphrates,—Palestine, their last home is called, the land of Israel, the land of Canaan, where Abraham dwelt, where Christ was born, where stood Jerusalem, the city of David and Solomon. Here was a country flowing with milk and honey, the country of the olive and the vine, where grew all else that is good for the use of man. During the earlier centuries the Jews considered agriculture and horticulture as the normal occupations of the human race, and to dwell in peace under his vine and fig-tree was the ambition of the Israelite. There was little commerce, and such arts and industries as existed were confined to domestic requirements. But presently came increase and the acquisition of large estates, to the detriment of peasant holdings, as is shown in the frequency of mortgages.
Thus was formed a wage-earning class; and some there were it seems who could not or would not earn a wage; instances arc not rare where Hebrews sold themselves into bondage.
Wealth was not lacking among the ancient Hebrews. Some of the patriarchs had great possessions. Noah was a man of means before the flood, else he could not have had men and material at command wherewith to build and stock the ark. With Adam in Eden the case was different. With all the world his property and paradise for a pleasure-park, with the heavenly host for society and absolute dominion on earth, though the greatest of capitalists, he could hardly be called a wealthy man. There was present no purchasing power; there was nothing to buy, no one to buy from, and none to whom he could sell. Even were it possible to establish commercial intercourse with the brute creation, the brutes and all that they might possess were already his. Thus though he owned all and might enjoy all, he could go no further, and in respect of property capable of accumulation was no better off than the birds of the air. It was only after the creation of other beings like himself, after the so-called curse of labor was imposed, that wealth began to be. When through disobedience Adam and Eve became ashamed, then for the first time was there work to be performed. Throughout creation there was no such a thing as a fig-leaf apron fashioned in readiness for use; nor with all the possessions of her husband at command could Eve call in a seamstress and pay for having it made. After their expulsion from the garden, with its rivers of life and spontaneous food production, after children had come and been compelled to toil, then came traffic and value in possession, which is another name for wealth, as Cain for instance might barter with Abel the fruits of the earth for sheep, and both be benefited by the exchange. It was through labor and the necessity for labor that wealth originated; work, which was sent as a curse, but was no curse, being the creator of wealth, itself also sometimes erroneously termed a curse. Thus it is that the accumulation of necessaries and luxuries begins with the beginning of progress.
It is worthy of note that the first use of animals made by man, following the Hebrew record, was not to harness them to labor, but to slay and offer them as a propitiation to the being who created them; since which time, animals following the example of man, it has been in order for the strongest to prevail. As applied to man, whether in the history of nations or of individuals the survival of the fittest generally signifies the survival of those possessed of superior power or cunning; and this applies to political and social no less than to financial affairs. Progress is one of the first laws of nature and the increase of that which is best of its class is a fundamental law of progress. Notwithstanding the creator saw that his work was good, he was not content that the world should remain as he had made it. He commanded first of all that plants and animals, in common with mankind should be fruitful and multiply augmenting the original stock, the distinguishing features between the brute and human creation being that the one was made content with sufficient for immediate requirements while with the other accumulation was constituted an instinct which was often to become a passion. Certain it is that the former can at least claim priority of occupation; but just as to plants was given the soil, and to animals were given the plants, so to man, with his superior intelligence, was given the dominion over all.
Noah after the deluge was somewhat as was Adam in the first instance; all was his and the sub-division of property must begin anew. With the increase of population, as the years grew into decades and the decades into centuries wealth also increased. Babylon, Nineveh, and other great cities were built, in which were many rich men, but of whom little is known. Too rich and presumptuous, indeed, they became, ready to defy even their creator and ascend heavenward without his aid, whereupon they were scattered by a confusion of tongues, and sent to people the remoter parts of earth. So at least runs tradition. Convenient at hands for the first comers to this plant, gold was sprinkled along the rivers flowing from Eden, so that with the advent of natural wealth there might be the wherewithal to measure it. But there is no mention in the Hebrew scriptures of such use of the metal until the days of Abraham who is the first one therein spoken of as a rich man, a very rich man, not only in cattle but in silver and gold. Lot, his associate for a time, was likewise well to do, until a dissolution of partnership was forced upon him, after which his fortunes declined. The first recorded exchanges of cash for land in Hebrew story was the purchase from Ephron of a burial place by Abraham, after he had become a mighty prince, the price being 400 shekels of silver, current money with the merchant. Isaac inherited his father's wealth and increased it, bequeathing all he had to his younger son Jacob, who purchased his elder brother's interest in the estate for a mess of pottage and manipulated with rather doubtful integrity the flocks of Laban entrusted to his care. It would seem to us of these modern times that where land and labor were so abundant, flocks and herds might be secured, and women married as well, without resorting to trickery; yet so may they say of us who shall come after us.
Joseph prospered in Egypt; but his descendants fell into distressful circumstances, and so remained until they escaped from the country and crossed the desert and the Jordan river, since which time there have never been lacking rich men of the Hebrew race. By predatory raids while in the desert, and the seizure of property in the country which they entered, they added largely to their possessions. They had then 600,000 fighting men, and they took from "the Midianites alone 675,000 sheep, 72,000 oxen, 61,000 asses, besides jewels of gold, chains and bracelets, rings, earrings and tablets" worth in all some $3,000,000. But this was as nothing compared with what they secured as spoils from the conquered nations in and around Canaan, that is to say Phoenicia.
The Hebrews, it may be remarked, appear to have been more backward in their affairs than the Egyptians, for while the Hebrew work of creation was still in progress, the Egyptians were reclaiming swamps and building cities; while Adam was yet living and lamenting his folly.
Khufu was building his pyramid and Khafra was carving his Sphinx; while Methusaleh was almost completing his millenary of life in Arabia and the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptians were working the copper mines and quarrying the granite of Elephantis; while Noah was preparing for his flood. Usirtasin was advancing Egypt to the highest pitch of prosperity and power.
Nevertheless during the later centuries of the first 3,000 years of their history, which brings us to the days of Solomon, the Hebrews were an affluent people, though it may be that in this regard a more favorable conclusion is reached because more is known of them than of contemporary nations. Solomon at least, after allowing for all exaggerations as to the story of his wealth, was a very rich man, and would have been so accounted in any age or country whose annals have come down to us. True there was but one such as Solomon, whether Jew or gentile; but where such wealth as he possessed was possible there were doubtless other rich men not far away. There was, as we have seen, great wealth in Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs, and we know not of all that was there before and since; for of Egypt there are authentic records at least 6,000 or 7,000 years before Christ, while the beginning of Hebrew history antedates the Christian era only by forty centuries.
King David, besides being one of the most devout of men, was also a warrior poet and statesman; but that he ruled over Israel was the smallest element in the greatness of Solomon, who ascended the throne before his father's death not by right of inheritance but through intrigue.
Because he asked of the Lord wisdom instead of wealth, both were granted to him and he became, besides, a writer of proverbs and songs. His household was an army; his table was loaded with gold plate, and he had stalls for 40,000 horses. There were 150,000 men at work at one time on his temple in addition to the laborers furnished together with materials, by Hiram, king of Tyre the plans being also modeled on Tyrian designs. By David extensive preparations had been made for the building of this sanctuary. Making war on neighboring nations he took from them gold, silver, and other spoils of untold value, and to this he added from his private means, and from public sources, all of it being given to Solomon for the temple which he was to rear unto the Lord in Jerusalem, together with the great citadel that he erected with the temple as its central figure. Gold and other metals entered largely into the construction of the former, which was a small but beautiful structure, 100 feet long, apart from its precincts, 34 in width and 50 in height. Timbers from the cedars of Lebanon were hewn in the forest, and stone prepared in the quarry, so that when brought upon the ground the several parts were fitted together without the sound of hammer or other tools. It is found so ordered in Deuteronomy, "Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole stones; thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them." The doors were overlaid with gold and the walls were covered with plates of gold, and drapery of fine linen, blue and purple and scarlet. As a covering for the ark, in the holy of holies, were cherubim of gold fifteen feet in height, with outstretched wings in contact.
For the altar of incense was a chamber of cedar covered with gold, and on the table were many vessels of silver and gold and many golden candlesticks. On either side of the porch were hollow pillars of brass 20 feet in circumference, embossed by Tyrian artists in lilies and palms, with 200 pomegranates in double rows.
A new wall with fortified towers was thrown around the city, and among other great buildings was the house of the Forest of Lebanon, connected with which by a cedar porch was a hall named the Tower of David, on its outer walls a thousand sheets of gold. Within sat the monarch in imperial splendor, passing judgment on all matters that came before him with marvelous wisdom and sagacity. The shields and targets of his body-guard were also of gold, as were the vessels used at his banquets, the cups being set with precious stones, Many palaces he had, with parks and gardens that enchanted the eye of the beholder; for in the days of Solomon Israel waxed exceeding rich, and reached the climax of her power and her glory.
No wonder that even the queen of Sheba, herself one of the richest of women was surprised at the wealth and glory of Solomon, whom she presented with gifts valued at $6,500,000. His annual income at this time was estimated in gold alone at $36,000,000, besides what he acquired from traffic with Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere; for, notwithstanding his wise maxims regarding riches, Solomon was a shrewd trader, buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest, importing for instance from Egypt horses and chariots which he sold at a goodly profit to the kings of the Hittites, while his fleets, in conjunction with those of Tyre, diverted the little that remained of Egyptian commerce.
Then there were his Ophir and other mines, from which, it is said, a single shipment amounted to $2,000,000, thus making gold abundant and silver so plentiful that it became "as stones on the streets."
With all his wisdom, Solomon was likewise a lover of women which weakness, if it be a weakness, seems never in itself to have been accounted unto him for unrighteousness, though resulting in his spiritual undoing. No need in his case of the maxim cherchez la femme, for his women were sufficiently plentiful to be found without much seeking. Seven hundred wives he had and three hundred concubines or a thousand in all, and among them many princesses. But if in his harem he sought to outdo all other eastern monarchs, and especially Pharaoh, his father-in-law, he was by no means unmindful of the welfare of his country, and especially of Jerusalem, which in his reign became a strong and magnificent city, its splendor never equaled in the days of his successors or of his predecessors. Without regard to tribal distinction, he divided his kingdom into provinces, placing a ruler over each and establishing a vigorous and well-ordered system of administration, though more, it must be confessed, for the benefit of his exchequer than for the benefit of his subjects, requiring from all enforced labor, money, and tribute in kind.
While this system did not survive its founder, his fame was none the less that no rival afterward appeared under whom the throne of Israel shone with such resplendent glory.
In contrast with the uniform prosperity of Solomon was the checkered career of Job, who was probably his contemporary, and certainly did not live in an earlier age, if indeed he lived at all in the flesh, and not as the embodiment of ideas from which Israel might forecast her history and take courage after her afflictions. But accepting the former theory, Job was a man of large possessions, and when temptation came to him, it was not as with Solomon, in the fascinating form of woman, but from the devil direct. After depriving him of his family and all else that he possessed, Satan sent him sore afflictions and told him to curse God for them. But Job would not, and as a reward for his probity and patience his riches were finally returned to him doubled in amount.
Turn now from the Bible to the Talmud, and the Mishnah, in which, in addition to rabbinical interpretations of scripture, with the sayings and doings of the patriarchs, are discussions on religion and jurisprudence, historical and scientific treatises, and other topics making a storehouse of early knowledge. Here are also biographical sketches of prominent men, both biblical and post-biblical; of those who distinguished themselves in doing battle for the Lord of hosts and of those who , became famous by reason of their learning or riches.
Ten measures of wisdom, says the rabbis, came down to the world, of which Israel appropriated nine and the rest of the world one. Ten measures of beauty came down to the world, Jerusalem taking nine, and leaving one for the remainder of mankind. Ten measures of wealth came down to the world, Rome appropriating nine, and of ten measures of poverty all but one fell to the lot of Babylon. While doubtless the rabbis were not partial to Babylon, especially after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, it is nevertheless an historic fact that at the time these sayings were penned, the one was the richest and the other the poorest of all the cities on the face of earth. But with cities and nations, as with individuals, the rich become poor and the poor rich.
Of the many rich men described in the Talmud, Korah, the antagonist of Moses, was one of the richest; so that even today his wealth is proverbial among the Jews. This is hinted at in the biblical book of Numbers, in the passage which states that "he and all his goods were swallowed up;" but in the Talmud are further and more interesting data. It is there declared that for many centuries there were but two men in the world who became exceeding rich,—Korah of the Hebrews and Haman of the gentiles, both of them perishing because they acquired their possessions by greed, and not as a gift from the Lord. There also it is stated that all the gold and silver which Joseph gathered and stored in Egypt was divided into three parts and concealed in three places, one portion being discovered by Korah, another by Antonius, son of Asoirus, while the third is still preserved for the use of the righteous in the world to come. The use the righteous would make of it where the streets are paved with gold, the Talmud does not explain; but doubtless their share was large; for as the rabbi Levi declares, 300 mules were required for carrying merely the locks and keys of Korah's treasure.
From the land of Ophir, wherever that may have been, both Solomon and Hiram derived a large portion of their enormous wealth. While its location has been variously placed in Armenia, Arabia, Africa, India and even in Malay and Peru, the balance of testimony is in favor of the scriptural account, which places it as a province on the Red Sea, either adjacent to or forming a portion of Ethiopia. Here also, beside Eloth on the shore of that sea, as related in Kings, was the port of Ezongeber, where were built the fleets of Hiram and Solomon the nature of the presents which they brought—gold, precious stones, ivory, almug trees, parrots and apes—all pointing to Africa. By some authorities the gold of Sheba mentioned is in the Psalms of King David, considered as identical with the gold of Ophir, the word Sheba, as when read from right to left, in the ancient Ethiop language, being almost identical with Habesch, an Arabic word which the Portuguese Latinized into Abassia, the modern Abyssinia.
The riches acquired by Solomon were lost during the reign of Rehoboam after the revolt of the ten tribes when Shishak, king of Egypt, marching against him with an innumerable host, carried away the treasures of the temple, capturing "the fenced cities which pertained to Judah.” Thenceforth Jerusalem was shorn of her prestige as a political power, never again to rise, though later increasing in wealth and magnitude.
New quarters were added; among them a tiding quarter occupied by Tynans, who formed a large portion of the business population, the main body of the town being grouped around the slopes of the temple hill, where the houses rose tier above tier in steep and narrow streets. As to its gates and towers, and the compass of its walls, a detailed account is given by Nehemiah, whose description, however, is somewhat difficult to follow. He it was who restored the fortifications destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, following the lines of the city as it existed before the destruction when the temple and palaces were burned to the ground, and the remnant of the population led into captivity, except the very poor, who were left to tend the vines and till the ground, a few held in special favor, as Jeremiah the prophet, being also exempt from bondage. Then comes a blank in Hebraic records, of which it need only be said that under Persian and other domination the people enjoyed but little prosperity. Spared by Alexander the Great, their capital or its defenses were several times destroyed, as by Ptolemy Sotor and Antiochus Epiphanes, yielding soon after its siege by Pompey to Herod and the Romans.
Except during the reign of Solomon, and perhaps of the Maccabean princes, Jerusalem was never so great as in the days of Herod and his successors, by whom the city was enlarged far beyond its former proportions, and its aspect changed, especially in the quarters where stood the temple and the royal palace. The former, Herod rebuilt from the foundation, with walls of great strength and height and more than redoubled area. According to Josephus, himself a priest and an eyewitness of what he describes, there were three porticos, 55 feet in width, with monolith pillars and cedar roofs, one of them resting on the substructure laid by Solomon, and hence called Solomon's porch. By four rows of Corinthian columns the remaining portico was divided into spacious loggias 600 feet in length. For the Holy of Holies the dimensions of the ancient temple were followed, except that a second story was added, with a porch 185 feet wide and as much in height, its doorway overlaid with gold, and containing a golden vine with clusters several feet in circumference.
Some fourscore years were required to complete the vast and costly structure begun by Herod and continued by those who came after him; so that the city was almost built anew, while its temple, attracting the devout of distant lands, made of it the Mecca of later days. Thus it stood when Vespasian, son of a usurer and emperor of Rome, who as Tacitus says was equal to the generals of old except for his avarice, made war on Judea, now broken out in revolt.
Titus, his son, he left the task of ending the war by the capture of Jerusalem, and this he accomplished after one of the most memorable sieges recorded in history. Forcing the outer walls, more than three miles in circumference according to Eusebius, his battering rams approached the citadel of Herod, which even then would not have yielded had the Hebrew leaders stood to their post. But once more the city and its temple were destroyed, the Tower of David being all that now remains of the Jerusalem of olden days, while the arch of Titus still spans the Sacra Via of the Roman capital.
A disastrous war was that which befell the Jews during the reign of Hadrian, caused by the founding of a Roman colony on the site of the holy city. Presently came the stream of pilgrimage, swelling into the proportions of a flood; for the discovery of the holy sepulcher and the erection by the first Christian emperor of magnificent churches on its site and over the cave of nativity again made Jerusalem a religious center, its sacred places regarded with more veneration than was the temple in the days of Solomon.
When the caliph Omar obtained possession of Jerusalem, he permitted no violence to the persons or property of its citizens, and granted them freedom of worship, on condition only that Mohammedans be admitted to their sanctuaries, pilgrims still passing to and fro without injury or molestation. But after the 10th century the Moslem yoke sat not so lightly on Palestine, and then came Peter the hermit and the crusades, whose history need not here be followed. Though accompanied with monstrous deeds of iniquity, as the slaughter of Saladins 3,000 hostages in default of the payment of 200,000 pieces of gold, their effect was in the main beneficial, resulting as they did in the abolition of serfdom and the feudal system, and the substitution of the common law for the separate jurisdiction of barons or chieftains.
As seen from the Mount of Olives, the most conspicuous portion of Jerusalem is the haram, or remains of the ancient temple enclosure, as it existed in the days of Herod, but with buildings of more modern date. Adjacent to the enclosure is the Jewish quarter, with its domed and stately synagogues, and next to this the Armenian quarter, where is the church and convent of St James. In the Moslem portion, to the north, is the tall minaret of Omar's mosque, and in the Christian portion the rotunda of the Holy Sepulcher, the protestant church, and the palace of the protestant bishop. Yet these four quarters are by no means restricted as to sect or nationality, many wealthy Jews and Christians residing in the Armenian and even in the Mohammedan section.
The resident population of Jerusalem, though doubled within the last fifteen and quadrupled within the last thirty years, does not exceed 45,000, of whom more than one-half are Jews, the Moslem and Christian elements being about equally divided. During Easter thousands of pilgrims throng the narrow streets, and at this season the city of David is of all cities the most cosmopolitan in appearance. There are Syrian peasants with their yellow turbans and hooded Armenians with their bright and red sashes intermingling with European tourists while turbaned Turks, Hebrews in oriental costume, and the long-haired monks of the Greek church are among the many nationalities and religions represented.
And so it is with the city architecture which is in many styles, Oriental, Byzantine, Gothic, and Italian—all attesting that Jerusalem is still, as for many centuries it has been not only a religious center but a center of ecclesiastical art.
If the Talmud is correct, there were many rich men in Jerusalem when the Romans laid siege to the city, three especially being mentioned, Nicodimon, Calba, Shebhua, and Tsitsis Hacksath. Nicodimon or Shining, was so called because the Lord made the sun to shine in answer to his prayer. When the people went up to Jerusalem to celebrate one of their feasts, there was a drought in the land and the multitude had no water to drink. Thereupon Nicodimon asked of a certain noble the loan of twelve cisterns of water, to be returned on a given day in good condition and filled to the brim, failing which the latter was to receive twelve talents of silver. But the drought continued, and when the day arrived the sky being cloudless as it had been for more than a twelvemonth, the noble demanded his cisterns or their equivalent. "Wait until evening," answered Nicodimon, who toward sunset entered the synagogue wrapped in a sacred garment and thus made supplication: "O Lord of the universe! thou knowest that I have done this not for my own sake, neither for the glorification of my father’s house, but for thine own glory.” Immediately the heavens were overcast; rain fell in abundance, and the cisterns were filled to overflowing. Nicodimon demanded payment for the overflow; but to this the other objected on the ground that the surplus had fallen after sunset. Then Nicodimon returned to the synagogue and again he prayed; "O Lord of the universe! accomplish thy miraculous work in the same manner as thou hast begun.” Instantly a strong wind arose, dispersing the clouds, and again the sun shone forth. Calba Shebhua, that is to say the Satiated Dog, was so named because the poor who came to him hungry as hounds never left his dwelling until their wants were satisfied. When Jerusalem was encompassed by the Romans, he purchased sufficient grain to feed the inhabitants during a protracted siege. "I will supply the people of Jerusalem with food," he said; "and I with wine and salt,” responded Nicodimon; "and I will furnish them with fuel," said Tsitsis Hacksath. But these and other stores were destroyed by the zealots, thus adding famine to the horrors of the beleaguered city. Of Martha, daughter of Baithus, the richest woman in Jerusalem at the time of the siege, it is related that she sent her servant to market to purchase fine flour. Returning he said that all was sold, but that white flour might still be had. "Then so and bring me white flour," answered his mistress. Again he was too late, reporting that only barley meal remained. But at his third visit even this was exhausted; and so with bran and all else that could serve as food. Then said Martha, "I will go myself and try whether I cannot find something to eat.” On her way she picked up a fig which had been thrown aside, and this she ate, being faint with hunger, and thereby came to her death, for the fig was poisoned. When about to die, she ordered that all her gold and silver should be cast into the street, that those might take it who would, since it was of no further use to her.
For had not Ezekiel said, “They shall cast their silver in the streets and their gold shall be removed; their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord; they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels?” The Talmud tells also of the richest of rabbis, Eliezer ben Harson, possessor of 1000 cities and 1000 merchant ships, and others.
As the history of Palestine revolves largely round the Christ, so Mohammed is the central figure in the annals of Arabia. Both claim descent from Abraham, the former through Isaac and the latter through Ishmael. Both were born poor; but while the one remained poor, the other became rich through marriage with a wealthy merchants widow by whom he had been employed. By both religions were founded; Christ preaching self-abnegation and peace, Mohammed self-gratification and the sword. Then followed tidal waves of fanaticism that swept through Europe and Asia during the dark age, leaving behind them the ashes of Dead Sea fruit.
It was not until early in the fifth century that the Koreysh appear in Arabian annals. They were among the most crafty of Arabs, and at the time, partly by cunning and in part by force, had made themselves masters of the Kaba or sacred shrine in Mecca, where for ages pilgrims had left their offerings of gold and silver and precious stones. They were also the shrewdest of merchants, and largely through their operations Mecca became the principal seat of inland trade, and Jiddah, not many leagues away, the leading seaport of the western coast. Within a day’s journey of Mecca was held the great fair of Okad, which apart from its business features was almost in the nature of a national exhibition, with amusements of many kinds, poetic recitals and oratorical declamations, horse-racing and athletic games. Here also, in what may be termed the amphictyonic council of Arabia, one no less ancient and far more potent than that which was held in classic Thebes, were decided questions of gravest import, as of treaty and alliance, of peace and war, of justice and reprisal. In all these matters the Koreysh chieftains were prominent, not only by reason of local proximity but on account of their wealth, influence, and superior ability.
Thus when Mohammed first appears as a prophet in Mecca, about the year 610, it had become the commercial as well as the religious and political center of Arabia, with a merchant aristocracy whose trade was as far-reaching as it was profitable. While under Mohammedan rule it declined somewhat in importance; in the time of the earlier caliphs vast sums were lavished on the sacred city, to which the main body of pilgrims was led by these dignitaries in person. As late as the twelfth century it had still a large volume of traffic, especially during the yearly festival, when its marts were filled with merchandise from every portion of the Moslem world, presenting the appearance of a great international fair. But then, as now, the principal source of revenue was the annual pilgrimage, large sums of money passing into the hands of contractors, brokers, guides, keepers of stores and lodging-houses, and semi-vagrant hangers-on at the holy places. The religion of the citizens of Mecca was ever an affair of the purse, and its vices the wonder of the devout strangers; for here were centered all the iniquities of humanity, and in aggravated form. Slavery was a favorite institution of the Arabs, as even today it is, and in guise of pilgrims were large numbers of kidnapped slaves.
The great mosque, the goal of the pious pilgrim, was built mainly by the caliph El Mahdi, who expended large sums in bringing from Syria and Egypt hundreds of costly pillars. Of these but few remain, and little of the former workmanship, though there are more than 500 pillars in all, of various designs and dates, with twenty arched entrances to the surrounding enclosure, which is about 600 feet in length and somewhat less in breadth. Close at hand is the Kaba, originally a rough stone building, erected as Islam claims by Abraham and Ishmael for the worship of the one God whose prophet is Mohammed, and who cast out the idols from the sanctuary. Except in certain details—the placing, for instance, of courses of timber between the stones, as in Solomon's temple— its ancient form has still been preserved, at least as to exterior aspect, though several times rebuilt. In one of the corners is the famous black stone, the principal object of veneration, delivered to Abraham by the angel Gabriel as the Mohammedans believe, but probably one of many fetiches worshipped in earlier days. The floor was of marble in richly variegated hues; its roof veiled with silk and its walls partially covered with silver, over which was a plating of gold, with windows of stained glass and silver lamps depending from pillars of teak. The Kaba was opened only on special occasions, and when these occurred it was quickly filled with a nondescript multitude of pilgrims and mendicants, the prayers of the faithful intermingling with discordant outcries of backshish. Around the sacred spot were the dwellings of the wealthy and the nobles, some of them tracing their descent back to the time when the city was founded.
Medina, or to use its full name, Medinat Kasul Allah, apostle of God, was the burial place of Mohammed, as Mecca was his birthplace, and thus became a goal of Moslem pilgrimage. Like Mecca, it depended and still depends largely on pilgrims for support, maintaining a population far in excess of what its legitimate business would justify. Here, as at Mecca, the devout were subjected to many extortions and discomforts; but these they bore with patience and resignation; for is it not written in the Koran, "all things that are, are well,” though some, saith the prophet, are disagreeable? The glory of Medina is its mosque, an imposing structure with lofty dome and minarets, the effect of which is impaired by the narrow lanes and crowded dwellings which surround it. As first erected it was a low brick edifice, roofed with branches of palm, the pulpit from which Mohammed preached standing on the spot where it yet stands. Early in the eighth century it was entirely rebuilt by order of the caliph Walid, who had at his command the most skillful of Greek and Coptic architects and artificers. In style it was of the Byzantine order and in form hexagonal, the outer walls decorated with parquetry and the inner with mosaic arabesque, its marble pillars being crowned with gilded capitals. No trace of it now remains; for it was twice destroyed by fire, the building which took its place being of Egyptian type and far inferior workmanship.
Mohammed was a zealous proselytizer, his doctrines, his persecutions, his struggles, and his ultimate triumph; his wars, in which defeat and victory alternated, though finally crowned with success, bearing ample testimony. He seems to have had less trouble in the manipulation of his miracles, than in his management of the Meccans, who would at first have none of his teachings, and with whom he had long and continued controversies. To his uncle, Abu Talib, who though himself a believer urged him to withdraw from his mission as a matter of policy, he replied: "Though they give me the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left to bring me back from my undertaking, yet will I not pause till the Lord carry my cause to victory, or till I die for it." This occurred only a few years before the hegira in ad 622, from which year dates the Mohammedan era. After his death in 632, the empire, which then included and extended beyond the entire peninsula of Arabia, passed into the hands of the caliph who bore toward the prophet almost the same relation that in the catholic world the supreme pontiffs bear to St. Peter, but also with supreme authority in civil matters and as commander- in-chief of the Muslim armies.
For well-nigh six centuries and a half the caliphs reigned over the kingdom of Mohammed , the earlier rulers extending their domain into Syria, Egypt the entire northern , coast of Africa, the islands of the Mediterranean, and even into France and Spain, which latter country was almost reduced to an Arabian dependency. By Almansur was founded the city of Baghdad in 760, and thither the seat of empire was removed at first a substantial and afterward merely a nominal empire; for province after province fell away, and the caliphs became mere puppets in the hands of the Persians, until in 1277, or as some have it in 1258, their capital was stormed by Hulaku the Tartar, grandson of Genghis Khan, by whom were extinguished all traces of this crumbling dynasty.
In modern Baghdad, now a portion of the Turkish Empire, are nearly 200,000 people, representing many nationalities, though the town is situated on the verge of a barren plain with hardly a tree in sight. The old quarter, on the western bank of the Tigris, is but a suburb of the present city, which stands on the opposite shore, connected by a bridge of pontoons. Both were planned, if they can be said to have a plan, with little regard to symmetry or convenience. The streets and alleys are tortuous, unpaved, and so narrow in places that two horsemen cannot ride abreast. Houses constructed of bricks taken chiefly from the remnants of ancient buildings present to the public thoroughfares a bare and almost unbroken surface of wall, windowless and with but the merest apology for doors. In the center is a spacious court; on the terraced roof the inmates sleep and take their evening meal and beneath are underground chambers, affording shelter from the fierce summer heat , the thermometer reaching at times 120 degrees in the shade. The homes of the wealthy are luxuriously furnished and surrounded with lawns and flowerbeds, vineyards and orchards, giving to Baghdad, as seen from a distance, the appearance of a city of gardens and groves rising from a treeless desert.
As in all Muslim towns, the mosques are the most conspicuous features and of these there are more than a hundred, though many are little better than chapels. The most ancient and also one of the plainest and most unsightly, is that which was built by the caliph Mustansir in the year of the hegira, and of which there still remain its minaret and fragments of the exterior walls. A more elegant structure is the mosque of Merjaneeah, with its tall arched door bordered with richly sculptured bands, and its arabesque designs of fourteenth century execution. To the seventeenth century belongs the Khaseki mosque, formerly, it is said, a Christian church, its prayer niche spanned by a Roman arch with fluted shafts and sculptured frieze, while on a background of white marble is one of the most finished specimens of oriental workmanship in tracery of flowers and vases. Numberless are the glazed and painted domes and minarets with decorative scheme in white and green, imparting a cheerful aspect, but with none of the dignity and stateliness noticed in the towers of Aleppo and Damascus.
Adjoining the Merjaneeah mosque, and formerly a part of it, is the khan or caravansary of El-Aourtmeh, of fourteenth century architecture, with vaulted roof of Saracenic design. Of the other caravansaries, thirty or more in number, all are of inferior workmanship; and so with the bazaars, most of which are roofed with straw or branches of trees resting on a substructure of beams, and presenting an air of squalor and poverty unusual to Turkish communities. Yet Baghdad was for centuries the chief emporium of eastern traffic, and of late has developed a considerable trade with European centers.
Muscat, now the chief city in the kingdom of Oman, is one of the most ancient of Arabian settlements, though of little importance until after its occupation by the Portuguese, early in the sixteenth century. Still in existence and supplying the town with water is the well from which vessels on their way to China replenished their casks more than a thousand years ago.
Here also the Portuguese cathedral, though in ruins, towers above narrow and filthy streets, dilapidated dwellings of sun-dried brick or mud, and bazaars of most uninviting appearance. Nevertheless the place has a considerable traffic, with exports and imports exceeding $6,000,000 a year, while the position of its harbor with reference to the commerce of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea makes it the leading and indeed the only important seaport on the eastern coast. Including its more prosperous and respectable suburb of Matrah, the population is estimated at 75,000, including many of African blood or in part of African descent; for here in former years was a favorite rendezvous for the slave trade.
Aden was a flourishing seaport before the opening of the Christian era. Though situated on a barren peninsula composed mainly of volcanic rocks, and connected with the mainland only by a strip of sand, the advantages of its position for trade and as a military stronghold caused its occupation by the Romans as early as 24 BC. At the beginning of the sixteenth century it was a Portuguese possession, and a few years afterward fell into the hands of the Turks, by whom in 1839 it was transferred to the British. Later it became a free port and the strongest of modern fortifications were added to those with which it is provided by nature in the form of precipitous cliffs. Apart from its importance as a coaling station on the highway to the east, its business is very considerable; but chiefly in the transit of goods. In the same province—that of Yemen—is Mocha, now merely a village, but with traces of former greatness in the shape of ruined castles, minarets, and other imposing structures. In the sterile plain which surrounds it neither coffee nor anything else is produced, the term Mocha coffee in its proper sense referring to the article which was shipped there and thence during the days of its prosperity. In this connection may be mentioned the Somali coast and the Socotra, Kuria Muria, and Bahrain islands, all of them under British protection, the pearl fisheries of the last yielding at the rate of more than $1,000,000 a year.
Muslim institutions, while adapting themselves to changing conditions with the growth and decadence of the empire, were chiefly founded on such as were prescribed in the Koran. By the caliph were administered the public revenues gathered from the poor-rate which all must pay, from the land and poll-tax imposed only on those who had belonged not to Islam and from the fifth of all booty taken in war, the remainder being distributed among the warriors. These were applied to public works and military requirements to the salaries of officials, to the relief of the poor, or to the payment of annuities or pensions to which all true Muslims were entitled, the amount varying in accordance with the nearness of their relationship to the tribe of the prophet. Thus to her who had been his favorite wife was assigned a pension of about $2,400 a year; to his remaining widows and to members of his household $2000; to those who had been first to embrace the faith $1,000, and to all others of the faith from $60 to $800. Here is the main secret of the success of Mohammedanism; for in accepting this religion the convert at once acquired the right to a pension, with exemption from land and poll-tax,—immediate material benefits not to mention those which were to come.
The poll and land-tax were graduated, the former in accordance with the possessions of the subject, and the latter in relation to the extent and fertility of the holding. The state itself was a large holder of land, with sufficient pasturage in the time of the earlier caliphs for 40,000 horses and camels.
In the desert were many browsing places for camels, and on the hillsides food for horses, cattle, goats, and sheep. The horse, by some believed to be indigenous to Arabia, here attained its highest development, not as to size and speed but in endurance, docility, and strength and symmetry of form, a thoroughbred travelling thirty-six hours without intermission and without requiring water. It is seldom that an Arab horse of the best and purest breed exceeds or even reaches fifteen hands in height, and the swiftest among them would be easily distanced by a European or an American racer. Still, as for fourteen centuries at least those of the best quality are to be found in greatest numbers in the habitable districts of central Arabia; yet even here they are by no means a common possession nor used for common purposes. For the most part they are the property of chiefs or of wealthy personages, selected and reared as investment for capital or as appendages of rank and seldom even used except on special occasions. Thus we hear of Wahhabee chieftains who in times not long gone by owned several thousands of the finest animals in the world, such as have not degenerated, though perhaps not improved since Yemen first became famous for its Arab stock.
Next to the horse in value and greatly superior in utility is the camel, which is also a common standard of prices and a medium of traffic and investment. The swiftest and most docile of dromedaries, such as are used only for riding, are worth as much as $500 each, while an ordinary pack animal may be bought for $75 to $150 and one that will serve as a beast of all work for $50 or less. Camel’s flesh and camel's milk are staple articles of food, though the former is musky in flavor, and if possible more tough and tasteless than the poorest quality of beef. Clothing is made of the hair or wool, which in some varieties is softer and finer than that of the sheep. Serving so many purposes and living as it does on anything that comes in its way, thus costing nothing for its support, no wonder that the camel is prized by the Arab above all other possessions. Cattle are not over-plentiful; but smaller stock, especially sheep and goats, form an important element of Arabian wealth.
Agriculture was hardly more primitive in the ninth century than it is in the nineteenth. Still the plows are entirely of wood, barely scratching a soil which under proper cultivation would yield in parts two abundant crops a year. Heaping is performed by the sickle, and sometimes by hand; for threshing oxen are used, and for grinding the rudest of hand-mills. Dates are to the Arab the staff of life, and of these there are more than a hundred varieties. Coffee is next in importance; vegetables and garden plants are raised in many districts, and of cereals there are enough for home consumption, but seldom with a surplus for export. Irrigation is general; for except in a few favored regions the rainfall is scant and uncertain.
Wells and cisterns are chiefly used for the purpose, water drawn up in buckets by means of ropes and pulleys worked by oxen and mules being distributed over plantations intersected by furrows with careful regard to the slope of the ground.
As to the stories of Arabian gold and precious stones, if ever there were such wondrous deposits of wealth they long since disappeared. To Khosru, the Persian, an exiled Arabian monarch spoke of the southern part of his country as "a land where the hills were of gold and its dust was silver;” but thirteen centuries have since elapsed, and about all that is now in sight is a little silver in the mountains of Oman, where also are deposits of lead, with iron and cinnabar in the peninsula of Sinai. Of more importance are the pearl fisheries of the Persian Gulf, extending for a distance of 200 miles and with a yield worth at least $1,500,000 a year.
As with the Hebrews and Phoenicians, commerce was a profitable pursuit, and as honorable as it was lucrative. The colonies of Islam were numerous, and her sailors ventured afar, even to the China seas, while her overland trade extended to the frontiers of China, and included Syria, Armenia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Turkestan, and the entire northern coast of Africa, from whose eastern shore came also ivory and slaves, with spices camphor and costly woods from India. The exports of Arabia and her dependencies bespoke considerable progress in manufactures, including weapons, tools, and glass, cotton stuffs and refined sugar of domestic production, with steel and steel mirrors from Syria; silks satins and brocades from Damascus and Bagdad, from Egypt and Armenia; figured Muslims from Tunis, and trinkets and jewelry from many lands. The carpets made in the time of the caliphs were little if at all inferior to those which are made today. But perhaps the most important branch was the production of paper, which succeeded the original parchment and the papyrus that took its place after the subjugation of Egypt. With it came the art of binding and the trade of the bookseller, all promoting the literary development of Islam.
But neither in manufactures nor mechanic arts has Arabia kept pace with other nations. Though still in Yemen and Oman are fashioned gold and silver ware, woven stuffs, embroideries and various implements of superior workmanship, so much of the labor is performed by hand and so deficient are the tools employed that these cannot enter into competition with articles of European make. As woodworkers they are not unskillful; but as masons they are among the clumsiest of artificers and in all the peninsula there is not a single building erected by modern Arabs to which they can point with pride. For traffic, however, they have by no means lost their adaptability, and today the Arab starting on a journey, be it only to a neighboring village, always takes with him something for barter or sale, selling even the robes on his back or the animal on which he rides, rather than return without trading. Of commerce the volume at the present time is inconsiderable; dates and coffee, hair and wool, camels and livestock , pearls and a few choice fabrics forming the bulk of the exports, while imports are almost restricted to the cheaper class of textiles, to arms, ammunition, and trinkets.
Until the time of Mohammed the Arabs had attempted little in the way of literature, except proverbs and metrical compositions, the latter including amatory, martial, and descriptive poetry, in all of which they excelled. But to millions of converts must be taught the language of the prophet and the doctrines and ordinances of the Koran, and hence were established schools of grammar and lexicography. In the eleventh century there were several dictionaries, and at least one book of synonyms; but literature in its proper sense was still restricted to accession poetry and romance. With the accession of the Abbasid caliphs, science and philosophy found a home in Islam, Mansur, the second of that line, inviting to his court men of learning, skilled in the Greek and Syriac as well as the Arabic tongue. Thus were translated many foreign works, among them those of Ptolemy, Euclid, and Aristotle Plato, and, followed later by Hippocrates, the choicest treasures of the Alexandrian school. The study of history began with the collection of materials pertaining to the prophet, and with conquest came a certain knowledge of geography. In mathematics, and especially in algebra, they improved on the teachings of the Greeks and Hindus; in astronomy they were also proficient; but in medicine they were mere empirics, and in chemistry their researches were directed only to the transmutation of metals.
Nevertheless in science as in literature, Arabian culture long outlived Arabian conquest, linking together the civilizations of ancient and modern times. To this influence is mainly due not only the revival of learning, but the spirit of criticism and investigation which finally rescued Europe from ages of bigotry and superstition. If, moreover, in the useful arts and inventions the Arabs have been far surpassed by European nations, to the former is none the less due their introduction and in many instances their origin.
Education in its proper sense is today almost unknown in Arabia. There are a few institutions of the higher class where grammar and rhetoric are studied, and at many of the mosques are lectures on Islamic law and theology; otherwise little is taught at the schools, except for the reading of the Koran and the learning of passages by rote. The better part of a boy's instruction, but from which female children are excluded, is received at home, and includes, besides reading and writing, such knowledge of the principles of language, of history and poetry, as may be possessed by the older members of the household. There are no spoiled children among the Arabs, politeness, obedience, and self-control showing the effects of judicious family training.
As to Arab towns and villages, they are but a repetition on a smaller scale of those already described. Most of them are surrounded with stone or earthen walls surmounted with towers which may serve as places of refuge against foes armed with spears and matchlocks, but would fall in ruins before a single round of modern ordnance. In the center of the narrow tortuous streets, or forming a part of them, are the marketplace, mosque, and governor’s residence, the last not differing from other dwellings except that it is usually fortified and of larger size. In the homes of the wealthy and well-to-do the kahwah, or coffee-room, is the most spacious apartment, and here the beverage is served at all hours of the day and night, fresh berries being roasted, ground, and boiled on each occasion, so that a special servant is required for the purpose.
As a rule only one substantial meal a day is taken, and that soon after sunset, consisting for the most part of mutton or camel’s flesh, fruits and vegetables, thin wheaten cakes and coarsely ground wheat soaked in butter. Meats are nearly always boiled; for to prepare them otherwise is beyond the skill of Arab cooks. Rice is considered a luxury, as also is game, which appears on the table only on special occasions, as on the arrival of guests. Nowhere is the stranger more hospitably received, his advent being often a cause of dispute as to who shall entertain him; nor can he outstay his welcome so long as his company be agreeable.
The Bedouins, or dwellers in the open land, forming about one-sixth of the Arab race, are a combination of herdsmen, shepherds, and thieves, with the thief very largely predominating. The waste lands, mainly between the coast and the central plateau, they regard as their own, and those who trespass thereon must pay what is considered merely as a toll, taking the place of the taxes demanded in civilized regions. But for a very moderate sum a passport and an escort can be obtained from the sheiks, to be renewed as each encampment is reached; so that it is only the unwary traveler, crossing the desert without these precautions, who is liable to suffer the loss of his effects and perhaps of his life. In appearance the Bedouins are much inferior to those who dwell in towns, being undersized and of forbidding aspect, while the latter, though incapable as it would seem of attaining to national greatness, are individually among the finest specimens of human kind, in physique inferior to few and in intelligence superior to most. As to the much vaunted independence of the nomad tribes, this is merely the result of conditions; for in a shifting population, roving in scattered bands over a wide and barren area, there is little to tempt the cupidity of foreign powers. It is not that they are invincible but that they have nothing to make their conquest worth the while, nothing save their tents, and a few rude weapons and household implements all of which can be readily packed on their camels and carried beyond reach of pursuit.
Miscellany—In addition to the scriptural story of Solomon there are many based on scriptural quotations which have been most curiously interpreted. Of these the following as related in substance in the Talmud, will serve as a specimen. When about to build the temple, Solomon was perplexed, not knowing how to procure the masonry, since neither axe nor hammer must be used. Consulting the wise men, he was advised to procure the Shamir, or miracle-working insect, which aided Moses in preparing the tables of stone for the Decalogue, and which had the power of cleaving the hardest rock in twain. As none knew the whereabouts of the Shamir, it was recommended that male and female genii, or demons—the men singers and women singers of Ecclesiastes—be brought before him and compelled to reveal its hiding place. This they could not do; but being put to torture, they said, "Ashmedai, the chief of the genii, who dwells in yonder mountain, knows it. Daily he ascends to heaven to study wisdom and at night returns to earth, there also to study wisdom." After much trouble, he is brought into Solomon's presence, but only through making him drunk and binding him with chains while in a stupor. By the king he is assured that nothing is required of him but information as to the Shamir whose services are needed for the construction of the temple. He answers that the Shamir is not in his keeping, but belongs to the prince of the sea, and the only creature entrusted with it is the thuki habar, or wild cock, by which the Shamir is presently borrowed, under a pledge that it shall be promptly returned. In the nest of the former is found a young brood which, during the absence of the parent bird, is covered with glass, so that the chicks can be seen but not touched.
Returning, he discovers the deception, and flying back for the Shamir, which he brings in his mouth, is frightened away by Benajah, the captor of Ashmedai, and lets drop the insect. This Benajah picks up and presents to Solomon, whereupon, through grief and shame, the thuki habar puts an end to his life.
Solomon detains Ashmedai until the temple is completed, and asks him one day to reveal the secret of his strength. "Take off the chain on my neck" is the answer, "and I will show thee.” Show him in truth he does in a manner somewhat unexpected for then and there the demon swallows him, and stretching forth his huge wings, one of which reaches to the sky while the tip of the other is poised on earth, spews him violently forth, so that he finds himself a distance of some 400 miles from his palace. It is to this that he refers, as the rabbis claim, in the famous passage in Ecclesiastes: "What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun. This is my portion of all my labor." On the word “this" much stress is laid, one rabbi declaring that, while giving it utterance, he touched his staff, and another that he pointed to his robe or water bottle. From door to door the monarch begs, repeating at each the statement, "I, the preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.” In the meantime Ashmedai usurps the throne; but on the return of the real sovereign, takes to flight with a mighty rushing sound. Though again in possession Solomon is still afraid, as appears in the following: "Behold the bed which is Solomon's; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel; they all have swords, being expert in war; every man has his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night."
To the imam of Muscat belongs one of the most beautiful pearls in the world, flawless, of pure translucent color and soft iridescent sheen. Its weight is 12 ½ karats and it is valued at $160,000. A still more precious gem is that which is owned by the princess Yousoupoff, originally purchased by Philip IV of Spain for 80,000 ducats, and now worth $180,000. But perhaps the most precious of all, and so far as is known the most perfect, is in the Moscow museum of Zosima, an Indian pearl of globular shape, weighing 28 karats and yet absolutely perfect. The largest so far discovered, weighing 360 karats, more than four inches in circumference, of irregular formation, and surmounted by a golden crown adorned with the most costly of jewels, forms the center of attraction in the Beresford Hope collection at the South Kensington museum, London.
According to Moslem tradition the use of coffee was revealed to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel, perhaps as a substitute for wine, forbidden to Islam, and also as an antisoporific much needed as a preparation for religious services of many hours' duration . Lower Abyssinia is said to be the home of the coffee plant, and thence it was introduced into Arabia early in the fifteenth century, though utilized in the former country probably before the Christian era. About the middle of the sixteenth century coffee-houses were opened in Constantinople,—the first in Europe—and 100 years later we find them in London, where in 1675 a proclamation was issued by Charles II denouncing them as the resorts of disaffected persons, while his legal advisers declared the sale of coffee a common nuisance and tending to foster sedition. Until about 1700 Arabia was the only source of supply, and thence the seeds were transplanted to Java, one of the first plants grown in that island being presented to the governor of the Dutch East India company, who placed it in the Botanic gardens at Amsterdam. From this single plant have sprung most of the 1,000,000,000 or more coffee trees now in existence throughout the world, the industry gradually spreading to nearly all tropical countries, inhabited by civilized man. As to the various coffee-growing countries with their total and relative production, mention will be made in later chapters of this work.
In connection with Arabic wealth and Arabic literature may be mentioned the Thousand and One Nights, or as it is more commonly termed, The Arabian Nights Entertainment, a collection of stories probably first written in Arabic about the middle of the tenth century, though claimed by some to be of Indian or Persian origin. While the contents are sufficiently known to require no detailed description, brief reference may here be made to this popular work of fiction; for it fairly revels in riches and that which riches can purchase. The doors of the palace to which the roc carried Prince Agib, for instance were of burnished gold set with diamonds and rubies, and all within was of equal magnificence, the wealth both in jewels and gold being incredible. Sinbad the Sailor on his second voyage found himself in a deep valley so thickly strewn with diamonds that had not the place been enclosed by high precipitous walls, hundreds of camel-loads could have been gathered and carried away.
On his sixth voyage he visited the island of Serendib, whose prince and palace were too magnificent for words. The throne was fixed on the back of an elephant; before it was carried a golden lance and behind it a column of gold, while the guard of 1,000 men were clad in silk and gold. In the cave where Aladdin found the lamps were coffers filled with gold and silver, and trees loaded with fruits of various colors, transparent, white, red, green, blue, purple, and yellow; the transparent were diamonds; the white, pearls; the red, rubies; the green, emeralds; the blue, turquoises; the purple, amethysts; and the yellow, sapphires. His nuptial present was forty golden basins filled with jewels, and carried by 40 black slaves preceded by 40 white servitors.
Gulnare said that in ocean's depths were many kingdoms having great cities, well peopled; the palaces of the kings and nobles were most magnificent; there was gold, as on the earth, which was held in some esteem, but the pearls and diamonds were so profusely scattered that even the commonest people would not stoop to pick them up. Gathered from the sea as a little present for the king of Persia was a coffer containing 300 diamonds as large as pigeons' eggs, as many rubies, with emeralds and pearls sufficient to fill up the box. When the dervish opened the mountain and discovered a vast cavern filled with gold and jewels, Baba Abdullah grudged him the 40 camel-loads which he would take away, for that would then make the dervish as wealthy as himself. Ali Baba found in the cavern of the forty thieves a great store of rich merchandise, and an immense quantity of gold and silver. Prince Husain came to the capital of the kingdom of Bisnagar and was lodged in the place appointed for foreign merchants. The merchants' quarter was large and of many streets, vaulted and shaded from the sun, yet very light. In the shops were the finest linen from India, painted in the most lively colors; silks and brocades from Persia, porcelain from Japan and China. He was likewise amazed at the quantities of jewels and wrought gold and silver in the shops of the goldsmiths, and at the profusion of pearls and jeweled necklaces and bracelets on the persons of the swart inhabitants. Prince Habit, who found the treasures of Solomon buried under Mount Caucasus had to pass through 40 brazen gates, guarded by malevolent genii, and opened only by golden keys suspended from a chain of diamonds in the left hand of a black slave. Of such stories hundreds might here be related; but the above will serve as specimens.