BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting


The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour


The Bhagavad Gita

Anonymous


The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison


A tropical dependency

by Flora Louisa Shaw

Excerpt:

The Arabs conquered Egypt in 638, and their victorious forces spread rapidly, as was to be expected, across the provinces of North Africa. And, as might also be expected, they did not occupy the prosperous northern provinces without endeavouring to find out something of what lay behind them in the desert. Tripoli was taken by them in 643, and expeditions were immediately sent across the hills to the slopes upon the south and as far as Wadan in the western desert. A very little later, 666, Okbar ibn Nafe made a military progress of a still more complete description, and inquiring always of the inhabitants of each conquered tribe—"What lies beyond you?" he marched as far as Kawar, the country of the Tibboos •to the north of Lake Chad, which to this day does not appear to be substantially altered from the condition in which he found it. The people of Kawar, either not knowing or not choosing to tell that there was anything beyond them, replied in answer to his questions that the country beyond was unknown. He turned back to Tripoli, and thus just missed entering the fertile belt. Fifteen years later, 681, the same Okbar attacked the south-western part of Morocco, a very fruitful district then occupied by Europeans and Christian Berbers, and made himself master of the whole. The principal town, Medina Niffis, is spoken of by Arab historians as a town of great antiquity. It lies, however, on the other side of the mountains which separate Morocco from the desert, and he still did not enter the fertile belt of Negro land. But Okbar was only a forerunner of the more celebrated Musa Nosseyr, who was appointed Governor of Africa under the Caliphs in 698, and made his administration for ever famous by that Arab conquest of Spain which so profoundly affected the civilisation of the West.

It is interesting, and important to the history of North Africa, that Musa did not immediately undertake the invasion of Spain. Upwards of ten years elapsed, during which he had time to make his presence felt in the province which was at that time known by the name of Afrikyah, or, as it was more generally spelt, Ifrikyah. This province of the Arab domination corresponded not to Africa as we know it, but to the Carthaginian and Roman Province of Africa Propria, which stretched from Barca to the borders of Morocco and extended southward to the edge of the desert. It held the head of the eastern road into the desert through the Fezzan, while the head of the western road through Morocco appears, notwithstanding Okbar's partial conquests, to have remained in the hands of the Europeans and Christian Berbers who held the country which corresponds to the modern Morocco.

Musa's first act on arriving at Cairouan to take up the governorship, was to make a speech to his soldiers which, interpreted by the- light of succeeding events, had almost a prophetic note: "I know well," he said, "what sort of commander you want," and after describing to them an ideal soldier "doubly cautious after victories, doubly brave after defeat, trusting ever in the righteousness of his cause," he lifted his hands to the mountains in the shadow of which they stood, and cried: "You may safely rely upon me as your commander, for I shall seize every opportunity of leading you on to victory; and, by Allah! I will not cease making incursions into yonder high mountains and attacking the strong passes leading into them, until God has depressed their summits, reduced their strength, and granted the Moslems the victory. I shall lead you on until God Almighty makes us the masters of all or part of the territories lying beyond them, and until we have subdued the countries which His immutable decrees have already allotted to us."

His own province was far from being at that time in a state of complete subjection. His first campaign was against the Berbers of Arwah, who made forays towards Cairouan. He overthrew them and took 10o0 prisoners. These were the first Berber captives taken to Cairouan. Then he sent one of his sons against the tribes. His son was successful, and returned with 100,000 captives. He sent another son in another direction, who was successful, and returned with 100,000 captives. He himself went in a third direction, and was successful, and returned with another 100,000 captives. In all, upwards of 300,000 captives resulted from this campaign. The Caliph, we are told, would hardly believe it when he was informed that his fifth of the captives amounted to 60,000. Musa, encouraged by his success, despatched his troops farther and farther into the desert. The Western Berber tribes of the Hawara, the Zenatah Kotamah, and even as far south as the Senhajah, were in turn taken by surprise. He fought with them—in the words of his historian—"battles of extermination, he killed myriads of them, and made a surprising number of prisoners, with great booty of cattle, grain, and articles of dress." These conquests took place in the years 699 and 700 A.d. The fame of Musa spread so far and wide that all soldiers desired to serve under him in Africa, and the numbers of his army increased so much that they were doubled. Conflict was constantly renewed with the more warlike of the desert tribes, but "God was pleased to permit that the Moslems should have everywhere the victory." f By the year 702, Musa was joined by the van of the Egyptian army, and a great battle was then fought in the west, in which the Berbers were commanded by their famous king Koseylah. The Moslems were entirely victorious, and with the spoils there were taken from the Berbers "innumerable maidens inestimable by their beauty and accomplishments." The maidens were distributed amongst the soldiers as wives. This battle was the prelude of many further African conquests, including the conquest of the territory of Morrekosh. (The town of Morrekosh or Morocco was not• founded till near the end of the eleventh century.)

The territory of Northern Africa being conquered, and Arab armies driving all before them to the southern edges of the desert, where, as will presently be seen, the harried tribes found refuge in the fruitful plains of Negroland, Musa turned his ambition to the sea./ He ordered the building of a dockyard at Tunis, and himself sailed thither. From the moment of the completion of the dockyard the port of Tunis became "a place of safety for ships when the winds blew at sea and the waves were high." Musa ordered the construction of a hundred vessels, and in these preparations passed the remainder of the year 703.

In the year 704 all the best of his army embarked in an expedition which was called "The Expedition of the Nobles." They spoiled Sicily and returned safe.

In 705 another expedition against the Berbers was followed by their total submission. In the same year Syracuse was attacked by sea and spoiled. Three years afterwards Sardinia was attacked and immense spoil taken. A great expedition inland to the territory to the south of Morocco, lying on the slopes of the mountains between it and the desert, and commanding the western road to Negroland, resulted in the submission of that country. There was also a sea expedition to Majorca, which was conquered.


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