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THE

CALCUTTA REVIEW.

ART. I.- Essai sur L'Histoire des Arabes avant L’Islamisme,

Pendant L'Epoque de Mahomet, et jusqu'à la réduction de toutes les tribus sous la loi Musulmane, Par A. P. Caussin de Perceval, Professeur d'Arabe au Collége Royal de France. Trois Tomes. Paris, 1847-1848.

M. CAUSSIN DE PERCEVAL has, in these volumes, traced the history of the Arabian tribes and States, from the earliest glimmerings of Mahometan tradition, to the period when the whole were united under the banner of Islam. With inconceivable labour, he has thrown together the multitudinous and often discrepant genealogies, and accounts of individuals and of tribes; collating the several steps of various lines, and noting at what points they meet, and where the tradition of events disproves or corroborates the tradition of names.

The result of his investigations is exhibited with great ingenuity and clearness, in fifteen tables or genealogical trees, in which the descent of the chief tribes and most famous personages of the Peninsula is traced up, with the approximate era of each generation, to the most remote period for which tradition furnishes authority. These tables add much to the value of the book, for the general reader, whose mind is bewildered with the maze of collateral families and tribes crossing and re-crossing each other's path.

M. C. de Perceval is intimately acquainted with the native historians of Arabia, and with its early poets, whose evidence is of the most essential value in these investigations. He has pursued his enquiries with much learning and singular research,* and, as it appears to us, with extraordinary success.

The first half of his first volume is devoted to the history of Yemen, brought down to the Mahometan invasion; the second half to the rise of Mecca, and the biography of Mahomet, as far as bis flight to Medîna. The second volume opens with an extended review of the kingdoms of Hîra and the

* It is much to be regretted that M. C. de Perceval's ignorance of German has prevented his availing himself of the valuable treatises bearing on his subject, lately published in that language. (Vol. I., Freface, p. vi.)

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Ghassânide dynasty, up to their absorption in the Mahometan Empire ; then of the tribes of Central Arabia ; and, lastly, of Medina. The third volume resumes the history of Mahomet, and brings down the progress of Islam to the Caliphate of Omar, and the submission of all the Arab tribes. The work thus exhausts the subject; but the arrangement is bad, and the thread of narration not unfrequently broken.

“Long temps divisés en fractions, formant autant d'Etats différents, de petites Républiques, ou de hordes ennemies les

unes des autres, les Arabes sont rassemblés en corps par • Mahomet, et l'unité de la nation achève de se constituer • sous Omar. Tel est, en résumé, le sujet que j'ai essayé de 6 traiter."* In short, the grand object of the work is to trace the process by which the independent and hostile fragments of Arabia became one great and irresistible nation.

We are not aware that the mass of information presented by M. C. de Perceval, in his first two volumes, is anywhere available to the English reader; and we purpose, therefore, to throw it together in as brief a form as may be possible. The reader, to whom the subject is uninviting, now fully forewarned of the nature of what follows, will be able, without farther enquiry, 'to pass on to a more congenial article; while from those to whom the History of Arabia is one of interest and attraction, we hope to obtain a patient hearing, and pardon for the prolixity, which the detail necessary in such an enquiry

may involve.

Arabia is commonly described as a triangular continent, having a right angle at Båb al Mandeb; but it is more natural and convenient to consider it as an irregular parallelogram, approaching to rectangular, which (if we detach the province of Omân, projecting towards Persia) it will be found to resemble. A line drawn along the Euphrates, from a point above the ancient Babylon, and skirting the southern shore of the Persian Gulph and the boundary of Omân, till it meets the Indian Ocean, will give the eastern side of our figure : and the corresponding parallel on the west runs from Suez, or from Al Arîsb on the Mediterranean, to the straits of Bâb al Mandeb. Each of these lines stretches over about eighteen degrees of latitude, and extends for a length of 1,300, or 1,400 miles. The northern side, again, is formed by a line drawn from Suez in a north-westerly direction, till it meets the Euphrates, a disa tance of about 600 miles, and forms the ill-defined boundary

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* Vol. I., Preface, p. v.

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