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by the decaying emperors of Byzantium. Defended by a belt of water against the easy invasions which had reduced the garden of Italy into a wilderness, Sicily drew on itself the eyes of the Popes when trembling at the successes of the Arian Lombards, as offering the best point of retreat, in the event of extreme adversity, from which to rally the orthodox spirit of the West to a war at once religious and national. But Sicily had a population not merely by origin, but still at that time in language as much Greek as Latin, while its political associations were all connected with the seat of Eastern empire. These ties kept the island in a close union with Byzantium, and filled the Popes with alarm lest it might submit altogether to the primacy of their detested rivals the Greek Patriarchs. Great and unrelaxing were the efforts they made to avert such a disaster. Six out of the seven monasteries, founded by the private munificence in the service of the Church of Gregory the Great, before his elevation to the Papal See, were in Sicily. These exertions were crowned with success, and the spiritual influence of the Western Primate effectively outweighed in the end that of the Eastern. But the preponderance retained an exclusively religious character. While the Sicilian people and clergy zealously shared the Western feeling against Iconoclasm, they steadily avoided employing it for those purely political purposes to which the Popes turned it in other quarters. To its Greek emperors Sicily therefore continued faithful, though with that degree of listless loyalty to be expected in an age of torpor, and expressive rather of the absence of any more attractive form of government than of fervent affection. The Byzantine emperors, alive to the fact that here was the most precious gem still in their battered diadem, treated Sicily with special distinction. Invested with regal pomp, resplendent with all the gorgeousness of Byzantine state, the Patrician of Sicily, as the Emperor's Vicar, kept alive the tradition of imperial majesty. Syracuse was raised to the metropolitan rank from which Ravenna had fallen. Here alone in the West, did Byzantine dominion still revel in undiminished pageantry, and exhibit the show of unimpaired greatness, while yet at heart all was thoroughly rotten. With large armaments, a splendid court, and a rich exchequer, the patriciate of Sicily, instead of being the reward of worth, was the usual prize reserved for imperial minions. Eunuch after eunuch, adventurer after adventurer, no sooner was borne aloft for a season by the quick revolutions of palace fortune, than he flung himself upon this choice portion, to snatch up as much of its wealth as he could secure before the elevation of

a new favourite in reward of some fresh exploit of profligate servility. Hence, in spite of comparative privileges by the side of other provinces, the evil administration of a government, always extortionate by nature, and rendered doubly rapacious now through the imperious wants of painful distress, blighted with a withering palsy the native fruitfulness of this favoured isle. Slavery, with its unfailing followers, suffering and nakedness, in its wake, appeared on all sides the haggard witness to a decay which the studied gilding of official pomp vainly sought to cloak. In the prostration of the people worn down by grinding imposts and a leaden despotism, is to be found the explanation for the slack resistance made in Sicily against Mussulman dominion, when once the Byzantine legions had been worsted in the field. There was nothing to kindle a national feeling in the breast of the Sicilians. The only principle to inspire them with an impulse was to be found in religion. Accordingly, the desultory struggle carried on during some years against the invaders in the more mountainous districts, were sustained wholly by the fervour of a few Christian devotees, whose consciences would not stoop to bow to the followers of a false Prophet. On both sides, therefore, the stimulating motives to the contest sprang from the same principle. The Mussulmans were pushed on to invasion by the fiery spirit of prosely tism embodied in Ased, who looked on war against the unbelievers as a holy duty, while the only earnest resistance offered, came from the strength of a like supreme conviction in a faith, that disdained compromise with the infidel.

On the 16th June, 827, the Mussulman army landed on the west coast of Sicily, at Mazzara, a few miles from Marsala Euphemius forthwith received an earnest of the kind of reward in store for his treacherous services. He was told that his help was no more wanted, and therefore that he would do best to withdraw with his followers. For a year he dragged on a wretched existence, vainly thinking, as a guerilla chieftain, to win a little booty and power, until he was caught in a trap of his own laying, and killed by two youths whom he believed himself to have bribed into betraying to him the rock bound fastness of Castro Giovanni. The Patrician of Sicily had been fully prepared for what was coming; and but very few days elapsed after the landing, before the Greek and Mussulman armies met each other in decisive conflict. Upon the battlefield, Ased proved his mettle to be of the true temper, which does not flinch at the sight of danger. Bearing aloft in his hand the holy standard, the old man rode slowly down the


serried ranks of his followers, repeating to himself in a low voice, with the grim piety of a proselytising devotee, the chapter of the Koran set apart for the dying, and called the Heart. Having come to the end of his muttered prayer, Ased then drew up his horse, and turned to his troops, exclaiming, Here they are, those barbarians whom you have already met in Africa as 'bondsmen; fear them not, O Mussulmans!' and with these words he dashed foremost into the fight. The result was a complete victory for the invaders. The Byzantine forces were utterly scattered, and their general fled to Calabria.

Ased pressed on hotly, hoping to make himself thus master of Syracuse, the metropolis and capital stronghold of Byzantine authority in the West - then still one of the stateliest cities in the world, although sadly shrunk from its original greatness, and incomparably the mightiest arsenal of the empire. Such was its importance, that on more than one occasion the Emperor had entertained the idea of removing to its strong harbour from the exposed shores of the Bosphorus, which were every day more infested by the Barbarians; and indeed Constans, the grandson of Heraclius, did continue to rule the world from Syracuse, after he had been obliged to quit his capital. Here the Arabs learnt the difficulty of overcoming, by sheer natural courage, the resistance that dwells in the cunning strength of discipline and ramparts. Vainly did Ased establish himself on the quarries, so sadly known from Athenian history, and assault the city with desperate determination; burning the ships in the harbour, and making every effort that an indomitable resolution could suggest. From behind its long line of battlements, flanked by the open sea, Syracuse could laugh to scorn the frenzied enterprise of men utterly without military engines. Exposed meanwhile upon the bare heights to the reverberating glow of a Sicilian summer sun, and the plague-stricken atmosphere which then hangs around the marshlands along the sedgy Anapus, the little band of invaders became attacked by virulent disease, which quickly thinned its slender ranks. Under the trial of such suffering, the insubordinate temper of the force soon showed itself. The soldiers breaking into mutiny, chose a spokesman, who called upon Ased to raise the siege the loss of one Mussulman outweighing in worth all the wealth of Christendom. But Ased was not to be

diverted from his purpose. "I am not the man,' he cried, "to 'let Mussulmans turn back from a holy war, while there is so 'much ground to hope for victory.' He even threatened to set fire to the transports, and in the end so thoroughly overawed the mutineers by his inflexible intrepidity, that they

allowed him to seize their spokesman and have him whipped publicly in the camp. Yet all this stubborn spirit proved unavailing against overwhelming and ever-growing odds. Disease grew in intensity, while success enabled the Byzantines, through mere force of numbers, to press the Mussulmans from all sides in a manner that they could not have accomplished by simple prowess. At last in the summer of 828, Ased himself fell a prey to the distemper; and then his successor, elected by the soldiers, gave up the enterprise and retreated to Mineo, a small town nestled in an almost impregnable position, a day's march from Syracuse.

After a whole year's struggle, the invaders saw themselves therefore confined to this one fastness and to Mazzara, at the opposite end of the island, without communication between the two points, and small likelihood of succour from home. Nothing proves more signally the enervation of the Byzantine authorities than that these two handfuls of destitute men should have been able, during months, to defy their well-appointed and numerically overwhelming armaments. At last in the summer of 830, reinforcements in considerable numbers and from two quarters did land and relieve these forlorn upholders of Islam. During the gallant defence of Mineo, Asbagh, one of those countless rovers who from Spain and other Mahometan countries were for ever scouring the Mediterranean, happened to touch at Sicily, and, struck by its wealth, promised to bring help to his straitened fellow believers, which he accordingly did. At the same time the Emir Ziadet Allah also despatched to Sicily a force estimated at not less than thirty thousand men. His remissness in not coming earlier to the assistance of his countrymen, was the result of serious embarrassment which had befallen him in Africa. The Counts of Tuscany, who had often had much to suffer from African pirates forerunners of the celebrated Barbary corsairs-thought this a good moment for taking vengeance upon them at home, when so many of their fighting men would be away in Sicily. Accordingly they proceeded to Africa, and all the Emir's forces were called for to repel, in the first instance, the unexpected assault. The original disinclination the Emir had felt against invading Sicily had quite passed away, since he had had practical experience of the benefit he derived from having the more turbulent of his subjects draughted off. Besides, Ziadet Allah was possessed of an Arab's instinctive ambition for his dynasty, and was fired with the idea of making the governorship of Sicily an hereditary appanage of the house of Aghlab. The policy thus inspired had a material influence upon the condition of

the Mussulman establishment in Sicily, resulting in a continued struggle between the Aghlabite emirs of Africa, strenuous in imposing their supremacy, and the colonists impatient of an authority which they put up with only in moments of dire necessity.

Grown wiser by experience, the invaders avoided breaking their strength a second time against Syracuse and the other strong towns, which studded the mountainous tract of Eastern Sicily; but rather overran the open plains in the interior, which they quickly reduced. After a memorable defence of a year, Palermo fell into their hands in September 831 by capitulation, and Abu Fihr, a kinsman of Ziadet Allah, established there the seat of government. The immediate consequence of this success was an alliance with the commonwealth of Naples, then engaged in a desperate struggle against a host of enemies, Byzantine, Lombard, and Papal, and deterred by no scruples of conscience from seeking help at the hands of warlike unbelievers. We must refer the reader to two most interesting chapters, abounding in new and striking matter, for the results of this alliance on Southern Italy by leading to the establishment of Mussulman settlements at Bari, Brindisi, and Taranto, which remained for a considerable time under the rule of sultans, true types of daring rovers. Soon the Neapolitans were called on to pay back the service rendered; and they did not recoil from fighting zealously against their fellow Christians at Messina, with the capture of which city in 843, the progress of the Mussulmans in the island came to a stop for a number of years. The illregulated though fiery onset of the Arabs, was defied by the stoutness of the towns, which along the steep slopes of Etna, combined the elaborate defences of art with the natural strength of site. Worn out and decrepid, the Byzantine empire still was resting upon the mighty piers of a civilisation, which even at this stage of decay wanted long and persistent battering, before it could be levelled. Over and over again therefore the eager Arabs were baffled by the solidity of the edifice they were bent on overthrowing. Between the natures of the assailants and the defenders there was however a capital distinction. With the vigour of youth, the Arabs, unchecked in spirit, would leap from repulse to fresh onset; while no success could make up for the state of exhaustion, in which the mere exertion required for victory, left the weakened frame of the Byzantines. The Mussulmans waged therefore a perpetual although a desultory war against the Greeks. Every year, sometimes twice a year, expeditions threaded with daring boldness the wild glens of Etna, and swept down on the plains

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