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kings of Cordova proved more formidable foes to the new Christian state than the old viceroys of Spain had been, and for some generations its growth was comparatively slow. For fifty years the kings of Asturias and Galicia are mere names to us: it would appear that they were often constrained to pay tribute to the Ommeyad princes, and that they found their chief safety in the civil wars with which the Moslems were so continually vexed. Alfonso II. (791-842) successfully repelled the last Moslem attempt to reconquer Galicia. He appears once in Frankish history as sending ambassadors to Charles the Great, to say that he considered himself the “man” of the great king, and to offer his homage. But the Franks did not acquire any real suzerainty over Asturias, or come into any contact with its borders. The reign of Charles, however, left its mark on Peninsular history in another quarter: it was he who conquered from the Saracen the “march of Spain,’ which, under its later name of the county of Barcelona, became the second great Christian state beyond the Pyrenees. At first the ‘Spanish March” was a dependency of the duchy of Septimania, but ere The county long they were separated, and the count of Barof Barcelona, celona became as free from any active interference on the part of the Frankish kings as were his neighbours, the counts of Aquitaine. The long reign of Alfonso II. was a period of rapid growth and extension for the kingdom of Asturias. He pushed his arms forward as far as the Tagus, and in one expedition he took and sacked Lisbon. But he drew the line of his garrisons at the Douro, which remained for some time the limit of the occupation of the Asturians. They were engaged for a whole generation in repeopling the deserted plains of Leon, which had long been a waste march between the Christian and the Moslem. Another Alfonso, third of the name, who ascended the throne in 866, was the next prince who pushed forward the Asturian border. To the kingdom that he inherited he added
Old Castille, northern Portugal, and the land beyond the Douro, the extrema Durii, which keeps its name of Estremadura till this day. Mohammed king of Cordova could make no head against him, for a rising under a chief named successes of Omar-ben-Hafs had torn his northern dominions Alfonso III. from his grasp, and while endeavouring to subdue the rebel, he had to leave the king of Asturias to press forward unopposed. In Alfonso's time the county of Castille and the kingdom of Navarre took their rise. The former was a border march against the Moor, intrusted by the king to the bravest of his vassals. The latter was founded by a Gascon count Sancho, who though a vassal of the Frankish crown made conquests on his own account beyond the Pyrenees, and obtained the aid of the king of Asturias by doing him homage. Alfonso strengthened his realm by building the great frontier fortresses of Zamora, Simancas, and Osma, to protect his new acquisitions from the raids of the Moslems. In 910 his son Garcia removed his residence from the Asturian town of Oviedo to Leon, south of the hills, as if to mark the advance of his borders into the plains of northern Spain. The progress of the Christians southward and eastward was never to be checked, though it was often delayed for a space when strong rulers sat on the throne of Cordova. Three centuries before, it was the Goths who had been a turbulent unruly aristocracy, ruling a nation of serfs, and the Saracen had swept their monarchy off the face of the earth in two years. Now the Moslem had become even as his Gothic prede- The spanish cessor, luxurious, proud, untrue to his king, a Moors. hard master to the peasantry who paid him toll and tribute. Religious persecution was not rare, and Andalusia could count many martyrs; the accusation of having blasphemed the name of Mohammed always stirred the Moslem crowd to sudden cruelty, and victims of all ages and conditions, from an archbishop of Toledo down to obscure monks and trades folk, suffered on that charge. While the conquerors were losing their ancient strength, the new Christian kingdom in the north-west was breeding an iron-handed race of men in its rugged mountains, a race whose life was one constant crusade against the Infidel. They had lost in their common danger all memory of the ancient grudges that separated Visigoth and Roman, and had become a perfectly homogeneous people, welded completely together by the day of adversity. The stubborn Spanish nation, poor, proud, warlike, and fanatically orthodox, was the natural product of the time when Christianity and freedom could only be preserved by accepting exile in the Cantabrian hills, and a life of constant struggle against the Saracen. The Mohammedan aristocracy, cultured, wealthy, luxurious, turbulent, and selfish, could not in the end resist such enemies. Though brave and numerous, they were divided by countless local, family and national feuds—the Arab hated the Syrian and the Berber, while all three despised the Spanish-born Moslem. Their monarch at Cordova only | existed by playing off one faction against another, and was often deprived for whole years of his control over an important town or province. It is small wonder then that the Asturian kingdom waxed, while the caliphate of Cordova waned. Perhaps we ought rather to marvel that the Moslems ruled in Spain so long and with so much splendour, in spite of all their feuds and civil wars. It is strange that in the midst of so much turbulent disorder they should have been able to found a very flourishing literature, and to leave their mark on the face of the land in the shape of such triumphs of architecture as the great Mosque of Cordova, or the Alcazar of Seville. Certainly the Saracen was seen at his best in Spain; in the other lands that he conquered, decay and decline came on him much more rapidly. The Abbassides of Bagdad had sunk into decrepitude some
* It is noteworthy to mark how Roman and Gothic names are found side by side in the lists of kings of Asturias. Roman names like Pelagius, Aurelius, Mauricatus, alternate with Gothic names like Hildefuns (Alfonso), Beremud (Bermudo), and Favila.
time before the Ommeyads of Cordova met with their fall. Syria, Egypt, and Persia became the prey of Turk and Mameluke and Tartar long ere Andalusia yielded to the Christian. Arabia itself sunk back into torpor with astonishing rapidity and ease. It was certainly in Spain that the conquering Moslems retained longest all the best and worthiest characteristics of the days of their early greatness.
We leave Europe at the end of our period in a day of gloom and depression. The picture indeed has its bright points: in Spain the balance had definitely turned in favour of Christendom, and the crescent was already beginning to wane. At Constantinople the rule of the Basilian dynasty promised a period of stationary prosperity, even if no strong emperor should arise to lead the Byzantine armies once more to victory. But in those great lands of Central Europe which then, and always, have formed the heart of Christendom, the outlook was very black—blacker than it had been at any time since the evil days of the seventh century. If the attacks of the Vikings were visibly slackening, and if the Saracens had at last been driven out of southern Italy, so that the invaders from without were for a time checked, yet the state of affairs within showed no signs of mending. The empire was dead: the papacy was falling into premature decay and corruption.
In the midst of all the treason and selfishness, the wars, murders, and rebellions of the dismal age that lies between the battle of Fontenay and the end of the tenth century, there is one thought only that can afford the student any consolation. After the break-up of the empire of Charles the Great, while Dane, Saracen, Hungarian, and Slav were simultaneously besetting the gates of Christendom, there was a very serious danger that the fabric of civilised Europe might crumble to pieces beneath their blows. That it did not do so must be attributed to the unexpected powers of resistance developed
by the disintegrated fractions of the Frankish empire under the feudal system. Disastrous as were most of the effects of that system, it at least justified its existence by saving Christendom from the foe without. What the successors of Charles the Great had failed to do when all the military force of the empire was at their backs, was accomplished by the petty counts and margraves whose power was developed on the ruins of the central authority. It was the mailed feudal horseman, and the impregnable walls of the feudal castle, that foiled the attacks of the Dane, the Saracen, and the Hungarian. While the emperor or king was expected to protect every corner of the realm, and as a matter of fact protected none of it, the governors of the gaus and marks proved, on the whole, to be equal to the task, when once they had got their hands free and were not fettered by the close supervision of their master. Europe lapsed, indeed, into utter decentralisation, and lost for centuries the administrative unity which the reign of Charles the Great had promised. A heavy blow was dealt at the slowly developing culture and civilisation which the eighth century had produced. It was not without justice that the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries have been called ‘the Dark Ages.' Literature and art sank back to the level from which Charles the Great had for a time raised them; history has once more to be reconstructed from the scantiest materials. Architecture was stagnant, save in the single department of castle-building—the one development that these centuries produced. The internal history of continental Europe, when it ceases to be a series of Danish, Saracen, and Magyar raids, becomes a dismal record of tiresome local feuds and private wars. The remains of the old Teutonic liberty, which had survived in slowly dwindling measure, finally disappear as feudalism is perfected, and the freeman becomes everywhere the vassal of some greater or smaller lord. But all the details of this unhappy change must not blind us to the fact that Christendom was saved from destruction