Spengler on the Early Arabian Feudal Age

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President Camacho

The Magian Culture experienced a feudal age, corresponding to our Gothic, in addition to an Age of Absolutism (Umayyad Period), a "democratic" period (height of Abbasids/Samanids), and an Imperial Age (Seljuk/Ottoman Sultanate). The Byzantine realm followed a similar chronology of development.

Spengler relays the details of the Magian Feudal Age, which flourished from roughly 0-500 AD (corresponding to 1000-1500 in Western Culture)

Outside the Pseudomorphosis, and the more vigorously in proportion as the Classical influence is weaker over the country, there spring up all the forms of a genuine feudal age. Scholasticism, mysticism, feudal fealty, minstrelsy, the crusade spirit, all existed in the first centuries of the Arabian Culture and will be found in it as soon as we know how to look for them. The legion existed in name even after Septimius Severus, but in the East, legions look for all the world like ducal retinues. Officials are nominated, but what nomination amounts to in reality is the investiture of a count with his fief. While in the West the Caesar-title fell into the hands of chieftains, the East transformed itself into an early Caliphate amazingly like the feudal state of mature Gothic.​

In the Sassanid Empire, in Hauran, in southern Arabia, there dawned a pure feudal period. The exploits of a king of Saba, Shamir Juharish, are immortalized like those of a Roland or an Arthur, in the Arabic saga which tells of his advance through Persia as far as China. The Kingdom of Ma'in existed side by side with the realm of Israel during the millennium before Christ, and its remains (which suggest comparisons with Mycena and Tiryns) extend deeply into Africa. But now the feudal age flowered throughout Arabia and even in the mountains of Abyssinia.​

In Axum there arose during early Christian times mighty castles and kings' tombs with the largest monoliths in the world. Behind the kings stands a feudal nobility of counts ( kail ) and wardens ( kabir ), vassals of often questionable loyalty whose great possessions more and more narrowed the power of the king and his household. The endless Christian-Jewish wars between south Arabia and the kingdom of Axum have essentially the character of chivalry-warfare, frequently degenerating into baronial feuds based on the castles.​

In Saba ruled the Hamdanids — who later became Christian. Behind them stood the Christian realm of Axum, in alliance with Rome, which about a.d. 300 stretched from the White Nile to the Somali coast and the Persian Gulf, and in 515 overthrew the Jewish-Himaryites. In 542 there was a diet of princes at Marib to which both the Roman and the Sassanid Empires sent ambassadors. Even to-day the country is full of innumerable relics of mighty castles, which in Islamic times were popularly attributed to supernatural builders. The stronghold of Gomdan is a work of twenty tiers.​

In the Sassanid Empire ruled the Dikhans, or local lords, while the brilliant court of these early-Eastern "Hohenstaufen" was in every respect a model for that of the Byzantines who followed Diocletian. Even much later the Abbassids in their new capital of Baghdad could think of nothing better than to imitate, on a grand scale, the Sassanid ideal of court life. In northern Arabia, at the courts of the Ghassanids and at those of the Lakhmids, there sprang up a genuine troubadour and Minne poetry; and knightly poets, in the days of the Early Fathers, fought out their duels with "word, lance, and sword." One of them was the Jew Samuel, lord of the castle of Al Alblaq, who stood a famous siege by the King of Hira for the sake of five precious suits of armour.' In relation to this lyric poetry, the Late-Arabic which flourished, especially in Spain, from 800 stands as Uhland and Eichendorf stand to Walter von der Vogelweide.​

For this young world of the first centuries of our era our antiquarians and theologians have had no eyes. Busied as they are with the state of Late Republican and Imperial Rome, the conditions of the Middle East seem to them merely primitive and void of all significance. But the Parthian bands that again and again rode at the legions of Rome were a chivalry exalted by Mazdaism; in their armies there was the spirit of crusade.​

So, too, might it have been with Christianity if it had not been wholly bound under the power of the pseudomorphosis. The spirit was there — Tertullian spoke of the " militia Christi " and the sacrament was the soldier's oath of fidelity. But it was only later that Christ became the hero for whom his vassals went out against the heathen; for the time being, the hither side of the Roman frontier knew not Christian lords and knights, but only Roman legates; not the castle, but the castra ; not tournaments, but executions.​

Yet in spite of all this it was not, strictly speaking, a Parthian war, but a true crusade of Jewry that blazed out in 115 when Trajan marched into the East, and it was as a reprisal for the destruction of Jerusalem that the whole infidel ("Greek") population of Cyprus — traditionally 240,000 souls — was massacred. Nisibis, defended by Jews, made an illustrious resistance. Warlike Adiabene (the upper Tigris plain) was a Jewish state. In all the Parthian and Persian wars against Rome the gentry and peasantry, the feudal levy, of Jewish Mesopotamia fought in the front line.​

Byzantium, even, was not able entirely to evade the influence of the Arabian feudal age, and, under a crust of Late Classical administrative forms, the fief system (especially in the interior of Asia Minor) came into existence. There there were powerful families whose loyalty was doubtful and whose ambition was to possess the Imperial throne. "Originally tied to the capital, which they were not allowed to leave without the Emperor's permission, this nobility settled down later on its broad estates in the provinces. From the fourth century onwards this provincial nobility was de facto an 'Estate of the realm’ and in course of time it claimed a certain independence of Imperial control.” (Roth, Social- und Kulturgeschichte des Byfantinischen Ketches, p. 15)​

The "Roman Army" in the East, meanwhile, was transformed in less than two centuries from an army of modern type to one of the feudal order. The Roman legion disappeared in the reorganization of the age of Severus, about AD 200. While in the West the army degenerated into hordes, in the East there arose, in the fourth century a genuine, if belated, knighthood — a fact that Mommsen long ago pointed out, without, however, seeing the significance of it. The young noble received a thorough education in single combat, horsemanship, use of bow and lance.​

About AD 260 the Emperor Gallienus — the friend of Plotinus and the builder of the Porta Nigra of Trier, one of the most striking and most unfortunate figures of the period of the soldier-emperors — formed, from Germans and Moors, a new type of mounted force, the personal military suite. A significant light is thrown upon the changes by the fact that the old city-gods give way, in the religion of the army, to the German gods of personal heroism, under the labels of Mars and Hercules.​

Diocletian's palatini are not a substitute for the praetorians abolished by Septimius Severus, but a small, well-disciplined knight-army, while the comitatenses , the general levy, are organized in "numeri" or companies. The tactics are those of every Early period, with its pride of personal courage. The attack takes the Germanic form of the so-called "boar's head" — the deep mass technically called the Gevierthaufe . (The typical form, for instance, of the Swiss in their independence-battles, and of Western infantry generally in the 15th and 16th centuries, during the transition from hand-arm to fire-arm warfare- Tr.)​

Under Justinian we find, fully developed, a system corresponding precisely to the Landsknecht system of Charles V, in which condottieri of the Frundsberg type raise professional forces on a territorial basis. The expedition of Narses is described by Procopius just as one might describe the great recruiting-operations of Wallenstein. (The same holds good for Belisarius’ armies. –Tr.)

But there appeared also in these early centuries a brilliant Scholasticism and Mysticism of Magian type, domesticated in the renowned schools of the Aramaean region — the Persian schools of Ctesiphon, Resaina, Gundisapora, the Jewish of Sura, Nehardea, Kinnesrin. These are flourishing headquarters of astronomy, philosophy, chemistry, medicine. But towards the west these grand manifestations, too, become falsified by the Pseudomorphosis.

The characteristically Magian elements of this knowledge assume at Alexandria the forms of Greek philosophy and at Beyrout those of Roman jurisprudence; they are committed to writing in the Classical languages, squeezed into alien and long-petrified literary forms, and perverted by the hoary logic of a Civilization of quite other structure. It is in this, and not in the Islamic, time that Arabian science began.

Yet, as our philologists only unearthed what had been put in Late Classical dress at Alexandria and Antioch, and had not an inkling either of the immense wealth of the Arabian spring or of the real pivots of its researches and ideas, there arose the preposterous notion that the Arabs were spiritual epigoni of the Classical. In reality, practically everything that was produced on the " other" side — from Edessa's point of view — of the philologist's frontier, though seeming to the Western eye an offspring of a "Late Classical" spirit, is nothing but a reflection of Early Arabian inwardness.