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the Persian poetry, which, he observes, it is almost impossible, as far as he can find, for the best translator to convert even into common sense *.
But the latest, and, perhaps, the most curious publication on the subject of the Turks, was, A Treatise on Tactics, written in Turkish, in the year 1731, and translated two years ago by a foreign nobleman, who added to it a very sensible preface, and learned notes. It was the object of this little work to recommend to the Othman court the military discipline of the Christians, and to display the advantage of that artful disposition of their troops, by which the timorous and suspected men are put under a necessity of fighting, even against their will; a disposition, which Hannibal, and other great masters in the art of war, have followed with success, and which, if we believe Homer, was even as ancient as the siege of Troy :
The horse and chariots to the front assign'd;
Pope's Iliad, iv. 342.
The whole treatise is entertaining and instructive; and though it is very imperfect, and often erroneous where the Christians are mentioned, yet it supplied me with many important lights, in my enquiry concerning the causes of the greatness and decline of the Turkish empire.
These are the principal works in the languages of Europe, that have fallen into my hands, on the same subject with the following
• Second Edit. p. 38.
Essay; and, though I have borrowed very freely from them all, yet by making this general acknowledgment of my obligations to them, I obviate, I think, any objection that can be made on that head, and cannot justly be reputed a plagiary, if to the passages taken from others, I add a series of remarks peculiar to myself. I very soon desisted from my search after the other books on the Turkish affairs, in the French and Italian languages; for, after having run over a great nuinber of them, I found them to contain little more than the same facts, which are related more elegantly by the abovementioned authors, with the addition of some idle fables and impertinent projects. As to the Greek writers of the Byzantine history, who have given us an account of the Turks, it was the less necessary to examine them with attention, as Knolles seems to have reduced them to their quintessence ; and indeed, the generality of those historians were more attentive to the harmony of their periods, and the beauty of their expressions, than either to the truth of the facts which they related, or to the solidity of the remarks deduced from them. They were no longer those excellent Greeks, whose works remain to this age, as a perfect example of the noblest sentiments delivered in the purest style: they seemed to think, that fine writing consisted in a florid exuberance of words, and that, if they pleased the ear, they were sure to satisfy the heart: they even knowingly corrupted the Asiatic names, to give them a more agreeable sound *, by which they have led their successors into a number of ridiculous errors, and have given their histories the air of a romance.
Before I proceed to the books, which the Turks themselves have written on their own affairs, it will be necessary to make a digression
* Thus they changed Togrul Beg into Tangrolipir, and Azzo’ddin + into Azatines.
on their literature in general, lest the opinion which most men entertain of the Turkish ignorance, should induce some of them to suspect the authority of these works, or even to doubt of their existence.
It is a ridiculous notion, then, which prevails among us, that ige norance is a principle of the Mohammedan religion, and that the Koran instructs the Turks not to be instructed. I have heard many sensible men inveighing against the mean policy of Mohammed, who they say commanded his followers to be ignorant, Jest they should one day or other learn that he had imposed upon them. There is not a shadow of truth in this : Mohammed not only permitted but advised his people to apply themselves to learning. He says expressly in his strange book, where there are many fine ideas mixed with a heap of rubbish, that the man who has knowledge for his portion, has received a valuable gift; and among his sayings, which were preserved by his intimate friends, and are now considered as authentic, there are several which recommend learning in the strongest terms; as, the ink of the learned and the blood of martyrs are of equal value in heaven, and learning is permitted to all believers both male and female : not to mention that precept of his, which is well known, Seek learning, though it were in China.
There would be no end of quoting all the striking expressions of this singular man, and the ablest professors of his religion, in praise of knowledge and letters; indeed, we all know, no modern nation was ever more addicted to learning of every kind than the Arabians ; they cultivated some branches of science with great success, and brought their language to a high degree of clearness and precision; a proof that they had not only men of taste, but even many philosophers among them ; for, that language will always be most clear and precise, in which most works of real philosophy have been
written. We are willing also to allow, that the Persians have been a polite and ingenious people, which they could not have been without a sufficient, culture of their talents. They lay for a long time astonished and stupefied at the rapid progress of the Mohammedan arms; but when they began to revive, and had embraced the religion of their conquerors, they followed their natural bent, and applied themselves with great eagerness to the improvement of their language ; which was by that time grown very rich by its mixture with the Arabic. We are no less , candid to the Indians, whom we know to have been a wise and inventive nation; we read with pleasure their fables of Pilpai; we adopt their numerical characters; we divert and strengthen our minds with their game of Chess ; and of late years, we have condescended to look into their writings ; but by a strange degree of obstinacy, we persist in considering the Turks as rude, savage, and not only unacquainted with the advantages of learning, but even its avowed persecutors.
This prejudice, absurd as it may seem, is of very ancient growth; it was first brought into Europe at that memorable period, when letters began to revive in the west ; and has continued to this day without any diminution.
diminution. It was the fashion in that age to look upon every person as barbarous, who did not study the philosophy of the old Academy; and because the Turks had driven the Greeks from their country, it was immediately concluded that they persecuted even the language and learning of that nation.
It is certain, indeed, that the Turks were for many years wholly addicted to arms; but when they had secured their conquests in Asia, and especially when they were settled in Constantinople, they began to cultivate every species of literature ; and their sultans often set them the example. At that time, they were so sensible of the high polish which learning gives to the manners of every nation, that they reflected with disdain on their ancient rudevess ; and one of the best poets, quoted by M. d'Herbelot, says, although the rude disposition of the Turks seemed to be a disorder that had no remedy, yet when they dispersed the clouds of ignorance with the study of polite letters, many of them became a light to the world*. But here we must be understood to speak merely of poetry, rhetoric, moral philosophy, history, and the less abstruse parts of knowledge ; for, we must confess, and the Asiatics confess themselves, that they are far inferior to the natives of Europe in every branch of pure and mixed mathematics, as well as iu the arts of painting and sculpture, which their religion forbids them to cultivate: a very absurd piece of superstition ! which the Persians and Indians wisely neglected, as they knew that their legislator probibited the imitation of visible objects to the Arabs of his age, lest they should relapse into their recent folly of adoring images ; and that when the reason of the law entirely ceases, the law itself ought also to cease. They begin, however, to imitate our studies; and they would undoubtedly have made a considerable progress in the sciences, if the press at Constantinople