1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bagdad (city)

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BAGDAD, or Baghdad, the capital of the Turkish vilayet of the same name. It is the headquarters of the VI. Army Corps, which garrisons also the Basra and Mosul vilayets. It lies on both sides of the river Tigris, in an extensive desert plain which has scarcely a tree or village throughout its whole extent, in latitude 33° 20′ N., longitude 44° 24′ E. At this point the Tigris and the Euphrates approach each other most nearly, the distance between them being little more than 25 m. At this point also the two rivers are connected by a canal, the northernmost of a series of canals which formerly united the two great waterways, and at the same time irrigated the intervening plain. This canal, the Sakhlawieh (formerly Isa), leaves the Euphrates a few miles above Feluja and the bridge of boats, near the ruins of the ancient Anbar. As it approaches Bagdad it spreads out in a great marsh, and finally, through the Masudi canal, which encircles western Bagdad, enters the Tigris below the town. At the time of Chesney's survey of the Euphrates in 1838 this canal was still navigable for craft of some size. At present it serves no other purpose than to increase the floods which periodically turn Bagdad into an island city, and sometimes threaten to overwhelm the dikes which protect it and to submerge it entirely.

The original city of Bagdad was built on the western bank of the Tigris, but this is now, and has been for centuries, little more than a suburb of the larger and more important city on the eastern shore, the former containing an area of only 146 acres within the walls, while the latter extends over 591 acres. Both the eastern and the western part of the city were formerly enclosed by brick walls, with large round towers at the principal angles and smaller towers intervening at shorter distances, the whole surrounded by a deep fosse. There were three gates in the western city and four in the eastern; one of the latter, however, on the north side, called "Gate of the Talisman" from an Arabic inscription bearing the date A.D. 1220, has remained closed since the capture of the city by Murad IV. in 1638. These walls all fell into decay long since; at places they were used as brick quarries, and finally the great reforming governor, (1868-1872), Midhat Pasha, following the example set by many European cities, undertook to destroy them altogether and utilize the free space thus obtained as a public park and esplanade. His plans were only partially carried out. At present fragments of the walls exist here and there, with the great ditch about them, while elsewhere a line of mounds marks their course. A great portion of the ground within the wall lines is not occupied by buildings, especially in the north-western quarter; and even in the more populous parts of the city, near the river, a considerable space between the houses is occupied by gardens, where pomegranates, figs, oranges, lemons and date-palms grow in great abundance, so that the city, when seen at a distance, has the appearance of rising out of the midst of trees.

Along the Tigris the city spreads out into suburbs, the most important of which is Kazemain, on the western side of the river northward, opposite which on the eastern side lies Muazzam. The former of these is connected with western Bagdad by a very primitive horse-tramway, also a relic of Midhat Pasha's reforms. The two parts of the city are joined by pontoon bridges, one in the suburbs and one in the main city. The Tigris is at this point some 275 yds. wide and very deep. Its banks are of mud, with no other retaining walls than those formed by the foundations of the houses, which are consequently always liable to be undermined by the action of the water. The western part of the city, which is very irregular in shape, is occupied entirely by Shi‛as. It has its own shops, bazaars, mosques, &c., and constitutes a quarter by itself. Beyond the wall line on that side vestiges of ancient buildings are visible in various directions, and the plain is strewn with fragments of bricks, tiles and rubbish. A burying-ground has also extended itself over a large tract of land, formerly occupied by the streets of the city. The form of the new or eastern city is that of an irregular oblong, about 1500 paces in length by 800 in breadth. The town has been built without the slightest regard to regularity; the streets are even more intricate and winding than those in most other Eastern towns, and with the exception of the bazaars and some open squares, the interior is little else than a labyrinth of alleys and passages. The streets are unpaved and in many places so narrow that two horsemen can scarcely pass each other; as it is seldom that the houses have windows facing the thoroughfares, and the doors are small and mean, they present on both sides the gloomy appearance of dead walls. All the buildings, both public and private, are constructed of furnace-burnt bricks of a yellowish-red colour, principally derived from the ruins of other places, chiefly Madain (Ctesiphon), Wasit and Babylon, which have been plundered at various times to furnish materials for the construction of Bagdad.

The houses of the richer classes are regularly built about an interior court. The ground floor, except for the serdab, is given up to kitchens, store-rooms, servants' quarters, stables, &c. The principal rooms are on the first floor and open directly from a covered veranda, which is reached by an open staircase from the court. These constitute the winter residence of the family, reception rooms, &c. The roofs of the houses are all flat, surrounded by parapets of sufficient height to protect them from the observation of the dwellers opposite, and separate them from their neighbours. In the summer the population sleeps and dines upon the roofs, which thus constitute to all intents a third storey. The remainder of the day, so far as family life is concerned, is spent in the serdab, a cellar sunk somewhat below the level of the courtyard, damp from frequent wettings, with its half windows covered with hurdles thatched with camel thorn and kept dripping with water. Occasionally the serdabs are provided with punkahs.

Sometimes, in the months of June, July and August, when the sherki or south wind is blowing, the thermometer at break of day is known to stand at 112° F., while at noon it rises to 119° and a little before two o'clock to 122°, standing at sunset at 114°, but this scale of temperature is exceptional. Ordinarily during the summer months the thermometer averages from about 75° at sunrise to 107° at the hottest time of the day. Owing to the extreme dryness of the atmosphere and the fact that there is always a breeze, usually from the N.W., this heat is felt much less than a greatly lower temperature in a more humid atmosphere. Moreover, the nights are almost invariably cool.

Formerly Bagdad was intersected by innumerable canals and aqueducts which carried the water of both the Euphrates and the Tigris through the streets and into the houses. To-day these have all vanished, with the exception of one aqueduct which still conveys the water of the Tigris to the shrine of Abd al-Qadir (ul-Kadir). The present population draws its water directly from the Tigris, and it is distributed through the city in goat-skins carried on the backs of men and asses. There is, of course, no sewerage system, the surfaces of the streets serving that purpose, and what garbage and refuse is not consumed by the dog scavengers washes down into the Tigris at the same place from which the water for drinking is drawn. As a consequence of these insanitary conditions the death-rate is very high, and in case of epidemics the mortality is enormous. At such times a large part of the population leaves the city and encamps in the desert northward.

The principal public buildings of the city, such as they are, lie in the eastern section along the river bank. To the north, just within the old wall line, stands the citadel, surrounded by a high wall, with a lofty clock-tower which commands an excellent view. To the south of this, also on the Tigris, is the serai or palace of the Turkish governor, distinguished rather for extent than grandeur. It is comparatively modern, built at different periods, a large and confused structure without proportion, beauty or strength. Somewhat farther southward, just below the pontoon bridge, stands the custom house, which occupies the site and is built out of the material of the medreseh or college of Mostansir (A.D. 1233). Of the original building of the caliph Mostansir all that remains is a minaret and a small portion of the outer walls. Farther down are the imposing buildings of the British residency. The German consulate also is on the river-front. As in all Mahommedan cities, the mosques are conspicuous objects. Of these very few are old. The Marjanieh mosque, not far from the minaret of Mostansir, although its body is modern, has some remains of old and very rich arabesque work on its surface, dating from the 14th century. The door is formed by a lofty arch of the pointed form guarded on both sides with red bands exquisitely sculptured and having numerous inscriptions. The mosque of Khaseki, supposed to have been an old Christian church, is chiefly distinguished for its prayer niche, which, instead of being a simple recess, is crowned by a Roman arch, with square pedestals, spirally fluted shafts and a rich capital of flowers, with a fine fan or shell-top in the Roman style. The building in its present form bears the date of A.D. 1682, but the sculptures which it contains belong probably to the time of the caliphate. The minaret of Suk el-Ghazl, in the south-eastern part of the city, dates from the 13th century. The other mosques, of which there are about thirty within the walls, excluding the chapels and places of prayer, are all of recent erection. Most of them are surmounted by bright-coloured cupolas and minarets. The Mosque of the Vizier, on the eastern side of the Tigris, near the pontoon bridge, has a fine dome and a lofty minaret, and the Great Mosque in the square of el Meidan, in the neighbourhood of the serai, is also a noble building.

The other mosques do not merit any particular attention, and in general it may be said that Bagdad architecture is neither distinctive nor imposing. Such attractions as the buildings possess are due rather to the richly coloured tiles with which many of them are adorned, or to inscriptions, like the Kufic inscription, dated A.D. 944, on the ruined tekke of the Bektash dervishes in western Bagdad. More important than the mosques proper are the tomb mosques. Of these, the most important and most imposing is that of Kazemain, in the northern suburb of the western city. Here are buried the seventh and ninth of the successors of Ali, recognized by Shi‛as, namely Musa Ibn Ja‛far el-Kazim, and his grandson, Mahommed Ibn Ali el-Jawad. In its present form this mosque dates from the 19th century. The two great domes above the tombs, the four lofty minarets and part of the facade of this shrine, are overlaid with gold, and from whatever direction the traveler approaches Bagdad, its glittering domes and minarets are the first objects which meet his eye. It is one of the four great shrines of the Shi‛ite Moslems in the vilayet of Bagdad. Christians are not allowed to enter its precincts, and the population of the Kazemain quarter is so fanatical that it is difficult and even dangerous to approach it.

In the suburb of Muazzam, on the western side of the river, is the tomb of Abū Ḥanifa (q.v.), the canon lawyer. There is a large mosque with a painted dome connected with this tomb, which is an object of veneration to the Sunni Moslems, but it seems cheap and unworthy in comparison with the magnificent shrine of Kazemain. On the same side of the river, lower down, is the shrine of Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (of Jilan), founder of the Qādirite (Kadaria) sect of dervishes, also a noted place of pilgrimage. The original tomb was erected about A.D. 1253, but the present fine dome above the grave is later by at least two or three centuries. The possessor or controller of this wealthy mosque is the nakib, locally pronounced najeeb, or marshal of the nobles, whose office is to determine who are Se‛ids, i.e. entitled to wear the green turban. He is second only to the governor or vali pasha in power, and indeed his influence is often greater than that of the official ruler of the vilayet. Just outside of the wall of the western city lies the tomb and shrine of Ma‛ruf Karkhi, dating from A.D. 1215, which also is a place of pilgrimage. Close to this stands the so-called tomb of Sitte Zobeide (Zobaida), with its octagonal base and pineapple dome, one of the most conspicuous and curious objects in the neighbourhood of Bagdad. Unfortunately it is rapidly falling into decay. K. Niebuhr reports that in his day (A.D. 1750) this tomb bore an inscription setting forth that Ayesha Khanum, the wife of the governor of Bagdad, was buried here in 1488, her grave having been made in the ancient sepulchre of the lady Zobeide (Zobaida), granddaughter of Caliph Mansur and wife of Harun al-Rashid, who died in A.D. 831. The tomb was restored at the time of her burial, at which date it was already ancient, and it was evidently believed to be the tomb of Zobeide. Contemporary historians, however, state that Zobeide was actually buried in Kazemain, and moreover, early writers, who describe the neighbouring tomb and shrine of Ma‛ruf Karkhi, make no reference to this monument.

About 3 m. west of Bagdad, on the Euphrates road, in or by a grove of trees, stands the shrine and tomb of Nabi Yusha or Kohen Yusha, a place of monthly pilgrimage to the Jews, who believe it to be the place of sepulture of Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest at the close of the exilian period. This is one of four similar Jewish shrines in Irak; the others being the tomb of Ezra on the Shatt el-Arab near Korna, the tomb of Ezekiel in the village of Kefil near Kufa, and the well of Daniel near Hillah. This shrine is also venerated by Moslems, who call it the tomb of Yusuf (Joseph). The Jews bury here their chief priests, a right the Moslems at times contest, and in 1889 a serious conflict between Jews and Moslems resulted from an attempt of the former to exercise this right.

There are said to be about thirty khans or caravanserais in Bagdad for the reception of pilgrims and merchants and their goods, none of which is of any importance as a building, with the single exception of the khan el-Aurtmeh adjoining the Marjanieh mosque, to which it formerly belonged. This dates from A.D. 1356, and is said to occupy the site of an ancient Christian church. Its vaulted roof is a fine specimen of Saracenic brickwork. In recent years the demands of modern travel have led to the establishment of a hotel, which affords comfortable accommodation according to European methods. There is also an English club-house. There are said to be about fifty baths in Bagdad, but in general they are inferior in construction and accommodation. The bazaars of Bagdad are extensive and well stocked, and while not so fine in construction as those of some other Eastern cities, they are more interesting in their contents and industries, because Bagdad has on the whole been less affected by foreign innovations. Several of the bazaars are vaulted over with brickwork, but the greater number are merely covered with flat beams which support roofs of dried leaves or branches of trees and grass. The streets of the entire business section of the city are roofed over in this manner, and in the summer months the shelter from the sun is very grateful, but in the winter these streets are extremely trying to the foreign visitor, owing to their darkness and their damp and chilly atmosphere.

Bagdad is about 500 m. from the Persian Gulf, following the course of the river. It maintains steam communication with Basra, its port, which is situated on the Shatt el-Arab, somewhat more than 50 m. from the Persian Gulf, by means of two lines of steamers, one English and one Turkish. British steamers were first placed upon the Tigris as a result of the expedition of Colonel F. R. Chesney, in 1836. Since that time, a British gunboat has been stationed before the residency, and British steamers have been allowed to navigate the river. Only two of these, however, maintain a weekly connexion with Basra, and they are quite inadequate to the freight traffic between the two cities. The more numerous vessels of the Turkish service are so small, so inadequately equipped and so poorly handled, that they are used for either passenger or freight transport only by those who cannot secure the services of the British steamers. The navigation of the Tigris during the greater party of its course from Bagdad to Korna is slow and uncertain. The river, running through an absolutely flat country, composed entirely of alluvial soil, is apt to change its channel. In flood time the country at places becomes a huge lake, through which it is extremely difficult to find the channel. In the dry season, the autumn and winter, on the other hand, there is danger of grounding on the constantly shifting flats and shoals. To add to the uncertainties of navigation, the inhabitants along the eastern bank of the stream frequently dig new canals for irrigation purposes, which both reduces the water of the river and tends to make it shift its channel. Above Bagdad there are no steamers on the Tigris, but sailing vessels of 30 tons and more navigate the river to Samarra and beyond. The characteristic craft for local service in the immediate environment of Bagdad is the kufa, a circular boat of basket-work covered with bitumen, often of a size sufficient to carry five or six horses and a dozen men. These boats have been employed from the remotest antiquity through all this region, and are often depicted on the old Assyrian monuments. Equally ancient are the rafts called kellek, constructed of inflated goat-skins, covered with a framework of wood, often supporting a small house for passengers, which descend the Tigris from above Diarbekr. The wood of these rafts is sold in Bagdad, and constitutes, in fact, the chief supply of wood in that city.

Bagdad also lies on a natural line of communication between Persia and the west, the ancient caravan route from Khorasan debouching from the mountains at this point, while another natural caravan route led up the Euphrates to Syria and the Mediterranean and still another up the Tigris to Armenia and the Black Sea. It was its situation at the centre of the lines of communication between India and Persia and the west, both by land and water, which gave the city its great importance in early times. With the change of the methods of transportation its importance has naturally declined. The trade of Persia with the west now passes either through the ports of the Persian Gulf or northward over Trebizond, while India communicates with the west directly through the Suez Canal. Bagdad is, therefore, a decayed city. Money is scarce among all classes, and the wages of common labourers are scarcely half what is paid in Syria. It is still, however, the centre of distribution for a very large, if scantily populated, country, and it also derives much profit from pilgrims, lying as it does on the route which Shi‛ite pilgrims from Persia must take on their way to the sacred cities. It also possesses important shrines of its own which cause many pilgrims to linger there, and wealthy Indians not infrequently choose Bagdad as a suitable spot in which to end their days in the odour of sanctity. There has also sprung up of late years considerable direct trade between the European and American markets and Bagdad, and several foreign houses, especially English, have established themselves there. Germany also has invaded this market.

The staple articles of export are hides, wool and dates. The export trade of Bagdad amounts to about £750,000 annually, and the import trade to about £2,000,000. The imports consist of oil, cheap cottons, shoes and other similar goods, which are taking the place of the picturesque native manufactures. Even the Bedouin Arabs wear headdresses of cheap European cotton stuff purchased in Bagdad or thereabouts, while the common water vessels throughout the country are five-gallon petroleum tins, which also furnish metal for the manufacture of various utensils in the native bazaars.

Bagdad is in communication with Europe by means of two lines of telegraph, one British and one Turkish, and two postal services. There is a British consul-general, who is also political agent to the Indian government. His state is second only to that of the British ambassador at Constantinople. Besides the gunboat in the river, he has a guard of sepoys, and there is an Indian post-office in the residency. Formerly the British government maintained a camel-post across the desert to Damascus. This was abandoned about 1880 when the Turks established a similar service. By means of the Turkish camel-post letters reached Damascus in nine days. There is also a Russian consul-general at Bagdad, and French, Austrian and American consuls.

The Euphrates Valley (or Bagdad) railway scheme, which had previously been discussed, was brought forward prominently in 1899, and Russian proposals to undertake it were rejected. British proposals followed, but were opposed by the Germans, who, as controlling the line to Konia in Asia Minor, claimed preference in the matter. A provisional convention was granted to a German company by the Porte, and an iradé was obtained in 1902. In 1903 there was considerable discussion as to the placing of the line under international control, and the question aroused special interest in England in view of the short route which the line would provide to India, in connexion with fast steamship services in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. It was decided by the British government that the proposals made to this effect did not offer sufficient security. The financial arrangement as finally agreed upon was that German financiers should control 40% of the capital of the line; French (through the Imperial Ottoman Bank), 30%; Austrian, Swiss, Italian and Turkish, 20%; and the Anatolian Railway Company, 10%. In 1904 the line was completed from Konia through Eregli to Bulgurli. In 1908 an iradé sanctioned the extension across the Taurus to Adana, and so to Helif near Mardin (522 m.).

The population of Bagdad is estimated variously from 70,000 to 200,000; perhaps halfway between may represent approximately the reality. More than two-thirds of the population are Moslems, mostly Shi‛as, with the exception of the official classes. There are about 34,000 Jews occupying a quarter of their own in the north-western part of the city; while in a neighbouring quarter dwell upwards of 6000 Christians, chiefly so-called Chaldaeans or Nestorians. The Carmelites maintain a mission in Bagdad, as does also the (English) Church Missionary Society. The Jews are the only part of the population who are provided with schools. A school for boys was established by the Alliance Israélite in 1865, and one for girls in 1899. Besides these, there is also an apprentice school for industrial training.

The Jews constitute the wealthiest and most intelligent portion of the population. A large part of the foreign trade is in their hands, and at the season of the sheep-shearing their agents and representatives are found everywhere among the Bedouins and Madan Arabs of the interior, purchasing the wool and selling various commodities in return. They are the bankers of the country, and it is through their communications that the traveller is able to obtain credit. They are also the dealers in antiquities, both genuine and fraudulent. Next to them in enterprise and prosperity are the Persians. The porters of the town are all Kurds, the river-men Chaldaean Christians. Every nation retains its peculiar dress. The characteristic, but by no means attractive, street dress of the Moslem women of the better class comprises a black horse-hair visor completely covering the face and projecting like an enormous beak, the nether extremities being encased in yellow boots reaching to the knee and fully displayed by the method of draping the garments in front.

Bagdad is governed by a pasha, assisted by a council. The pasha and the higher officials in general come from Constantinople, but a very large portion of the other Turkish officials seem to come from the town of Kerkuk. They constitute a class quite distinct from the native Arab population, and they and the Turkish government in general are intensely unpopular among the Arabs, an unpopularity increased by their religious differences, the Arabs being as a rule Shi‛ites, the Turks Sunnites. Besides the court of superior officers, which assists the pasha in the general administration of the province, there is also a mejlis or mixed tribunal for the settlement of municipal and commercial affairs, to which both Christian and Jewish merchants are admitted. Besides these, there are the religious heads of the community, especially the nakib and Jewish high priest, who possess an undefined and extensive authority in their own communities. The Jewish chief priest may be said to be the successor of the exilarch or resh galutha of the earlier period.

History.—There are in or near Bagdad a few remains of a period antedating Islam, the most conspicuous of which are the ruins of the palace of Chosroes at Ctesiphon or Madain, about 15 m. below Bagdad on the east side of the river. Almost equally conspicuous, and a landmark through the whole region, is the ruin called Akerkuf, in the desert, about 9 m. westward of Bagdad. This consists of a huge tower of unburned brick resting on a small hill of debris, the whole rising to a height of 100 ft. or more above the plain, in the centre of a network of ancient canals. Inscribed bricks found in the neighbourhood seem to connect this ruin with Kurigalzu, king of Babylon about 1300 B.C. Under substantially its present name, Akukafa, it is mentioned as a place of importance in connexion with the canals as late as the Abbasid caliphate. Within the limits of the city itself, on the west bank of the Tigris, are the remains of a quay, first observed by Sir Henry Rawlinson, at a period of low water, in 1849, built of bricks laid in bitumen, and bearing an inscription of Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon. Baghdadu was an ancient Babylonian city, dating back perhaps as far as 2000 B.C., the name occurring in lists in the library of Assur-bani-pal. It is also mentioned on the Michaux stone, found on the Tigris near the site of the present city, and dating from the time of Tiglath-Pileser I. (1100 B.C.) The quay of Nebuchadrezzar, mentioned above, establishes the fact that this ancient city of Baghdadu was located on the site of western or old Bagdad (see further under Caliphate: Abbasids, sections 2 foll.). References in the Jewish Talmud show that this city still continued to exist at and after the commencement of our era; but according to Arabian writers, at the time when the Arab city of Bagdad was founded by the caliph Mansur, there was nothing on that site except an old convent. One may venture to doubt the literal accuracy of this statement. It is clear that the ancient name, at least, still held firm possession of the site and was hence inherited by the new city.

The Arab city, the old or round city of Bagdad, was founded by the caliph Mansur of the Abbasid dynasty on the west side of the Tigris just north of the Isa canal in A.D. 762. It was a mile in diameter, built in concentric circles, with the mosque and palace of the caliph in the centre, and had four gates toward the four points of the compass. It grew with great rapidity. The suburb of Rusafa, on the eastern bank, sprang up almost immediately, and after the siege and capture of the round city by Mamun, in 814, this became the most important part of the capital. The period of the greatest prosperity of Bagdad was the period from its foundation until the death of Mamun, the successor of Harun, in 833. During this period the city, including both sides of the river, was 5 m. across within the walls, and it is said to have had a population of 2,000,000 souls. In literature, art and science, it divided the supremacy of the world with Cordova; in commerce and wealth it far surpassed that city. How its splendour impressed the imagination may be seen from the stories of the Arabian Nights. It was the religious capital of all Islam, and the political capital of the greater part of it, at a time when Islam bore the same relation to civilization which Christendom does to-day. As in Spanish Islam, so in the lands of the eastern caliphate, the Jews were treated relatively with favour. The seat of the exilarch or resh galutha was transferred from Pumbedita (Pumbeditha or Pombeditha) in Babylonia to Bagdad, which thus became the capital of oriental Judaism; from then to the present day the Jews have played no mean part in Bagdad.

Situated in a region where there is no stone, and practically no timber, Bagdad was built, like all the cities of the Babylonian plain, of brick and tiles. Its buildings depended for their effect principally on mass and gorgeous colouring. Like old Babylon, also, Bagdad was celebrated throughout the world for its brilliant-coloured textile fabrics. So famous was the silk of Bagdad, manufactured in the Attabieh quarter (named after Attab, a contemporary of the Prophet), that the place-name passed over into Spanish, Italian, French and finally into English in the form of "tabby," as the designation of a rich-coloured watered silk. Depending on coloured tiles and gorgeous fabrics for their rich effects, nothing of the buildings of the times of Harun al-Rashid or Mamun, once counted so magnificent, have come down to us. All have perished in the numerous sieges and inundations which have devastated the city.

With the rise of the Turkish body-guard under Mamun's successor, Mo‛tassim, began the downfall of the Abbasid dynasty, and with it of the Abbasid capital, Bagdad. Mo‛tassim founded Samarra, and for fifty-eight years caliph and court deserted Bagdad (see Caliphate, sect. C). Then, in A.D. 865, Mosta‛in, attempting to escape from the tyranny of the Turkish guard, fled back again to Bagdad. The attempt was futile, Bagdad was besieged and taken, and from that time until their final downfall the Abbasid caliphs were mere puppets, while the real rulers were successively the Turkish guard, the Buyids and the Seljuks. But during all this period the caliphs continued to be the religious heads of Islam and their residence its capital. Bagdad, accordingly, although fallen from its first eminence, continued to be a city of the first rank, and during most of that period still the richest and most splendid city in the world. Its religious importance is attested by the number of its great shrines dating from those times; as for its wealth and size, while, as stated above, few remains of the actual buildings of that period survive, we still have abundant records describing their character, their size and their position. With the last century of the caliphates began a more rapid decline. From the records of that period it seems that the present city is identical in the position of its walls and the space occupied by the town proper with Bagdad at the close of the 12th century, the period when this rapid decline had already advanced so far that the western city is described by travellers as almost in ruins, and the eastern half as containing large uninhabited spaces. With the capture of the city by the Mongols, under Hulagu (Hulaku), the grandson of Jenghiz Khan, in 1258, and the extinction of the Abbasid caliphate of Bagdad, its importance as the religious centre of Islam passed away, and it ceased to be a city of the first rank, although the glamour of its former grandeur still clung to it, so that even to-day in Turkish official documents it is called the "glorious city."

The Tatars retained possession of Bagdad for a century and a half, until about A.D. 1400. Then it was taken by Timur, from whom the sultan Ahmed Ben Avis fled, and, finding refuge with the Greek emperor, contrived later to repossess himself of the city, whence he was finally expelled by Kara Yusuf of the Kara-Kuyunli ("Black Sheep") Mongols in 1417. About 1468 the descendants of the latter were driven out by Uzun Hasan or Cassim of the Ak-Kuyunli ("White Sheep") Mongols. He and his descendants reigned in Bagdad until Shah Ismail I., the founder of the Safawid royal house of Persia, made himself master of the place (c. 1502 or 1508). From that time it continued for a long period an object of contention between the Turks and the Persians. It was taken by Suleiman I. the Magnificent and retaken by Shah Abbas the Great, in 1620. Eighteen years later, in 1638, it was besieged by Sultan Murad IV., with an army of 300,000 men and, after an obstinate resistance, forced to surrender, when, in defiance of the terms of capitulation, most of the inhabitants were massacred.

Since that period it has remained nominally a part of the Turkish empire; but with the decline of Turkish power, and the general disintegration of the empire, in the first half of the 18th century, a then governor-general, Ahmed Pasha, made it an independent pashalic. Nadir Shah, the able and energetic usurper of the Persian throne, attempting to annex the province once more to Persia, besieged the city, but Ahmed defended it with such courage that the invader was compelled to raise the siege, after suffering great loss. Turkish authority over the pashalic was again restored in the first part of the 19th century.

Authorities[edit]

  • Allen's Indian Mail (1874).
  • J. S. Buckingham Travels in Mesopotamia (1827).
  • Sir R. K. Porter, Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia and Ancient Babylonia (1821-1822).
  • J. M. Kinneir, Geographical Memoir of the Persian Empire (1813).
  • F. R. Chesney, Expedition (1850).
  • J. B. L. J. Rousseau, Description du pachalik de Bagdad (1809).
  • J. R. Wellsted, City of the Caliphs.
  • A. N. Groves, Residence in Baghdad (1830-1832); Transactions of Bombay Geog. Soc. (1856).
  • G. le Strange, Description of Mesopotamia and Baghdad about A.D. 900; "Greek Embassy to Baghdad in A.D. 917," in Journal Royal Asiatic Society, 1895, 1897; Baghdad under the Abbasid Caliphate (1901).
(H. C. R.; J. P. Pe.)