1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Crescent

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CRESCENT (Lat. crescens, growing), originally the waxing moon, hence a name applied to the shape of the moon in its first quarter. The crescent is employed as a charge in heraldry, with its horns vertical; when they are turned to the dexter side of the shield, it is called increscent, when to the sinister, decrescent. A crescent is used as a difference to denote the second son of a house; thus the earls of Harrington place a crescent upon a crescent, as descending from the second son of a second son. An order of the crescent was instituted by Charles I. of Naples and Sicily in 1268, and revived by René of Anjou in 1464. A Turkish order or decoration of the crescent was instituted by Sultan Selim III. in 1799, in memory of the diamond crescent which he had presented to Nelson after the battle of the Nile, and which Nelson wore on his coat as if it were an order.

The crescent is the military and religious symbol of the Ottoman Turks. According to the story told by Hesychius of Miletus, during the siege of Byzantium by Philip of Macedon the moon suddenly appeared, the dogs began to bark and aroused the inhabitants, who were thus enabled to frustrate the enemy’s scheme of undermining the walls. The grateful Byzantines erected a statue to “torch-bearing” Hecate, and adopted the lunar crescent as the badge of the city. It is generally supposed that it was in turn adopted by the Turks after the capture of Constantinople in 1453, either as a badge of triumph, or to commemorate a partial eclipse of the moon on the night of the final attack. In reality, it seems to have been used by them long before that event. Ala ud-din, the Seljuk sultan of Iconium (1245–1254), and Ertoghrul, his lieutenant and the founder of the Ottoman branch of the Turkish race, assumed it as a device, and it appeared on the standard of the janissaries of Sultan Orkhan (1326–1360). Since the new moon is associated with special acts of devotion in Turkey—where, as in England, there is a popular superstition that it is unlucky to see it through glass—it may originally have been adopted in consequence of its religious significance. According to Professor Ridgeway, however, the Turkish crescent, like that seen on modern horse-trappings, has nothing to do with the new moon, but is the result of the base-to-base conjunction of two claw or tusk amulets, an example of which has been brought to light during the excavations of the site of the temple of Artemis Orthia at Sparta (see Athenaeum, March 21, 1908). There is nothing distinctively Turkish in the combination of crescent and star which appears on the Turkish national standard; the latter is shown by coins and inscriptions to have been an ancient Illyrian symbol, and is of course common in knightly and decorative orders. It is doubtful whether any opposition between crescent and cross, as symbols of Islam and Christianity, was ever intended by the Turks; and it is an historical error to attribute the crescent to the Saracens of crusading times or the Moors in Spain.

Crescent is also the name of a Turkish musical instrument. In architecture, a crescent is a street following the arc of a circle; the name in this sense was first used in the Royal Crescent at Bath.