1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Saracens

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

SARACENS, the current designation among the Christians in the middle ages for their Moslem enemies, especially for the Moslems in Europe. In earlier times the name Saraceni was applied by Greeks and Romans to the nomad Arabs of the Syro-Arabian desert who harassed the frontier of the empire. Σαρακηνή, a district in the Sinaitic peninsula, is mentioned by Ptolemy (v. 16). Its inhabitants, though unknown to Arab tradition, made themselves notorious in the adjacent Roman provinces. Thus all Bedouins in that region came to be called Saraceni, in Aramaic Sarkaje, usually with no very favourable meaning. The latter form occurs in a dialogue concerning Fate written about A.D. 210 by a pupil of Bardesanes (Cureton, Spicilegium Syriacum, 16 ult.). The appellation then became general, and occurs frequently in Ammianus Marcellinus. The name “Saracen” continued to be used in the West in later times, probably rather through the influence of literature than by oral tradition, and was applied to all Arabs, even to all Moslems.