Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/63

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inherited their commercial sphere from remote antiquity. Greek tradition even ascribed the invention of ocean navigation to the aboriginal Erythraeans, who had ploughed the Red Sea long before Phoenicians and Greeks ventured to cross the Mediterranean; and ancient ethnology distinguished these from the Semitic adventurers who in historical times had colonised the islands on the southern coast of Arabia, and not only traded by sea along this coast in its entire length, but frequented the adjacent shores of Africa, and regularly crossed the mouth of the Persian Gulf with the monsoon in search of the commodities of Western India.

The establishment of Islam gave a new and powerful stimulus to all Arabian enterprise. By the end of the fifteenth century there existed from the Red Sea to Japan a valuable and well-organised commerce, mainly in the hands of Arabian or other Muslim seamen and merchants. For the effect of the propagation of Islam had been to bring to the field of Asiatic trade a crowd of adventurers of many nations, many of whom were Turks of Anatolia or Europe. Others were Greeks, Albanians, Circassians, and other Levantines of European descent who had abandoned the Christian faith for gain, and had brought to the Muslim sailors and merchants of the Eastern ocean the knowledge and experience of the Mediterranean peoples. These were generally known in India and the Far East as " Rumes" (Arab. Rumi, a Greek); and Muslim opponents found in the East by the Portuguese thus included not only true Arabs, whether of Arabia, Africa, or India, generally known as " Moors," but large numbers of Turks and " Rumes," whose European experience and connexion greatly aided the Moors in their resistance to the European maritime invasion.

The course of trade in these seas was not exclusively from west to east and back again. From very early times a maritime commerce had been carried on in the reverse direction; and the meeting-place of the two trades was the port of Calicut. Hither came, once a year-for only during the summer were the Chinese seas navigable for Chinese vessels- a large trading fleet from the ports of China. The huge Chinese junks, with their fixed sails of matted reeds, never lowered, even in harbour, and mainly propelled by oars of immense length, and having on board gardens of growing vegetables, and large chambers for the ships' officers and their families, so that each was as it were a floating town, were objects of curious interest to the Arabian sailors. The largest were reputed to carry a thousand persons, and each was attended by three smaller craft for the purpose of loading and unloading. It was natural for the Arabs, who had already secured a part of the Indian coasting trade, to push their way towards the Far East, and to claim a share in the trade of China and the Spice Islands. They found a convenient station in the port of Malacca, which in their hands quickly became the second great emporium of the Eastern trade. Nor did they rest here. Making their