The New International Encyclopædia/Ommiads

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OMMIADS, ŏm-mī-ādz, OMAYYADS, or OMMEYADES. A dynasty deriving its name from an ancestor, Omayya (Arabic Umaiyah), which succeeded to the Arabian caliphate on the death of Ali, the fourth Caliph (661), and possessed it till superseded by the Abbassides (q.v.) in 750. Moawiyah (q.v.), the founder of the dynasty, was the son of the Koreish leader Abu-Sofian, who defeated Mohammed at Bedr, and his mother was the notorious Hinda. After the death of Othman, the third Caliph (656), Moawiyah, who was his cousin, claimed the throne, and during the whole of All's reign ruled over the western provinces of Syria and Egypt; but it was not till the death of that Caliph, and the abdication of his son Hassan, that Moawiyah's authority as Caliph was recognized (661). He transferred the seat of the caliphate to Damascus, Kufa having been the residence of Ali, and Medina of the first three caliphs. The Arabs continued to extend their conquests during his reign; the Turks in Khorasan were subdued, Turkestan was invaded, and several important acquisitions were made in Asia Minor. The Caliph neglected no means of consolidating the Empire, and partly for this reason he made the succession hereditary, and caused his son Yezid (680-83) to be recognized as his heir. The reigns of Yezid and his successors, Moawiyah II. (683) and Merwan I. (683-685), are devoid of importance, as their sway extended only over Syria and Palestine. Abd-el Melek (685-705), an able and warlike prince, succeeded in rendering himself undisputed ruler of the Mohammedan world (692), but the latter part of his reign was much disturbed by rebellions in the eastern provinces. He was the first Caliph who interested himself in the promotion of liberal knowledge, causing the most celebrated poetical and other works of the Persians to be translated into Arabic. Four of his sons, Walid I. (705-716), Sulaiman (716-717), Yezid II. (720-724), and Hisham (724-743), successively occupied the throne. Under Walid, the Ommiad caliphate reached the summit of its power and grandeur; Northern Africa (709), Spain (711-714), Turkestan (707), and Galatia (710) were conquered; while toward the close of his reign his empire was extended even to the Indus. Omar II. (717-720), who, in the justice and mildness of his government, surpassed the whole of the race of Omavya, was appointed to succeed Sulaiman; but having excited discontent among his relatives by suppressing the formula of malediction against Ali and his descendants, which had hitherto been regularly pronounced at all public ceremonies, he was poisoned. The invasion of the country of the Franks and a siege of Constantinople in his reign marked the limits of the Ommiad power. Hisham, though, like his immediate predecessor, fond of pleasure, possessed all the qualities necessary for a sovereign. The Greeks, who still strove for the possession of Asia Minor, were repeatedly defeated; the Turks of Northern Persia and Turkestan were kept in stern subjection, and the civil affairs of the Empire carefully and strictly administered. Nevertheless the power of the dynasty now began to decline. The march of conquest in the West was arrested by Charles Martel (q.v.) at Poitiers (732), the discontented descendants of Ali raised the standard of revolt, and Ibrahim, the fourth in direct descent from Abbas, the uncle of Mohammed, invested Abu-Moslem with the arduous duty of enforcing his long-agitated claims to the throne. The reigns of Walid II. (742-743), Yezid III. (743-744), and Ibrahim (744), though of ephemeral duration, were long enough to produce a complete disorganization of the Empire; and though Ibrahim's successor, Merwan II. (744-750), was both an able and politic ruler, and a skillful warrior, the declining fortune of his family was beyond remedy. Abu-Moslem, who had proclaimed the claims of the Abbassides amid the ruins of Merv in 747, took the field at the head of a small but zealous band, and carried the black flag of the Abbassides from victory to victory, till before the close of the following year the whole of Khorasan acknowledged his authority. Irak was subdued in 749; and though Ibrahim, the Abbasside claimant, was seized by Merwan, and executed in the same year, his brother, Abul-Abbas, succeeded to his claims, and the unfortunate Caliph, defeated in two engagements, fled to Egypt (750), whither he was pursued and slain. Abdallah, the uncle of the successful claimant, treacherously invited the remaining members of the House of Omayya to a conference, and ordered a general massacre of them. Two only escaped: the one to the southeast of Arabia, where he was recognized as Caliph, and where his descendants reigned till the sixteenth century; the other, Abderrahman, to Spain, where he founded the Emirate or Kingdom (afterwards Caliphate) of Cordova in 756.

Ommiads of Spain. Abderrahman I. (756-787) accepted the Spanish throne, which was offered him by the Arab chiefs of the West. In spite of numerous revolts, he strengthened and extended his power in Spain, till, with the exception of Asturias and the country north of the Ebro, his authority was everywhere acknowledged. He divided his kingdom into six provinces, whose rulers, with the walis of the twelve principal towns, formed a sort of national diet. His successors, Hisham I. (787-796) and Al-Hakem I. (796-821), were troubled with internal revolts, under cover of which the Christians established in the northwest what was known as the ‘Spanish March.’ Abderrahman II. (821-852) reëstablished internal quiet, and occupied his subjects with incessant wars against the Christians. These conflicts developed among the Arabs that chivalrous heroism which is found nowhere else in the Mohammedan world. Abderrahman II., himself a man of learning, greatly encouraged the arts and sciences, and diffused information among his people; he also attempted, by regulating the laws of succession to property, to constitute his kingdom on a basis similar to that of other European nations. During his reign Mohammedan Spain was the best governed country in Europe. His successors, Mohammed I. (852-880), Monayyir (880-882), and Abdallah (882-912), followed in his footsteps. Abderrahman III. (912-961), who assumed the title of Caliph, in opposition to the Abbasside caliphs of Bagdad, after suppressing some dangerous revolts which had gathered head during his minority, conquered the Kingdom of Fez from the Edrisites, and brought a long and exhausting war with the powers of Asturias and León to a victorious conclusion. This period is justly termed the golden age of the Arab domination in Spain, for at no period was their power so consolidated, and their prosperity so flourishing. (See Cordova.) Abderrahman III., like his predecessors, was a great patron of learning, and a poet of no mean ability. He founded schools which far surpassed those in other parts of Europe. His son, Al-Hakem II. (961-976), was in every way worthy to be his successor. Hisham II. (976-about 1009), a child of eight years, now occupied the throne; but fortunately his mother, Sobeiha, possessed the abilities necessary for such an emergency, and appointed as her son's vizier Mohammed ibn Abdallah, surnamed Al-Mansur, who had originally been a peasant. His administration was equally just and judicious, and his encouragement of literature, science, and art alike liberal and discriminating. But it is as a warrior that he is chiefly remembered. The lost provinces were recovered; Castile, Leon, and Barcelona were conquered; and Navarre was on the point of sharing the same fate, when a rebellion in Fez compelled him to detach a portion of his forces for service in Africa, and the combined armies of the four Christian monarchies, seizing this opportunity, inflicted upon the Arabs a sanguinary defeat in 1001. Mohammed's spirit was completely broken by this blow, and he died a few days afterwards. With him the star of the House of Omayya set forever. The rest of Hisham's reign was a scene of disorder and civil war. Pretenders to the caliphate arose, while the walis of the various provinces set up as independent rulers, and the invasions of the Christians added to the confusion. With the expiration of the brief reign of Hisham III. (1027-31), the family of Omayya disappears from history. The three centuries of Ommiad rule in Spain is the period which gives lustre to the name. Consult Dozy, Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne (Leyden, 1861); Viordot, Histoire des Arabes et des Maures d'Espagne (Paris, 1851). See references under Moors.