Medieval European term for Muslims and/or people who lived in desert areas, specifically Arabia

Saracen was a term used both in Greek and Latin writings between the 5th and 15th centuries to refer to the people who lived in and near what was designated by the Romans as Arabia Petraea and Arabia Deserta. The term's meaning evolved during its history of usage. During the Early Middle Ages, the term came to be associated with the tribes of Arabia.

All alike are warriors of equal rank. —Ammian
Proud Saracen, pollute no more
The shrines by martyrs built of yore!
Thomas Warton

Quotes edit

  • Saraceni tamen nec amici nobis umquam nec hostes optandi, ultro citroque discursantes, quicquid inveniri poterat momento temporis parvi vastabant, milvorum rapacium similes, qui si praedam dispexerint celsius, volatu rapiunt celeri, ac sitimpetraverint, non immorantur. <...> Apud has gentes, quarum exordiens initium ab Assyriis, ad Nili cataractas porrigitur, et confinia Blemmyarum, omnes pari sorte sunt bellatores, seminudi coloratis sagulis pube tenus amicti, equorum adiumento pernicium graciliumque camelorum per diversa reptantes, in tranquillis vel turbidis rebus; nec eorum quisquam aliquando stivam apprehendit, vel arborem colit, aut arva subigendo quaeritat victum, sed errant semper per spatia longe lateque distenta, sine lare sine sedibus fixis aut legibus; nec idem perferunt diutius caelum, aut tractus unius sol illis umquam placet. Vita est illis semper in fuga, uxoresque mercennariae conductae ad tempus ex pacto, atque (ut sit species matrimonii,) dotis nomine futura coniunx hastam et tabernaculum offert marito, post statum diem (si id elegerit,) discessura, et incredibile est quo ardore apud eos in venerem! uterque solvitur sexus. Ita autem quoad vixerint late palantur, ut alibi mulier nubat, in loco pariat alio, liberosque procul educat,? nulla copia quiescendi permissa. Victus universis caro ferina est, lactisque abundans copia qua sustentantur, et herbae multiplices, et siquae alites capi per aucupium possint, et plerosque nos vidimus frumenti usum et vini penitus ignorantes.
    • The Saracens, however, whom we never found desirable either as friends or as enemies, ranging up and down the country, in a brief space of time laid waste whatever they could find, like rapacious kites which, whenever they have caught sight of any prey from on high, seize it with swift swoop, and directly they have seized it make off. ... Among those tribes whose original abode extends from the Assyrians to the cataracts of the Nile and the frontiers of the Blemmyae all alike are warriors of equal rank, half-nude, clad in dyed cloaks as far as the loins, ranging widely with the help of swift horses and slender camels in times of peace or of disorder. No man ever grasps a plough-handle or cultivates a tree, none seeks a living by tilling the soil, but they rove continually over wide and extensive tracts without a home, without fixed abodes or laws; they cannot long endure the same sky, nor does the sun of a single district ever content them. Their life is always on the move, and they have mercenary wives, hired under a temporary contract. But in order that there may be some semblance of matrimony, the future wife, by way of dower, offers her husband a spear and a tent, with the right to leave him after a stipulated time, if she so elect: and it is unbelievable with what ardour both sexes give themselves up to passion. Moreover, they wander so widely as long as they live, that a woman marries in one place, gives birth in another, and rears her children far away, without being allowed any opportunity for rest. They all feed upon game and an abundance of milk, which is their main sustenance, on a variety of plants, as well as on such birds as they are able to take by fowling; and I have seen many of them who were wholly unacquainted with grain and wine.
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Res gestae, XIV, iv, 1–6 (tr. John C. Rolfe)
  • Proud Saracen, pollute no more
    The shrines by martyrs built of yore!
  • We are they who come faster than fate: we are they who ride early or late:
    We storm at your ivory gate: Pale Kings of the Sunset, beware!
    Not on silk nor in samet we lie, not in curtained solemnity die
    Among women who chatter and cry, and children who mumble a prayer.
    But we sleep by the ropes of the camp, and we rise with a shout, and we tramp
    With the sun or the moon for a lamp, and the spray of the wind in our hair.
    From the lands, where the elephants are, to the forts of Merou and Balghar,
    Our steel we have brought and our star to shine on the ruins of Rûm.
    We have marched from the Indus to Spain, and by God we will go there again;
    We have stood on the shore of the plain where the Waters of Destiny boom.
    A mart of destruction we made at Jalula where men were afraid,
    For death was a difficult trade, and the sword was a broker of doom;
    And the Spear was a Desert Physician who cured not a few of ambition,
    And drave not a few to perdition with medicine bitter and strong:
    And the shield was a grief to the fool and as bright as a desolate pool,
    And as straight as the rock of Stamboul when their cavalry thundered along:
    For the coward was drowned with the brave when our battle sheered up like a wave,
    And the dead to the desert we gave, and the glory to God in our song.

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