3. Only a strong royal authority is able to construct
large cities and high monuments.
We have mentioned this before in connection with buildings and other dynastic (monuments).11 (The size of monuments) is proportionate to the importance of (the various dynasties). The construction of cities can be achieved only by united effort, great numbers, and the co-operation of workers. When the dynasty is large and far-flung, workers are brought together from all regions, and their labor is employed in a common effort. Often, the work involves the help of machines, which multiply the power and strength needed to carry the loads required in building. (Unaided) human strength would be insufficient. Among such machines are pulleys 12 and others.
Many people who view the great monuments and constructions of the ancients, such as the Reception Hall of Khosraw (Iwan Kisra), the pyramids of Egypt, the arches of the Malga (at Carthage) and those of Cherchel in the Maghrib, think that the ancients erected them by their own (unaided) powers, whether (they worked) as individuals or in groups. They imagine that the ancients had bodies proportionate to (those monuments) and that their bodies, consequently, were much taller, wider, and heavier than (our bodies), so that there was the right proportion between (their bodies) and the physical strength from which such buildings resulted. They forget the importance of machines and pulleys and engineering skill implied in this connection. Many a traveled person can confirm what we have stated from his own observation of building (activities) and of the use of mechanics to transport building materials among the non-Arab dynasties concerned with such things.
The common people call most of the monuments of the ancients found at this time, 'Adite monuments, with reference to the people of 'Ad. The common people think that the buildings and constructions of 'Ad are so big because the bodies of (the 'Adites) were so big and their strength many times greater (than our strength). This is not so. We have many monuments of nations whose body measurements are well known to us. (These monuments) are as big or bigger than such (famed monuments) as, for instance, the Reception Hall of Khosraw (Iwan Kisrd) and the buildings of the Shi'ah 'Ubaydid(-Fatimids) in Ifriqiyah, or those of the Sinhajah, whose monument, still visible to this day, is the minaret of Qal'at Banu Hammad.
The same applies to the building (activity) of the Aghlabids in the Mosque of al-Qayrawan, and of the Almohads in Rabat (Ribat al-Fath), and to the forty years building (activity) of Sultan Abul-Hasan in al-Mansurah, opposite Tlemcen.13 It also applies to the arches supporting the aqueduct by means of which the inhabitants of Carthage brought water to their city, and which are still standing at this time. There are also other buildings and monuments (hayakil), the history of whose builders, whether ancient or recent, is known to us, and we can be certain that the measurements of their bodies were not excessive. This belief is founded solely upon (the tales of) storytellers who eagerly tell stories about the people of 'Ad and Thamud and the Amalekites. In fact, we find the houses of the Thamud still existing at this time in Petra, where they are cut into the rock. It is established by (the sound tradition of) the Sahih that those houses actually were theirs.14 The Hijazi (pilgrim) caravan has passed by them for very many years, and it has been observed that those houses are not larger than usual inside, nor in size and height (generally)
In their belief that (the ancients had excessively large bodies, the storytellers) exaggerate so much that they believe that Og, the son of Anak, one of the Amalekites (or Canaanites),15 used to take fish fresh out of the water and cook them in the sun. They have that idea because they think that the heat of the sun is greater close to it. They do not know that the heat of the sun here among us is its light, because of the reflection of the rays when they hit the surface of the earth and the air. The sun itself is neither hot nor cold. It is a star of an uncomposed (substance) that gives light. Something of this was mentioned before in the second chapter; there we mentioned that (the size of the monuments 16 of) dynasties is proportionate to their original power.
"God creates whatever He wishes." 17