Conquest of Syria Part One

Conquest of Syria Part Two

Conquest of Egypt

Saracens in Spain

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Saracen Conquest Of Syria
Author: Ockley, Simon

Part II.


Omar, in a short letter, expressed his satisfaction, and gave the
Saracens thanks for their perseverance and diligence, commanding Abu Obeidah
to continue where he was till further orders. As Omar had mentioned nothing
concerning the spoil, Abu Obeidah regarded it as left to his own discretion
and divided it without waiting for fresh instructions. To a horseman he gave
thrice as much as to a footman, and made a further difference between those
horses which were of the right Arabian breed (which they looked upon to be
far the best) and those that were not, allowing twice as much to the former
as to the latter. And when they were not satisfied with this distribution,
Abu Obeidah told them that the prophet had done the same after the battle of
Khaibar; which, upon appeal made to Omar, was by him confirmed. Zobeir had
at the battle of Yermouk two horses, which he used to ride by turns. He
received five lots, three for himself and two for his horses. If any slaves
had run away from their masters before the battle, and were afterward
retaken, they were restored to their masters, who nevertheless received an
equal share of the spoil with the rest.

The Saracens having rested a month at Damascus, and refreshed
themselves, Abu Obeidah sent to Omar to know whether he should go to Caesarea
or Jerusalem. Ali being present when Omar was deliberating, said, to
Jerusalem first, adding that he had heard the prophet say as much. This city
they had a great longing after, as being the seat and burying place of a
great many of the ancient prophets, in whom they reckoned none to have so
deep an interest as themselves. Abu Obeidah having received orders to
besiege it, sent Yezid Ebn Abu Sofian thither first with five thousand men;
and for five days together sent after him considerable numbers of men under
his most experienced and trustworthy officers. The Ierosolymites expressed
no signs of fear, nor would they vouchsafe so much as to send out a messenger
to parley; but, planting their engines upon the walls, made preparation for a
vigorous defence. Yezid at last went near the walls with an interpreter, to
know their minds, and to propose the usual terms. When these were rejected,
the Saracens would willingly have assaulted the town forthwith, had not Yezid
told them that the general had not commanded them to make any assault, but
only to sit down before the city; and thereupon sent to Abu Obeidah, who
forthwith gave them order to fight. The next morning the generals having
said the morning prayer, each at the head of his respective division, they
all, as it were with one consent, quoted this versicle out of the Koran, as
being very apposite and pertinent to their present purpose: "O people! enter
ye into the holy land which God hath decreed for you," being the
twenty-fourth verse of the fifth chapter of the Koran, where the impostor
introduces Moses speaking to the children of Israel, and which words the
Saracens dexterously interpreted as belonging no less to themselves than to
their predecessors, the Israelites Nor have our own parts of the world been
altogether destitute of such able expositors, who apply to themselves,
without limitation or exception, whatever in Scripture is graciously
expressed in favor of the people of God; while whatever is said of the wicked
and ungodly, and of all the terrors and judgments denounced against them,
they bestow with a liberal hand upon their neighbors. After their prayers
were over, the Saracens began their assault The Ierosolymites never flinched,
but sent them showers of arrows from the walls, and maintained the fight with
undaunted courage till the evening. Thus they continued fighting ten days,
and on the eleventh Abu Obeidah came up with the remainder of the army. He
had not been there long before he sent the besieged the following letter:

"In the name of the most merciful God.

"From Abu Obeidah Ebn Aljerahh, to the chief commanders of the people of
Aelia and the inhabitants thereof, health and happiness to everyone that
follows the right way and believes in God and the apostle. We require of you
to testify that there is but one God, and Mahomet is his apostle, and that
there shall be a day of judgment, when God shall raise the dead out of their
sepulchres; and when you have borne witness to this, it is unlawful for us
either to shed your blood or meddle with your sustenance or children. If you
refuse this, consent to pay tribute and be under us forthwith; otherwise I
shall bring men against you who love death better than you do the drinking of
wine, or eating hogs' flesh: nor will I ever stir from you, if it please God,
till I have destroyed those that fight for you and made slaves of your
children."

The eating swine's flesh and drinking wine are both forbidden in the
Koran, which occasioned that reflection of Abu Obeidah upon the practice of
the Christians. The besieged, not a whit daunted, held out four whole months
entire, during all which time not one day passed without fighting; and it
being winter time, the Saracens suffered a great deal of hardships through
the extremity of the weather. At last, when the besieged had well considered
the obstinacy of the Saracens; who, they had good reason to believe, would
never raise the siege till they had taken the city, whatever time it took up
or whatever pains it might cost them, Sophronius the patriarch went to the
wall, and by an interpreter discoursed with Abu Obeidah, telling him that
Jerusalem was the holy city, and whoever came into the Holy Land with any
hostile intent would render himself obnoxious to the divine displeasure. To
which Abu Obeidah answered: "We know that it is a noble city, and that our
prophet Mahomet went from it in one night to heaven, and approached within
two bows' shot of his Lord, or nearer; and that it is the mine of the
prophets, and their sepulchres are in it. But we are more worthy to have
possession of it than you are; neither will we leave besieging it till God
delivers it up to us, as he hath done other places before it." At last the
patriarch consented that the city should be surrendered upon condition that
the inhabitants received the articles of their security and protection from
the Caliph's own hands, and not by proxy. Accordingly, Abu Obeidah wrote to
Omar to come, whereupon he advised with his friends. Othman, who afterward
succeeded him in the government, dissuaded him from going, in order that the
Ierosolymites might see that they were despised and beneath his notice. Ali
was of a very different opinion, urging that the Mussulmans had endured great
hardship in so long a siege, and suffered much from the extremity of the
cold; that the presence of the Caliph would be a great refreshment and
encouragement to them, and adding that the great respect which the Christians
had for Jerusalem, as being the place to which they went on pilgrimage, ought
to be considered; that it ought not to be supposed that they would easily
part with it, but that it would soon be reinforced with fresh supplies. This
advice of Ali being preferred to Othman's, the Caliph resolved upon his
journey; which, according to his frugal style of living, required no great
expense or equipage. When he had said his prayers in the mosque and paid his
respects at Mahomet's tomb, he appointed Ali his substitute, and set forward
with a small retinue, the greatest part of which, having kept him company a
little way, returned back to Medina.

Omar, having all the way he went set things aright that were amiss, and
distributed justice impartially, for which he was singularly eminent among
the Saracens, came at last into the confines of Syria; and when he drew near
Jerusalem he was met by Abu Obeidah, and conducted to the Saracen camp, where
he was welcomed with the liveliest demonstrations of joy.

As soon as he came within sight of the city he cried out, "Allah acbar
[O God], give us an easy conquest." Pitching his tent, which was made of
hair, he sat down in it upon the ground. The Christians hearing that Omar
was come, from whose hands they were to receive their articles, desired to
confer with him personally; upon which the Mussulmans would have persuaded
him not to expose his person for fear of some treachery. But Omar resolutely
answered, in the words of the Koran: "Say, 'There shall nothing befall us but
what God hath decreed for us; he is our Lord, and in God let all the
believers put their trust.'" After a brief parley the besieged capitulated,
and those articles of agreement made by Omar with the Ierosolymites are, as
it were, the pattern which the Mahometan princes have chiefly imitated.

The articles were these: "I. The Christians shall build no new churches,
either in the city or the adjacent territory. 2. They shall not refuse the
Mussulmans entrance into their churches, either by night or day. 3. They
should set open the doors of them to all passengers and travellers. 4. If
any Mussulman should be upon a journey, they shall be obliged to entertain
him gratis for the space of three days. 5. They should not teach their
children the Koran, nor talk openly of their religion, nor persuade anyone to
be of it; neither should they hinder any of their relations from becoming
Mahometans, if they had an inclination to it. 6. They shall pay respect to
the Mussulmans, and if they were sitting rise up to them. 7. They should not
go like the Mussulmans in their dress, nor wear the same caps, shoes, nor
turbans, nor part their hair as they do, nor speak after the same manner, nor
be called by the names used by the Mussulmans. 8. They shall not ride upon
saddles, nor bear any sort of arms, nor use the Arabic tongue in the
inscriptions of their seals. 9. They shall not sell any wine. 10. They
shall be obliged to keep to the same sort of habit wheresoever they went, and
always wear girdles upon their waists. 11. They shall set no crosses upon
their churches, nor show their crosses nor their books openly in the streets
of the Mussulmans. 12. They shall not ring, but only toll their bells; nor
shall they take any servant that had once belonged to the Mussulmans. 13.
They shall not overlook the Mussulmans in their houses: and some say that
Omar commanded the inhabitants of Jerusalem to have the foreparts of their
heads shaved, and obliged them to ride upon their pannels sideways, and not
like the Mussulmans."

Upon these terms the Christians had liberty of conscience, paying such
tribute as their masters thought fit to impose upon them; and Jerusalem, once
the glory of the East, was forced to submit to a heavier yoke than ever it
had borne before. For though the number of the slain and the calamities of
the besieged were greater when it was taken by the Romans, yet the servitude
of those that survived was nothing comparable to this, either in respect of
the circumstances or the duration. For however it might seem to be utterly
ruined and destroyed by Titus, yet by Hadrian's time it had greatly recovered
itself. Now it fell, as it were, once for all, into the hands of the most
mortal enemies of the Christian religion, and has continued so ever since,
with the exception of a brief interval of about ninety years, during which it
was held by the Christians in the holy war.

The Christians having submitted on these terms, Omar gave them the
following writing under his hand:

"In the name of the most merciful God.

"From Omar Ebn Al Khattab, to the inhabitants of Aelia. They shall be
protected and secured both in their lives and fortunes, and their churches
shall neither be pulled down nor made use of by any but themselves."

Upon this the gates were immediately opened, and the Caliph and those
that were with him marched in. The Patriarch kept them company, and the
Caliph talked with him familiarly, and asked him many questions concerning
the antiquities of the place. Among other places which they visited, they
went into the Temple of the Resurrection, and Omar sat down in the midst of
it. When the time of prayers was come (the Mahometans have five set times of
prayer in a day), Omar told the patriarch that he had a mind to pray, and
desired him to show him a place where he might perform his devotion. The
Patriarch bade him pray where he was; but this he positively refused. Then
taking him out from thence, the Patriarch went with him into Constantine's
Church, and laid a mat for him to pray there, but he would not. At last he
went alone to the steps which were at the east gate of St. Constantine's
Church, and kneeled by himself upon one of them. Having ended his prayers,
he sat down and asked the Patriarch if he knew why he had refused to pray in
the church. The Patriarch confessed that he could not tell what were his
reasons. "Why, then," says Omar, "I will tell you. You know I promised you
that none of your churches should be taken away from you, but that you should
possess them quietly yourselves. Now if I had prayed in any one of these
churches, the Mussulmans would infallibly take it away from you as soon as I
had departed homeward. And notwithstanding all you might allege, they would
say, This is the place where Omar prayed, and we will pray here, too. And so
you would have been turned out of your church, contrary both to my intention
and your expectation. But because my praying even on the steps of one may
perhaps give some occasion to the Mussulmans to cause you disturbance on this
account, I shall take what care I can to prevent that." So calling for pen,
ink, and paper, he expressly commanded that none of the Mussulmans should
pray upon the steps in any multitudes, but one by one. That they should
never meet there to go to prayers; and that the muezzin, or crier, that calls
the people to prayers (for the Mahometans never use bells), should not stand
there. This paper he gave to the patriarch for a security, lest his praying
upon the steps of the church should have set such an example to the
Mussulmans as might occasion any inconvenience to the Christians - a noble
instance of singular fidelity and the religious observance of a promise.
This Caliph did not think it enough to perform what he engaged himself, but
used all possible diligence to oblige others to do so too. And when the
unwary patriarch had desired him to pray in the church, little considering
what might be the consequence, the Caliph, well knowing how apt men are to be
superstitious in the imitation of their princes and great men, especially
such as they look upon to be successors of a prophet, made the best provision
he could, that no pretended imitation of him might lead to the infringement
of the security he had already given.

In the same year that Jerusalem was taken, Said Ebn Abi Wakkas, one of
Omar's captains, was making fearful havoc in the territories of Persia. He
took Madayen, formerly the treasury and magazine of Khusrau (Cosroes), King
of Persia; where he found money and rich furniture of all sorts, inestimable.
Elmakin says that they found there no less than three thousand million of
ducats, besides Khusrau's crown and wardrobe, which was exceedingly rich, his
clothes being all adorned with gold and jewels of great value. Then they
opened the roof of Khusrau's porch, where they found another considerable
sum. They also plundered his armory, which was well stored with all sorts of
weapons. Among other things they brought to Omar a piece of silk hangings,
sixty cubits square, all curiously wrought with needle-work. That it was of
great value appears from the price which Ali had for that part of it which
fell to his share when Omar divided it; which, though it was none of the
best, yielded him twenty thousand pieces of silver. After this, in the same
year, the Persians were defeated by the Saracens in a great battle near
Jaloulah.

Omar, having taken Jerusalem, continued there about ten days to put
things in order.

Omar now thought of returning to Medina, having first disposed his
affairs after the following manner: Syria he divided into two parts, and
committed all that lies between Hauran and Aleppo to Abu Obeidah, with orders
to make war upon it till he had completely subdued it. Yezid Ebn Abu Sofian
was to take the charge of all Palestine and the sea-shore. Amrou Ebn Al Aas
was sent to invade Egypt, no inconsiderable part of the Emperor's dominions,
which were now continually mouldering away. The Saracens at Medina had
almost given Omar over, and began to conclude that he would never stir from
Jerusalem, but be won to stay there from the richness of the country and the
sweetness of the air; but especially by the thought that it was the country
of the prophets and the Holy Land, and the place where we must all be
summoned together at the resurrection. At last he came, the more welcome the
less he had been expected. Abu Obeidah, in the mean time, reduced Kinnisrin
and Alhadir, the inhabitants paying down five thousand ounces of gold, and as
many of silver, two thousand suits of clothes of several sorts of silk, and
five hundred asses' loads of figs and olives. Yezid marched against Caesarea
in vain, that place being too well fortified to be taken by his little army,
especially since it had been reinforced by the Emperor, who had sent a store
of all sorts of provision by sea, and a reinforcement to the garrison of two
thousand men. The inhabitants of Aleppo were much disheartened by the loss
of Kinnisrin and Alhadir, well knowing that it would not be long before their
turn would come to experience themselves what, till then, they had known only
by report. They had two governors, brothers, who dwelt in the castle (the
strongest in all Syria), which was not at that time encompassed by the town,
but stood out of it, at a little distance. The name of one of these
brethren, if my author mistakes not, was Youkinna, the other John. Their
father held of the emperor Heraclius all the territory between Aleppo and
Euphrates, after whose decease Youkinna managed the affairs; John, not
troubling himself with secular employments, did not meddle with the
government, but led a monkish life, spending his time in retirement, reading,
and deeds of charity. He tried to persuade his brother to secure himself, by
compounding with the Arabs for a good round sum of money; but he told him
that he talked like a monk, and did not understand what belonged to a
soldier; that he had provisions and warlike means enough, and was resolved to
make the best resistance he could. Accordingly the next day he called his
men together, among whom there were several Christian Arabs, and having armed
them, and for their encouragement distributed some money among them, told
them that he was fully purposed to act offensively, and, if possible, give
the Saracens battle before they should come too near Aleppo. He was informed
that the Saracen army was divided and weakened, a part being gone to
Caesarea, another to Damascus, and a third into Egypt. Having thus
inspirited his men, he marched forward with twelve thousand. Abu Obeidah had
sent before him Kaab Ebn Damarah with one thousand men, but with express
orders not to fight till he had received information of the strength of the
enemy. Youkinna's spies found Kaab and his men resting themselves and
watering their horses, quite secure and free from all apprehension of danger;
upon which Youkinna laid an ambuscade, and then, with the rest of his men,
fell upon the Saracens. The engagement was sharp, and the Saracens had the
best of it at first; but the ambuscade breaking in upon them, they were in
great danger of being overpowered with numbers; one hundred and seventy of
them being slain, and most of the rest being grievously wounded that they
were upon the very brink of despair, and cried out, "Ya Mahomet! Ya
Mahomet!" ("O Mahomet! O Mahomet!") However, with much difficulty they made
shift to hold up till night parted them, earnestly expecting the coming of
Abu Obeidah.

In the mean time while Youkinna was going out with his forces to engage
the Saracens, the wealthy and trading people of Aleppo, knowing very well how
hard it would go with them if they should stand it out obstinately to the
last and be taken by storm, resolved upon debate to go and make terms with
Abu Obeidah, that, let Youkinna's success be what it would, they might be
secure.

As they were going back they chanced to meet with one of Youkinna's
officers, to whom they gave an account of the whole transaction. Upon this
he hastened with all possible speed to his master, who was waiting with
impatience for the morning, that he might despatch Kaab and his men, whom the
coming of the night had preserved; but hearing this news he began to fear
lest an attempt should be made upon the castle in his absence, and thought it
safest to make the best of his way homeward. In the morning the Saracens
were surprised to see no enemy, and wondered what was the matter with them.
Kaab would have pursued them, but none of his men had any inclination to go
with him; so they rested themselves, and in a little time Kaled and Abu
Obeidah came up with the rest of the army.

Abu Obeidah reminded Kaled of the obligation they were under to protect
the Aleppians, now their confederates, who were likely to be exposed to the
outrage and cruelty of Youkinna, for, in all probability, he would severely
resent their defection. They therefore marched as fast as they could, and
when they drew near Aleppo found that they had not been at all wrong in their
apprehensions. Youkinna had drawn up his soldiers with the design to fall
upon the townsmen, and threatened them with present death unless they would
break their covenant with the Arabs and go out with him to fight them, and
unless they brought out to him the first contriver and proposer of the
convention. At last he fell upon them in good earnest and killed about three
hundred of them. His brother John, who was in the castle, hearing a piteous
outcry and lamentation, came down from the castle and entreated his brother
to spare the people, representing to him that Jesus Christ had commanded us
not to contend with our enemies, much less with those of our own religion.
Youkinna told him that they had agreed with the Arabs and assisted them;
which John excused, telling him, "That what they did was only for their own
security, because they were no fighting men." In short, he took their part
so long till he provoked his brother to that degree that he charged him with
being the chief contriver and manager of the whole business; and at last, in
a great passion, cut his head off. While he was murdering the unhappy
Aleppians, Kaled (better late than never) came to their relief. Youkinna,
perceiving his arrival, retired with a considerable number of soldiers into
the castle. The Saracens killed that day three thousand of his men.
However, he prepared himself to sustain a siege, and planted engines upon the
castle walls.

Abu Obeidah next deliberated in a council of war what measures were most
proper to be taken. Some were of opinion that the best way would be to
besiege the castle with some part of the army, and let the rest be sent out
to forage. Kaled would not hear of it, but was for attacking the castle at
once with their whole force; that, if possible, it might be taken before
fresh supplies could arrive from the Emperor. This plan being adopted, they
made a vigorous assault, in which they had as hard fighting as any in all the
wars of Syria. The besieged made a noble defence, and threw stones from the
walls in such plenty that a great many of the Saracens were killed and a
great many more maimed. Youkinna, encouraged with his success, determined to
act on the offensive and turn everything to advantage. The Saracens looked
upon all the country as their own, and knowing that there was no army of the
enemy near them, and fearing nothing less than an attack from the besieged,
kept guard negligently. In the dead of night, therefore, Youkinna sent out a
party who, as soon as the fires were out in the camp, fell upon the Saracens,
and having killed about sixty, carried off fifty prisoners. Kaled pursued
and cut off about a hundred of them, but the rest escaped to the castle with
the prisoners, who by the command of Youkinna were the next day beheaded in
the sight of the Saracen army. Upon this Youkinna ventured once more to send
out another party, having received information from one of his spies (most of
which were Christian Arabs) that some of the Mussulmans were gone out to
forage. They fell upon the Mussulmans, killed a hundred and thirty of them,
and seized all their camels, mules, and horses, which they either killed or
hamstrung, and then they retired into the mountains, in hopes of lying hid
during the day and returning to the castle in the silence of the night. In
the mean time some that had escaped brought the news to Abu Obeidah, who sent
Kaled and Derar to pursue the Christians. Coming to the place of the fight,
they found their men and camels dead, and the country people making great
lamentation, for they were afraid lest the Saracens should suspect them of
treachery, and revenge upon them their loss. Falling down before Kaled, they
told him they were altogether innocent, and had not in any way, either
directly or indirectly, been instrumental in the attack; but that it was made
solely by a party of horse that sallied from the castle. Kaled, having made
them swear that they knew nothing more, and taking some of them for guides,
closely watched the only passage by which the sallying party could return to
the castle. When about a fourth part of the night was passed, they perceived
Youkinna's men approaching, and, falling upon them, took three hundred
prisoners and killed the rest. The prisoners begged to be allowed to ransom
themselves, but they were all beheaded the next morning in front of the
castle.

The Saracens pressed the siege for a while very closely, but perceiving
that they made no way, Abu Obeidah removed the camp about a mile's distance
from the castle, hoping by this means to tempt the besieged to security and
negligence in their watch, which might eventually afford him an opportunity
of taking the castle by surprise. But all would not do, for Youkinna kept a
very strict watch and suffered not a man to stir out.

The siege continued four months, and some say five. In the mean time
Omar was very much concerned, having heard nothing from the camp in Syria.
He wrote, therefore, to Abu Obeidah, letting him know how tender he was over
the Mussulmans, and what a great grief it was to him to hear no news of them
for so long a time. Abu Obeidah answered that Kinnisrin, Hader, and Aleppo
were surrendered to him, only the castle of Aleppo held out, and that they
had lost a considerable number of men before it; that he had some thoughts of
raising the siege, and passing forward into that part of the country which
lies between Aleppo and Antioch; but only he stayed for his answer. About
the time that Abu Obeidah's messengers reached Medina, there also arrived a
considerable number of men out of the several tribes of the Arabs, to proffer
their service to the Caliph. Omar ordered seventy camels to help their foot,
and despatched them into Syria, with a letter to Abu Obeidah, in which he
acquainted him "that he was variously affected, according to the different
success they had met, but charged them by no means to raise the siege of the
castle, for that would make them look little, and encourage their enemies to
fall upon them on all sides. Wherefore," adds he, "continue besieging it
till God shall determine the event, and forage with your horse round about
the country."

Among those fresh supplies which Omar had just sent to the Saracen camp,
there was a very remarkable man, whose name was Dames, of a gigantic size,
and an admirable soldier. When he had been in the camp forty-seven days, and
all the force and cunning of the Saracens availed nothing toward taking the
castle, he desired Abu Obeidah to let him have the command of thirty men, and
he would try his best against it. Kaled had heard much of the man, and told
Abu Obeidah a long story of a wonderful performance of this Dames in Arabia,
and that he looked upon him as a very proper person for such an undertaking.
Abu Obeidah selected thirty men to go with him, and bade them not to despise
their commander because of the meanness of his condition, he being a slave,
and swore that, but for the care of the whole army which lay upon him, he
would be the first man that should go under him upon such an enterprise. To
which they answered with entire submission and profound respect. Dames, who
lay hid at no great distance, went out several times, and brought in with him
five or six Greeks, but never a man of them understood one word of Arabic,
which made him angry and say: "God curse these dogs! What a strange,
barbarous language they use."

At last he went out again, and seeing a man descend from the wall, he
took him prisoner, and by the help of a Christian Arab, whom he captured
shortly afterward, examined him. He learned from him that immediately upon
the departure of the Saracens, Youkinna began to ill use the townsmen who
had made the convention with the Arabs, and to exact large sums of money of
them; that he being one of them had endeavored to make his escape from the
oppression and tyranny of Youkinna, by leaping down from the wall. Upon this
the Saracens let him go, as being under their protection by virtue of the
articles made between Abu Obeidah and the Aleppians, but beheaded all the
rest.

In the evening, after having sent two of his men to Abu Obeidah,
requesting him to order a body of horse to move forward to his support about
sunrise, Dames has recourse to the following stratagem : Taking out of a
knapsack a goat's skin, he covered with it his back and shoulders, and
holding a dry crust in his hand, he crept on all-fours as near to the castle
as he could. When he heard a noise, or suspected anyone to be near, to
prevent his being discovered he began to make a noise with his crust, as a
dog does when gnawing a bone; the rest of his company came after him,
sometimes skulking and creeping along, at other times walking. When they
came near to the castle, it appeared almost inaccessible. However Dames was
resolved to make an attempt upon it. Having found a place where the walls
seemed easier to scale than elsewhere, he sat down upon the ground, and
ordered another to sit upon his shoulders; and so on till seven of them had
mounted up, each sitting upon the other's shoulders, and all leaning against
the wall, so as to throw as much of their weight as possible upon it. Then
he that was uppermost of all stood upright upon the shoulders of the second,
next the second raised himself, and so on, all in order, till at last Dames
himself stood up, bearing the weight of all the rest upon his shoulders, who
however did all they could to relieve him by bearing against the wall. By
this means the uppermost man could just make a shift to reach the top of the
wall, while in an undertone they all cried, "O apostle of God, help us and
deliver us!" When this man had got up on the wall, he found a watchman drunk
and asleep. Seizing him hand and foot, he threw him down among the Saracens,
who immediately cut him to pieces. Two other sentinels, whom he found in the
same condition, he stabbed with his dagger and threw down from the wall. He
then let down his turban, and drew up the second, they two the third, till at
last Dames was drawn up, who enjoined them to wait there in silence while he
went and looked about him. In this expedition he gained a sight of Youkinna,
richly dressed, sitting upon a tapestry of scarlet silk flowered with gold,
and a large company with him, eating and drinking, and very merry. On his
return he told his men that because of the great inequality of their numbers,
he did not think it advisable to fall upon them then, but had rather wait
till break of day, at which time they might look for help from the main body.
In the mean time he went alone, and privately stabbing the sentinels, and
setting open the gates, came back to his men, and bade them hasten to take
possession of the gates. This was not done so quietly, but they were at last
taken notice of and the castle alarmed. There was no hope of escape for
them, but everyone expected to perish. Dames behaved himself bravely, but,
overpowered by superior numbers, he and his men were no longer able to hold
up, when, as the morning began to dawn, Kaled came to their relief. As soon
as the besieged perceived the Saracens rushing in upon them, they threw down
their arms, and cried, "Quarter!" Abu Obeidah was not far behind with the
rest of the army. Having taken the castle, he proposed Mohametanism to the
Christians. The first that embraced it was Youkinna, and his example was
followed by some of the chief men with him, who immediately had their wives
and children and all their wealth restored to them. Abu Obeidah set the old
and impotent people at liberty, and having set apart the fifth of the spoil
(which was of great value), divided the rest among the Mussulmans. Dames was
talked of and admired by all, and Abu Obeidah, in order to pay him marked
respect, commanded the army to continue in their present quarters till he and
his men should be perfectly cured of their wounds.

Obeidah's next thoughts, after the capture of the castle of Aleppo, were
to march to Antioch, then the seat of the Grecian Emperor. But Youkinna, the
late governor of the castle of Aleppo, having, with the changing of his
religion, become a deadly enemy of the Christians, persuaded him to defer his
march to Antioch, till they had first taken the castle of Aazaz.

The armies before Antioch were drawn out in battle array in front of
each other. The Christian general, whose name was Nestorius, went forward
and challenged any Saracen to single combat. Dames was the first to answer
him; but in the engagement, his horse stumbling, he was seized before he
could recover himself, and, being taken prisoner, was conveyed by Nestorius
to his tent and there bound. Nestorius, returning to the army and offering
himself a second time, was answered by one Dehac. The combatants behaved
themselves bravely, and, the victory being doubtful, the soldiers were
desirous of being spectators, and pressed eagerly forward. In the jostling
and thronging both of horse and foot to see this engagement, the tent of
Nestorius, with his chair of state, was thrown down. Three servants had been
left in the tent, who, fearing they should be beaten when their master came
back, and having nobody else to help them, told Dames that if he would lend
them a hand to set up the tent and put things in order they would unbind him,
upon condition that he should voluntarily return to his bonds again till
their master came home, at which time they promised to speak a good word for
him. He readily accepted the terms; but as soon as he was at liberty he
immediately seized two of them, one in his right hand, the other in his left,
and dashed their two heads so violently against the third man's that they all
three fell down dead upon the spot. Then opening a chest and taking out a
rich suit of clothes, he mounted a good horse of Nestorius', and having
wrapped up his face as well as he could he made toward the Christian Arabs,
where Jabalah, with the chief of his tribe, stood on the left hand of
Heraclius. In the mean time Dehac and Nestorius, being equally matched,
continued fighting till both their horses were quite tired out and they were
obliged to part by consent to rest themselves. Nestorius, returning to his
tent, and finding things in such confusion, easily guessed that Dames must be
the cause of it. The news flew instantly through all the army, and everyone
was surprised at the strangeness of the action. Dames, in the mean time, had
gotten among the Christian Arabs, and striking off at one blow the man's head
that stood next him, made a speedy escape to the Saracens.

Antioch was not lost without a set battle; but through the treachery of
Youkinna and several other persons of note, together with the assistance of
Derar and his company, who were mixed with Youkinna's men, the Christians
were beaten entirely. The people of the town, perceiving the battle lost,
made agreement and surrendered, paying down three hundred thousand ducats;
upon which Abu Obeidah entered into Antioch on Tuesday, being the 21st day of
August, A.D. 638.

Thus did that ancient and famous city, the seat of so many kings and
princes, fall into the hands of the infidels. The beauty of the site and
abundance of all things contributing to delight and luxury were so great that
Abu Obeidah, fearing his Saracens should be effeminated with the delicacies
of that place, and remit their wonted vigor and bravery, durst not let them
continue there long. After a short halt of three days to refresh his men, he
again marched out of it.

Then he wrote a letter to the Caliph, in which he gave him an account of
his great success in taking the metropolis of Syria, and of the flight of
Heraclius to Constantinople, telling him withal what was the reason why he
stayed no longer there, adding that the Saracens were desirous of marrying
the Grecian women, which he had forbidden. He was afraid, he said, lest the
love of the things of this world should take possession of their hearts and
draw them off from their obedience to God.

Constantine, the emperor Heraclius' son, guarded that part of the
country where Amrou lay, with a considerable army. The weather was very
cold, and the Christians were quite disheartened, having been frequently
beaten and discouraged with the daily increasing power of the Saracens, so
that a great many grew weary of the service and withdrew from the army.
Constantine, having no hopes of victory, and fearing lest the Saracens should
seize Caesarea, took the opportunity of a tempestuous night to move off, and
left his camp to the Saracens. Amrou, acquainting Abu Obeidah with all that
had happened, received express orders to march directly to Caesarea, where he
promised to join him speedily, in order to go against Tripoli, Acre, and
Tyre. A short time after this, Tripoli was surprised by the treachery of
Youkinna, who succeeded in getting possession of it on a sudden, and without
any noise. Within a few days of its capture there arrived in the harbor
about fifty ships from Cyprus and Crete, with provisions and arms which were
to go to Constantine. The officers, not knowing that Tripoli was fallen into
the hands of new masters, made no scruple of landing there, where they were
courteously received by Youkinna, who proffered the utmost of his service,
and promised to go along with them, but immediately seized both them and
their ships, and delivered the town into the hands of Kaled, who was just
come.

With these ships the traitor Youkinna sailed to Tyre, where he told the
inhabitants that he had brought arms and provisions for Constantine's army;
upon which he was kindly received, and, landing, he was liberally entertained
with nine hundred of his men. But being betrayed by one of his own soldiers,
he and his crew were seized and bound, receiving all the while such treatment
from the soldiers as their villanous practices well deserved. In the mean
time Yezid Ebn Abu Sofian, being detached by Abu Obeidah from the camp before
Caesarea, came within sight of Tyre. The governor upon this caused Youkinna
and his men to be conveyed to the castle, and there secured, and prepared for
the defence of the town. Perceiving that Yezid had with him but two thousand
men in all, he resolved to make a sally. In the mean time the rest of the
inhabitants ran up to the walls to see the engagement. While they were
fighting, Youkinna and his men were set at liberty by one Basil, of whom they
give the following account, viz.: That this Basil going one day to pay a
visit to Bahira the monk, the caravan of the Koreishites came by, with which
were Kadija's camels, under the care of Mahomet. As he looked toward the
caravan, he beheld Mahomet in the middle of it, and above him there was a
cloud to keep him from the sun. Then the caravan having halted, as Mahomet
leaned against an old, withered tree, it immediately brought forth leaves.
Bahira, perceiving this, made an entertainment for the caravan, and invited
them into the monastery. They all went, leaving Mahomet behind with the
camels. Bahira, missing him, asked if they were all present. "Yes," they
said, "all but a little boy we have left to look after their things and feed
the camels." "What is his name?" says Bahira. They told him, "Mahomet Ebn
Abdallah," Bahira asked if his father and mother were not both dead, and if
he was not brought up by his grandfather and his uncle. Being informed that
it was so, he said: "O Koreish! Set a high value upon him, for he is your
lord, and by him will your power be great both in this world and that to
come; for he is your ornament and glory." When they asked him how he knew
that, Bahira answered, "Because as you were coming, there was never a tree
nor stone nor clod but bowed itself and worshipped God." Moreover, Bahira
told this Basil that a great many prophets had leaned against this tree and
sat under it since it was first withered, but that it never bore any leaves
before. And I heard him say, says this same Basil: "This is the prophet
concerning whom Isa (Jesus) spake. Happy is he that believes in him and
follows him and gives credit to his mission." This Basil, after the visit to
Bahira, had gone to Constantinople and other parts of the Greek Emperor's
territories, and upon information of the great success of the followers of
this prophet was abundantly convinced of the truth of his mission. This
inclined him, having so fair an opportunity offered, to release Youkinna and
his men; who, sending word to the ships, the rest of their forces landed and
joined them. In the mean time a messenger in disguise was sent to acquaint
Yezid with what was done. As soon as he returned, Youkinna was for falling
upon the townsmen upon the wall; but Basil said, "Perhaps God might lead some
of them into the right way," and persuaded him to place the men so as to
prevent their coming down from the wall. This done, they cried out, "La
Ilaha," etc. The people, perceiving themselves betrayed and the prisoners at
liberty, were in the utmost confusion, none of them being able to stir a step
or lift up a hand. The Saracens in the camp, hearing the noise in the city,
knew what it meant, and, marching up, Youkinna opened the gates and let them
in. Those that were in the city fled, some one way and some another, and
were pursued by the Saracens and put to the sword. Those upon the wall
cried, "Quarter!" but Yezid told them that since they had not surrendered,
but the city was taken by force, they were all slaves. "However," said he,
"we of our own accord set you free, upon condition you pay tribute; and if
any of you has a mind to change his religion, he shall fare as well as we
do." The greatest part of them turned Mahometans. When Constantine heard of
the loss of Tripoli and Tyre his heart failed him, and taking shipping with
his family and the greater part of his wealth he departed for Constantinople.
All this while Amrou ben-el-Ass lay before Caesarea. In the morning when the
people came to inquire after Constantine, and could hear no tidings of him
nor his family, they consulted together, and with one consent surrendered the
city to Amrou, paying down for their security two thousand pieces of silver,
and delivering into his hands all that Constantine had been obliged to leave
behind him of his property. Thus was Caesarea lost in the year of our Lord
638, being the seventeenth year of the Hegira and the fifth of Omar's reign,
which answers to the twenty-ninth year of the emperor Heraclius. After the
taking of Caesarea all the other places in Syria which as yet held out,
namely, Ramlah, Acre, Joppa, Ascalon, Gaza, Sichem (or Nablos), and Tiberias,
surrendered, and in a little time after the people of Beiro Zidon, Jabalah,
and Laodicea followed their example; so that there remained nothing more for
the Saracens to do in Syria, who, in little more than six years from the time
of their first expedition in Abu-Beker's reign, had succeeded in subduing the
whole of that large, wealthy, and populous country.

Syria did not remain long in the possession of those persons who had the
chief hand in subduing it, for in the eighteenth year of the Hegira the
mortality in Syria, both among men and beasts, was so terrible, particularly
at Emaus and the adjacent territory, that the Arabs called that year the year
of destruction. By that pestilence the Saracens lost five-and-twenty
thousand men, among whom were Abu Obeidah, who was then fifty-eight years
old; Serjabil Ebn Hasanah, formerly Mahomet's secretary; and Yezid Ebn Abu
Sofian, with several other officers of note. Kaled survived them about three
years, and then died; but the place of his burial - consequently of his
death, for they did not use in those days to carry them far - is uncertain;
some say at Hems, others at Medina.

 

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