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The Arabs return to Damascus.
fifty thousand of the infidels. The spoil was ines-
mascus would have acquiesced in the trial of Aizna
din, as a final and peremptory sentence between the
ance of Heraclius.' The tumult and illumination of cor. LI.
the night proclaimed the design of the morning sally; and the Christian hero, who affected to despise the enthusiasm of the Arabs, employed the resource of a similar superstition. At the principal gate, in the sight of both armies, a lofty crucifix was erected; the bishop, with his clergy, accompanied the march, and laid the volume of the New Testament before the image of Jesus; and the contending parties were scandalised or edified by a prayer, that the Son of God would defend his servants and vindicate his truth. The battle raged with incessant fury; and the dexterity of Thomas," an incomparable archer, was fatal to the boldest Saracens, till their death was revenged by a female heroine. The wife of Aban, who had followed him to the holy war, embraced her expiring husband. “Happy,” said she, “happy art thou, my dear: thou art gone to thy Lord who first joined us together, and then parted us asunder. I will revenge why death, and endeavour to the utmost of my power to come to the place where thou art, because I love thee. Henceforth shall no man ever touch me more, for I have dedicated myself to the service of God.” Without a groan, without a tear, she washed the corpse of her husband, and buried him with the usual rites. Then grasping the manly weapons, which in her native land she was accustomed to wield, the intrepid widow of Aban sought the place where his murderer fought in the thickest of the battle. Her first arrow pierced the hand of his standardbearer; her second wounded Thomas in the eye; f Vanity prompted the Arabs to believe, that Thomas was the son-in-law of the emperor. We know the children of Heraclius by his two wives; and his august daughter would not have married in exile at Damascus (see Ducange,
* Fam. Byzantin. p. 118, 119). Had he been less religious, I might only suspect the legitimacy of the damsel. g Al Wakidi (Ockley, p. 101) says, “with poisoned arrows;” but this savage invention is so repugnant to the practice of the Greeks and Romans, that I must suspect, on this occasion, the malevolent credulity of the Saracens.
cHAP. and the fainting Christians no longer beheld their * ensign or their leader. Yet the generous champion of Damascus refused to withdraw to his palace: his wound was dressed on the rampart; the fight was continued till the evening; and the Syrians rested on their arms. In the silence of the night, the signal was given by a stroke on the great bell; the gates were thrown open, and each gate discharged an impetuous column on the sleeping camp of the Saracens. Caled was the first in arms; at the head of four hundred horse he flew to the post of danger, and the tears trickled down his iron cheeks, as he uttered a fervent ejaculation; “O God, who never sleepest, look upon thy servants, and do not deliver them into the hands of their enemies.” The valour and victory of Thomas were arrested by the presence of the Sword of God; with the knowledge of the peril, the Moslems recovered their ranks, and charged the assailants in the flank and rear. After the loss of thousands, the Christian general retreated with a sigh of despair, and the pursuit of the Saracens was checked by the military engines of the rampart. The city is After a siege of seventy days," the patience, and taken by - e. stomid perhaps the provisions, of the Damascenes were exso- hausted; and the bravest of their chiefs submitted to A.D. 684 the hard dictates of necessity. In the occurrences of peace and war, they had been taught to dread the fierceness of Caled, and to revere the mild virtues of Abu Obeidah. At the hour of midnight, one hundred chosen deputies of the clergy and people were introduced to the tent of that venerable commander. He received and dismissed them with courtesy. They returned with a written agreement, on the faith of a companion of Mahomet, that all hostilities should cease; that the voluntary emigrants might depart in safety, with as much as they could carry away of their effects; and that the tributary subjects of the caliph should enjoy their lands and houses, with the use and possession of seven churches. On these terms,
* Abulfeda allows only seventy days for the siege of Damascus (Annal. Moslem. p. 67. vers. Reiske); but Elmacin, who mentions this opinion, prolongs the term to six months, and notices the use of balistae by the Saracens (Hist. Saracen. p. 25. 32). Even this longer period is insufficient to fill the interval between the battle of Aiznadin (July, A. D. 633) and the accession of Omar (24 July, A. D. 634), to whose reign the conquest of Damascus is unanimously ascribed (Al Wakidi, apud Ockley, vol. i. p. 115. Abulpharagius, Dynast. p. 112. vers. Pocock). Perhaps, as in the Trojan war, the operations were interrupted by excursions and detachments, till the last seventy days of the siege.
the most respectable hostages, and the gate nearest.
to his camp, were delivered into his hands: his soldiers imitated the moderation of their chief; and he enjoyed the submissive gratitude of a people whom he had rescued from destruction. But the success of the treaty had relaxed their vigilance, and in the same moment the opposite quarter of the city was betrayed and taken by assault. A party of a hundred Arabs had opened the eastern gate to a more inexorable foe. “No quarter,” cried the rapacious and sanguinary Caled, “no quarter to the enemies of the Lord:” his trumpets sounded, and a torrent of Christian blood was poured down the streets of Damascus. When he reached the church of St. Mary, he was astonished and provoked by the peaceful aspect of his companions; their swords were in the scabbard, and they were surrounded by a multitude of priests and monks. Abu Obeidah saluted the general: “God,” said he, “has delivered the city into my hands by way of surrender, and has saved the believers the trouble of fighting.” “And am I not,” replied the indignant Caled, “am I not the lieutenant of the commander of the faithful? Have I not taken the city by storm? The unbelievers shall perish by the sword. Fall on.” The hungry and cruel Arabs would have obeyed the welcome command; and Damascus was lost, if the benevolence of Abu Obeidah had not been supported
CHAP. by a decent and dignified firmness. Throwing him
self between the trembling citizens and the most eager of the barbarians, he adjured them by the holy name of God, to respect his promise, to suspend their fury, and to wait the determination of their chiefs. The chiefs retired into the church of St. Mary; and after avehement debate, Caled submitted in some measure to the reason and authority of his colleague; who urged the sanctity of a covenant, the advantage as well as the honour which the Moslems would derive from the punctual performance of their word, and the obstinate resistance which they must encounter from the distrust and despair of the rest of the Syrian cities. It was agreed that the sword should be sheathed, that the part of Damascus which had surrendered to Abu Obeidah should be immediately entitled to the benefit of his capitulation, and that the final decision should be referred to the justice and wisdom of the caliph." A large majority of the people accepted the terms of toleration and tribute; and Damascus is still peopled by twenty thousand Christians. But the valiant Thomas, and the freeborn patriots who had fought under his banner, embraced the alternative of poverty and exile. In the adjacent meadow, a numerous encampment was formed of priests and laymen, of soldiers and citizens, of women and children; they collected, with haste and
terror, their most precious moveables; and aban
doned, with loud lamentations, or silent anguish, their native homes, and the pleasant banks of the Pharphar. The inflexible soul of Caled was not touched by the spectacle of their distress: he disputed with the Damascenes the property of a magazine of corn; endeavoured to exclude the garrison
* It appears from Abulfeda (p. 125) and Elmacin (p. 32), that this distinction of the two parts of Damascus was long remembered, though not always respected, by the Mahometan sovereigns. See likewise Eutychius (Annal tom. ii. p. 379, 380.383).