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chap. of David to that of Heraclius, the country was over
spread with ancient and flourishing cities: the inhabitants were numerous and wealthy; and, after the slow ravage of despotism and superstition, after the recent calamities of the Persian war, Syria could still attract and reward the rapacious tribes of the desert. A plain, of ten days’ journey, from Damascus to Aleppo and Antioch, is watered, on the western side, by the winding course of the Orontes. The hills of Libanus and Anti-Libanus are planted from north to south, between the Orontes and the Mediterranean;
and the epithet of hollow (Coelesyria) was applied to
a long and fruitful valley, which is confined in the same direction by the two ridges of snowy mountains." Among the cities, which are enumerated by Greek and oriental names in the geography and conquest of Syria, we may distinguish Emesa, or Hems, Heliopolis or Baalbec, the former as the metropolis of the plain, the latter as the capital of the valley. Under the last of the Caesars, they were strong and populous: the turrets glittered from afar: an ample space was covered with public and private buildings; and the citizens were illustrious by their spirit, or at least by their pride; by their riches, or at least by their luxury. In the days of paganism, both Emesa and Heliopolis were addicted to the worship of Baal, or the sun; but the decline of their superstition and splendour has been marked by a singular variety of fortune.
Not a vestige remains of the temple of Emesa, which
was equalled in poetic style to the summits of mount Libanus,' while the ruins of Baalbec, invisible to the
* The topography of the Libanus and Anti-Libanus is excellently described by the learning and sense of Reland (Palestin. tom. i. p. 311–326). r — Emesae fastigia celsa renident. Nam diffusa solo latus explicat: ac subit auras Turribus in coelum nitentibus: incola claris Cor studiis acuit . . . . Denique flammicomo devoti pectora soli
writers of antiquity, excite the curiosity and wonder
them to the Sabaeans or Aadites. Non sunt in omni Syria a dificia magnificentiora his (Tabula Syria, p. 103).
they returned to besiege. They aggravated the ran-
A dog, full powers of their valour and enthusiasm against the
forces of the emperor, who was taught by repeated losses, that the rovers of the desert had undertaken, and would speedily achieve, a regular and permanent conquest. From the provinces of Europe and Asia, fourscore thousand soldiers were transported by sea and land to Antioch and Caesarea: the light troops
of the army consisted of sixty thousand Christian cor. Arabs of the tribe of Gassan. Under the banner of
Jabalah, the last of their princes, they marched in the van; and it was a maxim of the Greeks, that, for the purpose of cutting diamond, a diamond was the most effectual. Heraclius withheld his person from the dangers of the field; but his presumption, or perhaps his despondency, suggested a peremptory order, that the fate of the province and the war should be decided by a single battle. The Syrians were attached to the standard of Rome and of the cross; but the noble, the citizen, the peasant, were exasperated by the injustice and cruelty of a licentious host, who oppressed them as subjects, and despised them as strangers and aliens." A report of these mighty preparations was conveyed to the Saracens in their camp at Emesa; and the chiefs, though resolved to fight, assembled a council: the faith of Abu Obeidah would have expected on the same spot the glory of martyrdom; the wisdom of Caled advised an honourable retreat to the skirts of Palestine and Arabia, where they might await the succours of their friends, and the attack of the unbelievers. A speedy messenger soon returned from the throne of Medina, with the blessings of Omar and Ali, the prayers of the widows of the prophet, and a reinforcement of eight thousand Moslems. In their way they overturned a detachment of Greeks, and when they joined at Yermuk the camp of their brethren, they found the pleasing intelligence, that Caled had already defeated and scattered the Christian Arabs of the tribe of Gassan. In the neighbourhood of Bosra, the springs of mount Hermon descend in a torrent to the plain of Deca
* I have read somewhere in Tacitus, or Grotius, Subjectos habent tanquam suos, viles tanquam alienos. Some Greek officers ravished the wife, and murdered the child, of their Syrian landlord; and Manuel smiled at his undutiful complaint.
polis, or ten cities; and the Hieromax, a name which has been corrupted to Yermuk, is lost after a short course in the lake of Tiberias." The banks of this obscure stream were illustrated by a long and bloody encounter. On this momentous occasion, the public voice, and the modesty of Abu Obeidah, restored the command to the most deserving of the Moslems. Caled assumed his station in the front, his colleague was posted in the rear, that the disorder of the fugitives might be checked by his venerable aspect and the sight of the yellow banner which Mahomet had displayed before the walls of Chaibar. The last line was occupied by the sister of Derar, with the Arabian women who had enlisted in this holy war, who were accustomed to wield the bow and the lance, and who in a moment of captivity had defended, against the uncircumcised ravishers, their chastity and religion.” The exhortation of the generals was briefand forcible: “Paradise is before you, the devil and hell-fire in your rear.” Yet such was the weight of the Roman cavalry, that the right wing of the Arabs was broken and separated from the main body. Thrice did they retreat in disorder, and thrice were they driven back to the charge by the reproaches and blows of the women. In the intervals of action, Abu Obeidah visited the tents of his brethren, prolonged their repose by repeating at once the prayers of two different hours; bound up their wounds with his own hands, and administered the comfortable reflection, that the infidels partook of their sufferings without partaking
v See Reland, Palestin. tom. i. p. 272.283. tom. ii. p. 773.775. This learned professor was equal to the task of describing the Holy Land, since he was alike conversant with Greek and Latin, with Hebrew and Arabian literature. The Yermuk, or Hieromax, is noticed by Cellarius (Geograph. Antiq. tom. ii. p. 392), and D'Anville (Geographie Ancienne, tom. ii. p. 185). The Arabs, and even Abulfeda himself, do not seem to recognise the scene of their victory.
w These women were of the tribe of the Hamyarites, who derived their origin from the ancient Amalekites. Their females were accustomed to ride on horseback, and to fight like the Amazons of old (Ockley, vol. i. p. 67).