Sidebilder
PDF

who survived the war, and persevered in the faith, chAP. were restrained by their abstemious leader from the *

abuse of prosperity. After a refreshment of three days, Abu Obeidah withdrew his troops from the pernicious contagion of the luxury of Antioch, and assured the caliph that their religion and virtue could only be preserved by the hard discipline of poverty and labour. But the virtue of Omar, however rigorous to himself, was kind and liberal to his brethren. After a just tribute of praise and thanksgiving, he dropt a tear of compassion; and sitting down on the ground, wrote an answer, in which he mildly censured the severity of his lieutenant: “God,” said the successor of the prophet, “has not forbidden the use of the good things of this world to faithful men, and such as have performed good works. Therefore you ought to have given them leave to rest themselves, and partake freely of those good things which the country affordeth. If any of the Saracens have no family in Arabia, they may marry in Syria; and whosoever of them wants any female slaves, he may purchase as many as he hath occasion for.” The conquerors prepared to use, or to abuse, this gracious permission; but the year of their triumph was marked by a mortality of men and cattle; and twenty-five thousand Saracens were snatched away from the possession of Syria. The death of Abu Obeidah might be lamented by the Christians; but his brethren recollected that he was one of the ten elect whom the prophet had named as the heirs of paradise." Caled survived his brethren about three years; and the tomb of the Sword of God is shown in the neighbourhood of Emesa. His valour, which founded in Arabia and Syria the empire of the caliphs, was fortified by the

* Abulfeda, Annal. Moslem. p. 73. Mahomet could artfully vary the praises of his disciples. Of Omar he was accustomed to say, that if a prophet could arise after himself, it would be Omar; and that in a general calamity, Omar would be excepted by the divine justice (Ockley, vol. i. p. 221).

CHAP. opinion of a special providence; and as long as he * wore a cap, which had been blessed by Mahomet, he deemed himself invulnerable amidst the darts of the infidels. Progress of The place of the first conquerors was supplied by *: a new generation of their children and countrymen: *...* Syria became the seat and support of the house of Ommiyah; and the revenue, the soldiers, the ships of that powerful kingdom, were consecrated to enlarge on every side the empire of the caliphs. But the Saracens despise a superfluity of fame; and their historians scarcely condescend to mention the subordinate conquests which are lost in the splendour and rapidity of their victorious career. To the north of Syria, they passed mount Taurus, and reduced to , their obedience the province of Cilicia, with its capital Tarsus, the ancient monument of the Assyrian kings. Beyond a second ridge of the same mountains, they spread the flame of war, rather than the light of religion, as far as the shores of the Euxine and the neighbourhood of Constantinople. To the east they advanced to the banks and sources of the Euphrates and Tigris:" the long-disputed barrier of Rome and Persia was for ever confounded; the walls of Edessa and Amida, of Dara and Nisibis, which had resisted the arms and engines of Sapor or Nushirvan, were levelled in the dust; and the holy city of Abgarus might vainly produce the epistle or the image of Christ to an unbelieving conqueror. To the west, the Syrian kingdom is bounded by the sea: and the ruin of Aradus, a small island or peninsula on the coast, was postponed during ten years. But the hills CHAP.

* Al Wakidi had likewise written a history of the conquest of Diarbekir, or Mesopotamia (Ockley, at the end of the iid vol.), which our interpreters do not appear to have seen. The Chronicle of Dionysius of Telmar, the Jacobite patriarch, records the taking of Edessa A. D. 637, and of Dara A. D. 641 (Asseman. Bibliot. Orient. tom. ii. p. 103); and the attentive may glean some doubtful information from the Chronography of Theophanes (p. 285–287). Most of the towns of Mesopotamia yielded by surrender (Abulpharag. p. 112).

of Libanus abounded in timber; the trade of Phoenicia was populous in mariners; and a fleet of seventeen hundred barks was equipped and manned by the natives of the desert. The imperial navy of the Romans fled before them from the Pamphylian rocks to the Hellespont; but the spirit of the emperor, a grandson of Heraclius, had been subdued before the combat by a dream and a pun.” The Saracens rode masters of the sea; and the islands of Cyprus, Rhodes, and the Cyclades, were successively exposed to their rapacious visits. Three hundred years before the Christian aera, the memorable though fruitless siege of Rhodes” by Demetrius, had furnished that maritime republic with the materials and the subject of a trophy. A gigantic statue of Apollo or the sun, seventy cubits in height, was erected at the entrance of the harbour, a monument of the freedom and the arts of Greece. After standing fifty-six years, the colossus of Rhodes was overthrown by an earthquake; but the massy trunk, and huge fragments, lay scattered eight centuries on the ground, and are often described as one of the wonders of the ancient world. They were collected by the diligence of the Saracens, and sold to a Jewish merchant of Edessa, who is said to have laden nine hundred camels with the weight of the brass metal: an enormous weight, though we should include the hundred colossal figures," and the

• He dreamt that he was at Thessalonica, a harmless and unmeaning vision; but his soothsayer, or his cowardice, understood the sure omen of a defeat concealed in that inauspicious word Sis axaq vizny, Give to another the victory (Theophan. p. 286. Zonaras, tom. ii. l. xiv. p. 88). 'P Every passage and every fact that relates to the isle, the city, and the colossus of Rhodes, are compiled in the laborious treatise of Meursius, who has bestowed the same diligence on the two larger islands of Crete and Cyprus. See in the iiid vol. of his works, the Rhodus of Meursius (1. i. c. 15. p. 715–719). The Byzantine writers, Theophanes and Constantine, have ignorantly prolonged the term to 1360 years, and ridiculously divide the weight among 30,000 camels. * Centum colossi alium nobilitaturi locum, says Pliny, with his usual spirit. Hist. Natur. xxxiv. 18.

[ocr errors]

CHAP.
LI.

EGYPT.
Character
and life of
Amrou.

three thousand statues, which adorned the prosperity
of the city of the sun.
II. The conquest of Egypt may be explained by
the character of the victorious Saracen, one of the
first of his nation, in an age when the meanest of the
brethren was exalted above his nature by the spirit
of enthusiasm. The birth of Amrou was at once
base and illustrious: his mother, a notorious prosti-
tute, was unable to decide among five of the Ko-
reish; but the proof of resemblance adjudged the
child to Aasi, the oldest of her lovers." The youth
of Amrou was impelled by the passions and prejudices
of his kindred: his poetic genius was exercised in sa-
tirical verses against the person and doctrine of Ma-
homet; his dexterity was employed by the reigning
faction to pursue the religious exiles who had taken
refuge in the court of the AEthiopian king.” Yet he
returned from this embassy, a secret proselyte; his
reason or his interest determined him to renounce
the worship of idols; he escaped from Mecca with
his friend Caled, and the prophet of Medina enjoyed
at the same moment the satisfaction of embracing the
two firmest champions of his cause. The impatience
of Amrou to lead the armies of the faithful was
checked by the reproof of Omar, who advised him

not to seek power and dominion, since he who is a

subject to-day, may be a prince to-morrow. Yet his merit was not overlooked by the two first successors of Mahomet; they were indebted to his arms for the conquest of Palestine; and in all the battles and sieges of Syria, he united with the temper of a chief,

the valour of an adventurous soldier. In a visit to

* We learn this anecdote from a spirited old woman, who reviled to their faces the caliph and his friend. She was encouraged by the silence of Amrou and the

liberality of Moawiyah (Abulfeda, Annal. Moslem. p. 111).

* Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. ii. p. 46, &c. who quotes the Abyssinian history, or romance, of Abdel Balcides. Yet the fact of the embassy and ambassador may be allowed.

Medina, the caliph expressed a wish to survey the CHAP. L

sword which had cut down so many Christian warriors: the son of Aasi unsheathed a short and ordinary scimitar; and as he perceived the surprise of Omar, “Alas,” said the modest Saracen, “the sword itself, without the arm of its master, is neither sharper nor more weighty than the sword of Pharezdak the poet.” After the conquest of Egypt, he was recalled by the jealousy of the caliph Othman; but in the subsequent troubles, the ambition of a soldier, a statesman, and an orator, emerged from a private station. His powerful support, both in council and in the field, established the throne of the Ommiades; the administration and revenue of Egypt were restored by the gratitude of Moawiyah to a faithful friend who had raised himself above the rank of a subject; and Amrou ended his days in the palace and city which he had founded on the banks of the Nile. His dying speech to his children is celebrated by the Arabians as a model of eloquence and wisdom: he deplored the errors of his youth; but if the penitent was still infected by the vanity of a poet, he might exaggerate the venom and mischief of his impious compositions."

[ocr errors]

From his camp, in Palestine, Amrou had surprised Invasion

or anticipated the caliph's leave for the invasion of

* This saying is preserved by Pocock (Not ad Carmen Tograi, p. 184), and justly applauded by Mr. Harris (Philosophical Arrangements, p. 350).

u For the life and character of Amrou, see Ockley (Hist. of the Saracens, vol. i. p. 28. 63. 94. 328. 342. 344. and to the end of the volume; vol. ii. p. 51.55. 57.74. 110–112. 162), and Otter (Mem. de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xxi. p. 131, 132). The readers of Tacitus may aptly compare Vespasian and Mucianus, with Moawiyah and Amrou. Yet the resemblance is still more in the situation, than in the characters, of the men.

v Al Wakidi had likewise composed a separate history of the conquest of Egypt, which Mr. Ockley could never procure; and his own inquiries (vol. i. p. 344–362), have added very little to the original text of Eutychius (Annal. tom. ii. p. 296–323. vers. Pocock), the Melchite patriarch of Alexandria, who lived three hundred years after the revolution.

[ocr errors]

Egypt." The magnanimous Omar trusted in his *

« ForrigeFortsett »