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CHAP. God and his sword, which had shaken the thrones of
Chosroes and Caesar: but when he compared the slender force of the Moslems with the greatness of the enterprise, he condemned his own rashness, and listened to his timid companions. The pride and the greatness of Pharaoh were familiar to the readers of the Koran; and a tenfold repetition of prodigies had been scarcely sufficient to effect, not the victory, but the flight, of six hundred thousand of the children of Israel: the cities of Egypt were many and populous;
their architecture was strong and solid; the Nile,
with its numerous branches, was alone an insuperable barrier; and the granary of the imperial city would be obstinately defended by the Roman powers. In this perplexity, the commander of the faithful resigned himself to the decision of chance, or, in his opinion, of Providence. At the head of only four thousand Arabs, the intrepid Amrou had marched away from his station of Gaza when he was overtaken by the messenger of Omar. “If you are still in Syria,” said the ambiguous mandate, “retreat without delay; but if, at the receipt of this epistle, you have already reached the frontiers of Egypt, advance with confidence, and depend on the succour of God and of your brethren.” The experience, perhaps the secret intelligence, of Amrou had taught him to suspect the mutability of courts; and he continued his march till his tents were unquestionably pitched on Egyptian ground. He there assembled
his officers, broke the seal, perused the epistle, gravely .
inquired the name and situation of the place, and declared his ready obedience to the commands of the caliph. After a siege of thirty days, he took possession of Farmah or Pelusium; and that key of Egypt, as it has been justly named, unlocked the entrance of the country, as far as the ruins of Heliopolis and the neighbourhood of the modern Cairo.
On the western side of the Nile, at a small di- CHAP. stance to the east of the Pyramids, at asmall distance. “ to the south of the Delta, Memphis, one hundred.” and fifty furlongs in circumference, displayed the phis, Ba
- - - - bylon, and
magnificence of ancient kings. Under the reign of Č. the Ptolemies and Caesars, the seat of government was removed to the sea-coast; the ancient capital was eclipsed by the arts and opulence of Alexandria; the palaces, and at length the temples, were reduced to a desolate and ruinous condition: yet, in the age of Augustus, and even in that of Constantine, Memphis was still numbered among the greatest and most populous of the provincial cities." The banks of the Nile, in this place of the breadth of three thousand feet, were united by two bridges of sixty and of thirty boats, connected in the middle stream by the small island of Rouda, which was covered with gardens and habitations.” The eastern extremity of the bridge was terminated by the town of Babylon and the camp of a Roman legion, which protected the passage of the river and the second capital of Egypt. This important fortress, which might fairly be described as a part of Memphis or Misrah, was invested by the arms of the lieutenant of Omar: a reinforcement of four thousand Saracens soon arrived in his camp; and the military engines, which battered the walls, may be imputed to the art and labour of his Syrian allies. Yet the siege was protracted to seven months; and the rash invaders were encompassed and threat
"Strabo, an accurate and attentive spectator, observes of Heliopolis vuvu asy ov, sar, ravenues # roxs (Geograph. 1. xvii. p. 1158); but of Memphis he declares, rows 3’ tor, asyaxn re zai svay?eos writz air’Axićzoguay (p. 1161); he notices, however, the mixture of inhabitants, and the ruin of the palaces. In the proper Egypt, Ammianus enumerates Memphis among the four cities, maximis urbibus quibus provincia mitet (xxii. 16); and the name of Memphis appears with distinction in the Roman Itinerary and episcopal lists.
* These rare and curious facts, the breadth (2946 feet) and the bridge of the Nile, are only to be found in the Danish traveller and the Nubian geographer (p. 98).
CHAP. ened by the inundation of the Nile.” Their last * assault was bold and successful: they passed the ditch,
which had been fortified with iron spikes, applied their scaling-ladders, entered the fortress with the shout of “God is victorious!” and drove the remnant of the Greeks to their boats and the isle of Rouda. The spot was afterwards recommended to the conqueror by the easy communication with the gulf and the peninsula of Arabia: the remains of Memphis were deserted; the tents of the Arabs were converted into permanent habitations; and the first mosch was blessed by the presence of fourscore companions of Mahomet.” A new city arose in their camp on the eastward bank of the Nile; and the contiguous quarters of Babylon and Fostat are confounded in their present decay by the appellation of old Misrah, or Cairo, of which they form an extensive suburb. But the name of Cairo, the town of victory, more strictly belongs to the modern capital, which was founded in the tenth century by the Fatimite caliphs." It has gradually receded from the river, but the continuity of buildings may be traced by an attentive
eye from the monuments of Sesostris to those of Saladin."
y From the month of April, the Nile begins imperceptibly to rise; the swell becomes strong and visible in the moon after the summer solstice (Plin. Hist. Nat. v. 10), and is usually proclaimed at Cairo on St. Peter's day (June 29). A register of thirty successive years marks the greatest height of the waters between July 25 and August 18 (Maillet, Description de l'Egypte, lettre xi. p. 67, &c. Pocock's Description of the East, vol. i. p. 200. Shaw's Travels, p. 383). * Murtadi, Merveilles de l'Egypte, 243—259. He expatiates on the subject with the zeal and minuteness of a citizen and a bigot, and his local traditions have a strong air of truth and accuracy. * D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale, p. 233. - * The position of New and of Old Cairo is well known, and has been often described. Two writers, who were intimately acquainted with ancient and modern Egypt, have fixed, after a learned inquiry, the city of Memphis at Gizeh, directly opposite the Old Cairo (Sicard, Nouveaux Memoires des Missions du Levant, tom. vi. p. 5, 6. Shaw's Observations and Travels, p. 296–304). Yet we may not disregard the authority or the arguments of Pocock (vol. i. p. 25— 41), Niebuhr (Voyage, tom. i. p. 77–106), and, above all, of D'Anville (Description de l'Egypte, p. 111, 112. 130–149), who have removed Memphis in the seventh year of the Hegira (A. D. 628). See Gagnier (Vie de Mahomet, tom. ii. p. 255,256. 303), from Al Jannabi.
Yet the Arabs, after a glorious and profitable CHAP. enterprise, must have retreated to the desert, had LI. they not found a powerful alliance in the heart of Voluntary
the country. The rapid conquest of Alexander was sion of the • - - - - Copts assisted by the superstition and revolt of the natives: ... they abhorred their Persian oppressors, the disciples *-* * of the Magi, who had burnt the temples of Egypt, and feasted with sacrilegious appetite on the flesh of the god Apis." After a period of ten centuries the same revolution was renewed by a similar cause; and in the support of an incomprehensible creed, the zeal of the Coptic Christians was equally ardent. I have already explained the origin and progress of the Monophysite controversy, and the persecution of the emperors, which converted a sect into a nation, and alienated Egypt from their religion and government. The Saracens were received as the deliverers of the Jacobite church; and a secret and effectual treaty was opened during the siege of Memphis between a victorious army and a people of slaves. A rich and noble Egyptian, of the name of Mokawkas, had dissembled his faith to obtain the administration of his province: in the disorders of the Persian war he aspired to independence: the embassy of Mahomet ranked him among princes; but he declined, with rich gifts and ambiguous compliments, the proposal of a new religion." The abuse of his trust exposed him to the resentment of Heraclius; his submission towards the village of Mohannah, some miles farther to the south. In their heat, the disputants have forgot that the ample space of a metropolis covers and annihilates the far greater part of the coutroversy. * See Herodotus, l. iii. c. 27, 28, 29. AElian. Hist. War. l. iv. c. 8. Suidas in ozos, tom. ii. p. 774. Diodor. Sicul, tom. ii. 1. xvii. p. 197. edit. Wesseling. Toy IIsgrov nasonzorov sus ra. iséz, says the last of these historians. * Mokawkas sent the prophet two Coptic damsels, with two maids, and one eunuch, an alabaster vase, an ingot of pure gold, oil, honey, and the finest white linen of Egypt, with a horse, a mule, and an ass, distinguished by their respective qualifications. The embassy of Mahomet was despatched from Medina
CHAP. was delayed by arrogance and fear; and his con
science was prompted by interest to throw himself on the favour of the nation and the support of the Saracens. In his first conference with Amrou, he heard without indignation the usual option of the Koran, the tribute, or the sword. “The Greeks,” replied Mokawkas, “are determined to abide the determination of the sword; but with the Greeks I desire no communion, either in this world or in the next, and I abjure for ever the Byzantine tyrant, his synod of Chalcedon, and his Melchite slaves. For myself and my brethren, we are resolved to live and die in the profession of the gospel and unity of Christ. It is impossible for us to embrace the revelations of your prophet; but we are desirous of peace, and cheerfully submit to pay tribute and obedience to his temporal successors.” The tribute was ascertained at two pieces of gold for the head of every Christian; but old men, monks, women, and children, of both sexes, under sixteen years of age, were exempted from this personal assessment: the Copts above and below Memphis swore allegiance to the caliph, and promised an hospitable entertainment of three days to every Musulman who should travel through their country. By this charter of security, the ecclesiastical and civil tyranny of the Melchites was destroyed:" the anathemas of St. Cyril were thundered from every pulpit; and the sacred edifices, with the patrimony of the church, were restored to the national communion of the Jacobites, who enjoyed without moderation the moment of triumph and revenge.
• The praefecture of Egypt, and the conduct of the war, had been trusted by Heraclius to the patriarch Cyrus (Theophan. p. 280, 281). “In Spain,” said James II., “do you not consult your priests?” “We do,” replied the Catholic ambassador, “ and our affairs succeed accordingly.” I know not how to relate the plans of Cyrus, of paying tribute without impairing the revenue, and of converting Omar by his marriage with the emperor's daughter (Nicephor. Breviar. p. 17, 18).