And more from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

This continues as follows:

In the year 1057 (745-746), Marwan went out from the Gate of the Turks.

It is written in the prophet Jeremiah: “Therefore thus says the Lord: See I will put pitfalls before this people: fathers and son will fail together; neighbour and friend will perish.”

All these things happened to the Arabs, because brothers and nephews fell into pitfalls because of their ambition.

The supporters of Abbas and those of Hisham, the son of Walid and the supporters of Marwan, who were brothers and nephews, neighbours and friends, threw themselves on one another, perished themselves and perished with them a great many men.

Jeremiah also spoke about the journey even of Merwan: “See a people comes from the land of the north; a great nation comes out of the confines of the earth; they are armed with bows and spears, they are cruel and merciless; their voice is like the sound of a rough sea; they are mounted on horses and are prepared like brave men for battle. We have learned their design and our hands have grown weak; tribulation and pain have seized us, like a woman who gives birth. Do not go out in the fields and do not walk at all in the road because of the sword of the enemy.” And Isaiah also said, speaking of them: “I have raised him up from the north, he will come from the East, he will call on my name; they will take the judges and treat them like the mud that the potter tramples under his feet,” and again: “From the north the evil will spread over all the inhabitants of the earth.”

When Marwan had invaded Mesopotamia and subjected it, he established governors in all the cities, and even in Mosul. Then, having assembled a large army, he made it advance rapidly with workers and engineers.

The supporters of Abbas went to the West. Yazid, who had killed Walid, died after a reign of six months, and [45] his brother Ibrahim took his place.

The latter, on learning that Marwan had crossed the Euphrates with a large army, and that Mesopotamia had submitted, was seized with fear. “They shook and staggered like drunken men.”

He first sent Nouaim Ibn Thabit against Marwan, with a considerable army. It is reported of this man that he had seventy sons.

They then marched against each other and engaged in battle: the whole army of Ibn Thabit was destroyed and cut to pieces in the presence of Marwan.

The supporters of Ibrahim seeing that Marwan had triumphed in this first battle were afraid, and gathered innumerable forces, bringing even the country people to fight with slingshots.

Both armies advanced against each other, and having met, encamped at `Ain Gara.
After numerous engagements, and after many men had fallen continuously on both sides, Marwan finally gained the victory and cut Ibrahim to pieces and his brothers, who had run away, and Soliman, son of Hisham. No similar battle ever happened in the world; never in any place was so much blood as in this place. Even the people of the countryside — more than five thousand men — perished.

Merwan after his victory besieged Emesa, captured it and threw down its walls. He also removed the corpse of Yazid from its tomb and had it crucified head downwards.

He also took, from a certain Jew, four hundred thousand [pieces] of gold.

7 Responses to “And more from the Chronicle of Zuqnin”


  1. Dioscorus Boles

    Roger, thank you very much for continuing this.

    When reading how bad this civil war between the Umayyad ruling house in the 740s was (which has been described very well by Zuqnin), it is easy to understand why so many Christians in the East thought at the time that the reign of the Ishmaelite would soon end.

    Christians of that time wrote apocalypses which talked about the end of the Muslim rule when their 19th king ruled (in itself based on the Book of Daniel): the 19 Ishmaelite kings being Muhammad (622-632 AD), Abu Bakr (632-634), Omar (634-644), Othman (644-656), Ali (656-661), and then the 14 Umayyad caliphs. The apocalypses were further strengthened when Marwan II, the last Omayyad caliph (744-750 AD) had to face the emerging power of the Khorasanians of eastern Iran and the neighbouring regions.

    As it turned out, the Umayyad rule indeed ended but it was replaced by the more strictly Islamic rule of the Abbasids, which lasted for a very long time.

  2. Roger Pearse

    Thank you for your kind words. A footnote on the text says that this revolt by Ibn Thabit “contibuted in no small measure to the eventual overthrow of the Umayyads”.

    I hope to continue up to the change of dynasty, but I may not be able to. I need to go and earn some money!

  3. Dioscorus Boles

    Please, don’t stop until you have reached the end of the Umayyad Dynasty in 750 AD! I have been waiting for Zuqnin’s version of events of the final fight between the Khorassanians and Marwan II to see if in it there is anything like the bizarre story told by Yo’annis II (John II) (sometimes called, Yo’annis Moses) who wrote the Biography of the Coptic Patriarch Michael I (744-767 AD), who witnessed these events [Yo'annis's book forms part of what is called (Hermopolis), History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic church of Alexandria attributed to Severus of Al'Ashmunein (Hermopolis)].

    The bizarre section in St. Michael I’s Biography is this:

    “Now the prince at that time was Marwân, who ruled from Persia to Spain. His hand was very heavy upon his soldiers, and for a time the Muslims fought one against the other, and shed one another’s blood, so that on one day twenty thousand or thirty thousand or even seventy thousand were slain. And they did not cease from war during the seven years of Marwân’s reign, because he had usurped the government over them. And in the seventh year a young man named Abd Allah had a dream, in which the |151 voice of a certain one said to him three times: «Fight against Marwân, fight. By God thou wilt overcome him.» This young man, Abd Allah, was a Bedouin, and lived in tents in the desert; and his father was an old man, named Abu Muslim, to whom the same vision came in a dream as to the young man, Abd Allah; and the old man wrote an account of the dream, and fastened it on the door of his tent. Therefore, when the Muslims saw it, they came together to him in order to know what had happened; and, when he told them, they said: «We will help thee; and, if God shall give thee the victory, we will make thee prince over us. » Accordingly, many of the tribes assembled to him, when they heard of this; and twenty thousand horsemen gathered together with him. But they had no weapons, and so they cut branches from the palm-trees, and fastened spear-heads to them, and went forth to fight, the power of God being with them. Thereupon Marwân came out against them, accompanied by a hundred thousand fighting men, well equipped, and provided with weapons and coats of mail and helmets; and the two armies met. Then Abd Allah divided his army into two parts; and when Marwân saw them, he said, as Goliath the giant said to David 28: «Hast thou come out to meet me like a dog?» Then Marwân sent out against Abd Allah forty thousand horsemen in many-coloured |152 garments, wearing cuirasses and iron armour, whereas most of Abd Allah’s soldiers were footmen. Yet Abd Allah’s men slew Marwân’s men with God’s help, so that not one of them was saved; for God gave to the former the victory over the latter, as the prophet Moses says 29 : «One man, if God helps him, shall put to flight a thousand, and two shall terrify a host.»

    And Abu Muslim saw the angel of the Lord, with a golden rod in his hand, on the top of which was a Cross, putting his enemies to flight; for, wherever the Cross approached, he saw them fall dead before it. So the followers of Abd Allah and Abu Muslim took the horses and weapons of the enemy.

    Then Marwân again sent another forty thousand horsemen against them, at the fourth hour of the day, from behind rocks; but God delivered them into their hands, and they captured their horses and weapons. So, when Marwân saw that, he fled. And he executed the following stratagem. He brought out what he possessed of money and vessels and furniture, and put the gold in bags, and scattered it along the road, while he was fleeing, accompanied by twenty thousand horsemen, who remained with him. But Abd Allah and Abu Muslim did not understand his deceit, and so, as they pursued him, they busied themselves with seizing the money and the weapons for seven days, so that Marwân escaped and crossed the Euphrates. |153 But many of his followers were drowned, and he set fire to the boats, and none reached the shore but he and eight thousand men with him.

    So the old man Abu Muslim bade his soldiers make crosses of every kind, and place them on their breasts, saying to them: «By means of this sign God has given us the victory, and it has conquered the empire for us. » And his followers multiplied, for men came to them from every place at which they arrived: from Khorassan and Sidon and the Euphrates and the land of the Romans; and all that heard of them in distant lands. And at every city which they captured, their followers established a camp.

    But as for Marwân, he set fire to every place that he reached in his flight, When Abu Muslim and Abd Allah came to the Euphrates, and saw the burnt boats, they put on black garments, and left their heads unshaven, and neglected their wives, and continued to fast and pray for six months, until God gave their enemy into their hands. Then they took the boats that they could get, and crossed the Euphrates, and pursued Marwân. And when they reached a place where there were Christians, they marked it out by the sign of the Cross, which they also had marked on their tents and garments. And the Muslims among them wore black garments. And him who was without these two signs they put to death, because the followers of Marwân were Persians, and therefore did not approve of these things. And so, when they found them, they killed them, |154 and ripped them open. And they used to rip open their pregnant wives, and kill the babes, saying: «We will leave them no offspring on earth to go about the world as beggars. »“

    (http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/severus_hermopolis_hist_alex_patr_03_part3.htm#MICHAEL_I)

    It seems to me that the writer Yo’annis II saw the hand of God in the victory of the Abbasids over the Umayyads. Moreover he says that the Abbasids used Christian symbols to win in war; that they tried to win over the Christians of the Umayyad Empire, who constituted the majority of the population, to their side or at least ensure that they stay neutral in the fight with Marwan II.

    Zuqnin’s thoughts on the matter and story are important in so many ways.

    Dioscorus Boles

  4. Roger Pearse

    Thank you for this. I do remember the very vivid description in the “History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church” of the fall of Marwan, pursued to the ends of Egypt by the horsemen from Khorassan. It will be interesting to see what the chronicle of Zuqnin says.

  5. stephan huller

    Since we are comparing historical traditions of the period I thought some of you might be interested in seeing what the Samaritan Chronicle of Abu’l Fath (Levy-Rubin The Continuatio of the Samaritan Chronicle Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam p.

    Then rose Marwan ibn Mohammed the last of Banu Umayya who ruled five years and two months. All [the years] since the [beginning of the] rule of Islam until this time were 131 years and three months.

    In the days of Marwan a tremendous earthquake struck everywhere. The houses came down upon the inhabitants and innumerable people perished; it was an immense earthquake, such as had never before been seen. Those of the people who survived remained outdoors for many days, because the earth kept moving and stirring beneath them. When God in His mercy willed that it should be so, the people entered the cities and calmed themselves. After this, Banu Abbas behaved in an unruly manner towards Banu Umayya, and came forth in order to confront them in battle. There was discord among the Muslims, some of them siding with Banu l’Abbas while others sided with Banu Umayya, and a great and terrible war broke out between them. This was the war known as the “War of the Blacks” (kharb al-kushiyin). Those who supported Banu Umayya were defeated, and were killed in a place … [something missing in text] [by] a man from Khurasan known as Abu Muslim, until he seized the reign from Banu Umayya for them. He confronted Marwan and defeated him, and Marwan was put to flight until he arrived in Egypt. Abu Muslim’s men caught up with him and killed him in Egypt, taking his head after he reigned for five years. They returned and arrived [in Iraq], and Abu Muslim passed the rule to Banu l’Abbas who were of the Banu Hashim.

    At that time the kingdom of Banu l’Abbas became established [as a] strong and mighty kingdom. They doubled the tax upon the land (kharaj) and raised the poll tax (jaliya) and made its burden heavier; they levied wasriya from all their provinces and afflicted the people with it, levying the money and collecting it assiduously.

    After Marwan arose ‘Abd Allah known as al-Abbas, of Banu Hashim, and he reigned for four years and eight months. [p. 56 - 58]

  6. Roger Pearse

    Interesting – thanks!

  7. Dioscorus Boles

    Roger, please, please, if you could, can you continue your translations on this one? With m,any thanks.



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