The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18 (part 2)

Heraclius arrives at Jerusalem, and massacres the Jews. 

6. When he entered the city and saw that everything had been destroyed and burned by the Persians, he felt a deep sadness; then when he saw that Modestus had [re]constructed the Church of the Resurrection, of the Skull and the church of Mar Constantine, he felt great joy and thanked Modestus for what he had done.  The monks and the inhabitants of Jerusalem said to him: “The Jews living around Jerusalem, together with those from Galilee, took the side of the Persians, and they helped them when they invaded the country.  They went to the trouble of killing more Christians than did the Persians: they destroyed the churches and set fire to them”.  Then they let him see the dead who had been cast in the Mamilla, and made him aware of how many Christians they murdered, how many churches had been destroyed at Tyre by the Jews.

Heraclius said to them: “What do you want, then?”

“That you give us satisfaction,” they replied. “Kill every Jew who is found around Jerusalem and in Galilee, because if another hostile people come to us, we don’t want them to help them again against us, just as they have helped the Persians.”

Heraclius said to them: “How could I kill them, having already given them my protection and having put in writing my promise to them? You yourselves know what happens to those who violate a treaty.  If I violated the treaty and the oath, it would be shameful for me, and a reprehensible action on my part.  And I do not think that, if I were to give in writing a treaty to others who were not Jews, that they would accept it from me.  No, if I do not keep faith with the treaty signed with them, I would be a perjurer, a traitor, I would no longer be trusted by the people, not to mention the severe guilt and shame that I would receive in the presence of Christ our Lord, for the extermination of a people to whom I had given my protection, leaving my promise in writing.”

They answered: “Christ our Lord, he knows that killing them by your hand would be a cause of forgiveness for your sins and purification for your sins. Men, for their part, will justify you, because when you gave your protection to the Jews you did not know, or had not learned, how many Christians they had killed nor how many churches had been destroyed.  They have come to meet you and have they received you with gifts with the sole purpose of deceiving you, to avoid the punishment for what they have perpetrated.  If you kill them, it would be a worthy sacrifice that you offer to God.  We would not assign this guilt to you, or cause it to be imputed to you.  So also we will ask our Lord Jesus Christ to pardon it.  We will do for you, in the week that precedes the great fast and in it which is allowed to eat eggs and cheese, a [period] of absolute fasting: for the whole of the great fasting period we will fast for you and will abstain, in that time, from eating eggs and cheese, to last as long as Christianity”.  The Melkites, in fact, in that week abstained from meat and lived on eggs, cheese and fish, as is demonstrated by the Typicon of saint Mar Saba. “We will fast for you,” they said, “and we will abstain from eating all kinds of fat things.  We will make it a rule, a prohibition and a curse so that this can never be changed, and will send written in every part of the world, as we ask forgiveness for what will be done.”

Heraclius appeased them, and he killed an uncountable number of Jews who lived around Jerusalem and in Galilee.  Others managed to hide, and the rest fled into the wilderness, and into the valleys, the mountains and into Egypt.  So it was decided that the first week of fasting, in which the Melkites abstained only from flesh, should become a period of absolute fasting.  They fasted for King Heraclius, to beg pardon, because he had violated the treaty and killed the Jews: in this period they refrained from eating eggs, cheese and fish.  They sent written statements in this regard into all corners of the earth.  The Copts of Egypt still fast like this today, although not those of Syria, nor the Greek Melkites, because after the death of Heraclius they resumed eating eggs, cheese and fish in this week.  In the same week they abstain on Wednesdays and Fridays until the ninth hour, then they eat eggs, cheese and fish according to the Rule of St Nicephorus, patriarch of Constantinople, martyr and confessor, according to the Typicon of the church, allowing the Orthodox to eat in this week eggs and cheese also on Wednesdays and Fridays, although only after the ninth hour.  This rule is in sharp contrast with the behavior of those who fast for the Maronite king Heraclius, and may God will preserve us from their evil behaviour, because it is not permissible to fast for a man born of a woman and, even worse, for a king who has left this world and died a Maronite!

7. But let us return to [our] story.  Heraclius made as Patriarch of Jerusalem the monk Modestus, superior of the monastery of ad-Dukas, and ordered him to go with him to Damascus in order to hand over part of the money raised in Damascus and the Palestinian money, so that he could [re]construct in Jerusalem all the churches that the Persians had destroyed there.  Heraclius then came back from Jerusalem to Damascus, and he stopped and took the money from Mansur.  Modestus was patriarch for nine months and died.  After his death the see of Jerusalem had no patriarch for six years.

8.  In the sixteenth year of the reign of Heraclius there died Muhammad, son of ‘Abd Allah, prophet of the Muslims, on the second Monday of the month of rabi` al-awwal in the eleventh year of the Hegira.  He was buried in his own house, where he died, that is in the house of Aishah, after thirteen days of illness.  He died at the age of sixty-three, leaving no [other] children other than Fatimah, who died forty days after him (Others say “seventy days later”), in the time of the caliphate of Abu Bakr.

Leave a Reply