The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18e – the reign of Ali

The murder of Omar was followed by the murder of Othman.  The next caliph, Ali, was unable to master the large realm that he had inherited and was swiftly murdered also.

Caliphate of Ali ibn Abi Talib (35-40 / 656-661)

1. After Othman there was made caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib b. Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim b. Abd Manaf – his mother was Fatimah, daughter of Asad ibn Hashim b. Abd Manaf – in the month of Dhu’l-hiğğa in the thirty-fourth year of the Hegira, in the fourth year of the reign of Constantine, the son of Constantine.  He then went to Basra and the battle of the Camel took place.  Then he went to Kufa, aimed at Syria and the battle of Siffin took place there. He returned and there took place the battle of al-Khazrawiyyah, in Nahrawan.  He returned to Kufa, where he was killed by Abd ar-Rahman ibn al-Mulğam al-Muzadi, ten days before the end of the month of Ramadan of the fortieth year of the Hegira.  He was killed at the age of sixty-three years.  The funeral prayer was held by his son al-Hasan.  His caliphate lasted four years and ten months.  He was of a dark complexion, with a big belly and he had a bushy beard that touched his chest.  Gray hairs had in no way altered his features.  He was buried in al-Ghariyyān, others say in an-Nawbah: it is in fact uncertain where he was buried.  The head of his bodyguard was Ma’qil Qaysi ibn az-Zibāgi, and his ‘hāgib’ was the freedman Qanbar.

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

After the  murder of Omar, the Muslims elect Othman. The Muslim conquests continue.  The Byzantines don’t make much resistance, apparently.  Othman too is murdered after drawing up an edition of the Koran and destroying all the other copies.

Lots of theological letters in this section of Eutychius.  We also see the appearance of “Misr” for the first time – Cairo.

Caliphate of Othman ibn Affan (23-35 / 644-656)

1.  Othman ibn’ Affari b. Abi’l-‘As b. Umayya b. Abd Shams was made Caliph – his mother was Umayyah bint Kawbarā b. Rabi’a – three days after the death of Omar, at the turn of the month of Dhul-hiğğa.  His caliphate began in the new moon of the month of al-Muharram, in the twenty-fourth year of the Hegira, the twenty-fourth year of the reign of Heraclius, King of Rum.  He held the caliphate for twelve years.  In the third year of his caliphate George was made by Patriarch of Antioch.  He was a Maronite.  He settled in Constantinople and remained there five years without ever going to Antioch.  He died in Constantinople and was buried there.  In the tenth year of his caliphate Macarius was made patriarch of Antioch.  He was a Maronite.  He was invested with the office in Constantinople and remained there for eight years and never entered Antioch.  He died and was buried in Constantinople.  In the ninth year of his caliphate Peter was made Patriarch of Constantinople.  He was a Maronite.  He held the office for six years and died.  In the fourth year of his caliphate Peter was made Patriarch of Alexandria.  He was a Maronite.  He held the office nine years and died.  In the eighth year of his caliphate died Honorius, patriarch of Rome, who had professed the doctrine of Maron, thus giving rise to different opinions within the church.  After his death a man named Sadinus was chosen and was made patriarch of Rome.  He held the office for six months and died.  After his death a man of proven virtue named John was chosen.  Made aware of the origin of the doubts that were snaking about within the church – the sovereigns of Constantinople were then Heraclius and his brother Constantine – the Patriarch John wrote them a letter in which he passed under review the reasons for such doubts, taking the side of his predecessor Honorius, patriarch of Rome.  The letter began:

2. “Pope John, Patriarch of Rome, to Heraclius and Constantine, ruling brothers, to whom are entrusted the church of Christ, true God, whose light appeared in the darkness, who has delivered us from the power of darkness with his wonderful light, the light of truth uncontaminated by any darkness, so that with the blood of his cross peace is restored between heaven and earth, who ever guards his church.  It is given to you, O emperors, to ensure that in his church are raised the best and noblest invocations and that people believe according to the perfect faith and stay close to him.  Something has happened that it is necessary to set forth, for him to understand who loves and cultivates justice, so that the truth can shine again as brightly as it once did.  I have come to know the state of the controversy, also, and the doubts that are circulating in the West.  I received news of all of this by a letter of our brother Honorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and from others.  And it is our duty to explain how things are, because He knows everything.  The beginning of the story is this.  About eighteen years ago Cyrus, Patriarch of Alexandria, professed the doctrine of Maron, according to which in Christ, our Lord, there are two natures, one will and one operation.  He heard about Sophronius, who became Patriarch of Jerusalem, who disputed with him, getting the better with his arguments.  Then Sophronius went to Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and perceived that he spoke the same way as Cyrus, affirming also that Honorius, patriarch of Rome, professed his doctrine.  From Constantinople Sophronius went to Jerusalem.  Later when he became Patriarch of Jerusalem – it was in fact because of the righteousness of his faith that the inhabitants of Jerusalem made him Patriarch of Jerusalem – he wrote a book on the faith that was welcomed by the people of this world.  When Honorius, patriarch of Rome, heard this and that Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, had lied about him [Honorius], saying that he [Honorius] was a Maronite, he wrote a letter in which he said: ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the source of life, was born without sin, because the eternal Word, by whom all things were made, coming down from heaven, he took a body from the Virgin Mary and became like us as to the nature, but not in the will of sinners.  Because Paul says that he took the similitude of us sinners, i.e. the body, without sin, with a rational soul and intellect.  And similarly, he was pleased to take the single will for his humanity, not as we know it, who have two contrary wills, one of which is centred in the intellect and the other in the body, opposed to each other, which takes place in every human being who is subject to sin, and because none [of us] is exempt from the sin of rebellion.  But the body of Christ, our Lord, did not in itself have two contrary wills nor was the will of his intellect contrary to the will of his body and he who had come to take away the sin of the world had no sin.  Away from him be such a thing!  In Christ our Lord there was never sin, not even one, either in his birth or in his incarnation.  We profess and confirm that there was only one will to which was conformed his sacred humanity, and we do not accept at all that there were in him two contrary wills, one in his intellect and the other in his body”.  So wrote Honorius, patriarch of Rome, to Sergius, the patriarch of Constantinople.

Now, with regard to our own natures, we recognize two contrary wills, the intellect and the body, and some, bending this fact to their fallacious doctrines, thought that Honorius, patriarch of Rome, was saying that there was one and the same will in the divinity and humanity of Christ our Lord.  Now I ask those who advocate this doctrine:  “In what nature can we say that Christ God had only one will?  If only in his divinity, then his humanity had no will, so therefore he was not a perfect man.  If they say that this will alone was in the humanity of Christ, we ask them: “How could he then be perfect God?”  And if you respond that there are two natures with one will, this would not be possible at all.  We profess the incarnation of Christ and therefore we do not deny the two wills of his two natures, nor alter in any way the peculiarities of each of them.  But let’s say that each of the two natures of Christ, the incarnation of the one and only person, has a will.  We do not say that there are two persons, like the much-execrated Nestorius [said].  As for those who claim to be two natures and one will, common to the deity and humanity of Christ, and a single operation, well they are known to be in error, like the maligned Marone.  As for those who claim there to be one nature, one will and one operation, well we also know that they are in error, like the execrated Eutyches, Dioscorus and Severus, since this is the doctrine of the Jacobites.  But sound and manifest doctrine is that which [our] masters professed, namely that in Christ our Lord there are two natures, two wills and two operations in one person, for it is impossible that one who has two natures can have only one will.  If he had only one will, he would also have only one nature.  But if he has two natures then he must have also two wills.  We therefore ask you to tear up the parchment in which are accused Leo, patriarch of Rome, and the council of Chalcedon, so that it is not widely read and not understood in the hands of weak minds so as to shake their faith. We ask Christ our Lord to look upon you with his mercy, his forgiveness and his help and to subdue the nations with his invincible strength.”

3. When John, patriarch of Rome, had thus finished his letter, he affixed his seal and sent it by entrusting it to a remarkable man named Barsiqā, archdeacon of the Church of Rome.  He went to the sovereigns Heraclius and Constantine, but he found that Constantine had died.  The ministers and army generals revolted against Heraclius, and killed him, because they thought that he was the cause of the disaster that had hit them – they had indeed lost Egypt and Syria – and also because he was a Maronite.  In his place they elected king the son of the late brother Constantine and called him Constantine, with the name of his father.  This was in the eighth year of the Caliphate of Othman.  This new king, Constantine, was a godly man.  When Barsiqā handed him the letter of John, Patriarch of Rome, the king took it, read it and was amazed at the insight of the Patriarch of Rome.  Then he ordered that his answer should be written in these terms:

4. “We welcome, Your Excellent Holiness, your instruction.  We profess and believe in Christ our Lord there are two natures, two wills, two operations and a single person and anathematise anyone who dares contradict anything.  We also believe in what the Six hundred and thirty bishops gathered in Chalcedon said, and anathematise anyone who dares act against them.  We have complied with the order that you gave to tear up the parchment where is slandered Leo, the holy patriarch of Rome, and the Council of Chalcedon, and we gave it to the fire.  We remain steadfast in your teaching, which is the teaching of truth, and ask that you invoke upon us salvation, and preservation from every calamity.”

5. Barsiqā set off, carrying the letter of King Constantine in order to hand it over to John, patriarch of Rome, in response to his letter.  When he arrived in Rome, he found that the patriarch John was now dead and in his place had come a man of proven virtue named Theodore.  Barsiqā presented himself, let him know what the king had willingly accepted, informed him of his orthodoxy and handed him the letter that King Constantine sent him in response to the letter that John had sent to the two sovereigns.  The Patriarch Theodore took it, read it and remained comfortable with the orthodoxy of the king.  He answered him in these terms:

6.  “To King Constantine, singularly faithful to pure orthodoxy, from the patriarch of Rome, Theodore.  Almighty God, who protects his church, gave us the economy of his mercy by the event of your orthodox faith and has given us the opportunity to talk to you with joy and fervour in order to manifest this grace.  Because you have received your authority as vicars of the holy Apostles in order to defend orthodoxy and make manifest the true religion, not as Heraclius did who does not deserve to be called King because of his wickedness, and to be left out of the truth, nor as Sergius, Honorius, Paul and Peter, the patriarchs of Constantinople, who opposed the truth making themselves worthy of anathema, and that they deserved to be deprived of the place they occupied within the church, for the falsity of their doctrine and for the doubts that they spread among the people.  As for you, most excellent king, know that the true orthodox faith is the fruit of paradise and it is your job, most excellent king, to protect it, fight for it and make it manifest to the people.  We ask this through Christ our Lord to grant this with his blessing by his generosity.”  Patriarch Theodore affixed his seal to the letter and sent it to King Constantine in response to the letter he had sent to John, patriarch of Rome.  When he received the letter, King Constantine felt great pain to learn the news of John’s death.  Then he opened the letter and remained extremely pleased with the response that the patriarch Theodore gave him in place of the deceased John.  Then he ordered a reply.  When the king’s messenger came to Rome, he found that Theodore had died and that Martin had been made Patriarch of Rome.

7. In the time of Othman ibn Affan, King Constantine sent an eunuch named Manuel with a large army by sea and captured Alexandria.  Amr ibn al-As was at Misr [i.e. Cairo].  Amr ibn al-As came out against him accompanied by the Copts and other people of Misr.  Al-Muqawqas was with them who provided them money, housing, weapons and provisions.  They met at the gates of Alexandria in a furious battle carried on fighting for several days.  Eventually the eunuch Manuel fled along with all the Rum that were with him, they embarked and returned to Constantinople.

8. During the times of Othman ibn Affan were conquered Africa, Armenia and Khurasan.  Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan ruled Damascus in the name of Othman ibn Affan.  Mu’awiya made a pact of friendship with the people of Cyprus in the twenty-eighth year of the Hegira, the fourth year of the caliphate of Othman ibn Affan, for a tribute of seven thousand, two hundred dinars to be paid to Muslims each year, forever.  The same amount they gave to the king of Rum. Othman had the Koran drawn up, beginning with the longest suras and ending with the shorter ones;  he had seven copies made and ordered the destruction of all the others.  This was in the thirtieth year of the Hegira.  The people revolted against Othman ibn Affan and he was killed.  Those who killed him were Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, Ammar ibn Yasir and Kinana ibn Bishr, on the eighth day of Dhul-hiğğa (others say “the eighteenth of Dhu’l-higğa”) in the thirty-fifth year of the Hegira.  He was eighty years old.  They buried him three days later.  He was of medium height, handsome of face, dark, had a thick and braided beard, and his teeth were linked together with gold frames.  His influential adviser was Marwan ibn al-Hakam.  He was buried in Medina in a place called ‘gisr Kawkab’.  The head of his bodyguard was Abdullah ibn Fahd al-Adawī and his ‘hāgib’  was the freedman Hamdan.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18c (part 9)

The Arab conquest of Egypt continues the story of the reign of Omar.  The small bands of Arabs naturally see their conquest of Egypt as merely a chance to loot. But faced with the enormous wealth of Egypt, Omar realises that if he can extract protection money on a continuing basis, this would be better for him than simply ruining the place.  The Egyptian corn supply is now diverted to Medina, and the ancient canal to the Red Sea is dug out again to make this easier.  Then the Muslims continue west, capturing Tripoli in Libya.  Meanwhile Omar’s reign comes to a sudden end when he is murdered while at the morning prayers.

15. After occupying Alexandria, Amr ibn al-As pursued the Rum who had retreated into the desert.  Then the Rum who had fled by sea returned to Alexandria and killed the Muslims who were there.  Hearing this, Amr ibn al-As hastily returned to Alexandria.  He engaged in a fierce battle at the citadel, but finally captured it and the Rum fled again by ship.  Amr ibn al-As then wrote to Omar ibn al-Khattab saying:  “I have conquered a city, but I will not describe here what is found there.  I will tell you only that I have found there four temples, four baths, forty thousand Jews who pay the personal tribute, four palaces for kings and twelve thousand sellers of fresh green vegetables.  I conquered by force without any promise of peace.”  In the letter he let him know that the Muslims were asking to divide up these things.  Omar ibn al-Khattab replied, condemning this opinion, and ordered him not to sack the city or to divide up what was there, and to provide that the proceeds of the kharag (Islamic land-tax) would serve as a strength and sustenance for Muslims in the Holy War against their enemies.  Amr then left the city as he had found it, he counted the villages and imposed on them the kharag.  All Egypt was placed under the protection of Muslims in exchange for two dinars kharag for every man, without anyone being asked more for his person, unless it was someone who possessed more: in which case he was taxed in proportion to the lands and the cultivated fields that he possessed.  The people of Alexandria were treated differently: they would have to pay the property tax as well as the personal tax that would have been asked by their administrators, because Alexandria had been conquered through war without any promise and no covenant, since there was no treaty or guarantee with its inhabitants.  Alexandria was captured on Friday the new moon of the month of Muharram in the year twenty of the Hegira, in the twentieth year of the reign of Heraclius, the eighth year of the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab.

Amr ibn al-As sent Uqba ibn Nafi, who went as far as to Zawīlah.  The territory between Barqah and Zawīlah became a territory of the Muslims.  At that time none of the collectors of poll tax came to Barqah because people sent in their own personal tribute at the appropriate time.

In those days a severe food shortage fell upon the inhabitants of Medina.  Omar ibn al-Khattab then wrote to Amr ibn al-As, informing him of the state of collapse and famine in which the people were struggling.  Amr sent camels laden with flour.  The caravan was an  uninterrupted line: when the first camel arrived in Medina the last one was still in Egypt.  Omar ibn al-Khattab wrote to Amr ibn al-As to dig out a channel to reach the Red Sea, so as to make the wheat transport easier.  Amr then ordered a canal dug, which is in the territory of al-Qantarah, known by the name of the Canal of the Prince of the Believers.  The boats transported wheat, barley and cereals from al-Fustat to the Red Sea through the canal, and from the Red Sea to Medina.

16.  Amr ibn al-As then conquered Tripoli in Africa, in the twenty-second year of the Hegira, the twenty-second of the reign of Heraclius and tenth of the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab.  In Fustat in Egypt Amr constructed the great mosque.

17.  Omar ibn al-Khattab was murdered at Medina, while he was at the morning prayer.  He was killed by Abu Lu’lu’a, the slave of Ibn al-Mughira Shu’ba, on the twenty-seventh of the month of Dhul-hiğğa, in the twenty-third year of the Hegira, the twenty-third year of the reign of Heraclius.  He was sixty-three.  He had delegated the election of his successor to a committee consisting of six companions of Muhammad, i.e. of Othman ibn Affan, Ali ibn Abi Talib, Talha, az-Zubayr ibn al-Arrām,  Abd ar-Rahman ibn Urf az-Zahri and Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas.  The funeral prayer was recited by Suhayb ar-Rumi and he was buried in the house where Muhammad had been buried.  His caliphate lasted ten years and nine months.  During his caliphate Omar made the pilgrimage to Mecca nine times.  He was of a reddish complexion, left-handed, bald, and his hair and beard were dyed with henna.  The head of his bodyguard was Abd Allah ibn Abbas and his hāgib was the freedman Barqa.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18c (part 8)

The Muslims capture Babylon fortress; but the fighting between the Arab force and the Roman force takes them both all over the place. Eventually the Muslims have to besiege Alexandria. 

13. ‘Ubāda ibn as-Samit then returned to Amr ibn al-As and made him aware of what had happened.  When the Muslims heard that there were only a few men in the citadel, they moved the field of action to the area that is now known by the name of  Souq al-Hammam, and subjected the citadel to catapult and ballista fire.  Az-Zubayr leaned a ladder againt the side of the citadel on the side of Souq al-Hammam and climbed up.  No one noticed until az-Zubayr was on top of the citadel, and shouted ‘Allahu Akbar!’  Others were already climbing up the ladder.  The Rum stopped fighting, they embarked [on ships] and joined their companions on the island.  The Muslims conquered the citadel, killing and making prisoners, and obtained great spoil.  When the Rum realized what al-Muqawqas had done, namely, that he had betrayed them and had made them go out of the citadel, delivering it to the Muslims, they were afraid, they embarked, and went off to Karm Sharik.  Al-Muqawqas later had an interview with Amr ibn al-As to enter into a communal agreement and agreed that all the Copts of Egypt, of Upper and Lower Egypt, would pay two dinars per head as a personal tribute, whether they were nobles or commoners, as long as they were adults.  The old, boys still not grown up, and women were not required to pay anything.

14. They then made a census of the Copts, especially of those who were required to pay the tribute.  The number counted was six thousand men and the tribute to be levied was therefore estimated at twelve thousand dinars.  [Amr] therefore commanded them to pay these dinars in exchange for the protection that had been granted to them.  Then al-Muqawqas went to Amr ibn al-As and said: “With the Rum I have nothing to do, my religion is not their religion nor is my doctrine the same as theirs.  I was just afraid that they would kill me, so I kept hidden from them my religion and my doctrine, taking care not to leak such a thing.  However, I have to ask you three things.”  Amr said:  “And what would they be?” He answered: “First, do not separate me from the Copts, consider me one of them and even impose on me what you impose on them because we decided this by mutual agreement and I am their guarantor.  The Copts will observe the covenant which you have made with their friendship and with which you engaged with them.  Second, if in the future the Rum ask you to make friends with them, do not do it until you have destroyed them and reduced them to slavery, because they deserve it.  Third, when I am dead, command them to bury me in the Abu Yūkhannas church in Alexandria.”  Amr gave him what he asked, provided that he undertook to repair both the bridges, to shoulder the burden of building houses and refreshment stations, and markets, and to build bridges in all the territory between Fustat and Alexandria.  And so they did.  In fact, the leaders of the Copts gathered their men, they repaired the road, and they built for them bridges, markets and houses.  The Copts were then of great help to the Muslims in the war against the Rum.  Amr then departed attacking the Rum at Karm Sharik.  They fought for three days.  Eventually the Rum retreated to escape, and they clashed again at Salstas, where they fought for nineteen days, then at al-Karyūn where they fought bitterly.  The Rum were defeated and fled back to Alexandria where they entrenched.  The Arabs then became like lions and continued to fight against the inhabitants of Alexandria without giving respite and harshly.  The Rum made sorties from the gates every day and engaged in battle.  Many were those on both sides who were left on the field.  One day the fighting was so violent that the Arabs were able to storm the citadel of Alexandria engaging in fierce combat with those who were there.  But the Rum managed to contain the onslaught and expelled them all from the citadel, making prisoners of Amr ibn al-As, Maslama ibn Mukhallad, Wardan, the freedman of Amr, and another man.  The Rum, however, did not know who they were.  The patrician told them: “You are now our prisoners, tell us what you want from us”.  Amr said to them: “Either embrace our religion or pay us the personal tribute, or we will not cease fighting you until you or we are destroyed.”  Then a Byzantine said to the patrician: “I have the impression that this man is their leader; kill him.”  He alluded to Amr ibn al-As.  Wardan understood what he said, because he knew Greek.  So he seized Amr violently and gave him a slap, saying,  “Who are you to dare to talk like this to the presence of the leaders?  There is no one more vile and less important than you among the soldiers.  Leave it to others to talk and keep quiet.”  The patrician then said to himself:  “If this man were their commander, he would not allow anyone to yank him like that and slap him.”  Maslama ibn Mukhallad said: “Our prince had already decided to cease all fighting against you, and in fact the prince of believers, Omar ibn al-Khattab, had written to our commander, wanting to send you ten of our most prominent and wise leaders, so that we could reach, some kind of agreement with which all would be satisfied, and so we were left alone here.  We ask, therefore, if you are of this opinion, to let us go because returning to our commander we can report how humanely you have treated us, then send to him the ten leaders and everything stops between us and you, as pleases us and pleases you, and so leave you in peace.” The patrician thought that these words corresponded to the truth.  So he let them go free, hoping that the ten chiefs would present themselves.  He would have them killed, and then the Arabs would be at his mercy.  So he granted them permission to leave.  As soon as they were outside, Maslama said to Amr ibn al-As: “O Amr, you were saved by the slap of Wardan!” Then they shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and the Rum, discovering that the prisoner was Amr himself, repented of letting him go.  Next [the Muslims] advanced, shouted out against the Rum, and engaged in a fierce battle.  The Rum were put to flight.  Some of them reached the sea and took ship, others took off into the desert.  The Muslims thus came into Alexandria after having besieged it for fourteen months.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18c (part 7)

The Islamic raiders have now reached Egypt, and approach Babylon fortress, on the Nile.  The bitter ideological infighting of the past century has left the country and its rulers at odds, and both hate the Emperor Heraclius. The Persian war has stripped the country of soldiers, and left societal bonds weakened.  So the Prefect of Egypt is willing to cut a deal for his own corrupt ends with the handful of tribal raiders before him. 

The “prefect al-Muqawqas” is not named by Eutychius, nor is his exact  office given, and for  good reasons.  In fact his name was Cyrus, the augustalis or viceroy, and, far from being a Jacobite, he was Eutychius’ predecessor as the Melkite patriarch from 628-643.  There is more about him in al-Tabari and Abu Salih.[1]

11. In Egypt the prefect al-Muqawqas was receiving the kharāğ[2] on behalf of King Heraclius.  He was a Jacobite and he hated the Rum.  But it had never crossed his mind to express his Jacobitism for fear of being killed.  He had also not sent to Constantinople the money that he had collected in Egypt during the siege of Constantinople by Kisra, and therefore he was afraid that, if he fell into the hands of King Heraclius, he would surely be put to death.  So he tried to deceive the Rum by saying to them:  “The Arabs have had reinforcements, we cannot do anything against them, and we will find no way out if they besiege us.  They will kill us for sure.  Let’s open the gates of the citadel, and gather the fighters, then go out from the citadel and get out onto the island.  There we will encamp and the sea will make us an effective defensive barrier.”  The Rum went out, with al-Muqawqas and a group of Coptic notables, from the southern gate of the citadel, while others stayed to fight against the Arabs.  They embarked on the boats, came onto the island – today a place of artisans – and cut the bridge that was used when the Nile flooded.  Then al-Muqawqas sent word to Amr ibn al-‘As and said:  “You came into our country and we have fought for a long time.  For too long a time you have now been in our territory.  You are surrounded by the Nile and you are prisoners at our mercy.  Send us therefore one of your men who is your representative so that we can hear what you have to say and maybe reach an agreement that satisfies us and you, and so put an end to this war. ”  When the messengers of al-Muqawqas presented themselves to Amr ibn al-As, he sent them back to al-Muqawqas along with Obaida ibn as-Samit.  Obaida was of black complexion.  When he came to al-Muqawqas, he led him to a seat and said:  “What do you want from us, now, tell us.”  Obaida replied:  “For how things are done between us, there are only three possibilities, and it’s up to you to choose the one you like the most.  This my chief has ordered me to repeat, and the prince of believers ordered him to say this.  You may embrace our religion, namely Islam, and in this case you will become our brothers, we shall be united in good as well as in bad times.  If you do this, we will stop fighting against you and will not let anyone do you harm or dare to go up against you.  If you refuse to do this, you will pay us the tribute that we deem convenient, every year and forever, and we will defend you from all those who attack or try to harass you by laying claim upon your territory, upon you and upon your property.  But if you accept our guarantee we will give you a deal which we deem legal.  If you refuse even this, there will be between us and you only the judgment of the sword.  We are all willing to die, to the last, in order to obtain what we want from you.”

Al-Muqawqas replied:  “To embrace your religion is not possible [for us];  I myself personally, and my Coptic friends, can agree to accept a peace pact, but the Rum have refused to agree to make peace with you, saying:  ‘We never do such a thing!'”Al-Muqawqas behaved in this manner because of treachery and deceit, in order to drive out the Rum from the citadel and then accept peace, in order to keep the money that he had collected.

  1. [1]See F. Nau, “La politique matrimoniale de Cyrus (le Mocaucas) patriarche melchite d’Alexandrie”, in Le Muséon 45 (1932), pp. 1-17.
  2. [2]Or kharaj – This is the name of the Islamic land tax, initially imposed only on non-Muslims.  In this content it means the land tax.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18c (part 6)

We continue the account of the reign of Omar.

10. When he arrived at Medina, Omar ibn al-Khattab wrote a letter to remove Amr ibn al-‘As from office in Palestine, ordering him to equip himself and leave for Egypt, and he appointed Mu‘āwiya ibn Abi Sufyān as governor of Ashkelon, Caesarea and Palestine. Mu’awiya and his forces occupied Caesarea and Ashkelon, in the seventh year of the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab. Othman ibn Affan paid a visit to Omar ibn al-Khattab, and Omar said:  “I have written to Amr ibn al-‘As, telling him to leave Palestine and Caesarea.  I’ve ordered him to go to Egypt and assigned the governorship of Palestine and Caesarea to Mu‘āwiya ibn Abi Sufyān”.  Othman said to him: “You know, O prince of believers, that ‘Amr is a bold, and intrepid commander.  I fear that he may start recklessly and without enough men, and then expose the Muslims to ruin, in the hope of a few opportunities that might turn out as easily good as bad.”  Omar ibn al-Khattab regretted the letter that he had sent to Amr ibn al-‘As, and worried about what Othman had said.  So Omar ibn al-Khattab wrote another letter to Amr ibn al-‘As, saying:  “If this letter reaches you before you’re entered the province of Egypt, go back to where you were.  If you’ve already entered, carry on.”  The letter came to Amr while he was at Rafakh.  Fearing that it might be an order to retire, if he took and opened the letter, Amr would not take it from the hand of the messenger and brought him with him, and he continued on his way until he came to a village halfway between Rafakh and al-‘Arīsh.  He enquired about the place and they said:  “This village belongs to the province of Egypt.”  He then called the messenger, took delivery of the letter, read it in front of the Muslims who were with him and said to them:  “Do you not know that this village belongs to the province of Egypt?”  “Yes,” they replied.  Then Amr said:  “The prince of believers has ordered me to go back if this letter is delivered to me before I entered Egyptian territory, and to continue if this letter comes to me after entering Egyptian territory.  We will continue, therefore, with the blessing and help of Allah. ”  It is said, though, that Amr was in Palestine and continued with his men to enter Egypt without any authorization and that Omar wrote the letter before Amr was at al-‘Arish.  However, he kept hidden the letter and did not read it until he arrived at al-‘Arish, where he opened it, and he read as follows: “From Omar ibn al-Khattab to Amr ibn al-‘As.  You’ve left for Egypt with those who are with you.  In Egypt there are many Rum and you have with you only a small handful of men.  If you’re not yet in Egypt, come back.”  Amr said: “Glory to Allah, what territory is this?”  They answered:  “It is Egyptian territory”.  Then he advanced and carried on.  It is also said that Omar sent him to attack Caesarea, to give a hand to the soldiers who were besieging it, when Omar ibn al-Khattab was at al-Ğābiyah and that Omar wrote secretly to Amr to travel to Egypt.  Amr then marched on Egypt and gave orders to his men as if they were only moving from one place to another place nearby.  He moved with them at night.  Later the leaders of his men halted their work because they saw that he had exposed them dangerously, and after they realised this, they reported it to Omar ibn al-Khattab, who sent a letter to Amr ibn al-‘As in which he said:  “You have endangered the lives of those who are with you.  If my letter reaches you before you have entered Egypt, then go back where you were.  If you have already entered Egypt, go ahead, and know that I give you my support.”  Then he carried on, until he came to al-Farama, besieged it for a month and captured it.  Then he continued his march into Egypt.  The Rum were well reinforced in the citadel, they had dug a moat around in which they had placed iron bars, and held back the garrison troops to guard the citadel, so that for seven months they defended themselves strongly.  Because of the delay in taking the city, [Amr] wrote to Omar and asked him for reinforcements.  He sent him as assistance four thousand men, including az-Zubayr ibn al-‘Arrām, Obāda ibn as-Samit, and Maslama ibn Muqallad. Amr already had four thousand men with him, and so this became eight thousand.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18c (part 5)

Let’s carry on a little further with the narrative of Eutychius.  The Muslims now prepare to invade Egypt.  But first, some bureaucracy!

The narrative of Eutychius contains endless letter-writing and refers to supposed Muslim guarantees. It seems unlikely that this is historically accurate, considering the illiteracy of most of the invaders, and their indifference to anything except loot.  Again, this perhaps reflects more the situation of the churches in the 10th century, and the mostly forged documents that they used to try to stem the seizures of their property.  The narrative everywhere reflects abject subservience to Muslim power, of the kind necessary in the 10th century, when in reality in the 7th century the Muslim invasion was seen (even by themselves) as no more than a large-scale raid of bandits from the desert.  It makes for tedious reading, but may explain why the Muslims liked Eutychius’ version of their history.

The lost Sassanid chronicle is excerpted once again for chapter 9.

8. Omar ibn al-Khattab ordered Amr ibn al-‘Ās to make the necessary preparations and to go to Egypt.  If the letter had reached him while he was still staying in Syria, he was commanded to remain and not to move, but if he was already on Egyptian territory then he should carry on.  Then Omar ibn al-Khattab returned from Jerusalem to Medina.  Abu Obayda ibn al-Garrah returned to Homs and from Homs he went to Qinnisrīn.  The patrician of Qinnisrīn wrote to him, asking him to give him a one-year truce, so that the population could go to King Heraclius, and to grant security to those who chose instead to remain in the city.  Abu Obayda agreed and the patrician asked him to put a column between the Rum and the Muslims, arranging with [each other] that no Muslim would travel to the side of Rum past that column, and that no Byzantine would travel to the side of Muslims, passing the same.  The column was a carved figure of King Heraclius seated on a throne.  Abu Obayda gave his approval.  Now it happened that, while a group of Muslims were learning to ride horses, Abu Handal ibn Sahl bin Omar lost control of the horse, passed the column with his spear in his hand, poking the tip into the eye of the effigy, without any intention to, and knocked out the eye of the statue.  The patrician of Qinnisrīn came to Abu Obayda and said: “You have deceived, O Muslim, you have violated the agreement and broken the truce that existed between us and you.”  Abu Obayda replied: “Who has violated it?”.  The patrician replied: “The one who knocked out the eye of our king”.  Abu Obayda said then: “So what you want [to do]?”.  He said: “We will satisfied only when the eye [of an effigy] of your king is gouged out.” Said Abu Obayda: “Instead of this, put up a likeness of me, then do with it what you want to do.” They said: “We will content ourselves with no other image than that of your great king”.  Abu Obayda acquiesced to this request, and the Rum sculpted the image of Omar ibn al-Khattab on a column, then their man stepped forward and with a spear knocked out the eye of the image.  Then the patrician said: “Now you have done justice”.  The following year, they renewed the act of truce and safety.  Ghiyād ibn Ghanm occupied Mesopotamia, ar-Raqqah and ar-Ruha, conceding his guarantee of security and a peace treaty.  Al-Mughira ibn Shughba with his army invaded Azerbaijan.  Al-Mughira was the first to call Omar ibn al-Khattab the “prince of the believers”, for the people, after the death of Muhammad, used to call Abu Bakr “the successor of the Envoy of God” and his governors also usually wrote:  “The such and such to the successor of the Envoy of God”.  When he took command, Omar ibn al-Khattab was usually called the successor of the successor of the Envoy of God and his governors usually wrote: “The such and such to the successor of the successor of the Envoy of God”.  But when Omar ibn al-Khattab had chosen al-Mughira ibn Shughba as governor of Basra, he wrote to him thus: “To the servant of God Omar ibn al-Khattab, the prince of the believers”.  Omar ibn al-Khattab, however, refused this title and did not recognize it.  But later he had to say himself:  “I am the servant of God, I am Umar ibn al-Khattab, the prince of the believers, as al-Mughira ibn Shughba well said”.  Thus it was that Omar ibn al-Khattab was called “prince of the believers”.  And since then every Caliph has been called “prince of the believers”.

9.  When Yazdagard, king of the Persians, was made aware of the coming of Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, he ordered his family and his property to shelter in China.  Then he took with him a small number of soldiers and the money, left Khrād al-Awzadī, brother of Rustam, in command of Ctesiphon, and sent the same Rustam to fight against Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas.  Rustam camped near al-Qadisiyyah, where he remained until he was killed.  When Yazdagard heard this, and realized the state of discord and of internal struggle, of the death and of the sedition of his best soldiers, he perceived that the kingdom was slipping out of his hand.  He then went to Persia, then fled to Merv by the way of Sigistān, and was killed there.  He had only fought and faced sedition, until the day he died, having reigned twenty years.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18c (part 4)

The discussion of the events of the Muslim conquest fills many a page of Eutychius.  I confess that it doesn’t excite me.  Much of the material seems written with an eye to the events, not of the 7th century, but of the 10th, and to safeguarding church property – always an important concern for senior clergy, whatever their creed – from Muslim encroachments. 

7.  Omar ibn al-Khattab then wrote to Amr ibn al-As to go with his army into Palestine, saying, among other things: “I have appointed Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan as governor of Damascus, Sarhabil ibn Hasana as governor of the territory of Jordan, and Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah as governor of Homs”.  Amr ibn al-As then left for Palestine, Sarhabil for the territories of Jordan and Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah went to Baalbek.  [The people of Baalbek] said: “We have no objection to making a covenant of friendship with you, in the same way as the inhabitants of Damascus did.”  He granted them a guarantee in writing and left for Homs.  Then he granted a written guarantee to the people of Aleppo and to every [other] town that asked him.  Then the news of the arrival of Omar ibn al-Khattab came to the muslims.  Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah left the command of his men to Iyas Ibn Ghanm; Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan left his to Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, Amr ibn al-As to his son Abd Allah, and they met with Omar ibn al-Khattab.  Then they all set out for Jerusalem and besieged it.  Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, then went to Omar ibn al-Khattab.  Omar ibn al-Khattab granted him his protection, and wrote a letter to them which stated that: “In the name of God, gracious and merciful. From Omar ibn al-Khattab to the inhabitants of the city of Aelia.  A guarantee is granted on their persons, their children, their property and on their churches, and they will not be destroyed or be reduced to dwelling places” and he swore this in the name of Allah.  After the gate of the city was opened and he went in together with his men, Omar went to sit in the courtyard of the Church of the Resurrection.  When it was time for prayer, he said to the patriarch Sophronius: “I would like to pray.” The patriarch replied: “O prince of believers, you may pray as well just where you are.”  “I will not pray here,” said Omar.  Then the patriarch Constantine led him into the church and ordered mat to be laid in the middle of the church.  But Omar said: “No, I will not pray either.”  Omar then went out and walked to the step that was at the door of the Church of St. Constantine, on the east side.  He prayed alone on the steps, then he sat down and said to the patriarch Sophronius: “Do you know, O patriarch, why I have not prayed in the church?”  The patriarch replied: “I do not really know, O prince of the believers.”  “If I had prayed in the church,” said Omar, “it would have been taken away from you, and you would have lost possession because on my departure the Muslims would take it from you, saying in chorus: ‘Here Omar prayed'”.  Bring me a piece of paper so I can write you a ‘sigili'”.  Omar then wrote a ‘sigili’, prescribing that no Muslim should pray on the steps except one by one, and that ritual prayer could be held unless someone the muezzin ascended.  He wrote a ‘sigili’ and gave it to the Patriarch.  Then Omar said: “You owe me for your life and for the goods which I granted you.  Come, give me a place where I can build a mosque.” The Patriarch said: “Give to the prince of believers a place where he can build a temple that the king of Rum was not able to build.  This place is the Rock on which God spoke to Jacob and Jacob called “the gate of heaven”; the sons of Israel called it “Sancta Sanctorum” and it is at the center of the earth.  It was once the temple of the children of Israel, which they have always magnified and every time they prayed they turned their faces towards it, wherever they were.  This place will I give you, provided you write me a ‘sigili’ that no other mosque will be built in Jerusalem other than this”.

Omar ibn al-Khattab wrote him a ‘sigili’ and handed it to him.  When the Rum became Christians, and Helena, mother of Constantine, built churches in Jerusalem, the place of the Rock and its surroundings were lying in ruins and abandoned; on the Rock so much earth had been thrown and it was reduced to a huge garbage dump.  The Rum had totally neglected it, and not held it in high regard, as in fact had the children of Israel.  They had erected no church on it, because of what Christ, our Lord, had said in his holy gospel: “Behold, your house is left in ruins,” and again: “There will not remain one stone upon another that has not been demolished and destroyed”.  It was for this reason that the Christians left it in ruins and not built on there any church.  The patriarch Sophronius took Omar ibn al-Khattab by the hand and took him out to that place of refuse.  Omar lifted the hem of his robe, filled it with earth and poured it into the valley of Gehenna.  As soon as the Muslims saw Omar ibn al-Khattab take the earth in his lap, they all hastened to take the earth, each in his lap, or clothes, or shields, some in baskets of palm leaves and some in basins until they emptied the place, cleaned it up and the Rock became visible.  Then some of them said: “Let’s build the mosque so that the Rock is our qibla“.  But Omar said: “No, let’s build the mosque and leave the Rock out at the back”.  So Omar built the mosque, leaving the Rock at the rear of it.  Then Omar went on a visit to Bethlehem.  Now it was the time of prayer, and he prayed inside the church facing Mecca.  At this time it was all covered with mosaics.  Then Omar wrote a ‘sigili’ for the Patriarch which provided that Muslims would not pray in that place but in another.  He also forbade prayer in the church and the muezzin to call the faithful to prayer.  He also stipulated that no changes should be made to these provisions.  In these present days the Muslims have contravened the ‘sigili’ of Omar ibn al-Khattab.  They have removed the mosaics from the ceiling and have written what they wanted, they make communal prayer, and the muezzin is calling the faithful.  The same thing they have done at the step that was at the door of the Church of Constantine and on which Omar had prayed; they have appropriated the middle atrium of the church and have built inside it a mosque which they have called the mosque of “Omar”.  Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, died after having held the office four years.  After his death Jerusalem remained without a patriarch for twenty-nine years.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18c (part 3)

The reign of the Caliph Omar continues, with the seige of Damascus.  The Roman garrison defends the city against what is seen at the time as merely a large-scale raidBut in the end, after six months, the governor surrenders.

6. When the Muslims arrived at Damascus, Khalid ibn al-Walid camped near the “Bab ash-Sharqi”, Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah near the “Bāb al-Gābiyah”, Amr ibn al-As near the “Bāb Tuma”, and Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan near the the “Bāb as-Saghir (71)” and the “Bāb Kisan”.[1]  They besieged Damascus for six months less one day.  The Rum made raids against them every day, coming out now from one gate or another, keeping them engaged in combat.  Then the Muslims wrote to Omar ibn al-Khattab, informing him of the progress of affairs.  Omar ibn al-Khattab replied, sending a letter with which he removed the supreme command from Khalid ibn al-Walid and entrusted it to Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah.  The siege had now exhausted the inhabitants of Damascus, and Mansur, the prefect of Damascus, went up on the “Bāb ash-Sharqi” and spoke to Khalid ibn al-Walid, asking him to grant safety to him, to his family, to those who they were with him, and to the inhabitants of Damascus, with the exception of the Rum: in exchange for which he would open the gates of the city.  Khalid ibn al-Walid agreed to his request and wrote to him a covenant whose text read as follows:

“This is a statement by Khalid ibn al-Walid to the people of Damascus.  I will guarantee your lives, your homes, your property and your churches and I assure you that these will not be destroyed, nor your dwelling places and that you will be left alone.”

He handed over the parchment, and Mansur opened to Khalid ibn al-Walid the “Bāb ash-Sharqi”.  Khalid burst into the city shouting to his men: “Keep your swords in their sheaths.”  Once they entered the city, Khalid’s men shouted in chorus “Allahu Akbar” [=God is great].  Their shout came up to the Rum who were fighting at the [other] gates.  Realizing that Mansur had opened the door and had let the Arabs into the city, they gave up defending the gates and fled.  Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah came with a drawn sword from the “Bab al-Gabiyah”, and from “Bab as-Saghir” came Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan who was also with his sword drawn, and from the “Bab Tuma,” where there was still violent fighting, came in, always with a drawn sword, Amr ibn al-As.  Many men were killed at the “Bab Tuma” on both sides.  The Muslims were continuing to slaughter, and to take prisoners when Khalid ibn al-Walid, Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah, Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan and Amr ibn al-As met together in the place called “az-Zayyanin” where Mansur was with the [text] of the covenant in his hands.  Khalid ibn al-Walid made them aware of the guarantee which he had granted them.  Their opinions were divided.  Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan said: “We do not endorse the guarantee given to them,” while Abu Ubayda and Amr ibn al-As said: “We will recognize its validity” and cried out to their men, saying sheathe their swords.  Yazid instead shouted to his men not to put away their swords.  Then Amr ibn al-As said: “Come now, consider also that the city was taken based on our commitment of protection and there is peace between us.”  Thus they were all agreed.

Then Mansur said to them: “Promise me in the name of Allah”, and did write in the text “There swore in the name of Allah: Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah, Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan, Amr ibn al-As and Sarhabil ibn Hasana”.  Mansur took with him the text.  The Byzantine soldiers who had found safety reached King Heraclius at Antioch.

When King Heraclius understood that Damascus had been occupied he exclaimed:  “Peace to you, O Syria,” or “Peace to you, O Damascus of Syria”, and went on his journey till he came to Constantinople, in the third year of the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab.  As for Mansur, prefect of Damascus, for his cowardly behaviour and for what he had done to the Rum, getting them killed, and for the help given to the Muslims against them, all the patriarchs and bishops of the whole earth cursed him.

Seven days later, a messenger announced to Omar ibn al-Khattab the fall of Damascus.

  1. [1]I.e. outside each of the gates (“bab”) of the city.

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

We continue our “grey translation” of Eutychius, and the reign of the Caliph Omar.  The treacherous governor of Damascus, who was slighted by Heraclius, prepares to betray the Romans to the muslims.

There is a reference here to a patriarch “Swrs”, which ought to be Sawirus, or SeverusEvidently there is some problem with this.

4. In the sixth year of the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab, the eighteenth year of Heraclius’ reign, there was made patriarch of Constantinople Swrs.(57)  He was a Maronite.  He held the office for eight years[1], but Martina, wife of Heraclius, who was orthodox, removed him and put in his place as the Patriarch of Constantinople, Paul.  Paul was a Maronite, held the office for six years and died.  After his death Heraclius summoned to his headquarters Swrs, the patriarch that his wife had removed.  He held the office for seven years and died.

5. The Muslims intended to besiege Damascus.  When he became caliph, Omar ibn al-Khattab wrote a letter in which he took away the command from Amr ibn al-As and gave it to Khalid ibn al-Walid.  The king of Rum Heraclius had meanwhile retreated from Damascus to Homs.  Understanding that Muslims had already conquered Palestine and the territories of the Jordan as far as al-Bathaniyyah, he left Homs and went to Antioch.  Here he made preparations, and tried to win over to his cause the Arabized tribes of [Banu] Ghassan, of [Banu] Gudhām, of [Banu] Kalb, of [Banu] Lakhm and all of the Arabs that he could.  He appointed as their leader one of his generals named Mahan and sent to Damascus, writing to his prefect Mansur to hold onto the men by giving them money.  When Mahan arrived in Damascus along with the soldiers who were with him, Mansur said, “The king doesn’t need so many soldiers, because the Arabs are just a people of raiders, and any soldiers who go out against them to engage them in combat will kill them.  This army [of yours], then, would cost a lot of money and here in Damascus there is not the money to give them.”  Some said: “Mansur speaks this way only to grab the money, and pushed by cunning and guile, because the soldiers, learning that there was no money for the army in Damascus, will disperse and in such a way he can hand over Damascus to the Muslims.” Then Mahan said: “Give us the money that you have now, then we will write to the king to inform him that there is no money in Damascus. If the king has need of men he will be working to raise the money and will give it to them in one way or another. “

Mahan then learned that the Arabs had come directly from Tiberias to Damascus.  Gathering his soldiers, he left Damascus and marched for two days.  Then he camped in a large plain called Wadi ar Ramad [Valley of Ash] – the place was near the Golan – better known as al-Yaqūsah.  In that valley he made a kind of ditch between him and the Arabs.  There they remained for several days with the Arabs before them.  A few days later, the prefect Mansur left the city in search of Mahan’s soldiers.  He carried with him the money he had in Damascus to give to the soldiers.  He came at night to the place where the soldiers were camped, followed by many Damascenes carrying torches.  When they were close to the soldiers they beat drums, blew the trumpets and shouted.  Mansur resorted to this behaviour in order to deceive and provoke a disaster.  In fact when the Rum saw the torches behind them and heard the sounds of drums and trumpets, they believed that the Arabs had got behind  them and were attacking by surprise.  So they were defeated, and they fell down in that valley, that is in the Wadi ar-Ramad, a wide and big valley, and they died.  Only a few were saved, and some of them scattered here and there, others returned to Damascus, others fled to Jerusalem and others to Caesarea in Palestine.  The Rum who had taken refuge in Damascus, fearing to be besieged by the Arabs, brought to town as much food, fodder and the like as they could, putting on the gates whatever ballistae and catapults they had.  Then they wrote to king Heraclius, asking him for help and informing him of how Mansur had behaved with them, and the artifices which he had resorted to in order to kill the men.

Mahan, then, afraid of being killed if he returned to the king Heraclius, preferred to flee to Mount Sinai, where he became a monk and took the name of Anastasius.  And he is the author of the sermon in which he commented on the sixth Psalm of David’s Psalter.

  1. [1]In another text it says, “two”.