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

We now get the first significant chunk of Islamic history.

5. When Abu Bakr became caliph, there was the first riddah [war] among the Arabs, but he fought those who did not remain in Islam to the end.  Then he sent Khalid ibn al-Walid with a huge army into Iraq.  Khalid encamped in Mesopotamia.  The notables of the place came to meet them, he gave them a guarantee of security and they made a pact of peace with him by giving him seventy thousand dirhams: this was the first jizya in Iraq and the first money that was given to Abu Bakr from Iraq.  Next Abu Bakr sent letters to Yemen, to Ta’if, Mecca and to other Arab people asking aid to subjugate Rum.  They responded to his appeal, and Abu Bakr put in charge of the expedition Amr ibn al-As, Sarhabil ibn Hasana, Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah and Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan.  He entrusted to them the fighters and designated as supreme head Amr ibn al-As, ordering them to focus on Syria taking the road to Aylah.  He ordered them not to kill old people or children or women, not to cut down fruit trees, not to destroy the towns, not to burn the palms, not to cripple and kill sheep, cows and goats.  They made their way until they came to a village called Tādūn, in the territory of Ghazza, on the border with al-Hiğāz.  Having been informed that in the city of Ghazza the armies of Heraclius were concentrating, who was then in Damascus, Amr ibn al-As wrote to Abu Bakr asking for reinforcements, and making him aware of the plans of Heraclius.  Abu Bakr then wrote to Khalid ibn al-Walid to bring his men to Amr ibn al-As to support him.  So Khalid ibn al-Walid moved from Mesopotamia taking the way of the desert until he reached Amr ibn al-As.  Meanwhile the soldiers of Heraclius were well fortified in Ghazza.  Having come to Ghazza, the patrician who commanded the army of Heraclius turned to the Muslim soldiers and asked them to send him their commander, in order to know, through him, what they had to say.  Khalid then said to Amr ibn al-As: “You go”, and Amr went.  He opened the gate of Ghazza and entered.  When he came to the patrician, he greeted him and said: “Why have you come into our country, and what do you want?”  Amr ibn al-As replied: “Our king has ordered us to fight you.  But if you embrace our religion, if you feel it is as useful to you as it is to us, and harmful to your interests as it is to ours, if you are our brothers, then we will not allow wrong or revenge to be done to you.  If you refuse, you will pay the jizya: a jizya agreed between us, every year, forever, as long as we live, and you live: we will fight for you against anyone who dares to oppose you and lay claim on your territory, on your lives, on your assets, and on your children; we will take care of these things for you if you accept our protection by entering into an agreement for this purpose.  If you refuse then there will be between us only the judgment of the sword: we will fight to the death, and until we get what we want from you.”  On hearing the words of Amr ibn al-As and seeing the lack of hesitation that the subject gave him, the patrician said to his men: “I think he is the leader of the people.”  So he ordered them to kill Amr as soon as he came to the gate of the city.  There was with Amr a slave named Wardan, who knew Greek very well because he was Greek.  Wardan informed Amr of what he had heard: “Be very careful how to escape.”  The patrician then asked Amr ibn al-As: “Is there anyone like you, among your companions?”  Amr replied: “I’m the the least of all who speak, and less authoritative than any other.  I am merely a messenger, and repeat what was said to me by my colleagues, ten people more important than me, who are busy with soldiers and wanted to come with me, here with you.  But they sent me to hear what you have to tell us.  However, if you want me to make them come here, so you can listen to them, and to know that I told you the truth, I will.”  The patrician said to him: “Yes, let them come.”  In fact, he thought and said to himself: “I think it’s better to kill many than just one.”  So he sent word to those, to whom he had given the order to kill Amr, not to do it, and to let him out without any trouble, in the hope that he would bring his ten companions and kill them all together.  After he had come out of the gate, Amr ibn al-As informed his men of what had happened and said: “I never go back to someone like that,” and he finished talking, shouting, “Allahu Akbar!”  The Rum came out against the Arabs and engaged in a violent battle with them, but were put to flight.  The Muslims made a great slaughter of them, and then gave chase, driving them into Palestine and Jordan.  They took refuge in Jerusalem, in Caesarea, and wherever they could.  The Muslims left them and went away from the parts of al-Bathaniyyah.  Then he wrote to Abu Bakr informing him of what had happened.  When the messenger came to him, he was already dead and had been succeeded by Umar ibn al-Khattab.  Abu Bakr himself, when he was sick, designated Umar ibn al-Khattab as his successor and ordered  Uthman ibn Affan to put this in writing.

6. Abu Bakr died on the penultimate day of the month of ğumāda al-akhar, in the thirteenth year of the Hegira.  The ritual prayers were held by Umar ibn al-Khattab.  He was buried in the same house in which Muhammad had been buried.  His caliphate lasted two years, three months and twenty-two days.  He died at the age of seventy-three.  Abu Bakr was tall, with a fair complexion which verged on pale, thin, with a thin, sparse beard, a gaunt face and sunken eyes.  He dyed his beard with hinna and cetamo, and his waist could barely bear the izar.  His minister was Abu Qahhafa as-Sandas and his hāgib was his freedman Sadid.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18b (part 1)

We now come to the start of the portion of the Annals where the Muslims take centre stage.  But there is still some Roman and Sassanid Persian history to run.

CALIPHATE OF ABU BAKR (11-13 / 632-634)

1. The Muslims were unanimous in giving the bay`ah to Abu Bakr, i.e. to ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Uthman b. ‘Amir b. Ka’ab b. Sa’d b. Taym b. Murra.  His mother was Selma, daughter of Sakhr b. ‘Amur b. Ka’ab b. Sa’d b. Taym b. Murra.  He was given the bay’ah on the same day that Mohammed died.  His influential advisers were Umar ibn al-Khattab and Uthman ibn Affan.  This was in the eleventh year of the reign of Heraclius, King of Rum.  In that year there was made patriarch of Rome Honorius.  He held the office for eighteen years and died.

2. As for Kisra, son of Hormuz, now in his city, and seeing the killings and destruction that Heraclius had caused there, he was deeply distressed, but he did not cease his despotic behavior.  The people felt oppressed by his authority, their patience broke down and they said:  “This is a man who has a jinx.  During his reign the Persians have been killed and their homes have been destroyed.”  So they deposed him, after a thirty-eight year reign, and put in his place his son Qabād, whose real name was Shirūyeh, son of Mary, the daughter of king Maurice, king of Rum, because of whom all those misfortunes had arisen: in fact he had been killed and Kisra had tried to avenge him as his son-in-law.  Having become king, Qabād, son of Kisra, proclaimed justice, made public the misfortune of which the sons of his father were the architects, who were adverse to him because of his mother, and had eighteen of them killed.  Others managed to escape.  Then he said: “I will free the people from tax, because of my justice and my good will.”  Unfortunately it was not long before the plague fell upon the people of his kingdom.  Many died and among them the king Shirūyeh, i.e. Qabād, and his father Kisra.  His reign had lasted eight months.

3. After him reigned Azdashīr, son of Shirūyeh, but the governor of the neighboring western state attacked him, and killed him.  His reign had lasted five months.  Then a man named Gurhan advanced his claims over the kingdom, a man who did not belong to the royal line, and none of whose lineage had ever aspired to be king before him.  He was the same man whom Abarwiz had sent to fight against the Rum and had named Shahrmārān, and he was then murdered by a woman of the royal house, named Arazmindukht, who managed to make him fall by his own treachery.  His reign lasted twenty-two days and he does not appear in the list of Kings.  After him there reigned a descendant of Hurmuz who was based in Turkey.  He came when he learned that he was in line for the succession.  His name was Kisra, son of Qabād, son of Hurmuz.  But the governor of the neighboring state of Khurasan attacked him and killed him.  His reign lasted only three months and he does not appear in the list of Kings.  After him reigned Murli, daughter of Kisra II, sister of Kisra on her mother’s side, for a year and a half;  she did not demand tribute and divided her property among the soldiers.  She reigned and was counted in the number of the kings of Persia.  After her reigned a man named Hushnastadih, a son of the paternal uncle of Kisra.  He reigned for two months, then he was killed.  He does not appear in the list of Kings.  There reigned after him Azarmindukht, daughter of Kisra, but only for a short time because she was poisoned and died.  She reigned one year and four months.  She reigned and was counted in the number of the kings of Persia.  After her reigned a man named Farrukhrādkhushri for a single month and was killed.  He is not counted among the kings of Persia.

4. The period during which Shirūyeh and the men and women who succeeded him reigned, whether included or not included in the number of the kings of Persia, up until Farrukhrādkhushrī, including an interruption between [the] two reigns, was four years.  It was a period of unrest and turmoil.  But when the Persians became aware of the discord that reigned over them, of the ascendancy that was gradually going to Rum and of the corruption into which their religion and their ordinary life had fallen, they sent for a son of Kisra named Yazdagard, who had run away from Shirūyeh when he had had his brothers put to death.  They proclaimed him their king even though he was only fifteen.  There were various parties and their factions were divided, warring against each other.  The inhabitants of each place, town or village of the kingdom fought against their neighbors.  Such a diffusion of disorder, of division of the community, corruption of the kingdom and discord among the people in the city lasted for eight months.  The reign of Yazdagard coincided with the first year of the caliphate of Abu Bakr, and the eleventh year of the reign of Heraclius, King of Rum.

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.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18 (part 1)

Let us venture into the second part of the history by Eutychius.  It opens with the reign of Heraclius and his war against the Sassanid Persian king Chosroes.


1. In the first year of the reign of Heraclius, king of Rum, there took place the Hegira of the Prophet to Medina, in the month of rabī‘ al-awwal.  He stayed there in exile for ten years and in the eighth year there he erected the minbar.  From Diocletian to the Hegira three hundred and thirty years had passed; from Christ, our Lord, to the Hegira had passed six hundred and fourteen years; from Alexander to the Hegira had passed nine-hundred and thirty years; from the Babylonian captivity to the Hegira one thousand one hundred and ninety six years; from David to the Hegira one thousand six hundred and seventy-three years; from the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to the Hegira two thousand, two hundred and seventy-nine years; from Abraham to the Hegira two thousand seven hundred and six years; from Fāliq to the Hegira three thousand, three hundred and twenty-seven years; from the flood to  the Hegira three thousand eight hundred and fifty-eight years; from Adam to the Hegira 6114 years.

2. When Heraclius began to reign at Constantinople, he was engaged for six years in a violent siege.  Exhausted by the siege, the inhabitants of Constantinople, many of whom had already died from hunger, decided to open [the gate of the city of] Constantinople to Kisra.  Learning of this, Heraclius was afraid that they would open the gate and hand him over to Kisra.  So he sent to Kisra saying: “I’ll give you anything you want as long as you leave me alone.”  Kisra wrote him saying: “If you want me to leave you in peace, pledge to send as your ransom, and for the city, a thousand qintār of gold and a thousand qintār of silver, a thousand virgin maidens, a thousand horses and a thousand heads of embroidered silk.  This ransom you will give to me every year, I will stay away and I’ll leave you alone.  Send me immediately the ransom for this year, and do not postpone it, if you want me to leave you alone.”  Heraclius wrote to him: “I consent to what the merciful king is asking of me; at the moment, though, I do not possess all the ransom money, for the merciful king has not permitted me to do whatever I wanted.  But if the merciful king will give me the opportunity to go out, I will gather the money and everything else required of me.  I will send you everything in six months, if the king will wait for me, and will allow me to go undisturbed around the villages in order to collect the goods for which he has asked me and so satisfy him.”  Kisra granted this request.  So Heraclius gathered his ministers and generals and told them: “I have only placated Kisra in order to calm him, and inspire confidence in his men.  In truth I’m going to travel to Persia.  I am certain that Jesus Christ, our Lord, will give me the victory over the Persians, and so we will get rid of Kisra and his men.  If I am late and do not return at the end of six months, make sure to keep Kisra in suspense, filled with promises and defer throughout the year your commitment to give him what he requested.  If I don’t come back, or not come back to you, do what you please.  I leave my brother Constantine as my successor.  Do you accept what I’ve said to you?”  They accepted and wished him victory.  Heraclius chose about five thousand men, selecting the strongest among the commanders of soldiers of Constantinople and among the nobles, and took them with him.  And he took some of the ships, on which he embarked men and horses and left the city of Constantinople direct for Trebizond.  Here he landed, summoned the people and gave them their own instructions.  He asked the king of al-Gurzān for help, and he made with him a covenant and gave him a sarir to sit upon when he was attending levees.  He also asked the king of al-Angāz for help, and gave him a diadem to wear at court audiences.  Also he asked the king of as-Sanāriyyah for help, made a covenant with him, and likewise gave him a sarir to sit on when he was attending court receptions.  It was at that time that the king of as-Sanāriyyah became known as “the king of the sarir“.  Heraclius continued his march in this way until he arrived at al-Gabal, at Isfahan and at Mird, the city of Sabur.  Every time he went into a city he gathered the people and dictated laws to them.  If he found in his path a Persian man, woman or child, he had them killed.  When they saw the soldiers of Heraclius, the inhabitants of Sabur were terrified and fortified the city by placing catapults and ballistae near the gates.  Heraclius engaged them in battle for a few days and then ended the fighting by storming the city, putting to death all the men, women and children that were there.  They would open the wombs of pregnant women and pull out the unborn children and slam them against the rocks.  Then Heraclius said: “I am the one of whom David prophesied in Psalm 136[1] saying: “Blessed is he who takes your babies and dashes them against the rock”.  He then set fire to the city, took many prisoners, carried off with him many riches and jewels and sowed destruction in the Persian territory.  Then he began marching on in the direction of Hulwān, Shārūz and Ctesiphon, went into Mayyāfāriqin and the Tigris territory, then invading Armenia until he reached the river Arsanās.  There was, among his prisoners, a son of Kisra, called Qabād and named Sirūyeh: he was the son of Mary, the daughter of King Maurice who had been the cause of all those wars.  When he came to Mayyāfāriqin, Heraclius sent for Qabād, son of Kisra, made him shave his head and his chin, and sent him back riding on a donkey with a letter to his father Kisra.  With him he sent a group of delegates to lead him to his father.  This was the text of the letter he sent to Kisra through his son:  “From the servant of God, the victorious Heraclius, to Kisra the humiliated, the confused, the abandoned.  I have collected for you, as my redemption and as the ransom of my whole country, whatever I could gather, that is, the heads of the Persians. As soon as you read this letter, take a look at the bearer, before putting it aside. Be well.”

3. When Qabād came to his father Kisra, he saw him with his head and his chin shaved, astride a donkey, and said to him: “What new do you bring me?” The son replied: “Heraclius has destroyed every city in Persia and killed the men, women and children.  As for the city of the king, he destroyed it and handed it over to iron and fire, killing all who were there, took many prisoners, and brought away untold riches and treasures. This is his letter.”

4. When Kisra had read the letter to Heraclius, he was greatly saddened, and he and his men grieved, and together they wept for a long time for their families and their children.  Then Kisra summoned his ministers and generals and told them: “Tell me what to do; our families and our children have been killed, our houses and our homes destroyed.” The ministers and the generals answered: “We gain nothing just sitting here; rather let’s move, let’s see where Heraclius is and give chase”. Kisra then lifted the siege of Constantinople and began to chase after Heraclius.  As he marched, he was told that Heraclius had taken the road over the Tigris and was definitely about to ford the river Arsanās.  His advisers said to him: “Let us hasten to precede him to the ford, so that he can not pass over.  May God give us victory over him, so as to free the hostages and take back what has been taken away.  He has annihilated the men of Persia and it has lessened our honor.”  When he arrived near the river Arsānis, Kisra’s men made camp near the ford waiting for Heraclius.  Heraclius was a day’s march from the Arsānis river when he was told that Kisra was camped there and waiting for him.  Then leaving the soldiers and the baggage, he chose some of his own men, made them take the straw and manure of animals and began to walk against the current for a whole day.  Then he threw into the river straw and manure and the water carried them off until they appeared under the eyes of Kisra and his men.  Seeing the straw and manure in the river, Kisra and his men thought that Heraclius had forded across the river higher up, on another stream.  So they left the ford where they had camped, and they set out, heading towards the place where Heraclius had forded the river.  Heraclius then returned to his men and informed them that Kisra and the army had left the ford where they had camped and gone up the river.  Heraclius then set off with the army and crossed the river, continuing until he arrived in Trebizond.  Then he boarded and went to Constantinople.  The inhabitants welcomed him with cheers and jubilation, and for seven days they ate, drank and made merry.  Kisra, meanwhile, learned that Heraclius had returned to the place of the ford where he had camped and had crossed the river, and that the straw and manure of animals, which Heraclius had purposely thrown into the river, was just a ruse and a deception.  Kisra then continued on his march until he came to his own city: he found it destroyed, leaving not even a child, and no one to speak to another.  From then, that is in the seventh year of the reign of Heraclius, which was then the seventh year of the Hegira, the king of Persia began to lose prestige and authority.

5. In the second year of the reign of Heraclius there was made patriarch of Rome Yūsātiyūs.  He held the office for five years and died.  In the ninth year of his reign, the ninth of the Hegira, Heraclius left Constantinople for  Jerusalem, to see for himself what the Persians had destroyed. When he arrived at Homs, the population refused to accept him saying: “You are a Maronite, a violator of our religion”.  He left them and went to the monastery of Maron, where the monks came to meet him and they greeted each other.  And since Heraclius was a Maronite, he dispensed enormous wealth to them, assigned funds to the monastery and strengthened the prestige of the monks.  Then he went to Damascus.  There was, in Damascus, a man named Mansur ibn Sarğūn, who had collected the kharag on behalf of king Maurice.  Heraclius then asked him to remit the money he had received in all the years in which the Rum had been beseiged in the siege of Constantinople.  The man told him that he had sent regularly to Kisra the money received at Damascus.  Heraclius then spoke to him brusquely, had him flogged and put in prison until he paid out a hundred thousand dinars.  Then he reconfirmed him in his post, but Mansur began to harbour great resentment against Heraclius.  Heraclius resumed his journey to Jerusalem.  When he arrived near Tiberias, the Jews who lived in Tiberias, in Galilee, to Nazareth, and in all the [other] villages of that area came to meet him, and welcomed Heraclius with gifts, wishing him well and praying for his safety.  Heraclius granted them their safety and left them a treaty in writing.  When Heraclius came to Jerusalem, there met him the monks of the Laura, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem together with Modestus, with censers and incense.

  1. [1]Ps. 137: 8-9.