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 1 (part 1)

In the name of God, One, Pre-Eternal, Everlasting, without beginning or end, to whom we resort.

1. Let us begin, with the help of the Most High God and the goodness of His assistance, to write the Book of History, compiled critically and with verification, the work of Patriarch Eutychius, called Sa‘īd ibn Batrīq.

God, powerful and exalted, created the world, with everything in it, and Adam and Eve, in six days.  The creation of Adam took place on the sixth day.  God blessed the seventh day, because on it He completed the work of creation, and led Adam and Eve into Paradise.  He ordered that they could eat of all the trees except for the tree of knowledge, of which He forbade them to eat.  The devil tempted Eve, and Eve disobeyed the order of the Most High God by eating the fruit picked from the tree and making Adam eat it.  Because they disobeyed their Lord, [God] drove them from the garden, in the ninth hour of Friday, and exiled them to a mountain in India.  He made them live on the earth and commanded them to reproduce so that they would multiply and fill the earth.  Adam lay then with Eve who became pregnant and gave birth to a boy and a girl.  Adam called the boy Cain and the girl Azrūn.  Eve conceived again, and gave birth to a boy and a girl, and the boy Adam called Abel and the girl he called Uwayn, which in Greek means “Lafūra”.[1]  When the two boys grew up, Adam said to Eve: “Let Cain take Uwayn, who was delivered along with Abel, and Abel take Azrūn, who was delivered along with Cain.”  Cain then said to Eve, his mother, “I will take my sister; let Abel take his”, because Azrūn was more beautiful than Uwayn.  On hearing these words, Adam was very distressed and said: “It is against the commandment to take the sister who was brought forth with you”.  Cain worked the land, and Abel was a keeper of sheep.  Adam said to them: “Take the fruit of the land and some kids, go up on top of this holy mountain and offer your sacrifice.  Then you may take your wives.”  Cain brought the fruit of his land as a good and pure sacrifice to God, and Abel took the firstborn of his flock as a good and pure sacrifice to God.  While they were intent on getting to the top of the mountain, the devil entered into the heart of Cain and incited him to kill his brother Abel because of his sister Azrūn.  So God did not accept the sacrifice of Cain.  For when they offered their sacrifices, God accepted Abel’s offering but disdained that of Cain.  Great was the anger and great was the hatred of Cain against Abel and he envied his brother.  As they were descending the mountain, Cain attacked Abel and struck him on the head with a stone and killed him.  Adam and Eve were very distressed and mourned the death of Abel for a hundred years.  God cursed Cain and his descendants.  Cain was in fear and terror, and wandered all the days of his life.  God sent him forth, still unmarried, to Nūd.[2]  Cain took with him his sister Azrūn and lived there.  Then Adam lay with Eve, who conceived – Adam was then already two hundred and thirty years old – and gave birth to a boy and [Adam] called him Shīt.[3]  Shīt was pleasant faced, a giant, with a perfect complexion like his father, and was the father of the giants who lived before the flood.  Adam gave to Shīt in marriage the sister of Cain, Uwayn, who bore him Anush.  To Anush was born Qinan.  Adam had many more children later.  Feeling close to death, Adam called to him his son Shīt, Anush, son of Shīt, Qinan, the son of Anush, son of Shīt, and Mahlali’il, son of Qinan, and gave them instructions saying: “This command will apply to all your children.  When I die, embalm my body with myrrh, frankincense and cinnamon and lay me down in the Cave of Treasures.  When your children leave the area near paradise, let them take with them my body and bury me at the centre of the earth, because there will be my salvation and the salvation of my descendants”.[4]  Adam lived in total nine hundred and thirty years.  He died on Friday, the fourteenth month, 6th Nisan, i.e. Barmūdah, in the ninth hour, in the same hour in which he had been cast out of paradise.  When Adam died, his son Shīt embalmed him, as he had commanded him to do, he brought the body to the top of the mountain, as he had said, and hid him in the Cave of Treasures.  They wept over him for one hundred and forty days.

  1. [1]Eutychius is drawing upon material from the Arabic text of The Cave of Treasures, but this gives different names to the daughters of Adam.  Josephus, Antiquities book 1, chapter 2, states that Adam had three daughters, but does not name them.  Pirone does not explain “lafura”.
  2. [2]Gen.4:16.  The Cave of Treasures calls the place al-Aksūriyā.  Josephus I 2:2 says Cain founded a city called Nud and lived there.
  3. [3]I.e. Seth.  Much of what follows is from The Cave of Treasures or a related source, which is trying to align the events of Adam’s life to prefigure those of Christ.
  4. [4]I.e. at Jerusalem, where Christ will be crucified.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – preface

The Arabic Christian historians are very little known.  But they preserve Byzantine historian material, and indeed materials from elsewhere also.  No English translations exist of their works; indeed some have not even been printed in the original language.  The first two are Agapius and Eutychius.  I don’t know Arabic, but a few years ago I made a translation of Agapius from an old French translation, mainly using Google Translate.  I have been working on Eutychius for a while, based on an Italian translation which almost nobody has access to.

I thought that I would go back to the start of Eutychius, and translate the opening prefatory section.  Bits of the Italian are really beyond me, so I have just done my best. 

Note that you can’t rely on this translation to give you more than the general sense; and if that is not enough for your purposes, then please make arrangements to get a better one made!  I have rather hurried through general theological stuff, and concentrated on the historical statements.  The purpose of all this, otherwise useless labour, is simply to get people reading and using Eutychius, and, with luck, to kick-start the process of making a real translation.


In the name of God, One, Pre-Eternal, Everlasting, without beginning or end, to whom we turn.

Book of History, compiled with verification and checking.  The work of Patriarch Eutychius, called Sa’id ibn Batriq, written down by his brother `Isa, concerning the knowledge of universal history from the time of Adam to the years of the Islamic Hegira.

May God inspire you, my brother, with the best and most useful blessings, and of those things which are distressing and sad, may you receive the least serious and dangerous; may He cover you all over with the veil of His protection and keep you always in greater strength. May He cause you to achieve, in this as in the other world, success, and also your share in this life and the next.  May He make you understand everything that pleases Him and may you never be distracted from whatever about Him that could turn you away.

May you understand what you have asked me to write for you – may you render to God blessings of virtue and preserve you from the sordid world of vices! – regarding all knowledge of universal history from the time of Adam to the years of the Islamic Hegira, and I have presented this in the months, the years and the centuries, should you need it, so that you can respond to questions by anyone, scholar or layman.  May you trace – May God make you the widest practicable path to happiness and make you know at any moment the most profound science and the highest usefulness! – a representation and a certain example in succinct and profitable form, and in the manner deemed appropriate by me up to your noble soul, adhering acumen of your high and sublime intelligence, quoting and extracting whatever I could find from the Torah and from the Gospel, as well as from other old and new books, then including all these in my book, so as to render it as good as possible, and as accurate as possible with this method.  So I have completed a result that can both satisfy those with intellect, and satisfy those who have understanding.  I have explained this to you, as well as to your brothers, so that it can be, both from us and to you, a prize and a blessing.

Sa`īd ibn Batrīq, the physician, spoke as follows: “Before anything else, let us begin by giving praise to our Lord, our Benefactor, to our Creator and the One who gives us life – Exalted be his praise! – and praise – Hallowed be His name! -, and it is the right way to begin every book and treatise. From him – Powerful and Almighty God – we ask help in what we are going to do, according to his usual benevolence.  It is right to praise God, who is the Lord and the Creator, and Who expects the thanks of His worshipers.  Indeed, he established the first things that they were created and governs them; He has made a way of truth to follow out of mercy and justice, and out of corruption and injustice a way of falsity which it is forbidden to undertake.  He has not imposed on his worshipers deeds beyond their ability, or prescribed things to his creatures which are outside their powers.  But He has made them arbiters of their actions, moderators of their works and responsible for themselves.  He has provided help to them in this, by virtue of judgment, discernment, the subtle reflection and [His] assistance, thanks to the intellect which He has awarded them, making it a final judgment of reason against their mistakes and a way that can be a guide to them, for the sake of their good and out of compassion for them.  Praise be made therefore to God, One alone.  He – Powerful and Almighty – in His eternal essence, in His eternal wisdom and in His life without beginning or end, is worthy of praise and celebration and worthy of glory and exaltation.  Nothing has He ever left ambiguous in His law that could give rise to doubt and nothing has he left uncertain in his Precepts that could cause dissention; but He has laid out everything in a clear and obvious way to the people, despite their diversity of origin and place, and given a clear understanding to all nations, despite their different languages and dialects, through the revelation made to his Prophets and Apostles, and by means of miracles and terrible signs [given by him].  Thus He has invited us to embrace his religion, promising the blessed vision to those who will believe in Him and a horrible end to those who turn their backs and deny Him.  Let us praise Him, then, because that attracts to us most of His good pleasure, and get us closer to Him.  I invoke Him and to Him I turn, to make sincere our intentions of welcoming what is acceptable, and so unfold our innermost desires towards that which promotes devotion to Him, and dedicate this to Him by His mercy.[1]

Anyone who, without knowledge of the foundation of any science, intends to discourse, in order to produce something, and who knows only one branch of that science without possessing a foundation to refer to, will only produce dull and rambling discourse, and the fatigue and the effort made by him in doing so will be almost completely a waste and a sham.  The Lord and Saviour in His holy gospel offered a simile of this, saying: “He who bumptiously builds his house upon the sand, a wind and a storm will pass over it, and soon heavy rains that overwhelm will destroy it; but he who builds his house on the rock, the winds and heavy rains will not destroy it”[Mt. 7:24-27].  Let’s take this as an example and lesson for those who can.  Anyone who speaks of any science without a foundation which to refer and to rest, will soon experience his own impotence, and will have to stop in a hurry, like the one who builds his house upon the sand.  With those who discourse of any science, knowing the foundation, sensible, bright, clear and balanced will be the discourse, because he has spoken with a foundation on which to rest and to refer to, like the one who builds his house on rock.  Indeed Plato and Aristotle have already spoken in books of logic and in other books on the principles of science, and their definitions, as well as on the principles and definitions of arithmetic, showing what is the way that the learned man must follow, if he intends to acquire knowledge of any science which he wants, explaining and setting forth everything at full length.  There is no need to repeat here what they have exhibited in an exemplary way, so that we don’t make our book too long.

Now since I stated earlier, at the beginning of my book, that anyone who wants to talk about the knowledge of a science, must know the foundation, it is necessary for me to give a foundation to refer to and on which to base ourselves.  Men, you know, have taken different and conflicting positions about history.  Whatever I thought right to excerpt from the Torah and other reliable books, after long consideration and much effort, I will set out in a comprehensive and clear way, and as succinct and concise information, so that my book is in itself sufficient, and it is not so necessary to resort to any other sources, in order to know more of the story.  And I shall start with the moment when God created Adam, and carry on up to the present day, so that you will have a clear understanding.  In God, our helper in achieving what is being asked, is our support, power and strength, and in Him is we can achieve the things useful to us if we obey Him and we make what is to his liking.  For He is in fact Almighty.

  1. [1]I’m pretty doubtful about this sentence, but it’s clearly devotional.

al-Masudi on Christian Arabic historical writings

The early Islamic historian al-Masudi has this passage in his Kitāb at-tanbīh wa’l-ishrāf:[1]

One of those who belong to the Maronite religion, known under the name of Qays [ = Nafis?] al-Maruni, wrote a good book about history:  starting from the Creation, and then all the [sacred] books, [the history] of the city, of the people, of the king of Rum and of others, with information relating to them, and he ends his work with the caliphate of al-Muktafī [908 AD]. Indeed, among the Maronites, I have so far not seen a book with a similar arrangement. Many Melkites, Nestorians and Jacobites have written various books on ancient and recent times. But the best books written by Melkites that I’ve ever seen, on the history of the kings, the prophets, the people, the countries and other things, are the one by Mahbūb ibn Qustantīn al-Manbigī and that by Sa‘īd ibn al-Batrīq, known as Ibn al-Farrāğ al-Misrī, Patriarch of the see of Mark at Alexandria, whom we have personally seen at Fustat-Misr; and  he ends his work with the caliphate of ar-Radi.

Mahbūb ibn Qustantīn al-Manbigī is, of course, Agapius son of Constantine from Mabbug / Hieropolis.  I created a crude English translation of his work from the French a couple of years back.

Sa‘īd ibn al-Batrīq is our friend Eutychius, Patriarch of Alexandria.

It’s a reminder that the process of doing the same with his work is worthwhile.

  1. [1]In the edition of De Goeje, p. 154.  However I got this from the preface of Bartolomeo Pirone to his Italian translation of Eutychius, Eutychio.