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”.