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.

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