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.


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