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First siege of Constantin ople by the Arabs. A.D. 668-675

zone was subject to the Mahometan conquerors, the Greeks were exhausted by the calamities of war and the loss of their fairest provinces, and the barbarians of Europe might justly tremble at the precipitate fall of the Gothic monarchy. In this inquiry I shall unfold the events that rescued our ancestors of Britain, and our neighbours of Gaul, from the civil and religious yoke of the Koran; that protected the majesty of Rome, and delayed the servitude of Constantinople; that invigorated the defence of the Christians, and scattered among their enemies the seeds of division and decay.

Forty-six years after the flight of Mahomet from Mecca, his disciples appeared in arms under the walls of Constantinople. They were animated by a genuine or fictitious saying of the prophet, that, to the first army which besieged the city of the Cæsars, their sins were forgiven; the long series of Roman triumphs would be meritoriously transferred to the conquerors of New Rome ; and the wealth of nations was deposited in this well-chosen seat of royalty and commerce. No sooner had the caliph Moawiyah suppressed his rivals and established his throne than he aspired to expiate the guilt of civil blood by the success and glory of his holy expedition ;? his preparations by sea and land were adequate to the importance of the object; his standard

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Theophanes places the seven years of the siege of Constantinople in the year of our Christian æra 673 (of the Alexandrian 665, September 1), and the peace of the Saracens, four years afterwards : & glaring inconsistency ! which Petavius, Goar, and Pagi (Critica, tom. iv. p. 63, 64) have struggled to remove. Of the Arabians, the Hegira 52 (A.D. 672, January 8) is assigned by Elmacin, the year 48 (A.D. 668, February 20) by Abulfeda, whose testimony I esteem the most convenient and creditable. (Theophanes gives 672-3 as the year of Moāwiya's preparation of the expedition, 673-4 as that of his investment of Constantinople. It seems safest to follow Theophanes here; the Arabic authors say little or nothing of an event which was disgraceful in Mohammadan history. But we cannot accept his statement that the siege lasted seven years; in fact he contradicts it himself, since he places the peace in the fifth year after the beginning of the siege. We have no means of determining with certainty the true duration. Nicephorus (p. 32, ed. de Boor) states that the war lasted seven years, and, though he evidently identifies the war with the siege, we may perhaps find here the clue to the solution. The war seems to have begun soon after the accession of Constantine (evdús, Niceph. ib.); and perhaps its beginning was dated from the occupation of Cyzicus by Phadalas in 6701 (Theoph. A.M. 6162), and peace was made in 677-8. Thus we get seven years for the duration of the war (671-7), and perhaps three for the siege (674-6).]

? For this first siege of Constantinople, see Nicephorus (Breviar. p. 21, 22 (p. 32 ed. de Boor]), Theophanes (Chronograph. p. 294 [A.M. 6165]), Cedrenus (Compend. p. 437 [i. 764, ed. Bonn]), Zonaras (Hist. tom. ii. l. xiv. p. 89 (0. 20]), Elmacin (Hist. Saracen. p. 56, 57), Abulfeda (Annal. Moslem. p. 107, 108, vers. Reiske), d'Herbelot (Bibliot. Orient. Constantin.), Ockley's Hist. of the Saracens, vol. ii. p. 127, 128.


tine IV.)

was entrusted to Sophian, a veteran warrior, but the troops were encouraged by the example and presence of Yezid, the son and presumptive heir of the commander of the faithful. The Greeks had little to hope, nor had their enemies any reasons of fear, from the courage and vigilance of the reigning emperor, who [Constandisgraced the name of Constantine, and imitated only the inglorious years of his grandfather Heraclius. Without delay or opposition, the naval forces of the Saracens passed through the unguarded channel of the Hellespont, which even now, under the feeble and disorderly government of the Turks, is maintained as the natural bulwark of the capital. The Arabian fleet cast anchor, and the troops were disembarked near the palace of Hebdomon, seven miles from the city. During many days, from the dawn of light to the evening, the line of assault was extended from the golden gate to the eastern promontory, and the foremost warriors were impelled by the weight and effort of the. succeeding columns. But the besiegers had formed an insufficient estimate of the strength and resources of Constantinople. The solid and lofty walls were guarded by numbers and discipline; the spirit of the Romans was rekindled by the last danger of their religion and empire; the fugitives from the conquered provinces more successfully renewed the defence of Damascus and Alexandria; and the Saracens were dismayed by the strange and prodigious effects of artificial fire. This firm and effectual resistance diverted their arms to the more easy attempts of plundering the European and Asiatic coasts of the Propontis; and, after keeping the sea from the month of April to that of September, on the approach of winter they retreated fourscore miles from the capital, to the isle of Cyzicus, in which they had established their magazine of spoil and provisions. So patient was their perseverance, or so languid were their operations, that they repeated in the six following summers the same attack and retreat, with a gradual abatement of hope and vigour,

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* [The expedition was first entrusted to Abd ar-Rahmān, but he was killed, and 35 succeeded by Sofyān.]

• The state and defence of the Dardanelles is exposed in the Mémoires of the Parop de Tott (tom. iii. p. 39-97), who was sent to fortify them against the Russians. From a principal actor, I should have expected more accurate details; but he seems to write for the amusement, rather than the instruction, of his reader. Perhaps, on the approach of the enemy, the minister of Constantine was occupied, like what of Mastapha, in finding two Canary birds who should sing precisely the same

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till the mischances of shipwreck and disease, of the sword and of fire, compelled them to relinquish the fruitless enterprise. They might bewail the loss or commemorate the martyrdom of thirty thousand Moslems, who fell in the siege of Constantinople; and the solemn funeral of Abu Ayub, or Job, excited the curiosity of the Christians themselves. That venerable Arab, one of the last of the companions of Mahomet, was numbered among the ansars, or auxiliaries, of Medina, who sheltered the head of the flying prophet. In his youth he fought, at Bedar and Obud, under the holy standard ; in his mature age he was the friend and follower of Ali; and the last remnant of his strength and life was consumed in a distant and dangerous war against the enemies of the Koran. His memory was revered; but the place of his burial was neglected and unknown, during a period of seven hundred and eighty years, till the conquest of Constantiinople by Mahomet the Second. A seasonable vision (for such are the manufacture of every religion) revealed the holy spot at the foot of the walls and the bottom of the harbour; and the mosque of Ayub has been deservedly chosen for the simple and

martial inauguration of the Turkish sultans.” Peace and The event of the siege revived, both in the East and West, the

reputation of the Roman arms, and cast a momentary shade over the glories of the Saracens. The Greek ambassador was favourably received at Damascus, in a general council of the emirs or Koreish; a peace, or truce, of thirty years was ratified between the two empires; and the stipulation of an annual tribute, fifty horses of a noble breed, fifty slaves, and three thousand pieces of gold, degraded the majesty of the commander of the faithful. The aged caliph was desirous of possessing his dominions, and ending his days, in tranquillity and repose; while the Moors and Indians trembled at his name, his palace and city of Damascus was insulted by the Mardaites, or Maronites, of mount Libanus, the firmest barrier of the empire, till they were disarmed and transplanted by the suspicious policy of the


tribute, A.D. 677

5 Demetrius Cantemir's Hist. of the Othman Empire, p. 105, 106. Rycant's State of the Ottoman Empire, p. 10, 11. Voyages de Thévenot, part i. 189. The Christians who suppose that the martyr Abu Ayub is vulgarly confounded with the patriarch Job, betray their own ignorance rather than that of the Turks.

6 Theophanes, though a Greek, deserved credit for these tributes (Chronograph. p. 295, 296, 300, 301 [A.m. 6169, 6176]), which are confirmed, with some variation, by The Arabic history of Abulpharagius (Dynast. p. 128, vers. Pocock).

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Malik. 685-706)

Greeks. After the revolt of Arabia and Persia, the house of
Ommiyah 8 was reduced to the kingdoms of Syria and Egypt;
their distress and fear enforced their compliance with the
pressing demands of the Christians; and the tribute was in-
creased to a slave, an horse, and a thousand pieces of gold, for
each of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the solar year.
But as soon as the empire was again united by the arms and
policy of Abdalmalek, he disclaimed a badge of servitude not (Abd al-
less injurious to his conscience than to his pride; he discontinued s.
the payment of the tribute; and the resentment of the Greeks
was disabled from action by the mad tyranny of the second
Justinian, the just rebellion of his subjects, and the frequent
change of his antagonists and successors. Till the reign of
Abdalmalek, the Saracens had been content with the free
possession of the Persian and Roman treasures, in the coin of
Chosroes and Cæsar. By the command of that caliph, a
national mint was established, both of silver and gold, and the
inscription of the Dinar, though it might be censured by some
timorous casaists, proclaimed the unity of the God of Mahomet."
Under the reign of the Caliph Waled, the Greek language and
characters were excluded from the accounts of the public revenue. 10 A.D. 705-715]
If this change was productive of the invention or familiar use of

(Walid I.


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1 The censure of Theophanes is just and pointed, την Ρωμαικήν δυναστείαν ακρωτηριάσας ... πάνδεινα κακά πέπoνθεν η Ρωμανια υπό των Αράβων μέχρι του νυν (Chronograph. p. 302, 303 (A.M. 6178]). The series of these events may be traced in the Annals of Theophanes, and in the Abridgment of the Patriarch Nicephorus, p. 22, 24.

* These domestic revolutions are related in a clear and natural style, in the second volume of Ockley's history of the Saracens, p. 253-370. Besides our printed authors, be draws his materials from the Arabic Mss. of Oxford, which he would have more deeply searched, had he been confined to the Bodleian library instead of the Cambridge) city jail: & fate how unworthy of the man and of his country!

'Elmaoin, who dates the first coinage A.H. 76, A.D. 695, five or six years later than the Greek historians, has compared the weight of the best or common gold dinar, to the drachm or dirhem of Egypt (p. 77), which may be equal to two pennies (48 grains) of our Troy weight (Hooper's Enquiry into Ancient Measures, p. 24-36) and equivalent to eight shillings of our sterling money. From the same Elmacin and the Arabian physicians, some dinars as high as two dirhems, as low as half a dirhem, may be deduced. The piece of silver was the dirhem, both in value and weight; but AD old though fair coin, struck at Waset, A.H. 88, and preserved in the Bodleian library, wants four grains of the Cairo standard (see the Modern Universal History, tom i. p. 648 of the French translation). (But see Appendix 2.)

8 Και εκώλυσε γράφεσθαι ελληνιστί τους δημοσίους των λογοθεσίων κώδικας αλλ' [tv] 'Αραβίοις αυτά παρασημαινεσθαι χωρίς των ψήφων, επειδη αδύνατον τη εκείνων γλωσση μοναδα, η δυάδα, ή τριάδα, ή οκτώ ήμισυ ή τρια γράφεσθαι. Τheophan. Chronograph. p. 314 įs... 6199). This defect, if it really existed, must have stimulated the ingenuity of the Arabs to invent or borrow.


nople. A.D. 716-718

A.D. 715-7

our present numerals, the Arabic or Indian cyphers, as they are commonly styled, a regulation of office has promoted the most important discoveries of arithmetic, algebra, and the mathematical sciences.11

Whilst the caliph Waled sat idle on the throne of Damascus, Constanti

. while his lieutenants achieved the conquest of Transoxiana and

Spain, a third army of Saracens overspread the provinces of Asia
Minor, and approached the borders of the Byzantine capital.

But the attempt and disgrace of the second siege was reserved (Sulaiman. for his brother Soliman, whose ambition appears to have been

quickened by a more active and martial spirit. In the revolutions of the Greek empire, after the tyrant Justinian had been punished and avenged, an humble secretary, Anastasius or Artemius, was promoted by chance or merit to the vacant purple. He was alarmed by the sound of war; and his ambassador returned from Damascus with the tremendous news that the Saracens were preparing an armament by sea and land, such as would transcend the experience of the past, or the belief of the present, age. The precautions of Anastasius were not unworthy of his station or of the impending danger. He issued a peremptory mandate that all persons who were not provided with the means of subsistence for a three years' siege should evacuate the city; the public granaries and arsenals were abundantly replenished; the walls were restored and strengthened; and the engines for casting stones, or darts, or fire, were stationed along the ramparts, or in the brigantines of war, of which an additional number was hastily constructed. To prevent is safer, as well as more honourable, than to repel an attack; and a design was meditated, above the usual spirit of the Greeks, of burning the naval stores of the enemy, the cypress timber that had been hewn in mount Libanus, and was piled along the sea-shore of Phænicia, for the service of the Egyptian fleet. This generous enterprise was defeated by the cowardice or treachery of the troops who, in the

11. According to a new though probable notion, maintained by M. de Villoison (Anecdota Græca, tom. ii. p. 152-157), our cyphers are not of Indian or Arabic in. vention. They were used by the Greek and Latin arithmeticians long before the age of Boethius. After the extinction of science in the West, they were adopted by the Arabic versions from the original Mss. and restored to the Latins about the eleventh century. There is no doubt that our numerals are of Indian origin (5th or 6th cent.?); adopted by the Arabians about 9th cent. The circumstances of their first introduction to the West are uncertain, but we find them used in Italy in the 13th cent.]

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