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new language of the empire, were styled of the Obsequian Theme.12 They murdered their chief, deserted their standard in the isle of Rhodes, dispersed themselves over the adjacent continent, and deserved pardon or reward by investing with the purple a simple officer of the revenue. The name of Theodosius might recommend him to the senate and people; but, after some months, he sunk into a cloister, and resigned, to the firmer hand of Leo the Isaurian, the urgent defence of the capital and empire. The most formidable of the Saracens, Moslemah the brother of (Maslama] the caliph, was advancing at the head of one hundred and twenty thousand Arabs and Persians, the greater part mounted on horses or camels; and the successful sieges of Tyana, Amorium, and Pergamus were of sufficient duration to exercise their skill and to elevate their hopes. At the well-known passage of Abydus, on the Hellespont, the Mahometan arms were transported, for the first time, 13 from Asia to Europe. From thence, wheeling round the Thracian cities of the Propontis, Moslemah invested Constantinople on the land side, surrounded his camp with a ditch and rampart, prepared and planted his engines of assault, and declared, by words and actions, a patient resolution of expecting the return of seed-time and harvest, should the obstinacy of the besieged prove equal to his own. The Greeks would gladly have ransomed their religion and empire, by a fine or assessment of a piece of gold on the head of each inhabitant of the city; but the liberal offer was rejected with disdain, and the presumption of Moslemah was exalted by the speedy approach and invincible force of the navies of Egypt and Syria. They are said to have amounted to eighteen hundred ships; the number betrays their inconsiderable size; and of the twenty stout and capacious vessels, whose magnitude impeded their pro

13 In the division of the Themes, or provinces described by Constantine Porphyrogenitus (de Thematibus, l. i. p. 9, 10 (p. 24-26, ed. Bonn]), the Obsequium, a Latın appellation of the army and palace, was the fourth in the public order. Nice was the metropolis, and its jurisdiction extended from the Hellespont over the Adjacent parts of Bithynia and Phrygia (see the two maps pretixed by Delisle to the Imperium Orientale of Banduri). [Gibbon omits to mention the most remarkable incident in this episode. The Opsician troops proceeded to Constantinople and besieged Anastasius. The fleet and the engines, which had been prepared by the Emperor to defend the city against the Saracens, had to be used against the rebels. When Theodosius ultimately effected his entry, the Opsicians pillaged the city. For the Themes see Appendix 3.]

18 [At the previous siege, Saracens had also landed on European soil; see above,

gress, each was manned with no more than one hundred heavy armed soldiers. This huge armada proceeded on a smooth sea and with a gentle gale, towards the mouth of the Bosphorus; the surface of the strait was overshadowed, in the language of the Greeks, with a moving forest, and the same fatal night had been fixed by the Saracen chief for a general assault by sea and land. To allure the confidence of the enemy, the emperor had thrown aside the chain that usually guarded the entrance of the harbour; but, while they hesitated whether they should seize the opportunity or apprehend the snare, the ministers of destruction were at hand. The fireships of the Greeks were launched against them; the Arabs, their arms, and vessels, were involved in the same flames, the disorderly fugitives were dashed against each other or overwhelmed in the waves; and I no longer find a vestige of the fleet that had threatened to extirpate the Roman name.

A still more fatal and irreparable loss was that of the caliph Soliman, who died of an indigestion 14 in his camp near Kinnisrin, or Chalcis in Syria, as he was preparing to lead against Constantinople the remaining forces of the East. The brother of Moslemah was succeeded by a kinsman and an enemy; and the throne of an active and able prince was degraded by the useless and pernicious virtues of a bigot. While he started and satisfied the scruples of a blind conscience, the siege was con

tinued through the winter by the neglect rather than by the [Omar II. resolution of the caliph Omar. 16 The winter proved uncom

monly rigorous; above an hundred days the ground was covered

A.D. 717-20)

14 The caliph had emptied two baskets of eggs and of figs, which he swallowed alternately, and the repast was concluded with marrow and sugar. In one of his pilgrimages to Mecca, Soliman ate, at a single meal, seventy pomegranates, a kid, six fowls, and a huge quantity of the grapes of Tayef. If the bill of fare be correct, we must admire the appetite rather than the luxury of the sovereign of Asia (Abulfeda, Annal. Moslem. p. 126). [Though the manner of Sulaiman's death is uncertain, it is agreed that he was a voluptuary. Tabari says that cooking and gallantry were the only subjects of conversation at his court.]

15 See the article of Omar Ben Abda laziz (Ibn Abd al Aziz), in the Bibliothèque Orientale (p. 689, 690), præferens, says Elmacin (p. 91), religionem suam rebus suis mundanis. He was so desirous of being with God that he would not have anointed his ear (his own saying) to obtain a perfect cure of his last malady. The caliph had only one shirt, and in an age of luxury his annual expense was no more than two drachms (Abulpharagius, p. 131). Haud diu gavibus eo principe fuit orbis Moslemas (Abulfeda, p. 127). (Weil takes another view of the virtues of the bigot, and writes : “The pious Omar was greater than all his predecessors, not excepting Omar I., in one respect; he sought lebs to increase or enrich Islam at the cost of the un. believer than to augment the number of Musulmans without making forced con. versions." Geschichte der Chalifen, i. p. 582.]

with deep snow, and the natives of the sultry climes of Egypt and Arabia lay torpid and almost lifeless in their frozen camp. They revived on the return of spring; a second effort had been made in their favour; and their distress was relieved by the arrival of two numerous fleets, laden with corn, and arms, and soldiers; the first from Alexandria, of four hundred transports and galleys; the second of three hundred and sixty vessels from the ports of Africa. But the Greek fires were again kindled, and, if the destruction was less complete, it was owing to the experience which had taught the Moslems to remain at a safe distance, or to the perfidy of the Egyptian mariners, who deserted with their ships to the emperor of the Christians. The trade and navigation of the capital were restored; and the produce of the fisheries supplied the wants, and even the luxury, of the inhabitants. But the calamities of famine and disease were soon felt by the troops of Moslemah, and, as the former was miserably assuaged, so the latter was dreadfully propagated, by the pernicious nutriment which hunger compelled them to extract from the most unclean or unnatural food. The spirit of conquest, and even of enthusiasm, was extinct: the Saracens could no longer straggle beyond their lines, either single or in small parties, without exposing themselves to the merciless retaliation of the Thracian peasants. An army of Bulgarians was attracted from the Danube by the gifts and promises of Leo; and these savage auxiliaries made some atonement for the evils which they had inflicted on the empire, by the defeat and slaughter of twenty-two thousand Asiatics. A report was dexterously scattered that the Franks, the unknown nations of the Latin world, were arming by sea and land in the defence of the Christian cause, and their formidable aid was expected with far different sensations in the camp and city. At length, after a siege of thirteen months, 16 the hopeless Moslemah received Failure from the caliph the welcome permission to retreat.

The march of the of the Arabian cavalry over the Hellespont and through the provinces of Asia was executed without delay or molestation;

** Both Nicephorus and Theophanes agree that the siege of Constantinople was raised the 15th of August (A.D. 718); but, as the former, our best witness, affirms that it continued thirteen months, the latter must be mistaken in supposing that it began on the same day of the preceding year. I do not find that Pagi bas remarked this inconsistency. [Tabari places the beginning of the siege in a.s. 98= A.D. 716-17, bat does not mention the month ; and he makes Omar II. recall Masiama in A.H. 99 (Aug. 25, 717—Aug. 2, 718). See Tabari, ed. de Goeje, ii. 1342.]

and retreat



use of


but an army of their brethren had been cut to pieces on the side of Bithynia, and the remains of the fleet was so repeatedly damaged by tempest and fire that only five galleys entered the port of Alexandria to relate the tale of their various and almost incredible disasters. 17

In the two sieges, the deliverance of Constantinople may be the Greek chiefly ascribed to the novelty, the terrors, and the real efficacy

of the Greek fire.18 The important secret of compounding and directing this artificial flame was imparted by Callinicus, a native of Heliopolis in Syria, who deserted from the service of the caliph to that of the emperor.19 The skill of a chymist and engineer was equivalent to the succour of fleets and armies ; and this discovery or improvement of the military art was fortunately reserved for the distressful period, when the degenerate Romans of the East were incapable of contending with the warlike enthusiasm and youthful vigour of the Saracens. The historian who presumes to analyse this extraordinary composition should suspect his own ignorance and that of his Byzantine guides, so prone to the marvellous, so careless, and in this instance so jealous, of the truth. From their obscure and perhaps fallacious hints, it should seem that the principal ingredient of the Greek fire was the naptha,20 or liquid bitumen, a light, tenacious, and inflammable oil,21 which springs from the earth and

17 In the second siege of Constantinople, I have followed Nicephorus (Brev. p. 33-36 (pp. 53-4, ed. de Boor]), Theophanes (Chronograph. p. 324-334 [A.M. 6209, 6210]), Cedrenus (Compend. P. 449-452 [i. 787, ed. Bonn]), Zonaras (tom. ii. p 98102 (xv. c. l.]), Elmacin (Hist. Saracen. p. 88), Abulfeda (Annal. Moslem. p. 126), and Abulpharagius (Dynast. p. 130), the most satisfactory of the Arabs.

18 Our sure and indefatigable guide in the middle ages and Byzantine history, Charles du Fresne du Cange, has treated in several places of the Greek fire, and his collections leave few gleanings behind. See particularly Glossar. Med. et Infim. Græcitat. p. 1275, sub voce Tüp Bardociov úypov. Glossar. Med. et Infim. Latinitat. Ignis Græcus. Observations sur Villehardouin, p. 305, 306. Observations sur Joinville, p. 71, 72. [See below, note 22.]

19 Theophanes styles him &pXITÉKTWV (p. 295 [A.m. 6165]). Cedrenus (p. 437 [i. p. 765]) brings this artist from (the ruins of) Heliopolis in Egypt; and chemistry was indeed tne peculiar science of the Egyptians.

20 The naptha, the oleum incendiarium of the history of Jerusalem (Gest. Dei per Francos, p. 1167), the Oriental fountain of James de Vitry (l. iii. c. 84), is introduced on slight evidence and strong probability. Cinnamus (1. vi. p. 165 (c. 10]) calls the Greek fireia ŵp M 78.KÓv; and the naptha is known to abound between the Tigris and the Caspian Sea. According to Pliny (Hist. Natur. ii. 109) it was subservient to the revenge of Medea, and in either etymology the έλαιον Μηδίας, Μηδείας (Procop. de Bell. Gothic. 1. iv. c. 11) may fairly signify this liquid bitumen.

21 On the different sorts of oils and bitumens, see Dr. Watson's (the present bishop of Llandaff's) Chemical Essays, vol. iii. essay i., a classic book, the best adapted to infuse the taste and knowledge of chemistry. The less perfect ideas of

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