As Allepo’s ambassadors were going back they chanced to meet with one of the Byzantine officers, to whom they gave an account of the whole transaction.
Continuing Muslims Conquer Syria,
our selection from History of the Saracens by Simon Ockley published in 1718. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in twelve easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Muslims Conquer Syria
Abu Obeidah, in the meantime, reduced Kinnisrin and Alhadir, the inhabitants paying down five thousand ounces of gold, and as many of silver, two thousand suits of clothes of several sorts of silk, and five hundred asses’ loads of figs and olives. Yezid marched against Caesarea in vain, that place being too well fortified to be taken by his little army, especially since it had been reinforced by the Emperor, who had sent a store of all sorts of provision by sea, and a reinforcement to the garrison of two thousand men.
The inhabitants of Aleppo were much disheartened by the loss of Kinnisrin and Alhadir, well knowing that it would not be long before their turn would come to experience themselves what, till then, they had known only by report. They had two governors, brothers, who dwelt in the castle (the strongest in all Syria), which was not at that time encompassed by the town, but stood out of it, at a little distance. The name of one of these brethren, if my author mistakes not, was Youkinna, the other John. Their father held of the emperor Heraclius all the territory between Aleppo and Euphrates, after whose decease Youkinna managed the affairs; John, not troubling himself with secular employments, did not meddle with the government, but led a monkish life, spending his time in retirement, reading, and deeds of charity. He tried to persuade his brother to secure himself, by compounding with the Arabs for a good round sum of money; but he told him that he talked like a monk, and did not understand what belonged to a soldier; that he had provisions and warlike means enough, and was resolved to make the best resistance he could.
Accordingly the next day he called his men together, among whom there were several Christian Arabs, and having armed them, and for their encouragement distributed some money among them, told them that he was fully purposed to act offensively, and, if possible, give the Saracens battle before they should come too near Aleppo. He was informed that the Saracen army was divided and weakened, a part being gone to Caesarea, another to Damascus, and a third into Egypt. Having thus inspirited his men, he marched forward with twelve thousand.
Abu Obeidah had sent before him Kaab Ebn Damarah with one thousand men, but with express orders not to fight till he had received information of the strength of the enemy. Youkinna’s spies found Kaab and his men resting themselves and watering their horses, quite secure and free from all apprehension of danger; upon which Youkinna laid an ambuscade, and then, with the rest of his men, fell upon the Saracens. The engagement was sharp, and the Saracens had the best of it at first; but the ambuscade breaking in upon them, they were in great danger of being overpowered with numbers; one hundred and seventy of them being slain, and most of the rest being grievously wounded that they were upon the very brink of despair, and cried out, “Ya Mohammad! Ya Mohammad!” (“O Mohammad! O Mohammad!”) However, with much difficulty they made shift to hold up till night parted them, earnestly expecting the coming of Abu Obeidah.
In the meantime while Youkinna was going out with his forces to engage the Saracens, the wealthy and trading people of Aleppo, knowing very well how hard it would go with them if they should stand it out obstinately to the last and be taken by storm, resolved upon debate to go and make terms with Abu Obeidah, that, let Youkinna’s success be what it would, they might be secure.
As they were going back they chanced to meet with one of Youkinna’s officers, to whom they gave an account of the whole transaction. Upon this he hastened with all possible speed to his master, who was waiting with impatience for the morning, that he might dispatch Kaab and his men, whom the coming of the night had preserved; but hearing this news he began to fear lest an attempt should be made upon the castle in his absence, and thought it safest to make the best of his way homeward. In the morning the Saracens were surprised to see no enemy, and wondered what was the matter with them. Kaab would have pursued them, but none of his men had any inclination to go with him; so they rested themselves, and in a little time Kaled and Abu Obeidah came up with the rest of the army.
Abu Obeidah reminded Kaled of the obligation they were under to protect the Aleppians, now their confederates, who were likely to be exposed to the outrage and cruelty of Youkinna, for, in all probability, he would severely resent their defection. They therefore marched as fast as they could, and when they drew near Aleppo found that they had not been at all wrong in their apprehensions.
Youkinna had drawn up his soldiers with the design to fall upon the townsmen, and threatened them with present death unless they would break their covenant with the Arabs and go out with him to fight them, and unless they brought out to him the first contriver and proposer of the convention. At last he fell upon them in good earnest and killed about three hundred of them.
His brother John, who was in the castle, hearing a piteous outcry and lamentation, came down from the castle and entreated his brother to spare the people, representing to him that Jesus Christ had commanded us not to contend with our enemies, much less with those of our own religion. Youkinna told him that they had agreed with the Arabs and assisted them; which John excused, telling him, “That what they did was only for their own security, because they were no fighting men.” In short, he took their part so long till he provoked his brother to that degree that he charged him with being the chief contriver and manager of the whole business; and at last, in a great passion, cut his head off.
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