As soon as the besieged perceived the Saracens rushing in upon them, they threw down their arms, and cried, “Quarter!”
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
At last he went out again, and seeing a man descend from the wall, he took him prisoner, and by the help of a Christian Arab, whom he captured shortly afterward, examined him. He learned from him that immediately upon the departure of the Saracens, Youkinna began to ill use the townsmen who had made the convention with the Arabs, and to exact large sums of money of them; that he being one of them had endeavored to make his escape from the oppression and tyranny of Youkinna, by leaping down from the wall. Upon this the Saracens let him go, as being under their protection by virtue of the articles made between Abu Obeidah and the Aleppians, but beheaded all the rest.
In the evening, after having sent two of his men to Abu Obeidah, requesting him to order a body of horse to move forward to his support about sunrise, Dames has recourse to the following stratagem: Taking out of a knapsack a goat’s skin, he covered with it his back and shoulders, and holding a dry crust in his hand, he crept on all-fours as near to the castle as he could. When he heard a noise, or suspected anyone to be near, to prevent his being discovered he began to make a noise with his crust, as a dog does when gnawing a bone; the rest of his company came after him, sometimes skulking and creeping along, at other times walking.
When they came near to the castle, it appeared almost inaccessible. However, Dames was resolved to make an attempt upon it. Having found a place where the walls seemed easier to scale than elsewhere, he sat down upon the ground, and ordered another to sit upon his shoulders; and so on till seven of them had mounted up, each sitting upon the other’s shoulders, and all leaning against the wall, so as to throw as much of their weight as possible upon it. Then he that was uppermost of all stood upright upon the shoulders of the second, next the second raised himself, and so on, all in order, till at last Dames himself stood up, bearing the weight of all the rest upon his shoulders, who however did all they could to relieve him by bearing against the wall. By this means the uppermost man could just make a shift to reach the top of the wall, while in an undertone they all cried, “O apostle of God, help us and deliver us!”
When this man had got up on the wall, he found a watchman drunk and asleep. Seizing him hand and foot, he threw him down among the Saracens, who immediately cut him to pieces. Two other sentinels, whom he found in the same condition, he stabbed with his dagger and threw down from the wall.
He then let down his turban, and drew up the second, they two the third, till at last Dames was drawn up, who enjoined them to wait there in silence while he went and looked about him. In this expedition he gained a sight of Youkinna, richly dressed, sitting upon a tapestry of scarlet silk flowered with gold, and a large company with him, eating and drinking, and very merry.
On his return he told his men that because of the great inequality of their numbers, he did not think it advisable to fall upon them then, but had rather wait till break of day, at which time they might look for help from the main body. In the meantime he went alone, and privately stabbing the sentinels, and setting open the gates, came back to his men, and bade them hasten to take possession of the gates. This was not done so quietly, but they were at last taken notice of and the castle alarmed. There was no hope of escape for them, but everyone expected to perish. Dames behaved himself bravely, but, overpowered by superior numbers, he and his men were no longer able to hold up, when, as the morning began to dawn, Kaled came to their relief.
As soon as the besieged perceived the Saracens rushing in upon them, they threw down their arms, and cried, “Quarter!” Abu Obeidah was not far behind with the rest of the army. Having taken the castle, he proposed the Muslim religeon to the Christians. The first that embraced it was Youkinna, and his example was followed by some of the chief men with him, who immediately had their wives and children and all their wealth restored to them. Abu Obeidah set the old and impotent people at liberty, and having set apart the fifth of the spoil (which was of great value), divided the rest among the Muslims. Dames was talked of and admired by all, and Abu Obeidah, in order to pay him marked respect, commanded the army to continue in their present quarters till he and his men should be perfectly cured of their wounds.
Obeidah’s next thoughts, after the capture of the castle of Aleppo, were to march to Antioch, then the seat of the Grecian Emperor. But Youkinna, the late governor of the castle of Aleppo, having, with the changing of his religion, become a deadly enemy of the Christians, persuaded him to defer his march to Antioch, till they had first taken the castle of Aazaz.
The armies before Antioch were drawn out in battle array in front of each other. The Christian general, whose name was Nestorius, went forward and challenged any Saracen to single combat. Dames was the first to answer him; but in the engagement, his horse stumbling, he was seized before he could recover himself, and, being taken prisoner, was conveyed by Nestorius to his tent and there bound.
Nestorius, returning to the army and offering himself a second time, was answered by one Dehac. The combatants behaved themselves bravely, and, the victory being doubtful, the soldiers were desirous of being spectators, and pressed eagerly forward. In the jostling and thronging both of horse and foot to see this engagement, the tent of Nestorius, with his chair of state, was thrown down.
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