They made a vigorous assault, in which they had as hard fighting as any in all the wars of Syria.
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
While he was murdering the unhappy Aleppians, Kaled (better late than never) came to their relief. Youkinna, perceiving his arrival, retired with a considerable number of soldiers into the castle. The Saracens killed that day three thousand of his men. However, he prepared himself to sustain a siege, and planted engines upon the castle walls.
Abu Obeidah next deliberated in a council of war what measures were most proper to be taken. Some were of opinion that the best way would be to besiege the castle with some part of the army, and let the rest be sent out to forage. Kaled would not hear of it, but was for attacking the castle at once with their whole force; that, if possible, it might be taken before fresh supplies could arrive from the Emperor.
This plan being adopted, they made a vigorous assault, in which they had as hard fighting as any in all the wars of Syria. The besieged made a noble defense, and threw stones from the walls in such plenty that a great many of the Saracens were killed and a great many more maimed.
Youkinna, encouraged with his success, determined to act on the offensive and turn everything to advantage. The Saracens looked upon all the country as their own, and knowing that there was no army of the enemy near them, and fearing nothing less than an attack from the besieged, kept guard negligently. In the dead of night, therefore, Youkinna sent out a party who, as soon as the fires were out in the camp, fell upon the Saracens, and having killed about sixty, carried off fifty prisoners. Kaled pursued and cut off about a hundred of them, but the rest escaped to the castle with the prisoners, who by the command of Youkinna were the next day beheaded in the sight of the Saracen army.
Upon this Youkinna ventured once more to send out another party, having received information from one of his spies (most of which were Christian Arabs) that some of the Muslims were gone out to forage. They fell upon the Muslims, killed a hundred and thirty of them, and seized all their camels, mules, and horses, which they either killed or hamstrung, and then they retired into the mountains, in hopes of lying hid during the day and returning to the castle in the silence of the night.
In the meantime some that had escaped brought the news to Abu Obeidah, who sent Kaled and Derar to pursue the Christians. Coming to the place of the fight, they found their men and camels dead, and the country people making great lamentation, for they were afraid lest the Saracens should suspect them of treachery, and revenge upon them their loss. Falling down before Kaled, they told him they were altogether innocent, and had not in any way, either directly or indirectly, been instrumental in the attack; but that it was made solely by a party of horse that sallied from the castle. Kaled, having made them swear that they knew nothing more, and taking some of them for guides, closely watched the only passage by which the sallying party could return to the castle. When about a fourth part of the night was passed, they perceived Youkinna’s men approaching, and, falling upon them, took three hundred prisoners and killed the rest. The prisoners begged to be allowed to ransom themselves, but they were all beheaded the next morning in front of the castle.
The Saracens pressed the siege for a while very closely, but perceiving that they made no way, Abu Obeidah removed the camp about a mile’s distance from the castle, hoping by this means to tempt the besieged to security and negligence in their watch, which might eventually afford him an opportunity of taking the castle by surprise. But all would not do, for Youkinna kept a very strict watch and suffered not a man to stir out.
The siege continued four months, and some say five. In the meantime Omar was very much concerned, having heard nothing from the camp in Syria. He wrote, therefore, to Abu Obeidah, letting him know how tender he was over the Muslims, and what a great grief it was to him to hear no news of them for so long a time. Abu Obeidah answered that Kinnisrin, Hader, and Aleppo were surrendered to him, only the castle of Aleppo held out, and that they had lost a considerable number of men before it; that he had some thoughts of raising the siege, and passing forward into that part of the country which lies between Aleppo and Antioch; but only he stayed for his answer.
About the time that Abu Obeidah’s messengers reached Medina, there also arrived a considerable number of men out of the several tribes of the Arabs, to proffer their service to the Caliph. Omar ordered seventy camels to help their foot, and dispatched them into Syria, with a letter to Abu Obeidah, in which he acquainted him “that he was variously affected, according to the different success they had met, but charged them by no means to raise the siege of the castle, for that would make them look little, and encourage their enemies to fall upon them on all sides. Wherefore,” adds he, “continue besieging it till God shall determine the event, and forage with your horse round about the country.”
Among those fresh supplies which Omar had just sent to the Saracen camp, there was a very remarkable man, whose name was Dames, of a gigantic size, and an admirable soldier. When he had been in the camp forty-seven days, and all the force and cunning of the Saracens availed nothing toward taking the castle, he desired Abu Obeidah to let him have the command of thirty men, and he would try his best against it. Kaled had heard much of the man, and told Abu Obeidah a long story of a wonderful performance of this Dames in Arabia, and that he looked upon him as a very proper person for such an undertaking. Abu Obeidah selected thirty men to go with him, and bade them not to despise their commander because of the meanness of his condition, he being a slave, and swore that, but for the care of the whole army which lay upon him, he would be the first man that should go under him upon such an enterprise. To which they answered with entire submission and profound respect. Dames, who lay hid at no great distance, went out several times, and brought in with him five or six Greeks, but never a man of them understood one word of Arabic, which made him angry and say: “God curse these dogs! What a strange, barbarous language they use.”
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