. The Era of Conquests

(Seventh to Eleventh Century)

Egypt, Palestine, Tripolitania (640-646)

The Capture of the Fayyum

Theodosius, the general, learning of the arrival of the Ishmaelites [Arabs],
moved from place to place in order to observe the enemy. The Ishmaelites
attacked, killed the commandant, massacred all his troops and immediately
seized the town <of Behnesa? > Whoever approached them was
massacred; they spared neither old men, nor women, nor children. [p.

After the Flight of the Greek Army near Nikiou

Then the Muslims arrived in Nikiou (on the Nile, near Damanhur). There was
not one single soldier to resist them. They seized the town and slaughtered
everyone they met in the street and in the churches-men, women and
children, sparing nobody. Then they went to other places, pillaged and killed
all the inhabitants they found. In the town of Sa they caught unawares
Esqutaos and his men, of the tribe of Theodore the general, who were
hidden in the vineyards, and they slew them. But let us now say no more, for
it is impossible to describe the horrors the Muslims committed when they
occupied the island of Nikiou, on Sunday, the eighteenth day of the month of
Guenbot, in the fifteenth year of the lunar cycle, as well as the terrible
scenes which took place in Cesarea in Palestine. [p. 243-44]

Amr oppressed Egypt. He sent its inhabitants to fight the inhabitants of the
Pentapolis [Tripolitania] and, after gaining a victory, he did not allow them to
stay there. He took considerable booty from this country and a large number
of prisoners. Abulyanos [?], governor of the pentapolis, with his troops and
the leading citizens of the province withdrew to the town of Teycheira, which
was heavily fortified, and shut themselves up there. The Muslims returned to
their country with booty and captives.

The patriarch Cyrus felt deep grief at the calamities in Egypt, because Amr,
who was of barbarian origin, shoed no mercy in his treatment of the
Egyptians and did not fulfil the covenants which had been agreed with him.
[pp. 254-55]

Amr?s position became stronger from day to day. He levied the tax that had
been stipulated; but he did not touch the property of the churches,
preserved them from all pillage and protected them during the entire length
of his government. After taking possession of Alexandria, he had the town?s
canal drained, following the example set by Theodore the evildoer. He
raised the tax to as much as twenty-two batr of gold, with the result that the
inhabitants, crushed down by the burden and is no position to pay it, went
into hiding. [p. 261]

But it is impossible to describe the lamentable position of the inhabitants of
this town, who came to the point of offering their children in exchange for the
enormous sums that they had to pay each month, finding no one to help
them because God had abandoned them and had delivered the Christians
into the hands of their enemies. [pp. 262-63]

John of Nikiou


Letter from Umar Ibn al-Khattab (633-643) to Sa?d b. abi Wakkas after
the Conquest of Sawad (Iraq)

I have received thy letter in which thou statest that thy men have asked thee
to divide among them whatever spoils Allah has assigned them. At the
receipt of my letter, find out what possessions and horses the troops on
"horses and camels" [Koran 59:6] have acquired and divide that among
them, after taking away one-fifth. As for the land and camels, leave them in
the hands of those men who work them, so that they may be included in the
stipends [pensions] of the Moslems. If thou dividest them among those
present nothing will be left for those who come after them. [p.422]

Al-Husain from Abdullah ibn-Hazim: - The latter said, "I once asked Mujahid
regarding the land of as-Sawad and he answered. "It can neither be bought
nor sold. This is because it was taken by force and was not divided. It
belongs to all the Moslems."

Al-Walid ibn-Salih from Sulaiman ibn-Yasar: - "Umar ibn-al-Khatab left
as-Sawad for those who were still in men?s loins and mothers? wombs [i.e.,
posterity], considering the inhabitants dhimmis from whom tax [jizya] should
be taken on their person, and kharaj on their land. They are therefore
dhimmis and cannot be sold as slaves". [?]

Umar ibn-al-Khattab, desiring to divide as-Sawad among the Moslems,
ordered that they [the inhabitants] be counted. Each Moslem had three
peasants for his share. Umar took the advice of the Prophet?s Companions,
and Ali said, "leave them that they may become a source of revenue and aid
for the Moslems". [p. 423]


Iraq, Syria, and Palestine

Umar Ibn al-Khattab Replies to the Muslim Soldiers who Demand the
Sharing-out of the Conquered lands

But I thought that we had nothing more to conquer after the land of Kesra
[Persia], whose riches, land, and people Allah has given us. I have divided
the goods and chattels among those that conquered them after having
subtracted a fifth, which under my supervision was used for the purpose for
which it was intended. I thought it necessary to reserve the land and its
inhabitants, and levy from the latter the kharaj by virtue of their land, and the
capitation [jizya] as a personal tax on every head, this poll tax constituting a
fay in favour of the Muslims who have fought there, of their children and of
their heirs. Do you think that these borders could remain without warriors to
defend them? Do you think that these vast countries, Syria, Mesopotamia,
Kufa, Basra, Misr [Egypt] do not have to be covered with troops who must
be well paid? Where can one obtain their pay if the land is divided up, as
well as its inhabitants? [pp. 40-41]

Umar?s decision against the dividing up among the conquerors of the
conquered territories, as soon as Allah had shown him the decisive
passages of his Holy Book [the Koran] concerning this subject, constituted
for him and his work a sign of divine protection and a blessing for all the
Muslims. His resolution to levy the kharaj, so that the revenues could be
shared among the Muslims was beneficial to all the Community [umma], for
had it not been reserved to pay the wages and food of the warriors, the
border provinces would never have been populated, the troops would have
been deprived of the necessary means to carry on the holy war [jihad], and
one would have been afraid that the infidels would return to their former
possessions, since these would not have been protected by soldiers and
mercenaries. Allah knows best where is the good! [p. 43]

Abu Yusuf

Armenia (642)

The ravaging army <of Arabs> left Assyria [upper Mesopotamia] and, by
way of Dzor (Southwest of Lake Van. For these events, cf. Ghevond, Histoire des
guerres et des conquetes des Arabes en Armenie –Paris, 1856- 5.), entered the
Taron region, which it seized, as well as the districts of Bezhnunik and
Agh?iovit (west of Lake Van); then, turning toward the valley of Berkri via
Ordoru and Kogovit (south of Mount Ararat), it spread out into Ararat. [p. 227]

There would have been no one among the Armenians able to sound the
alarm in the [market] town of Dvin, (near modern Yerevan –Erevan), had it not
been for three chiefs who had come running up at the time to gather the
scattered troops, Theodosius Vahevonni, Katchian Araveghian and Shapuh

They fled in haste towards Dvin. When they reached the bridge of [the]
Medzamor (tributary of the Araxes), they destroyed it behind them and
managed to impart the sad news of the enemies? approach to the
inhabitants: they made all the people of the land, who had come for the wine
harvest, go into the fortress. But Theodore <Reshtuni> (Theodore Reshtuni,
general-in-chief of Byzantine Armenia. Dismissed by Emperor Constans II /641-68/,
he went over to the Arab side and was recognised by Mu?awiya as head of Armenia
and Georgia up to the region of the Karabagh in the east), for his part, had gone to
the town of Nakhidijevan.

When the enemy arrived at the bridge of [the] Medzamor, they could not go
across; but as they had Vartig, prince of Mogk (district of Greater Armenia),
known as Aghdznik, as their guide, they crossed the bridge, and invaded the
whole region. After taking a considerable quantity of booty and captives,
they camped at the edge of the forest of Khosrovakert.

On the fifth day [Thursday], they launched an attack on the town of Dvin,
and it fell to them; for they had shrouded it in clouds of smoke and, by this
means and by arrow shots, they drove back the men who were defending
the ramparts. Then, having set up their ladders, they climbed on to the
walls, hurled themselves into the square and opened the gates.

The enemy?s army rushed in and butchered the inhabitants of the town by
the sword. After gorging itself on booty, it returned to its encampments,
outside the town.

After a few days? rest, the Ishmaelites [Arabs] went back whence they had
come, dragging after them a host of captives, numbering thirty-five

Meanwhile, the prince of Armenia, Theodore, ruler of Reshtunik, had laid an
ambush with a few men in the district of Kogovit, and pounced on them; but
he was beaten and forced to flee. The infidels set off in pursuit of him and
killed many of his men; after which they returned to Assyria. [p. 228]


Cyprus, the Greek Islands, and Anatolia (649-654)

Mu?awiya and his suite turned towards constantia, the capital of the whole
country. They found it entirely full of people. They established their rule over
this town by a great massacre [?]. They collected gold from the whole
island, riches and slaves, and they shared out the booty. The Egyptians
took one part of it, they took another, and they went back [whence they had

But, as the Lord [Almighty] had set his eyes on the island, with a view to
laying it to waste, he shortly after urged on Abu l-A?war and his army, which
went to Cyprus for a second time, because they had learned that its
inhabitants had joined forces. When they arrived, the inhabitants were
seized with terror. When the Taiyaye entered, they made the inhabitants
come out from the caves and pillaged the whole island. They laid siege to
the town of Pathos and reduced it by battle. When the inhabitants asked to
negotiate, Abu l-A?war informed them that he would take gold, silver and
riches and that he would do no harm to the inhabitant. They opened the
town: the Taiyaye collected its riches and returned to Syria.

Then, Mu?awiya laid siege to the town of Arwad which is an island, but he
was not able to take it. He sent word to Bishop Thomas that the inhabitants
should forsake the town and go in peace. They did not agree; and Mu?awiya
returned to Damascus. When the spring came, Mu?awiya returned to the
siege of Arwad. Then all the people forsook it and Mu?awiya destroyed it so
that it could no longer be inhabited.

Abu l-A?war and his army came down by sea and arrived at the island of
Cos. Through the treachery of its bishop, he captured [the island]. He laid
waste and pillaged all its riches, slaughtered the population and led the
remnant into captivity, and destroyed its citadel. He moved into Crete and
pillaged it.

They went to Rhodes, and devastated it in the year 965 [654] of the Greeks.

The seven year truce that the Romans [Byzantines] had made with the
Taiyaye expired in this period. The Taiyaye plundered all the lands of Asia,
Bithynia and Pamphylia. There was a serious plague in the lands of
Mesopotamia. The Taiyaye pillaged anew and laid waste [to lands] as far a
field as Pontus and Galatia. [2:450]

Michael the Syrian

Cilicia and Cesarea of Cappadocia (650)

They [the Taiyaye] moved into Cilicia and took prisoners; they came to
Euchaita [a town on the river Halys in Armenia] without the population
becoming aware of it; they took the ports by surprise, and when Mu?awiya
arrived he ordered all the inhabitants to be put to the sword; he placed
guards so that no one escaped. After gathering up all the wealth of the town,
they set to torturing the leaders to make them show them things [treasures]
that had been hidden. The Taiyaye led everyone into slavery-men and
women, boys and girls- and they committed much debauchery in that
unfortunate town: they wickedly committed immoralities inside churches.
They returned to their country rejoicing. [2:431]

Mu?awiya, the Taiyaye general, divided his troops into two camps. -At the
head of one he put Habib (Habib b. Maslama conquered the 4th Armenia, the
whole region of Lake Van, Vaspurakan, Siunia, and Georgia), a nasty Syrian,
whom he sent to Armenia in the month of Tesrin <October> (the Arabs
ravaged Armenia in the course of campaigns that were renewed annually). When
these troops arrived, they found the land filled with snow. Employing a ruse,
they brought in oxen which they led before them to clear the road. In this
way, they advanced without being impeded by the snow. The Armenians,
who had not foreseen this, were attacked when they did not expect it. The
Taiyaye embarked on devastation and pillage. They took captive the
population, set fire to the villages and returned to their country joyfully.

The other army, which remained with Mu?awiya, advanced into the region of
Cesarea of Cappadocia. Passing through Callisura, they found the villages
full of men and animals and seized them. After collecting booty from the
whole country, Mu?awiya attacked the town. He fought against it for ten
days. Then, they totally devastated the whole province, left the town
abandoned and withdrew. A few days later, they came back to Cesarea for a
second time. They fought against it for many days. The inhabitants of
Cesarea, seeing that a great wrath had fallen upon them and that they had
no liberator, then agreed to negotiate for their lives. The leaders went out
and consented to pay a tribute. When the sons of Hagar [Arabs] entered the
town and saw the beauty of the buildings, churches and monasteries, and
its great opulence, they regretted their promises to them. But as they could
not go back on their pledges, they took everything they wanted and went
away to the region of Amorium. When they saw the charms of the region,
which was like paradise, they caused no damage, but turned towards the
town. After surrounding it, realising that it was impregnable, they suggested
to its inhabitants that they negotiate with them and open the town to them.
As the latter did not agree, Mu?awiya sent his troops to ravage the
countryside: they plundered gold, silver, riches like dust, and returned to
their country. [2:441]

Michael the Syrian

Armenia (ca. 705)

The Extermination of the Armenian Nobles

At the time of the domination of the [Arabs] <Tadjics> after the death of the
first [Prophet] Muhammad <Mahmed>, in the year 85 of their era and in the
reign of Abd al-Malik, son of Marwan, they lit a fire against us, inspired by
Satan who breathed a spirit of wrath into them. Conniving together, with
poisonous and deadly malice, they formed an atrocious plan, which added
to the ills that they had already made us suffer (in 695, the Arabs embarked on
confiscations and massacres in Armenia. In about 700, the general uprising of
Armenia provoked a campaign of repression); for they totally exterminated and
slaughtered our troops and their generals, our leaders, our princes, the
nobles, and those who were of the satrapal race.

They made haste to send messages to different places, bearing false news,
intended – by means of insidious words and false promises – at persuading
all the Armenian leaders to gather in one place. They distributed many gifts
to them on behalf of the caliph, gave them dahekans [gold coins] in
profusion and restituted the year?s taxes to them. They used wiles to take
away their weapons, as if they themselves wanted to place themselves
under the protection of their swords. "You", they said to them, "You are not
like us, firm in your oaths". Then, having gathered them all together, they
places them under good guard in two different places, some at Nakhidjevan,
the rest in the market town of Chram (on the Araxes). The leader of these
scoundrels, named Qasim (governor of Nakhidjevan and lieutenant of Mahmed),
friend of Mahmed (General of Abd al-Malik and son of Marwan I), was governor of
Armenia by order of Abd al Malik.

Having gathered the Armenian satraps in this way, they said: "Let no one set
foot outside this great assembly". Then, having secretly taken away their
weapons, they set watches and running to the gates, they blocked them with
rubble. Meanwhile, the Armenians intoned the canticle of the Holy Children
in the furnace, and that of the angels extolling the King of the heavenly
spirits with the shepherds. Having made an opening in the roof, the Arabs
set fire to it and piled up larger quantities of combustible material than there
ever was in the furnace of Babylon. Driven on by the fear of their tyrannical
sovereign and by a host of demons who had entered their bodies, they were
filled with rage and circled the building, flashing their swords. Fathers felt
their entrails burn with paternal love; while a rain of fire fell from the ceiling,
sticking to their children?s clothes and setting them on fire, they ripped the
tatters from them. Faced with the painful death of those to whom they had
given life, they ignored the dangers for themselves; all died enveloped in
flames. [?]

The executioners were now safe from their fears, they who, so many times
and despite their numbers, had been beaten by a handful of brave and
noble Armenian leaders. This was not all: the heads of our most
distinguished warriors were cut off and hung on sticks. That was the last act
of this tragedy.

Later, the infidels, those scoundrels, spread out in every direction and
searched the houses of those they had tortured. They took away whatever
treasures were in the country; they also seized the houses of knights and
their families; after which they led their prisoners away to Nakhidjevan.

They took those who were cast down by the reports of these cruelties and
who wept for the fate of our homeland, to show them the wretched people
attached to crosses; they wanted in this way not only to sow terror in the
soul of our people, but to display their bravery to the eyes of the world.

This iniquitous mystery was carried out in the sixteenth year of the rule of
Abd al-Malik, who laid waste to Armenia and crushed it with ills until the day
of his death (other chroniclers place these events under Walid I). Four times these
devastations were renewed on his orders. After his death, and in the first
year of the rule of Walid [?] at the time of the festival of Easter, they
transported this multitude of captives to the capital town of Dvin. During the
heat of summer, they kept them in prison; and, I do believe, more of them
died than survived. When autumn came, they dragged them out from there
and, having marked them on the neck, they sent them to Assyria, after
counting and registering each one of them. In Damascus, the nobles were
kept at the court, their children consigned to practising a trade, and the rest
divided between different masters. As for those who succumbed on the
road, I do not know if they received a burial or if they remained lying where
they fell. [pp. 238-40].

Elegy on the Misfortunes of Armenia (703)

and the Martyrdom of Saint Vahan of Gogh?ten (736)


These same Events Described by a Muslim Chronicler

During the insurrection of ibn-az-Zabair (Ibn al-Zubayr had proclaimed himself
caliph at Mecca. He was killed in 692 by al Hajjaj, general of Abd al-Malik, who thus
became the only ruler of the empire. There are discrepancies in the dates. It seems
that Abd al-Malik?s general Muhammad b. Marwan had already conducted a
campaign in Armenia in 692, but the massacre in the churches occurred in 705 during
a second campaign. See Vardan, La Domination Arabe, 95-98), Armenia rose and
its nobles with their followers threw off their allegiance. When Muhammad
ibn-Marwan held under his brother Abd al-Malik the governorship of
Armenia, he led the fight against them and won the victory, slaughtering and
taking captives. Thus, he subdued the land. He promised those who
survived higher stipends than the ordinary soldiers? pay. For that purpose
they assembled in churches in the province of Khilat where he locked them
in and put guards on the door, and then he frightened them. In this
campaign Umm [the mother of] Yazid ibn-Usaid was taken captive from
as-Sisajan, she being the daughter of as-Sisajan?s patrician. [p. 322]


Under the Caliphs Sulayman and Umar II (715-720)

In the year 1028 <716-17>, Maslama crossed into the Roman [Byzantine]
Empire (Maslama, son of the caliph Abd al-Malik and half-brother of the ruling caliph,
Sulayman. In 715, the Muslims launched raids on Amorium, Cappadocia, and
Pergamum. In 717-18, Maslama laid siege to Constantinople). Countless Arab
troops assembled and began to invade the territory of the Romans. All
[those from] the lands of Asia and Cappadocia took flight before them, as
well as [those from] the whole coastal region.

They made their way to Mount Maurus (The Amanus, north of Antioch) and
Lebanon, as far as Melitene, and on the river Arzanius (the author does not
specify if this is the Arzan which flows into the Tigris or the eastern branch of the
Euphrates, both in Armenia. For the topography of Christian Assyria, cf. Fiey, Assyrie
chretienne, and idem, Mossoul Chretienne), and as far as the interior of Armenia.
All this region was remarkable for the density of its population and the
abundance of its vineyards, its cereals and its magnificent trees of every
kind. Henceforth, it was laid waste and these lands are no longer inhabited.
[p. 12]

In the year 1032 <720-21>, which was the first year of Umar (Umar b. Abd
al-Aziz 717-20. There is a discordance in the dates), king of the Arabs, and
the fourth of Leo [III, the Isaurian, 717-41], emperor of the Romans, Maslama
left their territory, after having pillaged and devastated all that region which
he transformed into an arid desert. [p. 14]

[Pseudo] Dionysius of Tell-Mahre

Spain and France (793-860)

In 177 <17 April 793>, Hisham, prince of Spain, sent a large army
commanded by Abd al-Malik b. Abd al-Wahid b. Mugith into enemy territory,
and which made forays as far as Narbonne and Jaranda <Gerona>. This
general first attacked jaranda where there was an elite Frank garrison; he
killed the bravest, destroyed the walls and towers of the town and almost
managed to seize it. He then marched on to Narbonne, where he repeated
the same actions, then pushing forward, he trampled underfoot the land of
the Cerdagne (district of La Cerdana, region around Puigcerda, near Andorra). For
several months he traversed this land in every direction, raping women,
killing warriors, destroying fortresses, burning and pillaging everything,
driving back the enemy who fled in disorder. He returned safe and sound,
dragging behind him God alone knows how much booty. This is one of the
most famous expeditions of the Muslims of Spain. [p. 144]

In 210 <23 April 825>, Abd ar-Rahman b. al-Hakam sent a strong troop of
cavalry commanded by Ubayd Allah – known by the name of Ibn al-Balansi –
into Frank territory. This officer led razzias in all directions, embarked on
murder and pillage, and took prisoners. In Rebi I <June-July 825>, an
encounter which took place against the troops of the infidels ended in the
rout of the latter, who lost many people; our men won an important victory
there. [p. 200]

In 223 <2 December 837>, Abd ar-Rahman b. Al-Hakam, sovereign of
Spain, sent an army against Alava; it camped near Hisn al-Gharat, which it
besieged; it seized the booty that was found there, killed the inhabitants and
withdrew, carrying off women and children as captives. [p. 211]

In 231 <6 September 845>, a Muslim army advanced into Galicia on the
territory of the infidels, where it pillaged and massacred everyone. It
advanced as far as the town of Leon, which it besieged with catapaults. The
terrified inhabitants fled, abandoning the town and what it contained, so that
the Muslims plundered it as they pleased, then reduced what was left to
ruins. But they withdrew without having been able to destroy the walls,
because they were seventeen cubits wide, and they could do no more than
open many breaches in them. [p. 222]

In 246 <27 March 860>, Muhammad b. Abd ar-Rahman advanced with many
troops and a large military apparatus against the region of Pamplona. He
reduced, ruined and ravaged this territory, where he pillaged and sowed
death. [p. 236]

Ibn al-Athir, Annales


The Taking of Amorium (838)

Thousands of men on both sides died during the three days of battle. Then
the king was shown a cleft in the wall (the caliph al-Mu?tasim 833-42, brother of al
Ma?mun 813-33). They concentrated all the ballistas and all the battering rams
against that place; when they had assailed that place for two days, they
suddenly made a breach in the walls, and a burst of lamentation came from
within and a shout <of joy> from without. The many fighters who had been
killed were piled up over this breach so that it was filled in with corpses, and
the besiegers were not able to enter. Abu Ishaq grew angry; gathering
together his Moorish and Turkish slaves, he positioned them in front and his
troops behind them: whoever turned his back was killed.

Then the Romans [Byzantines] asked to come and see him, and he
consented. The bishop and three notables came forward; they asked him if
they could evacuate the town and leave. The king, in his pride, hardened his
heart and did not agree. As they returned, one of them, called Bodin, went
back to the king and promised to betray the town to him by a ruse. The king
accepted with pleasure and gave him ten thousand darics. The traitor gave
them this signal: "When you see me standing on the wall, raising my hand
and removing my cap from my head, you will know that I have sent the
fighters away from the breach, draw near and enter". The bishop, seeing
Bodin going back to the king, realised that he intended to betray the town.

When the inhabitants realised that Bodin was letting the Taiyaye enter the
town, they took flight, some to the church, crying Kyrie eleison, some into
houses, others into cisterns, still others into ditches; the women covered
their children, like chickens, so as not to be separated from them, either by
the sword or by slavery. The sword of the Taiyaye began the slaughter and
heaped them up by piles; when their sword was drunk with blood, the order
came to massacre no more, but to take the population captive and to lead it

Then they pillaged the town. When the king entered to see the town, he
admired the beautiful structure of the temples and palaces. As news came
which worried him, he set the town on fire and burned it down. There were
so many women?s convents and monasteries that over a thousand virgins
were led into captivity, not counting those that had been slaughtered. They
were given to the Moorish and Turkish slaves, so as to assuage their lust:
glory to the incomprehensible judgements <of God! >. They burned all those
who were hidden in houses or who had climbed up to the church galleries.

When the booty from the town was collected in one place, the king, seeing
that the population was very numerous, gave the order to kill four thousand
men. He also gave the order to take away the fabrics and the gold, silver
and bronze objects and the rest of the yield from the pillage. They also
began to take away the population: and there was a clamor of lamentation
from the women, men and children, when children were separated and
removed from the arms of their parents; they shouted and howled. When the
king heard their cries of lamentation and knew their cause, he was angry
that they had begun to take the population away without his permission. In
his anger, he got on his horse, and he struck and killed with his own hands
three men whom he met leading slaves away. He immediately had the
population assembled on the place where it was; on his orders, one part
was given to the officers of the troop, and one part to the Turks, the king?s
slaves; and one part was sold to merchants. A family was sold as a whole;
and parents were not separated from children. [3:98-100]

At this period [841], Theophilus [829-42], emperor of the Romans, sent gifts
to Abu Ishaq, king of the Taiyaye, and asked for an exchange of Roman
prisoners against the Taiyaye. Abu Ishaq accepted the gifts, sent back even
larger ones, and said: "We Arabs cannot agree to compare Muslims with
Romans, because God values them more highly than the latter. However, if
you return the Taiyaye to me and ask for nothing in exchange, we can return
twice as many and outdo you in everything". The envoys returned with fifty
camel-loads of princely gifts. And peace between the kings was restored.

Michael the Syrian

Exchange of Prisoners (September 845)

And the Rhomaye [Byzantines] sent an ambassador to the Arabs on the
subject of peace, and the exchange of prisoners. And when the ambassador
of the Rhomaye came, Wathek [Wathiq] the king received him gladly, and he
did not speak arrogant words like his father, who said "We do not admit that
the Christians are of equal value with the Arabs when <weighed in> the
balance for exchange", but straightway he wished to exchange man for man.
Now the ambassador of the Rhomaye was not at first pleased <with this
view>, and he said, "All the Arab prisoners which we have and soldiers
whom we have made prisoners during the wars, whilst as regards the
Christian prisoners that are with you, the greatest number of them are
soldiers which ye have captured in the villages, and old men, and old
women, and very young boys, and girls. How can we possibly give soul for
soul?" And when they had contended in this wise for days, finally the
ambassador agreed to exchange one for one. And because the number of
the Arab prisoners amounted to four thousand three hundred and sixty-two
souls, and the number of the Christians was fewer, Wathek the king sent
and collected from all his boundaries slaves, both male and female, which
he bought from their owners. And since even by this means the <full>
number was not made up, he drove out from his palace the handmaidens
which he had chosen from the Rhomaye, and sent them with his
ambassadors. And the Arabs and the Rhomaye were gathered together on
the river [Lamos, near the town] of Silawkia [Seleucia in Cilicia], which is on
the frontier of Tarsos, and the liberation <of the prisoners> took place

Bar Hebraeus


Under the Caliph al-Mutawakkil (847-861)

Provoked by the depredations of tax collectors and religious persecutions,
the Armenian nobles rebelled and expelled the emirs of Taron and
Vaspurakan. In order to subdue them, the caliph gathered an immense
army under the orders of the emir Yusuf.

The following year [851] the monarch, with his counselors and all the
grandees of Babylonia [Baghdad], decided and firmly resolved to strip all the
Armenian princes of their domains in order, they said, to appropriate their
heritage for themselves. It was first necessary to seize Ashot [Ardzruni] and
his family, Bagarat [Bagratuni] and his family. They added, "For once these
latter are removed, no one would be able to hold his position and stand up
against them". At the same time, he assembled troops, formed battalions of
horsemen, bold soldiers and captains; he entrusted them to a certain Yusuf,
son of Abuseth, and charged him with the command of the country in place
of his father, who had died on the road in the lands of Assyria [Iraq], when
he was marching towards Armenia in order to punish it according to the
agreed plan. "If you succeed", he told him, "in carrying out our plans against
Armenia and its princes; if matters are brought to a successful conclusion
just as I could wish; and if you are able to let me see the princes of Armenia
in irons, particularly Ashot, prince of Vaspurakan, I will give you, you and
your son, this land as an inheritance. Hasten, therefore, fly on his tracks,
have no hesitation nor weakness nor delay nor tardiness in this matter
which is yours."

The general left immediately, committed to the evil designs of his plan. He
entered the canton of Aghbak, a province of Vaspurakan, via Atrpatakan,
and camped at Adamakert (in the canton of Little Aghbak, on the Greater Zab
river), the residence of the Ardzruni. From there he sent his messengers to
pillage and gather up, with atrocious cruelty, the takings of his devastations.
He summoned the prince [Ashot] in amicable and peaceful terms, on the
pretext of royal taxes; but the latter was advised not to present himself in
person, by someone from the army of the Tadjics [Arabs], who disclosed to
him the evil intentions formed against him. [pp. 102-3]

Ashot Takes Flight and Sends a Letter to Yusuf

In addition, Ashot?s mother, sister of Sahak and Bagarat, prince of Taron, an
intelligent woman both in word and deed, as pious as she was prudent, went
to Yusuf with many gifts and begged him to establish peaceful good
relations with her sons and with the whole land of Vaspuakan. Her gifts were
accepted and her request fulfilled; in addition, the emir obtained for himself
illustrious and respected hostages. As for Ashot?s mother, he sent her away
with great honours, and he, himself, quietly crossed Vaspurakan, without
causing it great damage, with the hostages in his suite. Crossing the district
of Bznunik, he went to khlath because he wanted to wait for a favourable
occasion to attack his quarry by trickery and deceit.

Once he had arrived at khlath (on Lake Van), the emir entered and camped
his troops in the citadel of the town. He sent messengers to Bagarat and an
invitation to present himself without fear or delay. His handwritten letter
stated that he entrusted him with the affairs of Armenia, so that he himself
could return to the court on the pretext of the approach of winter and the
bitterness of the winds from the north and the frosts, to which he was not

Bagarat, who had no suspicion of the perfidy of the monarch and his men,
with the confidence which unreserved devotion gives, made his
arrangements and preparations in accordance with the will of God. To obey
the monarch?s order, he followed the messengers, without suspecting either
a trap or deceit; in this, he was mistaken. He was equipped with the Holy
Testaments, divine scriptures, and took with him a host of servants and
various members of the clergy. The emir seized him and all his Bagratide
relations, loaded them with chains and, having sent them to Samara [near
Baghdad], went in person to spend the winter in Mush, a town in the Taron,
taking in his suite the hostages, either grandees of the house of Ardzruni or
notables and their dependants. As for the inhabitants, he took them captive
in order to sell them in Assyria and in all the places where the Tadjics ruled.
Half of them were destined for service in the towns, as water-carriers,
woodcutters, subjected to the roughest work during the harsh winter. Those
who escaped fled in all directions, their homeland being completely
devastated, except for the heights and fortresses of khouth, occupied by
mountain-dwellers. [p. 104]

In order to avenge their prince, the mountain-dwellers assassinated Yusuf
(852). The caliph recruited an army of two hundred thousand men from all
the provinces of the empire, and placed it under the orders of the Turk

At this time Bugha, having divided his troops into two bodies and crossed
the land of Apahunik, came and entered the town of Khlath (the Armenian text
indicates that Bugha divided his troops after entering Khlath, not before. The
translation into English has been made from Brosset?s French translation of Ardzruni,
with improvements when that text differed from the Armenian original). He gave the
order to enter Vaspurakan, to swamp the region, to carry off from there
captives and booty, to empty the densely populated villages and market
towns, to drag away all the rest [as] prisoners, women and children, and to
load Ashot with irons and bring him to the monarch so that he could be
punished for his past deeds and for his revolt against the Tadjics. Having
entrusted one part of his troops to a commander called Jirak, he instructed
him to move toward Reshtunik (south of Lake Van, in the province of Mogk), and
he himself entered the borders of Apahunik with the strongest body, like
hunters of lions or of other such species surrounding a shallow ditch, in
order to seize in his clutches the powerful Ashot, prince of the bold – while
still watching out that he did not slip through their hands and that he did not
cause them some terrible disaster by nocturnal attacks. Meanwhile, as the
stronghold of Hoghts (in the district Aghdznik – Greater Armenia, north of Tigris)
was massive, Jirak very quickly proceeded to the district of Reshtunik and
poured his soldiers into the valley of Arhovank, on the borders of Mogk
where was gathered the population of Reshtunik, which fell into the teeth of
merciless dogs, that tore the men apart, feeding on their corpses: he had
them put to the sword and flooded the land with their blood. One part was
led into slavery; the dwellings towns and fields were burned, depopulated of
men and animals. Having taken the town of [Rhami] Noragiugh, in the
district of Reshtunik, they led the people to the market place, cords around
their necks, and put them to the sword. [p. 110]

Bugha succeeded in subduing Arab Armenia by a general massacre. The
Armenian leaders, after having betrayed one another, were executed or
sent with their families to the caliph who forced them to abjure their faith.

Thenceforth all the Armenian grandees began to separate to form different
factions and to take refuge in the strongholds and citadels of Vaspurakan,
each as fast as he could. The troops scattered, dispersed in the land, in
order to fulfil the word [of God]. [?]

The general [Bugha], therefore, saw that everything had succeeded as he
had wished; that, according to the intentions of the ungodly king, the wicked
plans which they had envisaged for the principality of Vaspurakan had had a
favourable outcome. All the valiant men having been eliminated, there was
no longer any one in a position to stand up firmly and resist him. The bands
of Tadjics and their clans, having followed the trail, began to disperse and
spread out over the surface of the land, with unrestrained boldness. They
set about dividing up the lands, drawing lots for them among themselves
and measuring boundaries with ropes, and settling down peacefully in the
strongholds, as they were now absolutely reassured regarding the sides
from whence came their anxieties. It was a painful distress for the country
such as had never been and would not be seen again. Villages, fields and
market towns turned into deserts, lost their charm and their attractiveness;
likewise the various plants and trees covering the land lost their order and
alignment. This is the evil, whose invasion the prophet Joel deplored [Joel
2:25]. It seems that the grasshopper, large and small, that the caterpillar and
the worm have borne down upon us altogether, that they have swooped
down upon the fruit trees, overladen with noxious plants. So it was that the
works and possessions of man were lost and annihilated, precisely as it is
said in the book of the prophet Joel?s vision.

Then, having given the order to sell the captives to whomsoever one
wished, Bugha went to the town of Dvin, where his winter quarters were
prepared, while waiting for the days of spring. He was overburdened with
prisoners, and our land was desolated by his passage and his departure.

When he [Bugha] entered the town with an innumerable quantity of
prisoners and captives, he had them sold as slaves to foreign tribes, in order
to remove them far from their fathers? houses and their inheritances. [p. 138]

Thomas Ardzruni

Sicily and Italy (835-851 and 884)

Another raid directed at Etna and the neighbouring strongholds resulted in
the burning of harvests, the slaughter of many men and pillage. Another raid
was again organised in the same direction by Abu al-Aghlab in 221 <25
December 835>; the booty brought back was so extensive that slaves were
sold for almost nothing. As for those who took part in this expedition, they
returned safe and sound. In the same year, a fleet was sent against the
<neighbouring> islands; after having taken rich booty and conquered
several towns and fortresses there, they returned safe and sound. [pp.

In 234 <5 August 848>, the inhabitants of Ragusa made peace with the
Muslims in exchange for surrendering the town and what it contained. The
conquerors destroyed it after having taken away everything that could be

In 235 <25 July 849>, a troop of Muslims marched against Castrogiovanni
and returned safe and sound, after having subjected that town to pillage,
murder and fire.

Redjeb 236 <January 851> saw the death of the Muslim emir of Sicily,
Muhammad b. Abd Allah b. al-Aghlab, who had wielded power for nineteen
years. He resided in Palermo, which he did not leave; he contented himself
with sending out troops and columns for there, who served as his
instruments of conquest and pillage. [pp. 217-18]

Also, in 271 [884?] a strong Muslim column was directed against Rametta; it
wrought great ravages and returned with much booty and many prisoners.
As it chanced that the emir of Sicily, al-Husayn b. Ahmad, had died at that
time, he was replaced by Sawada b. Muhammad b. Khafadja Temimi. When
the latter arrived on the island, he led a strong army against Catania and
destroyed everything which was to be found in <the neighbourhood>. He
then went on to wage war against the inhabitants of Taormina, and ravaged
the crops of the land. He was continuing his advance when a messenger
from the Christian patrician came to beg for a truce and an exchange of
prisoners. Sawada granted a three-month truce and redeemed three
hundred Muslim prisoners, after which he returned to Palermo. [p. 261]

Ibn al-Athir, Annales


Causes of the Invasions by the Turks (Eleventh Century)

As the Arabs, that is to say the Taiyaye, grew weaker and as the Greeks
[Byzantines] seized many countries, the Taiyaye had to call on the Turks to
assist them. They marched with the Arabs as subjects and not as masters.
However, as they acted bravely and gained victories wherever they went,
they gradually became accustomed to triumphing. They loaded the riches of
the region and carried them off to their land, and showed them to others,
urging them to depart with them and go and live in an excellent region, filled
with such goods. [3:154]

Pillage of Melitene (Malatia) (1057)

At this same period, the dominion of the Turks began in some regions of
Persia. Actually, a sultan called Tughril-Beg (Tughril Beg 1038-63, founder of
the dynasty of the Seljuks) occupied the throne of the kingdom in the
Khurasan, in the year 430 of the Arab empire. He sent troops who reached
the regions of the Armenians, who were under the domination of the
Romans [Byzantines]. They set about taking prisoners, pillaging, and
burning in a barbarous manner. On several occasions they took prisoners
and led them away without anyone coming out to meet them (the Seljuk Turks
ravaged Armenia from the beginning of the eleventh century. Here the author is
referring to the campaigns of 1048-54).

They reached the stronghold of Melitene, to the number of three thousand,
during the winter of the year 1369 [1057]; and as it did not have a wall,
because Cyriacus (the fortifications of Melitene had been destroyed in 934 by
Joannes Kurkuas domestikos, and the Armenian leader, Mleh) had destroyed it
when he had seized it from the Taiyaye, the inhabitants began to flee to the
mountain, where they died of cold and hunger. The first day, the Turks
began by slaughtering mercilessly; so that many hid themselves under the
corpses of those <persons> killed. The Turks set up their camp outside the
town on the flank of a hill; none of them spent the night outside of the camp
and the candles of the churches remained lit throughout the night. [3:158]

The second day they set to torturing men so that they would show them
hidden things [treasures]; and several died in torments; for example, the
deacon Petrus, writer and schoolteacher. [?]

The Turks stayed at Melitene for ten days, laying waste and pillaging. Then
they set fire to the wretched town, devastated the area within a day?s march
around and burned the whole land.

During this pillaging, the convent of Bar Gagai [in the area of Melitene] was
seized and laid waste. After taking the population away, they departed; they
strayed from the road and fell upon difficult mountains and rivers. While they
were camping in a valley in the neighbourhood of the mountain of the
Sinisaya (the inhabitants of Sasun), heavy snow fell which hampered their
progress. The Sinisaya having observed this, came down, occupied the
roads and paths in front of them on all sides, and they died there of cold and
hunger; those who survived were killed by the Sinisaya; none whatsoever
escaping. The captive people from Melitene, all those who had escaped
death, assisted in the massacre, and those who were hidden in the
mountains likewise took part. [3:159]

The emperor [Michael VI Stratioticus, 1056-57], seeing that the Turks were
moving up and had got as far as the sea of Pontus (the Black Sea), taking
captives, pillaging and burning, took pity on the Christian people and sent
horses and chariots, and after they had loaded their possessions, took them
across the sea. <The Turks> pillaged towns and villages in the whole region
of Pontus. As they were empty of inhabitants, this benefited the Turks who
found there a place to live. And while everyone blamed the emperor, we for
our part say that this came not from him but from above. [3:160]

Michael the Syrian


During the year 551 (the date is wrong and could be 511,1062) of the Armenian
era, the Turks under the command of three of Sultan Tughril [Beg]?s
generals, called Slar Khorasan, Mdjmdj [Medjmedj] and Isulv, [brought about
a torrent of blood on the Christian nation and they] invaded the district of
Baghin in the Fourth Armenia and sacked it. From there [like a venomous
snake], they moved into the adjacent districts of Thelkhum and Arghni,
where they took the Christians by surprise and exterminated them. The
massacre began on the 4th of the month of Areg, a Saturday, at the eighth
hour of the day (there follows a vivid description of massacre that is not translated
by Dulaurier. The translation into English has been made from Dulaurier?s French
translation, with omissions reintegrated in square brackets). [p. 296]

Matthew of Edessa

The Taking of Ani by Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan (1064)

In 513 of the Armenian era [1064], at the time of the festival of the Virgin, on
a Monday, the town of Ani was taken by the Sultan Alp Arslan [1063-73],
who massacred its inhabitants, apart from the women and children whom he
led into captivity. [p. 297]

Samuel of Ani

Syria and Palestine

As the Turks were ruling the lands of Syria and Palestine, they inflicted
injuries on Christians who went to pray in Jerusalem, beat them, pillaged
them, levied the poll tax at the gate of the town and also at Golgotha and the
[Holy] Sepulchre; and in addition, every time they saw a caravan of
Christians, particularly of those <who were coming> from Rome and the
lands of Italy, they made every effort to cause their death in diverse ways.
And when countless people had perished as a result, the kings and counts
were seized with [religious] zeal and left Rome; troops from all these
countries joined them, and they came by sea to Constantinople (First Crusade
1096-99). [3:182]

Michael the Syrian