Page 1109

1109 MOHAMMEDAN. ASCENDENCY.-CONQUESTS OF FIRST CALIPHS. 1109

resumed, but Heraclius, now thoroughly alarmed,

raised another army of seventy thousand men,

and a second time hurried to the relief of Damascus. Khaled called upon the Moslem

chiefs of Arabia for aid, and as soon as possible broke up his camp before the city, marching in the direction of Aiznadin. The garrison of Damascus sallied forth and pursued the

retiring army. Khaled, however, turned upon

them and inflicted a severe defeat; but the

assailants succeeded in carrying off a part of

the baggage and many of the Moslem women.

These in turn were recaptured by Khaled,

and the assailants were glad to make good

their escape within the fortifications of the city.

Meanwhile the Moslem reinforcements arrived before Aiznadin, where Khaled now gathered his entire force for the impending battle.

The Imperial army greatly exceeded the Mohammedan in number, and was thoroughly

equipped and disciplined according to the Roman method. After lying face to face for a day

Werdan, the commander of the Christian host,

sought to circumvent Khaled by treachery; but

the latter outwitted his rival, and Werdan was

caught and slain in his own stratagem. Taking advantage of the temporary dismay of the

Imperial army, Khaled, though outnumbered

two to one, charged upon the opposing camp,

and a massacre ensued hitherto unparalleled.

Those of the Christians who survived the onset fled in all directions. The spoils of the

overthrown were greater than the victorious

Moslems could well dispose of.

It appeared that all Arabia was now ready

for .the field. Every chief and his tribe were

eager to join the victorious Khaled for the

capture of Damascus. After the victory of

Aiznadin the Mohammedans resumed the investment of the city, and the siege was pressed

with such severity that neither citizen nor

soldier ventured beyond the ramparts.

The Moslems, however, were repelled in several assaults, and the garrison in turn was

driven back at every sally. For seventy days

the siege continued with unremitting rigor.

When at last the people were reduced to extremity, an embassy went forth, and one of

the city gates was opened to Obeidah. At the

same time Khaled obtained possession of the gate on the opposite side, and fought his way

into the city, where he met the forces of

Obeidah, peacefully marching in according to

the terms of capitulation. Great was the rage

of Khaled, who swore by Allah that he would

put every infidel to the sword. For a while

the slaughter continued; but Khaled was at

length induced to desist, and to honor the

terms which had been granted by the more

merciful Obeidah.

So Damascus fell into the hands of the

Moslems. A part of the inhabitants remained

and became tributary to the Caliph, and the

rest were permitted to retire with their property in the direction of Antioch. The latter,

however, were pursued by the merciless Khaled, overtaken in their encampment beyond

Mount Libanus, and were all slain or captured.

Tilis exploit having been accomplished, the

Moslems hastened back to Damascus, where

some time was spent in dividing the spoilt of

the great conquest.

In the mean time Abu Beker grew feeble

with age, and died at Medina. His death occurred on the very day of the capture of Damascus, and before the news of that great

victory could reach him. Perceiving his end

at hand, the aged Caliph dictated a will to his

secretary, in which he nominated Omar as his

successor. The latter was little disposed to

accept the burden of the Caliphate. Having

extorted from Omar a promise to accept the

office and to rule in accordance with the precepts of the Koran, good Abu Beker, after a

reign of a little more than two years, left the

world in full assurance of Paradise.

The succession fell peaceably to Omar, who

began Ids reign in A. D. 6.34. He was a man

great in mind and great in stature, strong of

will and resolute of purpose. The two year successful reign of his predecessor had left

the Caliphate in the ascendant; and it was

not unlikely that Omar would allow the conquests of Islam to stop with their present

limits. His religious zeal was equal to his

warlike valor, and his private life was as temperate as his public example was commendable.

For the false luxury of the world he had no

liking. His manners were as severe as those

of John the Baptist. His beverage was water;