Page 1110

1110 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

his food, of barley bread and dates. His motto

was: "Four things come not back: the spoken

word; the sped arrow; the past life, and the

neglected opportunity."

On acceding to power Omar received the

title of Emir al Moumenin, or Commander of

the Faithful. He began his career by introducing several salutary methods in the administration of justice. He ordered to be prepared a twisted scourge for the backs of a

certain class of offenders, and the remedy was

so freely applied as to provoke the saying,

"Omar's twisted scourge is more to be feared

than his sword."

One of the first acts of the new Caliph

was to reappoint Abu Obeidah to the command of the army in Syria. The measure

was one of great peril; for neither did Obeidah desire to be general-in-chief, nor was it

by any means certain that Khaled would quietly submit to his own deposition. The supremacy of Islam, however, prevailed over all

minor considerations, and the fiery warrior,

who had received the surname of the "Sword

of God," accepted a position subordinate to

Obeidah. A short time after this transfer of

the command the Syrian town of Abyla

was taken by a division of horsemen under

the command of Khaled, and another rich

harvest of booty gathered from the infidels.

A long train of spoil was driven back to

Damascus, and the plunder distributed.

By this time the Saracens had become a

terrible army of veterans. The discipline of

the Koran enjoined moderation in all matters

of appetite, and the simple fare of the followers

of Islam conduced to their excellence as soldiers. While the army was reposing at Damascus, however, the use of the interdicted wine cup began to prevail, and Omar and

Obeidah were scandalized with occasional re-

ports of drunkenness. "By Allah," said the

Caliph, "what is to be done with these wine bibbers." A message was prepared at the

suggestion of all, wherein Obeidah was directed to have the offenders publicly whipped.

On receiving the dispatch the general summoned the guilty, and had the bastinado laid

upon their flesh until the honor of Islam was

vindicated. Such was the heat of religious fervor that many whose potations had been in

secret came forward of their own accord, acknowledged their sin, and were whipped till

their consciences were satisfied.

Leaving a sufficient garrison in Damascus,

Obeidah now went forth to complete the conquest of Syria. The two most important cities

still remaining uncaptured were Emessa and

Baalbec. As soon as the expedition was begun Khaled was sent forward with one-third

of the Moslem army to scour the country in

the direction of Emessa. The main body,

under the general and chief, advanced by way

of Jusheyah, which city purchased immunity

for a year by the payment of a large ransom

to the Mohammedans.

On reaching Emessa, Obeidah found that

Khaled had already begun a siege. An investment ensued; but the authorities of the

city, like those of Jusheyah, preferred to secure a temporary peace by the payment of

ten thousand pieces of gold and two hundred

silken robes. It was stipulated that at the

expiration of a year Emessa should be surrendered to the Moslems, on condition that the

latter should in the mean time have taken the

cities of Aleppo, Alhadir, and Kennesrin, and

that they should have defeated the Imperial

army. By these heavy contributions Obeidah

secured unlimited means of prosecuting his

campaigns and of filling the coffers of the

government at Medina.

As soon as the merchants of Emessa found

themselves secure from aggression they opened

the gates of the city, established fairs, and

began to ply a profitable trade with their conquerors. The god of Thrift began to recover

from Mars a portion of his spoils. The Mohammedans meanwhile ravaged the surrounding country, fell upon the villages of the unbelievers, and seized the property of whoever

would not profess himself a follower of the

Prophet. The Syrian Greeks, having much

of the religious suppleness for which their race

had ever been noted, soon learned that the

readiest and safest way of reaching a conclusion of their peril was by voluntary submission and the payment of tribute. Town

after town sent deputations to Obeidah and

secured peace, until by their own act the