Page 1111

1111 MOHAMMEDAN ASCENDENCY.-CONQUESTS OF FIRST CALIPHS. 1111

whole territories of Emessa, Alhadir, and

Kennesrin were saved from devastation.

Relations quite friendly were thus established between the dominant Moslems and the

subject Syrian populations. The policy of

Obeidah was so successful that when for a

long time no intelligence of further conquest

was borne to Medina, Caliph Omar, believing

that Obeidah had ceased to glorify the Prophet,

wrote him a letter complaining of his apathy

in the cause. Stung by the reproaches of his

master, Obeidah left Khaled to await the expiration of the year's truce at Emessa, and

himself at once set forward on an expedition

to Baalbec. While on the march he captured

a rich caravan of merchants and found himself in possession of four hundred loads of

silks and sugars. The caravan, however, was

permitted to ransom itself and continue on its

way to Baalbec. Thus were the people of that

city notified of the approach of the Moslems.

Herbis, the Syrian governor, believing that

the disturbers of his peace were only a band

of marauders, sallied forth with an army to

put to flight the assailants of his people; but

Obeidah inflicted on him a severe defeat and

he was glad to secure himself within the walls

of Baalbec. The city was soon besieged, but

the garrison made a brave defense. In a sally

which was ordered by Herbis, the Moslems

were driven back. Shortly the besieged made

a second sortie in full force, and a general

battle ensued, in which the Syrians were defeated. Being reduced to extremities, Herbis

finally sought a conference with Obeidah, and

Baalbec, like Emessa, was ransomed from pillage at a heavy cost. The same scenes which

had been witnessed at Emeesa were now reenacted in the recently captured city. Merchantmen grew fat by the establishment of a

trade with the victorious but reckless Moslems,

who, burdened with the spoils of war, were

quick to purchase at an exorbitant price whatever pleased their fancy.

Meanwhile the year of truce with Emessa

expired, and Obeidah demanded the actual

surrender of the city. The sole condition of

exemption was the acceptance by the people

of the faith of Islam or the payment of an

annual tribute. "I invite you," said Obeidah, "to embrace our holy faith and the law revealed to our Prophet Mohammed, and we

will send pious men to instruct you, and you

shall participate in all our fortunes. If you

refuse, you shall be left in possession of all

your property on the payment of annual

tribute. If you reject both conditions, come

forth from behind your stone walls and let

Allah, the supreme judge, decide between us."

The authorities of Emessa rejected this

summons with contempt. The garrison presently sallied forth, and the Moslems were

handled roughly. Obeidah then resorted to

stratagem and proposed to the inhabitants that

he would retire and undertake the conquest

of other cities, on condition that his army

should be provisioned for a five days' march

from the storehouses of the city. The proposal

was gladly accepted, but when the five day supply of provisions were dealt out to the Moslems,

Obeidah, pretending that the supply was still

insufficient, asked the privilege of purchasing

additional stores. This granted, he continued

to buy until the supplies of Emessa were

greatly reduced. The Moslem army then

marched away and quickly captured the towns

of Arrestan and Shaizar. This done, he returned with all haste to Emessa, claiming that

his promise to leave the city was by no means

a promise not to return.

Thus by craft and subtlety the inhabitants

of Emessa found themselves overreached and

subjected to the hardships of another siege.

After several days' fighting, during which the

Moslems found themselves unable to make any

impression on the steady phalanxes of the

Syrian Greeks, they resorted to their usual

stratagem of pretending to fly from the fight.

The opposing army, believing that the Arabs

were really routed, rushed forward in pursuit

and fell to plundering the Moslem camp.

Suddenly, however, the forces of Obeidah

turned from their flight and threw themselves

headlong upon the broken ranks of the Syrians. The field was strewn with Christian

dead. The governor was discovered among the slain, his bloody garments

still fragrant with the perfumes of the East.

The city, unable to offer further resistance,

immediately surrendered. Obeidah, however,