Page 1119

MOHAMMEDAN ASCENDENCY-CONQUESTS OF FIRST CALIPHS

of the Caliph exhorted the general to fear

not, but to strike in the name of the Prophet.

Before venturing on a battle, however, Abu

Wakkas determined to attempt the conversion

of his enemy by persuasion. An embassy,

consisting of the most eminent Arabs, was

sent to the Persian capital, and the king was

exhorted to turn to the faith of Islam. The

latter was indignant at the impudent demand,

and the conference was broken up with mutual recriminations.

Again the fate of the kingdom was submitted to the fate of battle. The two

hostile armies were drawn up on the plains

of Kadesia. Here a terrible conflict ensued,

but night came without decisive results. The

next day was consumed in skirmishing and

personal combats, in which several of the

leaders on both sides were slain. The third

day's fight was attended with varying successes, and the battle continued during the

night. On the next morning Rustam was

killed, whereupon the Persian army took to

flight, and the camp was. despoiled by the

Moslems. The sacred banner of Persia

was captured by an Arab soldier, who received therefor thirty thousand pieces of

gold. Thus, in the year 635, was fought the

great battle which decided the fate of Persia.

The work of organizing the Babylonian

country was now devolved by the Caliph on

Abu Wakkas. A new capital, named Bassora, was founded on the united Euphrates

and Tigris, and here were established the

head-quarters of the Mohammedans in the

East. In a short time the city grew into

. importance, becoming a great mart for the

commerce of India. Until the present day

Bassora is regarded as one of the principal

emporiums of eastern trade.

As yet the capital of Persia had not been

assailed by the Moslems. But after the battle

of Kadesia, the people were so dispirited that

the completion of the conquest by the Arabs

was only a question of time. Many cities and

strongholds were given up without even a

show of defense. What remained of ancient

Babylon thus fell into the hands of the followers of the Prophet.

After a short time Abu Wakkas gathered his forces, crossed the Tigris, and advanced

against Madain. On his approach to the capital the Persian counselors besought the king,

Yezdegird, to save himself and them by flying

into Khorassan. No settled policy was determined on until the Moslems were within one

day's march of Madain. Then the king, accompanied by his panic-struck household, took

to flight. There was no formal resistance to

the entrance of the Arabs into the capital of

Persia. "How many gardens and fountains,"

said Abu Wakkas, "and fields of corn and fair

dwellings and other sources of delight did they

leave behind them!"

The abandoned capital was given up to pillage. A scene ensued like that of the sack

of Rome by the barbarians. The Arabs of

the desert broke into the magnificent palace

of Chosroes and reveled in the splendid halls

of the Sassanian king. While the Prophet

lived he had written a letter to the Persian

monarch, demanding his submission to the

new kingdom which Allah was establishing in

the earth; but the haughty sovereign tore up

the Prophet's letter in contempt. "Even so,"

said Mohammed, "shall Allah rend his empire

in pieces." When the Arabs gained possession of the Persian basilica, they cried out:

"Behold the white palace of Khosru! This

is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the

Apostle of God."

Abu Wakkas established himself in the

royal abode. Most of the treasures which

through ages had been accumulated in the

vaults of the capital were seized by the Moslems. These untold spoils of war were distributed according to the Arab method. One-fifth of the whole was set apart for the Caliph,

and the remainder was divided among the

sixty thousand followers of Abu Wakkas, each

soldier receiving twelve hundred pieces of

silver. A caravan of nine hundred heavily laden camels was scarcely able to convey the

Caliph's portion to Medina. Never before

had such an enormous train of spoil been seen

in the streets of the City of the Prophet.

As illustrative of the spirit of the Mohammedans, an incident may be related of the division

of the spoils. The royal carpet of the Persian

palace, perhaps the most famous piece of tapestry