Page 1125

1125 MOHAMMEDAN ASCENDENCY-OTHMAN AND ALL

The new potentate was already seventy

years of age, gray as to his flowing beard, tall,

swarthy, and in every sense Arabian. He had

not the austerity of manners or simplicity of

character which had belonged to Omar; but

in the strict observance of religious duties he

emulated his predecessor. It was, however,

in the matter of expenditure that Othman

differed most from the second Caliph. He was

lavish in the distribution of the great riches

which conquest had turned into Medina. Nor

was there wanting among the faithful a spirit

to appreciate the liberality of the ruler. In

times of famine the poor were freely supplied

from the bounty of the state. The Caliph

failed not in his antecedents and present conduct to excite the admiration and loyalty of

the true believers. He took in marriage two

daughters of the Prophet, thus combining in

his household the profoundest elements of personal veneration known to the Islamites. In

his previous history Othman had been intimately associated with Mohammed, and had

been a partner of both of his flights. Nor

did any of the companions of the Prophet

stand more closely in his affections than

did the faithful Othman. Of him Abdallah said: "Each thing has its mate, and

each thing its associate: my associate in Paradise is Othman."

The fugitive Yezdegird still hung like a

shadow on the borders of the ancient kingdom. Hope of recovering his former power,

there was none; but the friends of the exiled

king still rose in rebellion here and there, and

gave trouble not a little to the Moslems. The

latter, under their veteran leaders, continued

their conquests in all directions. Ancient Assyria was overrun by their arms. The ruins

of Nineveh, as those of Babylon had already

been, were trodden under foot by the men of

the desert. Yezdegird was pursued from town

to town, from province to province. Being

driven from Rhaga, he found shelter for a

brief season at the magnificent city of Ispahan,

and then fled to the mountains of Faristan,

whence in ancient times the Achaemenian kings

had gone forth to the conquest of the world.

Afterwards Yezdegird sought refuge in Istakar,

among the ruins of Persepolis, and. here he

barely escaped capture by his enemies. Thence

he fled to the province of Kerman, and thence

into Khorassan. For a whUte he hid himself

on the borders of Bactria. In his flight he still maintained the forms of kingly authority. About four thousand dependents of the old Persian court at Madain still followed the wretched king and shared all of

his fortunes.

While tarrying at the city of Merv, Yezdegird busied himself with his superstitions.

He built a temple for the fire-worship, and

hoped, perchance, to win through the favor of

heaven what he had lost by the folly of earth.

Meanwhile the city of Ispahan was garrisoned by the fragments of the Persian army

which had survived the battle of Nehavend.

But on the approach of the Moslems the governor proved treacherous, and the city was

given up. A sterner defense was made at

Istakar. Around this venerable site were gathered the traditions of Persian glory. Within

the ramparts of the city were collected no

fewer than a hundred and twenty thousand

men, who, under the leadership of Shah-Reg, the provincial governor, made a final brave

stand for Persia. But no courage or patriotism could avail against the furious assaults of

the Moslems. A great battle, fought outside

the walls, resulted in the annihilation of the

Persian forces. The leader, Shah-Reg, was

killed, and Istakar fell into the hands of the

Mohammedans.

The province of Khorassan was the next

to be overrun by the invaders. One district

after another was subdued until Yezdegird,

driven to the border, crossed the river Oxus

and fled to the Scythians. Nor did his wanderings cease until he presented himself to the

khan of Tartary and the emperor of China.

Returning from these remote pilgrimages and

supported by the Tartars, he crossed into

Bactria and renewed the effort to recover his

kingdom. Soon, however, he was deserted

by his Northern allies, while his own nobles,

who had so long adhered to his fortunes, entered into a conspiracy to betray him into the

hands of the enemy. Discovering the treason,

he escaped from Merv and continued his flight

to a river, whither he was pursued by a band

of horsemen and hacked to death with their

cimeters. Thus, in the year 651, expired the

last of the old kings of Persia. With him

the fire-temples of the East tottered to their

fall, and the dynasty of Chosroes was therefore brought to an end and Persia became a

Mohammedan province.

Meanwhile Egypt had remained quietly