Page 1139

1139 MOHAMMEDAN ASCENDENCY-OMMIADES AND FATIMITES.

the armies which issued from the gates of

Constantinople fatigued, as it were, with the

lassitude of declining age. In no respect,

moreover, was the weakness of the Eastern

Empire more displayed than in the will and

character of Constantine IV, the reigning

sovereign, whose chief element of greatness

was a famous name.

In the preceding volume, a brief reference

has already been made to this effort of the

Moslems to capture Constantinople. No extensive details of the expedition have been

preserved. It is only known that the Mohammedan squadron passed the Dardanelles

in safety and debarked the army a few miles

from the city. The Arabs with their accustomed vehemence began a siege, but

very unlike were the battlements of Constantinople to the puny ramparts surrounding

the towns of Syria and the East. The Greek

capital, moreover, was well defended by

troops collected from many quarters, most of

them veterans in the defense of cities. The

employment of Greek fire spread terror

among the assailants, to whom such explosive

and portentous bombs seemed no less than

the favorite handballs of Ben Safiah. Of

course, the beseigers with their nomad armor

could make no impression on the rock built bastions of the city. So, despairing

of success, they fell away from the prize

which was beyond their grasp and ravaged

the adjacent coasts of the two continents.

They established themselves in the island

of Scyzicus, and from time to time renewed

the conflict through a period of two years.

As the war continued, the forces of the

Moslems were gradually wasted. On the

other hand, the courage of the Greeks was

revived when it was seen that they only had

been able to interpose a bar to the progress

of Islam. By and by they marched forth

with their forces and pursued the Mohammedans, inflicting several defeats. Moawyah

was first driven to act on the defensive, and

then compelled to seek an expensive peace. A

truce was established for thirty years, and

the Caliph agreed to pay the Emperor an

annual tribute of three thousand pieces

of gold, fifty slaves, and fifty Arabian

steeds.

In the mean time the Caliph had grown

old. The compact still existed with Hassati that the latter should succeed to the government on the death of Moawyah. But Yezid, the Caliph's eldest son, was already

a conspirator to secure the succession for himself. In the year 669, the exemplary and

unambitious Hassan ended his career by

poison. Nor is it doubtful that the potion

was administered by an Arab woman at

the instigation of Yezid, who promised to reward her crime with marriage. The prince

died as he had lived, in a serene frame of

mind, calmly consigning his murderers to

the mercies of Allah, before whom they

must presently stand, stripped of all

disguises.

The politic Yezid refused to marry her

whose crime had opened to him the way to

the throne; but he procured her silence with

large gifts of money and jewels. Though

Hassan himself was destroyed, his family

was by no means extinguished. He left as

his contribution to the House of Fatima

fifteen sons and five daughters. One of his

marriages had been with the daughter of

Yezdegird, the last king of Persia, and the

expiring glory of the Sassanida? was blended

with the prophetic blood of Islam. A few

years after the death of Hassan, the celebrated Ayesha, who had survived the death

of Mohammed forty-seven years, and by the

perpetual feuds springing from her jealousy of

Fatima had kept the court of Medina constantly embroiled, expired, A. D. 678. She

left no offspring; nor did any of the other

wives of the Prophet, excepting only Fatima,

transmit his name to posterity.

It will be remembered how the unpopular

Abdallah Ibh Saad attempted to make good

his claim to leadership by the conquest of

Northern Africa; and how he failed before

the walls of Tripoli. Afterwards the attention of the Moslems was absorbed in the civil wars,

and then in the contest with Constantinople.

Thus for a while the African enterprise was

abandoned. The foothold which Islam had

gained on the coast west of Egypt was broken,

and the dominion of the Crescent was again

almost restricted to the valley of the Nile.

After the failure of his war with the Greeks,

Moawyah determined to devote the energies of

his old age to the recovery of what had been

lost on the African coast. To this end an army

was organized and placed under command of

Acbah, who at the head of his forces at once