Het'um the Historian's

History of the Tartars

[The Flower of Histories of the East]

[Book Two]

Chapter 15

The Lordship of the Saracens

As is known from the Gospel [of Luke, oe19], at the time of the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Caesar Augustus, Emperor of the Romans, held absolute lordship over the entire world. But subsequently, a certain Persian king named Xossorasat [Xosrov Anushirvan, 531-79 or Xosrov Aparvez, 591-628] became the first to rebel from the Roman empire and to have himself styled Emperor of Asia. He seized control of Persia, Media, Armenia and Chaldea, and his authority so increased that he entirely wrested those territories from the Roman Emperor by force. Persian rule over this territory lasted for three hundred and twenty-nine [three hundred, oe19] years. Then the Saracens took the rule of Asia from them, as may be seen from the account which follows.

In 622 A.D. [632 A.D., oe19], the Saracens entered the kingdom of Syria and, through warfare, took the extremely wealthy city of Damascus from the Greeks who had held it for a long time. In a brief period they captured the kingdom of Syria. Thereafter they besieged the great city of Antioch, which the Greeks also held at the time. Heraclius Augustus, Emperor of the Roman realm, having heard about this, immediately sent a large Greek auxiliary force to defend the city against the Saracens. And as soon as the troops of Emperor Heraclius arrived on the plain called Possen, they clashed with the Saracens, in a terrible, frightful battle. But finally the Saracens grew stronger. In that battle the multitude of the fallen was countless [g22], and even today many bones are visible there. So those Greeks, holed up in the city in great dread, were forced to give Antioch to the Saracens by means of various treaties and oaths.

From there the victors surged forward, entering the rich districts of Cilicia, Cappadocia, and Lycaeonia, and in a few days took them under their sway, for no one could resist their force. Thus they began to puff up with immodesty, and organized a fleet of galleys and many other ships and set sail for Constantinople. First they put in at Cyprus and took the great city of that kingdom, called Costance, where the grave of saint Barnabas the Apostle is located. The huge wealth of the city was looted and countless multitudes were taken captive. The place was razed to the ground such that it remained uninhabited thereafter. Then they took Rhodes and many other Roman islands, looted them, and took many captives.

Following these events, they came upon Constantinople and besieged that splendid city by land and sea. Now when the Christians saw such a host of the enemy, they were dumb-struck with terror and, in humility, sought mercy from the Lord. Behold, God answered their prayers. For despite the fact that it was summertime and the sea was undisturbed by waves, suddenly an awesome storm arose, causing all the enemy's galleys and ships to sink. And not one of them survived. When the remainder [of the enemy army] saw this, they quickly turned in flight. Now when the Christians saw that they had been saved by the mercy of Christ, with great joy they designated that day in the early [feast] calendar to the glory of the Savior, forever. And to the present, this day is celebrated with devout solemnity by Christians in those parts [g23].

The Saracens temporarily ceased warring and rested. Thereafter, assembling a multitudinous force, they planned to attack the kingdom of Persia. First they penetrated the kingdom of Mesopotamia, then they headed for the kingdom of Chaldea—which was under the lordship of the Persian king. It was unable to resist, and the Saracens vented all their wrath upon that country. Meanwhile the King of Persia, named Yazkert [III, d. 651] terror-stricken that he might fall under the domination of the Saracens, sent ambassadors to the provinces and kingdoms lying around the Phison [Oxus or Amu-Darya] River, and entreated them for aid, promising huge stipends and honors to whomever came. Some 6,000 [4,000, oe21] men called Turkmens assembled from the kingdom of Turkestan which was nearer to Persia, and set forth to help the King of Persia, crossing the Amu-Darya River. Wherever they went they observed the custom of taking along their women and children. As a result, they could not move quickly, rather they traveled a short distance each day. The Saracens who were in the kingdom of Chaldea which they had conquered, as was described above, suspected that if the forces of the Turks and the Persians came together they themselves would be unable to work their will, and so they correctly planned to hurry to attack the King of Persia before any aid could reach him. Thus the King of Persia, unable to avoid battle, came out against the Saracens with his people. At the battle which took place near the city of Marg [? Qadesya] there was an intense struggle and countless [g24] warriors fell on both sides. But finally the Persians took to flight and the Saracens bravely pursued. They killed the King of Persia, among others, enjoying this triumph in the year 632.

When the King of Persia had thus died, the sons of Hagar put the Persian kingdom and others under their yoke. They set up one state and elected for themselves a ruler from the line of Muhammad whom they called Caliph, and stipulated that his seat should be in the very wealthy city of Baghdad. As for the other kingdoms which the Saracens conquered, in each one they set up a lord whom they called sultan. Thereafter they took many other cities and districts and all of Greater Asia, but excluding the kingdom of Abkhazia in Georgia, and that district in the kingdom of Armenia commonly called Aloyen [Glausegardfordes, oe21; RB: Caucasian Aghbania/Aghuania/Albania, modern Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabagh]. These two provinces resisted the Saracens and never wanted to submit. And so all the local Christians whom the Saracens persecuted by forcing them to follow the laws of Muhammad, found asylum and protection there.

We have some brief information to relate about those Turkmens mentioned above who planned to help the Persian king, information which will make their history, which follows, easier to understand. The Turkmens reached a country called Khurasan, and learned there that the King of Persia had been killed in battle. They still wanted to advance, but considered it wise to take refuge in Khurasan, figuring that they could hold and defend that area from the Saracens. The Saracens observed this and assembled many troops to conquer the Turkmens by all means. But when the Turkmens saw the limitless multitude of the Saracens [g25], they were afraid to give battle. They sent emissaries to the Caliph, agreeing to surrender to his pleasure and command, and petitioning him to preserve them under his lordship.

This proposal pleased the Saracens. Thus they received the Turkmens and settled them in another country—where there was no fear of rebellion—and imposed upon them an annual tax payable to the realm as well as many other obligations. Thus did the Turkmens remain in subjugation to the Saracens for a long time, while the kingdoms of Persia, Media, and Chaldea converted to the religion of Muhammad. After this, the Caliph summoned to him the elders of the Turkmens and beseeched them to adopt the laws and religion of Muhammad, and to strive to have the rest of the Turkmens do likewise, promising them favors and honors if they would agree.

Because the Turkmens had no laws, they readily accepted the Caliph's proposal and became Saracens, one and all. As time went on, they showed such zeal for the faith that the sixty-four peoples of the Turkmens adopted the religion of Muhammad. All the Turkmens converted to the faith of the Saracens, excepting only two peoples, who were separated from those who had converted. Thereafter the Saracens started to warm to the Turkmens and gave them honors and other good things. Thus they increased in riches and in numbers, for they knew how to deal with the Saracen lordship in a cunning fashion until they found the proper place and circumstances for rebellion. They forcibly wrested the lordship from the hands of the Saracens, as shall be seen below.

The Saracens ruled in Asia for 198 years [428 years, oe22] before losing its sovereignty. But there arose some disturbances among them [which lasted for thirty years, oe22], to the point that sultans and other princes of the land who were supposed to obey the Caliph began to rebel from him [g26]. For this reason the authority of the Saracens was greatly reduced. At the same time, the valiant Diogenes [? Nicephorus II Phocas, 963-69] sat as Emperor in Constantinople. He started attacking the Saracens bravely and forcefully, and captured back many cities and fortresses which had fallen to them in the days of Heraclius. Besides other places, he freed the city of Antioch and the fortified cities of Cilicia; and part of the kingdom of Mesopotamia was also returned to Christian rule. Other kingdoms of Asia remained under Saracen domination until the Turkmens ruled those places, as we shall now see.

By 1051 the Turkmens had greatly increased in wealth and population. Seeing that conflicts were multiplying among the Saracens, they thought that they could easily take the empire of Asia from them. So they elected a king and lord over themselves, for previously they never had any lord from their own people, either generally or locally. Their first lord was named Satug [Saljuq]. With this man as leader, they bravely attacked the Saracens and in a short time took the entire territory of Greater Asia. But in no way did they harass or burden the Caliph. However, when the Turkmens had captured the lordship of the land of Asia, the Caliph—more out of fear than affection—wished to please them in everything, and designated Saljuq as their lord, and ruler of all Asia.

After a short time had passed, Saljuq died. He was succeeded by one of his sons called Tughril [g27]. Tughril began to stir up war against the Emperor of Greece and captured many of his lands and fortresses. He dispatched one of his relations, named Artot [ibn-Artuq], against the kingdom of Mesopotamia and permitted him to do whatever damage he could against the Greeks. Thus this same Artuq himself, with a great host, took the road to the city of Edessa, which was besieged and captured without trouble. Then he turned against other countries and places and put all of Mesopotamia under his sway. He established his seat in the city of Mardin and had everyone address him as Sultan.

Then Tughril, the ruler of Asia [king of Persia, oe23], died and his son Alp Arslan [1063-72] succeeded him. He had a nephew named Sulaiman who was skilled in arms and had greatly served his father. Alp Arslan dispatched him with many troops to Cappadocia and allowed him to do whatever damage he could against the Greeks. So Sulaiman went and took many cities of [what later became] the kingdom of the Turks and cast its entire lordship under his sway, and had himself called Sultan. Then he changed his name, styling himself Sulaiman-Shah. And the histories of the passage [expedition] of Godfrey of Bouillon recall him, for he was the first to war against the Christians. [And of these men histories make mention of Godfray de Bullayn's passage, when he fought with the pilgrims [crusaders], and did them great harm before they could go through the lands of Turkey, oe23]

Subsequently Alp Arslan, ruler of the Turks, died. His son, Malik-Shah [1072-92], succeeded him. Malik-Shah sent Artuq, the Sultan of Mesopotamia, and Sulaiman, Sultan of the country of the Turks, to besiege the city of Antioch. They took it after a short while, since the city was quite large and there were few soldiers to defend it or resist the Saracens. In such a fashion, the Greeks were expelled from all of Asia by the enemies of Christianity [g28].

After this Malik-Shah, ruler of the Turks, died leaving two sons. The elder son, Pelkiarux [Barkiyaruk, sultan of Persia 1094-1105] succeeded to his father's authority. However, his more forceful brother seized most of the lordship. At the time that Godfrey of Bouillon crossed through the country of the Turks, Barkiyaruk was ruler of Persia and Sulaiman was Sultan of the country of the Turks. He frequently assaulted the Christians prior to their passage through Turkey. Now when the Christians had passed through the kingdom of the Turks, and had besieged the city of Antioch, the ruler of the Turks heard about it and sent one of his generals named Korpaghat [Ibn Said Kerboga, d.1102] with countless multitudes of warriors to aid the city. However, before he could arrive, the Christians had already taken the city. [The Saracens] thereupon surrounded them on all sides, and thus the Christians, who had been the besiegers, were now the besieged. But the Christians came out of the city deployed in ranks and fronts and battled the Saracens, exhausting and destroying the whole lot of them like dust, by the grace of God. The fugitives fled to the kingdom of Persia only to find that their lord Barkiyaruk had died. His brother wanted to succeed him in holding the lordship. But some of his adversaries sprang upon him and cut him to pieces. Thereafter they were unable to unite in selecting an Emperor, or a general leader for themselves. Instead, they battled one another in discord.

When the Georgians [Greeks, oe24] and the Armenians of Greater Armenia observed this, they boldly and bravely attacked the Turks, forcing them to flee from the entire principality [of Persia, oe24]. Thence they went with their women and children to settle in the land of the Turks [g29] and so the principality of the Sultan of that country was greatly strengthened until it was mightier than all [of its neighbors]. Until the coming of the Tartars, this kingdom was maintained in peace, but thereafter its tranquility was shattered, as we shall see.

In the Khwarazmian kingdom dwelled a people skilled in arms who always lived in tents in the fields and were herders of flocks. These people learned that the Persian realm was kingless, lordless, and helpless and thought that it would be easy to capture. Therefore they consulted amongst themselves and chose a leader and lord, named Jalal al-Din [d.1231]. United, they entered the Persian kingdom, going as far as the city of Tabriz, meeting no resistance. Here they established their base and crowned their lord, that same Jalal al-Din, as Emperor of Asia. For they planned to conquer the other kingdoms of Asia as easily as the Persian kingdom, which they had found without a master.

The Khwarazmians gave themselves over to relaxation and diversion, and, filled with the greatness of the Persian kingdom, they swelled with pride. They went against the kingdom of the Turks, thinking to conquer it. But Ala al-Din, Sultan of the Turks, [Ala-ad-Din Kai Kobad, sultan of Rum 1219-37], gathered his forces together and went before the Khwarazmians at the entrance to his realm. An awesome battle took place between them, but at last the Khwarazmians turned in flight, losing their chief and Emperor as a casualty in the battle. They themselves narrowly escaped and assembled in the plain of Edessa to decide what to do next. They decided to enter the kingdom of Syria which at that time was ruled by a certain woman [? Safia Khatun]. Therefore they assumed that it would be a simple matter to capture it [g30]. However, that noblewoman had her forces assemble at the city of Aleppo and resisted the Khwarazmians. The battle took place by the Euphrates River, and, once again, the Khwarazmians were defeated and fled as far as the Arabian desert. They crossed the Euphrates River by fort Kakaw [Rakka], entered the land of the Syrians and went as far as the district of Palestine in the kingdom of the Jerusalemites. Here they caused considerable damage to the Christians, as may be found in detail in the histories about Godfrey of Bouillon. Yet after this, in a short period, the Khwarazmian people were reduced to nothing, because they refused to obey their own seniors and became fragmented into bands. Some of them went to the Sultan of Damascus, some to the Sultan of Homs, others to the Sultan of Hamah and yet others to the sultans of the kingdom of the Syrians—there were five Syrian sultans at that time—and served them as mercenaries.

Now when Vardat [Berke Khan], the leader of the Khwarazmians, saw himself so forsaken by his people, he went to the Sultan of Baghdad and put himself and his relations at the pleasure and command of the Sultan. The Sultan thus received the Khwarazmians gladly and divided them among his forces, not wanting them to remain together. He greatly honored the Khwarazmian prince, giving him very glorious gifts and income. And to this day, descendants of that prince are honored in Baghdad. The Sultan of Baghdad's principality was enlarged greatly by the Khwarazmians, although before their arrival it had been small and weak. But now the Khwarazmians had become divided, and thereafter never amounted to anything. Thus were the Khwarazmians destroyed. Shortly afterwards the Tartars began to rule Asia, as we shall narrate more fully below [g31].


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