Front Page Titles (by Subject) 5.: CHRONOLOGY OF THE SARACEN CONQUEST OF SYRIA AND EGYPT — ( P. 134-182 ) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 9
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5.: CHRONOLOGY OF THE SARACEN CONQUEST OF SYRIA AND EGYPT — ( P. 134-182 ) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 9 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 9.
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CHRONOLOGY OF THE SARACEN CONQUEST OF SYRIA AND EGYPT — (P. 134-182)
The discrepancies in the original authorities (Greek and Arabic) for the Saracen conquests in the caliphates of Abū Bekr and Omar have caused considerable uncertainty as to the dates of such leading events as the battles of the Yermūk and Cadesia, the captures of Damascus and Alexandria, and have led to most divergent chronological schemes.
I. Conquest of Syria. Gibbon follows Ockley, who, after the false Wākidī, gives the following arrangement: —
Clinton (Fasti Romani, ii. p. 173-5) has also adopted this scheme. But it must certainly be rejected. (1) Gibbon has himself noticed a difficulty concerning the length of the siege of Damascus, in connection with the battle of Ajnādain (see p. 146, n. 73). (2) The date given for that battle, Friday, July 13, 633 (Ockley, i. p. 65), is inconsistent with the fact that July 13 in that year fell on Tuesday. (3) The battle of the Yermūk took place without any doubt in August, 634. This is proved by the notice of Arabic authors that it was synchronous with the death of Abū Bekr; combined with the date of Theophanes (suba.m. 6126), “Tuesday, the 23rd of Lous (that is, August),” which was the day after Abū Bekr’s death. The chronology of Theophanes is confused in this period; there is a discrepancy between the Anni Incarnationis and Indications on one hand, and the Anni Mundi on the other; and the Anni Mundi are generally a year wrong. So in this case, the Annus Mundi 6126 (= March 25, 633 to 634) ought to be 6127; the 23rd of Lous fell on Tuesday in 634, not in 633 or 635 or 636. There is no question about the reading Λώου, which appears in de Boor’s edition (p. 338) instead of the old corruption Ἰουλίου; it is in the oldest of the MSS., and is confirmed by the Latin translation.1 (4) The capture of Damascus in Gibbon’s chronology precedes the battle of the Yermūk. But it was clearly a consequence, as Theophanes represents, as well as the best Arabic authorities. Khālid who arrived from Irāk just in time to take part in the battle of the Yermūk led the siege of Damascus. See Tabarī, ed. Kosegarten, ii. p. 161 sqq. (5) The date of the capture of Damascus was Ann. Hij 13 according to Masūdī and Abū-l-Fidā, in winter (Tabarī); hence Weil deduces Jan. 635 (see Weil, i. p. 47).
On these grounds Weil revised the chronology, in the light of better Arabic sources. He rightly placed the battle of the Yermūk in Aug. 634, and the capture of Damascus subsequent to it. The engagement of Ajnādain he placed shortly before that of the Yermūk, on July 30, 634, but had to assume that Khālid was not present. As to the battle of Cadesia, he accepts the year given by Tabarī (tr. Zotenberg, iii., p. 400) and Masūdī (a.h. 14, 535) as against that alleged by the older authority Ibn Ishāk (ap. Masūdī) as well as by Abū-l-Fidā and others (op. cit. p. 71). Finlay follows this revision of Weil: —
As to the main points Weil is undoubtedly right. That the conquest of Syria began in 634 and not (as Gibbon gives) 633, is asserted by Tabarī2 and strongly confirmed by the notice in Χρονογρ. σύντομον of Nicephorus (p. 99, ed. de Boor): οἱ Σαρακηνοὶ ἤρξαντο τη̂ς τον̂ παντὸς ἐρημώσεως τῷ [Editor: Illegible Greek character]ρκς′ ἔτει ἰνδ. ζ′. Mr. Milne, in his History of Egypt under Roman Rule (1898), thinks that Mokaukas was prefect, perhaps of Augustamnica, p. 225. The Saracens began their devastation in a.m. 6126 = Ind. 7. a.m. 6126 is current from 633 March 25 to 634 March 25, and the 7th Indiction from 633 Sept. 1 to 634 Sept. 1; the common part is Sept. 1 633 to March 25 634; so that we are led to the date Feb., March 634 for the advance against the Empire. In regard to the capture of Damascus it seems safer to accept the date a.h. 14, which is assigned both by Ibn Ishāk and Wākidī (quoted by Tabarī, ed. Kosegarten, ii. p. 169), and therefore place it later in the year 635.
The weak point in Weil’s reconstruction would be the date for the battle of Ajnādain, as contradicting the natural course of the campaign marked out by geography, if it were certain that Ajnādain lay west of the Jordan, as is usually supposed (see map in this volume, where it is indicated in the commonly accepted position). The battle of the Yermūk on the east of the Jordan naturally preceded operations west of the Jordan. This has been pointed out by Sir W. Muir (Annals of the Early Caliphate, p. 206-7), who observes that the date 634 (before the Yermūk) “is opposed to the consistent though very summary narrative of the best authorities, as well as to the natural course of the campaign, which began on the east side of the Jordan, all the eastern province being reduced before the Arabs ventured to cross over to the well-garrisoned country west of the Jordan.” Muir accordingly puts the battle in 636.3 But there seems to be no certainty as to the geographical position of Ajnādain, and it must therefore be regarded as possible that it lay east of the Jordan, and was the scene of a battle either shortly before or shortly after the battle of the Yermūk. The reader may like to have before him the order of events in Tabarī; Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole has kindly supplied me with the references to the original text (ed. de Goeje): —
Abū Bekr sends troops into Syria (a.h. 13), i. 2079.
Khālid brings up reinforcements in time for the Yermūk, i. 2089.
Battle of the Yermūk, i. 2090 sqq.
Battle of Ajnādain (end of July, 634), i. 2126-7.
Battle of Fihl (Jan., Feb., 635), i. 2146.
Capture of Damascus (Aug., Sept., 635), i. 2146.
As to the date of the capture of Jerusalem, Weil does not commit himself; Muir places it at the end of 636 (so Tabarī, followed by Abū-l-Fidā, while other Arabic sources place it in the following year). Theophanes, under a.m. 6127, says: “In this year Omar made an expedition against Palestine; he besieged the Holy City, and took it by capitulation at the end of two years.” a.m. 6127 = March 634-635; but, as the Anni Mundi are here a year late (see above), the presumption is that we must go by the Anni Incarnationis and interpret the a.m. as March, 635-636. In that case, the capitulation would have taken place at earliest in March, 637 — if the two years were interpreted strictly as twelve months. But διετη̂ χρόνον might be used for two military years, 635 and 636; so that the notice of Theophanes is quite consistent with Sir Wm. Muir’s date. The same writer agrees with Weil in setting the battle of Cadesia in a.h. 14, with Tabarī, but sets it in Nov. 635, instead of near the beginning of the year. Nöldeke (in his article on Persian History in the Encyc. Brit.) gives 636 or 637 for Cadesia. Muir’s arrangement of the chronology is as follows: —
II. Conquest of Egypt. Our Greek authorities give us no help as to the date of the conquest of Egypt, and the capture of Alexandria; and the Arabic sources conflict. The matter, however, has been cleared up by Mr. E. W. Brooks (Byz. Zeitschrift, iv. p. 435 sqq.), who has brought on the scene an earlier authority than Theophanes, Nicephorus, and all the Arabic histories, — John of Nikiu, a contemporary of the event. (For his work see above, vol. viii. Appendix 1.) This chronicler implies (Mr. Brooks has shown) that Alexandria capitulated on October 17, 641 (towards the end of a.h. 20). This date agrees with the notice of Abū-l-Fidā, who places the whole conquest within a.h. 20, and is presumably following Tabarī (here abridged by the Persian translator); and it is borne out by a notice of the 9th century historian Ibn Abd al Hakam (cp. Weil, i. p. 115, note). Along with the correct tradition that Alexandria fell after the death of Heraclius, there was concurrent an inconsistent tradition that it fell on the 1st of the first month of a.h. 20 (Dec. 21, 640); a confusion of the elder Heraclius with the younger (Heraclonas) caused more errors (Books, loc. cit. p. 437); and there was yet another source of error in the confusion of the first capture of the city with its recapture, after Manuel had recovered it, in 645 (loc. cit. p. 443).4 Mr. Brooks’ chronology is as follows: —
As to the digressive notice of Theophanes sub anno 6126, which places an invasion of Egypt by the Saracens in 638, it would be rash, without some further evidence, to infer that there was any unsuccessful attempt made on Egypt either in that year, or before 639.
[1 ]Weil falls into error (1, p. 48) when he states that Theophanes is only a year wrong in the date of Mohammad’s death. He places it in the year 630; and his reference to the 4th Indiction under that year is justified by the fact that the first half of the Indiction is concurrent with the a.m. Weil miscalculates the Indiction, which corresponds to 630-1, not to 631-2.
[2 ]III. p. 347, tr. Zotenberg: “At the beginning of the 13th year of the Hijra no part of Syria was conquered and Abū Bekr resolved to invade it.”
[3 ]It would thus have been fought in connection with the capture of Ajnādain, which Tabarī places before the capture of Jerusalem (iii. p. 410).
[4 ]By this means Mr. Brooks most plausibly explains the origin of the traditional self-contradictory date, Friday, 1st of Muharram, a.h. 20. In that year Muharram 1 did not fall on Friday; but it fell on Friday in a.h. 25, the year of the recapture.