Post-classical history



‘In our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save us.’ LAMENTATIONS IV, 17

The Christians of the East accepted with a good grace the dominion of their infidel masters. They could not well do otherwise. There was small likelihood now that Byzantium would rise again, as in the days of the Persians, to rescue the holy places. The Arabs, wiser than the Persians, soon built a fleet, based on Alexandria, that wrested from the Byzantines their most valuable asset, the command of the seas. On land they were to retain the offensive for nearly three centuries. It seemed pointless to hope for rescue from the princes of Christendom.

Nor would such rescue have been welcomed by the heretic sects. To them the change of rulers had brought relief and pleasure. The Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch, Michael the Syrian, writing five centuries later, in the days of the Latin kingdoms, reflected the old tradition of his people when he told that ‘the God of vengeance, who alone is the Almighty . . . raised from the south the children of Ishmael to deliver us by them from the hands of the Romans’. This deliverance, he added, ‘was no light advantage for us’. The Nestorians echoed these sentiments. ‘The hearts of the Christians’, wrote an anonymous Nestorian chronicler, ‘rejoiced at the domination of the Arabs — may God strengthen it and prosper it!’ The Copts of Egypt were a little more critical; but their animosity was directed more against the cruel conqueror ‘Amr, and his treachery and exactions, than against his people and religion. Even the Orthodox, finding themselves spared the persecution that they had feared and paying taxes that, in spite of the jizya demanded from the Christians, were far lower than in Byzantine times, showed small inclination to question their destiny. A few mountain tribes, Mardaites of the Lebanon and the Taurus, still kept up the struggle; but they fought from lawlessness and pride rather than for the Faith.

The Dhimmis

The effect of the Arab conquest was to fix the Churches of the East permanently in the positions in which they then stood. Unlike the Christian Empire, which attempted to enforce religious uniformity on all its citizens — an ideal never realized, for the Jews could neither be converted nor expelled — the Arabs, like the Persians before them, were prepared to accept religious minorities, provided that they were People of the Book. The Christians, together with the Zoroastrians and the Jews, became dhimmis, or protected peoples, whose freedom of worship was guaranteed by the payment of the jizya, which was first a capitation tax but soon was transformed into a tax paid in lieu of military service and to which a new land tax, the kharaj, was added. Each sect was treated as a milet, a semi-autonomous community within the state, each under its religious leader who was responsible for its good behaviour to the Caliph’s government. Each was to retain those places of worship that it had possessed at the time of the Conquest, an arrangement that suited the Orthodox better than the heretic Christians, as Heraclius had recently restored many churches to their use. The last regulation was not strictly obeyed. The Moslems took over certain Christian churches, such as the great cathedral of St John at Damascus, and periodically destroyed many others; while a considerable number of churches and synagogues were continually built. Indeed, later Moslem jurists allowed the dhimmis’ right to erect buildings, so long as they were no higher than Moslem buildings and the sound of their bells and services were inaudible to Moslem ears. But there was no relaxation of the rule that the dhimmis should wear distinctive clothes and never ride on horseback; nor should they ever publicly offend against Moslem practices, nor attempt to convert Moslems, nor marry their women, nor speak slightingly of Islam; and they must remain loyal to the state.

The milet system established a somewhat different conception of what was understood by nationality. Nationalism in the East had for many centuries past been based not on race, except in the case of the Jews, whose religious exclusiveness had kept their blood comparatively pure, but on cultural tradition and geographical position and economic interest. Now loyalty to a religion became the substitute for national loyalties. An Egyptian, for instance, would not regard himself as a citizen of Egypt but as a Moslem or as a Copt or as an Orthodox, as the case might be. It was his religion or his milet that commanded his allegiance. This gave to the Orthodox an advantage over the heretic sects. They were still known as the Melkites, the Emperor’s men; and they considered themselves the Emperor’s men. Cruel necessity might place them under the domination of the infidel, whose laws they were obliged to obey; but the Emperor was God’s viceroy on earth and their true sovereign. Saint John Damascene, himself a civil servant at the Caliph’s court, always addressed the Emperor, strongly though he disagreed with him on theology, as his lord and master, and referred to his employer merely as the Emir. The eastern Patriarchs, writing in the ninth century to the Emperor Theophilus to protest against his religious policy, used similar terms. The emperors accepted the responsibility. In all their wars and diplomatic dealings with the Caliphs, they kept in mind the welfare of the Orthodox beyond their frontiers. It was not a matter of administration. They could not interfere with the day-to-day government in Moslem lands; nor did the Patriarch of Constantinople have any jurisdiction over his eastern colleagues. It was an expression, sentimental but none the less powerful, of the continuance of the idea that Christendom was one and indivisible, and that the Emperor was the symbol of its unity.

The Orthodox under Moslem Rule

The heretic Churches had no such lay protector. They were entirely dependent on the goodwill of the Caliph; and their influence and their prestige suffered accordingly. Moreover their heresies had in origin been largely due to the desire of the orientals to simplify Christian creeds and practices. Islam, which was near enough to Christianity to be considered by many to be merely an advanced form of Christianity, and which now had the vast social advantage of being the faith of the new ruling class, was easily acceptable to many of them. There is no evidence to tell us how many converts were made from Christianity to Islam; but it is certain that the vast majority of these converts were drawn from the heretics and not from the Orthodox. Within a century of the Conquest, Syria, whose population had been predominantly heretic Christian, was a mainly Moslem country; but the numbers of the Orthodox had been very little reduced. In Egypt the Copts, owing to their wealth, lost ground less rapidly; but theirs was a losing battle. On the other hand, the continued existence of the heretics was ensured by the milet system, which by stabilizing their position made impossible any reunion of the Churches.

The growth of Islam in Syria and Palestine was not due to a sudden influx of Arabs from the desert. The conquerors’ armies had not been very large. They had not provided much more than a military caste superimposed on the existing population. The racial composition of the inhabitants of the country was hardly changed. The townsmen and villagers, whether they accepted Islam or remained Christian, soon adopted the Arabic tongue for all general purposes; and we now loosely call their descendants Arabs; but they were formed of a blend of many races, of the tribes that had dwelt in the land before ever Israel came out of Egypt, Amalekites or Jebusites or Moabites or Phoenicians, and of tribes like the Philistines that had been there almost as long, and of the Aramaeans that throughout recorded history had slowly and almost imperceptibly penetrated into the cultivated country, and of those Jews that, like the first apostles, had joined the Church of Christ. Only the practising Jews remained ethnologically distinct; and even their racial purity was slightly impaired. In Egypt the Hamitic stock was less mixed; but it had been swollen by intermarriage with immigrants from Syria and the deserts and the upper Nile and the coasts of the whole Mediterranean basin.

Arab immigration was inevitably at its thickest in the districts bordering on the desert and in the cities on the caravan routes that ran along its edge. The decline in the sea-trade of the Mediterranean, which followed on the Conquest, gave these cities, with their preponderantly Moslem population, a greater importance than that of the Hellenistic cities nearer to the coast. Alexandria was the only large port maintained by Arabs on the Mediterranean. There, and in the Hellenistic cities of Syria, Christians remained plentiful, probably outnumbering the Moslems. There was roughly the same difference in the Syrian countryside. The inland plains and valleys became increasingly Moslem; but between the Lebanon and the sea Christians of various sects prevailed. In Egypt the distinction was more between town and country. The fellahin were gradually converted to Islam, but the towns were largely Christian. In Palestine there was a more arbitrary division. While much of the countryside became Moslem, many villages clung to the older faith. Towns of special import to the Christians, such as Nazareth or Bethlehem, were almost exclusively Christian; and in Jerusalem itself, despite the Moslems’ regard for it, the Christians remained in the majority. The Palestinian Christians were almost all of the Orthodox milet. In addition, there were important colonies of jews at Jerusalem, and at several lesser towns, such as Safed and Tiberias. The chief Moslem city was the new administrative capital at Ramleh. The population of Syria, Palestine and Egypt remained grouped in this rough pattern for the next four centuries.

The Ommayad Caliphate

The fifth of the Caliphs, Moawiya the Ommayad, had been governor of Syria; and after his accession in A.D. 660 he established his capital at Damascus. His descendants reigned there for nearly a century. It was a period of prosperity for Syria and Palestine. The Ommayad Caliphs were with few exceptions men of unusual ability and a broad-minded tolerance. The presence of their court in the province ensured its good government and a lively commercial activity; and they encouraged the culture that they found there. This was a Hellenistic-Christian culture, influenced by tastes and ideas that we associate with the name of Byzantium. Greek-speaking Christians were employed in the civil service. For many decades the state accounts were kept in Greek. Christian artists and craftsmen worked for the Caliphs. The Dome of the Rock at Jerusalem, completed for the Caliph Abdul-Malik in 691, is the supreme example of the rotunda-style of building in Byzantine architecture. Its mosaics, and the even lovelier mosaics set up in the courtyard of the Great Mosque of Damascus for his son, Walid I, are amongst the finest products of Byzantine art. How far they were the work of native artisans and how far they were helped by the technicians and material that Walid certainly imported from Byzantium is a matter of dispute. These mosaics carefully respected the Prophet’s ban on the depiction of living creatures. But in their country palaces, discreetly removed from the eyes of disapproving mullahs — for instance, at the hunting-box of Kasr al-Amra, in the steppes beyond the Jordan — the Ommayads freely permitted frescoes depicting the human form, even in the nude. Their rule, indeed, brought no interruption to the development of the Hellenistic culture of the near Orient; which now achieved its finest, but its final, flowering.

The Christians had therefore no cause to regret the triumph of Islam. Despite an occasional brief bout of persecution and despite a few humiliating regulations, they were better off than they had been under the Christian Emperors. Order was better kept. Trade was good; and the taxes were far lower. Moreover, during the greater part of the eighth century the Christian Emperor was a heretic, an iconoclast, an oppressor of all the Orthodox that paid respect to holy images. Good Christians were happier under infidel rule.

But this happy period did not endure. The decline of the Ommayads and the civil wars that led to the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphs at Baghdad in 750 brought chaos to Syria and Palestine. Unscrupulous and uncontrolled local governors raised money by confiscating Christian churches which the Christians had then to redeem. There were waves of fanaticism, with persecutions and forced conversions. The victory of the Abbasids restored order; but there was a difference. Baghdad was far away. There was less supervision of the provincial administration. Trade was still active along the caravan routes; but there was no great market to stimulate it locally. The Abbasids were stricter Moslems than the Ommayads. They were less tolerant of the Christians. Though they too were dependent on an older culture, it was not Hellenistic but Persian. Baghdad lay within the ancient territory of the Sassanid kingdom. Persians acquired the chief places in the government. Persian ideals in art and Persian habits of daily life were adopted. As with the Ommayads, Christian officials were employed. But these Christians were with few exceptions Nestorians, whose outlook was towards the East and not the West. The Abbasid court had on the whole a greater interest in intellectual matters than the Ommayad. The Nestorians were freely used to translate philosophical and technical works from the ancient Greek; and scientists and mathematicians were encouraged to come, even from Byzantium, to teach at the schools of Baghdad. But this interest was superficial. Abbasid civilization was fundamentally unaffected by Greek thought, but followed, rather, the traditions handed down from the kingdoms of Mesopotamia and Iran. It was only in Spain, to which the Ommayads had fled for refuge, that Hellenistic life lingered on in the Moslem world.

The Abbasid Caliphate

Nevertheless, the lot of the Christians under the Abbasids was not unhappy. Moslem writers, such as al-Jahiz in the ninth century, might make violent attacks on them; but that was because they were too prosperous and were growing arrogant and heedless of the regulations made against them. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, writing about the same time to his colleague of Constantinople, says of the Moslem authorities that ‘they are just and do us no wrong nor show us any violence’. Their justice and restraint were often remarkable. When in the tenth century things were going badly for the Arabs in their wars against Byzantium and Arab mobs attacked the Christians in anger at their known sympathy with the enemy, the Caliph always made restitution for the damage done. His motive may have been fear of the renascent power of the Emperor, who by then had Moslems within his dominions whom he could persecute in revenge. The Orthodox Churches, with foreign powers backing them, had always maintained a favoured position. In the early tenth century the Nestorian Catholicus, Abraham III, during a dispute with the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, told the Grand Vizier that ‘we Nestorians are the friends of the Arabs and pray for their victories’, adding: ‘Far be it from you to regard the Nestorians, who have no other king but the Arabs’, in the same light as the Greeks, whose kings never cease to make war against the Arabs’. But it was the gift of two thousand golden coins rather than his argument that enabled him to win his case. The only group of Christians against whom continual animosity was shown were the Christians of pure Arab descent, such as the Banu Ghassan or the Banu Tanukh. Such of these tribesmen as refused to be forcibly converted to Islam were obliged to cross the frontier and seek refuge in Byzantium.

The emigration of Christians into the Emperor’s territory was continuous; nor did the Moslems take steps against it. There seems never to have been a sustained attempt to prevent the Christians within and without the Caliphate from keeping up close relations, even in times of war. During the greater part of the Abbasid period the Byzantine Emperor was not strong enough to do much for his co-religionists. The Arab failure before Constantinople in 718 had guaranteed the continuance of the Empire; but two centuries elapsed before Byzantium could seriously take the offensive against the Arabs. In the meantime the Orthodox of the East had discovered a new foreign friend. The growth of the Carolingian empire in the eighth century did not pass unnoticed in the East. When at the close of the century Charles the Great, soon to be crowned emperor at Rome, showed a particular interest in the welfare of the holy places, his attentions were very welcome. The Caliph Harun al-Rashid, glad to find an ally against Byzantium, gave him every encouragement to make foundations at Jerusalem and to send alms to its church. For a while Charles replaced the Byzantine Emperor as the monarch whose power was the safeguard of the Orthodox in Palestine; and they repaid his charity by sending him honorific marks of their esteem. But the collapse of his empire under his descendants and the rebirth of Byzantium made this Frankish intervention short-lived and soon barely remembered, except for the hostels that Charles had built and the Latin services held in the Church of St Mary of the Latins, and the Latin nuns serving in the Holy Sepulchre. But in the West the episode was never forgotten. Legend and tradition exaggerated it. Charles was soon thought to have established a legal protectorate over the holy places, and even, in time, himself to have made the pilgrimage thither. To the Franks of later generations their right to rule in Jerusalem had been acknowledged and endorsed.

Charlemagne and Palestine

The eastern Christians were more nearly interested in the renascence of Byzantine power. In the early ninth century the Empire had still been on the defensive. Sicily and Crete were lost to the Moslems; and almost every year saw some great Arab raid into the heart of Asia Minor. In the middle of the century, largely owing to the prudent economies of the Empress-Regent Theodora, the Byzantine navy was reorganized and re-equipped. Thanks to its strength, Byzantine dominion over southern Italy and Dalmatia was soon reaffirmed. Early in the tenth century the Abbasid Caliphate began rapidly to decline. Local dynasties arose, of which the chief were the Hamdanids of Mosul and Aleppo and the Ikshids of Egypt. The former were fine fighters and fervent Moslems, and for a time formed a bulwark against Byzantine aggression. But they could not stop the decay of Moslem power. Rather, they added to it by encouraging civil wars. In the course of these civil wars the Ikshids won control of Palestine and southern Syria. The Byzantines were quick to take advantage of the situation. Their offensive was cautious at first; but by 945, in spite of the prowess of the Hamdanid prince, Saif ad-Daula, their general, John Curcuas, had won for the Empire towns and districts in upper Mesopotamia that had not seen a Christian army for three centuries. After 960, when the great soldier, Nicephorus Phocas, took command of the imperial army, things moved faster. In 961 Nicephorus recaptured Crete. In 962 he campaigned on the Cilician frontier and took Anazarbus and Marash (Germanicia) thus isolating Moslem Cilicia. In 963 Nicephorus was engaged at home, planning the coup d’etat that brought him, with the help of the army and the Empress-Regent, to the throne. In 964 he returned to the East. In 965 he completed the conquest of Cilicia; and an expedition sent to Cyprus re-established absolute Byzantine control of the island. In 966 he campaigned on the middle Euphrates, to cut communications between Aleppo and Mosul. The whole Christian East was aroused and saw deliverance at hand. The Patriarch John of Jerusalem wrote to him, urging him to hasten down to Palestine. But such treason proved for once too much for the patience of the Moslems. John was arrested and burnt at the stake by the furious population.

John’s hopes were premature. In 967 and 968 Nicephorus was busy on his northern frontier. But in 969 he led his army southward again, right into the heart of Syria. He marched up the Orontes valley, capturing and sacking, one after the other, the great towns of Shaizar, Hama and Homs, and crossing to the coast to the suburbs of Tripoli. He then returned northward, leaving Tortosa, Jabala and Lattakieh in flames behind him, while his lieutenants besieged Antioch and Aleppo. The ancient metropolis of Antioch was taken in October. Aleppo surrendered at the end of the year.

Antioch, where the Christians probably outnumbered the Moslems, was absorbed into the Empire; and it seems that the Moslems were obliged to emigrate from its territory. Aleppo, which was almost entirely a Moslem city, became a vassal state. The treaty made with its ruler carefully delineated the frontier between the new imperial province and the tributary towns. The ruler of Aleppo was to be nominated by the Emperor. The vassal state was to pay heavy taxes, from which the Christians were to be exempt, directly to the imperial treasury. Special privileges and protection was to be given to imperial merchants and caravans. These humiliating terms seemed to foreshadow the end of Moslem power in Syria.

The Emperor John Tzimisces

Before Aleppo had fallen the Emperor was murdered in Constantinople by his Empress and her lover, his cousin John Tzimisces. Nicephorus was a grim, unlovable man. Despite his victories, he had been hated at Constantinople for his financial exactions and corruption and his bitter quarrel with the Church. John, who was already known as a brilliant general, succeeded without difficulty to the throne, and made his peace with the Church by throwing over his imperial paramour. But a war with Bulgaria kept him busy in Europe for the next four years. Meanwhile there was a revival in Islam, led by the Fatimid dynasty, which established itself in Egypt and southern Syria, and in 971 even attempted the recapture of Antioch. In 974 John could turn his attention to the East. That autumn he descended into eastern Mesopotamia, capturing Nisibin and reducing Mosul to vassalage, and even contemplating a sudden march on Baghdad. But he realized that the Fatimites were more dangerous enemies than their Abbasid rivals, and next spring he advanced into Syria. Following the route of Nicephorus, six years before, he swept up the Orontes valley, past Homs, which submitted without a blow, and Baalbek, which he took by force, right into Damascus, which promised him tribute and a humble alliance. Thence he went on into Galilee, to Tiberias and to Nazareth, and down to the coast at Caesarea. Envoys from Jerusalem came to him to beg him to spare them the horrors of a sack. But he did not feel able to advance to the Holy City itself with the towns of the Phoenician coast untaken behind him. He retired northward, overpowering them one by one, with the exception of the fortress-port of Tripoli. Winter was coming on, and the Emperor was obliged to postpone his efforts for a season. On his way back to Antioch he captured and garrisoned the two great castles of the Nosairi Mountains, Barzuya and Sahyun. Then he returned to Constantinople. But his campaign was never resumed. Quite suddenly, in January 976, he died.

These wars had made the Christian Empire once more the great power in the East. With the prospect of the deliverance of the Christians of the East in sight, they had, moreover, reached the status of religious wars. Hitherto, wars against the Moslem had been wars regularly waged for the defence of the Empire and had been, so to speak, taken for granted as a part of daily life. Though now and then Christian captives might be given the choice of apostasy or death by some fanatical Moslem victor and their martyrdom would be duly remembered and honoured, such cases were rare. To public opinion in Byzantium there was no greater merit in dying in battle for the protection of the Empire against the infidel Arab than against the Christian Bulgar; nor did the Church make any distinction. But both Nicephorus and John declared that the struggle was now for the glory of Christendom, for the rescue of the holy places and for the destruction of Islam. Already when an Emperor celebrated a triumph over the Saracens the choirs sang: ‘Glory be to God, Who has conquered the Saracens.’ Nicephorus emphasized that his wars were Christian wars, partly, perhaps, in an attempt to counteract his bad relations with the Church. He failed to induce the Patriarch to support a decree announcing that soldiers dying on the eastern front died as martyrs; for to the eastern Church even the exigencies of war did not entirely excuse the act of murder. But in his insulting manifesto to the Caliph that he sent before starting on his campaign of 964, he saw himself as the Christian champion, and even threatened to march on Mecca, to establish there the throne of Christ. John Tzimisces used the same language. In his letter describing his campaign of 974, written to the king of Armenia, ‘our desire’, he says, ‘was to free the Holy Sepulchre from the outrages of the Moslems’. He tells how he spared the cities of Galilee from being pillaged, because of their part in the history of the Christian faith; and mentioning his check before Tripoli he adds that but for it he would have gone to the Holy City of Jerusalem and prayed in the sacred places.

Peace Between Byzantium and Egypt

The Arabs had always been readier to envisage war as a religious matter; but even they had grown slack. Now, frightened by the Christians, they tried to revive their fervour. In 974 riots in Baghdad forced the Caliph, who personally had not been sorry to see the Fatimids defeated, to proclaim a holy war, a jihad.

It had seemed that at last the Holy Land would be restored to Christian rule. But the Orthodox of Palestine waited in vain. John’s successor, the legitimate Basil II, great warrior though he became, was never given the opportunity to continue the southern advance. Civil wars followed by a long war against the Bulgarians demanded all his attention. Only twice could he visit Syria, to restore Byzantine suzerainty over Aleppo in 995, and to march down the coast as far as Tripoli in 999. In 1001 he decided that it would be useless to make further conquest. A ten years’ truce was made with the Fatimid Caliph; and the peace thus inaugurated was not seriously broken for more than half a century. The frontier between the empires was fixed to run from the coast between Banyas and Tortosa to the Orontes just south of Caesarea-Shaizar. Aleppo officially remained within the Byzantine sphere of influence; but the Mirdasite dynasty established there in 1023 soon obtained independence in fact. In 1030 its Emir severely defeated a Byzantine army. But the loss of Aleppo was counterbalanced next year by the incorporation of Edessa into the Byzantine Empire.

The peace suited both the Empire and the Fatimids; for both were disquieted by the revival of the Baghdad Caliphate under Turkish adventurers from central Asia. The Fatimid monarch, accepted by the Shia Moslems as the true Caliph, could not afford any strengthening of Abbasid claims; while Byzantium considered her eastern frontier more vulnerable than her southern. Fear of the Turks led Basil II first to annex the provinces of Armenia that lay nearest to the Empire and then to take over the south-easternmost district of the country, the principality of Vaspurakan. His successors continued his policy. In 1045 the king of Ani, the chief ruler in Armenia, ceded his lands to the Emperor. In 1064 the last independent Armenian state, the principality of Kars, was absorbed into imperial territory.

The annexation of Armenia was dictated by military considerations. Experience had taught that no reliance could be placed on the Armenian princes. Though they were Christians and had nothing to gain from a Moslem conquest, they were heretics, and as heretics they hated the Orthodox more passionately than any Moslem oppressor. In spite of continued trade and cultural relations, and in spite of the many Armenians who migrated into the Empire and reached its highest offices, the animosity never died down. But from the valleys of Armenia it was easy, as past border-warfare had shown, to penetrate into the heart of Asia Minor. The military authorities would have been foolish to allow such a danger-spot to remain out of their control. Politically the annexation was less wise. The Armenians resented Byzantine rule. Though Byzantine garrisons might man the frontier, within the frontier there was a large and discontented population whose disloyalty was potentially dangerous and who now, no longer anchored by allegiance to a local prince, began to wander about spreading lawlessness within the Empire. Wiser statesmen, less obsessed than the soldier-emperors of Byzantium by the military point of view, would have hesitated to create an Armenian question to destroy the uniformity of the Empire and to add a discordant minority to its subjects.

The Caliph Hakim

Northern Syria had passed to the rule of the Christians; but the Christians of southern Syria and Palestine found the dominion of the Fatimids easy to bear. They suffered only one short period of persecution, when the Caliph Hakim, the son of a Christian mother and brought up largely by Christians, suddenly reacted against his early influences. For ten years, from 1004 to 1014, despite the remonstrance’s of the Emperor, he passed ordinances against the Christians; he began to confiscate Church property, then to burn crosses and to order little mosques to be built on church roofs, and finally to bum the churches themselves. In 1009 he ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre itself, on the ground that the annual miracle of the holy fire, celebrated there on the eve of Easter, must certainly be an impious forgery. By 1014 some thirty thousand churches had been burnt or pillaged, and many Christians had outwardly adopted Islam to save their lives. Similar measures were taken against the Jews. But it should be noted that the Moslems were equally liable to arbitrary persecution by the head of their faith; who continued all the time to employ Christian ministers. In 1013, as a concession to the Emperor, Christians were allowed to emigrate into Byzantine territory. The persecution only stopped when Hakim became convinced that he himself was divine. This divinity was publicly proclaimed in 1016 by his friend Darazi. As the Moslems were more deeply shocked by this behaviour of their leading co-religionist than the non-Moslems could be, Hakim began to favour the Christians and the Jews, while he struck at the Moslems themselves by forbidding the Ramadan fast and the pilgrimage to Mecca. In 1017 full liberty of conscience was given to the Christians and the Jews. Soon some six thousand of the recent apostates returned to the Christian fold. In 1020 the Churches had their confiscated property restored to them, including the materials taken from their ruined buildings. At the same time the regulation demanding distinctive dress was abolished. But by now the fury of the Moslems was aroused against the Caliph, who had substituted his own name for that of Allah in the mosque services. Darazi fled to the Lebanon, to found there the sect that is called the Druzes, after his name. Hakim himself disappeared in 1021. He was probably murdered by his ambitious sister, Sitt al-Mulk; but his fate remained and still remains a mystery. The Druzes believe that in due course he will come again.

After his death Palestine was held for a while by the Emir of Aleppo, Salih ibn Mirdas; but the Fatimid rule was fully restored in 1029. In 1027 a treaty had already been signed permitting the Emperor Constantine VIII to undertake the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and allowing the remaining apostates to return unpenalized to Christianity. The treaty was renewed in 1036; but the actual work of rebuilding the church was only carried out some ten years later, by the Emperor Constantine IX. To supervise the work imperial officials voyaged freely to Jerusalem; where to the disgust of Moslem citizens and travellers the Christians seemed to be in complete control. So many Byzantines were to be seen in its streets that the rumour arose amongst the Moslems that the Emperor himself had made the journey. There was a prosperous colony of Amalfitan merchants protected by the Caliph but also protesting the vassaldom of their Italian home-city to the Emperor, in order to share in the privileges shown to his subjects. Fear of Byzantine power kept the Christians safe. The Persian traveller, Nasir-i-Khusrau, who visited Tripoli in 1047, describes the number of Greek merchant ships to be seen in the harbour there and the fear of the inhabitants of an attack by the Byzantine navy.

The Prosperity of the Christians

In the middle of the eleventh century the lot of the Christians in Palestine had seldom been so pleasant. The Moslem authorities were lenient; the Emperor was watchful of their interests. Trade was prospering and increasing with the Christian countries overseas. And never before had Jerusalem enjoyed so plentifully the sympathy and the wealth that were brought to it by pilgrims from the West.

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