Post-classical history

§ A Warlord Killed by a Trifling Wound

I witnessed a similar thing with regard to Mahmud ibn Qaraja. The conflict between him and us having been settled, he had sent a message to my uncle saying, ‘Tell Usama [47] to meet me with one horseman at Kar’a,40 so that we can go and look for a place where we can lie in ambush against Apamea, and then we can make an attack on it.’ My uncle told me, so I rode out and met Mahmud and reconnoitred the various spots.

Then we combined his army and ours, with me leading the army of Shayzar and Mahmud ibn Qaraja at the head of his army, and we set out for Apamea. We encountered the enemy cavalry and infantry in the ruins near the city. It is a place where horses cannot easily move because of all the blocks and columns and ruined foundations, so we were unable to dislodge them from the area. But then one of our soldiers asked me, ‘Do you want to rout them?’

‘Yes, I do,’ I replied.

‘Then lead us off towards the gate of the citadel,’ he said.

‘Let’s go,’ I said.

But the soldier who had made this suggestion soon regretted it when he realized that the enemy would be able to charge through us and beat us to the citadel. He tried to dissuade me from going, but I refused and set off for the gate.

The moment the Franks saw us heading for the gate, their cavalry and infantry turned back towards us, charged through us and beat us there. The horsemen dismounted inside the gate of the citadel, sent their mounts further up into it and lined up the points of their quntariya-spears in a row across the gate. Meanwhile, I, with a comrade of mine – one of my father’s mamluks (may God have mercy upon him), whose name was Rafi’ ibn Sutakin – was standing under the wall across from the gate, with quite a lot of stones and arrows raining down upon us. Mahmud ibn Qaraja, for his part, out of fear of the Kurds,41 was positioned far from the Franks at the head of a war-band. One of our comrades, called Haritha al-Numayri, a relative of Jum’a,42 received a spear-thrust crossways clear through the chest of his horse. The quntariya-spear stuck into the horse, which struggled until the spear fell out. The skin from the horse’s chest fell forwards and stayed there, hanging on its forelegs.

As for Mahmud ibn Qaraja, he was far removed from the combat, but an arrow flew from the citadel and struck him on the side of his forearm-bone, yet it did not pierce the arm-bone so much as the length of a barley-grain. So [48] his messenger came to me to tell me on his behalf, ‘Maintain your position until you can assemble all our men who are scattered across the area. I am wounded and feel as if the wound were in my heart. I am withdrawing, so it is up to you to protect the men.’ And so he withdrew while I led the men away and encamped at Burj al-Khurayba.43 The Franks used to station a sentinel there to be able to spot us whenever we made a raid on Apamea. Late that afternoon, I arrived at Shayzar and Mahmud ibn Qaraja was in my father’s residence, trying to unwrap his wound to treat it, but my uncle forbade him to do so saying, ‘By God, do not unwrap your wound until you get to your own house.’

‘But I am in the home of my father,’44 he protested, meaning my own father (may God have mercy upon him).

‘Yes, well,’ my uncle replied, ‘when you’ve got back to your house and your wound has healed, then the home of your father will be at your disposal.’

And so at sunset, Mahmud ibn Qaraja rode off to Hama. He remained there the next day and the day after, but then his hand turned black, he lost consciousness and died. This all happened to him simply because his time had come.

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