Post-classical history

§ A Lesson in Humility

Nevertheless, one should not trust one’s bravery too much nor make too much of one’s courage. By God, I once went out with my uncle (may God have mercy upon him) to make a raid on Apamea. It happened that the Franks had gone to escort a caravan. Having done so, they returned and we met them in battle and killed nearly twenty of their men. I saw Jum’a al-Numayri (may God have mercy upon him) with half of a quntariya-spear sticking in him. The spear had been thrust through his saddle-pad, went through the saddle-lining into his thigh until it stuck out behind him. Thus, the spear broke still inside him.

This horrified me, but he said, ‘Not to worry, I’m fine,’ and taking hold of the tip of the spear, he pulled it out of him and he and his horse were safe and sound.

I then said to him, ‘Abu Mahmud, I’d really prefer to get closer to the citadel so that we can see it clearly.’

‘Let’s go,’ he said.

And so he and I trotted off on our horses. When we got to a spot looking onto the citadel, what should we find but eight Frankish knights positioned on the road, which overlooks the plaza there [58] from a height; and there was no coming down from that height except by that road.75

So Jum’a said to me, ‘Stay here and I’ll show you what I can do with them.’

‘But that’s not fair,’ I protested. ‘It’s better if you and I attack them together.’

‘Let’s go,’ he replied.

And so we attacked them, routed them and withdrew, the two of us thinking we had done something no one else had done – two warriors routing eight Frankish knights.

We stopped on that elevation to have a look at the citadel, but we were surprised to see that a tiny footman had climbed all the way up that difficult ascent after us, wielding a bow and arrows. He started shooting at us, but we had no way to get to him, so we fled. By God, we really didn’t think we would get away from him with our horses safe and sound! We withdrew and came into the meadows of Apamea, from which we drove before us great herds of buffalo, cows and sheep. And so we left, my heart full of regret at that man who made us flee without there being any way for us to get to him, and at how one man was able to rout us, when we had just routed eight Frankish knights.

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