Post-classical history

PART I GREAT EVENTS AND CALAMITIES DURING MY LIFE

IN THE SERVICE OF THE ATABEG ZANGI

§ A Battle with the Franks (fragment)

… there were not many Muslim casualties in that battle.1 However, a messenger named Ibn Bishr had arrived earlier from the caliph al-Rashid,2 son of al-Mustarshid (may God have mercy upon them both), in order to summon the atabeg3 before him, and so he took part in that battle too. He happened to be wearing a gilded cuirass,4 so a Frankish knight, named Ibn al-Daqiq,5 thrust him through [2] the chest with his spear such that it stuck out through his back (may God have mercy upon him). But a large number of Franks were killed. The atabeg (may God have mercy upon him) ordered that their heads be collected in a field opposite the fortress: they totalled three thousand.

§ Shayzar under Siege

After this, in the year 532 (1138), the king of the Romans6 went out again into our lands. He and the Franks (may God forsake them) made an alliance agreeing to march on Shayzar together and besiege it.

Al-Yaghisiyani7 said to me, ‘Now what do you think about what this mother-bereaving boy has done?’ By this he meant his own son, Shihab al-Din Ahmad.

‘And what has he done?’ I asked.

He said, ‘He sent a messenger to me saying, “You’d better find someone else to take charge of your lands.”’8

‘So what did you do?’ I asked.

‘I sent a messenger to the atabeg,’ he replied, ‘and said, “I give the place back to you.”’

‘What a frightful thing you’ve done!’ I said. ‘Won’t the atabeg now just say to you, “When it was meat you ate of it, but when it was bone you threw it back to me”?’

‘So what should I do?’ he asked.

‘I will go set myself up in Shayzar,’ I replied. ‘If God (may He be exalted) should rescue it, then it will be because of your good fortune, and this will redound to your glory before your lord; and if the place is taken and we are slain, it will merely be our just fate, and you will not be blamed.’

He said, ‘You are the only one who has ever said such a thing to me.’

I assumed that he would keep to this plan, so I gathered together sheep, a large amount of flour, butter and whatever someone under siege might need. However, at sunset, while I was in my house, his messenger came to me and said, ‘Al-Yaghisiyani says to you: “After daybreak we leave for Mosul,9 so prepare your things for travel.” ‘

At this, I was overcome with anxiety, and I said, ‘Shall I travel to Mosul and leave my sons and brothers and household to be put under siege?’

The next morning, I rose and rode to al-Yaghisiyani at [3] his tent and asked his permission to return to Shayzar to collect some supplies and money that we would need on the road. He permitted this, but said, ‘Don’t take too long.’ So I rode out and reached Shayzar.10 But in the meantime he did something that broke my heart and inflamed my suspicion: he moved quickly and sent men to my house and took up all the tents, weapons and baggage that were there, seized most of those beloved to me and tracked down my companions. It was an immense and frightful disaster.[4]

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