Post-classical history

§ Neither Courage nor Strength is Proof against Fate

When one’s time has come, neither courage nor strength is of any use. I once witnessed a battle in which the Frankish army had advanced against Shayzar to attack us. A group of them proceeded with the atabeg Tughdakin to the Bridge Fortress to attack it. The atabeg, along with Il-Ghazi ibn Artuq and the Franks, had assembled in Apamea160 to make war on the army of the sultan, which had arrived in Syria under the command of the isbasalar Bursuq. The isbasalar had encamped at Hama on Sunday, 19 Muharram of the year [91] 509 (13 June 1115). As for us, we fought against them close to the very walls of the city. But we prevailed against them and repulsed them, giving them a warm welcome indeed. I saw one of our comrades called Muhammad ibn Saraya, a young man, strong and powerful. A Frankish horseman (may God curse him) had rushed on him and thrust his spear into his thigh, sending his quntariya into it. But Muhammad grabbed on to the spear while it was in his thigh. Meanwhile, the Frank was trying to pull the spear out to take it just as Muhammad was trying to pull it out to keep it, dragging it back and forth through his thigh until it hollowed his thigh out. But the Frank was deprived of his quntariya after ruining our man’s thigh. Muhammad died two days later, may God have mercy upon him.

On that same day, while I was with one part of the army locked in battle, I saw a cavalryman charge one of our own horsemen and thrust his spear in our comrade’s horse, killing it. Our man was now fighting on foot on the ground, but I could not make out who he was due to the distance between us. So I spurred my horse on towards him, fearing for his safety once that Frank had speared him. The Frank’s quntariya was still stuck in the man’s horse as it lay there dead with its intestines spilling out. The Frank withdrew from him a short distance and, drawing his sword, took his position facing him. As I approached our man, I discovered that he was my cousin Nasir al-Dawla Kamil (may God have mercy upon him). So I stopped by him and, removing my own foot from my stirrup, told him, ‘Mount!’ Once he had mounted, I turned the head of my horse to the west, with the city lying to the east.

My cousin then asked me, ‘Where are you going?’

I said, ‘Over to that one who put his spear through your horse: now’s our chance!’

But he just stretched his hand out and grabbed the reins of my horse and said, ‘Never exchange spear-thrusts while there are two men in armour on your horse. If you get me out of here you can come back and cross spears with him!’ So I rode off and got him out of there and went back in search of that dog, but by then he had returned to his comrades.

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