Post-classical history

§ A Marvel of Destiny: The Byzantine Siege of Shayzar

[113] One of the marvels of destiny occurred when the Romans came down against Shayzar in the year 532 (1138). They positioned against it some terrifying mangonels that they had brought with them from their country for hurling heavy pay-loads. Their stones, weighing twenty or twenty-five ratls,200could be launched a distance greater than any arrow could fly. One time they hurled a piece of a millstone at the house of a companion of mine called Yusuf ibn Abi al-Gharib (may God have mercy upon him), levelling the house from top to bottom with one stone.

On top of the tower in the amir’s residence, there was a spear with a banner attached to it. The path within the citadel that the people took ran right under it. It happened that a stone from a mangonel hit the spear and snapped it in two, and the broken half with the spear-head flipped over, spun around and fell into the path just as one of our comrades was crossing it. The spear-head, attached to the spear fragment, fell from a great height right through his clavicle and into the ground and killed him.

Khutlukh, a mamluk belonging to my father (may God have mercy upon him), related the following account to me:

During the Roman siege, we were sitting in the hallway of the citadel with our gear and swords when suddenly an old man came [114] running up to us, saying, ‘Muslims! Your women! The Romans have come in right on our heels!’ So we grabbed our swords and went out. We discovered that they had climbed up through a hole that the mangonels had punched into the wall. We beat them with our swords until we expelled them, and then went out in pursuit and delivered them to their comrades. Then we came back and dispersed.

I remained with the old man who had sounded the alarm. He stood there, and then turned about to face the wall to relieve himself, so I turned away from him. Next, I heard a loud crash, turned around and, lo and behold, the old man had been struck on the head by a mangonel-stone, which crushed his skull and pinned him so that his brains ran down the wall. So I carried him away and we prayed over him and buried him on the spot, may God have mercy upon him.

A mangonel-stone also struck one of our comrades and broke his leg. So we carried him to my uncle as he was sitting in the hallway of the citadel. He said, ‘Go get the bone-setter.’

At Shayzar there used to be an artisan called Yahya, who was skilled at bone-setting. He presented himself, sat down and began setting that man’s leg-bones, in a recess just outside the gate of the citadel. But another stone struck that injured man on the head, smashing it to pieces. The bone-setter returned to the hallway, so my uncle said, ‘You’ve really set his bones quickly!’

‘My lord,’ he replied, ‘a second stone came and absolved him of the need for any bone-setting.’

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