[17] [Yazid II] was succeeded by Sham, also known as Hisham (Heshm) [724-743], who ruled for nineteen years. In the first year of his reign, he conceived the disastrous plan of sending a certain general named Harith (Hert') to conduct a census [g100] throughout the land of the Armenians. This was aimed at making [even] more onerous the oppressive yoke of tax service through diverse evils, and at showing dissatisfaction with the benevolence of [the former caliph] 'Umar, as though he had inappropiately spent the treasures which had been accumulated by the caliphs preceding him. [Yazid II] visited many calamities upon this land of ours, to the point that everyone was groaning from the unrelenting, inescapable, and unendurable oppression. Thereafter his hand was to weigh even more heavily upon the land of the Armenians.


In this period once again there was unrest in the northern areas. For the Khazar king, who was styled the Khaqan, had died. When his mother who was named P'arsbit' saw this, she commanded the general named T'armach' to assemble a large force and to go against the land of the Armenians. In a unified body [the troops] passed through the land of the Huns, through the Chora Pass, through the country of the Mazk'ut', raiding the Paytakaran land, crossing the Arax River into the country of the Iranians, ruining Artawe't and Gandzak shahastan as well as the districts called E"t'shibaguan and Spantaran P'eroz and Ormizd P'eroz [g101]. [The Khazars] encountered the Ishmaelite army and its general, who was named Djarrah (Jar'ay) [Djarrah ibn al-Hakami, ruler of Arminiya, 722-725, 729-730]. [The Khazars] killed all of them and spread about raiding in the district of Zarewand, also besieging the fortress called Ampriotik. They left the army equippage and those whom they had enslaved by their swords near the city of Artawe't. But while they were battling against Ampriotik fortress, suddenly a brigade of Ishmaelite troops under their general, named Sa'id al-Harashi (Set'-Harashi)[Sa'id ibn Amru al-Harashi, ruler of Arminiya 730-731], fell upon their camp with a small number of men. [The Arabs] killed many of them and took those they had enslaved. The bad tidings of this event reached the troops who were besieging the fortress of Ampriotik. When [the Khazars] heard about the evils which had befallen them, they left that fortress which they were besieging and went against the brigand who had attacked their camp. When [the Khazars] clashed with the same [Arab] troops, [the Arabs] dealt them many blows, even seizing their [battle] emblem. This was a bronze statue/image which the Harashi brigade have with them to this day as a testament to the bravery of their forbears.

[18] Subsequently the Ishmaelite caliph sent his brother, Maslama (Mslim) [Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik] with a multitude of troops to provide auxiliary assistance to the Harashi brigade. But when Maslama arrived there he found that he had not come in time to participate in the warfare, since Sa'id had already secured the victory. And so, [treacherously] he put some [of al-Harashi's men] to the sword, put some to flight, and expropriated their booty and captives. He insulted, upbraided, and tortured [Sai'id al-Harashi] and even wanted [g102] to kill him. However, he was unable to openly give such an order because [al-Harashi's] clansmen had arisen and were creating an uproar. So he did not dare to work his will. Rather, he silently checked these plans of his and returned to the Ishmaelite caliph.


After this [the caliph] began to threaten the Byzantine emperor. He sent an emissary to Leo [III, the Isaurian, 717-741], emperor of the Byzantines that he submit to him and pay taxes. When Emperor Leo did not acquiesce to the terms laid out in the message, [the caliph], enraged, sent his brother Maslama with a large force against the land of the Byzantines. [Maslama], taking the multitude of troops, crossed through Syrian Cilicia to the land of Mysia, [located in an area] which translates as "between the lands" in [western] Asia Minor. Thence he reached the land of Bithynia and encamped by the banks of a swiftly flowing river called the Sangarius (Sagar'ios). The Byzantine forces also made preparations, moving the residents of the land into fortresses and fortified cities to shield them from the Ishmaelites. Then they encamped opposite them on the other shore of the river, fortifying their encampment with a surrounding ditch. Thus did they remain waiting for some time. Meanwhile, on a daily basis, Emperor Leo kept sending words urging great caution to the Byzantine general so that [his forces] not fall into a treacherous trap. Rather he wanted them merely to remain there and hold them without warfare [g103].

However, [the Byzantine general] did not take care as the emperor had ordered. For he had heard that the Ishmaelite general had called upon his troops to spread about raiding here and there, to take a lot of booty and captives and return to their own land. When the Byzantine general learned about this, he ordered his troops to arm and attack them. Now when [the Byzantine troops] had arisen and were approaching the Ishmaelite troops, the latter immediately were aware of their pursuit since [the Byzantine army had stirred up and was] accompanied by a great cloud of dust. [The Ishmaelites] separated their equippage and divided their mass into three fronts, setting up ambuscades here and there. Maslama himself was at the head of one part of the troops and clashed with [the pursuers]. [The Byzantines] who faced them were unprepared and landed in the midst of their foe together with their gear. Then those hiding in the ambuscades sprang out, trapping them and they put to the sword many of the Byzantine troops. After this [the Arabs] spread about raiding the surrounding areas taking the districts and cities of that country. It is said that the number of people taken captive was more than 80,000. Then [the Arabs] joyfully returned to their own land.

[19] When the caliph of the Ishmaelites observed the magnitude of the victory, he and his lords made merry. He gave magnificent gifts to his brother and blessed the triumph which he had achieved. As for the loot including the men and women slaves and equippage, he divided it among his troops. For the rest of that year [the caliph] desisted [from further warfare] g104].


Now at the commencement of the next year once more [the caliph] assembled a force—larger than the previous body—entrusted it to general Maslama, and sent it against Byzantium. [The caliph] made his brother swear an oath that he would not return to him until he had implemented his will, for he had vowed that he would destroy that empire and raze to the foundations the city called Constantinople and the numerous institutions of [the cathedral of] St. Sophia, which had been built with heavenly wisdom as a house of God on earth. And [he swore that] he would build there a place of loathsome devil-worship, [a mosque] as a place of worship.

With all these [promises] as his firm intent, [Maslama] advanced with the multitude of his troops to the land of the Byzantines. He pitched camp by the shores of the Pontic [Sea] with all his materiel. As if to demonstrate his surliness toward Emperor Leo, [Maslama] dispatched an emissary to him with a letter full of contempt and ridicule, with the following import:

"Why this stubborness, and why have you not come forth to us as a tax payer? For all nations quake in fear of us. Whom are you relying on to help you that you reject us? Could it be that you have not heard about the evils we visited upon all those kingdoms which turned against our sovereignty [g105], kingdoms which we have smashed and pulverized like clay pots? All the world's wealth has become ours because the Lord's command and the promise [made] to our father Ishmael has been fulfilled. And indeed, we have conquered every kingdom. Or perhaps you have not observed how many calamities have been visited upon your country during your reign. With my own hand I have ruined many of your cities, and with my own sword I have slain multitudes of your troops. Know this: if you do not become tributary I have sworn an oath that I will not return to the land of my birth until I have eliminated your kingdom and wrecked the fortifications of that city whose walls you rely on. And as for that place of your worship which you named [Haghia] Sophia, I will turn it into a bath house for my soldiers and the wood of the cross that you revere I will smash over your head, for the glory of our faith is great before the Lord and He will aid us."
[Maslama] wrote these and worse insults to Emperor Leo. [Leo], as soon as he had read the mocking letter ordered the patriarch [Germanus, 715-730], the senate, and the entire multitude of the city to ceaselessly glorify [God] for three days at [the cathedral of] St. Sophia. By the emperor's command the entire city was aroused [to go] to the place of worship. Then the emperor himself arose and went [g106] to the blessed sanctury holding out the letter of insults in his hand, like Hezekiah invoking the indulgent forgiveness of our Savior who from the start had reserved mercy for those dear to him. Tearfully did [Leo] beseech the God of all to give aid [to the Byzantines] and to exact vengeance on the malevolent enemy. He also mentioned the condemnation of the reproacher, reciting the Davidic psalm which says: "How the enemy have corrupted Your holy place and Your enemies have boasted of their wealth. They set themselves their own victory and did not recognize the visitation from Heaven." [Psalms 73, 3-4]

[20] This verse and many others like it did he pour forth before the Lord in confession, prolonging his prayers with fasting for three days. After this he wrote a letter to General Maslama with the following import:

"Why do you take pride in your wickedness, chief of the infidels? Why do you sharpen your treachery like a razor? Why do you brazenly boast before the Almighty? You insolently envision our Savior and His throne. For these reasons we hope that His mercy which you insult will repay you for your wickedness and that He will silence that abominable mouth of yours which you opened against the King of Kings and His city, and this temple to the glory of His name, and against me, the protector of the throne of Christ. [May God punish you] in accordance with the curses of the prophet David, who said that those mouths [g107] which speak iniquity will be silenced. As for us, we do not boast of our bows nor do we live by our swords. Rather, it is the right hand of the Lord and His arm and the protecting power of the light of His face which can destroy those who boast in their impudence, the way you do. It has never entered your mind that blood will be demanded from you for those you slaughtered with your sword and those you led into slavery from my country. That is because it was not due to the righteousness of your deeds but because of our own impiety that [God] permitted the rod of sinners to be visited upon the righteous, so that we take measure of our weakness and be counseled to behave according to whatsoever pleases the Creator. You are testing the Lord our God. But He can sink you and all your multitude in the depths of the sea by agitating the waves, precisely the way the hard-hearted Pharaoh was consigned to the depths of the Red Sea. It was the wand of Moses which turned the waters upon the Egyptian troops and destroyed them by drowning. That wand was the model of the all powerful Cross of Christ which today you have insulted.

"But now, if you turn around and distance yourself from me you will choose what is good for yourself and for your troops. Otherwise quickly do whatever is obsessing you. And let the Lord determine what is good and pleasing in His presence, and let Him pronounce the verdict. Let Him save His people and deliver us those who have troubled us, with their heads bowed down in disgrace" [g108].

As soon as the Ishmaelite general read this letter he became even more furious and rose up like a wild beast to do battle against the solidity of a rock, so that he be caught in his own trap, as was fitting. For it was the Lord Who hardened his heart. Then he ordered his soldiers to prepare the boats and they implemented this command at once, since the ships had been in readiness for many days. [General Maslama] took ship right away with all his gear, and approached the city [of Constantinople]. When Emperor Leo saw the multitude of troops—like a forest on the sea—he ordered the iron fence for the wall to be secured, and closed the doors of the fortress with a chain, and did not allow anyone to fight the enemy. For he remained awaiting a visitation from On High and [was waiting to see] vengeance meted out [to Maslama] in accordance with his deeds. [Leo] immediately ordered the patriarch, the senate, and the entire multitude of the city to take the invincible and glorious sign of Christ's Cross with them in steadfast faith. The emperor himself went through the midst of the crowd carying that undefeatable triumph [the Cross] on his shoulders, while the people glorified Heaven with fragrant incense and glowing candles and torches before and behind the victorious and venerable Cross to pay honor to it. Then the entire multitude opened the city gates and emerged, raising up the Cross over the waters and crying out: "Help us, Christ [g109], son of God, saviour of the world." Having broadcast these words to the heavens above three times, [the emperor] struck the waters of the sea with the symbol of the Cross, imprinting the outline of the Lord['s Cross] upon it.

[21] At once, through the power of the holy Cross, the depths of the sea churned and violently pounding waves rose up causing a massive destruction of ships, and a great drowning of the Ishmaelite troops—to the point that most of the troops drowned in the waters of the sea just as Pharaoh's troops had borne [divine] wrath from the punishing sea. A portion of the troops, clinging to planks, was carried to the far coast of the sea, to the land of Thrace, while other [survivors] were washed up onto distant islands. For the multitude of troops exceeded 500,000 men. As for those who had escaped the disaster and were on dry land, [the emperor] did not permit them to be mercilessly slain. Rather he commanded that they be kept besieged there as there was no means of their getting food. Great hunger descended upon those troops which had already devoured their own horses and mules and now turned to slaughtering their concubines and servants to eat and satiate their hunger. Then did they direct many entreaties to Emperor Leo to have mercy on them and give them provisions. For out of many, only a few survived.

Emperor Leo, considering that the Lord had exacted revenge upon the enemy, showed great mercy on them. He summoned [Maslama] to him and greatly upbraided him, recalling [g110] his shameless impudence.

"Why," [Leo asked] "did you want to attack our country, mercilessly put my troops to the sword and lead the inhabitants of my cities into slavery? Our Lord [represents] life, while you are the son of death and unworthy of life. Indeed, the Lord has judged my case and turned your impiety back upon your own heads and demanded from you the blood of the innocent [which you shed]. So I shall not put forth my hand against you and not judge you as is fitting. For behold, you are in my hands. I am sovereign over you, to kill or spare [you as I choose]. But you will not be killed; rather, go and narrate [to others] the powers of God which you have witnessed."
Then Maslama responded to the emperor:
"What shall I say before you about these things, for truly I am unworthy of life. The crimes which I have committed against your country are not few in number. You have displayed great mercy to me by allowing me to live, for I testify to my own errors. Since it has entered your heart to have mercy on me, release me to go home and I will vow that I will no longer wage war against you."
[Emperor Leo] so ordered. Maslama readied himself and boarded a vessel, cautiously traversing the Mediterranean and returning to his own country in great disgrace. As he went from city to city, he was greeted with sighs and sobs, the beating of foreheads and the pouring of ashes over them. And he, with his head bowed in great shame [g111], encountered great insults from them, but could only make this response: "I was unable to fight against God." Thereafter he went home and, to the day of his death, did not gird a sword to his waist.


In that period Hisham, caliph of the Ishmaelites, sent Marwan (Mrwan) [Marwan ibn Muhammad, ruler of Arminiya, 732-744], Muhammad's son [to rule] over the Armenian people in place of Sa'id, whom they called al-Harashi. When Marwan had reached the city of Dwin, the lords of Armenia came out to meet him. [Marwan] spoke words of peace with them and summoned Ashot, Vasak's son, from the Bagratid House. [Marwan] gave him the authority of patrician over the land of the Armenians, by order of Hisham, and exalted him with many honors. However when Smbat's sons learned about the honor given to Ashot, who had been exalted by Hisham and by General Marwan, they were furiously angry. Word of their discontent reached the ears of Muhammad's son who immediately ordered that they be arrested. [Marwan] sent Grigor and Dawit' of the Mamikonean clan to the Ishmaelite caliph, and he wrote an accusation against them [g112] stating that they were agitators opposed to Ashot's authority. [Caliph Hisham] ordered that they be taken to the desert called Yemen (Eman) and placed in confinement in prison for the rest of their lives.

Once the authority of the patrician Ashot had been established [Ashot III Bagratuni, presiding prince 732-748], he went to the caliph of the Ishmaelites regarding the tyranny [imposed upon] our land. This was due to the fact that for more than three years the stipend [which should have been paid] to the Armenian lords and to their cavalry had been withheld. [Ashot] faced Hisham and spoke words of truth and wisdom in his presence. And [the caliph] exalted him worthily and acceded to his request. He ordered that [the sum of] 100,000 [pieces of silver] for the [past] three years be weighed out for him. Thereafter throughout his tenure the same level [or payment] in silver for the cavalry was received without obstruction.


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