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constant rivals in the family of the Beni Alabas, who had descended from Abbas, the uncle of Mohammed, and grandfather of Ali, and who claimed precedence of the reigning house."
At the violent accession of Meruan, on the deposition of Ibrahim, the chief of this house was Abdu’-l-'abbas Abdullah, whose after career was to win for him the title of As-seffah-the shedder of blood. This chieftain awaited and availed himself of the propitious moment to assert his claims, collected his adherents, and soon, presenting a threatening front to the throne of Meruan, confronted the white standard of the Ommyades with the black banner of the Abbassides—colors signifying the irreconcileable eninity of the factions.?
Warned in many ways of the danger, the khalif failed in that promptitude and energy which could alone have staid the rising flood. Chief among his advisers and loyal adherents was the General Nasir Ibn Eyer; but just as the rebellion was about to burst forth, this general died, and left Meruan hopeless and helpless.
As if to heap up disasters, soon after the newly-appointed governor of Egypt, Abdullah Ibn Magbara, died, and left that province open to the intrigues of the Abbassides. The affairs of Spain, which did not so much concern the condition of the khalifate, had been left by Meruan in the hands of the Ameer Yusuf la Fehri, and were not considered in the impending danger. Thus, in a day, as it were, in all parts of the empire, rebellion was rife. The Mohammedan world, caring little, indeed, who reigned at Damascus, knew that the government had been badly administered, and was quite ready for a change. Thus in most of the provinces the governors sided with the rebels partly for the reasons already given, and partly, because they felt that Meruan was already lost, and that they could not check the torrent of revolution
Abu’-l-'abbas Abdullah declared himself khalif, and took the field, confiding his army to his uncle, Abdullah, an experienced general. Not without gloomy misgivings, Meruan advanced to meet him. They joined battle at Turab, near Musul, where his misgivings were fully realized. He was defeated, and, after a loss -most likely exaggerated-of thirty thousand men, he fled for his life. The remnants of his army made haste towards Damascus, but were so hastily followed to the Euphrates by the victorious rebel that they were almost entirely dispersed, and, in the crossing of that river, Ibrahim, the deposed khalif, lost his life in attempting to maintain the government of his deposer.
1Ali, it will be remembered, had married Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed, while the Ommyades were descendents of Abu Sofiam.
2Eu cuyos colores se signiscaba la irreconciliable enemistad de los dos bandos.--La Fuente, III., 92.
The unfortunate Meruan found no resting-place. From Quinsarina he passed to Emesa, where a few of the people ventured to offer him protection, but, at the signs of the approaching conquerors, their hearts failed them, and they ordered him to leave the city. Pe hastened to Damascus; it had declared for his enemies. He wandered into Palestine with his small body-guard, and, when overtaken at Alardania, he fought with the energy of despair, again escaping. He pressed forward into Egypt; but at Saida he was brought again to bay by his ruthless enemy, and, after a short contest, he fell at the head of his few remaining adherents in the latter part of February, 750.
His head was torn from the trunk by Saleh, the general who had succeeded Abdullah, em balmed and presented to Abdullah As-seffah.
In the process of embalming, the tongue had been taken out, and, as it lay upon the ground, was snatched up and carried away by a ferret-fit retribution, in the opinion of the poetical general, for the impieties it had so often uttered:
" See the price paid by the tongue that dared so oft blaspheme the skies! Become the prey of vilest brute ; 'tis mangled and devoured.''2
Thus in the words of the Arabian historian "the unfortunate never can be secure, even though he climb to the nests of eagles, and conceal himself on the summits of inaccessible rocks?''
As-seffah, the first khalif of the house of Abbas, did not dissemble his joy when the head of his rival was brought into his presence. In a fervor of devotion he fell prostrate upon the earth, and gave heart-felt thanks to Allah for his bloody success.
Musul, or Mosul, is on a tributary of the Tigris, between that river and the Euphrates.
2 Condé I, c. 37.
But his vengeance was not thus satiated; he proscribed the sons of the former khalif, and soon got rid of them and their claims. Obeydullah, the elder, who fled into Ethiopia, was killed by the natives; and the other, Abdullah, having been captured by the governor of Palestine, was delivered to the khalif, and executed by his orders. The wives and daughters of Meruan found their place in the conqueror's harem, and the change of government was complete. Thus ended the dynasty of the Ommyades, in a manner similar to the downfall of the Merovingiaus in France, and thus began the reign of the Abbasides, destined, like the sway of Charlemagne, to shed great lustre upon the natives by their wonderful accomplishment in arts, science and letters.
The new khalif began to feel that he was not quite secure as long as a drop of the Ummeyan blood flowed in living veins, and he determined to destroy every one around whom the adherents of the Gmmyades could rally.
There were at his court two young men, held in high repute by all, and until now by himself; they were Suleymin and Abdu-rrahman, sons of Mu 'áwiyah and grandsons of Hisham, the tenth Khalif of the Onmyades. Of gentle manners and unblemished character, they had never shared the Ommyan proclivities, and had even sided with As-seffah in his deposal of Meruan, himself by their eyes a usurper.
But the guilty suspicions of the khalif, played upon by the poetical instigations of a malicious courtier, easily caused him to think that these grandsons of a khalif might have some aspirations for the throne, or that, at the least, ill-disposed persons would regard them as the rallying point for a new rebellion against his usurping government. Sodaif thus instigated the king to remove them, and he ordered their instant execution. Further, to rid himself of all the adherents of the former khalif, he had recourse to a barbarous strategem. Ninety of these cavaliers had taken refuge with Abdullah, his uncle and general. These gentlemen were invited by Abdullah, who was in the khalif's secret, to a banquet, and were just about to take their seats at the table, when, as was usual at the feasts of the great, a poet entered and began to recite some verses. The festive mood of the guests was suddenly clouded with misgivings as they heard the poet's lines, which treated of the “ false Ummeyah, that brood ever-accursed, the sons of Abdel-Xiamsi," the first of the dynasty. The verses called for vengeance upon all his followers, recounting Ummeyan cruelties, telling of Husein, an ancestor of As-seffah, who had been cruelly slain by Jezid, the second khalif of that line; of Zeyde, whose body had been impaled by the Khalif Hishem, and of the foul death of As-seffah's brother at their hands.
While the revengeful chant was still sounding in their ears, the guards of Abdullah rushed upon the guests and beat them to death with rods. The last act of the bloody drama was more fiendish still. The tables were removed, and carpets were spread upon the writhing and the dead bodies of the victims, and the remaining guests ate their dinner, with a greedy appetite, upon this table of quivering humanity. The groans of those who were long in dying furnished pleasant music for their repast.1
The appetite for vengeance was not yet appeased. The tombs of the Ummeyan khalifs at Damascus were broken open; the bones of Mu'awiyah, Jezid and Abdelmelik were thrown out. The body of Hishem, yet in human form, was impaled and derided by the multitude, and then all the remains were burned and the ashes were flung to the wind. Elsewhere, wherever the slightest consanguinity to this family could be traced, those who bore it were destroyed and their bodies left to fatten the jackal, hyena and carrion bird. But the fury of the khalif was to be defeated by the escape of one man, the one of all others most dangerous. We return to Suleyman and Abdu-r-rahman; the former was caught and killed, but the latter happened to be absent when the edict was issued, and being fortunately warned by his friends made his escape-the sole survivor and hope of the Ommyades. In the words of the Arab historian, who ascribed to Allah all greatness and power, “on the tablets reserved for the eternal decrees it was written that all the desire of the Beni Alabas and all their zeal for the destruction of the Beni-Ummeyan should prove in vain."
The only scion of that fated house was absent from Damascus when the fatal order had arrived. As soon as he received friendly warning of its issue he secreted a few jewels and a little money, gathered a few adherents, well mounted, and traveling by rude and unfrequented pathways, shunning all towns which he knew
1This account, taken from Condé, is found substantially in Abu-l- Feda. De * Herbelot and Roderik of Toledo.
were in possession of the Abbasides, he thought himself safe when he had reached a distant village on the banks of the Euphrates.
There, one evening, while he was seated in his tent, his little son came in crying and unable to inform him of the reason. He rushed out and found the villige in commotion, for they had descried the black banner of the house of Abbas with a strong force marching upon it. Hastily snatching up a few dinars, he was again in flight for his life. The person and character of the young man caused him to be the more feared by his enemies. He was just twenty years old, of fine, even, majestic presence and graceful demeanor. Unlike his Arabian brethren, he had a fair complexion and a beaming, blue eye. If the old adherents of the house of Ummeyah entertained yet any secret hopes, he was the very man upon whom such hopes would naturally center.
For years he wandered in hiding from his pursuers; he sought the deserts; he was the companion of wandering Bedouins and roving shepherds, sleeping lightly for fear of a surprise, and with the morning bridling his horse to look for some other spot that might be safer. He passed through Egypt, and after five restless years he reached Barca, where he might hope for protection, since its governor, Ibun-l-Habib, had owed his fortunes and position to the House of Ummeyah. But he was mistaken, for Ibun-l-Hahib, through self-interest, had joined the party of the Abbassides, and now sent his emissaries to arrest him, warning all the author. ties of the towns to be on the watch for him.
Amid these untoward circumstances, the hapless fugitive remembered that in the land of dates, just north of the great desert, there had settled an Arabian tribe from which his mother had sprung, and from whom he might hope for protection. This was the tribe of the Zenetes. Thither making his way, he stopped at a village of tents, and there he found at least generosity and hospitality after his years of wandering. He did not disclose himself, but was known as Jaffer Almansur. They were won by his engaging manners and appearance, and were already speculating as to what hero in disguise had thus suddenly come among them, when they were thrown into confusion by the appearance of a body of horse in the service of Ibun Habib, who had tracked him to this hiding place.