There is a persistent tradition in the Eastern Christian Churches, often referred to by Oriental Christians even at the present day, to the effect that early in the VIIIth century there was an exchange of letters on the question of the respective merits of Christianity and Islam, between the Umayyad Caliph ʻUmar II (717–720) and the Byzantine Emperor Leo III, the Isaurian (717–741), in which the Emperor gloriously refuted the claims of Islam. If this is so, it will represent one of the earliest documents in the Muslim-Christian Controversy known to us. Carl Güterbock rightly states that the beginnings of literary discussions concerning Islam among the Greeks can be traced back to the middle of the VIIIth century, when Leo III was succeeded by his son Constantine V (741–775), but he begins his account of the Byzantine polemists with John of Damascus (†754) and his pupil Theodore Abū Qurra (c. 825). A polemical epistle of Leo III to ʻUmar must have been written before 720, and would thus be earlier than any known Byzantine tractate on this controversy.
1 Der Islam im Lichte der byzantinischen Polemik, Berlin, 1912, pp. 7, 8.
2 Chronographia, ed. de Boor, 1883, I, 399.
3 Eastern Christian writers often speak of ʻUmar's severity with the Christians. Michael Syrus XI, 19 (pp. 455, 456 of the text) tells at length how ʻUmar legislated to ease the position of those who were willing to become Muslims, and to increase the disabilities of those who were unwilling to accept Islam. See also Barhebraeus' Makhtĕbhānūth Zabhnē, p. 117 (ed. Bedjan, Paris, 1880). But note Wellhausen's rejoinder in Das arabische Reich und sein Sturz, pp. 187 ff.
4 Kitāb al-ʻUnwān, ed. Vasiliev, A. in Patr. Orient. VIII, 3 (Paris, 1912), p. 503.
5 Patmoui Arcroumeac ʼi 5 girs camn 996 (History of the Ardzrunids to 996 in 5 Books), ed. Constantinople, 1852, p. 116; ed. St. Petersburg, 1887, p. 105.
6 Patmouiun iuroy žamanakim vasn aršauanạc aarạc (History of his own Times and the Invasion of the Tatars), ed. Venice, 1865, p. 37.
7 Text in Muyldermans, La Domination arabe en Arménie, Paris, 1927, pp. 52, 53.
8 Ṭabarī, Annales, II, 1354; Ibn al-Athīr Kāmil, ed. Tornberg, V, 37.
9 The statement of Theophanes, Chronographia, I, 391 τῇ ἀληθείᾳ δὲ ἐκ τῆς Ἰσαυρίας, is probably due to a confusion of Germanikeia in Comagene with Germanikopolis in Charicene, which latter might be called Isauria.
10 Kitāb al-ʻUyūn in de Goeje et de Jong Fragmenta Historicorum Arabicorum, I, 25. This writer informs us that when Leo was appointed Patricius of Amorium, the citizens of that place objected to his appointment on the ground that he was a Nabataean Arab.
11 Hildebrand Beck in a monograph “Vorsehung und Vorherbestimmung in der theologischen Literatur der Byzantiner” in Orientalia Christiana Analecta, CXIV (Rome, 1937), to which the Editors of the H. T. R. have called my attention, devotes a paragraph to “Pseudo-Leon III” (pp. 43–46) in his section on “Die Polemiker gegen den Islam,” and considers that the correspondence between Leo and ʻUmar is not part of the original history of Ghevond, but was inserted therein by some later hand at the end of the IXth or the beginning of the Xth century. Obviously this correspondence does break the sequence of the history and reads like an insertion, but it would have been such even if placed there by Ghevond himself, and Beck's arguments against its being part of the original text of Ghevond are only valid if Ghevond, as he assumes, wrote in the VIIIth century; but this, as we shall presently see, is an assumption which cannot be justified.
12 Ehrhard in Krumbacher's Geschichte der byzantinische Literatur2 (1897), p. 168, and the Abbé Vogt in Camb. Med. Hist. IV, 59, accept without question the attribution of the letter to Leo VI, following its earlier acceptance as such by Baronius, Fabricius and Migne, and Wolfgang Eichner in Der Islam XXIII (1936), p. 142, by setting a date c. 900 for it, is obviously following the same opinion. Dom Ceillier had, however, seen that it must have been wrongly assigned to Leo VI, and Popov in his special study of the work of this Emperor, Императоръ Левъ Мудрьій и его парст-вованіе въ церковно-исторунескомъ отношеніи, Moscow, 1892, shows that not only is the letter quite unworthy of his subtle pen, but in its Latin form it expressly supports the Roman Catholic side of the Filioque controversy, whereas in the genuine works of Leo VI he expresses himself definitely on the other side.
13 My translation of the letters was made years ago from Chahnazarian's text, but in preparing this article I have only been able to use the text in the edition of St. Petersburg, 1887, edited by K. Iziants, a microfilm of which was put at my disposal by the kindness and courtesy of Professor R. Blake and the Librarian of Harvard University. Chahnazarian's edition was printed at Paris in 1857, and it was from this text that the Russian translation by Patkanian was made. Fortunately the 1887 edition includes the critical notes of both Chahnazarian and Patkanian.
14 K. Schenk, however, in his article in Byzantinische Zeitschrift, V, 1896, p. 277 n. 2, considers the whole letter an invention, — “Was endlich den Bekehrungsbrief anlangt, so ist dieser wohl in das Reich der Fabel zu verweisen, da es Omar nicht einfallen konnte zu erwarten, dass der Kaiser, siegesfroh und stolz, Byzanz errettet zu haben, noch in demselben Jahre zum Glauben der geschlagenen Feinde übertreten werde. Die Erzählung wird erfunden sein zu dem Behufe, die Behauptung, Leon sei ein Freund des Islam, zu rechtfertigen.” This is perhaps being hypercritical, for the sending of such a letter is not at all out of character with the ʻUmar who meets us in the Muslim sources. Brosset has a note on the correspondence in his Deux historiens arméniens (St. Petersburg, 1870), p. 34. H. Beck in Orientalia Christiana Analecta, CXIV, p. 44 n., adduces a number of little pieces of evidence to show that there was a Greek text underlying the Armenian; e.g. he refers to “our Greek language,” calls the Torah νόμος, uses the LXX names for Chronicles and Canticles, etc.
15 Balādhurī Futūḥ, 200.
16 See Tableau II B, “Les Bagratounis,” in Muyldermans, La Domination arabe en Arménie, p. 148.
17 Finck in the section on Armenian Literature in “Die orientalischen Literaturer,” Die Kultur der Gegenwart, I, vii (1906), p. 289, accepts a date at the end of the VIIIth century, but H. Beck in Byzant. Zeitschr. XXXVII (1937), p. 436, who places the Greek original of the letter “aus der Wende des X Jahrh.,” obviously accepts the later date for Ghevond. Ernst Filler's Thesis Quaestiones de Leontii Armenii Historia, Leipzig, 1903, also supports an VIIIth century date, following Chahnazarian in making a special point that Stephen of Asoghik, in his list of historians, places Ghevond between Sebeos and the two Xth century writers Shapuh and Johannes Catholicos, while Kirakos places him between Sebeos and Thoma Ardzruni. This, however, would not obviate a date late in the IXth or early in the Xth century, and as a matter of fact Mekhitar of Airavank, in his Tabula of the Armenian historians, places him between Moses Arghovan and Oukhtanes, both Xth century writers (Brosset, Histoire chronologique par Mkhitar d'Airavank, St. Petersburg, 1869, p. 25, in Tome XIII No. 5 of the Mémoires de l'Académie impériale des Sciences de Saint-Petersbourg, VIIe série). Filler raises objections to the general accuracy of Mekhitar, but it may be pointed out that his date agrees better with the fact that Ghevond on p. 61 of the text speaks of its “being now 800 years since Christ appeared,” though Brosset in a note on p. 80 of his Mkhitar refers to Ghevond as “presque contemporain” with the events of Leo III's reign. Petermann, J. H. in his essay De Ostikanis, Arabicis Armeniae gubernatoribus, Berlin, 1840, p. 9 had made Ghevond a contemporary of Thoma Ardzruni in the Xth century, and E. W. Brooks, “Byzantines and Arabs in the Time of the Early Abbasids,” in the English Historical Review, XV (Oct., 1900), p. 731, judges that “the Armenian Leontius, though his history only comes down to 790, seems to have written in the latter half of the ninth century,” with which dating we agree.
18 There have been two translations of the History of Ghevond, one by Chahnazarian, Paris, 1856, Histoire des Guerres et des Conquêtes des Arabes en Arménie, par l'éminent Ghévond, vardabed arménien, écrivain du huitième siècle, traduite par Garabed V. Chahnazarian, and one by K. Patkanian, St. Petersburg, 1862 — Иcтopiя xaлифoвъ Bapдαπета Γевондα. πисателя VIII вЂка. Πереводъ ϲъ армянскаго. Both these, however, are so rare as to be unprocurable.
19 Edition of 1851, p. 164, 165.
20 Ed. Chabot, p. 405 of the Syriac text.
21 Some Muslim writers commonly understand taḥrīf as meaning “false exegesis” of the Biblical passages, but the favorite meaning with the polemical writers, since Ibn Ḥazm's day, has been to take it as meaning deliberate tampering with the text. Ignazio di Matteo has a long discussion of this matter, “Il Taḥrīf od alterazione della Bibbia secondo i Musulmani” in Bessarione, XXXVIII (1922), 64–111, 223–260, Fritzsch has a section on it, pp. 54–74 of his Islam und Christentum im Mittelalter (Breslau, 1930), and the word is discussed by Goldziher, in ZDMG, XXXII (1878), p. 364 ff.
22 Mingana's text in Woodbrooke Studies, II, p. 55. This disposes of the objection of H. Beck in Orientalia Christiana Analecta CXIV, 44 n., that the Muslim argument concerning the Torah falsification by the Jews was only raised in this form in the IX/Xth centuries.
23 Risāla, ed. of 1880, pp. 138–140.
24 M. Perlmann in JQR, XXXI (1940), pp. 177, 181.
25 JQR, XXXI, 187.
26 On the other hand, his Esdras may not refer to the book in the Apocrypha, but merely to Ezra as the restorer of the Old Testament.
27 This may be indirect confirmation of the fact that ‘Umar wrote to the Emperor about the prisoners taken at Latikieh.
28 Perhaps he is thinking of I Pet. III, 15.
29 It is not impossible, of course, that Byzantine prelates, roughly contemporary with Muḥammad, may have written some account of the new religion that had arisen in Arabia, but if they did we know nothing of it. The earliest Christian references to Muḥammad and Islam so far known to us, e.g. those of John of Phenek and Sebeos, are bare historical notices, which tell us very little about the religion itself.
30 Isa. LV, 2. Perhaps a reference to the already mentioned promise of Muḥammad to the Muslims, that if they were obedient to the new faith they would eat of the goodly inheritance.
31 The assembly of Scripture witnesses which follows, as that in the Latin 316–318, is his answer to the Caliph's charge against the Christians of making Jesus the associate and equal of God. The Caliph in this is merely following the Qurʼān, for there (Sūra V, 116, 117) Muḥammad has God take Jesus to task for the claim of the Christians that He and His Mother were Gods beside God, and He denies that He had told His followers any such thing. Also in V, 76 the Qurʼān makes Jesus proclaim that Allah alone is God to be worshipped, for those who associate anything with Allah will find paradise denied them. The use of terms in the Caliph's charge is worth noting — “associate,” “equal,” “unique,” “all-powerful,” all of them Qurʼānic terms, so that it would be interesting to know what the Greek terms were. Perhaps the use in the Latin 315a, 317c of the title “Son of Mary,” is because this title (ibn Maryam), is the most commonly used name for Christ in the Qurʼān itself.
32 He is referring to the fact that in the Qurʼān Muḥammad himself, on more than one occasion, appealed to the testimony of the Scriptures in the hands of the Jews and Christians.
33 Sūra V, 105–107, 96; LXV, 2; II, 282; IV, 7, 19 are the classical passages about the calling of witnesses, but in none of them is there any reference to this being also in the Torah of Moses, though the Commentators know of the regulation in Deut. XVII, 6. Leo later brings up again this question of Muḥammad's demanding two witnesses, as a ground for objecting to Muslim rejection of the divinity of Christ on the single witness of Muḥammad himself, whereas the Christians can produce many witnesses in favor of it from the Old and New Testaments.
34 The reference is probably to such passages as XIX, 59 and VI, 84–87, which represent the Prophets as rightly guided, and LXI, 14; V, 111, which refer to the Ḥawāriyyūn, who were the followers of Jesus.
35 This number 22 is no argument against the ascription of the letter to Leo, on the ground that the Emperor, familiar with the Septuagint, would have used the orthodox list containing the Deuterocanonica. It must be remembered that not all Greek lists of the Canon contained the Deuterocanonica, and on the other hand the usual Armenian lists of Ghevond's time would almost certainly have contained the extra books. See Beck's note and references in Orientalia Christiana Analecta, CXIV, 45 n.
36 The Kuhiłē for Koheleth, and Širṫširim for Shir hash-Shirim, are fairly good equivalences, but Paṛimon seems to be a mistake, the subscription пαροιμíαι from the book of Proverbs being taken for the superscription to Ἐκκλησιαστής. The Samatan doubtless represents part of the title ἄσματα ἀσμάτων.
37 He is referring back to the charge of the Caliph that the Old Testament was many times lost, and at a later period recomposed out of men's heads. The “many times lost” doubtless refers to the Rabbinic tale that at three different times in the history of the Jews the Torah was nearly forgotten, but each time a man from Babylon restored it. The first time it was restored by Ezra, the second by Hillel in the time of King Herod, and the third by Rabbi Hiyya the elder, the disciple and friend of R. Jehuda Hannasi, assisted by his sons Hezekiah and Judah (B. Sukkah 20a).
The “recomposing,” of course, is the legendary labor of Esdras and his scribes related in II (IV) Esdras cap. xiv, a tale that occurs elsewhere in Muslim apologetic.
The Latin 315b has the charge a little more explicitly — “et iterum dicis, quia, cum lex Moysi in igne fuisset cremata et renovasset earn Esdras propheta ut potuit ei memoria cordis sui recordari, et non sine mendacio,” and refers to it again in 321a, — “quod autem. dicis, legem Moysi esse crematam, et quod eam Esdras memoriter et mendaciter memoravit.” A second reference by Leo (p. 55 of the Armenian text), also recognizes that the Caliph's reference is to the Ezra legend, “you attack the second edition which Esdras composed.” The Ezra legend in II (IV) Esdras xiv speaks of the law as having been burned — “lex tua ineensa est” (v. 21), and of Ezra's memory being the source of the dictation — “spiritus meus conservabat memoriam” (v. 40), and of course it was the Holy Spirit's descent which was to enable him to do the work — “inmitte in me spiritum sanctum, et scribam omne quod factum est in saeculo ab initio quae erant in lege tua scripta” (v.22).
Leo may have derived his knowledge directly from the book in the Apocrypha, but the detail he adds about the confronting of the two texts is curious. His earlier insistence that the “Testament” (i.e. the Torah) went with them to Babylon, is in accord with a Rabbinic tradition to the effect that a copy of the Torah with “crowns” had been buried under the threshold of the Temple, where Ezekiel found it and carried it to Babylon with him, whence it was brought back by Ezra (Sefer ha Tagin in Ginzburg's Massorah, II, 680). As the tradition speaks of its being brought back by Ezra himself, it is clear that an attempt is being made to identify it with “the Law of thy God which is in thy hand” of Ezra VII, 14, 25, 26, so that the reading aloud of the Law mentioned in Nehem. VIII ff. may have been interpreted as the comparison of the old copy from Babylon with the new one produced by Ezra by way of inspiration.
The Latin 321c makes the point that even though Ezra reproduced the matter from memory, this would be nothing against it, since he was a Prophet, and “in prophetis Dei non est mendacium neque oblivio, quia Deus fit revelatio illorum,” a sentiment which would be universally approved by orthodox Muslims, since according to their teaching, one of the things which cannot be ascribed to Prophets is nisyān, i.e. “forgetfulness.”
38 See the Latin 315b, 321b.
39 The Caliph's problem is that the Injīl (εὐαγγέλιον) mentioned in the Qurʼān as the book of Jesus, must, according to theory, be a book containing the revelations given by God to Jesus for him to proclaim to the people, whereas the Gospel in the hands of the Christians consists of these four Evangelists' accounts of the “Good News” as proclaimed in the words and deeds of Jesus, which is a very different thing.
40 The orthodox Muslim view, of course, is that the divine original of Scripture is in the heavens, and that the material was revealed piecemeal by the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet over a period of some twenty odd years, the Prophet reciting the passages to the people as they were progressively revealed to him. (Bukhārī, ed. Krehl, II, 410.) In very many passages Allah speaks of revealing this or that to the Prophet, and the common verb used in the Qurʼān in connection with revelation is nazzala, anzala, tanazzala, from a root meaning “to come down,” so that there is no doubt that the material was meant to be understood as “sent down from heaven.”
In the Qurʼān itself, however, there are hints that Muḥammad's contemporaries knew that he had informants of another faith giving him at least some of his material. In XXV, 5, 6 we have the charge of the Meccans that others had helped him with the production of the Qurʼān, which they said was but “tales of the ancients” that he had had put into writing as they were dictated to him morn and even; and in XVI, 105 the Meccans hint that they know a certain person who taught him the things he claimed to receive by revelation. Numerous suggestions have been made, both by the Muslim commentators, and by Western students, as to who this “mentor” may have been, but in any case that would refer only to odd bits of information or material supplied to Muhammad for working up into his revelations, not that they were the authors of the book.
The charge that ‘Umar, Abū Turāb and Salmān the Persian were the authors of the Qurʼān, however, is peculiar. By ‘Umar he means ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭāb, the second Caliph.
Abū Turāb is ‘Alī, the son-in-law of the Prophet and the fourth Caliph. The tractate Contra Muhammad, printed at the end of Bartholomew of Edessa's Confutatio in PG, CIV, speaks (col. 1457) of ‘Alī as having been the one through whom the Qurʼān was put into circulation.
Salmān al-Fārisī is one of the most curious figures of Islamic history and legend. That he was a historical person, need not be questioned. Possibly he was a Persian slave at Madīna who embraced Islam and put his knowledge at the service of the new faith. His position as a non-Arab Muslim, however, made him conspicuous as “the firstfruits of Persia in Islam,” and attracted so much legend to his figure, that even his connection with the famous Ditch is questioned by some critics. Part of this legend connects him with the production of the Qurʼān.
41 The commonest charge of alterations in the Gospel is that the name of Muḥammad was there, but the Christians removed it. The remark about removing the names of the Evangelists refers to the Muslim claim, mentioned before, that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John prove the Gospels to be the words of men not the word of God, or, as the Muslim objector in Bartholomew of Edessa says (col. 1384c) — Διὰ τί τὸ κατελθὸν Eὐαγγὴλιον ἐκρύψατε, καὶ νέον ἐγράψατε;
42 In the Qurʼān there are many references to the expectation that an angel should be the agent of revelation, or of instruction from God.
43 The Caliph's question as to whether Jesus had not in the Gospel, in speaking about the Paraclete, referred to the coming of Muḥammad, goes back to the Qurʼānic verse LXI, 6, “And when Jesus, son of Mary, said — O Children of Israel, I am the messenger of Allah to you, confirming the Torah now present, and announcing a messenger to come after me, whose name is Aḥmad.” The name Aḥmad is from the same root as the name Muḥammad, both meaning much the same thing, “the praised,” and the common supposition is that the statement refers back to the promise of the Paraclete in John XIV, 16, 26; XV, 26; XVI, 7. But see the discussion by Fischer, A., “Muḥammad und Aḥmad, die Namen des arabischen Propheten,” in Berichte über die Verhandlungen der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, LXXXIV (1932), Heft. 3,
Whatever the origin of this may have been, the claim that the promise of the Paraclete was fulfilled in Muḥammad is prominent in Muslim thought. Timothy in his Apology before al-Mahdī (Mingana in Woodbrooke Studies, II, 33–35) is at pains to prove the Muslim claim wrong, and almost every polemical writing in this field contains some account of the matter (see Fritzsch 90 ff.). Some sought to explain the reference as a deliberate deception of Muḥammad by the renegade monk who was his mentor. Thus the Syriac writer Isho'yabh in the Christian Bahira Legend edited by Gottheil in ZA, XIII, tells us (on p. 213) how the scribe Kaleb (= Ka'b), who came after Sergius, taught the Muslims that Muḥammad himself was the Paraclete.
44 The Caliph's question was doubtless based on his memory of the Muslim tradition as to the seventy-two sects of the Christians, not on anything he had learned from Christian sources.
The splitting up into sects is a matter for which the Jews and Christians are blamed in the Qurʼān, indeed (XXX, 31; XLII, 11), but the number seventy belongs only to the tradition.
45 The hundred years since the religion of Islam appeared would be accurate for Leo writing in 718, for August 3rd of that year saw the beginning of the year 100 A.H., a year specially marked by the Muslims, as we know from the Annalists, because it was expected to be a year of great portent for the Islamic religion and empire.
46 The identification of these Muslim sects is not simple. The names are given in the same order, though with slight orthographical variations, in Vartan (p. 53 of the text as printed in Muyldermans, La Domination Arabe), who almost certainly took them from a MS of Ghevond. In each case we have to assume, of course, that the Armenian name is an attempt at transliterating a Greek form, which itself may not be a very accurate representation of the Arabic original.
The awzi (Vardan owzi) are doubtless the Khawārij, as Chahnazarian suggests. They were the political puritans of Islam, who created much trouble all through the days of the Umayyad Caliphate.
The Sabari (Vardan Sabri), whom Chahnazarian would identify with the Jubbā'ites, followers of Abū ‘Alī al-Jubbā’ī (†915), are perhaps rather the Jabarites, who with the Murjiites presently to be mentioned, formed one of the earliest known sects of Islam.
The ourapi (Vardan ourabi) are doubtless some ‘Alid sect, since ‘Alī himself was known as Abū Turāb (see Nöldeke in ZDMG, LII, 29 ff. on the name), and his Shī‘ite followers often named Turābīyya.
The Kntri may be, as Chahnazarian suggests, the Qadarites, who appear with the Murjiites and the Jabarites as among the earliest sects of Islam. They were so named because they believed in free-will, and that man had power (qadar) over his actions. They were the predecessors of the Mu'tazilites.
The Mourǰi are quite obviously the Murji'ites or “postponers,” who withheld judgment till they could see how Allah would pronounce on the Last Day.
The Basłi (Vardan Basli) must be the Mu'tazilites, or at least a group of them, the name deriving from the famous Wāṣil b. ‘Aṭā’ (†131 A.H. = 748 A.D.), whose separation from his master al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī is a story famous in the books of Muslim theology.
The ahdi (Vardan hdi) would seem to be the Jāḥiẓites, the followers of the “goggle-eyed” Mu‘tazilite teacher of Baṣra, Abū ‘Amr b. Baḥr al-Jāḥiẓ, who died in 869. It is hardly true to say, as Ghevond does, that he denied the existence of God and the resurrection, though the thoroughgoing philosophical scepticism of Jāḥiẓ, and his clever mockery of much that the orthodox taught both about Allah and the hereafter, may well have sounded like a denial of both.
The Hariuri (Vardan Hariri) Chahnazarian would identify with the Khurrāmiyya, followers of Bābak al-Khurrāmī, the son of an Aramaic-speaking oil-seller of Ctesiphon, who appeared in 816, and for some twenty years terrorized W. and N. W. Persia, claiming to be a theophany, and to reincarnate the spirit of Jāwīdān. Or failing this he would see in them the Ḥulūlite sects who taught that God's spirit continues to incarnate amongst men (see Baghdādī, Farq, 241 ff.). It is much more likely, however, that the reference is to the Ḥarūriyya, a name for the Khārijites, or portion thereof, given them from the town of Ḥarūra or Ḥaraurū’, outside Kūfa, where the Khawārij retired when ‘Alī returned to Kūfa from the battle of Siffīn. They are often called Ḥarūriyya in the theological tractates and also in ordinary historical references. They would best fit the description of Ghevond of being so fierce against the orthodox that they would willingly kill them as infidels and enemies, and consider it most meritorious to die fighting against them.
47 This list of languages is that of the 1887 text, which differs somewhat from that of 1857.
48 This is a rather confused reference to the work of al-Ḥajjāj on the text of the Qurʼan. The orthodox Muslim theory assumes that the text as canonized by ‘Uthmān was the final canonization, but there is reason to believe that a recension of ‘Uthmān's text was made by the direction of al-Ḥajjāj, so that we only know of the text of ‘Uthmān in this later recension. This fact was apparently well known to Oriental Christian writers, for al-Kindī in his Apology (Risāla, p. 78), speaks of al-Ḥajjāj not leaving a single Codex that he did not gather up, and left out many things, and of how he sent out copies of his new recension, and directed his attention to destroying the older Codices. This statement of al-Kindī has always been looked at askance as a piece of Christian polemic, but we know from Ibn ‘Asākir (Tārīkh, IV, 82) that one of al-Ḥajjāj's claims to fame was his being instrumental in giving the Qurʼān to the people, and from Ibn Duqmāq (Intiṣār, IV, 72) we know of the commotion in Egypt when a Codex from those which al-Ḥajjāj had had officially written out to be sent to the chief cities of the Muslim Empire, reached that country. As there were stories about al-Ḥajjāj being connected with the earliest attempts at putting diacritical marks in the Qurʼānic text to make its readings more certain (Ibn Khallikān I, 183 quoting Abū Ahmad al-‘Askarī), and also with the earliest attempts at dividing the text into sections (Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-Maṣāḥif, p. 119 in my Materials), it might be suggested that this recension of his was merely an improved edition of the ‘Uthmānic text, which he had had prepared, and copies of which he had had sent out as the edition to be officially used. Such a suggestion would also suit the story in the as yet unprinted Mushkil of Ibn Qutaiba, that he ordered the destruction of all the Codices representing a text earlier than that canonized by ‘Uthmān, and with his well-known enmity towards the famous text of Ibn Mas‘ūd (Ibn ‘Asākir, IV, 69; Ibn al-Athīr Chronicon, IV, 463). In Ibn Abī Dāwūd (pp. 49, 117), however, we have a list of eleven passages, on the authority of no less a person than Abu Ḥātim as-Sijistānī, where our present text is said to be that of al-Ḥajjāj, arrived at by tampering with the earlier text. It would thus seem that some revision of the text, as well as clarification by division and pointing, was undertaken by al-Ḥajjāj, and that this was known to the Christians of that day, and naturally exaggerated by them for polemical purposes. As this work would seem to have been done by al-Ḥajjāj during his period of office under the Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik b. Marwān, who died in 86 A.H. = 705 A.D., there is no difficulty in supposing that Leo may have heard of it during his official life in Syria.
His remark about a few of the works of Abū Turāb having escaped may refer to works, such as collections of Proverbs, etc. which were ascribed to ‘Ahī, and as such circulated in the East, or it may merely refer to Codices of the Qurʼān which he knew had escaped the general destruction ordered by al-Ḥajjāj.
49 The Latin deals with this charge in 317a. Again it is a Qurʼānic charge that the Caliph is preferring, for in IV, 169 the Christians are bidden “say not three,” and in v. 77 of the next Sūra, those who say “Allah is the third of three,” are classed among the unbelievers. The wording of Sūra V, 116, “O Jesus, son of Mary, was it Thou who didst say to the people — ‘Take Me and my mother as gods apart from Allah?’,” suggests that Muḥammad thought of the Christian Trinity as parallel to the numerous Near Eastern triads of Father, Mother, Son.
In the Latin 317a the question of the engendering of the Son is brought out a little more specifically — “Pater non est genitus, Filius est genitus, Spiritus sanctus non est genitus necque ingenitus,” apparently having in mind the Qurʼānic passage CXII, 3, “He begetteth not and is not begotten.”
50 This illustration from the sun is given somewhat differently by the Latin 316c.
51 The story of the angels being commanded to bow down to Adam is in Sūra II, 32 (cf. XVII, 63; XVIII, 48; XX, 115), which is the story of the fall of Iblīs through his refusal to obey this command.
52 This is the beginning of his argument in reply to the objection that the Christians are in error in adoring Christ. The Latin 320c on this point points out that the Children of Israel adored the Ark (doubtless referring to II Chron. V, 6 ff.), and yet in so doing they were not adoring the wood of the Ark, but the Law, the Word of God, which was in the Ark (I Ki. VIII, 9), so since the angels were commanded to adore the newly created Adam, why should one not adore the incarnate Word? Then it asks whether it is not better to adore Him than some deaf stone at Mecca, which is but a relic of ancient heathenism. The reference, of course, is to the Shrine at Mecca with its sacred Black Stone. The “idololatria illa qua adorabant Jaoh, Jaoc, Nazara, et Allac et Allogei et Mena, quidam ex eis erant dei in similitudine virorum, quaedam in similitudine feminarum,” is a reference to Sūra LIII, 19, 20, which mentions the three goddesses Al-Lāt, al-'Uzzā and Manāt, all of which were in female form, and Sūra LXXI, 23, which mentions the ancient Arab deities Yaghūth, Ya'ūq and Nasr. His following sentence, however, is difficult to understand — “Majores horum, dicebantur Aleubre, unde et sermo iste derivatur, Alacuiber, inter vos immolentes eis pecora et camelos in uno die pro unoquoque anno.” If we can suppose Aleubre to be a misprint for Alcubra, then the two words may be the two superlatives, masc. and fem. al-kubrā and al-akbar, “the greatest,” used in titles of the original male and female deity of the shrine, i.e. the Hubal and ‘Uzzā whom we learn figured together in the pagan Meccan war-cry. The sacrifice of cattle and camels at the Meccan shrine in pre-Islamic times is well attested. He then goes on, “et secuti estis consuetudinem paganorum super lapide illo, in Mecha, in angulo domus ipsius idololatriae, cui serviebat antiquitas paganorum, et immolabat,” referring to the Black Stone (al-ḥajar al-aswad), which is set in the outside southern corner of the Ka'ba (Rif'at Pāsha, Mir'at al-Ḥaramain, I, 132 ff.; 300 ff.).
53 The substance of the argument of God's remedy for the sad state of sinful man is that of the Latin 319. The following Scripture “proof texts,” while by no means the same as are used in the Latin in 317 ff., are of the same general type.
54 That the Moabitish worship was of a licentious character is suggested by such Old Testament passages as Numb. XXV, and the Moabite Stone with its reference to ‘Ashtar-Chemosh, suggests the Baal and consort worshipped with licentious rites at the “high places,” but we have no evidence to support the precise charge in the text as to the forms of the images. Later Rabbinic writers commenting on Numb. XXI, 29, tell us that the idol of the Moabites was a black stone in female form (Midrash Lekach Tob, ed. Padua, Wilna, 1884, in loc).
55 The name = “may El strive,” is explained in Gen. XXXII, 28; Hos. XII, as “wrestler with El,” but from the later pronunciation of the name, represented in the Greek and Syriac forms with initial א, there grew up the conceit that it was made up of the three elements אישׁ דאה אב = “man who saw God.” From Philo's Ἰσράηλ, ὅπερ ἑρμηνενθέν ἐστιν … ὁρῶν θεόν” — (de Abrahamo, 12, cf. de congressu eruditionis gratia, 10), the idea passed to the Greek ecclesiastical writers, and was doubtless the common understanding of the name in Leo's day.
56 For this question of the two witnesses see note 33.
57 The passages in question are Sūra XIX, 29 where the mother of Jesus is called the sister of Aaron, and LXVI, 12, where she is called “daughter of ‘Imrān.” The Latin 315b. c. does not make this point about the thirty-two generations that had elapsed between the two Miriams, but merely says that the one Miriam died in the desert before they entered the promised land. It then goes on to make the further point that the first Miriam was of the tribe of Levi, whereas the mother of Jesus was of the bribe of Judah.
58 See notes 21 and 37.
59 In the Qurʼān Jesus is represented as saying things which are not to be found in any Gospel, canonical or apocryphal, but which, according to Muslim theory, would presumably have been found in the Gospel to which Muḥammad refers, which is why Leo further on asks that this Gospel be cited.
The reason Leo mentions specifically the Torah, Psalms and Gospel, is that these three alone are mentioned in the Qurʼān, and the challenge to produce other books of Moses, David and Jesus, if those which are in the hands of the People of the Book are not genuine, must have been early made, for there have been attempts to answer the challenge by producing such. The point of the usual Muslim objection to the Scriptures at present in the hands of Jews and Christians, is that a Scripture should contain the “Word of God,” i.e. in it God would be the speaker from beginning to end, as He is in the Qurʼān. In the Qurʼān we find God addressing man all through, whereas in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures it is as often as not man addressing God. The genuine Torah, or Zabūr (Psalter) or Injīl (Gospel), would thus, according to the Muslim idea, be similarly composed in verses of rhymed prose (saj‘), in which God would be addressing man.
60 Numerous examples of “sayings of Jesus” are to be found in Muslim theological literature.
61 The regulation concerning the Qibla, or direction to which the Muslim must turn in prayer, is given in Sūra II, 136–140.
The Ka'ba, of course, in pre-Islamic days had been a pagan shrine, and there can be little doubt that many of the ceremonies thereat, the circumambulation, the kissing of the Black Stone, etc., which were taken over into the Islamic ceremonial of the Pilgrimage, derive from pagan practice, so that there is some color of truth to the charge that the Muslims venerate a pagan altar of sacrifice.
62 Possibly this was a name used for the Ka'ba, though now the Maqām Ibrāhīm (which is mentioned in the Qurʼān in II, 119, III, 91), is pointed out as a special place in the sanctuary area, and has its own cycle of legends.
63 The Qurʼān speaks of Jesus as having been “aided” by the Holy Spirit (II, 81, 254; V, 109), and as Gabriel was identified with the Holy Spirit (cf. XVI, 104), it was commonly said that Jesus had had angelic help and assistance, which is doubtless what is referred to here.
64 The reference is probably to the statement in the Qurʼān that Jesus was merely a “Messenger” (rasūl, V, 111; III, 43; IV, 156, cf. XLIII, 59), i.e. one sent, just as other Messengers had been sent, and to the passages (III, 48; V, 117) which refer to how Allah “took him to Himself.” The Latin 315a states the objection that adoration of Christ is out of place since He Himself brought testimony “dicens quod missus sit a Deo,” and quoting the promise in Matt. X, 32 about confessing before the Father those who would confess Him on earth, and His statement in John XX, 17 about ascending to His God and their God, as clear evidence that He did not think of Himself as God.
65 The argument from here on is an answer to the Muslim objection that Jesus was a mere man, as Adam was. In the Latin 315a the objection is put quite simply, that Christ was in the sight of God such as Adam was, for He ate and slept as Adam did. This is again taken up there in 320b. The reference is to the Qurʼānic passage III, 52, “Jesus, indeed, is as Adam in the sight of God. He created him of dust (turāb).” To which the Latin 320d, 321a objects — “Ponitis faeturam de lnto, quae contradixit Deo suo, et non custodivit praeceptum eius, similem Verbo Dei et lumini ipsius, qui non est foctus, sed per ipsum facto aunt omnia.” The de luto of the Latin probably represents the min ṭīn “of clay” of the Qurʼānic stories of the creation of Adam (VII, 11 etc.).
It would seem that Christians in their argument with Muslims used to make much of the fact that the birth of Jesus was without the agency of a human father, as is admitted in the Qurʼānic accounts of the Annunciation. A favorite Muslim counterargument is that mentioned by Leo here, that if Jesus is to be ranked high because of His birth from a mother without a father, then Adam must rank higher still, for he was produced without even a mother being necessary.
66 Doubtless a reference to the famous passage in Sūra IV, 156, which replies to the Jewish boast that they had killed the Messiah, by declaring that they had not killed Him nor crucified Him, but only someone in His likeness.
67 Since all Muslims follow the ancient Semitic practice of circumcision, though it is not so much as mentioned in the Qurʼān, it was a peculiar grievance of theirs against the Oriental Christians that they did not follow this custom, and considered their baptism as a substitute for it. The Caliph al-Mahdī urges this against the Patriarch Timothy (Woodbrooke Studies, II, 28).
68 The Latin 321c leads up from the sacrifice of the two sons of Adam, which is mentioned in the Qurʼān itself (V, 30), and so well known to Muslims, to the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. Then in 321d, 322a he quotes the strange account of the Last Supper and institution of the Eucharist given in Sūra V, 112–115. His knowledge of the Qurʼānic passage is probably from oral tradition, and makes curious comparison with the original —
Cum discipuli Filio Dei dixissent, ‘Invoca Deum ut dirigat nobis manna de coelo’; et dixisset Christus, ‘Timete Deum si estis fideles,’ discipuli dixerunt, ‘Volumus comedere illud, et credemus tibi et sciemus quia verum locutus es nobis, et testabimur quia Christus Deus es: dirige manna de coelo, ut sit nobis festum solemne, et posteris nostris signum ex te: haec nobis tribue, quia tu es dator donorum.’ Et Deus dixit, ‘Dirigam illud vobis’; quod postquam negavit, cruciaverunt eum cruciatione qua nemo cruciatus fuit.
When the disciples said, O Jesus, Son of Mary, is your Lord able to send down to us a table from heaven? He said ‘Fear Allah, if you are believers.’ They said, ‘We desire to eat thereof, that our hearts may be at ease, and we shall know that Thou hast spoken the truth to us, and we shall be witnesses thereto.’ Jesus, Son of Mary, said — ‘Allahumma, our Lord, Send down to us a table from heaven, which will be to us a feast, to the first of us and the last of us, and a sign from Thee. Do Thou make provision for us, for Thou art the best of providers.’ Allah said, ‘I shall send it down to you, but whoever of you afterwards disbelieves, Him will I punish with such a punishment as I have never punished anyone in the world.’
When he goes on to attribute this strange account of the Eucharist to a Nestorian instructor — “Et tamen hi sermones fuerunt Nestoriani cujusdam haerelid, non sane de Christo sentientii, qui vos introduxit quasi ut aliquid de fide Christi intellegeretis, sed ut est ratio et veritas vobis non demonstravit,” he is alluding once again to the commonly held idea that Muḥammad was instructed in religion by a mentor from one of the heretical sects.
69 Chahnazarian has a note about this charge of Leo's that among Muslims the females also are circumcised, saying that he had not been able to find any ancient author who tells of this, so that he judges that what is said on this matter in Greek and Armenian authors must be put down either to inexact information, or to prejudice and enmity. The practice is, however, well evidenced among Muslim peoples, though neither male nor female circumcision is referred to in the Qurʼān. In the famous story in the Arabian Nights, entitled “The Muslim Champion and the Christian Maid,” for example, we read — “so he expounded to her the tenets of the Faith of Islam, and she became a Muslima, after which she was circumcised, and he taught her the ritual prayers.” There is a discussion of the practice as applied both to boys and girls in the Musnad of Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, V, 75.
70 The objection to the incarnation is not generally put as grossly as it is by ‘Umar, but it was a common objection. In the Latin 321a the objection is put — quomodo Deus potuit ingredi in ventrem mulieris, tenebrosum et angustum et fetidum, and the reply is given that the sun every day sends its rays down into all sorts of filth and ordures, yet far from being defiled thereby, it on the contrary cleanses everything. It then continues with the illustration of the “burning bush” (Exod. III, 2–4), adding — nonne melius erat corpus Virginis quam illa spina rubi? Very curiously the Latin thinks that Moses was given the Law from the fire in the bush, obviously confusing the call at Horeb to go and liberate the Children of Israel, with the flame of fire at Sinai at the giving of the Law — qui ingressus in rubo qui erat in monte Sinai, et locutus est servo suo Moysi, et legem ei dedit. This is the more curious as the Qurʼān keeps the two events quite distinct, the experience of the bush being at the vale Ṭuwā (XX, 9–35; LXXIX, 16), and the giving of the law at Sinai (VII, 138–142).
The objection, of course, arises from the indignant denial oft repeated in the Qurʼān, that the eternal God could have had a son, or daughters as the pagan Arabs asserted.
The Latin 319a quotes in this connection Sūra III, 40, where the birth of Jesus is said to be “a word from Him: His name shall be Messiah,” but curiously says the announcement was to Zachariah, getting it mixed up with Sūra XIX, 7, the succeeding verses of which also tell of the annunciation to Mary. In 320a, again, in speaking of Mary as Mariam quam elegerat, there is apparently a reference to III, 37, where Mary is twice referred to as “chosen” by Allah. In 320c the reference to the Jews dicentes blasphemiae verba ad Mariam matrem ejus, cui pudor castitatis inerat, is doubtless to Sūra IV, 155, where the Jews are upbraided for having “spoken against Mary a grievous calumny.” The writer, however, has slipped in his further reference — et secundum vestrum sensum, Judaei intelligentes de Christo, persequentes et comprehendentes, eum crucifixerunt, for IV, 156 expressly states, “But they slew Him not, nor crucified Him, but only one in His likeness.”
71 The reference is to ‘Umar's uncle Muḥammad b. Marwān, whom Leo would have known only too well, for it was he who in the year 75 A.H. = 694 A.D. led the summer campaign which resulted in the severe defeat of the Byzantines at Marʻash, Leo's own home (Balādhurī, Futūh, 188). He was also the general governing Armenia under the Caliphate of his brother ‘Abd al-Malik (ibid. 205), and under his successor al-Walīd I, and had the task of putting down the Armenian rebellion which took advantage of the insurrection of Ibn az-Zubair to make a bid for freedom. His cruelties and evil deeds in Armenia had already been dealt with at length by Ghevond earlier in his book.
72 It was very natural for the Caliph to raise an objection to Christian veneration of the Cross. In Muslim tradition as to the Last Day we find an account of how Jesus will return before the end and become a Muslim, and among the particular acts He will then perform is that of breaking all the crosses, the reason, of course, being that the cross is an offence to the Muslims. We have early attestation of Christians being reproved for their veneration of the Cross.
The veneration of saints and relics, and the use of pictures and images, are part of the regular arsenal of later Muslim polemical writers, but they must have been subjects of controversy and discussion in Leo's day, when the Iconoclastic controversy was raging, so that it is not surprising to see them appear in the Caliph's letter.
The Latin 322a in dealing with this problem inserts the tale of Constantine's vision of the Cross in whose sign he should conquer, and the subsequent journey of his mother Helena to Jerusalem to seek out the Cross which the Jews had hidden, with the miracle whereby the true cross was revealed, and the Church was built over the sepulchre. The form of the legend as he gives it is very close to that discussed by Tixeront, , Les Origines de l'église d'Edesse et de la légende d'Abgar (Paris, 1888), 170–174.
73 This is the tsīts of Exod. XXVIII, 36–38, and of which we have divergent descriptions by Josephus, Ant. III, vii, 6 and BJ. V, v, 7, and which, as evidenced also by Philo and the Letter of Aristeas, seems to have had on it the name of God engraved; but this idea that it had on it some foreshadowing of the crucifix, seems a Byzantine conceit.
74 See note 62. This reply to the charge of veneration of the Cross etc. by a countercharge of Muslim veneration of the Kaʻba, is commonly used, as e.g. by John of Damascus in PG, XCIV, 769.
75 The story of the serpent connection with the Kaʻba is curious, cf. Ibn Hishām (Sīra, ed. Wüstenfeld, p. 122).
76 He seems to be referring in this passage to the “jinn,” who in Muslim thought have a kind of intermediate place between angels and men, being made of fire, whereas angels were made of light and men and animals of clay. These jinn are of two sexes, inhabit the space between the earth and the vault of heaven, take on various forms, and have relations with human kind, as is frequently illustrated by the tales of the Arabian Nights.
77 This ṙo ounn is the Arabic rukn, a name for the Black Stone, which is kissed by the pilgrims during the rites of circumambulation of the Kaʻba.
78 All the references in this last paragraph are to the various ceremonies connected with the annual Pilgrimage. The “carnage of demons” refers to the sacrifice of animals at Minā; the casting of stones refers to the “stoning of the satans” on the 10th of Dhū'l-Ḥijja on the return from the visit to ‘Arafāt; the “flight” probably refers to the traversing of the Wādī Muḥassir after leaving Muzdalīfa, for this passage is directed to be done in speed. The head is shaven after the pilgrimage sacrifice has been killed, and in a measure restores the pilgrim to the freedom of normal life.
79 Sūra II, 223 — “Your women are to you as cultivated fields (ḥarth); come then to your cultivated fields as you wish, but send forward something for yourselves,” a verse which greatly exercised the Commentators.
80 Zēdai is apparently a mistake for Zainab, the wife of Zaid, the Prophet's adopted son, who divorced her that the Prophet, who had been attracted by her charms, might marry her. It is curious that Bartholomew of Edessa 1420b calls Muḥammad's sixth wife Zαιτέ, which is very much the same as this Zeda of the Armenian text.
81 What is in his mind is the fact that in the last resort the Muslim line of defence is that these things were commanded by Allah, who in the Qurʼān is represented as explicitly settling these matters, as for example the case of Zainab above mentioned. To the thought of the Muslim, of course, David's action with Bathsheba and Uriah would also have been under divine direction, since David was a Prophet, and it would seem as though ‘Umar had made that point in his correspondence with the Emperor.
82 Apparently there is here a reference to the characteristic doctrine of Fate, which holds that every action of man, even the least, whether of good or evil, was decreed before his birth, so that no act can really be labelled a sin to be repented of, since it was decreed beforehand that it should happen so, and what sense is there in seeking pardon for doing what we only did in accordance with Allah's decree?
The Latin 324a takes this up in somewhat different words — si ita est, non est illi gratia si bonum operetur, neque peccatum si male operetur; quia non ille operator, sed quod praescriptum et praeordinatum est illi antequam nasceretur. Nam si ita est, ut cuilibet homini sit praescriptum antequam nascatur, ergo Deus impie videtur egisse.
The Qurʼānic passages usually quoted in this connection are LIV, 52, 53; XCI, 7, 8; XVII, 14, i.e. the passages concerning the decree, and the passages where Allah asserts that whom He will He guides and whom He will He leads astray (XIV, 4; XVI, 38, etc.). It is this question which is being raised by John of Damascus in PG, XCIV, 1589c, 1592a, and Bartholomew of Edessa (PG, CIV, 1393b) draws from this idea the conclusion that God must be held finally responsible for both good and evil, as in our Latin.
83 The marriage laws of the Qurʼān are a frequent cause of adverse comment in the Christian polemical writings, as witness John of Damascus 769c and the tractate Contra Muhammad, 1452a. The charge of ease of divorce is based on Sūra II, 227 ff.; that of plural marriages on Sūra IV, 29; and the particular regulation that a man may not retake his divorced wife till she has cohabited with another man, on II, 230. The Latin 323a not only makes the point that this regulation in II, 230 violates both the Gospel, which says (Matt. V, 32; XIX, 9) that he who takes the wife put away by another is an adulterer, and the Law, where in Deut. XXIV, 1–4 the regulation is that if a man wishes to retake a wife whom he has put away he can only do this if no one else has touched her in the meantime, but on 322d makes the further point that whereas the Muslims have a law forbidding them to salute those of another faith (apparently referring to Sūra VI, 54), yet they are permitted to take wives of the women of any faith, and in refusing to pray at the grave of such a non-Muslim wife they are really going contrary to their own law, which in II, 59 declares that all who are faithful, to whatsoever religion it may be, are with God. The usual Muslim burial service, of course, assumes that the corpse is that of a believer, and could not be used for a person of another faith, but Leo's idea of refusal to pray at the grave of an unbeliever is probably based on the Qurʼānic passage IX, 85 — “Pray not thou ever over any one of them who has died, nor stand at his grave, for they disbelieved in Allah and His Apostle, and died while they were reprobates,” where the prohibition was probably meant for that particular occasion (whether referring to the laggards at Hudaibiyya or Tabūk), and referred to Muḥammad's participating in the pagan Arabian customs connected with burial, but has been taken as a prohibition of general import.
84 The passage is Isa. XXI, 6, 7 as it stands in the Peshitta text, and in it the Caliph is advancing one of the most famous cases of Old Testament passages in which the Muslims have found prophecies of the coming of Muḥammad. Their case is that the watchman in his vision sees two prophets who are yet to come, and hears a great and long speech. The one whom he sees riding on an ass is Jesus, and was fulfilled at the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matt. XXI), while the one riding on a camel is Muḥammad, and was fulfilled at the Hijra, when Muḥammad left unbelieving Mecca and went by camel to Madīna, where he organized his community. The great and long speech is a reference to the Qurʼān, the sublime eloquence of which Muḥammad was to bring to his people.
85 This is a very free paraphrase of the LXX text, taking first the ἀναβάτας ἱππεῖς δύο of v. 7, and then the ἀναβάτης συνωρίδος of v. 9.
86 Here again the reference would seem to be to the belief in jinn.
87 This represents the Qurʼānic sabīl Allāh, and since Allah summoned the Muslims to strive and fight “in the way of Allah,” the military expeditions for the spread of Islam were said to be fī sabīl Allah, whence the reference here.
88 This question of the “heavenly spouses” (Sūra XLIII, 70; XXXVI, 56; LV, 70 ff.; XXXVII, 47) was continually raised in the Christian controversial writings, as indeed, the whole Qurʼānic picture of a sensuous Paradise.
89 The 400 years of Persian tyranny must refer to the Sassanian rule, which lasted from 226 A.D. when Ardashīr succeeded in establishing the new national Persian dynasty on the throne in place of the Parthian Arsacids, till 652, when Yazdagird III was killed by the Muslims after the battle of Nihāvend. Since the rule of the Sassanians virtually came to an end during the Arab invasions during the reign of Ardashīr III (628–630), Leo's 400 years is a correct enough figure.
90 This conclusion may be the padding of the monkish editor rather than the actual ending of the Emperor's letter.
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