The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 35: Al-Yarmuk

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 16

It was almost dark when the last of the Romans ceased to move. The day of 'the raging conflagration' had ended. Khalid's greatest battle was over. 1

Early next morning, while the rest of the army gathered the spoils of war and buried the martyrs, Khalid set off with the Muslim cavalry on the road to Damascus in the hope of catching up with Mahan. The Roman Commander-in-Chief, heartbroken at the annihilation of his army and not for a moment suspecting that a pursuit would be launched by the Muslims, was moving without haste. Some time in the afternoon Khalid overtook the Romans a few miles short of Damascus, and at once attacked the rear-guard. Mahan rushed to the rear-guard to supervise its action, and here the King of Armenia, the Commander-in-Chief of the imperial army, was killed by a Muslim horseman. Soon after his death, the Roman cavalry broke up into groups, and riding away to north and west, escaped the clutches of Khalid.

The people of Damascus now came out to greet Khalid. They reminded him of the pact which he had made with them on the surrender of the city two years before, and Khalid assured them that they were still under its protection.

The next day Khalid rejoined the Muslim army on the Plain of Yarmuk.

The Battle of Yarmuk was the most disastrous defeat ever suffered by the Eastern Roman Empire, and it spelled the end of Roman rule in Syria. The following month Heraclius would depart from Antioch and travel by the land route to Constantinople. On arrival at the border between Syria and what was known to the Muslims as 'Rome', he would look back towards Syria and, with a sorrowing heart, lament: "Salutations to thee, O Syria! And farewell from one who departs. Never again shall the Roman return to thee except in fear. Oh, what a fine land I leave to the enemy!" 2

As an example of a military operation, the Battle of Yarmuk combined many tactical forms: the frontal clash, the frontal penetration, counter-attack and repulse, the flank-attack, the rear-attack and the outflanking manoeuvre. Khalid's plan of remaining on the defensive until he had worn down the Romans had worked admirably. During the defensive phase, lasting four days, every offensive blow by Khalid had been a limited tactical manoeuvre to restore his defensive balance. Only when it was certain that the Romans were badly hurt and no longer capable of fighting offensively, did he launch his counter-offensive, on the last day of battle. On this day he had rolled up the Roman position from a flank, but only after he had separated the cavalry from the infantry and rendered the latter helpless. Then he had driven the Roman infantry into the corner formed by the Wadi-ur-Raqqad and the Yarmuk River, having already positioned Dhiraar at the crossing of the ravine so that none might escape, and launched his last, all-destroying assault. Against the anvil of the Wadi-ur-Raqqad the Muslim hammer had crushed the Roman army to powder.

1. There is a disagreement about the two basic points in this battle: the strength of the opposing forces and the exact location of the battlefield. For an explanation see Notes 12 and 13 in Appendix B.
2. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 100; Balazuri: p. 142.