The Tale of the Bishop and the Bey
Isa Bey was the ruler of a small Beydom in Anatolia. His father had conquered the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus, and his brother, lost to the djinn, had defeated the Greek Basileus of Trebizond and annexed that fabled city. Isa Bey himself, before becoming Bey, had traveled all over Anatolia, Persia, Iraq and Syria in the service of Ali Bey, whom he loved dearly.
So when Isa inherited the throne from his brother, Ali Bey, he had an idea or two about the world and how it worked. He was curious, clever, honest, always had the right thing to say when needed, and rewarded the people of this court who brought him curiosities.
One day Isa Bey summoned his advisors.
“Dear friends and faithful advisors! A thought came into my head last night and I cannot seem to find a suitable answer. Perhaps if I lay it before you someone might have an answer for me? Here is the question - ‘If the Emperor of Rome rules from Constantinople, who rules in Rome?’”Old Murat, an advisor from the days of Isa Bey’s father and brother spoke first.
“Isa Bey, that is an easy answer! We know the Emperor in Rome used to be a mighty potentate, with a throne that rose to the skies and golden birds that sang from trees made of emeralds and rubies. For such a king to be driven from his city of Rome to a refuge in Constantinople, the ruler of Rome must be powerful indeed, perhaps more powerful than Timur or even the great Genghis Khan. We also know this - in the distant East lies the powerful kingdom of Prester John, or Bishop John. And in the west sits the mirror image of this Prester John - the powerful Bishop of Rome. It is said he sits on a throne of gold that is built on the ruins of a thousand cities, that tribute from all of Europe flows to his feet, and he raises up and casts down the kings of Europe with the mere flick of his hand. Surely the Bishop of Rome is the most powerful ruler in all Europe!”Young Selim rose next. He addressed both Isa Bey and Old Murat.
“Most honored Bey and Lord Murat, it may be just as Lord Murat says. Many things are said about the power and wealth of Prester John in the East and the Bishop of Rome in the West. But Prester John is far from us - beyond the kingdoms of the Indies and perhaps even beyond the distant shores of China. But the Bishop of Rome is close - just beyond the horizon in the West. My lord Bey, if you will lend me a ship or two, I will equip it with brave men and we will go discover the answer to your question.”Isa Bey was delighted with the response of Young Selim. After thanking Old Murat for his knowledge and wisdom, Isa granted Selim’s request. Selim sailed to the West, and finding a small cove here and there, quietly observed the comings and goings of the Bishop of Rome. Soon he returned to Aydin.
“My lords and Isa Bey. I have returned from the fabled land of Rome! The wisdom shared with us by Lord Murat is so close to the truth as to be almost correct. It is truth that the Bishop of Rome sits on a throne of gold built on the ruins of many cities, but it is also the truth that the city he rules over is itself a huge ruin. It is true that the tribute of all Europe flows to his feet, but anger and fear flow with that gold and threaten to overwhelm the Bishop and his state. And finally it is true that he raises and casts down the kings of Europe, but it is also true that the kings of Europe have gathered to throw down from his high throne the Bishop of Rome. In fact, at this moment, his city is besieged by troops wearing many colors of Europe while he is himself fled the city.”Isa Bey was delighted with these answers, and showered Selim with gifts of gold.
The next day, Isa Bey called Selim to him. Isa Bey reminded Selim that his brother, father and many grandfathers had been conquerors. He, too, should be a conqueror. He told Selim to take warriors and ships and move against the Bishop of Rome.
Selim took his ghazi warriors and sailed to Italy. The nations of Europe still sat at the gates of Rome. The Bishop of Rome sat before the gates of Urbino. And so Selim sat himself and the forces of Isa Bey in front of the gates of Romagna.
“My lord Isa Bey! The men of Romagna are weak from too much wealth. They attack and we defeat them. The cities of this rich province will soon be ours!”
After one year, Selim sent the same message to Isa Bey.
And after another year, Selim again sent the same message to Isa Bey.
And finally, after a final 6 months, Selim was able to send a new message to Isa Bey.
“My lord Isa Bey, may Allah bless you and protect you for ever! In the early evening the Bishop of Rome came upon us as if in a dream. He appeared on the horizon with banners flying and arms flashing. A great cry of relief, devotion and hope rose from the city behind us. The Bishop charged down the slope against us, the Holy Warriors of Allah. The shock of his assault was tremendous and many brave warriors lost their lives. But Allah was with us and the banners of the Bishop of Rome fell as we defended ourselves. As the banner fell, the horsemen of the Bishop turned and fled, crying that the Bishop had fallen. As the Bishop’s forces fled the field, a cry of despair filled the air from the city behind us. Romagna opened its gates to us, we entered and took possession of the city. Surely Allah is with us!”
Isa Bey sent congratulations to Selim and the Ghazi warriors of Aydin. He awarded them land and money, encouraged them to settle in and around the villages, harbors and towns of the Romagna. And he sent the Bishop of Rome a small token of remembrance - an inscribed silver bowl commemorating the victory of Salah al-Din over Richard, King of England in the Battle for Jerusalem, and his heartfelt thanks that Urbanus had led the fight against the Ghazi Warriors himself.
This is the tale of the Bishop and the Bey.