to unite the tribes of Arabia under their influence against Persia.1 Abraha had probably no objection to using the opportunity to extend his own power in Arabia.

By the Arab historians another object is assigned to the expedition. Abraha had built a great Christian church in San'a, his capital, and sought to make this the centre of pilgrimage for Arabia instead of the pagan Ka'ba at Mecca. This the Meccans resented, and one of them went to San'a and defiled the church. Incensed by this act of vandalism and contempt, Abraha gathered an army and marched to the Hijaz to destroy the Ka'ba. One of the things which impressed the Arab imagination was the presence of an elephant in this army. At the borders of the sacred territory of Mecca, however, the expedition was miraculously overthrown. The elephant refused to go forward, and flocks of birds appeared which pelted the army with stones. If we divest this narrative of its fabulous details, it is quite probable that Abraha, the Abyssinian Christian ruler of Yaman, did endeavour, for the increase of his influence in Arabia, to supplant Mecca as the religious centre of the country by a Christian place of pilgrimage in his own territory—that he built a magnificent church at San'a seems to be a historical fact. The destruction of the rival sanctuary may have been among the objects of his expedition.

Whether the disaster which befell it is to be

1 Cf. Procop. l.c., "As for the Homeritæ, it was desired that they should establish Caisus (Qais) the fugitive as captain over the Maddeni (Ma'add), and with a great army of their own people and of the Maddene Saracens make an invasion into the land of the Persians".

ascribed to the inhabitants of Mecca, who we are told had deserted the city and taken to the hilltops, rolling down stones upon the enemy, or to an outbreak of some pestilence —smallpox is mentioned in one account—we cannot determine. But some such disaster certainly happened. The date was A.D. 570 or 571,1 for by unanimous tradition Muhammad is said to have been born in "the year of the elephant", i.e. the year of Abraha's expedition. Abraha himself escaped from the disaster to his army, but did not long survive. Close upon his death appears to have followed the fall of the Abyssinian rule in Yaman.2 Persia lent its aid to the native leaders against the hated blacks,3 and with their disappearance disappeared also the dominant influence of Christianity in the south-west of Arabia. The Church of Najran must, however, have maintained itself, for we find that a deputation of Christians from that town appeared in Medina to negotiate terms with Muhammad in the last years of his life.

To sum up, then, Arabia was ringed about with Christian influences. In the south of the peninsula itself Christianity had found a settled footing. Some knowledge of it must have penetrated into the recesses of the peninsula, for Arabia

1 Nöldeke, l.c., thinks this is much too late, and apparently discards the tradition that Muhammad was born in the year of Abraha's expedition.
2 Fell (Z.D.M.G. 35, p. 46 f.) argues that after a temporary overthrow (c. A.D. 575) it revived again, and continued till near the end of the century. This may be so, but the evidence does not seem to be conclusive. In Nöldeke's view the date 575 is too late, for the conquest of Yaman was one of the Roman grievances against the Persians which led to the outbreak of war in A.D. 572 (l.c. p. 224).
3 See the romantic story told by Tabari (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser u. Araber, p. 220 ff.).