The Full Wiki

Byzantine–Arab Wars: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Byzantine-Arab Wars
Part of the Muslim conquests

Greek fire, first used by the Byzantine Navy during the Byzantine-Arab Wars.
Date 634-1180
Location Levant, Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Anatolia, Crete, Sicily, Southern Italy
Result Overall Arab gains, despite Byzantine resurgence
Levant, Mesopotamia and North Africa annexed by Arabs
Byzantine Empire[1]
Bulgarian Empire
Crusader states
Italian city-states
Rashidun Caliphate,
Umayyad Caliphate,
Abbasid Caliphate,
Emirate of Bari,
Emirate of Crete,
Hamdanids of Aleppo,
Fatimid Caliphate
Theodore Trithyrius  ,
Gregory the Patrician  ,
Constans II,
Constantine IV,
Justinian II,
Constantine V,
Leo V the Armenian,
Niketas Ooryphas,
John Kourkouas,
Nikephoros II Phokas,
John I Tzimiskes,
Michael Bourtzes,
Basil II,
Nikephoros Ouranos,
George Maniakes,
Andronikos Kontostephanos
Zayd ibn Harithah  ,
Khalid ibn al-Walid,
Caliph Abu Bakr,
Caliph Umar
Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah,
'Amr ibn al-'As,
Shurahbil ibn Hassana,
Yazid ibn Abu Sufyan,
'Iyāḍ ibn Ghanm,
Abdullah ibn Saad,
Yazid I,
Muawiyah I,
Mu'awiyah ibn Hisham,
Harun al-Rashid,
Leo of Tripoli,
Sayf al-Daula
Sham region was just the start of Arab expansion.      Expansion under the Prophet Muhammad, 622-632      Expansion during the Patriarchal Caliphate, 632-661      Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661-750

The Byzantine–Arab Wars were a series of wars between the Arab Caliphates and the East Roman or Byzantine Empire between the 7th and 12th centuries AD These started during the initial Muslim conquests under the Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs and continued in the form of an enduring border tussle until the beginning of the Crusades. As a result, the Byzantines (the Romans or "Rûm" in Muslim historical chronicles), saw an extensive loss of territory.

The initial conflict lasted from 634 to 718, ending with the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople that halted the rapid expansion of the Arab Empire into Anatolia. Conflicts however continued between the 800s and 1169. The occupation of southern Italian territories by the Abbassid forces in the 9th and 10th centuries were not as successful as in Sicily. However, under the Macedonian dynasty, the Byzantines recaptured territory in the Levant with the Byzantines armies' advance even threatening Jerusalem to the south. The Emirate of Aleppo and its neighbours became vassals of the Byzantines in the east, where the greatest threat was the Egyptian Fatimid kingdom, until the rise of the Seljuk dynasty reversed all gains and pushed Abbassid territorial gains deep into Anatolia. This resulted in the Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus' request for military aid from Pope Urban II at the Council of Piacenza; one of the events often attributed as precursors to the First Crusade.



The prolonged and escalating Byzantine–Sassanid wars of the sixth and seventh centuries left both empires exhausted and vulnerable in the face of the sudden emergence and expansion of the Arabs. The last of these wars ended with victory for the Byzantines: Emperor Heraclius regained all lost territories, and restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in 629.[3] Nevertheless, neither empire was given any chance to recover, as within a few years they were struck by the onslaught of the Arabs (newly united by Islam), which, according to Howard-Johnston, "can only be likened to a human tsunami".[4] According to George Liska, the "unnecessarily prolonged Byzantine–Persian conflict opened the way for Islam".[5]

In late 620s the Prophet Muhammad had already managed to unify much of Arabia under Muslim rule, and it was under his leadership that the first Muslim-Byzantine skirmishes took place. Just a few months after Heraclius and the Persian general Shahrbaraz agreed on terms for the withdrawal of Persian troops from occupied Byzantine eastern provinces in 629, Arab and Byzantine troops confronted each other at the Mu'tah.[6] Muhammad died in 632 and was succeeded by Abu Bakr, the first Caliph and the undisputed leader of the entire Arab peninsula after the successful Ridda Wars, which resulted in the consolidation of a powerful Muslim state throughout the peninsula.[7]

Opening conflicts

"The people of Hims replied [to the Muslims], "We like your rule and justice far better than the state of oppression and tyranny in which we were. The army of Heraclius we shall indeed, with your 'amil's' help, repulse from the city." The Jews rose and said, "We swear by the Torah, no governor of Heraclius shall enter the city of Hims unless we are first vanquished and exhausted!" [...] The inhabitants of the other cities—Christian and Jews—that had capitulated to the Muslims, did the same [...] When by Allah's help the "unbelievers" were defeated and the Muslims won, they opened the gates of their cities, went out with the singers and music players who began to play, and paid the kharaj."
Al-Baladhuri[8] – According to the Muslim historian of the 9th century, local populations regarded Byzantine rule as oppressive, and preferred Muslim rule instead.a[›]

According to Muslim biographies, the Prophet Muhammed, having received intelligence that Byzantine forces were concentrating in northern Arabia with alleged intentions of invading Arabia, led an expedition north to Tabouk in present-day northwestern Saudi Arabia, with the intention of engaging the Byzantine army; the news, however, proved to be false. Though it was not a battle in the typical sense, nevertheless the event, if it actually occurred, would have represented the first Arab expedition against the Byzantines, which however did not lead to a military confrontation.[9] However, there is no contemporary Byzantine account of the Tabuk expedition, and many of the details come from much later Muslim sources. It has been argued that there is in one Byzantine source a possible reference to the Battle of Mu´tah traditionally dated 629, but this is not certain.[10] The first engagements may have started as conflicts with the Arab client states of the Byzantine and Sassanid empires: the Ghassanids and the Lakhmids of Al-Hirah. In any case, Muslim Arabs after 634 certainly pursued full-blown concurrent war with both empires resulting in the conquest of the Levant, Egypt and Persia. The most successful generals were Khalid ibn al-Walid and 'Amr ibn al-'As.


Arab conquest of Roman Syria: 634–638

In the Levant, the Rashidun army were engaged by a Byzantine army composed of imperial troops as well as local levies.[1] Monophysites and Jews throughout Syria welcomed the Arab conquerors, as they were discontented with Byzantine rule.a[›] The Arabian tribes also had significant economic, cultural and familial ties with predominantly Arab citizens of the Fertile Crescent.

Muslim and Byzantine troop movements before the battle of Yarmouk.

The Roman Emperor Heraclius had fallen ill and was unable to personally lead his armies to resist the Arab conquests of Syria and Palestine in 634. In a battle fought near Ajnadayn in the summer of 634, the Rashidun Caliphate army achieved a decisive victory.[11] After their victory at the Fahl, Muslim forces conquered Damascus in 634 under the command of Khalid ibn Walid.[12] Byzantine response involved the collection and dispatch of the maximum number of available troops under major commanders, including Theodore Trithyrius and the Armenian general Vahan, to eject the Muslims from their newly-won territories.[12] At the Battle of Yarmouk in 636, however, the Muslims, having studied the ground in detail, would lure the Byzantines into pitched battle, which the Byzantines usually avoided, and into a series of costly assaults, before turning the deep valleys and cliffs into a catastrophic trap.[13] Heraclius' farewell exclamation (according to the 9th-century historian Al-Baladhuri)[14] while departing Antioch for Constantinople, is expressive of his disappointment: "Peace unto thee, O Syria, and what an excellent country this is for the enemy!"b[›] The impact of Syria's loss on the Byzantines is illustrated by Joannes Zonaras' words: "[...] since then [after the fall of Syria] the race of the Ishmaelites did not cease from invading and plundering the entire territory of the Romans".[15]

In April 637, the Arabs, after a long siege captured Jerusalem, which was surrendered by Patriarch Sophronius.c[›] In the summer of 637, the Muslims captured Gaza, and, during the same period, the Byzantine authorities in Egypt and Mesopotamia purchased an expensive truce, which lasted three years for Egypt and one year for Mesopotamia. Antioch fell in late 637, and by then the Muslims occupied whole of the northern Syria, except for upper Mesopotamia, which they granted a one-year truce. At the expiration of this truce in 638–649, the Arabs overran Byzantine Mesopotamia and Byzantine Armenia, and terminated the conquest of Palestine by storming Caesarea Maritima and effecting their final capture of Ascalon. In December 639, the Muslims departed from Palestine to invade Egypt in early 640.[10]

Arab conquests of North Africa: 639–717

Conquest of Egypt and Cyrenaica

By the time Heraclius died, much of Egypt had been lost, and by 637–638 the whole of Syria was in Muslim hands.d[›] With 3,500–4,000 troops under his command, 'Amr ibn al-A'as first crossed into Egypt from Palestine at the end of 639 or the beginning of 640. He was progressively joined by further reinforcements, notably 12,000 soldiers by Al-Zubayr. 'Amr first besieged and conquered Babylon, and then attacked Alexandria. The Byzantines, divided and shocked by the sudden loss of so much territory, agreed to give up the city by September 642.[16] The fall of Alexandria extinguished Byzantine rule in Egypt, and allowed the Muslims to continue their military activities in North Africa; between 643–644 'Amr completed the conquest of Cyrenaica.[17] Uthman succeeded Caliph Umar after his death.[18]

During his reign the Byzantine navy briefly won back Alexandria in 645, but lost it again in 646 shortly after the Battle of Nikiou.[19] Sicily was raided in 652 while Cyprus and Crete were captured in 653. The local Christian Copts welcomed the Arabs just as the Monophysites did in Jerusalem.[20] The loss of this lucrative province deprived the Byzantines of their valuable wheat supply, thereby causing bread shortages throughout the Byzantine Empire and in its soldiers' rations in the following decades.[21]

Conquest of the remaining Byzantine territories in North Africa

In 647, an Arab army led by Abdallah ibn al-Sa’ad moved into the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa. Tripolitania was taken, followed by Sufetula, 150 miles (240 km) south of Carthage, and the governor and self-proclaimed Emperor of Africa Gregory was killed. Abdallah's booty-laden force returned to Egypt in 648 after Gregory's successor, Gennadius, promised them an annual tribute of some 300,000 nomismata.[22]

Following a civil war in the Arab Empire the Umayyads came to power under Muawiyah I. Under the Umayyads the conquest of the remaining Byzantine territories in North Africa was completed and the Arabs were able to move across large parts of Maghreb, entering into Visigothic Spain through the Strait of Gibraltar,[20] under the command of the Berber general Tariq ibn-Ziyad. But this happened only after they developed a naval power of their own,e[›] and they conquered and dismantled the Byzantine stronghold of Carthage between 695–698.[23] The loss of Africa meant that soon, Byzantine control of the Western Mediterranean was challenged by a new Arab fleet operating from Tunisia.[24]

Muawiyah began consolidating the Arab territory from the Aral Sea to the western border of Egypt. He put a governor in place in Egypt at al-Fustat, and launched raids into Anatolia in 663. Then from 665 to 689 a new North African campaign was carried out to protect Egypt "from flank attack by Byzantine Cyrene". An Arab army of 40,000 took Barca, defeating 30,000 Byzantine.[25]

A vanguard of 10,000 Arabs under Uqba ibn Nafi followed from Damascus. In 670, Kairouan in modern Tunisia was established as a base for further operations; Kairouan would become the capital of the Islamic province of Ifriqiya, and one of the main Arabo-Islamic cultural centers in the Middle Ages.[26] Then ibn Nafi "plunged into the heart of the country, traversed the wilderness in which his successors erected the splendid capitals of Fes and Morocco, and at length penetrated to the verge of the Atlantic and the great desert.[27] In his conquest of the Maghreb, he took the coastal cities of Bugia and Tingi, overwhelming what had once been the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana where here he was finally halted.[28] As the historian Luis Garcia de Valdeavellano explains:

In their struggle against the Byzantines and the Berbers, the Arab chieftains had greatly extended their African dominions, and as early as the year 682 Uqba had reached the shores of the Atlantic, but he was unable to occupy Tangier, for he was forced to turn back toward the Atlas Mountains by a man who became known to history and legend as Count Julian.[29]
In spite of the turbulent reign of Justinian II, last emperor of the Heraclian dynasty, his coinage still bore the traditional "PAX", peace.

Moreover, as Gibbon writes, "this Mahometan Alexander, who sighed for new worlds, was unable to preserve his recent conquests. By the universal defection of the Greeks and Africans he was recalled from the shores of the Atlantic." His forces were directed at putting down rebellions, and in one such battle he was surrounded by insurgents and killed. Then, the third governor of Africa, Zuheir, was overthrown by a powerful army, sent from Constantinople by Constantine IV for the relief of Carthage.[28] Meanwhile, a second Arab civil war was raging in Arabia and Syria resulting in a series of four caliphs between the death of Muawiyah in 680 and the ascension of Abd al-Malik in 685, and was ongoing until 692 with the death of the rebel leader.[30]

The Saracen Wars of Justinian II, last Emperor of the Heraclian Dynasty, "reflected the general chaos of the age".[31] After a successful campaign he made a truce with the Arabs, agreeing on joint possession of Armenia, Iberia and Cyprus; however, by removing 12,000 Christian Mardaites from their native Lebanon, he removed a major obstacle for the Arabs in Syria, and in 692, after the disastrous Battle of Sebastopolis, the Muslims conquered all Armenia.[32] Deposed in 695, with Carthage lost in 698, Justinian returned to power from 705-711.[31] His second reign was marked by Arab victories in Asia Minor and civil unrest.[32] Reportedy, he ordered his guards to execute the only unit that had not deserted him after one battle, to prevent their desertion in the next.[31]

Arab sieges of Constantinople

All roads lead to Rome.

—Common Arab saying[33]

In 674 the Umayyad Caliph Muawiyah I besieged Constantinople under Constantine IV. In this battle, the Umayyads were unable to breach the Theodosian Walls and blockaded the city along the River Bosporus. The approach of winter however forced the besiegers to withdraw to an island 80 miles (130 km) away.[34]

However, prior to the siege a Christian refugee from Syria named Kallinikos (Callinicus) of Heliopolis had recently invented for the Byzantine Empire a devastating new weapon that came to be known as "Greek fire".[34][35] In 677, the Byzantine navy used the weapon to decisively defeat the Umayyad navy in the Sea of Marmara, resulting in the lifting of the siege in 678. Among those killed in the siege was Eyup, the standard bearer of Muhammed and the last of his companions; to Muslims today, his tomb is considered one of the holiest sites in Istanbul.[34] The Byzantine victory halted the Umayyad expansion into Europe for almost thirty years.

The initial conflict came to a close during the reigns of the Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian and the Umayyad Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, after the Second Arab siege of Constantinople in 717-718, where the Arab ground forces, led by Maslamah,[34] were defeated by Constantinople's walls and the timely arrival of allied Bulgar forces even as the Umayyad naval fleet was defeated by Greek fire:

"Maslama had drawn up the Muslims in a line (I had never seen one longer) with the many squadrons. Leo, the autocrat of Rûm, sat on the tower of the gate of Constantinople with its towers. He drew up the foot soldiers in a long line between the wall and the sea opposite the Muslim shore. We showed arms in a thousand ships, light ships, big ships in which there were stores of Egyptian clothing, etc, and galleys with the fighting men… 'Umar and some of those from the ships were afraid to advance against the harbour mouth, fearing for their lives. When the Rum saw this, galleys and light ships came out of the harbour mouth against use and one of them went to the nearest Muslim ship, threw on it grapnels with chains and towed it with its crew into Constantinople. We lost heart."[34][36]

Later conflicts

The primary conflict ended with the siege of Constantinople in 718, and although later conflicts continued into the 11th century, the conquests of the Arabs began to retard. Arab attempts at taking Anatolia failed, and it was eventually taken instead by the Seljuk Turks.

Iconoclast controversy

Nikephoros II and his stepson Basil II (right). Under the Makedonoi, the Byzantine Empire became the strongest power in Europe, recovering territories lost in the war.

Among the effects of the Byzantine–Arab Wars was the religious and civil unrest it stirred in the heart of Byzantium. The Iconomachia, or "Wars of the Icons", began when a 726 edict of Leo the Isaurian decreed the crucifix be replaced by a plain Cross, sparking off the controversy of Iconoclasm.[31] Writings suggest that at least part of the reason for the removal may have been military reversals against the Muslims and the eruption of the volcanic island of Thera,[37] which Leo possibly viewed as evidence of the wrath of God brought on by Iconoduly in the Church.[35][38] While fighting the Arabs, Leo had noticed the puritanical values of the Arabs that forbade representational religious art as idolatry, and he believed the Byzantine Empire would receive successes by following their example.[39] "He saw no need to consult the church, and he appears to have been surprised by the depth of the popular opposition he encountered".[40] In 732, Leo launched a fleet to arrest Pope Gregory III for defying the edict and recover Ravenna.[41] The ships sank en route in the Adriatic Sea, but the strife was far from over.[41] The controversy weakened the Byzantine Empire, and was a key factor in the schism between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Bishop of Rome.[41][42]

Meanwhile between 750 and 770, Constantine launched a series of campaigns against the Arabs and Bulgars in an attempt to reverse so many losses.[43]

Civil war occurred in the Byzantine Empire, often with Arab support. With the support of Caliph Al-Ma'mun, Arabs under the leadership of Thomas the Slav invaded, so that within a matter of months, only two themata in Asia Minor remained loyal to Emperor Michael II.[44] When Thomas captured Thessalonica, the Empire's second largest city, it was quickly re-captured by the Byzantines.[44] Thomas's 821 siege of Constantinople did not get past the city walls, and he was forced to retreat.[44]

Asia Minor, Crete and Sicily

The Arabs did not relinquish their designs on Asia Minor and in 838 began another invasion, sacking the city of Amorion.[45] With internal Byzantine unity weakened, along with their ties to the West, Crete fell to the Saracens in 824, becoming the seat of a pirate emirate and Sicily was slowly lost over a 75-year period. Using Tunisia as their launching pad, the Arabs started by conquering Palermo in 831, Messina in 842, Enna in 859.

Byzantine resurgence

However, religious peace came with the emergence of the Macedonian dynasty in 867, as well as a strong and unified Byzantine leadership;[46] while the Abassids empire had splintered into many factions. Basil I revived the Byzantine Empire into a regional power, during a period of territorial expansion, making the Empire the strongest power in Europe, with an ecclesiastical policy marked by good relations with Rome. Basil allied with the Holy Roman Emperor Louis II against the Arabs, and his fleet cleared the Adriatic Sea from their raids. With Byzantine help, Louis II captured Bari from the Arabs in 871. The city became Byzantine territory in 876. However, the Byzantine position on Sicily deteriorated, and Syracuse fell to the Emirate of Sicily in 878. Catania would be lost in 900, and finally the fortress of Taormina in 902. Sicily would remain under Arab control until the Norman invasion in 1071.

Although Sicily was lost, the general Nicephorus Phocas the Elder succeeded in taking Taranto and much of Calabria in 880. Crete was retaken by the Byantines in 960, and would be held until 1204, when it fell to the Venice during the Fourth Crusade. The successes in the Italian Peninsula opened a new period of Byzantine domination there. Above all, the Byzantines were beginning to establish a strong presence in the Mediterranean Sea, and especially the Adriatic.

The themata of the Byzantine Empire at the death of Basil II in 1025, displaying the regained territory in the East.

After putting an end to the internal strife, Basil II launched a campaign against the Arabs in 995. The Byzantine civil wars had weakened the Empire's position in the east, and the gains of Nikephoros II Phokas and John I Tzimiskes came close to being lost, with Aleppo besieged and Antioch under threat. Basil won several battles in Syria, relieving Aleppo, taking over the Orontes valley, and raiding further south. Although he did not have the force to drive into Palestine and reclaim Jerusalem, his victories did restore much of Syria to the empire – including the larger city of Antioch which was the seat of its eponymous Patriarch.[47] No emperor since Heraclius had been able to hold these lands for any length of time, and the Empire would retain them for the next 75 years. Piers Paul Read writes that by 1025, Byzantine land "stretched from the Straits of Messina and the northern Adriatic in the west to the River Danube and Crimea in the north, and to the cities of Melitine and Edessa beyond the Euphrates in the east."[47]

Under Basil II, the Byzantines established a swath of new themata, stretching northeast from Aleppo (a Byzantine protectorate) to Manzikert. Under the Theme system of military and administrative government, the Byzantines could raise a force at least 200,000 strong, though in practice these were strategically placed throughout the Empire. With Basil's rule, the Byzantine Empire reached its greatest height in nearly five centuries, and indeed for the next four centuries.[48]


The Komnenos launched an invasion of Egypt.

The wars drew near to a closure when the Turks and various Mongol invaders replaced the threat of either power. From the 11th and 12th centuries onwards, the Byzantine conflicts shifted into the Byzantine-Seljuk wars with the Seljuk Turks. After the defeat at the Battle of Manzikert by the Turks in 1071, the Byzantine Empire, with the help of Western Crusaders, re-established its position in the Middle East as a superpower. Meanwhile, the major Arab conflicts were in the Crusades, and later against Mongolian invasions, especially that of the Golden Horde and Timur.

During the Second Crusade, Baldwin III seized Ascalon in 1153, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem was able to advance into Egypt and briefly occupy Cairo in the 1160s. The Emperor Manuel married Maria of Antioch, cousin of the Crusader King Amalric I of Jerusalem, while Amalric married Manuel's grandniece Maria Komnene. In 1168 a formal alliance was negotiated by future Archbishop William of Tyre, and in 1169 Manuel launched a joint expedition with Amalric to Egypt. Manuel's ambitious campaign was a dramatic demonstration of how powerful the Empire had become, involving a fleet of over 200 ships equipped with siege weapons and Greek fire; William of Tyre was particularly impressed by the large transport ships used to transport the cavalry forces of the Komnenian army.[49] Manuel's wider strategy was to use the Latin Crusaders as a shield for the Empire, and his intervention in Egypt was because he believed control of Egypt would be the deciding factor of the Second Crusade.[50] A successful conquest would have consolidated Crusader control in the Holy Land, and restored the grain supply of the rich province to the Empire.

Furthermore, it would bind the Crusaders more closely to the Empire, a goal which Manuel would pursue with determination throughout his reign and which would be evident when King Amalric subsequently placed his whole kingdom under the protection of Manuel, effectively extending the agreement on Antioch by making the entire Kingdom of Jerusalem at least nominally part of the Empire. However, this was a personal arrangement, in the feudal tradition of Western Europe, and as such only applied for as long as Manuel and Amalric were the rulers of their respective states.

The Byzantine Empire in purple, c.1180, at the end of the Komnenian period and the Byzantine-Arab Wars.

The invasion could even have expected support from the native Coptic Christians, who had lived under Islamic rule for over five hundred years. However, the failure of co-operation between the Crusaders and the Byzantines jeopardised the chances to take the province. The Byzantine fleet sailed only with provisions for three months: by the time the crusaders were ready, supplies were already running out, and eventually the fleet retired after an ineffectual attempt to capture Damietta. Each side sought to blame the other for failure, but both also knew that they depended on each other: the alliance was maintained, and further plans were made, which ultimately were to come to naught.[49]

Seljuk Sultan Kilij Arslan II used this time to eliminate his rivals and build up his power in Asia Minor. The balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean was changing, and the effects of Manuel's failure in Egypt would still be felt long after his death. The rise of Saladin was only made possible when, in 1171, he was proclaimed Sultan of Egypt; his uniting of Egypt and Syria would ultimately lead to the Third Crusade. Meanwhile, the Byzantine alliance ended with the death of Manuel I in 1180; Manuel would be the last Emperor truly sympathetic to the Crusades.[51]


The Byzantine-Arab Wars provided the conditions that developed feudalism in Medieval Europe.

As with any war of such length, the drawn-out Byzantine–Arab Wars had long lasting effects for both the Byzantine Empire and the Arab states. The Byzantines experienced extensive territorial loss, while the Arabs gained strong control in the Middle East and Africa. The focus of the Byzantine Empire shifted from the western reconquests of Justinian to a primarily defensive position on its eastern borders. Without Byzantine interference in the emerging Christian states of western Europe, the situation gave a huge stimulus to feudalism and economic self-sufficiency.[52]

Moreover, the view of modern historians is that one of the most important effects was the strain it put on the relationship between Rome and Byzantium. While fighting for survival against the Arabs, the Empire was no longer able to provide the protection it had once offered to the Papacy; worse still, according to Thomas Woods, the Emperors "routinely intervened in the life of the Church in areas lying clearly beyond the state's competence".[39] The Iconoclast controversy of the 8th and 9th centuries can be taken as a key factor "which drove the Latin Church into the arms of the Franks."[42] Thus it has been argued that Charlemagne was an indirect product of Muhammad:

"The Frankish Empire would probably never have existed without Islam, and Charlemagne without Mahomet would be inconceivable."[53]

The Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne's successors would later come to the aid of the Byzantines under Louis II and during the Crusades, but relations between the two empires would be strained; based on the Salerno Chronicle, we know the Emperor Basil had sent an angry letter to his western counterpart, reprimanding him for usurping the title of emperor.[54] He argued that the Frankish rulers were simple reges, and that each nation has its own title for the ruler, whereas the imperial title suited only the ruler of the Eastern Romans, Basil himself.

Historiography and other sources

The 12th century William of Tyre (right), an important commentator on the Crusades and the final stage of the Byzantine-Arab Wars

Walter Emil Kaegi states that extant Arabic sources have been given much scholarly attention for issues of obscurities and contradictions. However, he points out that Byzantine sources are also problematic, such as the chronicles of Theophanes and Nicephorus and those written in Syriac, which are short and terse while the important question of their sources and their use of sources remains unresolved. Kaegi concludes that scholars must also subject the Byzantine tradition to critical scrutiny, as it "contains bias and cannot serve as an objective standard against which all Muslim sources may be confidently checked".[55]

Among the few Latin sources of interest are the 7th century history of Fredegarius, and two 8th century Spanish chronicles, all of which draw on some Byzantine and oriental historical traditions.[56] As far as Byzantine military action against the initial Muslim invasions, Kaegi asserts that "Byzantine traditions ... attempt to deflect criticism of the Byzantine debacle from Heraclius to other persons, groups, and things".[57]

The range of non-historical Byzantine sources is vast: they range from papyri to sermons (most notable those of Sophronius and Anastasius Sinaita), poetry (especially that of Sophronius and George of Pisidia), correspondence often of a patristic provenance, apologetical treatises, apocalypses, hagiography, military manuals (in particular the Strategikon of Maurice from the beginning of the seventh century), and other non-literary sources, such as epigraphy, archeology, and numismatics. None of these sources contains a coherent account of any of the campaigns of the Muslim conquests, but some do contain invaluable details that survive nowhere else.[58]

See also


^ a: Politico-religious events (such as the outbreak of Monothelitism, which disappointed both the Monophysites and the Chalcedonians) had sharpened the differences between the Byzantines and the Syrians. Also the high taxes, the power of the landowners over the peasants and the participation in the long and exhaustive wars with the Persians were some of the reasons why the Syrians welcomed the change.[59]
^ b: As recorded by Al-Baladhuri. Michael the Syrian records only the phrase "Peace unto thee, O Syria".[60] George Ostrogorsky describes the impact that the loss of Syria had on Heraclius with the following words: "His life's work collapsed before his eyes. The heroic struggle against Persia seemed to be utterly wasted, for his victories here had only prepared the way for the Arab conquest [...] This cruel turn of fortune broke the aged Emperor both in spirit and in body.[61]
^ c: As Steven Runciman describes the event: "On a February day in the year AD 638, the Caliph Omar [Umar] entered Jerusalem along with a white camel which was ride by his slave. He was dressed in worn, filthy robes, and the army that followed him was rough and unkempt; but its discipline was perfect. At his side rode the Patriarch Sophronius as chief magistrate of the surrendered city. Omar rode straight to the site of the Temple of Solomon, whence his friend Mahomet [Muhammed] had ascended into Heaven. Watching him stand there, the Patriarch remembered the words of Christ and murmured through his tears: 'Behold the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet.'"[62]
^ d: Hugh N. Kennedy notes that "the Muslim conquest of Syria does not seem to have been actively opposed by the towns, but it is striking that Antioch put up so little resistance.[63]
^ e: The Arab leadership realized early that to extend their conquests they would need a fleet. The Byzantine navy was first decisively defeated by the Arabs at a battle in 655 off the Lycian coast, when it was still the most powerful in the Mediterranean. Theophanes the Confessor reported the loss of Rhodes while recounting the sale of the centuries-old remains of the Colossus for scrap in 655.[64]


  1. ^ a b The Empire's levies included Christian Armenians, Arab Ghassanids, Mardaites, Slavs, and Rus'
  2. ^ "Ghassan." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 18 Oct. 2006 [1]
  3. ^ Theophanes, Chronicle, 317–327
    * Greatrex–Lieu (2002), II, 217–227; Haldon (1997), 46; Baynes (1912), passim; Speck (1984), 178
  4. ^ Foss (1975), 746–47; Howard-Johnston (2006), xv
  5. ^ Liska (1998), 170
  6. ^ Kaegi (1995), 66
  7. ^ Nicolle (1994), 14
  8. ^ Al-Baladhuri, The Battle of the Yarmuk (636) and after
    * Sahas (1972), 23
  9. ^ "Muhammad", Late Antiquity; Butler (2007), 145
  10. ^ a b Kaegi (1995), 67
  11. ^ Nicolle (1994), 47–49
  12. ^ a b Kaegi (1995), 112
  13. ^ Nicolle (1994), 45
  14. ^
  15. ^ Zonaras, Annales, CXXXIV, 1288
    * Sahas (1972), 20
  16. ^ Kennedy (1998), 62
  17. ^ Butler (2007), 427–428
  18. ^ Davies (1996), 245, 252
  19. ^ Butler (2007), 465–483
  20. ^ a b Read (2001), 51
  21. ^ Haldon (1999), 167; Tathakopoulos (2004), 318
  22. ^ Treadgold (1997), 312
  23. ^ Fage–Tordoff, 153–154
  24. ^ Norwich (1990), 334
  25. ^ Will Durant, The History of Civilization: Part IV—The Age of Faith. 1950. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0671012002
  26. ^ The Islamic World to 1600: Umayyad Territorial Expansion.
  27. ^ Clark, Desmond J.; Roland Anthony Oliver, J. D. Fage, A. D. Roberts (1978) [1975]. The Cambridge History of Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 637. ISBN 0-5212-1592-7. 
  28. ^ a b Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter 51.
  29. ^ Luis Garcia de Valdeavellano, Historia de España. 1968. Madrid: Alianza.
    • Quotes translated from the Spanish by Helen R. Lane in Count Julian by Juan Goytisolo. 1974. New York: The Viking Press, Inc. ISBN 0-670-24407-4 [2]
  30. ^ Karen Armstrong: Islam: A Short History. New York, NY, USA: The Modern Library, 2002, 2004 ISBN 0-8129-6618-X
  31. ^ a b c d Davies (1996), 245
  32. ^ a b 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica [3]
  33. ^ In this context, the saying applied to overcoming the might of the Romans and taking Nova Roma itself, being Constantinople.
  34. ^ a b c d e The Walls of Constantinople, AD 324–1453, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-84176-759-X.
  35. ^ a b Theophanes, Chronicle
  36. ^ Ibn Asakir, History of Damascus [4]
  37. ^ Volcanism on Santorini / eruptive history
  38. ^ According to accounts by Patriarch Nikephoros and the chronicler Theophanes
  39. ^ a b Thomas Woods, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, (Washington, DC: Regenery, 2005), ISBN 0-89526-038-7
  40. ^ Warren Treadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Stanford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0804726302
  41. ^ a b c Europe: A History, p273. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996. ISBN 0-19-820171-0
  42. ^ a b Europe: A History, p246. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996. ISBN 0-19-820171-0
  43. ^ Haldon, John. Byzantium at War 600 - 1453. New York: Osprey, 2000.
  44. ^ a b c John Julius Norwich (1998). A Short History of Byzantium. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-025960-0. 
  45. ^ Haldon, John. Byzantium at War 600 - 1453. New York: Osprey, 2000.
  46. ^ Europe: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996. ISBN 0-19-820171-0
  47. ^ a b Read (2001), 65-66
  48. ^ See map depicting Byzantine territories from the 11th century on; Europe: A History, p 1237. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996. ISBN 0-19-820171-0
  49. ^ a b William of Tyre, A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea
  50. ^ Michael Angold (1997). The Byzantine Empire, 1025-1204. Longman. ISBN 0-582-29468-1. 
  51. ^ Crusader Castles in the Holy Land 1192–1302, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1841768278.
  52. ^ Europe: A History, p 257. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996. ISBN 0-19-820171-0
  53. ^ Pirenne, Henri
    • Mediaeval Cities: Their Origins and the Rivival of Trade (Princeton, NJ, 1925). ISBN 0691007608
    • See also Mohammed and Charlemagne (London 1939) Dover Publications (2001). ISBN 0-486-42011-6.
  54. ^ Dolger F., Regesten der Kaiserurkunden des ostromischen Reiches. I, p 59, №487. Berlin, 1924.
  55. ^ Kaegi (1995), 2–3
  56. ^ Kaegi (1995), 2
  57. ^ Kaegi (1995), 4–5
  58. ^ Kaegi (1995), 5–6
  59. ^ Read (2001), 50-51; Sahas (1972), 23
  60. ^ Al-Baladhuri, The Battle of the Yarmuk (636) and after; Michael the Syrian, Chronicle, II, 424
    * Sahas (1972), 19–20
  61. ^ Quoted by Sahas (1972), 20 (note 1)
  62. ^ Runciman (1953), i, 3
  63. ^ Kennedy (1970), 611; Kennedy (2006), 87
  64. ^ Theophanes, Chronicle, 645–646
    * Haldon (1990), 55


Primary sources

Secondary sources

  • Baynes, Norman H. (1912). "The restoration of the Cross at Jerusalem". The English Historical Review 27 (106): 287–299. doi:10.1093/ehr/XXVII.CVI.287. 
  • Foss, Clive (1975). "The Persians in Asia Minor and the End of Antiquity". The English Historical Review 90: 721–47. doi:10.1093/ehr/XC.CCCLVII.721. 
  • Runciman, Steven (1987). A History of the Crusades. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-34770-X. 
  • Speck, Paul (1984). "Ikonoklasmus und die Anfänge der Makedonischen Renaissance". Varia 1 (Poikila Byzantina 4). Rudolf Halbelt. pp. 175–210. 
  • Stathakopoulos, Dionysios (2004). Famine and Pestilence in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine Empire. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 0-7546-3021-8. 

Further reading

  • Kennedy, Hugh N. (2001). The Armies of the Caliphs: military and society in the early Islamic state. Routledge. ISBN 0-4152-5092-7. 
  • Kennedy, Hugh N. (2006). The Byzantine And Early Islamic Near East. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 0-7546-5909-7. 


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address