This week we are studying the birth of the Islamic civilization. How did this new religion and subsequent civilization impact the Middle East? How do you think the Middle East would have developed had Islam NOT been created?
Short, 2 paragraph answer. Chapters are attached.
Chapter: 21 in A Comprehensive Outline of World History by Jack E. Maxfield is licensed under
a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. © Nov 30, 2009 Jack E. Maxfield. Download for free at http://firstname.lastname@example.org Chapter 21 A.D. 601 to 700
21.1 A.D. 601 to 7001
21.1.1 A.D. 601 TO 700
Backward to A.D. 501 to 600 (Section 20.1)
The chief features characterizing this century are the persistence of the "Dark Ages" in Europe, the amazing eruption
of the Arab armies and the Moslem religion out of the desert of Arabia and the early dominance of Turkish people in
Central Asia, with marked effects even in China.
22.214.171.124 THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
We have previously mentioned that in these "Dark Ages" education survived only as a luxury of the clergy. The Roman Church itself could give little or no direction at this time because of chaos in Italy and the lowering of Byzantine
prestige. The Emperor Heraclius attempted to regain Syria and Armenia from Persia by conciliating their monophysitism by producing a compromise called "monotheletism" which suggested that the union of God and man in
Christ, although not submerging the identity of either, was sufficiently complete to manifest itself outwardly in one
divine-human energy. This proposal only irritated the rest of the empire and when the Arabs overran the region it was
abandoned. As a last blow, Islam appeared on the world scene in this century to further menace the Christian Church.
(Ref. 137 ())
126.96.36.199 THE ISLAMIC CHURCH
Most of the present day taboos of the Islamic religion were present at its inception. The Koran prohibitions include:
1. Pork, as an impurity - chiefly a carry-over from nomad life. One cannot drive pigs on great migrations
2. Animal blood - a pollution legacy from Old Testament Judaism
3. Wine, considered an abomination. It is said that some of the prophet?s early levies had been found too drunk to
fight (Ref. 211 ())
As is well known, the original stories from the Koran are much like the Old Testament, with the same early characters,
including Abraham and his tribe. Both Judaism and Islam came from the same sources in the desert. Islam was
essentially a military empire in the beginning and only became a culture after it absorbed a measure of Persian thought.
(Ref. 213 ())
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In this and the next few centuries, Jews became more and more isolated as a commercial sect. Especially in northern
Europe they were excluded from owning land and the feudal system resulted in the constant threat of confiscation
of property and even expulsion from the country. Expulsion started in Spain just after the beginning of the century
with an edict from Emperor Heraclius. The Carolingians in Austrasia, France, however, gave them special charters,
protection and commercial privileges. (Ref. 8 ()) In their native Levant, many Jews converted to Islam and actually
contributed much to the final Moslem concepts. (Ref. 213 ())
Forward to A.D. 701 to 800 (Section 22.1)
Choose Different Region
8. Africa (Section 21.2)
America (Section 21.9)
Central and Northern Asia (Section 21.5)
Europe (Section 21.4)
The Far East (Section 21.7)
The Indian Subcontinent (Section 21.6)
The Near East (Section 21.3)
Pacific (Section 21.8) 21.2 Africa: A.D. 601 to 7002
Back to Africa: A.D. 501 to 600 (Section 20.2)
184.108.40.206 NORTHEAST AFRICA
The Ethopian upland soils had been largely destroyed, exposing underlying rocks. In the middle of the century,
threatened by Muslim neighbors, Axum lost its Red Sea ports and had its gold supply cut off so its Christians retreated
to the highlands, where they remained in isolation until the 15th century. Abandoned buildings deteriorated and
contributed to the soil destruction. Land abandonment can be as destructive as over-use and there can be little doubt
that all this exacerbated Axumite economic decline. (Ref. 270 ())
To the west in Nubia, Coptic Christians thrived. After an Egyptian attack in 651-652 relations between Christian Nubia
and Moslem Egypt were formalized by treaty which included an agreement that Nubians would return all runaway
slaves to Egypt. A cathedral was built about A.D. 700 in Qasr Ibrim and there were plans to make this a pilgrimage
center. Nubia hereafter remained Christian for about 700 years. Just north of the present-day Aswan Dam, the survival
of paganism into this 7th century on the island of Philae had been a notable scandal stimulating Byzantine missions
into the area. (Ref. 271 ())
Egypt fell to the Persians temporarily in 616 but fell again to the Arabs later in the century, with Alexandria conquered by the latter in 660. The Monophysite Christians of Egypt actually helped the Moslems overthrow the existing
administration. After the conquest, Amr ruled for the Arabs and did so well. (Ref. 206 (), 137 ())
220.127.116.11 NORTH CENTRAL AND NORTHWEST AFRICA
In the last third of the century the raiding Moslems easily took Tripolitania but on their original drive westward they
were repulsed from Tunisia by Roman Empire troops. Subsequently, however, conversion of the indigenous Berbers3
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to Islam in 696 gave Islam a new push and the Byzantine forces in Tunisia were then overrun and Carthage was
destroyed again. Soon Morocco also fell to the Islamic onslaught. Shortly thereafter trade routes for slaves, ivory and
gold opened up between Morocco-Algeria and the western Sudan. The Murabits (also Almoravids) of Morocco turned
south, shattering the Negro Empire of Ghana.
The Berbers were of an entirely different race from the Arabs, having roundish heads contrasting with the Arabs? long
heads. Even when some were initially converted to Islam, allowing the Moslem advance, most of the Berbers retreated
to the naked mountains dividing Tunisia?s coastal plains from the desert. Even so, the Muslims made a greater impact
on these people than Rome or Christianity had previously done. (Ref. 137 (), 175 (), 58 (), 83 (),
18.104.22.168 SUBSAHARAN AFRICA
From 500 to 1,200 ancient Ghana, in what is now Mali, monopolized the gold trade from west Africa to Europe. It sat
at the southern end of the trans-Saharan caravan routes and thus acted as the hub. Kumbi Saleh was a city of 15,000
people. The excavated ruins of the ancient city of Jenne-Jeno had a formidable three meter-wide wall surrounding
it which was constructed sometime between 400 and 800. Delicately constructed gold jewelry has been found under
this city wall, indicating that this was a trade center over a long period of time. The nearest gold mines were 800
kilometers south of this developing city. (Ref. 268 ()) The Moslem invasion of Ghana from the north caused
some disruption in administration certainly, but did not destroy the fundamental culture or the developing cities.
In the far southeast of Africa the Leopard?s Kopje people, a Bantu-speaking group, were in control of Great Zimbabwe
from about A.D. 600 to 850. (Ref. 45 ()) Elsewhere the great bulk of Africa remained as in previous centuries.
Forward to Africa: A.D. 701 to 800 (Section 22.2) 21.3 The Near East: A.D. 601 to 7004
21.3.1 THE NEAR EAST (AN AMAZING CONQUEST OF THE NEAR EAST BY ISLAMIC ARABS)
Back to The Near East: A.D. 501 to 600 (Section 20.3)
It was in this century that the people of Kurdistan were converted to the Sunni variety of Islam. The Kurds are a people
closely related ethnically to the Persians, who have tried through the ages to keep themselves intact as sheep-raising
and rug weaving nomads, without respect to political boundaries. Kurdistan embraces the present day areas of east
TURKEY, Soviet Armenia, northeast Iraq and northwest Iran. (Ref. 38 ())
22.214.171.124 ARABIA AND JORDAN
Muhammad (or Mohammed) was born in the south of Arabia of poor parentage early in the century. He married
wealth and soon began to teach a new religion, taking as basic beliefs the monotheism of the Jews. He accepted Jesus
as a prophet and formulated a new creed of behavior for his fellow Arabs. He had the visionary power of a seer, the
astuteness of a master politician and a poet?s mastery of language. (Ref. 83 ()) By the time of his death in A.D.
636 his followers had already become almost fanatical in their zeal to spread the new faith and their armies poured out
of the Arabian Peninsula to sell the religion by force of arms. The Arabs? military success approached the miraculous
as they subdued the greatest kingdoms with small armies made up of mounted men on the famed Arabian horses. (Ref.
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The early part of the century was a period of some general decay in this entire area, with Persia and Byzantium more
or less splitting control. At the death of Emperor
Maurice of Byzantium at the hands of his own soldiers, Chosroes II of Persia went on a conquering spree, taking
Roman Mesopotamia in 607-615, then Armenia and some of Anatolia itself. But the pestilences which had visited the
Romans and Persians alike from 542 on may explain in great part the little resistance their forces offered the Moslem
eruption in 634. By the time of the Arab conquest Syria, in general, was an impoverished and stricken land. Damascus,
as well as Jerusalem, had not recovered from the effects of the previous long and terrible sieges. Palmyra stood empty.
In Mesopotamia there is some evidence that many irrigation canals had been abandoned, probably from a lack of labor
supply due to the plague, before the Moslems had even arrived and it is doubtful if the Arabs actually destroyed much.
(Ref. 137 (), 140 ())
The first incursion of Arabs into Iraq occurred in A.D. 633 with forces under Khalid ibn-al-Walid, although the main
advance was a little to the west into Syria. They defeated the Byzantines in a last battle at Yarmuk in 636 and Jerusalem
capitulated in 638. The chief administrator of Iraq and the coastal region from 644 to 656 was Othman (also Uthman)
of the Omayyad (also Umayyad) family. Using his nepotism as an excuse, troops from Iraq and Egypt assassinated
Othman in Medina in 656 and he was succeeded by Ali, the prophet?s cousin and son-in-law. Mo?awiya, an Omayyad
governor of Syria, disputed this succession, proclaimed himself caliph5 in Jerusalem in 660 and went on to establish
a capital at Damascus in 661, initiating the Omayyad Caliphate. Descendants of Ali continued intermittent warfare
with the combatants eventually ending up as the northern (Omayyad) Arabs against the southern. The latter were
chiefly the Shi?ites6 and by the end of the century these partisans were more or less in control of Arabia, Persia
and Mesopotamia. In addition, the old line of demarcation between Roman Syria and Persian Iraq or Mesopotamia
survived this Moslem conquest. A strong sense of difference between the populations at large in these two provinces,
fostered by the differences in their respective administrations easily coalesced with long standing rivalries in the two
Arab garrisons. Many civil wars resulted. (Ref. 2 (), 119 ())
As the Arab armies overran Mesopotamia and Iran, sizable groups of Jews were pretty well left alone as protected
minorities. All aspects of their civil and religious life were administered by Jewish officials in accordance with the
Babylonian Talmud. At this time Hindu numerals were in use in Syria and later these became known as "Arabic
numerals". (Ref. 49 ())
188.8.131.52.2 IRAN: PERSIA
As the century began Chosroes II ruled the Persians with avarice, suspicion and cruelty and a ruinous taxation to
support his own splendid living. His armies fought their way to the Bosporus and to Egypt and came within sight of
Constantinople but some 10 years later Emperor Honorius, in alliance with the Khazars just east of the Caspian, struck
back, attacking the Persian homeland (623-624). The Persians retaliated by attacking Constantinople once again with
Avar help in 626 but the east Roman navy kept the two land forces apart and the attack was a failure. Chosroes II was
then murdered by his nobles and his son, Kavadh II, made the final peace, surrendering Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia
Minor and western Mesopotamia back to the Byzantine Empire. Then pestilence broke out in Persia and thousands
died, including the king. There followed a fight for the throne and in this atmosphere of disease and general moral
decay and decline came the Arab armies of Islam about 636 and Persia quickly became part of the Moslem realm. The
decisive action with the Arabs occurred at Al Qadisiya, Iraq, when the Persian army was literally smashed, allowing
Arab capture of the capital, Ctesiphon (very near Selucia in Mesopotamia), in A.D. 635, thus opening the road to the
main Iranian plateau. After the take-over a few Persian nobles maintained their independence in the mountains of
Tabaristan at the south end of the Caspian. (Ref. 8 (), 137 ())
5 A caliph is the religious and civil leader of a Moslem state and the region he controls is a caliphate. In contrast an emir may be just an Arab
chieftain or a favored descendant of Mohammed
6 The Shi?ites (or Shiah) represent one of the two great divisions of the Moslem faith. They believe that only the descendants of Ali are eligible
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The Arabs did not force their conquered subjects to embrace Islam but did require them to accept the Koran as divine
teaching and obliged them to learn Arabic, thus building an empire united by a common tongue. (Ref. 137 (),
222 ()) There were probably many factors in the easy fall of the great Persian Empire to the surging Arab armies.
In addition to the factors listed in the paragraph above, it should be realized that both Byzantium and
Sassanian Persia had exhausted themselves battling each other for many years. But there was also an economic cause
of decline as the use of the Silk Route to China diminished. The Byzantines had smuggled silk cocoons from China
and could now supply themselves with silk and the economy suffered all along the old route.
Byzantium had become the original heir of classical Greek medicine but during the persecutions of a number of learned
heretics they fled to Persia, where, at Jundishapur, they met Syrian, Persian and Hindu scholars and working together,
they translated many important works into Syriac, the new language of learning in the Near East. When Persia fell
to the Arabs, many works of medicine were then translated from Syriac into Arabic, including large works of Galen.
(Ref. 211 ())
184.108.40.206.3 ASIA MINOR
After Emperor Justinian?s death at the close of the preceding century (595) the eastern Roman Empire collapsed with
nothing left except a few Asiatic ports, some fragments of Italy, Africa and Greece. The capital itself was besieged by
the Persians under Chosroes II, helped in the north by an army of Avars. In A.D. 602 the "Roman" army fighting the
Avars revolted, returned to Constantinople and murdered Emperor Maurice, while the Avars devastated the Balkans.
The cross-bow reached Byzantium from central Asia at about this time, perhaps borrowed from the Avars. (Ref. 137
(), 213 ())
The whole of the Asia Minor peninsula had been ploughed and furrowed by Persian armies and the great cities had
been plundered and sacked, but the Byzantines still had an unbeaten navy and after 10 years, Heraclius, the new
emperor, built a new army, sailed across the Black Sea, marched across Armenia and attacked and defeated Persia
from the rear (A.D. 624). The victory was a hollow one, however, as the Arabs soon advanced into this territory with
Khalid ibn al-Walid defeating a Byzantine army at the battle of the Yarmuk. The Byzantine frontiers were backed into
Turkey, proper, again and after 673 the Moslems even blocked Constantinople both by land and sea, allowing it to
be attacked every year for the next five. Only the strength of the city?s walls and the appearance of "Greek fire", an
explosive of unknown composition, saved the empire.
Although we have used the terms "Byzantine" and "Byzantium" freely in the last few chapters, actually it was not until
the second half of this century that earlier historians applied these names in reference to the eastern Roman Empire.
"Byzantion" was the old Greek name for Constantinople, and as the language of this eastern empire became chiefly
Greek, the term "Byzantium" came into use. (Ref. 137 ())
Throughout most of this century Armenia was in the middle of a three-cornered war involving Arabs, Khazars and
Byzantines, but they managed to remain virtually sovereign and zealously Christian. (Ref. 137 ()) After first
being overrun by the eastern Roman army on its way to Persia, later the Arabs invaded. In the first several decades
the higher classes had great prosperity incident to the exportation of manufactured goods and raw mining products.
It was also a period of intellectual activity with philosophical, mathematical, astronomical and cartographic studies.
Ananias, of Shirak, was a great scientist. Many Armenians served as mercenaries for Byzantium, particularly after the
Arabs appeared on the scene and by late century the mainstays of that army were Armenian. (Ref. 222 ())
Forward to The Near East: A.D. 701 to 800 (Section 22.3)
Choose Different Region
1. Intro to Era (Section 21.1)
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8. CHAPTER 21. A.D. 601 TO 700
Africa (Section 21.2)
America (Section 21.9)
Central and Northern Asia (Section 21.5)
Europe (Section 21.4)
The Far East (Section 21.7)
The Indian Subcontinent (Section 21.6)
Pacific (Section 21.8) 21.4 Europe: A.D. 601 to 7007
Back to Europe: A.D. 501 to 600 (Section 20.4)
Slavery continued in Europe throughout these "Dark Ages" despite the Christian Church, but in this century, when
Arabs gained control of the Mediterranean, it was difficult for Europeans to get slaves from the Levant. Most were
then obtained from the Slavic regions. (Ref. 213 ())
220.127.116.11 SOUTHERN EUROPE
18.104.22.168.1 EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN ISLANDS
The century began with these islands all a part of the Byzantine Empire but one by one the Arabs began to take them
over in the latter decades. Cyprus, with its copper mines, fell to the Moslems in 648 and Rhodes in 654. (Ref. 222
Greece was now heavily infiltrated with Slavic peoples and although nominally under the eastern Roman Empire, only
some of the coastal cities were truly Byzantine.
22.214.171.124.3 UPPER BALKANS
The Bulgars, whose original Kaganate was in the middle Volga far north of the Caspian Sea, had migrated in the
previous century to the Danube region. This group, including one branch of the Utigurs, had founded a Bulgarian
kingdom in ancient Moesia, enslaving the Slavs already there but they adopted the Slavs? language and customs and
in time intermarried with them. They began to take over more and more Balkan territory from Byzantium by 679 and
were recognized as a separate country in 681 when their first king, Isperikh, was crowned at the capital, Pliska. These
were the so-called "White" or "Western Bulgars", originally related to the Huns. (Ref. 180 (), 8 ())
Farther west, the Srbi (Serbs) settled in part of the old Pannonia and Chrobati (Croats) settled in Illyricum, forming
eventually the country of Serbia. By 650 the Slavs constituted the majority of the people in the Balkans. Avar
horsemen, operating out of Hungary, spread havoc intermittently through the area and repeatedly appeared under the
walls of Constantinople.
The Lombards regained control of the northern plain of Italy, where the Byzantines had driven a wedge, between A.D.
601 and 605, establishing a progressive state under Duke Agilulf, who was actually a Thuringian. The Lombards
maintained intermittent relation- ships with Rome and eventually became Catholics. Venice continued as an independent realm, allegedly having been built up from fishing villages settled by fugitives from the Huns, on some 60 marshy
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islands. (Ref. 222 ()) Rome continued as a part of the Byzantine Christian Empire although it was no longer its
chief city. The remainder of Italy was a patchwork of independent cities or duchies, such as the Duchy of Spoleto and
the Duchy of Benevento. (Ref. 137 ())
126.96.36.199 CENTRAL EUROPE
The Germanic and Slavic peoples had little disease and no superimposed imperial macroparasitism8 such as the
Mediterranean urban populations imposed on the peasantries there, and so they had tremendous population growths,
with the Slavs colonizing the Balkan peninsula, as we have noted above, and the Germanic tribes swarming to the
Rhine and finally far beyond to Britain. (Ref. 140 ())
Even in the previous century the Frankish kings of Germany had to reward their followers and the church by granting
away their own land and revenues. By the middle of this 7th century two families had emerged as the principal agents
of the kings for these transactions. One of these was from Austrasia, the traditional eastern Frankish land, and the
other was from Neustria, the new lands north of the Loire. By 687 Pepin, of Heerstal (near Aachen) of the Austrasian
family, had won out, thereafter dominating the Frankish kingdoms. (Ref. 8 ()) At that time several basic or
stem duchies became prominent, including Bavaria (named from the Baiuoaril branch of the Marcomanni), Swabia
(bordering Switzerland), Thuringia, Saxony, Franconia and Frisia.
By the end of the century northeastern Germany had quadrupled its population over that of Roman times, chiefly due
to the more abundant food supply available with the use of the "moldboard" plow, introduced by the Slavs. This plow
required eight oxen to pull it but it allowed three-field rotation of crops and allowed not only the production of more,
but also better food, containing more amino acids and protein, thus giving the people more energy and greater stamina.
(Ref. 211 ()) (See also FRANCE, this chapter)
The area now known as Austria was partly controlled by the German duchies and partly by the raiding Avars.
This was the homeland of the Avars who raided in all directions from this base. Please see this section in the previous
Moravians gained independence by holding off the Avars and then they were able to stop the Franks who tried to come
in from the west. After the death of their King Samo, however, this first attempt at a Slavic state in central Europe
collapsed. Samo may actually have been a Frank but he had managed to unite the Czechs and some of the Wends. The
people of Bohemia also repudiated Avar suzertainty and after that the Avar power declined rapidly. (Ref. 136 ())
This was simply part of the Frankish kingdoms.
188.8.131.52 WESTERN EUROPE
184.108.40.206.1 SPAIN AND PORTUGAL
Between A.D. 612 and 621, Sisebut, a well educated Visigoth monarch, reconquered most of the peninsula from
the Romans and his successor, Swintilla, completed the job. Even so, the Visigoths became "Romanized" by legal
8 McNeill?s terminology
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