Today (?) in Middle Eastern history: Muhammad conquers Mecca (630?)

You'll note the presence of question marks in the title to this post, and that's not to remind me to go back and check later. The question marks are there because there's no particular reason to believe that this event happened on the date that corresponds with January 11, 630, on our Gregorian calendar. Don't … Continue reading Today (?) in Middle Eastern history: Muhammad conquers Mecca (630?)


Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Bakhamra (763)

However, the Hasanids had their moments of rebellion. For example, there was a Hasanid-led revolt in September 762, which was ultimately squashed by the Abbasids at the Battle of Bakhamra on January 21, 763. This is sometimes considered to have been a “Zaydi revolt,” since the Zaydis claim its leader as one of their imams, … Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Bakhamra (763)

Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Hama (903)

and that's the way it was

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a fairly small, radical–apocalyptic, even–and highly militarized Islamic sect carves out a chunk of territory, including a sizable piece of Syria, in which to establish its own very wealthy political entity that could be described as revisionist, expansionist, and even irredentist. They specialize in hit-and-run attacks on their neighbors that maximize civilian casualties, attacks that would certainly meet most definitions of the term “terrorism.” Their targets are intended to shock ordinary people and to drive home the message of their esoteric interpretation of Islam–to that end, they deliberately seek to damage and destroy physical symbols of cultural and religious significance. The people unfortunate enough to find themselves captured by or otherwise living under the rule of these fanatics often find themselves enslaved. Recognized by almost none of its neighbors and opposed by nearly all of them, the emirate ruled by these fanatics…

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Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of al-Qadisiyah (636)

and that's the way it was

There are battles throughout history that are decisive for purely military reasons, and then there are battles that are decisive for reasons that go far beyond that. Take two famous examples from the Second Punic War. Hannibal’s victory at the Battle of Cannae (216 BCE) was pretty damn decisive from a military perspective. It’s hard to get much more decisive than killing anywhere from half to 7/8 of an 80,000+ man Roman army while losing maybe a tenth of yours. You’ve clearly made a statement with a win like that. But the war went on and Rome was only temporarily weakened. The Battle of Zama (202 BCE), on the other hand, not only ended the war, but it basically ended Carthage. Yes, there was a Third Punic War, but Carthage had no ability to put up a real fight. Zama was decisive far beyond the battlefield.

The two great Arab…

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Islamic History, part 30: the early Islamic military (7th-9th centuries CE)

Islamic History Series I feel pretty certain that nowadays we would point to the advent of Islam as the most important development of the movement that Muhammad began in Mecca and Medina in the first part of the 7th century. However, to contemporary observers in the period immediately following his death, it must have seemed … Continue reading Islamic History, part 30: the early Islamic military (7th-9th centuries CE)

Today in Islamic history: the Battle of the Zab (750)

One of the nice things about having done this blog as long as I’ve been doing it is that the “this day in history” posts are starting to overlap. I hope you enjoy this one from January 25, 2015, on the Battle of the Zab.

and that's the way it was

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of the Zab, which took place in 750 and was the climactic battle in the Abbasid Revolution that ousted the Umayyads from the caliphate. Obviously you can find out more about the revolution elsewhere on this blog, but the battle itself deserves a little mention.

The Umayyad army was primarily made up of Syrian Arabs, who had amply demonstrated their toughness and battlefield capabilities by this point in campaigns against the Byzantines and in putting down several previous rebellions. They were under the direct command of Caliph Marwan II himself, and Marwan, although he may not personally have been all sunshine and rainbows, had impressive credentials as a military leader. He’d been governor of the northernmost provinces of the empire, which meant direct responsibility for conducting raids against neighboring Christian kingdoms like the Byzantine Empire and Georgia, and he’d taken the caliphate…

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