Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Heliopolis (640)

The Arab conquest of Egypt can be considered the third stage of the early caliphate’s expansion, after its early successes against the Byzantines and the Persians. It also presented a different challenge for the caliphate and its armies. While Egypt may be home to more Arabs than any other country in the world today, in … Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Heliopolis (640)

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

The two great Arab military victories of 636, the Battle of Yarmouk against the Byzantines and the Battle of al-Qadisiyah against the Sasanian Persians, were decisive in both in purely military and in geopolitical terms. Taken individually, they changed the course of both of the defeated empires--the Byzantines would never again hold significant territory south … Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of al-Qadisiyah (636)

Today in Middle Eastern history: Antioch surrenders to the Arabs (637)

This will be short, since there's very little to say about the Arab conquest of Syria after the Battle of Yarmouk in 636 shattered Byzantine resistance there. But Antioch was one of the great cities of the eastern Roman Empire, and its conquest was significant, if anticlimactic. The city itself put up almost no resistance … Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern history: Antioch surrenders to the Arabs (637)

Today in Middle Eastern history: the Siege of Damascus ends (634)

Nearly two years before the Battle of Yarmouk broke Byzantine military power south of Anatolia pretty much for good, Arab forces captured the jewel of Roman Syria, Damascus. Looking at how they did so offers some important clues as to how they were able to take the rest of the Levant from the Byzantines so easily. … Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern history: the Siege of Damascus ends (634)

Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Yarmouk (636)

If one were inclined to rank the most important battles in world history, the Battle of Yarmouk probably should be pretty high on the list. It eliminated, over the course of one 6-day battle, almost the entirety of the Byzantine military south of the Taurus Mountains, leaving Syria and the rest of the Levant (with … Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Yarmouk (636)

Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Siffin (657)

Today is (give or take) the anniversary of the start of the Battle of Siffin, the key battle of the First Fitna (civil war) in Islamic history, about which you can read more here. The caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib, led an army of 80,000 men (allegedly) against the governor of Syria, Muʿawiyah, and his 120,000 … Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Siffin (657)

Islamic History, Part 13: Ali’s Caliphate (656-661) and the First Fitna

Islamic History Series Before you read this one, please read part 12 of the series, on Ali and his accession to the Caliphate. Ali's record as Caliph is incomplete, to say the least. He reigned for a mere 5 years, and most of that time was occupied by answering the many direct challenges that were … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 13: Ali’s Caliphate (656-661) and the First Fitna

Islamic History, Part 12: Ali’s Accession to the Caliphate (656)

Islamic History Series Well it's been quite a while since I did one of these, and I apologize for that. I enjoy writing these long historical pieces but they are not fast and real life often intervenes. Also, this particular bit of our tale is really important, and I wanted to be very careful as … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 12: Ali’s Accession to the Caliphate (656)

Islamic History, Part 10: the Caliphate of Uthman b. Affan (644-656), and the Seeds of Civil War

Islamic History Series When Muhammad became the ruler of his own polity after relocating to Medina and eventually conquering Mecca, he naturally wanted to conduct diplomacy with other rulers around him. Any ruler worth his salt back then had to stamp his diplomatic correspondence with his own personal seal in order to verify his identity, … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 10: the Caliphate of Uthman b. Affan (644-656), and the Seeds of Civil War