OLLI Workshop: History of the Middle East

Leader: Theo Pavlidis (theopav@gmail.com)

Handout No. 5 - October 29, 2012

Middle East 700-1000

Internal Strife in the Arab Lands

"In the tenth century the chair of Muhammad was disputed by three caliphs ..., who reigned at Bagdad, Cairoan, and Cordova, excommunicated each other, and agreed only in a principle of discord that a sectary is more odious and criminal than an unbeliever".
[Gibbon: EG, Chapter L, vol. 5, p. 406]

The Umayyad (Arab) caliphate lasted until 747 when it was replaced by the Abbasid caliphate under Persian influence. They built Baghdad as their capital. The Caliph became an autocrat under the Sassanid model of government. — A Shiite caliphate arose in 908 in North Africa (Fatimids). In 969 they conquered Egypt and built Cairo as their capital — Spain and North Africa first became an emirate (in 755) and eventually a caliphate (in 929) with Cordoba as its capital under rulers from the Umayyad dynasty.

Arab Empire under the immediate successors of Muhammad (Rashidun empire). The areas of the Arab Empire are in black overlayed on a map that shows the boundaries and names of modern countries. The location of the cities of Mecca and Medina is approximate.

Adapted from

Arab Empire (multiple caliphates) at its peak circa 945. Adapted from
Continuity between Byzantine and Arab Administrations

Because the Arabic peninsula was in far less developed state than the lands conquered by the Arabs, the new rulers had no administrative mechanisms of their own to impose on their new subjects. In Egypt it took over a century for Arabic to replace Greek in government documents.

"In the course of the millennia Middle East bureaucracies, through many changes of government, religion, culture, and even script and language, show a remarkable persistence and continuity". [Lewis: BL95, pp. 182]
What was left of the Roman Empire around 700. Not only Syria and Egypt have been lost to the Arabs, but also most of what is today Greece has been lost to Slavs and most of Italy to the Lombards.
Adapted from http://hobbit.ict.griffith.edu.au/~wiseman/Roman/19Maps.html#754