The Arab Conquest Of Egypt


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by Jimmy Dunn

Alexandria was soon retaken by the Romans in To counter future Byzantine attacks from the sea, the Arabs built a fleet with harbour facilities in Fustat , Alexandria, and Clysma , which participated in an attack on Constantinople as early as the s. Other Roman attacks on Arab forces in Egypt are reported, including one in which a Roman army roamed the Delta.

A treaty concluded in between the Arabs and the Nubians was supposed to ensure stability on the southern border, although unrest, especially with the Bedouin Blemmyes from the eastern desert, continued. Arab attacks on Libya were organized from Egypt throughout the 7th century.

THE ARAB CONQUEST OF EGYPT.*

Archaeological records and historical accounts do not suggest that the conquest generally led to mass emigration, the disowning of lands or goods, or large-scale destruction. Egypt suffered several military campaigns immediately before the Arab conquest, most significantly the Persian invasion and occupation of Egypt —29 , while the largely Miaphysite population of Egypt experienced persecution under the Patriarch Cyrus.


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Egyptians must to some extent have experienced the arrival of the Arabs as one of a series of shifts in political power and thus were not necessarily motivated to fight to maintain Roman rule. The Roman army, whose commanders competed rather than cooperated between themselves, does not seem to have been well organized or motivated. The Arab invading army, although small and ill-equipped, made effective use of materials, such as artillery and siege machinery, captured along the way. It was composed of Arab tribes from the Arabian Peninsula , and Christian Arabs from the Roman and Persian Empires , as well as soldiers who had defected from the Persian and Roman armies.

Butler, Arab Conquest of Egypt.

Analyzing: Accounts of the Arab Conquest of Egypt, | Bartleby

Hoyland, Seeing Islam. Petry and M. Daly, eds. Islamic Egypt, — , 2 vols. Kaegi, Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests The main events of the Arab conquests of the Near East, carried out at the expense of the Byzantine and Sasanian empires , happened during a single decade after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in While the conquered were exhausted from fifty years of battling each other, the conquerors had speed, surprise, and a way of life well suited to raiding on their side, as well as—according to the medieval historical tradition and many, but not all, modern scholars—a shared identity and an ideology that mobilized them for conquest.

If the broad outline of events is clear, the effects of the conquests are much less so. New research is continually modifying our picture. We now know that change was not as rapid or destructive as was once imagined, but simple continuity cannot be supported, either: the new regime brought with it some important innovations.

Administrative structures were modified rather than abolished, and personnel were retained—in some cases for generations, like the family of heresiographer and polemicist John of Damascus —rather than replaced. At the same time, however, documentary evidence—most plentiful for Egypt, but also surviving for late 7th-century Palestine—shows that the new rulers either arrived with, or very swiftly developed, their own administrative language; requisition receipts were already being issued in the early s using dates in the Era of the Hijra , and many bilingual papyri use Arabic terminology, rather than direct translation or transliteration from Byzantine-Greek practice.

Economic trends also varied from region to region, or even town to town. New commercial, residential, and religious both churches and mosques building was carried out after the conquests in towns like Jerash Gerasa , Fihl Pella , and Baysan Scythopolis. Indeed, much of the demographic and economic decline visible in the archaeological record either pre-dates the s e.

Apamea in Syria or can be linked to the shift in the centre of economic gravity from the mid-8th century, connected with—or perhaps prompting—the move of the caliphal capital from Damascus to Baghdad e. Finally, the relative paucity of material evidence for the public expression of Islam from the first half of the 7th century, together with the patchy understanding shown by non-Muslim literary sources before the Armenian history attributed to Sebeos in the s, has suggested to some historians that early Islam remained a faith for the conquest elite, not one widely used as a language of legitimacy for Arab rule.

Fowden, From Empire to Commonwealth Morony, Iraq After the Muslim Conquest The murder of Khosrow II inaugurated a four-year succession crisis in the Sasanian dynasty of the Persian Empire , crippling a regime weakened by internal strife and incessant war with the Eastern Roman Empire. Abu Bakr dispatched Arab armies to conquer the Near East; motivated by their new faith and the promise of booty, the Arab light cavalry defeated the Persian Empire within two decades.

The Arab conquest of Central Asia took longer. Transoxiana was not subdued until the mid-8th century and Turkic groups north of the Jaxartes remained outside Muslim influence for much longer. The conquest began in with the capture of Persian territory on the Arabian Peninsula al-Bahrayn , followed by raids into the Tigris—Euphrates delta.

In , Khalid b. A Persian counteroffensive, coupled with the death of Abu Bakr, resulted in the Sasanian reconquest of the Sawad later in Although initially defeated by the Persians at the Battle of the Bridge in , the Arabs subsequently crushed the Sasanians, capturing their frontier posts and opening the Sawad again to Muslim raids —6. These victories against the Persians led many of their former Arab allies to defect to the Muslims.

By , the Muslim garrison city ribat of Basra was established. A second garrison city was established at Kufa in ; Mesopotamia was now lost by the Persians, along with its administrative structure, tax revenues, and military resources; Basra and Kufa became the main bases for the Arab forces to conquer the remnants of the Persian Empire to the east and north.

Another decisive Muslim victory at the Battle of Nihawand in sealed the fate of the rump Sasanian Empire, as Yazdegerd fled further eastward to Isfahan and Istakhr Staxr. The Persian army was in disarray and resistance to the Arabs dependent on regional marzbans. Yazdegerd fled to Kerman, then on to Merv , Balkh , and Tirmidh , then back to Merv, where he was killed in at the behest of the local marzban and the Hephthalite ruler Nezak Tarkhan.

The Persian administrative structure continued after the demise of the Sasanian regime, but despite the incentive of exemption from the jizya poll-tax, conversion to Islam in Iran was a lengthy process. Crossing the Oxus first in , the Muslims initially subdued Bukhara in , Samarkand and Tirmidh in , and Khwarezm in , each time imposing tribute and withdrawing. Not until did an Arab governor winter in Sogdiana. Eastward expansion resumed under al-Hajjaj , governor of Iraq — Aided by Sogdian disunity and lack of Chinese military opposition, the Muslim conquest of Transoxiana Khwarezm, Sogdiana , Chach , and Farghana began in under Qutayba b.

Muslim , governor of Khorasan. After subduing Tukharistan , Qutayba made annual campaigns into Transoxiana. He finally captured Bukhara , imposed tribute, established an Arab garrison, and installed a puppet ruler, Tugshada. The main Roman interest in Egypt was the reliable delivery of grain to the city of Rome. To ensure continued delivery, Roman administrators made no change to the Ptolemaic system of government other than replace the Greeks in the highest offices.

But Greeks continued to staff most of the government while under Roman rule, and Greek remained the language of government at all but the highest levels. Since Romans did not settle in Egypt in large numbers, culture, education and civic life largely remained Greek throughout the Roman period. And the Romans, like the Ptolemies, respected and protected Egyptian religion and customs, while gradually introducing the cult of the Roman state and the Emperor into the panoply of dieties that the Egyptians recognized.

From the Islamic conquest to 1250

Christian Egypt. While no records suggest when Christians first migrated to Egypt, present-day Christians believe that Saint Mark founded the Patriarchate of Alexandria and Church of Alexandria , one of the original four main sees of Christianity, about 41 AD. With persecution of Christians raging across most of the Roman world, the Christian population in Egypt steadily grew, making Alexandria one of the principal centers of the Christian world by AD.

But once the Egyptian Church had achieved official freedom, long-simmering internal conflict known as schism erupted, which at times descended into civil war. The first great split in the Christian world occurred at Alexandria in AD after the First Council of Nicaea rejected the views of a Alexandrian priest named Arius, favoring orthodox Christians represented by another priest named Athanasius.

Arab conquest

This so-called "Arian Controversy" caused riots and rebellions the rest of the fourth century and the repeated expulsion of now Archbishop Athanasius from Alexandria at least five and perhaps as many as seven times. Amid such strife, and other competing factions such as Gnosticism and Manichaeism competing for attention, most Egyptian Christians took up Monasticism, exported the practice to other parts of the Christian world and actively developed Coptic, a form of ancient Egyptian language written with the Greek alphabet and various symbols to represent Egyptian words and sounds which cannot be reproduced in Greek.

Coptic was invented by early Christians to spread the gospel to native Egyptians and has remained the liturgical language of Egyptian Christianity to this day. The Cathedral of St. Byzantine Egypt. After lifting the persecution of Christians in Egypt in , the Roman emperor Constantine founded a new capital at Constantinople. This move caused the Empire to split during the fourth century into Eastern and Western empires, with Egypt falling under the dominion of the Eastern Empire at Constantinople — a seat of power that reigned during the fifth and sixth centuries, known today as the Byzantine Empire.

The fall of the Roman Empire in the West during the fifth century isolated Egypt from Rome's culture, accelerated the spread of Christianity in Egypt, and led to the demise of Egypt's pharaonic culture, the disappearance of Egyptian priests and abandonment of ancient temples, which did not seem to matter, since virtually no one could read the hieroglyphics that were found within the temples.

Any religious structure from Pharaonic times that remained standing was converted to churches or left to melt back into the landscape. As its links with the old Graeco-Roman world faded, the Eastern Empire became increasingly "oriental" in style and attitude The Greek system of local government disappeared. New offices with unfamiliar Byzantine names sprang up, controlled in almost hereditary fashion by wealthy land-owning families. And following the murder of the philosopher-mathematician Hypatia in Alexandria a move that signaled the end of the last vestige of Hellenistic culture , a new schism erupted inside Byzantine church, causing a series of events that led the Eastern Empire under the emperor Justinian I — to recapture Rome — leaving the Byzantine breadbasket Egypt exposed to attack from the Sassanians in Persia.

The invasion of Egypt, beginning in or , was one of the last Sassanian triumphs in the Roman-Persian Wars against Byzantium. Butler has clearly grasped the essential scope of a history of this eventful period. He does not limit his view to Egypt, though this is his principal subject and the one on which he is an authority. Be looks round the horizon of the Byzantine—or, as we are now instructed to term it, the East Roman—Empire, and.

He shows us the "agony of misrule" which tortured every limb of the Empire, and not least Egypt, where the strife between official orthodoxy and the Jacobite heresy had been embittered by Justin's severity following upon the open sympathy of Theodora.


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  • He traces the rise of the younger Heraclius, the revolt in Cyrene, the march of Nicetas on Alexandria, and the conquest of Egypt in the name of the rebel Emperor. He tells it, not from the few meagre notices of the Byzantine historians, but from the ampler narrative, only lately translated from an Ethiopic version, of John, Bishop of Nikiou in the eighth century We have seen the country roused from its sullen torpor by the sound of Heraclius' trumpets : Nicetas capturing Alexandria almost without striking a blow, and the revolution triumphant through Egypt : then Bonasus flinging himself like a tiger on the head of the Delta, sweeping all before him to the walls of Alexandria, and dashing against the city's bulwarks only to recoil crushed and disabled for any further con- test save a guerilla warfare, which he maintained for a time with fiery courage ; then, brought to bay at last, he cheated the enemies that surrounded him of their vengeance and stole away in the night.

    It is a remarkable picture, drawn in strong colours, but bearing in every detail the image of reality ; it is one entirely unknown to history until revealed in the Chronicle of John of Nikiou. In a series of dramatic scenes, which lose nothing of their effect in these eloquent pages, we witness the fall of Phocas, the horrid barbarity of his execution, and the early rule of Heraclius, seconded in Egypt by Nicetas,—where it was "an alien domination founded on force and making little pretence of sympathy with the subject race," and where differences of dogma destroyed all union between Greek and Egyptian :— " In the seventh century in Egypt the interest of politics was.

    Love of country was practically unknown, and national or racial antagonisms derived their acuteness mainly from their coincidence with religious differences. Men debated with fury upon shadows of shades of belief and staked their lives on the most immaterial issues, on the most subtle and intangible refinements in the formulas of theology or metaphysics.

    Things had not changed so much since Juvenal's day, though the jealous creeds had altered. It was no wonder that the Persians had an easy victory over the jarring factions in Egypt, compared with their six years' struggle in Syria, which had ended at last in the crowning triumph of the capture of Jerusalem.

    The Empire of Heraclius now scarcely stretched out of sight of Constantinople. The Persians were actually planted at Chalcedon on the Bosporus, and hordes of Huns harried the European side. Nothing more wonderful in the annals of the Lower Empire can be read than the swift recovery of all these losses by the brilliant energy of the Emperor. In Egypt had already been restored to him, he had actually pressed beyond Ctesiphon, and Jerusalem was delivered and the Holy Rood brought safely to St. Sophia, to. But the triumph was followed by a second and overwhelming downfall.

    The Arab Conquest Of Egypt The Arab Conquest Of Egypt
    The Arab Conquest Of Egypt The Arab Conquest Of Egypt
    The Arab Conquest Of Egypt The Arab Conquest Of Egypt
    The Arab Conquest Of Egypt The Arab Conquest Of Egypt
    The Arab Conquest Of Egypt The Arab Conquest Of Egypt
    The Arab Conquest Of Egypt The Arab Conquest Of Egypt
    The Arab Conquest Of Egypt The Arab Conquest Of Egypt

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