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Byzantium and the Arabs. The Encounter of Civilizations from Sixth to Mid-Eighth Century - ebook/pdf
Byzantium and the Arabs. The Encounter of Civilizations from Sixth to Mid-Eighth Century - ebook/pdf
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This book is an attempt at a reconstruction of complex relations between Byzantium and the Arabs from the sixth to the eighth century. It discusses the religious and political situation in the Middle East on the eve of the Arab conquest, characterises the attitude adopted by the inhabitants of Byzantine provinces toward the Arab invaders, analyses the administrative structures of Byzantium and the Umayyad state, and presents the life of Christian Churches under the Arab rule. Written in a clear, direct style, free of scholarly jargon, this collection of essays is based on both Byzantine and Arab sources, as well as on a wide selection of scholarly literature, originating from both the Western and Middle Eastern cultural circles. The monograph has been prepared by the scholars associated with the Waldemar Ceran Research Centre for History and Culture of the Mediterranean Area and South-Eastern Europe of the University of Łódź (Ceraneum). One might note, with a considerable degree of satisfaction, the initiative of Łódź Byzantinists aimed at increasing the role of Polish historiography in the scholarly world. It has taken up the form of a work in English, devoted to an event of worldwide importance, a clash of the newly emergent Islam with the refined culture of the Roman Mediterranean.

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Byzantium and the Arabs The Encounter of Civilizations from Sixth to Mid-Eighth Century Ed ited by Teresa Woli ń sk a a nd P aweł Filipc z a k B Y Z A N T I N A L O D Z I E N S I A B Y Z A N T I N A L O D Z I E N S I A Series of the Department of Byzantine History of the University of Łódź Series of the Department of Byzantine History of the University of Łódź f o u n d e d b y f o u n d e d b y Professor Waldemar Ceran Professor Waldemar Ceran in in 1997 1997 № XXII № XXII B Y Z A N T I N A L O D Z I E N S I A XXII Byzantium and the Arabs The Encounter of Civilizations from Sixth to Mid-Eighth Century Edited by Teresa Woliń sk a and Paweł Filipc z ak Translated by Jerzy Gaszewski I.7, II.3 Łukasz Gaszewski I.2, II.1, II.2, II.4, III.5 Artur Mękarski I.1, I.3, I.4, I.5, III.3, III.4, IV.1 Karolina Wodarczyk III.1, III.2, III.6, IV.2 Michał Zytka I.6 B Y Z A N T I N A L O D Z I E N S I A Series of Department of Byzantine History of University of Łódź founded by prof. Waldemar Ceran in 1997 № XXII E D I T O R I A L B O A R D Mirosław J. Leszka – editor-in-chief Andrzej Kompa – secretary Sławomir Bralewski Paweł Filipczak Maciej Kokoszko Kirił Marinow Teresa Wolińska R E V I E W E R dr hab. Jacek Bonarek Jan Kochanowski University, PT campus PRO O F R E A D I N G Michał Zytka COV E R DE S IG N A N D L AYOU T by Sebastian Buzar T Y PE S E T T I NG A DDR E S S OF T H E E DI TOR I A L B OA R D Oficyna Wydawnicza Lidia Ciecierska, AGENT PR Katedra Historii Bizancjum UŁ ul. A. Kamińskiego 27a 90-219 Łódź, Poland Publisher’s sheets 40.0; printing sheets 39.25 Photograph on the cover © Paweł Filipczak The book has been financed by the National Science Centre – the agreement DEC-2012/04/M/HS3/00564 © Copyright by the Authors, Łódź 2015  © Copyright for this edition by University of Łodź, Łódź 2015 Published by Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego Order W.07054.15.0.K  Printed in Poland  ISBN 978-83-7969-902-5  e-ISBN 978-83-7969-903-2 1st Edition  Printed on Stella Press 65 g by Zing Sp. z o.o.  Łódź University Press / Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego  90-131 Łódź, ul. W. Lindleya 8   phone (48 42) 665 58 63 Contents Introduction 1 Part I Before the Conquest Sławomir Bralewski, Zofia A. Brzozowska, Marek M. Dziekan, Paweł Filipczak, Teresa Wolińska litical Importance in Late Antiquity Paweł Filipczak 2.1. Ishmaelites and Arabs in the Bible 2.2. Inhabitants of Middle Eastern Deserts in Non-biblical Sources 1. Geography and Environmental Conditions of Syro-Palestine. The Region’s Geopo- 2. Arabs, (H)agarenes, Ishmaelites, Saracens – a Few Remarks about Naming Teresa 3. The Arabs before Islam – the Birth of the New Religion Marek M. Dziekan Wolińska 2.2.1. Skenites 2.2.2. Arabs 2.2.3. Saracens 2.3. Hagarenes vs. Ishmaelites 2.4. Other Names 3.1. The Nabateans 3.2. Palmyra (Tadmur) 3.3. The Lakhmids 7 7 22 24 27 27 28 31 36 37 38 42 44 46 vi Contents zowska 3.4. The Ghassānids 3.5. Central Arabia 3.6. Muḥammad Ibn ‘Abd Allāh and the Birth of Islam 4. The Goddesses of Pre-Islamic Arabia (Al-Lāt, Al-‘Uzzā, Manāt) Zofia A. Brzo- 5. Irfan Shahîd’s Theme System or John Haldon’s Myth of Themes. A Short Review of 6. Byzantine Church before the Arab Conquest. Historical-Theological Aspects of Di- 6.1. Christological Controversies and Ideological Divisions in the Church of Late 94 111 6.2. The “Robber Council” of Ephesus (449) 6.3. Council of Chalcedon (451). The New Credo and Promotion of Constantino- the Two Main Ideas of Themes in Syria Paweł Filipczak visions in Churches of the East Sławomir Bralewski 47 48 51 55 83 92 Antiquity ple in Ecclesiastic Hierarchy 6.4. Byzantine Emperors and Ecclesiastic Doctrinal Arguments (450–527) 6.5. Emperor-Theologian on the Throne. The Failure of Church Unity Restoration 116 131 144 150 151 156 157 160 162 164 166 195 205 223 224 227 229 233 238 250 under Justinian I 7. Difficult Neighbours. Enemies, Partners, Allies Teresa Wolińska 7.1.1. Arab Attacks on the Lands of the Byzantine Empire 7.1.2. Trade 7.1.3. The Arab Allies of the Byzantine Empire 7.1.4. The Tanūkhids (Banū Tanūkh) 7.1.5. The Salīḥids (Banū Salīḥ) 7.1.6. The Kindites (Banū Kinda) 7.1.7. The Ghassānids (Banū Ghassān) 7.4. Would-be Allies in the South of the Arabian Peninsula P a r t I I The Conquest Błażej Cecota, Teresa Wolińska 205 1. Byzantium on the Eve of the Arab Expansion. Some Aspects of Government during the Reign of Heraclius I (610–641) Teresa Wolińska 2. Arab Expansion on Byzantine Territory (632–718) Błażej Cecota 2.1. Conquest of Syria and Palestine 2.2. Covenant of ‘Umar 2.3. The Conquest of Egipt 2.4. Muslim Armed Forces – from Militia to a Professional Army 2.5. Continuation of Expansion against Byzantium – Arab Expeditions in Asia Mi- nor 2.6. Arab Navy in the Mediterranean Contents 2.7. The Sieges of Contantinople Alleged Siege of 654/655 Alleged Siege of 660s Siege of Constantinople of 674–678 Siege of Constantinople of 717–718 vii 255 255 257 229 263 3. The Character of the Invasion. A Discussion of the Causes and Immediate Effects of 4. Resistance, Passivity or Collaboration? Christians in Syria and Egypt Facing the Muslim Expansion Teresa Wolińska the Arab Conquest Teresa Wolińska 270 288 P a r t I I I After the Conquest 315 Hassan Badawy, Błażej Cecota, Marek M. Dziekan, Teresa Wolińska, Marta Woźniak 1. Administration of the Arabic World: from Tribalism to the Umayyad Caliphate Hassan Badawy, Błażej Cecota 1.1. Pre-Muslim Power Structures in the Arabian Peninsula 1.2. The Influence of Islam. From a Religious Community to the Muslim State 1.3. Management of the Umayyad Caliphate 2. Economic Institutions of Early Islam. The  Creation of Bayt al-Māl ( From Tribal Treasury to the “Ministry of Finance” Hassan Badawy 2.1. The Creation of the Muslim State and Its Major Economic Institutions 2.2. The Creation of Bayt al-Māl – a Central Financial Institution of the Country 2.3. Headquarters of Bayt al-Māl 2.4. Management of Bayt al-Māl 2.5. Revenues of Bayt al-Māl 2.6. Public Spending 3. Christian Communities in the  Territories Conquered by  the  Arabs (Seventh– Eighth Centuries) Marta Woźniak 3.1. Christians in the Ḳur’ān and in the Teachings of Muḥammad 3.2. The Muslims’ Attitude towards the Christians in Muḥammad’s Lifetime 3.3. The Muslims’ Attitude toward the Christians after Muḥammad’s Death 3.4. The Christian Response to the Advent of Islam 3.5. The Arabization of the Language of the Christians in the Middle East 3.6. The Syrian Churches 3.6.1. The Jacobite Church 3.6.2. The Nestorian Church (the Church of the East) 3.7. The Coptic Church 3.8. The Armenian Church 4. The Byzantines in the Context of the Ḳur’ān Marek M. Dziekan 4.1. The Byzantines in the Ḳur’ān 315 315 318 328 ). 338 339 345 347 348 349 352 356 359 364 366 370 374 375 378 380 384 386 390 391 viii Contents 4.1.1. Sūra 30. The Byzantines (Al-Rūm), the verses 2–4 4.1.2. Sūra 3. Imran’s Family (Al ʽImrān), verse 64 4.2. The Prophet’s Letter to Emperor Heraclius 4.3. The Letter to Al-Muḳawḳis 5. The Arabs and Islam in the Eyes of the Byzantines Teresa Wolińska 5.1. The Arabs in Byzantine Eyes 5.2. Intellectual Argument with Islam 391 399 406 411 418 418 425 6. A Byzantine Heritage? Outline of Art and Architecture of Early Islam (Seventh– Eighth Centuries) Marta Woźniak 6.1. Characteristic Features of Islamic Art 6.2. Architecture and Art after the Rise of Islam 6.3. Examples of Religious Architecture: The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Great Mosque in Damascus 6.4. “Desert Castles” as an Example of Umayyad Secular Architecture 6.5. Decorative Art in the Time of the Umayyads 6.6. Coins Sources – a Brief Overview Błażej Cecota, Marek M. Dziekan, Teresa Wolińska 439 441 444 446 453 458 459 463 463 471 A Short Review of Arab Sources Marek M. Dziekan Greek, Syrian and Coptic Sources for the History of Byzantine-Arabic Relations in Sixth–Eighth Century Błażej Cecota, Teresa Wolińska Abbreviations Bibliography Sources Modern Scholarship Indices Index of People Index of Ethnic and Geographic Names Illustrations 485 493 515 567 583 593 Introduction Byzantium and the Arabs. The Encounter of Civilisations. We never had doubts about the title. An encounter – not a clash. If we were to seek the starting point of the Byzantine history in the reign of Constantine the Great – and this is what we are doing in the Łódź centre of Byzantine studies – then the Byzan- tine-Arab relations, examined in a long, multi-century perspective, shall appear to be a very complex phenomenon, one fluctuating between two extreme poles: peaceful co-existence and armed hostile actions, presenting varying degrees of threat to both of the sides. Times between the fourth and the mid-seventh century were those of an encounter: mutual cognizance, often multi-faceted infiltration – lingual or religious, but also political, economic and administra- tive – of the two great cultural spheres: Graeco-Roman and Oriental. Such an understanding of the Byzantine-Arab neighbourhood is certainly not unique to us. In 2011, a large conference was organised at the Aristotle University of Thes- saloniki; it was dedicated to Byzantine-Arab relations and, quite significantly, it was entitled Byzantium and the Arabs. Encounter of Civilisations. The corre- lation between the title of the aforementioned scholarly meeting (as well as of the title of its resultant volume) and the title of our book is impossible to miss. Admittedly, the Thessalonikan debates gave us a direct impulse to study the re- lationships between the Byzantine and Arab worlds – something we desired to do for many years. 2 Introduction Although we are writing about the  encounter of civilisations, we can- not deny that they did, also, clash at times. During the mid-seventh century, the Muslims performed a military takeover of nearly all of the Byzantine Near East. It was achieved with violence, often brutality; there is no  doubt about that. However it is impossible to ignore the fact that on the timeline of Byz- antine-Arab relations, the Muslim conquest was a one-off event; even though simultaneously it is of critical significance, from the historical perspective. Fol- lowing this clash, the Byzantine element in the Near East – devoid of the struc- tures of imperial power, “represented” solely by the Greek-speaking populace and the local Churches – weakened considerably, and in some places became entirely extinct. This, however, did not happen instantly, but over time, during the new stage of co-existence between the two civilisations – though this time not within the Byzantine empire’s borders, but within the caliphate. The book’s framing, accepting the Muslim conquest as the most clear chron- ological point, is based on three clear parts: the “before” the conquest, “during”, and “after” the conquest. The exact contents of each of the parts are, of course, detailed in the table of contents – here we only wish to present a few general re- marks. The majority of the chapters are scholarly par excellence, but there are also a few that – while maintaining the scholarly apparatus – are somewhat “lighter” and in their form resemble essays. This is intentional, agreed with the Press, but at the same time stemming from our deep conviction that a scholarly volume – and let us stress here that we are dealing with such – ought also to be comprehen- sible for readers without Byzantinological or Arabistic background. The stylistic differences between the chapters arise from the fact that the book has seven dif- ferent authors. Some of its parts are more focused on sources, are analytical and examine fine details, others – on the contrary – are more general introductions or summarise particular topics. Even these, however, when we consider the vast amounts of academic literature that are nowadays being published, have great value. We are also dealing here with a compromise, as we are attempting to adopt a synthetic approach to nearly three centuries of history, extremely abundant in phenomena and processes that are often difficult to interpret. We could not have written about everything in as much detail as we would have liked to. Some of the themes or persons, while tied to Byzantine-Arab relations, have first and foremost a separate substance of their own, such as the person of Muḥammad or the emergence of the Islam, have been placed in the background, and are not discussed in detail. Introduction 3 It is always difficult to adopt a single, consistent and universally accepted approach to the matter of transcribing names from scripts other than Latin. We have adopted the following: Arabic names – primarily those of chieftains, ca- liphs, scholars, deities – are always given in a form containing diacritical marks (where such are present). We have done the same in the case of Arabic technical terms, referring to various taxes, the names of administrative units, social or re- ligious groups, and certain events or historical phenomena. In such cases we are following The Encyclopaedia of Islam (of which we have primarily used the sec- ond edition), and to a lesser extent Encyclopaedia Britannica, but we have also made recourse to indices of names from the best-known works in the English language, published in reputable series (primarily: The Formation of the Classical Islamic World, Variorum Collected Studies Series, and Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam). We have done differently with geographic and ethnographic names. In case of terms ingrained in the English language, referring to not only historical re- ality but also to modern names of cities (Aden, Medina etc.) and states (Bah- rain, Oman, Yemen etc.) we have used a simplified spelling, devoid of diacritical marks; we consider this to be the most clear, and thus fully justified. We were not pioneers in abandoning the exact diacritical notation – Barrington Atlas of Greek and Roman World abandoned the exact spelling of Arabic toponyms altogether. In case of geographic terms that are not commonly used in the English lan- guage, ones that are not an intrinsic part of this language, and almost exclusive- ly referring to less well-known, local toponyms, used in this book in a clearly historical context, we have retained the spelling that includes diacritical marks, whenever using them is necessary (occasionally, a variant form is used, e.g. Najd or Nadjd). The risk of using the proposed criteria depends on a certain arbitrariness of what is considered linguistically more universal, and what more specific. The best example: Hejaz or Al-Ḥidjāz? There may be exceptions from the rules – the cap- ital of Yemen, but at the same time an important historical centre, is spelled here Sana’a rather than Sana. Moreover, the works of modern scholars publishing in the English language do occasionally contain, major or minor, discrepancies in spelling of some of the names and terms. 4 Introduction As regards the Greek or Latin names denoting people or places, the scale of the problem was much smaller. We most commonly used Anglicised versions (e.g. Timothy rather than Timotheus or Timotheos, or Tyre rather than Tyrus or Tyros). The  spelling of non-Latin geographical and personal names is subject to the rules accepted in the volume, but to some extent it also arises from habit and literary tastes. In all cases, we have accepted common sense as the chief rule. This means that the proper name always ought to easily and unquestionably identify a person or a place. Any possible inaccuracies arising from the rules and principles described above would be the sole responsibility of the volume’s scholarly editors. We would like to thank the whole team of the Waldemar Ceran Research Centre for the History and Culture of the Mediterranean Area and South-East Europe (Ceraneum) at Łódź University for the highly supportive attitude to our work. We thank Professor Maciej Kokoszko, director of the Centre, and the em- ployees of the Centre’s office, Dr Karolina Krzeszewska and Dr Krzysztof Jag- usiak, for assisting in efficiently performing numerous formal tasks associated with running of the project. Particular thanks are due to Dr Zofia Brzozowska, who was the first Reader of this book, a tireless editor and proof-reader of our texts and a true caretaker, so to speak, of the administrative side of the project. As always, we could count on the support of our Colleagues from Ceraneum and from our parent research unit, the Department of Byzantine History at the In- stitute of History of the University of Łódź: Professor Mirosław J. Leszka and Professor Sławomir Bralewski, as well as of Dr Kirił Marinow and Dr Andrzej Kompa. Mirosław and Andrzej, as usual in the case of the Byzantina Lodziensia series, extended editorial care to the book, offering advice during the exceed- ingly complex process of preparing the book for print. We owe thanks to Pro- fessor Marek M. Dziekan and Marta Woźniak from the Department of Middle East and North Africa Studies for consultation regarding Arabic names. We thank Professor Jacek Bonarek from the Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce, the branch in Piotrków Trybunalski for the meticulous and positive editorial review. We thank Michał Zytka and Bruce Borne for editing and proof-reading of the English text. Introduction 5 The materials for the book were gathered in numerous libraries, both Polish and foreign. In the first instance, however, we need to list the Library of the Łódź University, directed by the custodian Mgr. Tomasz Piestrzyński, patient and fa- vourable towards our successive initiatives aimed at expanding the Ceraneum’s book collection. We also thank Brother Riccardo Rączka from the  Pontificio Instituto Orientale library in Rome and Ms. Carla Chalhoub from the Jaffet Li- brary of the American University in Beirut for enabling our quick access to their collections and comfortable working conditions. Finally, we could always expect a warm welcome in the libraries of the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki and the local Centre for Byzantine Research, “Melissa”. Teresa Wolińska Paweł Filipczak P A R T I Sławomir Bralewski, Zofia A. Brzozowska, Marek M. Dziekan, Paweł Filipczak, Teresa Wolińska Before the Conquest Paweł Filipczak 1. Geography and Environmental Conditions of Syro-Palestine. The Region’s Geopolitical Importance in Late Antiquity The path that led to Syria was narrow and muddy. Originating in Cilicia, it ran, as long as the weather was dry, over the precipices of the Amanus Moun- tains. In the rain, it dissolved into mud, and the passage through the mountains became extremely difficult, if not impossible. The decision to broaden and level the route was taken by Emperor Justinian I himself, who allocated significant means for the realization of the project1. This brief account, given by a Byzantine 1 P r o c o p i u s, De aedificiis, V, 5. 8 I. Before the Conquest historian, Procopius of Caesarea, although it is derived from a  work tenden- tiously favourable to this ruler, seems to be accurate. For, as we know from other sources, Justinian actually launched a large scale building programme in a num- ber of places in Syro-Palestine2. Looking at a map, a long and massive range of the Amanus Mountains (to- day Nur Daĝlari) can easily be seen encircling the Alexandretta bay (İskenderun Körfezi) in a long, wide curve. The mountains run along longitude lines, stretch- ing between the Mediterranean coast and the Taurus ridge, and clearly blocking the access to Syria from the direction of Asia Minor. One of the few relatively convenient passages, the one mentioned by Procopius, lay about 15 km from the sea, at an altitude of 700 m above sea level. Often referred to as the Syrian Gates, it is known today as the Belen Pass. An important communication route existed there long before the reign of Justinian I. North of the Syrian Gates, there was another mountain pass, usually called the Amanian Gate (Bahçe Geçidi). Less known, it, too, provided a way inland3. Thus the mountains, despite being 2240 m high and reaching down to the sea, offered access to the Syrian interior. The  descent from the  Syrian Gates led down onto the  vast Amuk plain which, extending between the Mediterranean Sea and the hills in the central part of the country, occupied the north-western part of Syria (today within Tur- key). The most important city of the region, and at the same time the largest centre of the whole of Syro-Palestine, was Antioch on the Orontes. In the era of the late Roman Empire, it was a heavily-populated cosmopolitan metropolis, the major trading and artisan centre, reputedly inhabited by as many as several hundred thousand people. Destroyed by the powerful earthquakes of 526 and 528 and ravaged by the Persians in 540, in the seventh century its glory days were over, although it still played some economic, military and political role. In the 30s of this century, Emperor Heraclius used the city as the base from which to coordinate military action against the Arabs4. 2 For example: J o h n M a l a l a s, XVIII, 2; XVIII, 28; XVIII, 29; XVIII, 31. 3 For more on the  issue see: Barrington Atlas of the  Greek and Roman World, ed. R J.A. Ta l b e r t, Princeton 2000, p. 67; Tabula Imperii Byzantini, vol. 5.1, Kilikien und Isuar- ien, eds. F. H i l d, H. H e l l e n k e m p e r, Wien 1990, p. 174; I. B e n z i n g e r, [in:] RE, vol. I, cols. 1723–1724 [s.v. Ἀμανίδες πύλαι]; I. B e n z i n g e r, [in:] RE, vol. I, col. 1724 [s.v. Amanos]. On Syria’s historical geography see a classic work: R. D u s s a u d, Topographie historique de la Syrie antique et médiévale, Paris 1927, passim; see also F. M i l l a r, The Roman Near East 31 BC– AD 337, Cambridge 1993, pp. 236–242; M. S a r t r e, D’Alexandre à Zenobie. Histoire du Levant antique (IVe siècle av. J.-C.–IIIe siècle ap. J.-C.), Paris–Beyrouth 2001, pp. 37–38, 69. For more bibliographical information see: M.A. C a s a n o v a, A. E g e a V i v a n c o s, Selección bibliográ- fica sobre La Siria romano-cristiana, AnC 15, 1998, p. 18. 4 One of the most important work on the history of Antioch – G. D o w n e y, A History of Antioch in Syria from Seleucus to the Arab Conquest, Princeton 1961, pp. 574–581 (Heraclius’ 1. Geography and Environmental Conditionsof Syro-Palestine … 9 An important role in Antioch’s life was played by a small coastal town called Seleucia Pieria. It owed its position to a conveniently situated harbour and a wa- terway – in the lower course of the Orontes River – which made it possible to transport army goods and all sorts of commercial commodities straight to Anti- och and thence further to north-eastern Syria and Upper Mesopotamia. How- ever, much evidence suggests that Seleucia, just like Antioch, suffered a lot of damage during the earthquakes mentioned above. Its harbour is most likely to have been silted up. The role of Seleucia was then assumed by a number of small- er towns scattered around the Orontes’ estuary, Al-Mīnā being the most impor- tant among them (its ancient name remains unknown)5. Looking from the north, Seleucia is just the first of a great number of Syria’s coastal towns. Although the road running south, parallel to the sea, is wedged apart by  the  vast massif Djabal an Nāṣiriyya, further south of this mountain range, from Latakia to faraway Gaza, the coastline stretches unceasingly straight. Adjacent to it is a narrow strip of fertile land. It is coastal lowland, bounded to the east and the interior by mountain ridges lying along the coast – its width ranges from just a few hundred metres to between ten and twenty kilometres. The  sea moisture retained in the  western hillsides  – average annual rainfall here is 1100 mm – created perfect conditions for the development of agricul- ture. The soil was well-hydrated, especially as it was also misted by the brooks and rivers flowing down the mountains. And it is in the vicinity of these rivers’ mouths – where the mountains had to give way to flat plains – that the towns were positioned. Traveling from the north, one passed Tripoli, Byblos, Beirut, Tyre, Sidon, Caesarea and Gaza – to name only the most well-known of them. Each of these coastal towns, in addition to having their own particular histories, were for centuries, including the Byzantine period, linked with one another in a variety of ways. All of them had their eyes turned towards the sea, relying for their economic development on the sea trade, which also often shaped their po- litical history. Their large harbours opened up a way through which merchants and invaders could get to Cyprus, Crete, continental Greece and further afield reign); among other works covering the sixth to eight centuries of particular note are: R. C i - o c i a n -Y v a n e s c u, Sur le role d’Antioche au point de vue économique, social et culturel au VIe siecle, B 39, 1969, pp. 53–73; F. Tr o m b l e y, Demographic and Cultural Transition in the Terri- torium of Antioch, 6th–8th, [in:] Antioch de Syrie. Histoire, images et traces de la ville antique, eds. B. C a b o u r e t, P.-L. G a t i e r, C. S a l i o u, Lyon 2004, pp. 341–361. 5 For more on Seleucia Pieria see: V.  C h a p o t, Sèleucie Pièrie, MSNAF 66, 1907, pp. 1–78; P.A. P i r a z z o l i, Seleucia Pieria: An Ancient Harbour Submitted to Two Successive Uplifts, IJNA 21, 1992, pp. 317–327. For more on Al- Mīnā, see: T. Vo r d e r s t r a s s e, A Port of Antioch: Late Antique Al-Mina, [in:] Antioch de Syrie. Histoire, images et traces…, pp. 363–371. 10 I. Before the Conquest to Italy and north Africa. And the safest and shortest sea route to Egypt started there, from the coast of Palestine6. It was not only a  specific geographical location that enabled the  Syrian coastal towns to acquire extra-regional significance. It was also highly qualified craftsmen to whom this coastal region owed its pre-eminent position. Some of the products made by local artisans were known for their peculiar style and luxu- rious character. This was particularly the case with the manufacturing of purple. The production of this dye was made possible by nature itself or, to be more precise, by snails of the Muricidae family that lived on the Syrian coast, some- where between Tyre and Sidon. Three local species – Murex trunculus, Murex brandaris, Purpura haemastoma – referred to as murexes, secreted a light-yellow smelly mucus (the snails used the secretion as a protection against sea preda- tors, or as an antimicrobial lining on egg masses). When the shell was opened, the  light made the  colour of the  substance turn from light-yellow to purple. Drawing on this property, it may have been at the time of the Phoenician con- federation or even earlier that a way of producing this precious dye on a large scale was developed. It continued to be known in the era of Rome and Byzan- tium. The snails’ bodies were separated from the shells, gathered in big lead vats and salted. Then the vats were filled with urine. It took about three days before the snails began to ferment, acquiring a durable, purple colour. The cloth to be dyed was soaked directly in the vats. The whole process, beginning with the snail netting and ending with the cloth dyeing, took a significant length of time and required a lot of effort, without ensuring consistent results. However, the colours obtained in this way were very beautiful, their shades ranging from scarlet to dark purple. Purple-dyed robes were indicative of significant wealth and high social status. In the period of the late Roman Empire, including the reign of Jus- tinian I, the production of purple fabric was subject to strict control by the state, with only the closest members of the imperial family enjoying the right to wear purple clothes or shoes7. Silk weaving was also peculiar to the region. Workshops processing raw silk into fabric or using ready-made silk materials exported from China were located 6 A detailed description of coastal towns is to be found in: R. D u s s a u d, La topographie…, pp. 5–74 (Tyre, Beirut, Sidon and their vicinity), pp. 75–94 (Tripolis, along with neighbouring area); P.K. H i t t i, Syria. A Short History, New York 1959, pp. 16–18; G. D o w n e y, A History of Antioch…, pp. 19–20. See also: F. M i l l a r, The Roman Near East…, pp. 264–267; M. S a r t r e, D’Alexandre à Zenobie…, pp. 39–49. 7 M. M o n a g h a n, Purple, [in:] CDCS, p. 735; G. S t e i g e r w a l d, Das kaiserliche Pur- purprivileg in spätrömischer und frühbyzantinischer Zeit, JAC 33, 1990, pp. 209–239. 1. Geography and Environmental Conditionsof Syro-Palestine … 11 in Beirut and Tyre – whence this commodity was distributed all over the world8. Among a great number of different trades that established their presence in this part of Syro-Palestine of particular note was the glass production. It flourished especially in Tyre, Sidon and Beirut. Beirut was known, even far outside of Syria, for producing highly-praised window glass9. The development of the coastal cities was violently halted by the earthquakes taking place at the turn of the fifth and sixth centuries. The tremors of 15 July 551 are considered to have been the most destructive, with Beirut being reduced to rubble and Tripoli, Byblos, Tyre and Sidon also suffering serious damage. On the initiative of the imperial authorities the cities began to be rebuilt (Justinian I contributed significantly to their reconstruction), slowly resuming their normal activity – although none of them, either in demographic or in urbanistic terms, was ever restored to its former glory. The capture of these coastal cities, even if they were no longer what they used to be, meant that the Arabs obtained access to areas with great economic potential. The cities turned out to be easy to conquer. Most, like Antioch, the capital of the region, were taken over without a fight, their surrender being sealed by an agreement which the Arabs concluded with the local population. There were some exceptions to this rule – Caesarea Maritima was seized after a long siege; in Tripoli, a significant number of its inhabitants were evacuated by the imperial fleet, thus fleeing from the besieged city. Standing at the  seaside in any of these towns and looking eastward, one could see mountain ridges. At the latitude of Latakia there was the mountain range of Bargylus, with an average height of over 1500 m. It descended gently towards the ancient city of Emesa (Homs, Syria)10. Lying further to the south, behind the Homs Pass, were the highest mountains in the whole of Syro-Pales- tine – the Lebanon mountains. Consisting of a few ranges, bounded by the mar- itime plain of Akkar in the north and by the valley of the River Litani (Nahr al-Līṭānī, the ancient Leontes, Lebanon) in the south, they extended over a to- tal length of 170 km. Two smaller chains, rising to between 1700 and 2000 m, formed the southern part of the massif. The middle and northern ranges were 8 P r o c o p i u s, Anecdota, 25. See also A.  M u t h e s i u s, Essential Processes. Looms, Technical Aspects of the Production of Silk Textiles, [in:] The Economic History of Byzantium from the Seventh to the Fifteenth Century, ed. A.I. L a i o u, Washington 2002, pp. 146–168 (enhanced by extensive bibliography of older works). 9 R.  M o u t e r d e, Inscriptions grecques mentionnant des artisans de la Béryte byzan- tine, CRAIBL 73, 1929, pp. 96–102; N. J i d e j i a n, Beirut through the Ages, Beyrouth 1973, pp. 155–156. 10 For comparison see: J.-P. R e y - C o q u a i s, Arados et sa Pérée aux époques grecque, ro- maine et byzantine, Paris 1974, pp. 66.
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Byzantium and the Arabs. The Encounter of Civilizations from Sixth to Mid-Eighth Century

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