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A Survey of Byzantine Responses to Islam by Stefano Nikolaou

A Survey of Byzantine Responses to Islam by Stefano Nikolaou

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Published by oleevaer
A Survey of Byzantine Responses to Islam By Stefano Nikolaou
A Survey of Byzantine Responses to Islam By Stefano Nikolaou

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: oleevaer on Jan 19, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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A Survey of ByzantineResponses to Islam
By Stefano Nikolaou
[The author received his M.A. in Theology from the Australian Catholic University in2007. The following paper was an independent research project counting towards theMA degree and receiving high recognition.]
The interaction between the Orthodox Christians of the ByzantineEmpire and Islam began with the initial Muslim invasion of the easternprovinces in the seventh century and lasted until the final destructionof the Byzantine Empire with the capture of Constantinople in 1453.The initial meeting was on the battlefield as the Caliphate swept awaythe eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire. As the Islamic militaryimpetus petered out the two civilizations began a long period of mutual distrust interspaced with periods of war and a grudging statusquo. Millions of Orthodox Christians were living under Islamic rule.These Christians were the first to provide accurate information onIslam. As the Byzantine Empire disintegrated, the citizens andtheologians within the empire began to take note of Islam more andmore. There was an increase in awareness in all sections of society.The final years of Byzantium witnessed the most accurate andextensive writings on Islam as the Byzantines attempted to challengeIslam on the intellectual level.Despite the long history between the two civilizations little has beendone in analysing the literary response to Islam by the Byzantines.Some of the specifically polemical works have been studied but littleelse. In order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of therelationship between Islam and Byzantium the spectrum of Byzantineliterature needs to be surveyed and analysed. Few Muslims chose tolive in Byzantine lands. Many Byzantines would never have seen a reallife Muslim. Their encounters would usually have consisted of contactsto travelling merchants or otherwise military encounters. However, thefrontier was more fluid for Orthodox Christians. A number of writingsby Christians under Islamic rule found their way to Byzantine territoryand were utilised by native theologians and authors.The term ‘Byzantine’ encompasses a range of meanings. It does notspecifically refer merely to those who lived within the borders of theByzantine Empire. John of Damascus, for example, is very much aByzantine even though he never stepped foot in its borders. OrthodoxChristians writing in Arabic, Syriac or Georgian were also very muchpart of the Byzantine cultural milieu. Non-Greek writings found

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