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Byzantium and Islam 20/07/2007 12:22:00

• began as the eastern half of the roman empire
• did not suffer of barbarian invasion
• it stayed in place relatively safe
• capital in Constantinople in the 4th century
• during the 5th and 6th centuries you had the Circus Factions
o groups fighting each other
o chariot races
o the green and the blue factions
 banners they carried during chariot races
• wealthier and more organized than the western counter-part
• also had a powerful centralized government
o this kept it from disintegrating like the west
• diverse population
o ruling over a wide array of people
o Syrians, Arabs, Egyptians along with others
• divided church
o Christian empire
o priests were divided over what the proper interpretation of
scripture and church doctrine

Justinian (527 – 565)

• emperor of Byzantine
• laid the foundation for the empire after the collapse of Rome in the
• called the emperor that never slept
• ruthless and ambitious
• chief goal was to restore the glory of the old empire
• in his service he had two generals and together recaptured Italy,
southern Africa, and southern spain and place them back into the
• in the 6th century was the last time that the Romans or descendents
would ever reach or recapture the glory under their previous empire
• enforced political unity
o suppressed the Circus Factions
o suppressed riots in Constantinople that left 30,000 dead
• Hagia Sofia
o one of the most innovative cathedrals of its time
o architecture had a lasting stance in mosques and western
• Justinian Code
o lays today as the foundation of most of Europeans legal
• Harsh Legacy
o did a lot for the empire
o the wars and conquests left the empire virtually bankrupt
o the religious disputes did not settle under his rule
 unable to do so
o left the empire vulnerable to Sassanids and to the spread of
• Byzantine Foundation
o Left a powerful legacy for Byzantium
o had a strong centralized government
 allowed it to maintain cohesion for much longer than
the western roman empire
o remained the Bulwark of Christianity
o preserved the heritage and culture of ancient Greece and
 when western Europe started to get back together they
look to Byzantium for documents about ancient Rome

Emperors & Individuals

• “Individualism without Freedom”
o everyone was an individual
o part of the empire then part of the Church
o everyone was a direct subject of the emperor
• Autocracy
o Power –based succession
 based on political and military power
o Absolute and total authority
o Women could take the thrown of the empire unlike other
 Irene became emperor then her son became emperor
 Zoe
 Theodora
 ruled from 1042 – 1056
• Senate and Circus
o It still had a senate
 Over time the senate became less powerful
 became a ceremonial body
o the circus factions were also stripped of their power
 keeping praise of the new emperor during coronations
o in the 9th century the senate was disbanded entirely
o what was once an intense political struggle became a past-
time of the elite
• Administration
o Themes
 provinces
 ruled by Strate-Goi
 military commanders
 great deal of practical power
 oversee the administration of their themes as
they saw fit
 however, they served entirely on the whim of the
 the central administration in Constantinople
 the Eunuchs controlled it
 they were castrated so they could not have
children and their rules did not get passed down
 still carried a great amount of power
 the thrown demanded physical perfection and
because of that the Eunuchs could never become

Families & Villages

• Isolation
o All of the subjects were equally powerless under the
emperor’s rule
• Household
o The main social and economic unit
 You worked and slept
 there were associations but purely for collecting taxes
and such
 basic unit of social life
 in the west the household was the central unit of social
and economic life
 in the east it was because the emperor made it so
unlike the west
• Countryside
o Villages
 Took orders directly from Constantinople
 Sent taxes back to Constantinople
o Family Farms
 Shared resources, livestock, land
 this DID NOT happen in this empire
 everything was separated
o "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”
 the attitude in the Byzantine Empire
• Towns & Trade
o Centers of business
 But also isolated as well
 very rocky and difficult terrain
 primary means of commerce and trade was oversea
o Constantinople
 Economic and cultural center of the empire and the
center of trade for the rest of the world
 situated in the Bosporus
 thin strip of land that separated the
Mediterranean and the Black Seas
 the gate to the east and the west
o Luxury Goods
 Sneaked silkworms out of china
 Precious metals from china
 Amber from the Baltic and Silk
o Maritime Commerce
 They did not like the sea
 merchants worked in the seas called it a dangerous and
unwelcoming place
 preferred to contract the transportation of goods
to other subjects of the empire
• primarily the slabs, Syrians, and Italians

Orthodox Christianity
• Undisputed
o Barbarian kingdoms had weakened
• The official state religion
• Ecclesiastical Structure
o the highest ranking of the church was the patriarch
 in theory elected by other officials of the church was
actually appointed by the emperor
o recruited by church officials (priests)
 told to marry and live in the area where they preached
o monasteries
 monks were told to stay celibate
• Liturgy
o The practice of the Church was called Liturgy
o order of doctrines and ceremonies that praised god and the
o provided a sense of ritual and order throughout the empire
 contributed to the long term stability of Byzantium
• international Influence
o scholars from all over the world traveled to Constantinople to
witness the liturgy first hand
o resulted in a number of wide-spread conversions
o the Slavs converted to Christianity and translated the Liturgy
to slavish alphabet
o the Bulgars and Russians also converted to 8Christianity

• Monasteries
o Became very wealthy and powerful entities
o Had a degree of independence from the emperor
 Brought from the broad public appeal
 Public appeal came from the religious icons
• They thought they were not paintings but
rather intermediaries to god
• Iconoclasts
o Leo III comes back from attacking the Muslims and believes
the Monasteries were a threat to him
o he sees the icons as the key to the power of the monasteries
o begins a period of more than 100 years of persecution
 monks are forced to marry
 monasteries are destroyed
o support from bishops who fear they are not under their control
• Iconodules
o Those that resisted the iconoclasts
o liberators of the icons
o tortured of executed
• Restoration
o Emperor Irene says that icons are not a threat to the Empire
o after Irene leaves the thrown Iconoclasm comes back for
another 45 years
 Theodora restores the veneration of icons
• Relationship with Rome
o Pope did not like iconoclasm
o led in part to the coronation of Charlemagne to be away from
the Byzantine Empire and iconoclasm

Rise of Islam
• “submission to the will of God”
• began with Muhammad
• combined traditional Arab worship with Judaism and Christianity
• united the Arab tribes
• within a short time formed a vast empire from Persian to the
western border of china and into southern France
• also created a thriving and vital civilization
o combined scholarship and traditions
 Arab scholarship and Greek traditions

Arabia before Islam

• The Assimilated Periphery
o Little difference between Arabs and other subjects of the
• The Desert Interior
o Vast stretches of desert
o forbidden terrain for invaders
 more or less independent
• Bedouins
o Dominant people in the interior
o nomadic tribes
o a system of kinship
o had chiefdoms called Sheiks
 more as arbitrators of disputes and led tribal consensus
• Towns & Caravans (lower peninsula)
o They had towns and economic centers
• Religion
o Many of the southern peninsula were Jews and 10Christians
o They also had a tribal god Allah
• Haram
o Sacred land
 Violence was prohibited
 were tribes came together to settle disputes and
arrange commerce
• Mecca
o One of the largest Harams
 Established by a religious leader called Qusayy
o Caravan Hub

• Descendant of Qusayy
• he was an orphan
• God’s Messenger
o He would go on long period of meditation and on one occasion
received a message from God
• Last Prophet
o God spoke through him
• Muslim: True Believer
• Koran
o focuses on praise on Allah
o totality of Allah's will
o provides fundamental laws for Islamic societies
o he wrote the Koran
• Cold Reception
o The powers that be in Mecca did not really pay attention to
o He critized Mecca saying that it was created as an economic
area and was corrupt
Triumph of Islam
• Mecca elites expel Mohammed from the city
• He then goes to medina
• Hijra (the travel to medina was called Hijra)
o Medina
 Comes to medina to settle disputes
 He establishes the Umma
 The beginning of a broad Islamic community
 A tribe based on Islamic faith
 All were united in their submission to the will of
 Mohammed had absolute rule over the community
 Christians and Jews were expelled or executed
 While he consolidates his power, Islam rises throughout
the world
 Gains a larger and larger following
 In 629 he creates an army and attacks Mecca
• Return to Mecca
o Mecca does not put up too much of a fight
o Relatively quickly and bloodlessly he takes over
o Islam spreads further along the peninsula
• Rule of Mohammed
o Undisputed rule of Mohammed
• Why did Islam spread so fast?
o Appeal of Islam
 Afterlife
 Great comfort and luxury if you summit to the will
 Fear of the bad afterlife
 Economic Prosperity
 Merchant elite and convert to Islam
• Mohammed allows you to proceed without
• As Islam spread the influence as merchants
spread as well
 Conquest
 People were encouraged to expand outward
 Women
 New Status
• They were still subordinated to men
• But they had some rights that did not have
before hand
o Before converting to Islam
 Rights in Marriage
• The husband was bound by law to take care
of her wife
• If the women felt he was not taking care of
her she had the right to leave him or
• Veils
 Expansion
 Expanded in two ways
 Conversion
• Muslims appealed to the economic elites
 Jihad
• Expansion of the Islamic faith
• Islamic faith forbade Muslims from attacking
another Muslims
• Islam spread through the peninsula through
a combination of things
 Christians and Jews
 They could leave peacefully but had to pay a tax
Spread of Islam
• Death of Mohammed
o Dies in 632 AD
o He leaves his kingdom with no clear successor
o Islamic kingdom enters a time of turmoil that his successors
have great difficulty trying to settle
o The elites of Mecca and Medina
 Dispute of whom has a greater status
o A lot of the tribes leave the fold once he dies
 They had their loyalty to Mohammed
 Once he dies there is no reason to stay
• From Re-conversion to Expansion
o Caliphs (ruler of kingdoms)
o Mohammed’s first successor was Abu Bakr
 He felt that a war of re-conversion was the most
effective means to reunite the peninsula over Islam
 This began a cycle
 In order to use force to raising an army
 He relied on the loyalty of the tribes
 In order to keep the loyalty of the tribes they
needed an incentive
 The incentive was the conquest of areas
• They conquered and sent the resources
back to the tribes and the kingdom
• They then moved on to another area
• Vulnerable Opponents
o They are not able to mount an assertive defense
• Willful Subjects
Syria & Egypt
 Christians in here convert to Islam (many)
 Those how don’t convert live more peacefully than
under the Byzantine Empire
 They could worship as they pleased as long as they paid
a tax
• Byzantine Eclipse
o The Islamic expansion was the beginning of the end for the
Byzantine empire
o In two incidents the Islamic armies threaten to take over
 Byzantine was reduced to Greece, turkey, parts of the
Balkan and small parts of southern Italy

Government and Administration

• Multinational empire
• Arabs become minority
• Two traditions
o Tribal
 By the kinship relationships
o Spiritual
 The spiritual kinship of the Umma
• Byzantine & Sassanid
o Adapt the bureaucracies and structures
 Officials did not have to convert
• Social & Economic Structures
o Very little change in day to day life
o Monasteries stayed intact (just tax)
 Along with temples and other religious places
• Spoils of War
o Bitter conflict over the wealth
o The earliest followers in the interiors of the peninsula and
descendents saw themselves as the origins of the Islamic faith
they thought they should get a greater share
 The people DOING the conquests thought THEY should
get a greater share
o Uthran came up with a solution
 The political privilege of the Mecca elite would be
reduced but in exchange they gained a little bit more
 This made no one happy
o Ali was the successor and people thought he was involved in
his murder
 He left Mecca and traveled to Baghdad
 There he decided to change the role of Caliphs
 Emphasized the religious authority of Caliphs over the
day to day authority
 The Mecca elites did not like that, they wanted to
remain in power
 The Mecca elites murdered him and took the capital
o The followers of Ali saw themselves as the true followers of
Islam and formed the Shi’ite Islam

Umayyad & Abbasid

• After the murder of Ali the Mecca elite become the Umayyad
• They relocated the capital and attempted to reshaped the empire
under the banner of unity
o Emphasizing their own rule as secular leaders
• Expansion
o During this period the Islamic empire expands the most
o By the end of the Umayyad the empire had expanded through
west of china, north Africa, moving north taking two thirds of
• Spiritual Mandate
o Arabs were a minority
o The subjects of the caliphate wanted a return to the secular
o They wanted somebody they could relate to
• This led to the establishment of the Abbasid
o They overthrew the Umayyad
o They relocated the capital to Baghdad
o And returned to the old system
o Where the caliphs was both a ruler and a secular leader
o The empire was no longer based on Arab unity, but Islamic
• Emirs
o The caliphate was extensively large
o So they had to create governors called “Emirs”
o It became increasingly more difficult to wield central power so
the Emirs grew in power
o As they had more power they also demanded a greater deal of
o They eventually had de-facto power over the areas and the
caliphate became just for show
• Sunnis
o The Muslims that accepted the compromise became the Sunni
20/07/2007 12:22:00
20/07/2007 12:22:00