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Medieval and Byzantine History Medieval and Byzantine History Forum - Period of History between classical antiquity and modern times, roughly the 5th through 16th Centuries


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Old December 9th, 2017, 12:15 PM   #21

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Italian municipalities were bigger in Medieval time. Milan was substantially the biggest city in Europe with about 100,000 - 150,000 inhabitants.
I don't believe Milan was ever the largest city in Europe, although it consistently made the rankings. Until 1204 that title went to Constantinople, then to Paris, and then back to Constantinople, after a few decades of Ottoman rule, until the industrial revolution.
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Old December 11th, 2017, 01:50 AM   #22

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Feudal armies were not very large; they would not have conquered Sicily or Andalusia were it not for significant under-performance on the part of the Muslims.

The Islamic golden age had frankly ended by the 11th century; and the Muslim world was too big to generalize. If there was an Islamic golden age, it would have been more like 760-1000.
I believe you can draw a dirty great thick black line under the Caliphate of Cordoba on the death of Almanzor, or probably more precisely that of his son Abd Al Malik just after 1000. At that point the might power of the Caliphate disintegrated almost over night, effectively starting the reconquests.

But there are reasons for this 'underperformance' - very basically Almanzor developed a system where his large standing army was funded by his 50-odd raids north. Not only that, it was composed almost entirely by African Berber mercenaries and Slavs (from slaves) all blended into one, but the individual military forces around Al Andalus were more or less disbanded and the individual areas de-militarised. Partly because Almanzor didn't want anybody else controlling armies or forces, but also as those same areas no longer needed forces, with a dirty great professional army to prtotect them and absolutely nothing to fear from the hard-pressed Christian kingdoms - the 10th century was a glorious age for 'Cordoba' but must have been a living hell for the little Christian kingdoms.

Meanwhile in the north, the black and white world of harsh castles and romanesque churches, life was all about defence, about learning to fight for life, about assembling feudal forces at short notice and dreading where the enemy would raid next, with little ability to resist the power.

So on the collapse of the Caliphate Al Andalus split into many individual and arguing Taifas, each with little in the way of military forces. Easy prey for these heavily-feudalised military states up north - hindered only by a few decades of boy-kings and dynastic squabbles.

The subsequent Empires of the Almoravids and the Almohads - both African Empires who invaded muslim Spain, hostile takeovers mostly - I see as having little relation to the 'native' muslims of Al Andalus.

That said though, if we are talking about golden ages, the height of the Almohad Empire under Yaqub Al Mansur just before the year 1200 was surely something to behold. Huici Miranda paints a great picture in his 2-volume history.

Not everyone may agree with me, but I see as 'Spanish muslims' the people who originally immigrated in the 8th century, but also above all the people of that huge mix that made up hispano-roman and Visigothic Spain, gradually melting into islam, that went forward into the Caliphate, the Taifas, the Kingdom of Granada and eventually subject to the morisco expulsions of 1609-11.

I see as foreign invaders, a different dynamic, the Almoravids and the Almohads, who sent over armies and garrisons from time to time from Africa to throw their weight around, before being driven out by internal or external forces - and to some extent melting into the previous mix.
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Old December 11th, 2017, 02:31 AM   #23

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Originally Posted by JeanDukeofAlecon View Post
I don't believe Milan was ever the largest city in Europe, although it consistently made the rankings. Until 1204 that title went to Constantinople, then to Paris, and then back to Constantinople, after a few decades of Ottoman rule, until the industrial revolution.
I tend to see Constantinoble on the border ... about Paris there are actually who says it reached 200,000 inhabitants in XII century [so biggest than Milan as for population].
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Old December 11th, 2017, 02:45 AM   #24

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I tend to see Constantinoble on the border ... about Paris there are actually who says it reached 200,000 inhabitants in XII century [so biggest than Milan as for population].
Constantinople was actually completely in Europe. It is modern-day Fatih district of Istanbul, during Byzantine times modern Asian districts of Istanbul weren't part of Constantinople itself.
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Old December 11th, 2017, 03:58 AM   #25
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I think he means border of numbers... not a geographical border!
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Old December 11th, 2017, 12:11 PM   #26

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I tend to see Constantinoble on the border ... about Paris there are actually who says it reached 200,000 inhabitants in XII century [so biggest than Milan as for population].
Constantinople was on the very edge of Europe, geographically speaking, but it was well within the european cultural sphere (before the Ottoman conquest), and it was, by far, the most important center of western culture for some 700 years. Scores of people from Scandinavia to Spain and everywhere in between would come to the city to be educated, sell their wares, buy Roman-made products of every kind, seek employment as a mercenary, or simply experience the wonders of the city, whether they be the churches, walls, relics, triumphal columns and arches (a couple of which may actually have been new depending on when you went), hippodrome spectacles, fountains, great works of classical art, law courts (a spectator sport in and of themselves), colossal statues, imperial processions and festivals, the throne of Solomon, or perhaps even a proper triumph if they were lucky.

Art and imagery produced in Constantinople set the standard for all of southern and eastern Europe, its influence being seen as far afoot as England, with even the Holy Roman emperors modelling their image on contemporary Roman iconography, and Roman fashion held a similar level of influence; hell, the formal regalia of the HRE included a mutated and simplified imitation of the Loros right to the end. It's hard to overstate how culturally influential pre-1204 Constantinople was, though these days this influence isn't well known, in large part thanks to the unilateral separation of medieval Rome from western Europe in academics.

Some examples to prove the point:

Solidus of Isaac Komnenos, circa 1057-1059:

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Coin of William the conqueror, circa 1077-1080:

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Illumination depicting Basil II, painted in the late 10th or very early 11th century:

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Illumination depicting Heinrich II, painted in the early 11th century:

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10th century Roman civil costume:

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Traditional regalia of the Venetian Doge:

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An 11th century fresco from Piedmont depicting the archangel Micheal wearing the new model Loros (invented in 10th century Constantinople):

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12th century German stained glass depicting the same:

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10th century Roman carvings:

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An ivory box made in 10th century Cordoba:

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Old December 11th, 2017, 12:13 PM   #27

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The hippodrome specifically seems to have inspired no small amount of awe abroad:

An (11th century?) ivory horn from Salerno depicting the contemporary games:

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11th century frescoes from Saint Sophia in Kiev depicting the same:

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Old December 20th, 2017, 11:24 PM   #28
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In the 11th century, the advanced and enlightened Muslim societies of Sicily and al Andalus were conquered by barbarous and uncivilized barbarians from the north:
"Advanced and enlightened" seems to be more of a clichee thinking then reality.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1066_Granada_massacre

Relatively spoken, its probably true, though.

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The Spanish Inquisition was barbaric.
Indeed so, but it only came into existance after the reconquista was finished ~1500. It was then a tool to enforce assimiliation into the cathoic Spanish society. At the same time, Spain entered into its golden age.

Sorry to evade the actual debate atm, though. The Islamic states were certainly more developed then their immediate successors, but in the long run I am not sure if Renaissance and Enlightenment would have prevailed without that conquest. The removal of Religion from politics is one of the major achievements (ending among others slavery), and I am sceptical if Islamic dominated states in Spain and Sicily would have been beneficial to that process.
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Old December 21st, 2017, 01:03 AM   #29

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In the 11th century, the advanced and enlightened Muslim societies of Sicily and al Andalus were conquered by barbarous and uncivilized barbarians from the north: the Normans and Castile.

Córdoba was famous as a centre of learning and education. Al Hakam II had a large library. Knowledge in the fields of "medicine, mathematics, astronomy, botany" exceeded the rest of Europe.

In a scene comparable to the fall of Rome, these invaders who were seen as barbarians ransacked the works of a more developed civilisation, throwing the regions they conquered into a new dark age. The Spanish Inquisition was barbaric. Centuries of progress were undone and the regions declined for centuries under tyrannical misrule.

By 1330, Palermo's population had declined to 51,000, compared to 350,000 In it's Arabic heyday. Meanwhile Cordoba had 450,000 to 1 million inhabitants in its Islamic golden age. It's decline was even more spectacular. After centuries of misrule, by the 18th century it was reduced to just 20,000 inhabitants.

The Norman/Castilian conquest of both places was a calamity and an act of historical vandalism that set civilisation back by centuries. Discuss!
Enlightened and advanced societies?

Let me share a bit of light here, the advanced society was inherited by the previous civilizations they had conquered , and the advancements muslim got is due to the hard work of dhimmi ( non muslim converts pseudoslaves)
Most of the population was oppressed under an unfair protection money tax wich is at the base of the infamous Mafia "pizzo" .

With the conquest of Syracuse (878) the Arabs became masters of great part of Sicily, but it took them several decades to eliminate the hotbeds of resistance. Only in 965, with the fall of Rometta, the last fortress of the Byzantines, Sicily will be completely subdued.
They took 138 years to completely kill the resistance of Christians there.

The long and hard war had produced vast voids in the Sicilian population.

The Arabs didn't make prisoners. The cities that withstood the Arabic advance were destroyed, the males killed, the women raped and their children reduced in slavery. The cities that surrendered without fighting were put under "protection" .
The soldiers who had plundered and devastated Sicily established there. Some hundred thousand of Arabs and Berbers arrived looking for luck.
The immigrants became the new masters and the Sicilians worked, both as slaves and as "protected" ones, to enrich the North-Africans.



Arabs that arrived in Sicily also destroyed the once lush garden that it was ...




The production of oil, in competition with that of North-Africa, was abandoned to a large extent.
Sicily, in those days, was covered by wonderful forests that alternated to ploughed fields. The Arabs began to cut the trees to sell its timber in the markets of North-Africa, notoriously poor of forest trees.
To the deforestation due to the production of timber joined the deforestation made by the new immigrants who put the forests on fire to have more land.
Besides many of the immigrants were shepherds of goats, that prevented the growth of new vegetation with their diffusion.

So they made of Sicily a deforestated arid mediterranean ground just like they spoiled north african lands after they conquered roman provinces.



The Sicilian ecosystem was upset and it began a rapid environmental degrade. Sicily, that had been for 1500 years the granary of Italy, ran into the progressive impoverishment of its ground.




Sicilian timber was requested also by the shipyards where the ships of the Arabic fleet were built. With those ships aggressions were carried out to the Italian coasts. The inhabitants of the coastal towns became a remarkable resource for the commerce of slaves. The Christians were captured and sold on the markets of North-Africa. The commerce of slaves became one of the principal economic resources of Sicily.


The Arabs did not stop in Sicily, they started to create some bases on the islands and on the Italian coasts, they attacked a lot of maritime places, they also pushed themselves in the inside sailing up the rivers





The Italians had to build some towers of guard along the coast. The seaside towns were fortified and the towns withdrew toward the inside. A lot of coastal places were abandoned.
The aggression of the Muslims continued for centuries. Still in 1799 the island of Giglio, in the Tuscan archipelago, was attacked by a North-African fleet. Its inhabitants saved themselves finding refuge in the castle in the center of the island.





It was only during the XIX century, after one thousand years, that the raids had an end, when the French troops arrived in North-Africa.




Toward 1060 Arabic Sicily was divided. Various families tried to create some independent emirates at Mazara, Girgenti and Syracuse. Ibn at-Tumnah and other Muslims of Syracuse and Catania asked help to the Christians to fight against their rivals.



In 1088 Castrogiovanni surrendered and in 1091 Noto, the last Arabic fortress.
Sicily was again in Europe, after two centuries of Arabic domination thanks to the Normans that freed it..


Roger found the Sicilians of Christian Greek-orthodox religion ostracized and practically starving. Nicodemus, the bishop of Palermo officiated in a small church in the outskirts of the city. Few Greek monasteries, in a bad state, had survived in the north-east.
The local Christian population was called Greek by the Normans, who instead gave the name of Latin to the new Norman, Frank and Italian immigrants.
It was allowed to the Arabs to go on working in the public administration, in the army and in the Navy.
The coins continued for a long time to be coined with Kufic inscriptions and some of them to be dated by the hegira.
The Norman governor of Palermo had the title of emir.
Arabs and Hebrews had to pay a special tax, but they maintained their special judges.
At court different languages were used: Arab, Greek, Frank-Norman, Latin.
Despite the good conditions offered by the Normans many Arabs emigrated respecting the obligation, provided for by their law, not to be able to live in a state dominated by an infidel.
Other Arabs, mainly merchants, progressively emigrated because the conditions of privilege that guaranteed lucrative business had come to a stop.
At their place people arrived from every part of Europe.
The process of Latinization of the island gradually progressed between 1090 and 1250.
After Greek-orthodox Sicily and after Muslim Sicily, Catholic-Roman Sicily was born.





So Sorry ...


but Arabs Were just a Scourge and a Plague for the Christian lands.


Lets stop this fabled false naďve optimism and do-goodism about englightened good muslim and evil bad Christian Crusaders!

.


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Old December 21st, 2017, 01:32 AM   #30

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Yes lets. But lets also stop this this thing that Christians are an entity and Arabs/muslims are another single entity.

Arabs and Berbers do not equate - far from it in fact as they spent a lot of time killing each other.

Rather than saying 'arabs did this' and 'Christians did that' we should be saying things like 'the Fatimids did this' and 'the Banu Ganiya did that' and 'Aragon did the other'.

It makes no sense to talk of just 2 opposed sides
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