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Old June 29th, 2011, 07:50 AM   #1

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The immediate success of the Arab conquests


Anyone who has ever studied a major historical problem in any degree of depth understands that it very quickly becomes apparent that many factors affect any given significant event. The Arab conquests are something that I am not overly familiar with from anything other than the Byzantine side, and even there, singular (and thus rather lame) explanations abound. Older scholarship likes to blame the success of the Arabs on some general, unexplained "weakness" after the last war with the Persians and Monophysitism resulting in a lack of interest in supporting the interests of Constantinople. Modern scholarship has however demonstrated that the picture is far more complicated than this and accounts for dealings with Christian Arabs, the strategic geography of Syria, and contemporary military thought, among other things.

The above paragraph is purely an example of how historical situations are typically far more complicated than they are given credit when one looks below the surface. I have often heard that Islam and religious motivation was the primary factor that led to the immediate success of the Arab conquests, and while I do not doubt that religion played a major role, to ultimately allocate the entire success of a major movement that would span three continents down to a single, simple cause seems just a little too easy. So without further ado, what other factors led to the Muslim success?
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Old June 29th, 2011, 08:28 AM   #2

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like you said there are many factors involved in it, these are the ones i can think of
1- Religion and not because they wanted to spread the religion only but because
muslim warriors believed that if they died they would go to a better place (heaven if you believe in it) and once you did not fear death that in general lead to creating better tougher soldiers.
2- good leadership and experienced soldiers, the muslim Army was lead by some of the greatest generals of all time (Khalid, Amro, Abu aubida, Tareq) that helped in wining lots of battles
3- timing and underestimation by the enemy in the fact that the Persians and the byzantine were not at the height of their powers, not that they were weak like some would always point out. plus they did underestimate the new enemy.
4- Justice, i think over all with the good and the bad that the arab invasion had, they were still more Just to the locals than the byzantine and the Persians and that enabled them to get more support.
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Old June 29th, 2011, 04:36 PM   #3
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The factors to the Arabs success were

1. Both Persia and Byzantium were exhausted from their wars. It is not coincidence that Persia, the ultimate loser in war between the 2 powers, was completely conquered. Byzantium, the winner, faired better. It took Byzantium something like 13 years to recover Jerusalem from Persia, and the emperor had to borrow money from the church to do it.

2. The Arabs came from an unexpected direction. While the Arabs had been raiding for centuries, the Byzantines probably didn't think that the Arabs could mount a serious invasion, and so did not have defenses in the proper area. For centuries, the enemy had been Persia, and Barbarians from the north and east represented the greated threat.


3. Religious strife in Byzantine empire weakened support. Many of the Christians of what were regarded as having herectical beliefs might not have fought as hard for the Byzantine empire as otherwise.

4. Finally, perhaps new, innovated tactics may have made a difference. The Arabs had the lateen sail, that would have allowed them to sail against the wind better than the square sails the Romans were using. This could have allowed the Arabs to sail troops to Egypt in an unexpected time of year, catching the Byzantines by surprise.

Most of the Arabs success were in the initial conquests. Later on, they had a much harder time - they failed twice against Constantinople, and they were stopped cold in France.
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Old June 29th, 2011, 04:57 PM   #4

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Largest empire after the Mongol: From borders of China to Iberia.
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Old June 30th, 2011, 08:53 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bart Dale View Post
The factors to the Arabs success were

1. Both Persia and Byzantium were exhausted from their wars. It is not coincidence that Persia, the ultimate loser in war between the 2 powers, was completely conquered. Byzantium, the winner, faired better. It took Byzantium something like 13 years to recover Jerusalem from Persia, and the emperor had to borrow money from the church to do it.
Well, the entire east was all handed back to Rome under treaty after Herakleios' sack of the Dastagerd Palace and the regime changes in Persia.

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2. The Arabs came from an unexpected direction. While the Arabs had been raiding for centuries, the Byzantines probably didn't think that the Arabs could mount a serious invasion, and so did not have defenses in the proper area. For centuries, the enemy had been Persia, and Barbarians from the north and east represented the greated threat.
A very important factor. The Limes Arabicus seems to have been defunct at that point and much of the border defence left to Christianized Arab tribes based out the Golan.


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3. Religious strife in Byzantine empire weakened support. Many of the Christians of what were regarded as having herectical beliefs might not have fought as hard for the Byzantine empire as otherwise.
I cannot agree with this because there is simply no evidence for it. Sure, most of the cities in Syria opened their gates to the Muslims. What would they have done otherwise? It was illegal for private citizens in the Roman Empire to own weapons, and no one beyond tiny garrisons had any training whatsoever. After Yarmouk, there simply were no soldiers left in Syria to mount any sort of serious resistance. An unarmed and untrained populace can hardly have been expected to. Despite this being a traditional thesis, I see no evidence that Monophysitism was at all a factor in the success of the Arab conquests.

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4. Finally, perhaps new, innovated tactics may have made a difference. The Arabs had the lateen sail, that would have allowed them to sail against the wind better than the square sails the Romans were using. This could have allowed the Arabs to sail troops to Egypt in an unexpected time of year, catching the Byzantines by surprise.
There is a reference in Prokopios that suggests that the dromones of the sixth century had the lateen sail, and there is also good evidence in the Life of St. Caesarius of Arles that lateen-rigged ships were used. Thus I suspect that the Romans had access to it, and had been using it for a century or more by the time of the Arab conquests.
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Old June 30th, 2011, 09:13 AM   #6

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As I've read, that the religious zeal of the Arabs had given the Byzantine and Sassanid new opponents. Yarmuk and Walaja are examples of Arab Muslims that have zeal with their religion.

Exhausted from war, the Persians and Byzantines are still battle hardened and outnumbered the Arabs. Underestimation could be one, but at Walaja, Khalid has used the advantage of the terrain to conceal his cavalry from his opponents and destroyed the Persians by launching them behind and completely surprised. The great tactics of Khalid, religious zeal of Arabs and the exhaustion of Byzantine and Sassanid from the wars. Heraclius didn't even went to Syria to defend his territory but instead entrusted it to his generals. He is too much occupied in the capital with reforms and revolts around him.
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Old June 30th, 2011, 09:15 AM   #7

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Heraclius didn't even went to Syria to defend his territory but instead entrusted it to his generals. He is too much occupied in the capital with reforms and revolts around him.
He was in Antioch at the time of Yarmuk, and was directing things as best one could in the ancient world at a distance of some 500km.
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Old June 30th, 2011, 12:12 PM   #8

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The book below may answer some questions you have:

Amazon.com: The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In (9780306815850): Hugh Kennedy: Books
Amazon.com: The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In (9780306815850): Hugh Kennedy: Books



I haven't finished it, but it's quite good.
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Old June 30th, 2011, 03:35 PM   #9
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Quote:
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As I've read, that the religious zeal of the Arabs had given the Byzantine and Sassanid new opponents. Yarmuk and Walaja are examples of Arab Muslims that have zeal with their religion.

Exhausted from war, the Persians and Byzantines are still battle hardened and outnumbered the Arabs. Underestimation could be one, but at Walaja, Khalid has used the advantage of the terrain to conceal his cavalry from his opponents and destroyed the Persians by launching them behind and completely surprised. The great tactics of Khalid, religious zeal of Arabs and the exhaustion of Byzantine and Sassanid from the wars. Heraclius didn't even went to Syria to defend his territory but instead entrusted it to his generals. He is too much occupied in the capital with reforms and revolts around him.

Although it has been asserted that the Arabs were outnumbered, what real evidence is there? The account of the battle of Yarmuk, for example, come from sources years after the fact, are ultimately derived from Arab sources, which are not exactly objective. According the Arab sournces, the numbers given for the Byzantine forces are as large as the force that Heraclius led at the battle of Niven. 70,000, which is nonsense. It took Heraclius years to gather a force that large. And for whatever reason, Byzantine didn't defend that part of their empire. It never sent a force to reconquer Jerusalem in all the years the Persians held it, and the way it recovered it was by defeating Persia in its homeland. In the "Cross Roads to Islam" by Nevo, the contemporary Christian writers are unaware of the Battle of Yarmouk, and never mention the battle. Contemporary writers not discussing a battle that would have been one the greatest Roman defeats ever, a defeat far greater than Adrianople, makes the Arab account highly suspect. Unlike the battle of Teutonburg Wald, where archaeological evidence of the battle has been found, no actual evidence of the Yarmouk has been found.). Arabs exaggerating, must be a first.

On battles that are better documented, the Siege of Constantinople by the Arabs, it was the Arabs who vastly outnumbered the Byzantines, but lost anyways.

Another point - Heraclius was already 60 by the date of the Battle of Yamouk, and would have been too old to lead his troops in the field. Since he died 5 years later, he may already have been in ailing health of at the time. A lot of criticism of Heraclius never takes his age into account at the time of the Arab invasions.
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Old July 1st, 2011, 01:04 AM   #10

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Quote:
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Although it has been asserted that the Arabs were outnumbered, what real evidence is there? The account of the battle of Yarmuk, for example, come from sources years after the fact, are ultimately derived from Arab sources, which are not exactly objective. According the Arab sournces, the numbers given for the Byzantine forces are as large as the force that Heraclius led at the battle of Niven. 70,000, which is nonsense. It took Heraclius years to gather a force that large. And for whatever reason, Byzantine didn't defend that part of their empire. It never sent a force to reconquer Jerusalem in all the years the Persians held it, and the way it recovered it was by defeating Persia in its homeland. In the "Cross Roads to Islam" by Nevo, the contemporary Christian writers are unaware of the Battle of Yarmouk, and never mention the battle. Contemporary writers not discussing a battle that would have been one the greatest Roman defeats ever, a defeat far greater than Adrianople, makes the Arab account highly suspect. Unlike the battle of Teutonburg Wald, where archaeological evidence of the battle has been found, no actual evidence of the Yarmouk has been found.). Arabs exaggerating, must be a first.
I have to agree. Modern estimates say that the Byzantine could number 70,000 against a 40,000 Muslims or maybe less while Battle of Nineveh has less than 50,000 troops which was gathered at a cost and debt from the church. With just 11 years after the battle of Nineveh, if the Byzantines could gather such amount of troop it would be less than a 40,000 much more if it has exceeded hundred thousands. Seems that Arabs are bias and Arabs don't have contemporary writers at the time of battle which makes it absurd and bias.
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