Why didn't the Arabs expand towards the Byzantines?

Sep 2010
When you look at a map of their conquest, you'll see they went east through Sassanian Iran, West to North Africa and Iberia. But their furthest northern conquests were Syria and bits of Anatolia.

Why could they not expand north towards the Byzantines ?

I mean, the Arab armies were formidable at the time (it took out a freakin' empire!), so they could at least conquered everything right until Constantinople (the siege is another matter ;))

How did the Byzantines even held them off Anatolia for such a long time ?! :zany:


Ad Honoris
Jul 2009

May be because of the mountainous structure of the land which make it easier to defend and easier to rebell against.
Oct 2010
Byzantines had very good defense which kept out the arabs for longs period of history, the arabs used to tactics of raiding and looting when they were invading empires but efendi brought up a very good point about the mountains and the climate this made it very hard for any potential enemy to attack there empire.

Wherelse with the ottomans when they invaded Constantinople they were organized in terms of military, weaponary and used great tactics than compared to the arab attempts of capturing constaniople.



Forum Staff
Jun 2006
How did the Byzantines even held them off Anatolia for such a long time ?! :zany:
There are limited ways in which to get through the Taurus mountains, many were covered by Roman/Byzantine fortifications and watch towers. Arab "armies" were small and mobile, if you read about their initial conquests, it was a case of defeat the local field army (Yarmuk, Nahawand, etc) and negotiate or terrorise the cities in the area to surrender (it was a bit more involved than that but basically that's what happened).

The Taurus barrier was breechable and often was, even by large raiding/invasion forces who got as far as Constantinople but Roman/Byzantine tactics allowed the raiders/invaders in while spreading the alarm in the anticipated direction of the raid/invasion. The Arabs would be shadowed by scouting groups or local militia (Akritoi) while regular forces gathered to intercept them. The attack was always launched when the raiders/invaders were loaded down with booty, their mobility much reduced and often took the form of an ambush. The defeated Arabs would tend to scatter, leaving behind their booty and be pursued back across the Taurus or trapped and destroyed by fortress garrisons who blocked the passes.

The tactic was remarkably successful and allowed the Roman/Byzantine empire the time it needed to recover and reorganize from the initial Arab invasions until they were ready for a counter attack in the 10th century.
May 2011
Macedonia, Eastern Roman Empire
Because of the Byzantine defence, including the navy (Greek fire) and the theme system in Anatolia, along with the Akrites, aka the frontier warriors of Byzantium, who protected for centuries the Empire, by guarding strategic places like Taurus.

[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acritic_songs"]Acritic songs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

The Acritic songs ([ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_language"]Greek[/ame]: Ακριτικά τραγούδια — frontiersmen songs) are the [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroic"]heroic[/ame] or [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_poetry"]epic poetry[/ame] that emerged in the [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Empire"]Byzantine Empire[/ame] probably in the 9th century. The songs celebrated the exploits of the [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akrites"]Akrites[/ame], the frontier guards defending the eastern borders of the Byzantine Empire. The historical background was the almost continuous Byzantine-Arab conflict between the 7th and 12th centuries. Against this background several romances were produced, the most famous of which is that of [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digenis_Acritas"]Digenis Acritas[/ame], considered by some to signal the beginnings of [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Greek_literature"]modern Greek literature[/ame].
Jul 2011
The Arabs had been stalking in every directions,until they met any significant resistance.For example,The Peninsula.They conquered it,because nobody could have hampered them.But the first lost battle became brink of their conquest in Europe.In my opinion they daunted too many tribes and deserts,ill-defended cities, but their was army inferior was inferior in compare with others armies.


Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
Remarkably few in numbers were the Arab forces in this expansion, Egypt north Africa very very few numbers in involved, they wasn't a great centralizsed command Arab leaders and forces involved in Egypt, Mesopotamia were establishing their own little empires and were not necessarily available for some great push against the Byzantines. The Byzantines were also still a formidable force and the Tarsus were a good defensive point.


Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
A more pertinent question might be "when did the Arabs stop trying to take land beyond the Tauros Mountains?" It is clear that there was serious interest in taking Constantinople, as major attacks were launched against it in 654, 674, and 717, although all ended in disaster for the Arabs. Most of the Arab armies that crossed the Tauros seem to have been large raiding parties for the most part, as described in 'de Velitatione', a much better, but later source, than the previously-mentioned Akritic songs.


Ad Honorem
Dec 2009

Wherelse with the ottomans when they invaded Constantinople they were organized in terms of military, weaponary and used great tactics than compared to the arab attempts of capturing constaniople.
The logistics of sending an army from Syria is substantially more complicated than sending one from Adrianople. I never seen any evidence to indicate that the early Arabs were poorly equipped, or militarily vastly inferior to the Romans. Rather, they had to send their armies enormous distances into unfamiliar terrain supported by fleets rowed by moderately unfriendly Christian oarsmen.