Home / Tag Archives: Euphrates

Tag Archives: Euphrates

Rival Caliphs and Amirs in the West A.D. 750-1492

caliph

IN 750, when the first Abbasid caliph ordered a wholesale massacre of the family that had ruled before him, hardly any of the Omayyads came out alive. One who did was a twenty-year-old youth named Abd-al-Rahman, a grandson of the tenth Omayyad caliph. Fleeing from a Bedouin camp on the Euphrates, he wandered in disguise through Palestine, Egypt and North Africa. Again and again he barely escaped being discovered and seized by Abbasid spies. His desperate flight lasted, altogether, five years. Finally he came to the town of Ceuta, on the northwest coast of Africa, where some Berber chieftains, who were uncles of his on his mother’s side, gave him shelter. The young man sent word across the Strait of Gibraltar to the chiefs of the Moslem divisions in southern Spain. Being Syrians, and therefore loyal to the Omayyads, the officers were overjoyed. They sent a ship to fetch him. Soon, he commanded a sizable army of Arabs and Berbers. When he led his soldiers through the countryside, the cities opened .their gates to him, one after another. The worried Abbasid governor tried to bribe him with rich presents‚ but he refused them. In May, 756, he captured the Spanish capital, Cordova. Within a few years be held all but the northern part of the Spanish peninsula. CONQUEST OF SPAIN Not long after this, the new Omayyad regime successfully defied the two most powerful rulers in the world. In 763, a governor of Spain appointed by al-Mansur was assassinated on Abd-al-Rahman’s orders. Abd-al-Rahman had the governor’s head sent to the caliph wrapped in a black Abbasid flag. Al-Mansur was beside himself with rage‚ but he was too busy fighting his enemies at home to answer the insult with force. In 778, Abd-al-Rahman and his Arab-Berber army defeated an army of …

Read More »

Cracks in the Wall of Islam A.D. 656-750

islam

THE FIRST three caliphs — Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman — had all known — Mohammed well. In 656, Othman, an old man in his eighties, was stabbed to death by a band of rebels. They believed that the right to be caliph belonged to Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali. Sometime later, Ali defeated his rivals for power in battle and proclaimed himself caliph. Instead of Medina, he chose as his capital the new Arab city of al-Kufah, in Iraq. All but one of the leaders of Islam swore loyalty to Ali. The exception was Muawiyah, the governor of Syria, who set out to avenge Othman. Holding the dead caliph’s blood-stained shirt above his head in the mosque of Damascus, he accused Ali of Othman‘s murder. He challenged Ali to produce the actual murderers or resign. ALI AND THE OMAYYADS Muawiyah was certainly ambitious‚ but his real quarrel with Ali was political, not personal. The question was whether al-Kufah or Damascus, Iraq or Syria, was to be the center of the Arab world. Soon the quarrel became a war, and two great armies stood face to face on the banks of the Euphrates. Instead of clashing, however, the Iraqi and Syrian soldiers merely raided each other’s camps, for neither side was eager to spill Moslem blood. Nevertheless, after a few weeks it began to look as if Ali’s forces would win. Then Muawiyah’s general Amr, the conqueror of Egypt, had a clever idea. He ordered his men to tie copies of the Koran to their lances and hoist them aloft. Fighting stopped immediately. The signal meant that the two sides should settle their differences by peaceful discussion, letting the holy word of Allah be their guide. To spare Moslem lives, Ali agreed. His decision had serious results. By accepting Amr’s suggestion, the …

Read More »

The New Capital: Constantinople A. D. 306-532

CONSTANTINOPLE

EMPEROR Constantine’s decision to build a new capital for the Roman Empire in the East did not come as a surprise to the people of the empire. Rome had lost much of its influence as the seat of government and emperors avoided the city. They preferred to build castles for themselves in distant provincial cities. Emperor Maximian, for example, had ruled from Milan. Emperor Diocletian had moved to Nicomedia, far to the east in Asia Minor and ruled from there. Constantine had many good reasons for turning eastward in searching for a site for his new capital. Most of the important activities and interests of the empire lay far to the east of Rome. The great trade centers at Ephesus, Antioch and Alexandria were all in the East. For centuries, the kingdoms beyond the eastern frontiers had been weak and peaceful. Now the Sassanids, a new royal family of Persia, had risen to power and become a serious threat. The East German tribes, particularly the Goths, had also become a threat, building up their strength on the Danube. As a man of the sword, Constantine knew well that the empire was in danger of being invaded. A capital city in the East, within striking distance of the Danube and the eastern front, would help the empire standoff attacks from either direction. There was also an advantage in having the capital city close to the Balkans, for there the empire recruited its finest soldiers. Constantine himself had come from there. His personal pride may have been still another reason. Many Roman emperors were great builders. They were proud men and they liked to build roads and great buildings which would stand for centuries as memorials to their greatness. A new capital city would bring him fame and glorify his memory for …

Read More »

The Resurrection and the Faithful Few A. D. 29 – 35

resurrection

JESUS lived and died a Jew. Like the ancient Hebrew teachers, he urged people to love God and to love their neighbours. He left no writings of his own. His public ministry was short, possibly not as long as two years. It seems probable, therefore, that his influence on world history might not have been nearly as great had his story ended on the cross. The gospel story does not end with his crucifixion. He died on Friday. To speed the death of those crucified on Fridays, so that they could be buried before the Sabbath, the legs of the victims were usually broken. The soldiers broke the legs of the thieves hanging on either side of Jesus. But since Jesus seemed to be dead already they did not break his legs. To make certain he was dead one of the soldiers thrust his spear into the side of Jesus. One Joseph of Arimathea received permission from Pilate to take away the body of Jesus. This he did with the help of friends and placed the body, in a new sepulcher in a nearby garden. The grave was really a cave hollowed out of rock in the side of a hill. Over the entrance they rolled a huge stone. The following day being the Sabbath, nothing more could be done. Early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene and other followers of Jesus brought sweet spices to anoint his body. But they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Puzzled and frightened, the others left the place, but Mary did not leave. While she was weeping by the side of the tomb Jesus suddenly appeared before her. That same evening in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared before a number of disciples gathered together in a locked room. The disciples were terrified, for they …

Read More »

The End of the City A. D. 192 – A. D. 476

constantine

ON ROME’S first day, Romulus took a bronze plow and drew a magic circle around seven of the hills that stood beside the River Tiber. The magic of the circle was protection against the evils outside. More important, it bound together the people who were inside, making one city where there had been six towns. Seven hundred years later, Augustus drew another magic circle, this time around all the Mediterranean world. It kept out barbarian and Asian invaders and held together millions of people, making one empire where there had been dozens of races and nations. So long as the circle had its magic power, Rome would exist. There was no magic in the circles themselves. The real magic had been in Romulus himself, a chief who was strong and wise enough to build a city. There had been magic, too, in Augustus, whose wisdom had brought order and peace to an empire. Without such men, the circles were powerless. Invaders and conquerors could break through them. The people and countries they held together would fall apart. That was what happened to Rome after the death of Marcus Aurelius. TOO MANY CAESARS It did not happen all at once. There was still an empire and there were emperors who tried to rule it — too many, in fact. When Commodus was murdered, four would-be rulers, each with a Roman army behind him, fought over the throne. The winner, Septimus Severus, the commander of the Danube troops, held it for eighteen years. When he was about to die, he gave his two sons a piece of advice about ruling Rome: “Stick together, pay the soldiers and forget the rest.” His sons did not stick together. When Septimus was dead, each of them tried to be the emperor. Caracalla, the elder of …

Read More »

Mesopotamia, Where Civilization Began 4000 B.C. – 1750 B.C.

mesopotamia

By 4000 B. C., many different groups of people  were working out their lives in a variety of ways. In a great arc from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, across the Turkish plains and through the highlands of Iraq and Iran, groups of peoples had settled and were farming, tending animals, making pottery and building towns, markets and forts. In the deserts, mountains and steppes, nomadic tribesmen lived by herding animals and by hunting and raiding. As all these populations grew, they began to compete for land, food and supplies. One of the areas that was to become most sought after was a stretch of land almost at the very centre of these various peoples. It was only about 150 miles wide and 600 miles long and extended from the foothills of northwester Iraq to the Persian Gulf. Two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, drained the area and gave it its name, Mesopotamia – “the land between the rivers”. For the next 3,500 years, Mesopotamia was to witness the rise and fall of many cities and cultures. Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldaeans – these were only some of the people who took root and flourished in this land. Finally the Persians came and reduced Mesopotamia to a mere province but from the first unknown settlers to the mighty Nebuchadnezzar, this land gave rise to much that would affect all civilization. The first settlers in Mesopotamia set up their villages and farmed in the upper reaches of the Tigris. These were among the earliest farming communities anywhere in the world, but they gradually declined and it was many years later before this region came to be known as Assyria. Mesopotamia’s southern region, which was later called Babylonia, was especially hot and dry and did not seem to attract early …

Read More »
Translate »