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Tag Archives: Palestine

Christianity Spread in a Divided Empire

The year is 400 A.D. Andropolos paces impatiently up and down the deck of the merchant ship. He is eager to get back home; and to Andropolos, home is the city of Constantinople, a new capital of the Roman Empire. He can already see the walls and buildings of the great city shimmering in the distance. Now the ship is nearing the narrow Bosporus, the waterway where Europe and Asia are hardly a mile apart. The voyage from Ostia, the port of the old city of Rome, had been long and tiresome. Andropolos had been only too glad to leave Italy. The city that was once a hub of the Roman Empire, though still large, had a down at the heel look. Simultaneously the cities of northern Italy were becoming crowded with rough barbarians. Tall Germans also were filling the ranks of Roman legions. In times past, men such as these had been defeated again and again by Roman armies made up of men from Italy, but those victories had been won long ago and Rome had no such fighters left. Yes, Andropolos is thankful to leave Italy. Here in Constantinople the authority of the Roman emperor still counts. Andropolos shakes his head sadly as he recalls what has happened — the Roman Empire is not what it used to be. For Andropolos, though he is Greek born and Greek speaking, proudly calls himself a Roman citizen. The walls of Constantinople on the left grow closer as the ship enters the Bosporus. Soon it will dock in the harbour of the Golden Horn and Andropolos’ long voyage will be over. When he steps ashore, the first thing he will do, good Christian that he is, will be to go to the nearest of the many churches in Constantinople. There Andropolos …

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Early Civilization Spreads by Land and Sea

Civilization

Now Hiram, King of Tyre, sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him King. . . And Solomon sent word to Hiram, “ . . . I purpose to build a house for the name of the Lord my God. . . Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me; and . . . I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set; for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians [people of the city of Sidon].” . . . And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, “. . . I am ready to do all you desire in the matter of cedar and cypress timber. My servants shall bring it down to the sea from Lebanon; and I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you direct and I will have them broken up there, and you shall receive it; and you shall meet my wishes by providing food for my household.” So Hiram supplied Solomon with all the timber of cedar and cypress that he desired. while Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand cors [measures] of wheat as food for his household and twenty thousand cors of beaten oil. . . And there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and the two of them made a treaty. And King Solomon built a fleet of ships. . . And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, seamen who were familiar with the sea. . . These words adapted from the Bible tell the story of trade agreements between two kings who ruled about 1000 B.C. You have probably heard of Solomon. He had the reputation of being the wisest king of ancient times. But …

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The United Nations and the End of Colonialism 1946 -1965

colonialism

Even before the Korean War, the United Nations had proved that it could take effective action to control serious conflicts. It first took such action in the conflict over Palestine. During World War I, the British had ousted the Turks from Palestine. When the war was over, the League of Nations placed that land under the authority of Britain. The British then issued the famous Balfour Declaration, which promised the Jewish people that Palestine would someday become their homeland, but the Arabs of Palestine and the surrounding countries strongly objected to this and year after year passed without the British making good their promise. During and after World War II, Britain refused to allow Jewish refugees from Europe to enter Palestine. In 1946 Jewish terrorists began to stage raids against the British army and a year later Britain turned the Palestine problem over to the United Nations. The General Assembly set up a special committee to investigate the situation and make recommendations and several months later the committee delivered its report. It recommended that Palestine be divided into two independent states, one Arab and one Jewish. Although the Arabs, who formed a majority of the people in Palestine, said they would never allow the existence of a Jewish state, the General Assembly approved the committee’s report. Britain was expected to carry out and enforce the recommendations. Instead, the British suddenly left Palestine in the spring of 1948 and war broke out between the Arabs and the Jews. The Palestinian Arabs were supported by troops from the surrounding countries of Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt, but the Jewish army, which included many hardened veterans of World War II, won battle after battle. With every victory, the Jews added to the territory originally granted them by the United Nations special committee. Most …

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After the Peace of Paris 1919 – 1920

league

DURING THE war, three great empires — the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian and the German –had vanished forever. Then, by the Treaty of Sévres, a fourth empire, the Ottoman, was quietly put to death. Turkey was confined to Asia Minor and became a republic. Of its former possessions, the League of Nations assigned Syria and Lebanon to France and Palestine and Iraq to Great Britain. Trans-Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which had fought the Turks under an adventurous British colonel named T. E. Lawrence, became independent kingdoms. In Europe, there were seven new states: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The first six, with Rumania, formed a zone that blocked Russian communism from spreading westward. Rumania had grown larger at the expense of Hungary, Russia and Greece at the expense of Turkey. Hungary and Austria were made small independent states, with no link between their governments. The South Slavs, who had triggered the crisis that brought on the war, saw their dream come true in a free, united Yugoslavia, but some Yugoslavs were still dissatisfied, for the Allies, in line with their secret treaty of 1915, had given Italy the port of Trieste and some islands on the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic. Italy also received the Trentino and South Tyrol, former Austro-Hungarian lands. AMERICA AND THE LEAGUE Although the five treaties of the Peace of Paris changed the map of the world, it left more than one nation resentful and discontented. The Italians felt that the Allies had betrayed them by not giving them any of the German colonies. The Japanese felt cheated of their rightful gains in the Pacific and the Germans were particularly bitter, for they felt they had been unjustly treated in almost every way. When the peace conference began, they had expected that the Allies …

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The Crusades 1096-1260

crusade

ON A COLD NOVEMBER DAY IN 1096, a great crowd of people gathered in a field at the town of Clermont in France. They had come from miles around and near them were pitched the tents they had put up for shelter. For some days, Pope Urban II had been holding a great council of cardinals, bishops and princes. Today he was to speak to the people and so many wanted to hear that no building was large enough to hold them all. A platform had been built in the center of the field and as Pope Urban stepped up on it a hush fell over the crowd. Pope Urban was a Frenchman and he spoke to the people around him as fellow Frenchmen. “Oh, race of Franks,” he said, “race beloved and chosen by God . . . set apart from all other nations by the situation of your country as well as by your Catholic faith and the honour which you render to the holy Church: to you our discourse is addressed. . . .” “From the confines of Jerusalem and from Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth that an accursed race, wholly alienated from God, has violently invaded the lands of these Christians and has depopulated them by pillage and fire. They have led away a part of the captives into their own country and a part they have killed by cruel tortures. . .” The people knew what he meant. He was speaking of the Holy Land, that lay on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Here were the cities of Jerusalem, Nazareth, Gaza and Damascus. Here Jesus Christ had lived and preached and had been crucified; here Christianity had begun. Here were many sacred shrines and during the Middle Ages thousands of Europeans …

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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 …

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Byzantium and Russia 400 B. C. – 1240 A. D.

russia

THE BEGINNINGS of Russian history date back to the centuries when Byzantium was at the height of its glory. A thousand years before that Herodotus, the Greek explorer, found Greek settlements on the northern shore of the Black Sea. They traded with the Scythians, a tribe of nomads living on the open plains that stretched eastward for thousands of miles to the mountains of Asia. Bordering these plains on the north were the forest lands and above them, in the far north, stretched the frozen wastes of the arctic tundra. In all that vast land there were no barriers, no high mountains to serve as national boundaries. Even the rivers gave little protection against invasion, for they could be crossed when they froze in the winter. As a result, there was a constant shitting of tribes, the strong pushing back the weak. The Scythians who once held the grassy plains above the Black Sea were pushed away by the Sarmatians and they in turn gave way to the Goths in the third century. An invasion of Huns from the Mongolian desert in the fourth century overran everything in its path. It pressed far into Europe, threatening both Constantinople and Rome. All the conquered peoples, including the Slavic tribes of the forest, were forced to pay taxes to Attila, king of the Huns, for many years. Upon his death in the fifth century, the power of the Huns was broken and the tribes won their freedom again. Then followed a series of tribal wars and a general shifting of populations. Where the Slavs came from originally is not known, but they first appear in history on the Vistula River in the fifth century, as subjects of the Huns. It is possible that the name Slavs really meant slaves, since the Huns …

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The Fall of Byzantium A. D. 992-1453

BYZANTIUM

THE LONG struggle between the churches of the East and the West was only one of the many serious problems that weakened the empire and led to its downfall. Trade was another of its problems. Much of goods imported from the eastern world was sold to the west through Byzantine markets. A ten percent tax was collected on an imports and exports as well as on all goods passing through the Bosporus. This was one of the empire’s most important ways of collecting taxes. However, this rich flow of tax money began to get smaller and smaller in the tenth century after Basil II gave Venice, the chief port of the west, a reduced tax rate. He did it with the understanding that the large fleet of Venetian merchant ships would police the Adriatic Sea and carry troops for the empire whenever necessary. Then, in the eleventh century, the empire lost Asia Minor to Turks of the Seljuk tribe. Asia Minor was the backbone of the empire. It had served as a buffer state against invaders from the east and had provided food and materials for the empire, as well as manpower for the army. It was a serious loss from which the empire never recovered. In the twelfth century, Thebes and Corinth fell to Norman invaders. They carried off the silkworms and weavers to Italy, thus breaking the empire’s monopoly on Silk. Byzantium also suffered at the hands of the crusaders, who conquered a part of Asia Minor from the Turks as they passed through on their way to Palestine. Instead of returning this territory to the empire, they divided it and made independent kingdoms out of Antioch and Edessa. From then on, much of the eastern trade passed through these cities and was carried to the West on …

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Byzantine Glory A.D. 610-1057

Byzantine

The period from 610 to 717 was one of the darkest in Byzantine history. During that time, the edges of the empire crumbled under the pressure of powerful enemies. A people from northern Italy, the Lombards, conquered more than half of Italy. In central Arabia, the Arab tribes had joined together under the religion of Mohammed and marched against their neighbors. They took the kingdom of Persia, invaded Palestine and in 658 captured Jerusalem. The conquering Moslems, as the followers of Mohammed were called, swept on and soon took over Syria and Egypt. They marched along the northern shore of Africa and took Carthage in 697, then sailed across the Mediterranean and captured Spain. By this time the empire seemed all but doomed. It had been reduced to Asia Minor, the Balkan Peninsula and southern Italy. Shortly after Leo III had been crowned emperor he was forced to defend Constantinople during the Arab siege of 717-718. Later he drove them back on the Taurus front. After saving the empire from the Arabs, he organized the country into military districts and placed a military government over each of them. This system, together with Justinian’s fortresses, made the empire’s defenses stronger than ever before. The empire reached the height of its glory under Basil I and his descendants, a period lasting from 867 to 1057. Most of the emperors of this period were brilliant military leaders and good administrators. Under them the empire regained its strength, beat back the Arabs in South Italy and in the East forced the Arabs back to the Euphrates, overran Cilicia and Syria, and pushed down into Palestine to the gates of Jerusalem. On the European side, Basil II crushed the mighty empire of the Bulgars. DIPLOMACY AND TREACHERY Byzantine emperors often used treachery to weaken their …

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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 …

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