The emergence of Muslim Arabs from Arabiaa in the 630s resulted in the rapid loss of Byzantium's southern provinces (Syria and Egypt) to the Arab Caliphate. Over the next fifty years, under the Umayyad caliphs, the Arabs would launch repeated raids into still-Byzantine Asia Minor, twice threaten the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, with conquest, and outright conquer the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa. The situation did not stabilize until after the failure of the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople in 718, when the Taurus Mountains on the eastern rim of Asia Minor became established as the mutual, heavily fortified and largely depopulated frontier. Under the Abbasid Empire, relations became more normal, with embassies exchanged and even periods of truce, but conflict remained the norm, with almost annual raids and counter-raids, sponsored either by the Abbasid government or by local rulers, well into the 10th century. During the first centuries, the Byzantines were usually on the defensive, and avoided open field battles, preferring to retreat to their fortified strongholds.
Only after 740 did they begin to launch counterstrikes of their own, but still the Abbasid Empire was able to retaliate with often massive and destructive invasions of Asia Minor. With the decline and fragmentation of the Abbasid state after 861 and the concurrent strengthening of the Byzantine Empire under the Macedonian dynasty, the tide gradually turned. Over a period of fifty years from ca.
920 to 976, the Byzantines finally broke through the Muslim defences and restored their control over northern Syria and Greater Armenia. The last century of the Arab-Byzantine wars was dominated by frontier conflicts with the Fatimids in Syria, but the border remained stable until the appearance of a new people, the Seljuk Turks, after 1060. The Arabs also took to the sea, and from the 650s on, the entire Mediterranean Sea became a battleground, with raids and counter-raids being launched against islands and the coastal settlements. Arab raids reached a peak in the 9th and early 10th centuries, after the conquests of Crete, Malta and Sicily, with their fleets reaching the coasts of France and Dalmatia and even the suburbs of Constantinople. The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major Islamic caliphates established after the death of Muhammad.This caliphate was centered on the Umayyad dynasty, hailing from Mecca. The Umayyad family had first come to power under the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan r. 644-656, but the Umayyad regime was founded by Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, long-time governor of Syria, after the end of the First Muslim Civil War in 661 CE/41 AH. Syria remained the Umayyads' main power base thereafter, and Damascus was their capital. The Umayyads continued the Muslim conquests, incorporating the Caucasus, Transoxiana, Sindh, the Maghreb and the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus) into the Muslim world.
At its greatest extent, the Umayyad Caliphate covered 5.17 million square miles 13,400,000 km. , making it the largest empire the world had yet seen, and the fifth largest ever to exist.At the time, the Umayyad taxation and administrative practice were perceived as unjust by some Muslims. Muhammad had stated explicitly during his lifetime that each religious minority should be allowed to practice its own religion and govern itself, and the policy had on the whole continued. The welfare state for both the Muslim and the non-Muslim poor started by Omar had also continued. Muawiya's wife Maysum (Yazid's mother) was also a Christian. The relations between the Muslims and the Christians in the state were good. The Umayyads were involved in frequent battles with the Christian Byzantines without being concerned with protecting themselves in Syria, which had remained largely Christian like many other parts of the empire. Prominent positions were held by Christians, some of whom belonged to families that had served in Byzantine governments. The employment of Christians was part of a broader policy of religious tolerance that was necessitated by the presence of large Christian populations in the conquered provinces, as in Syria. This policy also boosted Muawiya's popularity and solidified Syria as his power base. The rivalries between the Arab tribes had caused unrest in the provinces outside Syria, most notably in the Second Muslim Civil War of 680-692 CE and the Berber Revolt of 740-743 CE.
During the Second Civil War, leadership of the Umayyad clan shifted from the Sufyanid branch of the family to the Marwanid branch. As the constant campaigning exhausted the resources and manpower of the state, the Umayyads, weakened by the Third Muslim Civil War of 744-747 CE, were finally toppled by the Abbasid Revolution in 750 CE/132 AH. A branch of the family fled across North Africa to Al-Andalus, where they established the Caliphate of Córdoba, which lasted until 1031 before falling due to the Fitna of al-Ándalus. World-renowned expert numismatist, enthusiast, author and dealer in authentic ancient Greek, ancient Roman, ancient Byzantine, world coins & more. Ilya Zlobin is an independent individual who has a passion for coin collecting, research and understanding the importance of the historical context and significance all coins and objects represent.
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