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The Red Sea from Byzantium to the Caliphate

The Red Sea from Byzantium to the Caliphate: ad 500–1000

Timothy Power
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt15m7h9n
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  • Book Info
    The Red Sea from Byzantium to the Caliphate
    Book Description:

    This book examines the historic process traditionally referred to as the fall of Rome and rise of Islam from the perspective of the Red Sea, a strategic waterway linking the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean and a distinct region incorporating Africa with Arabia. The transition from Byzantium to the Caliphate is contextualized in the contestation of regional hegemony between Aksumite Ethiopia, Sasanian Iran, and the Islamic Hijaz. The economic stimulus associated with Arab colonization is then considered, including the foundation of ports and roads linking new metropolises and facilitating commercial expansion, particularly gold mining and the slave trade. Finally, the economic inheritance of the Fatimids and the formation of the commercial networks glimpsed in the Cairo Geniza is contextualized in the diffusion of the Abbasid ‘bourgeois revolution’ and resumption of the ‘India trade’ under the Tulunids and Ziyadids. Timothy Power’s careful analysis reveals the complex cultural and economic factors that provided a fertile ground for the origins of the Islamic civilization to take root in the Red Sea region, offering a new perspective on a vital period of history.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-350-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS OF JOURNAL TITLES
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. INTRODUCTION: THE CONTEXT OF STUDY
    (pp. 1-18)

    The Red Sea was among the very first regions of the Middle East to be studied and explored by Enlightenment Europe, for as early as 1766 the French cartographer Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville published hisMémoires sur l’Égypte ancienne et moderne, suivis d’une description du golfe arabique ou de la mer rouge. Shortly thereafter, Carsten Niebuhr’s publication of the royal Danish expedition to Arabia provided the first detailed account of the Hijaz and Yemen, to which can be added James Bruce’s publication of his travels in Ethiopia and Nubia; and finally the epicDescription de l’Égypte, undertaken following Napoleon’s conquest...

  7. 1 THE LATE ROMAN ERYTHRA THALASSA (CA. 325–525)
    (pp. 19-60)

    The late Roman period is generally taken to begin with the reign of the Emperor Diocletian (r. 284–305), who brought to an end the economic decline and political disorder that had troubled the Roman Empire for much of the third century. He divided the unwieldy empire into four more manageable areas under the rule of four co-emperors, known as tetrarchs from the Greek ‘rule of four.’ This system did not long outlast his death, as the tetrarchs squabbled among themselves, out of which contest the Emperor Constantine I (r. 312–37) emerged as sole ruler of a united empire....

  8. 2 CONTESTED HEGEMONY (CA. 525–685)
    (pp. 61-102)

    The transition from Byzantium to the caliphate turns upon the Arab conquests of the early seventh century. However, these events should be contextualized in the great contest for mastery of the world between the Sassanian Persians and Byzantine Greeks. For much of the sixth and seventh centuries, these universal empires assembled massive armies on the field of battle and sponsored client kingdoms to undermine the enemy, creating a kind of ‘cold war’ that dragged the Red Sea polities of Aksum and Himyar into the conflict. The Red Sea was a strategic waterway linking the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean through...

  9. 3 THE ‘LONG’ EIGHTH CENTURY (CA. 685–830)
    (pp. 103-144)

    The consolidation of the conquests and creation of a centralized state began with the reforms of the caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (r. 685–705). Rival claimants to the caliphate were eliminated and the absolute rule of the Umayyad dynasty established. The capital at Damascus was linked to the provinces by an effective postal service, Arabic was made the administrative language of the state, and a standardized reformed coinage was introduced throughout the caliphate. The Umayyads were replaced by the Abbasid dynasty in the mid-eighth century. In 762 the caliph Abu Ja‘far al-Mansur (r. 754–75) established a new capital:...

  10. 4 THE EARLY ISLAMIC BAHR AL-QULZUM (CA. 830–970)
    (pp. 145-188)

    Out of the fratricidal civil war that followed the death of the famous caliph Harun al-Rashid (d. 809) a new system of goverance emerged. It was based on the institution of slave soldiery introduced by the caliph al-Mu‘ tasim (r. 833–42), wherein primarily Turkish slaves owing sole loyalty to their master formed the basis of executive power, being at once generals of the armies and governors of the provinces. A vast new capital was established at Samarra to house the armies of the caliph. It was not long before the garrisoned slave troops grew seditious and central authority weakened,...

  11. CONCLUSION: THE ‘LONG’ LATE ANTIQUITY FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE RED SEA
    (pp. 189-222)

    The decline of Byzantium, Aksum, and Himyar in the Red Sea has been attributed to a number of factors, including natural disasters, environmental degradation, nomadic aggression, superpower conflict, and the rise of Islam. None of these factors fully satisfy, however. An alternative theory can be proposed, based upon the integration of the Red Sea with Indian Ocean networks, which were damaged by the collapse of the Gupta–Vakataka Empire and Tamilakam states. The late Roman ‘India trade’ appears to have come to an end around the mid-sixth century, almost a century before the Muslim conquests. A declining volume of trade...

  12. GAZETTEER OF SITES
    (pp. 223-234)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 235-278)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 279-356)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 357-364)