Map: Syria in c. AD 750

Syria 500AD – 750AD


The wars between the Byzantines and the Persians in the 7th century caused much devastation to the numerous cities of Syria, and were followed almost immediately by the Arab conquest of Syria (633-40).

The Arabs conquest was made easier by the local population’s adherence to a branch of Christianity regarded as heretical by the Byzantine government, and therefore persecuted. This had weakened ties between Syria and Constantinople. The Arabs granted their conquered populations freedom of worship, and many Syrians regarded them as liberators rather than conquerors. The Arab garrisons were kept separate from the rest of the population, for whom life went on much as before.

The early Muslim period has in fact been something of a golden age for Syria. Under the Umayyad caliphs, Damascus is the capital of the Islamic Caliphate. As an imperial capital, it is beautified by palaces and mosques. Jerusalem also received special favour (and, for the first time for 500 years, Jews were allowed back by the Muslim authorities). The Great Mosque in Damascus and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem are the first great examples of Muslim architecture. However, in 750 the Umayyad royal family was destroyed by a successful uprising which brings the ‘Abassid family to the caliphate throne, and power immediately starts to shift eastwards away from Syria.

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