Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

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Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Akhlut » 2008-11-02 08:38pm

Let's say that after Phocas the Tyrant takes power in 602, Khusrau II has a dream from Zoroaster commanding him to recognize Phocas and any successors, whether by force or inheritance, as legitimate. This means that Khusrau II does not invade the Empire shortly thereafter, and even if Heraclius the Younger topples Phocas for losing the Balkans, that Persia still doesn't invade (at least, not for that reason). So, what happens when the Caliphate invades from the south with the Persians and the Byzantines at, more or less,full strength?
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Thanas » 2008-11-02 09:36pm

Easy - the caliphate gets crushed.
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Cecelia5578 » 2008-11-03 12:37am

However, there are still many issues to be dealt with. First, most alternate histories with Islam have to do with Islam not existing in the first place-which allows the Byzantines and Sassanids to survive. In this case, Islam still exists, and there's still gonna be some degree of disillusionment among the Roman subjects in the Near East-those pesky Christological divisions still exist. It also depends on how well the Romans and Persians continue to support their Arab Christian allies, they could still convert to Islam. Finally, in a larger sense, the world of Late Antiquity was in bad shape, regardless of the Roman-Sassanid War. For example, even before the Arab invasions Roman North Africa was in a pretty bad state. Also, one reason why the Sassanids fell so quickly was disillusionment with the mucky mucks-there's very little evidence, for example, that the bulk of the population were strict adherents to Zoroastrianism, for example.
All this has to contend with a young, vigorous faith whose adherents are quite zealous for its propagation.
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Cecelia5578 » 2008-11-03 12:39am

While technically accurate, to Western non-Muslim ears the term "Caliphate" when referring to this period sound a bit anachronistic. Its like a neutral scholar of early Christianity using the term "Early Chruch" rather than "Catholic Church" or "Orthodox Church", despite the fact that the current adherents of said religions would use those terms to describe the first century of Christianity.

EDIT-its like referring to the Early Church (as in the 1st century) as Catholic or Orthodox, rather than using a term like "Early Church." That's what I meant to say.
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by TC Pilot » 2008-11-03 01:24am

Cecelia5578 wrote:All this has to contend with a young, vigorous faith whose adherents are quite zealous for its propagation.
Yes, a young, vigorous faith that's going to get its metaphorical groin repeatedly punched by a mailed fist.

The Arabs won't have the benefit of over two decades of debilitating all-out war. A defeat at Yarmouk or earlier would probably have broken up the tribal coalition and reduced Islam's political influence to the Arabian peninsula, which really wasn't worth anything to anyone back then.
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Thanas » 2008-11-03 05:30am

TC Pilot wrote:
Cecelia5578 wrote:All this has to contend with a young, vigorous faith whose adherents are quite zealous for its propagation.
Yes, a young, vigorous faith that's going to get its metaphorical groin repeatedly punched by a mailed fist.

The Arabs won't have the benefit of over two decades of debilitating all-out war. A defeat at Yarmouk or earlier would probably have broken up the tribal coalition and reduced Islam's political influence to the Arabian peninsula, which really wasn't worth anything to anyone back then.
Heck, with an intact field army, intact border fortifications bolstered by Justinians fortress girdle, I bet the arabs won't even get to Yarmouk. With the the Persians staying put, the empire is free to concentrate over 100.000 troops against the arabs. And those won't be the war-ridden, last-effort troops Heraclius had to rely on - those will be the flowers of the army.

If the arabs even decide to go to war - after all, they were no fools.
Cecelia5578 wrote:However, there are still many issues to be dealt with. First, most alternate histories with Islam have to do with Islam not existing in the first place-which allows the Byzantines and Sassanids to survive.
Alternate histories are no substitute for historical argument.
In this case, Islam still exists, and there's still gonna be some degree of disillusionment among the Roman subjects in the Near East-those pesky Christological divisions still exist.
That is not really an issue - success of christianity in the East was always dependent on roman control of the area - and vice versa.
It also depends on how well the Romans and Persians continue to support their Arab Christian allies, they could still convert to Islam.
So at the worst case, the empire looses some buffer zones. Nothing to really fret about, and given the fact that the empire can now concentrate on the balkans and deal with the threat there (which in turn frees up resources for the east), I wouldn't worry that much about it.
Finally, in a larger sense, the world of Late Antiquity was in bad shape, regardless of the Roman-Sassanid War. For example, even before the Arab invasions Roman North Africa was in a pretty bad state.
Funny, the people who have actually done the fieldwork in Roman North Africa disagree with that assessment, namely the Cambridge Ancient History and Claude Lepelley, who probably is the greatest living expert on Roman North Africa.
Also, one reason why the Sassanids fell so quickly was disillusionment with the mucky mucks-there's very little evidence, for example, that the bulk of the population were strict adherents to Zoroastrianism, for example.
There is also very little evidence that the population of the Byzantine empire were strict adherents to christianity. So that argument is not really helpful in that context.
All this has to contend with a young, vigorous faith whose adherents are quite zealous for its propagation.
And as TC Pilot so aptly noted, they will quickly become disillusioned. Really, what advantages do you think the Arabs have against a compentent roman field army that can rely on a safe hinterland and has got no supply issues?
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Thanas » 2008-11-03 05:34am

Anyone who thinks the arabs will defeat the Byzantines has to first look at the destruction the Sassanid army wrought. They got all the way to Opsikion. The entire levant had been devestated. They actually cut the empire in two. Almost the entire roman army in the east was wiped out. The second-largest city in the empire, Antioch, an imperial residence and one of four cities with a population of over 1 million, was completely destroyed. They destroyed one third of the empire's territory and destroyed the commerce centers of the eastern part of the empire.
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor » 2008-11-03 06:08am

Thanas wrote:Anyone who thinks the arabs will defeat the Byzantines has to first look at the destruction the Sassanid army wrought. They got all the way to Opsikion. The entire levant had been devestated. They actually cut the empire in two. Almost the entire roman army in the east was wiped out. The second-largest city in the empire, Antioch, an imperial residence and one of four cities with a population of over 1 million, was completely destroyed. They destroyed one third of the empire's territory and destroyed the commerce centers of the eastern part of the empire.
Wait, destroyed as in, the Persians didn't even plan to take the city intact? That would mean the Byzantines also exacted the same thing when they wantonly sacked one of Khosrau II's favourite palace.
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Thanas » 2008-11-03 06:29am

Fingolfin_Noldor wrote:
Thanas wrote:Anyone who thinks the arabs will defeat the Byzantines has to first look at the destruction the Sassanid army wrought. They got all the way to Opsikion. The entire levant had been devestated. They actually cut the empire in two. Almost the entire roman army in the east was wiped out. The second-largest city in the empire, Antioch, an imperial residence and one of four cities with a population of over 1 million, was completely destroyed. They destroyed one third of the empire's territory and destroyed the commerce centers of the eastern part of the empire.
Wait, destroyed as in, the Persians didn't even plan to take the city intact? That would mean the Byzantines also exacted the same thing when they wantonly sacked one of Khosrau II's favourite palace.

Well, the sack of the persians in 540 cost Antioch as many as 300.000 inhabitants. I have no numbers for the second sack and occupation from 611-628, however note that Jerusalem lost - according to Byzantine sources - 90.000 inhabitants when it was taken, which according to whatever estimate you apply should be about 50-90% of the population. By all accounts, the persians were notoriously brutal since the start of the sixth century in their conquests, no doubt this being a result of the long struggle between those two empires. Based on Byzantine sources, there can be no doubt that large swaths of the levante were pretty much depopulated by them. The persian soldateska seems to surpass even the mongols in their brutality. Of course those source might be exaggerating, but they are the only sources we have and they are corraborated by some archaelogical evidence.

As for sacking persian palaces, that was a typical roman tactic which dates back to Avidius Cassius, who first let his soldiers sack the palace of the great king in order to discredit him in the eyes of his subjects.
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by hongi » 2008-11-03 10:36pm

So Islam remains a relatively isolated local religion and political entity in Arabia, used by both sides as a political football in the inevitable coming wars. That pretty much it?

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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor » 2008-11-04 12:52am

hongi wrote:So Islam remains a relatively isolated local religion and political entity in Arabia, used by both sides as a political football in the inevitable coming wars. That pretty much it?
Byzantine interest in Arabia was very minimal, and the only time the Empire every extended that far to the borders was during Trajan. Likely, no one would have paid much attention, beyond ensuring these bunch of upstarts don't ever get the same ideas again.
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Adrian Laguna » 2008-11-04 03:21am

Fingolfin_Noldor wrote:Byzantine interest in Arabia was very minimal, and the only time the Empire every extended that far to the borders was during Trajan. Likely, no one would have paid much attention, beyond ensuring these bunch of upstarts don't ever get the same ideas again.
It's possible that the Persians and Greeks would have another scuffle, potentially as devastating as the historical one. In which case Islam could rise, but by then it'll be too late. The historical rise of Islam was the moment for it to happen, any alter and Europe would have gotten its general affairs in order. We could get a Muslim Middle East but I doubt any part of Europe would be conquered.

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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Thanas » 2008-11-04 04:40pm

Fingolfin_Noldor wrote:Byzantine interest in Arabia was very minimal, and the only time the Empire every extended that far to the borders was during Trajan. Likely, no one would have paid much attention, beyond ensuring these bunch of upstarts don't ever get the same ideas again.
That is wrong. The Roman empire was very interested in pushing the borders into that direction. Even Justinian was allegedly planning an invasion into Sudan and Arabia, but decided against it due to the Ostrogoths and Vandals. Which is why the romans used client kingdoms.

Arabia was very, very wealthy and probably the only wealthy region outside of Persia that would warrant an invasion in the east. However, political necessity never allowed for that. Considering that in this case the persian empire stays pretty much intact, there won't be any invasion of Arabia neither. Not due to lack interest, but due to lack of available means, since the empire will then be busy with the lombards and Awars. If the empire defeats those - possible, but it will be a long struggle since the majority of troops will still be stationed on the border to Persia - then there will be trouble with the franks, germans and visigoths. The visigoths are the great winners here - without the arabs they will most likely set their sights once again on Northern Africa. Which will cause the romans some trouble there. So no, arabia won't be high on the priority list. The romans will as usual have to deal with those uppity westerners again.
hongi wrote:So Islam remains a relatively isolated local religion and political entity in Arabia, used by both sides as a political football in the inevitable coming wars. That pretty much it?
Pretty much, yeah. Arab troops were used as mercenaries by both sides very often. Saracens for example are often mentioned in the notitia dignitatum and by Ammianus Marcellinus.
Adrian Laguna wrote:It's possible that the Persians and Greeks would have another scuffle, potentially as devastating as the historical one. In which case Islam could rise, but by then it'll be too late. The historical rise of Islam was the moment for it to happen, any alter and Europe would have gotten its general affairs in order. We could get a Muslim Middle East but I doubt any part of Europe would be conquered.
Agreed, though I do not think they will succesfully occupy any roman land for a long time if the romans manage to deal with the awars.
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Samuel » 2008-11-05 12:51am

Could they push across the Red Sea into Africa?

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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Maxentius » 2008-11-05 10:25am

The Arabs or the Byzantines?

Assuming you meant the Arabs, as the Byzantines were still in possession of most of Egypt at this time, they will need to contend with the Kingdom of Aksum, a Christian Ethiopian Kingdom that was by all accounts I have heard not an easy pushover, and the Blemmyes Tribes in the Upper Sudan.

So, yes, they could extend that way, though I do not feel qualified to speculate on whether or not they would be able to take purchase in the Sudan. Invading Byzantine North Africa would be tantamount to suicide.
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Re: Byzantines don't fight Persia in the early 600s (RAR!)

Post by Thanas » 2008-11-05 11:50am

Maxentius wrote:The Arabs or the Byzantines?

Assuming you meant the Arabs, as the Byzantines were still in possession of most of Egypt at this time, they will need to contend with the Kingdom of Aksum, a Christian Ethiopian Kingdom that was by all accounts I have heard not an easy pushover, and the Blemmyes Tribes in the Upper Sudan.
There is no reason for them to push into the Kingdom of Aksum. The kingdom sheltered the first followers of Mohammed from prosecution and was therefore not considered a hostile power until the seventh century when the Arabs took over the trade.

Also, when the arabs tried to push into Aksum, they got such a beatdown that they agreed to let them be in peace if they would erect a single mosque and pay a tribute of 40 units of some kind (gold coins? I do not have the book available).

Considering that the Byzantines are allied with the kingdom of Axum and those two are the two dominant naval powers in the region, I see no reason to assume the arabs would be able to even cross the red sea in force. Remember that this is the time when greek fire was widely used and the arabs failed to defeat the Byzantine navy when they were at the height of their power and the Byzantines were clinging on to dear life. Now, the arabs are supposed to suddenly defeat two kingdoms who are close to the zenith of their powers? Nah. My bet is that the red sea will literally be red in such a scenario.

Also, the kingdom of Axum had land on the arab peninsula as well. The arabs would have to take those fortresses first. Again, if the Byzantines reinforce those by sea, the Arabs will suffer greatly as well. Furthermore, their cost is open to retaliatory raids by the naval powers.

Even if we assume they take all these and manage to shatter both the Byzantine navy and the kingdom of Axum, they then have to deal with the Blemmyes who will be supported by the Byzantines. The Blemmyes were fierce enough to force Justinian to surrender territory to them. And Justinian was no pushover at all.

So it might be easier for the arabs to try to expand into India instead of trying to cross the red sea. However, India is a deathtrap as well, so they are pretty much screwed either way. I still maintain that their best bet is a quick push towards Palmyra and trying to take the city quickly. Palmyra is an excellent position to start raids from. Not that it would help them much in the long run, but maybe the Byzantines will get tired of them (especially with the Awars and Lombards being in play) and buy them off.
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