A great post about late antiquity. The “final war of antiquity” between the Byzantium Empire and the Sasanian Empire exhausted both sides. The Sassanids were close to taking Constantinople until Hadrian stepped up, and by the time he could win the war, Mesopotamia was destroyed. A real instance of modern conditions of “total war” being fought pre-modernity.
There are a few reasons that the the Caliphate was able to spread so far, so fast in it’s first few years:
The Arabs were exceptionally mobile, especially in the desert. Their armies also weren’t something to be scoffed at— they had already proved that they were a nuisance to both the Persians and the Byzantines through border raids. The Persians and the Byzantines both established Arab client buffer states (the Lakhmids and Ghassanids respectively) so to mitigate the effect of the Arab raids. The Arabs, though, could never pose a huge threat until a uniting force came around.
Islam was a force that was able to unite the various Arab tribes. It’s possible that the Muslim warriors believed themselves to be fighting for God, and that Paradise could be their reward.
The weakness of both Persia…
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