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Book Review: The Byzantine Wars by John Haldon, History Press, 2008

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At times I receive emails with which my readers ask me to suggest to them some studies, treatises, sourcebooks etc for specific issues of history, military history and engineering/architecture. Due to the unfortunate fact that I do not have the time to answer to each one separately (which is why I also had to disable the comments on the posts), I decided to write some reviews on books that I’ve studied on such topics. The Greek readers know that I’ve written two historical novels on Antiquity, so some readers ask me which my favorite historical novels are; thereby from time to time I’ll also suggest some of these works for the English-speaking and German-speaking readers, especially recent ones and some older.
I will start this new section with a military study that is a work by the well known Byzantinologist John Haldon: The Byzantine Wars.          The Byzantine Empire during her very long history, faced a multitude of enemy states, peoples and nomadic hordes, thus developing the characteristic Byzantine warfare, one of the most advanced of its time concerning the entire planet. Her geographical position at the “crossroads of civilizations”, her weighty heritage from both the Roman and the ancient Greek armies and her confrontation with particularly dangerous enemies in all her borders, led her to always maintain a vigorous and well-organized army, an army of the real “imperial” kind.

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THE FIRST ARAB ATTACK ON CONSTANTINOPLE (AD 674-678)

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

Walls of Constantinople

The Walls of Constantinople today.

In 661 AD, the new caliph Muawiyah (Muāwiyah ibn Abī Sufyān AD 602–680)became the absolute master of the Islamic-Arab Caliphate after the murder of his antagonist, Ali. He made Damascus the Arabic capital, while Syria became the new political center of the Islamic world. The advanced peoples of Syria-Palestine and Egypt were the main supporters of the new Ummayad Dynasty (AD 661-750) of caliphs founded by Muawiyah. The new caliph based his power on the old Byzantine administrative officials, because the Arabs had not yet the required experience in governance issues. The Ummayad Caliphate had its political-administrative center in former Hellenistic Syria and used the Greek of the former Byzantine rule as its administrative language (and also used the Greek/Byzantine administrative infrastructure), thereby closely resembled to a more extensive Seleucid Kingdom. The main politico-military supporters of the Ummayads were the pre-Islamic local Arabs of Syria and Palestine (the Arab tribes of the Ituraeans, Palmyrans, Gasanids and others), who had become Muslims.
After the proclamation of Muawiyah as caliph, the Arab forces moved again against Byzantium (Eastern Roman Empire), following two directions of attack. A portion of them was carrying out devastating raids in Asia Minor, while another portion attacked the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa (modern NW Africa). One by one the Byzantine fortresses and the (Berber) tribes of the Numidians, Mauri and Maurusians were subjugated by the Arab invaders.

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