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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Iconoclastic epoch (717-867)

The attitude toward Arabs, Bulgarians, and Slavs 

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Page 2

Historians attach very great significance to this failure of the Muslims to occupy Constantinople. It is justly claimed that by his successful resistance Leo saved, not only the Byzantine Empire and the eastern Christian world, but also all of western European civilization. The English scholar Bury calls the year 718 an ecumenical date. The Greek historian Lampros compares these events to the Persian wars of ancient Greece and calls Leo the Miltiades of medieval Hellenism. If Constantine IV halted the Arabs under Constantinople, Leo III definitely forced them back. This was the last attack of the Arabs upon the God-guarded city. Viewed from this standpoint, Leo's victory assumes universal historical significance. The expedition of the Arabs against Constantinople, as well as the name of Maslamah, have left a considerable trace in the later Muhammedan legendary tradition; the name of the latter is also connected with a mosque, which, tradition says, he constructed at Constantinople.

And yet this was one of the most brilliant epochs in the history of the early caliphate. Powerful Calif Walid I (705-15), a contemporary of the period of anarchy in the Byzantine Empire, could vie with the emperors in his construction achievements. A mosque was erected in Damascus which, like St. Sophia for the Christians, remained for a long time the most magnificent structure of the Muslim world. Muhammed's grave at Medina was as splendid as the Holy Sepulcher at Jerusalem. It is interesting to note that among the Muslims these buildings were associated with legends relating not only to Muhammed but also to Christ. The first call of Jesus when he returns to earth, declares Muslim tradition, will come from one of the minarets of the mosque of Damascus, and the free space next to Muhammed's grave at Medina will serve for the grave of Jesus when he dies after his second advent.

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