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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Iconoclastic epoch (717-867)

The attitude toward Arabs, Bulgarians, and Slavs 


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader
Page 3

Gradually the struggle between the Empire and the caliphate assumed the character of a sacred war. The results were satisfactory to neither Greeks nor Arabs, for the Greeks did not gain Jerusalem and the Arabs did not gain Constantinople. Under the influence of this outcome, said V. Barthold, among the Christians as well as among the Muslims, the idea of the triumphant state changed to the idea of repentance, and both were expecting the end of the world. It seemed to both that only just before the end of the world could the final aims of their states be attained. In the Latin, as well as in the Greek, world a legend became current to the effect that before the end of the universe the Christian ruler (the Frankish king or the Byzantine emperor) would enter Jerusalem and hand over his earthly crown to the Saviour, while the Muslims expected the end of the world to be preceded by the fall of Constantinople. It was not accidental that the reign of the sole pious Umayyad calif, Omar II (717-20), came about the year 100 of the hegira (about the year 720), when the end of the Muslim state, and at the same time the end of the world, were expected after the unsuccessful siege of Constantinople in the time of the preceding calif, Suleiman.

Fourteen years after the siege, in the year 732, the Arabian advance from Spain into western Europe was successfully arrested at Poitiers by Charles Martel, the all-powerful major-domo of the weak Frankish king.

After their defeat in the year 718 the Arabs did not undertake any more serious military actions against the Empire in the time of Leo III, especially since they were apparently menaced in the north by the Khazars. Leo III had arranged the marriage of his son and successor, Constantine, with the daughter of the Khagan of the Khazars, and he began to support his new kinsman. Thus, in his struggle with the Arabs Leo found two allies: first the Bulgarians, and later the Khazars. The Arabs did not remain quiet, however, but continued their attacks upon Asia Minor and penetrated frequently far into the west, reaching even Nicaea, i.e., almost touching the shores of the Propontis. At the end of his reign Leo succeeded in defeating the Arabs at Acroinon in Phrygia (present-day Afiun-Qara-Hisar on the railroad to Konia). This defeat forced the Arabs to clear the western part of Asia Minor and retreat to the east. With the battle at Acroinon the Muslims connected the legend of the Turkish national hero, Saiyid Battal Ghazi, the champion of Islam, whose grave is shown even today in one of the villages south of Eskishehr (medieval Dorylaeum). The historical figure personifying this hero was the champion of Muhammedanism, Abdallah al-Battal, who fell in the battle of Acroinon. The problem of the Arabian struggle, then, was brilliantly solved by Leo III.

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