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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Heraclian epoch (610-717)

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Muhammed and Islam

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As early as the second century B.C. independent states began to form among the Arabs of Syria. They were strongly influenced by the Aramean and Greek civilizations; hence they are sometimes referred to as the Arabo-Aramean Hellenistic kingdoms. Among the cities, Petra became particularly wealthy and important because of its advantageous position at the crossing of great commercial routes. The magnificent ruins of this city attract the attention of historians and archeologists even today.

From a cultural and political point of view the most important of all Syrian-Arabic kingdoms in the epoch of the Roman Empire was Palmyra, whose valiant queen, the Hellenistically educated Zenobia, as the Roman and Greek writers call her, formed a large state in the second half of the third century A.D. by conquering Egypt and the major part of Asia Minor. According to B. A. Turaev, this was the first manifestation of the reaction of the East and the first breaking up of the Empire into two parts, eastern and western. The Emperor Aurelian restored the unity of the Empire, and in the year 273 the conquered queen had to follow the triumphal chariot of the conqueror when he entered Rome. Rebellious Palmyra was destroyed. Its imposing ruins, however, like those of Petra, still attract scholars and tourists. The famous epigraphic monument of Palmyra, the tariff of Palmyra, engraved on a stone of enormous size and containing very valuable information about the trade and finance of the city, has been transferred to Russia and is now at the Hermitage in Leningrad.

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