This was a disaster unheard of since the occupation of Jerusalem in the reign of Titus, but this time the calamity could not be remedied. Never again did this city have an era similar to the brilliant epoch under Constantine, and the magnificent buildings within its walls, such as the Mosque of Omar, never again created an epoch in history. From now on the city and its buildings constantly declined, step by step, and even the Crusades, so abounding in results and various spoils for Europe, caused only trouble, confusion, and degeneration in the life of Jerusalem. The Persian invasion immediately removed the effects of the imported artificial Graeco-Roman civilization in Palestine. It ruined agriculture, depopulated the cities, destroyed temporarily or permanently many monasteries and lauras, and stopped all trade development. This invasion freed the marauding Arabian tribes from the ties of association and the fear which had controlled them, and they began to form the unity which made possible their general attacks of a later period. From now on the cultural development of the country is ended. Palestine enters upon that troubled period which might very naturally be called the period of the Middle Ages, were it not for the fact that it has lasted to our own times.
The ease with which the Persians conquered Syria and Palestine may be explained partly by the religious conditions in these provinces. The majority of the population, particularly in Syria, did not adhere to the official orthodox faith supported by the central government. The Nestorians, and later the Monophysites, of these provinces were greatly oppressed by the Byzantine government; hence they quite naturally preferred the domination of the Persian fire-worshipers, in whose land the Nestorians enjoyed comparative religious freedom. The Persian invasion was not limited to Syria and Palestine. Part of the Persian army, after crossing all of Asia Minor and conquering Chalcedon on the Sea of Marmara near the Bosporus, encamped near Chrysopolis (present-day Scutari), opposite Constantinople, while another Persian army set out to conquer Egypt. Alexandria fell, probably in the year 618 or 619. In Egypt, just as in Syria and Palestine, the Monophysitic population heartily preferred Persian to Byzantine domination. The loss of Egypt was a heavy blow to the Byzantine Empire, for Egypt was the granary of Constantinople. Stoppage of the supply of Egyptian grain had heavy repercussions on economic conditions in the capital.
A History of the Byzantine Empire - Table of Contents
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