I’ve always believed that one of the most important wars/battles/events in western history was the 717 siege of Constantinople by the Umayyad Caliphate.
Disclaimer: This post is in no way intended to advocate for one religion or peoples over another; simply, it’s made to discuss a key moment in history with my friends here at the history submadghosts.
Everyone points to the Battle of Tours around the same time, when Charles the Hammer defeated the Muslim Caliphate in France, but it’s very likely, in my opinion, that the Muslims had reached the end of their war making capacity near the Pyrenees. Tours likely represents an end to Muslim raiding in France, not a religious battle for Europe.
The 717 siege of Constantinople, on the other hand, in my view was a potential conquest battle that could’ve changed the religious and political history of Eastern Europe.
By 717, the Caliphate had expanded from Spain to western India. Importantly, they were operating out of Damascus, only about a month’s march from the walls of Constantinople. Eastern Rome was the only centralized government in all of Europe in 717. And, therefore, the only centralized Christian society in the world. Constantinople was the self-professed arch enemy of Islam. This idea was so ingrained that the Muslim world had a name for Anatolia, where their twice annual jihads occurred: The House of War.
It was basically a religious requirement, a societal duty, for the caliphate’s warriors to take down Constantinople and its empire. And in 717, the caliphate was at its absolute prime, Romania at its absolute nadir.
Enter the siege of 717. Had Constantinople fallen, I don’t doubt it would signify the end of Rome. The caliphate would’ve moved in, taken over the impregnable walls of the city, and begin to spread to the European side of the Bosporus.
The Balkans were entirely disorganized in the 8th century. Bulgaria was around, but hardly equipped to deal with the might of the caliphate. Thus, Islam could have and most likely would have spread through the Balkans from the early 8th century. The Balkans would’ve been an extension of the levant, basically, within a couple hundred years.
And from there, who would’ve stopped the caliphate? Probably no one, other than supply lines and geography. Likely, the Alps and Bavarian woods and Pannonia plains would’ve limited further Islamic conquests into Western Europe, so perhaps not much would’ve changed there. But the Balkans and Eastern Europe would’ve changed forever. And doubtless, with an Islamic power based in Constantinople, Islam would’ve had a much larger impact on Europe through cultural exchange, much as we saw some 700 years later. Europe would not be the same.
It’s the walls of Constantinople, built as the west of their empire was falling to Germans and Huns, that saved the Romans. And changed history forever.
The siege of 717 is right up there, for me, with Thermopile, Hastings, or any other battle. In my opinion, it is THE most important battle/moment in western history.
Does anyone have any insights or opinions on this key moment in history? Let’s have fun and, you know, discuss history here on the history submadghosts.
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