Arab Siege of Egyptian Babylon : a Classic Study in Islamic Expansion of the 7th Century
By Paul Mitchell Love Jr.
Honors Thesis, Western Kentucky University, 2007
Abstract: The fall of the Byzantine Fortress of Babylon in 641 CE allowed invading Arab armies to move beyond the Lower Nile region of Egypt and ultimately conquer the whole of the province from the Byzantines, effectively ending centuries of almost totally uninterrupted Roman rule. The paper examines this pivotal moment in Islamic history in order to identify four salient features of early Islamic expansion: the struggle of the early caliphate for power and authority; the role of religion; the development of an organized and effective military; the nature of early Islamic approaches to warfare and foreign policy.
Introduction: Good Friday, 6 April 641. The Byzantine garrison of the Fortress of Babylon in Egypt lay waiting for the inevitable fall of the citadel. For nine terrible months this force had remained within the walls of the fortress and watched helplessly as an Arab army swept into the Nile Delta and conquered the surrounding city of Misr. Just two months proper they had received word of the death of Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, and it was now clear there were to be no reinforcements. They had been abandoned. Their failed diseased and hungry bodies. That evening, al-Zubayr ibn al-’Awwam placed a siege ladder against the wall of the castle, and moments later came leaping over with a party of Arab soldiers. The Fortress of Babylon had fallen to the forces of Arab general ‘Amr ibn al-’As.