Byzantium and the Arabs from the VIIth to XIth Century
By M. Tahar Mansouri
Mediterranean World, Vol.20 (2006)
Introduction: The study of Byzantine history in Arab universities appears to some Arabs and non-Arabs to be a strange phenomenon. However, a quick look at the past shows that the two histories are linked and the interfaces between them do not need to be defined or demonstrated. Further, we can say that Byzantine history is as much a part of Arab history as it is of the history of the Greeks or their neighbors. Giving Byzantine history a place in Mediterranean universities is not only natural but is also necessary. It allows “reconciliation” with the past, by building bridges and creating links between the peoples of the Mediterranean area who have a lengthy common history. It will also foster a shared common future. As it is said: “though history can’t give us some lessons, it can be for us an example to meditate.”
To do this I will follow the evolution of the relationship between Arabs and Byzantium from ancient times until the 11th century and will show, if possible, that even though the Arabs and Byzantines were at war, they were not strangers to each other and war was not the predominant characteristic of this relationship. They were able to live together as different but not indifferent neighbors. Peace had its place as war had its time. From the time of Roman rule over the Arab tribes to the rise of Islam in the seventh century the relationship between the Arab area and the Romano–Byzantine Empire evolved dramatically and were characterized by three periods.