Battle of Ajnadayn
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|Battle of Ajnadayn
|Part of the Muslim conquest of Syria
and the Arab–Byzantine wars
|Byzantine (Roman) Empire||Rashidun Caliphate|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Khalid ibn al-Walid
Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah
Amr Ibn al-As
Sharhabeel ibn Hasana
Yazid ibn Abu Sufyan
Dhiraar bin Al-Azwar
|9,000-10,000 to 50,000||10,000 – 20,000|
|Casualties and losses|
Modern estimates unknown.
Modern estimates unknown.
The Battle of Ajnadayn (Arabic: معركة أجنادين) was fought in July or August 634 (Jumada I or II, 13 AH), in an unknown location close to Beit Guvrin in present-day Israel; it was the first major pitched battle between the Byzantine (Roman) Empire and the army of the Arab Rashidun Caliphate. The result of the battle was a decisive Muslim victory. The details of this battle are mostly known through Muslim sources, such as the ninth century historian al-Waqidi.
According to David Nicolle, the Rashidun army left the capital Medina probably in the autumn of 633, but possibly at the beginning of 634. They first engaged and defeated the Byzantines at Dathin on February 4; after that Emperor Heraclius, then stationed in Emesa (now Homs, Syria), had reinforcements sent south to protect Caesarea Maritima. As a possible reaction, commander Khalid ibn al-Walid was ordered to interrupt operations against the Sassanian Empire and reach Syria, which brought him to engage and defeat the Byzantine-allied Ghassanids by April 24, permitting him to enter almost unopposed in Bosra. At this point, Khalid converged with several armies, led by generals such as Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah, Yazid ibn Abu Sufyan, Amr ibn al-A'as and Shurahbil Ibn Hasanah.
Khalid united with Amr's forces in a place known traditionally as Adjnadayn. The site is placed by the Muslim literary sources somewhere between Ramla and Bayt Jibrin (modern Beit Guvrin, Israel), but is otherwise unattested by any geographer of the period. Based on the region's topography, the historian N. A. Miednikoff suggested that the battle was fought on the Wadi al-Samt river, where lies the twin village of al-Jannaba. According to the hypothesis advanced by Miednikoff and M. J. de Goeje and summarized by L. Caetani, it was from the dual form (al-Jannabatayn) of the village the historical name of the battle emerged, by conflation with the plural for "army", ajnad.
Regarding the primary sources, there is an absence of any of Byzantine provenance; possibly, according to Walter Kaegi, because what Byzantine material exists may conflate the battle with other Byzantine defeats, such as Dathin and Yarmouk. The earliest source appears to be an entry in the Frankish Chronicle of Fredegar, compiled in 658-660, unless this is a possible interpolation.
Opposing forces and the battle
Regarding the strength of the confronting armies, H. A. R. Gibb, in the Encyclopaedia of Islam argues that, at best, both forces were made up of 10,000 men, and that the numbers offered in the Muslim sources are "highly exaggerated", especially as regards the Byzantines. Concerning the size of the Byzantine army, Nicolle also accepts this estimate, as he puts it at 9,000-10,000, but instead considers the Rashidun forces to have been 15,000-18,000, a number placed at 20,000 by David Morray in the Oxford Companion to Military History.
The Byzantines were led by Heraclius' brother Theodore, as well as by a figure called "Artabun" in the Muslim sources. The Arab army consisted of three separate contingents, with either Khalid or, less likely, Amr, as the overall commander. The Byzantines suffered a heavy defeat and were forced to retreat to Damascus, leaving the entirety of the southern Levant open to the Muslim conquest. After their victory, the Arab army once more broke up into several columns, until they reunited once more to confront another Byzantine attempt at halting the Muslim invasion at the Battle of Fahl six months later.
- Irfan Shahid (1996). Review of Walter E. Kaegi (1992), Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests. Journal of the American Oriental Society 116 (4), p. 784.
- D. Nicolle, Yarmuk 636 AD - The Muslim Conquest of Syria, Osprey, 1994, p. 43.
- Lieutenant-General Agha Ibrahim Akram (1970). The Sword of Allah: Khalid bin al-Waleed, His Life and Campaigns, page 467. Nat. Publishing House. Rawalpindi. ISBN 978-0-7101-0104-4.
- David Morray "Ajnadain, battle of", The Oxford Companion to Military History. Ed. Richard Holmes. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press: gives 20,000.
- Gibb 1986, p. 208.
- D. Nicolle 1994, p. 46
- Athamina 2014.
- W. E. Kaegi, Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests, 1992, p. 98
- Akram, Agha Ibrahim (1970). The Sword of Allah: Khalid bin al-Waleed, His Life and Campaigns. Rawalpindi.
- Athamina, Khalil (2014). "Ad̲j̲nādayn". The Encyclopedia of Islam, Third Edition. BRILL. ISSN 1573-3912.
- Gibb, H.A.R. (1986). "Ad̲j̲nādayn". The Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume I: A–B. Leiden and New York: BRILL. p. 208. ISBN 90-04-08114-3.
- Morray, David (2001). "Ajnadain, battle of". In Richard Holmes. The Oxford Companion to Military History. Oxford University Press.