Middle Eastern Empires

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Middle eastern empires have been instrumental in the spreading of ideas, technology and religions within its territories and to outliers. Since the 7th century all Middle Eastern Empires, with the exception of the Byzantine Empire, have been Muslim, some of them claiming the titles of Islamic caliphate. The last major empire based in the region was the Ottoman Empire.

Pre-1700 BCE: The Ancient Middle East[edit]

The rich, fertile lands of Mesopotamia gave birth to some of the oldest sedentary civilizations. The Sumerians, considered by many to be the oldest civilization (at 5000 BC), contributed to later societies credited with several important innovations such as writing, boats, and the wheel.

Over time, Mesopotamia would see the rise and fall of many great civilizations that would make the region one of the most vibrant and colorful in history, including empires like that of the Assyrians and trade kingdoms such as the Lydians and Phoenicians, all of which were influential to other neighboring civilizations.

North-West of Mesopotamia were the Hittites, who were probably the first people to use Iron weapons. To the South-West was Egypt, not nearly as old as Sumer, but one with rich resources that sustained a thriving culture. Political fluctuation was large, partly because of the lack of natural defences in the region.

The Sumerian Empire[edit]

Main article: Sumer

The cities of Sumer had a legacy of intercity warfare, and the tools of these wars have been found in graves, such as copper axes and blades. The first chariot was used extensively, and the Sumerians possessed a dynamic and innovative military.

Early cavalry were employed as shock troops, needed to punch holes into the enemy lines to allow infantry to dig through, isolate pockets and eliminate them. They were also used to harass enemy flanks, and sometimes outflank enemies, and most armies trembled at the site of a chariot force.

As infantry the Sumerians used a heavy infantry phalanx, depicted on the Stele of the Vultures, which commemorates the victory over Umma by Lagash in 2525 BCE. These were very similar to the later Macedonian phalanx, although the ordnance wasn't quite as advanced.

They carried spears and uncomfortable. Sumerian armies also made great use of skirmishers to harass an opponent. The empire's most remarkable ruler was arguably Sargon the Great (of Akkad) who lived 2334–2279 BCE and numbers among the first great Middle Eastern rulers, as well as a great military tactician and strategist. He is credited as the first general to use amphibious warfare in recorded history

After some years of peace, Sargon waged wars against his rival Elam, and then launched a separate attack on Syria and Lebanon. The key to Sargon's victories, was his coordination in army movement, his ability to improvise tactics, his combined arms strategy, and his skill at siege warfare, as well as the keeping of intelligence, always relying on heavy reconnaissance.

After Sargon's conquest of Sumer, the area enjoyed a relatively peaceful and prosperous era – perhaps their golden age. International trade flourished, merchants going from Sumer to the expanses of the east, and also to the vast resources of the west. Goods from Egypt, Anatolia, Iran and elsewhere flowed into Sargon's gargantuan kingdom. Sargon's legacy was one of trade and one of forming the standing army, which later rulers would use to spread their own havoc.

When Sargon died, Rimush, his son, inherited the empire, however, he was plagued by constant uprisings – after he died his brother took the throne. He too was plagued by constant rebellion, and was later usurped by Naram-Sin. Naram-Sin quickly destroyed and dispersed the Sumerian rebels and also went on a vast campaign of conquest, taking his armies to Lebanon, Syria and Israel, and then to Egypt. However, after Naram-Sin, the dynasty went into decline, and soon fell altogether, left to the annals of history.

1700–1450 BCE: The Egyptian, Babylonian, and Hittite Empires[edit]

The Egyptian Empire[edit]

Main article: Ancient Egypt

From 1560 to 1080 BC, the Egyptian Empire reached its zenith as the dominant power in the Middle East. When Rome was still a marsh and the Acropolis was an empty rock, Egypt was already 1,000 years old. Although the period of the pyramid-builders was long over, Egypt lay on the threshold of its greatest age. The New Kingdom would be an empire forged by conquest, maintained by intimidation and diplomacy, and remembered long after its demise.

By 1400 BC the Egyptian empire stretched from Northern Syria to the Sudan in Africa. Led by Amenhotep III, it was a golden age of wealth, power and prosperity. Remarkable diplomacy was used to keep the empire’s rivals at bay. Art, technology and new ideas flourish and Egyptian rulers were seen as gods.

The peak of Egyptian imperial expansion came when threatened from abroad, Ramesses II led an army north to fight the Hittites at Kadesh. The battle was his crowning achievement, and the basis for a new period of stability and wealth. Resources flooded into Egypt. However, soon foreign powers once again threatened, and some provinces questioned their allegiance.

After the long reign of Ramesses II, the great tombs were systematically looted and civil war ensued. Though Egypt was once again divided, carved up among foreign powers, the period left a rich legacy that reverberated through the ages.

The Babylonian Empire[edit]

Main article: Babylon

The city of Babylon makes its first appearance in our sources after the fall of the Third Dynasty of Ur, which had ruled the city states of the alluvial plain between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris for more than a century. An agricultural crisis meant the end of this centralized state, and several more or less nomadic tribes settled in southern Mesopotamia. One of these was the nation of the Amorites("westerners"), which took over Isin, Larsa, and Babylon. Their kings are known as the First Dynasty of Babylon.

The area was reunited by Hammurabi, a king of Babylon of Amorite descent . From his reign on, the alluvial plain of southern Iraq was called, with a deliberate archaism, Mât Akkadî, "the country of Akkad", after the city that had united the region centuries before. We call it Babylonia. It was one of the most fertile and rich parts of the ancient world.

Babylon and its ally Larsa fought a defensive war against Elam, the archenemy of Akkad. After this war had been brought to a successful end, Hammurabi turned against Larsa, and defeated its king Rim-Sin. This scenario was repeated. Together with king Zimrilim of Mari, Hammurabi waged war against Aššur, and after success had been achieved, the Babylonians attacked their ally.

Mari was sacked. Other wars were fought against Jamšad (Aleppo), Elam, Ešnunna, and the mountain tribes in the Zagros. Babylon now was the capital of the entire region between Harran in the northwest and the Persian Gulf in the southeast.

Hammurabi's successes became the problems of his successors. After the annexation of Mari in the northwest and Ešnunna in the east, there was no buffer against the increasing power of the Hittite Empire and the Kassite tribes in the Zagros. It was impossible for the successors of Hammurabi to fight against all these enemies at the same time, and they started to lose grip. These enemies sometimes invaded Babylonia, and in 1595, the Hittite king Mursilis I advanced along the Euphrates, sacked Babylon, and even took away the statue of the supreme god of Babylonia, Marduk, from its temple, the Esagila.

With the fall of the Assyrian empire (612 BCE), the Babylonian Empire was the most powerful state in the ancient world. Even after the Babylonian Empire had been overthrown by the Persian king Cyrus the Great (539), the city itself remained an important cultural center, and the ultimate prize in the eyes of aspiring conquerors.

The Hittite Empire[edit]

Main article: Hittites

The Hittite empire is often confused with that of the Chaldean/Babylonians and Greek historians of the period rarely mention it.

The Egyptian documents that mention the eponymous Hatti region of the Hittites are the war annals of Thutmoses III and of Seti and Ramses II . The El Amarna letters, written in cuneiform, refer frequently to Hatti. This period in the conventional chronology covers the time from about 1500–1250 BC. Merneptah who followed Ramses II, said that Hatti was pacified. Ramses III, supposedly of about 1200–1180 BC, wrote that Hatti was already crushed or wasted.

A Babylonian chronicle mentions the Hatti in connection with an invasion of Babylon at the close of the ancient dynasty of Hammurabi supposedly in the 17th or 16th century.

600 BCE: The Median, Chaldean and Lydian Empires[edit]

The Median Empire[edit]

Main article: Medes

The Median Empire, was the first Iranian dynasty corresponding to the northeastern section of present-day Iran, Northern-Khvarvarana and Asuristan, and South and Eastern Anatolia. The inhabitants, who were known as Medes, and their neighbors, the Persians, spoke Median languages that were closely related to Aryan (Old Persian). Historians know very little about the Iranian culture under the Median dynasty, except that Zoroastrianism as well as a polytheistic religion was practiced, and a priestly caste called the Magi existed.

Traditionally, the creator of the Median kingdom was one Deioces, who, according to Herodotus, reigned from 728 to 675 BCE and founded the Median capital Ecbatana(Hâgmatâna or modern Hamadan). Attempts have been made to associate Daiaukku, a local Zagros king mentioned in a cuneiform text as one of the captives deported to Assyria by Sargon II in 714 BCE, with the Deioces of Herodotus, but such an association is highly unlikely. To judge from the Assyrian sources, no Median kingdom such as Herodotus describes for the reign of Deioces existed in the early 7th century BCE; at best, he is reporting a Median legend of the founding of their kingdom.

The Medes gained control over the lands in eastern Anatolia that had once been part of Urartu and eventually became embroiled in war with the Lydians, the dominant political power in western Asia Minor. In 585 BCE, probably through the mediation of the Babylonians, peace was established between Media and Lydia, and the Halys (Kizil) River was fixed as the boundary between the two kingdoms. Thus a new balance of power was established in the Middle East among Medes, Lydians, Babylonians, and, far to the south, Egyptians.

At his death, Cyaxares controlled vast territories: all of Anatolia to the Halys, the whole of western Iran eastward, perhaps as far as the area of modern Tehran, and all of south-western Iran, including Fars. Whether it is appropriate to call these holdings a kingdom is debatable; one suspects that authority over the various peoples, Iranian and non-Iranian, who occupied these territories was exerted in the form of a confederation such as is implied by the ancient Iranian royal title, king of kings.

Astyages followed his father, Cyaxares, on the Median throne (585–550 BCE). Comparatively little is known of his reign. All was not well with the alliance with Babylon, and there is some evidence to suggest that Babylonia may have feared Median power. The latter, however, was soon in no position to threaten others, for Astyages was himself under attack. Indeed, Astyages and the Medians were soon overthrown by the rise to power in the Iranian world of Cyrus II the Great

The Chaldean Empire[edit]

Main article: Chaldea

While the Median kingdom controlled the highland region, the Chaldeans, with their capital at Babylon, were masters of the Fertile Crescent. Nebuchadnezzar, becoming king of the Chaldeans in 604 BC, raised Babylonia to another epoch of brilliance after more than a thousand years of eclipse. By defeating the Egyptians in Syria, Nebuchadnezzar ended their hopes of re-creating their empire. He destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC and carried thousands of Jews captive to Babylonia.

Nebuchadnezzar reconstructed Babylon, making it the largest and most impressive city of its day. The tremendous city walls were wide enough at the top to have rows of small houses on either side. In the center of Babylon ran the famous Procession Street, which passed through the Ishtar Gate. This arch, which was adorned with brilliant tile animals, is the best remaining example of Babylonian architecture.

The immense palace of Nebuchadnezzar towered terrace upon terrace, each resplendent with masses of ferns, flowers, and trees. These roof gardens, the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, were so beautiful that they were regarded by the Greeks as one of the seven wonders of the world.

Nebuchadnezzar also rebuilt the great temple-tower or ziggurat, the Biblical "Tower of Babel," which the Greek historian Herodotus viewed a century later and described as a tower of solid masonry, a 220 yards in length and breadth, upon which was raised a second tower, and on that a third, and so on up to eight. Nebuchadnezzar was the last great Mesopotamian ruler, and Chaldean power quickly crumbled after his death in 562 BC.

The Chaldean priests, whose interest in astrology so greatly added to the fund of Babylonian astronomical knowledge that the word "Chaldean" came to mean astronomer, continually undermined the monarchy. Finally, in 539 BC, they opened the gates of Babylon to Cyrus the Persian, thus fulfilling Daniel's message of doom upon the notorious Belshazzar, the last Chaldean ruler: "You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting" (Dan. 5:27).

The Lydian Empire[edit]

Main article: Lydia

The Kingdom of Lydia entered the historical record in 660 BC, when the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal demanded tribute from the Lydian king, "Gyges of Luddi." The grandson of Gyges, Alyattes, built the Lydian Empire during his fifty-seven year reign.

Alyattes captured Smyrna, the greatest port of the Asian coast, and one-by-one, added Greek coastal towns to his domain. Though he let the Greek cities retain their own customs and institutions, their taxes, along with Lydian gold, made Lydian monarchs the richest kings since Solomon.

Croesus was the son and heir of Alyattes, and the most important Lydian king in relation to the Bible. He was fabulously wealthy, spawning the simile: "as rich as Croesus."

The undoing of Croesus and the Lydian Empire came when they attacked Cyrus the Great. Victorious over Cappadocians, Croesus was filled with confidence. The benevolent Cyrus offered Croesus his throne and kingdom if he (Croesus) would recognize Persian sovereignty. Croesus replied the Persians would be slaves of the Lydians. Cyrus immediately attacked Croesus.

After two indecisive engagements, Croesus was driven from the field of battle. Croesus begged for Egypt, Greece, or Babylon to help him, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. The Lydian capital of Sardis fell, and Croesus was taken prisoner.

Though, as was his custom, Cyrus dealt kindly with Croesus, the once very wealthy Lydian Empire became a Persian satrapy called Saparda (Sardis).

500 BCE: The Persian Empire[edit]

Ancient Iran[edit]

Main article: History of Iran

The early history of man in Iran goes back well beyond the Neolithic period. Around 6000 BC, when people began to domesticate animals and plant wheat and barley, the number of settled communities increased, particularly in the eastern Zagros mountains, and handmade painted pottery appears. Throughout the prehistoric period, from the middle of the sixth millennium BC to about 3000 BC, painted pottery is a characteristic feature of many sites in Iran.

The first record of the Persians comes from an Assyrian inscription from c. 844 BC that calls them the Parsu (Parsuash, Parsumash) and mentions them in the region of Lake Urmia alongside another group, the Madai (Medes). For the next two centuries, the Persians and Medes were at times tributary to the Assyrians. The region of Parsuash was annexed by Sargon of Assyria around 719 BC. Eventually the Medes came to rule an independent Median Empire, and the Persians were subject to them.

323 BC: Alexander's Hellenistic Empire[edit]

Alexander the Great[edit]

Main article: Alexander the Great

The king of Macedon, Alexander III, to be known as Alexander the Great, came to the throne in October 336 BCE, aged 20. He would soon took control the Persian empire and cover all the territories of the ancient world, as far as India. Alexander was a remarkable person who combined the military genius and political vision of his father Philip II of Macedon, with a literary bent romanticism and a taste for adventure.

In less than two years Alexander secured the Greek and Thracian borders and gathered an army of 50,000 men for the assault on Asia. In his early campaigns he always maintained a considerable fleet of warships and supplies for his soldiers. With him were many scholars who recorded Alexander's discoveries and achievements far in the east.

In 334 BCE Alexander fought the battle that would make his name, opposed by an army of Persians holding an advantageous position on the steep banks of the river Granicus. The unfamiliar tactics and brute strength of the highly disciplined Macedonian phalanx army, advancing with their heavy weapons, inflicted a crushing defeat to the Persian army, prompting the disgraced Persian commander to commit suicide.

Barely six months passed as, one by one, all of the cities on the west coast of Anatolia were taken by Alexander. As winter came on, Alexander headed for Lycia, southern Anatolia. He annexed all of the cities he went through.

Amazingly, the Persians who until that time had enjoyed a largely unchallenged dominance over the region, put up little resistance. Alexander left trusted lieutenants as well as former Persian satraps to rule his new conquests as he continued on his relentless thrust to the very edge of the known world.

Alexander's conquest of the Persia replaced the Achaemenids with the Seleucids, but the absence of a clear successor after his untimely death and the in-fighting that inevitably followed, meant that his empire would not long outlive him.

117 AD: The Roman and Parthian Empires[edit]

The wars between Rome and the Parthian Empire, which took place roughly from 53 BC to 217 AD, were a unique episode in classical antiquity. Although Rome conquered nearly the entire civilized world around the Mediterranean, The Parthians were a constant thorn in the Roman side.

When Roman expansion reached Mesopotamia, the Parthian Empire had already been prospering as a major power whose outskirts reached far into the east and trade routes ran deep into China. When Roman and Parthian borders finally met, the centuries that followed were a time of diplomacy and war between two empires of distinct cultures and methods of war.

Roman–Parthian relations dominated international policy in the classical near east. As opposed to less organized tribes on Rome’s European borders, the Parthians were a sophisticated culture of commerce and empire. The Parthians garnered significant wealth from its trade routes and its cities stood as some of the largest in the world.

The Roman Empire[edit]

Main article: Roman Empire

The founding of Rome goes back to the very early days of Western civilization. It is so old, it is today known as 'the eternal city'. The Romans believed that their city was founded in 753 BC. Modern historians, though, believe it was 625 BC.

In the 1st century BC, the expanding Roman Republic absorbed the whole Eastern Mediterranean area, and under the Roman Empire the region was united with most of Europe and North Africa in a single political and economic unit. This unity facilitated the spread of Christianity, and by the 5th century the whole region was Christian.

The rule of Rome in the Middle East centering at Constantinople, led to the creation of a Greek-speaking, Christian Empire, known to historians as the Byzantine Empire, which ruled from the Balkans to the Euphrates.

The Parthians ruled Persia parallel to the Han Dynasty and around this time the Roman Empire reached the peak of its power. In this flourishing time and the next, Persia served as the link between Rome and China, and was seen as of pivotal strategic importance by the Romans in order to safeguard their

The Parthian Empire[edit]

Main article: Parthian Empire

Around 300 BC, the Parthians invaded West Asia from Siberia in the north. Like the Scythians, and like the Persians when they first came to West Asia, the Parthians were nomadic people. They travelled around Siberia with their horses and their cattle, grazing them on the expansive grasslands there.

The Parthians soon headed south into Alexander's empire. The recent death of Alexander the Great had heralded the beginning of the disintegration of his vast empire and the Parthians would be one of the main benefactors.

The Parthians immediately succeeded in taking over the middle part of Alexander's empire (roughly modern Iran). This split the Seleucid empire in half, leaving the Macedonian colonies in Bactria (modern Afghanistan) isolated. They stayed there for about 200 years, gradually assimilating the culture of West Asia.

By around 100 BC, with Seleucia increasingly powerless, The Parthians started to take over parts of Eastern Seleucia. At the same time, the Romans started to take over parts of Western Seleucia. Eventually the Romans and the Parthians met in the middle. At the Battle of Carrhae, in the year 53 BC, the outnumbered Parthians won a decisive victory, and the Roman general Crassus was killed.

In 116 AD, the Roman emperor Trajan invaded the Parthian empire and conquered all the way to Babylon. The Parthians were in disarray at this time, due to civil wars, and unable to offer much resistance. But in 117, just a year later, Trajan's successor Hadrian gave up most of the land that Trajan had conquered.

However, eventually these internal weaknesses caused the Parthian Empire to collapse and the Sassanid Dynasty rose.

486 AD: The Eastern Roman Empire, The Dominion of the Ghassanids, and the Dominion of the Sassanids[edit]

The Eastern Roman Empire[edit]

Main article: Eastern Roman Empire

Constantinople, situated on the Bosporus Straits at the mouth of the Black Sea, became a capital of the Roman Empire in 330 AD after Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, refounded the city of Byzantium. Although the city was called Constantinople until its fall, the Eastern Roman Empire became known by the classical name of Byzantium, and often the city was called by its old name as well.

The city's status as residence of the Eastern Roman Emperor made it into the premier city in all of the Eastern Roman colonies in the Balkans, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, Egypt, and part of present day Libya. A good indication of the degree to which the Eastern Empire was not made up for the greatest part of original Romans, can be seen in the official languages of the Byzantines: Greek, Coptic, Syriac and Armenian, with only a very few mainly Christian priests actually speaking Latin.

The sacking of Rome by the Visigoths and Vandals, and then the de facto collapse of Roman power in the west, was felt throughout the Eastern Roman Empire like a thunderclap. The impossible had happened, the power which had held sway in the known world had vanished.

Due to the immense symbolism of Rome, Eastern Roman emperors made two attempts to recapture the west, once ironically using Romanized Germans. This use of Germanic tribes such as the Goths and eventually even Vikings (in the Varangian Guard in Constantinople) was the major reason why the Eastern Empire lasted as long as it did.

Surrounded by huge walls, defenses erected by the Romans at the height of their power, and defended by armies of Germanic mercenaries, Constantinople ended up surviving as a city virtually besieged for the greater part of its life, its territories eventually restricted to the direct area of the city.

The Ghassanid Empire[edit]

Main article: Ghassanid

The Ghassanids were Arab Christians that emigrated from Yemen to the Hauran, in southern Syria. The term Ghassan refers to the kingdom of the Ghassanids, and supposedly means "a spring of water". The Ghassanid state was founded after king Jafna bin ‘Amr emigrated with his family and retinue north and settled in Hauran (south of Damascus).

The Ghassanid kingdom was an ally of the Byzantine Empire. More accurately the kings can be described as phylarchs, native rulers of subject frontier states. The capital was at Jabiyah in the Golan Heights. Geographically, it occupied much of Syria, Palestine and the northern Hijaz as far south as Yathrib (Medina). It acted as guardian of trade routes, policed Bedouin tribes and was a source of troops for the Byzantine army.

The Ghassanid king al-Harith ibn Jabalah (reigned 529–569) supported the Byzantines against Sassanid Persia and was given the title patricius in 529 by the emperor Justinian I. Al-Harith was a Monophysite Christian; he helped to revive the Syrian Monophysite (Jacobite) Church and supported Monophysite development despite Orthodox Byzantium regarding it as heretical. Later Byzantine mistrust and persecution of such religious unorthodoxy brought down his successors, al-Mundhir (reigned 569–582) and Nu'man.

The Ghassanids, who had successfully opposed the Persian allied Lakhmids of al-Hirah (Southern Iraq and Northern Arabia), prospered economically and engaged in much religious and public building; they also patronised the arts and at one time entertained the poets Nabighah adh-Dhubyani and Hassan ibn Thabit at their courts.

Ghassan remained a Byzantine vassal state until its rulers were overthrown by the Muslims in the 7th century, following the Battle of Yarmuk. It was at this battle that some 12,000 Ghassanid Arabs defected to the Muslim side due to the Muslims offering to pay their arrears in wages. Their real power, however, had been destroyed by the Persian invasion in 614.

The Sassanid Empire[edit]

Main article: Sassanid

The Sassanid era, encompassing the length of the Late Antiquity period, is considered to be one of the most important and influential historical periods in Iran. In many ways the Sassanid period witnessed the highest achievement of Persian civilization, and constituted the last great Iranian Empire before the Muslim conquest and adoption of Islam.

Whereas the Romans were seen as the main aggressors against the Parthians, these roles were very much reversed by the Sassanids in their aggressiveness against the Romans and later the Byzantines.

The Sassanids came to power on a wave of nationalism and pride. The first Shah of the Sassanid Dynasty, Ardashir, promised to destroy the Hellenistic influence in Persia, avenge Darius III against the heirs of Alexander, and reconquer all the territories once held by the Achaemenid kings. The Shah saw the Romans as Persia’s main enemy, and in the following wars that ensued, the Sassanids almost upheld the promises of Ardashir.

Ardashir began his reign by conquering the few lands left under Parthian control as well as invading Armenia. He blamed the Romans for aiding the Armenians, who were a close ally to Rome, and in 230 invaded Mesopotamia and besieged Nisibis, however unsuccessfully, while his cavalry threatened Cappadocia and Syria.

The Romans were shocked when they heard the Persians had invaded. They still thought of the Sassanids to be no different than the Parthians, however, the Sassanids were much different in terms of aggressiveness and nationalistic zeal and the Romans would soon realize this. The Romans sent a delegation to ask for Persian withdrawal, noting the past defeats of the Parthians by the Romans as a warning. Ardashir rejected and in 231 Rome mobilized for war under Severus Alexander, drawing troops from Egypt to the Black sea to form three massive armies.

Rome's forces, under Emperor Alexander split up into three columns, one which went to Armenia (the left column), one which went to the Euphrates (the right column), and one that stayed in Mesopotamia, led by the emperor himself. Ardashir engaged the right column in battle, defeated it, and on this note, Alexander decided to end the war and retreated, although a peace treaty was never signed.

In 233, after winning his wars in the east, Ardashir again invaded Rome, this time captured Nisibis and Carrhae. Ardashir extended the Persian Empire to Oxus in the north-east, to the Euphrates in the west, and on his death bed in 241, he passed on his crown to Shapur, who would carry on the war further into Rome.

The Sassanid Dynasty revived the old Achaemenid traditions, including Zoroastrianism, as Ardashir had promised. However, exhausting wars with Byzantium left the empire unready to face the Muslim armies from Arabia.

632 AD: The Arab Empire[edit]

Main article: Caliphate

According to Sunni Muslims, the first caliph was Abu Bakr Siddique, followed by Umar ibn al-Khattāb who was the first caliph to be called Amir al-Mu'minin and the second of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs. Uthman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib also were called by the same title, while the Shi'a consider Ali to have been the first truly legitimate caliph, although they concede that Ali accepted his predecessors, because he eventually sanctioned Abu-Bakr.[1] The rulers preceding these first four did not receive this title by consensus, and as it was turned into a monarchy thereafter.

After the first four caliphs, the Caliphate was claimed by dynasties such as the Umayyads, the Abbasids, and the Ottomans, and for relatively short periods by other, competing dynasties in al-Andalus, North Africa, and Egypt. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk officially abolished the last Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, and founded the Republic of Turkey, in 1924. The Kings of Morocco still label themselves with the title Amir al-Mu'minin for the Moroccans, but lay no claim to the Caliphate.

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