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7th Century, 601 to 700

602  Constantinople's army mutinies against the Emperor Maurice and the masses join in against anyone who is wealthy – Christians against Christians. Maurice and his family are butchered as Maurice prays. Their heads are put on display and their bodies cast into the sea. A non-commissioned army officer, Phocas, becomes emperor. Pope Gregory  joyfully applauds Maurice's demise, and he describes the coming to power of Phocas as the work of Providence. He asks Catholics to pray that Phocas might be strengthened against all his enemies.

603  Khosrau II of Persia, who had had a good relationship with Maurice and his family, is disturbed by their deaths and declares war against Phocas and Constantinople. The Zoroastrian priesthood in Persia is pleased. As they see it, their king is responsible for conquering the world in order to spread peace, the Zoroastrian faith, individual salvation and to prepare all humankind for the great, worldwide battle against Satan at Armageddon.

610  The army of Phocas has been occupied by war with Persia, and Avars and Slavs have been advancing through Constantinople's empire in Europe. Constantinople's governor in Egypt, Heraclius, sails with a small army to Constantinople, and with Phocas having lost much of his support, Heraclius easily defeats him. Phocas is executed and Heraclius became emperor.

613  Muhammad has begun preaching publicly in his hometown, Mecca, and he is being ignored or is thought to be crazy.

618  In China, the Sui Dynasty has worked people too hard on public works projects and has lost economic prosperity in its wars against Korea. With flooding and famine has come rebellion and civil war. The victor, the Duke of Tang, becomes Emperor Gao-zu. The Sui Dynasty has ended and the Tang Dynasty has begun.

622  Pilgrims from Yathrib visiting Mecca (a holy city before the existence of Islam) are favorably impressed by Muhammad and invite him to return with them to their town. The town has no unifying governmental authority. Muhammad is fifty-two and becomes recognized in Yathrib as a religious leader and someone to go to for settling disputes.

623  Yathrib has a large Jewish community, and its leaders reject Muhammad's claim to be a leader of Judaism. Muhammad and his followers stop bowing toward Jerusalem and begin bowing toward Mecca, and Muhammad abandons Saturday as the Sabbath and makes Friday his special day of the week.

624  Mohammad has responded to economic hardship in Yathrib by organizing raids on merchant's caravans. He has his greatest success so far, at Bedr, where the raiders kill an estimated fifty to seventy persons from Mecca. Muhammad and Mecca are hostile, Muhammad claiming God to be on his side and blaming Mecca for having rejected him.

626  Avars, helped by Slavs, attack the walls of Constantinople. The Persians also assault the city. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Sergius, leads a defense of Constantinople and defeats the Avars.

630  Muhammad's military has grown stronger, and in his war with Mecca he emerges victorious. Mecca's wealthy are obliged to donate to the well being of its poor. People in Mecca see Muhammad's strength as the power of his god, and they see the other gods as having become powerless. There is a mass conversion to Islam, and Muhammad adds Mecca's army to his own. Muhammad conquers the rest of  Arabia, puts down others claiming to be prophets.

630  Constantinople's army pushed through Mesopotamia, destroying as they went. The great canal works in Mesopotamia have been destroyed. The Persian army has overthrown Khosrau II. His son is crowned Khavad II and signs a peace treaty with Constantinople and returns Egypt, Palestine, Asia Minor and western Mesopotamia to Constantinople's empire.

632  Muhammad the Prophet dies.

634  The momentum generated by victories against dissidents and breakaway regions left Islamic warriors restless and feeling aggressive, and Arabia has been in an economic recession, trade having come to a standstill after ten years of war. War for booty is a tradition, and as an alternative to making raids against "the faithful" in Arabia, Muslim warriors are making raids into Mesopotamia. They meet little resistance and are encouraged to make more war. Islam's first caliph to succeed Muhammad, Abu Bakr, declares a holy war in support of the raiders, and one of the greatest imperialisms of all time begins.

640  Buddhist doctrine and Shinto have been influencing each other. The Buddha, represented by the statue at Nara, has become identified with the Sun Goddess of Shinto worship, and Buddhist ceremonies have been weaved into traditional court ritual.

645  The Soga clan has been oppressive and arrogant and its leaders are overthrown and put to the sword by the Nakatomi clan – whose leader had been serving as Japan's Shinto high priest. The Nakatomi would now select who among the Yamato family would be emperor and continue to run daily court ceremonies.

646  Muslim warriors have attacked wealthy but not common people, and they have not raped as some Christian armies have. In some areas they are seen as at least as no worse than the rule they are replacing. The empires of Constantinople and Persia have been weakened by war and lack of support, and Muslim warriors have conquered as far north as Syria, much of Mesopotamia and all of Egypt.

650  A mid-eastern people of mixed race, the Khazars, expand westward along the north shore of the Black Sea and push Bulgars from east of the Dniester River. The Bulgars migrate south, across the Danube River, and found the kingdom that in modern times is called Bulgaria. The Khazars sell captured people, mainly Slavs – the origin of the modern English word, slave.

651  Almost thirty years have passed since Muhammad's death. The third caliph since Muhammad tries to put an end to quarreling over Muhammad's legacy and orders a committee to collect Muhammad's messages into a standard word, to be called the Koran, drawing from the memories and the tradition of passing history on orally. The result produces the wrath of various people and communities across Arabia who had become wedded to these rival interpretations.

652  The Muslims have conquered Persia, where people and the Zoroastrian religion were a greater barrier to conquest than were the people of previous territories. Muslims see Zoroastrianism as evil, and in Persia, its homeland, Zoroastrianism is doomed.

654  Christian missionaries from Ireland are beginning to evangelize across England. The king of Essex, Sigebert, has been  influenced by Northumbria and has just converted to Christianity. Northumbria defeats the pagan king of Mercia, gains possession of Mercia and its king becomes overlord of England's southern kingdoms. With pagans, Catholicism has won prestige with the military victory – a look of the Christian god's superior power. Mercia converts to Christianity.

656  In Medina (Yathrib) Uthman is assassinated. The leaders of the sect that assassinated Uthman proclaims Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law, caliph. Civil war erupts.

660  The Koran, as an arranged book and considered complete, is published for the first time. Muhammad's main concern after his conquest of Mecca was resistance by recalcitrant tribes in Arabia and claims by rival prophets among the resisters. Reflecting this struggle, the Koran describes non-believers as evil and people who can expect war from God (3.151). But the Koran also advocates peace with enemies who are inclined toward it (8.61). Muhammad wanted people within his realm, including Christians and Jews, to get along. He wanted to tax Christians and Jews, and in the Koran are verses about Christians and Jews not fearing or grieving (2.62). Drawing as Muhammad did from the biblical tradition that had entered Arabia, the Koran mentions biblical figures and repeats the biblical message of God's love and grace. (5.54).

661  An assassination attempt has been made on Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad, and he dies of his wounds, aggravating a split between his supporters, called Shia Muslims. Their rivals, Sunni Muslims, are establishing a new caliphate at Damascus, in Syria.

664  The civil war among the Muslims ends. Led by caliph Mu'awiyah in Damascus, Islam renews military expansion.

679  According to Byzantine chroniclers, Bulgars cross the Danube into the Balkans. Previously they had made raids into the area. This time they come to stay, in territory that Constantinople (Byzantium) considers its own.  Constantinople is annoyed but busy warring against Muslim Arabs.

680  A rebellion against another Umayyad caliph supports the son of Ali, Hussein. He is hopelessly outnumbered at the battle of Karbala, but he wants to die fighting, and does. He becomes the martyr for whom Shi’a Muslims will annually thrash themselves.

690  In China, Wu Zetian has worked her way from the emperor's favorite concubine to replacing his wife and dominating the court, and now she officially becomes Empress Wu – the only Chinese woman emperor in history. Murder and terror have been her methods. Challenging Confucian opposition to rule by a woman, she has championed feminism, and she champions Buddhism.

692  The twelve-year civil war ends when the Syrian army overruns Mecca. The new Umayyad caliph since 685 has been Abd al-Malik.

700  Non-Arab Muslims outnumber Arab Muslims. Despite resistance from Arab leaders, integration between Arabs and non-Arab Muslims is rising. An Islamic empire by Arabs is on its way toward being swallowed by its conquests.

6th Century (501 to 600 CE) | 8th Century (701 to 800 CE)

Copyright © 2003-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.