Early Islamic Conquests if the Sasanids had defeated the Byzantine Empire

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Mr_Fanboy, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. Mr_Fanboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    I am not an expert on this era, but imagine a world where the Sasanian Empire of Persia had defeated the Byzantine Empire at some point during the later stages of their final war from 602 to 628 - that is, at some point in the 620s. I am sure that there are any number of points of divergence that could have made this a reality, but the important thing is that the Persians end the conflict firmly in control of the Levant, Egypt, and much of eastern Anatolia (their allies, the Avars, may make significant gains in southeastern Europe depending on the point of divergence). The Byzantines are reduced to their territories in coastal Greece, western Anatolia, Crimea, and the Exarchates of Africa and Ravenna. So just as the Byzantines reigned supreme in the Eastern Mediterranean for a brief moment after the war in our timeline, the Sasanians are similarly dominant here.

    But we all know what comes next. The early Muslims are still going to be consolidating power in Arabia while the two aforementioned empires are fighting, which in our world laid the groundwork for their conquests in the wider world. How would their campaigns in the Levant and Egypt have gone differently had the Persians controlled those regions? I am sure that the Sassanian Empire would be overextended here, especially after such a costly war, which may make their new gains vulnerable. Then again, much of the success of the Rashidun forces in these wars came down to sheer luck. Would the Muslim conquests of these regions have been more or less likely than in our timeline?

    Assuming that the Rashidun Caliphate is still successful in the Levant and Egypt, are they also still likely to conquer the entirety of Persia?

    I am very interested in how the Byzantine Empire might react to this situation. As they and the Rashidun Caliphate do not share a border, and indeed have a great deal of Sassanian-controlled territory separating them, might they even form an alliance in order to fight their common enemy? It would certainly give the Byzantine Empire an opportunity to regain some of the territory that they had lost very recently, though the exact boundary between their lands and the new Rashidun Caliphate will be a point of contention. Even more interestingly, what does this mean for the relationship between Islam and Christianity in this world? If I am not mistaken, I imagine that much of the early Christian hostility toward Islam ultimately stemmed from the fact that the major Christian power of that day had fought bitterly with the early Muslims. If that is not the case here, and if the two are even allies at this critical juncture, I imagine that the two faiths could regard each other profoundly differently in this world than they do in ours.

    Finally, what would be the other long-term implications of such a scenario?
     
    Fed and Byzantine fanatic like this.
  2. Hegemon of words and thoughts

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2017
    Location:
    Ribeirao Preto, World State
    I’m not an expert either, but I remember seeing a tl where this happened. In that tl the Arabs broke Egypt off the empire, but Syria, Anatolia, and mesopotamia remained. However, I know that the Persians were stretched, having fought a devastating war over 26 years. I’ve heard it said that the Persian empire was not in the greatest shape before the war, and would have collapsed in any case. As a counterpoint, though, the Persians might have more internal stability, especially in Mesopotamia and Persia proper, if they aren’t pushed back and raided by the Eastern Romans. They might also have more Arabian clients that are loyal to them, which might prove decisive. They might also avoid the dynastic crisis after Khosrau’s death. I don’t know how the Christians in the ERE will factor into this. Monophysites and other non-orthodox faiths might aid or be content under the Persians, but orthodox subjects, especially in Anatolia, might struggle. It also depends on Khosrau’s policy regarding Christianity.

    I think it also depends on when the war ends. If it ends with Heraclius fleeing to Carthage in the early 620s, this gives the Persians about 10 precious years to consolidate their rule and recover from war, if the Arabs invade as OTL. If it ends in 626, with the Persians somehow breaching Constantinople’s walls, they will have less time.
     
    kholieken likes this.
  3. el t Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2007
    I agree. Instead of confronting two weakened empires, the Arabs will encounter one stronger and the other much weaker. A stronger Persia might mean that they can hold back the Islamic invasion, or at least prevent some of the conquests.
     
    Hegemon likes this.
  4. Byzantine fanatic Pasha of the Rumistan beylik

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Location:
    The Old World
    This creates a theological problem. The Quran states that "The Romans have been defeated in the lowest land, but after their defeat they will soon be victorious. Within three to nine years. The decision of the matter, before and after, is with God.” (Quran 30:2-4)

    I'll quote from a webpage (linked below) about this, as I think their summary explains better than I could.

    These verses, above, were revealed around 620 C.E, almost 7 years after the severe defeat of the Christian Byzantines at the hands of the Persians in 613 – 614 C.E. Yet it was related in the verses that the Byzantines would shortly be victorious. In-fact, the Byzantines (Rome) had been so heavily defeated that it seemed impossible for the Empire to even maintain its very existence, let alone be victorious again.

    Not only the Persians, but also the Avars, Slavs and Lombards (located to the North and West of the Byzantine Empire) posed serious threats to the Byzantine Empire’s sovereignty. The Avars had come as far as the walls of Constantinople and had nearly captured the Emperor, himself. Many governors had revolted against Emperor Heraclius, and the Empire was on the point of collapse. Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Armenia, which had earlier belonged to the Byzantine Empire, were invaded by the Persians. In short, everyone was expecting the Byzantine Empire to be destroyed, but right at that moment the first verses of the chapter, The Romans, were revealed announcing that the Byzantines would regain triumph in a few years time. Shortly after this revelation, the Byzantine Emperor proceeded to order the gold and silver in churches to be melted and turned into money in order both to meet the demanding expenses of the army, and finance his drive to regain the lost territories.

    Around 7 years after the revelation of the first verses of The Romans, in December, 627 C.E, a decisive battle between The Byzantine Empire and the Persian Empire was fought in the area around the Dead Sea, and this time it was the Byzantine army which surprisingly defeated the Persians. A few months later, the Persians had to make an agreement with the Byzantines which obliged them to return the territories they had taken from them. So, in the end, the victory of the Romans proclaimed by God in the Quran miraculously came through.


    Source

    More prosaically, a Byzantine-Rashidun alliance against Persia would in theory be possible, and even make some sense as Abrahamic monotheism against the 'idolatrous' Persians, but it's difficult to envisage it working long term since the way the Quran is worded implies that anyone who is morally in the right would not persist in denying the truth of Islam, while I struggle to see Constantinople converting willingly. The Orthodox church was too powerful, and why should they adopt a 'new' religion from the frontier? This is almost bound to end in conflict of some sort, sadly. Politics is still politics at the end of the day, that's why it doesn't mix well with religion imo.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
  5. Noscoper Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2015
    Location:
    Internet
    Something to keep in mind even thought Persian and Byzantine empire were weakened by war. They still vastly outnumbered the Muslim forces and got crushed.
     
  6. Byzantine fanatic Pasha of the Rumistan beylik

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Location:
    The Old World
    Yes, good point. I forgot to add another point. @Mr_Fanboy said that the Rashidun conquests were "sheer luck". That's the most absurd statement I've ever seen. Great world-spanning civilisations that go on to dominate much of the planet for thousands of years with billions of followers around the world do not emerge by "sheer luck". Luck had nothing to do with it. That's like saying the Roman Empire came about by "sheer luck". Ridiculous. No offense.
     
  7. Sennacharib I Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2018
    While the Persians were overstretched and exhausted, the Byzantines would be equally weakened and Heraclius was old and would have a increasingly limited ability to launch a military campaign. His sons would be in a very rough situation and so in the short term the Byzantines would hardly pose a threat.
    In addition the Persian soldiers would be better able to counter the light Arab soldiers and the Persians would be able to use the massive diversity of their new realm to their advantage like they did with the Jews and Egyptians against the Byzantines.
    As stated above the response of Heraclius was notably slow and sluggish so I’d imagine the Persians might react faster. Also I doubt that the native populations would support the comparatively tolerant Persians over the Arabs.
    So I’d say that it could resolve to be a stalemate or perhaps the Arabs would take the Levant and Egypt, but not push any further into Persia.
     
    Freedom2018 likes this.
  8. Byzantine fanatic Pasha of the Rumistan beylik

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Location:
    The Old World
    This is backwards. The Persians did persecute Christians at this time, and the Romans were also persecuting Jews and Monophysite Christians terribly. That's one of the reasons the Arab conquest was so successful; it was the Arabs who were the only ones offering freedom of religion in exchange for a relatively low tax payment, which in many cases was lower than what they had previously paid to Rome and to Persia. There are stories of locals actively helping the Arab conquests, probably for that very reason.
     
  9. Sennacharib I Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2018



    Well if what you said about taxes were true then why would they have the taxes in the first place? Remember the purpose of the taxes on Jews and Christians. The purpose was to convert them to Islam.
    The Muslims were increadibly brutal to Christians and Jews in their empires. They massacred and beheaded entire towns in the name of Allah.
    And while the Sassanids did enforce Zoroastrianism and kill people, it wasn’t as bad as in Muslim dominated areas. In addition they would have declared themselves the successors if the Achaemenid dynasty and May have toned down their persecutions to maintain control of their territory.
     
    elkarlo likes this.
  10. Fed That Colombian Guy

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    Location:
    Bogotá, Holy Colombian Empire
    A Persian victory in 626 (or hopefully before) mitigates three huge problems the Sassanids had: Khosrau might have survived, which means a more ordered succession (while iOTL succession struggles devastated Iran until 632, 4 years before the Muslim invasion of Mesopotamia started), the Gökturks might not ally with Byzantium, leaving Eastern Iran mostly intact, and the Persian and Mesopotamian heartland would not be devastated by war. Plus, if the Persians are mildly smart, they'll leave puppet states instead of direct Sassanid rule in the new territories, which means overextension might be mititgated. So I think Iran has a much stronger form by the time the Muslims come.
     
    Monter, Freedom2018, Kerney and 2 others like this.
  11. Byzantine fanatic Pasha of the Rumistan beylik

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Location:
    The Old World
    No, it wasn't.

    In fact the history says the opposite. Conversion to Islam was officially discouraged, as rulers wanted to maintain the tax income as long as possible. One could not simply convert, but had to join an existing tribe as well, which was difficult and could only be done by invitation.

    As for the rest, I feel no need to respond to such silly propaganda. The Arab conquests were remarkably peaceful for the era, such as the surrender of Jerusalem, which was done by negotiation and involved no slaughter. Great respect was also shown to Christian places of worship. Obviously it wasn't all smiles and sunshine in all times and places, but it certainly compares very well with what happened to Jersualem when crusaders showed up in 1099.

    I recommend you learn some history about this topic before commenting next time. Thanks.
     
  12. Mr_Fanboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    To be clear, I’m not contending that the conquests were “sheer luck” in the sense that the Rashidun commanders and forces were incompetent or anything - they were obviously skilled at fighting. Rather, I was pointing out that their military skill helped them exploit a very unique set of circumstances that were ultimately outside of their control - that is, it was very fortuitous for them that the two empires who were their most immediate empires to the north happened to have just ended a devastating war with one another just before the Rashiduns came knocking.

    I have seen the rapid conquests of the early Muslims mentioned alongside the career of Alexander the Great, the Mongol conquests, and the fact that the Spanish conquistadors were able to rapidly engineer the downfall and annexation of not just one, but both of the two empires of the New World (the Aztec and the Inca) as events that would beggar belief if you happened to read about them from some other timeline.
     
    Darne, steno19, Kerney and 2 others like this.
  13. Byzantine fanatic Pasha of the Rumistan beylik

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Location:
    The Old World
    Ok fair point. The idea that the son of a one-eyed half-barbarian Macedonian from the fringes of the Hellenic world could take on the mighty Persian empire still seems preposterous now, even when we know it somehow happened :p
     
  14. John7755 يوحنا Lightweight Faqih

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2014
    A mighty Persian empire that came from an upstart Barbarian from the exterior of the Assyrian or Babylonian crown lands. These are very weak and flimsy terms we use. Including our modern perception of war with mass conscription skews our views of how wars are fought in the past. As has been discussed before, there is an unquantifiable number related to countries of the past that relates to numbers of skilled warriors and numbers of resources to go with such. It is likely, that in any given time, steppe hordes could muster greater numbers of this quantity than the massively populated states of Hindustan.

    It is likely that the Islamic Caliphate exhibited this to a degree in relation to the Sassanid and Byzantine Empire. Likewise, the Caliphate possessed an initiative in the war, while the other two fought on the defensive from the very early stages and performed poorly in pitched battles. These pitched battles, is where the Islamic armies gained victories.
     
  15. Sennacharib I Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2018
    • Ban
    I don’t know what book your reading but the Muslims were extremely brutal and had little to no respect in most instances for native cultures. Especially religions.
    During their invasion of Persia they killed many Zoroastrian priests, burned their temples and erected mosques, and when a city didn’t want to be ruled by Muslims they destroyed it.
    In their sack of Rome, easily one of if not the most holy city of Christendom during the time, they looted the city, killed many innocent civilians, and sacked saint peters basilica. This happened after the Arabs invaded Sicily unprovoked.
    I could go on and on but to wrap it up even today Muslims are still practicing similar actions. They recently desecrated a holy Jewish site. Over the past few centuries thousands of not millions of Jews have been forced to leave or convert in Islamic countries. Let us not forget that a significant portion of Muslims(not one percent it’s more like 40% at least) support Sharia law which allows or even mandates stoning, beheading, and killing any one who converts from Islam. Over thousands of years Islam still remains one of the most barbaric religions in the world. In addition the worst place for Christians to live remains almost exclusively in Islamic countries. Christians in Egypt which make up 10% of the population suffer horrible treatment, discrimination, terror attacks, and beheadings.
     
    trajen777 likes this.
  16. John7755 يوحنا Lightweight Faqih

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2014
    @Sennacharib I I would suggest to delete your message within this thread. It will likely lead to a kick or ban. There is certainly a case to be made against the person’s argument that Islam discouraged conversion; as his/her argument pertains only to Christians and Jews and such, not to the totality of the experience of Islamic rule. Further it is not necessarily true even so.

    However, your argument is quite inflammatory and dangerous.
     
  17. Practical Lobster scuttling across the floors of silent seas

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2014
    Location:
    Deep beneath the waves
    To be fair, the Roman-Persian border as established in the post Hellenistic era was, I'd argue, an arbitrary border prone to recurring (if not generational, at least by the late Sassanid era) warfare. The Rashidun got lucky in the sense that sooner or later the cycle of endemic border wars had to break.

    But almost every moment in history is shaped by a thousand factors outside of someone's personal control. I wouldn't have gotten my last job if I hadn't seen the right job posting and somebody hadn't left the position. Rome wouldn't have risen if it had encountered a politically united, powerful rival early on. Buddha's message would have had no appeal if it didn't build on a centuries old religious tradition. It goes on. I think it's weird to say that the Rashidun Caliphate's conquests were some sort of exceptional luck. I see that a lot less in reference to Genghis Khan or say, the Germanic tribes who conquered Rome.

    Anyone who achieved anything owes it to legions of faceless and nameless people and events.
     
    Pempelune, SlyDessertFox and Hegemon like this.
  18. Galba Otho Vitelius Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2016
    There is an interesting non-mainstream theory that the Persians did defeat the Byzantines, and then the Sassanian dynasty was overthrown in a revolt by their Arab soldiers, who established the Caliphate. Both the Byzantine comeback in the war and the Arab conquests and other events in the early history of Islam were made up in the 8th century, presumably to give a more romantic account.

    I mention this not to agree with this, because I can't see any reason to invent all that history out of whole cloth. But it does point to the fact that we really don't know much about the 7th century outside of China, there are just not many surviving contemporary historical sources. But anyway with a Persian victory over the Byzantines something like what the theory postulates would have happened, either the Arabs would have conquered the Persians or the Persians would have converted to Islam peacefully. You would still wind up with something that looked alot like the Abbasid Caliphate.
     
  19. I'tikaf Mufti of Rome

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2016
    Location:
    Singapore
    If you want to discuss topics related to Islam (Political/Contemporary) please head to this thread. I would advise you to remove this post as it is clearly inflammatory and might possibly lead to your banning. Shariah Law is not some barbaric code which says that every Muslim man is entitled to fifteen Christian maidens or some such nonsense, it is a complex body of law similar to the Jewish Halakha or even Canon Law. So again if you wish to discuss Islam and it's " Barbarisms " delete this post so that you won't get banned, and then head over to Chat.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
    Ciniad, steno19 and Byzantine fanatic like this.
  20. Hegemon of words and thoughts

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2017
    Location:
    Ribeirao Preto, World State
    First, I wouldn’t say that all Muslims, or even a great number, act in the ways you say. It’s really unfair to define an entire group by the acts of those who happen to be in that group. In any case, it is not relevant to the conversation at hand.

    Secondly, though I agree that there was some persecution of Zoroastrianism in Persia, it was mostly shunning and some forced conversions, which aren’t great, but are better than burnings at the stake, which was something Christian states praticed not unregularly. But really, this is the limit of intolerance in the early days of the caliphate. Like what @Byzantine fanatic said, the Umayyads actually discouraged conversion (or at least didn’t encourage it), because they relied on the Jizya for a significant portion of income. Those of abrahamic faith were respected, and a lot of the people incorporated into the caliphate saw the caliphate as tolerant liberators that allowed them to practice religion freely (especially repressed faiths like the monophysites and Jews)

    Even in the later Islamic world, I don’t see evidence that they were any worse than European powers. Really, it’s only in very recent history that Europe can be argued to be more tolerant and “advanced” than Islamic countries in general, and even then, I’d be careful in making that judgement.
     
    Pempelune and Byzantine fanatic like this.