The Saracens
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, B.F.A


The Middle East is mostly Muslim. However, it is the cradle of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All of these three religions are monotheistic and have many of the same roots. Islam means "surrender" or "submission" to God (Allah). Islam has two major sects:

(1) The Sunni - Muslims who follow the sunnah (path) of Muhammud as recorded in the Hadith. They like the first four caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali)

(2) The Shiite - tend to disparage the first three Sunni Caliphs. They follow Ali, the fourth Sunni successor and the son-in-law of Muhammud.

The Races of the Middle East are:

  1. Mongoloids
    Turks -
    Turkey is a republic comprising the whole of the Anatolian peninsula in westerrn Asia, as well as being a peninsula in southeastern Europe.
    Turkestan is in central Asia between the Baspian Sea and the Gobi Desert.
    Azerbaijanis - from the Caucasus of southeastern Europe, on the west shore of the Caspian sea.
  2. Indo-European
    Iranians, Kurds, Greeks, and Armenians
    Kurdistan is located south of the Caucasus and is the tradtional home of the Kurdish people.
    Armenia is located in the Caucasus of southeastern Europe.
  3. Semites
    Arabs and Jews
    Arabia is a peninsula in southwestern Asia, largely desert, and is located between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates are states in Arabia.
  4. Hamites
    Egypt and the Sudan
  5. Negroids
    Sudanese and Nilotic (inhabitants of the Nile Region)

A Saracen wearing his mail coat, hauberk,
and with his shield. Turkish archers had
short, powerful bows and arrows that they
shot from horseback.

The word Saracen was used in anti-Islamic Byzantine literature to stand for Muslim. However, a synonym for Saracens, used by the Muslims, is the name Hagarenes (the sons of Hagar, Abraham's concubine wife) and Ishmaelites (the descendants of Ismael, the illegitimate son of Abraham). Saracens comes from Sarah, Abraham's first wife.

Islam energed in the 7th century in Saudi Arabia. By 800 A.D. it was the dominant faith of the Mediterranean world and the Middle East. In reference to Modern times, the Taliban terrorist of Afghanistan want to return to the 7th century. Mostly likely this means that they wanted to continue to conquer.


Slavery was a status recognized by Islamic law. A free born Muslim could not be enslaved. Slaves were non-Muslims captured in war or children of slave parents who were born into slavery. They did not have the same legal rights of free men, but they were supposed to be treated with justice and kindness.

Slaves cultivated land in the upper valley of the Nile and on Sahara oasis. Slaves were generally black Africans. They were brought through the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea down the Nile, or by caravans across the Sahara Desert. Most slaves were women, but men were also made eunuchs to guard households and harems.


312 A.D. ... Roman Emperor Constantine makes Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and its capital was named Constantinople.

561-750 ... marked the rule of the Umayyad Dynasty (a clan of merchants from Mecca) in its beginning form.

570 ... Muhammud is born in the Arabic town of Mecca, an oasis town in the Red Sea region of Hejaz, East of Jiddah. Mecca is the site of the Great Mosque and the Kaaba. Mecca is also a pilgrimage site. The city is closed to non-Muslims. Muhammud's family was from the Hashemite clan. His father died before he was born, and his mother was left destitute. His mother died when Muhammud was only five years old and Muhammud was raised by his uncle Abu Talib of Mecca. Abu Talib was chief of the Hashemites.

589 ... Arabs, Khazars, and Turks invade Persia, but are defeated.

595 ... Muhammud married Khadija, a rich widow. His daughter was called Fatima and she married Ali. Muhammud and Khadija has six children.

610 ... the vision of Muhammyud, Islam's prophet, as seen on Mount Hira.

619 ... death of Khadijah. Muhammud's next wife is named Sawdah.

622 ... Muhammud flees to Medina, which was locared 200 miles north of Mecca, and the Islamic calendar begins at 1 A.H.

624 ... Muhammud marries Aisha, the favorite of his ten wives, aside from Khadijah. Muhammud was allowed as many wives as he liked. Aisha was the daughter of Abu Bahr.

625 ... Muhammud begins dictating the Koran to a scribe, since he can not read or write. The Qur'an states "All human beings were once one nation and one community" (Qur'an 35:24).

627 ... The Medinian Jewish community was destroyed for assisting the Meccan leader, Abu Sufyan, to take control of the Arabian peninsula. This is only twenty (20) years after Mohammed received his visions.

630 ... Muhammud captures Mecca, and sets out the principles of Islam. He removes idols from the city. Most people are converted. A Meccan who composed derogatory verses about Muhammud was put to death. A man who claimed that his stories about Persia were as good as the stories of the Koran was also put to death.

632 ... Muhammud dies on June 8, 632, after a period of ill health, and is buried in Medina. A mosque is constructed around his tomb. The Sunni caliph Abu Bahr is then named the 1st caliph. Islam starts to spread rapidly through conquest and invasion.

Conversion from Muslim to other religions is forbidden.

632-633 ... The Muslims gain control of the Arabian peninsula. Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, and Persia fall to their warriors. Before this these territories were all ruled by the Byzantium Empire and the Sassanian empire of Persia.

634 ... Death of Abu Bahr, Muhammud's father-in-law.

638 ... The Muslims capture Jerusalem (the Holy City of the Christians) and soon begin their conquest of Egypt.

643-702 ... Islamic conquest of North Africa.

656-661 ... Ali Caliph of Islam is in power after the assassination of Othman.

660 ... Only fifty (50) years after Muhammud's visions, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, and Afghanistan are all under Muslim rule.

661 ... The Omayyad Dynasty is formally founded by Muawiya, who is the caliph until 680. The Dynasty lasts until 750. Islam splits into rival Sunni and Shiite factions after the assassination of Caliph Ali, and the Umayyad Dynasty comes to power. They make Damascus the capital of the Islamic world.

670-677 ... marks the first Muslim seige of Constantinople.

673 ... Arabs beseige Constantinople (until 678) without success.

674 ... The Islamic Empire now reaches as far as Pakistan, and spreads through North Africa.

674 ... The Arabs eastward conquest reaches the river Indus, in modern Pakistan.

680 ... Murder of Husain, a son of the fourth Caliph to Muhammud.

685 ... Aldalmalik (684-705), Caliph of Islam sets up a new administration in the Arab empire. His son Hisham began to initiated hostile measures against the Christians.

691-692 ... the construction of the Dome of the Rock begins in Jerusalem by the Umayyad Caliph.

700 ... The Arabs capture Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, a port on the Mediterranean coast of north Africa, near the site of ancient Carthage. This development almost exterminates Christianity in North Africa.

705 ... Muslim Arabs had conquered all of North Africa.

711 ... The Moors (Moroccan Muslims) invade Spain, which they name Al-Andalus, but the Muslim conquest attempts are halted in 732, by Frankish King, Charles Martel. Morocco is in northwestern Africa and has ports on the Atlantic Ocean and the Meditteranean Sea. Morocco was conquered by the Arabs in the 7th century.

718 ... The Moors hold most of the Spanish peninsula. The Muslims start to invade India.

732 ... Muslims are defeated at the Battle of Tours.

750 ... The Abbasid Dynasty overthrows the Umayyads and founds Baghdad (in 762), in what is now called Iraq.

785 ... Syrian born Abd al-Rahman I builds the Great Mosque of Cordoba, in Spain.

786 ... Caliph Harun al-Rashid co-rules Byzantium. Eusebio and Abu Yusuf persuade Constantine (Christian) and Harun (Muslim) of their duties as rulers. There are parallels between the doctrines of Orthodoxy Christianity and Islam.

827 ... Sicily is seized from its Byzantium rulers by the Islamic Aghlabid dynasty of Tunusia.

876-879 ... The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is erected in the future city of Cairo, Egypt.

900 ... The tales of One Thousand and One Nights are begun.

900 ... The beginning of the Fatimid caliphate in North Africa.

916 ... An Arab scholar, Al-Masudi, travels through Africa to Mozambique.

930 ... Cordoba, in Spain, becomes a center of Muslim learning.

950 ... the death of Al-Farabi, the Muslim Aristotle.

955 ... Otto, the Saxon king takes a stand against the Magyars at the Battle of Lechfield.

969 ... The Fatimid dynasty conquers Egypt and transfers its seat to the new city of Cairo.

970 ... al Azhar Mosque and the theological college is built in Cairo, Egypt.

971 ... The world's first universities are established in Muslim cities, such as Cairo.

1005 ... The Holy Sepulcher Church, in Jerusalem is ruined.

1019 ... the founder of the Islamic Druze sect dies.

1031 ... a Moorish kingdom is formed in Andulasia in southern Spain. The Moorish rule there until 1492.

1036 ... Al-Munstansir heads the Fatimid Dynasty in Egypt. Avicenna, a Islamic philosopher dies.

1055 ... Battering rams are used by Spanish soldiers to take the city of Coibra from the Muslims.

1085-1085 ... The Franks fight to free Spain from Islamic rule. They take back Toledo and parts of Andalsia.

1096 ... The First Crusade is launched to recover the Holy Lands from the Muslims.

1097 ... The Crusader armies led by Godfrey of Bouillon, and other French and Norman Warlords advance through Asia Minor to reach Syria. They capture Antioch when Uaghi Siyan opened the city gates and flee in terror, with his thirty pages. The opening of the gates allows the Franks to win. Later Ibn al-Athir, a Mesopotamian, who was an eye-witness, said that Yaghi Siyan ran abour four (4) miles before he was struck by the fact that he had run off leaving his household and children. In his grief, he fainted while on horseback. His men try to lift him into his saddle, but he will not sit up. They leave him for dead and flee. An Armenian shepherd came by and killed Uaghi Siyan. After he was dead he was beheaded, and his head was taken to the Franks at Antioch. Ibn al-Athir stated the Franks had said they only wanted to reclaim cities that once belonged to Byzantium and yet they took Antioch (Gabrieli).

The Frankish Leaders were: Baldwin de le Boug (later Baldwin II), Saint Gilles, Godfrey de Bouillon (the future Count of Edessa), Bohemond of Antoich, and Peter Bartholomew.

1099 ... Crusaders take back their Holy City of Jerusalem killing 40,000 people. After the Fall of Jerusalem, the Muslims wrote that the Franks stripped the Mosque of Umar of its forty silver candelabras and a great silver lamp weighing fourty-four (44) Syrian pounds. The also were said to have taken one hundred andf fifty (150) smaller silver candelabras and twenty (20) in gold. This Mosque was built over a rock from which Muhammud was thought to have ascended into heaven.

1118 ... The Knights Hospitaller is established as a military order.

1123 ... The Knights Templar is established as a military order.

1131 ... Fulk of Anjou, France, is declared King of Jerusalem.

1144 ... Edessa, in Mesopotamia, falls to the Muslims. Edessa was the ancient seat of the kingdom of Macedonia, now in northeastern Greece, thus part of Byzantium.

1161 ... the first Turkish baths are built by Kilij Arslan II.

1171 ... Muslim leader Saladin becomes "Sultan of Egypt," after the death of Nur al-Din.

1182 ... Ibn-Munqibh, an Arab soldier, writes his memoirs.

1187 ... Saladin defeats the Crusaders and recaptures Jerusalem, which was taken back by the Christians in 1099.

1191 ... The Third Crusade is led by King Richard I of England.

1193 ... Saladin's (a Kurd) death sparks war among his successors.

1197 ... The Arabs destroy all Buddhist monastic centers in Nalanda, India.

1200's ... the Umayyad dynasty of Al-Andulus disappeared and the samll Nasrid kingdom of Granada reamined, until the Christian reconquest. They built the Alhambra, or "Red Citadel" in Spain.

1218 ... the beginning of the Mongol conquests

1236 ... Spanish Christians conquer Cordoba.

1241 ... Mongols defeat Christian forces at the Battle of Liegnitz.

1244 ... Jerusalem is lost to Muslim forces from Egypt.

1250 ... Mamluk generals siege power in Egypt.

1258 ... The Mongols kill Islamic leader, Caliph al-Musta'sim, his body is rolled into a carpet, and he is kicked and stomped to death by soldiers and horses in Baghdad.

1261 ... Michael VII Palaiologos retakes Constantinople.

1262 ... Crusaders recover the Spanish city of Cadiz, on the southwest coast, from the 500-year rule of the Moors. Cadiz was originally founded by the Phoenicians.

1300 ... The rise of the Ottoman Empire.

1316 ... the death of Raymond Lull, Christian Missionary to Islam.

1344 ... Amda Tseyson, ruler of Ethiopia, Africa; dies a hero, having constantly repelled the Muslim forces and thereby increases his empire.

1398 ... Tamerlane's warriors attack India.

1401 ... Turkic forces led by Tamerlane sack Damascus.

1443 ... Hanos Hunyadi of Hungary won a series of vistories against the Turks.

1444 ... Hunyadi is defeated.

1453 ... Ottoman Turk, Muhammud II and Sultan Mehmet II (1451-1481), "the Conqueror," conquers Constantinople, an Orthodox Catholic city. The Ottoman Turks have control of Greece, most of the Balkans, and Bulgaria. Wallachia and Serbia are next in line to become vassal states. This was a tyrning point in the history of Muslim-Christian relationships. The fall of Byzantium was the beginning of subjection to servility of the Orthodox Christians at the hand of the Muslims (Turks).

1462 ... Vlad the Impaler is defeated by the Ottman Sultan Muhammad II, after killing 20,000 Turks along the Danube River.

1492 ... The End of Muslim Spain.

1517 ... Salim I conquers Egypt.

1520 ... The Ottoman Sultan, Sulayman I (1520-1556) is the master of an empire stretching from central Europe to the Indian Ocean. He is titled "Calip on Earth."

1522 ... Rhodes is lost to the Ottoman Turks.

1529 ... Germans defend Vienna against the Turks.

1551 ... The Ottoman Turks take Tripoli from the Knights of St. John.

1552 ... The Russians capture Kazan from the Tartars.

1554 ... The Khan of Kazan pays homage to Sulayman I "the Magnificent." The Ottoman Empire is at the doorstep of Moscow.

1563 ... Akbar gains power in India.

1565 ... The Siege of Malta, and island in the Mediterranean, by Sulayman I. Malta is located 60 miles south of Sicily.

1649 ... Turkish ruler, Sultan Ibrahim, is ousted by his family, when his mother helps to have him murdered. He is succeeded by his seven-year-old son, Mehnet IV.

1683 ... The Poles and Austrians repel a Turkish invasion at Vienna.

1707 ... the decline of Muslim power in India.

1830 ... France occupies Algeria.

1910> ... Oil prospects in Persia.

1940 ... Most of the oilfields in the Middle East were discovered after this year.

1980 ... Iraq and Iran fight in the largest war in the Middle East in the 20th century. (for more about modern Islamic Wars see Modern Muslim Timeline


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Hogue, John. Messiahs: The Visions and Prophesies For the Second Coming. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1999.

Hourani, Albert. A History of the Arab People. Cambridge Iniversity Press, 1991.

Vaporis, editor, N.M. Orthodox Christians and Muslims. Brookline, MA.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1986.


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