Islam and the Dark Age of Byzantium

When I first read this post it was in print form. The Baron had cut and pasted it into a document so I could read it away from the computer.

My first thought was that perhaps Fjordman had found this author and was forwarding an essay for us to enjoy.

You will notice that Mr. O’Neill draws from the same well of knowledge that Fjordman does, and he makes the same judicious use of what he has collected.

I haven’t read the book (yet), but I presume that this is an excerpt from Mr. O’Neill’s work. It certainly makes one want to read the whole thing.

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Islam and the Dark Age of Byzantium

by John J. O’Neill

In his 1936 book, Mohammed et Charlemagne, Belgian historian Henri Pirenne argued in great detail that the Dark Ages of Europe began rather suddenly in the middle of the seventh century; and that this sudden and catastrophic decline in civilization was due to Islam’s blockade of the Mediterranean. Up to that time, Pirenne showed, there was no evidence of a decline in Classical culture. True, the Western Roman Empire as a political entity had disappeared in 476, but the literate, prosperous and urban civilization which we call “Classical” continued virtually uninterrupted. The Goths and other “Barbarian” peoples who ruled the provinces of the West after 467 did not try to destroy Roman civilization and civil society. Indeed, as Pirenne showed in great detail, they did everything in their power to preserve it. They adopted the Latin language, accepted Imperial titles from the Emperor in Constantinople, and minted gold coins with the image of the Eastern Emperor emblazoned upon them.

Yet this thriving Late Classical culture came to a rather sudden end in the seventh century: city life declined, as did trade; a barter economy replaced the earlier monetary system, and what coins were issued were minted in silver rather than gold; literacy declined as papyrus from Egypt disappeared and expensive parchment took its place; and the power of kings waned, as local strongmen or “barons” seized the reins of power in the provinces. The Middle Ages had begun.

Pirenne’s great book, which was published posthumously, received a mixed reception. On the whole, it was conceded that he seemed to be on to sometime of great importance. Yet there was criticism, and this criticism only increased over the years.

One of the most telling arguments against Pirenne was the question of Byzantium. Historians were quick to point out that, whilst the regions of the West may have experienced a Dark Age between the seventh and tenth centuries, those of the East did not. There was no decline, they said, in Byzantium. If the Arab blockade of the Mediterranean had strangled classical urban civilization in the West, why did it not have the same effect in the East? This was a question to which there seemed no easy answer. Even Pirenne believed that Byzantium had somehow coped better with the Arabs than the West. In his time it was generally assumed that Classical Civilization survived in the East, and that the region was less “medievalised” than the West. We are, or have been until recently, informed by historians that the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries in Byzantium were, in the words of Sidnay Painter, “three centuries of glory,” and that during this time “The Byzantine Empire was the richest state in Europe, the strongest military power, and by far the most cultivated.” (Sidney Painter, A History of the Middle Ages, 284-1500) We are further informed that, “During these three centuries while Western Europe was a land of partly tamed barbarians, the Byzantine Empire was a highly civilized state where a most felicitous merger of Christianity and Hellenism produced a fascinating culture.” (Ibid.)

The above opinions, common till the latter half of the twentieth century, were partly prompted by Byzantine propaganda, which always sought to portray Constantinople as the “New Rome” and the successor, in an unbroken line of authority, of the first Christian Emperor, Constantine. Yet over the past half century the science of archaeology has proved that picture to be a fabrication.
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As a matter of fact, we now know that the once-proud Eastern Rome was devastated by the Arab assaults. The same poverty and illiteracy that we find in the West we now find also in the East. Cities decline and the science and philosophy of the Greeks and Romans disappear. Indeed, just as in the West, a “dark age” descends. In the words of Cyril Mango; “One can hardly overestimate the catastrophic break that occurred in the seventh century. Anyone who reads the narrative of events will not fail to be struck by the calamities that befell the Empire, starting with the Persian invasion at the very beginning of the century and going on to the Arab expansion some thirty years later – a series of reverses that deprived the Empire of some of its most prosperous provinces, namely, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and, later, North Africa – and so reduced it to less than half its former size both in area and in population. But a reading of the narrative sources gives only a faint idea of the profound transformation that accompanied these events. … It marked for the Byzantine lands the end of a way of life – the urban civilization of Antiquity – and the beginning of a very different and distinctly medieval world.” (Cyril Mango, Byzantium, the Empire of New Rome, p. 4) Mango remarked on the virtual abandonment of the Byzantine cities after the mid-seventh century, and the archaeology of these settlements usually reveals “a dramatic rupture in the seventh century, sometimes in the form of virtual abandonment.” (Ibid. p. 8) With the cities and with the papyrus supply from Egypt went the intellectual class, who after the seventh century were reduced to a “small clique.” (Ibid. p. 9) The evidence, as Mango sees it, is unmistakable: the “catastrophe” (as he names it) of the seventh century, “is the central event of Byzantine history.” (Ibid.)

Constantinople herself, the mighty million-strong capital of the East, was reduced, by the middle of the eighth century, to a veritable ruin. Mango quotes a document of the period which evokes a picture of “abandonment and ruination. Time and again we are told that various monuments – statues, palaces, baths – had once existed but were destroyed. What is more, the remaining monuments, many of which must have dated from the fourth and fifth centuries, were no longer understood for what they were. They had acquired a magical and generally ominous connotation.” (Ibid. p. 80)

So great was the destruction that even bronze coinage, the everyday lubricant of commercial life, disappeared. According to Mango, “In sites that have been systematically excavated, such as Athens, Corinth, Sardis and others, it has been ascertained that bronze coinage, the small change used for everyday transactions, was plentiful throughout the sixth century and (depending on local circumstances) until some time in the seventh, after which it almost disappeared, then showed a slight increase in the ninth, and did not become abundant again until the latter part of the tenth.” (Ibid. pp. 72-3). Yet even the statement that some coins appeared in the ninth century has to be treated with caution. Mango notes that at Sardis the period between 491 and 616 is represented by 1,011 bronze coins, the rest of the seventh century by about 90, “and the eighth and ninth centuries combined by no more than 9.” (Ibid. p. 73) And, “similar results have been obtained from nearly all provincial Byzantine cities.” Even such paltry samples as have survived from the eighth and ninth centuries (nine) are usually of questionable provenance, a fact noted by Mango himself, who remarked that often, upon closer inspection, these turn out to originate either from before the dark age, or after it.

When archaeology again appears, in the middle of the tenth century, the civilization it reveals has been radically altered: The old Byzantium of Late Antiquity is gone, and we find an impoverished and semi-literate rump; a Medieval Byzantium strikingly like the Medieval France, Germany and Italy with which it was contemporary. Here we find too a barter or semi-barter economy; a decline in population and literacy; and an intolerant and theocratic state. And the break-off point in Byzantium, as in the West, is the first half of the seventh century – precisely corresponding to the arrival on the scene of the Arabs and of Islam.

Archaeology has thus come dramatically to the support of Pirenne, long after his death, and answered for him a question he could not. The impact of Islam was devastating for all of Christendom, both East and West. It was the event that terminated Classical civilization. The destruction of Classical culture in Europe was due to largely, though not completely, to the economic blockade of the Mediterranean by Muslim piracy. Yet the termination of that culture in regions such as Egypt and Syria (formally great centers of Classical and Hellenistic civilization) which came under the control of Islam, was produced by the new faith’s utter contempt for the cultures and histories of the peoples it came to dominate. Right from the start, the Caliphal government in Egypt established a commission whose purpose was to seek out pharaohnic age tombs, for plundering. So complete was the destruction that, perhaps little more than a century after the Islamic Conquest, no one in Egypt had any idea who built the Great Pyramid – this in spite of the fact that very substantial histories of this monument and the pharaoh who erected it were contained in the works of many Classical authors, most notably Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus. Immediately prior to the Muslim invasion the libraries and academies of Egypt, Syria, and Babylonia, were packed with the works of these authors. Their disappearance and the disappearance of the knowledge they contained can only mean, as Christian polemicists argued for centuries, that the Muslims had deliberately destroyed a great quantity of Classical literature.

In the West of Europe and in the East, in North Africa and the Middle East, Classical civilization came to an end in the mid-seventh century; and the reason for its demise can be summed up in one word: Islam.

Holy Warriors: Islam and the Demise of Classical Civilization, by John J. O’Neill, is published by Felibri Publications.

19 thoughts on “Islam and the Dark Age of Byzantium

  1. This essay only confirms what I have already prophecized several times. That if islam rises to power in Europe, countless and priceless treasures, artifacts, art, books, music and whatever will succumb to utter destruction and annihilation. Rembrandt, Velasquez, Bach, Mozart, Goethe, Shakespeare and many many more will burn and be forever lost. As will everything scientific, Einstein, Galileo, Hawking and so on. This is what is at stake. Contrary to last time we will not rise again. Civilisation as we know it will belong to a mythical past at best. Just look to civilisations they conquered in the past. The persians had once a great civilisation in ancient times. What are they now but fanatical mahoundians. In two or three generations the ethnical europeans that survives will be brainwashed the same. And with the passing of each new century they will regress back into iincreasingly more illiteracy and barbarism with the adoption of mahoundian customs like cousin marriages they will be as much inbred as them just given enough time. So because of that I believe we will all slip into an everlasting dark age whcih we have no hope of ever getting out of.

  2. I don’t share your dystopian view of the future. Yes, I have concerns, but we are not going to simply be absorbed into a herd.

    Perhaps it feels different in Europe, but here the sense is that we can lick this eventually. My only concern is that the Saudis run out of oil quickly enough to prevent a lot of what you think may happen.

    All God’s troubles ain’t a Muslim. We have plenty of home-grown bad guys and stupid policies and laws that are more harmful than an encroachment from Islam.

    The US needs to clean house, to reform and downsize our corrupt government, and to stop the encroachment of law into private life.

  3. Dymphna, I agree that our own house is the root of the problem and that Islam is merely preying upon own self-division.

    Mohammadism, being an extremist otherworldly-oriented dogmatism, has contempt for this planet / cosmos and all “historical” human activities.

    This Earth is merely the plaything of its Irrationalistic, capricious “deity”, Allah, who is the plagiarized, simplisticized doppelganger of the “God” from the Book of Job.

    Brutal, blustering, despotic, vain, egomaniacal, torturing, and petty.

    Islam reversed the humane gains of Jesus to the cruel, original monotheistic religion of the region, and turned Mohammad into a second Moses, with the entire planet as Muslims’s “Canaan” ~to be conquered and subjugated forever, and any resistence to their dark creed enslaved or exterminated.

    The failure of the West’s leaders, (academicians, scientists, artists, writers, politicians) to keep aware of Islam, as previous generations were (as any reading of the early U.S. Presidents’ thoughts about Islam, up to Churchill’s assessment of the unsavory core of the faith) has allowed this crude, intolerant, misogynistic, totalitarian ideology to be witlessly invited to infiltrate the West.

    And to naively allow Croesus-levels of petro-wealth to fall into the clutches backward desert thugs, that only refueled their ancient imperialistic ambitions and permitted them to restock their depleted arsenals, tragically and insanely, with infernal devices which their own level of cultural and scientific and technological development was incapable of creating or producing.

    Such somnabulism seems only capable of being disturbed by some kind of massive agony.

    9/11, at first, appeared to be a chance at rousing the multiculti-intoxicated sleepwalkers from their deadly illusion.

    But the following few years have proved this to be a false hope. Primarily because the current leaders in the West, having no clue about the historical depredations of Mohammadism, or the despotic nature of Islam, except for some bizarre sentimentalistic caricature of an “Ali Baba-Persian rugs-Lawrence of Arabia” stupidities ~, decided to proclaim that Islam was “a noble religion” and, worse, “a religion of peace”.

    We will suffer the fatuous lunacies of our leaders about this existential threat to our world until there is sufficient suffering from its barbarities to awaken enough infidel peoples to eject the pious frauds and jiving imbeciles currently in positions of leadership in the West. And until the new leaders openly declare that Islam and the freedom-loving world will be utterly incompatable until Mohammadism reforms away its imperialistic and terroristic dogmas.

    Or, if that remains impossible, until one or the other is defeated.

    If we in the West had the collective sense, and a galvanized instinct for survival, today, we already have the power on our side to crush this malignant ideology as thoroughly as Nazism and fascism were defeated in the past.

    The longer we avoid this inevitable conflict, the stronger this de facto death cult of the warlord from Mecca becomes.

    And the worse our casualties will be.

    And a now-avoidable Era of Utter Terror will become more and more certain to dawn, incarnadine and horrific.

    The present fatuous wish, on our side, for “Peace” will only guarantee an Age of Horror.

    And what slouches out the other end of that nightmare is terrifyingly unpredictable.

    It may be a Caliphate (or Shi’ite Imamate) with bio-terror weapons -or worse- that could seal is reign for millennia.

    If the West continues to dream instead of to know.

    We have roused in time to save ourselves in the past.

    My hope is that we receive a shock that ends our stupor before it ends us.

  4. As I have stated many times before – Islam is a destroyer of civilisations. Whether this creed does so because of design, or it is simply an uncalculated consequence of Islamisation, I have yet to determine.

  5. In a sense couldn’t it be argued that by reducing the Wests free trade eg allying with “antiglobalists,” and reducing the ability to travel freely (Muslim pirate hijackings of ships, terrorists on planes), fundamentalist Islam is trying to do exactly the same today.

    With attacks on trade as well as on our Western Ideals and values is Jihadist Islam not again forcing the West into a “new dark age?”

  6. There is proof of an entire underground city in Turkey, as shown on the History Channel recently. Cavernous rooms created to protect thousands from the predators that were attacking them. The rooms were created by people who were surely Christian since they had religious artwork, which was defaced by the turks who live above when they found it. The people living above could not possibly recreate these rooms. The engineering is beyond anything they understand. They don’t know how to do anything but herd sheep.

    I agree with Robin. How will the world revitalize after islam? It won’t.

    And the article states what I have always suspected about the “”great and glorious”” past of the middle east, all propanganda. It also reinforces my thoughts about the cruelty of the inquisition. That it, also, was a response to the islamic invasions. It isn’t a coincidence that the christian leaders only became ruthless after invasions of Italy, Constantinople, Spain, etc, in addition to the story of the crusades. Most likely a “If we don’t do this the future will diminish” response.

    This also reminds me of the enormous gold stash that was found in the middle east recently, coins dating from just after islam’s founder became powerful. As the soldiers of islam swept through the owner most likely hid the coins hoping things would get better. Instead he/she was probably beheaded. In fact, there is just such a story in the hadith.

    If you think Christianity will be able to revive, take a look at the place where Christianity started. That is the future of Europe and the west if islam takes over.

    If islam is purged from western countries, at some point future do-gooders (christians most likely) will blast what was done, not understanding why, and they will openly welcome islam back in. Because after all it is the Christian thing to do. That’s why there will never be a Christian Bethlehem again.

  7. Re-posted into the correct thread. Please delete the post in the newsfeed thread…..

    I am going to have to disagree with the author in regards to the start of the dark ages in the Western Roman Empire. Things were pretty bleak by the later 5th Century.

    The best work I have read so far was The Fall Of Rome by Bryan Ward-Perkins. Its pure archeological history, which makes for a dry read, but worth it if you are interest in the nitty-gritty of the early Medieval period of the West.

    Bottom line was that security was lost and with it, trade. The Empire, much like the USA today, was a ‘multi-national’ economy dependent on goods from the whole empire. For example, the pottery and other ceramic work from Rome’s Britannia provinces was of such high quality, it dominated the market. People all over the empire stopped making pottery and roofing tiles, buying the majority of it from the Britain. Even the poorest peasants had good quality plates and modest homes had tile roofs (instead of thatch).

    Then the collapse came. Nobody could transport goods safely, so there were no way to buy British ceramics. The Brits, not having a market, stopped making the pottery and tiles, with the skill to make them being lost to history.

    Fast forward a hundred years and you have the Nobility living in homes without tile roofs and using pottery that was of such poor quality, would have been rejected by a Roman peasant a hundred years earlier. Back then cermamics, from the amphora used to store and transport goods to providing basic engineered building material (roofing, floors, water pipes)was critical to life. The loss of fine ceramics meant the loss of comfort and the loss of civilization.

    Sorry about the long winded post… but think about what would happen if Islam managed to destabilize the world enough that trade collapsed. What would the West be like in a generation or two. With our knowledge now on electronic media, what would happen if we lost the ability to store and read the media. A thousand plus years ago, the Church managed to save manuscripts that helped fuel the re-discovering of Classical culture during the enlightenment. What will happen if there is nothing similar to draw on in the future?

    Civilization is tenuous. Barbarity is the natural state of man.

  8. Going from the architecture of the Roman Villa to Anglo-Saxon simple timber and thatch construct is a scary lesson for modern europeans.

  9. Robin Shadowes, what you have prophecized has already begun. Look at what Muslims have done in Kosovo and the Muslim attacks on all institutions in Europe. Islam will eventually rule in Europe and will do what it always does: kill, oppress, and destroy.

  10. Have to agree with Newark here; the “Crisis of the Third Century” is not some sort of figment of anti-Christian imagination. Nor is the dramatic increase in horrific civil sectarian violence that showed up as Christianity spread (violence of a sort completely unknown to pagan society). Nor was the depopulation of the formerly rich Western provinces. Nor was the Western Empire’s voluntary grant of independence to Britain, admitting that they were incapable of defending the island anymore.

    Claims that Roman culture persisted at the same level from the Antonines to Justinian are just wildly unfounded, in defiance of very easily verifiable facts. Yes, the Gothic kingdoms after Augustulus did try to preserve what they could of Roman culture and lifestyles, but there was a lot less of it left, and Justinian’s reconquests and ruinous taxation stripped away the last of that. Coin issuance clearly shows increasing debasement and inflation the whole time, reaching ruinous rates around the time of Diocletian and Constantine. The economy was in a shambles – to the point that Diocletian decreed that people couldn’t change jobs anymore, in an attempt to try to stabilize things (a crazy idea that Ayn Rand reproduces in Atlas Shrugged). Islam in the West was expanding into a void that had been created by the collapse; it was an opportunistic infection then as well as now.

    We had Charles Martel then. We’ll have another now, sooner or later. The only question is how far it gets before the backlash of systematic murder starts.

    Edward Gibbon is still very worth reading.

  11. When you compare history to what is happening now, there is one very important difference that makes all comparisons wrong. The depopulation of the west due to birth control. It changes everything. The barbarians are not controlling their population and will eventually overrun the west.

    1 or 2 kids can’t stop the invasion. And the gov’t doesn’t want them to stop it.

  12. Why is everyone so afraid or reluctant to name this the Anti-Christ? Why didn’t the Pope back in the 7th and 8th centuries?

    It is so obvious.

    Don’t keep panning the Westerners, people are waking up and spreading the message.

    Don’t keep saying it’s hopeless, that is so self-defeatist, like you are an agent of this cult.

    People give up when they think there is no recourse. so stop it.

    I really appreciate this article, it does make things clearer.

  13. S

    The educated upper classes failing to reproduce is nothing new. Emperor Vespasian saw with great alarm the fact that the Knight (property owners, large farms, business owners) and Senatorial classes were having too few children when compared to the ‘mob’. He set a policy of cash incentives, paid from the State coffers to encourage the upper classes to have more children.

    Similar policies have been discusses in Japan, Russia, and other countries facing a demographics bomb.

  14. Two things I read the other day (but can’t give the links for because my computer is doing some kind of update)

    1. The birth rate in Iran is plummeting. It may already be below replacement levels

    2.Can’t remember why they need to do this, but Saudi Arabia is trying to borrow money…

  15. Every now ‘n then, observing some of the more wretched excesses of my own Western culture, I mutter tongue-in-cheek “It’s almost enough to make one become a Muslim”.

    Well, OF COURSE it’s not (nothing could be that bad) but there’s no doubt that if we don’t clean house and re-discover our greatness, the Muslims will do a number on us. It’s in their job description.

  16. Dymphna, correct, Iran is well below replacement right now. They had a massive baby boom just in time to fuel the war with Iraq, now that generation is moving into later adulthood, another 20 years and Iran will be saddled with a crippling burden of old people, and not enough young to support it, and not enough technology to make up the difference (which Japan certainly has, and the USA and Europe might manage). Similar things everywhere else in the Islamic world: plummeting birthrates everywhere. Actually I think Afghanistan and Somalia(?) are the two places that still have really high birthrates, everywhere else is dropping.

    Even the USA’s Mexican invasion may not be such a big deal in the long run, given current birthrates Mexico will run out of people before it can swamp the majority of the USA.

    This piece in the Brussels Journal is relevant, I think:

    Then, as now, the enemies of civilization were a shapeless chaotic mob that were good at tearing down, but having torn down, they melted away. Those that survived the collapse were able to rebuild something better and stronger.

    Defeatism is false. All that is needed is to keep your eye on the ball, form stable patriarchal families, and raise your kids to be clear-eyed and loyal to the right and to their own kind. Victory will follow naturally from that.

  17. It may be a Caliphate (or Shi’ite Imamate) with bio-terror weapons

    The Islamic World with all of its shanty towns is far more vulnerable than the West to bio-attacks. In the Mid 21st Century, a nationalist group in the West has the potential to wipe out entire cities such as Islamabad and Jakarta off the map with a bio-attack. Let’s see how these Islamic Imperialists survive a bio-terror attack exchange, methinks they will get their asses kicked.

  18. Sorry about the long winded post… but think about what would happen if Islam managed to destabilize the world enough that trade collapsed. What would the West be like in a generation or two. With our knowledge now on electronic media, what would happen if we lost the ability to store and read the media. A thousand plus years ago, the Church managed to save manuscripts that helped fuel the re-discovering of Classical culture during the enlightenment. What will happen if there is nothing similar to draw on in the future?

    Solution: two words, Universal Nanofabricator.

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