7th Century

The 7th Century dramatically changed the Middle East

No matter what your beliefs are, studying history reveals that, had the Persian Zoroastrian Sassanian Empire or the Christian Byzantine Empire defeated the Arab Muslim armies back in the 7th century, the Middle East would have looked a whole lot more different right now. 

Persian Zoroastrians vs. Arab Muslims (633-654), also known as the Arab or Muslim conquest of Iran, led to the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion in Iran.  Conversion to Islam was gradual. In the process, many acts of violence took place, Zoroastrian scriptures were burnt and many priests executed. Once conquered politically, the Persians began to reassert themselves by maintaining Persian language and culture. Regardless, Islam was adopted by many, for political, socio-cultural or spiritual reasons, or simply by persuasion, and became the dominant religion.

Byzantine Christians vs. Arab Muslims (629-11th century), also known as the Arab-Byzantine wars took a much longer period of time. These were a series of wars between the 7th and 11th centuries AD. The Christians initially lost the southern provinces (Syria and Egypt) to the Muslims. Muslim raids reached a peak in the 9th and early 10th centuries, after their conquest of Malta and parts of modern-day Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, with their fleets reaching the coasts of France.

To think, just a single change in these battles could have drastically changed so much about the Middle East today. The “what ifs?” are endless, and the impact of these conquests and wars has shaped many people’s religious beliefs in the 21st century. As I said, no matter what your beliefs are, these are interesting historical facts to ponder upon

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Chariot and Cavalry of the Assyrian Army dated about 645 BCE on display at the Louvre in Paris

By the 7th Century BCE the Assyrian Empire, chariots and cavalry formed the core of their armies. They became so reliant upon them that they went to great lengths to acquire more horses. Either through trade or tribute with other kingdoms or raids on other groups such as Scythians or other steppe peoples for more horses.

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Visogoth Votive Crown with Cross from Spain from the 7th Century on display at the Musée National du Moyen Âge in Paris

This was one of the many pieces of votive offerings excavated from the archaeological site in Guadamur in Spain. Part of the “Treasure of Guarrazar”, named after the orchid it was found in, it represents the Byzantine influences on Visogothic artwork but using Germanic manufacturing techniques.

The treasure was considered to have been hidden in the 8th Century due to the Umayyad conquest of Hispania and the destruction of the Visogothic Kingdom.

~Mirror Back.
Date: 7th–10th century
Geography: Mexico, Mesoamerica, Veracruz
Culture: Veracruz
Medium: Slate

The scrolls and interlaces that frame this stone plaque are characteristic of the art of Veracruz. Possibly a back support for a mirror, the plaque has a drilled hole (for suspension?) at its top edge. Such mirrors served as costume elements connoting the high rank or authority of the wearer. They perhaps served a ceremonial function as well. The image depicts the profile of a young man with a small bead beneath his nose that may refer to speech. A net cap with a prominent knot is over the hair, a large earflare with a tooth- or claw-shaped pendant adorns the ear, and a three-tiered beaded collar is around the neck. Along the jaw line, protruding out from his chin, there is a scroll resembling a beard, the extension of which pictorially balances the nose of the figure. The lively, free-flowing scrollwork at the edge of the plaque contrasts with the rigid geometric elements of the image. This combined with the slight incline of the figure and the asymmetry of the design imbue the carved surface with dynamism, creating a visually compelling composition.