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The Throne of Adulis: Red Sea Wars on the Eve of Islam (Emblems of… (original 2013; edition 2013)
by G.W. Bowersock (Author)
The Throne of Adulis: Red Sea Wars on the Eve of Islam by G. W. Bowersock (2013)
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The Throne of Adulis centres around the eponymous, now lost, artefact: a white marble throne and accompanying black basalt stele which stood in an African port city during the sixth century. Transcriptions made of the throne's inscriptions during the sixth century allow G.W. Bowersock to reconstruct something of the history of the regions bordering the Red Sea during the Hellenistic period, the Roman Empire, and Late Antiquity. In particular, he focuses on the conflict between Christian Ethiopians and Jewish Arabs, which was something of a proxy war between the Christian Byzantine Empire and the Zoroastrian Sasanian Persian Empire. Bowersock argues that this environment of religious instabilty and political conflict is a key piece of context that helps to explain the rapid rise of Islam in subsequent years. Bowersock's work is an example of the kinds of insight which can be gleaned from even the sparsest evidence through the meticulous use of palaeography, epigraphy, archaeology, etc, though the methodology employed here means that this likely won't be the most accessible book for the neophyte.
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Just prior to the birth of Islam in the sixth century AD, southern Arabia was embroiled in a violent conflict between Christian Ethiopians and Jewish Arabs. Though little known today, this was an international war that involved both the Byzantine Empire, who had established Christian churchesin Ethiopia, and the Sasanian Empire in Persia, who supported the Jews in a proxy war against its longtime foe Byzantium.Our knowledge of these events derives largely from an inscribed marble throne at the Ethiopian port of Adulis, meticulously described by a sixth-century merchant known as Cosmas Indicopleustes. Using the writings of Cosmas and a wealth of other historical and archaeological evidence from the period,eminent historian G. W. Bowersock carefully reconstructs this fascinating but overlooked chapter in pre-Islamic Arabian history. The flashpoint of the war, Bowersock tells us, occurred when Yusuf, the Jewish king, massacred hundreds of Christians living in Najran. The Christian ruler of Ethiopia,Kaleb, urged on by the Byzantine emperor Justin "to go forth...against the abominable and criminal Jew," led a force of 120,000 men across the Red Sea to defeat Yusuf. But when the victorious Kaleb - said to have retired to a monastery - left behind weak leaders in both Ethiopia and Himyar, theByzantine and Persian empires expanded their activity in the Arabian territory. In the midst of this conflict, a new religion was born, destined to bring a wholly unanticipated resolution to the power struggle in Arabia.The Throne of Adulis vividly recreates the Red Sea world of Late Antiquity, transporting us back to a remote but pivotal epoch in ancient history, one that sheds light on the rise of Islam as well as the collapse of the Persian Empire.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)939.49 — History and Geography Ancient World Ancient history in other areas Syria
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The topic itself is pretty obscure: A pre-islamic conflict between jewish Arabs in the territory of today's Yemen and christian Ethiopians at the other side of the Red Sea that is in the end not much more than a proxy war between the Byzantine and the Persian empires.
Bowerstock analyses and explains meticulously the body of source material, the power structure in the region, the influence of outside and historical powers like the Roman, Meroitic and Egyptian empires and the development of the conflict.
The lessons? Propaganda is everything, it's not about religion, and every aggressor always has good reasons. ( )