Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Islamic Maritime Frontier: Trade and Transformation along the Coast of Bilād al-Shām (Syria-Palestine) during the Early Islamic Period

The Arab conquest of Syria-Palestine in the seventh century CE transformed the coast of Bilād al-Shām (Greater Syria) into a maritime frontier, impacting patterns of trade and ending Byzantine control over the sea routes of the eastern Mediterranean. The nature of this transformation has been much debated and clouded by outdated paradigms like the Pirenne Thesis, as well biased histories, and problematic archaeological data. The predominant and persistent narrative along the Syro-Palestinian coast has been one of economic decline, contraction, and regional abandonment. In counterpoint to these perspectives, this dissertation seeks to provide a more nuanced and multi-faceted understanding of the maritime frontier of Bilād al-Shām during the Byzantine-Islamic transition (the seventh and eighth centuries CE). This study applies frontier theory to reassess the available archaeological and literary evidence to reveal the complex social, political, economic, and environmental processes that comprised the maritime frontier. It builds the case that despite periods of conflict, the maritime frontier was a dynamic zone of connection between the two empires. Rather than a region in decline, it was a region in transition, marked by dramatic population shifts, new economic opportunities and avenues of exchange, and the rapid development of maritime infrastructure


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