by Morley Evans
Posted on Al Jazeera
Here's a timeline of the Roman Empire, history fans:
The Eastern Romans became Byzantines after the fall of Rome in 476 CE. The Byzantines controlled the region (which did not include the Levant or Mesopotamia) until the Ottomans defeated Constantinople in 1453 CE. Most of the Jews in Palestine converted to Christianity in the first century. Most of their descendants converted to Islam in the seventh century along with peoples from Morocco to south east Asia. Jews, Christians, Muslims (both Sunni and Shi'a) and Druze, lived more-or-less harmoniously for 600 years in the Ottoman Empire under the Sultan in Istanbul. The current Jews in Palestine are descendants of Berbers who converted to Judaism before the Moors conquered Iberia in 711 CE as well as the Khazars who converted to Judaism sometime between 700 and 800. A few of these Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews began colonizing Palestine in the late nineteenth century as Zionists. The Zionist movement has aggressively campaigned against the majority of Jews to dominate them all. Big trouble for everyone began when the British Empire carved up the Ottoman Empire for fun and profit after WW I. North Africa was largely lost to the Ottomans by the time Napoleon took over Egypt. Egypt was ceded to the British when they won the Napoleonic Wars in 1814. The present-day Palestinians are the most likely descendants of the Jews in the Bible, not the people who call themselves Israelis today. The Empire of Alexander extended from Greece, north Africa and the eastern shores of the Mediterranean to present-day Pakistan. Alexander took over the Persian Empire, an achievement the Romans envied but were unable to repeat. Rome lasted from 753 BCE to 1461 CE, 2214 years. Rome survives to this day as the principal Italian city, which is why they call Rome the eternal city (2764 years).
Why is this essay called Middle Eastern HISTORY yet it focuses on Rome? Human affairs are intertwined, everything is connected to everything. Changes in one area affect things in other areas. Historians separate things and simplify them by generalization so they can be examined. Then events and personalities must be put together again to get a reasonably accurate and complete picture. Understanding the past, as much as speculating about the future, is a creative endeavor. "Prediction is difficult, especially when it involves the future." Understanding the past is every bit as challenging. In contrast to Rome, China was unified by Qin Shi Huang in 221 BCE. There was something before him in China and Greek city-states dominated the Mediterranean before Rome. Alexander was a Macedonian. He defeated the main Persian army in 333 BCE, over a century before China was unified but about the same time in the vast expanse of all human history. Here's a map of Alexander's Empire. It is the Middle East:
|The Empire of Alexander the Great|