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The Muslim Conquest of Byzantine Palestina – Monstrous Invasion or Peaceful Occupation?
By Eliya Ribak
Paper given at the 3rd Global Conference (2014)
Abstract: The Persian and Muslim invasions of Palestina brought with them large-scale changes to the whole region. It is unclear from written evidence exactly what took place in Palestina during and after the Persian and Muslim invasions in the 7th century. Many scholars ‘take for granted’ what they see as the destructive and monstrous results of these invasions and of the consequent Muslim occupation. Large numbers of excavators also state that the occupation of Byzantine sites in Palestina continued until the end of the Byzantine period, but few provide any evidence in support of such a statement.
The chronological analysis of Byzantine sites in Palestina is problematical but despite the poor data quality, it has been possible to assemble a limited number of sites for which the dating evidence can tentatively be said to be reliable. These data appear to confirm the impression that the Persian and Muslim invasion in the seventh-century AD caused the abandonment and destruction of sites. They do not clearly indicate a monstrous geography, however. There is some evidence for a gradual process of abandonment of religious and even secular sites. There is also evidence for the replacement of Jewish and Christian communities by Muslims.
It is uncertain whether the Muslims themselves actively destroyed Byzantine buildings and settlements or whether these were merely abandoned by a shrinking population. However, several Christian religious structures that were not destroyed or abandoned sometimes became fortified complexes, suggesting a perceived threat of violence and indicating that the occupation of Palestina made it more hostile to its former rulers.