Sunday, August 20, 2006

Today in History: The Sword of Allah

Fields of glory may not be a pretty sight, but they make good history. Today's bloodbath is the Battle of the Yarmouk, in which Khalid ibn Walid's ragtag army tore apart the Roman legions and laid the ground for all the grief of the Middle East thirteen centuries later. Few images can inspire today's young jihadists more than that of the Caliph Omar riding into Jerusalem in conqueror's fashion (on camelback). The Byzantine authorities had long since scurried, taking with them the True Cross, won back in blood from the Persians and carried personally by the Emperor down the Via Dolorosa just seven years before.

Yarmouk opened by the floodgates to the Islamic tide, which reached its highwater mark over a century later with another infidel rout. It would have been small consolation to the Emperor Heraclius that his Persian enemies suffered the same fate in a near-contemporaneous battle, one so valourised in Arab mythology that the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980's is still known as Saddam's Qaddisiyah. More proof that in the Middle East, history is now.

Further reading - a step-by-step guide to the Battle of Yarmouk.

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