Episode 6 AD 680-754

The Caliphate and its reverberations upon Christendom

An entirely new superpower – the Caliphate – had arisen within less than a century after the first Muslim invasions, fracturing the ancient Mediterranean civilisational sphere forever, but Muslim assaults at either ends of the Mediterranean – on Constantinople and on Francia – both failed. The enormous economic and cultural setbacks in both eastern (the Roman Empire) and western Christendom that resulted from this. The Roman state imposes iconoclasm; causing resistance by the papacy, which turns to the Franks: ‘Latin Christendom’ as a separate entity is conceived.


  • The Islamic conquest of the Middle East shattered the ancient unity of the Mediterranean and set up two opposing worlds, with that sea no longer uniting, but dividing them.
  • The distant kingdoms of western Europe found themselves in a shrunken Christendom, where they were no longer overshadowed by the bulk, wealth and power of the Roman Empire at Constantinople.
  • The relevance of the ‘Pirenne Thesis’
  • The consolidation of the Caliphate at Damascus and the suppression of native Arab tribal power.
  • A new Arab elite arises. The Caliph’s court society, Arabic replacing Greek as the official and documentary language. The Caliph’s imperial coinage and public buildings.
  • The conquest of Roman North Africa and the fall of Carthage. Muslim armies at the Straits of Gibraltar.
  • The second great Muslim siege of Constantinople fails.
  • ‘Visigothic’ Spain and the formation of Europe’s first articulated medieval kingdom.
  • The Islamic conquest of Spain.
  • The campaign to conquer France is repulsed at Tours by Charles Martel.
  • The Roman papacy, officially part of the Roman Empire, takes on authority in Italy to deal with the Lombard lords.
  • The Roman Emperors reject icons as idolatry and as the cause of defeat. Outbreak of the Iconoclast controversy splits Christendom.
  • The Roman papacy, isolated, turns to the Franks in the north to break loose from the Empire and assert its authority in Italy. In this moment Latin Christendom, medieval Europe, was engendered.

Now with the audio-only version included

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