Early Meccan period
In The Name of the Most High
THE LIFE OF MUHAMMAD (PBUH): A TIMELINE
Early Meccan period
570 AD (52 years Before Hijrah or Migration to Medina) Muhammad Ibn Abd Allah (Peace be upon him) born in the city of Mecca (a city in the Hejaz, lit. literally “the barrier”, a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia), in the Year of the Elephant.(1) The observance of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad is celebrated on the 12th day of Rabi’ al-Awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar. According to Ibn Ishaq (2) was a Monday. (3) Secure data used for the estimate of the birth of Muhammad are his first revelation in 610, his migration to Medina in 622 and his death in 632.
In the Qur’an, in the Surah (chapter) Yunus 10:6 we can read: «Say, “If Allah had willed, I would not have recited it to you, nor would He have made it known to you, for I had remained among you a lifetime before it. Then will you not reason?”» This ayah (verse) it can be interpreted like between the birth of Muhammad and the first appearance of the Qur’an that had been revealed to him an age of life (‘umr) has passed away. Most of the traditionalists understand that for a sum of forty years. The number forty is widespread throughout the Near East as a sacred number. Some examples are well known: the forty days Moses was on the mountain or Jesus in the desert. Consequently, the story of Ibn Ishaq about the appointment (mab’ath) of Muhammad starts like this: “When Muhammad, the messenger of God, was forty years old, God sent him for mercy for humanity”. So, there are forty years between the birth of Muhammad (570 AD) and the Muhammad’s first revelation (610 AD).
Al-Tabari(4) confirms that Muhammad was born in the Year of Elephant: «The birth of the Messenger of God took place during the reign of Kisra Anusharwan(5) in the year when Abrahah al-Ashram Abu Yaksum marched against Mecca with the Abyssinians, bringing with him the elephant, having the intention of demolishing the House of God.»(6)
Muhammad born into the clan of Banu Hashim within the tribe of Quraysh in Mecca. Muhammad’s father, Abd Allah ibn Abd al-Muttalib (born c. 546 AD / 76 BH), died shortly before his birth. According to Ibn Ishaq, his grandfather Abd al-Muttalib named him “Muhammad”, a name quite unknown at that time in the Arabian peninsula.
The Quraysh (which, like the Hebrew karish, means “shark”) was the most powerful tribe in Mecca and had considerable influence in the surrounding area. Most of its members were worshippers of the traditional Arabian pantheons.
576 (46 BH) Aminah bint Wahb, the mother of the Prophet Muhammad, dies when he was 6 years old. She was a member of the Banu Zuhrah clan in the tribe of Quraysh who claimed descent from Ibrahim (pbuh) through his son Ismail (pbuh). Now orphaned, Muhammad, aged 6, was passed into the custody of his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, who was eighty years old.(7)
578 (44 BH) Shaybah ibn Hashim (born c. 497), better known as Abd al-Muttalib, the grandfather of Prophet Muhammad, dies. Muhammad was eight years old(8) His father was Hashim ibn Abd Manaf (464-497), the progenitor of the distinguished Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe of Mecca. They claimed descent from Ibrahim and Ismail. Abd al-Muttalib supplied pilgrims to the Ka’bah with food and water from the well Zamzam, the so called offices Siqaya and Rifada (Food & Beverages). This tradition was established by his the great-grandfather Qusai ibn Kilab ibn Murrah (died 400-480).
Abu Talib ibn Abd al-Muttalib (born c. 539), brother of Abd Allah, Muhammad’s father, became guardian of Muhammad after the death of his father Abd al-Muttalib.(9) Leader of the Banu Hashim, he inherited the offices of siqaya and rifada. Abu Talib was the father of Ali Ibn Abi Talib.(10)
583 (39 BH) Muhammad, age 12, accompanied his uncle Abu Talib during trading journeys to Syria. In one of them, his prophetic status was discovered by Bahira, a Christian monk of Busra al-Sham (southern Syria), who, after taking one look at Muhammad, pulled off his shirt to reveal the “seal of prophecy” (khatam an-nubuwwah) between Muhammad’s shoulder blades that the monk recognized from ancient manuscripts. Ahmad Ibn Yahya al-Baladhuri (died 892), one of the most eminent Middle Eastern historians of his age, tells the following story in his Ansab al-A shraf (“Genealogies of the Nobles”): «When the Prophet of God (peace be upon him) had reached the age of twelve, Abu Talib once had to depart to Syria for trade. The Prophet of God (peace be upon him) had a close bond with him […] Then one of the learned monks, whom hey called ‘Bahira’, saw him while a cloud gave him shade. He said to Abu Talib: ‘how is he related to you?’ He answered: ‘he is my nephew’. He said: ‘did you not see how the cloud gives him shade and moves with him?’ By God, he is a noble prophet and I reckon that he is the one who was announced by Jesus. His time has drawn near and it is your duty to protect him’. The Abu Talib sent him back to Mecca.»(11) The story of Muhammad’s encounter with Bahira, or “Sergius the Monk” to the Latin West, is found also in the works of the early Muslim historians Ibn Hisham, Muhammad Ibn Sa’d al-Baghdadi, and Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. Bahira derives from the Syriac bhira, meaning “tested (by God) and approved”.
591 (31 BH) Muhammad joined a pact of chivalry (futuwwah) for the establishment of justice and the protection of the weak and the oppressed made by certain notables of the Quraysh like Abd Allah ibn Judan, the chief of the clan of Taym and cousin of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq. Az-Zubayr ibn Abd al-Muttalib, chief of the Hashim Clan brought the young Muhammad that took part of the pact. The oath was called Hilf al-Fudul (League of the Virtuous).(12) Muhammad was chosen because his absolute truthfulness, trustworthiness and integrity, his sense of justice and compassion for the poor, oppressed and downtrodden. Al-Amin, the Trustworthy, the Honest, al-Sadiq, the Truthful, were the titles on everybody’s lips for Muhammad, which means itself the Praised One. The Islamic idea and practice of the Futuwwah (lit. “youth” and by extension, “nobleheartness”) starts with this oath of Muhammad.
594/595 (28/27 BH) Khadija bint Khuwaylid (born c. 555) was daughter of a caravan merchant, Khuwaylid ibn Asad (died c. 585) and member of the tribe of Quraysh. She was a widow with considerable wealth. Khadija did not travel with her trade caravans; she employed others to trade on her behalf for a commission. By this time Khadija needed an agent for a transaction in Syria. Abu Talib ibn Abd al-Muttalib recommended her cousin Muhammad ibn Abd Allah. Khadija was so pleased with the young man’s honesty and success on this trip to Syria that she married him when she was aged 40 and he aged 25. Many wealthy Quraysh men had already asked for her hand in marriage, but all had been refused.(13) While she remained alive during 24 years, Muhammad did not take any other wives. Khadija bore the Prophet six children: two sons, Abd Allah and al-Qasim, both o whom died very young, and four daughters, Fatima, Ruqayya, Umm Kulthum and Zaynab. Khadija was also known by the names Amirat-Quraysh (“Princess of Quraysh”), al-Tahira (“The Pure One”) and Khadija Al-Kubra (“the Great”).(14)
605 (17 BH) The Ka’bah (lit. “cube”) named the “Holy House” (al-bayt al-haram) and the “Ancient House” (al-bayt al-atiq) was originally constructed by Adam as a sanctuary to Allah and after his death by his son Seth. When the time came, it was rebuilt by Ibrahim and his son Ismail and later by the descendents of Noah.
Seventeen years before Hijrah it was rebuilt again following a major fire which had partly destroyed the structure. A Byzantine ship which had been wrecked in the ancient Mecca’s port of Shu’ayba on the Read Sea provided the wood for the Ka’bah, which was built in alternate layers of teakwood and stone by one of the survivors of the wreckage, a Greek artisan called Baqum (Pachomios). «The Quraysh, Muhammad among them, cooperated by collecting stones for the new edifice.»(15) When the time came to replace the Black Stone (al-Hajar al-Aswad), strife broke out between various leaders of the clans demanding the honor of putting it back, leading to so serious a dispute that bloodshed was threatened. A story found in Ibn Ishaq’s Sirah Rasul Allah tells what happen in that occasion. The clans could not agree on which one of them should have the honour of setting the Black Stone back in its place. They decided to wait for the next man to come through the gate and ask him to make the decision. That individual happened to be the 35-year-old Muhammad, five years before his prophethood. He asked the elders of the clans to bring him a cloth and put the Black Stone in its centre. Each of the clan leaders held the corners of the cloth and carried the Black Stone to the right spot. Then, Muhammad himself set the Black Stone in the eastern cornerstone of the Ka’bah, satisfying the honour of all of the clans.(16) Muhammad taught them an unforgettable lesson of unity and solidarity.
Period of the Meccan revelations
610 (12 BH) Muhammad struggled to make sense of humanity’s relationships with God and with one other. He found the paganism with which he had been brought up inadequate, and he was disturbed by the selfishness and immorality he saw in his own town of Mecca. Clearly Muhammad had also learned much about Judaism and Christianity during his trading expeditions.
Muhammad was troubled by the inequities of polytheists of Mecca, with the existence of the poor and those without adequate care. He used to retire himself to a cave on the slopes of Mount Hira near Mecca, also called “The Mountain of Light” (Jabal al-Nur), to think about this injustice and calamities. When he reached the age of forty, one night at Mount Hira, Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an via the Archangel Jibril,(17) the first five verses of Surat al-Alaq. The title of the 96th sura of the Qur’an means “The Blood Clot”. The title refers to the 2nd verse which describes the God’s creation of man from clotted blood: “Recite! In the name of your Lord, who creates: Creates humanity from a clot. Recite! For your Lord is most generous, Who teaches by the calamus (pen), teaches humanity what it knows not.”
The voice of the Archangel Jibril said to him: “O Muhammad! You are the Messenger of Allah and I am Jibril!”(18)
After this experience, Muhammad returned home very confused and greatly doubted his designation, but Khadija and her cousin, Waraqa ibn Nawfal,(19) a hanif, (20) believed firmly that he had been contact by an angel of God. The second revelation Muhammad receive was the beginning of the surah named Al-Qalam (The Calamus): “By the calamus, and what they write, You are not, by God’s favour, possessed, In fact, you have and endless reward and a powerful inner strength.” (68:1-3)
Waraqa ibn Nawfal was familiar with the Scriptures and recognized Muhammad’s experience for what it was. Waraqah said: “O my nephew! What did you see?” When Muhammad told him what had happened to him, Waraqah replied: “This is Namus (meaning Gabriel) that Allah sent to Moses. I wish I were younger. I wish I could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.”(21)
The first four converts to Islam were: Khadija bint Khuwaylid (First Muslim and first female convert), Abu Bakr al-Siddiq(22) (First male to convert to Islam); Zayd ibn Harithah;(23) and Ali ibn Abi Talib, the son of Abu Talib and cousin of Muhammad. Muhammad asked: “Will they drive me out?” Waraqah answered in the affirmative and said: “Anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should be alive until that day, then I would support you strongly.” A few days later Waraqah died.(24)
According to the Qur’an, the Qiblah (the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays) originally faced the al-Haram al-Sharjf (Noble Sanctuary) in al-Quds (Jerusalem): “So from wherever you go out [for prayer, O Muhammad] turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram, and indeed, it is the truth from your Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what you do. And from wherever you go out [for prayer], turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram. And wherever you [believers] may be, turn your faces toward it in order that the people will not have any argument against you, except for those of them who commit wrong; so fear them not but fear Me. And [it is] so I may complete My favor upon you and that you may be guided.” (2:149-150)
The Muslims had this Qiblah during 13 years, from 610 until 623.
613 (9 BH) Beginning of public preaching of Monotheism. Around this time, Allah through the Holy Qur’an then commanded Muhammad to “admonish your nearest kinsmen”: «You shall preach to the people who are closest to you.» (26:214). Also, refer to this stage, came surah Al-Muddathir (The Cloaked One): «O you who covers himself [with a garment], Arise and warn.» (74-1-2) Being a Prophet (Nabi) during three years, now Muhammad became also a Rasul Allah (God’s Messenger).
One day Muhammad climbed Mount al-Safa in Mecca (now located in the Masjid al-Haram), and called out the tribal chiefs. After receiving assurances that the chiefs, who reportedly never heard Muhammad tell lies, would believe him, he declared the Oneness of God. Later Muhammad organized dinners in which he conveyed and advocated the substance of his message. At these events, Muhammad met fierce opposition from one of his uncles, Abu Lahab.(25)
Reactionary opposition arose to Muhammad’s speeches. According to Ibn Sa’d al-Baghdadi,(26) the opposition in Mecca started when Muhammad delivered verses that “spoke shamefully of the idols they (the Meccans) worshiped and mentioned the perdition of their fathers who died in disbelief.” So, as the ranks of Muhammad’s followers swelled, he became a threat to the local tribes and the rulers of the city, whose wealth rested upon the Ka’bah, the focal point of Meccan religious life, which Muhammad threatened to overthrow. Muhammad’s denunciation of the Meccan traditional religion was especially offensive to his own tribe, the Quraysh, as they were the guardians of the Ka’bah, home of 360 idols. So, a fierce persecution starts against Muhammad and his Muslim fellows, those who only submit to Allah and practises the faith of Islam, the Monotheism of Adam, Noah, Ibrahim, Moses, Joseph, David, Jesus and all the True Prophets of the Only One God. (Peace be upon them).
615 (7 BH) The persecution of the Quraysh tribe pushed to Muslims to sought refuge in the Christian Kingdom of Aksum, present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea (formerly referred to as Abyssinia, a name derived from the Arabic Al-Habash). The Prophet Muhammad said of Abyssinia that it was “a land of sincerity in religion”. Before the Hijrah, some eighty Muslims (not counting the small children), including the Prophet’s daughter Ruqayyah bint Muhammad and her husband Uthman ibn Affan,(27) emigrated to Abyssinia, where were received by the Negus called Armah (in Arabic, Al-Najashi) and given refuge. The leader of the emigrants was Ja’far ibn Abi Talib.(28) All events that took place during this emigration are reported by Ibn Ishaq.(29)
Muhammad suffers several attempts on his life during this time of darkness. One such attempt was made by Uqba ibn Abu Mu’ayt(30) who tried to strangled Muhammad with a garment, until he was pushed away by Abu Bakr al-Siddiq. This episode is narrated by the Persian scholar Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari (810-870) in his hadith collection.(31) Uqbah was one the neighbors of Muhammad. Yet he assaulted Muhammad verbally and physically as he was preaching monotheism. One day, when Muhammad was praying in the courtyard of the Ka’bah, Uqba brought the waste of a slaughtered camel (intestines, blood, dung, etc.) upon the suggestion of other Quraysh leaders who were gathered there, and placed it upon Muhammad’s back while he was in prostration. They laughed so much so that they fell on each other. Muhammad remained in that position due to the weight, unable to lift his head from prostration until his daughter Fatima came and removed it.(32) On another incident, Uqba spat on Muhammad’s face at the incitement of his friend Ubay ibn Khalaf, another fierce enemy of Islam.(33)
In another attempt, Abu Jahl,(34) one of the tribal leaders, attempted a pre-planned murder, as he tried to smash Muhammad in the head with a rock. This case is recorded in Al-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah of Abu Muhammad Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham (died 833).(35)
616 (6 BH) Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib (c. 566-625) accepts Islam and the guidance of Prophet Muhammad.(36) He was Muhammad’s foster-brother: they had both been suckled by the slave Thuwaybah. It was traditionally alleged that Hamza was four years older than Muhammad.(37) The Shafiite scholar Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (1372-1449) writes: “Hamza was born two to four years before Muhammad.”(38) “Hamza’s Islam was complete, and he followed the Apostle’s commands. When he became a Muslim, the Quraysh recognised that the Apostle had become strong, and had found a protector in Hamza, and so they abandoned some of their ways of harassing him.”(39)
Also in this same year, Umar Ibn al-Khattab(40) converted to Islam one year after the Migration to Abyssinia. After reciting the quranic verses that were: “Verily, I am Allah: there is no God but Me; so serve Me (only and establish regular prayer for My remembrance” (20: l4).(41) Umar then went to Muhammad and accepted Islam in front of him and his companions (sahaba). Umar was 33 years old when he accepted Islam.(42) He was an expert Islamic jurist known for his pious and just nature, which earned him the epithet Al-Faruq (“the one who distinguishes between right and wrong”).(43)
617 (5 BH) Meccan boycott of the Hashemites. The Meccan boycott of the Hashemites was against the clan of Muhammad, the Banu Hashim, declared by the leaders of Banu Makhzum and Banu Abd-Shams, two important clans of Quraysh. According to tradition, the boycott was carried out in order to put pressure on Banu Hashim members to withdraw their protection from Muhammad. The terms imposed on Banu Hashim are reported by Ibn Ishaq. Al-Bukhari writes: «The Quraysh gathered together to confer and decided to draw up a document in which they undertook not to marry women from Banu Hashim and the Banu al-Muttalib, or to give them women in marriage, or to sell anything to them or buy anything from them. They drew up a written contract to that effect and solemnly pledged themselves to observe it. They then hung up the document in the interior of the Ka’bah to make it even more binding upon themselves. When Quraysh did this, the Banu Hashim and the Banu al-Muttalib joined with Abu Talib, went with him to his valley and gathered round him there; but Abu Lahab Abd al Uzza b. Abd al-Muttalib left the Banu Hashim and went with the Quraysh supporting them against Abu Talib. This state of affairs continued for two or three years, until the two clans were exhausted, since nothing reached any of them except what was sent secretly by those of the Quraysh who wished to maintain relations with them.»(44)
619 (3 BH) The Year of Sorrow (Am al-Huzn). Prophet Muhammad in this very same year, had to face the death of his beloved wife, Khadijah (Radi Allahu anha – May Allah be pleased with her) and his dear uncle, Abu Talib.
Muhammad’s visit to Ta’if (45): The Hardest Day in the Life of Allah’s Messenger. The death, in the same year, of the Prophet’s wife Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib magnified the Prophet’s sorrows and doubled his feelings of estrangement and alienation and filled his heart with pain. Moreover, it left him and his followers politically isolated in Mecca, without support. The tribe of Quraysh seize this opportunity to increase their abuses and tighten their grips on the Muslims. Abu Lahab succeeded Abu Talib as the leader of the Prophet’s clan Banu Hashim, and he harbored the bitterest hatred for Islam and the Prophet. He used to go up to the Prophet during the pilgrimage and in the marketplace and throw dirt and stones upon him, calling him a liar and warning people against following him. Mecca became unbearable. Prophet Muhammad had to seek support from outside of Mecca. He first headed for the neighboring town of Ta’if, looking for this support. The people of Ta’if ordered their children to throw rocks and stones at Prophet Muhammad to drive them out of the city. The rocks that were thrown at him by the children caused him to bleed seriously, so much that his feet became stuck to his shoes by the drying blood. Later Muhammad said: “The day of Taif was worse for me than the day of Uhud; that was the most difficult point of my life.”(46)
620 (2 BH) Night Journey and Ascension (Al-Isra wal-Mi’raj). The night journey (al-isra) was that made by the Prophet Muhammad thought the air, mounted on al-Buraq, in the company of Archangel Jibril, from Masjid al-Haram at Mecca to the Farthest Mosque or Masjid al-Aqsa at Jerusalem; thence he made the Ascension (al-M’iraj) through the Seven Heavens, borne by Jibril and entered Allah’s presence. The Night Journey and Ascension are celebrated in the Islamic World on the 27th day of the Islamic month of Rajab. There are a lot of reports from the traditionalists about this event, from the well-known sahabi Anas Ibn Malik (c. 612-712) and one of the younger sahaba Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (died 682/93), to Ibn Sa’d in his Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir (The Book of the Mayor Categories) and Ibn Hisham’s Sira. The first of these reports is attributed to Abu Hurayra. It is found both in the Dala’il al-Nubuwwa (Proofs of Prophecy) of al-Bayhaqi (994-1066) and the Tafsir of al-Tabari. Ibn Ishaq gives a full report of this event.(47)
Within the Holy Qur’an itself, surah al-Isra, the 17th chapter, was named after the Night Journey. In it, the first verse briefly describes the Isra: “Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (17:1)
There is also some information in a later verse of surah an-Najm (The Star), which some scholars say is related to the Isra and Mi’raj: “The sight [of the Prophet] did not swerve, nor did it transgress [its limit]. He certainly saw of the greatest signs of his Lord.” (53:17-18)
Muhammad married his second wife, Sawda bint Zam’a (died 674) in Ramadan in the tenth year after his prophethood (in April/May 620). Sawda bint Zam’a, had been the first woman to immigrate to Abyssinia in the way of Allah. Her husband had died and she was living with her aged father, Zam’a ibn Qays, from the Amir ibn Luayy clan of the Quraysh, until her marriage with Muhammad.(48)
621 (1 BH) The First Treaty of Aqabah (a place between Mina and Mecca). Members of the al-Aws and al-Khazraj tribes of Yathrib (Medina), who were Yemenite migrants (Arab Qahtani), converted to Islam and negotiated with Muhammad with the aim of making him leader of their strife-ridden tribal community. Among this group, ten people were from al-Khazraj and two others from al-Aws. This showed that these two groups had set their quarrel aside and showed interest in coming under the banner of Islam. They swore that they would not associate anybody with God, steal, engage themselves in adultery, kill their own children, accuse one another, and they would obey the Holy Prophet in performing good deeds.(49)
622 July: At the pilgrimage of this year, a delegation of around 75 Muslims of the Banu Aws and Khazraj from Medina came to Mecca, and in addition to restating the formal promises, they also assured Muhammad of their full support and protection if the latter would migrate to their land. They invited him to come to Medina as an arbitrator to reconcile among the hostile tribes. This is known as the Second Treaty or Agreement of Aqabah. Following the pledges, Muhammad encouraged his followers to migrate to Medina, and in a span of two months, nearly all the Muslims of Mecca migrated to Yathrib.
The leaders of Quraysh began to fear the Prophet for they realised that he was now strong enough to fight them and had been given leave to do so by Allah. They also knew that he now had the people of Yathrib to help and protect him. Seeing that the Muslims were leaving the city, they decided to kill the Prophet, before he, too, left Mecca to join his followers in Yathrib. In this way they hoped to put an end to Islam once and for all. But they were unsuccessful to stop the Holy Prophet.
After living the first 52 years of his life (570-622) in Mecca, Muhammad and Abu Bakr left the city by night in the middle of September and after a while they reached Yathrib on Friday 24 September (12th day of Rabi’ al-Awwal 1 AH) were greeted cordially by its people.(50) Yathrib was renamed Medina from Madinat al-Nabi (“City of the Prophet”) in honor of Muhammad’s prophethood. This journey received the name of Hijrah (Migration) in the Islamic tradition.
In 638 (17 AH), Muhammad’s second successor, Umar Ibn al-Kattab al-Faruq, considered this moment so important that he established the Hijrah calendar, marking the journey from Mecca to Medina as its inaugural year.(51)
The Hijrah is also often identified erroneously with the start of the Islamic lunar calendar, which was set to Friday 16 July 622 (1St day of Muharram).
The Constitution of Medina (Dastur al-Madinah), also known as The Charter of Medina (Sahjfat al-Madinah) was drafted by the Islamic prophet Muhammad shortly after his arrival at Medina following the Hijra from Mecca. The document ensured freedom of religious beliefs and practices for all citizens of Medina. It also declared the role of Medina as a haram (“sacred place”), where no blood of the peoples included in the pact can be spilled. Among the many benefits specifies the following items: Article 25) Non-Muslim members will have the same political and cultural rights as Muslims. They will have autonomy and freedom of religion. Article 45) Non-Muslims will not be obliged to take part in religious wars of the Muslims.(52)
623 (1 AH)
Aisha bint Abi Bakr (614-678) becomes the third wife of Prophet Muhammad. Her father was Abu Bakr al-Siddiq from the clan of Taym of the Quraysh and her mother belonged to the Kinana tribe. Aisha was called Umm al-mu’minin “Mother of the Believers”) and she became Muhammad’s favourite wife.(53) (Radi Allahu anha – May Allah be pleased with her).
624 (2 AH) February (Sha’ban): The Prophet received a Divine command to changed the Qibla from Jerusalem to the Ka’bah at Mecca. This moment took place during the prayer in a mosque at Medina. When the prophet Muhammad changed the direction in prayer, the entire congregation led by a companion follow the change. So that mosque was called Masjid al-Qiblatayn (Mosque of the Two Qiblas) and is the uniquely mosque in the world contained two prayer niches (maharib, sing. mihrab). Sahih Bukhari says: «Narrated Ibn Umar: While some people were offering Fajr prayer at Quba (mosque), some-one came to them and said, “Tonight some Qur’anic Verses have been revealed to the Prophet and he has been ordered to face the Ka’bah (at Mecca) (during prayers), so you too should turn your faces towards it.” At that time their faces were towards Sham (Jerusalem) so they turned towards the Ka’bah (at Mecca).»(54)
The Battle of Badr (Tuesday, 13 March; 17 Ramadan, 2 AH) After several smaller skirmishes in late 623 and early 624 with the Meccans (like the Nakhla raid), the Prophet launched his first military operation. With 313 loyal companions and followers, including Abu Bakr, Umar Ibn al-Khattab, Ali ibn Abi Talib, Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib, Mus’ab ibn Umair, Az-Zubair bin Al-Awwam, Ammar ibn Yasir, and Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, he set out to intercept a caravan led by Abu Sufyan ibn Harb (560-650), the chief of the Banu Abd-Shams clan of the Quraysh, on its return from Syria to Mecca. In the meanwhile, a large Meccan army of al least one thousand warriors arrives in the zone to protect their financial interests in the caravan. When the word reached the Muslim army about the departure of the Meccan army, Muhammad immediately called a council of war, since there was still time to retreat and because many of the fighters there were recent converts (called Ansar or “Helpers” to distinguish them from the Quraishi Muslims), who had only pledged to defend Medina. Under the terms of the Constitution of Medina, they would have been within their rights to refuse to fight and leave the army. However, according to tradition, they pledged to fight as well, with Sa’d ibn Ubadah declaring, “If you [Muhammad] order us to plunge our horses into the sea, we would do so.”(55) So the Muslims continued to march towards the wells of Badr, 110 kilometres southwest of Medina. Muhammad’s men routed the larger enemy force and captured the caravan.(56) It was a great victory and many of the worst enemies of the Islam and Muhammad were killed: Abu Jahl, Utbah ibn Rabi’ah, Uqba ibn Abu Mu’ayt and Umayyah ibn Khalaf. Abu Lahab, who was not at Badr, died within days of the army’s return to Mecca.(57)
The victory was achieved because of good generalship on Muhammad’s part, and good discipline and high enthusiasm among the Muslims.
In later days, the battle of Badr became so significant that Ibn Ishaq included a complete name-by-name roster of the Muslim army in his biography of Muhammad. In many hadiths, veterans who fought at Badr are identified as such as a formality, and they may have even received a stipend in later years.(58)
The Muslim victory at Badr was taken by many as a sign that Allah was on Muhammad’s side, and this led to a large number of converts. The triumph is mentioned in the surah Al-Imran, the third chapter of the Qur’an: “And already had Allah given you victory at [the battle of] Badr while you were few in number. Then fear Allah; perhaps you will be grateful.” (3:123)
After Badr, Muhammad received a special revelation for the good treatment of the prisoners of war. We can read in Surah Al-Anfal (“The Spoils of War”): «O Prophet, say to whoever is in your hands of the captives, “If Allah knows [any] good in your hearts, He will give you [something] better than what was taken from you, and He will forgive you; and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”» (8:70)
For the period after the hijrah, Ibn Ishaq includes a detailed “chronological frame narrative” that gives the dates for Mubammad’s military expeditions and for the time he spent in Medina. This narrative form is seen in the following example that covers the one-year period from the end of the battle of Badr until the beginning of the battle of Uhud: «The Messenger left Badr at the end of Ramadan or in Shawwal [of AH 2]. He stayed only seven nights in Medina before he led a raid against the Banu Sulaym. He got as far as their watering place called al-Kudr and stayed there three nights, returning to Medina without fighting. He stayed there for the rest of Shawwal and Dhu’l-Qa’da. Abu Sufyan made the raid of Sawiq [barley meal] in Dhu’l-Hijja. When the Messenger returned from the raid of al-Sawiq he stayed in Medina for the rest of Dhu l-Hijja, or nearly all of it. Then [in Muharram] he raided the Najd, making for [the tribe of] Ghatafan. This is the raid of Dhu Amarr. He stayed in the Najd through the month of Safar, or nearly all of it, and then returned to Medina without fighting. There he remained for the month of Rabi’ I or a day or two less…. Then he made a raid on Quraysh as far as Bahran, a mine in the Hijaz… He stayed there for the next two months and then returned to Medina without fighting. After his arrival from Bahran the Messenger stopped [in Medina] for the months of the Jumada II, Rajab, Sha’ban, and Ramadan. Quraysh made the raid of Uhud in Shawwal of AH 3. »(59)
625 (3 AH) Spring, Saturday, March 23 (7 Shawwal): Abu Sufyan ibn Harb led another Meccan army north to Medina for revenge after Badr. The two forces met on the hill of Uhud, just north of the Medinan settlement, and Muhammad and his men suffered a near disaster. After a fatal mistake by a detachment of his archers, Muhammad was injured but able to rally his forces. Abu Sufyan, seeing that about seventy Muslims and their allies had been killed, declared a victory and returned to Mecca. Surah 3:121-179 addresses the battle of Uhud.
In Jabal Uhud, Muhammad had 754 loyal companions and followers, including Abu-Bakr, Umar ibn AI-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan, Ali ibn Abi Talib, Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib and Musab ibn Umayr. The Meccan army was composed by 3,000 infantry and 200 cavalry led by Khalid ibn al-Walid, a very skilled commander belonged to the clan of Makhzum in the tribe of Quraysh.
The reason of the defeat was the bad conduct of the 50 Muslim archers when they left their strategic position on a nearby rocky hill at the west side of the Muslim camp looking to loot the Meccan camp. They been protecting the flanks of the Muslim army and the Meccans would not able to turn around the Muslim camp. When they abandoned their position disobeying Muhammad’s order, the Meccan cavalry was able to attack the Muslim army very easily. The Muslim suffered between 70-75 killed and many wounded. Among the killed companions was Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib. Indulging in unusual excess, Hind bint Utbah, the wife of Abu Sufyan, tore the liver from the body of the fallen Hamzah, Muhammad’s uncle and bit into it; for Hamzah, one of the heroes at Badr, had there killed her father, Utbah ibn Rabi’ah.(60)
627 (5 AH) Battle of al-Khandaq. Spring, April (Dhu’l-Qa’dah) The Meccans, 10,000 men with six hundred horses, again under the command of Abu Sufyan, made their last attempt to stop Muhammad by force. This time the Muslims numbered 3,000 men. The defenders dug a trench or khandaq (Arabised form of the Persian word kandak), advised by Salman al-Farisi, across on exposed areas north of the oasis of Medina; this was sufficient to deter the Meccans and their allies, who withdrew after about two weeks of several and unsuccessful assaults. By this time Muhammad was in complete control of Medina, and Bedouin tribes in the surrounding area were making alliances with him and becoming Muslims. The defeat caused the Meccans to lose their trade and much of their prestige.(61)
The Qur’an uses the term confederates in surah Al-Ahzab (also The Clans, The Coalition Forces, The Forces Combined) to denote the confederacy of non-believers against Islam.(62)
After the Battle of the Trench ended, the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qurayza was besieged by the Muslims and charged with treason by a judge accepted by both parties. The Qur’an in surah al-Ahzab says: “He caused those of the People of the Book who helped them (the confederates) to come out of their forts. Some you killed, some you took prisoner.” There is no reference to numbers. The biographers of the Prophet, followed by later historians, tell us that the Jews tribe of the Banu Qaynuqa, and later Banu al-Nadir, provoked the Muslims, were besieged, and in turn agreed to surrender and were allowed to depart, taking with them all their transportable possessions. Later on Khaybar and Fadak the Jews were evacuated but not killed. The assertion that 600 or 800 or 900 men of Banu Qurayza were put to death in cold blood can not be true; that it is a later invention. Imam Malik ibn Anas (711-795) and Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani rejected the stories in question in the strongest terms: “such odd tales as the story of Qurayza and al-Nadir” and “deviant tale”.(63) Also Abd al-Rahman al-Awza’i (707-774), an expert of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh), greatly objected to such a legend, stating: “As far as I know it is not a decree of God that God should chastise the many for the fault of the few; rather to reprimand the few for the fault of the many.”
Modern scholars have challenged the veracity of this incident, arguing that it was exaggerated or invented.(64) For instance, Barakat Ahmad (died 1988), a scholar and Indian diplomat, doctorate in Arab history from the American University of Beirut, was the first Muslim scholar to deal with the Jews of Yathrib in the spirit of independent study and research.(65) He questions the validity of the accepted accounts of Muhammad’s expulsion of Banu Qaynuqa and execution of Banu Qurayza: «The culpable leadership of a tribe of 600 to 900 men, especially when some of them have already been killed in the battle and one group has been taken captive would not normally exceed sixteen or seventeen accounted for in above analysis. The decision to help the Ahzab must have been taken by the leaders and the elders of the Banu Qurayzah. The whole tribe could not be given the same punishment that was in store for their leaders. The Apostle himself was bound by the Qur’anic maxim of just retribution: an eye for an eye and a life for a life” (Al-Baqarah, 178). This principle, as we have shown earlier, had been agreed upon both by the Muslims and the Jews, for we find it formalized in the Sahifah: “a person acquires guilt against himself’. (Ibn Hisham, p. 344)»(66) In the same way, Mohamad Jebara, Chief Imam and Resident Scholar at the Cordova Spiritual Education Center in Ottawa, Canada, has written an illuminating article, “Myth of the Medina Massacre” in June 14, 2016.(67)
628 (6 AH) March (Dhu’l-Qa’dah): Guided by a dream or vision, Muhammad led a huge group of Muslims on the 400 hundred kilometres journey from Medina to Mecca to perform the pilgrimage ceremonies. They camped at al-Hudaybiyah on the edge of the Haram, the sacred territory that surrounds Mecca. There Muhammad negotiated a treaty in which he agreed not to press his claim to complete the pilgrimage ceremonies that season, while the Meccan leaders promised to open the city to the Muslims the following year. They also agreed to a ten-year truce during which neither side would attack the other.(68)
629 (7 AH) Spring: Muhammad led the first Muslim pilgrimage, an ‘umrah or “lesser pilgrimage” to Mecca. Later that year, a clan allied to the Meccans attacked a clan allied to Muhammad, thus breaking the treaty. Abu Sufyan and other Meccan leaders rushed to Medina to dissuade Muhammad from attacking their city, and they apparently agreed to surrender Mecca to him peacefully.(69)
May/June (Muharram/Safar) Battle of Khaybar. Muhammad’army attacked the well fortified oasis of Khaybar, located 150 kilometres from Medina in the north-western part of the Arabian peninsula. The Jews of Khaybar oasis, about ten thousand,(70) were allied with the Jewish tribe of the Banu Nadir and with the Banu Ghatafan, an Arab tribe supporting the Quraysh of Mecca. The Jews of the strongholds of Khaybar finally surrendered and were allowed to live in the oasis on the condition that they would give one-half of their produce to the Muslims.(71)
Raid on Mu’ta. September (1 Jumada al-awwal): Unsuccessful expedition against Byzantine territory, in Mu’ta, Palestine (modern Karak Governorate in Jordan). An Islamic raiding force of 3,000 under Ibn Zayd Ibn Harithah, the Prophet’s adopted son, set off northwards to avenge the murder of Muslim emissaries by the Ghassanids, a northern Arab tribe, who lived in the nominally Romano-Byzantine frontier zone of what is now southern Jordan.
However, the Muslims were defeated at Mu’ta and Zayd Ibn Harithah, Ja’far ibn Abi Talib Abd Allah ibn Rawaha were killed and Khalid ibn al-Walid(72) was put in command.(73) The defeat at Mu’ta is seen as the first armed clash between Muslims and the Byzantine world, and a foretaste of clashes to come.(74) There are several reports of the Muslim historians about the battle of Mu’ta.(75) Also Theophanes the Confessor (c. 758/760 – c. 817/818), a Byzantine monk and chronicler, described the episode in his Chronicle.(76)
The defeat at Mu’ta pushed Muhammad to organise quickly a new force of 500 cavalry to attach Dhat al-Salasil in the southern region of Transjordan against the Arab tribes of Banu Bali, Banu Quda and Banu Udhra, allies of the Byzantines. This successful operation was led by Amr ibn al-As (c. 585-664), the future conqueror of Egypt.(77)
630 (8 AH) The Conquest of Mecca. January (Ramadan): A Muslim army of 10,000 men marches on Mecca which surrenders. Muhammad takes the city from the Quraysh without fighting and makes it the spiritual center of Islam.(78)
Battle of Hunayn. 30th of January (the tenth of Shawwal): Just weeks after the surrender of Mecca, with Muhammad now in command of all of west-central Arabia, a large confederation of tribes from south and east of Mecca, among them The Hawazins and the Thaqifs of Ta’if made one last attempt to stop him by force. Muhammad’s 12,000 men fought an army twice that size at Hunayn (mentioned by name in the Qur’an, 9:25), and once again the Muslims and their allies defeated a much larger force of polytheists. Muhammad’vanguard was led by Khalid Ibn al-Walid. After dividing up the spoils, Muhammad and his followers from Medina returned home, where he consolidated his position.
February: Siege of Ta’if: Muhammad begins to besiege Ta’if and brings battering rams and catapults to suppress the fortress city, but is unable to penetrate it. Abu Sufyan ibn Harb lost his first eye in the Siege of Ta’if. He told Muhammad of his loss for God to which Muhammad said “Which would you prefer: An eye in heaven or shall I pray to Allah that he brings it back?” To this Abu Sufyan said he would rather have his eye in heaven.(79) He lost his other eye in the Battle of Yarmouk (modern Jordan, 15-20 August 636) fighting against the Byzantines under the command of his son, Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan.(80)
Campaign of Tabuk. From mid-October to mid-December: Muhammad undertook his largest and last military expedition, with a force said to number 30,000 men, to Tabuk, about 400 kilometres northwest of Medina, near the Gulf of Aqaba. Muhammad intention was to show this force to challenge the Byzantines for control of the northern part of the caravan route from Mecca to Syria.(81) The Byzantine army, a huge force under emperor Heraclius who was stationed in Homs (Syria), also had the support of the regional Arab Tribes (Lakhm, Judham, Ghassan, Amila).
«On their route, they passed through the Jewish settlements of Wadi al-Qura,(82) who honoured the Prophet serving him with their typical dishes. […] The Prophet and the Muslims remained in Tabuk for twenty days; the entire campaign lasting two months, from approximately mid-October to mid-December 630. Taking into consideration that Heraclius had abandoned his plans to attack, the Prophet decided to return to Medina as well, on the advice given him by Umar. […] At this juncture, it should be pointed out that there were individuals within the Muslim camp itself who from he very outset were opposed to the expedition into Byzantine territory.(83) »(84)
The Prophet return from Tabuk in Ramadan.(85)
There is a reference in the Qur’an, in the surah At-Tawba (The Repentance) about those individuals within the Muslim camp of the Tabuk expedition: “O you who have believed, what is [the matter] with you that, when you are told to go forth in the cause of Allah, you adhere heavily to the earth? Are you satisfied with the life of this world rather than the Hereafter? But what is the enjoyment of worldly life compared to the Hereafter except a [very] little.” (9:38)
630/631 (9 AH)
The ninth year of the Hijrah (630-631) is known in Islamic historiography as the Year of Delegations or Deputations (sanat al-wufud). The Arab delegations coming to Medina on behalf of their tribes and meeting with Prophet Muhammad declared their acceptance of Islam, pledged allegiance both in their own name and in the name of their tribes, wanted to the learn the religion from the Messenger conveying it himself, and sometimes requested that teachers be sent to members of their tribes.(86)
Meeting with Christians of Najran. The most important interaction between the Christians and the Prophet was the visit of the Najran delegation to Medina. Prophet Muhammad had been sending official letters to different countries and their rulers, inviting them to Islam. Among these were two different invitations that had been sent to Najran with Khalid ibn al-Walid and Ali ibn Abi Talib. At that time the Najran Christians had a highly organized religious life. Before Islam, foreign teachers had even visited the town, such as the Italian priest Gregentius of Himyaritia (died 552) who was a missionary for over thirty years in the region, which had deepened their religious knowledge.(87)
Prophet Muhammad sent a representative to the Christians of Najran, Mughira ibn Shu’ba,(88) who was sent to explain the invitations and the religion of Islam. After discussions with Mughira, the Christians of Najran decided to send a group of people to visit the Prophet. The delegation was made up of about 60 well-educated Christians: A bishop, his 45 scholars, and 15 men. Their intention was to learn the nature of the revelations Prophet Muhammad was receiving.(89) When the Najran delegation reached Madina, they debated with the Prophet in an investigatory dialogue for two or three days in the mosque of Madina. Prophet Muhammad allowed them to pray in the mosque (Masjid al-Nabawi) where the Muslims prayed. The whole incident was the first occurrence of peaceful dialogue between Christians and Muslims; it was the first time that Christians prayed in a mosque.(90)
632 (10 AH) Farewell pilgrimage (Hijjat l-Wada). The Prophet Muhammad went on pilgrimage to Mecca on the 25th of Dhu’l-Qa’da. The Farewell Pilgrimage was the last Hajj pilgrimage Muhammad, prophet of Islam, participated before his death.
The Farewell Sermon (Khutbatu 1-Wada) was at in the Uranah valley of Mount Arafat, the 9th of Dhu’l-Hijjah, 10 AH (6 March 632). In that occasion the Prophet Muhammad said among many other things: “Know that every Muslim is a Muslim’s brother, and that the Muslims are brethren.”(91)
As part of this sermon, the Prophet recited a Revelation from Allah which he had just received and which completed the Qur’an, for it was the last passage to be revealed: “This day the disbelievers despair of prevailing against your religion, so fear them not, but fear Me (Allah)! This day have I perfected for you your religion and fulfilled My favor unto you, and it hath been My good pleasure to choose Islam for you as your religion.” (Surah 5, Al-Maidah, Ayah 3).
Muhammad al-Bukhari refers to the sermon and quotes part of it in his Sahih al-Bukhari. Part of it is also present in Sahih Muslim and Sunan Abu Dawud.
(11 AH) Expedition of Usama Ibn Zayd to Palestine. May (Safar): Usama ibn Zayd(92) was appointed as the commander of an expeditionary force which was to invade Palestine on the orders of Muhammad. He set out with 3000 men on the same day Muhammad died. Most of the first emigrants (Muhajirun) went with him.(93)
«Muhammad invited Usama b. Zayd to the mosque and ordered him to act as the commander of an army which was to invade Palestine again, and in the words of Ibn Ishaq, ‘to spur on his horses to the Takhum of al-Balqa which was in Palestine’, that is the border area of Moab.(94) […] Some weeks later, the Prophet began to suffer from the disease which was to end his life. Already ill, he again announced with stubborn determination from his seat (the minbar) in the mosque that Usama should head the expeditionary-force, and rebuke those who thought that he did not merit this honour as being too young for the appointment, while the best commanders of the Muslim army, from Mecca and from medina, were available. […] The Prophet’s orders to Usama were unequivocal: he was to go out to the very place where his father had fought and fallen together with the other Muslim commanders. […] Usama managed to visit the Prophet before going into battle. He was exceedingly weak and even unable to speak, but he was still able to lift his hand to the heavens, afterwards pointing Usama, as a sign that he was praying for him. The following day, as the army was preparing to leave, the Prophet died. It was Monday, towards evening, on 8 June 632. »(95)
The expedition was successful and it demonstrated the strength and cohesiveness of the Muslims even in the absence of Muhammad. The army reached Palestine and became the first Muslim forces to defeat the Byzantines in battle, thus paving the way for the subsequent conquests of the Syrian and Egyptian regions, both of which were captured during Usama’s lifetime.(96)
Ibn Ishaq and al-Waqidi(97) record twenty-seven expeditions, including pilgrimages to Mecca and the expulsions of the three Jewish clans of Medina, that Muhammad led himself, but they say he actually fought in only nine: Badr, Uhud, al-Kandaq, Banu Qurayza, Banu al-Mustaliq, Khaybar, the occupation of Mecca, Hunayn and al-Ta’if.(98) In addition to these, he organized and sent out more than fifty other expeditions.(99)
Monday 8 June (the twelfth of Rabi al-Awwal, 11 AH)(100) Muhammad (Peace be upon him), Khatam an-Nabiyyin (Seal of the Prophets), dies at Medina at the age of 63 after an illness and fever, while planning expedition against Byzantium; his leading followers elect his father-in-law Abu Bakr aI-Siddiq as Khalifat Rasul Allah (Vice-regent for the Messenger of Allah), ‘Caliph’, the First of Rashidun (al-Khilafah ar-Rashidah or the “Rightly Guided” caliphs).
William Montgomery Watt (1909 -2006), a Scottish historian, Professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Edinburgh, has emphasized that Muhammad, a human being who never claimed divinity, was both a prophet and a statesman and these two epithets neatly sum up the two principal features of his life. Though his prophethood he founded a great religion, that of Islam; through his statesmanship he laid the foundations for what would later become a great Islamic civilization under dynasties as those of the Umayyads, Abbasids, al-Andalus, Mamluks, Ottomans and Mughals.(101)
CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF POLITICAL AND CULTURAL EVENTS IN THE REST OF THE WORLD (570-632 AD)
570 Byzantine Empire Death of John Philoponus, also known as John the Grammarian or John of Alexandria, an Alexandrian philologist, Aristotelian commentator and Christian theologian, author of a considerable number of philosophical treatises and theological works.
Italy Spoleto (an ancient city in the modrn Italian province of Perugia) becomes the capital of an independent duchy under the Lombard chieftain Faroald (died 591 or 592).
China Fei Di, emperor of the Chen Dynasty (the fourth and last of the Southern Dynasties in China, 557-589), dies.
Arabia The Battle of Hadhramaut took place between the armies of the Sassanid Empire under the command of spahbed Vahrez and Aksumite forces under King Masruq in 570. The Aksumite army was defeated by the Sassanids and Masruq was killed.
571 Persian Empire Expedition sent by Khosrow or Chosroes I (reign 531-579) across central Arabia to Yemen to assist rebellion against Byzantine ally Axum, and installs garrisons in cities.
Spain The Visigoths under king Liuvigild invade the Byzantine province Spania (modern Andalusia) and seize the city of Córdoba. He becomes after the death of his brother Liuva I sole ruler of the Visigothic Kingdom.
Britain Battle of Bedcanford: The Anglo-Saxons under king Cuthwulf fight against the Britons and conquer the settlements: Aylesbury, Benson, Eynsham and Limbury (this according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle). Wuffa becomes the first king of East Anglia, recorded in the Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies.
Japan Emperor Kinmei (reign 539-571), the 29th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession, dies.
572 Byzantine-Sassanid War Emperor Justin II (reign 565-574) refuses to pay the annual tribute to Khosrow I, putting an end to the 50-year peace treaty that is established ten years earlier. The Armenians are considered allies to the Byzantine Empire and Justin sends a Byzantine army into Persian territory, besieging the fortress city of Nusaybin (Mardin, modern Turkey). General Marcian (Greek Markianos), cousin of Emperor Justin II, marches into Armenia to assist successful rebels against the Persians, and then raids Atropatene (modern-day Iranian Azerbaijan).
Italy Siege of Pavia: Alboin, king of the Lombards, captures Ticinum (Pavia), after a three-year siege the Byzantine garrison surrenders to the Lombards. The city is of strategic importance, lying at the rivers Po and Ticino, and becomes the capital of the Kingdom of the Lombards.
Britain Theodric succeeds his brother Æthelric as king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Bernicia (southeastern Scotland). He rules from 572 to 579.
Asia Taspar Qaghan succeeds his brother Muqan Qaghan as ruler (khagan) of the Turkic Khaganate (Central Asia).
Mesoamerica The city of Calakmul (modern Mexican state of Campeche) defeats the city of Tikal (modern Guatemala), bringing an end to the First Tikal-Calakmul War. Sky Witness, ruler of Calakmul (since 561), dies.
573 Byzantine-Sassanid War Marcian invades Mesopotamia from Armenia and besieges Nusaybin, and during siege receives news of his dismissal; the Byzantines retreat. Persian forces under command of king Khosrow I capture the Byzantine stronghold of Dara (Mardin Province, modern Turkey) after a six-month siege. Persian army under general Adarmahan raids Syria and sack Apamea (Syria) and Antiochia (modern Antakya, Turkey).
Britain The Battle of Arfderydd (Cumbria) is fought between Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio (a Brythonic king) and the sons of Eliffer, Gwrgi and Peredur. The forces of Gwenddoleu are killed, and Myrddin Wyllt (a figure in medieval Welsh legend) goes mad watching this defeat (according to the Annales Cambriae).
574 Italy 13 July: Death of Pope John III (his Papacy began on 17 July 561); Benedict I elected successor but long wait for Imperial confirmation. The Holy See becomes sede vacante.
Byzantine Empire Spring-Autumn: Plague in Constantinople.
December 7: Emperor Justin II retires due to recurring seizures of insanity; he abdicates the throne in favour of his general Tiberius. Justin proclaims him Caesar and adopts him as his own son. The new emperor adopts the title of Tiberius II Constantine.
China Xuan, empress of Northern Zhou Dynasty (ruled northern China from 557 to 581), dies.
575 Italy 2 June: Benedict I succeeds Pope John III as the 62nd Pontifex Maximus.
Byzantine Empire Alexander of Tralles (c. 525 – c.605), one of the most eminent Byzantine physician, writes his Twelve Books on Medicine.
Austrasia (a territory which formed the northeastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks during 567-751) The Franks under Sigibert I pursue his half brother Chilperic I, and conquer the cities Poitiers and Tournai. While he is proclaimed new king of Neustria by the nobles, Sigibert is assassinated at Vitry-en-Artois (Northern Gaul) by hirelings of Fredegund (the Queen consort). Childebert II succeeds his father Sigibert I as king of Austrasia. His mother Brunhilda (c. 543-613) becomes regent and seeks protection from Guntram, king of Burgundy. He adopts Childebert as his own son and heir. A group of Frankish aristocrats rule Austrasia.
Spain The Visigoths under king Liuvigild invade the Suebian Kingdom (Northern Spain).
Ireland: Áed mac Echach, king of Connacht, dies.
576 Byzantine-Sassanid War A Persian army under king Khosrow I break through the Caucasus into Anatolia (modern Turkey). They attack the cities of Theodosiopolis (Erzurum, modern Turkey) and Caesarea (Kayseri, modern Turkey) but are thwarted. Khosrow is forced to retreat and manages to sack Sebasteia (Sivas, modern Turkey). On the way home, he is intercepted by a Byzantine army under Justinian (strategos, the general in command of a field army) and severely defeated near Melitene (Malatya, modern Turkey). The royal baggage is captured and many Persians are drowned when escaping across the Euphrates.
Byzantine Empire Baduarius, a kouropalates (one of the highest Byzantine court title) and son-in-law of the Byzantine emperor Justin II, is sent to Italy to resist the Lombard conquest. He leads an aborted counter-assault against the Lombards and dies soon after.
Spain The Visigoths under king Liuvigild establish the capital of their kingdom in Toledo.
France May 28: Saint Germain, bishop of Paris, dies. Canonized in 754, he is known in modern times as the “Father of the Poor”.
Asia The Göktürks (The Celestial Turks) under Tardu cross the Cimmerian Bosphorus into the Crimea and besiege the city of Panticapaeum (Ukraine).
577 Byzantine-Sassanid War A Byzantine expeditionary force under command of Justinian (strategos) invade Caucasian Albania, launching raids across the Caspian Sea against the Persians. Summer: Tiberius, Byzantine co-ruler, establishes a naval base at Derbent (modern Republic of Dagestan) on the Caspian Sea to construct a Byzantine fleet. Winter: Maurice (Greek Mavrikios) is appointed commander-in-chief of the Byzantine army in the East. He succeeds Justinian, despite complete lack of military experience.
Britain The Battle of Deorham (or Dyrham), a decisive military encounter between the West Saxons and the Britons of the West Country. The battle, which was a major victory for the Wessex forces led by Ceawlin and his son, Cuthwine, resulted in the capture of the Brythonic cities of Glevum (Gloucester), Corinium Dobunnorum (Cirencester) and Aquae Sulis (Bath). It also led to the permanent cultural and ethnic separation of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall) from Wales.
China Winter: Northern Qi, one of the Northern Dynasties, is conquered by Northern Zhou under emperor Wu (reign 561-578). He orders the last ruler Gao Wei and other members of the Gao clan, to commit suicide. Northern China, above the Yangtze River, is once again brought under the control of a single power. A predecessor of the modern match, small sticks of pinewood impregnated with sulfur are first used in China. Besieged by military forces of Northern Zhou and Chen, Northern Qi court ladies use the “lighting sticks” to start fires for cooking and heating.
579 Byzantine-Sassanid War King Khosrow I seeks peace, but dies before an agreement could by reached. The Mesopotamian frontier becomes a stalemate and Maurice (strategos of the East) fortified the borders in Armenia and Syria.
Persian Empire Death of ‘Great King’ Khosrow I; after a 48- year reign he has extended his realm from the River Oxus to the Red Sea; is succeeded by his son Hormizd IV (reign 579-590).
Italy 30 July: Pope Benedict I dies; Pelagius II, of Gothic family, elected Pope and ordained before November arrival of Imperial ratification.
Spain Hermenegild, son of Visigothic king Liuvigild, marries Ingund. He rebels against his father who profess Arianism (a Christian belief that asserts that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was created by God the Father), starting rebellion in Seville, and declares himself Catholic.
580 Byzantine Empire Al-Mundhir III Ibn al-Harith, king of the Ghassanid Arabs (reign 569-581), visits Constantinople and honoured by Tiberius.
Spain After Visigothic King Liuvigild persecutes Catholics, general rebellion joined by his son Hermenegild; Byzantines assist them. Liuvigild calls for an Arian synod in Toledo, which modified several doctrines; he tries to unify the Christians within the Visigothic Kingdom.
Italy The Lombards drive the last Ostrogoths across the Alps. During the “Rule of the Dukes” the Lombards adopt Roman titles, names, and traditions.
Britain Galam Cennalath (king of the Picts from 550 to 555), dies.
581 Byzantine-Sassanid War A Byzantine army under command of Maurice with support of Ghassanid forces under king Al-Mundhir III fails to capture the Persian capital, Ctesiphon, along the Euphrates. Maurice accuses Al-Mundhir of treason and is brought to Constantinople to face trial. Emperor Tiberius II Constantine treats him well and allows aI-Mundhir with his family a comfortable residence; finally, he was exiled in Sicily with his wife and some of his sons. Al-Nu’man VI, son of Mundhir III (not to be confused with al-Nu’man III Ibn al-Mundhir, last king of the Arab Lakhmids of Hira between 580- 602), revolts with the Arab Ghassanids against the Byzantine Empire after his father is treacherously arrested.
Italy The Lombards under Zotto, Duke of Benevento, sack the abbey of Monte Cassino near Naples. The Benedictine monks who survive flee to Rome, but they return to the site, and rebuild the monastery.
Asia The Göktürks under Taspar Qaghan besiege the city of Chersonesos Taurica (modern Ukraine) located at the Black Sea, their cavalry keep plundering the steppes of the Crimean Peninsula until 590.
Britain The Anglo-Saxons under Ælla (died 588) conquer Deira (Northern England) from the Britons. He becomes the first king of Deira (according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle).
China The Sui Dynasty (581-618) unified the country for the first time in almost 400 years.
582 Byzantine Empire August 14: Emperor Tiberius II Constantine dies (possibly deliberately poisoned food) at Constantinople after a 7-year reign during which Thrace and Greece have been inundated by the Slavs. He is succeeded by his son-in-law, Maurice, who has commanded the Byzantine army in the war against the Persian Empire. Siege of Sirmium: The Avars under their ruler (khagan) Bayan I, aided by Slavic auxiliary troops, capture the city of Sirmium (Pannonia) after almost a 3- year siege. Bayan establishes a new base of operations within the Byzantine Empire from which he plunders the Balkan Peninsula.
Byzantine-Sassanid War Autumn: Maurice elevates John Mystacon to strategos of the East. He sends a Byzantine expeditionary force to Arzanene (Armenia) where they fight a pitched battle at the river Nymphius (Batman River). A Persian army under Tamkhosrau cross the Euphrates River and attack the city of Constantina (Viranşehir, modern Turkey), but he is defeated by the Byzantines and killed.
583 Byzantine Empire Emperor Maurice decides to end the annual tribute to the Avars, a mounted people who have swept across Russia and threatening the Balkan Peninsula. They capture the cities Singidunum (modern Belgrade) and Viminacium (Moesia). The city of Monemvasia (Peloponnese, modern Greece) is founded by people seeking refuge from the Slavs and Avars.
Mesoamerica Yohl Ik’nal (died 604) succeeds Kan B’alam I as queen of the Maya city of Palenque (Chiapas, modern Mexico).
584 Byzantine Empire The foundation of the Exarchate of Ravenna; the exarchate is organised into a group of duchies, mainly coastal cities on the Italian Peninsula. The civil and military head of these Byzantine territories, is the exarch (governor) in Ravenna.
Spain The Visigoths under king Liuvigild capture the city of Seville after a siege of nearly 2 years. His rebellious son Hermenegild seeks refuge in a church at Córdoba, but is arrested and banished to Tarragona. His wife, Inguld, flees with her son to Africa.
Britain Battle of Fethanleigh: King Ceawlin of Wessex is defeated by the Britons. He ravages the surrounding countryside in revenge
585 Byzantine-Sassanid War The Persian commander, Kardarigan (“black hawk”), begins an unsuccessful siege of Monokarton (Mesopotamia, modern Turkey).
Italy Cassiodorus, a Roman statesman and writer, serving in the administration of Theoderic the Great, king of the Ostrogoths, dies. Cassiodorus is rivalled only by Boethius (c. 480-524) in his drive to preserve and explore classical literature during the 6th Century AD.
Spain The Visigoths under king Liuvigild devastates the Suevic Kingdom in Gallaecia (northwest Spain). After the conquest Liuvigild reintroduces the Arian Church among the Sueves.
Britain Hussa succeeds his brother Frithuwald as king of Bernicia. Creoda becomes king of Mercia (according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle).
586 Byzantine-Sassanid War Battle of Solachon (Spring): A Byzantine army under command of Philippicus defeat the Sassanid Persians near Dara.
Spain April 21: King Liuvigild dies at Toledo after an 18-year reign and is succeeded by his second son Reccared I.
Britain King Custennin of Dumnonia is converted to Christianity.
587 Byzantine Empire Emperor Maurice builds more fortifications along the Danube frontier, separating the Byzantine Empire from the realm of the Avars and Slavs. Comentiolus, Byzantine general (strategos), assembles an army of 10,000 men at Anchialus (modern Bulgaria). He prepares an ambush for the Avars in the Haemus mountains.
Aquitaine Saint Radegund (born c. 520) dies at Poitiers. She was a Thuringian princess and Frankish queen, who founded the Abbey of the Holy Cross at Poitiers. She is the patron saint of several churches in France and England and of Jesus College, Cambridge. Her abbey at Poitiers was named for the relic of the True Cross that Radegund obtained from the Byzantine Emperor Justin II.
Spain King Reccared I renounces Arianism and adopts Catholicism. Many Visigothic nobles follow his example, but in Septimania (Southern Gaul) are Arian uprisings. The filioque clause (literally “and [from] the Son”) is first used in the Nicene Creed, against the Arians in Visigothic Spain
India Varahamihira (b. 505), astronomer and mathematician, considered to be one of the nine jewels (Navaratnas) of the court of legendary ruler Yashodharman Vikramaditya of Malwa, dies.
588 Byzantine-Sassanid War Unpaid Byzantine troops mutinied against Priscus (strategos of the East). King Hormizd IV begins an Persian offensive, but is defeated at Martyropolis (modern Turkey).
Italy The Franks and Burgundians under king Guntram and his nephew Childebert II invade Northern Italy, but suffer a disastrous defeat against the Lombards. The Lombard Kingdom is converted to Roman Catholicism under the rule of king Authari.
First Perso-Turkic War A Persian army (12,000 men) under the spahbed (senior army commander) Bahram Chobin supported by Cataphracts (heavy cavalry) ambush the invading Turks, and win a great victory at the battle of the Hyrcanian Rock.
China Emperor Wéndi of the Sui Dynasty prepares a campaign against the Chen Dynasty. He amasses 518,000 troops along the northern bank of the Yangtze River, stretching from Sichuan to the Pacific Ocean.
589 Byzantine-Sassanid War A Persian army under Bahram Chobin captures the fortress city of Martyropolis (modern Turkey).
First Perso-Turkic War The Sassanid Persians capture the cities Balkh and Herat (Afghanistan). They cross the Oxus River and repulse a Turkic invasion.
Asia Tulan Qaghan, son of Ishbara Qaghan, becomes the seventh ruler (khagan) of the Turkic Khaganate.
Spain The Third Council of Toledo, called by king Reccared I of the Visigoths, renounces Arianism and embraces Catholicism.
590 Italy 7 February: Death of Pope Pelagius II in plague in Rome; deacon Gregory, former ‘Apocrisiarius’ (ambassador to the imperial court) in Constantinople, elected and tries to decline honour but organizes plague-relief. 3 September: Gregory I consecrated as Pope. The missionary work reached new levels during his pontificate, revolutionized the way of worship for the Catholic Church (Gregorian Chants), liturgy, etc., and was soon canonized after his death in 604 and commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great.
Persian Empire King Hormizd IV dismisses Bahram Chobin as commander (spahbed). He revolts and marched with support of the Persian army towards Ctesiphon. February 15: Hormizd IV is deposed and assassinated by Persian nobles. Ruled since 579, he is succeeded by his son Khosrow II as king of the Persian Empire. September: Bahram Chobin defeats the inferior forces of Khosrow II near Ctesiphon. He seizes the throne and proclaims himself as king Bahram VI of Persia.
Byzantine Empire March 26: Theodosius, eldest son of Maurice, is proclaimed as co-emperor. He becomes his father’s heir to the Byzantine throne.
591 Byzantine-Sassanid War Emperor Maurice, seeing an opportunity to end the prolonged war to the advantage of Constantinople, assists Khosrow II to regain the Persian throne. He sends an Byzantine army (35,000 men) under Narses (a Byzantine general of Armenian ancestry) into Mesopotamia through Syria. At the same time an expeditionary force in Armenia advance through Caucasian Iberia into Media (modern Azerbaijan). Battle of Blarathon (August): A Persian army of about 40,000 men under king Bahram VI is defeated, in the lowlands near Ganzak (northwestern Iran), by the Byzantines. Bahram flees to seek refuge with the Turks in Central Asia and settled in Fergana. However, after some time, he is murdered by a hired assassin of Khosrow II. Khosrow II is reinstalled as king of the Persian Empire. Peace with Constantinople is concluded after almost a war of 20-years. Maurice receives the Persian provinces of Armenia and Georgia. The recognition of the traditional frontiers and the cessation of subsidies for the Caucasus forts; leaves the Byzantines in a dominant position in their relations with Persia.
Persian Empire Yazdin of Kirku (died 627), a Nestorian aristocrat, who served as the financial minister of the king Khosrow II, makes a big improvement of the Sassanid economy and the Persian Empire becomes an economical and commercial power.
Mesoamerica May 21: A Mesoamerican ballgame (ollamaliztli in Nahuatl) court is dedicated at the Mayan city of Chinkultic (Chiapas, modern Mexico).
592 Japan Empress Suiko (554-628) becomes the 33rd monarch of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.
593 Byzantine Empire Spring: Priscus, commander-in-chief in Thrace, defeats the Slavic tribes and Gepids on Byzantine territory south of the Danube. He crosses the river to fight in the uncharted swamps and forests of modem-day Wallachia.
Persian Empire The Persian usurper Hormizd V who rises temporarily to power is defeated by king Khosrow II.
596 Austrasia Second regency of Queen Brunhilda after the death of her son Childebert II at the age of twenty-six.
597 Neustrasia (meaning “new [western] land” in contrast to Austrasia, was the western part of the kingdom of the Franks that was created in 511 upon the division of the Merovingian kingdom of Clovis I to his four sons following his death) Queen Fredegund, rival of Brunhilda of Austrasia, who supports the claims of her grandsons Theudebert II and Theuderic II to the Frankish throne against those of Fredegund’s son Chlothar II, dies at Paris and is buried in the Basilica of Saint Denis.
Britain Augustine, a Benedictine monk, became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597. He is considered the “Apostle to the English” and a founder of the English Church. Augustine was the prior of a monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great chose him in 595 to lead a mission, usually known as the Gregorian mission, to Britain to Christianize King Æthelberht and his Kingdom of Kent from Anglo-Saxon paganism.
598 Byzantine Empire Plague in Constantinople and across Empire.
India Birth of Brahmagupta (died after 665 in Ujjain), an Indian mathematician and astronomer. He lived in Bhillamala (modern Bhinmal) during the reign of the Chapa dynasty ruler Vyagrahamukha. Brahmagupta was the first to give rules of using zero with negative and positive numbers.
599 Byzantine Empire Emperor Maurice refuses to pay the ransom to free 12,000 Byzantine soldiers taken prisoners by the Avars. Their leader Bayan I orders the execution of the prisoners, and slaughters them all. His failure to buy back the captives destroys Maurice’s popularity with the Byzantine troops in the Balkan Peninsula. Summer: Balkan Campaign: The Byzantine generals Priscus and Comentiolus joint their forces at Singidunum (modern Belgrade) and move downstream to the fortress city of Viminacium (Serbia). The Byzantines cross the Danube River and invade Upper Moesia, where they defeat the Avars in open battle. Priscus pursues the fleeing Avar tribes and invades their homeland in Pannonia. He devastates the land east of the Tisza River, deciding the war for the Byzantines and ending the Avar and Slavic incursions across the Danube.
Persia Empire King Khosrow II sends a Persian expedition to South Arabia and conquers Yemen. He establishes a military base to control the sea trade with the East.
Mesoamerica The Maya city of Palenque is plundered by king Scroll Serpent of Calakmul (ruled from 579 to 611).
600 Britain Battle of Catraeth (perhaps Catterick, North Yorkshire): The Gododdin under Mynyddog Mwynfawr, Brythonic king of Hen Ogledd (“The Old North”), defeat the Angles of Bernicia and Deira at the stronghold of Catraeth in Northern England. The Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis (Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbott) recounts a 7-year trip to a land across the sea by the Irish saint Brendan of Clonfert (c. 484 – c. 577) and a band of acolytes.
Aquitaine Venantius Fortunatus, a poet and hymnodist in the Merovingian Court, dies at Poitiers. He was the last classic thinker and the first medieval poet, and a Bishop of the early Catholic Church. He was never canonised but he was venerated as Saint Venantius Fortunatus during the Middle Ages.
Asia The earliest references to chess are made in the Persian work Karnamak-i-Artakhshatr-i-Papakan (Archives of Ardashir, son of Papag, who reigned 224-242 AD), and the Indian works of Subandhu’s Vasavadatta and Banabhatta’s Harsha Charitha.
South America The Tiwanaku empire (a Pre-Columbian polity based in western modern Bolivia) becomes an important regional power in the southern Andes.
Pacific Ocean Early settlers reached Kauai, Hawaii, on double-hulled sea vessels from Marquesas Islands, which is about 2,000 miles away. These early settlers also brought with them taro, sweet potato, sugar cane, and other plants from their land of origin.
601 Europe The Franks, Merovingians and Carolingians successively control most of Europe while strong feudal lords rise in power to gain the allegiance of the people.
Spain Reccared, king of the Visigoths, died at Toledo and was succeeded by his youthful son Liuva II.
602 Byzantine Empire November 27: A civil war breaks out and Phocas (a subaltern officer in the Byzantine army) enters Constantinople. Maurice is captured trying to escape, he is forced to witness the slaughter of his five sons and all his supporters, and is then executed (beheaded) after a 20-year reign. His wife, Constantina and his three daughters are spared, and sent to a monastery. Phocas is proclaimed new emperor of the Byzantine Empire.
Byzantine-Sassanid War King Khosrow II launches an offensive against Constantinople, to avenge Maurice’s death, his “friend and father”, and tries to reconquer Byzantine territory. Narses (not to be confused with the great Byzantine general who lives between 478-573), governor of Upper Mesopotamia, rebels against Phocas at the city of Edessa (now Şanlıurfa, Turkey) and requesting the Persians for aid. Khosrow sends an expeditionary force to Armenia and crosses the Euphrates.
Persia Empire Khosrow II annexes the Arab Lakhmid Kingdom (Southern Iraq) and puts king Nu’man III Ibn al-Mundhir to death.
603 Byzantine Empire ‘Greens’ and ‘Blues’ Parties fight each other in Constantinople and start a devastating fire along the ‘Mese’ avenue from Forum of Constantine to Palace of Lausus; Phocas represses them with savagery and executes their ‘demarch’ (the person in charge of the demoi or members of the Circus factions) John and others.
Britain Battle of Degsastan (possibly Dawstane in Liddesdale, Scotland): King Æthelfrith of Northumbria defeats the combined forces of Strathclyde Britons and Scots under Áedán mac Gabráin, establishing the supremacy of the Angles in the northern part of what will become known as the British Isles.
Spain Witteric, commander of the army, led his troops against Liuva II, king of the Visigoths, and execute him. Witteric becomes new king.
604 Italy 12 March: Death of Pope Gregory I ‘the Great’. The Holy See becomes sede vacante. 13 September: Sabinian consecrated as Pope.
China Grand Canal, the longest artificial river in the world (1,776 km) linking the Yellow River and Yangtze River, is fully completed. Its main role throughout its history was the transport of grain to the capital.
605 Italy 22 February: Death of Pope Sabinian.
Persia Empire As a result of a quarrel between the Lakhmids (Southern Iraq) and king Khosrow II, the Persian frontier with Arabia is no longer guarded.
Britain Cearl succeeds Pybba as king of Mercia (English Midlands).
India King Harsha of Thanesar establishes a northern Indian Empire and unites the small monarchical states from Punjab to the Indus valley (modern Pakistan). Shashanka is the first recorded independent king of Bengal. He establishes his capital in modern-day Murshidabad.
607 Italy February 19: The vacancy (sede vacante) that has existed on the papal throne since the death last year of Sabinian ends with the election of a Rome-born deacon of the Catholic Church. Boniface III is appointed as the 66th pope, but dies the same year. Byzantine Emperor Phocas bestowed the title “Universal Bishop” upon Boniface III, in an effort to improve relations with Rome.
608 Byzantine Empire Heraclius the Elder (died 610), exarch of Africa, and his son (also named Heraclius) revolt against emperor Phocas, whose regime in Constantinople has become unpopular and violent. Heraclius proclaims himself and his son as consuls, claiming the imperial title-and mint coins with the two wearing the consular robes. Syria and Palaestina Prima revolt.
Byzantine-Sassanid War King Khosrow II invades Armenia and raids deep into Anatolia through the Byzantine provinces of Cappadocia, Phrygia, Galatia, and Bithynia. Persian general Shahin Vahmanzadegan (spahbed and a member of the House of Spandiyadh) invades and takes Theodosiopolis (Erzurum, modern Turkey).
Italy September 25: Boniface IV succeeds Boniface III as the 67th pope of Rome.
609 Byzantine Empire Nicetas (died after 618/9), cousin of future emperor Heraclius, launches an overland invasion in Egypt.
He defeats a Byzantine army under statesman and general Bonos (died 627), Count of the East, outside Alexandria.
Persia Empire Battle of Dhi Qar: Arab tribesmen of Bakr Ibn Wa’il defeat a Persian force (5,000 men) at a watering place near Kufa (Southern Iraq).
610 Byzantine Empire Byzantine Empire October 4: Heraclius arrives with a fleet from Africa at Constantinople. Assisted by an uprising in the capital, he overthrows and personally beheads emperor Phocas. Heraclius (reign 610-641) gains the throne with help from his father Heraclius the Elder. His first major act is to change the official language of the Eastern Roman Empire from Latin to Greek (already the language of the vast majority of the population). Because of this, after AD 610 the Empire is customarily referred to as the Byzantine Empire (the term Byzantine is a modern term invented by historians in the 18th century; the people of the Empire itself always referred to themselves as Romious or Romans).
Spain Witteric, the usurper king of the Visigoths, dies. Succeeded by Gundemar.
611 Byzantine Empire 20 April: Earthquake at Constantinople; 7 July: Birth of Heraclius’ daughter Epiphania.
Byzantine-Sassanid War The Persian army under spahbed Shahrbaraz capture Antioch and most of the remaining Byzantine fortresses in Syria (Apamea and Emesa) and Mesopotamia. King Khosrow II is re-establishing a neo-Persian Empire and intensifies his war effort. The Byzantine army, ruined by defeat and corruption, offers only half-hearted opposition.
612 Byzantine Empire August 13: Empress Eudokia, wife of Heraclius, dies of epilepsy. She leaves two children, and is buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.
Spain Sisebut succeeds Gundemar as king of the Visigoths. He begins a campaign against the remains of Byzantine power in Spania.
Mesoamerica October 22: Sak K’uk’ succeeds her father Aj Ne’ Yohl Mat as queen of the Maya state of Palenque (modern Mexico).
613 Byzantine-Sassanid War Heraclius appoints himself commander-in-chief along with his brother Theodore (kouropalates) to solidify command of the army. The Persian army under Shahrbaraz capture the cities of Damascus, Apamea and Emesa. Battle of Antioch: Heraclius mobilished a Byzantine expeditionary force to Antioch (Syria) but is outside the city completely defeated by the Persians. Shahin Vahmanzadegan makes further inroads into Central and Western Anatolia. Shahbaraz defeats Nicetas at Dera’a.
614 Byzantine-Sassanid War A Persian-Jewish army (26,000 men) by Shahrbaraz captures and sack Jerusalem after a 20-day siege. Somewhere between 57,000 and 66,500 citizens are slain; another 35,000 are enslaved, including the Patriarch Zacharias. Many churches in the city (including the Church of the Resurrection or Holy Sepulchre) are burned, and numerous relics, including the True Cross, the Holy Lance, and the Holy Sponge, are carried off to the Persian capital Ctesiphon (Iraq). The Persians destroy the Arab Ghassanid kingdom with capital in Jabiyah (southern Syria), a vassal state of the Byzantine Empire.
Italy Bobbio Abbey (Italian: Abbazia di San Colombano), a monastery in the province of Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna, founded by Irish Saint Columbanus (543-615).
Britain Mungo, Brythonic apostle and saint, dies.
Spain King Sisebut leads Visigothic army to take Cartagena, principal Byzantine garrison in the Peninsula.
615 Italy 25 May: Death of Pope Boniface IV; 19 October Adeodatus I consecrated after Imperial approval sent.
Britain Battle of Chester: King Æthelfrith of Northumbria invades Gwynedd (northwest Wales) in order to route out his old enemy, Edwin of Deira. A united Brythonic force (Gwynedd, Powys, Pengwern and Dumnonian warriors) is defeated near Chester.
Mesoamerica K’inich Janaab’ Pakal (603-683), ajaw (meaning as “lord”) of the Maya city-state of Palenque, acceded to the throne in July and ruled until his death. During a long reign of 68 years, longest known regnal period in Western Hemisphere history, and the 30th longest worldwide, Pakal was responsible for the construction or extension of some of Palenque’s most notable surviving inscriptions and monumental architecture.
616 Byzantine-Sassanid War The Jews of Jerusalem gain complete control over the city; much of the Byzantine province of Palestine Prima become an autonomous Jewish province of the Persian Empire. The Jewish Temple is rebuilt by Nehemiah ben Hushiel (exilarch of Jerusalem) who establishes a High Priesthood. The Persian army under spahbed Shahin Vahmanzadegan destroys the historic city of Sardis (modern Sart in Turkey’s Manisa Province). Its importance is due to a highway leading from the interior to the Aegean coast. Shahin marched through Anatolia, defeating the Byzantines numerous times.
Britain The Battle of Chester, a major victory for the Anglo Saxons over the native Britons near the city of Chester, England.
Italy Agilulf, king of the Lombards since 591, dies.
617 Byzantine-Sassanid War The Persian army under Shahin Vahmanzadegan conquer Chalcedon in Anatolia and reach the Bosphorus threatening Constantinople. Emperor Heraclius begins peace negotiations with the Persians promising an annual tribute of a 1,000 talents of gold and silver. Shahin withdrews with his army to Syria to focus on the invasion of Egypt.
Arabia The Battle of Bu’ath was fought in 617 between Banu Aus and Banu Khazraj, the Arab tribes of Yathrib (now Medina, in Saudi Arabia), in the south-eastern quarter of the Medinan oasis, belonging to the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza. The Aws were supported by the Jewish tribes of Banu Qurayza and Banu Nadir, and by the Arab Bedouins of the Muzayna tribe; the leader of the alliance was Hudayr ibn Simak. The opposing force, led by Amr ibn al-Numan, consisted of the majority of the Khazraj tribe and the Bedouin tribes of Juhayna and Ashja. The Awsite clan of Haritha and the Khazrajite chief Abdullah ibn Ubayy remained neutral. In the course of the battle, the Aws and their allies initially had to retreat, but then they counterattacked and defeated the Khazraj; both leaders of the opposing forces were killed. Despite the victory of the Aws, the outcome of the battle was an uneasy truce rather than a definite settlement.
618 Byzantine-Sassanid War General Shahbaraz takes Gaza and enters Egypt to besiege and take Pelusium; he besieges Empire military headquarters, ‘Babylon’ citadel near Memphis. After defeating the Byzantine garrisons in the Nile Valley, the Persians marched across the Libyan Desert as far as Cyrene. The Persians besiege Alexandria, the defence of the city is led by Nicetas (cousin of emperor Heraclius). The Byzantine resistance is undermined by a blockade of the harbor, the usual grain supplies are cut off from Egypt to Constantinople. Heraclius suspends the free grain-dole in Constantinople due to inability to bring in corn from invaded Egypt.
Italy 8 November: Saint Adeodatus I ends his reign as Catholic Pope.
China June 18: The Sui dynasty ends: The rebel leader Li Yuan captures Luoyang and has emperor Yángdi murdered. He proclaims himself emperor Gao Zu and establishes the Tang dynasty, one of the most notable dynasties in Chinese history, which will last for almost 300 years (618-907).
619 Byzantine-Sassanid War The besieged city of Alexandria is captured by the Persians. Nicetas, cousin of emperor Heraclius, and Chalcedonian patriarch, John V, flee to Cyprus. King Khosrow II extends his rule southwards along the Nile. Heraclius prepares to leave Constantinople and moves the Byzantine capital to Carthage, but is convinced to stay by Sergius I, patriarch of Constantinople. He begins to rebuild the Byzantine army with the aid of funds of Church treasures.
Byzantine Empire Death of the great Palestinian monastic traveller John Moschus, who since 578 has wandered throughout the Orthodox world and wrote up his experiences in his book The Spiritual Meadow; buried at his monastery of St. Theodosius, sacked by Persians in 614, by his younger travelling-companion Sophronius ‘the Sophist’.
Italy 23 December: Boniface V finally consecrated after delay in Heraclius’ confirmation as the 69th pope of Rome.
Britain Mellitus (died 624), the first Bishop of London in the Saxon period, becomes the third Archbishop of Canterbury.
620 Byzantine-Sassanid War King Khosrow II captures Ancyra (Ankara, capital of modern Turkey), an important Byzantine military base in central Anatolia. After the conquest of Egypt and Palestine he restores the Persian Empire as it existed in 490 BC under Darius I.
India King Pulakeshin II defeats the Harsha army on the banks of the Narmada River. Harsha loses a major part of his elephant force and retreats. A truce establishes Narmada as the northern boundary of the Chalukya Kingdom (543-753).
621 Spain King Sisebut dies after a 9-year reign and is succeeded by his son Reccared II (just a child). He is placed on the throne by the Visigothic nobility, but dies after two months. Suintila, half- uncle and regent, becomes king of the Visigothic Kingdom.
622 Byzantine-Sassanid War Emperor Heraclius sails from Constantinople with an expeditionary force (probably 50,000 men) and starts a counter-offensive against the Persian Empire. His young son, Constantine III, is left behind as regent under the charge of Sergius I, patriarch of Constantinople, and patrician Bonus. He lands a few days later at Pylae in Bithynia (Northern Anatolia). Cappadocia: Heraclius defeats the Persian forces under Shahrbaraz. He recaptures Anatolia, but returns to Constantinople to deal with the threat pose to his Balkan domains by the Avars and puts the Byzantine army into winter quarters in Pontus.
Byzantine Empire The Slavs invade the area around Thessaloniki which is unsuccessfully besieged. The city become a Byzantine enclave surrounded by Slavic territory.
Central Asia The Western Turks conquer the Oxus valley and cooperate with Heraclius against Sasanian Persia, taking Khorasan (modern Afghanistan).
623 Byzantine-Sassanid War Heraclius sails with 5,000 reinforcements to join the Byzantine army at Trapezus. Raising additional forces in Pontus, Heraclius strikes through the mountains of Armenia and the northern sub-Caucasian principalities. He plunders Media (Azerbaijan) and avoids the Persian armies who attempt to trap him. Shahbaraz attacks Heraclius during eclipse of moon but defeated.
624 Byzantine-Sassanid War 25 March: Heraclius leaves Constantinople with army, celebrates Easter at Nicomedia, and heads for Pontus to prepare invasion of Persia from less-defended Northern mountain frontier. Heraclius advances with an expeditionary force (40,000 men) along the Araxes River, destroying the fortress city of Dvin, capital of Armenia, and Nakhchivan (modern Azerbaijan). At Ganzak, Heraclius defeats the Persian army and destroys the famous fire temple at Takht-e Soleymän, an important Zoroastrian shrine. He winters his army in Caucasian Albania to gather forces for the next year. Winter: King Khosrow II, withdraws most of his troops from Chalcedon (Anatolia), he assembles three armies to trap and destroy Heraclius’ forces. The Persians go into winter quarters nearby, but Heraclius attacks them at Tigranakert (Western Armenia). Routing the forces of the generals Shahin Vahmanzadegan and Shahraplakan. The Byzantines destroy their baggage train.
Spain The Visigoths under king Suintila recapture the Byzantine territories of Spania (Andalusia) after 70 years of occupation. Only the Balearic Islands stay a part of the Byzantine Empire.
625 Byzantine-Sassanid War Heraclius marched with his forces west through the mountains of Corduene. In less than seven days, he bypasses Mount Ararat and captures along the Arsanias River the strategic fortresses Amida and Martyropolis on the upper Tigris. The Persian army in northern Mesopotamia withdraw westward across the Euphrates. Heraclius pursues into Cilicia, accompanied by a great train of booty. Battle of Sarus: Heraclius is victorious in a Byzantine assault river crossing. The reinforced Persians under Shahrbaraz are defeated along the Sarus River near Adana (modern Turkey). He recaptures Cappadocia and Pontus, and returns to Trapezus to spend the winter. Shahrbaraz retreats in good order, and is able to continue his advance through Asia Minor towards Constantinople.
Italy 25 October: Death of Boniface V; 27 October: Honorius I elected as the 70th pope.
626 Byzantine Empire Siege of Constantinople: A horde of Avars, consisting of about 80,000 men attack the walls of Constantinople. A small Persian army arrive on the Bosphorus on the Asiatic side. The Theodosian Walls are stormed. The defense of the capital (12,000 well-trained Byzantine troops) is in the hands of patriarch Sergius I and Bonus (magister militum). July 31: The Avars and Persian allies under Shahrbaraz launch an attack along the entire length of the Theodosian Walls (about 5.7 kilometre), the main effort is concentrated against the central section. After a fierce infantry battle on the walls, the Byzantine army hold off many assaults on the city. Emperor Heraclius makes arrangements for a new army under his brother Theodore to operate against the Persians in western Anatolia while he returns to his own army in Pontus. August 7: In the waters of the Golden Horn the Persian fleet is destroyed while ferrying reinforcements. The Avars, having suffer terrible losses, running short of food and supplies, burn their siege engines. They abandon the siege and retreat to the Balkan Peninsula. The Byzantines achieve a decisive victory at Blachernae.
Spain Historia de regibus Gothorum, Vandalorum et Suevorum (A History of the Gothic, Vandal and Suebi kings) written by Saint Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636) becomes popular.
627 Byzantine-Sassanid War Spring: Emperor Heraclius sweeps through southern Armenia with a 50,000 expeditionary force, recapturing most of the Byzantine fortresses lost to the Persians ten and fifteen years earlier. The army of Shahrbaraz, still in Anatolia, is now cut off completely. Hearing from Byzantine agents (showing him letters) that king Khosrow II, dissatisfied with his failure to capture Constantinople, is planning to have him executed, he surrenders to Heraclius, refusing to join the Byzantine army against his ungrateful sovereign. December 12: Battle of Nineveh: Heraclius crosses the Great Zab River and defeats, in a feigned retreat, the Persian army (12,000 men) under Rhahzadh near the ruins of Nineveh (Iraq). Although wounded, Heraclius refuses to leave the battlefield, and in a final cavalry charge personally kills the Persian general.
Britain King Edwin of Northumbria (reign 616-633) converted to Christianity. After he fell at the Battle of Hatfield Chase (12 October 633), he was venerated as a saint. Saint Bede the Venerable (c. 673-735) reports these events in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) the work that gained him the title “The Father of English History”.
628 Byzantine-Sassanid War Winter: Heraclius plunders the city palace of Dastgird (Iran) and gains tremendous riches (also recovering 300 captured Byzantine flags). He turns north-eastward to Caucasian Albania to rest his army. Khosrow II flees to the mountains of Susiana to rally support for the defense of the Persian capital Ctesiphon in Iraq. February 25: Khosrow II, the last great king of the Sasanian Empire, is overthrown by his son Kavadh II. A devastating plague kills half of the population in Western Persia, including Kavadh II. September 6: Ardashir III, age 7, succeeds his father Kavadh II.
Byzantine Empire After his victory over the Persians, Heraclius is said to have dreamed that destruction threatened the Byzantine Empire through a circumcised people. He therefore proposed to destroy all Jews (traditional allies of the Persians) who would not become Christians; and he is reported to have counseled Dagobert I, king of the Franks (623-639), to do the same.
India Astronomer and mathematician Brahmagupta writes the Brahmasphutasiddhanta, a very advanced mathematics book, including rules for computing with zero.
629 Byzantine Empire September 14: Emperor Heraclius enters Constantinople in triumph. In a ceremonial parade, accompanied by the True Cross, he is welcomed by the citizens and his son Heraclius Constantine. Jerusalem is reconquered by the Byzantines (after 15 years of occupation) from the Persian Empire. The war ends and a new Golden Age begins for the Byzantine Empire. First Imperial law using the Greek title ‘Basileus’; significant in transformation from Latin to Greek as language of Statebusiness.
Spain Fall of last Byzantine possessions, coastal towns around Malaga, to Visigoths.
Byzantine-Sassanid War Shahbaraz returns to Persia as regent for Ardashir, and restores the ‘True Cross’ to Heraclius’ envoy David; Persians evacuate Egypt, Syria and Palestine and Theodore’s Byzantine army marches into Syria; 28 October: the returned ‘Holy Lance’ from Crucifixion arrives in Constantinople.
Mesoamerica The Maya military outpost of Dos Pilas (Guatemala) is founded in order to control trade routes in the Petexbatún region. B’alaj Chan K’awiil is installed as its leader by his father, K’inich Muwaan Jol II, the ruler of Tikal.
630 Byzantine Empire Heraclius in Syria, with base at Hierapolis to watch events in Persia; he enters Jerusalem in triumph (21 March) to restore the ‘True Cross’ to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; he allows massacres of Jewish ‘collaborators’ and commences plans to enforce reunion of all Eastern Christian churches.
Persian Empire April 27: King Ardashir III, age 9, is murdered after an 18 month reign. He is succeeded by Shahrbaraz who becomes ruler (shah) of the Sasanian Empire. Chorpan Tarkhan, general of the Khazars, invades and devastates Armenia. He defeats a Persian cavalry force (10,000 men) sent by Shahrbaraz to repel the invasion. June 9: Shahrbaraz is killed and succeeded by Borandukht, daughter of former king Khosrow II. She ascends the throne as 26th monarch of Persia. She was the first and one of only two women to rule the Sasanian Empire.
Britain Eanswith, daughter of king Eadbald of Kent, founds the Benedictine Folkestone Priory, the first nunnery in England.
Asia Illig Qaghan, ruler (khagan) of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate, is captured by Chinese general Li Jing (571-649) during the Tang campaign against the Eastern Turks.
China Chinese porcelain is widely produced.
631 Persian Empire Azarmidokht (daughter of king Khosrow II) succeeds Shapur-i Shahrvaraz (also known as Shapur V, a usurper, son of Shahrbaraz, who reigned for a short time) as monarch of the Sasanian Empire. Azarmidokht is succeeded after a few months reign by Khosrow IV who becomes new ruler (shah) of Persia. Hormizd VI proclaims himself king in Nusaybin (modern Turkey). He seizes the throne and will reign for a while. His rule seems to coincide with other pretenders so it is likely that he ruled a district or province rather than the Empire in its entirety.
Central Europe Battle of Wogastisburg: The Slavs under king Samo defeat the Austrasian Franks in a three-day battle near Trenčin (modern Slovakia). King Dagobert I is forced to retreat, the Franks with their allies are slaughtered. Samo invades Thuringia and undertakes looting raids.
Spain King Suintila is overthrown after a 10-year reign by his son Sisenand, with aid of Dagobert I. The Visigothic nobles offer him a 500-pound plate made of pure gold. Sisenand becomes new king of the Visigothic Kingdom (reign 631-636) and declares his father a tyrant for his many crimes.
Britain King Edwin of Northumbria re-fortifies the city walls of York, probably including the building of the so-called Anglian Tower.
632 Byzantine Empire 31 May: Heraclius orders the baptism of all Jews in Africa; possibly extended to other provinces.
Persian Empire June 16: Yazdegerd III, age 8, ascends to the throne as king (shah) of the Persian Empire. He becomes the last ruler of the Sassanid Dynasty. The Zoroastrian calendar used regnal years since the reform by Ardeshir I (reign 224-242), but the ascension of Yazdegerd III crowned June 16, 632, continued to be used as the reference year, abbreviated Y.Z. or “Yazdegerd era”.
Neustrasia King Charibert II is assassinated at Blaye (Gironde)- possibly on orders of his half-brother Dagobert I-along with his infant son. He became the most powerful Merovingian king in the West.
Korea Seondeok is crowned queen of Silla (one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea). She was Silla’s twenty-seventh ruler, and its first reigning queen (632-647). She was the second female sovereign in East Asian history and encouraged a renaissance in thought, literature, and the arts in Silla.
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