Jonathan Harris, The Best Of Enemies, 2013 Essays Example
The conflict between Christian Byzantium and Muslim Abbasid caliphate was based on the religious grounds with both sides being amazingly ignorant about the postulates of the opponent’s religion. The war seemed to be endless, as both sides tried to “eradicate each other”, as the author put it. As examples of the bitterness of the war Professor Harris gives Caliph Al-Mu’tasim’s invasion into Byzantium in 838 AD and General Nikeforos Phokas’ descent on the Muslims in 962. Both invasions were extremely savage. Towns and villages were destroyed and thousands were taken prisoners.
At some point however, both sides realized that complete destruction of the enemy was not attainable. Even though the frontier war never stopped completely, both sides had some common interests and interacted with each other. The most obvious problem that needed to be addressed was exchange of prisoners. An elaborate procedure involving the bridge over River Lamis was negotiated.
Another interesting fact the author provided in the article is the story about the trade between two countries. Despite the war the enemies never stopped trading with each other. There even was a mosque near Constantinople for the convenience of the Muslim merchants.
Prisoner exchange and trade made another interaction between the bitter rivals necessary: diplomatic relations. Professor Harris calls it “a stream of ambassadors” between Bagdad and Constantinople, with both sides offering valuable gifts to each other.
As the final argument in support of his view, the author tells us about the admiration both Byzantine and Abbasid caliphate societies had for ancient Greek culture. Byzantine emperors even sent “finely bounds copies” of the ancient Greek authors’ works to Muslim rulers.
Based on all the facts of Byzantine and Muslim relations between 750 and 1050 AD Jonathan Harris claims that: “complete ideological alienation and total war are the exception not the rule in the human history.”