The Throne of Adulis: Red Sea Wars on the Eve of Islam

Hardcover | March 27, 2013

byG.W. Bowersock

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Just prior to the birth of Islam in the sixth century AD, southern Arabia was embroiled in a violent conflict between Christian Ethiopians and Jewish Arabs. Though little known today, this was an international war that involved both the Byzantine Empire, who had established Christian churchesin Ethiopia, and the Sasanian Empire in Persia, who supported the Jews in a proxy war against its longtime foe Byzantium.Our knowledge of these events derives largely from an inscribed marble throne at the Ethiopian port of Adulis, meticulously described by a sixth-century merchant known as Cosmas Indicopleustes. Using the writings of Cosmas and a wealth of other historical and archaeological evidence from the period,eminent historian G. W. Bowersock carefully reconstructs this fascinating but overlooked chapter in pre-Islamic Arabian history. The flashpoint of the war, Bowersock tells us, occurred when Yusuf, the Jewish king, massacred hundreds of Christians living in Najran. The Christian ruler of Ethiopia,Kaleb, urged on by the Byzantine emperor Justin "to go forth...against the abominable and criminal Jew," led a force of 120,000 men across the Red Sea to defeat Yusuf. But when the victorious Kaleb - said to have retired to a monastery - left behind weak leaders in both Ethiopia and Himyar, theByzantine and Persian empires expanded their activity in the Arabian territory. In the midst of this conflict, a new religion was born, destined to bring a wholly unanticipated resolution to the power struggle in Arabia.The Throne of Adulis vividly recreates the Red Sea world of Late Antiquity, transporting us back to a remote but pivotal epoch in ancient history, one that sheds light on the rise of Islam as well as the collapse of the Persian Empire.

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Just prior to the birth of Islam in the sixth century AD, southern Arabia was embroiled in a violent conflict between Christian Ethiopians and Jewish Arabs. Though little known today, this was an international war that involved both the Byzantine Empire, who had established Christian churchesin Ethiopia, and the Sasanian Empire in Pers...

G. W. Bowersock is Professor Emeritus of Ancient History at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey. Among his many previous books are From Gibbon to Auden: Essays on the Classical Tradition, Mosaics as History: The Near East from Late Antiquity to Islam, and Roman Arabia.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:208 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.98 inPublished:March 27, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199739323

ISBN - 13:9780199739325

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Table of Contents

PrefaceAbbreviationsList of Maps and IllustrationsMaps1. The Throne2. A Christian Traveller in the Red Sea3. Ptolemy's Elephants4. The Kingdom of Axum5. Christianity Comes to Axum6. Judaism Comes to Himyar7. The Ethiopian Invasion of 5258. Entry of the Great Powers9. ReckoningAppendix: NonnosusBibliographyIndex