The Abbasid Caliphate
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

The Abbasids

In 750 AD, the Abbasid caliphs murdered all of the surviving Umayyad men but one, and took over ruling the Islamic Empire. The Abbasids were less interested in the Mediterranean coast than the Umayyads had been, and the Abbasids therefore tended to concentrate more on the plains of Iraq and Iran, and less on the coast: Israel, Syria, and Lebanon, and Egypt. But towards the east, the Abbasids quickly came up against the Tang Dynasty Chinese, who were also expanding their empire at this time. Though the Arabs won a great battle against the Chinese in 751, near Samarkand in Central Asia, the border stayed about the same from then on.

In 762 AD the Abbasids moved their capital east from Damascus in Syria to the new city of Baghdad (the h is silent) in Iraq (which is still the capital of Iraq today). This shift can be seen as another example of the West Asian conflict between an orientation toward the land and an orientation toward the sea.
Baghdad was soon a big international city, where people spoke Aramaic, Arabic, and Persian. Many different groups of people lived there: Arabs, Persians, Jews, and Greeks. Many different gods were worshipped: there were Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, in addition to the Islamic majority. By the 800s Baghdad probably had nearly half a million people (that is half as big as Rome during the Roman Empire), and was the largest city in the world outside of China.

The one surviving Umayyad man fled from Damascus around the Mediterranean to Spain, where he founded the Umayyad Caliphate of Spain, and he and his successors ruled Spain for many years.
The Abbasids ruled all of West Asia and North Africa from 750 AD . About 830, they conquered Sicily and southern Italy, too. They held on to most of the Mediterranean Sea until about 1000, when they began to weaken. First North Africa broke away and formed independent kingdoms under the Fatimids. Then gradually the governors of each province - like the Samanids - began to act more and more independently, and the Turkish generals of the armies became less and less under the control of the Caliphs. The Seljuk generals began to take over, and by 1055 the Abbasid caliphs didn't really have any power anymore. The successes of the First Crusade in 1096 in taking over Jerusalem and much of Israel and Lebanon are due largely to the gradual decline of Abbasid power. Then about 1100 AD, the Normans conquered Italy and Sicily. In 1258 AD the Abbasid dynasty ended.

Learn by doing: build the Samarra minaret out of sand
Go on to the Seljuks

Bibliography and further reading about the Abbasids:



or this article in the Encyclopedia Britannica

Turks
More Islamic History
Main Islam page


Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Check out our new ebook: Short and Simple: Ancient Greek Myths! - just out! Twenty-five easy to read, illustrated stories, from Pandora to Medea, Icarus, and the Trojan Horse (you can read these online as samples). Get it this week for just $14.99, five dollars off the regular price of $19.99.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 28 June, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT