The Dichotomy of Pirenne’s Theory on the Commercial Situation in the Mediterranean Regions during the Middle Ages
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Pre-Islamic history directly revolved around two main political and economical powers, namely the Byzantine Empire covering Europe, Africa, West Asia, and the Persian Empire in Asia. Since the beginning of the seventh and during the eighth centuries, the newly forming Muslim state became the inheritor of both these empires. From the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs gained their colonies in Asia, except Asia Minor; in the west they spread all of North Africa then expanded to Spain. It took them about a century to consolidate there, since they were the least adapted of all peoples to the building of an empire. Only occasionally Latin and Greek was replaced by the Arabic language in the main cities. New centres of urbanization were established in places which previously had started as military camps. The Arabs had always been builders. When their state took over the rule of a large tract of land, they founded many centres to control the land, rivers, routes and main strategic points. It is worth noting here that the Arabs used established numerous towns, mostly inland, but rarely far away from the sea coast; cf. for instance Al-Kūfa, Al-Fusṭāṭ or Al-Qayrawān. Many of these centres were located on lateral trade routes, which, in the course of time, became large, populous towns and gained great importance due to their location. It could be said that during that time commercial factors to a large extent motivated the foundation of many states and cities.