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Historical Background
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Saracens
'Saracen' is a term from the Dark Ages used to refer to Arabs and other Muslim or Islamic peoples. The Greeks and Romans used "Saracen" to refer to the nomads of the Syrian-Arabian deserts. The Europeans of the Middle Ages also used the term to broadly refer to people of Arabian descent, especially in reference to the Turks.

The etymological origin of the term 'Saracen' remains in dispute and will probably ever be explained. Most historians suggest the origin comes from the Arabic term 'sarqui', meaning, 'from the East' or 'oriental'. Another possible explanation is the definition of the Arabic word 'sariq', plural 'sariqin', meaning 'plunderer'.
Historical Background
The nomads of the desert appeared on the political landscape during the 7th century. Within the next 150 years, they succeeded in creating a vast empire. Their conquests were characterized by their new religion and their high moral standards. The nomads followed the revelations of the prophet Mohammed, thus changing the religious and political landscape of the known earth forever.From the year 613, Mohammed preached Islam as his new religion. In his own hometown of Mecca he was persecuted and then fled to Medina. However his flight marked the beginning of the Muslim calendar. After many years in Medina, he gathered strong support of Islam and peacefully returned to Mecca. This was, most likely, the only conquest in the history of mankind that occurred without bloodshed or plundering. Following his death in 632, Mohammed's revelations were collected in the Hadith and the Holy Koran. In the year 634, Muslims began spreading "the word of Islam" and, in the famous battle of Yarmuk 636, opened up the gates to the Byzantine Empire. Within only 5 years, the Muslims had conquered Egypt, Palestine and Syria. Arabs were tolerant of Jews and Christians, allowing them to keep their religion, but they had to pay a tax. However, the Pagans were often told to 'join Islam or die'.Over the next 60 years, the sword of Islam spread over the whole of North Africa and Persia, the second in power only to Byzantium. In the early 8th century, Muslims conquered the Empire of the Visigoths on the Iberian Peninsula. They also succeeded in conquering most of modern-day Turkey, but failed at the walls of Constantinople. In Europe, French Prince Charles Martel led his army in the Battle of Tours (732) and succeeded in preventing the Islamic army from gaining further ground in the West. Christians regard this battle as an historic turning point. In the East, the Saracens conquered Northern India and the steppes up to China. By 750, they ruled North and East Africa and parts of Central Africa. Today, 90% of the population of these countries (except modern day Spain) remain devoted to Islam.


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