History, Islamic Caliphates and Crusader Kingdoms
Maronite Christians, Seljuks, Umayyads, Lebanon area, Maronites
Arab conquests in the 7th century brought political and cultural upheavals to the entire Middle East, and in 636 Islam pushed into Lebanon. In the late 7th century, Maronite Christians, seeking refuge from Byzantine oppression, migrated from the interior of Syria into the northern Lebanon Mountains. Gradually, the area named Phoenicia gave way to Mount Lebanon or simply Lebanon. In 661 a new Muslim empire under the Umayyad caliphate arose with its capital in Damascus, in present-day Syria. The Umayyads incorporated the Fertile Crescent, including Lebanon, into their empire. In 750 the Umayyads were overthrown by the Abbasid caliphate, which ruled from Baghdad, in present-day Iraq.
Early in the 11th century a new heretical group emerged from the Ismailite Shias; called Druze after one of their leaders, they evolved in the Mount Hermon area, in the southeast of present-day Lebanon. Later, some Druze filtered north into the southern Lebanon Mountains. The decline of the Abbasids after the 11th century opened the Levant to several contending powers, among them the Seljuks. Their territorial advances, especially into Palestine, aroused Christian fears in Western Europe and provoked the invasion of the Crusaders between 1095 and 1291. Crusader influence was strong in Lebanon, which was divided between the kingdoms of Tripoli and Jerusalem. During Crusader occupation, Maronites cooperated with their fellow Christians and enjoyed expanded group identity, but their collaboration increased the suspicions of Muslims. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, Shia Muslim groups from several areas peacefully migrated into Lebanonís northern Bekaa and also later to the south. Lebanon was now shared by Maronites, Druze, Sunnis, and Shias, the same groups who would clash in the civil war of 1975 to 1991. As the 13th century closed, Egyptian Mamluks led the expulsion of the Crusaders and occupied the Lebanon area. For more than 200 years under the Mamluks, Lebanonís coastal cities prospered from revived trade.
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