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:. . The Middle East

Around 600 CE, the Middle Eastern religion Islam began in Mecca, which is located in western Saudi Arabia. At that time, the lands of the Middle East were under the rule of a number of competing empires. The major empires were the Byzantines centered in Constantinople and the Sassanids based in Persia (city of Fars). 

The Arab peoples of the Arabian Peninsula were organized into tribal groups, which were often in competition with one another. The Arabs of the Arabian interior emerged as a serious challenge to the leading empires when they united as a result of their common adherence to Islam. 

Over the next hundred years or so, the Muslim Arabs' political reach extended from Mecca throughout the Arabian Peninsula and as far north as Baghdad, Iraq and Damascus, Iran, and west along the North African coast. This series of Arab-Islamic empires controlled all of the Middle East (except present-day Turkey), all of North Africa, Iran, Pakistan, India, and parts of Afghanistan. They even conquered Spain and Portugal.

The Arab-Islamic empires were eventually replaced by a Turkic-Islamic group called the Ottomans. Founded in 1300 CE, the Ottomans continued the successful expansion of their empire throughout the 16th century, most notably with their capture of Constantinople from the Byzantines in 1453. The Ottoman Empire changed the name Constantinople to Istanbul. By the end of the 15th century, in addition to its vast control over the Middle East and North Africa, the Ottoman Empire occupied much of southern and eastern Europe (present-day Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Yugoslavia and parts of Hungary, Poland, and the Crimea) (see map). The occupation of these countries by the Ottomans was the high point of the Ottoman Empire's power. The Ottoman forces even came close to capturing Vienna, Austria on two different occasions: once in 1529, and again in 1683.

Over the next few centuries, the Ottoman Empire's power declined and their peoples and territory were influenced and controlled by European powers. For various military, political, and economic motives, the European powers of that time began to take a more active interest in the lands and peoples of the Middle East. For the peoples of the Middle East, the growing European influence and presence was seen as a return to the days of the Crusaders (about 1100-1200 CE) when European knights captured Jerusalem and established themselves along the Levant coast. As the Ottomans were unable to resist the growing European presence, more portions of the Middle East came under European control. In an effort to halt the erosion of their empire, the Ottomans joined with Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I. However, the defeat of these nations during the war led to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire.

More information concerning the Middle East since World War I can be found in Politics.



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