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The War of the Three Gods: Romans, Persians, and the Rise of Islam

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The War of the Three Gods is a military history of the Near and Middle East in the seventh century—with its chief focus on the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius (AD 610–641)—a pivotal and dramatic time in world history. The Eastern Roman Empire was brought to the very brink of extinction by the Sassanid Persians before Heraclius managed to inflict a crushing def The War of the Three Gods is a military history of the Near and Middle East in the seventh century—with its chief focus on the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius (AD 610–641)—a pivotal and dramatic time in world history. The Eastern Roman Empire was brought to the very brink of extinction by the Sassanid Persians before Heraclius managed to inflict a crushing defeat on the Sassanids with a desperate, final gambit. His conquests were short-lived, however, for the newly converted adherents of Islam burst upon the region, administering the coup de grace to Sassanid power and laying siege to Constantinople itself, ushering in a new era. Peter Crawford skillfully narrates the three-way struggle between the Christian Roman, Zoroastrian Persian, and Islamic Arab empires, a period of conflict peopled with fascinating characters, including Heraclius, Khusro II, and the Prophet Muhammad himself. Many of the epic battles of the period—Nineveh, Yarmuk, Qadisiyyah and Nahavand—and sieges such as those of Jerusalem and Constantinople are described in as rich detail. The strategies and tactics of these very different armies are discussed and analyzed, while plentiful maps allow the reader to follow the events and varying fortunes of the contending empires. This is an exciting and important study of a conflict that reshaped the map of the world.


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The War of the Three Gods is a military history of the Near and Middle East in the seventh century—with its chief focus on the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius (AD 610–641)—a pivotal and dramatic time in world history. The Eastern Roman Empire was brought to the very brink of extinction by the Sassanid Persians before Heraclius managed to inflict a crushing def The War of the Three Gods is a military history of the Near and Middle East in the seventh century—with its chief focus on the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius (AD 610–641)—a pivotal and dramatic time in world history. The Eastern Roman Empire was brought to the very brink of extinction by the Sassanid Persians before Heraclius managed to inflict a crushing defeat on the Sassanids with a desperate, final gambit. His conquests were short-lived, however, for the newly converted adherents of Islam burst upon the region, administering the coup de grace to Sassanid power and laying siege to Constantinople itself, ushering in a new era. Peter Crawford skillfully narrates the three-way struggle between the Christian Roman, Zoroastrian Persian, and Islamic Arab empires, a period of conflict peopled with fascinating characters, including Heraclius, Khusro II, and the Prophet Muhammad himself. Many of the epic battles of the period—Nineveh, Yarmuk, Qadisiyyah and Nahavand—and sieges such as those of Jerusalem and Constantinople are described in as rich detail. The strategies and tactics of these very different armies are discussed and analyzed, while plentiful maps allow the reader to follow the events and varying fortunes of the contending empires. This is an exciting and important study of a conflict that reshaped the map of the world.

30 review for The War of the Three Gods: Romans, Persians, and the Rise of Islam

  1. 5 out of 5

    Omar Ali

    A great story. Digging into all avaialable sources, the author has tried his best to put together a coherent description of the great war between Persia and Rome, followed by the Arab conquests all the way up to the fall of the Ummayad dynasty. The detail makes the military actions much more comprehensible and corrects many many misconceptions caused by generations of over-simplified and superficial accounts. Unfortunately, many of the interesting details about the first set of Arab conquests so A great story. Digging into all avaialable sources, the author has tried his best to put together a coherent description of the great war between Persia and Rome, followed by the Arab conquests all the way up to the fall of the Ummayad dynasty. The detail makes the military actions much more comprehensible and corrects many many misconceptions caused by generations of over-simplified and superficial accounts. Unfortunately, many of the interesting details about the first set of Arab conquests sound reasonable, but are based on such shaky sources that in every case something entirely different may have happened. We just don't know, and probably never will. He also likes to present the military decisions of the early caliphs in exactly the same framework that he uses for the Persian and Roman leadership: intelligence is received, reinforcements are sent, reserves are mobilized, strategic decision and tactical maneuvers are discussed and implemented. The problem is, it may or may not have been like that. Maybe the Caliph and his government really did resemble the Roman and Persian states to some degree, but maybe it did not look like them at all. There is some possibility of things having been different and perhaps not so easily fitted into the standard framework Crawford has decided to use. On the other hand, maybe he is right. Maybe it is time to look at the events more as "normal" military history...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dominique

    $1.99 Kindle and Kobo sale, March 5, 2020.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Simon Jones

    Engagingly written and nicely paced with a good blend of narrative and analysis. As you would expect from a Pen and Sword it leans heavily towards the military and definitely has the most comprehensive accounts I have come across of the early battles of the Arab Conquests with lots of deployment maps so you can follow the action blow by blow. It also takes the time to describe some of the smaller actions which other books I have read on this period skim over to get straight to the big decisive e Engagingly written and nicely paced with a good blend of narrative and analysis. As you would expect from a Pen and Sword it leans heavily towards the military and definitely has the most comprehensive accounts I have come across of the early battles of the Arab Conquests with lots of deployment maps so you can follow the action blow by blow. It also takes the time to describe some of the smaller actions which other books I have read on this period skim over to get straight to the big decisive engagements. Definitely recommend both as a general intro to the period and for those after a bit more insight into the battles.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael Bellesiles

    Despite its title, this book has little to say about religion. Rather this is a standard military history, rich in detail and the specifics of the campaigns. The general sweep of the book and its analysis of strategy and tactics is outstanding, but it is easy to get lost in the minutiae and flood of names. Crawford does an excellent job explaining the triumph of the Arabic Caliphate in this century-long struggle with the Persian and Roman Empires. The Muslims were at a great advantage because of Despite its title, this book has little to say about religion. Rather this is a standard military history, rich in detail and the specifics of the campaigns. The general sweep of the book and its analysis of strategy and tactics is outstanding, but it is easy to get lost in the minutiae and flood of names. Crawford does an excellent job explaining the triumph of the Arabic Caliphate in this century-long struggle with the Persian and Roman Empires. The Muslims were at a great advantage because of the nearly ceaseless internal political disputes of the two empires and the often stunning incompetence of many of their commanders. That ineptness is particularly on show in the Muslim conquest of Roman Egypt. At times it seems as though the Romans did not care if they won or lost, and even appeared in a hurry to hand the most prosperous part of their empire over to Islam. Perhaps more important in the long run was the formidable skill of the Muslim commanders, who moved with speed to respond to every error of their enemies and constantly adjusted their tactics to the terrain and the behavior of their enemies. The book also contains an outstanding collection of maps, which do an excellent job of clarifying the text’s dense battle descriptions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Philton

    This book covers the military and political history of the 7th century AD. The Roman and Persian empires had just spent two decades slugging each other back and forth in yet another war in their centuries-long rivalry for dominance in the Middle East. They had no idea that their worlds were about to be overturned by a brand new player emerging from the bowels of the Arabian Peninsula: adherents of the religion Islam. Prior to reading this book, I only had a very broad brushstrokes knowledge of t This book covers the military and political history of the 7th century AD. The Roman and Persian empires had just spent two decades slugging each other back and forth in yet another war in their centuries-long rivalry for dominance in the Middle East. They had no idea that their worlds were about to be overturned by a brand new player emerging from the bowels of the Arabian Peninsula: adherents of the religion Islam. Prior to reading this book, I only had a very broad brushstrokes knowledge of this era and place. I feel I now have a much better understanding of how Islam managed to dominate so quickly and of the factors that led to the severe weakening of the Romans and the ultimate demise of the Sassanid Persian Empire. This was a good read (more of a 3.5 than 3), but I struggled with keeping track of a lot of the names. And because this era is so foreign to me, I would have appreciated even more maps and detailed graphics than were provided to help ground me in this time and place. But I can recommend this book to anyone interested in the geopolitical roots of Islam and/or the challenges faced by the Roman Empire in the middle of the first Millennium.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Friscia

    The 7th century AD sees the end of the wars between the eastern Roman Empire (the western Empire having fallen a century earlier) and the last Persian empire, the Sassanids, as they fight themselves to a standstill. This set the stage for the rise of Islam and its first Caliphate, and they spread and conquer the Middle East (finishing off the Persians in the process) and north Africa, and leaving the Romans with basically modern Turkey and Greece. They take Jerusalem for the first time, and it d The 7th century AD sees the end of the wars between the eastern Roman Empire (the western Empire having fallen a century earlier) and the last Persian empire, the Sassanids, as they fight themselves to a standstill. This set the stage for the rise of Islam and its first Caliphate, and they spread and conquer the Middle East (finishing off the Persians in the process) and north Africa, and leaving the Romans with basically modern Turkey and Greece. They take Jerusalem for the first time, and it doesn’t leave their hands til the First Crusade 500+ years later. This book is a good overview of that time, focusing mainly on the military campaigns. A bit dry at times, but certainly interesting. It made me want to look up lots of things - places, people, tactics - which is always a good sign. I wish the maps were better in it, with more detail, but that a nitpick.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Richard Thompson

    This is a straight up military history. One damn battle after another. It was like reading Tacitus or maybe The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It just goes on and on. It's hard to keep the battles and different phases of the neverending wars separate. I would have enjoyed more about the society or the personalities of the leaders or the military technology. It was interesting to learn about the early spread of Islam through jihad and how the great Persian empire collapsed. But between the diffic This is a straight up military history. One damn battle after another. It was like reading Tacitus or maybe The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It just goes on and on. It's hard to keep the battles and different phases of the neverending wars separate. I would have enjoyed more about the society or the personalities of the leaders or the military technology. It was interesting to learn about the early spread of Islam through jihad and how the great Persian empire collapsed. But between the difficult foreign names and the battle after battle after battle presentation, much of it turns into a great blur. I have read a bit a about Byzantium in other books, so the parts that are told from the Byzantine perspective stuck with me better, but I'll remember little beyond the general themes about the Persians and Muslims.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Williamson-Green

    I was very disappointed by this book, and honestly would not recommend this to anyone, unless you are interested in reading troop movement manuals. The title implied that it was about three faiths, therefore I expected that there would be more than a cursory cover of the subject. Instead page after page discussed troop movements in various battles. That would have been fine, I guess, but the audio book reader was horrible! The man struggled with basic pronunciations...my personal favorite was hi I was very disappointed by this book, and honestly would not recommend this to anyone, unless you are interested in reading troop movement manuals. The title implied that it was about three faiths, therefore I expected that there would be more than a cursory cover of the subject. Instead page after page discussed troop movements in various battles. That would have been fine, I guess, but the audio book reader was horrible! The man struggled with basic pronunciations...my personal favorite was his transposition of "Cavalry" and "Calvary". Don't bother with this book. Seek out something else.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rodney Bond

    If you are really interested in military history, and the conflicts between the Romans and the Persians, and how this led to the rise of Islam in the 600s, this book is for you. It is very detailed with specifics to the use of tactics, and to internal political conflicts in the three empires. Over a roughly one hundred year period the geopolitical structure around the Mediterranean Sea completely changed. The last time something of this scale had happened was the invasion of the Sea People in 11 If you are really interested in military history, and the conflicts between the Romans and the Persians, and how this led to the rise of Islam in the 600s, this book is for you. It is very detailed with specifics to the use of tactics, and to internal political conflicts in the three empires. Over a roughly one hundred year period the geopolitical structure around the Mediterranean Sea completely changed. The last time something of this scale had happened was the invasion of the Sea People in 1174 BC.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Really enjoyed this one as it gave me a more in depth knowledge on the final Roman vs Persian War as well as the rise and spread of Islam as a military and political power. Audible was very helpful in adding a downloadable map aids to help out with the understanding of geography and I am left with a little frustration as there is no graphical representation of the dramatis personae; namely Heraclius, Khosroe II, Muhammed, Khalid ibn al Walid etc. Great narration by James Lurie as I recognized hi Really enjoyed this one as it gave me a more in depth knowledge on the final Roman vs Persian War as well as the rise and spread of Islam as a military and political power. Audible was very helpful in adding a downloadable map aids to help out with the understanding of geography and I am left with a little frustration as there is no graphical representation of the dramatis personae; namely Heraclius, Khosroe II, Muhammed, Khalid ibn al Walid etc. Great narration by James Lurie as I recognized his voice in History Channel shows.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marvin Breshears

    Good background history Knowing the history of this time period helps understand where we are in today's world. Although not a particularly religious book, since much of this time period revolves around religion the author does a good job of weaving it into the narrative. Sometimes the details of each and every battle can become a bit tedious at times, the author's research on the topic is outstanding. Good background history Knowing the history of this time period helps understand where we are in today's world. Although not a particularly religious book, since much of this time period revolves around religion the author does a good job of weaving it into the narrative. Sometimes the details of each and every battle can become a bit tedious at times, the author's research on the topic is outstanding.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John Sagherian

    Just finished reading “The War of the Three Gods: Romans, Persians, and the Rise of Islam” by Peter Crawford. Sometimes the language is not smooth reading, and sometimes the facts seem confusing. However, if you’re interested in history, especially about the Middle East and about Islam, you’d find this interesting. Actually, the Epilogue is a good summary.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Religious Wars Religion as the main cause of centuries of war and conflict to establish dominance of one Faith over others. Ultimate struggle for power with religion at its core. Us versus Them!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    A great survey of the campaigns and politics that swirled around one of the most pivotal moments in world history. It was great to fill in so many of the details, and to see both continuities and ruptures across the three cultures and many decades covered by the author.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Wombold

    Monotheism While there was a lot of good information in this book, it was like any other historical reference; a bit drab at times. I prefer the history that is closer to my generation, but I also understand that all history is good to know.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cristian

    The book covers an interesant period of history .I will be very short the book is interesting but as a downfal it lacks a critical analise of islamic surces ,it folows the narative without adding some new insights .

  17. 4 out of 5

    Adair

    Poor Read Great subject matter. But, a tedious read. Many guesses about what happened. I would not recommend to casual historian reader.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Robert2481

    A fascinating history that reads like a novel. I learned a great many things I had no idea about previously.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    War of the Three Gods is a brief but highly detailed history of the last Romano-Persian war, one in which the great powers of the classical world mauled each other. Rome nearly perished here, because while the Persians were sweeping into Syria and Judea, tribes in the Balkans began raiding against Constantinople. Eventually the Persians would be stopped, and even subjected to raids in their heartland, and the statuo quo ante bellum stored. No sooner had the armies retired, however, than came arm War of the Three Gods is a brief but highly detailed history of the last Romano-Persian war, one in which the great powers of the classical world mauled each other. Rome nearly perished here, because while the Persians were sweeping into Syria and Judea, tribes in the Balkans began raiding against Constantinople. Eventually the Persians would be stopped, and even subjected to raids in their heartland, and the statuo quo ante bellum stored. No sooner had the armies retired, however, than came armies from Arabia...and by the time the ancients realized these weren't just the usual Bedouin raids, all of Persia was falling and the Romans were again stripped of most of their territory outside of Anatolia. The second half of the book is dedicated to Islam's early military victories, with abundant maps that showcase the solid maneuvering of commanders like Khalid. The book is chiefly about combat, with some politics mixed in as the Persians weakened themselves through civil war.

  20. 5 out of 5

    RA

    The epic 7th Century, the Sassanid Persians, the declining Roman Empire and the rise of the warrior Muslim Empire. A lot of historical analysis concerning the difference between historical versions and the possible historical truths about battles between the three dominant groups, and how the appearance and rise of Mohamed changed the dynamics of the region. Interestingly enough, the rise of Islam was in part because of cultural-religious tolerance and acceptance of other "conquered" and surroun The epic 7th Century, the Sassanid Persians, the declining Roman Empire and the rise of the warrior Muslim Empire. A lot of historical analysis concerning the difference between historical versions and the possible historical truths about battles between the three dominant groups, and how the appearance and rise of Mohamed changed the dynamics of the region. Interestingly enough, the rise of Islam was in part because of cultural-religious tolerance and acceptance of other "conquered" and surrounding groups, a practice which seems completely out-of-touch with some fundamentalist Muslim groups at the present. Another ponderable is how much Persian Zoroastrianism influenced the total cosmology and development of nascent Christian beliefs.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve Schlutow

    I really liked this book. Much of this is skipped over in history class, so the book answered many of those questions. The book also help understands the issues today effecting the Middle East. Its a good book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

    Good solid book, covers an area that is often ignored on the classical history classes, paints a new picture on the Islamic onslaught that saw Islam become a major religion and also an empire that changed the world.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Vanjr

    I am not sure why. Maybe my focus or background in this period of history, but I started this book and gave up very quickly (in chapter 1). I may come back later but could not get into a flow. The writing seemed disjointed to me.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Peter Bradley

    My Amazon review - http://www.amazon.com/review/R16EFTTA... My Amazon review - http://www.amazon.com/review/R16EFTTA...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris Buckham

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tzar039

  27. 4 out of 5

    David Z Hirsch

  28. 4 out of 5

    thomas j harper

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aaron41594

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

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