Friday, October 30, 2015

This Day in History: Battle of the Iron Bridge (Oct 30)

October 30, 637 CE, the Battle of the Iron Bridge, at Antioch in Roman Syria came to an end.  This was a battle waged between Muslims (The Rashiduns) and the Byzantine army-or the Eastern Roman army-the primary military force of the Byzantine forces, and direct descendant of the Roman army.  The battle was fought near a 9 arch stone bridge by the River Orontes, about 12 miles from the city of Antioch itself, with the Byzantine forces defending the city, and the Muslim forces on the attack.  While details of the battle itself were not recorded, it is known that Khalid ibn al-Walid (a companion of the prophet Mohammed) lead the Muslim forces.  The Byzantine forces ultimately surrendered, making just one of hundreds of victories al-Walid would pile up on his resume before his dismissal from the military in the year 638.

With two forces totalling 40,000-50,000 soldiers between them, the battle claimed more than 10,000 lives, and waged on for days, maybe weeks, finally ending in a siege laid by the Muslim invaders against the city itself.  Following this decisive victory, al-Walid moved his forces south, where he continued his victorious march, claiming most of north-western Syria with little difficulty.  Ultimately, al-Walid would unify all of Arabia under one single political entity: the Caliphate.  By the end of his career, al-Walid had achieved hero-like status in his community, due primarily to his military prowess, and earned the nickname "Sword of God".  This was part of the reason for his dismissal, which seemed to be due in part to jealousy of a cousin of his; Umar.  He lived his final years out in Emesa, dying just about 4 years after being dismissed from the military.

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