Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 September 2002
When the decisive battle of the Yarmuk in 636 AD gave the Muslim Arabs control of Syria, they gained a land that had been Roman for 700 years. Yet in the memory of most of its inhabitants, their recent subjection to the Sassanian Persians would have been fresh and even dominant. The forces of Chosroes II, which had controlled Syria for a generation, had only been withdrawn in 630. Anyone who had reached adulthood by the time the Arabs arrived had already experienced the Persian occupation; many were born or raised during it. This period of Persian rule, which lasted twenty years or more in Syria, Mesopotamia and Armenia, fifteen in Palestine and ten in Egypt, may have played a major role in accustoming the locals to non-Roman rule, or may have had violently disruptive effects that facilitated the subsequent Arab conquest. So far, the period has been poorly known and never studied as a whole, allowing many theories to be projected upon it. For the most part, historians and especially archaeologists have assigned to the Persians a highly negative and destructive role.