conquest of the eastern, southern, and western portion of the Mediterranean
basin from the seventh to the early eighth centuries.
of Muslim conquests
Animated by the spirit
of militant and expansive Islam, Muslim
armies conquered Arabia, Syria, Egypt, the Persian Empire, the coast of
North Africa, and Spain in the seventh and eighth centuries. The advance
into Europe was not checked until Muslim armies were defeated by Charles
Martel at the battle of Tours in 732. This placed many of the ancient
centers of Christianity under Muslim rule and reduced the Byzantine Empire
to the territory of modern Turkey and a comparatively small portion of
Europe. This had two further important effects on western Christianity.
It brought western Christian thinkers into contact with Islamic intellectual
life, a meeting which resulted in among other things a renewed study of
Aristotle as interpreted by the Islamic philosopher Averroes.
It also caused western Christianity to understand itself as distributed
along an axis running from north to south rather than east to west. This
axis eventually would run from Scandinavia in the north to Italy in the
south and would include the British Isles and the Frankish kingdom. With
the West increasingly separated from the East by political and cultural
events, the eastern and western churches would increasingly drift apart.