The Arab conquest 63056 and monothelitism

In the same year that Heraclius triumphantly restored the True Cross to Jerusalem, Muslim troops conquered Mecca and, advancing up the Arab peninsula, confronted the troops of the Byzantine and Sasanian Arab client tribes. In several instances they succeeded in gaining the support of the miaphysite and eastern dyophysite Arab populations and in converting them to the new religion. In late 633 Muslim troops began to penetrate into southern Palestine and Nabatea, where the imperial forces, weakened by the recent wars against the Persians, were unable to resist. After years of Persian occupation, the region's institutional, economic, and ideological links with Byzantium had been weakened, and its populations were not inclined to resist the new conquerors. Damascus was captured in 635, Antioch in 637, and Jerusalem in 638. Caesarea, the last Byzantine coastal stronghold in Palestine, fell in 640-41.

As the Arabs rapidly advanced, Heraclius made a last, unsuccessful attempt at Christian reunion in the hopes of gaining the loyalty and support of the miaphysites. At the end of 638 he published the Ekthesis composed by Patriarch Sergius and drafted by Pyrrhus of Chrysopolis, which forbade the affirmation of either "one" or "two" activities, but nevertheless reaffirmed that all activity proceeds from the divine Logos. In this way it attempted to maintain the logic of monenergism whilst avoiding the expression that had scandalized Sophronius's party. To emphasize the unity of the incarnate Logos, the "one single will" in Christ was also affirmed, thus introducing a new term into the Christological discourse. Yet the Ekthesis was rejected by the larger part of the miaphysite East. The Armenian divine Stephen of Siwnik (c. 680-735) was later to epitomize the discussion: "Christ accomplished his Father's deed by means of his body . . . [and] because of the divinity of his nature he reveals through his activity that his body is equal in power [to his divinity]."19

After the invasion of Palestine and Syria, the Arabs vigorously engaged the Persians. By 640 the conquest of Mesopotamia was completed, and in 641 central Armenia was invaded and its capital, Duin, was pillaged and its population massacred. The army then marched on to Georgia which was subdued within a few years. Advances into Egypt resulted in Byzantine withdrawal from Alexandria in September 642 and the opening of routes for further Arab advances, southward along the Nile Valley and westward along the African coast. Soon after, the Muslim army penetrated beyond Aswan and made its first incursions into Nubia. In 642, and again in 652, the Nubian kingdoms succeeded in resisting the Islamic forces, and the treaty which was later signed between the caliphate and the Nubians recognized the sovereignty of the latter.

By 642 the Arabs completed their takeover of the Christian East, thus nullifying the ecclesiastical politics of Heraclius. As a result of less than ten years of warfare, the ancient Roman provinces of Palestine, Syria, and Egypt, together with their predominantly miaphysite populations, were cut off from the political body of Christendom. Byzantium lost the Holy Land, three patriarchal

19 Stephen of Siwnik", Response, 441- 42.

sees, and the intellectual centers which, for three and a half centuries, had generated reflection on the person of the Savior, and witnessed violent conflicts between Christologically opposed thinkers, factions, and populations. The Sixth Ecumenical Council, held at Constantinople in 680-81, at which the "monophysite" communities were not even considered, was to end the long era of Christological debates within the empire.

"Monothelitism," however, the doctrine of a single will in Christ, found enduring support in central Syria, especially at Edessa, Hierapolis, Berrhoea, and Emesa, and the later reversal of the imperial doctrine was not to be accepted by all of the Antiochene Chalcedonians. In 727, the Syriac monastery of Saint Marun near Apamea, unwilling to recognize the teaching of the Sixth Council, seceded from the Antiochene Patriarchate, together with the adjacent parishes over which it exercised influence. In 742, when the Chalcedonians of Syria were authorized by the caliph to elect a patriarch, the church was split into two, the monothelite "Maronite" Church and the church professing the imperial doctrine and thus called "Melkite," that is, "royal."

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