Abstract Prof. Stefan Heidemann
Stefan Heidemann (Universität Hamburg)
Abstract: The Economic and Cultural Reach of the Empire
A Eurocentristic view is still inherent in our literature and thinking. The Roman Empire is seen as the measure of all empires, both in terminology and function. The notion of a long Late Antiquity is basically a European one and sees history only from a certain geographical angle.
Our project looked specifically at five different regions of the early Islamic empire. We had to redefine the building blocks of interpretation, the question of the provinces, the elite structure, and the understanding of capital versus imperial residences.
The Roman Empire was in its core a maritime empire with extensions into the European and Asian continent. Nevertheless, if we want to explore the reach of the empire beyond its immediate political and military control, we have to define a sphere of economic and cultural dominance, and also of economic and cultural influence to assess the reach of the empire within the three continents. Five zones of ‘reach’ will be identified, the western European, the sub-Saharan African, that of the Arabian Sea, the Eastern European, and the Central Asian. Viewed together, they allow a better assessment of the economic and cultural reach of the early Islamic Empire into Europe, Eurasia and Africa.