Europe and the Middle East – Millennia of Friction

The conflict between Europe and the Middle East has existed throughout human history. This was evident as early as 4th Century BC where the Persians invaded and sought to control Greece. This quarrel lasted for centuries with numerous battles occurring such as the ‘Battle of Marathon’ where the Athenians defended Greece and did so successfully, despite being heavily outnumbered. This is clearly a geographical conflict. In addition, Europe and the Middle East have been in deep religious conflict, with the Crusades as the most significant example. However, even in Roman times, there were conflicts with the Jewish people, over the rule of Jerusalem. Having briefly considered these conflicts, are current conflicts a result of a huge geographical or religious power struggle?

Throughout history, the Middle East has mainly been under the control of large Western Empires. The first of these empires was under the rule of Alexander the Great who conquered Persia and created an empire which stretched from Greece to India. After his death, the successor states were still largely under Greek influence and it took the power of several more native people such as the Egyptians (whilst still a successor state they were certainly more tuned to more inherent customs) and Parthians to change the Greeks’ influence on Asia Minor. The subsequent Roman Empire held this territory for centuries and after their decline, it was once again under native control. Finally, the British assumed control of the Middle East during the 19th and 20th century. Western influence has always been large in the Middle East and our association with the area has gone some way into leading into the current affairs of today. The Middle East could have been a more remote and unrelated part of the world. Furthermore, in more recent times, the Middle East has become, geographically, more significant due to its one key resource that was so helpful to the British in World War Two and is commonly used as an explanation by other than the government as a reason for war today, oil.

From a different perspective, there have been several religious conflicts in the Middle East. The most known and important of those conflicts is the Crusades. The fight for the Holy Land inspires many of the Muslims who fight against Western forces today in the name of “Jihad”. However, the same cannot be seen of the Christians, who seemed to have lost this interest, most likely due to increased secularisation. The war was lost for religious power in the region after control was relinquished, following the Third Crusade. However, a lesser known but almost equally important war in history was fought over this region, a long time before the crusades; the Jewish rebellions. These rebellions eventually lead to the exile of Jewish contingent from Jerusalem and the death of their populace after the Third Rebellion (more commonly known as the Bar Kokhba revolt) in which 500, 000 Jewish people were slaughtered. It led to a more Christian influence after Constantine reformed the Roman Empire into becoming Catholic which eventually led to the Crusades. More critically, it was the loss of the Jewish homeland and after the centuries of persecution, the Jewish people were given their homeland of Israel, despite Islamic dominance.

In the final analysis, the importance of the Middle East and its friction throughout history hold importance, in the aggression of its natives today, for the current western society. Furthermore, as our predecessors have vied for the land for so long, we have so much influence over the area. In addition, it lead to the current situation of today in Israel and the long standing dispute over the Holy Land in which the future seems determined to twist around in Iran’s attempts to obtain Nuclear weapons and the struggle between the Palestinians and Jewish people for the territory. In conclusion, it seems that today’s wars in the Middle East are simply the pawn of an extended struggle between clashes in inherent perceptions, interpretations and arrangements.

Contributed by Alex Boitier

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *