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Byzantines saw their conflict with Islam as a “conflict of civilizations” between traditional Roman world and a desert menace. But at first, this was not actually the case. Whereas Muslims had, from the start, separated the world into dar al-Islam (“Land of Islamd”) and dar al-harb (“House of War”), from Roman point of view, the conflict was a confrontation between a civilized society and uncivilized barbarians, the “godless Saracens”. Only from late eighth and early ninth century does a nuanced understanding of Islam develop in the Roman world, and only in the ninth century is Islam understood as an existential threat to the Roman Empire. Roman identity itself was highly religious, with expansion of Islam reducing the Empire to areas with almost exclusively Orthodox Christian population. This identity was a key for resistance to invasion, with Arab conquest having taken almost exclusively the areas where this identity was weak.
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