VIENNA: More than 250 papyri recently discovered in Austria’s national library have shed new light on the Arab conquest of north Africa and northwest Asia in the 1st century AD, say experts.
The collection of documents, written in Greek and Coptic and dating from 643 and 644 AD, contain precious information on what the library has described as one of the most important periods in the history of humanity.
It covers the fall of the Byzantine Empire, which grew out of the eastern half of the old Roman empire and was based in what is now known as Constantinople in Turkey, but back then was called Byzantium.
They also cover the declining Persian empire during the time of the Sassanides dynasty.
Both empires ceded power and territory to the Arab forces who swept over the region during that period in what is now known as the Arab Conquest.
"Until now, we did not know about documents on the daily life of the Arab armies," said a statement from the library.
These ancient documents brought to life the tension and emotions caused by the power struggles of the day and included details such as the concern of the Arab troops to spare the civilian population where they waged their campaigns.
The library is in the process of scanning the documents into digital format so they can be consulted by the public from early 2011 in the library’s Papyrus Museum: http://www.onb.ac.at/ev/papyrus_museum.htm.