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Saracen Strongholds AD 630-1050: The Middle East and Central Asia (Fortress) Paperback – 4 Jun 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (4 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184603115X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846031151
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 0.5 x 24.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,282,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The Islamic world drew upon a myriad of pre-existing styles of fortication that was both new and distinctive. This book examines early Saracen fortifications, covering their historical background, socio-political circumstances, and their role in protecting the Islamic world." -"Game Trade Magazine" (April 2008)

"As the Islamic Empire expanded, it drew upon a variety of earlier fortification styles: Romano-Byzantine, Indian and even Chinese. This book explains how these different themes were combined in Islamic fortifications... The book is authoritatively written and well illustrated." -Bolling Smith, "Coast Defense Journal" (September 2008)
"The book details some of the best examples of Islamic military architecture in the Middle East...Of course, if you are looking for a good description of one of these sites or even a regional description, the book can be a useful resource."-David Nicolle, "FORTRESS 76" (July 2008)
"The Islamic world drew upon a myriad of pre-existing styles of fortication that was both new and distinctive. This book examines early Saracen fortifications, covering their historical background, socio-political circumstances, and their role in protecting the Islamic world." -"Game Trade Magazine" (April 2008)

.,." In this book, author David Nicholle covers the methods of construction as well as the major parts of [the] fortresses ... To help us visualize what some of these may have been like, Adam Hook has provided superlative illustrations of not only the physical layout, but also some of the action that took place at these locales ... Overall, another fine book in this series." -Scott Van Aken, modelingmadness.com (September 2008)


"As the Islamic Empire expanded, it drew upon a variety of earlier fortification styles: Romano-Byzantine, Indian and even Chinese. This book explains how these different themes were combined in Islamic fortifications... The book is authoritatively written and well illustrated." -Bolling Smith, "Coast Defense Journal" (September 2008)
"The book details some of the best examples of Islamic military architecture in the Middle East...Of course, if you are looking for a good description of one of these sites or even a regional description, the book can be a useful resource."-David Nicolle, "FORTRESS 76" (July 2008)
"The Islamic world drew upon a myriad of pre-existing styles of fortication that was both new and distinctive. This book examines early Saracen fortifications, covering their historical background, socio-political circumstances, and their role in protecting the Islamic world." -"Game Trade Magazine" (April 2008)

"It is worth your time to pick up "Saracen Strongholds" and I hope to check out some of the other "Fortress" titles in the near future." -Trask, "livingdice.com" (April 2009)
..". In this book, author David Nicholle covers the methods of construction as well as the major parts of [the] fortresses ... To help us visualize what some of these may have been like, Adam Hook has provided superlative illustrations of not only the physical layout, but also some of the action that took place at these locales ... Overall, another fine book in this series." -Scott Van Aken, modelingmadness.com (September 2008)
"As the Islamic Empire expanded, it drew upon a variety of earlier fortification styles: Romano-Byzantine, Indian and even Chinese. This book explains how these different themes were combined in Islamic fortifications... The book is authoritatively written and well illustrated." -Bolling Smith, "Coast Defense Journal" (September 2008)
"The book details some of the best examples of Islamic military architecture in the Middle East...Of course, if you are looking for a good description of one of these sites or even a regional description, the book can be a useful resource."-David Nicolle, "FORTRESS 76" (July 2008)
"The Islamic world drew upon a myriad of pre-existing styles of fortication that was both new and distinctive. This book examines early Saracen fortifications, covering their historical background, socio-political circumstances, and their role in protecting the Islamic world." -"Game Trade Magazine" (April 2008)

"It is worth your time to pick up Saracen Strongholds and I hope to check out some of the other Fortress titles in the near future." -Trask, "livingdice.com" (April 2009)
..". In this book, author David Nicholle covers the methods of construction as well as the major parts of [the] fortresses ... To help us visualize what some of these may have been like, Adam Hook has provided superlative illustrations of not only the physical layout, but also some of the action that took place at these locales ... Overall, another fine book in this series." -Scott Van Aken, modelingmadness.com (September 2008)
"As the Islamic Empire expanded, it drew upon a variety of earlier fortification styles: Romano-Byzantine, Indian and even Chinese. This book explains how these different themes were combined in Islamic fortifications... The book is authoritatively written and well illustrated." -Bolling Smith, "Coast Defense Journal" (September 2008)
"The book details some of the best examples of Islamic military architecture in the Middle East...Of course, if you are looking for a good description of one of these sites or even a regional description, the book can be a useful resource."-David Nicolle, "FORTRESS 76" (July 2008)
"The Islamic world drew upon a myriad of pre-existing styles of fortication that was both new and distinctive. This book examines early Saracen fortifications, covering their historical background, socio-political circumstances, and their role in protecting the Islamic world." -"Game Trade Magazine" (April 2008)"

As the Islamic Empire expanded, it drew upon a variety of earlier fortification styles: Romano-Byzantine, Indian and even Chinese. This book explains how these different themes were combined in Islamic fortifications... The book is authoritatively written and well illustrated. "Bolling Smith, Coast Defense Journal (September 2008)"

The Islamic world drew upon a myriad of pre-existing styles of fortication that was both new and distinctive. This book examines early Saracen fortifications, covering their historical background, socio-political circumstances, and their role in protecting the Islamic world. "Game Trade Magazine (April 2008)"

The book details some of the best examples of Islamic military architecture in the Middle East...Of course, if you are looking for a good description of one of these sites or even a regional description, the book can be a useful resource. "David Nicolle, FORTRESS 76 (July 2008)"

It is worth your time to pick up 'Saracen Strongholds' and I hope to check out some of the other 'Fortress' titles in the near future. "Trask, livingdice.com (April 2009)"

... In this book, author David Nicholle covers the methods of construction as well as the major parts of [the] fortresses ... To help us visualize what some of these may have been like, Adam Hook has provided superlative illustrations of not only the physical layout, but also some of the action that took place at these locales ... Overall, another fine book in this series. "Scott Van Aken, modelingmadness.com (September 2008)""

About the Author

David Nicolle was born in 1944 and worked for the BBC, including the overseas broadcasting service, before returning to university, obtaining his PhD in Edinburgh. He subsequently taught at Yarmouk University in Jordan. He now devotes himself to writing, and is a specialist in medieval arms and armour. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous specialist journals and international conferences. Adam Hook studied graphic design, and began his work as an illustrator in 1983. He specializes in detailed historical reconstructions, and has illustrated Osprey titles on the Aztecs, the Greeks, several 19th century American subjects, and a number of books in the Fortress series. His work features in exhibitions and publications throughout the world.

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Format: Paperback
This is a knowledgeable account of the subject, but not for idle browsers, only for those really interested in the subject.

From the Introduction –
“The histories of most of those peoples and states that would be conquered by Islamic armies are better documented. However, the story of their military architecture is not always as clear cut, and was certainly not a story of straightforward technological and architectural ‘progress’. While there is compelling evidence that Romano-Byzantine military architecture had a profound influence upon that of the early Islamic period, it was not alone. It also tended to the localised and was much more important during the Umayyad Caliphate (AD 661-759) than in later centuries.”

“During the pre-Islamic period the frontier zone, or ‘limes’ between Romano-Byzantine-ruled Syria-Jordan and the Arabian steppes or deserts included strongly-fortified towns that mainly served as trading centres, By the 5th and 6th centuries they were similarly dotted with monasteries, many in what had been Roman frontier forts, especially under Ghassanid Arab rule when the frontier was prosperous and largely peaceful. Following the Arab-Islamic takeover this was no longer a frontier zone, but instead lay at the heart of an expanding empire.”

“Fortified cities and towns were important from the very start of Islamic history, the first Muslim armies having to take such places in order to win and maintain control. The invaders not only captured siege equipment, but proved fully capable of using it, and of then defending the fortifications they thus won. Muslim Arab garrisons were soon installed in conquered forts while existing or newly founded towns served as garrison bases for further campaigns.
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By JPS TOP 100 REVIEWER on 23 Dec. 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a limited overview of some four centuries of military architecture across the Middle East and Central East. Unsurprisingly, it is rather superficial with the author having no more than a couple of paragraphs at most to devote to each main type of fortification.
It does however have the potential of being used as a starting point for those wanting to “go further” since it includes a fairly decent (although, here again, not comprehensive) bibliography that takes up more than a page. It has a related quality, almost by default. It is, to my limited knowledge, the only such overview although, somewhat strangely, it does not cover all of areas that were once part of the Muslim Caliphates: there is nothing on North Africa west of Libya, in particular.

Particularly useful are the various diagrams of fortifications. However, it is somewhat of a pity that more used has not been made of them. This includes the plates where, for instance, a reconstruction of Bagdad’s fortifications (as opposed to just one of the gates) could have been attempted, even if this had to be done on a double page.

A final reason to make do with what we have is that many of the regions covered are largely inaccessible, whatever the author has to say about them – there would, for instance, be few candidates perfectly comfortable with travelling to Iran - and some countries have become even more inaccessible than they were in 2008 when the author first published this title (Syria, Irak and large parts of Lebanon obviously comes to mind).

Having mentioned these qualifications, there is however also a need to acknowledge that the title’s inherent limitations have been unfortunately increased by the way the topic had been dealt with by the author.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9df57fe4) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97981a08) out of 5 stars One of Prof.Nicolle's Weaker Books 19 Aug. 2009
By Troubadour - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a big fan of Prof.David Nicolle's writings, I was disappointed in this book.

I had assumed it would be a book looking at various major and important fortresses and fortified castles in the Islamic world, and the kind of technologies they used for defense, and defensive/offensive weapons and tactics.

Instead the book was mostly a hodge-podge of scattered facts about building materials and gate/wall designs of various cities (big and small) across the region.

At one paragraph we'd get details (too much actually) about baked mud brick walls of some minor Ummayad desert palace, then in the next paragraph we'd jump to tower designs of some obscure Central Asian city walls. It all gets redundant and boring quite quickly.

There is no over-arching lay-out, nor any sense of how these cities were defended/assaulted. Nor any analysis of the innovations and progress of building technology and designs.

Equally disappointing were the illustrations by the otherwise-excellent Adam Hook. Rather than re-creations of the castles/fortresses discussed, instead we get a painting of some historic figures/warriors standing in front of a section of a wall/gate/tower, without any sense of postion or context.

I sense this is a book Prof.Nicolle wrote in a hurry and without much thought or passion. Big disappointment.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x980410cc) out of 5 stars A knowledgeable account of the subject, but not for idle browsers 21 Jan. 2012
By Gareth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a knowledgeable account of the subject, but not for idle browsers, only for those really interested in the subject.

From the Introduction -
"The histories of most of those peoples and states that would be conquered by Islamic armies are better documented. However, the story of their military architecture is not always as clear cut, and was certainly not a story of straightforward technological and architectural `progress'. While there is compelling evidence that Romano-Byzantine military architecture had a profound influence upon that of the early Islamic period, it was not alone. It also tended to the localised and was much more important during the Umayyad Caliphate (AD 661-759) than in later centuries."

"During the pre-Islamic period the frontier zone, or `limes' between Romano-Byzantine-ruled Syria-Jordan and the Arabian steppes or deserts included strongly-fortified towns that mainly served as trading centres, By the 5th and 6th centuries they were similarly dotted with monasteries, many in what had been Roman frontier forts, especially under Ghassanid Arab rule when the frontier was prosperous and largely peaceful. Following the Arab-Islamic takeover this was no longer a frontier zone, but instead lay at the heart of an expanding empire."

"Fortified cities and towns were important from the very start of Islamic history, the first Muslim armies having to take such places in order to win and maintain control. The invaders not only captured siege equipment, but proved fully capable of using it, and of then defending the fortifications they thus won. Muslim Arab garrisons were soon installed in conquered forts while existing or newly founded towns served as garrison bases for further campaigns. For example, the huge fortified city of Marw on what had been the north-eastern frontier of the Sassanian Empire served just one purpose, especially as the Arabs now faced stiffer resistance from the militarily powerful principalities of Central Asia and Afghanistan... Meanwhile back in Iraq, Basra was an even more important military base, but being near the centre of the rapidly expanding Islamic empire, was not thought to require fortification."

The Contents are -
P04: Introduction
.The historical context
P12: Design and Development
.The early Caliphate and the Umayyad Empire; The `Abbasid golden age; Fragmentation and Fortification
P40: The Living Sites
.The fortified cities
P48: The Sites at War
.Offensive bases; Castles under siege; Cities under siege and civil conflict
P57: Aftermath
P59: The Sites Today
P61: Bibliography P63: Glossary
P64: Index

The Colour Plates
P06: Map - The Fertile Crescent, Egypt and Arabia
P07: Map - Iran and the Caucasus
P10: Map - The Eastern Frontier from Central Asia to India
P15: Colour Plate - The smaller enclosure at Quasr al-Hagr al-Sharqi. This shows a wall and decorated gate with figures and camels in the foreground.
P22-23: Colour Plate - One of the main gate complexes of the round city of Baghdad. A ¾ birds-eye view, with a small plan and side view.
P35: Colour Plate - The `Abassid Desert-Palace of Ukhaidir ("combines poor masonry with scientific design").This is a ground-level view of an internal courtyard with figures and a peacock; along with vertical sections through the walls.
P43: Colour Plate - The Jawsaq al-Khaqari Palace at Sammara. This is a distant view of the still-standing `monumental' three-arched main entrance, with five figures in the foreground and tiny fighting figures in the distance; with an inset plan.
P47: Colour Plate - The Carved Gate of the Citadel at Harran. A ¾ view from above, with 12 figures on the battlements and even more at ground level attacking the gate.
P51: Colour Plate - The Repairing of Haruniye Castle, AD 967. This shows 10 figures in various poses in the covered gallery.
P59: Colour Plate - The Surrender of Quala' I-I Kakhakha in AD 999. This is a frontal view of this small citadel set in the wall of the city of Bunjikath with 5 figures and 3 horses busy surrendering among themselves.

There are copious colour and monochrome illustrations supporting the text.
HASH(0x986d016c) out of 5 stars Saracen Strongholds 13 Jan. 2014
By John Sloan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yet another great booklet - both in series of Nicolle works and in series on history of fortification world wide.
Too bad we cannot visit most of these great examples now - one has to be satisfied with this and Nicolle's other books
Buy the whole set to study the development over the centuries.
john sloan
HASH(0x9df56660) out of 5 stars A limited and superficial overview 23 Dec. 2014
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a limited overview of some four centuries of military architecture across the Middle East and Central East. Unsurprisingly, it is rather superficial with the author having no more than a couple of paragraphs at most to devote to each main type of fortification.
It does however have the potential of being used as a starting point for those wanting to “go further” since it includes a fairly decent (although, here again, not comprehensive) bibliography that takes up more than a page. It has a related quality, almost by default. It is, to my limited knowledge, the only such overview although, somewhat strangely, it does not cover all of areas that were once part of the Muslim Caliphates: there is nothing on North Africa west of Libya, in particular.

Particularly useful are the various diagrams of fortifications. However, it is somewhat of a pity that more used has not been made of them. This includes the plates where, for instance, a reconstruction of Bagdad’s fortifications (as opposed to just one of the gates) could have been attempted, even if this had to be done on a double page.

A final reason to make do with what we have is that many of the regions covered are largely inaccessible, whatever the author has to say about them – there would, for instance, be few candidates perfectly comfortable with travelling to Iran - and some countries have become even more inaccessible than they were in 2008 when the author first published this title (Syria, Irak and large parts of Lebanon obviously comes to mind).

Having mentioned these qualifications, there is however also a need to acknowledge that the title’s inherent limitations have been unfortunately increased by the way the topic had been dealt with by the author. While using about a page and a half to produce a little gazette of the main sites today and their state of preservation is helpful, the author’s insistence to “spend” a full page of his limited space to come up with a glossary of Arabic and farsi terms is much less so.

Another problem is the rather slap-dash and, at times, unclear way in which the author has presented the various periods and the various types of fortifications. One example is that the book could have emphasised the differences (if any) between fortifications during the Omayyad and during the Abbasid period. He does emphasise that fortifications were mostly limited to frontier cities that acted as advanced bases under both the Omayyad and the Abbasid dynasties, because the Empire’s unity did not warrant them elsewhere. While there is some validity in the claim, there would have been merit for more discussion and qualifications if only because both Omayyad and Abbasid dynasties were periodically racked by civil wars and both were quickly confronted with rebellions, separatism and fragmentation.

I was particularly disappointed with the section on siege warfare where, instead of developing a couple of well-chosen examples (the Great siege of Bagdad in 812-813 comes to mind), the author choses (and fails) to cover as much ground as possible in the limited space available. Such examples, which could have been backed by specific plates, would also have been nice illustrations of Muslim siege techniques showing to what extent the Caliphates were the heirs to both Roman and Sassanian siege warfare, and developed their own devices in addition. Instead, the author preferred, as he tends to do sometimes, to pick extracts from Muslim sources and duplicate them, something which, for me at least, had much less added value and leads to yet another poor use of “rare resources” (i.e. limited space).

So, while this title is not exactly “bad” and I will give it a pass, if only because there is nothing better covering all the Muslim Empire to use as an introduction, I was somewhat disappointed and will only give it three stars.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9797b834) out of 5 stars The use of saracen is derogatory. 1 Dec. 2013
By Inayet Sahin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Information is fine but the use of Saracen to describe Muslims is derogatory. I am surprised the publisher has not changed the outdated and offensive title.
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