Today in Central Asian history: the Battle of the Baggage (737)

In the waning years of the Umayyad dynasty, a caliphal army suffered a major defeat in an area that is now part of Afghanistan, to a Turkish people called the Türgesh. The defeat was serious enough to disrupt caliphal control of the region called Transoxiana (literally “across the Oxus River,” which is today known as the Amu Darya) and allowed the Türgesh to advance into the eastern Iranian region of Khurasan. The setback for the caliphate was temporary—the Arabs retaliated against the Türgesh later that year so thoroughly that they almost totally disappeared as a threat. The setback for the Umayyad dynasty, however, was considerably more significant, because the loss of control over Khurasan helped set the conditions that allowed the Abbasid Revolution to emerge there.

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