The Fall of the Abbasids & the Rise of Regional Dynasties

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  • 0:02 Abbasids
  • 0:41 Golden Age
  • 1:24 Revolt & Decline
  • 3:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explore the rise and fall of the Abbasid empire. It will explain how wealth, civil unrest, and slave revolt let to the fall of the Abbasids and the rise of regional dynasties.


Ancient history is full of the rise and fall of empire upon empire. For instance, there were the Romans, the Greeks, the Franks, and the Ottomans. Turning our eyes toward the Middle East, there were also the Abbasids, who ruled the Arab world from about 750 AD to 1258 AD. In today's lesson, we'll take a look at the Abbasids, giving a brief survey of their rule, while also exploring why they eventually fell.

For starters, the Abbasids took power after conquering the former empire of the Umayyads. Their rulers were known as caliphs and thus their government was known as a caliphate.

Golden Age

Rather different from most empires, the Abbasids were not very interested in conquering new lands. Rather than pillaging and capturing, they were more focused on trade. Along with this great interest in trade, they relocated the capital of their empire to Baghdad.

Due to their great interest in trade, the Abbasid Dynasty and especially Baghdad became extremely wealthy. They ushered in the Golden Age of Islam, a time in which science and culture flourished under the reign of the caliphate. This wealth and prosperity soon filtered down into the more common levels of Abbasid society. After all, if the upper classes had money to spend, they needed someone to make the products they wanted to buy. With this, the merchant class also prospered.

Revolt & Decline

Of course, with money often comes some problems. This is where we come to the Abbasids' decline.

To explain, as the dynasty increased in wealth, it became too large for the caliphate to control. As its power grip began to fail and as its citizens began to see it weaken, many began to grumble against the dynasty's rather secular ways. To them, the caliphs had pretty much sold out for money. This distrust and disgust of the empire was magnified in the regions that were furthest from Baghdad. For example, a group of orthodox Muslims began a rebellion in North Africa.

Although many in the dynasty had become wealthy, the Abbasids had still not done much in the area of rights for the common man. Yes, the upper classes had gotten wealthier, but the caliphs still ruled with iron fists. For instance, they systematically worked to destroy any descendants of the former Umayyad Empire, as well as suppressing anyone who rebelled against their policies. This led to more distrust of the Abbasid rulers.

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