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The premise of this althist is based upon the legend that in the year 628 AD the Prophet Muhammad sent envoys to the emperors of Rome and Persia, inviting them to convert to Islam. In the OTL, even if the legend is true the envoys were ignored. In this timeline, the Roman Emperor, Heraclius, was curious enough to personally investigate the new religion, ultimately leading to his own conversion and to the Arab conquest of the Middle East being averted.
When Constantine the Great was Emperor, Christians were still a small minority. Within two generations of his death, Christianity had become the state religion of the Roman Empire and Hellenistic paganism had been outlawed. After that there was no stopping its spread and a century later paganism was almost extinct, even in the Germanic kingdoms which had taken over much of the West.
However, even by the 7th century Roman Christianity was still not yet fully formed. There were dozens of differing opinions on subjects such as Christology, free will, original sin and icons, and which ones were deemed orthodox and which were heretical really depended on whatever the emperor's personal thoughts were. Into this mix was introduced Islam, whose adherent's view of God was already quite close to that of the Monophysite Christians of Syria and Egypt, and it's partly for that reason why, in the OTL, the Christians of the region converted so quickly after the Muslim conquests.
In the OTL we know:
- The Emperor Heraclius had Monophysite sympathies, so it's possible that he too would have been attracted to Islam had he known more about it.
- The mainstream Chalcedonian Christians of the west would always have been strongly opposed to change, regardless of whether that change came in the form of heresy or a new religion altogether. It's likely though that a strong emperor could subdue them and force acceptance, just as Constantine and his successors did to the pagans three hundred years earlier.
- As by far the most powerful state in the region at the time, the Roman Empire was always going to dominate its allies, just as America does with NATO today. If the Romans were allied with the Arabs, Arab foreign policy would to a large degree be decided in Constantinople, not Mecca.
- The Zoroastrian emperors of Persia would have done their best to keep Islam out of Iran, just as they did for Christianity. In the OTL, the Arab solution to this was to conquer Persia and impose Islam by force. However, if the Romans had any say, they would much prefer to leave a strong and civilized empire on their eastern border, even if it was heathen, than to spend a vast fortune on an invasion and only succeeding in opening the country up to barbarian nomads. They were still recovering from the disaster that was Justinian's reconquest of Italy.
For these reasons, I don't think it's at all unfeasible that a Roman Emperor could convert his empire to Islam, or that his doing so could restrain the expansionist urges felt by the Arabs that would in the OTL lead to them conquering half the known world.
Comparisons with the OTL
- The Roman Empire converted peacefully to Islam, meaning that the Arabs felt no need to conquer anywhere outside of Arabia itself. As a result there has not been nearly so much religious tension and Islam has become the dominant established religion of Europe.
- Conversely, Islam never really got very far into Iran or beyond. In the OTL Islamic culture was hugely influenced by Sassanid Persian culture, but here it's absorbed far more from the Greco-Roman Christian tradition.
- North Africa and Egypt are independent, but they still remember their Greco-Roman heritage. There's even an African language of the Romance family, which in the OTL became extinct after the Arab conquest.
- For that reason, it makes more sense to reserve the name "Africa" for its original meaning, which is the northern coast and hinterland of the continent. The continent itself is called "Ethiopia", and the Ethiopian Empire is commonly known in foreign usage as "Abyssinia" for the sake of avoiding confusion.
- The Visigothic Kingdom of Spain was never destroyed, but evolved over the years into something similar to modern Spain. It successfully challenged the Franks for dominance in Gaul, leading today to an independent Aquitaine that's separate from both France and Spain.
- In 1096, the religious differences between east and west resulted in the Pope called a crusade against the Roman Empire. The Romans won decisively and struck back by conquering Italy, thus dampening the fervour for any further crusades in the Mediterranean.
- The Mongols never came into contact with Central Asian Islam, thus avoiding the religious divisions that in the OTL would be one of the causes of their fragmentation and downfall. The Mongol Empire did begin to break up, but it was eventually reunited in the 16th century as the confederation of Altai.
- Kievan Rus converted from paganism to Greek Islam rather than Greek Orthodox Christianity. After Kiev fell to the Mongols, the western border region became a chaos of minor scuffles between East Slavic Muslims and West Slavic Christians. Into the power vacuum grew Lithuania, which was then able to become the most powerful state in eastern Europe. It was Lithuania, not Poland, which dominated when the two formed a union.
- The Republic of Novgorod joined the union at the very beginning as Lithuania grew in power, while the other Russian principalities were always part of Lithuania proper. Therefore, from the Middle Ages almost until the present day, there has been no independent Russian state to expand east.
- Like in the OTL, Norsemen discovered North America at the end of the 10th century but abandoned it again soon after. They also settled Greenland, where their settlements dwindled and finally died out in the 14th century. However, in this timeline, the Greenlanders decided to try to escape their fate and relocated to Vinland, resulting in widespread European knowledge of the New World a century before Columbus. The Greenlander's success was ensured as their numbers were bolstered by migrants escaping the Islamisation of Europe.
- The east and west remained in constant contact with each other all through the Middle Ages, and indirectly with India and beyond. This allowed ideas to be exchanged further and science and technology to develop faster.
- As a result, the Industrial Revolution began in the 17th century, and science and technology had reached present-day OTL levels by the early 20th century. Since then progress has slowed as the effects of global warming, resource depletion and overpopulation have begun to have an impact, but technology is still some way ahead of where it is in the OTL.
- With strong relations between east and west, China and Europe retained an interest in one another. Admiral Zheng He, for example, was encouraged to visit Roman Egypt on several occasions during his voyages in the Indian Ocean. While there he heard reports of explorations in a land across the ocean, and upon his return to China he persuaded the Yongle Emperor to let him sail east instead to explore the Pacific. China discovered the western coast of North America in 1418.
- North America would later be settled by Chinese colonists. Their numbers swelled dramatically during and after the fall of the Ming Dynasty and China's conquest by the Qing. In 1688, as part of the Qing's policy of isolationism, China cut off all contact with the colonies, thus allowing them to choose their own path as the independent nation of Fusang.