The Umayyad Period (660-750 CE)
The Umayyad dynasty was one of the most important families among the Quraysh tribe of merchants. They settled in Mecca - the major trading center in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Umayyad period (660-750 CE) is characterized by the reorganization of the Arab empire. Mu`awiya established his Capital in Damascus, where he was welcomed by supporters from among the Syrian Arab tribes. It was during the Umayyad period that the borders of the Islamic Empire were established. The first 35 years of Umayyad rule suffered from ongoing battles within and without. Most of these battles were brutally suppressed by the Umayyads - a fact that won them a harsh image among their opponents, who also named them 'kings' (a degrading title, as opposed to 'caliphs'). This period of continuous fighting ended in 692 CE, when the Umayyad kingdom was united under the rule of the great caliph `Abd al-Malik Ibn Marwan, whose major success was the realization of an administrative reform and the reorganization of the caliphate.
During the Umayyad period, several of the keystones of Islamic culture were founded, in areas of religion as well as in art. Major cities were built, and in them important structures were erected, such as the Mosque of Umar Ibn al-Az in Fustat, the Great Mosque in Damascus and the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Fortresses and palaces were constructed as well, along with roads connecting the various parts of the Umayyad kingdom.
The Umayyad caliphate ended in 750 with the assassinations of Marwan II in Egypt and of the rest of the dynasty in Ramla by the Abassids. Only a small branch of the Umayyad family, headed by `Abd al-Rahman, survived these assassinations. These survivors fled to North Africa, and established an Umayyad state in Cordoba, which existed from 756 to 1031 CE.
For a list of the Umayyad caliphs click here