Byzantine-Arab Wars

Byzantine-Arab Wars

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The Byzantine–Arab Wars were a series of wars between the Arab Caliphates
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

 and the East Roman or Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 between the 7th and 12th centuries AD. These started during the initial Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

 under the expansionist Rashidun
Rashidun Caliphate
The Rashidun Caliphate , comprising the first four caliphs in Islam's history, was founded after Muhammad's death in 632, Year 10 A.H.. At its height, the Caliphate extended from the Arabian Peninsula, to the Levant, Caucasus and North Africa in the west, to the Iranian highlands and Central Asia...

 and Umayyad caliph
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

s and continued in the form of an enduring border tussle until the beginning of the Crusades
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

. As a result, Arab controlled territory expanded considerably.

The initial conflict lasted from 634 to 718, ending with the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople
Siege of Constantinople (718)
The Second Arab Siege of Constantinople was a combined land and sea effort by the Arabs to take the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. The Arab ground forces, led by Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik, were held off by the massive city walls, decimated by an outbreak of plague and...

 that halted the rapid expansion of the Arab Empire into Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

. Conflicts however continued between the 9th century and 1169. The Abbassid caliphate occupied territories in Southern Italy
History of Islam in southern Italy
The history of Islam in southern Italy begins with the Islamic conquest and subsequent rule of Sicily and Malta, a process that started in the 9th century. Islamic rule over Sicily was effective from 902, and the complete rule of the island lasted from 965 until 1061...

 and Sicily
Emirate of Sicily
The Emirate of Sicily was an Islamic state on the island of Sicily , which existed from 965 to 1072.-First Arab invasions of Sicily:...

 in the 9th and 10th centuries. However, under the Macedonian dynasty
Macedonian dynasty
The Macedonian dynasty ruled the Byzantine Empire from 867 to 1056, following the Amorian dynasty. During this period, the Byzantine state reached its greatest expanse since the Muslim conquests, and the Macedonian Renaissance in letters and arts began. The dynasty was named after its founder,...

, the Byzantines recaptured territory in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

 with the Byzantines armies' advance even threatening to retake Jerusalem to the south. The Emirate
Emirate
An emirate is a political territory that is ruled by a dynastic Muslim monarch styled emir.-Etymology:Etymologically emirate or amirate is the quality, dignity, office or territorial competence of any emir ....

 of Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

 and its neighbours became vassals of the Byzantines in the east, where the greatest threat was the Egyptian Fatimid
Fatimid
The Fatimid Islamic Caliphate or al-Fāṭimiyyūn was a Berber Shia Muslim caliphate first centered in Tunisia and later in Egypt that ruled over varying areas of the Maghreb, Sudan, Sicily, the Levant, and Hijaz from 5 January 909 to 1171.The caliphate was ruled by the Fatimids, who established the...

 kingdom. However, the rise of the Seljuk dynasty reversed all Byzantine gains and pushed Abbassid territorial gains deep into Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

. This resulted in the Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus'
Alexios I Komnenos
Alexios I Komnenos, Latinized as Alexius I Comnenus , was Byzantine emperor from 1081 to 1118, and although he was not the founder of the Komnenian dynasty, it was during his reign that the Komnenos family came to full power. The title 'Nobilissimus' was given to senior army commanders,...

 desperate request for military aid from Pope Urban II
Pope Urban II
Pope Urban II , born Otho de Lagery , was Pope from 12 March 1088 until his death on July 29 1099...

 at the Council of Piacenza
Council of Piacenza
The Council of Piacenza was a mixed synod of ecclesiastics and laymen of the Roman Catholic Church, which took place from March 1 to March 5, 1095, at Piacenza....

; one of the events often attributed as precursors to the First Crusade
First Crusade
The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

.

Background



The prolonged and escalating Byzantine–Sassanid
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

 wars of the 6th and 7th centuries left both empires exhausted and vulnerable in the face of the sudden emergence and expansion of the Arabs. The last of these wars ended with victory for the Byzantines: Emperor Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 regained all lost territories, and restored the True Cross
True Cross
The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by a Christian tradition, are believed to be from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.According to post-Nicene historians, Socrates Scholasticus and others, the Empress Helena The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by a...

 to Jerusalem in 629. Nevertheless, neither empire was given any chance to recover, as within a few years they were struck by the onslaught of the Arabs (newly united by Islam), which, according to Howard-Johnston, "can only be likened to a human tsunami". According to George Liska, the "unnecessarily prolonged Byzantine–Persian conflict opened the way for Islam".

In late 620s Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 had already managed to conquer and unify much of Arabia under Muslim rule, and it was under his leadership that the first Muslim-Byzantine skirmishes took place. Just a few months after Heraclius and the Persian general Shahrbaraz
Shahrbaraz
Shahrbaraz or Shahrwaraz was a general, with the rank of Eran Spahbod under Khosrau II . His name was Farrokhan, and Shahrbaraz was his title...

 agreed on terms for the withdrawal of Persian troops from occupied Byzantine eastern provinces in 629, Arab and Byzantine troops confronted each other at the Mu'tah
Battle of Mu'tah
The Battle of Mu'tah was fought in 629 , near the village of Mu'tah, east of the Jordan River and Karak in Karak Governorate, between an army sent by the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and an army of the Byzantine Empire- The Eastern Romans.In Muslim histories, the battle is usually described as the...

. Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 died in 632 and was succeeded by Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr was a senior companion and the father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He ruled over the Rashidun Caliphate from 632-634 CE when he became the first Muslim Caliph following Muhammad's death...

, the first Caliph
Rashidun
The Rightly Guided Caliphs or The Righteous Caliphs is a term used in Sunni Islam to refer to the first four Caliphs who established the Rashidun Caliphate. The concept of "Rightly Guided Caliphs" originated with the Abbasid Dynasty...

 with undisputed control of the entire Arab peninsula after the successful Ridda Wars
Ridda wars
The Ridda wars , also known as the Wars of Apostasy, were a series of military campaigns against the rebellion of several Arabian tribes launched by the Caliph Abu Bakr during 632 and 633 AD, after prophet Muhammad died....

, which resulted in the consolidation of a powerful Muslim state throughout the peninsula.

Opening conflicts


According to Muslim biographies, Muhammed, having received intelligence that Byzantine forces were concentrating in northern Arabia with alleged intentions of invading Arabia, led a Muslim army north to Tabouk in present-day northwestern Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, with the intention of pre-emptively engaging the Byzantine army; the news, however, proved to be false. Though it was not a battle
Battle of Tabouk
The Battle of Tabouk was a military expedition, which, according to Muslim biographies, was initiated by the Prophet Muhammad in October, AD 630. Muhammad led a force of as many as 30,000 north to Tabouk in present-day northwestern Saudi Arabia, with the intention of engaging the Byzantine army...

 in the typical sense, nevertheless the event, if it actually occurred, would have represented the first Arab attack on the Byzantines. It did not, however, lead immediately to a military confrontation. However, there is no contemporary Byzantine account of the Tabuk expedition, and many of the details come from much later Muslim sources. It has been argued that there is in one Byzantine source a possible reference to the Battle of Mu´tah
Battle of Mu'tah
The Battle of Mu'tah was fought in 629 , near the village of Mu'tah, east of the Jordan River and Karak in Karak Governorate, between an army sent by the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and an army of the Byzantine Empire- The Eastern Romans.In Muslim histories, the battle is usually described as the...

 traditionally dated 629, but this is not certain. The first engagements may have started as conflicts with the Arab client states of the Byzantine and Sassanid empires: the Ghassanids
Ghassanids
The Ghassanids were a group of South Arabian Christian tribes that emigrated in the early 3rd century from Yemen to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the Holy Land....

 and the Lakhmids
Lakhmids
The Lakhmids , Banu Lakhm , Muntherids , were a group of Arab Christians who lived in Southern Iraq, and made al-Hirah their capital in 266. Poets described it as a Paradise on earth, an Arab Poet described the city's pleasant climate and beauty "One day in al-Hirah is better than a year of...

 of Al-Hirah
Al-Hirah
Al Hīra was an ancient city located south of al-Kufah in south-central Iraq.- Middle Ages:Al Hīra was a significant city in pre-Islamic Arab history. Originally a military encampment, in the 5th and 6th centuries CE it became the capital of the Lakhmids.The Arabs were migrating into the Near East...

. In any case, Muslim Arabs after 634 certainly pursued a full-blown invasion of both empires, resulting in the conquest of the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, Egypt and Persia for Islam. The most successful generals were Khalid ibn al-Walid
Khalid ibn al-Walid
Khālid ibn al-Walīd also known as Sayf Allāh al-Maslūl , was a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He is noted for his military tactics and prowess, commanding the forces of Medina and those of his immediate successors of the Rashidun Caliphate; Abu Bakr and Umar...

 and 'Amr ibn al-'As
'Amr ibn al-'As
`Amr ibn al-`As was an Arab military commander who is most noted for leading the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640. A contemporary of Muhammad, and one of the Sahaba , who rose quickly through the Muslim hierarchy following his conversion to Islam in the year 8 AH...

.

Arab conquest of Roman Syria: 634–638


"The people of Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

 replied [to the Muslims], "We like your rule and justice far better than the state of oppression and tyranny in which we were. The army of Heraclius we shall indeed, with your 'amil's' help, repulse from the city." The Jews rose and said, "We swear by the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

, no governor of Heraclius shall enter the city of Homs unless we are first vanquished and exhausted!" [...] The inhabitants of the other cities—Christian and Jews—that had capitulated to the Muslims, did the same [...] When by Allah's help the "unbelievers" were defeated and the Muslims won, they opened the gates of their cities, went out with the singers and music players who began to play, and paid the kharaj."
Al-Baladhuri According to the Muslim historians of the 9th century, local populations regarded Byzantine rule as oppressive, and preferred Muslim conquest instead.


In the Levant, the invading Rashidun army
Rashidun army
The Rashidun Caliphate Army or Rashidun army was the primary military body of the Rashidun Caliphate's armed forces during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, serving alongside the Rashidun Navy...

 were engaged by a Byzantine army
Byzantine army
The Byzantine army was the primary military body of the Byzantine armed forces, serving alongside the Byzantine navy. A direct descendant of the Roman army, the Byzantine army maintained a similar level of discipline, strategic prowess and organization...

 composed of imperial troops as well as local levies. According to Islamic historians Monophysites and Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 throughout Syria welcomed the Arab invaders, as they were discontented with Byzantine rule. The Arabian tribes also had significant economic, cultural and familial ties with predominantly Arab citizens of the Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

.

The Roman Emperor Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 had fallen ill and was unable to personally lead his armies to resist the Arab conquests of Syria and Palestine in 634. In a battle
Battle of Ajnadayn
The Battle of Ajnadayn, fought on July 30, 634, south of Beit Shemesh in present day Israel, was the first major pitched battle between the Eastern Roman Empire and the army of the Arabic Rashidun Caliphate. The result of the battle was a decisive Muslim victory...

 fought near Ajnadayn in the summer of 634, the Rashidun Caliphate army achieved a decisive victory. After their victory at the Fahl
Battle of Fahl
The Battle of Fahl or Battle of Pella was a Byzantine-Arab battle fought between the Rashidun army under Khalid ibn al-Walid Saifullah and the Roman Empire under Theodore the Sacellarius , in Fahl in January 635 AD...

, Muslim forces conquered Damascus in 634 under the command of Khalid ibn Walid. Byzantine response involved the collection and dispatch of the maximum number of available troops under major commanders, including Theodore Trithyrius
Theodore Trithyrius
Theodore Trithyrius , commonly known by his title as Theodore the Sacellarius, was a Byzantine treasurer of the state and a military commander during the last years of the reign of Byzantine emperor Heraclius.-Life:...

 and the Armenian general Vahan, to eject the Muslims from their newly won territories.

At the Battle of Yarmouk
Battle of Yarmouk
The Battle of Yarmouk was a major battle between the Muslim Arab forces of the Rashidun Caliphate and the armies of the East Roman-Byzantine Empire. The battle consisted of a series of engagements that lasted for six days in August 636, near the Yarmouk River, along what is today the border...

 in 636, however, the Muslims, having studied the ground in detail, lured the Byzantines into pitched battle, which the Byzantines usually avoided, and into a series of costly assaults, before turning the deep valleys and cliffs into a catastrophic death-trap. Heraclius' farewell exclamation (according to the 9th-century historian Al-Baladhuri) while departing Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

 for Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, is expressive of his disappointment: "Peace unto thee, O Syria, and what an excellent country this is for the enemy!" The impact of Syria's loss on the Byzantines is illustrated by Joannes Zonaras
Joannes Zonaras
Ioannes Zonaras was a Byzantine chronicler and theologian, who lived at Constantinople.Under Emperor Alexios I Komnenos he held the offices of head justice and private secretary to the emperor, but after Alexios' death, he retired to the monastery of St Glykeria, where he spent the rest of his...

' words: "[...] since then [after the fall of Syria] the race of the Ishmaelites did not cease from invading and plundering the entire territory of the Romans".

In April 637, the Arabs, after a long siege captured Jerusalem
Siege of Jerusalem (637)
The Siege of Jerusalem was a part of a military conflict which took place in the year 637 between the Byzantine Empire and the Rashidun Caliphate. It began when the Rashidun army, under the command of Abu Ubaidah, besieged Jerusalem in November 636. After six months, the Patriarch Sophronius...

, which was surrendered by Patriarch
Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem is the head bishop of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, ranking fourth of nine Patriarchs in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since 2005, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has been Theophilos III...

 Sophronius
Sophronius
Sophronius was the Patriarch of Jerusalem from 634 until his death, and is venerated as a saint in the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches...

. In the summer of 637, the Muslims conquered Gaza
Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

, and, during the same period, the Byzantine authorities in Egypt and Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 purchased an expensive truce, which lasted three years for Egypt and one year for Mesopotamia. Antioch fell
Battle of Iron bridge
The Battle of Iron Bridge was fought between the Muslim Rashidun army and the Byzantine army in 637 AD. The battle was fought near a nine-arch stone bridge spanning the River Orontes, from which the battle took its name. The campaigns in Anatolia were undertaken after the decisive Rashidun...

 to the Muslim armies in late 637, and by then the Muslims occupied the whole of northern Syria, except for upper Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, which they granted a one-year truce. At the expiration of this truce in 638–639, the Arabs overran Byzantine Mesopotamia and Byzantine Armenia
Byzantine Armenia
Byzantine Armenia is the name given to the Armenian part of the Byzantine Empire. The size of the territory varied over time, depending on the degree of control the Byzantines had over Armenia....

, and terminated the conquest of Palestine by storming Caesarea Maritima and effecting their final capture of Ascalon
Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

. In December 639, the Muslims departed from Palestine to invade Egypt in early 640.

Conquest of Egypt and Cyrenaica



By the time Heraclius died, much of Egypt had been lost, and by 637–638 the whole of Syria was in the hands of the armies of Islam. With 3,500–4,000 troops under his command, 'Amr ibn al-A'as first crossed into Egypt from Palestine at the end of 639 or the beginning of 640. He was progressively joined by further reinforcements, notably 12,000 soldiers by Al-Zubayr. 'Amr first besieged and conquered Babylon
Babylon (Egypt)
Babylon , was a fortress city or castle in the Delta of Egypt...

, and then attacked Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

. The Byzantines, divided and shocked by the sudden loss of so much territory, agreed to give up the city by September 642. The fall of Alexandria extinguished Byzantine rule in Egypt, and allowed the Muslims to continue their military expansion into North Africa; between 643–644 'Amr completed the conquest of Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica is the eastern coastal region of Libya.Also known as Pentapolis in antiquity, it was part of the Creta et Cyrenaica province during the Roman period, later divided in Libia Pentapolis and Libia Sicca...

. Uthman
Uthman
Uthman ibn Affan was one of the companions of Islamic prophet, Muhammad. He played a major role in early Islamic history as the third Sunni Rashidun or Rightly Guided Caliph....

 succeeded Caliph Umar
Umar
`Umar ibn al-Khattāb c. 2 November , was a leading companion and adviser to the Islamic prophet Muhammad who later became the second Muslim Caliph after Muhammad's death....

 after his death.

During his reign the Byzantine navy briefly won back Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 in 645, but lost it again in 646 shortly after the Battle of Nikiou
Battle of Nikiou
The Battle of Nikiou was a battle between Arab Muslim troops under Amr ibn al-A'as and the Byzantine Empire in Egypt in the spring of 646.Following their victory at the Battle of Heliopolis in July 640, and the subsequent capitulation of Alexandria in November 641, Arab troops had taken over what...

. The Islamic forces raided Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 in 652, while Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 and Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 were captured in 653. According to Arab historians, the local Christian Copts welcomed the Arabs just as the Monophysites did in Jerusalem. The loss of this lucrative province deprived the Byzantines of their valuable wheat supply, thereby causing food shortages throughout the Byzantine Empire and weakening its armies in the following decades.

Conquest of the remaining Byzantine territories in North Africa


In 647, an Arab army led by Abdallah ibn al-Sa’ad invaded the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa
Exarchate of Africa
The Exarchate of Africa or of Carthage, after its capital, was the name of an administrative division of the Eastern Roman Empire encompassing its possessions on the Western Mediterranean, ruled by an exarch, or viceroy...

. Tripolitania
Tripolitania
Tripolitania or Tripolitana is a historic region and former province of Libya.Tripolitania was a separate Italian colony from 1927 to 1934...

 was conquered, followed by Sufetula, 150 miles (241.4 km) south of Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

, and the governor and self-proclaimed Emperor of Africa Gregory
Gregory the Patrician
Gregory the Patrician was a Byzantine governor, and self-proclaimed Emperor of the province of Africa.-Career:Gregory the Patrician was related by blood to the Imperial House of Heraclius, through the Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II's cousin Nicetas. Gregory was appointed Exarch of Africa by the...

 was killed. Abdallah's booty-laden force returned to Egypt in 648 after Gregory's successor, Gennadius, promised them an annual tribute of some 300,000 nomismata.

Following a civil war
First Fitna
The First Islamic Civil War , also called the First Fitna , was the first major civil war within the Islamic Caliphate. It arose as a struggle over who had the legitimate right to become the ruling Caliph...

 in the Arab Empire the Umayyads came to power under Muawiyah I
Muawiyah I
Muawiyah I was the first Caliph of the Umayyad Dynasty. After the conquest of Mecca by the Muslims, Muawiyah's family converted to Islam. Muawiyah is brother-in-law to Muhammad who married his sister Ramlah bint Abi-Sufyan in 1AH...

. Under the Umayyads the conquest of the remaining Byzantine territories in North Africa was completed and the Arabs were able to move across large parts of Maghreb
Maghreb
The Maghreb is the region of Northwest Africa, west of Egypt. It includes five countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania and the disputed territory of Western Sahara...

, invading Visigothic Spain through the Strait of Gibraltar
Strait of Gibraltar
The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa. The name comes from Gibraltar, which in turn originates from the Arabic Jebel Tariq , albeit the Arab name for the Strait is Bab el-Zakat or...

, under the command of the Berber general Tariq ibn-Ziyad
Tariq ibn-Ziyad
Tariq ibn Ziyad was a Muslim Berber general who led the Islamic conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711 A.D. He is considered to be one of the most important military commanders in Iberian history. Under the orders of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I he led a large army from the north coast of...

. But this happened only after they developed a naval power of their own, and they conquered and destroyed the Byzantine stronghold of Carthage between 695–698. The loss of Africa meant that soon, Byzantine control of the Western Mediterranean was challenged by a new and expanding Arab fleet, operating from Tunisia.

Muawiyah began consolidating the Arab territory from the Aral Sea
Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was a lake that lay between Kazakhstan in the north and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, in the south...

 to the western border of Egypt. He put a governor in place in Egypt at al-Fustat
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, and launched raids into Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 in 663. Then from 665 to 689 a new North African campaign was launched to protect Egypt "from flank attack by Byzantine Cyrene
Cyrene, Libya
Cyrene was an ancient Greek colony and then a Roman city in present-day Shahhat, Libya, the oldest and most important of the five Greek cities in the region. It gave eastern Libya the classical name Cyrenaica that it has retained to modern times.Cyrene lies in a lush valley in the Jebel Akhdar...

". An Arab army of 40,000 took Barca
Barca
Barce was an ancient Greek colony and later Roman, Byzantine, city in North Africa. It occupied the coastal area of what is modern day Libya...

, defeating 30,000 Byzantines.

A vanguard of 10,000 Arabs under Uqba ibn Nafi
Uqba ibn Nafi
Uqba ibn Nafi was an Arab hero and general who was serving the Umayyad dynasty, in Amir Muavia and Yazid periods, who began the Islamic conquest of the Maghreb, including present-day Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco in North Africa. He was the nephew of 'Amr ibn al-'As. Uqba is often surnamed...

 followed from Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. In 670, Kairouan
Kairouan
Kairouan , also known as Kirwan or al-Qayrawan , is the capital of the Kairouan Governorate in Tunisia. Referred to as the Islamic Cultural Capital, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city was founded by the Arabs around 670...

 in modern Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 was established as a base for further invasions; Kairouan would become the capital of the Islamic province of Ifriqiya
Ifriqiya
In medieval history, Ifriqiya or Ifriqiyah was the area comprising the coastal regions of what are today western Libya, Tunisia, and eastern Algeria. This area included what had been the Roman province of Africa, whose name it inherited....

, and one of the main Arabo-Islamic cultural centers in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. Then ibn Nafi "plunged into the heart of the country, traversed the wilderness in which his successors erected the splendid capitals of Fes
Fes, Morocco
Fes or Fez is the second largest city of Morocco, after Casablanca, with a population of approximately 1 million . It is the capital of the Fès-Boulemane region....

 and Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

, and at length penetrated to the verge of the Atlantic and the great desert
Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...

. In his conquest of the Maghreb
Maghreb
The Maghreb is the region of Northwest Africa, west of Egypt. It includes five countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania and the disputed territory of Western Sahara...

, he took the coastal cities of Bugia
Bugia
Bugia is either:*A Spanish and Italian name of the presently Algerian port city of Bejaia*The Italian word for a candle, especially used as the name for an additional candle carried by a server standing beside a bishop at some Christian liturgical celebrations carried. It is counted among the...

 and Tingi
Tangier
Tangier, also Tangiers is a city in northern Morocco with a population of about 700,000 . It lies on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel...

, overwhelming what had once been the Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 province of Mauretania Tingitana
Mauretania Tingitana
Mauretania Tingitana was a Roman province located in northwestern Africa, coinciding roughly with the northern part of present-day Morocco. The province extended from the northern peninsula, opposite Gibraltar, to Chellah and Volubilis to the south, and as far east as the Oued Laou river. Its...

 where here he was finally halted. As the historian Luis Garcia de Valdeavellano explains:

Arab attacks on Anatolia and sieges of Constantinople


As the first tide of the Muslim conquests in the Near East ebbed off, and a semi-permanent border between the two powers was established, a wide zone, unclaimed by either Byzantines or Arabs and virtually deserted (known in Arabic as al-Ḍawāḥī, "the outer lands" and in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 as , ta akra, "the extremities") emerged in Cilicia
Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

, along the southern approaches of the Taurus
Taurus Mountains
Taurus Mountains are a mountain complex in southern Turkey, dividing the Mediterranean coastal region of southern Turkey from the central Anatolian Plateau. The system extends along a curve from Lake Eğirdir in the west to the upper reaches of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in the east...

 and Anti-Taurus
Anti-Taurus Mountains
Anti-Taurus is a mountain range in southern and eastern Turkey, curving northeast from the Taurus Mountains. The tallest mountain in the range is Mount Erciyes,...

 mountain ranges, leaving Syria in Muslim and the Anatolian plateau in Byzantine hands. Both Emperor Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 and the Caliph 'Umar
Umar
`Umar ibn al-Khattāb c. 2 November , was a leading companion and adviser to the Islamic prophet Muhammad who later became the second Muslim Caliph after Muhammad's death....

 (r. 634–644) pursued a strategy of destruction within this zone, trying to transform it into an effective barrier between the two realms.

Nevertheless, the Caliphate still considered the complete conquest of Byzantium and especially Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 as its ultimate objective. Both as governor of Syria and later as caliph, Muawiyah I
Muawiyah I
Muawiyah I was the first Caliph of the Umayyad Dynasty. After the conquest of Mecca by the Muslims, Muawiyah's family converted to Islam. Muawiyah is brother-in-law to Muhammad who married his sister Ramlah bint Abi-Sufyan in 1AH...

 (r. 661–680) was the driving force of the Muslim effort against Byzantium, especially by his creation of a fleet, which challenged the Byzantine navy
Byzantine navy
The Byzantine navy was the naval force of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire. Like the empire it served, it was a direct continuation from its imperial Roman predecessor, but played a far greater role in the defense and survival of the state then its earlier iterations...

 and raided the Byzantine islands and coasts. The shocking defeat of the imperial fleet by the young Muslim navy at the Battle of the Masts in 655 was of critical importance: it opened up the Mediterranean, hitherto a "Roman lake", to Arab expansion, and began a centuries-long series of naval conflicts over the control of the Mediterranean waterways. Muawiyah also initiated the first large-scale raids into Anatolia from 641 on. These expeditions, aiming both at plunder and at weakening and keeping the Byzantines at bay, as well as the corresponding retaliatory Byzantine raids, eventually became established as a fixture of Byzantine–Arab warfare for the next three centuries. On the Muslim side, they were an integral part of the continuing jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

, and quickly became organized in a regular fashion: one to two summer expeditions (pl. ṣawā'if, sing. ṣā'ifa) sometimes accompanied by a naval attack and/or followed by winter expeditions (shawātī). The summer expeditions were usually two separate attacks, the "expedition of the left" (al-ṣā'ifa al-yusrā/al-ṣughrā) launched from northern Syria (from the early 8th century on from Cilicia
Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

) and consisting mostly of Syrian troops, and the usually larger "expedition of the right" (al-ṣā'ifa al-yumnā/al-kubrā) launched from Malatya
Malatya
Malatya ) is a city in southeastern Turkey and the capital of its eponymous province.-Overview:The city site has been occupied for thousands of years. The Assyrians called the city Meliddu. Following Roman expansion into the east, the city was renamed in Latin as Melitene...

 and composed of Mesopotamian
Al-Jazira, Mesopotamia
Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash plain of northwestern Iraq and northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey which is known by the traditional Arabic name of Al-Jazira , variously transliterated into Roman script as Djazirah, Djezirah and Jazirah...

 troops. The raids were also largely confined to the borderlands and the central Anatolian plateau, and only rarely reached the peripheral coastlands, which the Byzantines fortified heavily.
The outbreak of the Muslim Civil War
First Fitna
The First Islamic Civil War , also called the First Fitna , was the first major civil war within the Islamic Caliphate. It arose as a struggle over who had the legitimate right to become the ruling Caliph...

 in 656 bought a precious breathing pause for Byzantium, which Emperor Constans II (r. 641–668) used to shore up his defences, extend and consolidate his control over Armenia and most importantly, initiate a major army reform with lasting effect: the establishment of the themata, the large territorial commands into which Anatolia, the major contiguous territory remaining to the Empire, was divided. The remains of the old field armies were settled in each of them, and soldiers were allocated land there in payment of their service. The themata would form the backbone of the Byzantine defensive system for centuries to come.

After his victory in the civil war, Muawiyah launched a series of attacks against Byzantine holdings in Africa, Sicily and the East. By 670, the Muslim fleet had penetrated into the Sea of Marmara
Sea of Marmara
The Sea of Marmara , also known as the Sea of Marmora or the Marmara Sea, and in the context of classical antiquity as the Propontis , is the inland sea that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, thus separating Turkey's Asian and European parts. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Black...

 and stayed at Cyzicus
Cyzicus
Cyzicus was an ancient town of Mysia in Anatolia in the current Balıkesir Province of Turkey. It was located on the shoreward side of the present Kapıdağ Peninsula , a tombolo which is said to have originally been an island in the Sea of Marmara only to be connected to the mainland in historic...

 during the winter. Four years later, a massive Muslim fleet reappeared in the Marmara and re-established a base at Cyzicus, from there they raided the Byzantine coasts almost at will. Finally in 676, Muawiyah sent an army to invest Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 from land as well, beginning the First Arab Siege of the city. Constantine IV
Constantine IV
Constantine IV , , sometimes incorrectly called Pogonatos, "the Bearded", by confusion with his father; was Byzantine emperor from 668 to 685...

 (r. 661–685) however used a devastating new weapon that came to be known as "Greek fire
Greek fire
Greek fire was an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect as it could continue burning while floating on water....

", invented by a Christian refugee
Refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

 from Syria named Kallinikos of Heliopolis
Baalbek
Baalbek is a town in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, altitude , situated east of the Litani River. It is famous for its exquisitely detailed yet monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, when Baalbek, then known as Heliopolis, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire...

, to decisively defeat the attacking Umayyad navy in the Sea of Marmara
Sea of Marmara
The Sea of Marmara , also known as the Sea of Marmora or the Marmara Sea, and in the context of classical antiquity as the Propontis , is the inland sea that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, thus separating Turkey's Asian and European parts. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Black...

, resulting in the lifting of the siege in 678. The returning Muslim fleet suffered further losses due to storms, while the army lost many men to the thematic armies who attacked them on their route back.

Among those killed in the siege was Eyup, the standard bearer of Muhammed and the last of his companions; to Muslims today, his tomb is considered one of the holiest sites in Istanbul. The Byzantine victory over the invading Umayyads halted the Islamic expansion into Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 for almost thirty years.


The setback at Constantinople was followed by further reverses across the huge Muslim empire. As Gibbon writes, "this Mahometan Alexander, who sighed for new worlds, was unable to preserve his recent conquests. By the universal defection of the Greeks and Africans he was recalled from the shores of the Atlantic." His forces were directed at putting down rebellions, and in one such battle he was surrounded by insurgents and killed. Then, the third governor of Africa, Zuheir, was overthrown by a powerful army, sent from Constantinople by Constantine IV
Constantine IV
Constantine IV , , sometimes incorrectly called Pogonatos, "the Bearded", by confusion with his father; was Byzantine emperor from 668 to 685...

 for the relief of Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

. Meanwhile, a second Arab civil war
Second Fitna
The Second Fitna, or Second Islamic Civil War, was a period of general political and military disorder that afflicted the Islamic empire during the early Umayyad dynasty, following the death of the first Umayyad caliph Muawiyah I...

 was raging in Arabia and Syria resulting in a series of four caliphs between the death of Muawiyah in 680 and the ascension of Abd al-Malik in 685, and was ongoing until 692 with the death of the rebel leader.

The Saracen Wars of Justinian II
Justinian II
Justinian II , surnamed the Rhinotmetos or Rhinotmetus , was the last Byzantine Emperor of the Heraclian Dynasty, reigning from 685 to 695 and again from 705 to 711...

 (r. 685–695 and 705–711), last emperor of the Heraclian Dynasty, "reflected the general chaos of the age". After a successful campaign he made a truce with the Arabs, agreeing on joint possession of Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

, Iberia
Caucasian Iberia
Iberia , also known as Iveria , was a name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli , corresponding roughly to the eastern and southern parts of the present day Georgia...

 and Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

; however, by removing 12,000 Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 Mardaites
Mardaites
The Mardaites inhabited the highland regions of southern Anatolia, Isauria, Syria, and Lebanon. Their origins are little known, but they may have been of Armenian origin...

 from their native Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, he removed a major obstacle for the Arabs in Syria, and in 692, after the disastrous Battle of Sebastopolis, the Muslims invaded and conquered all of Armenia. Deposed in 695, with Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 lost in 698, Justinian returned to power from 705-711. His second reign was marked by Arab victories in Asia Minor and civil unrest. Reportedy, he ordered his guards to execute the only unit that had not deserted him after one battle, to prevent their desertion in the next.

Justinian's first and second depositions were followed by internal disorder, with successive revolts and emperors lacking legitimacy or support. In this climate, the Umayyads consolidated their control of Armenia and Cilicia, and began preparing a renewed offensive against Constantinople. In Byzantium, the general Leo the Isaurian (r. 717–741) had just seized the throne in March 717, when the massive Muslim army under the famed Umayyad prince and general Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik
Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik
Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik was an Umayyad prince and one of the most prominent Arab generals of the early decades of the 8th century, leading several campaigns against the Byzantine Empire and the Khazar Khaganate...

 began moving towards the imperial capital. The Caliphate's army and navy, led by Maslamah, numbered some 120,000 men and 1,800 ships according to the sources. Whatever the real number, it was a huge force, far larger than the imperial army. Thankfully for Leo and the Empire, the capital's sea walls had recently been repaired and strengthened. In addition, the emperor concluded an alliance with the Bulgar khan Tervel, who agreed to harass the invaders' rear.


From July 717 to August 718, the city was besieged by land and sea by the Muslims, who built an extensive double line of circumvallation and contravallation on the landward side, isolating the capital. Their attempt to complete the blockade by sea however failed when the Byzantine navy
Byzantine navy
The Byzantine navy was the naval force of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire. Like the empire it served, it was a direct continuation from its imperial Roman predecessor, but played a far greater role in the defense and survival of the state then its earlier iterations...

 employed Greek fire
Greek fire
Greek fire was an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect as it could continue burning while floating on water....

 against them; the Arab fleet kept well off the city walls, leaving Constantinople's supply routes open. Forced to extend the siege into winter, the besieging army suffered horrendous casualties from the cold and the lack of provisions. In spring, new reinforcements were sent by the new caliph, Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (r. 717–720), by sea from Africa and Egypt and over land through Asia Minor. The crews of the new fleets were composed mostly of Christians, who began defecting in large numbers, while the land forces were ambushed and defeated in Bithynia
Bithynia
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine .-Description:...

. As famine and an epidemic continued to plague the Arab camp, the siege was abandoned on 15 August 718. On its return, the Arab fleet suffered further casualties to storms and an eruption of the volcano of Thera.

Later conflicts


The first wave of the Muslim conquests ended with the siege of Constantinople in 718, and although later conflicts continued into the 11th century, the conquests of the Arabs began to slow down. A permanent land border was established along the eastern edge of Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, heavily fortified on both sides (see al-'Awasim
Al-'Awasim
The al-'awāṣim was the Arabic term used to refer to the Muslim side of the frontier zone between the Byzantine Empire and the Ummayyad and Abbasid Caliphates in Cilicia, northern Syria and northern Mesopotamia...

). The Arabs continued to raid Byzantine Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 regularly in the future, but conquest was no longer an option. The Byzantines gradually went into the offensive, and recovered much territory in the 10th century, which was lost however after 1071 to the Seljuk Turks.

Renewed Umayyad raids and beginning of Iconoclasm



Following the failure to capture Constantinople in 717–718, the Umayyads for a time diverted their attention elsewhere, allowing the Byzantines to take to the offensive, making some gains in Armenia. From 720/721 however the Arab armies resumed their expeditions against Byzantine Anatolia, although now they were no longer aimed at conquest, but rather large-scale raids, plundering and devastating the countryside and only occasionally attacking forts or major settlements. In response to the renewal of Arab invasions, and to a sequence of natural disasters such as the eruptions of the volcanic island of Thera
Santorini
Santorini , officially Thira , is an island located in the southern Aegean Sea, about southeast from Greece's mainland. It is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago which bears the same name and is the remnant of a volcanic caldera...

,, the Emperor Leo III the Isaurian concluded that the Empire had lost divine favour. Already in 722 he had tried to force the conversion of the Empire's Jews, but soon he began to turn his attention to the veneration of icons, which some bishops had come to regard as idolatrous
Idolatry
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...

. In 726, Leo published an edict condemning their use and showed himself increasingly critical of the iconophiles, until he formally banned depictions of religious figures in a court council in 730. This decision provoked major opposition both from the people and the church, especially the Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

, which Leo did not take into account. In the words of Warren Treadgold: "He saw no need to consult the church, and he appears to have been surprised by the depth of the popular opposition he encountered". The controversy weakened the Byzantine Empire, and was a key factor in the schism between the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

 and the Bishop of Rome.

Under the more aggressive Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik
Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik
Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik 10th Umayyad caliph who ruled from 723 until his death in 743. When he was born in 691 his mother named him after her father....

 (r. 723–743), the Arab expeditions intensified, and were led by some of the Caliphate's most capable generals, including princes of the Umayyad dynasty like Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik and al-Abbas ibn al-Walid
Al-Abbas ibn al-Walid
Al-‘Abbas ibn al-Walīd was an Umayyad Arab prince and general, the son of Caliph al-Walid I . A distinguished military leader in the Byzantine–Arab Wars of the early 8th century, especially in partnership with his uncle Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik, he became involved in the civil wars of the mid-740s...

 or Hisham's own sons Mu'awiyah
Mu'awiyah ibn Hisham
Mu'awiyah ibn Hisham was an Arab general, the son of the Umayyad Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik .He is known chiefly for his role in the Byzantine-Arab Wars, where he led many invasions against Byzantine Asia Minor. The first campaign he led was recorded in summer 725, which was carried out in...

, Maslamah and Sulayman
Sulayman ibn Hisham
Sulayman ibn Hisham was an Arab general, the son of the Umayyad Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik . He is known for his participation in the expeditions against the Byzantine Empire as well as his prominent role in the civil wars that occurred during the last years of the Umayyad Caliphate. Defeated...

. The Caliphate however was increasingly distracted by conflicts elsewhere, especially its confrontation with the Khazars
Khazars
The Khazars were semi-nomadic Turkic people who established one of the largest polities of medieval Eurasia, with the capital of Atil and territory comprising much of modern-day European Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, large portions of the northern Caucasus , parts of...

, with whom Leo had concluded an alliance, marrying his son and heir, Constantine V
Constantine V
Constantine V was Byzantine emperor from 741 to 775; ); .-Early life:...

 (r. 741–775) to the Khazar princess Tzitzak
Tzitzak
Tzitzak , baptised Irene , was a Khazar princess, the daughter of khagan Bihar who became the first wife of Byzantine Emperor Constantine V .-Empress:...

. Only in the late 730s did the Muslim raids again become a threat, but the great Byzantine victory at Akroinon
Battle of Akroinon
The Battle of Akroinon was fought at Akroinon or Akroinos in Phrygia, on the western edge of the Anatolian plateau, in 740 between an Umayyad Arab army and the Byzantine forces. The Arabs had been conducting regular raids into Anatolia for the past century, and the 740 expedition was the largest...

 and the turmoil of the Abbasid
Abbasid
The Abbasid Caliphate or, more simply, the Abbasids , was the third of the Islamic caliphates. It was ruled by the Abbasid dynasty of caliphs, who built their capital in Baghdad after overthrowing the Umayyad caliphate from all but the al-Andalus region....

 revolt led to a pause in Arab attacks against the Empire. It also opened up the way for a more aggressive stance by Constantine V
Constantine V
Constantine V was Byzantine emperor from 741 to 775; ); .-Early life:...

 (r. 741–775), who in 741 attacked the major Arab base of Melitene, and continued scoring further victories. These successes were also interpreted by Leo III and his son Constantine as evidence of God's renewed favour, and strengthened the position of Iconoclasm within the Empire.

Between 750 and 770, Constantine launched a series of counter-campaigns against the Arabs and Bulgars in an attempt to reverse so many losses.

Civil war occurred in the Byzantine Empire, often with Arab support. With the support of Caliph Al-Ma'mun
Al-Ma'mun
Abū Jaʿfar Abdullāh al-Māʾmūn ibn Harūn was an Abbasid caliph who reigned from 813 until his death in 833...

, Arabs under the leadership of Thomas the Slav
Thomas the Slav
Thomas the Slav was a 9th-century Byzantine military commander, most notable for leading a wide-scale revolt against Emperor Michael II the Amorian in 820–823....

 invaded, so that within a matter of months, only two themata
Theme (Byzantine administrative unit)
The themes or themata were the main administrative divisions of the middle Byzantine Empire. They were established in the mid-seventh century in the aftermath of the Muslim conquests of Byzantine territory and replaced the earlier provincial system established by emperors Diocletian and...

in Asia Minor remained loyal to Emperor Michael II
Michael II
Michael II , surnamed the Amorian or the Stammerer , reigned as Byzantine emperor from December 820 to his death on 2 October 829, and the first ruler of the Phrygian or Amorian dynasty....

. When the Arabs captured Thessalonica, the Empire's second largest city, it was quickly re-captured by the Byzantines. Thomas's 821 siege of Constantinople did not get past the city walls
Walls of Constantinople
The Walls of Constantinople are a series of defensive stone walls that have surrounded and protected the city of Constantinople since its founding as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire by Constantine the Great...

, and he was forced to retreat.

Asia Minor, Crete and Sicily



The Arabs did not relinquish their designs on Asia Minor and in 838 began another invasion, sacking the city of Amorion. With internal Byzantine unity weakened, along with their ties to the West, Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 fell to the Saracens in 824, becoming the seat of an Islamic pirate emirate
Emirate of Crete
The Emirate of Crete was a Muslim state that existed on the Mediterranean island of Crete from the late 820s to the Byzantine reconquest of the island in 961....

 and Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 was slowly lost over a 75-year period. Using Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 as their launching pad, the Arabs started by conquering Palermo
Palermo
Palermo is a city in Southern Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old...

 in 831, Messina in 842, Enna
Enna
Enna is a city and comune located roughly at the center of Sicily, southern Italy, in the province of Enna, towering above the surrounding countryside...

 in 859.

Byzantine resurgence


However, religious peace came with the emergence of the Macedonian dynasty
Macedonian dynasty
The Macedonian dynasty ruled the Byzantine Empire from 867 to 1056, following the Amorian dynasty. During this period, the Byzantine state reached its greatest expanse since the Muslim conquests, and the Macedonian Renaissance in letters and arts began. The dynasty was named after its founder,...

 in 867, as well as a strong and unified Byzantine leadership; while the Abassids empire had splintered into many factions. Basil I
Basil I
Basil I, called the Macedonian was a Byzantine emperor of probable Armenian descent who reigned from 867 to 886. Born a simple peasant in the Byzantine theme of Macedonia, he rose in the imperial court, and usurped the imperial throne from Emperor Michael III...

 revived the Byzantine Empire into a regional power, during a period of territorial expansion, making the Empire the strongest power in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, with an ecclesiastical policy marked by good relations with Rome. Basil allied with the Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 Louis II
Louis II, Holy Roman Emperor
Louis II the Younger was the King of Italy and Roman Emperor from 844, co-ruling with his father Lothair I until 855, after which he ruled alone. Louis's usual title was imperator augustus , but he used imperator Romanorum after his conquest of Bari in 871, which led to poor relations with Byzantium...

 against the Arabs, and his fleet cleared the Adriatic Sea
Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...

 from their raids. With Byzantine help, Louis II captured Bari
Bari
Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas...

 from the Arabs in 871. The city became Byzantine territory in 876. However, the Byzantine position on Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 deteriorated, and Syracuse
Syracuse, Italy
Syracuse is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in...

 fell to the Emirate of Sicily
Emirate of Sicily
The Emirate of Sicily was an Islamic state on the island of Sicily , which existed from 965 to 1072.-First Arab invasions of Sicily:...

 in 878. Catania was lost in 900, and finally the fortress of Taormina
Taormina
Taormina is a comune and small town on the east coast of the island of Sicily, Italy, in the Province of Messina, about midway between Messina and Catania. Taormina has been a very popular tourist destination since the 19th century...

 in 902. Michael of Zahumlje apparently on 10 July 926 sacked Siponto
Siponto
Siponto was an ancient port town of Apulia in southern Italy. The town was abandoned after earthquakes in the 13th century; today the area is administered as a frazione of the comune of Manfredonia, in the province of Foggia...

 , which was a Byzantine town in Apulia
Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

. It remains unknown whether Michael did so under King Tomislav's supreme command, as suggested by some historians. According to Omrčanin, Tomislav sent the Croatian navy under Michael's leadership to drive the Saracen
Saracen
Saracen was a term used by the ancient Romans to refer to a people who lived in desert areas in and around the Roman province of Arabia, and who were distinguished from Arabs. In Europe during the Middle Ages the term was expanded to include Arabs, and then all who professed the religion of Islam...

s from that part of southern Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and free the city. Sicily would remain under Arab control until the Norman invasion in 1071.

Although Sicily was lost, the general Nicephorus Phocas the Elder succeeded in taking Taranto
Taranto
Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base....

 and much of Calabria
Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

 in 880. Crete was retaken by the Byzantines in 960, and would be held until 1204, when it fell to Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 during the Fourth Crusade
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

. The successes in the Italian Peninsula
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

 opened a new period of Byzantine domination there. Above all, the Byzantines were beginning to establish a strong presence in the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, and especially the Adriatic
Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...

.

After putting an end to the internal strife, Basil II
Basil II
Basil II , known in his time as Basil the Porphyrogenitus and Basil the Young to distinguish him from his ancestor Basil I the Macedonian, was a Byzantine emperor from the Macedonian dynasty who reigned from 10 January 976 to 15 December 1025.The first part of his long reign was dominated...

 launched a counter-campaign against the Arabs in 995. The Byzantine civil wars had weakened the Empire's position in the east, and the gains of Nikephoros II Phokas and John I Tzimiskes
John I Tzimiskes
John I Tzimiskes or Tzimisces, was Byzantine Emperor from December 11, 969 to January 10, 976. A brilliant and intuitive general, John's short reign saw the expansion of the empire's borders and the strengthening of Byzantium itself.- Background :...

 came close to being lost, with Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

 besieged and Antioch under threat. Basil won several battles in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, relieving Aleppo, taking over the Orontes valley, and raiding further south. Although he did not have the force to drive into Palestine and reclaim Jerusalem, his victories did restore much of Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 to the empire — including the larger city of Antioch which was the seat of its eponymous Patriarch
Patriarch of Antioch
Patriarch of Antioch is a traditional title held by the Bishop of Antioch. As the traditional "overseer" of the first gentile Christian community, the position has been of prime importance in the church from its earliest period...

. No emperor since Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 had been able to hold these lands for any length of time, and the Empire would retain them for the next 110 years until 1078. Piers Paul Read
Piers Paul Read
Piers Paul Read, FRSL is a British novelist and non-fiction writer.-Background:Read was born in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire...

 writes that by 1025, Byzantine land "stretched from the Straits of Messina and the northern Adriatic in the west to the River Danube and Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 in the north, and to the cities of Melitine and Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

 beyond the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 in the east."

Under Basil II, the Byzantines established a swath of new themata
Theme (Byzantine administrative unit)
The themes or themata were the main administrative divisions of the middle Byzantine Empire. They were established in the mid-seventh century in the aftermath of the Muslim conquests of Byzantine territory and replaced the earlier provincial system established by emperors Diocletian and...

, stretching northeast from Aleppo (a Byzantine protectorate) to Manzikert. Under the Theme system of military and administrative government, the Byzantines could raise a force at least 200,000 strong, though in practice these were strategically placed throughout the Empire. With Basil's rule, the Byzantine Empire reached its greatest height in nearly five centuries, and indeed for the next four centuries.

Conclusion




The wars drew near to a closure when the Turks
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 and various Mongol invaders
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 replaced the threat of either power. From the 11th and 12th centuries onwards, the Byzantine conflicts shifted into the Byzantine-Seljuk wars
Byzantine-Seljuk wars
The Byzantine–Seljuq Wars were a series of decisive battles that shifted the balance of power in Asia Minor and Syria from the Byzantine Empire to the Seljuq Turks...

 with the continuing Islamic invasion of Anatolia being taken over by the Seljuk Turks. After the defeat at the Battle of Manzikert
Battle of Manzikert
The Battle of Manzikert , was fought between the Byzantine Empire and Seljuq Turks led by Alp Arslan on August 26, 1071 near Manzikert...

 by the Turks in 1071, the Byzantine Empire, with the help of Western Crusaders, re-established its position in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 as a major power. Meanwhile, the major Arab conflicts were in the Crusades, and later against Mongolian invasions, especially that of the Golden Horde
Golden Horde
The Golden Horde was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate that formed the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire...

 and Timur
Timur
Timur , historically known as Tamerlane in English , was a 14th-century conqueror of West, South and Central Asia, and the founder of the Timurid dynasty in Central Asia, and great-great-grandfather of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, which survived as the Mughal Empire in India until...

.

During the Second Crusade
Second Crusade
The Second Crusade was the second major crusade launched from Europe. The Second Crusade was started in response to the fall of the County of Edessa the previous year to the forces of Zengi. The county had been founded during the First Crusade by Baldwin of Boulogne in 1098...

, Baldwin III
Baldwin III of Jerusalem
Baldwin III was king of Jerusalem from 1143 to 1163. He was the eldest son of Melisende and Fulk of Jerusalem, and the grandson of Baldwin II of Jerusalem.-Succession:...

 seized Ascalon
Siege of Ascalon
The Siege of Ascalon took place in 1153, resulting in the capture of that Egyptian fortress by the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.-Background:...

 in 1153, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a Catholic kingdom established in the Levant in 1099 after the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks, but its history is divided into two distinct periods....

 was able to advance into Egypt and briefly occupy Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

 in the 1160s. The Emperor Manuel married Maria of Antioch
Maria of Antioch
Maria of Antioch was a Byzantine empress as the wife of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos. She was the daughter of Constance of Antioch and her first husband Raymond of Poitiers...

, cousin of the Crusader King Amalric I of Jerusalem
Amalric I of Jerusalem
Amalric I of Jerusalem was King of Jerusalem 1163–1174, and Count of Jaffa and Ascalon before his accession. Amalric was the second son of Melisende of Jerusalem and Fulk of Jerusalem...

, while Amalric married Manuel's grandniece Maria Komnene
Maria Komnene, Queen consort of Jerusalem
Maria Komnene or Comnena , , was the second wife of King Amalric I of Jerusalem and mother of Queen Isabella of Jerusalem. She was the daughter of John Komnenos, sometime Byzantine dux in Cyprus, and Maria Taronitissa, a descendant of the ancient Armenian kings...

. In 1168 a formal alliance was negotiated by future Archbishop William of Tyre
William of Tyre
William of Tyre was a medieval prelate and chronicler. As archbishop of Tyre, he is sometimes known as William II to distinguish him from a predecessor, William of Malines...

, and in 1169 Manuel launched a joint expedition with Amalric to Egypt. Manuel's ambitious campaign was a dramatic demonstration of how powerful the Empire had become, involving a fleet of over 200 ships equipped with siege weapons
Siege engine
A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare. Some have been operated close to the fortifications, while others have been used to attack from a distance. From antiquity, siege engines were constructed largely of wood and...

 and Greek fire; William of Tyre was particularly impressed by the large transport ships used to transport the cavalry forces
Cataphract
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry utilised in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Western Eurasia and the Eurasian Steppe....

 of the Komnenian army
Komnenian army
The Komnenian Byzantine army or Komnenian army was the force established by Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos during the late 11th/early 12th century, and perfected by his successors John II Komnenos and Manuel I Komnenos during the 12th century. Alexios constructed a new army from the ground...

. Manuel's wider strategy was to use the Latin Crusaders as a shield for the Empire, and his intervention in Egypt was because he believed control of Egypt would be the deciding factor of the Second Crusade
Second Crusade
The Second Crusade was the second major crusade launched from Europe. The Second Crusade was started in response to the fall of the County of Edessa the previous year to the forces of Zengi. The county had been founded during the First Crusade by Baldwin of Boulogne in 1098...

. A successful conquest would have consolidated Crusader control in the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

, and restored the grain supply of the rich province to the Empire.

Furthermore, it would bind the Crusaders more closely to the Empire, a goal which Manuel would pursue with determination throughout his reign and which would be evident when King Amalric subsequently placed his whole kingdom under the protection of Manuel, effectively extending the agreement on Antioch by making the entire Kingdom of Jerusalem at least nominally part of the Empire. However, this was a personal arrangement, in the feudal tradition of Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

, and as such only applied for as long as Manuel and Amalric were the rulers of their respective states.


The invasion could even have expected support from the native Coptic Christians, who had lived as second class citizens under Islamic rule for over five hundred years. However, the failure of co-operation between the Crusaders and the Byzantines jeopardised the chances to take the province. The Byzantine fleet sailed only with provisions for three months: by the time the crusaders were ready, supplies were already running out, and eventually the fleet retired after an ineffectual attempt to capture Damietta
Damietta
Damietta , also known as Damiata, or Domyat, is a port and the capital of the Damietta Governorate in Egypt. It is located at the intersection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Nile, about north of Cairo.-History:...

. Each side sought to blame the other for failure, but both also knew that they depended on each other: the alliance was maintained, and further plans were made, which ultimately were to come to naught.

Seljuk Sultan Kilij Arslan II
Kilij Arslan II
Kilij Arslan II was a Seljuk Sultan of Rûm from 1156 until his death in 1192.As Arnold of Lübeck reports in his Chronica Slavorum, he was present at the meeting of Henry the Lion with Kilij-Arslan during the former's pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1172...

 used this time to eliminate his rivals and build up his power in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

. The balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean was changing, and the effects of Manuel's failure in Egypt would still be felt long after his death. The rise of Saladin
Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

 was only made possible when, in 1171, he was proclaimed Sultan of Egypt
Sultan of Egypt
Sultan of Egypt was the status held by the rulers of Egypt after the establishment of the Ayyubid Dynasty of Saladin in 1174 until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. Though the extent of the Egyptian Sultanate ebbed and flowed, it generally included Sham and Hejaz, with the consequence that the...

; his uniting of Egypt and Syria would ultimately lead to the Third Crusade
Third Crusade
The Third Crusade , also known as the Kings' Crusade, was an attempt by European leaders to reconquer the Holy Land from Saladin...

. Meanwhile, the Byzantine alliance ended with the death of Manuel I in 1180; Manuel would be the last Emperor truly sympathetic to the Crusades.

Effects



As with any war of such length, the drawn-out Byzantine–Arab Wars had long lasting effects for both the Byzantine Empire and the Arab states. The Byzantines experienced extensive territorial loss, while the invading Arabs gained strong control in the Middle East and Africa. The focus of the Byzantine Empire shifted from the western reconquests of Justinian to a primarily defensive position, against the Islamic armies on its eastern borders. Without Byzantine interference in the emerging Christian states of western Europe, the situation gave a huge stimulus to feudalism
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 and economic self-sufficiency
Medieval technology
Medieval technology refers to the technology used in medieval Europe under Christian rule. After the Renaissance of the 12th century, medieval Europe saw a radical change in the rate of new inventions, innovations in the ways of managing traditional means of production, and economic growth...

.

Moreover, the view of modern historians is that one of the most important effects was the strain it put on the relationship between Rome and Byzantium. While fighting for survival against the Islamic armies, the Empire was no longer able to provide the protection it had once offered to the Papacy; worse still, according to Thomas Woods
Thomas Woods
Thomas E. "Tom" Woods, Jr. is an American historian, economist, political analyst, and New York Times-bestselling author. He has written extensively on the subjects of American history, contemporary politics, and economic theory...

, the Emperors "routinely intervened in the life of the Church in areas lying clearly beyond the state's competence". The Iconoclast controversy of the 8th and 9th centuries can be taken as a key factor "which drove the Latin Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 into the arms of the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

." Thus it has been argued that Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 was an indirect product of Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

:
"The Frankish Empire
Frankish Empire
Francia or Frankia, later also called the Frankish Empire , Frankish Kingdom , Frankish Realm or occasionally Frankland, was the territory inhabited and ruled by the Franks from the 3rd to the 10th century...

 would probably never have existed without Islam, and Charlemagne without Mahomet would be inconceivable."


The Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 of Charlemagne's successors would later come to the aid of the Byzantines under Louis II and during the Crusades, but relations between the two empires would be strained; based on the Salerno Chronicle
Chronicon Salernitanum
The Chronicon Salernitanum, or "Salerno Chronicle", is an anonymous 10th century chronicle of the history of the Principality of Salerno. It was probably written around 990 and has been attributed to Radoald of Salerno, Abbot of San Benedetto, by Huguette Taviani-Carozzi...

, we know the Emperor Basil had sent an angry letter to his western counterpart, reprimanding him for usurping the title of emperor. He argued that the Frankish rulers were simple reges, and that each nation has its own title for the ruler, whereas the imperial title suited only the ruler of the Eastern Romans, Basil himself.

Historiography and other sources



Walter Emil Kaegi states that extant Arabic sources have been given much scholarly attention for issues of obscurities and contradictions. However, he points out that Byzantine sources are also problematic, such as the chronicles of Theophanes
Theophanes the Confessor
Saint Theophanes Confessor was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy, who became a monk and chronicler. He is venerated on March 12 in the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church .-Biography:Theophanes was born in Constantinople of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac,...

 and Nicephorus and those written in Syriac, which are short and terse while the important question of their sources and their use of sources remains unresolved. Kaegi concludes that scholars must also subject the Byzantine tradition to critical scrutiny, as it "contains bias and cannot serve as an objective standard against which all Muslim sources may be confidently checked".

Among the few Latin sources of interest are the 7th century history of Fredegarius, and two 8th century Spanish chronicles, all of which draw on some Byzantine and oriental historical traditions. As far as Byzantine military action against the initial Muslim invasions, Kaegi asserts that "Byzantine traditions ... attempt to deflect criticism of the Byzantine debacle from Heraclius to other persons, groups, and things".

The range of non-historical Byzantine sources is vast: they range from papyri to sermons (most notable those of Sophronius and Anastasius Sinaita
Anastasius Sinaita
Saint Anastasius Sinaïta or Anastasius of Sinai, also called Anastasios of Sinai, was a prolific and important seventh century Greek ecclesiastical writer, priest, monk, and abbot of Saint Catherine's Monastery at Mt. Sinai....

), poetry (especially that of Sophronius and George of Pisidia), correspondence often of a patristic provenance, apologetical treatises, apocalypses, hagiography, military manuals (in particular the Strategikon of Maurice from the beginning of the 7th century), and other non-literary sources, such as epigraphy, archeology, and numismatics. None of these sources contains a coherent account of any of the campaigns and conquests of the Muslim armies, but some do contain invaluable details that survive nowhere else.

See also

  • Muslim conquests
    Muslim conquests
    Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

  • Aegyptus (Roman province)
    Aegyptus (Roman province)
    The Roman province of Egypt was established in 30 BC after Octavian defeated his rival Mark Antony, deposed his lover Queen Cleopatra VII and annexed the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt to the Roman Empire. The province encompassed most of modern-day Egypt except for the Sinai Peninsula...

  • Battle of Tours
    Battle of Tours
    The Battle of Tours , also called the Battle of Poitiers and in Battle of the Court of the Martyrs, was fought in an area between the cities of Poitiers and Tours, located in north-central France, near the village of Moussais-la-Bataille, about northeast of Poitiers...

  • Spread of Islam
    Spread of Islam
    The Spread of Islam started shortly after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 632 AD. During his lifetime, the community of Muhammad, the ummah, was established in the Arabian Peninsula by means of conversion to Islam and conquering of territory, and oftentimes the conquered had to either...


Primary sources


  • Ahmad ibn Yahya al-Baladhuri
    Ahmad Ibn Yahya al-Baladhuri
    Ahmad Ibn Yahya al-Baladhuri Arabic was a 9th century Persian historian. One of the eminent middle-eastern historians of his age , he spent most of his life in Baghdad and enjoyed great influence at the court of the caliph al-Mutawakkil. He traveled in Syria and Iraq, compiling information for his...

    . Futuh al-Buldan
    Futuh al-Buldan
    Futūh al-Buldān is an Arabic book by Persian historian Ahmad Ibn Yahya al-Baladhuri.The work by which he is best known is the Kitab Futuh al-Buldan , edited by M. J. de Goeje as Liber expugnationis regionum . This work is a digest of a larger one, which is now lost...

    . See a translated excerpt ("The Battle of Yarmouk and after") in Medieval Sources.
  • Theophanes the Confessor
    Theophanes the Confessor
    Saint Theophanes Confessor was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy, who became a monk and chronicler. He is venerated on March 12 in the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church .-Biography:Theophanes was born in Constantinople of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac,...

    . Chronicle. See original text in Documenta Catholica Omnia (PDF).
  • Zonaras, Joannes
    Joannes Zonaras
    Ioannes Zonaras was a Byzantine chronicler and theologian, who lived at Constantinople.Under Emperor Alexios I Komnenos he held the offices of head justice and private secretary to the emperor, but after Alexios' death, he retired to the monastery of St Glykeria, where he spent the rest of his...

    , Annales. See the original text in Patrologia Graeca.


Secondary sources


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