AT the accession of Leo III (25 March 717), when the great Arab army was encamped in western Asia Minor and the Anatolic troops had gone to Constantinople to place their strategus on the throne, the position of the Empire seemed almost desperate; and the Arab commander, Maslamah, having some understanding with Leo, was confident of reducing it to subjection. During the spring he took Sardis and Pergamus; and, when it became clear that no assistance was to be expected from Leo, he advanced to Abydos, crossed to Thrace, destroyed the forts on the road, and encamped before Constantinople (July). On 1 September a fleet under a certain Suleiman joined him, and was followed by another under Omar ibn Hubaira; but, while the ships were sailing round the city, twenty of them became separated from the rest and were destroyed by fire-ships (3 September). After this the fleet was content with inactivity and safety; but an offer of ransom was refused, and in the severe winter the army lost heavily in horses and camels. In the spring fresh ships came from Egypt and Africa besides military reinforcements, and an attack by Slavs was repulsed; but Omar was defeated by the Bulgarians whom Leo had called to his assistance, and in Bithynia a foraging party was routed. Moreover, the Egyptian sailors deserted, and through information obtained from them Leo destroyed with Greek fire many newly-arrived ships. After this the blockade on the sea side was practically raised, while the besiegers were starving. Accordingly Omar II, who succeeded the Caliph Suleiman in September 717, recalled the Muslim armament (15 August 718); but many ships were destroyed by a storm or captured on the retreat, and only a few reached Syria. The garrison of Taranta, which was thought to be too much exposed, was then withdrawn, and no more expeditions were made while Omar lived. To prevent a recrudescence of the Arab sea-power, after the accession of the Caliph Yazid II (February 720) a Roman fleet sailed to Egypt and attacked Tinnis. The expedition of 716-718 was in fact the last attempt upon Constantinople, and the neglect of the fleet which followed the removal of the capital from Damascus to Babylonia in 750 made a repetition impossible; hence the war was reduced to a series of plundering raids, until the occupation of Crete and Sicily by western Arabs caused the naval warfare to revive under new conditions. The character of these incursions was so well understood on the Arab side that in the ninth century it was an accepted rule that two raids were made each year, one from 10 May to 10 June when grass was abundant, and, after a month's rest for the horses, another from 10 July to 8 September, with sometimes a third in February and March; and the size of the forces may be gauged from the fact that a commander was once superseded for retreating when he had still 7000 men. Longer expeditions were often made; but even these rarely had any object but plunder or blackmail. A frontier fortress was indeed occasionally occupied, but it was often recovered after a short interval, and more frequently forts were taken only that they might be destroyed and the enemy thereby deprived of a base; and the whole result of 150 years of war was only the annexation by the Arabs of the district between the Sarus and the Lamus, which however included the important towns of Tarsus and Adana and the strong fortress of Lulum. Raids through the Cilician Gates were signaled to Constantinople by a chain of beacons, and a cluster of fortresses was erected on the heights of the Taurus range; but the Romans were generally content to hold the strong places, and, when opportunity offered, overwhelm parties of marauders. Occasionally they made counter-raids; but these had even less permanent result than those of the Arabs, until under the rule of the energetic Caesar Bardas a blow was dealt after which the decaying Caliphate never recovered its offensive power, and the way was laid open for a Roman advance.

Under Yazid only sporadic raids were made, with little result. Omar ibn Hubaira won a victory in Armenia Quarta (721), and a fortress in Cilicia was taken (723); but Abbas ibn al-Walid after taking a fort in Paphlagonia allowed his men to scatter, and most of the parties were annihilated (722). After Caliph Hisham’s accession, however, more systematic plans were adopted. In 724 his son Said and his cousin Marwan with the combined forces of Syria and Mesopotamia, coming from Melitene, stormed a fort and massacred the garrison, though a detachment under Kathir was cut to pieces; and this was followed by the capture of the great fortress of Camacha on the Euphrates (which the Romans must have recovered since 711); and in 726 Maslamah took Neo-Caesarea. After this a series of raids was carried out by Hisham’s son Moawiyah, who in 727 took Gangra, which he demolished, and Tataeum, and with naval assistance besieged Nicaea. In 728 he took Semaluos in the Armeniac theme; in 729 he raided northern Asia Minor, while Said, coming from the south, reached Caesarea, and an Egyptian fleet harried the coast. In 730 Moawiyah took the fortress of Charsianum; in 731 he found the frontier too well guarded to cross in force, and his lieutenant, Battal, was routed; but in 732 he plundered Paphlagonia and penetrated to Acroinon (Prymnessus), though on the retreat his rearguard was annihilated, while his brother Suleiman reached Caesarea. In 733 the two brothers joined forces and their vanguard under Battal captured a general; in 734 Moawiyah reached the west coast, plundering proconsular Asia as he went; in 735 he returned by way of the north, while Suleiman raided Cappadocia. In 736 on another joint expedition Moawiyah was killed by a fall from his horse, but Suleiman after wintering in Roman territory invaded Asia and carried off a Pergamene who claimed to be Justinian's son Tiberius and was granted imperial honors by Hisham. In 738 he took a fort in Pontus and captured a patrician's son, who with other prisoners was put to death in 740 on a report that Leo had killed his Muslim prisoners; and in 739 his brother Maslamah, coming from Melitene, seized some of the subterranean granaries that were numerous in Cappadocia. Assistance by sea was prevented by the activity of the Roman fleet, which in 736 captured part of a fleet returning from a raid and in 739 attacked Damietta in great force and carried off many captives.

For 740 a great invasion was planned. Suleiman crossed the frontier in May and encamped before Tyana, sending his cousin Ghamr to Asia and Malik and Battal to Phrygia, where they took Synada and besieged Acroinon; but these last were routed by Leo himself and both killed, after which the whole army returned to Syria. Not this victory, however, so much as the internal troubles of the Caliphate caused in the following years the slackness of the Arab offensive.

In 742 Suleiman marched into the heart of Asia Minor, and Constantine V, who had succeeded Leo in June 741, left his capital on 27 June and came to Crasus in Phrygia to meet him; but Artavasdus’ rebellion forced him to flee to the Anatolics at Amorium, leaving the road open to the enemy. However, Hisham’s death (February 743) and the accession of the incapable Caliph Walid II prevented the Arabs from making the most of this opportunity, and in 743 the Romans destroyed the fortress of Sozopetra south-west of Melitene.

After the murder of Walid (April 744) the Caliphate fell into anarchy; and, order having been restored in the Empire by Artavasdus’ overthrow (November), the advantage lay with the Romans. Constantine again destroyed Sozopetra, which had been insufficiently restored, and threatened Perrhae (Hisn Mansur), where the fortifications had been repaired and a strong garrison posted. He forced Germanicea (Marash) and Doliche to capitulate; allowing the garrisons to march out, he removed the inhabitants to Roman territory and demolished the fortifications (746). After this a great outbreak of plague prevented him from pursuing his advantage, and in 748 Walid ibn Hisham restored Germanicea. In 747 however an Egyptian squadron which had come to Cyprus was unexpectedly attacked in harbor and almost annihilated; and from this time the Egyptian fleet disappears for 100 years.

Campaigns of Constantine V

In June 751 Constantine set out to recover Camacha, but sent the Armenian Khushan, who had fled to the Romans in 750, against the fort, while he himself besieged Melitene. Mesopotamia being in revolt, its Emir could not bring help, and the place capitulated; the inhabitants with their portable property were then escorted to a place of safety, after which the town was demolished. Thence Constantine went on to Claudias, which he also took, removing the population of the district to Roman territory; but at Arsamosata he failed. Meanwhile Khushan, having taken Camacha and placed a garrison in it, advanced to Theodosiopolis (Erzurum), which he took and destroyed, making the garrison prisoners and deporting the inhabitants. The merciful treatment which Constantine accorded to his enemies and to the civil populations is a bright spot among the atrocities of these wars. The Romans were never as cruel as the Arabs, but this striking leniency may fairly be set against the character which anti-Iconoclast writers draw of this Emperor.

By the Caliph Marwan II’s death (July 751) the new Abbasid dynasty was firmly established, but many revolts followed. When in 754 Abdallah, Emir of Syria, had started to invade the Empire, he heard of the death of his nephew, the Caliph Saffah (19 June), and returned to make an unsuccessful bid for the Caliphate. His successor in Syria, his brother Salih, in 756 entered Cappadocia through the pass of Adata, but on hearing that Constantine was about to march against him returned home. Thereupon followed an exchange of prisoners. In 757 Salih began to rebuild the walls of Mopsuestia, which had been overthrown by an earthquake in 756; and Abd-al-Wahhab, who had been made Emir of Mesopotamia by his uncle the Caliph Mansur, rebuilt Claudias and began to rebuild Melitene. To prevent this Constantine marched to the Pyramus (758); but the army at Melitene, reinforced by some Persians, the best troops of the Caliphate, under Hasan was too strong to attack, and the rebuilding of Melitene and Mopsuestia was completed. In 759, while the Emperor was engaged with Slavonic enemies, Adana, abandoned by the Romans, was occupied by Salih, a garrison, partly of Persians, being placed there, and a fort erected on the Sarus opposite it. In 760, while Constantine was fighting the Bulgarians, the Caliph’s brother Abbas defeated the Armeniac strategus Paul on the Melas between Melitene and Caesarea with great loss, Paul himself being killed and 42 high officers captured.

For the next five years both sides were occupied, Mansur with insurrections and Chazar invasions, and Constantine with Bulgarian wars, and in 766 there was an exchange of prisoners. This year a strong force of Arabs and Persians under Abbas and Hasan besieged Camacha (August); but, well defended by its commandant, it resisted all their efforts, and on the approach of winter they retired. Some of the army, however, who had separated from the rest for a pillaging expedition, penetrated beyond Caesarea, avoiding roads and towns, but were attacked on their return and fled in confusion to Melitene and Theodosiopolis. The Arabs then set themselves to restore the fortifications of Arsamosata; but in 768 an army which had been ravaging Armenia Quarta crossed the Arsanias and destroyed the works, though after their retreat the task was completed. The citizens were however suspected of collusion with the enemy and removed to Palestine, a fate which also befell the inhabitants of Germanicea (769), which was refortified and garrisoned.

Expedition of the Caliph Mahdi

In 770 Laodicea Combusta was taken, and in 771 some of the Armenians who had fled to the Romans with Khushan set out to return to their old homes, and a force under the commandant of Camacha which pursued them was surprised and cut to pieces. In 775 Thumama marched along the Isaurian coast, supported by a fleet, and besieged Syce. Constantine thereupon sent the Anatolics, Armeniacs, and Bucellarii, who occupied the only pass by which Thumama could retreat, while the Cibyrrhaeots anchored in the harbor and cut off his communications with the ships; but by a desperate attack he cut his way through the cavalry and returned with many prisoners from the neighborhood, while the fleet sailed to Cyprus and captured the governor. Constantine, wishing to be free to deal with the Bulgarians, now made proposals for peace, but these were rejected.

The deaths of Emperor and Caliph in 775 were followed by greater activity on both sides. Constantine had recently given his chief attention to the Bulgarians and had been content with merely checking Arab inroads; but in 776 Leo IV, who, though from ill health unable to lead armies, was an able and vigorous ruler, sent an expedition to Samosata which carried off many captives. The Muslims were ransomed by the Caliph Mahdi, who on his side prepared a larger force than had been seen since 740 with many of the best Persian troops under Abbas, which took the underground granary of Casis with the men in it and reached but did not take Ancyra. In 777 Thumama made an expedition by land and Ghamr by sea; but Thumama quarreled with the Emir Isa, the Caliph’s great-uncle, and so in 778 no raid took place. In these circumstances Leo sent the five Asiatic themes to Cilicia and Syria, and they besieged Isa in Germanicea without opposition from Thumama, who was at Dabiq. Failing to take Germanicea, they plundered the country, and the Thracesian strategus, Michael Lachanodraco, was attacked by a force sent by Thumama, but defeated them with heavy loss, after which the whole army returned with many captives, largely Syrian Jacobites, and laden with spoil. In 779 Thumama again remained inactive, though ordered to make an invasion, and the Romans destroyed the fortifications of Adata. The veteran Hasan was then appointed to command, and with a large force from Syria, Mesopotamia, and Khurasan entered the Empire by the pass of Adata. Leo ordered his generals not to fight, but to bring the inhabitants into the fortresses and send out parties of picked men, to prevent foraging and to destroy the fodder and provisions. Hasan therefore occupied Dorylaeum without opposition, but after fifteen days lack of fodder for the horses forced him to retreat.

Expedition of Rashid

The Caliph now determined to take the field himself, and on 12 March 780 left Baghdad with an even larger army and marched through Aleppo to Adata; here by Hasan’s advice he ordered the fortifications to be restored (they were completed in 785), and advanced to Arabissus, whence he returned, leaving the command to his son Harun, afterwards known as ar-Rashid, supported by Hasan and other capable advisers. This expedition was however hardly more successful than the last. Thumama, since Isa’s death no longer disaffected, being sent westwards, reached Asia, but was there defeated by Lachanodraco, his brother falling in the battle; afterwards Rashid marched towards the north and besieged Semaluos for thirty-eight days, during which the Arabs suffered heavy loss, and the garrison then surrendered on condition that their lives were spared and that they were not separated from one another. The army thereupon returned to Syria. After this expedition Tarsus, which had been abandoned by the Romans, was occupied and rebuilt by the Arabs.

In September 780 Leo died; and, under the female rule which followed, Asia Minor was again laid open to the enemy. In June 781 the Asiatic themes were sent to the frontier, commanded not by a soldier but a eunuch, the treasurer John. The separate themes, however, retained their strategi, and Abdal-Kabir, who had invaded by the pass of Adata, was defeated by Lachanodraco and the Armenian Tadjat, strategus of the Bucellarii, who had gone over to the Romans in 780. After this Abd­al-Kabir abandoned the expedition, for which he was imprisoned. The Caliph now made a great effort, and on 9 February 782 Rashid left Baghdad at the head of a larger force than any that had been sent in the previous years, in which contingents from Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Khurasan were included; and, the Empress Irene having just sent an army to Sicily against the rebel Elpidius, the invaders had an easier task. Entering by the Cilician Gates, Rashid took the fortress of Magida and advanced into Phrygia, where he left Rabi to besiege Nacolea and sent Yahya the Barmecide to Asia, and after defeating Nicetas, Count of Opsicium, he reached Chrysopolis. Yahya inflicted a crushing defeat on Lachanodraco, but on his way to join Rashid found his road blocked on the Sangarius by Anthony the Domestic of the Scholae, whom Irene had sent by sea from Constantinople; but Tadjat from hostility to Irene’s chief minister, the eunuch Stauracius, opened communications with Rashid, and on promise of pardon and reward returned to the Arabs. By his advice Rashid proposed peace; but, when Stauracius, Anthony, and Peter the magister came to discuss terms, he treacherously made them prisoners. Irene, wishing to recover Stauracius and crippled by the loss of Tadjat and Anthony, was forced to accept his conditions. A three years’ truce was then made on condition that she paid tribute, ransomed the prisoners, supplied guides and markets for the army on its retreat, and surrendered Tadjat’s wife and property. After mutual presents the Arabs returned laden with spoil (31 August). Mopsuestia and the fort opposite Adana were then rebuilt by the Arabs.

In 785 the rebuilding of Adata was finished; but the work was faulty, and the walls were soon so much damaged by the wet winter that early in 786 the Romans easily took and destroyed the town, which was evacuated by its garrison; they also overthrew the fortifications of Sozopetra. Both these frontier places were immediately rebuilt.

In 786 Irene, to carry out her religious policy, changed the composition of the themes and probably deposed the iconoclast strategic, thereby impairing the military strength of the Empire, which, while she ruled, was unable to cope with the Arabs; and in September 788 the Romans were defeated in the Anatolic theme with heavy loss. In 790 some soldiers who were being conveyed by sea from Egypt to Syria were captured by the Romans, but an Arab fleet sailed to Cyprus and thence to Asia Minor, and, meeting the Cibyrrhaeots in the bay of Attalia, captured Theophilus the admiral, who was offered rich gifts by Rashid, now Caliph, to join the Arabs, but on his refusal beheaded.

Campaigns of Constantine VI

In September 791 Constantine VI, having now assumed the government, marched through Amorium to attack Tarsus, but had only reached the Lycaonian desert when, perhaps from scarcity of water, he returned (October). In 792 he restored his mother to her rank and place, and, having driven the Armeniacs, who had caused her downfall, to mutiny, overcame them by the help of some Armenian auxiliaries (793), who, not having received the expected reward, betrayed Camacha to the lieutenant of Abdal-Malik, Emir of Mesopotamia (29 July). The same year Thebasa in Cappadocia from lack of water surrendered to Abdal­Malik’s son Abdurrahman on condition that the officers were allowed to go free (October). In the autumn of 794 Suleiman invaded northern Asia Minor, accompanied by Elpidius, who had fled to the Arabs and received recognition as Emperor; but many men perished from cold, and a safe retreat was only obtained by making terms (January 795).

In the spring of 795 Fadl led a raid, but Constantine himself marched against him (April) and defeated a party which had nearly reached the west coast (8 May). In 796 he was occupied with the Bulgarians, and Mahomet ibn Moawiyah reached Amorium and carried off captives. In 797 Rashid in person invaded the Empire by the Cilician Gates, and Constantine, accompanied by Stauracius and other partisans of Irene, again took the field (March); but Stauracius, fearing that success might bring the Emperor popularity, spread a report that the enemy had retreated, and Constantine returned to lose his throne and his sight (19 August). Meanwhile Rashid took the fort known to the Arabs as as-Safsaf (the willow) near the Cilician Gates, while Abdal-Malik plundered the country as far as Ancyra, which he took, and then rejected Irene’s proposals for a truce. In 798 Abdal-Malik extended his ravages to Malagina, where he carried off the horses and equipment from Stauracius’ stables, while Abdurrahman made many captives in Lydia and reached Ephesus, and in the autumn another party defeated Paul of Opsicium and captured his camp.

In 799 the Khazars invaded Armenia, and so this time Rashid accepted Irene’s offers of tribute and made peace; but her successor Nicephorus refused payment (803). Accordingly in August 803, while he was occupied with Vardan’s rebellion, the Caliph’s son Qasim, who had just been named Emir of al-Awasim (the defenses), a province in North Syria instituted in 789, entered Cappadocia by the Cilician Gates and besieged Corum, while one of his lieutenants besieged a fort which the Arabs call Sinan; but, being distressed by lack of food and water, he agreed to retire upon 320 prisoners being released. In 804 Rashid himself advanced through the same pass to Heraclea (Cybistra) in April, while another party under Ibrahim took as-Safsaf and Thebasa, which they dismantled. Nicephorus started in person to meet Ibrahim (August); but on hearing that the Caliph's vanguard had taken and dismantled Ancyra turned back and, having met the enemy at Crasus, suffered defeat; but the lateness of the season made it difficult to maintain the army, and Rashid accepted tribute and made peace, the Emperor agreeing not to rebuild the dismantled fortresses. An exchange of prisoners was also arranged and took place during the winter. In 805 the Caliph was occupied in Persia, and Nicephorus, contrary to the treaty, rebuilt Ancyra, Thebasa, and as-Safsaf. He also sent an army into Cilicia, which took Tarsus, making the garrison prisoners, and ravaged the lands of Mopsuestia and Anazarbus; but the garrison of Mopsuestia attacked them and recovered most of the prisoners and spoil. Accordingly in 806 Rashid, with a large army from Syria, Palestine, Persia, and Egypt, crossed the frontier (11 June) and took Heraclea after a month's siege (August) and Tyana, where he ordered a mosque to be built, while his lieutenants took the Fort of the Slavs by the Cilician Gates, Thebasa, Malacopea, Sideropalus (Cyzistra), as-Safsaf, Sinan, and Semaluos, and a detachment even reached Ancyra. Nicephorus, threatened by the Bulgarians, could not resist, and sent three clerics by whom peace was renewed on the basis of an annual tribute and a personal payment for the Emperor and his son, who thereby acknowledged themselves the Caliph’s servants. Since Nicephorus again bound himself not to rebuild the dismantled forts, Rashid undertook to restore Semaluos, Sinan, and Sideropalus uninjured. As soon, however, as the Arabs had withdrawn, Nicephorus, presuming on the lateness of the season, again restored the forts, whereupon the Caliph unexpectedly returned and retook Thebasa.

The neutralization of Cyprus, effected in 689, was considered as still in force; but after the breach of the treaty of 804 a fleet under Humaid in 805 ravaged the island and carried 16,000 Cypriots, among whom was the archbishop, as prisoners to Syria (806), but on the renewal of peace they were sent back. In 807 Humaid landed in Rhodes and harried the island, though unable to take the fortified town; but after touching at Myra on the way back many of his ships were wrecked in a storm.

Early in 807 the Romans, who must previously have recovered Tyana, occupied the Cilician Gates, and, when the Arab commander tried to pass, defeated and killed him. Rashid himself then came to the pass of Adata, and sent Harthama with a Persian army into Roman territory; but he effected nothing and his force suffered severely from hunger. The Romans failed to take Germanicea and Melitene, and the Caliph after assigning to Harthama the task of rebuilding Tarsus returned to Syria (14 July), recalled probably by the news of disturbances in the East. In 808 an exchange of prisoners was effected at Podandus.

During the civil war which followed Rashid’s death (March 809) the Romans recovered Camacha, which was surrendered by its commandant in exchange for his son, who had been captured; but wars with Bulgarians and Slavs prevented them from taking full advantage of the situation. It was fortunate for them that during the terrible years 811-814 the Arabs were unable to organize a serious attack.

In 810 Faraj rebuilt Adana and the fort opposite, and in 811 another leader invaded the Armeniac theme and defeated Leo the strategus at Euchaita, capturing the soldiers' pay and making many prisoners (2 March); but in 812 Thabit, Emir of Tarsus, having crossed the frontier in August, was defeated by the Anatolic strategus, another Leo, afterwards Emperor, and lost many horses and wagons. After 813, though no peace was made, other occupations on both sides prevented active hostilities; but about 818 Leo V, now delivered from the Bulgarians, took advantage of the disturbances in Egypt to send a fleet to Damietta.

In September 813 Mamun became sole Caliph; but, Syria and Mesopotamia being almost wholly in the hands of rebels, he could not engage in foreign war, and in 817 a new rival arose in his uncle Ibrahim. On his submission (819) the Syrian rebel Nasr asked help of the Anatolic general, Manuel, and Leo sent envoys to treat with him; but the indignation of Nasr's followers at a Christian alliance forced him to put them to death, while Mamun prevented interference by sending the exile Thomas into Asia Minor with Arab auxiliaries, who after the murder of Leo (December 820) was joined by most of the Asiatic themes and remained in arms till 823. During these troubles Abdallah ibn Tahir recovered Camacha (822), and some adventurers who had been expelled from Spain and occupied Alexandria ravaged Crete and the Aegean islands. After the overthrow of Thomas, Michael II proposed a definite peace (825); but Mamun, having just then been delivered from Nasr, refused to tie his hands and sent raiding parties into the Empire, who were defeated at Ancyra and at another place and lost one of their leaders.

Campaigns of the Caliph Mamun

In December 827 the Spanish adventurers were expelled from Alexandria and established themselves in Crete. The Cibyrrhaeot strategus Craterus gained a victory over them (828), but waited to give his men a night's rest; and, as he kept no watch, his force was surprised and cut to pieces, and his ships were captured. He himself escaped in a trading-vessel to Cos, but was pursued, taken, and crucified. In 829 the corsairs annihilated the Aegean fleet off Thasos, and the islands lay at their mercy; but Ooryphas collected a new naval force, and for some time checked their ravages.

Mamun had been hindered from pursuing the war by the rebellion of the Khurrami sectaries under Babak in Azerbaijan and Kurdistan; and about 829 some of these, under a leader who took the name of Theophobus, joined the Romans. Thus strengthened, Theophilus, who succeeded Michael in October 829, crossed the frontier and destroyed Sozopetra, killing the men and enslaving the women, whereupon Mamun started for Asia Minor (26 March 830). Having received a welcome ally in Manuel, who, having been calumniated at court, had fled to save his life, he sent his son Abbas to rebuild Sozopetra and passed the Cilician Gates (10 July), where he found no army to oppose him. Magida soon capitulated, and Corum was taken and destroyed (19 July), but the lives of the garrison were spared, while Sinan surrendered to Ujaif and Soandus to Ashnas. After taking Semaluos the Caliph returned to Damascus.

Early in 831 Theophilus entered Cilicia and defeated a local force, after which he returned in triumph with many prisoners to Constantinople. But the position in Sicily caused him to use his success in order to obtain peace, and he sent the archimandrite John, afterwards Patriarch, with 500 prisoners and an offer of tribute in return for a five years' truce, but with instructions to promise Manuel free pardon if he returned. Mamun, who had started for another campaign, received the envoy at Adana and refused a truce; but with Manuel John had more success, for, while accompanying Abbas in an invasion of Cappadocia the next year, he deserted to the Romans. Meanwhile Mamun crossed the frontier (26 June)], besieged Lulum, and received the surrender of Antigus and Heraclea, while his brother Mutasim took thirteen forts and some subterranean granaries, and Yahya, took and destroyed Tyana. Failing to take Lulum, Mamun, having heard of the revolt of Egypt, left Ujaif to continue the siege and returned to Syria (end of September). The garrison of Lulum succeeded in taking Ujaif prisoner, but, after an attempt at relief by Theophilus had failed, released him on condition of his obtaining them a favorable capitulation, and the place was annexed, whereby the command of the pass fell into the hands of the Arabs (832). Meanwhile Mamun returned from Egypt (April), and Theophilus again sent to offer tribute; but Mamun refused accommodation and entered Cilicia, where he received an impostor claiming imperial descent, whom he had crowned by the Patriarch of Antioch. After a halt at Adana he again crossed the frontier, obtained the surrender of some forts, ordered Tyana to be rebuilt as a Muslim colony, and returned to Syria (September). In 833 he came to Tarsus, and sent Abbas to superintend the rebuilding of Tyana (25 May), himself following on 9 July. Soon afterwards he was seized with illness and died at Podandus (7 August), after rejecting the Emperor's offer to pay the war-expenses and compensation for damage done in Arab territory and to liberate all Muslim prisoners in return for peace. Peace was, however, practically obtained, for, in consequence of the spread of the Khurrami rebellion under Babak, Mamun’s successor, the Caliph Mutasim, abandoned Tyana and ceased hostilities.

Sack of Sozopetra 

In 835 the rebels were defeated, and Omar, Emir of Melitene, was able to invade the Empire. Theophilus himself met the marauders and was at first victorious, but in a second battle he was put to flight and his camp was pillaged. In 836, however, the imperial forces were increased by the adhesion of another party of Khurramis under Nasr the Kurd; and, the Arabs having just then been defeated by Babak, Theophilus invaded Armenia, where he massacred many of the inhabitants, and after exacting tribute from Theodosiopolis returned, bringing many Armenian families with him; but a force which he left behind was routed in Vanand. In 837, urged by Babak, he again crossed the frontier and for the second time destroyed Sozopetra, where Nasr’s Kurds perpetrated a general massacre among the Christian and Jewish male inhabitants. Theophilus then pillaged the district of Melitene, passed on into Anzetene, besieged Arsamosata, which, after defeating a relieving force, he took and burned, carried off captives from Armenia Quarta, which he laid waste, and returned to Melitene; but, expecting another attack, he accepted hostages from the garrison with some Roman prisoners and presents and withdrew. Ujaif, whom the Caliph sent against him, overtook him near Charsianum, but the small Arab force was almost annihilated.

Fall of Amorium

This summer Babak was finally defeated, and soon afterwards taken and beheaded; and Mutasim, now free to pursue the war with vigor, started with a larger force than had yet followed a Caliph to invade the Empire. He left Samarra, on 5 April 838, and at Batnae (Saruj) sent Afshin through the pass of Adata, while the rest of the army went on to Tarsus, where he again divided his forces, sending Ashnas through the Cilician Gates (19 June), while he himself followed two days later, the destination of all three divisions being Ancyra. Afshin took the longer road by Sebastea in order to effect a junction with the troops of Melitene and those of Armenia, which included many Turks and the forces of the native princes. Mutasim, having heard that Theophilus was encamped on the Halys, ordered Ashnas, who had reached the plain, to await his own arrival. The Emperor, however, had gone to meet Afshin, and in the battle which followed near Dazimon on the Iris (24 July) the Romans were at first successful; but heavy rain and mist came on, most of the army, unable to find the Emperor, left the field, and Theophilus, persuaded that the Persians meant to betray him, with a few followers cut his way through the enemy and escaped, while those who remained lit fires to deceive the Arabs and retired. Ancyra having been evacuated on the news of the battle, Theophilus ordered his forces to concentrate at Amorium under the Anatolic strategus Aetius, while he himself, having received information of a conspiracy, returned to Constantinople. Meanwhile Ashnas occupied Corum, and, after destroying Nyssa and learning from fugitives of the Emperor's defeat, entered Ancyra. Here Mutasim and Afshin joined him, and, having destroyed Ancyra, the united forces advanced to Amorium, the chief city of the Anatolic theme and the birthplace of Theophilus’ father (2 August). Here a stubborn resistance was offered, but an Arab captive, who had turned Christian and was known as Manicophagus, showed them a weak spot; the main attack was directed against this point, until Boiditzes, who commanded in this quarter, finding resistance hopeless, admitted the enemy (13 August). The town was then destroyed, and a massacre followed. Meanwhile Theophilus, who was at Dorylaeum, sent presents to Mutasim with a letter in which he apologized for the slaughter at Sozopetra, saying that it was committed without his orders, and offered to rebuild it and release all prisoners in return for peace; but the Caliph would not see the envoy till Amorium had fallen, and then refused terms unless Manuel and Nag were surrendered, returning the presents. On 25 September he began his retreat by the direct road through the desert, where many perished from thirst; and many prisoners who were unable to march, and others who killed some soldiers and fled, were put to death. The chief officers were preserved alive; but Aetius was crucified on reaching Samarra, and about forty others suffered death seven years later (5 March 845).

After this the Caliph was occupied with the conspiracy of Abbas, who had been in correspondence with Theophilus; but Abu-Said, who was appointed Emir of Syria and Mesopotamia, sent the commandant of Mopsuestia on a raid, in which he carried of prisoners and cattle. He was then attacked by Nasr, who recovered the prisoners but was shortly afterwards defeated by Abu-Said and killed, whereupon the Kurds dismounted and fought till all were killed. On the other hand a Roman fleet pillaged Seleucia in Syria (839). Abu-Said, having fortified Seleucia, in 841 made another invasion and carried off captives, but the Romans pursued him into Cilicia and recovered them. In a second inroad he fared no better, and the Romans took Adata and Germanicea and occupied part of the territory of Melitene. Theophilus now again sent presents and asked for an exchange of prisoners; Mutasim, while refusing a formal exchange, sent richer presents in return, and promised, if the prisoners were released, to release double the number. On these terms a truce was made.

Disintegration of the Caliphate 

In January 842 both sovereigns died; the Empire passed to a woman and a child, and the Caliphate to a man of pleasure; and for some time few serious operations were undertaken, though in 842 a fleet under Abu-Dinar sailed for the Aegean, but it was shattered by a storm off Chelidonia in Lycia, and few ships returned. The Cretan pirates were, however, a constant menace; in 841 they were ravaging the Asiatic coast when a party which had landed near Ephesus was annihilated by the Thracesian strategus Constantine Contomytes. In 843 Theodora’s chief minister Theoctistus, who knew nothing of war, sailed with a large fleet to expel them from Crete (March), and by force of numbers was on the point of succeeding, when on a report that Theodora had proclaimed a new Emperor he returned, and his men, left without a leader, were cut to pieces. In 844 Omar of Melitene made an inroad as far as Malagina; Theoctistus, who again took command, was defeated on the Mauropotamus, and many of his men deserted to the enemy. An exchange of prisoners was then effected on the river Lamus (16 September 845). After the truce had expired (26 October) Ahmad, Emir of Tarsus, made an invasion by the Cilician Gates; but heavy snow and rain came on; many men died from exposure, some were drowned in the Podandus, others captured, and Ahmad retreated before the enemy; whereupon his officers forced him to leave the province, and the Caliph Wathiq appointed Nasr to succeed him (17 January 846). After this we hear of no invasions till 851; and the raids on the Cilician frontier were henceforth of small account. The disuse of the suburban fire-signals (ascribed to Michael III's fear of their spoiling the circus-games) was therefore of little importance. In 851 an Armenian revolt enabled the Romans to recover Camacha. Theodosiopolis and Arsamosata they failed to take, but with Armenian help defeated and killed Yusuf, Emir of Armenia, in Taron (March 852), retreating, however, on the arrival of reinforcements sent by the Caliph Mutawakkil.

After Mutasim’s death the disintegration of the Caliphate, which had already begun, rapidly advanced. Owing to the hatred in Baghdad for the large Turkish guard instituted by Mutasim, that Caliph removed (836) to the petty town of Samarra, where his Turks were free from all restraint. He was strong enough to control them; but his feeble successors became the puppets of these mercenaries, who cared little for imperial interests, while the Emirs paid small respect to a government directed by Turks. Hence the central authority grew continually weaker, and the local governors became semi-independent rulers, each looking after the affairs of his own province with little interference from the central power. Moreover a system had been introduced of breaking up the great provinces and placing the frontier-districts under separate governors. Besides that of al-Awasim, Cilicia, perhaps for a time attached to it, was, probably in 808, made a province under the name of Thughur­ash-Sham (frontiers of Syria) with its capital at Tarsus, and before 820 we find a province of Thughur al-Jazira (frontiers of Mesopotamia), extending from Kaisum and Germanicea to the northern Euphrates, with its capital at Melitene. These two provinces contained fifteen fortresses occupied by military colonies, of which that of Tarsus amounted to 5000 men, and those of Adata and Melitene to 4000 each; and behind these in case of necessity lay the six fortresses of al-Awasim. This system, probably founded on the Roman themes and clisurae, was intended to provide a special frontier force under commanders whose sole business was to carry on the war against the Empire and to defend the frontier; but in consequence of the weakening of the central power the result was that they had to do this almost entirely out of their local resources. Mutasim indeed on his return from the campaign of 838 gave the command to Aba-Saqd by special commission; but under his successors the frontier governors were left to themselves, and enjoyed so much independence that Omar of Melitene held office at least twenty-eight years and Ali of Tarsus at least eleven. Moreover, Omar spent much time and weakened his forces by fighting with a neighbor or rival. Thus the Romans had only petty disunited chiefs with whom to contend, and henceforward the war went more and more in their favor.

Expeditions to Damietta

In 853 they sailed to Damietta, probably in order to prevent the sending of supplies to Crete, burned the town, killed the men, carried the women, Muslim and Christian, into captivity, and seized a store of arms intended for Crete (22 May). Simultaneously two other squadrons attacked Syrian ports; and it was perhaps in connection with these operations that the Anatolic strategus Photinus was transferred to Crete, where he effected a landing, but, though reinforced from Constantinople, was finally defeated and with difficulty escaped. This event caused Mutawakkil to recreate an Egyptian fleet and fortify Damietta; it was probably in order to hinder these operations that in 854 the Romans came again to Damietta, where they remained plundering for a month. The new fleet was, however, of small account, and Egyptian warships really play little part in history till the Fatimite period. In 855 a Roman army destroyed Anazarbus, which had been lately refortified, and carried off the gypsies who had been settled there in 835. Theodora then asked for an exchange of prisoners, and the Caliph, after sending (December) Nasr the Shiite to discover how many Muslim prisoners there were, agreed, and the exchange took place on the Lamus (21 February 856).

In the summer of 856 the Romans marched from Camacha by Arsamosata to the neighborhood of Amida and returned by way of Tephrice, the new stronghold of the Paulicians, who, when persecuted by Leo V, had sought the protection of the Emir of Melitene and had been settled in Argaus. They had increased in numbers during the persecution of Theodora, and were now useful auxiliaries to the Arabs. Omar of Melitene and the Paulician Carbeas pursued the invaders on their retreat, but without success. After this Omar was for some years detained by dissensions at home; but in 858 Bugha marched from Damascus in July and took Semaluos.

The Empire was now under the rule of the capable and energetic Bardas, who had ousted Theodora from power in 856. He realized that under the new conditions a vigorous effort might rid Asia Minor of the standing scourge of the raids. In 859 therefore, while a fleet attacked Pelusium (June), a large army under Michael in person, accompanied by Bardas, besieged Arsamosata; but on the third day, a Sunday, when the Emperor was at the Eucharist, a sortie was made by the garrison, and the besiegers retreated in confusion; they abandoned the imperial tents, but were able to return with captives from the country-side.

On 31 May Constantine Triphyllius had reached Samarra with 77 prisoners and a request for a general exchange, and after the retreat Nasr was sent to Constantinople to discuss the matter; but the negotiations were delayed by an event at Lulum, where the garrison, not having received their pay, excluded their commandant from the town and, when Michael sent to offer them 1000 denarii apiece to surrender the fortress, sent two hostages to Constantinople with an expression of willingness to accept Christianity (November). On receiving the arrears, however, they handed over the envoy to Ali's lieutenant, who sent him to the Caliph (March 860). He was ordered to accept Islam on pain of death, and the result of Michael's offer of 1000 Muslims for him is unknown. On the news reaching Constantinople negotiations were resumed, and the general exchange took place at the end of April.

In 860 a still more formidable force, which included the Thracian and Macedonian as well as the Asiatic themes, set out under the Emperor himself to meet Omar and Carbeas, who had reached Sinope; but Michael was recalled by the news that a Russian fleet had come to the mouth of the Mauropotamus on its way to Constantinople. After the retreat of the Russians (June) he rejoined the army and overtook the enemy at Chonarium near Dazimon, but was defeated and was glad even to secure a safe retreat. The same year a fleet under Fadl took Attalia. In 863 Omar with a large force sacked the flourishing city of Amisus, and Bardas, who was himself no general, placed his brother Petronas at the head of a vast army which comprised the Asiatic and European themes and the household troops. Omar marched south, intending to return by way of Arabissus; but at Poson near the right bank of the Halys, probably not far from Nyssa, the Arabs found the surrounding hills occupied and were almost annihilated (3 September). Here the old Emir fell fighting, while his son with 100 men escaped over the Halys, but was captured by the clisurarch of Charsianum. The Romans then advanced into Mesopotamia, where Ali, who had been transferred to Armenia in 862, came from Martyropolis (Mayyafariqin) to meet them, but he also was defeated and killed. After this, insignificant raids continued to be made from Tarsus, and some more serious inroads by the Paulicians; but the Emir of Melitene could only defend the frontier, and in the next reign the Roman boundary began to advance, and with the exception of a short interval under the weak rule of Leo VI the process continued without serious check till under Nicephorus II North Syria and West Mesopotamia were restored to the obedience of the Emperor. Having thus crushed the raiders from Melitene, Bardas set himself to crush those from Crete, who had extended their ravages to Proconnesus, and in 866 he and Michael marched to the mouth of the Maeander to cross to the island; but he was foully assassinated (21 April) and the expedition abandoned. Crete therefore remained a pirates' nest for nearly 100 years longer.

Invasion of Sicily 

Meanwhile another struggle had been for many years going on in Sicily. Since an attack upon Sicily did not involve immediate danger to the heart of the Empire, its affairs were treated as of secondary importance; and, as no fleet was stationed there, it was always open to attack from the African Arabs, and in such cases the Emperor could only either send a special force, if eastern affairs allowed him to do so, or beg the help of the Italian republics which still retained a nominal allegiance to the Empire. In 752 the Arabs had raided Sicily and forced Sardinia to pay tribute, and the attack was repeated in 763. In 805 Ibrahim ibn al­Aghlab (since 800 practically independent Emir of Africa) made a ten years’ truce with the patrician Constantine; but nevertheless in 812 the Arabs attacked some islands off Sicily. To meet these enemies, Gregory was sent with a fleet by Michael I and obtained help from Gaeta and Amalfi. Seven of his ships were captured off Lampedusa and the crews massacred, but with the rest he lay in wait for the enemy and destroyed their whole fleet. The Arabs then apologized for the breach of peace, and another ten years’ truce was made (813); but this was as little regarded as the previous one, for in 819 the Emir Ziyadatallah sent his cousin Mahomet to raid Sicily; after which the peace was again renewed.

In consequence of the distance of Sicily from the seat of government, and the little attention paid to its affairs by the Emperors, it was easy for a usurper to start up there; and such a usurper could always, like Elpidius, in case of necessity find a refuge with the Arabs. About 825 the turmarch Euphemius rose against the patrician Gregoras, defeated and killed him, and made himself master of Sicily; and in 826 Constantine was sent as patrician with fresh forces, but he too after a defeat at Catania was taken and put to death. A successful resistance was however offered by an Armenian whom the Arabs call Balata, and Euphemius fled to Africa to ask not merely a refuge but the help of the Emir. Then, charges having been made against the Romans of detaining Muslim prisoners, the treaty was declared to have been broken and an expedition resolved upon, at the head of which was placed the judge Asad, the chief advocate of war. On 15 June 827 the Arabs landed at Mazzara and defeated Balata, who fled to Enna (Castrogiovanni) and thence to Calabria, where he soon afterwards died. After the invaders had seized some forts, the Sicilians sent envoys and paid tribute; but, hearing that they were preparing for an attack, Asad continued his march, and, when reinforced by ships from Africa and Spain, besieged Syracuse. A relieving force from Palermo was defeated (828); but the Arabs suffered severely both from famine, which caused discontent in the army, and from plague, which carried off Asad himself (July), to succeed whom they chose Mahomet ibn Abul-Jawari. Theodotus now came with a fleet as patrician, and the Venetians, at the Emperor's request, sent ships. The Emir being occupied with a Frankish invasion, the Arabs were forced to raise the siege, and, unable in face of the hostile fleet to return to Africa, burned their ships and retreated.

Marching north-west, they forced Mineo to surrender after three days; and then the army divided, one detachment occupying Girgenti while the other besieged the strong fortress of Enna. During this siege Euphemius, who had accompanied the invaders, was assassinated by some citizens who obtained access to him on presence of saluting him as emperor. Theodotus came from Syracuse to relieve Enna and entered the town, but he was defeated in a sortie, while a Venetian fleet sent to attack Mazzara returned unsuccessful. Soon afterwards Mahomet died, and under his successor Zuhair fortune turned against the Arabs. After a foraging party had been defeated, Zuhair next day attacked in force, but was routed and besieged in his camp, and soon afterwards, while trying a night surprise, was caught in an ambush and again routed. He then retired to Mineo, where the Arabs were besieged, and, being reduced to great straits by hunger, at last surrendered. The garrison of Girgenti on hearing the news destroyed the town and retired to Mazzara.

The invaders were, however, relieved by the arrival of some adventurers from Spain, who in 830 began to ravage Sicily, but agreed to work with the Africans on condition that their leader Asbagh had the command. The combined force marched into the interior. Mineo was taken and destroyed (August), and Theodotus soon afterwards defeated and killed; but the plague again broke out and caused the death of Asbagh, after which the Arabs retreated, suffering much from the attacks of the Romans on the way. Most of the Spanish Arabs then returned; but on account of the eastern war Theophilus could not send reinforcements, and, when early in 831 the Emir's cousin Mahomet arrived with new forces to take command, the Arabs were able to besiege Palermo, which, reduced to extremities, surrendered on condition that the commandant with his family and property, the bishop-elect, and a few others were allowed to retire by sea (September). Palermo was henceforth the Arab capital.

Dissensions between African and Spanish Arabs for a time prevented an advance; but early in 834 the Arabs attacked Enna, and in 835 Mahomet himself assaulted the town and captured the commandant’s wife and son; but on his return to Palermo he was murdered by some conspirators, who fled to the Romans. His successor, Fall ibn Yaqub, raided the district of Syracuse, and another force, finding its road blocked by the patrician, won a victory, in which the Roman commander was wounded and with difficulty rescued. On 12 September, however, Mahomet’s brother Abul-Aghlab arrived with a fleet as governor, after some of his ships had been wrecked and others captured; he immediately sent out a squadron which took some Roman vessels and another which captured a fire-ship at Pantellaria. The crews of these were all beheaded. In 836 Fadl raided the Aeolian islands, took some forts on the north coast, and captured eleven ships. On the other hand, an Arab land-force was defeated and its commander made prisoner, but afterwards ransomed, and another suffered a reverse before Enna. Early in 837, however, on a winter night the Arabs entered Enna, but, unable to take the citadel, accepted a ransom and returned with spoil. The same year they besieged Cefalu; but a stubborn resistance was made, and in 838 reinforcements from the East under the Caesar Alexius, whom Theophilus had sent with a fleet to command in Sicily, forced them to retreat, pursued by the Romans, who inflicted several defeats on them. In 839, however, the birth of an heir caused the Emperor to recall and degrade his son-in-law.

The death of the Emir Ziyadatallah (10 June 838) and consequent uncertainty as to affairs in Sicily caused operations to be suspended for some months; but in 839 his successor Aghlab sent ships which raided the Roman districts, and in 840 Caltabellotta, Platani, Corleone, and Sutera were forced to pay tribute. Theophilus, unable to withdraw forces from the East, had in 839 asked help of the Venetians and even of the Franks and of the Emir of Spain; and in 840 sixty Venetian ships attacked the Arab fleet, then at Taranto, but these were nearly all taken and the crews massacred. In 841 the Arabs sacked Caltagirone; in 843 a fleet under Fadl ibn Jafar, assisted by the Neapolitans, who for protection against the Duke of Benevento had allied themselves with the Arabs, attacked Messina, and after a long resistance took it by an unexpected attack from the land side; and in 845 Modica and other fortresses in the south­east were taken.

During the armistice in the East the troops of the Charsianite clisura were sent to Sicily; but towards the end of 845 Abbas ibn al­Fadl ibn Yaqub defeated them with heavy loss, and in 847 Fadl ibn Jafar besieged Leontini, and after inducing the garrison by a trick to make a sortie caught them in an ambush, whereupon the citizens surrendered on condition that their lives and property were spared. In 848 the Roman ships landed a force eight miles from Palermo; but the men missed their way and returned, and seven of the ships were lost in a storm. The same year Ragusa near Modica surrendered and was destroyed (August).

On 17 January 851 Abul-Aghlab died after a government of fifteen years, during which (probably on account of dissensions such as those which had caused his predecessor's death) he had never left Palermo. His successor, Abbas ibn al-Fadl, was a man of very different character. As soon as his appointment was confirmed by the Emir Mahomet, he himself took the field, sending his uncle Rabbah in advance to Caltavuturo, which submitted to pay tribute, while the prisoners were put to death by Abbas, who himself ravaged the territory of Enna but failed to draw the garrison out to battle. He repeated the raid in 852 and defeated a hostile force, sending the heads of the slain to Palermo. Then in 853 he made a great expedition by way of Enna to the east coast, where he raided Catania, Syracuse, Noto, and Ragusa (this had been reoccupied by the Romans), and after a siege of five months forced Butera to capitulate on condition that 5000 persons were handed over as slaves. In 856 he took five fortresses, and in 857 harried Taormina and Syracuse and compelled another place to surrender after two months' siege on the terms that 200 of the chief men were allowed to go free; the rest he sold as slaves, and he destroyed the fort. The same year Cefalù capitulated and was destroyed; but, as being on the coast it was more easily defended, he was obliged to allow all the inhabitants their freedom. In 858 he again raided Enna and Syracuse and took Gagliano, returning in the winter to Enna; here he took a prisoner of note, who to save his life showed him a way into the fortress, which after a resistance of 30 years fell (26 January 859). All fighting men were put to death and a mosque built.

This event led Bardas to take vigorous measures; and in the autumn, while negotiations were proceeding with the Caliph, he sent his connection by marriage, Constantine Contomytes, to Sicily with large reinforcements. Abbas met them with an army and fleet, defeated them near Syracuse, drove them back to their ships, some of which were taken, and returned to Palermo for the winter. They had, however, suffered little; and, when in 860 Platani, Sutera, Caltabellotta, Caltavuturo, and other towns revolted, an army came to support them. Abbas defeated the Romans and besieged Platani and another fort, but was compelled to return northward by the news that another army was marching towards Palermo. Having met these new enemies near Cefalù, he forced them to retreat in disorder to Syracuse; the revolted towns, without hope of succor, submitted; and the governor gave orders to re-fortify and garrison Enna, so that the road to the west might no longer be open to the enemy. In 861 he raided Syracuse, but on his return fell ill and died (15 August). The Romans with mean revenge afterwards dug up and burned his body. He was the real conqueror of Sicily.

The Aghlabid Emirs, probably from fear of an independent power arising in Sicily, had been in the habit of appointing princes of their house to the governorship. To this Abbas had been a notable exception, having been chosen by the officers in Sicily; and, if a similar appointment had been made after his death, the conquest would have been soon completed. But the Emir Ahmad reverted to the earlier practice; instead of confirming two temporary governors who had been appointed locally, he sent his kinsman Khafaja (July 862). The new governor was for a time detained by troubles among the Saracens; but in February 864 Noto was betrayed to him, and soon afterwards he took Sicily. In 865 he marched by Enna, ravaging the country, to Syracuse, where a fleet joined him, but on four ships being captured he despaired of taking the city and returned; and his son, whom he sent with a small force to harass the enemy, lost 1000 men in an ambush and retreated. In 866 he again came to Syracuse, and thence to the district of Mt Etna, where he accepted an offer of tribute from Taormina. He then marched against Ragusa, which submitted on condition that the inhabitants were allowed to go free with their goods and animals; but these he nevertheless seized. After more successes he fell ill and returned. Meanwhile Taormina revolted.

Thus the Muslim conquest was complete but for Taormina and Syracuse and a few other places on the east coast, which still owned allegiance to the Byzantine Empire. Syracuse only fell in 878, Taormina not till 902; nevertheless Sicily may now already be called a Muslim outpost.






THE struggle with the Saracens constituted the chief problem with which the foreign policy of Basil I had to deal. The circumstances were as favorable as they could possibly be, because during his reign the Empire lived in peaceful relations with its other neighbors: in the east with Armenia, in the north with young Russia and Bulgaria, and in the west with Venice and Germany.

The favorable conditions in which Basil I was placed in his relation with the Eastern and Western Saracens become clearer when we bear in mind the following considerations.

1. Owing to the rapidly increasing influence of the Turks at the Caliph’s court, internal dissensions were continually breaking out in the Eastern Caliphate.

2. Egypt became independent in 868, owing to the fact that a new dynasty, that of the Talanids, had been founded there.

3. Civil war had broken out among the North African Saracens.

4. The relations of the Spanish Umayyads with the local Christian population were beset with difficulties.

Basil I was occupied during the first four years of his reign with military operations against the Western Saracens, for during this time peace was not violated on the eastern frontier. The help which the Byzantine fleet in 868 gave to Ragusa, which at that time was being besieged by the Saracens, forced the latter to withdraw and was thus the means of strengthening the Byzantine influences on the shores of the Adriatic.

The troubles in South Italy compelled the intervention of the Western Emperor Louis II, who, having concluded an alliance with Basil I and with the Pope, took Bari on 2 February 871. Of the important places in South Italy only Taranto now remained in the hands of the Saracens. The position of Byzantium was not improved during these four years in Sicily, where only Taormina and Syracuse remained in her power; the occupation of the island of Malta by the Saracens in August 870 completely surrounded Sicily with Saracen possessions, for all the other islands in that region already belonged to them.

In the east Basil I, wishing to re-establish peace and union with the Paulicians, who had been severely persecuted by the Empress Theodora, sent to them in 869-870 Peter the Sicilian as his ambassador, but his mission was not successful, and the extravagant demands of Chrysochir, the leader of the Paulicians, led to war.

The campaigns of 871 and 872 gave Tephrice, the chief town of the Paulicians, into the power of Basil, and also a whole chain of other fortified places. In one of the battles Chrysochir himself was slain. The fugitive Paulicians found a ready welcome from the Saracens.

This war with the Paulicians extended the Byzantine frontier as far as the Saracen Melitene (Malatiyah), and set Basil free to advance against the Eastern Saracens. In 873 war was declared, and Basil captured Zapetra (Sozopetra) and Samosata, but in the end he was totally defeated near Malatiyah.

From 874 to 877 was a period of calm. In the east and in Sicily, we do not hear of any military operations. In Italy, after the death of the Emperor Louis II, the Byzantine troops occupied the town of Bari at the request of the inhabitants, and apparently at this time, in the years 874-877, the Byzantine fleet captured Cyprus; but it remained in the possession of the Greeks only for seven years.

Loss of Syracuse

The year 878 was disastrous to the military policy of Byzantium: on 21 May the Saracens took Syracuse by assault after a siege of nine months. Thus the only town in Sicily remaining in the hands of the Greeks was Taormina. The loss of Syracuse was the turning-point in the history of Basil's foreign relations. His foreign policy proved a complete failure, and the last eight years of his reign were occupied in casual and comparatively small encounters. In the east there were frequent conflicts, but of an undecided character; success alternated sometimes in favor of one side and sometimes of the other, but in no case to the glory of the Byzantine arms.

From 886 Basil was in friendly relations with the Armenian King, Ashot I, the Bagratid, whose State formed a useful buffer against the Eastern Saracens. In Sicily the usual skirmishes went on, and it was only in South Italy that the Byzantine troops began to gain victories, more especially after the arrival of Nicephorus Phokas’ in command. But in this year Basil died (29 August 886).

During his reign the Empire had lost much in the west, but in Asia Minor, notwithstanding some failures, the frontier was considerably advanced eastwards, and thus the Byzantine influence, which had been somewhat weakened, was to a great extent restored.

If Basil I lived in peace with his neighbors, with the exception of the Saracens, it was very different with his successor Leo VI the Wise (886­912). Immediately after his accession to the throne, military operations began in Bulgaria, and this war, which terminated with the peace of 893, brought much humiliation upon the Empire. The peace lasted about twenty years. In connection with the Bulgarian war, for the first time the Hungarians enter into the history of Byzantium, and towards the end of the reign of Leo the Russians appeared before Constantinople. Armenia, which was in alliance with Byzantium, during the whole of Leo’s reign was subjected to Arabian invasions, and the Emperor of Byzantium had not the strength to help the Armenian King Sempad; it was only at the end of his reign that Leo went to the aid of Armenia, but he died during the campaign. The question about the fourth marriage of the Emperor caused great division in the Empire. It was thus evident that the conditions of the struggle between the Byzantine Empire and the Saracens were becoming more difficult.

During the first fourteen years of the reign of Leo VI, from 886 to 900, the Greeks suffered frequent defeats in the east, at the Cilician Gates and in the west of Cilicia, where the Saracens successfully advanced along the coast as well as into the interior of the country. The failures on land and the naval defeat of Raghib in 898 of the coast of Asia Minor compelled the Byzantine government to recall the energetic Nicephorus Phokas from Italy, and about 900 he arrived in Asia Minor. Affairs in Sicily grew worse and worse with every year. In 888 the imperial fleet suffered a severe defeat at Mylae (now Milazzo); but the Byzantines were somewhat helped by the fact that the Saracens were at that time occupied with their own internal dissensions and in conflicts with the African Aghlabids. Some successes gained by the Byzantine arms in Italy had no influence on the general conditions of the struggle between Leo VI and the Saracens. In the east, Nicephorus Phokas by his victory at Adana in 900 justified the hopes that had been placed in him; but the success of the Byzantines came with this nearly to a standstill.

The first years of the tenth century were signalized by a whole series of misfortunes for the Byzantine Empire, in the west as well as in the east. In the west, the Saracen chief Abul-Abbas took possession of Reggio in Calabria on 10 June 901, and the Aghlabid Emir Ibrahim captured on 1 August 902 Taormina, the last fortified place of the Greeks in Sicily.

With the fall of Taormina, Sicily was entirely in the power of the Saracens. It is true that several unimportant points, as for instance Demona, still remained in the hands of the Greeks, but this had no importance whatever for the future history of Byzantium. From 902 onwards Sicilian events do not exercise any influence on the course of Byzantine political affairs. In the second half of Leo’s reign, the eastern policy of the Empire is quite independent of his relations with the Sicilian Saracens.

The first years of the tenth century were also signalized by important events on sea, At the end of the ninth century the Saracens of Crete had already begun their devastating attacks on the coast of the Peloponnesus; indeed, they held in their power the whole of the Aegean Sea. We possess information about their attacks on the islands of Naxos, Patmos, Paros, Aegina, and Samos. But it was during the first years of the tenth century that these maritime invasions of the Saracens became especially threatening. Their two strong fleets—the Syrian and the Cretan —frequently acted together. In 902 the Saracen fleet laid waste the islands of the Aegean Sea, and destroyed the rich and populous town of Demetrias on the coast of Thessaly. In the summer of 904, another Saracen fleet, under the command of the Greek renegade, Leo of Tripolis, made an attack on the south coast of Asia Minor, and, in the month of July of the same year, took possession of the important town of Attalia. Leo then had the intention of going towards Constantinople, the town “preserved by God”. But having entered the Hellespont and captured Abydos, the chief custom-house port for ships going to Byzantium, he suddenly departed, and then, coasting round the peninsula of Chalcidice, approached Thessalonica. Himerius, who was sent against him, did not dare to engage the Saracen fleet in battle.

The Saracen ships approached Thessalonica on 29 July 904, and made an unexpected assault upon it. The story of the siege, which lasted from 29 to 31 July, is well known to us from a work of John Cameniates. Thessalonica passed into the power of the Saracens on 31 July 904, but they shortly afterwards departed for Syria with many prisoners and rich booty. It was only after this misfortune that the Byzantine government began to fortify Attalia and Thessalonica.

The naval failures of 902-904 induced the Emperor Leo to give greater attention to the fleet, which was so quickly and greatly improved that in 906 Himerius was enabled to gain a brilliant victory over the Saracens, and in the summer of 910 he was therefore placed at the head of a large naval expedition, directed against the allied Eastern and Cretan Arabs. Detailed accounts of the composition of this expedition are preserved in the Ceremonies of Constantine Porphyrogenitus.

However, the result of the expedition did not correspond to all these great preparations, for after some success at Cyprus Himerius suffered a severe defeat near the isle of Samos in October 911 and lost the greater part of his fleet. On the death of Leo VI, Himerius returned to Constantinople, and was shut up in a monastery by the Emperor Alexander.

In the east, on land, from 900, the usual military operations were carried on with varying success.

Byzantine policy, in its relation to the Saracens, proved a complete failure under Leo VI: in the west, Sicily was definitely lost; in the south of Italy, after Nicephorus Phokas had been recalled, the success of the Byzantine arms was brought to a close; on the eastern frontier, the Saracens were still steadily, if slowly, advancing, especially in Cilicia; on sea, Byzantium met with a whole series of most ruinous disasters.

Constantine VII: the decline of the Caliphate 

The reign of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus is divided into three periods:

1. From 913 to 919—the government of his mother Zoe, who acted as regent during his minority.

2. From 919 to 944—the government of Romanus Lecapenus.

3. From 945 to 959—the absolute government of Constantine himself.

The period down to 927 was occupied with the obstinate and unhappy war with the Bulgarian King Simeon, during which Byzantium was obliged to concentrate all its efforts against this terrible enemy. At this time it was impossible even to think of any regular organized action against the Saracens. It was a happy circumstance for Byzantium that the Caliphate itself was passing at the same time through the epoch of its dissolution, which was caused by internal dissensions and the rise of separate independent dynasties. Consequently, down to 927 the encounters with the Saracens were of the usual harassing and monotonous character, and generally resulted to the advantage of the Saracen arms. It was only in 921 or 922 that the Byzantine fleet gained a great naval victory near the island of Lemnos over the renowned hero of 904, Leo of Tripolis. In 927 Byzantium concluded peace with the Bulgarian King Peter, who had succeeded Simeon, and was thus free to turn her attention towards the Saracens.

In the time of Romanus Lecapenus, eminent leaders arose in the armies of both adversaries; in that of the Greeks, the Domestic John Curcuas, who, after some defeats in Saracen Armenia, fought with success in the frontier province of Mesopotamia, and in 934 captured Melitene (Malatiyah). The new Saracen leader was Saif-ad-Daulah, sovereign of Aleppo and chief of the independent dynasty of the Hamdanids. He strengthened himself at the expense of the Caliph of Baghdad, and began successful military operations in the regions of the Upper Euphrates. This induced the Emperor to enter into friendly negotiations with the Caliph of Baghdad and with the Egyptian sovereigns, the Ikhshidids. But disturbances in the Eastern Caliphate and other difficulties drew the attention of Saif­ad-Daulah away from the Byzantine frontier, and this explains why John Curcuas, in the fourth decade, gained a series of easy victories in Armenia and Upper Mesopotamia, and in 942-3 captured the towns of Mayyafariqin (Martyropolis), Dara, and Nisibis. In 944 Edessa, after a severe siege, succumbed to the Greeks, and was obliged to deliver up her precious relic, the miraculous image of the Saviour, which was with great solemnity transferred to Constantinople.

In 945 Constantine Porphyrogenitus became absolute ruler of the Byzantine Empire. Down to the very year of his death (959) military operations did not cease in the east, where his chief adversary was the already famous Saif-ad-Daulah, who, having settled in 947 his difficulties with the Egyptian Ikhshidids, turned against Byzantium. In the beginning the advantage was with the Greeks. In 949 they seized Marash (Germanicea); in 950 they totally defeated Saif-ad-Daulah in the narrow passage near the town of Hadath; and in 952 they crossed the Euphrates and took the Mesopotamian town of Saruj. But in 952 and 953 Saif-ad-Daulah defeated the Greeks not far from Marash and took the son of the Domestic prisoner. In 954 Saif-ad-Daulah gained a fresh victory over the Domestic Bardas Phocas near Hadath, and in 956 the future Emperor John Tzimisces was defeated by him in the province of the Upper Euphrates near the fortress of Tall-Batriq. Only in 957 did success turn to the side of the Greeks. In this year Hadath surrendered to them. In 958 John Tzimisces defeated the Arabs in Northern Mesopotamia and took Samosata. During the life of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Saif-ad-Daulah was unable to avenge himself upon the Greeks for these last failures.

If the fighting on the eastern frontier was difficult for Byzantium and was far from being always successful, the maritime operations of the Byzantine fleet ended in total disaster. In 949 a great naval expedition was undertaken against the Cretan Arabs, who, as was always the case, were greatly feared, and were desolating the coast of Greece and the islands of the Aegean Sea. To further the success of the enterprise, the Emperor entered into friendly relations with their enemies the Spanish Saracens. The Emperor has left in his Ceremonies a detailed account of the composition and equipment of this expedition'. The incompetent patrician Constantine Gongylas, who had been given the chief command of the Byzantine fleet, landed troops at Crete, but suffered a terrible defeat and lost the greater part of his vessels.

The monotonous conflicts of the Greeks with the Saracens in the west, in Italy and in Sicily, did not have any influence on the general course of events.

It is true that the military operations in the east, during the reign of Constantine, were not always successful for the Byzantine Empire; but the advance of the last years in removing the frontier beyond the Euphrates laid the foundation for the brilliant triumphs of his successors.

War on the Euphrates

The reign of the weak Emperor Romanus II is distinguished by great victories of the Byzantine arms over the Saracens, thanks to the talents and energy of Nicephorus Phokas, the future Emperor.

This great general captured the island of Crete in March 961, and thus destroyed the nest of pirates who had struck terror into the inhabitants of the islands and of the always open shores of the Mediterranean Sea. After having enjoyed a triumph in Constantinople, Nicephorus Phokas was removed to the eastern frontier and he began there also a successful war with Saif-ad-Daulah. At the end of 961 or in the beginning of 962 he seized Anazarbus; in 962 he captured Marash, Raban, and Duluk (Doliche); in the vicinity of Manbij he took prisoner the famous poet Abu­Firas, the governor of the town; and, at last, in December of the same year, he took possession of Aleppo, the capital of the Hamdanid Emirs, after a difficult siege. All these places, however, did not remain in the hands of the Greeks, for Nicephorus Phokas retired to the Byzantine territory.

Less successful were the military operations of the Byzantine troops in the west, and especially in Sicily. Taormina, as it is well known, was taken by the Saracens in 902, but was again lost by them. And now, on 24 December 962, after a siege of seven months, the Saracens captured it once more; and there remained in the hands of the Greeks only the inaccessible Rametta, situated in the eastern part of the island.

The reigns of Nicephorus Phokas, John Tzimisces, and Basil II Bulgaroctonus, the three next successors of Romanus II, when viewed from the side of the military successes of the Empire in its fight with the Saracens, form the most glorious and successful period of Byzantine history.

After the death of Romanus, 15 March 963, his brilliant general Nicephorus Phokas, who was adored by his troops, was proclaimed Emperor by them on 2 July of that year, at Caesarea in Cappadocia. Upon arriving at Constantinople he quickly overthrew Joseph Bringas, who had been all-powerful at court, and was then crowned on 16 August. To consolidate his power he married Theophano, the late Emperor's widow, who had been regent of the Empire.

The new Emperor turned his chief attention to the east, although he was drawn away at times by his hostile relations with the Bulgarians. His policy towards Bulgaria brought about the intervention of the Russian Prince Svyatoslav, and caused conflicts in Italy with the Western Emperor Otto the Great.

In the summer of 964 Nicephorus Phokas arrived in Cilicia, and since Adana had been abandoned by its inhabitants, he concentrated his energies upon Mamistra (Mopsuestia) and Tarsus. While his armies were besieging these towns, the lighter detachments devastated the north and south of Cilicia, took Anazarbus, and even advanced to the boundaries of Syria, where they took possession of the seaport town of Rhosus. In the meantime the sieges of Mamistra and Tarsus were so unsuccessful that the Emperor returned to Cappadocia for the winter, leaving a detachment of sufficient strength to watch the besieged towns. At the renewal of military operations in 965, Mamistra and Tarsus were so greatly exhausted by famine and disease that they were incapable of holding out any longer; on 13 June 965 Mamistra was taken, and on 16 August Tarsus surrendered.

In this year, 965, in connection with the campaign on land, we may mention the conquest of Cyprus by the patrician Nicetas Chalcutzes, about which only very meager accounts have been preserved. The Egyptian fleet, which was ordered to convey provisions to the besieged Tarsus and to recover Cyprus from the Greeks, appeared in August 965 off the southern coast of Asia Minor and suffered defeat. The conquest of Cyprus gave into the hands of Byzantium dominion over the north-eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, and the general results of the campaign of 965 were such that the possession of Cilicia and the island of Cyprus opened for Nicephorus the road to Syria.

On 23 June 966, near Samosata on the Euphrates, an exchange of prisoners took place, and the Arab poet Abu-Firas, already known to us, obtained his freedom. Fighting, however, was renewed in the autumn, when Nicephorus Phokas appeared in the east and invaded the districts surrounding Amida and Dara, and besieged Manbij (Hierapolis) in north­east Syria, from whose inhabitants he demanded and received one of the Christian relics belonging to the town, a brick on which the image of the Saviour was impressed. Advancing far over the borders of Syria, he drew near to the accomplishment of his chief design, the conquest of Antioch. He began to besiege the city in October 966, but it was so well fortified that Nicephorus Phokas could not at this time capture it, and so, raising the siege, he returned to Constantinople by way of Tarsus.

Capture of Antioch and Aleppo

In January 967 the chief antagonist of Nicephorus Phokas in the east, Saif-ad-Daulah, died after a prolonged illness, and was succeeded by his son Sadad-Daulah. The war with Bulgaria and disturbances inside the Empire did not allow Nicephorus to profit by the difficulties arising from the succession to the throne of the Hamdanids, and consequently the year 967 is only marked by insignificant conflicts with the Saracens, which did not always end to the advantage of the Byzantine troops. Only in the latter half of 968 was the Emperor free to depart again to the east. The chief aim of this campaign was the conquest of the two most important towns of Syria, Antioch and Aleppo. Before beginning a regular siege of these towns, he made devastating incursions into Syria; towns one after another succumbed to his attacks. Emesa, Tripolis, Arca, Taratas (Tortosa), Maraqiyah, Jiblah (Byblus), Laodicea also, suffered much from the Byzantine troops.

Nicephorus began now to besiege Antioch in earnest, but was again unsuccessful. Leaving Peter Phokas, the stratopedarch, with the army at Antioch, the Emperor returned to the capital. During his stay there important events were happening near Antioch. Dissensions and disturbances broke out there, and profiting by these quarrels Peter Phokas and Michael Burtzes, the commander of the garrison of the fortress of Baghras, took possession of Antioch on 28 October 969. The chief object was now obtained; the city was in the hands of the Byzantine Emperor. An enormous booty fell to the share of the conquerors. Soon after this the Byzantine troops advanced against the Syrian town of Aleppo, which, at the end of 969 or in the beginning of January 970, after a siege of twenty-seven days, also passed into their hands.

The curious text of the treaty concluded by Peter Phokas with Qarghuyah, who was at that time in possession of Aleppo, is still preserved. By this treaty the boundaries in Syria were accurately fixed and a list of localities was drawn up, some of which passed into the possession of the Greek Emperor and others into feudal dependence. Antioch, the most important of the conquered towns, was annexed to the Empire; but Aleppo only became a vassal. The population was subjected to taxation for the benefit of Byzantium; the Christians living under Muslim rule were, however, freed from all imposts. The Emir of Aleppo was obliged to assist the Emperor in case of war with the non-Mussulman inhabitants of these provinces. The restoration of the destroyed churches was guaranteed to the Christians. The Emir of Aleppo was also obliged to give protection to the Byzantine commercial caravans when entering his territory. It was agreed that, after the deaths of the ruler of Aleppo, Qarghuyah, and his successor Bakjur, the new governor of Aleppo could only be appointed by the Emperor from the nobility of Aleppo. Rules were even prescribed about the surrender of run-away slaves, and so on. This treaty was only ratified after the death of Nicephorus Phokas, who fell by the hands of assassins on the night of 10-11 December 969. We can say that never before were the Saracens subjected to such humiliation as during the reign of Nicephorus Phokas. Cilicia and a part of Syria were taken away from them, and a great part of their territory acknowledged itself as being in vassal dependence upon the Empire.

The military operations of the troops of Nicephorus in Sicily did not correspond with his successes in the east. In Sicily, as we have said, only one town, Rametta, remained in the hands of the Greeks, and this was besieged by the Saracens in 964. To help the besieged town, a great fleet was dispatched under the command of Manuel. But the troops which had been landed were defeated, and in 965 Rametta was taken by assault. The whole of Sicily thus passed into the hands of the Saracens. In 967 a durable peace was concluded between Nicephorus Phokas and the Fatimite Caliph Muizz, to whom Sicily was in subjection.

John Tzimisces in Syria

During the first years of his reign, John Tzimisces was unable personally to take part in the military operations on the eastern frontier. The wars with the Russian Prince Svyatoslav and with Bulgaria, and the revolt of Bardas Phokas, required his unremitting attention. But the wars finished successfully and the revolt of Bardas Phokas was crushed. The dissensions which had broken out in Italy found a happy solution in the marriage of the Byzantine Princess Theophano with the heir to the German throne, the future Emperor Otto II. It was only when these questions had been settled that John Tzimisces was able to turn to the east.

In the meantime, a difficult problem arose there, namely, how to retain all the new acquisitions which Nicephorus Phokas had won in Cilicia and Syria. In 971 the Egyptian Fatimite Muizz dispatched one of his commanders into Syria for the purpose of conquering Antioch. The city was subjected to a severe siege, and was only saved by an unexpected attack by the Carmathians on the Egyptian troops, who were compelled to raise the siege and to retire hurriedly to the south. At the news Tzimisces, who was at that time in Bulgaria, immediately sent Michael Burtzes to the assistance of Antioch; and he at once rebuilt the town-wall, which had suffered much. In 973 Mleh (Melchi) an Armenian, who commanded the Greek troops, invaded the north of Mesopotamia, devastated the provinces of Nisibis, Mayydfarigin, and Edessa, and captured Malatiyah, but he suffered a severe defeat near Amida and died in captivity.

These successes of the Greeks angered the Saracens to such an extent that a revolution broke out in Baghdad, and the people demanded an immediate declaration of a holy war (jihad) against the victorious Empire. So far as we can judge from the fragmentary and confused accounts of the sources, in 974 John Tzimisces himself set out to the east. He there concluded an alliance with Armenia and victoriously passed along the route of the campaign of 973, i.e. through Amida, Mayydfarigin, and Nisibis. Special significance attached to his campaign in the east in 975, concerning which a very valuable document in the form of a letter by the Emperor to his ally, the Armenian King Ashot III, has been preserved by the Armenian historian, Matthew of Edessa. The plan of this campaign is striking owing to its very audacity: the Emperor aimed at freeing Jerusalem from the power of the Saracens, and thus he undertook an actual crusade.

On leaving Antioch, the Emperor passed Emesa and turned to Baalbek, which was taken after a vain resistance. Damascus also voluntarily surrendered, and promised to pay tribute and to fight for the Byzantines. Turning to the south, the Emperor entered north Palestine, and the towns of Tiberias and Nazareth as well as Caesarea on the coast voluntarily surrendered to him; from Jerusalem itself came a petition to be spared a sack. But apparently he was not in sufficient strength to advance further, and he directed his march along the sea-coast to the north, capturing a whole series of towns: Beyrout (Berytus), Sidon, Jiblah (Byblus), Balanea, Gabala, Barzayah (Borzo); but at Tripolis the troops of the Emperor were defeated. “Today all Phoenicia, Palestine, and Syria”, says the Emperor with some exaggeration in his letter to Ashot, “are freed from the Saracen yoke and acknowledge the dominion of the Romans, and in addition the great mountain of Lebanon has become subject to our authority”. In September 975 the imperial troops retired to Antioch, and the Emperor himself returned to his capital, where he died on 10 January 976.

Basil II

After the death of John Tzimisces, the two young sons of Romanus II, Basil and Constantine, succeeded. Basil became the head of the government. The first three years of their reign were occupied with quelling the rebellion of Bardas Sclerus on the eastern frontier, among whose troops were not a few Saracens. This revolt was suppressed by the Greek commander Bardas Phokas in 979, but only with much difficulty. Bardas Sclerus escaped to the Caliph of Baghdad, who welcomed a useful prisoner. Bardas Phokas remained in the east and fought the Saracens, especially the weakened Hamanids, with alternating success, and he endeavored to counteract the rapidly increasing influence of the Egyptian Fatimites in Syria.

In 986 began the famous Bulgarian war, which lasted for more than thirty years and ended in 1019 with the destruction of the Bulgarian kingdom of Samuel. Such an arduous and prolonged war might naturally have turned the attention of Basil II completely away from the eastern frontier of the Empire, but in fact he was compelled to intervene, through serious complications which were taking place there. Bardas Phokas, the victor over Bardas Sclerus, having fallen into disgrace at court, was proclaimed Emperor by his troops in 987, and Bardas Sclerus, having escaped from captivity in Baghdad, also appeared in Asia Minor. Bardas Phokas, however, captured him by a stratagem, and then crossed Asia Minor to the Hellespont. The condition of Byzantium was at this time very difficult: from the east the troops of Bardas Phokas were advancing to the capital, and from the north the Bulgarians were pressing on. To this time we must refer the negotiations of Basil II with the Russian Prince Vladimir and the consequent appearance at Byzantium of a Russian contingent of 6000 men. Basil II did not lose his presence of mind. With fresh forces he fought Bardas Phokas in 989, and in this battle the latter was slain. The Empire was thus freed from one of its dangers. In the same year a new insurrection of Bardas Sclerus was crushed.

War with the Fatimites 

During this time Syria was subjected to attacks by the troops of the Egyptian Fatimites, who several times assaulted Aleppo. Aleppo begged the Greeks for help and the Emperor sent Michael Burtzes, the governor of Antioch, to its assistance; but he suffered a severe defeat on the river Orontes in 994. This petition for help from Aleppo and the news of the defeat of Michael Burtzes reached Basil II when campaigning in Bulgaria. Notwithstanding the Bulgarian war, which was fraught with so much danger to the Empire, the Emperor decided to go personally to the east in the winter of 994-995, especially as danger was threatening Antioch. He unexpectedly appeared under the walls of Aleppo, which was being besieged by the Egyptian troops, and was successful in freeing the former capital of the Hamdanids from the enemy; he also captured Raphanea and Emesa; but having fought unsuccessfully under the walls of the strongly-fortified Tripolis, he returned to Bulgaria. In 998 the Greek troops under Damianus Dalassenus were severely defeated near Apamea. In 999 we meet Basil II again in Syria, at the towns of Shaizar and Emesa; but he was once more unsuccessful at Tripolis. Having spent some time in arranging affairs in Armenia and Georgia (Iberia), the Emperor returned to Constantinople in 1001.

In the same year a peace for ten years was concluded between the Emperor and the Egyptian Fatimite Hakim. Down to the very year of his death, there were no more encounters between him and the Eastern Muslims.

In the west, the Sicilian Saracens made yearly attacks on South Italy, and the imperial government, being occupied in other places, could not undertake expeditions against them. Its forced inactivity gave a welcome opportunity to the Western Emperor Otto II to attempt the expulsion of the Saracens from Sicily. Desiring to obtain a firm point of support in South Italy, he occupied some fortified Byzantine places, as for instance Taranto. But his chief aim was not reached, for in 982 the Saracens severely defeated him at Stilo. After his death in 983, the authority of the Greeks was somewhat restored, and the Byzantine governor occupied Bari, which had revolted. But the attacks of the Saracens on Southern Italy continued, and Bari was only saved by the intervention of the Venetian fleet. At the end of his reign Basil planned a vast expedition for the purpose of winning back Sicily, but during its preparation he died in 1025.

The Successors of Basil II

The death of Basil II, that terrible scourge of the Eastern Saracens, gave fresh heart to these enemies of the Empire. The Saracens, with great success, availed themselves of the weakness of the successors of Basil II and of the disturbances which broke out in the Empire, and they quickly took the offensive. Under Romanus III Argyrus (1028-1034), the Emir of Aleppo defeated the governor of Antioch, and the campaign, undertaken in 1030 after long preparation under the personal command of the Emperor, ended in a signal defeat near Aleppo, after which the Emperor quickly returned to Constantinople. In this campaign the young George Maniaces, who later on played a very important part in Byzantine history, distinguished himself for the first time.

The defeat of 1030 was to some degree mitigated by the capture of the important town of Edessa by George Maniaces in 1031, and by his seizing there the second relic of the town, the famous letter of Jesus Christ to Abgar, King of Edessa. This letter was sent to Constantinople and solemnly received by the Emperor and the people.

During the reign of the next Emperor, Michael IV the Paphlagonian (1034-1041), the usual collisions went on in the east, sometimes at Antioch, sometimes at Aleppo, whilst at the same time the Saracen corsairs devastated the southern coast of Asia Minor and destroyed Myra in Lycia.

In the west, the object of the imperial government was to recapture Sicily from the Saracens. The internal quarrels among the Sicilian Muslims made the intervention of the Greeks easy, and during the reign of Michael IV they undertook two expeditions. The first, under the command of Constantine Opus in 1037, was unsuccessful, but the second, in which the army was composed of different races, such as the “Varangian-Russian Druzhina” (detachment), and in which the Norse prince Harold Fairhair distinguished himself, was dispatched in 1038 under the chief command of the brilliant young Maniaces. The beginning of the expedition was fortunate. Messina, Syracuse, and the whole eastern coast of the island passed into the hands of the imperial troops. But George Maniaces fell into disgrace, and being recalled to Constantinople was put into prison. With his removal, all the Byzantine conquests, with the exception of Messina, passed again into the power of the Saracens.

During the reign of Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-1054), almost complete peace reigned on the frontier of Syria and Mesopotamia; but on the other hand, from 1048 the Byzantine troops were obliged to fight, especially in Armenia, with the Seljuq Turks, who from this time forward appear as a new and formidable enemy on the eastern frontier.





It will be seen from the foregoing pages that, ever since Leo the Isaurian saved Constantinople from the formidable attack of the Saracens in A.D. 717, there was continuous warfare between the Empire and the Caliphate, for three hundred years. Its history is for the most part a monotonous and barren chronicle of raids to and fro across the Taurus mountains, truces, interchanges of prisoners, briefly registered in Greek and Arabic annals. Only occasionally have we a description of events full enough to excite some interest, like the campaign of the Caliph Mutasim (A.D. 838) or the siege of Thessalonica. Successes varied, but few were decisive until Nicephorus Phokas definitely turned the tide in favor of the Empire and reconquered long-lost provinces. After his victories the Abbasid power, which had seen its best days before the end of the ninth century, declined rapidly till the Caliphate passed under the control of the Seljuqs. So long as the struggle lasted, the Eastern war had the first claim on the armies and treasury of the Empire, and these were not sufficient to enable the Emperors to deal at the same time effectively with their European enemies, the Slays and Bulgarians, and to maintain intact their possessions in Sicily and Southern Italy. It was only when the Saracen danger in the east had been finally averted by the army of Nicephorus that his successors were able to recover some of the European provinces which had been lost.

If the Caliphs had a more extensive territory under their rule than the Emperors, it is not certain that they had larger revenues even when they were strongest. Their State was very loosely organized, and it was always a strain on them to keep its heterogeneous parts together. The Empire, on the other hand, was kept strictly under central control; it might be conquered, but it could not dissolve of itself ; and the event proved that it had a much greater staying power.

It is to be observed that throughout the period the hostilities which were the order of the day do not seem to have interfered very seriously with the commercial intercourse between the peoples of the two states, and reciprocal influences of culture flowed constantly between them. Through educated captives, who were often detained for four or five years and were generally well treated, knowledge of the conditions and features of the Byzantine world passed to Baghdad, and reversely. The capitals of the two Empires vied with each other in magnificence, art, and the cultivation of science. For instance, there cannot be much doubt that Theophilus was stimulated in his building enterprises by what he had heard of the splendor of the palaces of Baghdad. Oriental influences had been affecting the Roman Empire ever since the third century, through its intercourse with the Sasanid kingdom of Persia; they continued to operate throughout the Abbasid period, and were one of the ingredients of Byzantine civilization.