« PrethodnaNastavi »
later, Omar revisited the same regions, devastated the Armeniac Theme, and reached the coast of the Euxine (A.D. 863). His plan seems to have been to march right across the centre of Asia Minor and return to Saracen territory by the Pass of the Cilician Gates.1 He took and sacked the city of Amisus (Samsun), and the impression which the unaccustomed appearance of an enemy on that coast made upon the inhabitants was reflected in the resuscitation of an ancient legend. Omar, furious that the sea set a bound to his northern advance, was said, like Xerxes, to have scourged the waves. The Emperor appointed his uncle Petronas, who was still stratêgos of the Thrakesian Theme, to the supreme command of the army; and not only all the troops of Asia, but the armies of Thrace and Macedonia, and the Tagmatic regiments, were placed at his disposal. When Omar heard at Amisus of the preparations which were afoot, he was advised by his officers to retire by the way he had come. But he determined to carry out his original plan, and setting out from Amisus in August, he chose a route which would lead him by the west bank of the Halys to Tyana and Podandos. The object of Petronas was now to intercept him. Though the obscure localities named in the chronicles have not been identified, the general data suggest the conclusion that it was between Lake Tatta and the Halys that he decided to surround the foe. The troops of the Armeniac, Bukellarian,2 Paphlagonian, and Kolonean Themes converged upon the north, after Omar had passed Ancyra. The Anatolic, Opsikian, and Cappadocian armies, reinforced by the troops of Seleucia and Charsianon, gathered on the south and south-east; while Petronas himself, with the Tagmata, the Thracians, and Macedonians, as well as his own Thrakesians, appeared on the west of the enemy's line of march. A hill separated Petronas from the Saracen camp, and he was successful in a struggle to occupy the height. Omar was caught in a trap. Finding it impossible to escape to the north or to the south, he
1 For this campaign, see Bury, Mutasim's March, 124 sqq. Tabari, 6162, says that, before starting, Omar communicated with Jafar ibn Dinar, who seems to have been governor of Tarsus. The date, A.D. 863, is fixed by Tabari.
2 Nasar was stratêgos of the Bukellarians (George, Boun, 825). He distinguished himself subsequently in the reign of Basil. Simeon (Cont. Georg., ib.) inaccurately or proleptically describes Petronas as στρατηλάτης τῆς ἀνατολῆς.
attacked Petronas, who held his ground. Then the generals of the northern and southern armies closed in, and the Saracen forces were almost annihilated. Omar himself fell. His son escaped across the Halys, but was caught by the turmarch of Charsianon. The victory of Poson (such was the name of the place), and the death of one of the ablest Moslem generals were a compensation for the defeat of Chonarion. Petronas was rewarded by receiving the high post of the Domestic of the Schools, and the order of magister.3 Strains of triumph at a victory so signal resounded in the Hippodrome, and a special chant celebrated the death of the Emir on the field. of battle, a rare occurrence in the annals of the warfare with the Moslems.
It would appear that this success was immediately followed up by an invasion of Northern Mesopotamia. We know not whether the Greek army was led by Petronas, but another victory was won, somewhere in the neighbourhood of Martyropolis, and this battlefield was likewise marked by the fall of a Saracen commander who, year after year, had raided Roman territory-Ali ibn Yahya.
These victories are the last events worthy of record in the Eastern war during the reign of Michael III. While the young Emperor was sole Augustus, and Bardas was the virtual ruler, the defence of the Empire in the east was
showed, Ceremonial Book, p. 434) in the
Yakubi, 11; Tabari, 62: in the month of Ramadan = October 18 to November 16, 863. Cp. Bar-Hebr. 171. 6 Saracen raids are noted by Tabari in 864 and 865.
steadily maintained. Michael had himself marched to the front, and the Saracens had won no important successes while his uncle was at the helm. It was probably after the death of Bardas that an incident occurred which has stamped Michael as supremely indifferent to the safety of his Empire. One evening as he was preparing in his private hippodrome in the Palace of St. Mamas to display his skill as a charioteer, before a favoured company, the spectators were alarmed and distracted by seeing a blaze illuminated in the Pharos of the Great Palace, which announced tidings flashed from Cappadocia, that the Saracens were abroad within the Roman borders. The spectacle was not discontinued, but the attention of the onlookers languished, and the Emperor, determined that such interruptions should not again occur, commanded that the beacon signals in the neighbourhood of Constantinople should be kindled no more. It might be thought that the signal system had been abandoned for some serious reason, connected perhaps with the loss of Lulon,2 and that this anecdote, illustrating the Emperor's frivolity, had been invented to account for it. But the very moderation of the story may be held to show that it had a basis of fact. For it does not suggest that the beacon messages were discontinued; on the contrary, it expressly states that the lighting of the beacons in or close to Constantinople, that is at the Pharos and on Mt. Auxentios, was forbidden.3 This Imperial order, though dictated by a frivolous motive, need not have caused a very serious delay in the arrival of the news at Constantinople, nor can it be alleged that Michael endangered thereby the safety of the provinces.
On the whole, the frontiers between the two powers in Asia Minor had changed little under the rule of the Amorian dynasty. The Moslems had won a few more fortresses; and what was more serious, in Cappadocia east of the Halys their position was strengthened by the invaluable support of the Paulician rebels. The Amorians bequeathed to their successor the same task which had lain before them and which they had
1 Cont. Th. 197-198.
2 But the loss of Lulon did not render the signals useless or impossible. Mt. Argaios would become the first station.
3 Cont. Th. 198 μηκέτι τοὺς πλησιάζοντας φανοὺς ἐνεργεῖν προσέταξεν. Modern writers have not attended to the limitation πλησιάζοντας.
failed to achieve, the expulsion of the enemy from Cappadocia; but the difficulty of that task was aggravated by the disastrous policy of the Paulician persecution for which Theophilus and Theodora were responsible.
In the last years of the reign of Michael the Caliphate was troubled by domestic anarchy, and offered a good mark for the attack of a strenuous foe. The Caliph Mustain writhed under the yoke of the powerful Turkish party, and he desired to return from Samarra to the old capital of Baghdad. But he was compelled to abdicate in favour of Mutazz, whom the Turks set up against him (January 866). The best days of the Abbasid dynasty were past, and the Caliphate had begun to decline, just as the Empire was about to enter on a new period of power and expansion.
THE SARACEN CONQUESTS OF CRETE AND SICILY
1. The Saracen Conquest of Crete
SINCE the remote ages which we associate with the uncertain name of Minos, when it was the home of a brilliant civilization and the seat of an Aegean power, the island of Crete played but a small part in Greek and Roman history. In the scheme of administration which was systematized in the eighth century, it formed, along with some neighbouring islands, a distinct theme; but its name rarely occurs in our chronicles until its happy obscurity is suddenly disturbed in the reign of Michael II. by an event which rendered it, for long years to come, one of the principal embarrassments and concerns of the Imperial Government. The fate of Crete was determined by events in a distant Western land, whose revolutions, it might have seemed, concerned the Cretans as little as those of any country in the world.
The Omayyads in Spain no less than the Abbasids in the East, Cordova no less than Baghdad, were troubled by outbreaks of discontent and insurrection, in which the rationalistic school of theology also played its part. The Emir AlHakam dyed his hands in the blood of insurgents, and finally when the inhabitants of one of the quarters of Cordova rose against him, he commanded those who escaped the edge of his sword to leave Spain with their families in three days (A.D. 814). Ten thousand men, as well as women and children, sailed to Egypt, and, placing themselves under the protection
1 It did not, however, altogether escape the visitations of the Omayyad fleets in the 7th century; see Theophanes, A.M. 6166. A Saracen descent
is mentioned in the Vita Andreae Cretensis (Papadopulos-Kerameus, 'Avaλ. Ιεροσ. v. 177).