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city, which the Greeks plundered and burned. They captured six hundred Arab and Coptic women,1 and discovered a store of arms which was destined for the ruler of Crete.2 The spoiling of Damietta detained them only two days, and they sailed eastward to the island of Tinnis; but fearing sandbanks, they did not pass farther, and proceeded to the fortress of Ushtum, a strongly walled place with iron gates. Burning the war-engines which he found there," Ibn Katuna” returned home from an expedition which fortune had singularly favoured.3
If the conquests of Crete and Sicily taught the Romans the necessity of a strong navy, the burning of Damietta was a lesson which was not lost upon the Saracens of Egypt. An Arabic writer observes that "from this time they began to show serious concern for the fleet, and this became an affair of the first importance in Egypt. Warships were built, and the pay of marines was equalized with that of soldiers who served on land. Only intelligent and experienced men were admitted to the service." Thus, as has been remarked, the Greek descent on Damietta led to the establishment of the Egyptian navy, which, a century later, was so powerful under the dynasty of the Fatimids.
In the later years of Michael III. the Cretan Arabs pursued their quests of plunder and destruction in the Aegean.5 We learn that Lesbos was laid waste, and that monks were carried away from their cells in the hills of Athos. The last military effort of Michael and Bardas was
1 Yakubi gives a much larger
2 Abu Hafs (Tabari). Doubts have been felt if he was still alive. Genesios gives the succession of Cretan rulers (47-48) as: Abu Hafs; Saipes, his son; Babdel, son of S.; Zerkunes, brother of B.; the successor of Zerkunes was Emir in the time of Genesios. He also implies that Babdel was contemporary of Leo VI., and we know otherwise (Cont. Th. 299) that Saip was Emir in the reign of Michael. This evidence seems favourable to Tabari's statement that Abu Hafs was alive in 853. For the Arabic forms of the names (Shuaib, Abu Abdallah, Shirkuh) see Hopf, Gr. Gesch. 123; Hirsch, 136, n. 2.
to organize a great Cretan expedition, which was to sail from the shores of the Thrakesian Theme, a central gathering-place for the various provincial fleets, and for those regiments of the Asiatic themes which were to take part in the campaign. We saw how this enterprise was frustrated by the enemies of the Caesar. Another generation was to pass before the attempt to recover Crete and secure tranquillity for the Aegean was renewed.
§ 2. The Invasion of Sicily
In the two great westward expansions of the Semite, in the two struggles between European and Semitic powers for the waters, islands, and coasts of the Mediterranean, Sicily played a conspicuous part, which was determined by her geographical position. The ancient history of the island, when Greeks and Phoenicians contended for the mastery, seems to be repeated1 when, after a long age of peace under the mighty rule of Rome, it was the scene of a new armed debate between Greeks and Arabs. In both cases, the Asiatic strangers were ultimately driven out, not by their Greek rivals, but by another people descending from Italy. The Normans were to expel the Saracens, as the Romans had expelled the Phoenicians. The great difference was that the worshippers of Baal and Moloch had never won the whole island, while the sway of the servants of Allah was to be complete, extending from Panormos to Syracuse, from Messina to Lilybaeum.
A fruitful land and a desirable possession in itself, Sicily's central position between the two basins of the Mediterranean rendered it an object of supreme importance to any Eastern sea-power which was commercially or politically aggressive; while for an ambitious ruler in Africa it was the steppingstone to Italy and the gates of the Hadriatic. As soon as the Saracens created a navy in the ports of Syria and Egypt, it was inevitable that Sicily should be exposed to their attacks, and the date of their first descent is only twenty years after the death of Mohammad.2 But no serious attempt to win a
1 This was pointed out by Grote, and the motif was developed by Freeman in his characteristic manner.
permanent footing in the island was made till a century later. The expeditions from Syria and Egypt were raids for spoil and captives, not for conquest. The establishment of the Saracen power in Africa and in Spain changed the situation, and history might have taught the Roman Emperors that a mortal struggle in Sicily could not be avoided. It was, however, postponed. The island had to sustain several attacks during the first half of the eighth century, but they came to little; and the design of Abd ar-Rahman, governor of Africa, who (A.D. 752) made great preparations to conquer both Sicily and Sardinia, was frustrated by the outbreak of domestic troubles. There was no further danger for many years, and in the reign of Nicephorus there might have seemed to be little cause for alarm concerning the safety of the Sicilian Theme. Ibrahim, the first ruler of the Aghlabid dynasty,1 concluded (A.D. 805) a ten years' peace with Constantine the governor of Sicily. Just after this, Tunis and Tripoli cast off their allegiance to Ibrahim and formed a separate state under the Idrisids.3 This division of Africa between Idrisids and Aghlabids must have been a welcome event to the Imperial government; it afforded a probable presumption that it would be less easy in the future to concentrate the forces of the African Moslems against the tempting island which faced them. In the meantime, commerce was freely carried on between the island and the continent; and in A.D. 813 Abu 'l-Abbas, the son and successor of Ibrahim, made a treaty with Gregory, the governor of Sicily, by which peace was secured for ten years and provision was made for the safety of merchants.4
It was after the expiration of this ten years' peace that the temptation to conquer Sicily was pressed upon the African ruler by an invitation from Sicily itself. The distance of the island from Constantinople had once and again seduced ambitious subjects into the paths of rebellion. The governor, Sergius, had set up an Emperor in the reign of Leo III., and more recently, under Irene, Elpidios had incurred the suspicion of disloyalty and had fled to Africa, where the Saracens
1 Lane-Poole, Moh. Dyn. 36. Cp. above, p. 244.
2 Amari, Storia, i. 225.
3 See Lane-Poole, ib. 35.
4 Amari, Storia, 229.
welcomed him as Roman Emperor and placed a crown on his head.1 He does not appear to have had a following in the island; nor is there evidence that the inhabitants were actively discontented at this period against the government of Constantinople. The rebellion of Thomas the Slavonian may have awakened hopes in the breasts of some to detach Sicily from the Empire, but there is nothing to show that there was any widespread disaffection when, in the year 826, an insurrection was organized which was destined to lead to calamitous consequences.
A certain Euphemios was the leader of this movement. Having distinguished himself by bravery, probably in maritime warfare, he was appointed to an important command, when an incident in his private life furnished an excuse for his disgrace, and this, a reason for his rebellion. Smitten with passion for a maiden who had taken the vows of a nun, he persuaded or compelled her to marry him; and the indignant brothers of Homoniza repaired to Constantinople and preferred a complaint to the Emperor.3 Although the example of Michael's own marriage with Euphrosyne might have been pleaded in favour of Euphemios,* Michael despatched a letter to the new stratêgos of Sicily, Photeinos, bidding him to investigate the case and, if the charge were found to be true, to cut off the nose of the culprit who had caused a nun to renounce her vow.5
Photeinos, whom we have already met as the leader of a disastrous expedition to Crete, had only recently arrived in Sicily (perhaps in the spring of A.D. 826). He had already appointed Euphemios commander of the fleet, with the official title of turmarch, and Euphemios had sailed on a plundering expedition to the coasts of Tripoli or Tunis." He returned laden with spoil, but to find that an order had gone out for his arrest. He decided to defy the authority of the stratêgos, and, sailing to the harbour of Syracuse, he occupied that city.
A.D. 781-782. Theoph. 456. 2 Amari (ib. 249 sqq.) thinks that there was a rebellion in the early years of Michael; but the evidence is insufficient. For the sources for the revolt of Euphemios see Appendix IX.
3 Cont. Th. 82. The woman's name is preserved in Chron. Salern., p. 498. For the date of the marriage see Appendix IX.
Cp. Cont. Th. 81 2
5 κατὰ τὴν τοῦ νόμου ἀκρίβειαν, ib. 826. See Ecloga, 17, 23; Epanagoge, 40, 59.
6 As it appears from the subsequent negotiations of Euphemios with the Aghlabid Emir that the peace with the Aghlabids had not been violated, it may be inferred that Euphemios attacked the territory of the Idrisids.
His fleet was devoted to him, and he gained other adherents to his cause, including some military commanders who were turmarchs like himself.1 Photeinos marched to drive the rebel from Syracuse, but he suffered a defeat and returned to Catana. The superior forces of Euphemios and his confederates compelled him to leave that refuge, and he was captured and put to death.*
Compromised irretrievably by this flagrant act of rebellion, Euphemios, even if he had been reluctant, had no alternative but to assume the Imperial title and power. He was proclaimed Emperor, but he was almost immediately deserted by one of his most powerful supporters. This man, whom he invested with the government of a district, is designated by the Arabic historians as Palata- -a corrupt name which may denote some palatine dignity at the Court of the usurper. Palata and his cousin Michael, who was the military commander of Panormos, repudiated the cause of Euphemios and declared for the legitimate Emperor. At the head of a large army they defeated the tyrant and gained possession of Syracuse.
Too weak to resist the forces which were arrayed in support of legitimacy, and knowing that submission would mean death, Euphemios determined to invoke the aid of the natural enemy of the Empire. His resolve brought upon Sicily the same consequences which the resolve of Count Julian had brought upon Spain. It may be considered that it was the inevitable fate of Spain and of Sicily to fall a prey to Saracen invaders from Africa, but it is certain that the fate of each was accelerated by the passion and interests of a single unscrupulous native.
1 Cont. Th. 829.
2 See Appendix IX.
3 Probably early in A.D. 827, as the
Euphemios crossed over to Africa and made overtures to Ziadat Allah, the Aghlabid Emir. He asked him to send an army over to Sicily, and undertook to pay a tribute when his own power was established in the island. The proposal was debated in Council at Kairawan.1 The members of the Council were not of one mind. Those who were opposed to granting the request of Euphemios urged the duty of observing
Saracen fleet sailed to Sicily in June 827.
4 Riad an-Nufus, 77.