« PrethodnaNastavi »
the treaty which the Greeks, so far as was ascertained, had not violated.1 But the influence of the Cadi Asad, who appealed to texts of the Koran, of which he was acknowledged to be an authoritative interpreter, stirred the religious fanaticism of his hearers and decided them in favour of war. Ziadat named Asad to the command of the expedition, and he was allowed to retain the office of Cadi, although the union of military and judicial functions was irregular.2
The fleet of Euphemios waited in the bay of Susa till the African armament was ready, and on the 14th day of June, A.D. 827,3 the allied squadrons sailed forth together, on an enterprise which was to prove the beginning of a new epoch in Sicilian history. The forces of the Moslems are said to have consisted of ten thousand foot soldiers, seven hundred cavalry, and seventy or a hundred ships. In three days they reached Mazara, where they were expected by the partisans of Euphemios. When Asad disembarked his forces, he remained inactive for some days. A skirmish between some Greek soldiers who were on the side of Euphemios, and Arabs who mistook them for enemies, was an evil omen for the harmony of this unnatural alliance. It was desired that the friends of Euphemios should wear a twig in their headgear to avert the repetition of such a dangerous error; but Asad declared that he did not need the help of his confederate, that Euphemios and his men should take no part in the military operations, and that thus further accidents would be avoided. The intention of the Moslem commander to take the whole conduct of the campaign in his own hands and to use the Greek usurper as a puppet, was thus shown with little disguise.
It was not long before the general, whom in ignorance of his true name we are compelled to distinguish as Palata, appeared in the neighbourhood with forces considerably superior to those of the invaders. Mazara, now Mazzara del Vallo, lies at the mouth of a like-named stream, to the southeast of Lilybaeum. South-eastward from Mazara itself, a
1 This argument proves that the ten years' treaty of A.D. 813, which expired in A.D. 823, had been renewed or extended.
2 Ib. 78.
3 Nuwairi, 174. ovλw in Cambridge Chron. 24, must be a mistake for ἰουνίῳ. Riad an-Nufus and other Arabic sources agree with Nuwairi as to the month.
coast plain stretches to the ruins of Selinus,' and this was perhaps the scene of the first battle-shock in the struggle between Christendom and Islam for the possession of Sicily. Asad marched forth from Mazara, and when he came in sight of the Greeks and marshalled his army, he recited some verses of the Koran in front of the host and led it to victory. Palata fled to the strong fort of Castrogiovanni, and thence to Calabria, where he died.
The first object of the victors was the capture of Syracuse. Leaving a garrison in Mazara, they advanced eastward along the south coast.2 At a place which their historians call Kalat-al-Kurrat, and which is perhaps the ancient Acrae,3 strong fort in the hills, between Gela and Syracuse, an embassy from Syracuse met them, offering to submit and pay tribute, on condition that they should not advance farther. Asad halted for some days; we do not know why he delayed, but the interval was advantageous to the Greeks, whose overtures were perhaps no more than a device to gain time to strengthen the defences and bring provisions and valuable property into the city. In the meantime Euphemios had repented of what he had done. He had discovered too late that he had loosed a wind which he could not bind. What he had desired from the ruler of Africa was a force which he could himself direct and control. He found himself a puppet in the hands of a fanatical Mohammadan, whose designs and interests did not coincide with his own, and who, as he could already surmise, aimed not at establishing his own authority but at making a new conquest for Islam. We are not told whether he accompanied Asad in the march across the island, but he entered into negotiations with the Imperialists and urged
1 Nuwairi, ib., says that the plain where the battle was fought bore the name of Balata. Amari observes that this points to the word platea, which is common in local designations in Sicily. He notes that the Punta di Granitola, some eight miles south of Mazara, is called Cape Balat by Idrisi, so that the identification of the plain "Balata" has some plausibility. Amari, Storia, i. 266.
2 They passed on their march the "Church of Euphemia," a point on the coast, which Amari seeks at Licata
(the ancient Phintias). A church dedicated to S. Euphemia was founded in Sicily towards the end of the 8th century by Nicetas Monomachos (cp. Baronius Ann. ecc. ed Pagi, xiii. 316). · Another station, which Amari transcribes as the Church of al-Maslaquin, is quite uncertain.
So Amari and Vasil'ev. Acrae still preserves its name in Palazzolo Acreide. The Arabs would naturally leave the coast at Gela (Terranova), and march to Syracuse by Biscari, Chiaramonte-Gulfi, and Acrae.
them to resist the foes whom he had himself invoked against them. Seeing that further delay would only serve the Greeks, Asad advanced on Syracuse, where he was joined by his fleet. He burned the vessels of the Greeks and closed the greater and the lesser Harbours with his own ships. The fortifications were too strong to be assaulted without siege engines, with which the Arabs were not provided, and Asad could only blockade the town, while he waited for reinforcements from Africa. He encamped among the quarries, south of
As all the provisions had been conveyed into the city from the surrounding country, the Saracen army suffered from want of food, and the discontent waxed so great that a certain Ibn Kadim advised the general to break up his camp and sail back to Africa; "The life of one Musulman," he said, "is more valuable than all the goods of Christendom." Asad sternly replied, "I am not one of those who allow Moslems, when they go forth to a Holy War, to return home when they have still such hopes of victory." He quenched the mutiny by threatening to burn the ships and punishing with stripes the audacious Ibn Kadim.1 Presently reinforcements, and probably supplies, arrived from Africa.2
Meanwhile the Emperor had taken measures to recall Sicily to its allegiance. The story was told that when the tidings of the rebellion of Euphemios reached him, he summoned the magister Irenaeus and said, "We may congratulate ourselves, Magister, on the revolt of Sicily." "This, sir," replied Irenaeus, "is no matter for congratulation," and turning to one of the magnates who were present, he solemnly repeated the lines:
"Dire woes will fall upon the world, what time
1 Riad an-Nufus, 78.
2 Also from Spain: Ibn Adari, 146, Nuwairi, 174. Vasil'ev believes that the Spaniards were really some of the Cretan Arabs (who were originally from Spain), arguing the improbability of co-operation at this time between the Aghlabids and Omayyads. So Amari, Storia, i. 274, n. 1. But surely adventurers may have come
from Spain, without the authority of
ἀρχὴ κακῶν γε <προσ?>πεσεῖται τῇ χθονὶ ὅταν κατάρξῃ τῆς Βαβυλῶνος δράκων δύσγλωσσος ἄρδην καὶ φιλόχρυσος λίαν. We may conjecture that these verses are an oracle invented in the earlier ages of the Sassanid wars.
The anecdote may be apocryphal, invented in the light of subsequent disasters, as a reflexion on the ruler in whose reign. such grave losses had befallen the Empire. But if Michael, who sent fleet after fleet to regain Crete, and was even then perhaps engaged in organizing a new expedition, jested at the news from Sicily, the jest was bitter. The pressing concern for Crete and the Aegean islands hindered him from sending any large armament to the west. The naval establishment was inadequate to the defence of the Empire; this had been the consequence of its neglect since the days of Leo the Isaurian. The loss of Crete and the jeopardy of Sicily were to bring home to the Imperial government the importance of sea-power, and the strengthening of the navy was one of the chief tasks which successors of Michael II. would be forced to take in hand.
Some troops were sent to Sicily, but the Emperor at this crisis looked for help from a western dependency, whose own interests were undoubtedly involved in not suffering the Moslem to gain a footing on Sicilian soil. The proximity of such a foe to the waters of the Hadriatic sea would be a constant distress and anxiety to the city of Venice. It was therefore a fair and reasonable demand, on the part of the Emperor, that Venice should send a squadron to cope with the\ invaders of Sicily, and it is not improbable that she was bound by definite agreement to co-operate in such a case. The Duke, Justinianus, sent some warships, but it does not appear that they achieved much for the relief of the Syracusans.1
The besiegers had in the meantime entrenched themselves, surrounding their camp with a ditch, and digging in front of it holes which served as pitfalls for the cavalry of the Greeks. The besieged, finding themselves hard pressed, sought to parley, but their proposals were rejected, and the siege was protracted through the winter, till the invaders were confronted with a more deadly adversary than the Greeks. Pestilence broke out in their camp, and Asad, their indomitable leader, was one of its victims (A. D. 828). The army itself elected a new commander, a certain Mohammad, but fortune had deserted the Arabs; the epidemic raged among them as it had raged among the Carthaginians of 1 Dandulus, Chron. 170.(A.D. 827).
Hamilcar who had sought to master Syracuse twelve hundred years before. The new reinforcements came from Constantinople, and a second squadron was expected from Venice.1 The besiegers despaired and decided to return to Africa. They weighed anchor, but found that they were shut in by the ships of the enemy. They disembarked, set fire to their ships, and, laden with many sick, began a weary march in the direction of Mineo.
Euphemios served them as a guide. He had not parted from his foreign friends, though he had, for a time at least, secretly worked against them. But now that they were chastened by ill-success and no longer led by the masterful Asad, he expected to be able to use them for his own purpose. The town of Mineo surrendered, and when the army recovered from the effects of the plague, it divided into two parts, of which one marched westward and captured Agrigentum. The other, accompanied by Euphemios, laid siege to the impregnable fortress which stands in the very centre of the island, the massive rock of Henna, which was called in the ninth century, as it is to-day, Castrogiovanni.
The garrison of Castrogiovanni opened negotiations with Euphemios, offering to recognise him as Emperor and to cast in their lot with him and his Arab confederates. But these overtures were only an artifice; the men of Castrogiovanni were loyal to the Emperor Michael. Euphemios fell into the trap. At an appointed hour and place, he met a deputation of the townsmen. While some fell down before him, as their sovran, and kissed the ground, others at the same moment stabbed him from behind.2
With the disappearance of Euphemios from the scene, the warfare in Sicily was simplified to the plain and single issue of a contest between Moslem and Christian for the lordship of the island. It was a slow and tedious contest, protracted for two generations; and although the advance of the Moslems
1 Joannes, Chron. Ven. 109" iterum imperatore efflagitante exercitum ad Siciliam preparaverunt; qui etiam reversus est absque triumpho." The last clause suggests that the Venetians arrived after the raising of the siege and did not take part in forcing the Saracens to burn their ships.
2 Such is the Arabic
(Nuwairi, 175). The Greek story is different, attributing his death to the plot of two brothers and placing it at Syracuse. But it is not suggested (as Vasil'ev thinks, p. 71) that these brothers were the brothers-in-law of Euphemios. Cont. Th. 83 dúo TIVES ἀδελφοί.