« PrethodnaNastavi »
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. 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.
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. 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.
1 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.
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.2 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.
Euphemios crossed over to Africa3 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
1 Cont. Th. 829
2 See Appendix IX.
3 Probably early in A.D. 827, as the
Saracen fleet sailed to Sicily in June 827.
4 Riad an-Nufus, 77.
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 a 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.
3 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.