Siege of Constantinople (674–678)
The First Arab Siege of Constantinople in 674–678 was a major conflict of the Arab–Byzantine wars, the first culmination of the Umayyad Caliphate's expansionist strategy towards the Byzantine Empire, led by Caliph Mu'awiya I. Mu'awiya, who had emerged in 661 as the ruler of the Muslim Arab empire following a civil war, renewed aggressive warfare against Byzantium after a lapse of some years and hoped to deliver a lethal blow by capturing the Byzantine capital, Constantinople; as reported by the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes the Confessor, the Arab attack was methodical: in 672–673 Arab fleets secured bases along the coasts of Asia Minor, proceeded to install a loose blockade around Constantinople. They used the peninsula of Cyzicus near the city as a base to spend the winter, returned every spring to launch attacks against the city's fortifications; the Byzantines, under Emperor Constantine IV, managed to destroy the Arab navy using a new invention, the liquid incendiary substance known as Greek fire.
The Byzantines defeated the Arab land army in Asia Minor, forcing them to lift the siege. The Byzantine victory was of major importance for the survival of the Byzantine state, as the Arab threat receded for a time. A peace treaty was signed soon after, following the outbreak of another Muslim civil war, the Byzantines experienced a period of ascendancy over the Caliphate; the siege left several traces in the legends of the nascent Muslim world, although it is conflated with accounts of another expedition against the city a few years led by the future Caliph Yazid I. As a result, the veracity of Theophanes's account was questioned in 2010 by Oxford scholar James Howard-Johnston, who placed more emphasis on the Arabic and Syriac sources. On the other hand, echoes of a large siege of Constantinople and a subsequent peace treaty reached China, where they were recorded in histories of the Tang dynasty. Following the disastrous Battle of Yarmouk in 636, the Byzantine Empire withdrew the bulk of its remaining forces from the Levant into Asia Minor, shielded from the Muslim expansion by the Taurus Mountains.
This left the field open for the warriors of the nascent Rashidun Caliphate to complete their conquest of Syria, with Egypt too falling shortly after. Muslim raids against the Cilician frontier zone and deep into Asia Minor began as early as 640, continued under Mu'awiya governor of the Levant. Mu'awiya spearheaded the development of a Muslim navy, which within a few years grew sufficiently strong to occupy Cyprus and raid as far as Kos and Crete in the Aegean Sea; the young Muslim navy scored a crushing victory over its Byzantine counterpart in the Battle of Phoenix in 655. Following the murder of Caliph Uthman and the outbreak of the First Muslim Civil War, Arab attacks against Byzantium stopped. In 659, Mu'awiya concluded a truce with Byzantium, including payment of tribute to the Empire; the peace lasted until the end of the Muslim civil war in 661, from which Mu'awiya and his clan emerged victorious, establishing the Umayyad Caliphate. From the next year, Muslim attacks recommenced, with pressure mounting as Muslim armies began wintering on Byzantine soil west of the Taurus range, maximizing the disruption caused to the Byzantine economy.
These land expeditions were sometimes coupled with naval raids against the coasts of southern Asia Minor. In 668, the Arabs sent aid to Saborios, strategos of the Armeniac Theme, who had rebelled and proclaimed himself emperor; the Arab troops under Fadhala ibn'Ubayd arrived too late to assist Saborios, who had died after falling from his horse, they spent the winter in the Hexapolis around Melitene awaiting reinforcements. In spring 669, after receiving additional troops, Fadhala entered Asia Minor and advanced as far as Chalcedon, on the Asian shore of the Bosporus across from the Byzantine capital, Constantinople; the Arab attacks on Chalcedon were repelled, the Arab army was decimated by famine and disease. Mu'awiya dispatched another army, led by his son Yazid, to Fadhala's aid. Accounts of what followed differ; the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes the Confessor reports that the Arabs remained before Chalcedon for a while before returning to Syria, that on their way they captured and garrisoned Amorium.
This was the first time the Arabs tried to hold a captured fortress in the interior of Asia Minor beyond the campaigning season, meant that the Arabs intended to return next year and use the town as their base, but Amorium was retaken by the Byzantines during the subsequent winter. Arab sources on the other hand report that the Muslims crossed over into Europe and launched an unsuccessful attack on Constantinople itself, before returning to Syria. Given the lack of any mention of such an assault in Byzantine sources, it is most probable that the Arab chroniclers—taking account of Yazid's presence and the fact that Chalcedon is a suburb of Constantinople—"upgraded" the attack on Chalcedon to an attack on the Byzantine capital itself; the campaign of 669 demonstrated to the Arabs the possibility of a direct strike at Constantinople, as well as the necessity of having a supply base in the region. This was found in the peninsula of Cyzicus on the southern shore of the Sea of Marmara, where a raiding fleet under Fadhala ibn'Ubayd wintered in 670 or 671.
Mu'awiya now began preparing his final assault on the Byzantine capital. In contrast to Yazid's expedition, Mu'awiya intended to take a coastal route to Constantinople; the undertaking followed a careful, phased approach: first the Muslims had to secure strongpoints and bases along the coast, with Cyzicus as a base, Constantinople would be blockaded by land and sea and cut off from the agrarian hinterland that supplied its food. Accordingly
Battle of Nikiou
The Battle of Nikiou was a battle between Arab Muslim troops under General Amr ibn al-A'as and the Byzantine Empire in Egypt in May of 646. Following their victory at the Battle of Heliopolis in July 640, the subsequent capitulation of Alexandria in November 641, Arab troops had taken over what was the Roman province of Egypt; the newly installed Byzantine Emperor Constans II was determined to re-take the land, ordered a large fleet to carry troops to Alexandria. These troops, under Manuel, took the city by surprise from its small Arab garrison towards the end of 645 in an amphibious attack. In 645 the Byzantine thus temporarily won Alexandria back. Amr at the time may have been in Mecca, was recalled to take command of the Arab forces in Egypt; the battle took place at the small fortified town of Nikiou, about two-thirds of the way from Alexandria to Fustat, with the Arab forces numbering around 15,000, against a smaller Byzantine force. The Arabs prevailed, the Byzantine forces retreated in disarray, back to Alexandria.
Although the Byzantines closed the gates against the pursuing Arabs, the city of Alexandria fell to the Arabs, who stormed the city sometime in the summer of that year. The defeat of Manuel's forces marked the last attempt by the Byzantine Empire to recapture Egypt for some 500 years, with only Emperor Manuel I Komnenos sending a failed expedition there in the 12th century. Amr ibn al-A'as wrote back to the Caliph: As ordered by the Caliph, he left Alexandria and established a new capital, Fustat. Butler, Alfred J; the Arab Conquest of Egypt and the Last Thirty years of Roman Dominion Oxford, 1978. Charles, Robert H.. The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu: Translated from Zotenberg's Ethiopic Text. Merchantville, NJ: Evolution Publishing. Ostrogorsky, George. History of the Byzantine State. Oxford: Basil Blackwell
Battle of Anzen
The Battle of Anzen or Dazimon was fought on 22 July 838 at Anzen or Dazimon between the Byzantine Empire and the forces of the Abbasid Caliphate. The Abbasids had launched a huge expedition with two separate armies in retaliation for the Byzantine emperor Theophilos's successes the previous year, aimed to sack Amorion, one of Byzantium's largest cities. Theophilos with his army confronted the smaller Muslim army, under the Iranian vassal prince Afshin, at Dazimon; the numerically superior Byzantine army was successful, but when Theophilos resolved to lead an attack in person, his absence from his usual post caused panic among the Byzantine troops, who feared that he had been killed. Coupled with a fierce counterattack by Afshin's Turkish horse-archers, the Byzantine army broke and fled. Theophilos and his guard were besieged before making good their escape; the defeat opened the way for the brutal sack of Amorion a few weeks one of the most serious blows Byzantium suffered in the centuries-long Arab–Byzantine Wars.
As the young Theophilos ascended the Byzantine throne in 829, the Arab–Byzantine wars had continued on and off for two centuries. An ambitious man and a convinced iconoclast, Theophilos sought to bolster his regime and gain support for his religious policies by military success against the Abbasid Caliphate, Byzantium's major antagonist. Theophilos launched a series of campaigns against the Caliphate throughout the 830s; these were only moderately successful, but sufficient for the imperial propaganda to portray Theophilos in the traditional Roman manner as a "victorious emperor". In 837 Theophilos led a major campaign to the region of the upper Euphrates, sacking the cities of Arsamosata and Sozopetra – which some sources claim as Abbasid Caliph al-Mu'tasim's own birthplace – and forcing the city of Melitene to pay tribute and deliver hostages in return for being spared. In response, al-Mu'tasim decided to launch a major punitive expedition against Byzantium, aiming to capture the two major Byzantine cities of central Anatolia and Amorion.
The latter was the largest city in Anatolia at the time, as well as the birthplace of the reigning Amorian dynasty and of particular symbolic importance. A vast army was gathered at Tarsus, divided into two main forces; the northern force, under the Iranian vassal prince of Usrushana Afshin, would invade the Armeniac theme from the region of Melitene, joining up with the forces of the city's emir, Omar al-Aqta. The southern, main force, under the Caliph himself, would pass the Cilician Gates into Cappadocia and head to Ancyra. After the city was taken, the Arab armies would march to Amorion. Afshin's force included, according to John Skylitzes, the entire army of the vassal Armenian princes, numbered an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 men, among whom were some 10,000 Turkish horse-archers. On the Byzantine side, Theophilos became soon aware of the Caliph's intentions and set out from Constantinople in early June, his army included the men from the Anatolian and also the European themes, the elite tagmata regiments, as well as a contingent of Persian and Kurdish Khurramites.
Under their leader Nasr, these people had fled religious persecution in the Caliphate, deserted to the Empire in the previous years, formed the so-called "Persian tourma". Setting up camp at Dorylaion, the Emperor divided his forces: a strong corps was sent to reinforce the garrison of Amorion, while he himself set out with the remainder to interpose himself between the Cilician Gates and Ancyra. In mid-June, Afshin crossed the Anti-Taurus Mountains and encamped at the fort of Dazimon, between Amaseia and Tokat, a strategically important location which served as a concentration point for the Byzantines too. A few days on 19 June, the vanguard of the main Abbasid army invaded Byzantine territory, followed two days after by the Caliph with the main body. Theophilos was informed of these movements in mid-July. Afshin's force was smaller, but threatened to cut off his supply lines; the Emperor left a small covering force against the Caliph's army and marched east to confront Afshin. On 21 July, the imperial army came into view of the Arab force, encamped on a hill in the plain of Dazimonitis south of the fort of Dazimon, named Anzen.
Although Theophilos's principal commanders and the Domestic of the Schools Manuel, both advised for a surprise night attack, the Emperor sided with the opinion of the other officers and resolved to wait and launch his attack on the next day. The Byzantine army attacked at dawn, made good progress: they drove back one wing of the opposite army, inflicting 3,000 casualties on the Arabs. Near noon, Theophilos resolved to reinforce the other wing and detached 2,000 Byzantines and the Kurdish contingent to do so, abandoning his post and passing behind his own army's lines. At this point, Afshin launched his Turkish horse-archers in a ferocious counter-attack which stymied the Byzantine advance and allowed the Arab forces to regroup; the Byzantine troops noticed the emperor's absence, thinking he had been killed, began to waver. This soon turned into a disorderly retreat; some units, were able to retreat in good order and
Petronas was a notable Byzantine general and leading aristocrat during the mid-9th century. Petronas was a brother of Empress Theodora and hence brother-in-law of Emperor Theophilos, under whom he advanced to the rank of patrikios and the post of droungarios of the Vigla regiment. After Theophilos' death, he played a role in the ending of Iconoclasm, but was sidelined along with his brother Bardas during the minority of his nephew, Michael III, when power was held by the regent Theoktistos. In 855, Petronas and Bardas encouraged Michael III to seize control of the government: Theoktistos was murdered, Theodora banished to a monastery, Bardas became Michael's chief minister, Petronas was tasked with the war against the Arabs. In 863, he scored a crushing victory at the Battle of Lalakaon, a feat which marked the gradual beginning of a Byzantine counter-offensive in the East. Promoted to magistros and domestikos ton scholon, he died in 865. Petronas was born to the droungarios Marinos and Theoktiste, was the younger brother of Bardas and Empress Theodora, the wife of Emperor Theophilos.
Three other sisters, Kalomaria and Irene, are recorded by Theophanes Continuatus. Under Theophilos, he was appointed commander of the guard regiment of the Vigla, raised to the rank of patrikios. In 842, as Theophilos lay dying and the eunuch Theoktistos carried out the execution of the patrikios Theophobos, a former Khurramite convert and general, whose troops had rebelled and proclaimed him emperor at Sinope some years before. Despite his kinship with Theophilos, the tale is told that the Emperor once had Petronas stripped naked and flogged in public because he had built a palace that overshadowed the house of a widow, in contravention of the law; the palace itself was torn down, both the building materials and the plot were left to the widow. When Theophilos died in 842, Theodora was left as regent to her infant son, Michael III. A regency council was set up headed by Theodora, along with Petronas and Bardas and their relative Sergios Niketiates. Petronas is said to have urged Theodora to rescind Theophilos's iconoclastic policies, which resulted in the restoration of the veneration of images in the so-called "Triumph of Orthodoxy" on 11 March 843.
Soon after that and Bardas were sidelined by the logothetes Theoktistos, while Niketiates was killed in an expedition against the Cretan Saracens, leaving the eunuch minister the dominant figure throughout Theodora's regency. In 855, Michael III turned fifteen and thus came nominally of age; the young ruler began resenting the dominance of his mother and of Theoktistos after they selected Eudokia Dekapolitissa as his bride, disregarding Michael's attachment to his mistress, Eudokia Ingerina. Supported by his uncles Bardas and Petronas, Emperor Michael had Theoktistos seized and killed in late 855, while Petronas undertook the confinement of the empress and her daughters into a monastery. Bardas was now raised to the rank of Caesar and became the effective governor of the Byzantine Empire. In this position, he displayed remarkable energy and ability, amongst the most important of his policies was a more aggressive stance against the Arabs in the East. Petronas was appointed strategos of the powerful Thracesian Theme.
On his first campaign, against the Paulicians of Tephrike in 856, he plundered his way through the emirate of Melitene and the Paulician lands to Samosata and Amida in Upper Mesopotamia. After penetrating deeper into Arab territory than any Byzantine commander since the beginning of the Muslim conquests, he returned victorious with many captives. In 863, an Arab army, led by the emir of Melitene, Umar al-Aqta, raided deep into Byzantine territory, reaching the Black Sea coast at Amisos. Petronas was placed in charge of all Byzantine troops assembling to confront the invasion, through a brilliant coordination effort, three separate forces managed to converge on the Arab army, encircle it, destroy it at the Battle of Lalakaon on September 3, 863. Petronas carried his defeated enemy's head to Constantinople, where he was honored with a triumphal entrance by his nephew. Soon after, he was raised to the position of Domestic of the Schools; the defeat of the Arabs and their Paulician allies became a turning point in the Arab–Byzantine Wars.
With this victory and Bardas were able to secure their eastern borders, strengthen the Byzantine state, set the stage for the Byzantine conquests of the 10th century. The Byzantine chroniclers add that the victorious general did not survive for long after his victory. A hagiography, written by a contemporary, claims that Petronas died on the same day as his spiritual father Saint Anthony the Younger, two years and two months after routing the Arab armies, he was buried in the Gastria Monastery, where his stone sarcophagus was placed opposite those of his sister, the Empress Theodora, his nieces
Anatolia known as Asia Minor, Asian Turkey, the Anatolian peninsula or the Anatolian plateau, is the westernmost protrusion of Asia, which makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Armenian Highlands to the east and the Aegean Sea to the west; the Sea of Marmara forms a connection between the Black and Aegean Seas through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits and separates Anatolia from Thrace on the European mainland. The eastern border of Anatolia is traditionally held to be a line between the Gulf of Alexandretta and the Black Sea, bounded by the Armenian Highland to the east and Mesopotamia to the southeast. Thus, traditionally Anatolia is the territory that comprises the western two-thirds of the Asian part of Turkey. Nowadays, Anatolia is often considered to be synonymous with Asian Turkey, which comprises the entire country. By some definitions, the area called the Armenian highlands lies beyond the boundary of the Anatolian plateau.
The official name of this inland region is the Eastern Anatolia Region. The ancient inhabitants of Anatolia spoke the now-extinct Anatolian languages, which were replaced by the Greek language starting from classical antiquity and during the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods. Major Anatolian languages included Hittite and Lydian among other more poorly attested relatives; the Turkification of Anatolia began under the Seljuk Empire in the late 11th century and continued under the Ottoman Empire between the late 13th and early 20th centuries. However, various non-Turkic languages continue to be spoken by minorities in Anatolia today, including Kurdish, Neo-Aramaic, Arabic, Laz and Greek. Other ancient peoples in the region included Galatians, Assyrians, Cimmerians, as well as Ionian and Aeolian Greeks. Traditionally, Anatolia is considered to extend in the east to an indefinite line running from the Gulf of Alexandretta to the Black Sea, coterminous with the Anatolian Plateau; this traditional geographical definition is used, for example, in the latest edition of Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary, Under this definition, Anatolia is bounded to the east by the Armenian Highlands, the Euphrates before that river bends to the southeast to enter Mesopotamia.
To the southeast, it is bounded by the ranges that separate it from the Orontes valley in Syria and the Mesopotamian plain. Following the Armenian genocide, Ottoman Armenia was renamed "Eastern Anatolia" by the newly established Turkish government. Vazken Davidian terms the expanded use of "Anatolia" to apply to territory referred to as Armenia an "ahistorical imposition", notes that a growing body of literature is uncomfortable with referring to the Ottoman East as "Eastern Anatolia". Most archeological sources consider the boundary of Anatolia to be Turkey's eastern border; the highest mountains in "Eastern Anatolia" are Mount Ararat. The Euphrates, Araxes and Murat rivers connect the Armenian plateau to the South Caucasus and the Upper Euphrates Valley. Along with the Çoruh, these rivers are the longest in "Eastern Anatolia"; the oldest known reference to Anatolia – as “Land of the Hatti” – appears on Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets from the period of the Akkadian Empire. The first recorded name the Greeks used for the Anatolian peninsula, Ἀσία echoed the name of the Assuwa league in western Anatolia.
As the name "Asia" broadened its scope to apply to other areas east of the Mediterranean, Greeks in Late Antiquity came to use the name Μικρὰ Ἀσία or Asia Minor, meaning "Lesser Asia" to refer to present-day Anatolia. The English-language name Anatolia itself derives from the Greek ἀνατολή meaning “the East” or more “sunrise”; the precise reference of this term has varied over time originally referring to the Aeolian and Dorian colonies on the west coast of Asia Minor. In the Byzantine Empire, the Anatolic Theme was a theme covering the western and central parts of Turkey's present-day Central Anatolia Region; the term "Anatolia" is Medieval Latin. The modern Turkish form of Anatolia, derives from the Greek name Aνατολή; the Russian male name Anatoly and the French Anatole share the same linguistic origin. The term "Anatolia" referred to a northwestern Byzantine province. By the 12th century Europeans had started referring to Anatolia as Turchia, it has also been called "Asia Minor". In earlier times, it was called" Rûm" by the Seljuqs.
During the era of the Ottoman Empire mapmakers outside the Empire referred to the mountainous plateau in eastern Anatolia as Armenia. Other contemporary sources called the same area Kurdistan. Geographers have variously used the terms east Anatolian plateau and Armenian plateau to refer to the region, although the territory encompassed by each term overlaps with the other. According to archaeologist Lori Khatchadourian this difference in terminology "primarily result from the shifting political fortunes and cultural trajectories of the region since the nineteenth century."Turkey's First Geography Congress in 1941 created two regions to the east of the Gulf of Iskenderun-Black Sea line named the Eastern Anatolia Region and the Southeastern Anatolia Region, the former corresponding to the weste
Muslim conquest of the Maghreb
The Muslim conquest of the Maghreb continued the century of rapid Arab Early Muslim conquests following the death of Muhammad in 632 AD and into the Byzantine-controlled territories of Northern Africa. In a series of three stages, the conquest of the Maghreb commenced in 647 and concluded in 709 with the "Byzantine" Roman Empire losing its last remaining strongholds to the then-Umayyad Caliphate. By 642 AD, under Caliph Umar, Arab Muslim forces had laid control of Mesopotamia, Syria and had invaded Armenia, all territories split between the warring Byzantine and Persian Empires, were concluding their conquest of the Persian Empire with their defeat of the Persian army at the Battle of Nahāvand, it was at this point that Arab military expeditions into North African regions west of Egypt were first launched, continuing for years and furthering the spread of Islam. In 644 at Madinah, Caliph Umar was succeeded by Uthman ibn Affan, during whose twelve-year rule Armenia and all of Iran, would be added to the growing Islamic empire.
The Byzantine navy would be defeated in the eastern Mediterranean. The earliest Arab accounts that have come down to us are those of ibn'Abd al-Hakam, al-Baladhuri and Khalifah ibn Khayyat, all of which were written in the 9th century, some 200 years after the first invasions; these are not detailed. In the case of the most informative, the History of the Conquest of Egypt and North Africa and Spain by ibn'Abd al-Hakam, Robert Brunschvig has shown that it was written with a view to illustrating points of Maliki law rather than documenting a history, that some of the events it describes are historical. Beginning in the 12th century, scholars at Kairouan began to construct a new version of the history of the conquest, finalised by Ibrahim ibn ar-Raqiq; this version was copied in its entirety, sometimes interpolated, by authors, reaching its zenith in the 14th century with scholars such as ibn Idhari, ibn Khaldun and al-Nuwayri. It differs from the earlier version not only in the greater detail, but in giving conflicting accounts of events.
This, however, is the one given below. There is ongoing controversy regarding the relative merits of the two versions. For more information, refer to the works cited below by Brunschvig, Modéran and Benabbès and Siraj; the first invasion of North Africa, ordered by Abdallah ibn Sa'd, commenced in 647. 20,000 Arabs marched from Medina in the Arabian Peninsula, another 20,000 joined them in Memphis and Abdallah ibn Sa'd led them into the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa. The army took Tripolitania. Count Gregory, the local Byzantine governor, had declared his independence from the Byzantine Empire in North Africa, he gathered his allies, confronted the invading Islamic Arab forces and suffered defeat at the Battle of Sufetula, a city 240 kilometres south of Carthage. With the death of Gregory his successor Gennadius, secured the Arab withdrawal in exchange for tribute; the campaign lasted fifteen months and Abdallah's force returned to Egypt in 648. All further Muslim conquests were soon interrupted, the Kharijite dissidents murdered Caliph Uthman after holding him under house arrest in 656.
He was replaced by Ali, who in turn was assassinated in 661. The Umayyad Caliphate of secular and hereditary Arab caliphs established itself at Damascus and Caliph Muawiyah I began consolidating the empire from the Aral Sea to the western border of Egypt, he put a governor in place in Egypt at al-Fustat, creating a subordinate seat of power that would continue for the next two centuries. He continued the invasion of non-Muslim neighboring states, attacking Sicily and Anatolia in 663. In 664 Kabul, fell to the invading Muslim armies; the years 665 to 689 saw a new Arab invasion of North Africa. It began, according to Will Durant, to protect Egypt "from flank attack by Byzantine Cyrene". So "an army of more than 40,000 Muslims advanced through the desert to Barca, took it, marched to the neighborhood of Carthage", defeating a defending Byzantine army of 20,000 in the process. Next came a force of 10,000 Arabs led by the Arab general Uqba ibn Nafi and enlarged by thousands of others. Departing from Damascus, the army took the vanguard.
In 670 the city of Kairouan was established as a base for further operations. This would become the capital of the Islamic province of Ifriqiya, which would cover the coastal regions of today's western Libya and eastern Algeria. After this, as Edward Gibbon writes, the fearless general "plunged into the heart of the country, traversed the wilderness in which his successors erected the splendid capitals of Fes and Morocco, at length penetrated to the verge of the Atlantic and the great desert". In his conquest of the Maghreb he besieged the coastal city of Bugia as well as Tingi or Tangier, overwhelming what had once been the traditional Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana, but here he was stopped and repulsed. Luis Garcia de Valdeavellano writes: In their invations against the Byzantines and the Berbers, the Arab chieftains had extended their African dominions, as early as the year 682 Uqba had reached the shores of the Atlantic, but he was unable to occupy Tangier, for he was forced to turn back toward the Atlas Mountains by a man who became known
Sack of Amorium
The Sack of Amorium by the Abbasid Caliphate in mid-August 838 was one of the major events in the long history of the Arab–Byzantine Wars. The Abbasid campaign was led by the Caliph al-Mu'tasim, in retaliation to a unopposed expedition launched by the Byzantine emperor Theophilos into the Caliphate's borderlands the previous year. Mu'tasim targeted Amorium, a Byzantine city in western Asia Minor, because it was the birthplace of the ruling Byzantine dynasty and, at the time, one of Byzantium's largest and most important cities; the caliph gathered an exceptionally large army, which he divided in two parts, which invaded from the northeast and the south. The northeastern army defeated the Byzantine forces under Theophilos at Anzen, allowing the Abbasids to penetrate deep into Byzantine-held Asia Minor and converge upon Ancyra, which they found abandoned. After sacking the city, they turned south to Amorium. Faced with intrigues at Constantinople and the rebellion of the large Khurramite contingent of his army, Theophilos was unable to aid the city.
Amorium was fortified and garrisoned, but a traitor revealed a weak spot in the wall, where the Abbasids concentrated their attack, effecting a breach. Unable to break through the besieging army, the commander of the breached section attempted to negotiate with the Caliph without notifying his superiors, he concluded a local truce and left his post, which allowed the Arabs to take advantage, enter the city and capture it. Amorium was systematically destroyed. Many of its inhabitants were slaughtered, the remainder driven off as slaves. Most of the survivors were released after a truce in 841, but prominent officials were taken to the caliph's capital of Samarra and executed years after refusing to convert to Islam, becoming known as the 42 Martyrs of Amorium; the conquest of Amorium was not only a major military disaster and a heavy personal blow for Theophilos, but a traumatic event for the Byzantines, its impact resonating in literature. The sack did not alter the balance of power, shifting in Byzantium's favour, but it discredited the theological doctrine of Iconoclasm, ardently supported by Theophilos.
As Iconoclasm relied on military success for its legitimization, the fall of Amorium contributed decisively to its abandonment shortly after Theophilos's death in 842. By 829, when the young emperor Theophilos ascended the Byzantine throne, the Byzantines and Arabs had been fighting on and off for two centuries. At this time, Arab attacks resumed both in the east, where after twenty years of peace due to the Abbasid civil war Caliph al-Ma'mun launched several large-scale raids, in the west, where the gradual Muslim conquest of Sicily was under way since 827. Theophilos was an ambitious man and a convinced adherent of Byzantine Iconoclasm, which prohibited the depiction of divine figures and the veneration of icons, he sought to bolster his regime and support his religious policies by military success against the Abbasid Caliphate, the Empire's major antagonist. Seeking divine favour, responding to iconophile plots against him, Theophilos reinstated active suppression of the iconophiles and other perceived "heretics" in June 833, including mass arrests and exiles and confiscations of property.
In Byzantine eyes, God seemed indeed to reward this decision: al-Ma'mun died during the first stages of a new, large-scale invasion against Byzantium, intended to be the first step in conquering Constantinople itself, his brother and successor al-Mu'tasim withdrew to focus on internal matters, having trouble establishing his authority, needing to confront the ongoing rebellion of the Khurramite religious sect under Babak Khorramdin. This allowed Theophilos to achieve a series of modest victories over the next few years, as well as to bolster his forces with some 14,000 Khurramite refugees under their leader Nasr, baptized a Christian and took the name Theophobos; the emperor's successes were not spectacular, but coming after two decades of defeats and civil war under iconophile emperors, Theophilos felt justified in claiming them as vindication for his religious policy. The emperor began to publicly associate himself with the memory of the militarily successful and fanatically iconoclast emperor Constantine V, issued a new type of the copper follis coin, minted in huge numbers, which portrayed him as the archetypical victorious Roman emperor.
In 837, Theophilos decided—at the urging of the hard-pressed Babak—to take advantage of the Caliphate's preoccupation with the suppression of the Khurramite revolt and lead a major campaign against the frontier emirates. He assembled a large army, some 70,000 fighting men and 100,000 in total according to al-Tabari, invaded Arab territory around the upper Euphrates unopposed; the Byzantines took the towns of Sozopetra and Arsamosata and plundered the countryside, extracted ransom from several cities in exchange for not attacking them, defeated a number of smaller Arab forces. While Theophilos returned home to celebrate a triumph and be acclaimed in the Hippodrome of Constantinople as the "incomparable champion", the refugees from Sozopetra began arriving at Mu'tasim's capital, Samarra; the caliphal court was outraged by the brutality and brazenness of the raids: not only had the Byzantines acted in open collusion with the Khurramite rebels, but during the sack of Sozopetra—which some sources claim as Mu'tasim's own birthplace—all male prisoners were executed and the rest sold into slavery, some captive women were raped by Theophilos