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Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / The first hundred years
(1969)

II: Conflict in the Mediterranean Before the First Crusade,   pp. [30]-[79] PDF (19.6 MB)


Page 43

Ch. II THE ITALIAN CITIES AND THE ARABS 43 
with Constantine, the patrician of Sicily; the emir needed his forces and
strength to consolidate his holdings in Africa, and he hoped that this arrangement
might serve to curb the ambitions of the Spanish Umaiyads and the western
Idrisids. In Europe Charlemagne fitted out an Aquitanian and an Italian fleet,
partially built and panned by Italians, to patrol the western Mediterranean.
But as before, the truce proved ineffective. On his side, the emir at Kairawan
was in no position to speak for the other Saracens beyond his state, and
Constantine could hardly control the actions and plans of the Byzantine emperor,
of Charlemagne, and of the pope. Charlemagne's son, king Pepin of Italy,
and his. constable Burchard had minor successes, but failed to wrest Corsica
from the Arabs in campaigns between 8o6 and 8io. In one of these, in 8o6,
Hadumarus, the first Frankish count of Genoa, lost his life. Both Corsica
and Sardinia remained under Arab control. The Aghlabids directed other assaults
upon Lampedusa, off the African coast, and upon Ponza and Ischia, off the
Italian shore near Naples, all in 8rz. A Byzantine fleet under the patrician
Gregory, refused aid by Naples, but helped by Gaeta and Amalfi, eventually
defeated the attackers, and another truce was arranged in the next year.
But while the Aghiabids were curbed, Umaiyads from Spain swept over the Tyrrhenian
Sea and plundered Nice, Civita Vecchia, Corsica, and Sardinia, despite the
defensive measures of Charlemagne and pope Leo III. 
 In 827 the Aghiabid conquest of Sicily began in earnest; it was not complete
till 902. Ziyadat-Allah I, the third emir of Kairawan, felt himself strong
enough to undertake an expedition of expansion, similar to the one into Spain
a century before. Like that one, too, the Sicilian expedition was prompted
by civil war and by a traitorous appeal for help by Euphemius, the Byzantine
leader, who had set himself up as emperor. For Arab help and recognition
of his imperial position in Sicily Euphemius agreed to accept the emir as
his titular overlord and to pay a tribute consonant with that relationship.
After considerable debate the Arab leader agreed to help, but the size of
the Arab force indicated that the Arabs had plans quite different from those
of Euphemius. A fleet of seventy or one hundred ships carried 10,000 foot-soldiers
and seven hundred horsemen from Susa in Tunisia to Mazara in western Sicily,
not merely to plunder and return, nor to help a usurper, but to conquer and
remain. The Saracens defeated the outnumbered but heroic Byzantine garrisons,
disregarded Euphemius and his troops, and moved inward and eastward, toward
Syracuse. 


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