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PROCEEDINGS OF THE SIXTH INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF GRAECO-ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES NICOSIA 30 APRIL - 5 MAY 1996, EDITED BY ‘VASSILIOS CHRISTIDES. AND ‘THEODORE PAPADOPOULLOS GRAECO - ARABICA VOLS VI-VIIL, 1999-2000 ARCHBISHOP MAKARIOS III CULTURAL CENTRE BUREAU OF THE HISTORY OF CYPRUS NICOSIA 2000 CHRISTOS G. MAKRYPOULIAS University of loannina BYZANTINE EXPEDITIONS AGAINST THE EMIRATE OF CRETE C. 825-949* The conquest of Crete by the Andalusians (c. 824) has been considered a turning point in the struggle between the Byzamine Empire and the Arabs in the Eastern Mediterranean.’ A Muslim state and not a “corsairs’ nest", as it is still erroneously considered by many historians." the newly-created Emirate of Crete tipped the scaies in favor of the islamic navies in the Aegean Sea. The importance the island had for the Byzantines in naval operations in the Eastern Mediterranean is evident in the great number of expeditions they mounted against its Arab conquerors. The aim of this paper is to give a concise account of those Byzantine campaigns against the Emirate of Crete prior to its reconquest by Nicephoros Phokas in March 961. Moreover. it will attempt to clarify certain problems concerning the chronology of these expeditions, to study their strategy and tactics, as well as to establish the reasons that led to their failure, “Against Crete, damned by God” The story of the conquest of Crete by the Spanish Arabs in the time of Michael [1 is plagued by problems of chronology.’ So, it is impossible to date accurately the first expeditions sent to drive off the invaders. According to the sources, the first such campaign was led by the protospatharios Photeinos, general of the Anatolic theme, and the protospatharios Damianos, xdung tot Baovsxod innootaciov (Count of the Imperial Stables). The account is straightforward enough: soon after the Arabs landed in ike to express my gratizude to Professors V.Chvistides and T. G. Kolias of the University of oannina, who saved me from many errors of commission or omission in this paper. Responsibility for any remaining errors is. of course. entirely mine. LV. Chiistides, The Conquest of Crete by the Arabs (ca 824), A Turning Point in the Struggle between Byzantium and islam, athens 1984, See also D. Tsougarakis. Bysanzine Crete from the 5th Century 10 the Venetian Conquest (lotop.xés Moverypawies 4), Athens 1988, espectally the second part which deals with Cretan mediseval archaeology and is a good example of ihe use of landscape archacology in Byzantine studies: the first. historical part. however. leaves a lot to be desired. 2 G. Ostrogorsky. History ofthe Byzantine Stare, New Brunswick 1969, 282; M. Canard. “Igijish”. The cyclopaedia of fla, 1, Leiden — London 1971, 1082-1086. For further research on the civilisation and culture of the Emirate of Crete see V. Christides. “Raid and Trade in the Easter Mediterranean: A Treatise by Muhammad bn. ‘Umar. the Fagih from Occupied Moslem Crete, and the Rhodian Sea Law, Two Parallel Texts”, Graeco-Arabica 5 (1993) 63-102. 3 For an account of the Andalusian invasion of Crete. based on Arabic and Byzantine sources. see Christides, Conauest. 81-5 348, CHRISTOS G, MAKRYPOULIAS what seemed io them a “promised land", Emperor Michael I] was informed of the invasion and sent Photeinos to Crete to appraise the situation. Soon, at his request, reinforcements were sent to Photeinos, led by Damianos, and the two marched against the. Arabs. Inthe ensuing battle Damianos was killed and the Byzantine forces were defeated: Photeinos managed to escape to the little island of Dia and from there to Constantinople. The fact that he was one of the Emperor's favourites saved him from disgrace and he was appointed general of Sicily.* The expedition of Crateros is also narrated with some clarity in the sources. The general of the Cibyrthaeots, the Empire’s major naval theme, was dispatched soon after the failure of the first expedition. Crateros sailed to Crete with his 70 warships> and landed his troops on the island. The Byzantine expeditionary force was victorious in the ensuing battle and routed the Arabs. Unfortunately for the imperial troops, the Arabs were not quite beaten and were able to launch a counterattack at night, at a time when most Byzantine soldiers were too drunk from the celebration to put up a fight. For the second time a Byzantine army was annihilated by the Andalusians. Crateros was able to escape and fled to the island of Cos, where, however, he was overtaken by the pursuing Arabs and crucified.® ‘The chronology of these two expeditions is still a disputed issue among modern authorities, for the reason that it dependsalmost totally on the dating of the Andalusian landing on Crete, which, owing to the Arabic and Syriac sources’ confused nature, is also very problematic.’ Those who support a later date for the landing find it difficult to fit these two campaigns and Ooryphas’ operations in the Cyclades within the span of one or two years between the Arab landing and Michael's death in October 829. Therefore, 4 Theophanes Continuatus, 76, 7-77, 3 (unless otherwise indicated, all references to Byzantine sources are in the Bonn corpus); L. Seylitzes, 43, 53-67 (ed. H. Thurn, foannis Sc Synopsis Historiarum [Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 5], Berlin-New York 1973), See also Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, 41-43; W. T. Treadgold, The Byzantine Revival 780-842. Stanford 1988, 253-254 and 429, n. 353; Canard, “Igetish”, 1083. 5 According to Pseudo-Symeon Magister, 623, 11, Crateros had 200 ships. This is clearly an exaggeration: Crateros was in command of the forces of the Cibyrthaeotic theme, which were later divided between the Cibyrhacots, Samos and Aegean Sea themes. All three themes had a total of between 70 and 80 warships in 911 (Ch. G. Makrypoulias, “The Navy in the Works of Constantine Porphyrogenitus Graeco-Arabica 6 (1995) 152-171 ,here 157}. Treadgold, Revival, 235 and 424, n, 326, was the first o notice this similarity in numbers. 6 Theoph. Cont., 79. 13-81, 5: Pseudo-Sym. Mag.. 623, 8-23; 1. Genesios, 34, 36-60 (ed. A. Lesmiiller-Wemer — H. Thurn, losephi Genesii Regum tibri quartwor (Corpus Fontiuin Historiae Byzantinae 14], Berlin-New York 1978); Scylitzes, 45, 1-28 (ed. Thurn), See also Tsougarakis, Byzanzine Crete. 43-43: Treadgold, Revival, 255 and 429, n, 355; Canard, “Igritish”. 1083, Of particular interest to the iconography of this event in Scylitzes is the paper of V. Christides. “From the Cycle “The Conquest and Occupation of Crete by the Arabs” in Skylitzes” Illuminations: A Naval Battle and the Execution of General Crateros”, in Studia Semitica necnon Iranica, Wiesbaden 1989, 53-64, 7 For the problem of dating the Andalusian invasion of Crete see Christides, Conquest, 83-88, and Treadgold, Revival. 251 and 427-428, n. 347. Christides follows the Byzantine sources that place the invasion after the revolution of Thomas the Slav. whereas Treadgold puts greater faith in the Arabic sources, which. however. sive conflicting accounts,