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Siege of Constantinople (674–678)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

First Arab Siege of Constantinople
Part of the Arab–Byzantine wars
Geophysical map of the Marmara Sea and the surrounding coasts with major settlements

Map of the environs of Constantinople in Byzantine times
Date674–678 (disputed, see below)
Result Decisive Byzantine victory
Byzantine Empire Umayyad Caliphate
Commanders and leaders
Constantine IV Yazid I
Sufyan ibn 'Awf
Gunada ibn Abu Umayya
Fadhala ibn 'Ubayd
unknown Al-Tabari:
300,000 men
300 ships
Note: Obvious exaggeration, the largest ship at the time could only carry 150 men, not 300 as al-Tabari's number suggests.[1]

The First Arab Siege of Constantinople in 674–678 was a major conflict of the Arab–Byzantine wars, and 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, and then proceeded to install a loose blockade around Constantinople. They used the peninsula of Cyzicus near the city as a base to spend the winter, and returned every spring to launch attacks against the city's fortifications. Finally, 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 also 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, and following the outbreak of another Muslim civil war, the Byzantines even 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 previously, 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, and more recently by Marek Jankowiak. Their analyses have placed more emphasis on the Arabic and Syriac sources, but have drawn different conclusions about the dating and existence of the siege. On the other hand, echoes of a large-scale siege of Constantinople and a subsequent peace treaty reached China, where they were recorded in later histories of the Tang dynasty.

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This video is sponsored by Vikings war of clans This free-to-play mobile game now has more than 20 million active players Which is incredibly ten times more than the actual number of historical Vikings? Finally there's a game that is a perfect mix of 3d graphics and smooth gameplay This is the first strategy RPG with the detailed open-world of the Vikings the massive online battles of the game will get you hooked after five minutes of playing so don't waste time support our channel by installing Vikings Right now using the links below, and you will get two hundred gold a protection shield and your place in Valhalla for free Since the establishment of Islam in Arabia the Caliphate fought continuous wars of conquest Across many regions, but the main brunt of its initial advances was focused on the Byzantine Empire historiography often considers the Battle of tour in 732 to be a turning point in the wars between the Christians and Muslims but the campaign in France pales in comparison to the siege of Constantinople of 717 to 718 as it was here the Byzantines and their bulgar allies faced the main Umayyad force Following the success at Yarmouk in 636 the rashidun caliphate quickly took control over syria Jerusalem was captured a year later and by 642 Egypt was under Muslim control While the conquest of North Africa continued other Arab armies were fighting against the Sassanid Empire and Completely subjugated it by the early 650s As the caucuses were also vast alized or conquered in this period a tentative border between the caliphate and the byzantine empire formed on the eastern edges of Anatolia Striking deep into Anatolia was problematic as the supply lines were over stretched So the Caliphate built its first Navy in Syria and Egypt in order to accompany the army along the southern coast In 654 roads and then Cyprus fell to this Navy in the same year the governor of Syria Muawiyah launched an invasion into Anatolia the Byzantine Emperor konstanz, ii knew that he had to defeat the muslim navy The details are unknown but in late 654 or early 655 the byzantine navy was decisively defeated at the Battle of the masts off the coast of Anatolia Again these sources are conflicted But some claim that in 655 Muawiyah reached Bosphorus and even besieged kal Sidon The news that caliph Uthman was assassinated reached him in 656 and he returned to Syria Muawiyah was one of the participants in the civil war within the Caliphate and after caliph Ali was assassinated in 661 He became the next ruler and established the Umayyad dynasty All that gave the Byzantines some respite and they even took roads back However, Muawiyah still dreamt of taking Constantinople in 673 the Muslim Navy attacked in three directions Tarsus Smyrna and Rhodes were conquered and the latter two became permanent basis for future invasions in 674 the Arabs took Suzuka s-- just one hundred kilometers away from Constantinople the events between 674 and 678 are shrouded in mystery with some sources claiming that the capital of the Empire was under a constant siege While others insist that it was just a series of raids But we know that the Byzantines used Greek fire for the first time to destroy the Arab fleet In 678 the Byzantines managed to land a small force in Syria and that sparked a revolt by the local Christians That forced the caliphates to sign a peace treaty and pay a symbolic amount in reparations in 679 Meanwhile a war in the caspian steppes was raging between the Bulgars and the kazars and the former had to migrate The Bulgars were led by aspera khan they settled around the Danube River sometime between 674 and 678 But now that the eastern border was secured Emperor Constantine the fourth Assembled a strong force and marched to meet these new invaders The Bulgars took a defensive position in a place called own girl in the Danube Delta and a siege began After three days the Emperor boarded a ship and left his army most probably to attend the 6th ecumenical council in his capital Seeing that some of the troops decided to abandon the siege aspera used this opportunity and charged out against the Byzantine forces who began to rout the Bulgars horsemen rode them down all the way to add esos modern day Varna The Byzantine losses were heavy and the following year they signed a peace treaty Which guaranteed the borders of Bulgaria and agreed to pay yearly tribute to the nomads who were here to stay? Constantine was succeeded by Justinian the second in 685 Justinian was very ambitious and wanted to live up to his name in 687 he led successful campaigns against the bull bars and the Slavs He signed a new treaty with the Caliphate according to which Armenia, Cabiria and Cyprus were now in joint possession However in 692 he attacked the Muslims again, and who were soundly defeated at Sebastopol as' in Silesia in 695 Justinian was deposed and a period known as the twenty years of anarchy began Six Emperor's ruled during this period and the Caliphate used this time to take over North Africa and Spain The Arabs were making inroads into Anatolia, and it was clear that Constantinople would be next Emperor Theodosius the third was aware of this danger and in 716 signed an alliance with the Bulgarians Khan Tervel and prepared to defend his capital Stockpiling food and ordering any family who couldn't acquire enough food to last for three years to evacuate the city In 717 the Arabian forces were besieging the city of Amorian At the same time the Strategos of the Anatolian theme Leo rebelled against the Emperor the Muslims tried to take advantage of the situation and Negotiated with them Leo convinced them to pull their forces back promising that he would be their ally once he secured the throne Theodosius was not willing to start yet another civil war and announced his resignation Liova third peacefully took the throne and immediately broke his promise to the Umayyads Caliph Solomon ordered his brother Maslamah ibn Abdul Malek to lead 80,000 men and eight hundred ships to take Constantinople Meanwhile Leo the third began his preparations Envoys were sent to the Bulgars asking for help and the city's fortifications were improved The Arab forces took Abydos in July of 717 and were ferried across the Hellespont They erected two walls by August one facing the city and one defending their camp from the West The Byzantine capital was defended by the Theodosian walls built in the early 5th century 12 metres high and 4 metres deep they were considered impregnable The sea walls built much later. However were significantly weaker the walls were guarded by a 12,000 strong garrison and the city had huge reserves of food the best hope to take Constantinople was from the sea The Arab fleet attempted to pass through the Bosphorus to encircle the city Warships were at the front with supply ships behind them and troop transports at the bank The heavy transports lagged behind and as soon as a gap formed Leo deployed his ships and their Greek fire destroyed part of the transport group Only 20 ships were sunk or burned But this event decreased the morale of the Arabs the Umayyad Navy was successful in blockading the city But there was no assault as it was hard to convince any sailor to engage the Byzantine fleet after what they just saw still communications between Constantinople and the Black Sea were disrupted and the Arabs besieged gallatin Meanwhile a chain was drawn between the city and galata in order to prevent them was lim fleet from entering the Golden Horn The 15,000 Bulgars troops of turbo started appearing in the vicinity of the city in the autumn of 717 It is said that a 4,000 strong Arab foraging party was ambushed and destroyed by the Bulgars The Muslim force is still vastly outnumbered the defenders, but now most of their troops were between two enemy forces The winter was harsh and the Arabs used to a completely different climate began to starve and die Diseases ravaged their camps and yet the siege continued The situation of Muslims forces seemingly was going to improve in the spring as the Caliph sent 20,000 warriors and a few hundred vessels carrying supplies to reinforce the siege However these ships were manned by Christian traders since all the available Muslim sailors were already on the first fleet Many ships along with their crews joined the defenders They also brought valuable reports on the Arab blockade Leo used this information to destroy the northern portion of the Arab fleet using Greek fire The Muslim reinforcements were attacked by the Byzantine forces in Anatolia and Leo who now controlled the northern portion of the Strait managed to land a small force behind them All 20,000 of the reinforcements were killed All that caused an even bigger loss of morale fifteen thousand Arabs attempted to move to the southwest to cross the Hellespont back to Asia But were caught by Tervel and massacred In August of 718 Maslamah received a letter from the Caliph ordering him to lift the siege Thirteen months after the beginning of the siege the Arabs began their retreat The Bulgars used the fact that no one was manning the outer walls to attack them from behind and anywhere between Twenty and thirty thousand Arabs were killed The rest some thirty thousand managed to make it back to Tarsus While the vast majority of the Navy was sunk by a storm and by the Byzantine Navy's harassing them along the way The historical impact of this siege can't be overstated the Arabs suffered their first massive defeat in the war against the Byzantines their road to Central and Eastern Europe was closed and they never again attempted to take Constantinople The Umayyads lost prestige and their best fighters which allowed the Abbasids to overthrow them three decades later The Muslim world was divided not to be united again Thank you for watching our video on the siege of Constantinople We would like to express our gratitude to our patreon supporters who make the creation of our videos possible Now you can also support us directly by a YouTube by pressing the sponsorship button below the video This is the kings and Generals channel, and we will catch you on the next one



Political map of Europe and the Mediterranean
Europe, the Byzantine Empire and the Umayyad empire c. 650

Following the disastrous Battle of Yarmouk in 636, the Byzantine Empire withdrew the bulk of its remaining forces from the Levant into Asia Minor, which was 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, and continued under Mu'awiya, then governor of the Levant.[2][3][4] Mu'awiya also spearheaded the development of a Muslim navy, which within a few years grew sufficiently strong to occupy Cyprus and raid as far as Kos, Rhodes and Crete in the Aegean Sea. Finally, the young Muslim navy scored a crushing victory over its Byzantine counterpart in the Battle of Phoenix in 655.[5][6][7] Following the murder of Caliph Uthman and the outbreak of the First Muslim Civil War, Arab attacks against Byzantium stopped. In 659, Mu'awiya even concluded a truce with Byzantium, including payment of tribute to the Empire.[8]

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.[9][10] 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.[11][12][13] 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, and they spent the winter in the Hexapolis around Melitene awaiting reinforcements.[14][13]

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, and the Arab army was decimated by famine and disease. Mu'awiya dispatched another army, led by his son (and future Caliph) 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, and 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, and probably 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.[15][16] 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.[17]

Opening moves: the campaigns of 672 and 673

The campaign of 669 clearly 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.[18][16][19] 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.[20] The undertaking followed a careful, phased approach: first the Muslims had to secure strongpoints and bases along the coast, and then, with Cyzicus as a base, Constantinople would be blockaded by land and sea and cut off from the agrarian hinterland that supplied its food.[21][22]

Obverse and reverse of gold coin, with a crowned bearded man carrying a spear over his shoulder on the first, and two standing, robed and crowned men carrying globus crucigers on either side of a cross on a pedestal on the second
Gold nomisma of Constantine IV

Accordingly, in 672 three great Muslim fleets were dispatched to secure the sea lanes and establish bases between Syria and the Aegean. Muhammad ibn Abdallah's fleet wintered at Smyrna, a fleet under a certain Qays (perhaps Abdallah ibn Qais) wintered in Lycia and Cilicia, and a third fleet, under Khalid, joined them later. According to the report of Theophanes, the Emperor Constantine IV (r. 661–685), upon learning of the Arab fleets' approach, began equipping his own fleet for war. Constantine's armament included siphon-bearing ships intended for the deployment of a newly developed incendiary substance, Greek fire.[23][16][24] In 673, another Arab fleet, under Gunada ibn Abu Umayya, captured Tarsus in Cilicia, as well as Rhodes. The latter, midway between Syria and Constantinople, was converted into a forward supply base and centre for Muslim naval raids. Its garrison of 12,000 men was regularly rotated back to Syria, a small fleet was attached to it for defence and raiding, and the Arabs even sowed wheat and brought along animals to graze on the island. The Byzantines attempted to obstruct the Arab plans with a naval attack on Egypt, but it was unsuccessful.[25][16] Throughout this period, overland raids into Asia Minor continued, and the Arab troops wintered on Byzantine soil.[26]

Arab attacks and related expeditions in 674–678

Photo of a marble-covered gate complex with two square projecting towers and a walled-in gate
The Golden Gate of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople

In 674, the Arab fleet sailed from its bases in the eastern Aegean and entered the Sea of Marmara. According to the account of Theophanes, they landed on the Thracian shore near Hebdomon in April, and until September were engaged in constant clashes with the Byzantine troops. As the Byzantine chronicler reports, "Every day there was a military engagement from morning until evening, between the outworks of the Golden Gate and the Kyklobion, with thrust and counter-thrust". Then the Arabs departed and made for Cyzicus, which they captured and converted into a fortified camp to spend the winter. This set the pattern that continued throughout the siege: each spring, the Arabs crossed the Marmara and assaulted Constantinople, withdrawing to Cyzicus for the winter.[27][28][16][29] In fact, the "siege" of Constantinople was a series of engagements around the city, which may even be stretched to include Yazid's 669 attack.[30] Both Byzantine and Arab chroniclers record the siege as lasting for seven years instead of five. This can be reconciled either by including the opening campaigns of 672–673, or by counting the years until the final withdrawal of the Arab troops from their forward bases, in 680.[31][30]

Medieval miniature depicting a sailing vessel discharging fire on another boat through a tube
Depiction of the use of Greek fire, from the Madrid Skylitzes. It was used for the first time during the first Arab siege of Constantinople, in 677 or 678.[27]

The details of the clashes around Constantinople are unclear, as Theophanes condenses the siege in his account of the first year, and the Arab chroniclers do not mention the siege at all but merely provide the names of leaders of unspecified expeditions into Byzantine territory.[32][33][34] Thus from the Arab sources it is only known that Abdallah ibn Qays and Fadhala ibn 'Ubayd raided Crete and wintered there in 675, while in the same year Malik ibn Abdallah led a raid into Asia Minor. The Arab historians Ibn Wadih and al-Tabari report that Yazid was dispatched by Mu'awiya with reinforcements to Constantinople in 676, and record that Abdallah ibn Qays led a campaign in 677, the target of which is unknown.[35][16][36]

At the same time, the preoccupation with the Arab threat had reduced Byzantium's ability to respond to threats elsewhere: in Italy, the Lombards used the opportunity to conquer most of Calabria, including Tarentum and Brundisium, while in the Balkans, a coalition of Slavic tribes attacked the city of Thessalonica and launched seaborne raids in the Aegean, even penetrating into the Sea of Marmara.[37][38]

Finally, in autumn 677 or early 678 Constantine IV resolved to confront the Arab besiegers in a head-on engagement. His fleet, equipped with Greek fire, routed the Arab fleet. It is probable that the death of admiral Yazid ibn Shagara, reported by Arab chroniclers for 677/678, is related to this defeat. At about the same time, the Muslim army in Asia Minor, under the command of Sufyan ibn 'Awf, was defeated by the Byzantine army under the generals Phloros, Petron and Cyprian, losing 30,000 men according to Theophanes. These defeats forced the Arabs to abandon the siege in 678. On its way back to Syria, the Arab fleet was almost annihilated in a storm off Syllaion.[27][33][37][34]

The essential outline of Theophanes' account may be corroborated by the only near-contemporary Byzantine reference to the siege, a celebratory poem by the otherwise unknown Theodosius Grammaticus, which was earlier believed to refer to the second Arab siege of 717–718. Theodosius' poem commemorates a decisive naval victory before the walls of the city—with the interesting detail that the Arab fleet too possessed fire-throwing ships—and makes a reference to "the fear of their returning shadows", which may be interpreted as confirming the recurring Arab attacks each spring from their base in Cyzicus.[39]

Importance and aftermath

Constantinople was the nerve centre of the Byzantine state. Had it fallen, the Empire's remaining provinces would have been unlikely to hold together, and would have become easy prey for the Arabs.[40] At the same time, the failure of the Arab attack on Constantinople was a momentous event in itself. It marked the culmination of Mu'awiya's campaign of attrition, pursued steadily since 661. Immense resources were poured into the undertaking, including the creation of a huge fleet. Its failure had similarly important repercussions, and represented a major blow to the Caliph's prestige.[41] Conversely, Byzantine prestige reached new heights, especially in the West: Constantine IV received envoys from the Avars and the Balkan Slavs, bearing gifts and congratulations and acknowledging Byzantine supremacy.[27] The subsequent peace also gave a much-needed respite from constant raiding to Asia Minor, and allowed the Byzantine state to recover its balance and consolidate itself following the cataclysmic changes of the previous decades.[42]

The failure of the Arabs before Constantinople coincided with the increased activity of the Mardaites, a Christian group living in the mountains of Syria that resisted Muslim control and raided the lowlands. Faced with this new threat, and after the immense losses suffered against the Byzantines, Mu'awiya began negotiations for a truce, with embassies exchanged between the two courts. These were drawn out until 679, giving the Arabs time for a last raid into Asia Minor under 'Amr ibn Murra, perhaps intended to put pressure on the Byzantines. The peace treaty, of a nominal 30-year duration, provided that the Caliph would pay an annual tribute of 3,000 nomismata, 50 horses and 50 slaves. The Arab garrisons were withdrawn from their bases on the Byzantine coastlands, including Rhodes, in 679–680.[27][43][44][45]

Soon after the Arab retreat from his capital, Constantine IV quickly sent an expedition against the Slavs in the area of Thessalonica, curtailing their piracy, relieving the city and restoring imperial control over the city's surroundings.[45][46] Following the conclusion of peace, he moved against the mounting Bulgar menace in the Balkans, but his huge army, comprising all the available forces of the Empire, was decisively beaten, opening the way for the establishment of a Bulgar state in the northeastern Balkans.[47][48]In the Muslim world, after the death of Mu'awiya in 680, the various forces of opposition within the Caliphate manifested themselves. The Caliphate's division during this Second Muslim Civil War allowed Byzantium to achieve not only peace, but also a position of predominance on its eastern frontier. Armenia and Iberia reverted for a time to Byzantine control, and Cyprus became a condominium between Byzantium and the Caliphate.[49][50] The peace lasted until Constantine IV's son and successor, Justinian II (r. 685–695, 705–711), broke it in 693, with devastating consequences: the Byzantines were defeated, Justinian was deposed and a twenty-year period of anarchy followed. Muslim incursions intensified, leading to a second Arab attempt at conquering Constantinople in 717–718, which also proved unsuccessful.[51][52][53]

Cultural impact

Photo of old two-storey building covered in blue Iznik tiles, with a prostyle portico and windows on the upper storey
Building that houses the tomb of Abu Ayyub at Eyüp Sultan Mosque complex

Later Arab sources dwell extensively on the events of Yazid's 669 expedition and supposed attack on Constantinople, including various mythical anecdotes, which are taken by modern scholarship to refer to the events of the 674–678 siege. Several important personalities of early Islam are mentioned as taking part, such as Ibn Abbas, Ibn Umar and Ibn al-Zubayr.[54][55] The most prominent among them in later tradition is Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, one of the early companions (Anṣār) and standard-bearer of Muhammad, who died of illness before the city walls during the siege and was buried there. According to Muslim tradition, Constantine IV threatened to destroy his tomb, but the Caliph warned that if he did so, the Christians under Muslim rule would suffer. Thus the tomb was left in peace, and even became a site of veneration by the Byzantines, who prayed there in times of drought. The tomb was "rediscovered" after the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 by the dervish Sheikh Ak Shams al-Din, and Sultan Mehmed II (r. 1444–1446, 1451–1481) ordered the construction of a marble tomb and a mosque adjacent to it. It became a tradition that Ottoman sultans were girt with the Sword of Osman at the Eyüp mosque upon their accession. Today it remains one of the holiest Muslim shrines in Istanbul.[56][57][58]

This siege is even mentioned in the Chinese dynastic histories of the Old Book of Tang and New Book of Tang.[59] They record that the large, well-fortified capital city of Fu lin (拂菻, i.e. Byzantium) was besieged by the Da shi (大食, i.e. the Umayyad Arabs) and their commander "Mo-yi" (Chinese: 摩拽伐之, Pinyin: Mó zhuāi fá zhī), who Friedrich Hirth has identified as Mu'awiya.[59] The Chinese histories then explain that the Arabs forced the Byzantines to pay tribute afterwards as part of a peace settlement.[59] In these Chinese sources, Fu lin was directly related to the earlier Daqin,[59] which is now considered by modern sinologists as the Roman Empire.[60][61] Henry Yule remarked with some surprise the accuracy of the account in Chinese sources, which even named the negotiator of the peace settlement as "Yenyo", or Ioannes Pitzigaudes, the unnamed envoy sent to Damascus in Edward Gibbon's account in which he mentions an augmentation of tributary payments a few years later due to the Umayyads facing some financial troubles.[62]

Modern reassessment of the events

The narrative of the siege accepted by modern historians relies largely on Theophanes' account, while the Arab and Syriac sources do not mention any siege, but rather individual campaigns, only a few of which reached as far as Constantinople. Thus the capture of an island named Arwad "in the sea of Kustantiniyya" is recorded for 673/674, although it is unclear if this refers to the Sea of Marmara or the Aegean, and Yazid's 676 expedition is also said to have reached Constantinople. The Syriac chroniclers also disagree with Theophanes in placing the decisive battle and destruction of the Arab fleet by Greek fire in 674 during an Arab expedition against the coasts of Lycia and Cilicia, rather than Constantinople. This was followed by the landing of Byzantine forces in Syria in 677/678, which began the Mardaite uprising that threatened the Caliphate's grip on Syria enough to result in the peace agreement of 678/679.[63][64][65]

Based on a re-evaluation of the original sources used by the medieval historians, the Oxford scholar James Howard-Johnston, in his acclaimed[66] 2010 book Witnesses to a World Crisis: Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century, rejects the traditional interpretation of events, based on Theophanes, in favour of the Syriac chroniclers' version. Howard-Johnston asserts that no siege actually took place, based not only on its absence in the eastern sources, but also on the logistical impossibility of such an undertaking for the duration reported. Instead, he believes that the reference to a siege was a later interpolation, influenced by the events of the second Arab siege of 717–718, by an anonymous source that was then used by Theophanes. According to Howard-Johnston, "The blockade of Constantinople in the 670s is a myth which has been allowed to mask the very real success achieved by the Byzantines in the last decade of Mu'awiya’s caliphate, first by sea off Lycia and then on land, through an insurgency which, before long, aroused deep anxiety among the Arabs, conscious as they were that they had merely coated the Middle East with their power".[67]

On the other hand, the historian Marek Jankowiak argues that a major Arab siege did occur but that Theophanes (writing about 140 years after the events, based on an anonymous source itself written about 50 years after the events) misdated and garbled the events, and that the proper dating of the siege should be 667–669, with spring 668 for the major attack.[68]


  1. ^ Shaw, Jeffrey M.; Demy, Timothy J. (2017). War and Religion: An Encyclopedia of Faith and Conflict [3 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 201. ISBN 9781610695176. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  2. ^ Kaegi 2008, pp. 369ff..
  3. ^ Lilie 1976, pp. 60–68.
  4. ^ Treadgold 1997, pp. 303–307, 310, 312–313.
  5. ^ Kaegi 2008, p. 372.
  6. ^ Lilie 1976, pp. 64–68.
  7. ^ Treadgold 1997, pp. 312–313.
  8. ^ Lilie 1976, p. 68.
  9. ^ Lilie 1976, p. 69.
  10. ^ Treadgold 1997, p. 318.
  11. ^ Kaegi 2008, pp. 373, 375.
  12. ^ Lilie 1976, pp. 69–71.
  13. ^ a b Treadgold 1997, p. 320.
  14. ^ Lilie 1976, pp. 71–72.
  15. ^ Lilie 1976, pp. 72–74, 90.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Treadgold 1997, p. 325.
  17. ^ Lilie 1976, pp. 73–74.
  18. ^ Lilie 1976, p. 75.
  19. ^ Mango & Scott 1997, p. 492.
  20. ^ Lilie 1976, p. 76 (note #61).
  21. ^ Haldon 1990, p. 63.
  22. ^ Lilie 1976, pp. 90–91.
  23. ^ Lilie 1976, pp. 75, 90–91.
  24. ^ Mango & Scott 1997, p. 493.
  25. ^ Lilie 1976, pp. 76–77.
  26. ^ Lilie 1976, pp. 74–76.
  27. ^ a b c d e Haldon 1990, p. 64.
  28. ^ Lilie 1976, pp. 77–78.
  29. ^ Mango & Scott 1997, pp. 493–494.
  30. ^ a b Mango & Scott 1997, p. 494 (note #3).
  31. ^ Lilie 1976, p. 80 (note #73).
  32. ^ Brooks 1898, pp. 187–188.
  33. ^ a b Lilie 1976, pp. 78–79.
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