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 fall was not a major military disaster, but a traumatic event for the Byzantines, its impact resonating in later literature. The sack did not ultimately alter the balance of power, which was slowly shifting in Byzantium’s favour, but it thoroughly discredited the theological doctrine of Iconoclasm.
About Sack of Amorium in brief
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 personally by the Caliph al-Mu’tasim, in retaliation to a virtually unopposed expedition launched by the Byzantine emperor Theophilos into the Caliphate’s borderlands the previous year. The fall was not a major military disaster, but a traumatic event for the Byzantines, its impact resonating in later literature. The sack did not ultimately alter the balance of power, which was slowly shifting in Byzantium’s favour, but it thoroughly discredited the theological doctrine of Iconoclasm, ardently supported by the emperor. As Iconoclasms relied heavily on military success for its legitimization, the fall of AmOrium contributed decisively to its abandonment shortly after Theophillos’s death in 842. 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 Constantinople itself, and his brother and successor al-tasim withdrew to focus on internal matters. In the next few years, the emperor began to associate himself with the type of militarily successful and iconoclast emperor Constantine V. Constantine issued a series of public statements in support of the iconophiles and issued a new name, Theophobos. The emperor’s successes were not particularly spectacular, but coming after two decades of defeats and civil war under iconophile emperors, they were particularly spectacular.
In 829, when the young emperor Thephilos ascended the Byzantine throne, the Arabs had been fighting on and off for almost two centuries. At this time, Arab attacks resumed both in the east and in the west, where after almost twenty years of peace due to the AbbasID civil war, Caliphate al- Ma’mun launched several large- scale raids, and in West, where the gradual Muslim conquest of Sicily was under way since 827. Many of its inhabitants were slaughtered, and 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 later after refusing to convert to Islam, becoming known as the 42 Martyrs of Am orium. Theophilios was an ambitious man and also a convinced adherent of Byzantine Iconoclastism, 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 Abbasir Caliphate, the Empire’s major antagonist. His son and successor, al-Tahrir, succeeded him in 833, but he was unable to achieve a few modest victories as well as bolster his forces with some 14,000 Khurramite refugees under their leader Nasruramite leader Babak Khorram.