Today(?) in Middle Eastern history: the Sack of Amorium (838)

The 1071 Battle of Manzikert and the political chaos that ensued ended a period of around two centuries during which the Byzantine Empire seemed to be finally making a comeback. After having endured massive losses in the early Arab conquests, then having survived several offensives by the Umayyad Caliphate, and then having watched pieces of their remaining empire get chipped away by the Abbasid Caliphate, starting in the 860s the Byzantines went on an offensive that stop until the mid 11th century. In the process, the empire managed to push its eastern frontier well beyond its previous border into territory long thought lost to the Muslims. This was also a period when Byzantium, under the Macedonian dynasty, reimposed imperial control over southern Italy and pretty much the entire Balkan region. After a couple of centuries of struggle the empire had entered a new period of expansion and security.

The Sack of Amorium precedes this period of renewed Byzantine power and represents, in some respects, rock bottom for the empire (at least on the Muslim front). Consequently it’s easy to overlook since, as a caliphal victory that was then followed by almost two centuries of Byzantine expansion, its long-term impact on history is somewhat limited. But the effect Amorium had on the empire helped bring about the Macedonian dynasty and usher in the aforementioned Byzantine resurgence. In full disclosure there’s no firm consensus on when, exactly, Amorium’s sacking took place other than we know it happened in the middle of August. Today is one of several possible dates, and it happens to be one on which we don’t have any of these other “today in history” posts, so I’m going with that.

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