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VOLS VII-VIII, 1999-2000




University of Ioannina


The conquest of Crete by the Andalusians (c. 8241 has been considered a turning point in the struggle between the Byzantine Empire and the Arabs in the Eastern Mediterranean.' A Muslim state and not a "corsairs' nest", as it is still erroneously considered by many hisrorians.' the newly-created Emirate of Crete tipped the scaie in favor of the Islamic navie 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 Nicephoro Ph ok as in March 961. Moreover. it will attempt to clarify certain problems concerning ~be.1;<.hronojogy of the e 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 II is plagued by problems of chronology.' So. it is impossible to date accurately the fir t 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, XOpYfs toii f3aOlAt;.(,oiJ btnoatoaiou (Count of the Imperial Stables). The account is straightforward enough: soon after the Arabs landed in

* J would like to express my gratitude to Professors V Christides and T. G. Kolias of the University of!

Ioannina. who saved me from many errors of cornrnis ion or omis ion in this paper. Responsibility for any. remaininz errors is. of course. entire Iv mine.

I V ~ Christides, The Conquest oi Crete by [he Arabs (CO 82</) . .-\ T urning Point in [he Struggle between I Bvt.antium and islam, Athens 1984. See also D. Tsougarakis. Bvrantine Crete from the 5th Century 10 the I venetian Conquest (!<n:OptKES MovO"!pa<plE'; 4), Athens 1988. especially the econd pan which deals wuh Cretan mediaeval archaeology and is a good example of the use of landscape archaeology in Byzantine studies: [he first. historical part. however. leaves a lot to be desired.

2 G. Ostrogorsky. Historyofthe Bvrantine Stare, New Brunswick 1969.28:2: M. Canard. "Iqritish". The Encyclopaedia oflstam', III, Leiden - London 1971. 1082·l 086. For further research on the civilisation and culture of the Emirate of Crete see V. Chrisrides, "Raid and Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean: A Treatise. by Muhammad bn. 'Umar. the Faqih from Occupied Moslem Crete. and the Rhodian Sea Law. Two Parallel Texts", Graeco-Arabica 5 (1993) 63-i02.

3 For an account of the Andalusian invasion of Crete. based on Arabic and Byzantine sources. see Christides, Conquest. 81·95.



what seemed to them a "promised land". Emperor Michael II 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. In the 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' 5 favourites saved him from

disgrace and he was appointed general ofSicily." '

. The expedition of Crateros is also narrated with some clarity in the sources, The general of the Cibyrrhaeots, 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 modem authorities. for the reason that it dependf'almost totaliy on the dating of the Andalusian landing on Crete, which, owing to the Arabic and S yriac 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 ortwo years between the Arab landing and Michael's death in October 829. Therefore,

4 Theophanes Continuarus, 76, 7 -77,3 (unless otherwise indicated. all references to Byzantine sources are in the Bonn corpus); 1. Scylitzes, 43, 53-67 (ed. H. Thurn, loannis Scylitzae Synopsis Historiarum [Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 5], Berlin-New York 1973). See also Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, t1-1-43; W. T. TreadgoJd, The Byzantine Revival 780-842. Stanford 1988.253-254 and 429. n. 353; Canard,

"Iqritish", 1083. .

5 According to Pseudo-Symeon Magister, 623, II, Crateros had 200 ships. This is clearly an exaggeration: Crateros was in command of the forces of the Cibyrrhaeotic theme, which were later divided between the Cibyrrhaeots, Samos and Aegean Sea themes. All three themes had a total of between 70 and 80 warships in 911 (Ch. G. Makrypouiias, "The Navy in the Works of Constantine Porphyrogenitus", Graeco-Arabica 6 (1995) 152-17 J. here 157), Treadgold, Revival, 235 and 424, n. 326, was the first to notice this similarity in numbers.

6 Theoph. Cont., 79. 13-81, 5; Pseudo-Syrn. Mag .. 623, 8-23; 1. Genesios. 34. 36-60 (ed.

A. Lesrnuller- Werner - H, Thurn. Iosephi Genesii Regum libri quattuor [Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 14]. Berlin-New York J 978); Scylitzes, 45. J -28 (ed. Thurn). See also Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete. 43-45; Treadgold, Revival. 255 and 429, n. 355; Canard, "Iqritish". 1083. Of particular interest to the iconography of this event in Scylitzes is [he paper of V. Christi des. "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 lranica, Wiesbaden 1989,53-64.

7 For the problem of dating the Andalusian invasion of Crete see Christides, Conquest, 85-88, and Treadgold, Revival. 2S 1 and 4'27-428,n. 347. Chrisrides 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, give conflicting accounts.


they are forced to the assumption that the aforementioned campaigns extend into the first years of the reign of Michael's sory, Theophilos.t This, however, contradicts almost every source that refers to these expeditions, which clearly state that both Photeinos-Damianos and Ctateros, as well as Ooryphas and his highly-paid expeditionary force, were sent to the waters of Crete by Emperor Michael the Amorian:" There is no way out of this dead end other than to accept the fact that the Arab invasion and conquest (or, rather, the beginning of conquest) of Crete took place earlier than 827 or 828;;in fact soon after the end of the rebellion of Thomas the Slav, as most Byzantine historians and chroniclers clearly state. A more precise dating will now be attempted.

The date of the expedition of Photeinos and Damianos should not be very far from, nor very near, the initial Arab landing. Theophanes Continuatus' phrase "a not very long time had passed" (X(!OVOr; bE E(!QVTf nOAVr; oVOaj.1Wr;) refers to the arrival of the news of the invasion at Constantinople. 10 However, it is one thing to order a campaign to be launched and quite another to prepare one. Damianos' expedition must have taken some time to prepare; 11 let us not forget also the fact that reinforcements were requested by Photeinos only after he had already gone to Crete to evaluate the situation personally. This explains the fact that the Arabs were intercepted by the Byzantine army at the northern part of Crete, whereas the Andalusians had, in all probability, landed on the southern coast. 12 It must have been s01.i1ellme before the Arabs moved out from Charax towards the region of Knossos, where they decided to build their City of the Moat,

8 Tsougarakis. Byzantine Crete, 41-43. However. cf. W. T. Treadgold. "The Chronological Accuracy of the Chronicle of Symeon the Logothete for the Years 813-845". Dumbarton Oaks Papers 33 (1979) 159- 197, here i 67; based on the narration of Leo Grammaticos (=S ymeon the Logothete), he clear! y places all three operations within the reign of Michael II. See also R. J. H. Jenkins, Byrantium: The imperial Centuries AD 610- 1071, London 1966, 144, who also dates all three expeditions (he believes that Ooryphas landed on Crete) during the reign of Michael.

9 Even Pseudo-Phrantzes (ed. Y. Grecu, Georgios Sphrantzes, Memorii 1401-1477, Bucarest 1966), although dating the expedition of Photeinos and Darnianos in A. M. 6340 (A. D. 831-832), clearly states that it was during the reign of Emperor Michael (Pseudo-Phrantzes, 240, 1-2 and cf. 238. 26-31, ed. Grecu). Tsougarakis. Bvtantine Crete, 42, mentions the fact that Pseudo-Phrantzes dates the expedition in 831-832. but fails to notice that it is probably an error; see his remarks on Pseudo-Phrantzes' dating of the expedition of Nicephoros Phokas in A. D. 859-860 (Tsougarakis, ibid.i, On Pseudo-Phrantzes, his identification with the l oth-century bishop Makarios Melissenos and the relation of his work to the diary/history of Georgios Phrantzes. see H. Hunger, Die hochsprachliche profane Liieratur der Byzantiner, I, Munich 1978,494-499.

10 Theoph. Cont., 76, 7-8.

II That most of the troops who fought in the battle against the Arabs were pan of Darnianos' expeditionary force is evident from the fact that they lost heart and ned the battlefield as soon as Darnianos was killed (Theoph. Cont., 76, 20-22; Pseudo-Phrantzes. 238. 31-32, ed. Grecu).

12 The site ofrhe Arab landing is probably to be identified with modern Cape Lithinon, in the south shore of Crete, in the bay of Messara, where a place called Charax still exists today. See Aikaterini Christophilopoulou, Bv~avr{vr,·loTOQ{a'2. B' 1, Thessaloniki 1993. 198, with bibliography. and Christides, Conquest, 91-92, with bibliography. Those who believe that the Andalusians landed on the northwest part of the island, in the bay of Suda (see A. A. Vasiliev, Byrance et les Arabes, L Brussels 1935.55 and n. 2:

Treadgold, Revival, 253 and ·Q8-429. n. 352) fail to take into consideration the fact that the Arabs were coming from Egypt and not from Spain as some contemporary chroniclers seem [0 believe; the bay of

Messara is the best place on which to land for someone sailing from Ezvpr. '-"



Chandax. On the other hand. the fortifications of the city were far from complete by the time the Byzantines alTiv~d, otherwise the Arabs would have sought protection within their city.':' So, it would seem thatthe expedition was launched some time after the Arab landing, but at a point in time not very far from it.

The chronology of the expedition of Photeinos and Damianos can also be verified by relating it to the events of Sicily. Treadgold, using the same method, reached the conclusion that this first Byzantine campaign against the Emirate of Crete took place after 827, because it was led by the general of the Anatolics and the Count of the Stables, not by the admiral of the Imperial Fleet or the general of the Cibyrrhaeots, Peloponnesos or Cephalenia, who he assumes were fighting in Sicily.l" However, this argument does not really have a leg to stand upon. At no time was an emperor required to sent a specific official to a specific expedition. In fact, most emperors chose the leaders of military operations according to varying and, often. totally irrelevant standards. The fact that the general of the Anatolics and the Count of the Stables, not the droungarios of the Imperial Fleet or some other general officer, were sent to Crete is meaningless or, in any case. it does not mean that other commanders were unavailable to the Emperor.

There is. nevertheless, a close connection between operations in Crete and those in Sicily. To begin with, expeditions to recapture Crete could have been launched only as long as the manpower avaiiable to-the''Byzantines was not needed elsewhere. This means that from mid-827 onwards. i.e. after the Arab invasion of Sicily, all large-scale operations against the Emirate of Crete must have been discontinued. Perhaps that explains why Ooryphas force. efficient though it was said to be, was used only to prorect the Cyclades, not to attack Crete. [5 Secondly, there is the fact that Michael II appointed Photeinos general of the theme of Sicily.'? Now. we know reasonably certainly that, at the time of the Arab invasion of Sicily (826-827), the general of Sicily was called Constantine. 17 This means (unless Constantine and Photeinosare one and the same, which is highly unlikely)" that Photeinos was appointed general either a year or two before, or else after the invasion. But. favourite or not, Photeinos would have never been appointed commander of a war zone after he had failed in another war zone. Also, it

13 One could argue that the Cretan Arabs chose to face the Byzantines in open terrain, either because of their numerical superiority or because they had faith in their ability to win a pitched battle. However, a passage in loannis Carniniates (ed. G. Bohlig, loannis Caminiatae De Expugnatione Thessalonicae [Corpus Fontiurn Historiae Byzantinae 4 L Berlin-New York 1973) shows that in 904 the Arabs of Crete were terrified when an approaching Arab fleet was mistaken for a Byzantine one "for they were not prepared for war" (57. 77-81). This refers more probably to preparations to withstand a siege. rather than to an ordinary pitched battle. It would seem that pitched battles were not the preferred mode of facing a Byzantine invasion of the island. For further comments. see the pan on strategy and tactics below.

14 Treadgold. Revival, 253-254 and 429. n. 353.

15 Only Pseudo-Syrn. Mag., 622. 23-623.5 claims that Ooryphas force landed on Crete. bur this eerns

rather improbable.

16 Theoph. Cont.. 77. 2-3: Scylitzes. 43. 65-67 (ed. Thurn): Vasiliev. Bvzance. I. 67. n.1. i7 Vasiliev, Bvt.ance. 1. 59. n. 2, and 67, n. I.

! 8 in this I totally agree with Tsougarakis, Bviantine Crete. 41. against Vasiliev. Bvzance, [,59, n. 2. and [,7 n 1


seems natural to assume that Michael would have given his friend a quiet district to command. The only logical conclusion is that Photeinos, having lost both his Anatolic and his Cretan command, was appointed general of the theme of Sicily before 826-827, possibly a year or two before the Arab invasion of the island of Sicily. That puts the first expedition against the Emirate of Crete somewhere close to c. 825. It is. therefore, more probable that the Anda!usian landing on Crete took place c. 824, r~ther than 827 or 828.

Crateros' campaign follows close behind that of Photeinos and Darnianos. The sources seem to indicate that it was launched not very long after the first one had failed. Also, the fact that Byzantines and Arabs were again engaged in a pitched battle most likely proves that the fortifications of al-Khandaq had not yet been compieted. According to Pseudo-Phrantzes, this second expedition was dispatched by Michael II a year after the first one.!" Dating this expedition to c. 825-826, therefore. does not seem very far-fetched.

The expedition of the logothetes Theoctistos is one of the few that can be dated with accuracy. According to the sources, it sailed from Constantinople on J 8 March, 843.20 Unfortunately, although well informed on the date of its departure. the sources do not provide us with a detailed narrative of its operations. We are only told that. because of rumours that the Queen-Mother Theodora had appointed another co-regent. Theoctistos hastily returned to Constantinople, leaving his troops behind to be slaughtered by the Arabs of Crete." It would seem that the actual commander of the expeditionary force was the magister Sergios Nicetiates, a rather obscure figure in the history of the reigns of Theophilos and Michael Ill, who died (possibly of natural causes) on the island, presumably while hew-as in command of the army left there by Theoctistos. Nicetiates had been originally linked to the 866 campaign. but recent research has shown that he is to be associated with this expedition instead.F

Twenty-three years elapsed before the Byzantines mounted another expedition against the Emirate of Crete. This time it was organized by the Caesar Bardas, who had succeeded his sister Theodora and the logothetes Theoctistos as the power behind the throne of Michael III. The campaign was launched on Easter Sunday (7 April, 866)23 and ;eems to have been a large-scale one, since Bardas and many high-ranking commanders

19 P eudo- Phraruzes. ~40. IO-I I ted. Grecu). We do not know the sources of Makarios Melissenos' .hapter on the history of Arab-held Crete. His exact dares are plainly wrong (see n. 9). but it is not impossible hat some of the facts behind his account are based on solid evidence. perhaps a local chronicle; it must be toted that he is correct in dating certain phases of the island's Arab occupation to the times of the emperors vlichael n. Basil I and Romanos II. At any rate. one year is a reasonable enough interlude between the two expeditions. Treadgolds narration or the events (Revival. ~53·254. 255) is too condensed.

20 Georgios Monacho Coruinuarus, 814.14-15; Leo Grarnrnaticos. 229,1-2.

21 Georg. Mon. Com.. 814.14-815.5: Pseudo-Syrn. Mag .. 654.12-15; Leo Gram .. 229.1-2. See also Vasiliev. Bvz.ance. L i 94-19:: Tsougarakis. Bvrantine Crete. 46-48: Canard, "Iqritish". 1 083; Treadgold, 'Chronological Accuracy". 191·191.

22 See Tsougarakis. Bvcantine Crete . .:17--18. with bibliography

23 Georg. Mon. Cont.. 829, 2J-:~::; Leo Gram .. 244.1-3. For the date or Easier in 866 see Y Grumel. La .hronoloeie . Paris 1958. 276.


'took part in it - not 10 mention the fact that it was led, for the first time. by an emperor in person. This ambitious expedition came to an abrupt end two weeks later. however, when Basil the Macedonian, Bardas' rival and future emperor, murdered Bardas (in the ,Emperor's presencs:) while the armada and expeditionary force were encamped at Kepoi, on the mouth of the River Maeander in the coast of Asia Minor (21 April).24

The reign of Basil I saw a number of clashes between the Bvzantines and the Arabs of Crete, but no further expeditions against the island." It was his son, Leo VI who decided to launch another expedition, led by his trusted official Himerios, to recapture Crete. It is the first campaign for which we have a great deal of details, thanks to the inclusion in Constantine Porphyrogenitus' De Cerimoniis aulae Bvzantinae of a number of official documents concerning its preparation" Its date. however. is as problematic as that of the first expeditions. The expedition is not mentioned by contemporary historians (not specifically, at any rate):]! thus. we have to rely on the reconstruction of R. J. H. Jenkins.28 According to the British scholar, the expedition sailed from Constantinople in October 91129 and lasted for 8 months. ending in disaster when the Byzantine fleet was destroyed by the Arabs off Chios '? in late April or early May. 91231

The documents collected in the De Cerimoniis provide us with enough information to make this one of the best documented expeditions in Byzantine military history. The naval forces on campaign consisted of lob-ships of the Imperial Fleet and 77 ships of the

24 Theoph Com., 235. 17-238. 10; Georg. Mon. Cont., 829. 4-83 L 10: Leo Gram .. 243, 6-245, 8:

Scylitzes, 128,27-38 (ed. Thurn). See also Vasiliev. Bvt.ance. L 258-260; Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete. 49:

Canard. "lqruish", 1083.

25 For a short account of the naval engagements between the Cretan and other Arabs and the. usually victorious, Byzantine navy under admirals Naser and Niketas Ooryphas. see Christophilopoulou. 't otooia', B' 1,26-28. based mainly on the narration of Theophanes Continuatus. Curiously enough. P. Yannopoulos,

~ OQYUVWOTj TOU Alya(ou xma T~,!J.eaoi3v~avrLV1J1eQ((){)o". Ilaovaaoo; 32 (1990) 200-224. here 2! 9. n. 92; seems to beheve that the campalgils of Naser and Niketas Ooryphas were actually aimed against the island itself: also. he mentions only Ooryphas as leading an expedition against Crete during the reign of Michael [J. He is probably following Helene Ahrweiler. Bviance et fa mer. La marine de guerre. la politique et les institutions maritimes de Bvzance aux VJJIe-XVe steeles. Paris 1966. 112-1 14.

26 Constantine Porphyrogenirus. De Cerimoniis aulae Byrantinae. 651. 14-660. 12.

27 Cf. Theoph. Conr .. 376. 23-377, 4. 379. 22-380.4: Pseudo-Syrn. Mag .. 7! 5. 7- 1 I, 7! 7.8-12: this has led Ahrweiler. Mer. 113. n. 4. to assume that this particular expedition never reached Crete: see. however. the arguments of Tsougarakis, Bvt antine Crete. 54. n. ! 28. W T. Treadgold. "The Army in the Works of Constantine Porphyrogenitus". Rivista di Studi Bycantini e Neoellenici n.s. 29 (1991) 77-] 62. here 100-101 and n. 65. also doubts that Hirnerios ever reached Crete.

28 R. 1. H. Jenkins. "The Date of Leo VI's Cretan Expedition". in !7QOOrpoQG. ei: Irtic.:;wva Il .

K v()wxi(jTJv, Thessaloniki 1953, 27L~8 L

29 R. J. H. Jenkins. "The Chronological Accuracy of the 'Logothete for the Years A.D. 867·91r.

Dumbarton Oaks Papers J 9 (1965) 89-112. here 105-106. amending his older views on the subject ("Cretan Expedition". 278·279. 281 J. which dated the beginning of the expedition in july. For the dating of the expedition in the year 911 see Jenkins. "Cretan Expedition". 277-278.

30 Ibid .. 279.

3] Ibid .. 279-280. See also Tsougarakis. By::.amine Crete. 54-55: .A.. A. Vasiliev, Bvz.ance et les Arabes.

II. i. Brussels 1968. 214: Jenkins. Imperial Centuries. 210



thematic flotillas. a grand total of 177 warships.V They were carrying or escorting a force of5937 soldiers. probably cavalry." The cost of the expedition seems to have risen to a total of 239128 nomismata on campaign pay alone." Also of interest are the steps taken by the Byzantines towards gathering intelligence and preventing intelligence from reaching the Arabs of Syria, a precaution against the fearsome Syrian fleet that seems to have been without success.P

The expedition of 949 has a number of similarities and points of difference with the expedition of Himerios. Consisting of only 128 ships of the line." and 4186land troops" (although the figures are much debatedj." i l was more modest than that of 91l.

32 De Cer .. 652, 10-13: 652, 15-653.3: 653, 5-8; 653, 10-12: 653. 15-16; see also Makrypoulias, "Navy". 156-! 57. In De Cer .. 654, 3-5, the total is given as 11:: drornons and 75pamphyloi: it should be emended to 102 drornons ((43' instead of QI{Jl. For the ship types mentioned in the do uments see Makrypoulias. "Navy", 162-168. Treadgold. "Army", I 10- J I J and cf. the table in 152. claims that only j 19 ships were sent: he puts the Imperial Fleer's expeditionary force at 52 ships, instead of 100. and he al 0 discounts the 10 ships' of the theme of He!!as.

33 De Cer .. 656, 3-4. It would seem that 6037 men were originally designated to go on campaign (De Cer .. 652. 3-71: the difference is due to the fact that 400 Armenians of Priene took part (De Cer.. 656, ! -2), instead of the original 500 (De Cer .. 652, 6-7); for this and a further discrepancy in the number of the Armenians of Sebasteia see Treadgold. "Army". W2and [he table in ISO. Tsougarakis. Byzantine Crete. 54, mistakenly adds the Russians and Mardaitai to the land troops: they belonged to the navy, as the documents clearly show. Treadgold. "Army", 1 09, believes, despite the documents' evidence to the contrary, that some of the troops were infantry.

34 De Cer., 654, 7-656, 6. These documents contain some corruptions and inaccuracies that make the computing of the payrolls difficult. Salaries for the navy totalled almo t certainly 209802 nomismata (not 209804: see Treadgold, "Army", 102-103). The army payrolls, however, are not clear. The documents provide us witf conflicting sums and totals: De Cer .. 655, 12-15 gives a partial total of 2 centenaria. 24 pounds. 48 nomismata - after emending the texts somewhat (see Treadgold, "Army", 103) - while 656, 3-4, states that the subtotal is 2 centenaria, S4 pounds, 38 nomismata, The same is true of 655, 15-656.3 (1 cent .. 82 pounds, 32 nom.) and 656, 4-5 (J cent., 52 pounds, 56 nom.). I have preferred the documents' grand total for the aJl11Y (De Cer., 656, 5-6: 4 centenaria, 7 pounds, 22 nomismatay; probably the error lies in the sums for tne tagrnatic troops (10716 nom.) or the Armenians of Sebasteia (8160 nom.), or both: the other sums can ail be corroborated. Treadgold. "Army", 108 and 150, mistakenly puts Sebasteias total at 8150 nomismata: nevertheless, his total is correct (ibid., 151). Cf. idem, The Bvzaniine Stale Finances in the Eighth and Ninth Centuries. New York 1982,35. Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, 54, states the expedition's total cost as 270002 gold pieces.

35 De co.. 656, 18-657,6; 660, 7-12. See also V. Christides. "Military Intelligence in Arabo-Byzantine Naval Warfare". in K. Tsiknakis (ed.). To EWr.ok,uo Bvl;dv7:lo, Athens 1997,269-281.

36 De Cer .. 664,13-15.665,2-4: 665, 6-8: 665,18-19.

37 It seems that originally 4700 troops were to be sent to Crete (De Cer., 666, 1-667, I I): the difference in numbers is due to the fact that at a later stage it was decided to reduce the participation of the Opsician Slavs from 220 to 127 (De Cer .. 666, 15-16: 669, 10-12) and to the lack of troop-carriers for 550 A rrnenians guarding [he Thracesian littoral (De Cer., 663, 1:2-J6: 667,3-6). Also. the original plan did not include (at least. it was not clearly stated in some of the documents) the retinue and staff of the general of the Thracesian theme and two of his officers. a total of 129 officers and men (De Cer .. 663, 1-12: 16- J 9).

38 Treadgold. "Army". 134- I 38, 155, calculates the number of ships participating in the expedition to have been 125: but [he individual numbers given for each theme, as · .. vell as for the Imperial Fleet. are not those of the documents. In fact. out of 110 figures in his Table VI. only 23 are not conjectures. See Makrypoulias. "Navy". i 54-158, for a different approach to the figure found in the documents. Tsougarakis, Bvcantine Crete. 58_ mentions 137 ships, but he orobablv adds the 9 ealeai of Artalia (De Cer .. 665, 13-15),



Somehow. it was also costlier." There are more similarities, though. It is as well documented as the previous one (better. one might say: we are even provided with a detailed list of the commander's clothes and underwear'). thanks to the documents contained in th~ De Cerimoniis.t" It too has suffered from errors in its dating." It was also led by a trusted official of the emperor. Military and diplomatic precautions against the mighty Islamic navies of the time were again taken ..... 2 And, of course, this one was also a failure.

Unfortunately, the expedition seems to have been so great a disaster that Constantine Porphyrogenitus' imperial chroniclers, the Continuators of Theophanes, did not even bother to provide us with a favourabie version of the facts. Thus, we have to rely

which were single-banked ships: including those and the II single-banked ships of the Russians and prisoners (cf. Makrypoulias. "Navy", 158-159). the grand total comes to I -1-8 ships of all size. The forces of the thematic fleets in 949 are also tabulated in Helene Antoniadis-Bibicou. Eludes d' histoire maritime de Bvt.ance. A propos du "Theme des Caravisiens", Paris 1966. 94: however. followed by A. Pertusi. "Ordinarnenti militari.rguerre in Occidente e teoria di guerra dei Byzantini (saec. VI-X!"·. in Ordinamenii miliiari in Occidente nellalto Medioevo (Settirnane di studio del Centro italiano di studi sullalto Medioevo 15). Spoleto 1968.631-700. here 696. she confuses the roles of the 12 Sarnian chelandia sent to Crete and the 5 chelandia and 4 drornons sent to North Africa. K. Alexandres, "if 8aAa.oa(a ovvalUe; el; n'Jv iatooiav rrye; f3u~avr!VI); ainoxoaiooiac. Athens 1956 . .23¥.€alcuJates only 88 ships. As for the army, Treadgold. "Army". j 25. 154 and 156. mistakenly adds the Mardaitai to the land forces: Tsougarakis. Bvumtine Crete.

58. also adds the Mardauai. as well as the Russians, prisoners and Dalmatians.

39 According to the documents (De Cer .. 667. 12-669. ! 4. and cf. Treadgold, "Army". 124-125, for some emendations). it cost the government 245393 nomismata on salaries alone, an impressive figure. -onsidering the fact that this was a much smaller campaign than that of911 - but we must keep in mind that it also includes, the payroll. of the crews of ships sent to peripheral missions. Treadgold, "Army". 154. obviously assuming (wrongly) that the figurefor the Imperial Fleet (De Cer .. 667. 14-20) includes the figures for the thematic fleets mentioned below in the text. calculates the total sum for the payrolls to have been _09622 nomismata. Cf. his earlier views in Treadgold. SIGle Finances. 35. Tsougarakis, Bvrantine Crere. 58. claims that the expenses totalled 120005 nomismata.

40 De Cer., 662, 11-678.22. In r. 1. Reiskes edition the documents concerning Gongyles' expedition begin in De Cer .. 664. 4. De Cer .. 662, 11-664,2 is a document that belongs to the chapter on the expedition of 934-935 in South Italy: its contents, however. prove that it was originally part of the 949 material. See Tsougarakis, Bvtoiuine Crete. 57. n. 14 J, and Treadgold. "Army", 121. The document is probably an answer to queries mentioned in De Cer.. 667, 1-3 and 668. 5-7 and should not be treated as the first document. as Treadgold, "Army", 124 seems to believe.

41 The wrong date was still mentioned as possible as recently as 1960: :-J. Panagioiakis. eWOOaIOr; 6 ,jll:i;.COJlO; ;.col TO ;70(?Jf./Q ainoii n:4,uUals rijr; Ke1fr?Je;', Heraklion j 960. 33. n. 88.

42 Ships were sent to Dyrrachiurn and Dalmatia (De Cer .. 664. 9- J 0). Calabria (De Cer .. 664. ! 0). Spain IDe Cer .. 664. i 0-11) and; lorth Africa IDe Cer .. 665. 3-5)_ while a large part of the Imperial and thematic fleets stayed behind to guard Constantinople and the maritime theme (De Cer .. 664. 1:2-13: 664. 17-665. I: 665. 8-10: 665, 11-16); the Byzantines had learned their lesson the hard way in 941. when the Russians attacked Constantinople while the bulk of the Imperial Fleet was away in South France. The ships sent to Spain were probably carrying officials in a diplomatic mission to the Umrnayad of Cordoba (cf Jenkins, Imperial Centuries. 262-263: Tsougarakis. Bvzaniine Crete. 57). although A. Toynbee. Constantine Porphvrogenitus and His World. London i 973.491--1-92. A. Rambaud. L 'Empire grec au dixieme siecle. Constantin Porphyrogenete. Paris 1870 . .:t07. and Vasiliev. Byt.ance. II. i. 333. ail seem [0 believe that the dispatching of warships shows distrust on the pan of the Byzantines .. According [0 Vasiliev, ibid. 334. the ship guarding the exiled prince Stephanos in Rhodes ref. De C er .. 665. 11-13) were also there to protect the island's naval yards.



exclusively on Leo Diaconos and Scylitzes, both of whom. and particularly the latter." seem to have used sources that were hostile to Constantine VIL44 The gist of the narrative is as follows: Constantine Porphyrogenitus decides on an expedition to rid the Empire of the danger of the Muslims of Crete. He prepares a large expeditionary force. which he unfortunately places in the hands of his trusted but incompetent admiral, Constantine Gongyles, a eunuch. The expedition lands on the island, but Gongyles takes no precautions against a possible Arab surprise attack. The Arabs do just that and the army is driven out with heavy loses, the eunuch Gongyles barely escaping with his lifeY

The one striking feature of this expedition is the rather unfair treatment it has received by both contemporary and modem commentators. Misdating it in 956 is the least of all. The mistake seems to originate from those who took it for granted that Scylitzes (our only early source for the expedition, along with Leo Diaconos) followed a chronological pattern in his narrative." It is certain, however, that the expedition dates from the year 949.47 Even more serious is the attempt on the part of some scholars to attribute the detailed preparations described in the De Cerimoniis to the expedition of 960.4S It seems that an incompetent eunuch like Constantine Gongyles was not deemed worthy of, uch detailed accounts.

The "bad press" this expedition received is due mainly to its commander.

Constantine Gongyles was a great f-tierlcl of the Emperor's family. a schemer and a eunuch at that." It was only natural that he would be used as a scapegoat to explain the

43 For Scyiitzes see Hunger. Literatur. l. 389-393 (particularly 391. for Scylitzes common source with Leo Diaconos. {he so-called "war diary" [·'Kriegstagebuch"J).

44 The reign of Constantine VII has been treated with hostility by both contemporary ources and modem scholars; for a more favourable view see T. E. Gregory, "The Political Program of Constantine Porphyrogenitus", in Acres du XVI' Congres international detudes byzuntines, IV, Athens! 980. 12:::'- 130.

45 Leo Diaconos, 6, 16-7.8: Scylitzes, 245, 35-, 246. 52 (ed. Thurn); Zonaras, III, 487. 11-488.2 (based probably on Scylitzes), See also Tsougarakis, Bvrantine Crete. 57-58: Rambaud. Empire Cree. 427-431:

Vasilie\·. Bvzance. II, i, 332-341: Jenkins. Imperia! Centuries. 264.

46 The mistake seems to originate from the 18th century (see following note) and is repeated by E. de Muralt. Essai de chronographic bvrantine de 395 0 1057, St. Petersburg 1855. 528, who also refers [0 Gongyles as general of Sames and gives him a force of only 12 ships. He was followed almost verbatim by

V. Psilakis. Jmo(la rTic; KQT[r1]C;. II, Chania 1909,726.

47 It is specifically dated in the 7th indiction in De Cer., 664, 6. corresponding to A. M. 6457 (cf. De adm. imp.. "27. 53-54: 29. 234-235L Reiske mentions both 9~9 and 956 in his commentary of the De Cer .. and was the first to prefer the former (see the reprint of his 1776 edition of [he De Cer. in the Bonn corpus, pp. 787-788): see also the detailed argumentation in Rarnbaud. Empire Cree. 429. n. 9.

-1-8 G. Schlurnberger, UII enipereur bvtuntin au dixieme siecle, Nicephore Phocas. Paris 1890. '+6-67. in gescribing the expedition of Nicephoros Phokas makes extensi ve LIse of the detailed accounts of the De Cer.. as if they referred exclusively to the expedition of 960. See also ibid .. 44. n. L reponing Foggini' s opinion that the accounts of 949 actually refer to {he expedition of Nicephoros Phokas.

49 Theoph, Cont.. 386. 1-6: 390. 5-15: 395,2-8: Georg. Mon. Com .. 878. 10-15: 882. 3-20: Pseudo-Syrn.

Mag .. 721. J 8-23: 724. 12-7"25.3: Leo Gram .. 292. 14-"20: 295. 18-296. 12: 301. 5-12: Scylitzes. "20 I, 30-35: 204, 37 -205. -1-5: 209. 69-74: Zonaras. III. 462. 9-14. Cf. Constantine Porphyrogenitus. De administrando imperio. ed. G. Moravcsik - R. J. H. Jenkins. Washington 1967 (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae l ). 46. 49-165. probably referring to him: see the comments of S. Runciman in D.A.f. Commentarv. London 1962. J 79.



expedition's failure.i" However, there may be extenuating circumstances that explain at least some of the high command's shortcomings after the landing. In a passage describing the violent deaths of those who participated in the overthrow of Romanos I in 944 the Continuators ef Theophanes report that Manuel Kourtikes. commanding officer of a regiment of imperial guards. was drowned when the warship which he was aboard sank en route to Crete." This has been taken to mean that he took part in the expedition of 9495:: and, although it is clear from the documents that Gongyles was the supreme commander of the operation, 53 it is quite probable that Kourtikes was to assume command of the land forces after the landing." If this is true, then it explains why the sources claim that Gongyles was ignorant of even the basic rules of land warfare; his job was to carry the expedition safely to Crete.

Another factor that has to be reckoned with when dealing with this expedition is time. We are not told when the expedition sailed for Crete, nor how long it lasted, True. the sources seem to indicate that the army was destroyed by the Arabs almost immediately after landing on the island, There is a passage in the De Cerimoniis documents. however, which possibly indicates that the expedition lasted for 4 months. 55 If the armada had sailed in late August. as we may understand from the documents' mention that ships were left behind "to fell the eighth indiction' s timber" (the 8th

- ~--

indiction beginning September 1 st,949),":10 it means that the army was attacked by the

Arabs in December. It is just possible that the expeditionary force's lack of fighting spirit was the result. not of Gongyles' incompetence, but of fatigue and lack of supplies. The same fate almost befell. Iicephoros Phokas' army in the winter of 960-961. but the great general's inspiration of the mens! and the arrival of further supplies'" saved the day. Unfortunately for Gongyles, as an admiral he had no prestige among land troops: most important, he had no way of re upplying his army."

The expedition of Constantine Gongyles had, as we said earlier, a number of similarities with the expedition of Himerios. There is a point, however, on which they


50 Even G, Huxley, "A Porphyrogenitan Portulan", Greek, Roman. and Byt.antine Studies 17 (1976) 295-300. here 299, seems to attribute minor and easily explained errors in the Stadiodromikon to his incompetent staff'

51 Theoph. Com .. 438. 10-19,

52 Helene Ahrwei IeI', "L' administration militaire de la Crete byzantine", Byzontion 31 i 1961) 217-228. here 220: cf. eadem. Mer. 106. n. 6,

53 De Cer .. 663. 18-19, It must be noted. however. that the documents that have come down to us have probably been reworked after the expedition (ef. De Cer.. 669. 12-! 4),

54 Dual command in operations in Crete was not uncommon. as was the case in c. 825 and (probably) 843, This may be the case in 960 as well. when the fleet was under the command of Michael Epistares: see Panagiotakis, GWOOoLOr; b .jU:l%OVOr;, 56 (although he seems to express doubts in n. 166),

55 De Cer .. 668.17-19,

56 DeCer,665, 1-2.10-11. 57 Theoph. Cent. ~78. 1-23. 58 Theoph. Cent. ~80, 18-21.

59 Among other things. there eerns to have been a shortage of hips of burden in the armada: cf. De Cer.. h6:1.12-16:667,3-6,


differ: this was the last unsuccessful expedition launched against the Emirate of Crete. Nicephoros Phokas was just around the corner.

Strategy and tactics

The Emirate of Crete was for a century and a half one of Byzantium's most dangerous enemies. In fact, given that the Cretan Arabs were threatening the coastlines and sea-lanes of communications of the Aegean Sea, a sensitive area of vital importance for the EmpireP" it does not come as a surprise that Michael Il's reaction to the Andalusian invasion was swift and intense. Two expeditions were launched against the Arabs in two years, until the outbreak of war in Sicily thwarted further operations in Crete for some time. Let us not forget, however, that the Byzantines, thanks to Ooryphas' efforts, were able to reclaim the Cyclades from the Cretan Arabs.?' ~

Theophilos (829-842) does not seem to have done much to recapture Crete. This does not mean that he did not consider Crete to be important enough, however. Offensive operations in Sicily and the East had drained much of the Empire's resources and manpower; in the Aegean, Byzantium was on the defence.f However, there is a possibility that Theophilos might ha-ve":;_been considering a campaign against Crete before he died in 842. It is just possible that the large-scale preparations for the expedition of Theoctistos and Sergios Nicetiates in 843 had already began before the death of Theophilos.i" Be that as it may, however, the fact remains that the expedition of 843 was launched barely a year after the rise to the throne of Michael III and the restoration of the icons. This alone proves that Crete was still one of the primary targets of Byzantine offensive strategy.

The later years of the reign of Michael III were also full of operations against the Arabs in Sicily and the Taurus frontier, not to mention old and new enemies such as the Bulgarians and Russians. Nevertheless, the time was ripe in 865-866 for a' 'new campaign against Crete. Although some sources claim that this expedition was a stratagem used by Basil the Macedonian to facilitate his plan to murder Bardas," this does not explain why Bardas, the real ruler of the Empire, decided to go along with the plan, unless the importance of recapturing Crete was so great. It must also be noted that the Byzantine raids against Damietta in 853 and 859 have been associated with this

60 For the situation in the region in the 9th and l Oth centuries see V. Christides. "The Raids of the Moslems of Crete in the Aegean Sea: Piracy and Conquest", Bvrantion 5 I (1981 )76-111; see also the map in

Christides, Conquest, 192. ..

61 For Ooryphas expedition see Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, 45-46 and Treadgold, Revival, 255/257 and 429. n. 359.

62 For an account of Theophilos' military activities in Sicily and the East see Treadgold, Revival. 272-286.289-306.319-325.

63 Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete. -1-6.

64 Geers. Mon. Cent .. 829.4-7: Leo Gram .. 243. 6-9.


expedition/" If this is true, then it shows that the plan to attack the Emirate of Crete was far more elaborate than contemporary historians would have us believe.

The importance of Crete. both as a strategic point that had to be recaptured and as a prize and a soure; of glory for the leader who accomplished this feat. may lie behind Basil I's seeming inactivity concerning Crete. He is one of the few emperors who did not dispatch an expedition to recapture the island. This attitude is explained. however, by the political situation during Basil's reign and, also, by the position that Arab-held Crete had attained in Byzantine minds. It must be borne in mind that Basil, as a usurper, was always in a precarious position. Crete. on the other hand. was beginning to be regarded as a place that only a great general could conquer. It is possible that the popular belief that he who would take Crete would eventually rise to the imperial throne (used in the discussion in the Senate in 959/960 as an argument against Romanos II's proposed campaign against Crete r'? was not a prophesy ex eventu. created after the crowning of Nicephoros Pbokas; perhaps it was already widely circulating among those Byzantines who were astute enough to see that the reconquest of Crete would bring not only great glory to the general or admiral who would recapture the island, but would also give him a shot at the imperial title.67 It is only natural to assume that Basil was aware of this situation. Either he would have to lead an expedition himself. like his murdered

- ..? -

predecessor, facing the very likely possibility of defeat. or he would have to sent another

commander instead, a possible rival to the throne. Plagued by commitments in both eastern and western war zones. and with a growing opposition to his foreign policy at home. particularly among the military.P'' Basil had no choice but to give up all hopes of recapturing Crete and retaining the throne (for himself ~d his children) at the same time.69 His answer to the problem was a very actively conducted defensive strategy. 70 combined with diplomatic efforts that brought the Emirate of Crete, for the first time, under the control of Constantinople, even for only 10 years." It must be noted that this approach was almost identical with his dealing with the situation in Cyprus." A similar strategy was carried out by Romanos I Lacapenos (920-944), another usurper with too many wars on his hands. Along with Theophilos and Basil I, he is one of the emperors that did not campaign against Crete, but chose to adopt a passive policy, based on diplomacy and defensive measures in the Emirate's waters designed to face down Arab

r .

razzias. t »

65 Tsougarakis, Byt.antine Crete, 49. with bibliography. 66 Theoph. Cont.. 474.22-475. I.

67 For that and other prophesies concerning Crete see Tsougarakis. Bvzantine Crete. 59.

68 See Vassiliki N. Vlyssidou. 'Et;WTE(}IXij flO),./Tlxrj xa( 'EOWTfQlxi; 'AVTlOQ<iOfl'; rrjv Lioy,ljrav BaOIJ.ElOV A' (lcHOPlKZS Movo'Ypa<pt£s 8). Athens 1991.

69 Zonaras. III. 419. 10-16. mentions two expeditions against Crete in Basil's times. the first commanded by the Emperor in person: however. since Zonaras is much later (1 ~th century) and contemporary sources are silent. we must assume that he is mistaken.

70 See above. n. 25.

71 Pseudo-Phrantzes. 244. 2-6 red. Grecu): Canard. "Iqritish". 1083-1084.

7'2 For the situation in Cyprus see Christi des. Conquest. 168-172. with bibliography. 73 See Christides. "Raids", 86-87.


Basil's son and grandson did not have to face the same problems. Both Leo VI and Constantine VII (the latter during the second part of his reign, 944-959) were free to deal with Crete without fear of internal opposition - at least, without as much opposition as the founder of the Macedonian Dynasty had faced." They even had the luxury to sent as commanders men whom they could trust, without much fear for their throne. The fact that, despite wars in other fronts (the Taurus and Bulgaria), Leo the Wise launched an expedition against Crete in the last year of his reign. as well as the fact that his son seems to have developed a sort of fixation on recapturing Crete," indicate that the Emirate was still considered a dangerous enemy. In fact, bearing in mind the fact that the expedition of960 sailed only a few months after the death of Constantine VII, it would seem that the Porphyrogenitus was in the process of preparing yet another campaign against Crete when he died.76

Having gi yen a cursory glance at Byzantine grand strategy conceming the Emirate of Crete. Jet us now deal with operational and tactical issues pertaining to the same situation. It is hoped that a study of the problems facing Byzantine military planners when organizing these expeditions, and the answers with which they came up, will not only shed some light on Byzantine military thinking, but will also help to answer a question that has been posed for quite some time now. The question is a natural one, especially if one considers how easy- the' Arab conquest seems to have been. The ease with which Crete was occupied by the Andalusians is attributed to various reasons: 77 the question is: why did Byzantine expeditions against Crete fail?

A close study of the expeditions that landed on the island (that excludes the abortive campaign of 866) shows the main objective of all Byzantine expeditionary forces to have been the region of ancient Knos os, where Chandax had been founded. It is clearly stated by Pseudo-Phrantzes that the battle between the Arabs and Photeinos and Darnianos' army took pJace in the region of Halmyros, "20 stadia away from where Chandax is build". 78 This source is, admittedly, much liner and its own sources are rather obscure. The information is corroborated, however, by Theophanes Continuatus' narrative: after the death of Damianos and the Byzantines' route, Photeinos escapes on the island of Dia - an islet off Chandax. 791 tis certain, therefore. that the battle took place

74 Constantine Porphyrogenitus seems [0 have met with a spirit of defeatism while preparing his expedition. bred probably by the many defeats suffered at the hands of the Arabs ofCrete: see the "Life of St. Paul of Latros' (ed. by H. De!ehaye. "Vita S. Pauli lunioris in Monte Latro·'.Analecta Bollandiana II [18921 5-75. 136-182). 73.8-74. ] .. -\ similar spirit of defeatism (independent of the fear of the victor becoming a rival to the throne) was evident in the discussions in the-Senate during the winter of959-960 (Theopn. Cont .. -+74. i4-::>2).

75 Cf. Theoph. Cent .. 81. 12·15 (a personal comment of the author. the Emperor himself). 76 See Tsougarakis, Bvt.antine ere/e. 61. with bibliography. and Treadgold. "Army". I ~2.

77 For the reasons that have been put forward see Christides, Conquest, 94-95, and P. Yannopoulos.

"Optousvc TCpo~An.~(na oxo TTlV «rropic TTlC; ~H:croBi)~avnvTj<; KPTtTl']<;, rtpo "[11<; Apa~l1(Tt<; 1(Ct:"(OXTtS·'. in i7Df!}Q)'.uivQ TaV Z' ,JuBvm;; KQrrrOAOYIXOV XV'l'EoQlov. B' 1. Rethyrnnon !995. 175-192. here 189-190. 78 Pseudo-Phrantzes, 238. 341240, I (ed, Green).

79 Theooh. Cont., 76, 22-77. l.



near Chandax. or at least near the place where the City of the Moat was beginning to be fortified. We do not know where the battle between the Muslims and Crateros forces was fought, but it 'is a fair ~~~t-trwa in the hlme_reo·on.80


- NUw:-~cxpeditjon of Theoctistos, it has been assumed thattt rfilglTt--hu\'e_

landed on a part ~f the island still he ld by the Byzantines.i" It would seem that the Arab occupation of the island was a slow process, beginning in c. 824, but lasting for some years. It is just possible that there were still Byzantine lands left inCrete by 843; it is the only reasonable explanation of the mention of Crete as a theme in the Taktikon !!_sp!!!2sktj. Be-that as it may, however. there is reason to believe that the expeditionary army's final target was the city of Chandax. When the campaign' s actual leader. the magister Sergios Nicetiates, died. some time after Theoctistos had left, he was buried at a mona 'wry which came to be caJied "roo uaviatoou", mistakenly associated by Michael Attaliates with Nicephoros Phokas. who held the rank of magister too. This monastery was built in the vicinity of Chanda x; this shows that the army commanded by Nicetiates was in the region at the time of his death."

We are not in a position to know what was Himerios objective in 911 . We can only assume, following Jenkins, that the expedition lasted so many months because it involved a siege of Chandax.f Thanks to the very detailed documents in the De Cerimoniis, however. we can be fairly certain of the main target of the expedition of949. The documents repeatedly refer to siege equipment. including stone-throwers. tortoises and a rather large siege tower.S-! In fact. this reference is one of the points to be considered below. where we will attempt to show why so many Byzantine armies and fleets met with annihilation while attempting to reconquer "Crete, damned by God".

The reference to siege equipment shows that in 949 the plan was to besiege Chandax.

That was the plan in 960 as well. and this time it was successful.f In fact. the length in time of most of the expeditions that landed on the island shows that this was the plan at all times. It appears that the Byzantines saw the capture of Chandax as the best way to subjugate the Arabs of Crete. Correspondingly, the Arabs of Crete saw the defence of Chandax as their only chance to hold on to their insular emirate. The passage in

80 The imilarity of the name of general Crateros ro the name of the beach of Caneros. to the east of .Chandax. has led some scholars to identify this beach with the site of the landing of the expedition of ,c. 825-8~6: see Panagiotakis, Osooooio; 6 Jl(ixovo;-, 53. and A. Chaniotis, "Zur srrategischen Bedeutung yon Krateros (Amnisos) in der byz.antinischen Epoche", in J. Schafer (ed.i, Amnisos: Nach den ~archiioiogischen. historischen lind epigraphischen Zeugnissen des Aliersums lind der Neureit. Berlin 199:2. '104- j 12. who does not agree with this theory. although he bel ieves that it was indeed on the beach of Carteros that most Byzantine expeditions landed.

81 Tsougarakis, By::.amine Crete. 47.

82 Ibid .. 245-246. with bibliography. For the identification of the magister with Phokas see Attaliaies.

Y' . 11-16: Panagioiakis. eeooooio; 6 .diri%ovCX;. 37-38 and n. j 03. seems to express some doubt. on whether Aualiates was-wrong.

83 Jenkins. Imperial Centuries. 210_

84 De Cer .. 670. 9-671. 5: 672. 16-673. 3. The present author is preparing a doctoral dissertation on Byzantine siegecraft,

8_- For the operations of. icephoros.Phoka .i·Ll.c-r~le .see Christides. Conquest, 172-191.


Carniniates already mentioned'" clearly refers to the Arabs' panic when they thought that a Byzantine fleet was approaching the island "for they had not been prepared". This most probably refers, not to mobilisation of a land army to repel the landing. but to the gathering of supplies in preparalio~ for a ~ege-ot-Eh-afid~ the centre of their pO~_~!:l_l~or'j, from the Aegean coast to the Libyan one, was, )lrdglrrg-fi'em~finos, the focus of Arab activities on the Island" and the city itself was very strongly

fortified.I" .

The Cretan Arabs' strategy. therefore, was one of attrition: to hold Chandax until the Byzantines were exhausted and either aborted or were set upon and annihilated .. One is reminded of a passage in Leo's Tactica, warning against the Arabs' steadfastness and sudden counterattacks." Thus, although Byzantine operations against the Emirate were well planned. including a minutely-organized route for the fleer" and the use of the island of Dia as a "staging area" (to use the modern technical term) before the landing." they ul timately depended on the success of siege operations around the City of the Moat. The Byzantines, however, where far from any resupply bases and. given the fact that operations would probably go on during winter, the expeditionary force would soon face a shortage of supplies which would tum them from besiegers to besieged. Whereas accidental factors (the death of Damian os) and over-confidence (in the case of Crateros) were the causes of the failure of the fir3nwo expeditions, it was this touch-and-go nature of siege operations that was the cause of Byzantine failure since 843, not lack of skill in amphibious operations'? or opposition from a hostile local population." All that until Nicephoros Phokas. barely able to survive the winter 'of 960-961 with his army almost intact. received supplies from Constantinople?" that allowed him to storm the city in the spring. After the fall of Chandax. the Emirate of Crete was no more.

In conclusion, let us say that it was extremely fortunate for the Byzantines (and unfortunate for the Arabs of Crete) that Emperor Romanos II found in the person of

86 See note 13.

87 Most Arab coins in Crete were found in the central pan of the island; see the map in G. C. Miles, The Coinage of {he Arab Amirs of Crete (Numismatic Notes and Monographs 160). New York 1970. ! 9.

88 Small parts of the Arab walls have been identified: see 1 I. Platen, "Kat ;raAl v Jtc:pt twv ~uSav'tlVwv !£lXWV 'tou XavbaK'o<_;", K QT(fIXb. X Qovlxa4 (1950) 353-360. here 359, and idem. "Nsc v'tolxc:ta btu tTlV f.ldE'tT)\' 'tmv ~1Jsav'n VWV 'tC:lXWV 'tOU Xuv8uK'o<_;". K (1I7£1/(&' Xoovixa 6 (1952) 439-.+59. here .+58.

89 For the image of the Arabs' art of war as depicted in [he Tactica see T. G. Kolias. "The Taktikaof Leo VI the Wise and the Arabs", Graeco-Arabica 3 <198.+) 129-13:5.

90 See Huxley, "Porrulan", and Christides, Conquest. 176-177,2::: 1-2:24 and the maps in 193 and 227.

91 For the strategic value of Dia see Chaniotis, "Bedeutung", 1 i ! -112 and idem. "Die srrategische und naurische Bedeutung der In e! Dia". in ibid. (note 80). 125-127. Ancient and mediaeval shipwrecks have recently been discovered under the island' s waters: see A. Parker. Ancient Shipwrecks of the Mediterranean and (he Roman Provinces (British Archaeological Reports. International Series 580). Oxford I 992. 162.

92 Treadgold. Revival. 341.

93 This theory was PUt forward by Jenkins. Imperial Centuries. 264. and seems to have been based solely

on his burning hatred against all things Greek. .

94 See notes 57 and 58.



Nicephoros Phokas a general with skill, determination and good fortune. qualities that. one or the other, some of the previous commanders of expeditions against the Emirate of Crete had, but the combinati6n of which they lacked.