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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Iconoclastic epoch (717-867)

The first Russian attack on Constantinople. [Arabs and Bulgarians.] 

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Struggles with the western Arabs. At the same time as the eastern military operations, the Empire was also struggling with the western Arabs. North Africa, conquered by the Arabs with so much difficulty in the seventh century, soon freed itself from the domination of the eastern caliphs, so that after the year 800 the Abbasid caliphs ceased to exercise any authority in the provinces west of Egypt, and an independent Aghlabid dynasty, which possessed a powerful fleet, rose in Tunis in the early part of the ninth century (in 800).

All the Byzantine possessions in the Mediterranean Sea were seriously menaced by the Arabs during this period. Even in the early part of the ninth century, in the time of Nicephorus I, the African Arabs aided the Peloponnesian Slavs in their uprising and the siege of the city of Patrae (Patras). During the reign of Michael II the Byzantine Empire lost the strategically and commercially important island of Crete, which was captured by Arabian emigrants from Spain, who had first sought shelter in Egypt and then advanced to Crete. The leader of these Arabs founded a new city on this island and surrounded it by a deep moat, handak in Arabic, from which the new name of the island, Chandax, or Candia, originated. From then on Crete became the nest of piratical bands which raided and devastated the islands of the Aegean Sea and the seacoast districts, causing thus great political and economic disturbances in the Byzantine Empire.

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