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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Iconoclastic epoch (717-867)

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


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader
Page 3

Still more serious for the Byzantine Empire was the loss of Sicily. As early as the seventh and eighth centuries this island had become subject to Arabian attacks, although these were not very serious. But in the time of the Amorian dynasty conditions changed. At the end of the reign of Michael II a man named Euphemius organized an uprising against the Emperor and was later proclaimed the ruler of the Empire. He soon realized that his own forces were not sufficient to resist the imperial troops, and appealed for aid to the African Arabs. The latter arrived in Sicily; but instead of aiding Euphemius, they began the conquest of the island, and Euphemius was killed by adherents of the Emperor. In the opinion of an Italian historian, Gabotto, Euphemius was a dreamer, an idealist, a valiant fighter for the independence of his country, and a continuator of the traditional policy of creating in Italy an independent state, the Roman Italian Empire (Impero romano italiano). Gabottos characterization of Euphemius, however, is not confirmed by the evidence. The Arabs became established in Panormos (Palermo) and gradually occupied the greater part of Sicily, including Messina, so that by the end of the reign of the Amorian dynasty, of all the large Sicilian cities, only Syracuse remained in the hands of the Christians. From Sicily the most natural step for the Arabs was to advance into the Byzantine territories in southern Italy.

The Apennine peninsula has at its southern extremity two small peninsulas: the one in the southeast was known in antiquity as Calabria, and the other in the southwest as Bruttium. In the Byzantine period a change occurred in these names. From the middle of the seventh century Bruttium was used less and less frequently, and became gradually replaced by the name of Calabria, which thus began to be applied to both small peninsulas; in other words, Calabria then signified all of the Byzantine possessions in southern Italy around the Gulf of Tarentum.

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