Anatolia conquered by Muslim forces
Compiled by: Syed Ali Shahbaz
The Battle of Anzen – also known as Dazimon
On July 22, 838 AD, the Muslims inflicted a shattering defeat on the Byzantine Christian army and its allies, the Kurdish and Persian Khurramites, in the Battle of Anzen – also known as Dazimon – which was fought in Anatolia in what is now Dazman in Turkey. The hostilities were started by Byzantine emperor, Theophilos, the previous year when he raided and occupied several Muslim border towns.
In retaliation, a Muslim army of Arabs, iranians and Turks, was sent from Abbasid Baghdad under command of the Iranian general, Afshin Khaydaar bin Kavous (who a year earlier as governor of Azarbaijan and Armenia had crushed the rebellion of Babak Khorramdin and captured him), to repel the Byzantine aggressors and seize Amorion (Ammuriye in Arabic), one of the largest cities of the Eastern Roman Empire. Emperor Theophilos personally confronted the Muslims with a huge Christian army that included Asian and European contingents, the elite “Tagmata” regiments, as well as a regiment called the "Persian Tourma", which was made up of Iranian and Kurdish apostates, under their leader, Nasr, who along with 16,000 had converted to Christianity and baptized himself as Theophobos.
In the initial stages, the huge Byzantine force was successful, but it broke ranks and fled when General Afshin's horse-archers launched a fierce counter-attack. Emperor Theophilos and his guard were besieged on a hill, before managing to flee all the way to the capital Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). It was one of the most disastrous blows the Byzantines had suffered, and a few weeks later the Muslims captured Amorion – whose ruins are located near the village of Hisarkoy, Turkey.
The Battle of Lalakaon
On September 3, in 863 AD, Amr Ibn Abdullah al-Aqta (the One-Handed), the Emir of Malatya, which is now in southeastern Turkey, was killed in a heroic fight in the Battle of Lalakaon (in northeastern Turkey) with a huge Byzantine army that encircled his force of 8,000 Muslims, while he was returning from a successful expedition to the Black Sea port of Amisos. He was a thorn in the side of the Byzantines for over three decades, opening the way for the spread of Islam in Anatolia, and had participated in the victorious Battle of Dazimon in 838 under the Iranian Abbasid general, Afshin.
In the 840s, he provided shelter to the surviving members of the Paulician sect of Christianity, who were fleeing persecution from the Greek Orthodox Church of Byzantium. In 844, Amr participated in another decisive victory over the Byzantines at the Battle of Mauropotamos.
In the 850s, he often joined forces with Ali Ibn Yayha al-Armani, the Emir of Tarsus and decisively defeated Byzantine Emperor Michael III. Though he was unable to stop a raid in 856 by Petronas deep into Muslim territory, all the way to Amida, he teamed up with the Paulician Christians in 860 inflict a major defeat on the Byzantines deep into Anatolia where he reached the Black Sea port of Sinope.
His death three years later was a relief to the Byzantines. His reputation, however, lived on, and a literary tradition grew around his exploits, which became especially popular a couple of centuries later, among the rising power of the Seljuq Turks in Anatolia.
Sicily off the coast of Italy, surrendered to Muslims
On August 1, 902 AD, Taormina, the last Byzantine stronghold on the island of Sicily off the coast of Italy, surrendered to Muslims led by the Aghlabids, the Abbasid governors of the Province of Ifriqiyya, whose forces had already established themselves in Sicily since 827, although it was way back in 652 that the first Muslims had arrived on this island. In 909 the Aghlabids, who discriminated between Arabs and Berber Muslims, were overthrown by the popular Ismaili Shi'ite revolution that established the Fatemid Dynasty in North Africa.
Sicily soon passed into Fatemid hands, and the city of Taormina was renamed "al-Mo'ezziya" in honour of the Fatemid caliph, al-Mo'ez, whose famous Greek Muslim general from Sicily, Jowhar as-Saqali, went on to take control of Egypt from the Ikhshidid Turkic governors of the Abbasid caliphate, and build the city of Cairo as the new capital of the Fatemids.
Muslim rule in Sicily lasted until 1078, when the island fell to the Norman invader, Count Roger I, who, however, kept the Arab administration intact and had Muslims among his advisers and court scholars, including the famous geographer, Seyyed Mohammad al-Hassani al-Idrisi. Muslim influence and Arabic language continued in Sicily till the 1240s when the last of the Muslims were deported from the island and mosques turned into churches.
The Crucial Battle of Manzikert
On August 26 in 1071 AD, the crucial Battle of Manzikert (modern Malazgirt in Turkey) took place in Asia Minor in which the Seljuq Turks led by Sultan Alp Arsalan decisively defeated the Byzantine Army and captured Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes. The battle practically wrecked Byzantine authority in Asia Minor, and led to the gradual Turkification of Anatolia, with the Seljuqs gaining an area of 78,000 square km in the next decade, which facilitated the mass movement of Turkish Muslims into the central parts of what is now Turkey.
Alp Arslan, whose capital was Isfahan, had initially sought peace treaty with the Byzantines, for he regarded the Fatemid Ismaili Shi'ite Caliphate of Egypt as his main enemy for control of Syria. A peace treaty was signed in 1069 and renewed in February 1071 to enable the Seljuqs to attack the Fatemid controlled city of Aleppo, but the Christian Emperor tried to distract the Muslim Sultan long enough for leading a large army into Armenia.
The Seljuqs quickly realized the plot and defeated the Byzantines at Manzikert. When Romanos was brought before Alp Arslan as a prisoner, he was forced him to kiss the ground, and was asked how he would have treated the Sultan if the roles had been reversed. He replied the Sultan would be paraded in the streets of Constantinople and killed.
Alp Arslan said: "My punishment is far heavier. I forgive you, and set you free." He treated Romanos with considerable kindness and again offered the terms of peace. Romanos remained a captive of Alp Arsalan for a week, during which he was allowed to eat at the Sultan’s table whilst concessions were agreed; including 10 million gold pieces demanded as ransom for release, which the Sultan reduced to 1.5 million gold pieces as an initial payment followed by an annual sum of 360,000 gold pieces, when the Byzantine Emperor pleaded he could not pay. Alp Arsalan before returning to Isfahan gave Romanos presents and an escort of two Amirs and one hundred Mamluks on his route to Constantinople.
The crucial Battle of Myriokephalon (Savasi)
On September 17, 1176 AD, the crucial Battle of Myriokephalon (Savasi) was fought in what is now Turkey, resulting in a decisive victory for the Seljuq Sultanate of Roum and a shattering defeat for the Byzantine Empire.
It was to be the final, unsuccessful attempt by the Byzantine Greeks to recover the interior of Anatolia from the Seljuq Turks. The Seljuqs were led by Sutlan Qilij Arslan II, while the Byzantines were led by Emperor Manuel I Komnenos. Qilij Arslan who died in 1192 after a reign of 36 years, promoted Persian culture in Anatolia and was succeeded by his son Kaykhosrow I.