Siege of Constantinople
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On August 15, 718 AD, the naval and land forces of the Omayyad regime of Damascus were forced to lift the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople after over a year and a month of unsuccessful efforts to conquer the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The First Siege of Constantinople was during the years 674-78 by Mu’awiya Ibn Abu Sufyan, and had ended in failure. In 716, Sulaiman Ibn Abdul-Malik, on hearing of a narration that the city would be conquered by a person bearing the name of a Prophet, sent a massive force of 200,000 via land and by sea through the Mediterranean.
After wintering in the western coastlands of Asia Minor, the Arab army crossed into Thrace on the European side in early summer 717 and built siege lines to blockade Constantinople, which was protected by massive walls. The Arab fleet, which accompanied the land army and was meant to complete the city's blockade by sea, was neutralized soon after its arrival by the Byzantine navy through the use of Greek fire. The Arab army was crippled by famine and disease during the unusually hard winter that followed. An additional army sent overland from Syria through Asia Minor was ambushed and defeated.
In the meantime Sulaiman was no more and the new caliph was Omar ibn Abdul-Azia. Coupled with attacks by the Bulgarians on their rear, the Arabs were forced to lift the siege, losing 150,000 men throughout the unsuccessful campaign. On its return journey, the Arab fleet was almost destroyed by natural disasters and Byzantine attacks. The siege's failure had wide-ranging repercussions, including end of the Muslim advance into Europe, and is considered one of history's most decisive battles, along with the Omayyad defeat in France at the Battle of Tours in 732. The huge financial loss speeded up the collapse of the usurper Omayyad regime, followed by its complete destruction by the Abbasid regime in 750. It was in 1453 that Constantinople was finally captured by Muslims under the Ottoman sultan, Mohammad II (the Prophet’s namesake).