Muslim conquest of the Levant
Muslim conquest of Egypt
Muslim conquest of North Africa
Umayyad invasions of Anatolia
Arab–Byzantine border warfare
Abbasid invasion of 782
Abbasid invasion of 806
Anzen and Amorium
Sicily and Southern Italy
Leo Apostyppes and Nikephoros Phokas the Elder
Stelai (1st Milazzo)
Campaigns of Marianos Argyros
Straits of Messina
George Maniakes in Sicily
Naval warfare and raids
Muslim conquest of Crete
Gulf of Corinth
Campaigns of John Kourkouas
Campaigns of Sayf al-Dawla
Campaigns of Nikephoros Phokas
Campaigns of John Tzimiskes
Campaigns of Basil II
Battle of Akroinon
Battle of Akroinon was fought at Akroinon or Akroinos (near modern
Afyon) in Phrygia, on the western edge of the Anatolian plateau, in
740 between an
Umayyad Arab army and the Byzantine forces. The Arabs
had been conducting regular raids into
Anatolia for the past century,
and the 740 expedition was the largest in recent decades, consisting
of three separate divisions. One division, 20,000 strong under
Abdallah al-Battal and al-Malik ibn Shu'aib, was confronted at
Akroinon by the Byzantines under the command of Emperor Leo III the
Isaurian (r. 717–741) and his son, the future
Constantine V (r.
741–775). The battle resulted in a decisive Byzantine victory.
Coupled with the
Umayyad Caliphate's troubles on other fronts and the
internal instability before and after the Abbasid Revolt, this put an
end to major Arab incursions into
Anatolia for three decades.
3 Effect and aftermath
Since the beginning of the Muslim conquests, the Byzantine Empire, as
the largest, richest and militarily strongest state bordering the
expanding Caliphate, had been the Muslims' primary enemy. Following
the disastrous Battle of Sebastopolis, the Byzantines had largely
confined themselves to a strategy of passive defence, while the Muslim
armies regularly launched raids into Byzantine-held Anatolia.
Following their failure to capture the Byzantine capital,
Constantinople, in 717–718, the
Umayyads for a time diverted their
attention elsewhere. From 720/721, however, they resumed these
expeditions in a regular pattern: each summer one or two campaigns
(pl. ṣawā'if, sing. ṣā'ifa) would be launched, sometimes
accompanied by a naval attack and sometimes followed by winter
expeditions (shawātī). These were no longer aimed at permanent
conquest but rather large-scale raids, plundering and devastating the
countryside and only occasionally attacking forts or major
settlements. The raids of this period were also largely confined to
the central Anatolian plateau (chiefly its eastern half, Cappadocia),
and only rarely reached the peripheral coastlands.
Under the more aggressive Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik
(r. 723–743), the Arab raids became more large-scale affairs
and were led by some of the Caliphate's most capable generals,
including princes of the
Umayyad dynasty, such as Maslama ibn Abd
al-Malik or Hisham's own sons Mu'awiyah, Maslama and Sulayman.
Gradually, however, the Muslim successes became fewer, especially as
their resources were drawn into the mounting conflict with the Khazars
in the Caucasus. The raids continued, but the Arab and Byzantine
chroniclers mention fewer successful captures of forts or towns.
Nevertheless, in 737 a major victory over the
Khazars allowed the
Arabs to shift their focus and intensify their campaigns against
Byzantium. Thus in 738 and 739 Maslamah ibn Hisham led successful
raids, including the capture of the town of Ancyra. For the year 740,
Hisham assembled the largest expedition of his reign, placing it under
his son Sulayman.
According to the chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor, the invading
Umayyad force totalled 90,000 men. 10,000 lightly armed men under
al-Ghamr ibn Yazid were sent to raid the western coastlands, followed
by 20,000 under
Abdallah al-Battal and al-Malik ibn Su'aib who marched
towards Akroinon, while the main force of some 60,000 (this last
number is certainly much inflated), under Sulayman ibn Hisham, raided
The Emperor Leo confronted the second force at Akroinon. Details of
the battle are not known, but the Emperor secured a crushing victory:
both Arab commanders fell, as well as the larger part of their army,
some 13,200 men. The rest of the Arab troops managed to conduct an
orderly retreat to Synnada, where they joined Sulayman. The
other two Arab forces devastated the countryside unopposed, but failed
to take any towns or forts. The Arab invasion army also suffered
from severe hunger and lack of supplies before returning to Syria,
while the 10th-century Arab Christian historian Agapius records that
the Byzantines took 20,000 prisoners from the invading forces.
Effect and aftermath
Akroinon was a major success for the Byzantines, as it was the first
large-scale victory they had scored in a pitched battle against the
Arabs. Seeing it as evidence of God's renewed favour, the victory also
served to strengthen Leo's belief in the policy of iconoclasm that he
had adopted some years before. In the immediate aftermath,
this success opened up the way for a more aggressive stance by the
Byzantines, who in 741 attacked the major Arab base of Melitene. In
742 and 743, the
Umayyads were able to exploit a civil war between
Constantine V and
Artabasdos and raid into
Anatolia with relative
impunity, but the Arab sources do not report any major
The Arab defeat at Akroinon has traditionally been seen as a
"decisive" battle and a "turning point" of the
Arab–Byzantine wars, causing the slackening of Arab pressure on
Byzantium. Other historians however, from the early 20th-century
Syriac scholar E.W. Brooks to more recent ones such as Walter Kaegi
and Ralph-Johannes Lilie, have challenged this view, attributing the
reduced Arab threat after Akroinon to the fact that it coincided with
other heavy reversals on the most remote provinces of the Caliphate
(e.g. the battles of Marj Ardabil or The Defile), which exhausted its
overextended military resources, as well as with internal turmoil due
to civil wars and the Abbasid Revolution. As a result, the
Arab attacks against the
Byzantine Empire in the 740s were rather
ineffectual and soon ceased completely. Indeed,
Constantine V was able
to take advantage of the
Umayyad Caliphate's collapse to launch a
series of expeditions into Syria and secure a Byzantine ascendancy on
the eastern frontier which lasted until the 770s.
In the Muslim world, the memory of the defeated Arab commander,
Abdallah al-Battal, was preserved, and he became one of the greatest
heroes of Arab and later Turkish epic poetry as Sayyid Battal
^ a b c d Turtledove 1982, p. 103.
^ a b c Blankinship 1994, pp. 169–170.
^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 104–105, 117.
^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 117–119.
^ Treadgold 1997, pp. 349ff.
^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 119–121, 162–163.
^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 149–154.
^ Treadgold 1997, p. 353.
^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 168–173.
^ Treadgold 1997, pp. 354–355.
^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 169, 330 (Note #14).
^ Blankinship 1994, p. 169.
^ Blankinship 1994, p. 170.
^ Treadgold 1997, p. 355.
^ Morrisson & Cheynet 2006, p. 14.
^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 200–201.
^ Foss 1991, p. 48.
^ Herrin 1977, p. 20 (Note #36).
^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 145–146, 167–168, 330 (Note #14).
^ Kaegi 1982, p. 167.
^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 20, 201, 223ff..
^ Morrisson & Cheynet 2006, pp. 14–15.
^ Winkelmann et al. 1999, pp. 5–6.
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