The Siege and Capture of Thessaloniki by Muslim Arabs (904) According to Ioannes KaminiatesMurat Öztürk
Regarded as “a part of Istanbul” by the Ottoman geographers and “mother of the cities” by Jews, Thessaloniki was the second most important city of the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople. Thessaloniki, which had been sieged by Avars and Slavs many times throughout history, was sieged and conquered by Muslim Arabs in 904. Therefore this siege, by the Arabs, is also important in that it shows the naval competence Muslims had at the time. The present article discusses, in light of the information from the Byzantine, Arab and Latin resources, the course the Muslim Arabs followed on their way to and back from the Thessaloniki landing, their activities during the siege, the ships, weapons and crew they had, as well as the activities of the Muslim navy returning to their own lands from Thessaloniki with the enormous amount of loot from the seizure of Thessaloniki in the military operation commanded by the admiral-in-chief (amīr al-baḥr) Leo of Tripoli (Ghulām Zurāfa).
Ioannes Kaminiates'e Göre Müslüman Arapların Selânik’i Kuşatması ve Zaptı (904)Murat Öztürk
Osmanlı coğrafyacılarınca “İstanbul’un bir parçası”, Yahudiler tarafından “şehirlerin anası” diye tanımlanan Selânik, Bizans İmparatorluğu’nun Konstantinopolis’ten sonraki ikinci en önemli şehriydi. Târihî süreç içinde Avarlar ve Slavlar tarafından birçok kez muhâsara edilen kent, 904 yılında Müslüman Araplar tarafından kuşatılmış ve ele geçirilmiştir. Dolayısıyla mezkûr muhâsara İslâm dünyasının söz konusu dönemde denizcilik alanında hâiz olduğu yetkinliği göstermesi açısından da önem arz etmektedir. Bu makalede, Selânik çıkarmasında Müslüman Arapların gidiş ve dönüş yolunda denizde izledikleri güzergâh, kuşatma sırasındaki icrâatları, sâhip oldukları gemiler, silâhlar ve mürettebatın yanı sıra emîrü’l-bahr Trabluslu Leo (Gulâm Zürâfe) kumandasında yürütülen harekâtta şehrin zaptından sonra ele geçirilen büyük miktardaki ganîmetle Selânik’i terk edip ülkelerine dönen İslâm donanmasının faâliyetleri Bizans, Arap ve Lâtin kaynaklarının verdiği bilgiler ışığında ele alınıp değerlendirilecektir.
Thessaloniki, the second most important city of the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople, was besieged many times by the Avars and Slavs in the historical process and was besieged and captured by the Muslim Arabs in 904.
Although Arabic and Latin sources were used in this article, it would be appropriate to give information about Ioannes Kaminiates, who was captured as a prisoner in consequence of the siege in 904, and his work that explained the operations of the Muslim Arabs in detail and constituted the main source and the backbone of the article. As a matter of fact, this research has especially based on a long letter written by Ioannes Kaminiates, the author of the book named η σύλληψη της Θεσσαλονίκης / The Capture of Thessaloniki, to his friend Gregory of Cappadocia who wanted to take part in the siege of Thessaloniki and the treatment of the prisoners.
The Byzantine Empire experienced a great shock when a fleet of 54 ships headed first to Constantinople and then to Thessaloniki by Leo of Tripoli, who later converted to Islam. The situation of the city of Thessaloniki from the moment of the news that the Muslim operation started, the preparations for the defense before the siege, the information is provided about Leo of Tripoli, the strategies applied by the Byzantines during the defense of the city, the siege tactics of the Muslim Arabs, the weapons and equipment they used, the route they followed on returning to their countries with the spoils that obtained from Thessaloniki constitutes the general framework of this study.
However, even if there are scholars who are skeptical of what Ioannes Kaminiates wrote, especially in terms of the dates he used, most researchers agree that the relevant siege actually occurred and took place recently, according to the dates given by the author.
It is evident that the work of Ioannes Kaminiates describing the conquest of Thessaloniki offers various details about the Arab-Byzantine naval technology. The study gives essential information from the equipment of combat ships to the use of firearms. It should be noted that at the time when Thessaloniki was besieged and captured, the Arabs were able to act quickly and expertly in the Aegean Sea, especially on the occasion of the island of Crete. In the end, the element of bewilderment experienced by the Byzantine Empire should also be taken into account. As a matter of fact, although the Arab fleets were engaged in intensive activities in the seas, it was not expected by anyone that the Islamic navy would dare attack the second capital of Byzantium.