Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία
Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Δευτέρα, 24 Σεπτεμβρίου 2018

Byzantine Carthage : The great Greco-roman city of Western Mediterranean and the destruction of the christian city by the Arabs

Carthage was the center or capital city of the ancient Carthaginian civilization, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis in what is now the Tunis Governorate in Tunisia. The city developed from a Phoenician colony into the capital of an empire dominating the Mediterranean during the first millennium BC. The ancient city was destroyed by the Roman Republic in the Third Punic War in 146 BC then re-developed as Roman Carthage, which became the major city of the Roman Empire in the province of Africa. The Roman city was again occupied by the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb in 698. The site remained uninhabited, the regional power shifting to the Medina of Tunis in the medieval period, until the early 20th century, when it began to develop into a coastal suburb of Tunis, incorporated as Carthage municipality in 1919. A new city of Carthage was built on the same land by Julius Caesar in the period from 49 to 44 BC, and by the first century, it had grown to be the second-largest city in the western half of the Roman Empire, with a peak population of 500,000. It was the center of the province of Africa, which was a major breadbasket of the Empire. Among its major monuments was an amphitheater. Carthage also became a center of early Christianity. In the first of a string of rather poorly reported councils at Carthage a few years later, no fewer than 70 bishops attended. Tertullian later broke with the mainstream that was increasingly represented in the West by the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, but a more serious rift among Christians was the Donatist controversy, which Augustine of Hippo spent much time and parchment arguing against. At the Council of Carthage (397), the biblical canon for the western Church was confirmed. The political fallout from the deep disaffection of African Christians is supposedly a crucial factor in the ease with which Carthage and the other centers were captured in the fifth century by Genseric, king of the Vandals, who defeated the Roman general Bonifacius and made the city the capital of the Vandal Kingdom. Genseric was considered a heretic, too, an Arian, and though Arians commonly despised Catholic Christians, a mere promise of toleration might have caused the city's population to accept him. After a failed attempt to recapture the city in the fifth century, the Eastern Roman Empire finally subdued the Vandals in the Vandalic War in 533–534. Thereafter, the city became the seat of the praetorian prefecture of Africa, which was made into an exarchate during the emperor Maurice's reign, as was Ravenna on the Italian Peninsula. These two exarchates were the western bulwarks of the Byzantine Empire, all that remained of its power in the West.
The Exarchate of Africa was a division of the Byzantine Empire centered at Carthage, Tunisia, which encompassed its possessions on the Western Mediterranean. Ruled by an exarch(viceroy) it was established by the Emperor Maurice in the late 580s and survived until the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb in the late 7th century. It was one of two exarchates established following the western reconquests under Emperor Justinian to more effectively administrate the territories, along with the Exarchate of Ravenna. The Maghreb along with Corsica and Sardinia and the Balearic Islands were reconquered by the Byzantine Empire under Belisarius in the Vandalic War of 533 and reorganized as the Praetorian prefecture of Africa by Justinian I. It included the provinces of Africa Proconsularis, Byzacena, Tripolitania, Numidia, Mauretania Caesariensis and Mauretania Sitifensis, and was centered at Carthage. After the death of Justinian, the Empire came into increasing attacks on all fronts, and the remoter provinces were often left to themselves to cope as best as they could for extended periods, although military officers, such as Heraclius the Elder, continued to rotate between the eastern provinces and Africa. Capitalizing upon this precedent and taking it one step further, the emperor Maurice sometime between 585 and 590 created the office of exarch, which combined the supreme civil authority of a praetorian prefect and the military authority of a magister militum, and enjoyed considerable autonomy from Constantinople. Two exarchates were established, one in Italy, with seat at Ravenna, and one in Africa, based at Carthage and including all imperial possessions in the Western Mediterranean. The first African exarch was the patricius Gennadius. Among the provincial changes, Tripolitania was detached from Africa and placed under the province of Egypt, Mauretania Caesariensis and Mauretania Sitifensis were merged to form the new province of "Mauretania Prima", while Mauretania Tingitana, effectively reduced to the city of Septum (Ceuta), was combined with the citadels of the Spanish coast (Spania) and the Balearic Islands to form "Mauretania Secunda". The Byzantines retained the fort of Septum (Ceuta), across the Strait of Gibraltar (Pillars of Hercules).
In the early seventh century Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Carthage, overthrew the Byzantine emperor Phocas, whereupon his son Heraclius succeeded to the imperial throne. Due to religious and political ambitions, the Exarch Gregory the Patrician (who was related by blood to the imperial family, through the emperor's cousin Nicetas) declared himself independent of Constantinople in 647. In 647, Umar's successor Uthman ordered Abdallah ibn Sa'ad to invade the Exarchate with 20,000 men. The Muslims invaded western Tripolitania and advanced up to the northern boundary of the Byzantine province of Byzacena. Gregory confronted the Arabs on their return at Sufetula, but was defeated and killed. After Gregory's death, the Arabs sacked Sufetula and raided across the Exarchate, while the Byzantines withdrew to their fortresses. Unable to storm the Byzantine fortifications, and satisfied with the huge amounts of plunder they had made, the Arabs agreed to depart in exchange for the payment of a heavy tribute in gold. The Byzantine Exarchate of Africa was not able to withstand the seventh-century Muslim conquest of the Maghreb. The Umayyad Caliphate under Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan in 686 sent a force led by Zuhayr ibn Qais, who won a battle over the Byzantines and Berbers led by King Kusaila of the Kingdom of Altava on the plain of Kairouan, but he could not follow that up. In 695, Hasan ibn al-Nu'man captured Carthage and advanced into the Atlas Mountains.
Having lost Carthage to the Muslims in 695, Emperor Leontios sent the navy under the command of John the Patrician and the droungarios Tiberius Apsimarus. They entered the harbor and successfully recaptured it in a stunning surprise attack in 697, which resulted in the city's Arab forces fleeing to Kairouan. Emir Hasan ibn al-Nu'man was in the middle of a campaign in the Greater Maghreb region, but withdrew from campaigning in the field to confront the renewed Byzantine challenge to the emerging caliphate and he drew plans at Kairouan to retake Carthage the following spring. It is estimated that he headed a force of 40,000 men. The Byzantines sent out a call for help to their allies, the native Berbers, and to enemies the Visigoths and the Franks. Despite the king of the Visigoths, Wittiza, sending a force of 500 warriors in order to help defend Carthage, the Byzantines were in disarray due to in-fighting and were sapped of much of their strength. Hasan ibn al-Nu'man, enraged at having to retake a city that had not resisted the Byzantine take over, offered no terms except to surrender or die. The Emperor Leontios had also given his forces instructions of victory or death. The Byzantines left Carthage and attacked the Emir's army directly, but were defeated, and the Byzantine commander decided to wait out the siege behind the walls of Carthage to let the Arabs exhaust themselves, since he could continue to be resupplied from the sea. The defenders were faced with Hasan's overwhelming force deployed in ferocious attacks as his men made repeated attempts to scale the walls with ladders. They combined this land assault with an attack from the sea that caused the Roman commanders to withdraw from the city and subsequently resulted in the second and final great destruction of Carthage. The Byzantines retreated to the islands of Corsica, Sicily and Crete to further resist Muslim expansion. John the Patrician was later murdered after a conspiracy at the hands of his co-commander, Tiberius Apsimarus. Tiberius Apsimarus then, instead of taking the step of returning to Africa to fight the Muslims, sailed instead to Constantinople. After a successful rebellion he rose to the throne as Tiberius III, and was later deposed by former emperor Justinian II, now known as the Rhinotmetus. The conquest of North Africa by the forces of Islam was now nearly complete. Hasan's forces met with trouble from the Zenata tribe of Berbers under al-Kahina and they inflicted a serious defeat on him and drove him back to Barqa (Cyrenaica). However, in 702 Caliph Abd al-Malik strongly reinforced him. Now with a large army and the support of the settled population of North Africa, Hasan pushed forward. He decisively defeated al-Kahina in the Battle of Tabarka, 136 km west of Carthage. He then developed the village of Tunis, ten miles from the destroyed Carthage.
Byzantine Carthage was destroyed its walls torn down, its water supply cut off, and its harbors made unusable. The destruction of the Exarchate of Africa marked a permanent end to the Byzantine Empire's influence in the region. The Medina of Tunis, originally a Berber settlement, was established as the new regional center under the Umayyad Caliphate in the early 8th century. Under the Aghlabids, the people of Tunis revolted numerous times, but the city profited from economic improvements and quickly became the second most important in the kingdom. It was briefly the national capital, from the end of the reign of Ibrahim II in 902, until 909, when the Shi'ite Berbers took over Ifriqiya and founded the Fatimid Caliphate.
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