Leo of Tripoli

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The sack of Thessalonica in 904, from the Madrid Skylitzes.

Leo of Tripoli (Greek: Λέων ὸ Τριπολίτης), known in Arabic as Rashīq al-Wardāmī (رشيق الوردامي), and Ghulām Zurāfa (غلام زرافة), was a Greek renegade and fleet commander for the Abbasid Caliphate in the early tenth century.[1]

Leo was born in or near Attaleia, the capital of the maritime Cibyrrhaeot Theme, and was captured in an Arab raid. In captivity, he converted to Islam and placed his considerable maritime experience in the service of his captors.[2] His Arabic sobriquet, Ghulām Zurāfa, probably reflects the name of his first Muslim master, while Alexander Vasiliev interpreted the element Wardāmī in his second Arabic name to mean that Leo was a Mardaite.[3]

In 905, Leo was at the head of a major naval expedition, whose initial target reportedly was Constantinople itself. The Arab fleet penetrated the Dardanelles and sacked Abydos, as the Byzantine navy under the droungarios Eustathios Argyros was reluctant to confront them. Emperor Leo VI the Wise replaced Argyros with the more energetic Himerios, but Leo of Tripoli forestalled the Byzantines, turning back west and heading for the Empire's second city, Thessalonica, which he sacked after a three-day siege on 31 July 904.[1][4]

In October 911 or 912, Leo and his fellow convert Damian of Tarsus defeated Himerios off Chios while he was returning from a fruitless attempt to reconquer the Emirate of Crete.[1][5] Finally, in 921/2, the imperial navy under the patrikios and droungarios John Rhadenos defeated Leo's fleet off Lemnos. Most of the Arab fleet was destroyed and Leo himself barely escaped. He disappears from the sources after this event.[1][6]


  1. ^ a b c d Kazhdan 1991, p. 1216.
  2. ^ Vasiliev 1968, p. 163.
  3. ^ Vasiliev 1968, p. 163 (note 2).
  4. ^ Tougher 1997, pp. 186–188.
  5. ^ Tougher 1997, p. 192.
  6. ^ Wortley 2010, p. 211.