Battle of Carthage (698)
|Battle of Carthage|
|Part of the Muslim conquest of North Africa
and the Arab–Byzantine Wars
|Umayyad Caliphate||Byzantine Empire|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Hasan ibn al-Nu'man||John the Patrician,
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Carthage was fought in 698 between a Byzantine expeditionary force and the armies of the fifth Umayyad Caliphate. Having lost Carthage to the Muslims, Emperor Leontius sent the navy under the command of John the Patrician and the droungarios Tiberius Apsimarus. They entered the harbor and successfully recaptured it, as well as the city, in a stunning surprise attack. The Arab forces fled to Kairouan.
The emir Hasan ibn al-Nu'man was in the midst of pacifying the lands of Tamazgh (as it is called by the indigenous peoples)idg. when? or Maghreb (Arabic for the west), but withdrew from campaigning in the field to confront the renewed Roman challenge to the emerging caliphate. At Kairouan, he began plans to retake Carthage the following spring. It is estimated that he headed a force of 40,000 men. The Romans sent out a call for help to their traditional allies, the native Amazigh, and even to their enemies the Visigoths and the Franks. Despite having retaken the city, the Romans were in disarray due to the bitter in-fighting that characterized medieval Romania and sapped much of its strength.[original research?] The previous exarch Gennadius had been a traitor to the Christian cause, defecting to the Muslims and becoming their vassal. The king of the Visigoths, Wittiza, sent a reputed force of 500 warriors in order to help defend Carthage, perhaps to help check the rising Muslim threat which was lopping off large chunks of the Roman Empire, so close to Visigothic Hispania.[original research?]perhaps?
Hasan ibn al-Nu'man, enraged at having to retake a city that had not resisted the Roman take over, offered no terms except to surrender or die. The emperor Leontius, infamous for his harsh reaction to failure, had also given his forces instructions of victory or death. The Romans did sally forth and brought battle to the Arabs directly, but were defeated. They later preferred to continue to incite revolt through the Amazigh princes. The Roman commander, John, decided to wait out the siege behind the walls of Carthage and 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 continuously tried to scale the walls with ladders. The Arabs combined their land assault with an attack from the sea that caused John and Apsimarus to fear being trapped within the city. Yet, the determination of the defenders resulted in the second and final great destruction of Carthage. The Romans retreated to the islands of Corsica, Sicily and Crete to further resist Muslim expansion and await the emperor's wrath.
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 ibn al-Nu'man was triumphant. Hasan met with trouble from the Zenata tribe of Berbers under al-Kahina. They inflicted a serious defeat on him and drove him back to Barqa. 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, 85 miles (136 km) west of Carthage. He then developed the village of Tunis, ten miles from the destroyed Carthage. Around 705, Musa ibn Nusayr replaced Hasan. He pacified much of North Africa.
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