Arab raid against Rome

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The Arab raid against Rome was an Arab raid in 846 against Rome. Saracen raiders plundered the outskirts of the city, sacking Old St. Peter's and St. Paul's-Outside-the-Walls Basilicas, but were prevented from entering the city itself by the Aurelian Wall.

In the 820s, the Aghlabids of Ifriqiya (known by medieval Italians as the Saracens) began the conquest of Sicily. In 842, Arab forces tried to capture Ponza, but were beaten off by a combined fleet from Naples and Gaeta. However, the same year they took Messina, Sicily. Around the same time Radelchis I of Benevento and Siconulf of Salerno, rivals engaged in civil war, hired Arab mercenaries to fight in Campania.[1]

A large force set sail from Campania, landed at Porto and Ostia in 846. The Arabs struck as the Roman militia hastily retreated to the safety of the Roman walls.[1]

The Arab raiders seem to have known about Rome's extraordinary treasures. Some basilicas, such as St. Peter and Saint Paul Outside the Walls, were outside the Aurelian walls, and thus easy targets. They were "filled to overflowing with rich liturgical vessels and with jeweled reliquaries housing all of the relics recently amassed". As a result, the raiders pillaged the surroundings of the city and the two holy shrines. Contemporary historians believe the raiders had known exactly where to look for the most valuable treasures.[1]

Shortly after the siege Pope Leo IV built a strong wall on the right bank of the Tiber, in order to protect the Church of St. Peter. The encircled territory, defended by Castel Sant'Angelo, was named after the pope Leonine City, and was considered a separate town, with own administration. It joined the city in the sixteenth century, becoming the fourteenth rione of Rome, Borgo. In 849, another Arab raid against Rome's port, Ostia, would be repelled; the city was never again attacked by an Arab fleet.[1]

Saracinesco, located about 40 kilometres (25 mi) northeast of Rome, was founded by Arabs from the 846 raid against Rome.

The chanson de geste Fierabras contains echoes of the event.

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