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Andalusi Crete (827-961) and the Arab-Byzantine

Frontier in the Early Medieval Mediterranean

The island of Crete is among the oldest centers of civilization in the Mediterranean, located
strategically between the Italian Peninsula, the Aegean Sea, Egypt, and the Levant. It also lies on
a key sailing route between the eastern and western Mediterranean. Since the decline of Minoan
civilization around 1500 B.C., control of the island had shifted between a series of Mycenaean
and Hellenistic rulers until it was conquered by the Roman Empire in 69 B.C. Although highly
valued for its resources, Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, Crete was gradually neglected and
entered a long period of decline, and had been largely overshadowed by Sicily in terms of
strategic importance.[1] One of the periods of Cretes long history that is generally overlooked by
historians and researchers is the period of Andalus Muslim dominance of the island during the
ninth and tenth centuries. On the eve of its conquest by Andalus Muslims in 827, Crete was a
minor province of a much-weakened Byzantine Empire characterized by chaos, disorganization,
and disunity. The island was not reconquered until 961 by a revitalized, resurgent, and militarily
powerful empire. During its 135 year existence as an independent Andalus emirate, Crete played
an important role in the Arab-Byzantine conflict in the ninth and tenth centuries. It was also
important in its own right as a regional center of Islamic civilization and naval power.

The story of Muslim Crete began not in the Eastern Mediterranean, but in the southern portions of
the distant Muslim-ruled Iberian Peninsula, known as al-Andalus. In 818 A.D., in the Cordoban
suburb of Arrabal del Sur (Ar. al-Raba), a rebellion broke out against the rule of the
Umayyad amr of al-Andalus, al-akam I (r.796822). This uprising was largely instigated by
Hispano-Roman Muslim converts, known as muwalladn, who had allied with Andalus
Mlikfuqah (jurists), and threatened to engulf the Umayyad realm in civil strife.[1] In response to
this rebellion, al-akam brutally suppressed all opposition, crucifying three hundred jurists
from Arrabal del Sur, or al-Rabad, which was destroyed, and exiling twenty thousand of its

inhabitants.[2] Half of these exiles, including many artisans, were welcomed by the neighboring
Idrsid dynasty and settled in Fez; indeed, the Andalusian quarter of the city still exists today.[3]
The other ten thousand refugees, including many warriors and jurists, headed for the eastern port
city of Alexandria, where they joined an earlier contingent of Andaluss who had lived in the city
since the early 800s.[4] A few years after arriving in Alexandria, the exiles placed themselves
under the leadership of fellow Andalus Ab af Umar al-Ball (d. 861), one of the exiled
leaders of the Arrabal del Sur uprising, rebelled against the local wl (governor) and ruled the city
for several years.[5] In 825, the Abbasid Caliph al-Mamn (r. 813-833) sent an army against
Alexandria, effectively ending Andalus control of the city, and forcing Ab afs and his followers
to seek refuge elsewhere.[6]
The island of Crete was the ideal destination for the exiles, since they had heard about its riches,
known of its vital strategic location, and raided it on several occasions.[7] In 824 or 827the date
is uncertainthe Andaluss landed on the island, overpowered its Byzantine garrison and
conquered it with little difficulty, primarily due to the lack of fierce resistance as well as local
collaboration. They subsequently established their capital at Chandax/al-Khandaq, modern-day
Heraklion (Gr. ), in the northern part of the island, which looked towards the isles of the
Aegean Sea.[8] From their base at Chandax, the Andaluss raided Asia Minor, the Peloponnese,
the Cyclades, and the Aegean Sea, devastating a large number of islands.[9]

Their victory over a Byzantine fleet in 829 allowed them to continue their activities in the Aegean
virtually unchecked.[10] Furthermore, the Andaluss of Crete, taking advantage of the chaotic
situation in the Italian Peninsula, established bases at Brundisium and Tarentum, from where they
harassed Byzantine shipping in the Adriatic Sea, besieged Ragusa/Dubrovnik, on the Dalmatian
coast, in 868 and even sacked Venice in 875.[11] The military and naval defeats inflicted on
Byzantine fleets and the threat posed to imperial interests by the Andaluss led to several serious
attempts to dislodge the Muslims from Crete in the ninth and early tenth centuriesmost notably in
866, 912 and 949none of which were successful.[12] By 840, just over a decade after its

conquest by the Muslims, Crete was transformed from a relatively backwater province of
Byzantium into a major base of naval operations against the Empire. The situation was so dire
that around 839 the Byzantine emperor, Theophilos (r. 829-842) was forced to send diplomatic
envoys seeking assistance to Abd al-Rahman II (r. 822-852), the Umayyad emir of al-Andalus,
and to Louis the Pious (r. 814-840), ruler of the Carolingian empire, to seek aid against the
Cretans. Although both embassies led to the establishment of significant diplomatic contacts with
these two western kingdoms, they failed to secure the much-needed aid.

Exacerbating the situation for the Byzantines was the fact that the raids in the Aegean were
contemporaneous with the Aghlabid conquest of Sicily, a campaign in which many Andaluss
actively took part.[13] The conquest of Sicily was initiated in 827 by the anaf jurist Asad ibn alFur, who launched an assault on the island with ten thousand Arab cavalrymen and thousands
of infantry units on behalf of the Aghlabid amr Zydat Allh.[14] This meant that Byzantine naval
policy became a matter of imperial priority in order to maintain supremacy in the central
Mediterranean. In this regard, the conquest of Crete was a major blow to Byzantine naval power
and gave the Andaluss control of the major sailing route from the eastern Mediterranean to the
West, not to mention the route between Constantinople and the Mediterranean, and greatly
impeded Byzantiums ability to relieve Sicily, which ultimately fell to the Aghlabids in 902.[15] As
subsequent events would demonstrate, however, things were to deteriorate further for the Empire.
The most devastating attack involving the Cretan Muslims was the sack of Thessaloniki in 904 by
the Greek renegade and Abbasid admiral Leo of Tripoli.[16] The destruction of the Byzantine
Empires second largest city and the enslavement of twenty-two thousand Greeks struck a major
blow against Byzantiums power and prestige, and alerted the Empire to the necessity of
reconquering Crete from the Muslims.[17] The participation of Leo of Tripoli and another Greek
convert to Islam, Damian of Tarsus (d. 924), in the raids against Byzantium within the Aegean
further highlights the manner in which various political and military figures exploited the weakness
of the Empire during this period in order to wreak havoc and enrich themselves. It is also
particularly interesting to note the Christian origins of both Leo and Damian since it underscores

the fluidity of the military-political frontier between Byzantium and the Islamic world during this
period and the relative ease with which a renegade of humble origins from one side could easily
rise to become a major political player on the other.

Despite multiple Byzantine attempts, involving major military and naval campaigns, to conquer
Crete it was not until 961 that this was accomplished. It took the command of a Byzantine general
(and, subsequently, Emperor) of the the caliber of Nicephorus Phocas, for the island to finally be
restored to imperial authority. Nicephorus assaulted Crete with at least 77,000 men, including
some of the most elite units in the Byzantine army, which is indicative of the resolve with which
this campaign was undertaken.[18] According to both the Arabic chroniclers and Greek sources,
in spring 961, when Chandax finally fell to Nicephorus besieging army, the citys mosques were
destroyed or transformed into churches, the Muslim scriptures burnt, two hundred thousand
Cretans killed and a similar number enslaved, while those who remained were converted to
Christianity.[19] Admittedly, these figures are probably much exaggerated, but they reflect the
major destruction which followed the conquest and the vigor with which the Byzantines sought to
eradicate the Muslim presence on the island.

Based on the fact of the raids and attacks of the Cretans it would be easy to reduce the history of
Andalus Crete to a pirate base that plagued the Aegean for nearly 150 years. Indeed, this is
precisely how the Byzantine chroniclers and some modern scholars have characterized the
emirate. However, unsurprisingly, the historical reality is much more complex. Ab af and his
successors, utilizing the title of emirs, were virtually independent rulers, but found it expedient to
acknowledge the authority of the Abbasid Caliph al-Mamn, who was engaged in a war with
Byzantium and recognized the strategic value of the island.[23] Ab af and his descendants
(who set up a hereditary dynasty on the island that lasted over 5 or 6 generations) envisioned
themselves as local rulers, not too dissimilar from other local dynasties such as the Tulunids or
the Aghlabids who ruled and administered different territories on behalf of the Abbasid caliphs
whom they nominally acknowledged. The Andaluss left the local religious infrastructure of Crete
intact, allowing the native population to maintain their religion, but implemented Islamic patterns
of taxation, urbanization, and administration.[24] Jizya (poll tax) was imposed upon the conquered
non-Muslim populations (known as ahl al-dhimma or protected people) of Crete and the Aegean
islands, and the Cretans secured active support from the ulnids of Egypt (868905),
demonstrating a certain level of political aptitude.[25] Indeed, the conclusion of pacts and
agreements with the local leadership in the Aegean islands signified that the emirs of Crete
sought to tax and control, not merely raid, territory. It would therefore be useful to think of the
emirate of Crete as operating within a framework that extended beyond simple piracy or
The contemporary Arab, Andalus, and Persian travelers who mention Crete (Iqrtish in Arabic)
speak very highly of the island and of the Muslims inhabiting it. Ibn awqal and al-Istakhri
describe the island as an Islamic frontier state engaged in continuous warfare with Byzantium. AlIstakhri refers to the Muslims of Crete as the people of ghazw, while Ibn awqal explains that
Crete was ruled by abn al-mujhidn (the descendants of holy warriors). The idea of Crete
being a major base of operations for Muslim warriors is clarified further by Ibn awqal who

describes the island of Crete as a crucial component of what he terms thughr aljuzuryya (island frontier fortresses), defensible islands where ghz squadrons were based and
which held the forces of Byzantium at bay in the Mediterranean, and complementary to the landbased thughr in Anatolia. The fighting skills of the Andaluss were described in admirable terms
by Ibn al-Abbr, who states that there was not a single group in any corner of the world against
whom these Andaluss fought that they did not defeat and conquer, and by Ibn azm, who
glorifies the Andalus Cretans as the staunchest and most capable people at vanquishing their
enemies. Moreover, in a letter sent in 961 to the Ikhsdid Kfr (r. 946-968), the Faimid immcaliph al-Muizz li Dn Allh (r. 953-975) implied that the Muslims of Crete weremujhidn (frontier
warriors) and suggested that the Muslim rulers unite in the cause of jihd to relieve the island
from the Byzantine onslaught. Such statements reveal that the Andaluss of Crete were viewed by
their contemporaries in the Islamic world (and in later Muslim tradition) as fierceghz warriors
fighting from their island frontier fortress at al-Khandaq on the front lines of jihd against the
traditional enemies of the Arab Muslims, the Byzantines. Of course, one should be cautious not
conflate ideology and representation with historical reality, but at the very least such sources
provide some additional insight into the emirate of Crete and its role within the broader context of
Byzantine-Arab relations.
During the period of Andalus political control, the prosperity of the island itself rose tremendously
as a result of the influx of wealth which accompanied the raids of the Cretans. This wealth, in
addition to the manpower which it inevitably attracted to the island, allowed the Andaluss to
transform Crete into a formidable ideological and political opponent of Byzantium.[26] The
economic vitality and political autonomy of Andalus Crete is also evident from the fact that the
Cretans minted their own coinage, and traded with al-Andalus, Egypt, and the Vikings in such
commodities as honey, olive oil, timber, and weaponry.[27] As far as one can tell from the extant
sources, life on the island itself was relatively cosmopolitan, with the local population retaining its
religion and language, the development of agriculture, trade, increasing urbanization, and multiple
social interactions between the Greek Cretans, the Andalus conquerors, and Arab Muslim
settlers.[28] In Crete, as elsewhere along the Arab-Byzantine frontier during the early Middle
Ages, commerce and warfare were two sides of the same coin. Indeed, the fruits of piracy
material wealth and captiveswere not negligible sources of income for the Andalusi emirate.

The main city built by the Muslims, al-Khandaq, developed into a notable intellectual and cultural
center, attracting several scholars from across the Islamic world.[29] According to the fifteenthcentury historian al-imyri, the most magnificent Andalus scholars dwelled in Crete, an
observation also attested by the fact that many of the Andaluss who conquered Crete were
themselves scholars, or fuqah (jurists), who had been exiles from the repressive measures of alakam in al-Andalus.[30] Reaffirming this idea that al-Khandaq was a sophisticated and cultured
urban centre, the Byzantine Chronicle Theophanes Continuatus describes the lifestyle of the
Andalus elite in Crete, which included living in houses surrounded by gardens full of fruit trees
and beautiful fountains, an indication that the Muslim rulers of Crete lived fairly luxuriously.[31] In
addition to al-imyri, many other Muslim historians, geographers, and chroniclers have
emphasized Cretes role as a center for culture and scholarship. Yqt, a thirteenth-century
geographer, for example, described Andalus Crete as a large island with many cities where
numerous scholars (ulam) gather, and Ibn al-Abbr narrates how Crete attracted many
scholars, religious people, and lay people from the Islamic world to settle there.[32]

Another attestation to the close association between Andalus Crete and Islamic scholarship and
culture is the fact that the nisbah al-Iqrtish was common for several Muslim scholars during the
ninth and tenth centuries.[33] Several scholars have also suggested that the sources provide
evidence for the existence of other Islamic institutions on the island.[34] Numerous other
historians and chroniclers have referred to countless scholars, poets, authors, and jurists, of
whose names only a few survive, who came from Crete.[35] Among these individuals was a
descendant of Ab af, the conqueror of Crete, named Umar ibn Is ibn Muammad ibn Ab
af, who compiled a treatise entitled The Interpretation of the Wonders and Miracles of the
Quran while he was imprisoned in Constantinople following his capture by Byzantine imperial
flotillas in the Aegean while on a ghazwa.[36] Other eminent individuals, according to al-imyri,
included Fat ibn al-Ala, the qd (most senior judicial official and religious judge) of Crete, Isq
ibn Slem, Yaya ibn Uthmn, Msa ibn Abd al-Mlik, and Muammad ibn Umar, who all
composed treatises on law, religion, and philosophy.[37] Perhaps the most extraordinary and, in
recent years, most discussed scholar who originated in Muslim Crete was Muammad ibn Umar,
the younger brother of the Mlik scholar Yaya ibn Umar, and a prominent Arab Cretan faqh,
who authored the Kitb akryt al-sufun, a treatise on Islamic maritime law.[38] This work and its
Greek counterpart, the Nomos Rhodion Nautikos, are considered two of the greatest works on
ships and shipping from the early Middle Ages.

Although many of the literary sources, both Greek and Arabic, seek to portray an overly-simplistic
picture of a clear-cut conflict between Muslim and Christian in the Mediterranean during the ninth
and tenth centuries, it should be remembered that there is ample evidence that, at times, the
contact between Islamic and Byzantine civilizations generated relations between Muslims and
Christians that extended far beyond the military realm. The case of Crete was no different, with
diplomatic and cultural contacts between the Andalusi rulers and Byzantium being an important
part of its history. One particularly interesting exchange was that between the emir of Crete and
the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nicholas Mysticus (d. 925), who sent a cordial letter to former in
913 or 914 in order to encourage him to release the Greek prisoners captured during the attack
against Thessaloniki in 904. Among the most interesting portions of the letter is the following, in
which Nicholas Mysticus suggests that there was extensive contact and amity between his own
predecessor, St. Photios I (d. 891) of Constantinople and the previous emir of Crete:
The Patriarch [St. Photios] knew well that although the barriers of religion stood between us, yet
wisdom, kindness, and the other qualities which adorn and dignify human nature, attract the

affection of those who love fair things; and therefore, notwithstanding the difference of creeds, he
loved your father, who was endowed with those qualities (Nicholas Mysticos, Letters [Washington
D.C. 1973], ed. and trans.R.J.H. Jenkins and L.G. Westerink, Letter 2)

The economic life of Crete improved under the Arabs, and the island went from being a remote,
subordinated province of the Byzantine Empire to an autonomous, self-sustaining country with
extensive trade, intensive agriculture, and the accumulation of vast wealth as a result of trade,
raids, and local enterprise.[39] In their writing, the Arab geographers depict Crete as a country
rich with resources, such as gold and timber, and possessing a thriving agricultural economy. In
exchange for olive oil from al-Andalus and weaponry from Egypt, Muslim Crete exported timber,
wine, cheese, milk, honey, pomegranates, nuts, precious metals, and unique herbs, known as alAntimn(Antimonium; used in medicines and dyeing) to the rest of the Islamic world.[40] The
Cretans minted their own currency, which not only included copper coins but also silver and gold,
demonstrating the wealth of the island under Andalus rule and its political autonomy from the rest
of the Islamic world.[41] Many jurists and scholars immigrated to the island fortresses (al-thughr
al-juzuryya), of which Crete was an important one, while others were born, grew up, and
practiced law there; a source on the life of Muammad ibn Umar, for example, states that he had
been born in Crete because his father, a contemporary of Abu afs al-Ball, had been stationed
on the island to participate in frontier warfare.[42] The presence of large numbers of fuqahwithin
the ranks of the Cretan ghzs can allow historians to draw parallels between this intellectualmartial trend within Andalus Crete with the warrior scholars of the Arab-Byzantine frontier in
Cilicia, Armenia, and Anatolia.[43]
Whether one views Andalus Crete as a pirate base for Muslim freebooters and adventurers, or
as an integral component of the frontier fortresses from which raids were launched against the
Byzantine Empire in the Aegean, it is clear that the existence of a powerful, militant entity on
Byzantiums southern maritime frontier posed a major threat to the strategic interests of the
Empire. Andalus Crete also represents the political and social possibilities in a world of
tremendous mobility, where a relatively small group of jurists from the fringes of the Islamic world
were able to establish a successful and prosperous kingdom for themselves hundreds of miles
from their homeland. The events surrounding the establishment, existence and fall of the emirate
of Crete should be interpreted within the context of the ninth- and tenth-century frontier warfare
that characterized the conflict between Byzantium and Islam during the ninth and tenth centuries.
That the fall of Chandax in 961 ushered in a new era of Byzantine imperial confidence and

military dominance underscores the importance and relevance of Andalus Crete within the larger
context of the struggle between Byzantium and Islam in the Near East.
[1] Dimitris Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete: from the Fifth Century to the Venetian
Conquest (Athens, 1988), 2030.

Ibn Idhr al-Marrakushi, Al-bayn al-Maghreb f akhbr al-Andalus w-al Maghrib (Beirut,1983),

II:7577; Hitti, History of the Arabs, 513; Imamuddin, Cordovan Muslim Rule, 298299; Ahmad
Abbad and Abdul-Aziz Slem,Trkh al-Bahryya al-Islmyya f aw al-Bar al-Abya alMutawassit: Al-Bahryya al-Islmyya fi al-Maghreb wa al-Andalus (Alexandria, 1981), 6774.

Imamuddin, Cordovan Muslim Rule, 299; Xavier de Planhol, LIslam et La Mer: La Mosquee et

le Matelot (Paris, 2000), 64.


Ibn al-Abbr, Kitb al-ullah al-siyar (Cairo, 1985), 1/45; Shakib Arslan, Tarkh ghazawt

al-Arab f Faransa wa-Swsira wa-Ily wa-jazir al-Bar al-Muawassi (Beirut, 1966), 185

Ibn al-Abbr, Kitb al-ullah, 1/45; Amin Taybi, Amara Arabyya Andalusyya f Jazrat

Iqrtish, Majallat al-Muarrikh al-Arab 28 (1986): 47; Ali Fahmy, Muslim Sea-Power in the Eastern
Mediterranean (London, 1950), 129131; Abbady and Salem, Tarkh al-Baryya, 7580.

John Bagnell Bury, History of the Eastern Roman Empire from the Fall of Irene to the Ascension

of Basil I (London, 1912), 288; Taybi, Amara Andalusyya Arabyya, 46; Abbady and
Salem, Tarkh al-Bahryya, 8082.

Bury, Eastern Roman Empire, 288; Fahmy, Muslim Sea-Power, 130; Taybi, Amara Andalusyya

Arabyya, 46; Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, 3637.


Genesios, On the Reigns of the Emperors, trans. Anthony Kaldellis (Canberra, 1998), 3940.

Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, 40; Taybi, Amara Andalusyya Arabyya, 4648; Alexander
Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire (Madison, 1961), 278; Fahmy, Muslim Sea-Power, 132;
Kenneth M. Setton, On the Raids of the Moslems in the Aegean in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries
and their Alleged Occupation of Athens, American Journal of Archaeology 58 (1954), p.311;
Iqrtish, Encyclopedia of Islam, p.1083..

John Scylitzes, Ioannis Scylitzae Synopsis Historiarum (Berolini, 1973), ed. Hans Thurn, 153;

Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, 3435; Warren Treadgold, The Byzantine Revival (Stanford, 1988),
253; Fahmy, Muslim Sea-Power, 136; Eduardo Manzano Moreno, Byzantium and Al-Andalus in
the Ninth Century, in Leslie Brubaker, ed., Byzantium in the Ninth Century: Dead or Alive?
(Ashgate, 1996), 138; Setton, On the Raids of the Moslems in the Aegean in the Ninth and Tenth
Centuries, pp.312314. For a discussion of the problematic nature of the sources regarding the
chronology of the raids of the Cretans in the Aegean, see E.W. Brooks, The Arab Occupation of

Crete,English Historical Review 28 (1913): 431443. For a detailed look at the raids of the
Cretans in the Aegean Sea, see Taybi, Amara Arabyya Andalusyya, 4950; Vassilios
Christides, The Raids of the Muslims of Crete in the Aegean Sea: Piracy and
Conquest, Byzantion 51 (1981): 76111; Vassilios Christides,The Conquest of Crete by the
Arabs (Athens, 1984), 157165.

Bury, Eastern Roman Empire, 289; Fahmy, Muslim Sea-Power, 133134; Abbady and

Salem, Tarkh al-Bahryya, 8285.


Romilly Jenkins, trans., Constantine Porpyrogenitus De Administrando Imperio (Dumbarton

Oaks, 1967), 127129. Archibald Lewis, Naval Power and Trade in the Mediterranean, A.D. 500
1100 (Princeton, 1951), 137138.
[12] Christos G. Makrypoulias, Byzantine Expeditions against the Emirate of Crete, 825949,
in Sixth International Congress of Graeco-Oriental and African Studies (Nicosia, 1996), pp.347
[13] John Scylitzes, Ioannis Scylitzae Synopsis Historiarum, 69; Iqrtish, EI, 1083.

Bury, Eastern Roman Empire, 298; Enan, Decisive Moments, 79; Franzius,History of the

Byzantine Empire, 163.


Hlne Ahrweiler, Byzance et la mer: La marine de guerre, la politique et les institutions

maritmes de Byzance (Paris, 1966), 3839; Lewis, Naval Power, 132; Richard Unger, The Ship in
the Medieval Economy, 6001600 (London, 1980), 96; Ekkehard Eickhoff, Seekrieg und
Seepolitik zwischen Islam und Abendland: Das Mittelmeer unter byzantischer und arabischer
Hegemonie(Berlin, 1966), 6566; John Pryor, Geography, Technology and War: Studies in the
Maritime History of the Mediterranean (Cambridge, 1988), 106; John Scylitzes, Ioannis Scylitzae
Synopsis Historiarum , 267; Treadgold, Byzantine Revival, 332; Bury, Eastern Roman Empire,
301. For the logistics and financing of the Byzantine army in the Aegean and Ionian seas, and for
a discussion of the impact that the Andalus conquest of Crete had on its military capabilities, see
Warren Treadgold, Byzantium and Its Army (Stanford, 1995), 189 and 210..
[16] Muhammad Abdullah Enan, Decisive Moments in the History of Islam(London, 1940), 8487;
Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, 50.
[17] A.A. Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire (Madison, 1961), 305; Steven
Runciman, Byzantine Civilization (London, 1933), 151; Franzius,History of the Byzantine Empire:
Mother of Nations (New York, 1967), 189. For a discussion of the various attempts by the
Byzantine Empire to reconquer Crete from the Muslims, see Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, 41
58; Christos G. Makrypoulias, Byzantine Expeditions Against the Emirate of Crete, GraecoArabica 7/8 (2000): 347362.

[18] Romilly Jenkins, Byzantium: The Imperial Centuries (London, 1966), 271; Taybi, Amara
Andalusyya Arabyya, 5051; Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, 5874.
[19] Ahmad ibn Abd al-Wahb al-Nuwair, Tarkh al-Maghrib al-Islm(Casablanca, 1984), 485
486. Taybi, Amara Andalusyya Arabyya, 5152; Iqrtish, EI, p.1084. For a detailed discussion
of the conquest of Crete by Nicephorus Phocas, see Christides, The Conquest of Crete by the
Arabs, 172191; for a panegyric regarding Nicephorus Phocas, which reveals a great deal of the
immense significance of the event to the Byzantines, see Hugo Criscuolo ed. Theodosii Diaconi
De Creta Capta (Leipzig, 1979). A rare and interesting perspective concerning the Byzantine
conquest of Crete is given in Joshua Holo, A Genizah Letter from Rhodes Evidently Concerning
the Byzantine Reconquest of Crete Journal of Near Eastern Studies 59 (2000): 112.
[20] Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, 74; Christides, Conquest of Crete, 183; Iqrtish, EI, p.1084.
[21] Nadia Maria El Cheikh, Byzantium Viewed by the Arabs (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press, 2004), 164168.
[22] Ibn Jubayr, The Travels of Ibn Jubayr: A Medieval Muslim Visits Mecca, Madinah, Egypt,
Cities of the Middle East, and Sicily (London: J. Cape, 1952), trans. Ronald Broadhurst, 359;
Kathryn A. Miller, Guardians of Islam: Religious Authority and Muslim Communities of Late
Medieval Spain (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 45.

Bury, Eastern Roman Empire, 292; Taybi, Amara Andalusyya Arabyya, 47; Abbady and

Salem, Tarkh al-Bahryya, 83; Iqrtish, EI, 1083.


Jorge Lirola Delgado, El Poder Nava de A-Andalus en la epoca del Califato Omeya (Granada,

1993), 225; Christides, The Raids of the Muslims, 98; Christides, The Conquest of Crete, 104
117; Tsougarakis, Byzantine Crete, 75.

Christides, Conquest of Crete, 109; Christides, The Raids of the Muslims of Crete, 98. For

more on the religio-political outlook of the Arabs, the treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic society,
and the idea of dhimm, see R. Steven Humphreys, Islamic History: A Framework for
Enquiry (Princeton, 1991), 255283; John Tolan, Islamic Dominion and the Religious Other, in
Tolan,Saracens, 2139. This style of governance was based on the traditional Islamic model
following the conquest of various regions and on earlier precedents, including the conquests of
Egypt and Spain, in which individual (non-Muslim) towns and cities capitulated to Muslim rule,
paid a special tax known as jizya, in exchange for being permitted to observe their religious
practices and maintain a certain degree of autonomy. This arrangement was known as
the dhimma pact.
[26] Jenkins, Byzantium, 144.

[27] Christides, Conquest of Crete, 114; Delgado, El Poder Naval, 227228. For more on the
coinage of Andalusi Crete, see George C. Miles, The Coinage of the Arab Emirs of Crete (New
York, 1970).
[28] Christides, Conquest of Crete, 105107; Jenkins, Byzantium, 144; Tsougarakis, Byzantine
Crete, 75.
[29] Abu afs Umar al-Balli, in The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition. Vol. 1 (Leiden,
1960), 121
[30] Taybi, Amara Arabyya Andalusyya, 47; Christides, Conquest of Crete, 133.
[31] Christides, Conquest of Crete, 121.
[32] Ibn al-Abbar, Kitb al-ullah, 1/45; Taybi, Amara Arabyya Andalusyya, 47; Arslan, Trkh
Ghazwt al-Arab, 189; Brooks, The Arab Occupation of Crete, p.442.
[33]Iqrtish, EI, p.1085.
[34] Christides, The Conquest of Crete, 115.
[35] Ibn al-Faradi, Trkh al-ulam wa-al-ruwh lil-ilm bi-al-Andalus (Cairo, 1988), 2/123
[36] Taybi, Amara Arabiyya Andalusiyya, 48
[37] Ibn al-Faradi, Trkh al-ulam, 2/187; Taybi, Amara Arabyya Andalusyya, 48; Delgado, El
Poder Naval, 226227; Christides, Conquest of Crete, 133136.
[38] Imamuddin, Cordovan Muslim Rule, 308; Christides, The Conquest of Crete, 134. The life of
scholars who lived in Crete is also described briefly as luxurious but difficult in a biographical
dictionary from al-Andalus describing the life of one Cretan Andalusi scholar, Marwan ibn Abd alMlik ibn al-Fakkhr, who owned a five storey house furnished with twenty slave girls and an
entire library of historical and religious works. Marwn ibn Abd al-Mlik was engaged in the
writing of the history of Crete and was involved in collecting local material which would have aided
him in his task. For an extensive and comprehensive look at the Kitab Akriyat al-Sufun, see
Hassan Khalilieh,Admiralty and Maritime Law in the Mediterranean Sea, 8001050: The Kitab
Akriyat al-Sufun vis-a-vis the Nomos Rhodion Nautikos (Brill, 2006); Vasilios Christides, Raid and
Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean: A Treatise by Muammad ibn Umar, the Faqh from
Occupied Muslim Crete, Graeco-Arabica 5 (1993): 61102.
[39] Ibn Hawqal, Srat al-Ar,184; Christides, Conquest of Crete, 117.

[40] Al-imyr, Kitb al-Raw al-Mitr f Khabar al-Aqtr (Beirut, 1975), 51; Taybi, Amara
Arabyya Andalusyya, 46; Christides, Conquest of Crete, 101, 117; Iqrtish, EI, 1082.
[41] Christides, Conquest of Crete, 119. Numismatic evidence has shown that the trade networks
of the Cretans were highly developed and very extensive, with Cretan Muslim coins being found in
Spain, Egypt, Italy, France, Greece, and Scandinavia.
[42] Christides, Raid and Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, 66.
[43] For more on the concept of warrior-scholars in early Islam, see Bonner,Jihad in Islamic
History, 97117.
Further Reading
Abbadi, Ahmad and Abdul-Aziz Salem, Trkh al-bahryya al-islmyya f aw al-Bar al-Abya
al-Mutawassit: Al-bahryya al-islmyya fi al-Maghreb wa al-Andalus. Alexandria, 1981.
Arslan, Shakib. Tarkh ghazawt al-Arab f Faransa wa-Swsira wa-Ily wa-jazir al-Bar alMuawassi. Beirut: Dr Maktabat al-ayh 1966.
Bonner, Michael. Aristocratic Violence and Holy War: Studies in the Jihad and the Arab-Byzantine
Frontier. New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1996.
______. Some Observations concerning the Early Development of Jihad on the Arab-Byzantine
Frontier, Studia Islamica 75 (1992): 531.
Brooks, E.W. The Arab Occupation of Crete, English Historical Review 28 (1913): 431443.
Christides, Vassilios. The Raids of the Muslims of Crete in the Aegean Sea: Piracy and
Conquest, Byzantion 51 (1981): 76111.
______. Raid and Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean: A Treatise by Muhammad ibn Umar,
the Faqih from Occupied Muslim Crete, and theRhodian Sea Law, Two Parallel Texts. GraecoArabica 5 (1993): 61102.
______. The Conquest of Crete by the Arabs: A Turning Point in the Struggle between Byzantium
and Islam. Athens: Akademia Athenwn, 1985.
______. The Names E, etc. and Their False Byzantine
Etymologies. Byzantinische Zeitschrift 65 (1972): 329333.
Delgado, Jorge Lirola. El poder naval de Al-Andalus en la poca del Califato Omeya. Granada:
Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Granada, 1993.

Enan, Muhammad Abdullah. Decisive Moments in the History of Islam. London, Goodword
Books, 1940.
Fahmy, Ali. Muslim Sea-Power in the Eastern Mediterranean.London: Tip. Don Bosco, 1950.
Haldon, John and Hugh Kennedy, The Arab-Byzantine Frontier in the Eighth and Ninth
Centuries: Military Organization and Society in the Borderlands, inThe Byzantine and Early
Islamic Near East, pp. 79116, ed. Hugh Kennedy. Burlington: Ashgate, 2006.
Holo, Joshua. A Genizah Letter from Rhodes Evidently Concerning the Byzantine Reconquest of
Crete Journal of Near Eastern Studies 59 (2000): 112.
Imamuddin, S.M. Cordovan Muslim Rule in Iqrtish (Crete), Journal of the Pakistan Historical
Association 8 (1960): 297312.
Khalilieh, Hassan S. Admiralty and Maritime Laws in the Mediterranean Sea (ca. 8001050): The
Kitab Akriyat al-Sufun vis--vis the Nomos Rhodion Nautikos. Leiden: Brill, 2006.
Lewis, Archibald. Naval Power and Trade in the Mediterranean, A.D. 5001100. Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1951.
Manzano Moreno, Eduardo. Byzantium and Al-Andalus in the Ninth Century, in Byzantium in the
Ninth Century: Dead or Alive? Ed. Leslie Brubaker. Ashgate: Variorum, 1996.
Makrypoulias, Christos G. Byzantine Expeditions Against the Emirate of Crete, GraecoArabica 7/8 (2000): 347362.
Miles, George C. Byzantium and the Arabs: Relations in Crete and the Aegean
Area. Dumbarton Oaks Papers 18 (1964): 132.
______. The Coinage of the Arab Amirs of Crete. New York: The American Numismatic Society,
Nikolia, D. Islamic Influences in the Iconoclastic Churches of Naxos, Graeco-Arabica 7/8 (2000):
Ostrogorsky, George. History of the Byzantine State. Trans. Joan Hussey. New Jersey: Rutgers
University Press, 1957.
Picard, Christophe and Antoine Borrut, Rabata, Ribat, Rabita: une institution a reconsiderer,
in Chretiens et musulmans en Mediterranee medievale: Echanges et contacts, eds. Nicolas
Prouteau and Philippe Senac. Poitiers, 2003.

Pryor, John H. Geography, Technology, and War: Studies in the Maritime History of the
Mediterranean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Taybi, Amin Amara Arabyya Andalusyya f Jazrat Iqrtish, Majallat al-Muarrikh al-Arab 28
(1986): 4555.
Tsougarakis, Dimitris. Byzantine Crete: from the Fifth Century to the Venetian Conquest. Athens:
Historical Publications St. D. Basilopoulos, 1988.