Monday, March 23, 2009

Islamic Armies Attack Italy

Many of us would be startled if we are told that in the ninth century, a Muslim fleet based in Sicily sailed up the Tiber and occupied and sacked Rome for days, until it was defeated and expelled by the the armies of the Holy Roman Empire and other Frankish contingents. This attack took place on August 28, in the year 846 A.D., when the Islamic military arrived at the mouth of the river Tiber and sailed into Rome.

The Muslim invasion of Italy is often overlooked in history books, because the massive Islamic attacks on Spain and Yugoslavia get more attention. Although the attack on Italy was smaller than the other Muslim assaults, it is worth studying, because it is part of the larger historical trend which characterized these centuries.

Logically enough, the Islamic advance on Italy was made possible after Muslim armies had occupied and subjugated, in stepping-stone fashion, the islands of Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia.

Despite the fact that the military action in Italy was smaller than the massive incursions into Spain and Yugoslavia, its historical importance lies in the fact that the Islamic military succeeded in opening a third front; this forced the Europeans to spread their defensive forces more thinly, to the strategic and tactical advantage of the Muslims.

Further south of Rome down along the Italian peninsula, Islamic forces staged both temporary raids, as well as occupying various provinces on a longer-term basis, sometimes holding a region for several years.