The First Siege Of Constantinople

Constantinople went through a number of attacks over its history, but the first siege is the one that is known best and referred to as the Siege of Constantinople. It occurred from 674-678 and was perpetrated by Arabs. This siege was a major conflict of a long lived Arab-Byzantine war. This was the first in many moves by the Muslim Arab empire towards expansion. Their ruler, Caliph Mu’awiya I, was the one that led this initial assault. Before this there had been a civil war inside the Muslim Arab empire that had halted aggressions between the empires, but Mu’awiya felt it was time to revive their previous efforts.

Very early their eyes were set on Constantinople as it was believed that by strangling that city they would quickly be able to gain ground. The assaults were methodically executed as they began to set up bases throughout Asia Minor in the years preceding the actual siege. Essentially they were successful in setting up a blockade that slowly began to put stress and pressure on Constantinople and its rulers.

During two years of the actual siege the Arabs were successful in attacking the fortifications of the city, slowly weakening it. Fortunately for the Byzantine Empire, a new weapon was developed, that when deployed with the approval of then ruler Constatine IV was able to destroy the Arab’s naval fleet. That weapon was none other than Greek Fire, which was a liquid that was able to remain lit when in contact with water. After the demoralization of the defeat of their navy, the army was soon after defeated by the Byzantine Army, essentially ending the siege.

However, this was not the end of the tensions between the Arab Empire and the Byzantine Empire. In fact, in the years that follow they met in the same way again. That occurred, however after a lengthy hiatus due to another Muslim civil war.

This battle was extremely critical for the survival of the Byzantine Empire. The Arabs were accurate in judging that if they were able to make Constantinople fall the remaining empire would likely fall as well. It was a city the held the rest of the provinces together. The fact that the Arabs lost gave the Byzantine empire increased prestige and notoriety. It was quickly known by many other empires what had occurred. Not only did Byzantines win, but they had unleashed a terrifying weapon never seen before.

What Is The Byzantine Empire?

According to History.com, while the Eastern Roman Empire crumbled and fell, the western half led by Constantine I survived for another 1,000 years.

Byzantium, an ancient Greek colony for which the empire is named, is located on the strait that links the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and served primarily as a place for transit and trade between Europe and Asia Minor. In 330 AD, Constantine declared a “new Rome” and made Byzantium into Constantinople, the new capital (which then became Istanbul, which is no one’s business but the Turks…).

The Byzantine Empire has a legacy because they left behind a rich tradition in art, literature, and philosophy which helped inspire the famous Italian Renaissance (which in turn inspired The Enlightenment, which in turn inspired The American Revolution, which in turn inspired The French Revolution). Remnants of Byzantine culture can be found Eastern Orthodox religion which is practiced in modern day countries such as Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece.

History Channel also made a great documentary about the empire which you can view here: