Sack of Thessalonica


904 A.C is a black year for the Byzantine hisrory because the 2nd most important city-Thessaloniki in their empire was conquered .

Led my the greek renegate Lion Triapolid who

surrounded saint Dimitar’s city with his navy,the Saracen pirates attacked.

The siege took place during a horrible war in a row between the Byzantines and the arabs.

The city endured many of the slavic and avars ,but didnt have the same fate when the arabian pirates resorted to tricks.

For a very long time the saracens were lurking and waiting for the best opportunity to attack and hopefully conquer the coastal empire cities of Thessaloniki and Constantinople,known for their wealth. That moment came in 904 A.C. When the empire fought on two different fronts-on the Balkans with the bulgarian tsan Simeon and on the other wise-with the arabs.

During that period Thessaloniki simply did not have the necessary military power and there were quarrel between their allies (the slavs ).




The pirates came from Egyps and Sirya along with Ethiopians who would do anything to get their hands on a good loot.

Their commander Lion Tripolid was a Byzantine,but during a particular siege he had changed his religion and became a zealous protector of the arab cause.

On many ocassions he cooperated with another Byzantine renegate-Damian of Tarsus .

Together they attacked the byzantine’cities and ships.

In the summer of 904 A.C. Lion found himselm in a position of commanding a 54 ships flotilla.

The initial objective of the arabs was the capital itself,but the stong flotilla and the strong city wall changed their mind.

However,they succeeded in conquering only Abidos,located on the opposite side of the Dardanelle’s coast.

Emperor Leo VI the Wise sent them the byzantine’s navy,led by his friend Eustatius Argir,whose mission was to repel the saracens and he had decided not to do engage them massively and the role was switched over to Cheimerino,but he had no success in stopping them from what destiny had soon intented for Thessaloniki- conquering and plundering the city.

Lion Tripolid decided that the byzantines must be looted,so he marched to Thessaloniki.

The byzantines watchet renegade’s moves closely and sent the reliable Petronas to Thessaloniki.

The idea was for Petronas to be the head of the defense.

Soon after he was changed for Lion,who was declared Thessaloniki’s strategist.

Lios expected the arrival of another truested fellow-Nikita,but during an accident Lios the Strategist injured himself and couldn’t carry on his duties.

The citizens started preparing and organizing themselves for the upcoming threat as much as they could by reparing the city walls and they held many sieges by food.



However,the problem lied in the simple fact that Thessaloniki could’ve been easily conquered by sea.

The Saracens were well aware it and would strike them there.

The Strategist sent out messengers to the nearby vicinity to gather all men who could be able to handle weapons.

The “allied” slavic neighbors tribes were summoned ,but they neglected the call and sent but a handfull of men.

At first the idea was to use the sea as a defense by flooding the old Hellenic buildings,which

would prevent the pirates from advancing further.

The Strategist change stopped their plans and the new one started reinforcing the city wall.

The people of Thessaloniki didnt manage to reinforce enough the city’s defenses when the muslim ships appeared on the horizon.

It was the 29th of July 904 A.C.

In the beginning they only stated on the coast,and were not sure how to attack when seeing the well defended city.

After a brief hesitation they attached the walls and tried to climp up by using stairs.

It didn’t work for them as planned,so the next day they changes the stratefy and started using

catapult machines,then set one of the gates on fire-they gates were devided into gates were divided into inner and outer.The inner one was made of wood,while the outer one was made by metal.

They set the metal one on fire,which got very hot and was broken down.

Until this moment the citizens drove back the attacks with bravery,but when the gate was destroyed they were scared.

The Saracens didn’t have the chance to take advantage of the situation and decided to try one last time to break in.They would have retrieted if the last try was not successfull.

What did they really do?

They lit fire everywhere and transformed they ships into a siege mashines.

It confused the Byzantines ,while the arabs found a weak spot in the wall.This is how

they managed to clip up on it.

They killed the rest of the people who were on the wall and opened the main gate.

When the arabs raided , Thessaloniki looked horrible-the Saracens began slaughtering men, women and children mercilessly.

Many were killed by the Saracens swords , but the author of the story of the siege John Kaminat

escaled along with his family thanks to a big ransom,only to be sold into slavery in Egyps,as were many others.

After plundering the city of Thessaloniki,the bulgarian Tsar Simeon also tried to loot it,but failed.

The Byzantines were faster and paid a and paid a huge ransom for returning the city and city and its prisoners back to them .



Sources: ” Greeks sources for bulgarian history” and Alexander Vasilev “History of Byzantine empire”

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