Exarchate of Africa

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Byzantine Empire Timeline
667 BC Ancient city of Byzantium (future Constantinople) is founded.
330 AD Constantine makes Constantinople his capital.
395 Empire permanently split into Eastern and Western halves, following the death of Theodosius I.
527 Justinian I crowned emperor.
Justinian builds the church of Hagia Sophia
533–554 Justinian's generals reconquer North Africa and Italy from the Vandals and Ostrogoths.
568 The Lombard invasion results in the loss of most of Italy.
634–641 Arab armies conquer the Levant and Egypt. In the following decades, they take most of North Africa, and later conquer Sicily as well.
730–787; 813–843 Iconoclasm controversies. This results in the loss of most of the Empire's remaining Italian territories, aside from some territories in the south.
843–1025 Macedonian dynasty established. The empire experiences a military and territorial revival. Byzantine scholars record and preserve many valuable ancient Greek and Roman texts.
1002–1018 Emperor Basil II campaigns annually against the Bulgarians, with the object of annihilating the Bulgar state.
1014 The Bulgarian army is completely defeated at the Battle of Kleidon. Basil II becomes known as The Bulgar Slayer.
1018 Bulgaria surrenders and is annexed to the empire. The whole of the Balkans is incorporated into the Byzantine Empire, with the Danube as the new Imperial Frontier in the north.
1025 Death of Basil II. Decline of the Byzantine Empire begins.
1054 Schism. Split between Church in Rome and the Church in Constantinople.
1071 Emperor Romanos IV is defeated by the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert. Most of Asia Minor is lost. In the same year, the last Byzantine outposts in Italy are conquered by the Normans.
1081 Komnenos dynasty is established by Alexios I. Decline is arrested. Byzantium becomes involved in Crusades. Economic prosperity generates new wealth; literature and art reach new heights; however, in Anatolia, Turks become established.
1091 Imperial armies defeat Pechenegs at the Battle of Levounion.
1097 Recapture of Nicaea from the Turks by Byzantine armies and First Crusaders.
1097-1176 Byzantine armies recapture the coasts of Asia Minor from the Turks, and push east towards central Anatolia; Crusader Principality of Antioch becomes Byzantine protectorate.
1122 Byzantines defeat Pechenegs at the Battle of Beroia.
1167 Byzantine armies win decisive victory over the Hungarians at the Battle of Sirmium; Hungary becomes Byzantine client state.
1176 Battle of Myriokephalon. Manuel I Komnenos attempts to capture Konya, capital of Seljuk Turks; is forced to withdraw after destruction of his siege equipment. End of Byzantine attempts to recover Anatolian plateau.
1180 Death of Manuel I Komnenos. Decline of the Byzantine Empire recommences.
1185 A successful rebellion is organized in Bulgaria. Lands lost in the Balkans.
1204 Constantinople conquered by Crusaders; Latin Empire formed.
1261 Constantinople reconquered by Michael VIII Palaiologos, Byzantine emperor of Nicaea,
1453 Ottoman Turks conquer Constantinople. Death of Constantine XI last Emperor of the Byzantine Empire. End of the Byzantine Empire.


[edit] Introduction

Exarch is from the Latin; Exarchus, Greek; Exarchon; Meaning Leader, from the word exarchein to lead, to begin, to rule. In the Byzantine Empire, an Exarch was a proconsul or viceroy who governed a province removed from the central authority in Constantinople.

[edit] Formation

The considerable independence afforded to the Exarchs contributed to a common propensity towards rebellion against the imperial authorities. Sometimes rebellion was a result of imperial neglect, since exarchates were forced to solve their own problems with little or no assistance from Constantinople.

After the fall of the Western Empire in 476, the Eastern Roman Empire remained stable through the beginning of the Middle Ages and retained the ability for future expansion. Justinian I reconquered North Africa, Italy, Dalmatia and finally parts of Spain for the Eastern Roman Empire. However, this put an incredible strain on the Empire's limited resources. Subsequent emperors would not surrender the re-conquered land to remedy the situation. Thus the stage was set for Emperor Maurice to establish the Exarchates to deal with the constantly evolving situation of the provinces.

In Italy the Lombards were the main opposition to Byzantine power. In North Africa the Amazigh or Berber princes were ascendant due to Roman weakness ouside the coastal cities. The problems associated with many enemies on various fronts (the Visigoths in Spain, the Slavs and Avars in the Balkans, the Sassanid Persians in the Middle East, and the Amazigh in North Africa) forced the imperial government to decentralize and devolve power to the former provinces.

The term Exarch most commonly refers to the Exarch of Ravenna, who governed the area of Italy and Dalmatia, still remaining under Byzantine control after the reconquest by Justinian.

After the loss of the African Exarchate to the Arab conquest, the Ravenna Exarchate gained prominence as an imperial possession in the struggle for Byzantine control of the Western Mediterranean. However, the term also includes the area of Africa governed by the exarch of Carthage, (Qart Hadasht). The ancient Phoenician city of Carthage was the main city of the province of Africa.

The Exarchates were a response to weak imperial authority in the provinces and were part of the overall militarization of the empire that would lead eventually to the creation of the themes or tagmata by Heraclius.

[edit] The Exarchs of Carthage

Carthage became the capital of the African Exarchate when Belisarius reconqured the area from the Vandals in 533, beating Gelimer in the successive battles of Ad Decimum and Ticameron. Like Ravenna, Carthage had an excellent harbor and shipyards with access to the Mediterranean. The Exarchate included the provinces of Africa, Byzacena, Mauretania Caesariensis, Mauretania Tingitana, Numidia, Sardinia, and Tripolitania. The borders of Tingitana were extended to include the southern tip of Spain (then called Mons Calpe, now called Gibraltar). and the Balearic Islands which had been part of the diocese of Hispania.

Civil and military authority were initially divided between a Praetorian prefect and a Magister Militum of Africa. The two positions were combined into the office of exarch under the reforms of Maurice in 584.

The African Exarchate enjoyed comparative stability despite a tense relationship and violent confrontations with many of the Amazigh tribes in the 7th century. Heraclius' attempt to move the capital from Constantinople to Carthage in 618 is proof of its stability.

The Visigothic kingdom in Spain was also a continuous threat. The African exarch was in possession of Mauretania II which was little more than a tiny outpost in southern Spain. The conflict continued unresolved until both the Roman exarchate and the Visigothic kingdom were conquered by the Muslims.

Many of the Amazigh tribes, like the Aures and the principality of Masuna opposed Roman power, but some tribes, including the off shoots of the Sanhaja and Zenata were Roman allies.

During the successful revolt of the exarch of Carthage Heraclius in 608, the Amazigh comprised a large portion of the fleet that transported Heraclius to Constantinople. Due to religious and political ambitions, the Exarch Gregory (who ironically was related by blood to the imperial family, through the emperor’s cousin Nicetas) declared himself independent of Constantinople in 647. At this time the influence and power of the exarchate was exemplified in the forces gathered by Gregory in the battle of Sufetula also in that year where more than 100,000 men of Amazigh origin fought for Gregory.

[edit] The Arab Muslim Conquest

Image:Age of Caliphs.png
The Age of the Caliphs

The first Islamic expeditions began with an initiative from Egypt under the emir Amr Ibn Al-as and his nephew Uqba Ibn al Nafia al Fihri. Sensing Roman weakness they conquered Barqa, in Cyrenaica, then successively on to Tripolitania where they encountered resistance. Due to the unrest caused by theological disputes concerning monolethism and monoenergism the exarchate under Gregory distanced itself from the empire in open revolt. Carthage being flooded with refugees from Egypt (especially Melkites), Palestine and Syria exacerbated religious tensions and further raised the alarm to Gregory of the approaching Arab threat. Sensing that the more immediate danger came from the Muslim forces Gregory gathered his allies and initiated a confrontation with the Muslims and was defeated at the battle of Sufetula, which was actually the capital of the exarchate under Gregory.

The exarchate reverted to imperial rule after Gregory was killed in battle against the Muslims under Abdallah ibn al-Sa’ad at Sufetula. Carthage also once again became the capital of it, since Gregory had moved to the interior for a better defense against Roman counter-offensives from the sea. Afterwards the exarchate became a semi-client state under a new Exarch called Gennadius. Attempting to maintain tributary status with Constantinople and Damascus strained the resources of the exarchate caused unrest amongst the population.

With tenuous Byzantine control confined to a few poorly defended coastal strongholds, the Arab horsemen who first crossed into Cyrenaica in 642 encountered little resistance. The peak of resistance reached by the exarchate with assistance from its Amazigh allies (led by king Kaisula ait Lamazm) was the victory over the forces of Uqba Ibn Nafia at the battle of Biskra in 682 A.D. The victory caused the Muslim forces to retreat to Egypt, giving the Exarchate a decade's respite. The repeated confrontations took their toll on the dwindling and ever-divided resources of the Exarchate. In 698, the Muslim commander Hassan Ibn al Numan and a force of 40,000 men crushed Roman Carthage. Many of its defenders were Visigoths sent to defend the Exarchate by their king, who also feared Muslim expansion. Many Visgoths fought to the death; in the ensuing battle Roman Carthage was again reduced to rubble, as it had been centuries earlier by the Romans.

The loss of the mainland African exarchate was an enormous blow to the Byzantine empire in the Western Mediterranean because both Carthage and Egypt, Constantinople's main sources of manpower and grain, were now lost.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links and references

Exarchate of Africa

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