|655||Battle of Mount Phoenix (Battle of the Masts)||★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Outcome:||A landmark defeat of Byzantium at sea by the Arabs who became a naval power||655|
|War & Enemy:||
Early Byzantine-Muslim Wars
|The Battlefield|| Location:
Off the coast of Mount Phoenix in Lycia, near the harbor of Phoenix (modern Finike , South Turkey)
| Modern Country:
|The Byzantines(emperor: Constans II Pogonatos)||The Enemies|
|Commander:||Emperor Constans II||Abdullah ibn Saad|
|Forces:||500 ships||200 ships|
|Losses:||Almost completely destroyed||Heavy|
|Background story:||In 645, Abdullah ibn Saad was made Governor of Egypt by his foster brother Caliph Uthman, replacing the semi-independent Amr ibn al-As (the conqueror of Egypt). One of the initiatives of the new governor was the organization of Jihad by sea. He built a strong navy and proved to be a skilled naval commander. Under him the Muslim navy won a number of naval victories including repulsing a Byzantine counter-attack on Alexandria in 646.
In 655, Muawiyah (governor of Syria and, later, caliph) undertook an expedition in Cappadocia while his fleet, under the command of Abdullah ibn Saad, advanced along the southern coast of Anatolia. Emperor Constans II recognized the danger posed by Muawiya’s success at sea, since it meant that the Byzantine heartland of Asia Minor was being caught in the “pincers” of a double threat from the Arabs: attacks by land and a surrounding movement to the south by sea. Therefore, he embarked against it with a large fleet. The two fleets met off the coast of Mount Phoenix .
When the two fleets met, Constans attacked without hesitation. The emperor did not bother to bring his ships into formation and plan his attack. The Arabs did not have experience in naval warfare, and he expected to crush them in a single assault. Sailing straight into the Arabs, the Byzantines engaged so closely that the clash was called the "Battle of the Masts".
Battle of the Masts
Very little information is available on the battle. It appears the Byzantines suffered from poor coordination and leadership, while the Arabs showed better than expected seamanship. The fighting lasted more than a day; according to one account, "the sea ran with blood and the waves piled up the bodies on the shore."
Though outnumbered, the Arabs were victorious at the end. As the Byzantines fled, a storm decimated what remained of their shattered fleet.
The victorious Muslim fleet was also badly damaged and withdrew to allow Muawiya to contest for the Caliphate.
|Noteworthy:||According to the 9th century chronicler Theophanes the Confessor, Constans managed to make his escape by exchanging uniforms with one of his officers|
|Aftermath:||One of the biggest naval battles in world history. A milestone in the history of the Middle East as it established the superiority of the Muslims at sea as well as on land.|