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698 Capture of Carthage ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Outcome: The Arabs captured Carthage and destroyed it 697-698
War  &  Enemy: Enemy:
Muslim Conquest of North Africa
Battle Type:
City Capture
The Battlefield Carthage Location:
Ancient Carthage
Modern Country:
  The Byzantines(emperor:  Leontios) The Enemies
Commander: John the Patrician Hasan ibn al-Nu'man al-Ghassani
Forces: outnumbered 40,000
Losses: Minimal Heavy
Background story: After the conquest of Egypt, the Arabs first attempted to expand to the rest of North Africa in 647, and gained control of most parts of what used to be the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa. They came back in 665 and until 689 they conquered all North Africa. During this period, Carthage remained a Byzantine city and capitulated only in 695, when the Byzantine governor Gennadios defected to the Muslims and became their vassal .
The fall of Carthage was a major loss. Emperor Leontius sent a navy force under the command of John the Patrician. The fleet entered the harbor and captured it, as well as the city, in a stunning surprise attack. The Arab garrison fled. As Gibbon writes, "the Christians landed; the citizens hailed the ensign of the cross, and the winter was idly wasted in the dream of victory or deliverance."
The Battle:
The emir Hasan ibn al-Numan gathered his forces (around 40,000) and marched against Carthage in the spring. The Byzantines sent out a call for help to their traditional allies, the Berber Amazigh, and even to their enemies the Visigoths and the Franks, with limited success. Despite having retaken the city, the Byzantines were in disarray due to bitter internal conflicts and power games.
When Hasan approached, offered no terms except to surrender or die. The emperor Leontius, infamous for his harsh reaction to failure, had also given his forces instructions of victory or death.
John, decided to wait behind the walls of Carthage and let the Arabs exhaust themselves. The defenders were faced with Hasan's overwhelming force deployed in ferocious attacks as his men continuously tried to scale the walls with ladders.
The determination of the defenders resulted in the second and final great destruction of Carthage. Finally, it became obvious they could not hold much longer, and the Byzantine fleet sailed and retreated to the islands of Corsica, Sicily and Crete.
Noteworthy: John the Patrician was later murdered after a conspiracy of his co-commander, Tiberius Apsimarus, who was proclaimed emperor by the troops
Aftermath: After this battle, the Arab domination of North Africa was unchallenged. The Byzantines never came back. Carthage was destroyed and its glorious history was over.