Byzantine Battles <>

doublehead eagle
<<<< Battle-Home >>>>
      4 th   century
      5 th   century
      6 th   century
      7 th   century
      8 th   century
      9 th   century
    10 th   century
    11 th   century
    12 th   century
    13 th   century
    14 th   century
    15 th   century

860 Raid of the Rus ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Outcome: The Rus pillaged the suburbs of Constantinople and withdrew after a storm summer of 860
War  &  Enemy: Enemy:
Byzantine-Rus Wars
Battle Type:
The Battlefield Rus Raid Location:
Modern Country:
  The Byzantines(emperor:  Michael III the Drunkard) The Enemies
Commander: Patriarch Photius Askold and Dir
Forces: Unknown 200 (or 2000 boats), 5000 men
Background story: The earliest European reference related to the Rus khaganate comes from the Frankish Annals of St. Bertin . The Annals refer to a group of Norsemen, who called themselves Rhos and visited Constantinople around the year 838.
In the time of the Rus attack, Emperor Michael III was absent from the city, as was his navy dreaded for its skill in using lethal Greek fire. The Byzantine Navy was occupied fighting both Arabs and Normans in the Aegean Sea. The Imperial army (including those troops that were normally garrisoned around the capital) was fighting the Arabs in Asia Minor. These circumstances had left the coasts and islands of Black Sea, the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara unprotected.
The exceptional timing of the attack suggests the Rus had been informed of the city's weakness, which means that the lines of trade and communication were already open. For the Byzantines, the attack was a complete surprise.
The Battle:
Rus Raid
The Rus in front of the walls of Constantinople
On June 18, 860, at sunset, a fleet of about 200 Rus vessels sailed into the Bosporus. This "fleet" would have consisted of small ships, basically a hybrid between a dugout canoe and the familiar clinker-built Viking ship. The Rus started pillaging the suburbs of Constantinople. The attackers were setting homes on fire, drowning and stabbing the residents. Unable to do anything to repel the invaders, Patriarch Photius urged his flock to implore the Theotokos to save the city.
Having devastated the suburbs, the Rus passed into the Sea of Marmara and fell upon the Isles of the Princes, where the former Patriarch Ignatius of Constantinople was in exile at the time. The Rus plundered the dwellings and the monasteries, slaughtering the captives. They took twenty-two of the patriarch's servants aboard ship and cut them into pieces by axes.
Despite the Greeks being taken by surprise and the fact that Byzantium was inadequately defended, the Rus did not enter the City. According to the tradition, when Photius put the veil of the Theotokos into the sea, there arose a tempest which dispersed the boats of the barbarians. The fact is that after 4th August, the Rus left and returned home without claiming victory, probably because they lost their booty in the storm.
Noteworthy: Strangely, the story of the miraculous saving of Constantinople from the barbarian hordes may have contributed to the popularity of the Theotokos in Russia. It might also have played a role in the Christianization of the Rus.
Aftermath: The failed Rus captains Askold and Dir were put to death by Oleg, the Rus ruler of Novgorod. The Rus repeated their attacks with similar raids to Constantinople in 941, in 944 and maybe in 907.