Today in Middle Eastern history: the Sack of Damietta (853)

The city of Damietta, located in Egypt’s Nile Delta, became quite important during the later Crusades, as the Crusaders began to see that capturing Jerusalem was irrelevant so long as Muslims ruled Egypt. Its location made it the ideal beachhead for both the unsuccessful Fifth Crusade and the ridiculously unsuccessful Seventh Crusade, both of which sought to conquer Egypt first, or at least defeat its Ayyubid rulers so badly that Jerusalem could be secured. Prior to that it served as a port for the Abbasid caliphate, and that made it a fairly frequent target for Byzantine raids. The one we’re talking about today, which took place in 853, is the most impactful of those raids, and covering it allows us to talk about one of the more peculiar figures in Byzantine history, Emperor Michael III (d. 867).

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