Why did the Byzantines never again become interested in ruling over North Africa after the 7th century?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,131
SoCal
#1
Why did the Byzantines never again become interested in ruling over North Africa after the 7th century? After the Muslims conquered North Africa in the 600s, the Byzantines never actually appear to have expressed any desire to reclaim it--even though in theory this might have been attempted given the Byzantine control of parts of Sicily and thus proximity to North Africa. Was it because the Byzantines felt that North Africa simply wasn't that important to them and that they needed to focus on matters closer to home? Or was there another reason for this--and, if so, what?
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,412
Republika Srpska
#2
It was just as likely, if not more, that Muslims would attack Sicily, so the Byzantines had to be prepared for that. As it would turn out, the Muslim did invade and eventually conquered Sicily. However, the Muslims did fear that the Byzantines might attempt to retake North Africa so they destroyed Carthage thus depriving the Byzantine fleet of a major port. Also, as soon as they conquered North Africa, the Arabs started the creation of a new fleet. This fleet consisted of 100 warships and immediately started raiding. They raided Byzantine Sicily, the Balearics, Sardinia. So, the reason as to why the Byzantines never attempted to retake North Africa from Sicily is simply that the Muslims were on the offensive and Sicily was threatened. It was not about retaking North Africa for Byzantium, it was about preserving what they still had.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,131
SoCal
#3
It was just as likely, if not more, that Muslims would attack Sicily, so the Byzantines had to be prepared for that. As it would turn out, the Muslim did invade and eventually conquered Sicily. However, the Muslims did fear that the Byzantines might attempt to retake North Africa so they destroyed Carthage thus depriving the Byzantine fleet of a major port. Also, as soon as they conquered North Africa, the Arabs started the creation of a new fleet. This fleet consisted of 100 warships and immediately started raiding. They raided Byzantine Sicily, the Balearics, Sardinia. So, the reason as to why the Byzantines never attempted to retake North Africa from Sicily is simply that the Muslims were on the offensive and Sicily was threatened. It was not about retaking North Africa for Byzantium, it was about preserving what they still had.
That makes sense. BTW, it's interesting that as the Muslims were going on the offensive from North Africa elsewhere into the Mediterranean, the Byzantines themselves were going on the offensive in the Balkans and sometimes in Anatolia as well.
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,412
Republika Srpska
#4
Well, the fleet that I mentioned set sail in 704. At that point, I would not say the Byzantines were really on the offensive in the Balkans. They had recently been crushed at Ongal by the Bulgars and another defeat at Anchialus was waiting for them in 708. They did manage to resettle some troublesome Slavic tribes to Anatolia, but that backfired on them seeing how those Slavs betrayed the Byzantines during the 692 battle of Sebastopolis bringing victory to the Umayyads.
 
Likes: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,131
SoCal
#5
Well, the fleet that I mentioned set sail in 704. At that point, I would not say the Byzantines were really on the offensive in the Balkans. They had recently been crushed at Ongal by the Bulgars and another defeat at Anchialus was waiting for them in 708. They did manage to resettle some troublesome Slavic tribes to Anatolia, but that backfired on them seeing how those Slavs betrayed the Byzantines during the 692 battle of Sebastopolis bringing victory to the Umayyads.
Interesting; thanks for this information! BTW, the Byzantine Empire was at its early nadir in or around 717, no?
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,412
Republika Srpska
#6
Yes, that is the closest they came to total destruction. 654 is another good candidate. The first wave of the Arab conquests was still fresh in Byzantine minds, their navy was crushed at the Battle of the Masts, and the Arabs besieged Constantinople for the first time.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,131
SoCal
#7
Yes, that is the closest they came to total destruction. 654 is another good candidate. The first wave of the Arab conquests was still fresh in Byzantine minds, their navy was crushed at the Battle of the Masts, and the Arabs besieged Constantinople for the first time.
What saved the Byzantines in both 654 and 717?

BTW, why did the Byzantines perform so poorly against the Arabs in the Middle East (outside of Anatolia) and North Africa?
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,412
Republika Srpska
#9
What saved the Byzantines in both 654 and 717?
In 654 the Arab fleet was destroyed by a storm. Quite interestingly, the Arab fleet also got caught in a storm during their retreat from the 717-18 siege. As to what saved Byzantium, there were multiple things: Bulgars, Greek fire, defections from Arab side, difficulty of keeping supply lines for the Umayyads etc.

BTW, why did the Byzantines perform so poorly against the Arabs in the Middle East (outside of Anatolia) and North Africa?
This is a hard question and it was not due to a single reason, but the 602-28 war against Persia certainly didn't help. And generally, Arab conquests are something you don't see often in history. Conquest on that scale is not really common.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,131
SoCal
#10
Logistics. Constantinople was a tough nut to crack, and it was difficult for the Umayyads to keep their supply and communications line open across such a great distance that was mostly occupied by the enemy.
They attempted a land attack on Constantinople by creating a huge salient in Byzantine-controlled Anatolia?

Hence the interest in suborning commanders of the Anatolikon.
You mean that the Umayyards tried to bribe these commanders to change sides, or what?

In 654 the Arab fleet was destroyed by a storm. Quite interestingly, the Arab fleet also got caught in a storm during their retreat from the 717-18 siege. As to what saved Byzantium, there were multiple things: Bulgars, Greek fire, defections from Arab side, difficulty of keeping supply lines for the Umayyads etc.
How'd the Bulgars help?

This is a hard question and it was not due to a single reason, but the 602-28 war against Persia certainly didn't help. And generally, Arab conquests are something you don't see often in history. Conquest on that scale is not really common.
So, in large part, the Arabs simply got extremely lucky?

Also, how much better do you think that the Byzantines would have performed against the Arabs had they not had to fight against the Persians in the previous couple of decades?