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960-961 Reconquest of Crete  (Battle of Chandax) ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Outcome: Nikephoros Phokas recaptured Crete for Byzantium July 960-6/3/ 961
War  &  Enemy: Enemy:
Arabs (of Crete)
War:
Later Byzantine-Muslim Wars
Battle Type:
Invasion
The Battlefield Crete Location:
Island of Crete
Modern Country:
Greece
  The Byzantines(emperor:  Romanos II) The Enemies
Commander: General Nikephoros Phokas Emir Abd al-Aziz ibn Shuayb
Forces: 308 ships, 87,000 men Unknown
Losses: Over 200,000 dead
Background story: The island of Crete was captured by Andalusian Arabs in 827 and was transformed into an Arab emirate and the base of Muslim pirates that ravaged the Byzantine shores of the Aegean Sea. Piracy practiced by the Cretan Saracens peaked in the 930s and 940s, devastating southern Greece and the western coasts of Asia Minor. Emperor Constantine VII sent an expedition in 949. This too, as in previous efforts, was routed in a surprise attack, a defeat which was ascribed to the incompetence and inexperience of its leader, the eunuch chamberlain Constantine Gongyles. Emperor Constantine did not give up, and during the last years of his reign began preparing another expedition. In the event, it would be carried out under his successor, Romanos II, who entrusted its leadership to the capable general Nikephoros Phocas.
The Battle:
Crete
Nikephoros Phokas
In 960, 27,000 oarsmen and marines were assembled to man a fleet of 308 ships carrying 50,000 troops. At the head of this huge fleet and army, Phocas landed on the island and defeated the initial Muslim resistance. A long siege of the capital of the emirate Chandax followed, which dragged over the winter to 961, until the city was stormed on 6 March.
The city was pillaged, and its mosques and walls were torn down. The inhabitants either killed or carried off into slavery, while the island's last emir, Abd al-Aziz ibn Shuayb (Kouroupas), and his son al-Numan (Anemas) were taken captive and brought to Constantinople. Phocas was denied the usual honor of a triumph, receiving only a mere ovation in the Hippodrome.
Noteworthy: The son of the last emir, Al-Numan ibn Abd al-Aziz, or Anemas in Greek sources, was captured and served in the Byzantine army, falling at the Battle of Dorostolon in 971.
Aftermath: The island was converted into a Byzantine theme, and the remaining Muslims were converted to Christianity by missionaries like Nikon "the Metanoeite". The island remained in Greek hands until the Crusades.