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1185 Sack of Thessalonica ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Outcome: The Normans sacked Thessalonica and massacred the population 24 August 1185
War  &  Enemy: Enemy:
Normans (of Sicily)
War:
Sicilian Wars
Battle Type:
City Capture
The Battlefield Thessalonica Location:
Modern Thessaloniki, Northern Greece
Modern Country:
Greece
  The Byzantines(emperor:  Andronicos I Komnenos) The Enemies
Commander: David Komnenos Baldwin d’ Hautevillw& Tagred de Lecce
Forces: Unknown 80,000 (incl. 5000 knights)+200 ships
Losses: at least 7,000 3,000
Background story: After the death of the emperor Manuel I Komnenos in 1180, the Byzantine Empire began to decline fast.
In 1185, during the reign of the terrible Andronicos I Komnenos, the Normans invaded Greece with the ambitious target to take Constantinople. King William II -the Good- of Sicily sent a fleet of 200 ships and 80,000 men (including 5000 knights!) under the command of counts Baldwin and Richard of Acerra. The huge Norman force, landed in Epirus and after capturing Dyrrhachium, marched through Albania and Macedonia to Thessalonica, the second city of the Byzantine Empire.
The Norman fleet after taking Corfu, Cephalonia and Zakynthos arrived in Thessaloniki on 15th August and the Normans laid siege to the city both from land and sea.
The Battle:
Thessalonica
Norman knight c.1180
The city's incompetent governor, David Komnenos, had neglected to make sufficient preparations for the siege, and even forbade sallies by the defenders to disrupt the Norman siege works. The Byzantine relief armies failed to coordinate their efforts, and only two units, under Theodore Choumnos and John Maurozomes, actually came to the city's aid. Within a few days the Normans undermined the city's eastern wall, opening a breach through which they entered the city. After a fierce battle in which the Normans lost 3,000 men Thessalonica fell, on 24th August 1185. The Normans pillaged ruthlessly the city. More than 7,000 Greeks died in the massacre.
Noteworthy: The siege and the massacre is extensively chronicled by the city's bishop, Eustathius of Thessalonica.
Aftermath: The disaster shocked the Byzantines and led to the dethronement of Emperor Andronicos. The massacre deepened the rift between the Orthodox Greeks and the Catholic Latins. The Normans evacuated the city in December, after their defeat in Dimitritsi.