Battle of Ostia


Battle of Ostia

The naval Battle of Ostia took place in 849 between the Muslim pirates and a Christian league of Papal, Neapolitan, and Amalfitan, and Gaetan ships.

News of a massing of Arab ships off Sardinia reached Rome early in 849, less than three years after the successful sack of Saint Peter's. A Christian armada, commanded by Caesar, son of Sergius I, was assembled off recently refortified Ostia. Pope Leo IV came out to bless it and communicate the troops.

After the Arab ships appeared, battle was joined with the Neapolitan galleys in the lead. Midway through the engagement, a storm divided the enemies and the Christian ships managed to return to port. The Muslims, however, were scattered far and wide, with many ships lost and others sent ashore. When the storm died down, the remnants of the Arab fleet were easily picked off, with many prisoners taken.

In the aftermath of the battle, much booty washed ashore and was pillaged by the locals. The prisoners taken in battle were sent to work in chain gangs building the Leonine Wall which was to encompass the Vatican Hill. The battle was an important event in the history of Italy and Christianity. It united the Christian states of central and southern Italy in a joint cause against the Muslims, which eventually led to their expulsion from the peninsula. It also strengthened the papacy: especially for the resultant walls that went up to protect Saint Peter's. Coming off the only Muslim sack of Rome, it helped reverse the tide of the war and raise Christian morale. For all this, it is one of the few events to occur in southern Italy during the ninth century that is still remembered today, largely for the walls named after Leo and for the Renaissance painting of Raphael.

ources

*Llewellyn, Peter. "Rome in the Dark Ages". London: Faber and Faber, 1970.


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