This week in Christian history: Constantinople siege ends, Pius II becomes pope

Muslim siege of Constantinople lifted – Aug. 15, 718

Siege of Constantinople
A 14th century depiction of an Arab Muslim army attacking Constantinople during a siege in the 8th century when the city was under the reign of Byzantine Emperor Leo III. |

This week marks the anniversary of when an Arab Muslim army lifted its yearlong siege of Constantinople, then the capital of the Byzantine Empire and a major source of Eastern Orthodox Christian influence.

After taking large amounts of eastern territory from the Byzantine Empire, a Muslim army laid siege to Constantinople, with the added support of a large fleet.

However, under the rule of Emperor Leo III, the city was successfully defended, using the famous Greek fire weaponry to inflict heavy losses on both the Muslim army and navy.

“Instead of crushing the city, the Muslims were themselves crushed. By Arab estimates, they lost one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers. The Caliphate also lost more than two thousand ships to confiscation, battle, and the elements,” noted the Christian History Institute.

The defeat hindered Islamic expansion in the region for the next few centuries and allowed Leo III to focus more on internal reforms to both church and state.

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