Battle of Raban

The Battle of Raban was an engagement fought in autumn 958 near the fortress of Raban (in the north of modern Syria) between the Byzantine army, led by John Tzimiskes (later emperor in 969–976), and the forces of the Hamdanid Emirate of Aleppo under the famed emir Sayf al-Dawla (r. 945–967). The battle was a major victory for the Byzantines, and contributed to the demise of Hamdanid military power, which in the early 950s had proven a great challenge to Byzantium.


In the period from 945 to 967, the Hamdanid Emir of Aleppo, Sayf al-Dawla, was the Byzantines' most persistent opponent on their eastern frontier, by virtue of his control over most of the Byzantine–Muslim borderlands (Thughur) and his commitment to jihad.[1] Sayf al-Dawla had already campaigned against the Byzantines in 938 and 940, but it was after his establishment of a large domain centred on Aleppo in 945, that he began confronting them on an annual basis.[2][3] Despite the numerical advantages enjoyed by the Byzantines,[2][4] the Hamdanid's emergence blunted a Byzantine offensive that had been unfolding since the mid-920s and had already resulted in the fall of Malatya (934), Arsamosata (940), and Qaliqala (in 949).[5]

His main enemy during the first decade of continuous conflict with the Byzantines was the Domestic of the Schools (commander-in-chief) Bardas Phokas. After a few initial failures, Sayf al-Dawla quickly established his supremacy: in 953, he heavily defeated Bardas near Marash. Expeditions led by Bardas in the next two years were also defeated, allowing Sayf al-Dawla to refortify his frontier zone and strengthen it against further Byzantine attacks.[2][6] Using his light cavalry to evade the more slow-moving Byzantines, Sayf al-Dawla was also able to launch destructive raids deep into Byzantine territory; however, his raids avoided fortified positions, and he could not challenge effective Byzantine control over their recent conquests.[7] After 955, however, the situation began to change: the ineffective Bardas Phokas was dismissed and replaced by his more capable son, Nikephoros, under whose supervision the Byzantine army's equipment was upgraded, its ranks filled with Armenians, and its training intensified. The new Byzantine leadership, which included Nikephoros's brother Leo and his nephew John Tzimiskes, resolved on a forward strategy and began raiding deep into Hamdanid territory.[2][4][6][7]

Tzimiskes's raids and the battle of Raban

In spring 956, Sayf al-Dawla pre-empted Tzimiskes from a planned assault on Amida in the Jazira, and invaded Byzantine territory first. Tzimiskes then seized a pass in Sayf al-Dawla's rear, and attacked him during his return. The hard-fought battle, fought amidst torrential rainfall, resulted in a Muslim victory as Tzimiskes lost 4,000 men. At the same time, however, Leo Phokas invaded Syria and defeated and captured Sayf al-Dawla's cousin, whom he had left behind in his stead.[2][6] In 957, Nikephoros took and razed the fortress of Hadath, and in the next spring, Tzimiskes invaded the Jazira.[2][8] There, he captured the fortress of Dara, and scored a crushing victory near Amida over an army led by one of Sayf al-Dawla's favourite lieutenants, the Circassian Nadja. Of Nadja's 10,000 troops, Tzimiskes reportedly killed half and captured the more than half of the survivors.[2][9]

Reinforced with more troops under the parakoimomenos Basil Lekapenos, in June, Tzimiskes then stormed Samosata and the fortress of Raban south of Hadath. It was there that Sayf al-Dawla himself came to confront him. The ensuing battle (taking place between 18 October and 15 November 958) was hard fought—Sayf al-Dawla's cousin and court poet Abu Firas is said to have broken two lances in his first charge—but in the end, the Byzantines prevailed and the Muslim army broke and fled. Many of Sayf al-Dawla's court companions and ghilman fell in the pursuit, while over 1,700 of his cavalry were captured and paraded in the streets of Constantinople.[9][7]


The victory at Raban made clear that the Byzantines were gaining the upper hand over the Hamdanids. Their success also enabled them to retain control of Samosata, meaning that they had broken through the fortified frontier zone protecting northern Syria.[9][7] Nevertheless, the Hamdanid ruler was still in control of a potent military and capable of launching raids into Byzantine territory, until he suffered a catastrophic defeat in November 960 at the hands of Leo Phokas. Thereafter, Hamdanid military power was broken, Cilicia was annexed by the Byzantines in 964–965, and even Aleppo itself was captured briefly by the Byzantines in 962.[4][10]


  1. ^ Bianquis 1997, pp. 106–107; Kennedy 2004, pp. 276–278.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Bianquis 1997, p. 107.
  3. ^ Kennedy 2004, p. 276.
  4. ^ a b c Kennedy 2004, p. 277.
  5. ^ Treadgold 1997, pp. 479–484, 489.
  6. ^ a b c Treadgold 1997, p. 492.
  7. ^ a b c d Shepard 2010, p. 151.
  8. ^ Treadgold 1997, pp. 492–493.
  9. ^ a b c Treadgold 1997, p. 493.
  10. ^ Bianquis 1997, pp. 107–108; Treadgold 1997, pp. 495–497, 500–501.


  • Bianquis, Thierry (1997). "Sayf al-Dawla". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W. P.; Lecomte, G. The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume IX: San–Sze. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 103–110. ISBN 90-04-10422-4.
  • Kennedy, Hugh N. (2004). The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the 6th to the 11th Century (Second Edition). Harlow: Longman. ISBN 978-0-58-240525-7.
  • Shepard, Jonathan (2010). "Raban, Battle of". In Rogers, Clifford. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology, Volume 3. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 151–152. ISBN 978-0-19-533403-6.
  • Treadgold, Warren (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2630-2.

Coordinates: 37°42′25″N 37°27′36″E / 37.7069°N 37.4600°E


The 950s decade ran from January 1, 950, to December 31, 959.

== Events ==

=== 950 ===

==== By place ====

====== Byzantine Empire ======

Arab–Byzantine War: A Hamdanid army (30,000 men) led by Sayf al-Dawla raids into Byzantine theme Anatolia. He defeats Bardas Phokas, but is then ambushed on his return and heavily defeated by Leo Phokas.

====== Europe ======

November 22 – King Lothair II dies at Turin (possibly poisoned by Berengar of Ivrea). Berengar is crowned king of Italy and imprisons Lothair's now 19-year-old widow, Adelaide for four months at Como.

Boleslav I, duke of Bohemia, signs a peace treaty with King Otto I of the East Frankish Kingdom. He becomes his ally and is forced to resume the payment of tribute.

Henry I, duke of Bavaria, attacks Western Hungary, taking captives and plunder. He enlarges his duchy in the wars with the Hungarians.

====== Wales ======

King Hywel Dda (the Good) dies after an 8-year reign in which he has established codified laws. His three sons Owain ap Hywel Dda, Rhodri ap Hywel, and Edwin ap Hywel divide Wales amongst themselves.

====== Oceania ======

The Tu'i Tonga Empire starts to expand in the Pacific Ocean. The Tu'i Tonga kings establish the capital at Mu'a on the island of Tongatapu (approximate date).

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

Page with Joshua Leading the Israelites, from the Joshua Roll, is made in Constantinople. It is now kept at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in Rome (approximate date).

=== 951 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

King Berengar II of Italy seizes Liguria with help from the feudal lord Oberto I. He reorganizes the territories south of Po River, dividing them into three new marches (frontier districts) named after their respective margraves: the Marca Aleramica, the Marca Arduinica, and the Marca Obertenga. The last division consists of Lombardy with the cities of Genoa, Luni, Tortona, Parma, and Piacenza. Berengar forces Adelaide, the widow of Lothair II, to marry his son Adalbert. However, she fiercely refuses and Berengar has her imprisoned at Garda Castle. With the help of Count Adalbert Atto of Canossa Adelaide manages to escape.

Fall – King Otto I crosses the Brenner Pass and takes his army into Italy. He is accompanied by his brothers, Henry I (duke of Bavaria), Bruno I, and Conrad the Red (duke of Lotharingia). Otto faces no opposition and they arrive in Pavia. Berengar II has departed the day before and entrenched himself in San Marino. Otto receives the homage of the Italian nobility, marries Adelaide, and declares himself King of the Lombards.

Otto I dispatches an embassy to Rome to apply for an imperial coronation with Pope Agapetus II – but Prince Alberic II makes it clear that this is not possible (afraid of Otto's growing power), and opposes the request.

====== China ======

February 9 – The Northern Han Kingdom is founded by Liu Chong (called Shizu) in modern-day Shanxi who restores the diplomatic relations with the Khitans. Northern Han becomes a protectorate of the Liao Dynasty.

February 13 – Guo Wei, a court official, leads a military coup and declares himself emperor of the new Later Zhou. The 19-year-old Emperor Liu Chengyou is killed after a 3-year reign, ending the short-lived Later Han.

Emperor Shi Zong successfully repels a Chinese advance from the south. In October he is killed by a rebellious nephew after a three year reign. Shi Zong is succeeded by his uncle Mu Zong as ruler of the Liao Dynasty.

November 16 – Emperor Li Jing sends a Southern Tang expeditionary force (10,000 men) under Bian Hao to conquer Chu. Li Jing removes the ruling family to his own capital in Nanjing, ending the Chu Kingdom.

=== 952 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

Summer – At the Reichtag in Augsburg (assembled by King Otto I) joined by German nobles and bishops, Berengar of Ivrea pays homage. He becomes a vassal of the East Frankish Kingdom. Otto leaves a strong garrison at Pavia in the hands of his son-in-law Conrad the Red, duke of Lotharingia.

====== Scotland ======

King Constantine II dies at the monastery of St. Andrews (where he has been retired since 943). His cousin and ruling monarch Malcolm I, fights a battle against the Northmen or the Norse–Gaels.

====== Africa ======

Summer – Kalbid forces under Al-Hasan ibn Ali al-Kalbi (an aristocratic member of the ruling Fatimid Caliphate) sail from Sicily and invade Byzantine Calabria. He attacks several towns, including Gerace and Cassono.

=== 953 ===

==== By place ====

====== Byzantine Empire ======

Battle of Marash: Emir Sayf al-Dawla marches north into the Byzantine Empire and ravages the countryside of Malatya (modern Turkey). On his way back, he crosses the Euphrates and intercepts a Byzantine army led by Bardas Phokas (the Elder) near Marash. The Byzantines are defeated, Bardas himself barely escapes through the intervention of his attendants. His son Constantine Phokas, governor of Seleucia, is captured and held prisoner in Aleppo until his death of an illness some time later.

====== Europe ======

Summer – Liudolf, duke of Swabia, and his brother-in-law Conrad the Red rebel against King Otto I. Otto and his army fail to capture the cities of Mainz and Augsburg. He declares Liudolf and Conrad as outlaws in absentia. His brother Bruno I, archbishop of Cologne, restores royal authority in Lorraine, but some of the rebellious dukes receive support from the Hungarians. They seize the opportunity to invade Bavaria.

The town of Póvoa de Varzim is first mentioned during the rule of Mumadona Dias, countess of Portugal, under the name Villa Euracini.

====== Africa ======

March 19 – Caliph Al-Mansur Billah dies after a severe illness. He is succeeded by his 21-year-old son Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah as ruler of the Fatimid Caliphate. His authority is recognized over most of what later will be Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

=== 954 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

Spring – A Hungarian army led by Bulcsú crosses the Rhine. He camps at Worms in the capital of his ally Conrad the Red, duke of Lorraine. Bulcsú heads towards West, attacking the domains of King Otto I, by crossing the rivers Moselle and Maas.

April 6–10 – The Hungarians besiege Cambrai, burn its suburbs, but they are unable to conquer the city. One of Bulcsú's relatives is killed by the defenders, who refuse to pass over his body to the Hungarians. As a revenge, they kill all their captives.

The Hungarians plunder the regions of Hesbaye and Carbonaria (modern Belgium). They plunder and burn the monastery of Saint Lambert from Hainaut, the monastery of Moorsel, sack the cities of Gembloux and Tournai.

Summer – The Hungarians plunder the surroundings of Laon, Reims, Chalon, Metz, and Gorze. After that, they return to Burgundy. In Provence, the Hungarians battle with the Moors from the Muslim enclave of Fraxinet.

September 10 – King Louis IV (d'Outremer) dies after a hunting accident (near to his palace in Corbeny). He is succeeded by his 13-year-old son Lothair III under the guardianship of Hugh the Great, count of Paris.

November 12 – Lothair III is crowned at the Abbey of Saint-Remi by Artald, archbishop of Reims, as king of the West Frankish Kingdom. His mother, Queen Gerberga of Saxony appoints Hugh the Great as regent.

Winter – At the Reichtag in Auerstedt assembled by Otto I, his son Liudolf (duke of Swabia) and Conrad the Red submit to Otto's rule. They are stripped of their duchies, but several rebel nobles continue to resist.

====== England ======

King Eric I (Bloodaxe) is killed at Stainmore allowing King Eadred to recover York, reuniting Northumbria with that of All England. High-Reeve Osulf I of Bamburgh is appointed ealdorman ("earl") of Northumbria.

King Malcolm I is killed in battle against the Northmen after an 11-year reign. He is succeeded by Indulf, the son of the late King Constantine II, as ruler of Alba (Scotland).

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

Duke Alberic II, princeps and ruler of Rome, dies after a 22-year reign. On his deathbed he nominates his son Octavianus as his successor.

Seborga (modern-day Liguria) comes under the jurisdiction of the Benedictine monks of Santo Onorato of Lérins.

=== 955 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

August 10 – Battle of Lechfeld: King Otto I (the Great) defeats the Hungarians (also known as Magyars) near Augsburg (Germany). Otto's army (7,000 men) mainly composed of heavy cavalry, overwhelms the Hungarians along the Lech River. The German losses are heavy, among them Conrad (the Red) and many other nobles. The commanders of the Hungarian army, Bulcsú and Lehel, are captured and executed. This victory puts a end to the Hungarian campaigns into West Europe.

October 16 – Battle on the Raxa: Otto I allied with the Rani tribe, defeats the Obotrite federation led by Nako and his brother Stoigniew (probably at the Recknitz or Elde rivers) near Mecklenburg. The Elbe Slavs are forced to pay tribute and accept a peace agreement.

====== England ======

November 23 – King Eadred (or Edred) dies childless after a 9-year reign at Frome (Somerset). He is succeeded by his 15-year-old nephew, Eadwig, as King of England.

====== Africa ======

The Kharijite Banu Ya'la tribe revolts against the Fatimid Caliphate in Ifriqiya and destroys the city of Oran (modern Algeria). They construct a new capital, Ifgan, near Mascara.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

November 8 – Pope Agapetus II dies after a 9-year reign. He is succeeded by John XII, the son of Alberic II (the late ruler of Rome), as the 130th pope of the Catholic Church.

=== 956 ===

==== By place ====

====== Byzantine Empire ======

Summer – Emperor Constantine VII appoints Nikephoros Phokas to commander of the Byzantine field army (Domestic of the Schools) in the East. He gives him order to prepare a campaign against the Hamdanid emir Sayf al-Dawla. Constantine makes treaties with neighbouring rulers, to seek for military aid.

September/October – A Byzantine fleet under Basil Hexamilites deals a crushing defeat to the Hamdanid fleet at Tarsus in Cilicia (modern Turkey).

====== Europe ======

Liudolf, the eldest son of King Otto I (the Great), reconciles with his father and asks again for installation as duke of Swabia. Otto refuses, but at the instigation of his uncle Bruno I (duke of Lotharingia) allows Liudolf to lead an expedition to Italy to bring the vassal Berengar of Ivrea to heel.

Berengar of Ivrea dispatches a Lombard army under his son Adalbert II to counter Liudolf, while he guards Pavia himself. In two battles Liudolf defeats the Lombard forces and enters Pavia, there to receive the homage of the Italian nobles and clergy on behalf of Otto I.

June 16 – Hugh the Great, count of Paris, dies at Dourdan. He is succeeded by his eldest son Hugh Capet, who is recognized as Duke of the Franks by his cousin Lothair III, king of the West Frankish Kingdom.

King Ordoño III dies at Zamora after a 5-year reign. He is succeeded by his half-brother Sancho I as ruler of León (modern Spain).

====== Egypt ======

An earthquake badly damages the Lighthouse of Alexandria: one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

Dunstan, an abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, is sent into exile by King Eadwig. He takes refuge in Flanders (modern Belgium), where Count Arnulf I gives him shelter in the Abbey of Mont Blandin, near Ghent.

=== 957 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

September 6 – Liudolf, the eldest son of King Otto I, dies of a violent fever near Pombia (it is rumored from a latent poison administered somehow by Berengar II's agents). The German armies return home, leaving Berengar of Ivrea in control of Italy. Liudolf is succeeded by his 3-year-old son Otto, who will be adopted and raised by his grandfather Otto, as the later duke of Swabia and Bavaria.

Wilfred II, count of Besalú of the House of Barcelona, is killed by rebellious vassals. He is succeeded by his brother Sunifred II.

====== England ======

Mercia and Northumbria rebel against King Eadwig and switch their allegiance to his brother Edgar. The English nobles (in support of the church) agree to divide the kingdom along the Thames River, with Eadwig keeping Wessex and Kent in the south and Edgar ruling in the north. Edgar's advisers recall Dunstan from Flanders (see 956).

====== Japan ======

The Tenryaku era under the reign of Emperor Murakami ends. The Tentoku era begins (until 961).

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

Olga of Kiev, ruler and regent of Kievan Rus', converts to the Eastern Orthodox Church, from paganism (approximate date).

In China the Longquan Monastery is founded during the Liao Dynasty.

=== 958 ===

==== By place ====

====== Byzantine Empire ======

October/November – Battle of Raban: The Byzantines under John Tzimiskes defeat the Hamdanid forces in northern Syria. Emir Sayf al-Dawla is forced to retreat – many of his court companions and ghilman fall in pursuit, while over 1,700 of his Turk cavalry are captured and paraded in the streets of Constantinople.

====== Europe ======

King Berengar II invades the March of Verona, which is under control of the dukes of Bavaria, and lay siege to Count Adalbert Atto at Canossa Castle (northern Italy). Berengar sends a Lombard expeditionary force under his son Guy of Ivrea against Theobald II, duke of Spoleto. He captures Spoleto and Camerino.

====== Africa ======

The Fatimid general Abu al-Hasan Jawhar ibn Abd Allah takes Ifgan, the capital of the rebellious Kharijite Banu Ya'la tribe. In the following two years, Jawhar conquers most of the north of modern-day Morocco and Algeria. In particular, he conquers the cities of Tangier, Sijilmasa and Tlemcen.

====== Asia ======

King Ksemagupta dies of a fever after a hunting party. He is succeeded by his youngest son Abhimanyu II. Queen Didda, the widow of Ksemagupta, becomes regent and the de facto ruler of Kashmir (modern India).

Emperor Chai Rong of the Later Zhou invades the Northern Han and the Khitan Empire in the Sixteen Prefectures (northern China), but is defeated.

=== 959 ===

==== By place ====

====== Byzantine Empire ======

April/May – The Byzantines refuse to pay the yearly tribute. A Hungarian army led by Apor, invades Macedonia and Thrace. He plunders its territories until reaching Constantinople. On his way back, Apor is defeated during a night attack by Byzantine forces.

November 9 – Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos ("born in the purple") dies at Constantinople after a 46-year reign. He is succeeded by his 21-year-old son Romanos II as ruler of the Byzantine Empire.

Winter – Romanos II appoints Leo Phokas (the Younger) to commander of the Byzantine field army (Domestic of the Schools) in the West. The Phokas clan becomes one of the leading families in Constantinople.

====== Europe ======

Bruno I, archbishop and duke (archduke) of Lotharingia resigns. His brother, King Otto I divides the duchy in two parts – Upper Lorraine and Lower Lorraine. He appoints Frederick I and Godfrey I as margraves (vice-duke).

Pietro III Candiano, doge of Venice, dies after a 17-year reign. He is succeeded by his son Pietro IV Candiano, who breaks off his campaign in Spoleto on behalf of King Berengar II of Italy and returns to Venice.

Pietro IV Candiano divorces his wife Joanna for political reasons and banishes her as nun to the monastery of San Zaccaria.

====== England ======

October 1 – King Eadwig dies after a 4-year reign. He is succeeded by his 16-year-old brother Edgar I (the Peaceful), who effectively completes the unification of England, when Northumbria submits to his rule.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

Dunstan, bishop of Worcester and London, is appointed by Edgar I as archbishop of Canterbury and becomes his chief adviser.


Year 958 (CMLVIII) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

John I Tzimiskes

John I Tzimiskes (Greek: Ἰωάννης Α΄ Τζιμισκής, Iōánnēs I Tzimiskēs; c. 925 – 10 January 976) was the senior Byzantine Emperor from 11 December 969 to 10 January 976. An intuitive and successful general, he strengthened the Empire and expanded its borders during his short reign.

List of Byzantine battles

The following is a list of battles fought by the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, from the 6th century AD until its dissolution in the mid-15th century, organized by date. The list is not exhaustive. For battles fought by the Byzantine Empire's Roman predecessors, see List of Roman battles.

List of conflicts in the Near East

The area known as the "Near East" is usually referred to as Middle East in modern contexts.

For periods predating Classical Antiquity, the common term is Ancient Near East.

The Near East is generally associated with Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Caucasus.

Raban (disambiguation)

Raban or Rabana is a musical instrument, a one-sided traditional drum type used mainly in Sri Lanka

Raban may also refer to:

Rabanus Maurus (c. 780 – 856), also known as Hrabanus or Rhabanus, a Frankish Benedictine monk and theologian, archbishop and saint

Ze'ev Raban, Israeli artist

Raban Gamaliel VI (c. 370–425), the last nasi of the ancient Sanhedrin

Jonathan Raban (born 1942), British travel writer and novelist

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