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The Muslim invasion and occupation of certain parts of Italy took place both via land routes, from southern France and the region of the Alps, and through the sea, from Sicily. The geographical proximity of Sicily to the Italian mainland, together with various political and religious factors, drew the two sides of the strait closer together. Ever since the first decade of Muslim establishment in Sicily, the internal disputes among the rulers of the various parts of the Italian peninsula prompted them to form alliances with the Muslims against their Christian rivals. The Republic of Naples entered into an agreement with the Muslims against its Lombardian neighbor Benvento, as a result of which, in 223 AH (838 AD), the Muslims defeated the Venetians and took over the port of Brindisi in the Adriatic Sea. They continued their advance along the Adriatic coast all the way to the mouth of the Po River. The king of Benvento sought Muslims’ assistance in defeating the ruler of Bari, leading to the occupation of Bari by Muslims, in 226 AH (841 AD). A few years on, Muslims were at the mouth of the Tiber River, becoming ever closer to the city of Rome. In spite of the fact that the pope had foreseen the danger and built a strong fortress in Ostia, the Muslims, none the less, managed to cross the region in 231 AH (846 AD), in the course of which they sacked the basilica of St. Peter and wrought much destruction. The all-out defense of the inhabitants of Rome, or the lack of preparation on the part of the Muslims, made the latter’s stay in the city a short one. The Muslims also made several attacks on southern cities, though eventually the Muslim fleet was destroyed as a result of a storm and many suffered captivity at the hands of the Christians. Up until the fourth decade of the 3rd century AH (mid 9th cen. AD), Muslim armies from throughout the Mediterranean continued to join up and launch attacks on the Italian coast, from the east all the way to the mouth of the Tiber River in the west. Apulia, lying between the regions of Calabria (Quluriyyah, Qulfariyyah) in the south and Lombardi in the north, remained under Muslim control for some eighteen years, from which they marauded other regions of Italy. Finally, they were forced out of Bari in 257 AH (871 AD) and the Italian peninsula in around 270 AH (884 AD). The Muslims, none the less, continued their raids from various directions, and the two gulfs of Taranto in the east and Salerno in the west continued to serve as important Muslim naval bases. Unlike their design for Sicily, the Muslims never really intended to remain in Italy permanently. Their raids on the peninsula may be viewed as adventurism or military preemption, intended as a means of pillage and gaining spoils. 

Crete (Aqritish) is a sizable island in the southern part of the Aegean and Greece, located between Cypress and Sicily across from Alexandria, whose important geographical location placed it in the crossroads between the three continents of the ancient world. The island appears early to have been in the crosshairs of the Muslims seeking to establish their power over the seas. Following their conquest of the islands of Rhodes and Arwad, in 54 AH (674 AD), the Muslims launched an attack on Crete, led by Junadah b. Abi Umayyah. They captured another part of the island during the reign of Walid. Raids on Crete were put on hold until their resumption in the caliphate of Harun al-Rashid, in the course of which the conquest of the island was brought to completion. According to other reports, Crete was first captured by Abu Hafs `Umar Baluti (d. 241 AH / 855 AD), known as Ghaliz, from the region of Hafs al-Balut in Andalus, whose progeny ruled over the island for many years. In fact, the definitive conquest of Crete and the establishment of a Muslim government there was the unintended outcome of a bloody development in Andalus, in 198 or 202 AH (814 or 817 AD), as a result of which Abu Hafs Baluti along with a group of Muslims departed for Crete, where Abu Hafs’ children succeeded him until their reign was terminated in the 15th of Muharram of 350 AH (March 6, 961 AD), by the Byzantine emperor. The Muslims chose Qandi or Qandia (Candia) as their capital, a name that was later used to refer to the entire island. 

Malta (Maltah), a small island located between Sicily, Crete and Ifriqiyyah was undeveloped yet famous at the time, and had come to attract the attention of the Muslims ever since the Aghlabid raid on Sicily. The first Muslim incursion into Malta appears to have taken place in 221 AH (836 AD), in the days of Ziyad Allah Aghlabi. His brother, Abu Aqal b. Ibrahim, who twice dispatched forces to Sicily form Ifriqiyyah, once in 224 and again in 226 AH (839 and 841 AD), also took notice of Malta. The definitive conquest of the island is reported to have taken place in 255 AH (896 AD), in the reign of Abu ’l-Gharaniq Muhammad (II) b. Ahmad b. Muhammad Aghlab, and is said to have been led by Ahmad b. `Umar b. `Ubayd Allah b. Aghlab. From that time onward, Malta was gradually transformed into a Muslim island. However, there exist reports which place the date of the conquest of Malta in the reign of Abu ’l-`Abbas Muhammad b. Abi Aqal (Muhammad I, reigned 226 – 242 AH / 841 – 856 AD). Russi is of the opinion that since Muslims’ designs for Sicily were not feasible without control over Malta, the conquest of the island must have been carried out before 226 AH (841 AD). The complete domination of Malta (in the city of Malitah (Melita) and the change of its name to Medina) took some two hundred years, and was brought to an end by the Normans. Muslim tomb inscriptions have been uncovered in Malta, dating back to the 6th century AH (12th cen. AD).

* source: Rahimlou , Yousef "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.536 - 538

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