The Arab Conquest of Sicily

The Arab raid against Roma Aeterna took place in 846.  The Saracen raiders plundered the outskirts of the city, sacking and pillaging everything outside the walls, but were prevented from entering the city itself by the Aurelian Wall( Mura aureliane, are a line of city walls built between 271 AD and 275 AD in Rome). In the 820s, the Aghlabids of Ifriqiya known by medieval Italians as the Saracens began the conquest of Sicily. In 842, Arab forces tried to capture isola di Ponza, but were beaten off by a combined fleet from Naples and Gaeta. However, the same year they took Messina on Sicily. Around the same time Radelchis I prince of Benevento and Siconulf of the first prince of Salerno were rivals that had been engaged in a civil war and they hired Arab mercenaries to fight in Campania. A large force set sail from Miseno, which the Saracens had conquered in 845, and landed at Porto and Ostia in 846, annihilating the garrison of Nova Ostia. The Arabs struck following the Tiber and the Ostiense and Portuense roads, as the Roman militia hastily retreated to the safety of the Roman walls. At the same time, other Arab forces landed at Centumcellae, marching towards Rome.

What misfortunes befell the City of Rome when the Saracens arrived

In the sufferings of prostrate Italy, the name of Rome awakens a solemn and mournful recollection. A fleet of Saracens from the African coast presumed to enter the mouth of the Tyber, and to approach a city which even yet, in her fallen state, was revered as the metropolis of the Christian world. The gates and ramparts were guarded by a trembling people; but the tombs and temples of St. Peter and St. Paul were left exposed in the suburbs of the Vatican and of the Ostian way. Their invisible sanctity had protected them against the Goths, the Vandals, and the Lombards; but the Arabs disdained both the gospel and the legend; and their rapacious spirit was approved and animated by the precepts of the Koran. The Christian idols were stripped of their costly offerings; a silver altar was torn away from the shrine of St. Peter; and if the bodies or the buildings were left entire, their deliverance must be imputed to the haste, rather than the scruples, of the Saracens. In their course along the Appian way, they pillaged Fundi and besieged Gayeta; but they had turned aside from the walls of Rome, and by their divisions, the Capitol was saved from the yoke of the prophet of Mecca.

The people of the City

The same danger still impended on the heads of the Roman people; and their domestic force was unequal to the assault of an African emir. They claimed the protection of their Latin sovereign; but the Carlovingian standard was overthrown by a detachment of the Barbarians: they meditated the restoration of the Greek emperors; but the attempt was treasonable, and the succour remote and precarious.

The new pope and the restoration of the city after the Saracen invasion

Pope Segius II during the raid, he along with the people of Rome looked on helplessly as they hid behind the Aurelian walls. Despite having been forewarned of the intentions of the raiders, Sergius is seen as having not acted adequately enough to prepare for that which eventuated. Sergius died while negotiating between two patriarchs and was succeeded by Pope Leo IV. Their distress appeared to receive some aggravation from the death of their spiritual and temporal chief; but the pressing emergency superseded the forms and intrigues of an election; and the unanimous choice of Pope Leo the Fourth was the safety of the church and city. This pontiff was born a Roman; the courage of the first ages of the republic glowed in his breast; and, amidst the ruins of his country, he stood erect, like one of the firm and lofty columns that rear their heads above the fragments of the Roman forum. The first days of his reign were consecrated to the purification and removal of relics, to prayers and processions, and to all the solemn offices of religion, which served at least to heal the imagination, and restore the hopes, of the multitude. The public defence had been long neglected, not from the presumption of peace, but from the distress and poverty of the times. As far as the scantiness of his means and the shortness of his leisure would allow, the ancient walls were repaired by the command of Leo; fifteen towers, in the most accessible stations, were built or renewed; two of these commanded on either side of the Tyber; and an iron chain was drawn across the stream to impede the ascent of a hostile navy. The Romans were assured of a short respite by the welcome news, that the siege of Gayeta had been raised, and that a part of the enemy, with their sacrilegious plunder, had perished in the waves.