Battle of Garigliano

The Battle of Garigliano was fought in 915 between Christian forces and the Saracens. Pope John X personally led the Christian forces into battle. The aim was to destroy the Arab fortress on the Garigliano River,[2] which had threatened central Italy and the outskirts of Rome for nearly 30 years.[3][4]

Battle of Garigliano
DateJune 915
Result Christian Italian victory

Christian League:

Fatimid Caliphate
Commanders and leaders
Alberic I of Spoleto
Nicholas Picingli
Pope John X
50,000 40,000
Casualties and losses
Minimal heavy


After a series of ravaging attacks against the main sites of the Lazio in the second half of the 9th century, the Aghlabids established a colony next to the ancient city of Minturnae, near the Garigliano River. Here they even formed alliances with the nearby Christian princes (notably the hypati of Gaeta), taking advantage of the division between them.

In 909, the Aghlabid Dynasty had been overthrown and replaced by the Fatimids, who assumed control over their territories in North Africa and southern Italy.

Pope John X, however, managed to reunite these princes in an alliance in order to oust the Fatimids from their dangerous strongpoint. The Christian armies united the pope with several south Italian princes of Lombard or Greek extraction, including Guaimar II of Salerno, John I of Gaeta and his son Docibilis, Gregory IV of Naples and his son John, and Landulf I of Benevento and Capua. The King of Italy, Berengar I, sent a support force from Spoleto and the Marche, led by Alberic I, duke of Spoleto and Camerino. The Byzantine Empire participated by sending a strong contingent from Calabria and Apulia under the strategos of Bari, Nicholas Picingli. John X himself led the milities from the Lazio, Tuscany, and Rome.


The first action took place in northern Lazio, where small bands of ravagers were surprised and destroyed. The Christians scored two more significant victories at Campo Baccano, on the Via Cassia, and in the area of Tivoli and Vicovaro. After these defeats, the Muslims occupying Narni and other strongholds moved back to the main Fatimid stronghold on the Garigliano: this was a fortified settlement (kairuan) whose site, however, has not yet been identified with certainty. The siege lasted for three months, from June to August.[5]

After being pushed out of the fortified camp, the Fatimids retired to the nearby hills. Here they resisted many attacks led by Alberic and Landulf. However, deprived of food and noticing their situation was becoming desperate, in August they attempted a sally to reach the coast and escape to the Emirate of Sicily. According to the chronicles, all were captured and executed.


Berengar was rewarded with Papal support and eventually the imperial title, while Alberic's prestige after the victorious battle granted him a preeminent role in the future history of Rome. John I of Gaeta was able to expand his duchy to the Garigliano and received the title of patricius from Byzantium, leading his family to proclaim themselves "dukes".

Following the victory, the Byzantines, as the most important force during the battle, became the dominant power in southern Italy.[6]


  1. ^ Cfr. Chronicon comitum Capuae in Mon.Germ.hist.Script. III,208
  2. ^ Roger Collins (1 Jan 2009). Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy. Basic Books. p. 175. ISBN 9780786744183.
  3. ^ Gustav Edmund Von Grunebaum. Classical Islam. p. 125. ISBN 9780202364858.
  4. ^ Christopher Kleinhenz (8 Jan 2004). Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 813. ISBN 9781135948801.
  5. ^ Peter Partner (1 Jan 1972). The Lands of St. Peter: The Papal State in the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance (illustrated ed.). University of California Press. pp. 81–2. ISBN 9780520021815.
  6. ^ C. W. Previté-Orton (4 Jul 2013). Outlines of Medieval History. Cambridge University Press. p. 157. ISBN 9781107627116.