Final Public Oral Exam: Tommi Petteri Lankila

Final Public Oral Examination
Event date: 
May 16, 2017 - 10:00am
Seminar Series: 
Final Public Oral Exam

Saracen Maritime Raids in the Early Medieval Central Mediterranean and Their Impact in the South Italian Terraferma (650-1050)


John Haldon, adviser
Sandro Carocci, co-adviser, Università Degli Studi di Roma "Tor Vergata"
Michael Cook
Helmut Reimitz


After the Islamic conquest of Egypt and the Levant in the mid-seventh century, the conquerors took over the existing administration and taxation systems. This was the background for the transformation and continuation of land-raids to maritime raids. This study attempts to understand the beginnings of and the reasons for the Saracen (=Islamic) maritime raids from their origins in Egypt / the Levant to their advance to the central Mediterranean (650-1050), and what kind of impact they made in the early medieval Italian terraferma, especially in South Italy (the Mezzogiorno).

The dissertation is divided into three parts. The first introductory part consists of three chapters, of which the first one tries to understand the general framework of raiding. The second chapter examines the sources of this study and how the Saracens were presented in these sources. The third chapter scrutinizes how the maritime raids were planned, organized, and executed.

The second part concentrates on the question of 'why the Saracens appear in the central Mediterranean?' To do so, the fourth chapter documents the analysis and periodization of raids in the central Mediterranean based on two raiding databases: mentions in the Christan and in the Islamic sources. Resting on this analysis, this chapter looks for the common denominators in the Saracen raids: in this case, slavery. The fifth chapter explores another reason, mercenary activity, for the arrival of the Saracens in the central Mediterranean. This chapter also examines the effects on social mobility, in which the Saracen mercenaries played a role.

The third part concentrates on the wider impacts of the Saracen raids. The sixth chapter focuses on the local population and how it was affected by plundering and enslavement. The seventh chapter focuses on the elite members: how they were affected and how they responded to Saracen activities. The eighth chapter explores the psychological impact which the Saracens raids had on the Papacy, and how the popes responded in their turn.

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review one week before the exam in the History Graduate Student Lounge: 105 Dickinson Hall.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.