Sack of Thessalonica (1185)


The sack of Thessalonica in 1185 by Normans of the Kingdom of Sicily was one of the worst disasters to befall the Byzantine Empire in the 12th century.

Sack of Thessalonica
Part of the Third Norman invasion of the Balkans
Date9–24 August 1185
Thessalonica (now Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece)

Sicilian victory

  • Thessalonica sacked
Byzantine Empire, Alan and Georgian Mercenaries Kingdom of Sicily
Commanders and leaders
David Komnenos (POW)
Theodore Choumnos
John Maurozomes (POW)
Count Baldwin
Count Richard of Acerra
Count Tancred of Lecce
80,000 men
200 ships
Casualties and losses
7,000 soldiers and civilians 3,000 soldiers


David Komnenos, the governor of the city, had neglected to make sufficient preparations for the siege and even forbade sallies by the defenders to disrupt the Norman siege works. The Byzantine relief armies failed to coordinate their efforts, and only two forces, under Theodore Choumnos and John Maurozomes, actually came to the city's aid. In the event, the Normans undermined the city's eastern wall, opening a breach through which they entered the city. The conquest degenerated quickly into a full-scale massacre of the city's inhabitants, some 7,000 corpses being found afterwards. The siege is extensively chronicled by the city's archbishop, Eustathius of Thessalonica, who was present in the city during and after the siege.


The Normans occupied Thessalonica until mid-November, when, following their defeat at the Battle of Demetritzes, they evacuated it. Coming on the heels of the usurper Andronikos Komnenos's massacre of the Latins in Constantinople in 1182, the massacre of the Thessalonians by the Normans deepened the rift between the Latins and the East. It also directly led to the deposition and execution of the unpopular Andronikos by the Latins and the rise to the throne of Isaac II Angelos.


  • Brand, Charles M. (1968). "The Norman Threat: 1185". Byzantium Confronts the West, 1180–1204. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 160–175. LCCN 67-20872. OCLC 795121713.
  • Magoulias, Harry J., ed. (1984). O City of Byzantium. Annals of Niketas Choniates. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. pp. 164–171, 175–176. ISBN 0-8143-1764-2.
  • Stephenson, Paul (2000). "The Norman Invasion, 1185–1186". Byzantium's Balkan Frontier: A Political Study of the Northern Balkans, 900–1204. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 284–288. ISBN 0-521-77017-3.

Coordinates: 40°39′N 22°54′E / 40.650°N 22.900°E / 40.650; 22.900