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Old December 27th, 2015, 10:21 AM   #41

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Originally Posted by Redaxe View Post
Yes they were and I suspect the steep decline in power was a cause of that. For one thing, with Anatolia and the Balkans being over-run, the powerful landowner aristocracy would disappear. Revenue decline meant that there were less soldiers and less career officers to compete for power.
Also the weak state of the Empire probably had a very sobering effect on the population. Egos and court extravagance was probably replaced with a defeatist mentality. But despite even the length of the last dynasty they still made poor decisions and spent their resources fighting the Bulgarians instead of concentrating on the Turks that were swallowing up the last of the Themes. What motivated the leadership to make these poor choices is certainly a mystery. Even after the Crusader sack, there should have been enough population belonging to the Empire to at least hold Anatolia whilst using diplomatic marriages to secure peace on the European side.
A not only very plausible opinion, probably true as well.
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Old October 25th, 2016, 07:27 PM   #42
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Hello! And my non professional thoughs on the matter...


Hello every body. Yes, I am new here, and my attraction to, let say, byzantine empire, is relatively recent (from 2,011). I have reasons to wish to start posting here beacuse some almost "personal" reason:

Since I became able to really think about history, puzzled me how it was said that specific, punctual facts started or ended cultures or civilizations, given that those realities are done slowly, and a little "accidentaly", and the same happens to me about byzantine empire.

To my knowledge, the byzantine empire was near to a "rump state" before the infamous 1,204 sack, so i think it was more a milestone of its fall -and a very protracted fall indeed- than a cause. If the byzantine empire weren't in such a weak condition, its capital wouldn't have been sacked, to begin with. Then?

I think that what happened was this: the byzantine empire started to "die" with the war of atrittion held by Basil II against the first bulgarian empire. How? Because, if I have understood well what I read about it, from that period on, the soldiers-farmers of the themes were exhausted, and not physically, but emotionally. So exhausted that they started to prefer to be part of a pronoia (even if the pronoi system came later; but then started the "byzantine feudalism" with the strategoi as the feudal lords) -where they had a status similar to that of a western serf in the feudal system- than to go on carring with the responsibilities and duties of being a "free citizen", and to have to fight for the empire and to pay taxes to sustain it.

Taxes which had become overwhelming. In fact, to my knowledge, one of the factors which facilitated the turkish penetration in Anatolia -first physical, then cultural and religious- was that the sultans offered much lower taxes than the emperor. Indeed, to maintain the advanced, but aswell complicated byzantine system of government, was demanded a level of taxes on the bulk of the population which had become, long ago, unbearable for that bulk of inhabitants.

But I don't think it was merely a tax thing; I have goten the impression that the byzantine rulers managed to master the art of manipulation, in both a good and a bad sense, and one of those senses was to achieve from the population the feeling that they, the roman citizens, were happy, were, in fact, lucky to be ruled by the real emperor, whose court was the real reflection of the celestial court, and who ruled in harmony -or so was said- with the patriarch who sustained the real interpretation of the real religion. And that was, I think, and emotional foundation of the ultimate importance for the survival of the State.

And, in my opinion again, it was that emotional foundation which the war of atrittion held by Basil the Second worne out, as much as worne out the first bulgarian empire.

I know Basil II created the Macedonian Renaissance, and possibly the most brilliant period for the Byzantine Empire. But I hink he did so at the price of ruining its possibility to continue existing. Obviously he had few options, beacuse he had to defeat the challenge of the Bulgarian Empire, but I think the war of atrittion was a bad idea, with its campaings in summer and winter. I think that left his subdits sick of war, and broken psychologically.

A lot have been said in this thread about having a skillful ruler at the right time... I don't think that can be used as an argument: good rulers, and bad rulers, appear when they do, that cannot be programmed. I think it had more to do with circumstancies. Basil II was efficent, inteligent and brave, and nevertheless, in my... unproffesional opinion, doing the right thing he brought the seed of doom to his polite.

Which was, to end this initial post, that the, even being victorious, started the process which alienated the bulk of the byzantine population from their own polite. leaving on it a helpless elit.

P.D.: Also, I don't think that, neither the Battle of Manzikert nor the Sack of 1,204 were as destructive for the Byzantine Empire as the civil wars during the XIV century. As a matter of fact, the emperor defeated in Manzikert could have won if he wouldn't have been deserted by the others two commanders. And he obtained more than light conditions form the sultan. Hadn't he been betrayed and blinded, the turks wouldn't have expanded in Anatolia at that moment.

The civil wars of the 1,300 saw the willingful delivery of byzantine territory to the turks in exchange for turkish soldiers to fight for the claimants to the throne... maybe these expected to revert those exchanges, but what an odd way of achieving the government, by giving up the territory!!!

About the sack of 1,204, by that time, and I mean before that time, the empire had lost its national armies and its national control of trade, so it was a shadow, both in demography, military capacity and commercial power of itself.

Last edited by mijail; October 25th, 2016 at 07:33 PM.
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Old October 25th, 2016, 10:55 PM   #43

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Originally Posted by mijail View Post
Hello every body. Yes, I am new here, and my attraction to, let say, byzantine empire, is relatively recent (from 2,011). I have reasons to wish to start posting here beacuse some almost "personal" reason:

Since I became able to really think about history, puzzled me how it was said that specific, punctual facts started or ended cultures or civilizations, given that those realities are done slowly, and a little "accidentaly", and the same happens to me about byzantine empire.

To my knowledge, the byzantine empire was near to a "rump state" before the infamous 1,204 sack, so i think it was more a milestone of its fall -and a very protracted fall indeed- than a cause. If the byzantine empire weren't in such a weak condition, its capital wouldn't have been sacked, to begin with. Then?

I think that what happened was this: the byzantine empire started to "die" with the war of atrittion held by Basil II against the first bulgarian empire. How? Because, if I have understood well what I read about it, from that period on, the soldiers-farmers of the themes were exhausted, and not physically, but emotionally. So exhausted that they started to prefer to be part of a pronoia (even if the pronoi system came later; but then started the "byzantine feudalism" with the strategoi as the feudal lords) -where they had a status similar to that of a western serf in the feudal system- than to go on carring with the responsibilities and duties of being a "free citizen", and to have to fight for the empire and to pay taxes to sustain it.

Taxes which had become overwhelming. In fact, to my knowledge, one of the factors which facilitated the turkish penetration in Anatolia -first physical, then cultural and religious- was that the sultans offered much lower taxes than the emperor. Indeed, to maintain the advanced, but aswell complicated byzantine system of government, was demanded a level of taxes on the bulk of the population which had become, long ago, unbearable for that bulk of inhabitants.

But I don't think it was merely a tax thing; I have goten the impression that the byzantine rulers managed to master the art of manipulation, in both a good and a bad sense, and one of those senses was to achieve from the population the feeling that they, the roman citizens, were happy, were, in fact, lucky to be ruled by the real emperor, whose court was the real reflection of the celestial court, and who ruled in harmony -or so was said- with the patriarch who sustained the real interpretation of the real religion. And that was, I think, and emotional foundation of the ultimate importance for the survival of the State.

And, in my opinion again, it was that emotional foundation which the war of atrittion held by Basil the Second worne out, as much as worne out the first bulgarian empire.

I know Basil II created the Macedonian Renaissance, and possibly the most brilliant period for the Byzantine Empire. But I hink he did so at the price of ruining its possibility to continue existing. Obviously he had few options, beacuse he had to defeat the challenge of the Bulgarian Empire, but I think the war of atrittion was a bad idea, with its campaings in summer and winter. I think that left his subdits sick of war, and broken psychologically.

A lot have been said in this thread about having a skillful ruler at the right time... I don't think that can be used as an argument: good rulers, and bad rulers, appear when they do, that cannot be programmed. I think it had more to do with circumstancies. Basil II was efficent, inteligent and brave, and nevertheless, in my... unproffesional opinion, doing the right thing he brought the seed of doom to his polite.

Which was, to end this initial post, that the, even being victorious, started the process which alienated the bulk of the byzantine population from their own polite. leaving on it a helpless elit.

P.D.: Also, I don't think that, neither the Battle of Manzikert nor the Sack of 1,204 were as destructive for the Byzantine Empire as the civil wars during the XIV century. As a matter of fact, the emperor defeated in Manzikert could have won if he wouldn't have been deserted by the others two commanders. And he obtained more than light conditions form the sultan. Hadn't he been betrayed and blinded, the turks wouldn't have expanded in Anatolia at that moment.

The civil wars of the 1,300 saw the willingful delivery of byzantine territory to the turks in exchange for turkish soldiers to fight for the claimants to the throne... maybe these expected to revert those exchanges, but what an odd way of achieving the government, by giving up the territory!!!

About the sack of 1,204, by that time, and I mean before that time, the empire had lost its national armies and its national control of trade, so it was a shadow, both in demography, military capacity and commercial power of itself.
Sometimes the situation is beyond the control of the rulers.
Mahmud II prolonged the life of the Ottoman Empire, but even he could not completely reverse the trend of decline.
Basil II was a little controversial here in your depictions.
The decline of the Byzantine Empire had more to do with its inherited structure, its nature, and its geopolitical locations; there were probably NOT much that a ruler could do!
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Old October 25th, 2016, 11:39 PM   #44

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To my knowledge, the byzantine empire was near to a "rump state" before the infamous 1,204 sack, so i think it was more a milestone of its fall -and a very protracted fall indeed- than a cause. If the byzantine empire weren't in such a weak condition, its capital wouldn't have been sacked, to begin with. Then?
While it had lost a decent chunk of anatolia and much of bulgaria, I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "rump state". It was certainly better off in 1200 than it was in 1080, and alexios was able to revive it then. I think that if the next emperor after alexios V was more competent, a second byzantine revival wouldn't be unlikely.

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I think that what happened was this: the byzantine empire started to "die" with the war of atrittion held by Basil II against the first bulgarian empire. How? Because, if I have understood well what I read about it, from that period on, the soldiers-farmers of the themes were exhausted, and not physically, but emotionally. So exhausted that they started to prefer to be part of a pronoia (even if the pronoi system came later; but then started the "byzantine feudalism" with the strategoi as the feudal lords) -where they had a status similar to that of a western serf in the feudal system- than to go on carring with the responsibilities and duties of being a "free citizen", and to have to fight for the empire and to pay taxes to sustain it.
Not to be rude but there's so so much wrong here, please at least look at wikipedia or something before coming up with your own theory on how something worked. I'm going to use a list formula because a paragraph would be too long and complicated:

First off: Theme troops weren't heavily used in the conquest of bulgaria, it was mostly accomplished by tagmata.

Second: Though it would later become one, the pronoia system wasn't anything like a feudal system at its inception. Pronoia troops were given state land in exchange for military service, that was it. Eventually this lead to wealthy aristocrats buying up much of the former state-owned land, but that wouldn't happen until centuries after basil II.

Third: pseudo-feudalism had been growing in the byzantine empire since the early 10th century, especially in newly reconquered territory with a lot of cheap new land for the wealthy to buy up. These aristocrats had been repeatedly checked by 10th century emperors, and basil II was no exception, in fact he did the best job of it. It was only after the reign of basil II that pseudo-feudalism was allowed to grow.

Fourth: The byzantine economy flourished under basil II. Former theme troops would be far from the border and comparably rich. It was only after the byzantine economy went down in flames in the mid 11th century that people would have a reason to live on the large pseudo-feudal land estates.

Fifth: Strategoi were nothing like feudal lords. Though they sometimes owned estates in the military province they oversaw, It was extemely illegal to make people work the land on them without pay, and doing so would lead to them being despised by pretty much everyone. A strategos's job was to oversee the recruitment, training, and pay of the soldiers in his theme, as well as leading them when needed. The job was separate from that of a civil governor, who oversaw the appointment of lesser bureaucrats, allotment of public funds, major construction projects, tax collection, and a host of other important duties.

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Taxes which had become overwhelming. In fact, to my knowledge, one of the factors which facilitated the turkish penetration in Anatolia -first physical, then cultural and religious- was that the sultans offered much lower taxes than the emperor. Indeed, to maintain the advanced, but aswell complicated byzantine system of government, was demanded a level of taxes on the bulk of the population which had become, long ago, unbearable for that bulk of inhabitants.
True, but not in basil II's reign. There was a massive economic decline in the byzantine empire in the mid 11th century, mostly caused by extreme debasement of currency perpetuated by civil war.

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I know Basil II created the Macedonian Renaissance, and possibly the most brilliant period for the Byzantine Empire. But I hink he did so at the price of ruining its possibility to continue existing. Obviously he had few options, beacuse he had to defeat the challenge of the Bulgarian Empire, but I think the war of atrittion was a bad idea, with its campaings in summer and winter. I think that left his subdits sick of war, and broken psychologically.
The Macedonian renaissance was an artistic trend that started sometime in the 9th century, though it could be argued that it was simply a continuation of earlier trends in roman art. While basil II was a patron of the arts, he certainly didn't start the macedonian renaissance. And as I've said before, the bulgarian campaigns were mostly carries out by imperial tagmata, fully professional soldiers.
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Old October 26th, 2016, 10:20 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by mijail View Post
the byzantine empire started to "die" with the war of atrittion held by Basil II against the first bulgarian empire. How? Because, if I have understood well what I read about it, from that period on, the soldiers-farmers of the themes were exhausted, and not physically, but emotionally. So exhausted that they started to prefer to be part of a pronoia (even if the pronoi system came later; but then started the "byzantine feudalism" with the strategoi as the feudal lords) -where they had a status similar to that of a western serf in the feudal system- than to go on carring with the responsibilities and duties of being a "free citizen", and to have to fight for the empire and to pay taxes to sustain it.
.............
What is the source that support this>... the "byzantine feudalism" with the strategoi as the feudal lords) -where they had a status similar to that of a western serf in the feudal system-.....

To Roman state , that called 'Byzantine' there never been status similar to that of a western serf , they are free citizens ever.

The only case that people for a period not having free citizen rights, are for a kind of paroikoi *, but those kind I refer were prisoners of war, that the state given them land to work, tools and animals so to live.

[*paroikoi were non-proprietary peasants, hereditary holders of their land, irremovable as long as they paid their rent.] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paroikoi

Strategoi never been feudal lords, they were payed servants from the state.

The status of assignment defines the pronoiar as manager, never owner of any land or property, and pronoia has never been hereditary, but appointed by the State and the Emperor.

There some cases that the state could give to the son of the pronoiar also the pronoia [but that has to do with the person not as a hereditary action], but pronoia was ever revoked, the emperor could cancel the pronoiar and 'recruit' someone else, at anytime the emperor wants. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pronoia

------------------------

Last edited by ANAX; October 26th, 2016 at 10:30 AM.
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Old October 26th, 2016, 08:31 PM   #46
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Hello JeanDukeofAlecon and ANAX. It is true tht what I wrote were my conclusions (I thought the thread was intended for that. As well as discussions, offcourse, wchich is what you have done) and my main source is the Enciclopaeida Britannica from 1,989. Not about the theory, but the information which allowed me to get to my conclusions.

There it is claimed that after the war of attrition, and even during the war porper, the treasure was exhausted, and Basil II started to pay his generals with titles of ownership of portions of land. That is the reason why I compared them to feudal lords. I didn't mean that were exactly the same, but nevertheless, what I ahve read every time I have reread the source is that the generals started to "like" to own more and more land. Form me, such a "latifundia", specially if the peasants start to look for becoming part of that system, is similar, or parallel, to western feudalism, even if the concrete rules and traditinos are different.

I know that it is a little dangerous to generalize too broadly, but I consider equally dangerous to establish excesive distinctions between historic circumstancies which are similar.

Possibly Basil II didnīt start the Macedonian Renaissance -and to my knowledge, he wasnīt found of intelectuality, even thoguh he was inteligent and skillful- but such a phenomenon, again to my knowledge, took place because, through expropiations of the very land property titles that he had granted before to his generals, he managed to replenish the imperial treasure. Nevertheless, shortly after his death and because the ineptitude of his sucesors, these generals, or their sucesors, recovered such land possessions, to which the former farmer-soldiers prefered to go to live and work, instead of being "full" citizens with all the duties of that legal status.

Can my sources be wrong? I guess. Can my analisys be wrong? Off course. But I still think Basil II exhausted more than the imperial treasure in the -inevitable- war against Bulgary: I think he broke the spirit -so to speak- of the average byzantine citizen, without having the intention to do so. Obviously this is an attem of "invisible explanation", so to speak, since I attribute the source of the problem not to a militar of economic issue, but to a psychological one, much harder to track, specially in sources. But I am convinced this kind of circunstance has happened many times thourght History.

By the way, I don't intend to be rude either. If I have given such an impression, please accept my apologizes.
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Old October 26th, 2016, 10:09 PM   #47

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well the encyclopedia Britannica is dead wrong then, because Basil II both left the empire with a massive treasury and did a good job of fighting growing pseudo-feudalism. As you said he broke the power of the landed aristocracy through effective reform, it was only later usurpers who empowered the aristocracy to gain more support. You can't preemptively fix stupid in an autocratic state.

Your theory of byzantine theme troops being demoralized by basil II's constant campaigning doesn't really hold up when you consider that the soldiers involved in most of basil's campaigns were tagmata, full time professional soldiers. The byzantine spirit wasn't broken, their military was broken by the disastrous reforms of the mid 11th century emperors.

I also don't know where you get the idea that being a byzantine citizen was hard in basil's reign. Byzantine citizens got fair representation in court, protection of law, free clean drinking water and occasionally bread, use of reliable currency with a rising value, free use of public facilities, subsidized farming tools if they were a new farmer, cheap to rent land, free health care in certain cities, and reliable protection provided by the roman state in exchange for a tax based on income that they would still have to pay in one way or another even if they weren't citizens. They would have no reason to sell themselves into practical slavery in exchange for basic needs.

Aristocrats were often appointed to the position of strategos because of their better education, but that had nothing to do with the job of being a strategos. Strategoi were public servants appointed to manage the military affairs of a province, the office had nothing to do with owning or managing any land (except for managing training facilities), though the holders of the office might own or manage land privately. There were actually far more aristocrats practicing, very illegal by the way, pseudo-feudalism that weren't strategoi, since public officials were under more careful watch.

It wasn't anything done in basil's reign that made citizenship a burden, it was the economic policies of the post-Macedonian emperors. By 1070, the solidus was practically worthless due to debasement. This meant that old, purer, gold and silver currency still had worth through its intrinsic value, but the lower denominations based on the current purity of the solidus were worth some 1/50th of what they were. This effectively destroyed any savings a middle class or lower citizen had, and significantly reduced the wealth of the higher classes. People couldn't afford to pay rent, pay for seeds for their farm, or even pay for basic needs if they didn't work in the cereal industry. This significantly increased the allure of living under an aristocratic lord, who would provide you with your basic needs, protect you, and (supposedly) represent your interests.

One last thing is that the average byzantine citizen wouldn't care, and possibly wouldn't even know, about basil's bulgarian campaigns. What they would know is that they could buy more with their money, and basil was the one who made that happen. The citizens in Constantinople did care more about what the emperor was doing, and expressed some displeasure at the long campaigns, but they didn't represent the vast majority of the empire. They also came to love him after the campaigns were finished, and especially after they experienced his replacements.


Also, don't worry, you actually come across as more civil than most.

Last edited by JeanDukeofAlecon; October 26th, 2016 at 10:27 PM.
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Old October 27th, 2016, 08:59 PM   #48
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Can my sources be wrong?
What are your sources?

A couple of things I might say are
1) Basil II is not typically considered the father of the Macedonian dynasty. He is the last. Could you be thinking of Basil I?
2) Regarding "protracted" fall...unless you are possibly reading Gibbon, who is largely considered to be discredited, the empire showed remarkable powers of recovery and expansion.
3) The 11th century Turkish occupation of Anatolia is typically credited to the failure of the various emperors and administrations immediately succeeding Basil II in terms of properly maintaining the army, combined with the political instability that followed Manzikert.
4) Regarding Basil exhausting the imperial treasury? That dubious distinction is more likely to be attributed to Constantine Monomachus.
5) Regarding the Turks imposing lower taxes, this is true of the Ottomans centuries later. If you are aware of the Seljuks being popular with Anatolians due to lower taxation, could you share your sources, please?

Quote:
encyclopedia Britannica is dead wrong then
This would not be the first time. I actually saw, once, an EB version that claimed that the Byzantines were powerful because, since they held the Balkans, they had a nutritious diet that included legumes.
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Old November 3rd, 2016, 11:02 AM   #49
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The Massacro dei Latini was a bad idea.
All massacres are bad (evil) ideas, and most of them are bad (foolish) ideas also, so history would probably have been filled with even more massacres if they had been good ideas.

I suppose you mean the massacre of the Latins in Constantinople in 1282 by the Supporters of Andronikos I. The Italian victims were mostly Genoese and Pisans, since the Venetians had been expelled from the Empire and thus had their lesser grudge against the Empire.

So when the "Byzantines" later needed to ally with the Genoese against the Venetians, or vice versa, the Italians demanded higher prices and concessions than they otherwise would have.
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Old November 7th, 2016, 06:37 PM   #50
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I read from wiki that the Byzantine Empire at its collapse only had 6000 soldiers on its side; what a sorry excuse for an "empire"!
One can also wonder as to the quality of these troops. Consider that the Empire had the following problems and/or conditions:
1) Dysfunctional economy and shortage of money.
2) Need to mask defensive measures from the sultan, so it's doubtful as to the amount of training that could be supplied to these troops.
3) Dire poverty, which led to nutrition deficiencies and epidemics that would periodically ravage the population. Would the final Byzantine army also have been physically weaker than the force arrayed against it?

If we consider the above, what was the likely condition of this final army? Consider, too, that the sea walls needed to be manned by monks and not soldiers.

I don't remember who said this, but I think it's been written that in the end, the entire event was decided by cannon.

While I am making guesses about the state of the final army, wouldn't it be a reasonable guess that the supposed heroic defense was really closer to hoping that the walls would hold out until relief appeared?

Any thoughts?
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