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Medieval and Byzantine History Medieval and Byzantine History Forum - Period of History between classical antiquity and modern times, roughly the 5th through 16th Centuries


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Old May 22nd, 2015, 04:25 AM   #11
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I think op has a point.You look at byzantines list of battles against Bulgars and they lost more than they won.Seljuk turks and ottomans also always had the upper hand.(in fact i dont think Byzantines ever won a decisive battle against them)Same goes for Arabs.Certainly their military record wasnt that impressive.How they survived for so long then?Constaninople.Her location and huge walls made it so hard to conquer.I think if eastern roman's empire's capital was let's say Nicaea they wouldnt survive for that long.
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 05:31 AM   #12

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Quote:
Originally Posted by recor View Post
I think op has a point.You look at byzantines list of battles against Bulgars and they lost more than they won.Seljuk turks and ottomans also always had the upper hand.(in fact i dont think Byzantines ever won a decisive battle against them)Same goes for Arabs.Certainly their military record wasnt that impressive.How they survived for so long then?Constaninople.Her location and huge walls made it so hard to conquer.I think if eastern roman's empire's capital was let's say Nicaea they wouldnt survive for that long.
The roman empire ususally fought either small enemies, or one at a time. (etruscans, carthago, etc.)

When they had to face multiple strong enemies at once (hordes set to move by the huns) they inmediately became less effective, after a while there were no pre-emptive or punitive tasks, just desperate defending.

Eastern Rome never had the luxury to fight only one enemy at a time.
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 12:18 PM   #13

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The roman empire ususally fought either small enemies, or one at a time. (etruscans, carthago, etc.)

When they had to face multiple strong enemies at once (hordes set to move by the huns) they inmediately became less effective, after a while there were no pre-emptive or punitive tasks, just desperate defending.

Eastern Rome never had the luxury to fight only one enemy at a time.
So you don't know that during the second Punic war, they fought Carthage, Macedonia, the Gauls, Syracuse, and various independent North African armies at the same time?

Or later that they would fight Mithradates, Spartacus, Sertorius, and the Cilician pirates all at once?

Didn't know that during the Latin war, they fought a league of Campanians, Volsci, Latins, Etruscans, and others?

Or that Aurelius was already repulsing Germans and Sarmatian invasions in central Europe when the Parthian war was being prosecuted?

Or that they were prosecuting the Jugurthine war whiles contesting Cimbi and Tuetones?

And on and on. The Romans were constantly fighting on multiple fronts.

As for the Byzantines, again, the idea of them being military weak is just an illusion of modern "Scholars." Read the Alexiad and see how weak they were.

Last edited by cachibatches; May 22nd, 2015 at 12:27 PM.
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 12:23 PM   #14

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That's a good post, cachibatches. Ironically, military multitasking was a specialty of the Roman army of antiquity.
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 04:09 PM   #15

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They were extremely impressive, and own victories over the Persians, Turks, other Turko-Mongolian tribes, Normans, etc.

The reason you (Francais, not Graveyard) may believe that they were weak is because the emphasis when reading modern histories is on their weakness and decline. This is why I so urge everyone on this site to go read the ancient sources. If you are only reading modern interpretations, you are reading someone's contrived fiction...possibly a useful model, but at best a partial truth, and at worst, complete nonsense.

Co-incidentally, I am currently working on Anna Komnene's ALEXIAD. Her dad just staved of Robert Guiscard and Bohemund and is now dealing harshly with the Turks. This is the empire in decline, and it is still powerful enough to deal with 2-3 threats at the same time, including armies of dreaded and much vaunted horse archers.

Not too shabby.
I really with I know more about the Byzantine Empire. My fanboysm is focused on the classical Roman Empire, but over time I start liking the Late Empire more and more, it does get a lot of unfair criticism. And I suspect with the Byzantine Empire it might be similar.

Can you answer to which extend the Byzantine Emperi focused on (heavy) cavalry? And did the tradition of roman infantry was somehow kept?

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I think op has a point.You look at byzantines list of battles against Bulgars and they lost more than they won.Seljuk turks and ottomans also always had the upper hand.(in fact i dont think Byzantines ever won a decisive battle against them)Same goes for Arabs.Certainly their military record wasnt that impressive.How they survived for so long then?Constaninople.Her location and huge walls made it so hard to conquer.I think if eastern roman's empire's capital was let's say Nicaea they wouldnt survive for that long.
Well, the romans did sure know how to build cities!
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 07:15 PM   #16

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Look at how many external enemies the Empire faced over the years.

Persians, Arabs, Huns, Vandals, Goths, Slavs, Bulgars, Avars, Lombards, Seljuks, Crusaders, the Catalan Company, Ottomans, Hungarians, Rus, Normans...

The fact the empire was only conquered twice in its 1000+ history is a testament to the durability and resilience of the Eastern Roman state.

And let's not forget to mention all the numerous internal civil wars from within over the years. It was often civil wars and revolts (the most prominent being the Phocas/Heraclius revolts and the betrayal of Romanos IV) that did more damage to the empire than any external foe ever did.

Most states during the early part of the empire's history could not match the resources, manpower, logistics, and wealth of the East Romans (Only the Sassanid Empire and later the Arab Caliphates). Byzantium was also one of the most powerful states in the world again in the tenth and eleventh centuries.
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Old May 23rd, 2015, 02:39 AM   #17

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Originally Posted by SNascimento View Post
I really with I know more about the Byzantine Empire. My fanboysm is focused on the classical Roman Empire, but over time I start liking the Late Empire more and more, it does get a lot of unfair criticism. And I suspect with the Byzantine Empire it might be similar.

Can you answer to which extend the Byzantine Emperi focused on (heavy) cavalry? And did the tradition of roman infantry was somehow kept?



Well, the romans did sure know how to build cities!
The Byzantines adopted the cataphract from Persia, so all used heavy cavalry to some extent. These could also function as mounted archers.

Belisaurius and Narses are often mentioned as two of the best generals, and Alexius Comnenus, who I am reading about now in the Alexiad, is a very good example of a fighting emperor.

I know that they did retain a superiority in infantry, but throughout their long history, they basically used whatever they could get, from Viking infantry, to armored knights, to Hunnic or Turkic mounted archers, to Syrian foot archers...and on and on.

Their infantry were unique in that they carried several weighted darts called plumbata which could be cast in the air at decent distances, lessening the need for archers.

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That's a good post, cachibatches. Ironically, military multitasking was a specialty of the Roman army of antiquity.
And I forgot to mention that when they were wrecking the Pontic empire of Mitradates, prosecuting the servile war against Spartacus, punishing Sertorius and destroying the Cilician pirates, they also destroyed the powerful Armenian empire, just because if got in the way. So much for not being able to fight on multiple fronts.

Last edited by cachibatches; May 23rd, 2015 at 02:50 AM.
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Old May 23rd, 2015, 02:53 AM   #18
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The Byzantine decline started only after the fourth Crusade of 1204.

Without it, the Eastern Roman Empire would have lasted untill 1600 or something, before being swallowed by the Russians.
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Old May 23rd, 2015, 03:07 AM   #19
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I think op has a point.You look at byzantines list of battles against Bulgars and they lost more than they won.
Byzantines won the war and destroyed the 1st bulgarian empire.
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Old May 23rd, 2015, 03:30 AM   #20
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Byzantines manage also to hold the Arabs back and win over the Persians, deffend over so many barbaric invasions and assimilate them partly in the empire. It was the non plus ultra for centuries in Europe .
Dont forget that the eastern roman empire recapture most of the former territories of the western empire and hold them for a while.

I think in terms of cavallary they was much better than the classic Romans, not only cause they had own native troops but also the different types of their own cavallary from cataphracts to horse archers fron an early stage of the empire.

They do some things that the Roman empire before dont manage to do , like win wars and battles in Asia against the Iranics-Persians, hold against the barbaric invasions, survive win and recapture. To push the Arabs back without allow them from this direction get foot on mainland Europe is also an achivement in military terms. The difference is that this empire excist in a time of massive tribe and folk movements where every some decades many times before a recovering was possible knock at the doors from every direction, Europe, Asia, Caucasus, Africa also more than once at the same time. Also the civil wars are a point where they get weak more than once from them.
Its something different to fight offensive wars and deffend parallel against irregular armies in the own territories and something else to have hords of barbars from every direction in combination with other empires to face. They had of course much more difficult and complicated circumstances in this terms.

At all they was real successors of the former roman empire .
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