How likely was it for Basil II to have conquered the Levant and Egypt?

Nov 2014
If he had not focused on Bulgaria instead, and instead kept the army there on a defensive posture and just keeping Thrace and Greece from falling to the Bulgars? What about the Byzantines taking Mesopotamia and Baghdad?


Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
The lines of communication are just too long. A single power based either in lower Mesopotamia or on the Anatolian plateau has a difficult time controlling both, which Garth Fowden explored in the first chapter of Empire to Commonwealth a number of years ago. Attacking Mesopotamia (at least later in Basil's reign) would not have been a major issue: Byzantium controlled enough of the Caucasus to take advantage of the Euphrates headwaters to manage the logistics, and local Syrian powers like Aleppo were usually friendly enough when Byzantine armies were in the area. I have little doubt that a Byzantine army could have marched down to Baghdad. But then what? The geography makes controlling central and lower Mespotamia extremely difficult. Iraq is exposed to the Zagros mountains and the Iranian plateau. As the Zanj revolt demonstrated, any sort of concerted military resistance in the the Tigris and Euphrates deltas is difficult to deal with due to the terrain, and that was at the height of Abbasid power and not far from their capital. Moreover, Baghdad just did not matter all that much by the late tenth century - Tzimiskes, Basil II, and their successors rightly saw the Egypt-based Fatimid caliphate as the main power in the eastern Mediterranean to deal with.