Which empire was more powerful circa AD700: the Byzantine Empire or the Tang Dynasty

More powerful Empire in 700 AD?

  • Byzantine

    Votes: 3 13.0%
  • Tang China

    Votes: 20 87.0%

  • Total voters
    23

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,669
Blachernai
#11
Greece isn't actually that bad, although the Romans should control much of the west coast and a bit more of the east, but the Exarchate of Ravenna and Duchy of Rome are way too small and the corridor connecting them isn't shown, Roman control in Thrace is extremely underrepresented, Cherson isn't shown, Dalmatia isn't shown, the southern coast of Anatolia is only shown under Roman control up to Attaleia when it should extent a bit past Seleukia, and Cyprus, while a special case in that it was partially demilitarized and paying protection money to the Arabs, was more under Roman control than not. Here's a more accurate (although by no means perfect) map of the Empire of the period I've been working on (a bit of a peek at a larger project that'll be finished pretty soon):
I find Haldon's map a bit odd for skipping Apulia. Have you seen anything specific that suggests that Byzantium held the region, because I'm under the impression it did?
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
2,522
Republika Srpska
#12
That siege didn't happen, as Marek Jankowiak has convincingly demonstrated. To summarize a very long article, there were blockades of 667 and 669, with a spring siege of 668. The Arabs wintered in Kyzikos in 670/1 and suffered a defeat at Syllaion in 673/4. The seven years probably refer to the looming Arab threat over Constantinople. The other siege was an attack on the city in 654 by Mu'awiya's naval forces, which is recorded only in contemporary Armenian material.
Thank you for the clarification.
 
Jan 2016
1,099
Victoria, Canada
#13
Pretty much what the others have said. Byzantium in 700 was engaged in a life-or-death struggle with the Umayyads, with Constantinople already having been besieged twice. Despite major territorial losses, though, Byzantium retained the ability to project military power at this time, but its tax base and population would have been a fraction of what the Tang emperors enjoyed.

As for the map, the Balearics are probably still inside the empire, as is more of a thin strip of the Dalmatian coast. Corsica was not. Thesalonik probably had more of a hingerland. I'd give them a bit more land around Ravenna but take away almost everything north of the Po, while reducing the size of Rome's hinterland. Greece is really unclear and there has been a lot of discussion on what was "in" and or not, but I'm not qualified to really discuss that. The Cherson and Tmutarakan might be half-shaded or something like that - it had a Khazar governor ca. 700 but the elite was still broadly Byzantine. The shading in Anatolia puts major military bases like Amorion and Attaleia almost on the frontier, which is not quite accurate, as the frontier was slightly east of Caesarea. Cyprus is an issue, but a recent book has questioned the whole condominium thing and so it might have to be counted as inside the empire.

Map from Haldon, the Palgrave Atlas of Byzantine History. Note that the map excludes Rhodes and Kos, which were only occupied in 717 in support of the Umayyad attack on Constantinople.

View attachment 15716
As I understand it the Perugian corridor between Ravenna and Rome remained open until the 740's, as well as the Pentapolis, no? And Gaeta never fell to the Lombards, only slipping gradually out of Roman control after the fall of Sicily. From everything I've read, Adrianople and Philoppopolis at the very least would have also remained as frontier cities in Thrace, even if Roman efforts were concentrated on coastal regions. I've seen a surprising number of maps contradict this, both academic and lay, but I've never seen any mention of who apparently controlled these regions -- in maps depicting other polities Thrace especially is often just left blank, whatever that's supposed to mean, until Constantine V marches up through it without trouble in his campaigns against the Bulgars.
 
Jan 2016
1,099
Victoria, Canada
#14
I find Haldon's map a bit odd for skipping Apulia. Have you seen anything specific that suggests that Byzantium held the region, because I'm under the impression it did?
No, that's a mistake I forgot to correct because the map was based on a previous one of the Empire under Constans II. In the late 7th century Brindisi and Taranto were captured by the Lombards of Benevento, although I believe Otranto held out until the mid-late 8th century, so it should be included in a map of 700 or 717. It is a bit odd he skips Corfu though, since it was a pretty big deal and I've never seen any indication the island was occupied by the Slavs. Seleukia is also a strange omission, although I can't remember if it was occupied in the lead-up to the siege of Constantinople so that might explain it.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,669
Blachernai
#15
As I understand it the Perugian corridor between Ravenna and Rome remained open until the 740's, as well as the Pentapolis, no? And Gaeta never fell to the Lombards, only slipping gradually out of Roman control after the fall of Sicily. From everything I've read, Adrianople and Philoppopolis at the very least would have also remained as frontier cities in Thrace, even if Roman efforts were concentrated on coastal regions. I've seen a surprising number of maps contradict this, both academic and lay, but I've never seen any mention of who apparently controlled these regions -- in maps depicting other polities Thrace especially is often just left blank, whatever that's supposed to mean, until Constantine V marches up through it without trouble in his campaigns against the Bulgars.
Yeah, as far as I can tell the corridor was open until shortly before the Lombard conquest.

No, that's a mistake I forgot to correct because the map was based on a previous one of the Empire under Constans II. In the late 7th century Brindisi and Taranto were captured by the Lombards of Benevento, although I believe Otranto held out until the mid-late 8th century, so it should be included in a map of 700 or 717. It is a bit odd he skips Corfu though, since it was a pretty big deal and I've never seen any indication the island was occupied by the Slavs.
I'd imagine Corfu remained inside. Butrint, just a short distance away on the mainland, seems to have remained Byzantine. (The archaeologists are less willing to commit to this, but they found Byzantine lead seals and metal pieces that probably are from artillery pieces, so I think it's safe to put it on the inside.)
 
May 2018
108
Bordeaux
#17
For ignorants:
İn 700 ADTang empire was not super power anymore .
With Kapgan Khagan's 698-703 campaign they nearly lost all North China to Gokturks and accepted several humilition peaces.(probably worst Chinese defeat against nomad in history)
So,there was two word empire in 700 AD:Ummayid Caliphate and Gokturk Khaganate.
 
Mar 2012
4,324
#18
İn 700 Tang Empire(aka ZHOU) raped by Kapgan Khagan and his army.
They lost nearly all north china to Gokturks.
Still my vote going to Tang...
For ignorants:
İn 700 ADTang empire was not super power anymore .
With Kapgan Khagan's 698-703 campaign they nearly lost all North China to Gokturks and accepted several humilition peaces.(probably worst Chinese defeat against nomad in history)
So,there was two word empire in 700 AD:Ummayid Caliphate and Gokturk Khaganate.
You don't seem to be too familiar with the details of the power dynamic of this period. I suspect thats because you just read parts of the Orkhon inscription without a critical edition. In the campaign of 698, the Gok Turuks conquered parts of Hebei, not anywhere close to all of northern China, nor did they hold on to these conquests. Qapagan withdrew after the Tang mobilized 300,000 against him. There was no peace agreement after that, Wuzetian ceded the Ordos to the Turuks in 696 before any war with the Turuks because she wanted Qapagan to help her crush the Khitan rebellion of Sun Wanrong. Incessant war continued after 698, and by 708, the Tang has driven the remnant Turuks out of the south of the Gobi and in 714, Qapagan's own son was killed while besieging Beiting. By 716 Qapagan himself was killed by the Basmils in a Tang orchestrated coalition and his head was hung in the market of Changan. After his death, Tang power reextended into Mongolia and a garrison of 30000 Tang soldiers was stationed north of the Gobi. The Tang made governors out of all the Oghuz tribes and planned to deal a coup de grace on the Turuk State but Tonyukuk was able to take advantage of the slow advances of the Tang army and defeated the coalition. However the Turuks never regained its formal power and played little role in Central Asia after that. The Khitans also reverted back to Tang control in 714. By 744, a coalition of Oghuz and Tang force ended the Turuk Empire.

Now in 700, while Qapagan was at the height of his power, Tang influence was still more extensive. While Qapagan had the tribes of Inner Mongolia, the 'Tang' still held the Tarim Basin and the western Turks were also still under 'Chinese' control. In terms of population the Tang still dwarfed any power in the world. Qapagan gained control of the Turgesh in 708, but lost the Ordos to the Tang at the same time. And after his defeat in 714 he lost control of the Turgesh as well.

Finally, except during times of war, when no ambassadors were exchanged, the second Turuk Empire, even under Qapagan, never succeeded in establishing rival state protocol with the Tang (equality in diplomacy), and after Bilge's peace the Turuks still accepted the protocols of an inferior vassal state in its letters to the Tang Empire. In that the Turuk state was not even as powerful as the Tibetan Empire after 720.
 
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Apr 2019
67
United States
#19
I voted for the Byzantines but after looking at all of these posts feel like the Tang was a lot more powerful. Can someone tell me when the Golden ages of these empires and which one was greater in their Golden Age? Im putting together a top 20 civilizations list and put the Byzantines very high and don't know if it was a mistake or not.
Thanks :)
 
Feb 2011
6,347
#20
Most of the Tang army consisted of Fubing. These were soldiers who came from farming families. The government provided some families with state-owned farmland/tax exemption/corvee exemption and in return the family provided the government with an adult male to serve as a soldier for the whole of his adult life from age 20 to 60. If the soldier did well, the family could potentially hold the farmland in perpetuity. This worked well for the first century of the Tang but started to break down afterwards. Which family could become a fubing family was decided mainly on the family's wealth and physical strength, but also on the available manpower of the family.

Most call the fubing a militia system, in fact they were farmer soldiers very similar to the Byzantine theme system and its farmer-soldier limitanei. However I am not very comfortable calling Fubing as militia (nor even the Limitanei depending on time period). For although Fubing were only on active duty 1/5th or 1/9th of the year, they were still expected to partake in military training everyday. And even the time of professional soldiers outside of China weren't devoted exclusively to military training anyway, but camp upkeep (cooking, guard duty, patrolling, digging, acting as messengers). At the end of each year, fubing regiments were assembled for drilling in battle formations, fighting in mock combats, and participating in large scale hunting to learn cooperation and coordination. They also had to deal with periodic inspection.

Fubing soldiers might make the backbone/majority of Tang armies, but they were supplemented by
1. Bingmu or short-term conscripts. These were at least partially made out of volunteers, but as time passed they became all levied. Used mostly for campaigns.
2. Tribal auxiliary used as cavalry, drawn from submitted tribes, some of which where settled along the frontier and their leaders given hereditary ranks, however the tribes still lived based on their own customs rather than Tang law
3. Yizheng or 'righteous campaigners', made up of volunteers
4. Fangding, 'defense conscripts' obligated to serve one year with no military obligation thereafter
5. Jinjun or Palace Guard
6. Soldiers from the regiments
As the Fubing system broke down the Tang military relied more and more on professional soldiers, much like how the Byzantine Limitanei became replaced by the professional tagema.

Here are some information for Tang military organization, note that this isn't a hard rule and it varies depending on the army's defensive/offensive purpose and geography:

1 platoon = 10 men​
1 company = 5 platoons​
1 division = 200 infantry companies and 80 cavalry companies, with an additional 6000 men for logistics​
1 division = 7 regiments​
1 Centre regiment of 56 companies: 400 crossbowmen, 400 bowmen, 1000 cavalry, 500 jumping sweepers, and 500 odd troops​
1 Left Flank Scout regiment of 38 companies: 300 crossbowmen, 300 bowmen, 500 cavalry, 500 jumping sweepers, and 500 odd troops​
1 Right Flank Scout regiment of 38 companies: 300 crossbowmen, 300 bowmen, 500 cavalry, 500 jumping sweepers, and 500 odd troops​
2 Left Flank regiments of 37 companies each: 250 crossbowmen, 300 bowmen, 500 cavalry, 400 jumping sweepers, and 400 odd troops​
2 Right Flank regiments of 37 companies each: 250 crossbowmen, 300 bowmen, 500 cavalry, 400 jumping sweepers, and 400 odd troops​
Note: Crossbowmen and bowmen also doubled as close-combat infantry​


I recommend the Eurasian Way of War by David A Graff, he even compared the Tang military with that of its Byzantine contemporary. In fact most of the information from this post came from the book.

In terms of equipment, the vast majority of Tang infantry, according to Tang art, seem to be equipped very similarly like so:




That doesn't mean there aren't other varieties, but the art shown above seem to be the most common type. Here's an alternative:


Tang cavalry as part of a procession:


And cavalry figurine with armored horse:

Although it should be noted that most Tang cavalry seem to have left their horses unarmored, which is a move away from the heavy cavalry of the previous Age of Fragmentation - Sui dynasty, as these time periods used a lot of horse armor.

The vast majority of Fubing seem to be located in the North:


At its height there were 634 Fubing units with each unit averaging around 800-1200 men. So the standing army consisted of around 634,000 soldiers, excluding the supplementary soldiers (volunteers, defense conscripts, palace guards, tribal auxiliaries) listed above. However, during this time (early 700 AD) the fubing system was already in decline, and it became abolished in 749 AD by emperor Xuanzong. During 636 AD (closer to the height of the Tang dynasty) there were only 353 Fubing units, making up roughly 353,000 soldiers not counting the supplementary soldiers listed above.
 
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