Why Byzantines had such unimpressive military records?

Feb 2015
111
France
Compared to Western Romans? I believe Byzantines were the shadow of the former Roman empire when it comes to military and battle prowess.

They were easily defeated by Huns, Arabs, Turks and some Balkanites that arrived from North. How come they were so weak?
 
Jan 2009
1,275
Compared to Western Romans?
Western Romans? You mean the guys whose Empire was dismantled almost within a generation of the split and extinquished in name, too, within a century?

Whereas Eastern Roman Empire (or the Roman Empire, as they liked to call it) lasted for another millenium, while getting attacked from all sides. Sure, they occasionally lost, but most of the time, they came back and administered a good butt-kicking in return. You can look at Nicephorus Phokas and John Tzimisces vs. Arabs, Basil Bulgar-slayer against the Bulgars, Heraclius vs. Sassanids... And I am skipping numerous other bad-ass generals that I am sure other people will fill out (Belisarius, for one!).
 

greatstreetwarrior

Ad Honorem
Nov 2012
3,873
Western Romans? You mean the guys whose Empire was dismantled almost within a generation of the split and extinquished in name, too, within a century?

Whereas Eastern Roman Empire (or the Roman Empire, as they liked to call it) lasted for another millenium, while getting attacked from all sides. Sure, they occasionally lost, but most of the time, they came back and administered a good butt-kicking in return. You can look at Nicephorus Phokas and John Tzimisces vs. Arabs, Basil Bulgar-slayer against the Bulgars, Heraclius vs. Sassanids... And I am skipping numerous other bad-ass generals that I am sure other people will fill out (Belisarius, for one!).
I agree many Europeans here sing peans about Western Romans who lost to barbarian Germanic tribes quickly after the split but put down Byzantine despite it being much longer. There is a tendency to glorify Roman empire among the Europeans beyond the fact.
 
Jan 2015
955
EARTH
I agree many Europeans here sing peans about Western Romans who lost to barbarian Germanic tribes quickly after the split but put down Byzantine despite it being much longer. There is a tendency to glorify Roman empire among the Europeans beyond the fact.
People keep forgetting that the longer your Empire lasts, the more ass-kicking in absolute numbers you'll get. It's inevitable, but people tend to not psychologically grasp the length of time involved and not use ratios instead.
 
Mar 2014
8,881
Canterbury
Neither the Roman Empire or its squabbling twins were the unstoppable military forces they're made out to be.

The Byzantine Empire's record is not that bad next to the true record of its predecessor, and not bad at all when you think they were knocking around for a thousand years after the Western Roman Empire got...vandalised.
 
May 2014
696
Budapest
Compared to Western Romans? I believe Byzantines were the shadow of the former Roman empire when it comes to military and battle prowess.

They were easily defeated by Huns, Arabs, Turks and some Balkanites that arrived from North. How come they were so weak?

I don't agree with this.

Eastern Rome survived 1000 more years. (even more, if we consider that in the last years of WRE, the emperor(s) were puppets of barbaric warlords)

Also, naming mass migrations of pechenegs, slavs, turks, gepids, avars "some balkanites" is misleading.


edit: also, what about Caesar in Britannia, or Severus in Caledonia ("Scotland")?
 
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Mar 2015
682
Southern Brazil
Eastern Roman Empire once almost was almost extinguished and reconquered most of its former lands. They are awsome.
 

cachibatches

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,355
Compared to Western Romans? I believe Byzantines were the shadow of the former Roman empire when it comes to military and battle prowess.

They were easily defeated by Huns, Arabs, Turks and some Balkanites that arrived from North. How come they were so weak?

Eastern Roman Empire once almost was almost extinguished and reconquered most of its former lands. They are awsome.
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.
 
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Mar 2015
682
Southern Brazil
Honestly? While whole Europe was a hell, Bizantium was stable, it was a Stone in a river of petty kingdoms.