Why did emperors Constantine X & Romanos Diogenes ruined the Roman Army?

Jan 2013
1,207
Anywhere
#1
Like the title said.
What was the true reason and purpose of the emperors ruining the Roman army. And were they responsible for the excruciating decline of the Eastern Roman Empire and the defeat of Manzikert that paved way for the advent of the Turks and the beginning of Roman rule in the east.

Here's what Emperor Constantine X has done.

The new emperor quickly associated two of his young sons in power, Michael VII Doukas and Konstantios Doukas, appointed his brother John Doukas as kaisar (Caesar), and embarked on a policy favorable to the interests of the court bureaucracy and the church. Severely undercutting the training and financial support for the armed forces, Constantine X fatally weakened Byzantine defences by disbanding the Armenian local militia of 50,000 men at a crucial point of time, coinciding with the westward advance of the Seljuk Turks and their Turcoman allies. Undoing many of the necessary reforms of Isaac I, he bloated the military bureaucracy with highly paid court officials and crowded the Senate with his supporters.

His decisions to replace standing soldiers with mercenaries and leaving the frontier fortifications unrepaired led Constantine to become naturally unpopular with the supporters of Isaac within the military aristocracy, who attempted to assassinate him in 1061. He also became unpopular with the general population after he raised taxes to try to pay the army


And now with Romanos Diogenes.

He did not take into account the degraded state of the Byzantine forces, which had suffered years of neglect from his predecessors, in particular Constantine X. His forces, mostly composed of Sclavonian, Armenian, Bulgarian, and Frankish mercenaries, were ill-disciplined, disorganised, and uncoordinated, and he was not prepared to spend time in upgrading the arms, armour, or tactics of the once-feared Byzantine army. It was soon evident that while Romanos possessed military talent, his impetuosity was a serious flaw.

He reduced the public salaries paid to much of the court nobility, as well as reducing the profits of tradesmen. His preoccupation with the military had also made him unpopular with the provincial governors and the military hierarchy, as he was determined to ensure they could not abuse their positions, especially through corrupt practices.




So why have they done that. cause I know that Julius Caesar to Constantine the Great must have rolled in their graves. I maybe wrong that other night have done the same. But was this a grave and horrible mistake done by them.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,852
Blachernai
#2
Neither of them "ruined" the army. The problem is that for a very long time we have written the military history of the second half of the eleventh century according to accusations made by Psellos and one passage in Attaleiates about the provincial forces being in disarray. There are serious problems with both of these. Psellos has little detail in anything to do with military matters, and whether he had any competence in them (of which I am skeptical) it does not come through in the Chronographia. The passage in Attaleiates that refers to the thematic forces being poorly equipped and under-trained is probably mostly true, but it is also irrelevant. For it to be relevant, we have to assume that the thematic forces that were active in the eighth through tenth centuries would have been effective in the eleventh century. The reason that they were poorly equipped and trained was because they had been relegated to the dustbin and professional troops were doing the fighting. There's no reason to believe that these professionals had lost their edge, either. If you read Attaleiates' accounts of the wars against the Turks that Romanos IV fought, the army acquits itself very well. It wins most of the engagements. It is highly professional despite being diverse. It handles forced marches, tactical complexity, and siege warfare.

This brings us to mercenaries. Mercenaries get a bad rap, mostly because they only show up in the historical sources when they are causing trouble. Yet I think we need to approach them a little more critically. The first problem is one of terminology: some Marxist scholars of Byzantium have conflated professional and mercenary troops and used the term mercenary to encompass both, whereas the common English usage of the term refers to foreign troops serving for money. Second, we need to consider what it means to be using a large number of mercenaries. While, say, 12th c. Latin sources use this as invective against unwarlike medieval Romans, using mercenaries can mean that you can afford and attract the very best fighters. Third: are mercenaries excessively expensive? Unlikely, Byzantine professional troops probably cost roughly the same, and there is no reason to believe that foreign mercenaries were a net drain on Byzantium's precious metal reserves, as the system was quite closed. Some of them took some gold home with them, but by and large the precious metals in the empire are remaining in the empire, as Vivien Prigent has argued. We need to be careful in equating expensive mercenaries and fiscal crisis in the eleventh century, and indeed there are inklings of financial trouble already in the "glory days" of the warlike emperors of the last quarter of the tenth century. Finally, if we look at what the mercenaries are doing, they are mostly fighting for Byzantium. Nothing equivalent to the later Catalan episodes are taking place in the eleventh century.

No one ruined the Roman army. It had to face too many new threats all at once when it was too busy fighting itself in civil wars, which further eroded the fiscal base upon which it was built.

Something worth reading:
Haldon, John. “Approaches to an Alternative Military History of the Period ca. 1025-1071.” In Η Αυτοκρατορία Σε Κρίση; Το Βυζάντιο Τον 11ο Αιώνα (1025-1081), 45–74. Athens: National Hellenic Research Foundation, Institute for Byzantine Research, 2003.
 
Jan 2013
1,207
Anywhere
#3
Neither of them "ruined" the army. The problem is that for a very long time we have written the military history of the second half of the eleventh century according to accusations made by Psellos and one passage in Attaleiates about the provincial forces being in disarray. There are serious problems with both of these. Psellos has little detail in anything to do with military matters, and whether he had any competence in them (of which I am skeptical) it does not come through in the Chronographia. The passage in Attaleiates that refers to the thematic forces being poorly equipped and under-trained is probably mostly true, but it is also irrelevant. For it to be relevant, we have to assume that the thematic forces that were active in the eighth through tenth centuries would have been effective in the eleventh century. The reason that they were poorly equipped and trained was because they had been relegated to the dustbin and professional troops were doing the fighting. There's no reason to believe that these professionals had lost their edge, either. If you read Attaleiates' accounts of the wars against the Turks that Romanos IV fought, the army acquits itself very well. It wins most of the engagements. It is highly professional despite being diverse. It handles forced marches, tactical complexity, and siege warfare.

This brings us to mercenaries. Mercenaries get a bad rap, mostly because they only show up in the historical sources when they are causing trouble. Yet I think we need to approach them a little more critically. The first problem is one of terminology: some Marxist scholars of Byzantium have conflated professional and mercenary troops and used the term mercenary to encompass both, whereas the common English usage of the term refers to foreign troops serving for money. Second, we need to consider what it means to be using a large number of mercenaries. While, say, 12th c. Latin sources use this as invective against unwarlike medieval Romans, using mercenaries can mean that you can afford and attract the very best fighters. Third: are mercenaries excessively expensive? Unlikely, Byzantine professional troops probably cost roughly the same, and there is no reason to believe that foreign mercenaries were a net drain on Byzantium's precious metal reserves, as the system was quite closed. Some of them took some gold home with them, but by and large the precious metals in the empire are remaining in the empire, as Vivien Prigent has argued. We need to be careful in equating expensive mercenaries and fiscal crisis in the eleventh century, and indeed there are inklings of financial trouble already in the "glory days" of the warlike emperors of the last quarter of the tenth century. Finally, if we look at what the mercenaries are doing, they are mostly fighting for Byzantium. Nothing equivalent to the later Catalan episodes are taking place in the eleventh century.

No one ruined the Roman army. It had to face too many new threats all at once when it was too busy fighting itself in civil wars, which further eroded the fiscal base upon which it was built.

Something worth reading:
Haldon, John. “Approaches to an Alternative Military History of the Period ca. 1025-1071.” In Η Αυτοκρατορία Σε Κρίση; Το Βυζάντιο Τον 11ο Αιώνα (1025-1081), 45–74. Athens: National Hellenic Research Foundation, Institute for Byzantine Research, 2003.
Also why did Constantine X disbanded 50,000 Armenian militiamen and replaced standing soldiers with mercenaries. Surely that was a mistake of his part.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,852
Blachernai
#4
Also why did Constantine X disbanded 50,000 Armenian militiamen and replaced standing soldiers with mercenaries. Surely that was a mistake of his part.
Not necessarily; militia are often unwieldy and Armenian subjugation to Byzantium was anything but certain, so putting weapons in their hands would be a risk. In any case, what's the source for this?
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,655
#6
Not sure how Constantine X would go about disbanding Armenian militias anyway. They existed to defend themselves first and Romans distant second or third.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,852
Blachernai
#10
Hmm but 50,000 is a whole lotta manpower.
At minimum campaign rations, we're looking at 65 tonnes of grain just to supply these guys with bread each day. A two-week campaign would take almost a million tonnes of grain, and that's only for the men, and that's only grain at minimum rations. It gets much worse if we consider pack animals and remounts.

That's a lot of mouths, however, I see no reason to believe that Iberia could actually provide anything like 50,000. If Iberia could bring 50,000 men to the field, then it would have military power equivalent to that of Byzantium for most of the middle period.

Please give me some good sources.
Glykas 598.4 and Skylitzes 476.51. This is Iberia and Constantine IX, so it's a complicated situation in terms of annexation.
 
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