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The Three Treatises on Imperial Military Expeditions is the conventional title given to a Byzantine literary treatise on warfare associated with Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrogennetos (905-959 AD), giving advice on how an emperor should prepare and mount a military campaign. It is actually the appendix to one of his major works, the De Ceremoniis .
The Treatises, as part of the De Ceremoniis , are assumed to have been written by Constantine for his son, the future Romanos II. The date of writing is unknown, but we can assume it was written after 945 AD, when Constantine regained the throne and his son was crowned co-emperor at the age of seven. Constantine’s main source for past military protocol was Leo Katakylas, who wrote in the early 10th century under emperor Leo VI the Wise. He in turn drew most of his information from the deeds of Basil I. The popular translation written by John F. Haldon is split into three texts:
Exposition of imperial expeditions and roster of aplēkta: The text begins with marshaling orders for various themes, and then lists the six major assembly bases ( aplekta ): Malagina, Dorylaion, Kaborkin, Koloneia, Kaisareia, and Dazimon in the Armeniac Theme. Specific instructions to specific officers (the strategoi, domestikoi, etc.) are contained, as to where they should assemble when the emperor sets off on campaign.
What should be observed when the emperor intends to go on an expedition: The text consists of two case studies: Constantine the Great and Julius Caesar; only it cannot really be them because they are described very anachronistically – particularly a Christian Julius Caesar. Their names however could be a cover up for using the case studies of the 'heretical' Isaurian emperors, Leo III and Constantine V, etc. – if so then this is proof that iconoclasm was still bitterly condemned during the 10th century.
Constantine the Great is presented as being thorough in campaigns, taking care about gathering information, throwing off spies, and ensuring there was enough equipment – overall stress is laid on the importance of good order (εὐταξία). The text further lists the duties of the strategoi , also of the sakellarios , protovestiarios , domestikos , and dozens of other officers etc. – mainly in making sure there were enough pack animals. Emperors leaving on campaign also had to appoint a representative in the capital to defend the city, provide weapons and maintain morale by suppressing bad rumours and inventing good ones.
Julius Caesar is described as pious, praying at Byzantine churches and giving alms throughout the City. The text also describes Caesar’s imperial convoy as it advanced, with different practices and formations when on friendly soil and when in hostile land.
Constantine, emperor of the Romans…to Romanos, God-crowned emperor, his son. What should be observed when the great and high emperor of the Romans goes on campaign: This is the only text in the work addressed specifically to Romanos – particularly note Constantine’s stresses on the importance of father-to-son knowledge.
It features eleven lists of what is required for an imperial expedition, a thorough compilation of officers and items: taxes, fodder, animals for feasts, pay for officers and troops, blankets, saddles, napkins, halters, picks, shovels, weapons, rope, goatskin mats and plain garments for foreigners, cushions, folding tables, folding benches, etc. It also contains advice on camp security and specific ceremonies for greeting troops, and ends with three case studies of the triumphant returns of emperors: Michael III, Basil I and Theophilos.
The text ends abruptly; there is a grand introduction but no conclusion at all, so we can assume that it is an unfinished work.
There was a surprising amount of continuity in Byzantine tradition despite the upheavals of the Muslim conquests, the ensuing Iconoclast controversies and the serious decline in urban life in the West. Central in this process was the continuity of the huge Constantinopolitan bureaucracy itself – the same towering apparatus that kept the taxes flowing in during the 'Byzantine Dark Age' also powered the Byzantine army and its supply mechanism. There is also a surprising amount of late Antique terminology and titulature that survived: the spatharioi and optimatoi date from the 6th century, while the exkoubitai , the praitorion and the komes from even earlier.
The Treatises are also the first military work written by an emperor since Maurice’s Strategikon – Constantine writes about military tradition that has been passed on from the Amorian dynasty, and even before the Isaurian dynasty – though no earlier than the days of Theodosius the Great (5th century AD). The return of confidence implied by the Treatises – note the stress on good order – was part of the general recovery of the Byzantine state during the Macedonian period, which saw extensive reconquests in both Asia and Europe.
The fact that the Treatises deal with offensive operations is an important point to make – it differs significantly from the other major military work of the day, Nikephoros Phokas' On Skirmishing Warfare ( De velitatione bellica ), which deals with defensive operations against raiders and damage limitation. This work is characteristic of a transitional stage between the bitter fighting of the 7th to 8th centuries and the turning of the tide in the 10th; Constantine’s reign saw the beginnings of the great offensive in the East, led by general and then emperor Nikephoros Phokas. Thus the Treatises anticipate the major offensive operations after the mid-10th century, described by the Praecepta Militaria and the Taktika of Nikephoros Ouranos.
Basil II Porphyrogenitus, nicknamed the Bulgar Slayer, was senior Byzantine Emperor for almost 50 years, having been a junior colleague to other emperors since 960. He and his brother Constantine were named as co-rulers before their father Romanos II died in 963. The throne went to two generals, Nikephoros Phokas then John Tzimiskes, before Basil became senior emperor. His influential great-uncle Basil Lekapenos was the de facto ruler of the Byzantine Empire until 985. Basil II then held power for forty years.
Nikephoros II Phokas was Byzantine Emperor from 963 to 969. His brilliant military exploits contributed to the resurgence of the Byzantine Empire during the 10th century. His reign, however, included controversy. In the west, he inflamed conflict with the Bulgarians and saw Sicily completely turn over to the Muslims, while he failed to make any serious gains in Italy following the incursions of Otto I. Meanwhile, in the east, he completed the conquest of Cilicia and even retook the island of Cyprus, thus opening the path for subsequent Byzantine incursions reaching as far as the Jazira and the Levant. His administrative policy was less successful, as in order to finance these wars he increased taxes both on the people and on the church, while maintaining unpopular theological positions and alienating many of his most powerful allies. These included his nephew John Tzimiskes, who would take the throne after killing Nikephoros in his sleep.
Romanos II was a Byzantine Emperor. He succeeded his father Constantine VII in 959 at the age of twenty-one and died suddenly in 963.
Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos or Porphyrogenitus was the fourth Emperor of the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, reigning from 913 to 959. He was the son of the emperor Leo VI and his fourth wife, Zoe Karbonopsina, and the nephew of his predecessor, the emperor Alexander.
Leo Phokas was an early 10th-century Byzantine general of the noble Phokas clan. As Domestic of the Schools, the Byzantine army's commander-in-chief, he led a large-scale campaign against the Bulgarians in 917, but was heavily defeated at the battles of Acheloos and Katasyrtai. He then plotted to seize the throne from the young Byzantine emperor Constantine VII, but was outmaneuvered by the admiral Romanos Lekapenos, who managed to become guardian and later father-in-law of the Emperor. After Lekapenos seized control of the Byzantine Empire, Leo led an unsuccessful revolt, and was captured and blinded.
Bardas Phokas was a notable Byzantine general in the first half of the 10th century, and father of Byzantine emperor Nikephoros II Phokas and the kouropalates Leo Phokas the Younger.
The Excubitors were founded in c. 460 as the imperial guards of the early Byzantine emperors. Their commanders soon acquired great influence and provided a series of emperors in the 6th century. The Excubitors fade from the record in the late 7th century, but in the mid-8th century, they were reformed into one of the elite tagmatic units, the professional core of the middle Byzantine army. The Excubitors are last attested in the Battle of Dyrrhachium in 1081.
The Byzantine Empire was ruled by the Isaurian or Syrian dynasty from 717 to 802. The Isaurian emperors were successful in defending and consolidating the Empire against the Caliphate after the onslaught of the early Muslim conquests, but were less successful in Europe, where they suffered setbacks against the Bulgars, had to give up the Exarchate of Ravenna, and lost influence over Italy and the Papacy to the growing power of the Franks.
The medieval Byzantine Empire underwent a revival during the reign of the Greek Macedonian emperors of the late 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries, when it gained control over the Adriatic Sea, Southern Italy, and all of the territory of the Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria.
Between 780–1180, the Byzantine Empire and the Abbasid & Fatimid caliphates in the regions of Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Anatolia and Southern Italy fought a series of wars for supremacy in the Eastern Mediterranean. After a period of indecisive and slow border warfare, a string of almost unbroken Byzantine victories in the late 10th and early 11th centuries allowed three Byzantine Emperors, namely Nikephoros II Phokas, John I Tzimiskes and finally Basil II to recapture territory lost to the Muslim conquests in the 7th century Arab–Byzantine wars under the failing Heraclian Dynasty.
This article lists and briefly discusses the most important of many treatises on military science produced in the Byzantine Empire.
The Hikanatoi, sometimes Latinized as Hicanati, were one of the Byzantine tagmata, the elite guard units based near the imperial capital of Constantinople. Founded in the early 9th century, it survived until the late 11th century.
The Hetaireia or Hetaeria was a term for a corps of bodyguards during the Byzantine Empire.
The menaulion or menavlion, also menaulon or menavlon (μέναυλον) was a heavy spear with a length of 2.7 to 3.6 metres with a thick shaft, used by the Byzantine infantry as early as the 10th century AD, against enemy heavy cavalry. To give it increased strength, whole oak or cornel saplings were preferably used. These were then tipped with a long blade of ca. 45–50 cm.
The Anatolic Theme, more properly known as the Theme of the Anatolics was a Byzantine theme in central Asia Minor. From its establishment, it was the largest and senior-most of the themes, and its military governors (stratēgoi) were powerful individuals, several of them rising to the imperial throne or launching failed rebellions to capture it. The theme and its army played an important role in the Arab–Byzantine wars of the 7th–10th centuries, after which it enjoyed a period of relative peace that lasted until its conquest by the Seljuk Turks in the late 1070s.
Aplekton was a Byzantine term used in the 10th–14th centuries for a fortified army base and later in the Palaiologan period for the obligation of billeting soldiers.
Sviatoslav's invasion of Bulgaria refers to a conflict beginning in 967/968 and ending in 971, carried out in the eastern Balkans, and involving the Kievan Rus', Bulgaria, and the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines encouraged the Rus' ruler Sviatoslav to attack Bulgaria, leading to the defeat of the Bulgarian forces and the occupation of the northern and north-eastern part of the country by the Rus' for the following two years. The allies then turned against each other, and the ensuing military confrontation ended with a Byzantine victory. The Rus' withdrew and eastern Bulgaria was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire.
Phokas or Phocas, feminine form Phokaina, was the name of a Byzantine aristocratic clan from Cappadocia, which in the 9th and 10th centuries provided a series of high-ranking generals and an emperor, Nikephoros II Phokas. Its members and their clients monopolized the high command positions of the Byzantine army for much of the 10th century and led the successful Byzantine offensive against the Arabs in the East. As one of the leading families of the Anatolian military aristocracy, the Phokades were also involved in a series of rebellions that laid claim to power and challenged the emperors at Constantinople. Their power was eventually broken by Basil II, and the family declined in importance after the 11th century.
The Byzantine Empire was ruled by emperors of the Doukas dynasty between 1059 and 1081. There are six emperors and co-emperors of this period: the dynasty's founder, Emperor Constantine X Doukas, his brother John Doukas, katepano and later Caesar, Romanos IV Diogenes, Constantine's son Michael VII Doukas, Michael's son and co-emperor Constantine Doukas, and finally Nikephoros III Botaneiates, who claimed descent from the Phokas family.