Episode 13 – The State (part 2): The Church and the Army

Byzantine horse archers from Ancient Warfare Magazine Volume IV, Issue 3 (www.ancient-warfare.com)

Byzantine horse archers from Ancient Warfare Magazine Volume IV, Issue 3 (www.ancient-warfare.com)

We finally end our tour of the Empire by examining the Byzantine state. By focussing on the government, the church and the army we see how the Empire is shaping up since the fall of the West and how it is set up to deal with the world we explored in the previous five episodes.

Part 2 is the church and the army. We look at the administration of the church and its affects on society. Then we look at the size and disposition of the army and wrap up the tour.

Period: 518

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Categories: Podcast | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Episode 13 – The State (part 2): The Church and the Army

  1. Hey Robin, loving the podcast so far. I have a question – when you talked about the Byzantine army at the end of this episode it jogged my memory. As I recall, because the Byzantine Empire was surrounded by enemies on all fronts and was, as you mentioned, constrained by manpower, they became adept at diplomacy particularly in playing their enemies against each other. Wondered if this was the state of Byzantine diplomacy in the 6th century or did that take root later? Thanks again and keep up the good work!

  2. Hey, thanks for writing in. I think the renown of Byzantine diplomacy will come after the rise of Islam. Although we will have our fair share of diplomacy during the reign of Justinian. At this stage in the story though the Byzantines were still a military match for anyone around…

  3. Paul

    Robin, I too have been enjoying the podcast. In this cast about 6:20 in you said that the relics of the saints were “worshiped”, I don’t think that the process evolved as far as worship this close to the death of Christ. Honored or revered are probably more appropriate at this stage. The middle ages will fuel the worship fire for the reformists. In both the West and more so in the East we see in the art and architecture of the churches the murals of the saints all looking to the center point of the church, the tabernacle/altar, and like the congregation, they are worshiping Christ in heaven alongside their worldly counterparts.

  4. Hi Paul, that’s a great point. I shouldn’t have implied they were worshipping the relics in the same way they would have God himself. Obviously they would have taken seriously the commandment to have no other Gods. Poor choice of words on my part.

    • quinquireme

      We mustn’t forget that to an uneducated mind, to an emotionally anchored worldview, to many pagan worldviews, distinguishing the identity of an object from the identity of what it means or signifies was and is not easy. It was the martyrs bone that did the healing because they had to migrate, sometimes for months, to the relic’s location to have the miracle. If the healing properties were god identified they should have the same result at home. Besides, how could the church make money if the pilgrimage was unnecessary?

      The Catholic Church in later years, realizing this, had no qualms in associating pagan rituals, objects and beliefs with Christian ones. The ligation would eventually lead to acceptance of the new. Veneration is the chosen ecclesiastical term but it was obvious that worship the object they did until such time as the church could wean them away into a more orthodox understanding.

  5. Rory Provencher

    I’ve now listened to A few episodes now and I have to say how impressed I am. Mike had his fair share of problems in the beginning, mostly in regards to equipment, but it did take him awhile to find his humor as well. With that said, you seem to have very few (if any) of these problems.

    When The history of Rome ended I wanted the story to continue, but was in doubt that anyone could stand up to the precedent set by mike. It seems my doubts were unfounded.

    Hopefully you’ll stay with us until the end.

  6. That’s so kind of you to say. I’m not sure anyone can match the quality of Mike’s style but if I can keep the story going in a good enough approximation then I will be very happy 🙂

  7. Philip H

    There has never been worship of saints they have only ever been revered as examples of how Christ lived. Same with the Virgin Mary while Eastern Orthodox and Catholics pray to Mary and the saints this is not worship it is a form of intercession like asking your mother or father or sibling to pray for you. This has been the historical position of the catholic and eastern churches.

  8. Fantastic blog, I’m very glad I ran across it. I can’t wait for the next instalment.

  9. Hi Philip, see the comments above, you’re quite right. Limericks – many thanks 🙂

  10. Jarrad

    Hey Robin,

    I was a huge THOR fan, but I just found your podcast a few days ago. I’ve marathon’d through to the current episode, and I’ve enjoyed every moment. You have done a great job, and I hope that you push well past 100 years until the end of the empire. Have you thought about asking Mike whether he would consider putting out a note on his blog or something alerting other THOR fans about your efforts?

    Thanks for all your efforts.

  11. I did email him a couple of times just to tell him what I’m doing. I’m sure he’s very busy 🙂

  12. Rafie

    Hi Robin. I am a student of Byzantine history in the “forgotten” region of Syria. I’ve spent the past 10 years researching combined with genetic testings of the Greek Orthodox population of Syria and Lebanon. First I must say I love your podcast, thank you for a great job. I would love to contribute with additional information on Syria if you are interested. its history has been censured due to political/ethnonationalistic reasons.

    I am only on episode 13 and have a question. You mention the Patriarch of Thessalonica in part 2 of this episode. As far as I know the Pentarchy was made up of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. I have never heard of any patriarch of Thessalonica and searching every available database I can’t find any information. Mind helping me out with sources?

  13. Rafinius

    “Priests were forbidden to marry”.

    Since when was this true and how much did it apply in the Eastern Roman Empire?
    I ask because I know that even today in the Greek Orthodox Church the lowest rank of Priest can be married. I thought that celibacy came later in history.

  14. I believe it was around the 4th century that church councils began insisting on celibacy from Bishops and preventing clergy from re-marrying. It was certainly encouraged within the church before that though (see Church Law and Church Order in Rome and Byzantium: A Comparative Study by Clarence Gallagher for example)

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