Episode 92 – Questions III

The family of games known as merells or morris. The game was called triôdion in Greek (from levantia.com)

The family of games known as merells or morris. The game was called triôdion in Greek (from levantia.com.au)

I answer your questions about the Themes, the Khazars, China, daily life and blinding. I also update our Constantine acrostic.  You can find the rules to Triodion here.

Period: 695-802

Download: Questions III

RSS Feed: The History of Byzantium

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Categories: Podcast | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Episode 92 – Questions III

  1. Bob

    Robin,

    Aetius, played by Powers Boothe, appeared in *Attila*…
    Analysis/Review… https://www.reddit.com/r/badhistory/comments/2h3aui/gerard_butlers_abs_destroyed_the_roman_empire_a/

    film/miniseries… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0iFXdAJGMc
    (a starting point for future reading–though one full of inaccuracies)

    Two possible alternatives…

    *) Zeno–from barbarian general to emperor, his exile, his troubles, his choices.
    *) Theodoric the Great–diplomatic hostage, fighter, general, patrician, king. His death ended a relative time of peace in Italy.

  2. MA

    Actually the prophet Muhammed preached the conquest of Constantinople saying,”Constantinople will fall and blessed will be the conqueror and blessed will be his soldiers.”
    The turks made a movie using this to justify their assault on the city.

    • Interesting. What I was implying though was that it was not a central tenet of Muslim thought. I assume that comes from a Hadith? The English translation seems to add “One day” to the beginning of the sentence which human ears presumably took as an excuse not to worry about this project being completed anytime soon…

      • MA

        Still do you not believe that from all their military goals the sacking of Constantinople would have been their biggest dream (it seemed to be the dream of other nations) for religious as well as economic and political reasons?

        I’ll send you the link to the Turkish movie trailer when I find it. It’s full of historical lies but this quote from the prophet was central to the theme.

  3. Yes of course Constantinople was a big target. But my point was that between the Siege of 717 and the move to Baghdad it no longer remained a top priority for the Caliphate. I was saying that if it were the ultimate goal of the Arabs to reach the city then I think they could have.

  4. My friend’s Serbian parents play “triôdion”. They call it “shells and pebbles” (or something along those lines) because apparently you are suppose to use pistachio shells and dark pebbles as the game pieces. They said it was a common game in Yugoslavia. I guess it survived in the Balkan ‘cultural melting pot’

  5. J

    I’m making my way through the podcast and enjoying it a lot. I do have to mention in this episode that you made a mistake–China and Rome actually knew quite well about each other and started having semi-regular, direct diplomatic contact in 166 AD. Chinese records mention regular embassies from Constantinople through the 11th century, and the presence of Roman diplomats in the Mongol court during the 1200s. The last known contact between them was a letter sent from the Ming emperor to John V Palaiologos in the late 1300s. You can look up Gan Ying, a Chinese envoy sent to the Roman Empire who never quite made it (dissuaded by the Persians) but left a record of what he’d heard. There were also frequent contacts via the Nestorian Christians who traveled back and forth. There’s a lot more but it’s worth reading on its own. It’s pretty cool stuff!

    • But that is the point I was making. We know of one story about contact in 166 AD. We are now 6 or 700 years later and there is no evidence of diplomatic contact between the two. Nor would there be. The Byzantines would have been completely off the radar of Chinese officials. The Caliphate dwarfed them in terms of impact on Chinese thinking. Its most likely that the Chinese didn’t need to know too much about what happened to their goods once they were in the hands of Muslim traders. The Romans may have known who the Chinese were, their goods certainly made their way to Europe. But up to this point my answer was accurate.

      • J

        The Caliphate was certainly more important given the geography, I wouldn’t dispute that, but they never lost contact. I think the problem comes from the lack of Roman records. Chinese sources are much more extensive but are mostly untranslated, I was able to dig up this: http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/eastasia/romchin1.asp They aren’t consistent in Chinese records but typically Daqin refers to the classical empire or the western empire, while Fulin was used for the eastern empire. There’s an embassy from Constans II mentioned in three sources here (the Old Book of Tang, the New Book of Tang, and what it’s bizarrely transliterated as the Wen-hsien-t’ung-k’ao) and claims those repeated often until 719. Given the time of those I wonder if they were making an attempt at getting Chinese aid against the Caliphate. I’ve been looking but can’t find an English text of any of the letters. I have one friend who is fluent in classical Chinese, I asked him if he can find them.

  6. I don’t think you should read too much into these references. Traders and envoys would often invoke rulers from back home to make their business sound more official. Constans II faced an unprecedented threat and was under constant pressure for his whole reign. He had trouble keeping control of both Sicily and Constantinople at the same time because of the limits of technology and Arab attacks. I’m confident that he wasn’t sending men to China, who may have taken years to return, in order to obtain anything of use.

    I rely on the academics who read the original sources and are sure that no formal ties existed between China and Byzantium. Traders passed goods back and forth along the networks. The two states knew of each others existence but the listeners question I answered wanted to know about formal contacts. None of relevance existed.

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