Episode 121 – The Roman Army in 900AD

The Themes c950AD

The Themes c950AD

The Empire c912 AD

The Empire c912 AD

Byzantine Themes c900 from Palgrave Atlas of Byzantine History

Byzantine Themes c920AD from Palgrave Atlas of Byzantine History

Aside from the rise of the landed magnates there have been some other important changes in the Roman military in the past century. We cover the Themes, recruitment, payment, skirmishing and all the rest.

Period: 802-912

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Categories: Podcast | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Episode 121 – The Roman Army in 900AD

  1. Hello, long time listener here, I find the history of Byzantium absolutely fascinating. I have a question about a topic I have trouble finding information on. Namely the use of compaternity, compaternitas in Latin. It’s when an emperor would sponsor a man in baptism and in doing so become his spiritual father. The emperor would share co-parenthood with the natural father of the baptized man. This was apparently used as a diplomatic tool to bind barbarian kings to an emperor, I think you mentioned something like that when Justin I wanted to adopt Chosroes. Do you know anything more about this tradition and could you give more information about it?

    • Yes indeed this was what in theory happened with Michael III and Khan Boris too. I can’t add a huge amount without more research and we’re at the end of this period. But I will add it to a list of questions about citizenship if that’s ok? That may not get answered for a few years though. If you want to know sooner do ask at the end of this century…

  2. Regarding this latest episode I found that Edward Luttwak’s book called ” The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire” describes quite clearly why the Byzantine army did not fight in the same manner as the Roman army. Luttwak delves quite deeply into the various Byzantine writings about army tactics, strategy, etc. I highly recommend Luttwack’s book.


    I think Mike Duncan did cover some of those military changes in the Roman Empire during his long discussion of the reforms of Diocletian. Episode 125 The Best Defence is a good Defence http://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/the_history_of_rome/2011/02/125-the-best-defence-is-a-good-defence.html

  4. You can read about the transition in the Roman Army during the reign of Diocletian here: http://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/the_history_of_rome/2011/02/125-the-best-defence-is-a-good-defence.html

    The Diocletian Reform series was reasonably close to an ‘end of century’ series.

  5. Any by read I meant ‘listen’

  6. Robin, great episode! As you know, this topic of whether Christianity changed Byzantine attitudes towards warfare is a hot one amongst Byzantinists at the moment and very misunderstood amongst the general public. I found Anthony Kaldellis’ revisionist Ethnography after Antiquity particularly relevant for your discussion, particularly his convincing debunking of the idea found in scholars such as Ioannis Stouraitis that the Byzantines treated Christian enemies like the Normans and Bulgers much differently from non-Christian rivals. As he maintains…historians take many of the sources out of context. So in sources written during a time of Byzantine weakness, the writer praises the Bulgers for their shared Christian values. When they regained the upper-hand, a much more hostile attitude prevailed. He also makes the wise point that one should not forget the issue of genre. So, for instance, in panegyrics praising an emperor, former enemies are praised for their shared Christian values. How deeply the authors really believed that Christianity had tamed or civilised peoples like the Pechenegs is questionable. I also agree with Kaldellis that even when peoples like the Bulgers were conquered by the Byzantines they remained outsiders…much like the Isaurians in the 5th and 6th centuries.
    In a shameless plug, for any of your listeners that are interested in further reading on this topic, I discuss the role of Christianity on the late roman and early Byzantine army in my new book, The Soldier’s Life: Martial Virtues and manly Romanitas in the early Byzantine army…
    Keep up the great work….perhaps ask Anthony if he would like to discuss this issue it would make a great episode!

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