I answer listener questions about Manuel’s reign.
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Another great episode Robin! A lot of things to digest.
I never thought of envisioning Byzantium as essentially a city-state, although it seems obvious once you mentioned it. 🙂 It makes me wonder if this was not a weakness in the end. When The Roman Empire split up in the mid 3rd century under Gallienus each portion was able to defend itself effectively. Military power was decentralized to a degree. In Byzantium, without the Theme System, the lack of a strong central power controlling Constantinople made the rest of the Empire extremely vulnerable.
Also; much of Byzantine history focuses on the Turks since we know what is to come. But what made this possible was the emergence of major powers in the West; Byzantium’s rulers were simply unable to martial the resources to fight on 2 fronts against Peer level adversaries. Manuel might have seen this, hence his heavy focus on diplomatic efforts. Gold spent keeping the peace, in one way or another, versus paying for war has always been a feature of Byzantium.
I would argue that the Turks only became the main threat to Byzantium in the late 13th century, 100 years after Manuel’s death. No scenario exists where I can see them taking Constantinople by siege under the Kommenoi.