Byzantium: The Long Revival, 815-976

From a low-point in the 700s, Byzantium or the Christian Roman Empire of the Greeks slowly began to recover. The loss of Sicily and Crete to the Muslims was offset by slow but sure economic growth, a revival of learning and a build-up of the armed forces. Slowly the Empire went on the offensive, at first in the Aegean and the Levant against the Muslim powers, and then in its near north-west against the Bulgarians. By AD 976 the medeval Roman Empire was nearing the peak of its power and prosperity.
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  O’Rourke BYZANTIUM: THE LONG REVIVAL 814-976 BYZANTIUM: THE LONG REVIVAL,AD 815-976 An encyclopaedic chronology,with several long digressionson the ‘East Roman’ army and navy byMichael O’RourkeCanberra, AustraliaSeptember 2010 List of Roman (Byzantine) Emperors 813-20: Leon or Leo V ‘the Armenian’820-29: Mikhael or Michael II ‘the Amorian’829-42: Theophilos842-56: Theodora, regent for Michael III842-67: Mikhael or Michael III867-86: Basileios or Basil I ‘the Macedonian’886-912: Leon or Leo VI ‘the Wise’912-13: Alexandros or Alexander913-14: Nikolaos or Nicholas Mysticus (patriarch), regent for ConstantineVII914-20: Zoë Carbonopsina, empress-regent for Constantine VII920-44: Romanos II Lecepenus, senior co-emperor944-59: Konstantinos or Constantine VII ‘the Porphyrogenitus’, ruling alone959-63: Romanos III963:Theophano, empress-regent for Basil II963-69: Nikephoros II Phocas, senior co-emperor969-76: Ioannes or John I Kourkouas, called ‘Tzimiskes’, senior co-emperor976+: Basileios or Basil II ‘the Bulgar-Slayer’, ruling aloneFor an account of the size, equipment and tactics of the Byzantine Army , seeafter the entry for AD 919 and again after 944. The Navy isdiscussed at length after 841-50 and briefly in or after the entriesfor 882, 889, 911 (maritime expedition against Crete), 919, and AD961 (further expedition against Crete). THE MEDITERRANEAN WORLD IN 815 In 815 the whole African side of the Mediterranean was Muslim, while the northernside belonged to Christendom. Taking the former first, we find the Umayyad dynasty ruling most of present-day Spain and all of our Portugal, with the Mahgreb divided between the Idrisidsin Morocco-Algeria and the Aghlabids ruling Greater Tunisia (Arabic “Ifriqiya”). Thegiant Abbasid Caliphate with its capital at Baghdad ruled the whole Levant fromeastern Libya to Egypt, Syria, Armenia, Iraq and Persia.The larger part of the northern shore of the Mediterranean was controlled by“Rômania”—‘ the Christian Roman Empire of the Greeks ’ —known to us as 1  O’Rourke BYZANTIUM: THE LONG REVIVAL 814-976 Byzantium. On the west, the Frankish Empire ruled our southern France, part of the Balearics, Corsica, and northern Italy as far as Old Rome. Eastwards fromSicily and southern Italy, as we have said, all the northern Meditterranean wasByzantine – as far as Cyprus.On paper the Frankish Empire—Pamplona to Salzburg and Hamburg to Rome*—looked to be the second strongest power in the Mediterranean basin after theAbbasids in 815 (cf  Times Atlas 1994: 61). In practice it was less organised andmore loosely governed and so weaker than Byzantium. The Franks had a smallfleet that allowed them to hold the Balearics and Corsica, but in the westernreaches of Mediterranean as in the eastern [see e.g. under 825-28 and 880], themain naval contest was between Byzantium and the several Muslim states. Venicetoo had a substantial fleet of its own (see under 840 and 887).(*) Except for Rome, with perhaps 20,000 people, in 815 these places were just the village seats of bishops or hamlet-fortresses of no importance; Iam simply using them to quickly illustrate physical size of the Frankish-ruled realms.Let us now proceed on a tour across the Roman (Byzantine) Empire, from west toeast – from Sardinia and Sicily to Asia Minor and Armenia:(a) Italy: Sardinia was still nominally Byzantine but in practice independent (cf theentry in this chronology for c.840; also 864). The Franks dominated Corsica and NItaly, with the Lombard principality of Benevento lodged between Frankish N Italyand Byzantine S Italy, including Sicily: see 827.(b) The Adriatic and the Balkans: Nominally Byzantine Venice and Dalmatia wereseparated from Byzantine inner Macedonia by Frankish-dominated Slovenia-Croatia (to give the region its modern name)   and the Slavic tribes of ‘Bosnia-Serbia’ - as we may anachronistically call the region. There was as yet no Serbianstate in 814. Nominally the pagan Serbs came under Byzantine suzerainty but inpractice they were autonomous. Outer Macedonia and SE Illyria were likewiseruled by Slavic chiefs (and in certain districts: Romance-speaking Vlachs).The Empire ruled Crete, almost all of present-day Greece, Albania, and Thrace,while the Bulgarians (still pagans) controlled the eastern two-thirds of present-dayBulgaria and an even larger territory north of the lower Danube. Until 814-16 (seeunder 816), the Bulgarian-Byzantine frontier lay just beyond Adrianople (modernEdirne).GO HERE for a map showing the Bulgarian-Byzantine frontier:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Bulgaria_krum_map_pl.jpg.(c) Anatolia remained the empire’s heartland. In the east, the frontier with theAbbasids was the Taurus Mountains, with nearly all of Cilicia under Muslim rule.Cyprus paid taxes to both the Empire and the Caliphate. 814-20: Byzantine-Venetian edict against trade with the Arabs. The emperor and the dogetried to prohibit Venetian merchants from engaging in trade (in slaves and othergoods) with the Arabs, in order that the empire should maintain control over thenorth-south commercial routes (Rotman p.72). See 876. 814-31: r. Omurtag, Bulgarian khan. With the death of Krum, the boundary between theBulgarian khanate and the empire once again became the Balkans Mountains,which is to say: Byzantium regained all of Thrace. A 30-year treaty (816-46) wasagreed, and from 817 it mainly held, being breached only once: see 836-37 (Vine1991: 100, 106). Cf 815.814/15: In the Caliphate: The first substantial reference to the use of  2  O’Rourke BYZANTIUM: THE LONG REVIVAL 814-976 Turkish so-called slave soldiers, mercenaries from east of the Aral Sea. They formed a small but effective guard for Ma'mun's brother, the futurecaliph Mu'tasim. Cf 833. – And the Patzinak Turks [Pechenegs, Kipchaks]pushed west onto the Ukrainian steppe (as we know it) during the 800s. From 814/15 : Iconoclasm again. SL [date according to Symeon the Logothete]: Leo Vpersecutes the iconophiles 815-820.The veneration of icons had been restored under Empress Irene, 780-802. Thiswas formalised at a Church Council held in 787.But now in 815 Leo calls a   Council/General Synod at Constantinople whichreintroduces moderate iconoclasm .Publication of the ‘Second Edict of Iconoclasm’. Leo deposed the patriarchNicephorus, inaugurating the SECOND ICONOCLASTIC PERIOD (815-843). Cf 818-20.Soon after Easter, 1 April 815, a Synod under the authority of the new Patriarch Theodotus Melissenus was held. It repudiated the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea of 787 and recognised the acta of the iconoclast council of 754. It stated that it didnot regard the icons as idols, but nevertheless ordered their destruction. “For you see that all the emperors who have acknowledged and worshippedicons met their death either in exile or in war …” (Leo V, quoted by Mango in Rice1965: 110). 815: Outer Thrace: The Bulgarians first conquered Philippopolis, present-day Plovdiv, in815 and named it Philibé . (Wikipedia, 2009: - The name Plovdiv  first appears inthe 15th century.) See 816. 815-43: Chronicles: It has long been the consensus of Byzantinists that no reliablenarrative source exists for the second period of iconoclasm (815-843). The historyof this period has therefore been written by choosing among the differentaccounts of four chroniclers of the mid-tenth century, none of whom is consideredwholly reliable: [1] Symeon the Logothete [SL], [2] Joseph Genesius, [3] Theophanes Continuatus, and [4] the Pseudo-Symeon. But Treadgold (1979) hasproposed that the Chronicle of Symeon has practically the value of acontemporary source for 813-845, and should be adopted as our principal guide inwriting the history of the second iconoclastic period. 815-22: Part of Dalmatia was ruled by the new Croat kingdom. See 822. 816: 1. Exchange of prisoners between the Eastern Muslims and the East RomanEmpire; Mas’udi does not specify the numbers involved (Toynbee 1973: 390).2. Campaign against the Bulgarians under Khan Omurtag. Leo leads his army tothe destroyed town of Mesembria on the Black Sea coast: he lures the Khan'sarmy into an ambush and wins a victory.As we noted earlier, a 30-year peace was agreed. The Bulgarians kept most of the western Thracian conquests of Irene and Nicephorus but withdrew from someof northern Thrace. The Romanic-Bulgarian Treaty marks off a border-line thatcame to be called the Great Fence of Bulgaria or “Great Fence of Thrace”(Greek: megale souda, ‘Great Fence/Stronghold/Rampart’; today known as the Erkesiya, a word borrowed from Turkish). A no-man’s-land about 60 km wide wasmarked out from Develtus west to Mt Haemus {the Balkan Range near Satra 3  O’Rourke BYZANTIUM: THE LONG REVIVAL 814-976 Zagora] and thence south to Macrolivada (Uzundzhova) (*), in which theBulgarians built (815-16) a ditch and rampart (Bury 1912; Runciman, History of the First Bulgarian Empire , appendix VI; also Vlasto 1970: 157). J B Bury, 1912:361, commented that much of it was still able to be traced in his time.The Bulgarians fortified the ‘fence’ with an earthen rampart (probably withtimber palisades) and a ditch, the latter on the Byzantine side; and the Byzantines(Gk: Rhomaioi ) heavily refortified Adrianople and Mesembria; but Serdica [modernSofia] and Philippopolis [Plovdiv], further out and surrounded by Slav-dominatedterritory, were left undefended. This invited Bulgarian expansion to the west: see827, 831 and 836 (fall of Serdica).(*) Develtus was on the coast near Burgas. Macrolivada was nearSimeonovgrad, where the western Azmak enters the Maritsa, NE of modernHaskovo, i.e. well downstream (SE) from Plovdiv-Philippopolis. (There isalso a different stream called the eastern Azmak, a tributary of the Tundzha.) Thus the Fence ran to the ENE across the northern ThracianPlain.3. Pope Stephen IV travelled to Rheims in Francia to anoint and crownCharlemagne's son Hludwig / Louis / Ludovic ‘the Pious’. Stephen took with himwhat was purported to be the crown of Constantine the Great. See next. By 817:  The West: The Carolingian court had the resources to construct a wind organwithout recourse to Byzantine aid. Angold 2001: 118 sees this as evidence of theFranks having achieved cultural parity with the East. In our opinion, this parity isbetter dated to around 1100. 817:  The deposed patriarch of Constantinople, Nicephorus, wrote  Apologeticus major  , adefence of the veneration of icons.His persuasiveness may have been a factor in Michael II’s relative toleration of the iconodules. Nicephorus is well known for his Breviarium Nicephori , a history of the Roman (Byzantine) Empire from 602-769, and for his chronological tables,listing the major religious and political leaders from Adam to 829.2. Saracens attack Romanic/Byzantine south Italy (or in 819). Cf 845 (Rome).3. Byzantine iconophiles appeal to the Pope. Cf 818-20 (Theodotus). 818: 250 years since the Lombards arrived in Italy  . Hence hereafter we shall use theform Italians (Lombards)” rather than just 'Lombards'. c. 818: d. the chronicler, abbot Theophanes ‘the Confessor’ or ‘of Megas Agros’, thatbeing his birthplace in NW Asia Minor.His chronicle is the major source for the reigns of Leo and Constantine V.Iconodule monk; exiled by Leo V to the Aegean island of Samothrace, where hewrote his Chronograph, our principal source for the Byzantine Dark Age of the 7 th and 8 th centuries. Following George Syncellus's death (814), his Chronicle wasextended by ‘Theophanes the Confessor’ to his own time (813); and subsequentcontributors carried it down to the year 961.Theophanes' Chronographia covers the period 284-813, English trans., TheChronicle of Theophanes : An English Translation of anni mundi 6095-6305 (A.D.602-813), by Harry Turtledove, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,1982. And a translation by Mango & Scott: The chronicle of TheophanesConfessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern history, AD 284-813. Clarendon Press,Oxford and New York, 1997. 818-19: 4
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