At times I receive emails with which my readers ask me to suggest to them some studies, treatises, sourcebooks etc for specific issues of history, military history and engineering/architecture. Due to the unfortunate fact that I do not have the time to answer to each one separately (which is why I also had to disable the comments on the posts), I decided to write some reviews on books that I’ve studied on such topics. The Greek readers know that I’ve written two historical novels on Antiquity, so some readers ask me which my favorite historical novels are; thereby from time to time I’ll also suggest some of these works for the English-speaking and German-speaking readers, especially recent ones and some older.
I will start this new section with a military study that is a work by the well known Byzantinologist John Haldon: The Byzantine Wars.          The Byzantine Empire during her very long history, faced a multitude of enemy states, peoples and nomadic hordes, thus developing the characteristic Byzantine warfare, one of the most advanced of its time concerning the entire planet. Her geographical position at the “crossroads of civilizations”, her weighty heritage from both the Roman and the ancient Greek armies and her confrontation with particularly dangerous enemies in all her borders, led her to always maintain a vigorous and well-organized army, an army of the real “imperial” kind.

The author presents in a general context, but rich in details, the wars and the main battles that the Byzantines fought during their long history. The confrontation with enemies as diverse as the early Germanic tribes, the Sassanids, the Huns, the Slavs, the Arabs, the Franks, the Bulgars, the Longobards, the Avars, the Normans, the Seljuks, the Crusaders and the Ottomans, naturally demanded the development and use of a large variety of strategies and tactics that had set the Byzantine armies of the Early, Middle and Late Periods of the Empire among the most versatile and innovative military forces of all time. Along with the analysis of wars and battles, the author studies the tactics and equipment of the Byzantine army, its technological and strategic aspects, and its logistics network, important for each army, but usually neglected by modern military historians (but not by Haldon). Reference is also made to the mercenaries of the Byzantine forces who varied from the Turano-Mongol nomadic horsemen who often staffed the imperial cavalry, to the ferocious Viking warriors who staffed the imperial guard and other elite infantry of the army.

In the first chapter, the author deals with the geography of the Byzantine wars, a really necessary reference for such a complicated subject. In the second chapter he analyzes the wars of emperor Justinian against the Goths, Vandals and others, by which he regained large areas of the old West Roman Empire and reduced other enemies to other frontiers. In the third chapter Haldon deals with the traumatic for the Byzantine Empire late sixth and seventh centuries and the rise of Islam. In these centuries, the empire lost more than half of her territory and was seriously threatened. In the fourth chapter, he presents her recovery through fierce wars with Arabs and Bulgarians, which led to her re-stabilization and great military counterattack. This counterattack resulted in the brilliant era of recovering several lost territories, which is presented in the next (5th) chapter. In the final chapter, the new military subsidence of the empire and her new recovery through the confrontations with Turks and Crusaders, are analyzed. The project is completed with the necessary conclusions of the author.

The Byzantine Wars is a very useful work for the scholar of the Byzantine military history.
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Periklis Deligiannis

 

 

 

 

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